Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Two Levels of Human Life

I am always amazed when I witness a couple arguing the same issue they have been for all their married life.  How can this be, that two adults who raised kids together, ran households and businesses, etc. can’t come to a resolution about something as simple as “What’s for dinner?”   How can that get so gnarly so fast?

There are lots of reasons for that state of affairs, mostly it’s old stuff, but for this post I want to focus on one aspect.  It is usually the case that one partner is “rational” and measured “while the other is “emotional” and erratic.  We tend to chalk it up to the difference between the sexes.  It often looks that way.  I have come to believe that it is more about the differences in the levels of human interactions.

There are two levels in each of us; there is the thinking/doing side and the feeling/being side.  Each aspect plays an important role in the trinity of success, which is; a feeling processed through the intellect and then translated into behavior.   Unfortunately we have so emphasized the thinking/doing side that the feeling/being side has basically been consigned to the dustbin in most of our lives.

The thinking/doing side is about all the things we accomplish and get done.  The feeling/being side is about our hopes and dreams, our values, our feelings, our self-esteem, namely all those invisible, intangible, immeasurable parts that, in fact do measure our happiness and well-being. 

As we grow up, most of us got all our accolades and kudos from what we do, like grades, sports, and music or just for being “good”, while our internal lives are ignored or disregarded as a nuisance.  So by the time we are teenagers we have become human doings, as opposed to human beings. 

In the example above, the couple keeps trying to solve their feeling issues by thinking it through.  That often works for a little while, but soon enough, they will be right back to the ten-year-old arguments.  So it would be a good thing for them to begin “thinking” about their “being” parts.  Perhaps drag them out of the dustbin and feel what this is really about. 

This internal divide is a result of all the decisions we made growing up, to be safe from scolding and shame and discomfort.   It is a matter of discovering what those decisions were and making new ones from the adult that eases those old patterns. 

Thursday, November 3, 2016


From birth to death any human is inundated with information, input, stimuli, internal goings on and all sorts of chaos.  For the infant and growing up child it is their job to sort all that out and make sense of the world.  As they grow things happen around them that force a conclusion about their world and a subsequent decision on how to handle that conclusion. 

Unfortunately all the decisions we made at three and seven and twelve and all the years in between are as operational today as they were the day they made them.  So we end up in the absurd position of having a three year old in charge of our lives, because we haven’t made any new or different decision, these decisions are very difficult to access for two reasons. 

First they were often made before we had much language or the ability to conceptualize, second they were survival tactics and strategies for us as children.  Literally our survival was at stake. The strategies and tactics defended a child so the overwhelming pain of their emotions wouldn’t kill them.  These decisions are actually implemented over time, through trial and error -what is less painful then that action-and what fits a particular child’s way of being in this world.

Let me give an example;  Let's say a three year old witnesses a parent hurting a sibling and in the indignation only a three year only can muster, intervenes in the abuse.  Assuming, that, of course, the parent will do what is right.  Instead the abuse gets turned on this child.  So what happens internally to this child the next day, and the next and the next?  And for years, watching the abuse go on.  If she intervenes she gets hurt, and if she doesn’t she has to endure a sibling getting hurt.  So how does the child learn to handle that impossible ethical dilemma?

This small example sets the stage for how to unravel our inexplicable responses/behaviors to certain events that puzzle us and we haven’t a clue how to undo.