Withholds and Beyond – 10
So I left you off with the question, what does agency make possible?
Agency in and of itself is boring. Think about it; here I am, this whole and complete circle, whole and complete… well, and then what?
But lets consider Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, or Mahatma Gandhi, not that any of them were perfect, but – all of them were very agentic. What you notice is, out of their agentic ways of being that what formed around them were movements, communities, and people – tons of people. They changed paradigms. They changed the whole conversation of the planet. The reason why agency is so interesting is because of what it creates, what it gives: communion.
In Ken Wilber terminology, you could say that agency is rational and communion is trans rational. Meaning, it doesn’t necessiarily make rational sense, it transcends rationality in that when two wholes come together they create something much more than the sum of their two parts.
Notice that communion and communication are alike. This is what the possibility of communication could be, the activity of communing.
I think that communion only possible when we have authentic communication.
If we look into our own lives, we will see that most of us have had the experience of having a really painful thing happen in a relationship and then when you communicated about it, you worked through it, out of that working through the relationship became more of a communion.
Now, lets get into the nitty gritty of what this is about. I’m going to do a little bit of a bait and switch on you – because I think I’ve given the impression that, “God, if I cant ever really know what the other person is experiencing, then how the hell am I suppose to be the one that can ‘hurt you’.” I guess you could take that and make the move of invalidating your own hurt, or the impact of your relationship with another.
If I have the experience of being hurt by you, then what do I do when I feel hurt? Right? Am I supposed to go, “Oh, this is non- experience, so I just won’t experience it.” Ha! Or, “I’m delusional, I’m wrong, or something like that?.” Well, I’m sorry to say, your right, your wrong! If you feel hurt by someone it’s all your fault and your wrong. Just kidding ;).
Here’s the difference, we need to re-look at this idea of what it means to feel upset with or hurt by someone. The difference lies in what we consider that hurt to be, and what we consider it to mean.
If I have it that you are responsible for my experience and then you say and do something that “hurts” me, well then I’m complete justified in attacking you back. And, in this scenario, I’m not being mean or anything because you did it first. I’m completely justified. Right? That’s basically the state that most of the world is functioning it right now.
Now, here’s the difference. I want to talk about he notion of boundaries – boundaries and self -legitimacy.
If I say that I respect you (I may not like you, I may not like what you do or what you say, but I can respect you) what exactly do we mean by that?
What is it to see someone as a legitimate other?
Well, first of all, in order for me to be able to do that it really is an act of AGENCY on my part. It means that I really have it that I’m a legitimate other.
If we look at this more closely, what really defines that otherness? Well, its difference. Here’s that word again – difference.
When I see you as a legitimate other, there is this sense that I get that there is stuff going on with you that I have no idea about, but that is totally valid. In fact, what I have to say is one perspective, and what you have to say is another perspective and they are both legitimate. Period.
You are different than me. In fact, I can never know what you know, feel what you feel, and experience what you experience. Here is the difference, this gap between us, it isn’t a bad thing – its not something missing. The only way it would be missing is if it was ever possible in the first place. Well, as far as I can tell at least in this plain of existence, that’s not possible. So it’s not a missing.
It’s actually beautiful – if we get this: our legitimacy lies in our otherness.
You are wholly other than me.
When I don’t get that, when I don’t see you that way, then I start making assumptions about you. I start thinking I know who you are already. I assume that I know what you think, feel, and experience. And this is actually treating you not like a person, that’s treating you more like a thing. And we all do that at some level, right? And there are actually relevant times to do that.
But, when we are talking about intimacy that’s a different story.
One of the ways we can use words to describe this difference is the term boundaries. I think that term is a bit overused, but I can’t think of a better one.
Here’s another way to talk about boundries: it’s a kind of line, it’s the imaginary point where I end and something else begins. It doesn’t make me separate, it makes me distinct. It doesn’t mean I’m separate from everything, just that I’m distinct in the midst of it all. Right? That line. So, boundaries…
From here on out, these last two things that we are going to be talking about, are pure Mark Lewis genius brilliance. Mark is brilliant at coming up with these kinds of maps. One of the things that Mark often says is, “If you come to me and ask me what my boundaries are, I’m going to kind of wonder, imagine, and try to come up with an intelligent answer, but I’ll kind of fumble around with my words – but, I will tell you what – the moment you cross my boundaries I’ll be able to tell you exactly where they are.” It’s when we get upset that we are able to see our boundaries clearly.
Try thinking about it like this:
We are going along, you and I, separate individuals. I say something to you and it lands in your ears (and on the good/positive side of your boundaries), and you smile and think – “Oh, I like him.” Then you say something back and it lands on the good/positive side of my boundaries and then I smile. And we go back and forth like this for a while, saying things and smiling. Then, at one point (if we have a relationship) what is going to happen is that one of us is going to say something and it’s going to go – Boom, BA-BAM as it crosses a boundary. Say you do this, and I get UPSET. And the moment I get upset I can tell you exactly where my boundaries are.
If you ask me abstractly I don’t know. See, with this upset – the difference that makes the difference is what we do with the upset.
If that upset means that you are responsible for how I feel, if you are responsible for the pain that I feel, then that completely justifies my behavior in attacking you back.
However, if I really get that I am the source of my own experience (or how I experience what I experience), then when I get emotionally hurt by something that you said or did, then what this gives me is an indication of my own legitimacy. It lets me know the upset emotion. Emotion, energy in motion.
So, in this respect we can say that the emotion brings my awareness to the fact that a boundary has been crossed. Right?
But, if what I do with that energy is that I use it to get very clear with you about what happened, how I experience what I experienced, and how I felt – the more open I am about all of that with you, the clearer I am showing you who I am – i.e. the difference between you and I. The think that allows us to relate – difference.
So, when you cross my boundry and I get upset and I use that upset to take responsibility for what it really is – it’s a function of my own personal values – which are different than yours. Right?
Our boundaries are made p of a bunch of different things, but they are definitely made up of our values. So when we experience a value being violated, we get upset.
So if that is an indication to me that, “Oh, the reason I am upset is because I value something.” This means that the upset points back to me and my own legitimacy, and then communication isn’t about controlling you, it isn’t about getting you back and making your responsible for how I feel. Rather, its about owning my own experience through being open to you – and, (if I want to be in a relationship with you) by sharing my experience as my experience.
What I’m doing is I am implicitly and explicitly going, “Hey, right here, this is important to me. And you did/said this thing and here are the signals that tell me that this is important to me.” Sharing boundaries. The more openly and undefended I can share that with you, the more I am going to be able to get the impact of my behavior on you and to take that into consideration.
Now, the more you share with me, the more I can be myself all the way up to that line. And, by the way, where’s all the energy? Is it far or close to that line? All to good stuff is really close to the line. Its called being close. Intimacy. Intimacy is based on difference. So my upset is an opportunity to show you who I am. Then you get to feel the impact of your actions and you know precisely where you stand. You can be 100% all the way up to the line.
Now, on the other hand, if you attack or blame me, and I don’t have the agency to take responsibility for it and feel guilty and shame and all that stuff hat we all do – in this case, what I’ll do is I will stop way short of the line.
Or, if you don’t communicate with me that I’ve done something that upsets you and you, then I will just unknowingly keep crossing your boundaries until one day you just blow up. Or, I’ll feel the pain, and you won’t say anything, so I’ll stop way short of the line. I’ll keep my distance. Because most of us don’t want the experience of having something feel upset by something we did, so we stay way short. Well, the further away I get, the further away I get – right?
This is the difference that makes the difference: it’s not about weather or not you are the cause of my hurt. Rather, it’s: I hurt, and that tells me something beautiful about me – that I am a legitimate human being that has values. I am distinct. I am different. And that difference is the difference that makes the difference in terms of our being close.
So, when we get upset, these are opportunities to go, “Oh, who are you?” And then to share what/who that really is.
Now, I’ve got to say, here I am spouting off at the horn about this, but this is really a very high level of development. When I get emotions cooking, when I get upset, this can be the most difficult thing for me to do. I think that all of us could probably say that.
So, I just want us to sit with this. Think about all of the upsets you have had. And, think about a world in which we all thought of it like this. We all reacted to our own personal hurt, joy, and all of our feelings with this kind of relationship – this, “Oh, wow – this lets me know that I am an agentic, beautiful, living, breathing sentient being!”
And, when both of us are relating to ourselves like this – then what does that make possible? Shared reality. Shared reality is something very unusual and very distinct. It is very different than what we normally think about when we use the word agreement.