With or For?

It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to…

We have celebrations all the time. Birthdays, special events, parenthood. But when do we learn to distinguish between celebrating with someone and celebrating for someone?

To illustrate with an example at an early age, let’s take a birthday party. The poster child celebratory event! If all the children in attendance bring gifts, they are celebrating for the child. If all the children split a birthday cake, they are celebrating with the child. And when they take home a loot bag they are again celebrating a special event with the youngster.

From these seemingly innocuous early occasions, we teach children the sensation of being happy for someone and showing your joy by bestowing a thoughtful gift on them…hopefully without the expectation of something in return although it is well known that birthday parties are expected to provide attendees with compensation in the form of fun and goodies.

And so from that early age we teach our children that they are entitled to a measure of someone else’s joy. That they can expect a share of someone else’s bounty. We teach them not to celebrate FOR someone, we train them to expect to celebrate WITH others.

Expand that to participation ribbons and various other ways to ensure children ‘don’t feel left out.’ The thought is noble, but the message is that we don’t celebrate the successes of others if it hurts our feelings to do so. We train our children instead to expect the winners to tone down or divide their glory because the non-winners are unable to celebrate FOR their win thus must be given the rewards too, celebrating WITH the winner.

Take this into adulthood and you have envy and entitlement. Children who attended birthday parties for the loot and the entertainment rather than the excitement of watching a friend open the gift they carefully selected turn into adults who manipulate others in order to gain a share of the target’s time, energy, resources, or material goods. Children who got participation ribbons watch in petulant resentment as the first place ribbon of a promotion goes to the winner but there is no distribution of the pay raise amongst the other participating applicants.

Sharing our joys is a natural part of our programming and celebrating with others gives us a sense of connection and validation.

But how much of the meaning in celebrating for someone gets lost in the emphasis of putting on a real show for the guests compared to reinforcing the connections between those guests and the celebrant?

We could claim that we are showing compassion toward the non-celebrants when we give them loot bags and pony rides and bouncy castles. But in reality, we miss the chance for them to feel compassion for the birthday child! That sense of connection, or sharing emotions, goes both ways; compassion isn’t just about understanding when someone is struggling and passively giving them space in your psyche to ease their suffering. Compassion is also about sharing the exquisite pleasures of joyful success and admiration.

When someone wins a race, a graceful loser doesn’t need a participation ribbon, they need to have compassionate connection with the winner to feel respect for a good game. This concept gets often lip service in sports and disservice in the other aspects of our lives, where losing isn’t learning, it’s burning. The winning team ideally celebrates with each other while the losing team celebrates for the winners.

Celebrating for someone allows them to own their special occasion and feel the elation of being celebrated. Celebrating with someone divides those feelings amongst all participants and knowing which is appropriate is a matter of maturity and discernment. Yet, subconsciously the birthday child often feels the unfairness of how their party winds up being about the guests, not about them.

Trojan Horses and Gordian Knots

No strings attached?

Look that gift horse in the mouth and examine every strand of hair in its mane and tail looking for threads which may inextricably bind you before accepting unsolicited gifts. Or unsolicited acts of service, for that matter.

Generosity is an aspect of sincere compassion but like all behaviours can be used for control. Extricating yourself from negative billing on an uninvited gift or service can be incredibly tricky. Have you ever sat on the phone navigating the layers of red tape required to cancel that free trial you signed up for on a whim…and you knew what you were getting into there!

Providing unexpected gifts or services is a common behaviour in those struggling to reach emotional stability. It is a way to secure connection without a risk of personal rejection – our society tells us it is churlish to turn away someone bearing gifts or who does nice things for us…until the moment where the words ” After all I’ve done for you…” come to haunt you.

There is no shame or dysfunction in choosing to involve yourself with someone who engages in dysfunctional behaviour if you do so with conscious compassion and joyful intent. Just like accepting an offer of a free trial book of the month club gives you a chance to see if you like what you get, if it meets your needs.

A gift horse does have value even if long in the tooth. A Trojan army can only overrun your boundaries if you are unprepared or weakened. Every interaction, unsolicited or not, with another human being is a bid for contact, an attempt to get a need met, an effort to find stability. Greeted with receptive curiosity, these threads of connection can weave beautiful patterns not possible without the tension created by the variance in personalities.

Understanding yourself and your needs and motivations will allow you to examine the details of Trojan horses to determine if acceptance is worth the cost. Awareness of your strengths and defenses will provide you with certainty as you decide to allow entry or reject the offering presented to you.

Knowledge of the patterns and personality of the gift giver will inform your decision; don’t trust anyone but love them anyway by having hopeful assumptions. Trust Synergy to keep you satisfied and in balance as you endeavor to meet your needs while being of service to others.

Even if they seem to be trying to pay you in advance.

That behaviour, being generous, is sincere, as is the motive, getting needs met. What makes the interaction insincere and thus unsatisfying is the lack of clear expectations. Perhaps because of a history of rejection and manipulation, they feel they must use passive means to meet their needs. Maybe they’ve experienced helplessness or hopelessness and are attempting to cultivate relationships in advance so when they need support they already have a line of credit with you.

With all unsolicited bids for contact, especially those involving gifts or acts of service, you are able to make an intentional and deliberate choice to accept the gift and its possible knot of hidden obligations, or choose to block access to your energy by turning the gift away at the door. Feel no shame or guilt in saying no because your boundaries still apply even in the face of apparent acts of generosity. Since Synergy gifts us with what we need each day, we are programmed to receive and resistance goes against our very nature!

You will feel the Moment a truly compassionate gift or act is bestowed upon you, and anything less than that sensation will have some degree of transaction involved, some measure of score keeping. When in the Presence of sincere compassion, the taste of satisfaction and gratitude will be unmistakable and you will feel compelled to accept out of sheer joy.

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.

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.