Is it possible to love everyone?


This is a challenging question, IMO, mainly because there is such a diversity of conceptions and attitudes about “love” in modern culture. In ancient Greece, they used several different words for love in different contexts, but in modern English our distinctions get a bit muddied. I have spent the past thirty years or so meditating on this issue and writing about it — and still find it difficult to reduce down to simplified definitions. Which means that answering this question will require laying some groundwork first….

What spiritual traditions are talking about when they use the phrase “loving everyone” is really three distinctly different components:

1) The first is having a certain perspective about all human beings (including ourselves) that recognizes human frailty, bad choices, imperfections and weaknesses in everyone, and nevertheless accepts, forgives and is kind to all. This is really more of a behavioral and intellectual discipline that is grounded in humility and functional compassion regarding the well-being of ourselves and others.

2) The second is a felt experience of affection that occurs through spiritual practice; this is difficult to describe without personally encountering it, but imagine feeling the same depth of love you might feel for your own child, a favorite sibling or your closest friend, but for everyone and everything at once. This is a profound apprehension that can happen spontaneously in peak experiences of consciousness, or as the result of disciplined mystical activation practices (see my book Essential Mysticism for elaboration of this process, online for free here: Essential Mysticism); in fact that is what many spiritual practices in various traditions seek to induce.

3) The third aspect of “loving everyone” is inherent to the ideas of discernment, skillfulness, and understanding the relationship dynamics in play. In other words, whether we are exercising disciplined humility (#1), or experiencing an aha moment of universal love (#2), we will want to know whether our behavior and decisions have efficacy with respect to loving others — that is, that they have the desired trajectory, interplay and consequences. This also means developing some metrics around this objective, and understanding what “unskillful” love (such as codependence) looks like.

In the highest order of what I call the unitive principle — that is, a mature and skillful universal loving kindness — all three of these facets of “loving everyone” are developed and refined. In fact, that process never ends…it is a dynamic and fluid interaction within and without. But there is an important conditionality to this journey: it is dependent on our level of moral development (or ego development, if you will). We will not be able to operate beyond our level of moral maturity — at least not for sustained periods of time without the possibility of burn-out. This is because love-consciousness has everything to do with our personal identity and attachment to that identity, as well as how expansive or inclusive our identity becomes. This is a much more complicated topic, but here is a chart that shows the progression of moral development and its correlation to both identity and our ability to “love everyone” in skillful and sustainable ways:

Integral Lifework Developmental Correlations

I hope this was helpful.

What is the difference between liking and loving?


I have what I think is a bit of a different take on this, which has informed my work in couples coaching, individual coaching and in my own spiritual practice and relationships.

First, please have a look at this chart, which I call the Relationship Matrix:



(from: https://www.integrallifework.com/resources/Integral_Lifework_Concepts_Tools.pdf)

When we examine the characteristics of our relationships with other people using the Relationship Matrix, two things usually become increasingly clear:

1. In any given relationship, there may be a different emphasis in each of the four quadrants when relating to the other person.

2. There is a spectrum of combined characteristics from these quadrants that informs our subjectively felt experience of affection and compassion towards other people, and which helps define and differentiate “like” vs. “love.”

For example, couples who fall deeply in love with each other often find a strong intersection in ALL four quadrants. Over time, their relationship will continue to grow and deepen when those intersections persist - even as the emphasis might change and vary. Relationships falter - both initially and over longer periods - when these intersections “get out of sync;” that is, when one party is operating with different assumptions about each quadrant, or is experiencing the relationship differently from the other person in each quadrant.

Lastly, I would say that as we mature (spiritually, morally and relationally), the arena of our affectionate compassion expands outward. We “fall in love” with a larger and larger circle of inclusion beyond our familial and romantic relationships. We first come to care more inclusively - even about things (and people) we don’t particularly “like” - and then we find ourselves wanting what is best for them…and ultimately what does the greatest good, for the greatest number for the greatest duration (i.e. “the good of All”). But what is interesting to me is that, when we are young and immature, we are generally drawn mainly to things and people that we “like” (i.e. have low-level intersections with in one or more quadrants); but when we grow wiser, with more experience and insight, we let go of “liking” as a prerequisite for our interest and concern, and ground our actions and intentions in a deeper, more abiding stream of love.

My 2 cents.

From Quora: https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-difference-between-liking-and-loving-1

Parental Alienation: Clever Villainy, Mental Illness or Somewhere In-Between?

Dark Desert


First some definitions….

From the Wikipedia article (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parental_alienation):

“Parental alienation is the process, and the result, of the psychological manipulation of a child into showing unwarranted fear, disrespect or hostility towards a parent and/or other family members.[1][2] It is a distinctive and widespread form of psychological abuse and family violence —towards both the child and the rejected family members—that occurs almost exclusively in association with family separation or divorce…”


From a Psychology Today series (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/co-parenting-after-divorce/201304/the-impact-parental-alienation-children):

“Parental alienation involves a set of strategies, including bad-mouthing the other parent, limiting contact with that parent, erasing the other parent from the life and mind of the child (forbidding discussion and pictures of the other parent), forcing the child to reject the other parent, creating the impression that the other parent is dangerous, forcing the child to choose between the parents by means of threats of withdrawal of affection, and belittling and limiting contact with the extended family of the targeted parent….There is now scholarly consensus that severe alienation is abusive to children…and it is a largely overlooked form of child abuse.”


From the Parental Alienation Awareness Organization (PAAO - http://www.paawareness.org/):

“Parental alienation (or Hostile Aggressive Parenting) is a group of behaviors that are damaging to children's mental and emotional well-being, and can interfere with a relationship of a child and either parent. These behaviors most often accompany high conflict marriages, separation or divorce…These behaviors whether verbal or non-verbal, cause a child to be mentally manipulated or bullied into believing a loving parent is the cause of all their problems, and/or the enemy, to be feared, hated, disrespected and/or avoided.”


It might seem as though most parents who attempt to alienate their children from an ex-partner know what they are doing: they are trying to sabotage their children’s relationship with the other parent. However, this may not be the case. What is their underlying motivation? Is it an inability to forgive perceived wrongs? A stubborn drive for vengeance? An irrational fear that they will lose their children to the other parent’s affections or perspective if they don’t actively alienate that parent? A realization that their own inadequacies may become more apparent if they don’t fix as much blame as possible on their ex? Some loss of sanity to a delusional alternate reality where they actually believe the other parent is perpetrating horrible things on their children? A projection of one’s own fears and childhood abuses onto the other parent? An underlying personality disorder that is triggered by the stress of separation or divorce? Some combination of many or all of these factors? And, perhaps most crucially, even if they are aware of these motivations, are they able to consciously manage their response?

These have been some of the questions my wife Mollie and I have asked ourselves on a weekly – and sometimes daily – basis over the past twelve years regarding her son and daughter. Although her ex had a history of ongoing physical, emotional and psychological abuse toward family members in the years preceding their divorce, the divorce itself seemed to throw him into a crazed spiral of controlling, acutely abusive and alienating behavior that created tremendous additional stress for everyone involved. Mainly we have wanted to understand his motivations so that we could respond in the best way to protect the children and deescalate the drama. What was the wisest course of action? Our eventual conclusion – after much counseling, research, meeting with attorneys, etc. – was that we would actively avoid “counter-alienation” behavior, keep communication pathways open with her ex to facilitate the healthiest, most cooperative decisions possible for the kids, and allow her daughter and son come to conclusions about their father on their own. Whether this was actually the wisest course is still a difficult question – and we’ll revisit that later on in this article.

Thankfully, in the last few years, both children have begun to realize that most of the fear-inducing narrative their father had invented around my wife and me was not true, and they have distanced themselves to varying degrees – either from their father, or from his delusional machinations, or both. But of course offering the space and time for each child to come to this conclusion independently was not an easy decision for us to make…and we are still second guessing it even today. After all, the alienation persisted for nearly a decade…couldn’t we have done something more to protect the kids? Adding to this doubt, both children have expressed the sentiment at one time or another that they felt abandoned by their mother because they were subjected to their father’s delusions, control and abuse seemingly without any intervention or help. And seeing their pain around these feelings of helplessness and abandonment just adds to our own distress and doubt. So is there anything we could have done differently…?

Faith


Our first encounter with the concept of “parental alienation” occurred during consultations with an attorney. The attorney quickly identified the symptoms and shared some resources about it, including a book written by his partner in that law practice. One of the first things those resources pointed out was a correlation between Borderline Personality Disorder and parental alienation, and frankly all of the alienation behavior before and after the divorce fit that diagnosis like a glove. But again, what could be done? It was the attorney’s recommendation that Mollie pursue full custody by showing the court evidence of her ex’s bizarre antics, and the harm this was doing to both children. Of course, in order to arrive at this point, the attorney had already used up all of his $2,500 retainer, and we found ourselves out of funds. Mollie was working part time, I had been writing a book (The Vital Mystic) full-time for the past year, and for the kids’ sake we of course were not planning on moving in together anytime soon. In addition, we were already accruing significant debt to provide resources the kids needed (family therapy, a family vehicle, a safe neighborhood and living environment, etc.). Over the next few years, all of these efforts to support the kids while navigating the ex’s extreme alienation tactics would lead both of us into severe financial hardship. So despite our best efforts, we simply did not have the resources to move the full-custody option forward.

But what, you might wonder, constitutes bizarre and destructive parental alienation behavior? I think it’s important to provide a few illustrations of the kinds of things this ex was doing throughout the divorce and for years afterward. Most of this could be categorized as “amplifying his own victimhood and all the wrongs he believed the children should know about,” which Mollie and I had somehow facilitated. Here are some examples; keep in mind that the children were ages eight and eleven when all of this began:

1. Whenever the children were with their mother, her ex would call them several times each day to interrogate them about what they were doing, where they were, who they were with, and what their mother was up to – all in an attempt to manage or correct any situation he didn’t like. The conversations were intense, caused both children a lot of stress, and frequently lasted over an hour. Whenever he couldn’t reach the kids by phone, the ex would fly into a manic rage, escalating his threats with Mollie until he got his way.

2. Despite seldom involving himself in the children’s education previously, the ex insisted on becoming the sole parental contact at their school, attending all parent-teacher meetings alone, making sure that he was the only emergency contact, and making it very difficult for their mother to assert she had 50/50 custody as per their agreement.

3. Despite previous years of harsh, authoritarian parenting that included corporeal punishment, the divorce transformed the ex into a “Disney Dad” who was now excessively indulgent with both kids, ignoring any discipline or agreed-upon accountability around their diet, school, behavior, medical treatments or any concerns that he would have inflexibly mandated and controlled prior to the divorce.

4. In what was probably one of the most harmful and inappropriate decisions, the ex spent hours sobbing in front of the children, repeating a story that he was “all alone now” and that they were “all he had,” that he couldn’t bear the thought of being without them, and that any betrayal would kill him. This ongoing grief and drama encouraged each child to feel guilty about any time spent away from their father, and resulted in Mollie’s daughter sleeping in the living room with her father (on a separate couch) nightly. It also increased the stress and drama around any enjoyment they experienced without their father, making them feel like this was somehow a betrayal.

5. The ex also aggressively played the children against each other, encouraging them to tattle on one another if either one didn’t comply with his expectations. As punishment, if one of the children didn’t report something they had done with their mother – or something they had done with me – that child would receive a cold shoulder for days or weeks afterward. This withdrawal of affection (and sometimes all interaction and eye-contact) was so frightening that both children began to make up stories to please their father’s preconceptions. And they would never, ever admit (even to each other) that they were enjoying themselves when they spent time at their mom’s.

Butterfly Woman Diaries I - Liar


6. The alienation narrative that the ex fabricated around both Mollie and me was heartbreaking and horrifying, but he repeated elements of it almost daily directly to the children or while talking in front of them – as well as sharing it with others in the children’s lives that he hoped to influence or control. Some examples of these fabrications, along with their consequences:

a. A story that, before the divorce, their mother had been sneaking out at night, climbing over the fence to have sex with me. This dovetailed neatly with the delusion that the family had moved from Seattle to San Diego just so Mollie could be with me. These ideas encouraged disrespect and judgment from both children towards their mother and hostility towards me. Often this resulted in simple disobedience, but sometimes it escalated into physical violence towards one or both of us.

b. That I had changed my name when I moved to San Diego because I was a mass-murderer and was hiding from the law. This led to Mollie’s daughter sleeping with a cordless phone and 9-inch kitchen knife under her pillow, and being terrified of spending time alone with me at first. Mollie’s son would routinely find reasons to throw objects at my head or lash out physically until I could distract him with jokes or a game.

c. That both children “should be deathly afraid” of me as a matter of course. This resulted in both children expressing fear towards me whenever they thought their father would be aware of our interaction. On one occasion Mollie’s daughter hid from us when we visited a school performance and the staff asked us to leave; on another, the children were encouraged to share a story with the school counselor that got CPS involved. CPS concluded that concerns were “unfounded,” but the damage was done. Mollie’s therapist indicated that until the ex accepted me, the children would always have to be proving their loyalty to him, and that we should limit my contact with the kids to lessen the strain on them.


7. The ex also coached both children on how to ignore or disrespect their mother's parenting in various ways: they didn't need to follow through with anything their mother asked them to do, could pretend to be asleep when she called to wish them goodnight, should challenge or devalue anything their mother said or did for their benefit, should reject and refuse anything their mother claimed to be "healthy" (food, exercise, sleeping habits, therapy, etc.), and could lie to her about anything that happened at their father's house. At the same time, the ex demanded complete honesty, loyalty and conformance from them regarding his distorted expectations and agenda.

8. As a final layer of frosting on the alienation-cake, the ex would rapidly escalate his threats any time he felt his demands or preferences were not being respected. He would angrily say he would call CPS, or come over to the house, or physically harm me, or “take the kids to Mexico.” As Mollie’s daughter once repeated while on the phone with her father: “Daddy says he doesn’t care if he has to go to jail, but he’s going to come over here....” It was almost impossible to placate this man unless we did exactly what he demanded (or at least agreed to do so), and we certainly didn’t want the kids to be traumatized by louder and more violent drama.

Sleep With The Angels


Of course, when either child was removed from a situation where they thought their father would be watching, listening or somehow find out what was transpiring, they would instantly become much more relaxed. Their natural sense of humor and playfulness would take over, and there would be hours of laughter and fun. But in the early days this was so rare – for both their mother and for me – that it often brought tears of relief whenever it happened. On one occasion, when we all went camping and were out of cell phone coverage, the kids finally seemed to completely relax and really be themselves for the first time – and it lasted a full weekend! But of course their father redoubled his alienation efforts after that (the following week was when the school counselor called CPS…).

Currently, both kids have worked out a lot of what was really going on, and they now have a much better relationship with their mother, and with me. But again…so much damage was done, with so much stress and pain, that both children have suffered permanent emotional and psychological harm; wasn’t their some other approach we could have taken that would have been healthier for them? And, indeed, healthier for us too…? Looking back, with full custody seeming increasingly difficult, the fallback was for us to attempt what most therapists warn will not change the alienation dynamics:

• Waiting for the alienator to calm down, become distracted or have a change of heart.

• Reasoning or bargaining with the alienator.

• Encouraging the alienator to get therapy or help.

• Appeasing the alienator by complying with their demands or making them feel as important as they seem to crave.

• Formal mediation with the alienator or other attempts at negotiation.

And those therapists are absolutely right: for over a decade, none of these approaches worked, because this alienator seemed compelled to fixate on their own power in the situation, circumventing all attempts to moderate their behavior, even if it sacrificed the well-being of their children. All an alienator will do (and what the ex did) is keep trying to control the situation, keep breaking agreements, keeping cajoling, intimidating or persuading people to accept the alienator's delusion, and keep the drum-beat of the alienation narrative going indefinitely (or at least until the children capitulate and agree to reject having a close relationship with the targets of alienation). So...what more can be done? It took us a while to figure all of this out, but probably the best advice and discoveries we encountered along this journey were the following nuggets:

1. Don’t let the alienator’s antics becomes a smokescreen for issues in your own relationships. That is, don’t make all potential drama and upset be about the ex; instead, put the ex in their place. Sure, they are creating a lot of pain, but as much as they would like to be, they aren’t really part of all these other relationships. Mollie and my relationship is separate. Her relationship with her kids is separate. My relationship with her kids is separate. And the more we can operate that way – the more the alienator is forced to be external rather than an internal part of relationship dynamics – the more those relationships can heal and gain their own footing.

2. Encourage the children to see you as your own person. In the same way, divorcing the children’s conceptions of their mother and me from their father’s programming involved relentless positive interaction and distraction from the alienation narrative. Yes, the ex repeatedly tried to sabotage those interactions, but we would just keep on keepin’ on: keep loving, caring, listening, supporting and parenting in positive ways. Eventually, even before the kids began individuating from their father’s influence, the contrast between their father’s version of reality and the reality they saw and felt with us became too great for them to ignore. In this sense, cognitive dissonance is our friend.

3. Find the help everyone needs and participate in the healing process. For both of the kids, therapy became a critical part of an ongoing reintegration and healing process. This wasn’t about the children needing to be “fixed,” this was about exploring what they were feeling and struggling with in the moment (and things that happened in their childhood, when possible) in a safe environment, with Mollie and I fully willing to engage therapeutic dialog with the kids – when the kids were ready for it. It also meant that Mollie and I sought support for our relationship, both in the midst of the alienation and then later as well, when we were trying to understand how best to support the kids’ healing process.

4. Focus all energies on your own parenting and relationship – rather than the alienator. This is really just an amplification of the previous three points, but it really drives them home: the alienator’s absence from all relationship dynamics is a powerful current in the healing process. This means that emotional and physical boundaries remain firm; that children are parented as if the alienator isn’t involved and can’t control the situation; that decisions are made without fear of the alienator’s threats or reprisals; that there is accountability (via law enforcement, if necessary) for the alienator’s extreme actions; that the relationship children have with the alienator doesn’t have to be protected, supported or compensated for; that fear of the alienator and/or sympathy for them is no longer a part of the decision matrix; that the well-being of one’s children is not dependent on placating the irrational whims of the alienator.

5. Keep giving, loving and caring – keep demonstrating affection to an alienated child – even if it doesn’t seem appreciated or acknowledged. This is really the torch Mollie recognized and carried, because she never gave up or stopped trying to reach out to her kids. Yes, she often was forced to give her children space, but she never let go of the possibility of having a healthy, loving relationship with them. So no matter how badly they behaved, no matter how nastily they treated her, no matter what accusations they made or what part of their father’s alienation narrative they amplified… she always created a comfortable living environment for them, always remembered their birthdays, always took them to celebrate select holidays at a swanky hotel, always had a family photo taken at Christmas, always rushed to their aid whenever they were in distress, and was always there with open arms, ready to welcome them home. In fact, Mollie always insisted on inserting herself into the children's lives and upholding the 50/50 custody agreement, no matter how difficult that was, or how unwilling or obstructive other parties might be.

6. Live your life as fully as possible. I think this one gets lost in the jumble of the pain, loss and grief of alienation. Alienation really hurts, and it can seem like all the joy and peace is being stolen out of our lives. But of course there is joy, and adventure, and tranquility, and accomplishment, and goals, hopes, dreams, and of course love. And that fullness of life needs to be embraced and celebrated. To be healthy and whole, to experience all the richness and discovery of each day – these are not optional, but the point of being. And if there is anything that can inspire those we care about to appreciate what we offer them, it is the example of our day-to-day living. In my Integral Lifework practice, one verse of my daily mantra goes like this: “Just for today, remembering the well-being of others, and nourishing them through being whole.”


All of these choices take courage, love, discipline, patience, endurance and resilience. I think perhaps our biggest regret is not realizing many of these things sooner and acting accordingly. But this approach really seems to be the only possible path to healing and wholeness when dealing with parental alienation. That is, unless you have the copious resources required to choose a course to gaining full custody, with supervised visitations. I think, increasingly, the courts are beginning to recognize that parental alienation exists and does tremendous harm, but there still doesn’t seem to be much incentive to remedy it in that environment. However, it certainly doesn’t hurt to educate them about this issue and advocate on a child’s behalf. For Mollie, the pain and grief over the years of motherhood she lost to alienation is still fresh, and still difficult to bear. Part of her own healing process has been to express that pain and grief through art, which she has done through many of her paintings shown in this article and at http://www.molliekellogg.com. Her film “A Lonely Heart in the Crowd” also addresses the issue head-on (enter "you-are-magick" if prompted for password):

Lonely Heart Video - password = "you-are-magick"

The question remains: why is it so common that alienators are unable to change their tune or relax the alienation narrative and strategies over years or decades? This brings us full circle to our initial question of motivation. As one take, when we look at how Borderline Personality Disorder develops and presents itself, we may have a window into the inner workings of parental alienation. The Borderline will disconnect from reality, maintain persistent delusions, be strongly motivated by fear of abandonment, exhibit manipulative behaviors which are – for the Borderline – a desperately earnest tool for survival, react with disproportionate rage or despondence when they believe they are not being heard or loved, and generally operate from overwhelming emotional convictions rather than a reasoned or measured perspective. In other words, a Borderline cannot consistently be reasoned with, finds physical or emotional boundaries extremely threatening, will take extraordinary measures to prevent abandonment or rejection, and tends to resist any and all treatment. Essentially, they are primed to become a parental alienator.

I am a firm believer in the genotype/phenotype analogy for most mental illness. A genetic predisposition may be present, but it takes a unique combination of environmental factors to activate those genes – and, once activated, the trait expression is very difficult to suppress or manage. In the case of Borderline Personality Disorder, there is growing evidence that there are strong hereditary physiological factors as well as predictable environmental ones. For example, a Borderline’s myelination of the prefrontal cortex may be significantly reduced or delayed – this is as an inherited condition, and perhaps exacerbated by incompatible environments during development. In this case, going back a generation, we find the alienator’s own mother – claiming she was afraid her son would be taken from her – kept the alienator from any contact with his father’s family. Classic alienation behavior in itself.

So, in this instance, was parental alienation genetically inherited? Was it an observed behavior that was simply repeated? Is it evidence of an underlying mental illness? We just don’t know, in large part because the alienator has yet to take responsibility for his dysfunction and seek help. What is clear is that – just like someone with Borderline Personality Disorder – this alienator still feels tremendous pain and loss around events they could not control, but which were in large part conditions of their own creation.

My 2 cents.



Can you still be happy by not being socialized properly?

In answer to Quora question: "Can you still be happy by not being socialized properly?"

Thanks for the A2A. I think Ray Schilling touched on some very good points. Here is what I would add...

First off, I'm not a psychotherapist - and even if I were I'd need to know a lot more about your situation, your diagnosis, and more about you to offer a comprehensive and insightful response to your question. That said, I'll offer some observations about the situation and diagnosis you've shared in your question from the perspective of Integral Lifework:

1. Socialization, friendship and supportive community are essential to your well-being - even if they are limited. However, given your STPD diagnosis, that might best be managed initially through group therapy. Not that you can't find friendships or build a supportive community through things like common interests and activities, but a group therapy environment can help you develop the tools you will need to navigate social situations more effectively - that is, have better outcomes and experiences, to develop a wider spectrum of emotional responses, and to develop more reliable senses of safety, affinity and trust.

2. Romance isn't for everyone, I agree. However, because you mention in your comments that you aren't sure the "true essence of love" actually exists, I suspect it is likely your STPD is inhibiting your ability to feel vulnerable, open and intimate in requisite ways to make romance fully available - that is, where you can feel safe enough for a deeper experience. Therapy can also help with this - as can medication - but more importantly if you develop healthy friendships and regular, satisfying socialization, you will find romantic entanglements to be a much easier "next step." Still...romance is a big challenge, and it has its own learning curve, and that's true for anyone.

3. As for your other expressed desires for a rural lifestyle and to not participate in the "rat race," I'm completely with you there. If you have the means to do so then kudos to you.

I would also echo Ray's exhortation to be patient. All of this will take time and effort. If you find yourself choosing to self-isolate and avoid human interaction as much as possible, this can have outcomes that won't help you in the long run - outcomes like an amplification of certain fears, or increased depression, or poor self-care habits. And these can impact your emotional, physical and cognitive health, along with your felt sense of contentment and happiness. So I would be cautious about fully investing in isolation without at least trying a multi-month course of group therapy. However, I would of course encourage you to consult with your therapist to get their take on the timing of beginning such a course. If you have already tried group and found it too difficult or unproductive, I would encourage you to consider exploring a new group approach, or a different group.

My 2 cents.

How do I correct my behavior of cutting people out of my life for no good reason?

In answer to Quora question "How do I correct my behavior of cutting people out of my life for no good reason?"

Thank you for the A2A Sam Hobbs. And thanks to the OP for the clarifications in your comments.

After reading through answers, comments, etc. there are a few things that struck me. First, I would encourage you to check out the chart in the following Relationship Matrix: https://www.integrallifework.com/resources/RelMatrix.pdf

Notice in that Matrix that there are many different ways to connect with people - and on many different levels - and as along as both parties are aware of (and okay with) the level of involvement, then relationships can operate smoothly and with clear boundaries. The sense I get from reading the OP's comments and insights is that you are an all-in/all-out sort of person. That is, you want to have a high level of connection, honesty, emotional support and trust in your friendships and family relationships, and if you can't achieve that, then you tend to withdraw. There are a number of reasons people operate this way, and you have a number of factors that are likely influencing you, including your youth, your anxiety disorder, and your family history. That said, it is possible to cultivate varying levels of intimacy and trust with people - gradations of friendship, if you will - as outlined in the Relationship Matrix, so that you don't have to feel the need to either completely invest in or completely divest yourself from certain relationships. Sure, there will almost certainly be people at both extremes - those you feel very close to, and those you just can't stand - but there is a wide expanse of "gray area" that you may have yet to explore. And that is what I would encourage you to do. Part of this will be learning how to clarify and enforce healthy boundaries in all of your relationships - both for others to respect, and for you to respect when interacting with others. It takes time (years, actually) to learn how to do this, but it is quite worthwhile.

That said, even at age 51 I still struggle with similar issues; the self-isolating habit you describe isn't something that just evaporates even with healthy and plentiful relationships - or even a lot of therapy (though that can certainly help!). Even if you end up in a long-term committed relationship, and perhaps have your own children and grandchildren, you may still find yourself observing the same patterns much later in life. You may still withdraw, you may still be lonely, and you may still worry that you aren't going about relating to others in an optimal way. And this speaks to something that may have a great deal to do with what you are experiencing right now: self-acceptance. The more compassion and affection we can have for our entire self - with all our limitations and foibles - the more we can both be comfortable being alone when necessary or desired, and be more forgiving and accepting of other people's shortcomings.

Lastly, regarding being confronted with the failings of others, I'll leave you with some advice Marcus Aurelius, a stoic philosopher and Roman emperor, shared many centuries ago: "People exist for one another; teach them then, or bear with them."

My 2 cents.

What are the forces that created a society with little to no trust among it's members?

In answer to Quora question "What are the forces that created a society with little to no trust among it's members?"

Great questions and thanks for the A2A. Off the top of my head:

Commercialistic capitalism. This system is built on deception, manipulation, exploitation and theft. It also encourages people to rely on individualistic wage slavery and consumerism to feel "financially secure" in a self-isolating and egotistical way, undermining our reliance on community (i.e. "each other"). It also encourages cut-throat, unethical competitiveness among both workers and consumers. And it replaces mutual trust with contractual and financial obligations that center around protecting private property - and so we are surrounded by boundaries to what other people own, so that all of life orbits around each person's ego-projection "I/Me/Mine."

**Representative democracy.* When you abstract governance from the people, they disengage from each other and from investment in their own political process and oversight of their community. This "delegation" of responsibility and interest in governance tends to undermine collective decision-making and communication in any polity.

Technology. Whether it is technology that allows people to communicate without face-to-fact interaction, or to isolate themselves in their homes (or rooms) to do professional work or watch entertainment, the result is a lessening of human interaction and a perception that "trust" is less necessary in day-to-day life. It insulates us from each other.

What all of these elements share is their inherent disruption of cooperation, bonding and sense of interdependent relationship. They undermine trust because they replace dynamics that require trust with legal contracts, money, convenience, comfort, static role-based relationships (instead of trust-based ones), affluence and technological power. This is why a person feels okay to scream insults from their car at a stranger, or push past someone else to get a better place in line, or self-righteously vote to reduce their tax burden, or be rude to a customer service representative over the phone - because these systems and innovations have distanced them from their fellow human beings, making them feel (falsely) that they do not need to rely upon them.

My 2 cents.

What are the forces that created a society with little to no trust among it's members?

In answer to Quora question "What are the forces that created a society with little to no trust among it's members?"

Great questions and thanks for the A2A. Off the top of my head:

Commercialistic capitalism. This system is built on deception, manipulation, exploitation and theft. It also encourages people to rely on individualistic wage slavery and consumerism to feel "financially secure" in a self-isolating and egotistical way, undermining our reliance on community (i.e. "each other"). It also encourages cut-throat, unethical competitiveness among both workers and consumers. And it replaces mutual trust with contractual and financial obligations that center around protecting private property - and so we are surrounded by boundaries to what other people own, so that all of life orbits around each person's ego-projection "I/Me/Mine."

Representative democracy. When you abstract governance from the people, they disengage from each other and from investment in their own political process and oversight of their community. This "delegation" of responsibility and interest in governance tends to undermine collective decision-making and communication in any polity.

Technology. Whether it is technology that allows people to communicate without face-to-fact interaction, or to isolate themselves in their homes (or rooms) to do professional work or watch entertainment, the result is a lessening of human interaction and a perception that "trust" is less necessary in day-to-day life. It insulates us from each other.

What all of these elements share is their inherent disruption of cooperation, bonding and sense of interdependent relationship. They undermine trust because they replace dynamics that require trust with legal contracts, money, convenience, comfort, static role-based relationships (instead of trust-based ones), affluence and technological power. This is why a person feels okay to scream insults from their car at a stranger, or push past someone else to get a better place in line, or self-righteously vote to reduce their tax burden, or be rude to a customer service representative over the phone - because these systems and innovations have distanced them from their fellow human beings, making them feel (falsely) that they do not need to rely upon them.

My 2 cents.

Is there a limit to how far resourceful parents are justified to help their kids to get ahead of peers?

From Quora answer to "Is there a limit to how far resourceful parents are justified to help their kids to get ahead of peers?"

Question details: While I recognize parents should have the freedom to spend the money they earned on their kids, there seems to be a limit beyond which parental help becomes unjust: parents using personal connections to obtain well-paid and high-profile jobs may be seen as unjust by some. So where is the line?


Thanks for the A2A.

Of course there is a line. Where that line is will be guided by five factors:

1. The moral framework guiding the parent's values and their parenting style.
2. How skillful the parent is at helping their child individuate and become self-sufficient.
3. How much the parent connects their own self-esteem or self-concept with their child's accomplishments, or tries to live vicariously through their child, and consequently limits the child's choices and oppresses their development.
4. The child's natural capacities and desires for independence and self-sufficiency.
5. The child's natural aptitudes and abilities.

We could spend a lot of time discussing each of these points, but in an ideal world the parent would be morally advanced enough to recognize the importance of an "authoritative" parenting style (as opposed to authoritarian, uninvolved or indulgent-permissive parenting styles) where they encourage the child to create their own goals and priorities, and step back to let the child navigate their own path, being supportive but not controlling. In that ideal world the parent would also understand the importance of their child forming an independent identity that is not tied too closely to culture, class, wealth or family ties (this is tied to another form of individuation, in this case a Jungian one). And, in that ideal world, the child will not have mental or physical illnesses or limitations that restrict them, and have ample motivation to become independent, self-directed and whole.

Alas, we don't live in an ideal world. The advantages of such parenting are well-researched and experientially validated...but that doesn't mean a majority of parents aim for this, practice it consistently, or even agree with these conclusions. But even if they DID agree, "the line" would still be all over the place, moving according to variations in each of those five factors. So "the line" will be a very subjective (or intersubjective) thing. The best we can do is educate folks on healthy and skillful parenting - and what the course of healthy a child's development looks and feels like - if they are receptive to it.

A sad reality about human beings that has persisted into the modern world is that ignorance and arrogance combine into an incredibly destructive force. Many people believe they know how best to raise their own children - which is obviously ludicrous, since most people have never had any training or education about parenting, and are either just repeating the mistakes their own parents made, or overreacting to an opposite extreme. It's a very sad state of affairs. So parents can often exercise perpetual incompetence - and horrific emotional, physical, spiritual and sexual abuse - because their "right" to be an incompetent parent has so many cultural and institutional protections.

So, again, the best we can do is educate. To that end I recommend reading up on "separation-individuation" (first proposed by Margaret Mahler) and the four parenting styles referenced above (first proposed by Diana Baumrind), and Jung's musings about individuation as well. There is 50+ years of research supporting the conclusions of Mahler and Baumrind, and if parents could learn about these facts before they even had children - perhaps in high school? - the family relationships might become a lot more compassionate and skillful than they generally are today...and "the line" we've been discussing defined by much clearer and more constructive terms.

My 2 cents.

How can I make sure that those wrongdoers suffer as much the pain as they inflicted in my life?

In answer to Quora question: "How can I make sure that those wrongdoers suffer as much the pain as they inflicted in my life?"

Question details: I think this would relieve my stress, because such people make me question whether being moral makes one happy and protected against evil or just pure fool who stays moral thinking its the right way but maybe stay so because it's easier and lazier to be good willed than to fight and compete?


A2A. Some thoughts off the top of my head:

1. When a dog is stuck in a painful trap, and its lifelong human friend comes to free it, 9 times out of 10 it will growl and bite that person viciously, because the dog is in pain and doesn't know how else to act. **Are you a dog caught in a painful trap?** If so, what choices did you make that led to this situation?

2. A sociopath is hardwired to "win at all costs." That is a central part of their disorder. They can only see the world through competing, manipulating and deceiving others in order to serve their own agenda at any cost. **Are you a sociopath?**

3. Someone stuck at an early stage of ego development will frame morality through defense of their own ego. They will make everything about championing their ego, so that they feel more secure. Because of this, they always feel they are in competition with others, and that all wrongs against them must be righted. **Are you stuck at an early stage of ego development?**

4. People with narcissistic personality disorder (and borderline personality disorder, though perhaps to a lesser degree) believe they deserve things, that they are special, important and superior - even though they may have done nothing to warrant this self-importance, and may not even be especially talented or bright. This inflated sense of self causes them to expect others to do what the narcissist wants, when they want it, and without question - to the point that a narcissist will become enraged when people won't respond in ways they expect, or won't recognize their importance and power. **Have you been evaluated for narcissistic personality disorder or other personality disorder?**

5. One type of psychopath may envy and resent people around them in a hateful way. They tend to become "injustice collectors" and accrue a long list of things "wrongdoers" have perpetrated against them. They will then use these feelings of self-righteous rage to fuel revenge, executing it without remorse, and without any sense of responsibility for the harm they commit. **Are you this type of psychopath?**

Although I have no idea what all of your reasons for posting this question might be Idella, or how you really feel and think, the question itself may reflect one or more of the conditions listed above. If you honestly feel the way this question sounds - or you think it is a perfectly reasonable and logical question - I urge you to seek professional psychiatric care as soon as you are able. Remember that people suffering from many of the more serious conditions listed above do not see themselves as impaired or unhealthy in any way - but this is also part of the disorder. So again, if the question was sincere, or seems logical to you, or is deeply felt, then please seek help immediately and don't delay.

There is another possibility of course, and I certainly hope this is the case for you, rather than any of the conditions above: People who are ignorant, inexperienced, slow learners or all of these things tend to believe revenge will make them feel better. However, all the research available on "the psychology of retribution" clearly shows that people feel worse when they execute revenge; it keeps the anger fresh and the emotional wounds open and raw, and *makes them more unhappy*. ** If you are ignorant, inexperienced and/or a slow leaner, **then it's time to grow up a bit, gain some wisdom, do some research on "the psychology of retribution," and begin to live your life in a more mature, prosocial manner. You should then quickly see why people learn to "forgive and let go." If you don't experience this "aha" moment...then being ignorant, inexperienced or a slow learner isn't the problem, and you will need to revisit the other conditions listed above with some professional help.

My 2 cents.

How do you stop compulsively using others and lying to yourself?

In answer to Quora question: "How do you stop compulsively using others and lying to yourself?"

Question Details: Deeply entrenched victimization coupled with co-dependency brought upon by a family of enablers has caused me to find myself at 27 years old stuck in patterns of using and manipulating others (despite good intentions) for my own gain as well as projecting a false image of myself to others to deceive them into thinking that I'm a good person. How can I get honest with myself and others and somehow grow past this? I'm also a recovering drug addict with two years of sobriety under my belt, unemployed and living with family. I just want to be healthy, normal, successful and productive.


Not knowing you or the details of your situation means that any thoughts I have on this are going to be general and may miss the mark entirely. However, here are some first impressions:

1) You seem to be self-aware and interested in healing and growth. That means you have a huge head start over someone who might be behaving the same way, but is in denial about their issues or avoiding them.

2) Taking responsibility for your own healing may mean moving past any desire to blame family members or past experiences, and instead embrace forgiveness and radical acceptance (of the past, of your family, and of yourself). Perhaps you've already reached this point intellectually, but if you haven't already done so, you will want to arrive at a deep emotional conviction regarding all of these areas of forgiveness and acceptance as well.

3) Congratulations on your two years of sobriety!

4) It is possible - perhaps even probable - that other factors are in play besides growing up in an incompatible or stressful environment. Seeing a skilled psychotherapist who is an expert in CBT and DBT may help you identify specific patterns or tendencies in your thoughts and emotions that contribute to the choices and behaviors that you have observed in your life. They can then offer you some tools to manage those patterns and tendencies.

5) Definitely consider taking the Nourishment Assessment on my Integral Lifework website (it's free), and see if there are any areas of your life that may be neglected or undernourished. Targeting aspects of our well-being that may have become depleted or rejected can open up new areas of strength, insight and energy to work through the very issues you have described.

In any case one huge positive for you is your age - 27 years young is a great time to take on these kinds of tough, personal issues. I have had clients in their 60s who were just arriving where you seem to be now. So IMO that's an advantage you should celebrate as you pursue this healing path of growth.

I hope this was helpful.

Why is it so difficult to find a loyal friend?

In answer to the Quora question: "Why is it so difficult to find a loyal friend?"

Thanks for the A2A.

I myself have felt this way many times in my life, and there does indeed seem to be little rhyme or reason to the quality of friendships that serendipitously occur in our lives. However, here are some observations from my own experience...

1) First I would consider taking a look at this chart: Integral Lifework Relationship Matrix. It can help categorize the nature of any relationship and refine certain expectations. I've made good use of this in couples coaching and in situations where a client is feeling frustrated that they aren't connecting with the right sort of people or are having trouble navigating friendships, romantic relationships and even work relationships. So perhaps it will be useful!

2) Culture does make a difference, and the region of the country where you live, work and socialize will have a huge impact on the quality of your friendships. I've lived in several places around the U.S., as well as in Germany for a few years, and have travelled extensively. People really are different in different geographical locations, and their expectations of friendship (how quickly they trust, what they are looking for in a friend, how generous they are, etc.) will have a lot to do with the local culture and its traditions. It is true that there may be folks who share our values almost everywhere...if we can find them. But it will be a lot more likely that we connect with potentially deep and lasting friendships that reinforce our values in cultures where a large percentage of the people around us share those values and worldview. And this is of course equally true of our immediate social community - where we work, with whom we recreate, how we engage our interests, and so on. If we are around incompatible sorts of people, we may feel very alone or unable to connect on levels we find most nourishing.

3) Be cautious of high standards. I say this only because I myself have fallen into the trap of expecting too much from my friends. I am slowly learning to apply something I read in the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius (which I highly recommend reading, btw) years ago: “People exist for the sake of one another. Teach them then, or bear with them.”

4) This fourth point is a little difficult to convey without knowing all the variables of your life experience and your beliefs, so please forgive me if I miss the mark. But there are phases in our lives where we must learn to be less reliant on what we may have experienced in the past as nourishing connections and relationships; where we are "forced to grow" as it were through new or uncomfortable situations. I am not saying this is what you are experiencing now, but only that there are times when previous patterns of relating no longer support or nurture us in the same way, and we must learn new ways of being that entail more personal effort and responsibility on our part - or different skills - than have been required in the past. Just something else to consider.

5) And, lastly, I will share one of many nuggets of wisdom my wife has shared with me. She has a saying that has cheered me up in countless situations where I felt let down by someone: "Happiness is lower expectations."

My 2 cents.