Data Mining

Tell me about yourself…

Curiosity is a natural and wonderful sensation. It drives toddlers to ask why and impels much of our daily lives. Those who aren’t feeling satisfied with their situation often are failing to engage their sense of wonder and intrigue. Discoveries are made and inventions generated by the engine of inquiry.

Even commonplace items and experiences can become delightful explorations if you remove the filter of complacency and look through an intentional lens of curiosity. Asking questions polishes away dusty assumptions and any buildup of judgements. Old becomes new when you are present in the Moment using wise eyes to see.

Data mining is an extension of curiosity. Information is power and fuels the momentum toward satisfaction. Sincere questions and interest open opportunities for service by identifying needs and interests. Every single interaction has a purpose for the participants and to dismiss the gift is to ignore the chance for satisfaction for both parties.

Data mining itself is a natural impulse and when performed with pure intentions leads to fulfillment. Questions coming from innocence and authentic interest leave both parties feeling satisfied. But probing queries driven by ulterior motives, even unconscious ones, feel uncomfortable and distasteful.

People can use data mining in insidious ways and if you have been exploited by those who gain power and control through weilding information against you, you develop an aversion to sharing. If as a child you were compelled to give control to a data mining parent, you may fall on the other end of the spectrum and find yourself oversharing.

Back to the scripts used by Sammy Scammys on WWF, where data mining not only fosters a sense of intimacy but verifies the traits of a vulnerable target. Seemingly benign chitchat has a sinister edge because the ultimate goal is bilking the victim of funds. The fact you play the game implies you may be lonely or bored. Alert predators will watch your play habits since your speedy response to a move implies you have time on your hands. If you claim to have a spouse and family yet are a frequent visitor you may have family conflict you are seeking to escape.

If you respond to flattery you may be vulnerable to exploitation. Using your name also creates intimacy because it feels like they are paying attention to your little details.

Depending on your time zone, if you are mostly active during your evening you may be susceptible and also likely employed. Asking where you live narrows this down. A strange question that often comes up with Sammy Scammys is where are you originally from. This likely arises from the idea that people emigrated to North America, and is a key indicator that it is Sammy on the other end since those born in North America don’t tend to ask where someone is originally from, they ask where you grew up.

A frequent question is about your work, couched in various ways, but the motive is to see if you earn money while again testing your boundaries. If you overshare because they overshared, you are a more likely prospect. The more information you give, the more avenues they can travel down trying to drive you toward emotional entanglement and financial exploitation.

The script of a data miner is similar whether they are benevolent, benign, or malignant. Like passive behaviour, asking questions is not toxic in and of itself and indeed is the hallmark of an open, curious, and enlightened mind. When you live in the Moment everything and everyone around is fascinating and delightful. It is the underlying motives behind the investigation which trigger your sense of discomfort or connection.

Awareness of the scripts and your unconscious vulnerability to probing will allow you to intentionally respond to questions and avoid intrusive data mining both online and in real life. Standing around the water cooler, data can be the currency and your life events the game pieces laid out, so recognizing a harvest for what it is protects you from the imbalance of a violation. If you don’t mind being the one people talk about, you can make the conscious decision to share instead of feeling betrayed by unintentionally feeding a data miner’s curiosity, mistaking it for interest in who you are.

Each of us is interesting and worthy. Data mining is how we build connections and intimacy between each other but opens the doors to misuse if we don’t recognize the patterns.

No Explanation Required

Stop justifying boundaries!

Sorry, I am washing my hair so can’t talk to you.

Our instinct when we say no, when we assert a boundary, is to give our reasons. This drive is so deeply ingrained that we will lie when we say no just to avoid judgement of our real reason for refusing something or someone. We feel the need to provide an excuse, information meant to ease their pain.

Rarely does it do that.

But worse, information is power. Power is control. Control is an opportunity for imbalance through judgement, exploitation and manipulation.

Our healthy boundaries are valid for us. And when we say no, our reasons are our own. To tell them to others is to hand them power over our boundary and invite them to debate our internal limits.

Synergy provides no explanation when she denies us what we think we want. She does not justify, argue or defend. She offers what she can, and it is not our place to question her. Since we know she won’t answer, we may try to fathom her reasons but we don’t attempt to change her mind.

Unlike our fellow humans.

We regularly engage in campaigns to get our way. Overt intimidation, covert manipulation, wheedling, cajoling, and bribing are all efforts to turn a no to a yes. And the more information we are armed with, the more effective our battle strategies. Admittedly it is satisfying to get our way and not taking no for an answer does have its place.

So long as that place does not steamroll the rights of another and violate their fair and reasonable boundaries. A no may feel unfair and unreasonable to us, and at times it is, given that inappropriate and unhealthy boundaries also involve the word no! Someone exploiting you is going to emphatically tell YOU no when you tell them to stop violating you!

If you are moving toward sincere joy and satisfaction, then examining a no with curiosity and openness should reveal Synergy’s reasons for the obstacle. Asking questions is part of the journey, as is accepting the answers.

When you assert a boundary and say no, you do not need to volunteer your rationale. You do not need to give the other person control of your boundary. Your sense of security is not up for debate.

But it is open to investigation, fair game for fair and appropriate action. Respectful curiosity is what Synergy wants from all of us, including pointing it at our own emotional mind. Do YOU know why you are saying no? Do you understand what aspect of the situation makes you uncomfortable thus prompting a rejection? Have you given intentionality to your boundary or is it just a knee jerk response from habit or training?

When someone probes your boundaries with gentle analysis, it can feel frightening and possibly invasive, which triggers a greater sense of discomfort. But if we don’t understand why we say no when we say no we are not only doing a possible disservice to ourselves, but perhaps losing the chance to serve the needs of others, a core imperative in our design.

There are times to explain yourself, when an opportunity for service is present and both you and the other party have sincere needs and authentic reasons for your positions. In those moments, intimacy can grow as you offer the vulnerability of an explanation, giving the power of information to the other party.

Sharing your reasons is an act of intimacy. Of surrender. It generates a Moment of connection. That is why we feel the need to explain ourselves. But to jump the gun and offer unsolicited information is to force intimacy. Allowing a give and take fosters more depth of connection. If you do all the giving and don’t allow reciprocal giving you have missed a moment. And if there are unhealthy motives, allowing give and take to flow naturally will shine the light on them.

Try it on WWF! The Scammy Sammys volunteer their life story – invariably a poor widowed father who doesn’t get on the game often so wants to meet on Google Hangouts. This disclosure of information is intended to generate a sense of reciprocity and intimacy yet comes uninvited! When you do not offer a similar level of disclosure, when you say no and enforce a healthy boundary, you will come under attack!

Some people will simply leave you alone when you say no, blocking you out of their life with no explanation once they realize you have clear boundaries. These are Scammy Sammys who like easy prey.

Others will attempt to shame you and make you question your boundaries. These Scammy Sammys enjoy the negativity where a no triggers contempt.

While yet others will try to find ways to circumnavigate your boundaries, testing your defenses from various angles until they find a weak spot in your armour. To them no means convince you, and they delight in a challenge. They use an arsenal of strategies to reach their goal. Your weak spots will be either insincere or unhealthy defenses. In your analysis of your boundaries you will recognize some areas needing work and reinforcement. Proactive reflection will keep you safer by preventing intrusions.

Fielding the constant attacks of these types gets exhausting and is the most dangerous to you core self. Every hit weakens your walls and if enough volleys hit home you eventually crumble and fall victim to a violation.

Boundaries form the walls protecting our wise mind and helping to keep our monsters subdued. Boundary violations trigger Moodasaurus and Logiticus to patrol our perimeter and unhealthy boundaries confuse those two lovely beasts as well as the targets of their defenses.

We do not need to justify our boundaries to others…so long as we have justified them to ourselves.

Predator as Prey

Passive behaviour allows predatory control of relationship dynamics.

What so incredibly confusing about passive behaviour, why it is so seductive and successful, is that Synergy only meets our needs via passivity so we are preprogrammed to seek it out!

Synergy speaks to us through our environment. She guides us with clues. She supports us secretly and with delicate subtlety and it feels like a delightful escape room puzzle when you discover the solution which was staring you in the face. She gives us all we need and leaves it up to us to put it together.

Just like a passive personality.

We were designed to search for cues and synchronicities, created to listen to unspoken commands. When someone gives them to us it feels like we are driven to act on them because we are!

Passive personalities are doing what Synergy does.

Passive manipulation of one human by another is following the design of the universe while simultaneously unbalancing the parties involved if creating an injustice. That red flag which goes off to indicate something isn’t quite right is not actually alerting you to the manipulation, but rather, the unfairness of the outcome.

When Synergy moves us through passive actions and subtle gifts, we feel profound satisfaction and peace. When a benevolent human moves us through passive control and gentle guidance, we also find stability and gratitude. But when hidden agendas take us out of our comfort zone, our alarm arises from the lack of grace in the perpetrator and the lack of peace in the results.

Unfortunately, each time we are victimized by a wolf in sheep’s clothing, we get sensitized to sheep. Over time we begin to feel that passivity itself is the source of our pain and we lose the ability to differentiate between the genuine generosity of Synergy or her agents, and the artificial phishing attempts of those seeking to get their own needs met by disguising their motives.

A passive personality may create one of the most frustrating dynamics you will ever encounter. Passive communication elicits intense impatience and resentment because of the layers of subtext to filter through, searching for meaning.

Passive behaviour in and of itself is not toxic. The outcome determines the degree of dysfunction. A predator will leave prey shredded and dumbfounded while an agent of Synergy provides support and blessings without claiming credit.

The lesson to pull, the skill to refine, when dealing with passivity is observation. Like working with Synergy, who cannot say a word, the passive individual also cannot say a straight word. Yet like Synergy, they have much to say and are worth listening to. Maintaining curious regard is difficult in the face of frustration but it is practice for peace.

Enlightenment does not come easy and requires listening to the quietest, most passive voice in the universe!

Words with Friends as Target Practice

This time of year offers a natural opportunity to change our ways and improve our lives and selves. Physical boundary setting has never been more clearly delineated and accepted as in the current global climate yet social and emotional boundaries remain relatively ambiguous and oftentimes porous.

Understanding boundaries and how to gently enforce them while maintaining vulnerability and sincerity is a distinct challenge. There are few safe places to do so because costs are high when you make a social blunder amongst strangers and even friends. If your walls are too flimsy you’re left feeling violated, betrayed or exploited without necessarily being able to put your finger on what part of the interaction was uncomfortable. If your defenses are too rigid you find yourself alone behind them because no one can make it through unscathed.

The online letter tile game Words With Friends provides a uniquely ironic way to learn how to be vulnerable yet safe, open yet guarded, and sincere yet having walls. The site is populated with lots of legitimate players but is also a favourite for scam artists because it allows chats between users. It is easy to block or ignore the users but why not take advantage of the opportunity to refine your skill at saying no while honing your vocabulary!

There are tells in every interaction, ways of knowing if someone is grooming you, testing your defenses, or sounding out your vulnerability. People who share easily are often easy targets. Sadly, sharing is a core need and our instinct to do so does make us susceptible to predators. In general social settings we don’t know who may look to take our resources against our wishes but the deliberate strategies used on WWF are identical to the recipes used by all who seek to meet their needs through exploitation. Recognizing the patterns allows you to identify prospective toxic situations and navigate them to find satisfaction and safety.

Not all strategies and manipulations are conscious and not all exploitation is intentional. But the patterns and techniques are the same. Where you differentiate is by determining what you stand to gain from engaging in the script verses exiting the game. If someone is going to take advantage of you, but you are comfortable with the transaction because you feel you are getting sufficient needs met, then are they really exploiting you? Exploitation is in the mind of the victim and what a third party perceives as unfair, the parties involved may find a satisfactory exchange.

On WWF, engaging with scammers pays you in coins and experience levels. But you can also learn how to maintain personal boundaries in the chat, while experiencing the strategies used to build artificial intimacy, tests for openness to exploitation, and recipes for future faking. You will learn how to say no to direct violations but can practice doing so without judgement or shaming of the other party.

There are two sides to boundaries and understanding how to maintain them both is a critical skill. On the one side, letting people in is necessary for mental health and social well-being. Most people are good at that. On the other, feeling safe while not causing pain to others is important yet many respond to intrusions with judgement, shaming, and harsh enforcement.

On WWF, it is safe to assume anyone who initiates a chat is a fraud artist. But if you accept them for what they are knowing you are in complete control of the situation and your exposure, you can learn a lot about human nature and how to graciously assert boundaries while not putting any sincere, authentic relationships at risk. If you practice courtesy, compassion and kindness on someone whose objective is to defraud you, you learn to control your revulsion and rein in your judgemental language. Treat the interaction like a game of operation where your objective is to maintain your safety while studying their actions to determine your emotional weaknesses.

It’s like hiring a hacker to hack a computer to test the defenses. And while you are deliberately distracting the fraudster, you are also protecting others by keeping them busy with you!

Consider this a challenge. Try to engage without judgement, enforce boundaries without shaming, and interact with no expectations, only boundaries. Learn about yourself as you carry on a conversation that you know is completely artificial and contrived. Walk into it with your eyes wide open.

And then turn those eyes to your authentic life and recognize where those same patterns exist.

Intimacy verses Vulnerability and which means more?

Intimacy is a sense of connection, of commonality, of oneness and sharing.

Vulnerability is an act of authenticity and sincerity which exposes the core personality, values, desires and soul of a person.

You can have intense intimacy with absolutely no vulnerability. There can be open vulnerability with no intimacy. This is because intimacy is a feeling, while vulnerability is an action. Yes, vulnerability can also be labelled as the fearful feeling arising from the action, but a vulnerable act does not necessarily include fearfulness on the part of the act. In addition, vulnerability does not require a second party nor a connection to another person, whereas intimacy by nature IS connection.

Artists perform acts of vulnerability. To write a book, stand up at a comedy event, create a movie or paint a picture is to put a piece of your innermost soul out there. Before the piece even gets revealed to the public, its very existence creates vulnerability by turning energy into matter. Thought into word. Idea into brush stroke. The act of creating is an act of openness and exposure.

Intimacy arises with each opportunity for someone else to view or read the creation. Because intimacy develops through interaction, the people involved determine the type and level of intimacy depending on how many points of connection exist between them outside of the point of vulnerability. Do they share common history? Do they have common values and goals? How high a risk of rejection is involved? The higher the risk, the greater the sense of validation found in a Moment of intimacy. A Moment of intimacy resonates at a visceral level and the reason why they can happen under the most unexpected of circumstances is because they are about two wise minds seeing past the shields of both the judgemental and emotional brains and connecting in the realm of eternal knowing.

Being truly known is terrifying. Allowing someone to see the real you is to stand naked and on display. How many people feel a chill at the thought of someone seeing the book they have started, the poem they wrote, the sketch they drafted hidden in the bottom drawer of the old desk in the attic? How anxious and nervous do you feel when drafting a simple email voicing your opinion while you have no hesitation giving orders and instructions to large groups of people? An opinion is personal, while instructions are impersonal. There is risk of damage to our psyche when we commit acts of vulnerability, and the more your truth varies from the norm, the greater the risk of shame and rejection.

Intimacy can come easily, especially when commonalities weave the lines of connection for you. Beware that sense of intimacy based on common goals, enemies, histories, or other shared experiences. Yes, they are a valid starting point but they all are pulling on external threads which only last so long. Commonalities create finite intimacy with a beginning and an end.

Why do we watch shows like Big Bang Theory, Friends, Seinfeld or Cheers? Not because of the comedy although laughter has a deep appeal. It’s the intimacy, of which laughter is part. It’s because the characters talk about nothing. The threads creating the intimacy between them are not coming from their environment although of course each episode includes outside factors which create finite intimacy. The threads of intimacy are being extruded from their minds and woven by trust, humour, vulnerability and compassion.

How often do you share pointless thoughts with people, Seinfeldian conversations? These are the Moments where you are seen and known because those conversations are about connecting, not about a topic. Those conversations allow intimacy through vulnerability since they showcase who you are when you have no objective, when the conversation is happening just for conversation’s sake.

Intimacy is easy to manufacture. Vulnerability cannot be faked. When the two of them are entwined the Moment is unforgettable.

Intimacy and Glass Houses

The sensation generated when you share a Moment with someone is a visceral intimacy. Electrifying and intense, it can change a simple exchange of pleasantries into a lingering mood of togetherness. A random encounter with a stranger in the produce section can fuel a desire to maintain the sensation beyond the grocery store.

Intimacy is a driving force in human nature. We want to bond, but more so, we want to share with others. True intimacy involves baring your deepest core self and allowing someone to see that which makes us who we are. Vulnerable and terrifying, true intimacy is rare and exhilarating.

Other types of intimacy emulate it but are only poor approximations of the communion of two souls. Physical intimacy, commonality intimacy, and emotional intimacy generate intense connections but those bonds only last as long as the conditions which generate them, unless an underlying spiritual bond scaffolds the superficial intimacies and gives them stability.

Physical intimacy is an easy fix for those lacking spiritual connections. The Moment generated by sensual merging and the delightful distraction of erotic pleasure approximate the profound wonder of souls in resonance. But the Moment is fleeting and leaves behind a saccharine aftertaste because the calories are empty thus lacking the nurturing sustenance the soul craves. When sensual intimacy occurs between bonded souls, the Moment lingers long after the act has ended, and the substance of the bond provides fodder even when the souls are apart. Sexual intimacy is not necessary for spiritual connection but certainly heightens it and conversely, gets mistaken for it.

Having a commonality generates a deep sense of connection which can easily be mistaken for authentic intimacy. Joining with someone in striving toward a shared goal provides kernels of closeness that grow as time passes until harvested when the goal reaches fruition. Although positive and mutually beneficial, there still exists a beginning and end for this type of bond thus it is superficial no matter how lasting. Same with the more insidious Common enemy bond. Uniting against a foe is intensely satisfying and feeds the need for balance and justice but again is a counterfeit connection with a start, process, and finite ending. Common goals and common enemies enhance the richness of a spiritual bond because growth happens via both of these processes but if the goal or enemy are the only connections then after the enemy is vanquished or the goal is attained, the souls lose their link and are left wondering where the intimacy went.

Emotional intimacy most closely emulates a true spiritual bond but because it is rooted in the fleeting emotions of the physical realm and unreliable emotional brain, these Moments also are not enduring. Trauma brings emotions into the Moment and carries them past their shelf life into the future where they don’t belong. Emotions are meant to inform about present social conditions and drive change, but get confused with identity and values. Emotional bonds form during shared Moments of fear or joy or satisfaction but the source of the bond was the environmental atmosphere generating the emotional response which forged a bond, rather than a bond forming between compatible souls which then was tempered like steel by the intense flames of trauma. Again, true intimacy can and does benefit from emotional connection but when the emotional bond forms first, under duress, before the spiritual bond has taken root, then the connection has a finite end when the emotional trigger is removed.

The search for intimacy is why so many people seek, knowingly or subconsciously, the emotional patterns of their past, to feel intimacy in any way they can. Or why gossip is so common and activism so popular. Or why casual sex is frequent.

We all want to connect. To bond. To belong with and to someone or something. It is part of our programming. But most our bonds are finite, task based or situational which is why they do not feel satisfying or sustaining.

Absolute intimacy requires absolute vulnerability. Baring the soul with no goal, no enemy, no emotional trigger, no sex and no gain is an act of pure compassion. Looking out at the world with open invitation, loving all comers, is to generate intimacy. Even so, there are still ways to protect yourself while being vulnerable.

Glass houses still offer shelter and comfort and protection. And those allowed to see the view from the outside are inspired by such graceful openness. Rather than cast stones, they will choose to build a glass house too.

Don’t trust anyone. Build walls. But love them anyway. Make those walls out of glass with large doors and a welcome mat.

Contempt, Compassion, and Empathy

Empathy really is a buzz word nowadays. It’s held up by many as the standard of excellence in emotional functioning and the antidote to contempt. Empathy is seen as a higher level of awareness and the solution to social ills. But there is a problem with this ideal.

Empathy is feeling someone else’s emotions as if they are your own. Although on the surface this would seem a noble and compassionate thing, especially when held up in contrast of contempt which is judgement of someone else’s emotions, to feel someone’s emotions is…well…immature, selfish and in fact a form of contempt!

This is not to say understanding someone’s feelings is inappropriate, not in the least. That is the root of compassion, which is a healthy respect for and awareness of the emotions of others.

But in its truest form, empathy is an example of someone with poor boundaries who is unable to distinguish between themselves and others thus feels a strong need to fix the problems for others in order to find peace themselves. Many empaths talk of being overwhelmed and taken advantage of, which is a way of blaming others for their failure to protect themselves by establishing healthy boundaries. To act to change someone else’s circumstances can often be a form of contempt because the message is you know better then they, the victims, do.

Contempt and callous disregard for the feelings of others is an easy target to disparage and the narcissist easy to blame for society’s ills. The person exhibiting contempt is demonstrating rigid boundaries with complete distinction between themselves and others, which is viewed as toxic and dysfunctional. True, there is an imbalance present in this way of coping and to reach authenticity and enlightenment a shift needs to happen away from a focus on the judgemental coping mechanisms into wise and compassionate processes. Yet empathy is not the answer either.

The empath is also often toxic and dysfunctional yet in a way deemed acceptable to society because the appearance of helpfulness and caring, yet the drive is just as internally motivated as the actions of the narcissist. There is an imbalance present here, too, and a shift away from the emotional coping mechanisms into wise and compassionate processes needs to happen.

Compassion does not mean your are suffering with the people you feel compassionate towards. They are not you and you are not them, their emotions are not yours to feel. But compassion does elicit discomfort when imbalance, injustice, or negativity is witnessed. Compassion involves the desire to see balance restored, in whatever form the victim might feel it needs to take. As soon as you decide what form restitution or balance must take, you are no longer being compassionate, you are being contemptuous. To demand anything on anyone’s behalf except your very own, is to show contempt of that person’s or groups’ ability to determine their own needs. And unless they asked for your help, you disempower them by taking up their cause unless you yourself are directly affected by the imbalance.

Don’t mistake activism for compassion and empathy for support. Those without voices do need to be heard, but unless you are one of the voiceless, your sounds will drown out the meaning of their silence. Speaking from a place of experience is the only way to drive change, and listening from a place of compassion if you are not the victim, is the only way to support change.