The Grapeseed and the Acorn

Photo by Laura Stanley on Pexels.com

An acorn and a grapeseed landed close together on the forest floor. The acorn, as acorns do, began to sprout straight up toward the sky. The grapeseed, as grapeseeds do, began to sprout along the earth. The sapling quickly grew tall, reaching for the stars. The seedling quickly grew long, reaching for supports. The grapevine encountered a blade of grass and whispered “May I lean on you?”

The grass answered yes, but when the vine wrapped its runner around the shoot the grass toppled over under the weight. The vine continued growing toward other plants on the forest floor, asking each one if it could lean on them, and each one buckled under the weight of the vine.

Finally the vine touched the sapling with one of its runners. By then, the oak had formed its heartwood and was strong and stable. The grapevine whispered “May I lean on you?”

The oak sapling rustled “Yes,” and the vine wove its runner around the trunk of the tree. The tree did not topple, and the vine began to grow strong and flourish, as did the oak tree.

The grapevine and the oak tree shared the soil and the rain and the sunshine, and bore fruit. The grapes on the vine were lush and delicious while the acorns on the tree were rich and nutritious.

The oak tree whispered to the grapevine “Come, rise up toward the sky with me.”

The vine trembled and said “No, the sky is not safe for a grapevine. Please can we grow North?”

Seeing the vine’s fear, the oak tree replied “Yes, we can grow North. I will support you.” And the oak tree grew a branch facing North. Together, the vine and the tree grew further North than any oak had ever grown before. The vine wrapped its shoots around the branch and both enjoyed the view. The oak tree delighted in the Northern animals the grapevine attracted with its abundant fruit, and they were content. Years went by.

The oak tree whispered to the grapevine “I would like you to come toward the sky with me, now that you see how well I support you in the North.”

The vine shook and said “No, the sky is too big. Can we please grow South?”

Seeing the vine’s fear, the oak tree replied “Yes, we can grow South. I will support you.”   And the oak tree grew a branch facing South. Together the vine and the oak grew a branch further than any oak tree had ever grown South before. The vine wrapped its shoots around the branch and both enjoyed the view. The oak tree delighted in the Southern animals the grapevine attracted with its abundant fruit, and they were content. Years went by.

The oak tree whispered to the grapevine “Look at how strong, true and tall my heartwood grows in my trunk as I reach for the sky. I would like you to grow there with me and keep me company.”

The vine shuddered and said “No, the sun is too bright in the sky and will burn me. Can we please grow East?”

The oak tree saw the pain in the vine and with sorrow said “Yes, we can grow East. I will support you.” And the oak tree grew a branch facing East. Together, the vine and the oak grew further East than any oak tree had ever grown before. The vine wrapped its shoots around the branch and both enjoyed the view. The oak tree delighted in the Eastern animals the grapevine attracted with its abundant fruit, and they were content. Years went by.

The oak tree once again whispered to the grapevine “I support you in the North. I support you in the South. I support you in the East. Please do not be afraid to join me in reaching for the sky. I am getting lonely as I grow taller and taller away from you.” The vine once again trembled and asked the oak instead to grow West, and the oak grew a branch to the West.

But this time, the vine was not content. The vine looked at the trunk of the oak tree. It saw how the bark of the tree was not even visible because the vine surrounded the entire thing. The vine looked at the branches to the North, the South, the East and the West. Only the vine was visible, the branches of the oak itself were not. Only the leaves of the vine, and its bunches of grapes, graced these lower branches of the tree. And the vine grew angry.

“You do NOT support me, oak tree. I support you. Look at us. All to be seen down here is me. My leaves. My grapes. My vine. I hold you up, oak tree, as you try to reach for the sky. I support you. You are nothing without me. Look around you, oak tree, and see the truth, that you are nothing without my support.”

The oak tree did look. The oak tree did see that the lower trunk, and lower branches, were completely shrouded by the strong, abundant, and productive grapevines. And the oak tree was puzzled. Was the vine truly holding up the oak tree from the outside, or was the oak tree supporting the vine from the inside? The heartwood inside those branches died at that moment, losing their identity and strength. The branches no longer bore sap, no oak leaves grew on them, and no acorns graced them. The oak stopped asking the grapevine to grow toward the sky with it, but still strove to touch the stars and still spread higher branches, filling them with abundant leaves and acorns. Neither was content. Years went by.

A sharp crack and terrible cry reverberated through the forest one day. The North branch dropped to the ground.

“Why did you do this, why did you drop me?” the grapevine cried to the oak tree. The branch had rotted and crumbled without the heartwood inside to support it, and had given way under the great mass of the grapevine with all its leaves and bunches of grapes. “What have you done?”

Then the South, East, and West branches snapped and tumbled to the ground, taking the grapevine with them.

“How can you do this to me? How can you let me fall?” the grapevine said to the oak tree.

“But you said you were supporting me,” the oak replied. “How did I let you fall if you were the one holding both of us up? It’s ok, though, grapevine. I still have all these branches growing toward the sky if you want to join me. I will shelter you from the sun and wind. I will support you as we reach for the stars. I understand that you are a grapevine and you grow as grapevines grow. I am an oak tree, and I grow as oak trees grow. But we can share like we used to, when you kept me company and brought me beautiful animals with your grapes, and I held you up so you could feel the sun on your leaves. I grew broader and stronger than any oak ever has before. And you produced more grapes and grew stronger and broader than any grape vine ever had before.”

The grapevine considered the oak tree’s words. It looked at the branches on the ground which appeared to be grapevines but deep inside had been supported by the oak.

The oak tree whispered one last time “Please grow with me toward the sky.” And this time the grapevine felt no fear, wrapping its shoots around the strong oak and reaching toward the sky, securely scaffolded by the oak tree. They were content.

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.

Behaviour Blame Shifting

An exit strategy

Receiving a no, with or without explanation, can lead to a battle of wills as the person seeking to meet a need attempts to obtain it from someone who is not offering to do so.

Leave judgement behind and forget about wrong and right. In the Moment, there is no such thing. There is only need and satisfaction. This is how the defense of temporary insanity arises, when the emotional monster overwhelms a wise mind for a moment and seizes control attempting to overcome an obstacle in the way of an unmet need. Needs are valid, but forcing someone to meet them against their will is not.

When you remove the lense of judgement from evaluating behaviour, and accept that unmet needs are the driving force regardless of your personal opinion on the veracity of the need, then you will be better able resist attempts to dominate your will since emotionality and judgement are not part of the operations of a wise mind.

But resistance is necessary when your boundaries are at stake, and understanding your needs and boundaries gives stability to your defenses.

Some people will try to smash those walls, breaking themselves in the process. They may go to great lengths, driven by uncontrolled thoughts and emotions, to bend you to their objective. They may become someone they don’t even recognize in their efforts to make you into what they need.

And then they’ll blame you.

Upon reflection, in a convoluted way it is your fault. You did not follow the script in their head and they responded to your failure to meet their need. Your boundaries drove them to greater heights attempting to scale them. If you hadn’t been so strong in the face of their desperate need, they would never have gone to such lengths to win you.

Understanding this rationale will allow you to recognize how and why blame shifting happens thus letting you accept it without defending yourself, justifying your boundaries, or arguing how you actually did nothing wrong!

What you did was watch as a scaffold was constructed right outside your door. You listened as the rope was strung. And you waited as they mounted the blocks telling you you’d put the hangman’s noose outside your boundaries. Telling you if you don’t let them in they are going to die. Telling you they are in distress and only you can fix it. You didn’t stop them from building their own downfall. Because you held your boundaries, you were to blame for letting them hang themselves. Using Fear, Obligation, Guilt, and shame they shroud the scaffold in a FOG smokescreen and convince you it doesn’t exist and your walls are to blame for their distress.

We are not truly responsible for the actions, thoughts or feelings of another and our own past emotions have no relevance to the presence. We are not obliged to stop them burning their own bridges or jumping under busses. We do not need to surrender to their needs any more than they are required to meet our expectations.

Back to our WWF friends. They have a need. It is to earn money. They are exploiting an opportunity to connect with potentially vulnerable targets, in an effort to redistribute wealth. The need is real but the ends do not justify the means. In fact, were these Scammy Sammys given the opportunity to put their energy toward a legitimate enterprise, their obvious wits and flexibility would make them incredibly successful. Leaving judgement aside and meeting them with curiosity, you develop compassion for the situation they are in while also recognizing it is not ok to take advantage of people.

And they are aware. They know exactly what they are doing and take pride in a job well done until they feel judged or ashamed. Although we often hide the truth from ourselves, we all know what we are doing. We all make choices. We all have moments of clarity where we sit inside our wise mind and hate what our monsters have made us do. Then we either embrace change…

Or we shift that hate onto the person who made us look in the mirror.

“Look what you made me do.”

Clear Expectations

They bridge the space between.

Being of service requires truly understanding how to be of service. Asking someone directly is an effective and straightforward way of determining if what you have to offer is indeed what is wanted or needed. Clarifying expectations and setting boundaries is a necessary part of being of service yet is often inhibited by our discomfort in asking for expectations and articulation of boundaries. Without these invaluable guidelines one or both parties get disappointed, exploited, or otherwise dissatisfied. The space between gets clouded and murky and connection becomes strained.

On the boundaries side, it starts with the offering. The more information you provide about what you are willing to give, the less chance of misunderstanding. But you must balance this with the fact information gives power and power gives control.

If you are actively offering a good or service then providing extensive details in your description saves you and your prospective customers time and energy. You don’t have to field the same question dozens of times while they don’t waste their time asking. If you really want to sell, you voluntarily share all the details. Doing so generates an intimacy which simulates trust, which is exactly why the WWF Sammy Scammys overshare! In these days of digital fraud surrounding marketplace advertisements you as a seller must be alert to scamsters too and the lack of details provided in their queries will often be the first clue to the insincere purchaser. Of course, reading an invalid URL as in the example below will also reveal a scam attempt.

On the recipient’s side, articulating expectations ensures that you are going to be satisfied with what you obtain from the transaction. Make no mistake, every single interaction with another human being is a transaction in one way or another. Except in the case of acts of true compassion, where nothing is expected in return.

It’s the currency and the outcome which determine if it feels mercenary or rewarding or simply a daily task. Pretending that our interactions are not transactions does not change that reality and in fact creates the phenomenon of generalized dissatisfaction in society. Many people experience a nebulous discomfort as they go about their day, a sense of being unfulfilled and cheated yet they can’t put their finger on it. Because we feel guilty saying no, we feel uncomfortable denying someone when they express a need but also because of the legitimate confusion which exists within the ambiguity of social interactions. Our WWF Scammy Sammys consistently exploit the very name of the program, insisting that since you accepted a game and chat, you are their friend and must meet all the responsibilities and obligations inherent in THEIR definition of friendship even if you did not actively agree to a working definition of friendship.

Intentional business transactions drive global finance. Personal transactions drive global society yet we do not give intentionality to most of our human interactions. Even acts of compassion are only effective if the need is understood. Without intentionality, we don’t get what we really want nor give what we truly meant to.

Sincere and intentional communication can not only be used as protection against exploitation by controlling data mining but also ensures interpersonal transactions remain satisfying while even becoming a delight in and of itself.

Saying what you want is satisfying. Indicating what you are willing to offer is comforting. Avoiding either can be a sign of a power play but assuming the best is what Synergy wants us to do as we seek to meet our needs.

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.

Children, Chores, and Choices

Our children are temporary passengers on a train they never chose to board. We bring them onto our life journey, intentionally or without thought, but our destination and even our route is not by their design.

How we treat these involuntary riders determines the way their own lives unfold once they disembark from our carriage. If they even do! And if we derail while they’re still aboard, the fright of that experience can inhibit their delight in laying their own tracks.

In reality, when we purchase a ticket for a destination, do we expect to be put to work aboard the machine? If we are offered free passage, no strings attached, do we feel misled or exploited when once en route we are given no choice but to shovel coal into the boiler to keep the engine chugging? A mutiny would quickly arise were passengers turned unwillingly into crew.

Yet many parents do not hesitate to put their children to work keeping the family train operational. Chores are encouraged and applauded by almost all. So why do so many children resist their responsibilities, challenge their chores and undermine the expectations put upon them?

Choice. Free will. Fairness. Hypocrisy.

Children are not slave labour nor serfs. Regardless of how convenient their presence and how accessible their hours, to demand unnecessary contributions and unwilling labour is to invite mutiny no different than how passengers with tickets would resist serving in the dining car. A treasured guest is not ordered to work for their keep yet children get the mixed message they are loved but must earn their place in their home.

Were the train in real trouble, and the passengers given the opportunity to understand the situation and to volunteer to assist, many would go above and beyond. Knowing their own skills and abilities, the riders would offer what they could and do their utmost to help. Especially if they have seen the crew in action so truly appreciate the effort that goes into running the system.

We bring children into this world without their consent. To make them pay fare for riding with us is unfair. To force expectations and responsibilities on them when it is arbitrary or contrived is to leave them feeling used and exploited. They learn that love requires involuntary sacrifice and family feels like work. That home is where the servants are.

To invite them to labour beside us when we need their help, coming from a place of vulnerability and sincere need, is to show them how to step up when really needed. Or to ask them what they are interested in joining us with, to create bonding through shared labours, is to teach them the profound intimacy of common goals and experiences.

Leave the curriculum and artificial expectations in the classroom and make home a safe place to grow, free of exploitation, servitude or hypocrisy. They will offer help when they are ready, and learn when there are Moments to do so. As passengers on our train, they may want to explore it with us but sometimes they are simply along for the ride and won’t come to life until they start their own journey and that is just fine. But the more we enjoy our own ride, the more inspiring our pleasure, the greater the chance they will want to see what excites us.

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.