Taking Things Personally (That Aren’t)

I have noticed that a particular shift in perspective can save much needless suffering (as I am holding the Life Fulfillment Calls with individuals.) For short, let me call this shift “ending the notion that how we are put together, and our quirks and less-than-our-standards behavior is our personal failing.” From a larger perspective, this is ridiculous.

Taking personal blame for evolution is likely an act of either short-sightedness regarding time, an act of enormous hubris, or both. That we have a “reptilian brain” that tracks sex, aggression, protection, etc. isn’t something we put together. Please give the nearly 14 billion years that went into the “kluge-job” of a brain we have some credit here. And we weren’t around for very much of the 14 billion years either. Let’s concentrate on the part we are around for, and on the part where we have a say. And that say surely isn’t regarding everything.

Taking blame for our “monkey brains” that track status, belonging, being part of the group, is also likely unlikely to make us any more free, or to have us make better choices. Quite the opposite. If we let evolution have had its way so far, and start where we are starting with the “monkey plus” brains that also have a prefrontal cortex we are just learning to use, we can let the signaling that fit another time and place alone. We can let it roll through. We can take it as a radio station playing Paleolithic tunes in modern times. And we can concentrate our best discernment and belonging to the one developmental theme in front of us that we can do something about. (We can bring a greater humanity and workability to something that is in front of us.)

As for all the less-than-ideal qualities, please have them. That fits our time in evolution. We are far from having transcended our reptilian brains (note wars as the norm). We are far from having transcended our monkey brains (note the pervasiveness of “group think”, xenophobia, and being offended when our status is questioned). The best way of dealing with these is being up to something larger, something that calls on our prefrontal cortex for context, intention, commitment, connection, communication, belonging, and fit with life for its accomplishment. Serve that. And the stone age signals will become pretty irrelevant — like a radio playing Oldies left on in the background.

How’s this for a trap: take stone age signals adapted for another species in another time and think that is you talking to yourself as a human being about the current situation. From a certain view, that can be considered “crazy” — a misidentification of oneself and “hearing voices” that have nothing directly to do with fulfilling the current situation. This misidentification of our whole evolutionary inheritance as fitting our times leads to much mischief — arguments over nothing important, being offended, lying and manipulating, worrying, attacking those we love over minor slights to status, etc.

A better idea is to invent the kind of “identification” of ourselves as something that has room for these signals to come and go, to literally wash through, without being the driving force. The new “identification” can be prefrontal-cortex-oriented, and place what we have to provide, and what we are up to, as central to the identification. In a certain sense, what we have is a “readiness” for what we provide and what we are up to as our central identification. What fits with that, leads. What doesn’t, washes through.

This readiness also can be at the proper gradient, so no suffering is required about what isn’t timely. What can be fulfilled now? with these people? in our historical times? with our evolutionary inheritance? Good. That is worth pursuing. What cannot be fulfilled now or any time soon? Not ours to accomplish. Maybe we can help build a foundation for a future accomplishment. But overseeing or trying to force the outcome is futile. It won’t be stable in the environment we have to date.

Be a human being. Start where we are. Evolve it as far as we can. Leave the rest for future history and evolution. Don’t take the full blame. Don’t take the full credit.

Right gradient. Right stuff (bring what we have as a strength). Right timing (what can be developed now and through time that we can be responsive to and responsible for). Let the rest go as fantasies and comparisons with an ideal that is too big to be inspiring, but rather is more suppressive than focusing and freeing.

Now we are free to be inspiring and not falsely judgmental. Carry on.

About Ken Anbender

Kenneth Anbender Ph.D. has spent the last 50 years working with more than a hundred thousand people directly on the principles and methods that support the fulfillment of a human life -- in community and at work. He has developed a body of work that is licensable called The Contegrity Approach.
This entry was posted in Connected Self, Development, Fulfillment, Resolving Misidentifications, Right Gradient and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Taking Things Personally (That Aren’t)

  1. Jane-Ellen Avery Seymour says:

    Crystal clear and much appreciated. Particularly struck by the “We can bring a greater humanity and workability to something that is in front of us.” That’s pretty simple, easy listening to bring to what is next. Can make for a pretty satisfying, fulfilling life.

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