Selected Correspondence Vineeto
Affective Feelings – Emotions and Passions
GARY: Since I received ‘Richard’s Journal’ in the mail a while ago, I thought I would say that the situation in my work place reminds me strongly of the situation described in Article 8, ‘Community Spirit Seems to Be Dead on the Ground’. There has been this emphasis all along on team spirit, working together and the uniqueness of our agency compared to others in the community. But for quite awhile now, there has been some vicious in-fighting, dissension from the administration, backbiting, and rancor. This is quite the opposite from the much-touted ideal of Team Spirit. It is this that I do not fall in lockstep with. I have all along stressed the importance of dealing with conflicts and problems out in the open, on the table, without sweeping things under the rug. But this is precisely what is happening. I have drawn some pretty serious fire for taking an ‘out in the open’ stance towards conflicts, and others have called me ‘unrealistic’, and said it is not going to happen.
VINEETO: After extensive experience with team work, and with what I now know about the Human Condition, I am not in favour anymore of dealing with conflicts, neither ‘out in the open’ nor covertly. Also I have understood that the feelings about a situation may have been triggered by the situation but they always have their roots in our instinctual passions, and sometimes don’t even have a particular trigger. For instance one can wake up in the morning feeling said not linked to a particular situation. What became clear is that nobody but me can sort out my feelings and emotions and I cannot do it for anybody else. This approach has helped me not to get caught up in somebody else’s problems, or blame someone else for my problems, which is, more often than not, a no-win situation.
I have lived in spiritual communes for 10 years where everyone had the ideal to solve conflicts in open discussion, group decisions, crisis meetings and the like. In the end I found these procedures were going endlessly round in circles, and to be invitations for exchanging spite and resentment or indulging in blame and forgiveness and were a mere waste of time.
VINEETO: Thinking about the relation of sorrow and the instinctual need to belong, one connection seems obvious – sorrow is the both the glue and the price we pay in order to be part of the herd. We relate most closely to other human beings in sorrow, feeling sympathy and empathy and always looking for someone to lean on, and share with, in hard times. Once I questioned sorrow itself, the main feature of connecting with others was disappearing – either I come back to the herd and feel sorrow with others and for others, or I am on my own. Being more and more happy, I found myself at a loss how to connect and relate to former friends – all we had shared was glee over other’s misery, common beliefs, commiseration, sexual flirtation or sympathy. I simply lost interest in friendships the more I discovered the delight of a direct intimacy to fellow human beings, which was so much more rewarding and fascinating that the feeling relationships I used to have.
GARY: Yes, as far as I can see, an Actual Intimacy is far superior to the sense of separation that causes one to pick and choose among people to fill various roles such as ‘friend’, ‘best friend’, ‘lover’, ‘ally’, etc. These distinctions are arbitrary and stem from the artificial and fictitious self, with his/her need to belong, to be ‘in love’, and have special friends and allies to help assuage the very sense of being lonely, frightened, and cut off from the magnificence of the actual world. This Actual Intimacy causes me to be connected to everyone and everything. As with you, I am less inclined to seek friendship with others, although there is a corresponding fear sometimes that I am getting ‘too detached’, ‘too isolative’, too ‘on my own’.
VINEETO: Up to now there have been two ways to deal with emotions – repression or expression. Normal social conditioning teaches us to repress unwanted and overwhelming emotions by controlling, rationalizing, theorizing, detaching and retreating from an emotional situation. There are also society-tolerated occasions for expressing and venting emotions such as parties with alcohol or drugs, excesses during carnival or Halloween, movies, cat-fights on TV-shows, sporting events and a few other culture-specific outlets.
The current fashion for expressing emotions started with psychoanalysis, experiential psychology and psychotherapy and has become trendy for a whole generation with the 60’s movement and was later assimilated by some of the New Dark Age religions. The strange thing is that one can express one’s emotions forever, but it does bugger all apart from offering a temporary feeling of relief – they always reappeared.
The method of Actual Freedom offers a third alternative – neither repression nor expression of the emotions but an experiential exploration and investigation of both, the so-called ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ emotions and feelings. Whenever such emotions are deeply explored and understood one becomes a bit less ‘self’-centred and a bit more able to enjoy being alive in the actual world. The resulting intimacy with all the people one meets and the things one sees, touches, hears, tastes and smells, as you have described in your PCE, is far superior to any feeling of ‘being close’ or ‘being loving’. Intimacy is the result of diminishing and removing the alien entity, ‘me’, the very wall that keeps me separate from everything and everybody.
VINEETO: My main addiction to avoid feeling my confusion, separateness, loneliness, fear, resentment and sorrow has been to work, to be continuously busy and to not have any idle time to think or feel what was going on underneath. My other addiction was clinging to my partner for comfort and reassurance despite the fact that we didn’t get on with each other.
GARY: Being ‘continuously busy’ is an appealing way to avoid the crushing and uncomfortable feelings that are at the core of being a ‘self’. I am not saying that there is anything wrong with being busy or being productive, but it can also be a way of escaping from one’s feelings and emotions. I too experience the subtle lure of being busy – I have a very busy job right now. I find that at times I am not busy I get ‘bored’ and distracted easily – in the extreme these states lead to a kind of inertia – I lose interest in things I am usually interested in and sometimes wallow in the uncomfortable feelings. Running the ‘How am I ...?’ question has resulted in a situation where I recognize these feelings and emotions much more quickly and clearly, but I have much more investigation to do, as I find the experience of being bored and listless creeping in at times, especially on the weekends when I feel I ‘should’ really being enjoying myself. Anything which interferes with my enjoyment and delight in the present moment of being alive is an object for examination and investigation, as I no longer want to ‘get out of it’ as I once did.
Only when I started to apply the method of actualism could I begin to dare to really acknowledge what was going on in my feeling department, because now I had the tools to investigate and eliminate the cause of my anxiety, my dependency, my sorrow, my anger, my insecurity and my loneliness. Neither suppressing nor expressing my emotions but becoming aware and investigating the cause of the feelings did the trick – it stopped me running away from my bad feelings and stopped me chasing the good feelings. The vividness and a magical splendour of actuality that becomes apparent when both bad and good feelings disappear, is far superior to any ‘feeling good’ that drugs, love, praise or Divine Love can every deliver.
VINEETO: Boredom was an interesting emotion for me to investigate. It had several connotations and layers to it. The first and most obvious was that I should be doing something useful, that I should earn my right to be here – quite ridiculous really as I am here already and have always been here without ‘earning’ my right to be here at all! But the necessity to work for one’s survival was passed on to me as a moral to never just sit there, to use my time effectively, to prove my worth by producing something of value for me or others, to earn my right to exist. These morals are instilled before one is able to earn one’s own food and shelter, and as such, those values are not factually connected to the action of providing for oneself. It took me some time to fully appreciate that earning sufficient money for food and shelter is a necessity but need not be an obsession and that I was busy doing things just to re-invent and maintain my social identity.
Underlying boredom I sometimes found emotions that came to the surface when I did not keep them down by being continually busy and occupied. Then boredom became an ally, in that doing nothing would reveal the next thing to investigate, the next issue to look at.
Also, boredom can kick in when I realize that by doing nothing in particular, my identity is thinning out, my importance disappears and my self-centred ‘meaning of life’ evaporates. Beneath the thin veneer of boredom and uselessness I am becoming increasingly aware that ‘I’ am not needed at all.
GARY: To summarize what I think about humour and laughter at this point: It does sometimes stem from sorrow and malice, but not always. There is such a thing for me as laughing and being humorous simply because I am in a good mood, I am joyous, and I am taking delight in being alive, and present in this moment. Such laughter and humour lacks the emotive force, as I have termed it, that laughter and humour stemming from sorrow have, what you term the ‘hysterical’ quality of laughter. ‘Hysterical’ laughter can erupt at times of great danger, as a kind of tension release. ‘Gallows humour’ may be of this sort. The kind of laughter and humour I am describing comes from the extremely enervating and refreshing experience of being alive and present in the moment, and is in juxtaposition to laughter and humour that stems from nervous tension or impending danger. Essentially, there is nothing ‘wrong’ with humour and laughter, and the enjoyment of it does a body no harm at all, as long as its malicious or sorrowful elements, if present, are recognized by an alert intelligence.
VINEETO: I just watched a re-run of an interview with Billy Conolly, one of my favourite comedians, and he admits using the stage as his place for therapy. He says he tells the truth in his funny and often absurd little episodes about life and he only exaggerates them for the humorous effect. I have always liked this kind of humour best when people are able to take the mickey out of themselves, and thus out of everyone else as well, and it’s a great way of not taking oneself too seriously. While Mark Twain was a passionate pessimist who resented the ugliness of human nature, Billy Connolly is an avowed optimist. Nevertheless, within the human condition laughter is usually despite sorrow, comparable to putting on rose-coloured glasses clipped on over the top of the grey-coloured glasses everybody normally wears.
However, as long as I am alert to my feelings of malice and sorrow, there is certainly ‘nothing wrong with humour and laughter’, on the contrary, the less you take yourself seriously, the faster the ‘self’ diminishes due to malnourishment and this process leaves you with the laughter of pure delight.
GARY: In short, I am concluding that even the ‘feel good’ experience of laughter and humour can be tapped for information about what makes ‘me’ tick – in other words, ‘my’ feelings and emotions, moods and complexities. The discussion on the list recently about laughter and humour reminds me of the difficulty I have had, and likely still have, in understanding precisely what is meant by ‘the felicitous feelings’, as described in AF writings. I had thought that AF was on about a purely sensorial enjoyment of the present moment, devoid of any trace whatsoever of feeling and emotion. What then are ‘felicitous feelings’ if not emotions? Having been confronted with this apparent contradiction, I have looked into the so-called ‘positive’ emotions, including of course love and sentimentality.
VINEETO: Given that ‘I’ am a feeling being, there is no escape from feelings as long as I am a ‘self’. In order to diminish and eventually eliminate the ‘self’ I started my journey by shifting my emphasis towards those affective feelings that don’t feed the ‘self’, which are the felicitous feelings – feeling good, feeling at ease, feeling happy, etc. Therefore the main emphasis in questioning and investigating my feelings has been focussed on examining the ‘good’ feelings of love, hope and trust and the ‘bad’ feelings of malice and sorrow. When I am happy, even when I am affectively happy, ‘I’ have no problem with being here and consequently the ‘self’ has little or nothing to do.
However, the more I investigated my malicious and sorrowful feelings as well as all the beliefs that compose my social identity, the more I noticed gaps in my affective reaction to the world around me and consequently more and more often I feel neither sad, nor worried, nor angry, nor needy and nor do I feel affectively happy. By this I mean the feeling of happiness that normal people experience – happiness concocted or contrived as an antidote to grim boring everyday existence. I just remembered an experience I had which first made me aware of this.
On New Years Eve of 1999 Peter and I walked home from dinner in town at around 10.30 pm. The streets were filled with people celebrating the coming millennium, several music bands were playing in the streets and people were dancing to the music. As we traversed one of the dancing areas I felt as if I was dipped into a pool of intense frantic happiness that disappeared as soon as we entered quiet streets again. I had almost forgotten the feeling – this was affective happiness, multiplied by hundreds of people, all being happy for this one night of the year, eager to forget the misery and worry of their normal days. This affective happiness is conditional – one is happy about some event, some achievement, some person. I also noticed that most often this feeling of happiness is dependant on other people joining me in my happiness, because it’s more difficult to be happy when alone.
The happiness I experience today is rather an absence of any feelings of sorrow and malice, coupled with an increasing sensitivity for the sensuous delights of simply being alive, whether in the company of others or when alone.
GARY: Even the so-called felicitous feelings do not escape the spotlight of attentiveness, but that does not mean that I have to retreat into a kind of benumbed feeling-less state, what Alan some time back has called ‘comfortably numb’.
VINEETO: ‘The kind of benumbed feeling-less state’ you are talking about is, in fact, also a feeling – it is a feeling standing on its head, and is usually accomplished by repressing and denying one’s unwanted feelings. That’s why it is so important to question one’s moral and ethical values as a first step when taking up actualism, lest one ends up replacing one’s real-world and spiritual-world values with a new ideal of a achieving a no-feeling state. In fact, the no-feeling state is akin to the Buddhist practice of disassociating from one’s unwanted thoughts and feelings.
The other thing I noticed was that becoming happy when everyone else in the world insists on having problems was not always an easy task. Both my internal moral judge and the people I interacted with would question why I was having such a good time for no particular reason – something must be wrong with me, I am not taking life seriously enough, I stick my head in the sand, I must be insensitive to other people’s suffering, I must be cynical, neurotic, silly, mad, etc. etc. I found it essential to examine and eradicate this globally accepted social conditioning of ‘never be too happy’, because the question ‘why am I happy?’ is simply the wrong question to ask on the path of becoming free from the human condition.
VINEETO: You wrote asking for clarification of a quote you found on the web –
GARY: I think perhaps Vineeto might be referring to a common misunderstanding among the devotees and followers of J. Krishnamurti, among whom I used to count myself.
Thought and thinking is given a tremendous amount of attention among the Krishnamurtiites but feelings and passions correspondingly little. Krishnamurtiites speak a lot about bringing thought to an end, little realizing that human beings are for the most part deeply emotional and instinctual beings. Gary, No 33, 28.8.2001
RESPONDENT: If Vineeto is reading this correspondence, and if she can clarify this point, that will be good – somehow I think this seems to be the statement of my problem.
VINEETO: Yes, I am reading with interest every post that is coming in. I can understand your confusion when I remember how I used to respond to overwhelming feelings – usually a lot of frantic thoughts arose as I tried to get rid of the unpleasant feelings. You describe it well in your letter to Gary –
The thoughts ‘with a quality of unpleasantness’ are in fact feelings or emotion-backed thoughts. When an unpleasant emotional reaction occurs, for instance a reaction to something someone said to you, then the automatic response is to try and ‘make the unpleasant feeling go away’, and this effort is often accompanied by frantic thinking. This thought-response is secondary to the affective feeling response which happens first. This fact can be observed by becoming aware of one’s own responses as they happen and they are best observed in reactions such as anger or fear where the automatic response is clearly felt as a strong bodily response in the heart, or in a sexual reaction where the automatic response is felt in the groin, or in grief or sorrow where the reaction is felt in the heart or gut.
In order to become aware of a feeling when it is occurring, the first thing one has to do is to stop trying to make it go away as we have been socially or spiritually conditioned to do. As long as you object to having the feeling you cannot observe it. This means one needs to become aware of and understand one’s automatic reaction of suppression – and/or dis-association – in order to be able to experience the feeling fully so that you can then feel what the feeling feels like and give it a name.
As a general rule of thumb it is impossible to examine a feeling while you are having it because, as you will have noticed, invidious and euphoric feelings, emotions and passions prevent clear thinking from happening – so the next thing to do is to get back to feeling good by recognizing that it is silly to waste this moment of being alive by being angry, irritated, fearful, sad, etc. When you are back to feeling good you can then begin to examine what made you angry, anxious, gloomy, etc. in the first place – when did the feeling first start, what was the event or situation that caused my affective reaction, why did I feel insulted, sad, angry, worried, etc., which of my cherished beliefs was being questioned, what part of my identity was being attacked, was there a fear underneath the initial feeling, what was this fear about ...?
In this way you are conducting a scientific inquiry into your own affective experience, you are in fact examining your own psyche in action – but at first you have to allow the feeling to come to the surface so that you can conduct an extensive examination into all its aspects. Once you get over the initial moral and ethical objection to having unpleasant or undesirable feelings in the first place, you will notice a keen interest and fascination developing that comes from being able to be aware of your own feelings and emotions while they are happening and from being able to investigate them as soon as you are back to feeling good.
This investigation into your feelings has to be experiential if it is to bring any tangible results – thinking about feelings and emotions abstracted from practical down-to-earth personal experience will not enable you to penetrate into the very nature of your psyche. So the first thing is to stop one’s usual habits of fighting, denying or expressing one’s feelings, blaming people and events for causing one’s feelings or dissociating from one’s feelings. By doing so you allow yourself to experience feelings all the while making sure that you keep your mouth shut and your hands in your pocket, otherwise you might do or say something you regret later on.
Thus far there have only been two alternatives to coping with the feelings and emotions that arise from one’s instinctual passions. The first is suppression and the fact that we still need police and armies, laws and judges, moral codes and ethical values, attests to the failure of suppressing emotions. The other alternative is expressing your feelings and emotions, something which is fashionable in some spiritual and therapy philosophies. Expressed sorrow is not only socially acceptable, it is an encouraged activity in that it is imagined to bring ‘closure’ and resolution and it’s generally believed that if you haven’t got something to complain and bitch about then something must be wrong. Humans generally delight in expressing sadness, in being sad, feeling the bitter sweetness of sorrow, watching sad love stories, listening to sad music, etc. On the other hand expressed malice can easily lead to physical violence so humans have created socially acceptable outlets for malice such as sport, gossip, games, films, competitive business, and so on. Rather than having a problem with being malicious and sorrowful most people find meaning, delight and entertainment from feeling the feelings of malice and sorrow, which is one of the major reasons that actualism will be unpopular for a long time yet.
RESPONDENT: 1. In dismantling the ‘feeler’, I found that ‘Feeling is not a fact’ to be useful; i.e. when the feeling is rampant, to realize that ‘what one feels to be true’ requires the ‘feeling’ to be true – i.e. when I question – ‘will what is felt be true if the feeling were not there to support it?’
VINEETO: Yes, a feeling is not a fact, but feelings are experienced to be very real, and that sometimes includes heart palpitations, sweaty palms, a change in the tone of your voice, a dry throat, a tightening in the stomach, etc. – in short, you can be palpably aware of a feeling when it is happening.
In spiritualism one is taught to become aware of one’s thoughts and feelings in order to dissociate from one’s unwanted feelings or thoughts and associate only with the desirable feelings and thoughts. The point in actualism, however, is to become aware of your feelings and thoughts in order to investigate their source. When this aim is clear, then the acknowledgment that ‘feeling is not a fact’ gives you the key to label and investigate your feeling, trace it back to what triggered it, what maintains it and what was the underlying reason that caused it to arise in the first place – you examine the beliefs, morals and ethics connected to your feeling until you arrive at the part of your identity that is creating and maintaining the particular feeling in question.
If ‘what is felt be true’, be it a belief, moral, ethic, or psittacism, is not examined and replaced by fact and common sense and if the particular feeling itself is not investigated and traced to its source, the same-same feeling will arise again and again in similar situations because the identity of the ‘feeler’ itself has not been dismantled and thus remains unchanged.
RESPONDENT: I found this working for me rather than going through the whole structure of what caused this feeling etc. as it seems to become circular in my case.
VINEETO: When feelings seem ‘to become circular’ I found it helpful to find out the reason why particular feelings were so ‘sticky’, why it was important for me to feel this way, why I was afraid to question the particular part of my identity that was related to these feelings.
For instance, at the time when I was busy with my feelings of ‘intuition’, I was at first very irritable whenever the subject came up in a discussion with Peter. Rather than being interested in questioning the veracity and sensibility of my intuition, I was busy defending my belief that intuition was an essential part of my survival and wellbeing. It took a couple of weeks until I grew weary of my irrational behaviour and then I started to look into why I was so desperately defending something that was obviously a passionate belief. I began to understand that my very resistance to search for verifiable facts gave evidence to the passionate nature of my belief in intuition. Once I had understood this much about the matter, I gave myself a kick in the bum and began to inquire into the issue with renewed intent.
RESPONDENT: 2. The thoughts and feelings seem the substances of the inner world; the ‘thinker’ and ‘feeler’ seem to be inferred and an underlying property of the thoughts and feelings (not of all thoughts and feelings).
3. The thinker manifests himself as thoughts; and the feeler as ‘emotion backed thoughts’ and feelings.
VINEETO: Yes, with one exception and that is that the human brain is capable of ‘self’-less thought, as can briefly be experienced in a pure consciousness experience. In a PCE, the clear thinking process that epitomizes apperceptive thinking has no ‘underlying property’ of either an ‘I’ nor a ‘me’, neither ‘the thinker’ nor ‘the feeler’. Richard says about apperceptive thought –
Have you ever contemplated about the wondrous activity of your heart beating, your eyes seeing? Have you ever reflected upon the magic of the millions of chemical processes that contribute to you being alive this moment? Have you ever observed and thought about the amazing abundance of life forms that have taken billions of years to develop on this planet and have culminated in human beings, who are not only capable of thinking and contemplating but are also able to be aware of the very act of being conscious? This fascination with the wonder of it all can develop into amazement, which, combined with reflection and contemplation, can produce apperceptive awareness, which happens when the mind becomes aware of itself. In such a moment of apperceptive awareness you can experience for yourself that ‘I’, the thinker, together with ‘me’, the feeler, cease to be and thinking takes place of its own accord.
RESPONDENT: In dismantling the ‘feeler’, I found that ‘Feeling is not a fact’ to be useful; i.e. when the feeling is rampant, to realize that ‘what one feels to be true’ requires the ‘feeling’ to be true – i.e. when I question – ‘will what is felt be true if the feeling were not there to support it?’ I found this working for me rather than going through the whole structure of what caused this feeling etc. as it seems to become circular in my case.
VINEETO: When feelings seem ‘to become circular’ I found it helpful to find out the reason why particular feelings were so ‘sticky’, why it was important for me to feel this way, why I was afraid to question the particular part of my identity that was related to these feelings.
RESPONDENT: By circular I meant that the links I follow in tracing the root of the feeling become circular – I am afraid because I can’t perform well and I can’t perform well because I’m afraid; what would you do in such a case? Maybe from what you are saying, I should ask ‘why is it important for me to perform well’... because I want to be better than others... or I want the applause... why? Because it feels good... and then…? Some insights into this kinds of investigation will be very valuable. (I request others who are running the investigation to share their results too – I would do it eventually).
VINEETO: When I apply the method of actualism I do so because I want to become happy and harmless – that is my first and only priority. Then the investigation into how I am experiencing this moment of being alive has a clear direction – what worry, feeling, desire, belief, etc. preventing me from being happy and harmless and if so, why do I hold on to it?
Actualists have written a great deal about how to apply the actualism method and have shared their experiences as to how to make investigations into beliefs and feelings. You will find it under the links to selected correspondences on the library page of ‘How to Become Free from the Human Condition?’ and also under ‘Affective Feelings – Emotions, Passions and Calentures’.
RESPONDENT: Lately, I am getting a hang of the method and usually I find that there is some emotional memory/event in the past etc. hidden behind such feelings and once exposed (which is not at all obvious in the beginning – or should I say it is obvious but I would not see…???) the hold is either totally gone or weakened... but lot of work still remains. But as is pointed out in various actualism materials, it is very enjoyable as one gets freer and freer incrementally.
VINEETO: Yes, the test is always if the hold that feelings have on you in a particular situation is weakened or if the feelings return exactly the same way at the next similar occasion. If they do, you simply root around a bit more and probe a little deeper each time.
In psycho-therapy there is often great emphasis placed on remembering past harms and hurts, yet there is never a resolution of the associated feelings of sorrow and malice. Psychotherapy encourages you to remember childhood events in order to ‘heal’ the ‘wounded child’ but this only serves to enhance the social identity that is in part made of those memories. Whereas in actualism it is only necessary to go back to the event that triggered your current feeling in order to build up an experiential understanding of how your social and instinctual identity is programmed to work. Eventually past memories are not needed at all in order to recognize one’s identity in action – with sufficient practice you become aware of ‘me’ in action on the spot and nip it in the bud before feelings go rampant.
RESPONDENT: I should also mention that so much material is present in the website and these days I am reading non-meditatively with eyes open and it is delightful :) – and I find that it is becoming more and more clear what is being said, why I resist it so much etc.
VINEETO: I am delighted you understood the pun.
RESPONDENT: Couple of other things:
1. How am I experiencing this moment of being alive – I realize the importance of this question (which effectively focuses one’s attention to the present) and probably carefully designed by Richard to deliver the goods – namely to start the inquiry into the feelings as they are happening. I was wondering about the usefulness of ‘of being alive’ part – isn’t it implicit?
VINEETO: In the beginning I found ‘of being alive’ particularly useful given that spiritual practice focuses so much on how not to be here on this planet – typified by such sayings as ‘going inside’ or ‘finding an inner peace’ – and is only concerned with increasing your moral bank balance for life after death.
However, once I had understood the gist of the actualism method of investigating what is going on each moment again, the question became a wordless attentiveness to being alive now. Physical sensations, thoughtful reflections and affective feelings are equally noticed. The increased awareness of being alive makes the sensual experiencing more delightful, contemplations more effective and enjoyable and it allows me to detect affective feelings as they begin to arise before they fester into raging emotions.
RESPONDENT: I should say that sounds incomplete if you clip the tail, but it makes it shorter and therefore a little easier to apply in this phase of verbal questioning – particularly when feelings are rampant.
VINEETO: Whenever feelings were ‘rampant’ I was busy investigating the feelings rather than repeating the initial question because I already knew how I was experiencing this moment of being alive – I was being either angry or sad or frightened or euphoric. Then I would ask myself questions that lead to an in-depth exploration of the feeling in question – what triggered it, when did it first occur, why am I so emotional about the particular situation, what part of my identity does this relate to, etc. I would poke around, question and reflect until I had a sufficient experiential understanding of the issue at hand. Most often this process needed to be repeated time and again as I reacted in a similar way to a particular issue and I only concluded the investigation when there was the satisfying insight that allowed me to drop and dissolve the issue once and for all.
RESPONDENT: 2. Do you see any use in setting up a chat room for actualism discussions?
VINEETO: Personally I enjoy and prefer the current medium of the mailing list, where everyone receives everything that is been talked about and can then comment or not in his or her own time, pace and manner. With the mailing list as it is, writing about actualism does not interfere with living my life as I find appropriate.
RESPONDENT: I recall a few days ago you wrote about your unhappiness...
VINEETO: (...) As for ‘a few days ago you wrote about your unhappiness’ – you can only be referring to my writing to Alan a month ago –
What I described to Alan was an accurate account of how I deal with an emotion that occurs. As long as there is some trace of an instinctual self remaining, there are occasionally emotions happening, because emotions are the very substance of the instinctual self. However, having learnt how to investigate and deal with my emotions and being no longer blinkered and fettered by the torturous restrictions of my moral, ethical and spiritual conditioning, any exploration into an emotional issue is a thrilling adventure. This is in marked contrast to my spiritual years when my fruitless inquiries into problems through therapy and meditation were never able to remove the ongoing underlying unhappiness and dissatisfaction. With the actualism method I can explore the emotion to its very root, investigate the facts and resolve the issue – like I did in the paragraph described above.
This procedure is 180 degrees opposite to spiritual therapy, which I have tried and applied extensively for years. In spiritual therapy one is encouraged to express the emotion, indulge in imagination and venting and then shift from feeling the bad emotions to feeling the good emotions – moving from anger to compassion, from hate to love and from fear to bliss and Oneness. Despite years of spiritual therapy – and Mr. Rajneesh boasted of having the best therapists in his Ashram – I did not resolve my issues of relationship, jealousy, comparison, greed, lust, fear, anger, power, authority, neediness, inadequacy, pride or loneliness. All those issues have now disappeared by thorough investigation and understanding, by slowly, slowly getting rid of my precious adopted spiritual identity, my instilled social identity and by experientially understanding the makings and substance of the Human Condition.
VINEETO: ‘Being mothered’ is clearly an expression for not only a physical taking care but also a close emotional relationship. Mother-child is the most primary relationship for a human being when starting life. A mother – or a substitute mother – is essential for the baby to physically survive and in later years – together with the father – essential for the child to learn the basic functions and rules in the world. From the parents one gets one’s first and strongest imprint and conditioning, and scientist say that in the first seven years one’s character is basically formed. In a physical sense it may well be that one ‘no longer need[s] to be mothered’ from the time one leaves home, but the roots of one’s identity are shaped by mother or father and the positive and negative feelings for mother or father usually play a considerable part in one’s life – unless one leaves home emotionally and physically.
Although I had done various primal therapy groups to investigate my emotional ties with my parents, there was still a lot to do and to investigate when I came across actualism. Psychology gives great credence and value to one’s memories of childhood feelings, be it anger, resentment, love, dependency or trauma and works to reconcile the now-adult with the past feelings of childhood – while actualism aims to find the root of a particular emotional hang-up, to understand the cause and eliminate it as part of one’s identity, as a son or daughter. For instance, when the question of ‘How am I experiencing this moment of being alive’ brings up a feeling of guilt connected to the values instilled by my mother, I would contemplate about guilt in the Human Condition as one of the moral functions that keep the social and religious system in place. With this understanding guilt is no longer a personal issue between two individuals, but an issue of the Human Condition instilled in me.
With enough courage and the firm intent born out of a PCE I can then step out of that part of my social identity and leave the values of being a ‘good daughter’ behind. The same procedure applies for any other issue connected with the mother-daughter, mother-son relationship, like loneliness, authority, fear and security, duty, peer pressure, etc. One needs not delve into the unreliable memories of childhood hurts but only investigate the feeling that is arising now as it applies to one now and as one is experiencing it now. Understanding is only needed in order that one can take action to be free of the feeling in any future moments where a similar situation may trigger a similar feeling. Be wary of trolling past memories for if one lifts the lid, the garbage bin will forever fill itself up again. Psychological and psychic therapy that focuses on childhood issues has failed for this very reason.
Only then I can say with confidence that I ‘no longer need to mothered’.
VINEETO: I can go along with your statement that the mother needs to be ‘ professionally cared for, nursed and hospitalized etc.’ , if that is the case, but there is also the issue that people want to be taken care of in the emotional sense of the word. It is usually the demand for emotional care, the pressure to ‘give back what I have given to you’, etc. that creates conflict and stress.
An actualist will deal with this conflict like with any other conflict – not trying to change the other (which is impossible), but changing oneself in that one removes the stranglehold of the Human Condition in oneself and thus becomes un-afflicted and un-affected by the emotional demands of others, be they mother, doctor, brother or peers.
Then one can, with ease and delight, sort out the practical necessities and find the best and most sensible solution for everyone involved.
VINEETO: As you point out, to say that ‘emotions, (like love and compassion), will only ever get in the way...’ is not enough to free oneself from their clutch. Usually one attempts to suppress one’s feelings by calling them inappropriate. As we know from Richard’s experience of 11 years of enlightenment, love and compassion, the ‘good emotions’, have a strong grip on the ‘Self’ and need extensive investigation into what it is that ties one to this big club called Humanity.
So, any opportunity is a ‘serendipitous opportunity to explore the cause’ of the underlying feeling, emotion and instinctual passion of one’s concern. What’s left is genuine benevolence and actual concern for one’s fellow human being. (...)
VINEETO: Personally, my best would be to learn how not to be affected by someone else’s feelings and demands such that I can make an appropriate and sensible response to the situation and enjoy the other’s company when we are together.
VINEETO: Yes, ‘we live in a very medically advanced society’. Therefore it is very well possible to have an old age that is as pleasant and as comfortable as one’s middle age. One can also have an old age that is as emotionally traumatic as one’s middle age unless one does something about it, and this will have the added advantage that one then won’t be an emotional burden to one’s children!
Strangely enough I have hardly met anyone who was interested in changing his or her painful, sorrowful or traumatic situation for a happy and harmless life, whatever the age or gender. Emotional traumas are for those who like to keep their emotions and their identity. But, in fact, there is no need to have an emotional trauma at all, provided one is ready to give them up and willing to investigate into the source of one’s feelings and emotions.
Eliminating one’s identity and leaving Humanity behind has the great advantage that one does not need to suffer with the sufferers and/or rescue the victims of self-imposed suffering. In my experience, most people want sympathy and com-passion (the word means literally – company in suffering), but nobody is interested in practical methods to bring about actual change – so any attempt to rescue others or offer advice is only like pissing in the wind – you get wet for trying.
VINEETO: But following the anger there came resentment? We have been well trained to put the emotion aside to deal ‘sensibly’ in a situation, but the emotion does not disappear. The spiritual version has been to dis-identify, as in – ‘this is not me, just my ego...’ By neither repressing nor expressing the emotion one is able to discover that particular aspect of the Human Condition in oneself that gave rise to the emotion in the first place. It is studying one’s own inner workings, seeing the tricks of the cunning entity that inhabits each of us. Have you ever watched a magician at work? His tricks look all so coherent and really miraculous, but once you know his tricks, the credibility of his whole show falls in a heap, it is not convincing anymore. The same applies to the ‘self’ – once one of its tricks is dismantled, one particular conviction or belief, one emotional response to a situation, it does not work so well the next time, and the third time it won’t work at all... Then one corner of the ‘self’ has been cleaned out. One track in the brain has been re-wired.
RESPONDENT: Hmm, that makes sense, and my experiences so far would show this to be true. I just need to keep going with it, not giving up. I think that if I had a recent PCE then that would help even better.
VINEETO: At quite an early point on my way to actual freedom I found that as I proceeded the rungs of the ‘ladder’ would disappear behind me. With every understanding of a particular belief that belief lost its substance – I could not believe it anymore, the rungs disappeared by the very fact of seeing it as a belief instead of a truth. The same applied to feelings and emotions. Realizing that my emotion consisted of a combination of my instincts and vivid imagination they lost their credibility. This understanding made it clear that every attempt to give up was merely a postponing of what I had already seen as the desirable goal in life – to be free from malice and sorrow. And as for postponement – the very fact that there is no life after death puts postponement in its place – a waste of precious time, time that I could be happy was wasted in delay because of my lack of courage. That understanding spurred me on, it gave me back pressure to persist in spite of fear, fright, apprehension, trembling or cowering. Yes, fear is par for the course but one can do something about it, one can ride on the thrill into yet another discovery.
RESPONDENT: Now coming to the method. I tried asking ‘How am I experiencing this moment of being alive’. Most of the time I get the answer ‘happy’, or when I stress upon ‘this moment’, I get blank with no answer, because in this moment there is no feeling. The feeling is only in the moment just passed by. But still ‘I’ do not have that experience all the time. Because ‘I’ is the heap of all the passed moments!
VINEETO: I found that the interesting thing started when I got the answer ‘not happy’ or ‘no feeling’. I knew then I had something to look at. Upon closer look I always found a lurking feeling or fear disguised as ‘no feeling’ – the cunning entity inventing whatever trick to keep me from exposing it. It takes a lot of persistence, bloody-mindedness and ruthless honesty with oneself to dismantle one trick after the other. Sometimes I would sit days with that ‘no-feeling’ of numbness until I gathered courage and determination to examine it deeper. This process may take months until you are free of one particular emotion. But with the pure consciousness experience in mind you always have a comparison that keeps you going.
Richard describes it at length in his correspondence:
VINEETO to No 7: I don’t see how this – Dell-Carnegie-style – method could work in long term. It suggests attempting mind control over emotions, it does absolutely nothing to get rid of the emotions themselves. It does not get to the root cause of the emotional reaction – the Human Condition, inherent in the psychological and psychic entity within the body.
RESPONDENT: From my experience, certain emotions like anger can be dealt with by plain common sense. Just by understanding (and I am talking of only intellectual understanding), that anger is not going to improve or help the situation and on the other hand, it is going to harm yours and others’ mental and physical peace, the anger vanishes. I have tried and tested it and it works. It is not repression so it doesn’t come back even in long run. Not that the anger does not arise, but as soon as it arises, you can see it vanishing in the light of your understanding.
VINEETO: What you are describing sounds like more than just intellectual understanding and more than the method of ‘positive thinking’ that [ Respondent No 1, List C] was proposing. You say you are using ‘common sense’ and ‘not repression’. And you say, anger about that issue does not come back? Not even in the long run? It does not hang around, maybe as being peeved or annoyed? Or an expectation for a reward, a righteousness, a better-than-you-feeling?
If that is so, then you have found the first ‘key’ to eliminating anger – seeing the actual situation, sensibly considering everyone involved and understanding that your particular feelings will do nothing to help the situation, on the contrary, they are harmful. You can apply the same understanding to any other emotion arising, be it love, gratitude, resentment, doubt, anguish, sadness, etc. None of our so-called precious feelings are useful for dealing with practical, every-day situations. Care, consideration, attention, intelligence and common sense can do the job much better. The trick is to question the ‘good’ feelings as well as the ‘bad’ feelings, and a great part of the social identity will disappear, issue by issue.
The second ‘key’ is to examine the underlying reason why anger (and any other feeling and emotion) arises in the first place. What is ‘my’ perception of the world, which of ‘my’ expectations are not met, what is it that ‘I’ am imposing on the world-as-it-is and the people-as-they-are that ‘I’ feel angry about? Persistent questioning of the root cause of my getting angry as well as applying common sense had immediate and drastic results – more and more the ‘self’ was seen for what it was in the light of this awareness; it was seen as an alien intruder that continuously spoiled the joy and ease of being ‘here’.
RESPONDENT: Yes, I also think that it is more than intellectual understanding. Till I find a more appropriate word for it, I would prefer to use ‘common sense’. It is not positive thinking and it is not in expectation of reward. But I guess this common sense is the result of good old Vipassana. The difference after getting introduced to actual freedom is that now I know that ‘I’ am not different from anger, whereas in Vipassana I am the witness watching the anger passing away.
VINEETO: I don’t see how it can be ‘the result of good old Vipassana’, where you were ‘the witness watching the anger passing away’, if you say that at the same time you ‘know that [’you’ are] not different from anger’. Either you know that ‘you’ are the anger, that ‘you’ are the emotion, which is not what is taught in Vipassana – or you practice Vipassana and merely witness the anger passing away until it arises next time. But that does not eliminate the emotion, as ‘you’ remain intact, and at the most ‘you’ only transcends it.
To really grasp the fact that ‘you’ are emotions and emotions are ‘you’ results in you being willing and eager to investigate into the deeper layers of ‘you’ to eliminate the very cause of anger arising in the first place. To really face the fact that ‘you’, and only ‘you’, are the cause and reason of anger arising – as well as all the other emotions – is the first and essential step to do something about this emotion rather than merely witness it. The acknowledgment of the fact that the Human Condition in you is preventing you from being happy and harmless creates the burning intent and necessary guts to investigate further into the very substance of who you think you are and who you feel you are. That’s when common sense starts to come to fruition.
VINEETO: If that is so, then you have found the first ‘key’ to eliminating anger – seeing the actual situation, sensibly considering everyone involved and understanding that your particular feelings will do nothing to help the situation, on the contrary, they are harmful. You can apply the same understanding to any other emotion arising, be it love, gratitude, resentment, doubt, anguish, sadness, etc. None of our so-called precious feelings are useful for dealing with practical, every-day situations. Care, consideration, attention, intelligence and common sense can do the job much better. The trick is to question the ‘good’ feelings as well as the ‘bad’ feelings and a great part of the social identity will disappear, issue by issue.
RESPONDENT: Well, eliminating the ‘good’ feelings is being a little tricky for me. Whereas I could see through common sense that ‘bad’ feelings like anger are harmful, I could not see the same thing for love (for example), partly because of my latent faith in the revered wisdom. Now I am beginning to understand the cunningness of this entity ‘I’, which just changes its shape from anger to love. For me just this realization that it is false is enough to determine to eliminate it, though I am also beginning to understand that love may also be harmful and perhaps may result into a war when it is for one’s country or faith. Even if it is love (or Love) for all, it is still ‘I’ and so not different from anger at its very root..
VINEETO: In order to question ‘good’ feelings I had to experience that any so-called ‘good’ feeling, particularly love, is just the other side of the coin of human emotions, ie the Human Condition. Love is produced in order to cover up disgust, hate, anger, indifference, self-centeredness and loneliness. Without all the negative emotions, what would you need love for? And at the next layer of investigation I discovered that love consists of nothing but a very self-centred system consisting of control, image, identity, power, bargain and smugness, particularly when feeling Love for All. How much more powerful can you feel when you feel big enough to love all of humanity?! Stripped of its glittering costume of people’s beliefs and needs, love is nothing other than our instinct of nurture, in-built to ensure the survival of the species – and embellished with great ideals and values. But the ideal of love cannot belie the facts of the atrocities caused by malice and sorrow that happen amongst human beings, often in the name of that same love, devotion, faith and loyalty. (...)
RESPONDENT: Even before knowing about actual freedom, I was reasonably happy and peaceful as I could get rid of (I would not use word ‘eliminate’ here because that would not be honest) anger, envy, malice etc. to a large extent, but now I am discovering the roots of good feelings like love, gratitude, humility etc.
VINEETO: After seventeen years on the spiritual path, including lots of therapy and new-age discussions, I had still experienced myself to be in utter confusion as to how to deal with emotions. Some emotions were to be kept, some to be transformed, but then most of them would reappear without invitation and did not disappear permanently by ‘watching’. Then again, I was not only to rise above the bad thoughts and emotions but also to dis-identify from ‘being the body’ all together, which ultimately proved to be neither possible nor an option.
So it was a great revelation when I first discovered that to be alive and happy I don’t need to have emotions at all – in fact, the emotions were the very thing that prevented me from being fully alive and permanently happy. Sorting my emotions into good and bad always reminded me of poor Cinderella who had to sort out peas by their size, ending up totally exhausted and bewildered. What a relief and how much easier, to start to eliminate all the peas, i.e. emotions. Of course, that proposition rocked me at the very core, but I was desperate and daring enough to give it a go. And the more I stripped away the ‘good’ feelings like love, gratitude, humility, unselfish-ness, compassion and belonging, the more I discovered the genuine article underneath the emotions and beliefs – actual intimacy and delight.
See, the quality of the actual world is delight. The very actual-ness of everything is pure delight. Actualism is ‘the experiential understanding that nothing physical is merely passive; the personal experience of the universe experiencing itself as a sensate and reflective human being as opposed to a cerebral or affective perception.’
For instance, listening without the layer of emotions, morals, values, beliefs and instincts, to the hum of the fridge, the sound of cars passing by, the rumbling of the computer doing its thing, is delighting in being alive and this very hearing is one function of being alive. No love is needed to layer on top of the very happening of things, it only destroys the purity and perfection, it only binds it into a man-made system of conditions, belonging, control and fear. If you love one sound, you reject another. To love silence is to despise and be upset by noisy business. Love would utterly spoil the game of being happy, here, now, each moment again, for no other reason than being alive, fully and sensately experiencing the universe around me. Without the self being sorrowful and malicious, fearful and lonely, loving and belonging, compassionate and grateful – nothing else is needed to delight in each moment again.
You might remember moments of comfortably stretching out on the couch, an ease and a well-being spreading through every cell, no feeling or emotion interfering in the peaceful moment, everything is perfect for that particular period, be it a second, ten minutes or longer. This is when you come closest to experiencing the actual world – the world as it is and people as they are. This is the most intimate one can be – as a ‘self’ – when, for a moment, there is no emotional demand on how the situation should be. That’s when you are closest to a peak-experience...
RESPONDENT: Recently I noticed the discussions on importance of labelling the feelings as one finds them inside oneself in response to the actualism question. I often face problem in this because I think I am not able to find the right word to label the feeling. Sometimes the feeling is too complicated to be labelled as a single word/phrase. I was wondering if it would be helpful if you publish a list of labels, which you used to label your feeling during the course of your discovery. Then this list can be continuously enhanced by other actualist as they find more labels.
VINEETO: I suggest the page ‘The Wide and Wondrous Path’. Halfway down the page there is a paragraph titled ‘How am I experiencing this moment of being alive? On the left side you will find a list of affective feelings with links to the respective glossary pages.
RESPONDENT: The link you provided is a good start though I was looking for a list of more subtle feelings. I guess I will have to prepare my own list as No 35 has suggested.
RESPONDENT: For me, while it is easy (comparatively) to label and handle obvious feelings like anger, malice, compassion, hope, I find it more difficult to label not-so-apparent feelings. These feelings create a neither-happy-nor-sad kind of state. I remember you talked of dullness in one of your mails. But I find that this dullness or boredom is not the same every time it happens and it happens very frequently.
VINEETO: Yes, I can remember times of a ‘neither-happy-nor-sad kind of state’ and I recall talking to Alan about dullness and stuckness (and the two following letters). Although my dullness had varying qualities at different times, I could mostly sheet it home to a feeling of not wanting to be here, i.e. resentment for having to be here.
I found dullness and boredom one of the most common reactions to being alive when things weren’t going ‘my’ way – and they rarely ever did or that life wasn’t exciting, which it rarely was. In the process of actualism I recognized, however, that my habitual resentment towards the various facts of life, for instance having to work for a living, bad weather, getting sick, etc, clearly prevented me from becoming happy and harmless. I discovered I could either indulge in ‘my’ resentment or pull myself up by my boot strings and break this insidious habit. As No 3 pointed out, it was indeed a matter of priority – and I chose sensuous attentiveness over ‘self’-indulgent apathy, happiness over resentment.
The other kind of dullness or stuckness I would describe as an ostrich-behaviour – the result of my fear to investigate the particular belief or behaviour pattern that was under scrutiny at the time. Eventually such periods of procrastination grew shorter as I more and more stubbornly refused to spoil this unique present moment of being alive by not investigating the issue at hand.
And indeed each issue investigated, each belief discarded resulted in lifting an emotional weight off my shoulders and as a direct consequence, life has become easy and enjoyable. You could also say that ‘I’, the complainer, the controller, the moaner and groaner has all but left the stage.
VINEETO: However, if you are inspired by ‘people describing their PCEs’ and you would like to live a ‘self’-less PCE 24 hours a day, everyday, then you will need to change. You will need to make being harmless and happy priority number one in your life – the very top of your laundry list.
Being ‘reasonably happy’ can generally be achieved either by repressing one’s unwanted feelings, obeying the social-religious morals and ethics, or by detaching from one’s unwanted feelings, following the spiritual practice of dissociation. If you are interested in experiencing the dazzling splendour and peerless pristine excellence of the actual world then you would have to investigate why you would settle for feeling ‘reasonably happy’ – reasonably as in ‘moderately, modestly, cheaply, within one’s means, tolerably, passably, acceptable, average’. Oxford Thesaurus
RESPONDENT: You are absolutely right. I did some introspection and found that I have achieved this ‘reasonable happiness’ by detaching myself from my unwanted feelings. I have done this by philosophizing actualism mixed with my earlier spiritual understandings. I realize now that when I say I am reasonably happy I am talking of a general state of not getting effected by feelings. I achieved this because of my philosophy that nothing really matters in this real world because in any case it is all illusion and also there is no afterlife.
VINEETO: Isn’t it amazing how much one sincere introspection can reveal. You described the spiritual practice of detachment very precisely – ‘detaching myself from my unwanted feelings’. This practice is not actualism, because actualism is about feeling one’s feelings, becoming aware of one’s feelings and exploring the origin of one’s feelings with the aim of minimizing both the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ feelings ‘so that one is free to feel good, feel happy and feel perfect for 99% of the time’ – as Richard says below in a correspondence he had with you –
RESPONDENT: However when I try to bring my attention to this moment – I find that I am trying to avoid being here and now. The reason looks to be that I do not really enjoy being here. Instead I enjoy more comforting myself in the thought that I am somewhat better off than most other people as I don’t get affected easily by feelings.
VINEETO: Yes, the avoidance of being here and now is the very purpose of practicing detachment and aloofness – spiritual people do not want to be here which is why they practice going ‘inside’. And it is an honest admission to say that you clearly recognize the cultivation of feelings of superiority over others that are an essential ingredient of all religious faith and spiritual practice. It is a great step towards regarding other people as what they are, fellow human beings.
RESPONDENT No 37: So – just how does this ‘third alternative’ deal with ‘low levels’ of emotion. Where do I draw the line between what is advantageous for me to express and what is not? Just what is meant by ‘not expressing’ emotion anyway?
VINEETO: You don’t have to draw a line – not expressing one’s emotions means not expressing. The longer you practice the method of actualism the better you become in not expressing or suppressing the emotion when it comes up. I found that even slight expressions of my emotions, say irritation or displeasure, would cause uncontrollable ripples and repercussions in my interactions with people and, because my aim is to be harmless, I don’t want to create ripples.
RESPONDENT: So the diligent practitioner may become more facile in not expressing or suppressing the emotion when it comes up.’ My question is: Do you have the same amount/ type/ quality of feelings, and your reactions and expressions are less, or are you actually feeling less, so to speak?
VINEETO: First, it is crucial to remember that the aim of actualism is not to live without feelings because that is impossible while still being a ‘self’. To do so you would only end up suppressing or dissociating from your feelings and identifying as a ‘non-feeling self’. The method of actualism is aimed to minimise the influence of the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ feelings and to activate the felicitous/ innocuous feelings – happiness, delight, appreciation, joie de vivre, bonhomie, friendliness, amiability and so on.
For me, as a result of applying this method, the ‘amount/type/ quality of feelings’ has changed from ‘good’ and ‘bad’ to felicitous/ innocuous feelings and, all in all, there are far fewer emotions interfering with my being happy and harmless than when I started the process four years ago. The first layer of emotions that one invariably encounters is due to one’s social-spiritual conditioning, that is all of one’s beliefs, one’s morals and ethics which one has imbibed in the course of one’s life. A belief is an emotion-backed thought, which means that many emotional reactions are caused by the continual need to maintain and defend one’s dear-held beliefs and precious social identity. Consequently with each belief investigated and eliminated my life has become easier and also far less emotional.
For example, following my extensive investigating into my emotional problems with authority, an insight revealed the root cause – my belief in a disembodied Higher Authority. Once I realized, without doubt, that the existence of a God by whatever name was nothing but a commonly held belief and not a fact, the whole range of emotional charges around authority – any authority – disappeared completely, never to return.
I described the process of this realization in Peter’s Journal –
VINEETO: When you say ‘too quick’ I am reminded of the ‘quick and dirty processing pathway’ from the thalamus to the Amygdala that LeDoux and his team discovered (see Library Topics – Instinctual Passions). The emotional-instinctual response by its very nature is ‘too quick’, while a deliberate sensible answer requires thinking and contemplation.
RESPONDENT: I found this bit to be a fascinating bit of science when I first read about it, and consistent with my own discoveries. It just takes that split-second of deferring my responses to take the wind out of their sails. This helped enormously with the external aspects of my relationships with others. This is an example of the appeal (to me) of AF... its sound footing in the concrete/actual... no need for spirits/gods/planetary influences/etc.
VINEETO: As you say, ‘the external aspects of my relationships with others’ were the first to take care of. For me that meant I became determined to stop expressing any of my angry, sad, resentful, irritated, etc. feelings to the people I interacted with. The more ‘split-seconds’ I learnt to put between experiencing those feeling and expressing a thoughtful response, the less I transmitted these feelings to others.
Whilst the first aspect is to stop expressing such feelings to others, it is equally important not to repress them. It is only by not repressing my feelings of anger, sadness or resentment that I am able to experience them and then inquire into the nature of my beliefs and the bits of my identity that triggered those feelings in the first place. Whenever I became aware that I was feeling upset about a comment someone made, I took the opportunity to look for the reason why his or her comment had upset me.
As an example – did his or her comment in a conversation question a dearly held belief or opinion of mine? In that case I questioned why it was so important for me to maintain my belief and I looked deeper into the particular belief or opinion that had been disturbed. Slowly, slowly, with effort and diligence, those – touchy – beliefs were replaced by sound facts and simple sensibility which, in turn, enabled a joie de vivre to supplant the former ambience of doom and gloom.
My partner and I then entered into some very good dialog about the fundamental nature of our relationship, which engendered some warmth, a distinct relief after the pain of the episode. While this fostered some good feelings, I had a nagging suspicion that I was merely sliding back into the same old same old, though this time with ‘good’ feelings.
Vineeto’s post arrived and really hit home:
and then goes on to coincidentally mirror my own recent discovery about the separateness of the two of us:
VINEETO: Just to reiterate something that is essential for an actualist to keep in mind during his or her explorations – the aim and process of actualism is not to suppress feelings and emotions but to become aware of them in order to explore them deeply and exhaustively. The automatic reaction is to wheedle one’s way out of feeling the bad feelings – those that are considered bad and immoral or wrong and unethical – and consequently the essential first step is to be aware of one’s habit of suppressing, avoiding, withdrawing or denying them in order to feel superior, stay cool, be strong, rational or logical.
In order for the actualism method to work it is crucial to first get in touch with one’s feelings because if I want to find out about ‘me’ I can’t afford to only investigate the ‘better’ half of my surfacing emotions and ignore, repress or deny the dark side. To allow oneself to experience whatever feeling is happening often needs some investigation into what Peter recently termed the ‘Guardians at the Gate’ – the moral judgements and ethical evaluations that trigger feelings such as guilt, shame, defiance or righteousness whenever one starts to become aware of one’s dark side and feel one’s dark feelings.
And of course neither is there the need to express your feelings or wallow in them in order to become aware of them – after all the most important thing for an actualist is to be happy and harmless. As soon as possible get back to feeling good about being here or feeling excellent about being alive. Then you can put your feet up and spend some time contemplating on what it was that triggered you to stop feeling happy or being harmless. You will then find that it is vital to drop that part of your social identity that is causing you to be unhappy, sad, resentful, annoyed, frustrated, jealous, and so on, if you want to really want to be happy and harmless.
VINEETO: You wrote something to Gary the other day that seems to be a misinterpretation of what I wrote, so I couldn’t resist ‘butting in’. The misinterpretation is in the second part of this post but I am making a general comment at the start.
RESPONDENT: I realize that ‘nipping it in the bud’ could be interpreted as either suppression, or as you say
The latter is what I intended, and your description jibes with that. As an example, the other day I had an angry moment, and I popped off at someone in an inappropriate (aka violate common consideration for others) manner. The moment swept me along, so there was little I could do to ‘nip it in the bud’, but the following feelings of embarrassment and shame I was able to ‘nip in the bud’. They arose, I recognized them, then got back to being H&H.
VINEETO: In the process of becoming happy and harmless, my main focus was on becoming harmless, i.e. ceasing being aggressive or angry towards others. In this case investigating my feelings means that I examine what triggered my eruption of anger, what caused me to up my defences, what is it that I am being defensive about and what part of my identity felt threatened and therefore caused me to react aggressively.
Once I am able to isolate the issue in question, then the next step is to clearly look at all aspects of this particular area of identity, be it an authority issue, a gender identification, professional pride, a certain belief or worldview or any other cause that made me react in an aggressive or inconsiderate manner. The difference between maintaining a social or spiritual moral code in order to keep a lid on outbursts of anger and the process of actualism is that in actualism I am changing my behaviour by incrementally removing the very triggers for feeling irritated, annoyed, resentful, threatened or aggressive.
To achieve this, I not only have to ‘recognize’ the arising feeling as a feeling, but I have to search for and identify the part of my identity associated with the feeling – ‘me’ as a woman, ‘me’ as a national identity, ‘me’ in my professional or work role, ‘me’ as a partner or family member, ‘me’ as a social identity with a particular philosophy, culture, religion or worldview, etc, etc. Unless I recognize, examine and finally incapacitate the part of my identity who feels offended and therefore responds offensively either covertly or overtly, there will inevitably be a similar harmful response in the next similar situation.
As for ‘feelings of embarrassment and shame’ – those feelings quickly became redundant as I incrementally succeeded in ridding myself of malice and sorrow. As an actualist, I set my sights higher than merely keeping the lid on my instinctual aggression by living by the rights and wrongs of some moral or ethical code. Actualism is about becoming free of malice and sorrow via a process aimed at ‘self-immolation – it is not about controlling one’s malice and sorrow via a process aimed at ‘self’-perpetuation.
The process you seem to be describing as ‘they arose, I recognized them, then got back to being H&H’ has a striking resemblance to the method of Vipassana. This Buddhist ‘watching practice’ is based on the understanding that ‘who’ you really are is your ‘consciousness’, ie. a disembodied, desensitized ‘watcher’, dissociated from unwanted emotions and thoughts
In Vipassana, ‘watched’ anger eventually passes away, not because you understand its underlying reason and origin but because you become the watcher and distance yourself from your anger and merely watch it run its course. In the same way you can distance yourself from any feeling or emotion without ever having to investigate the substance of your ‘self’ – it’s instinctual core. To really face the fact that anger is ‘you’ in action, and that ‘you’ are the only cause and reason of anger arising, is the first and essential step to doing something practical about bringing an end to this emotion instead of merely witnessing it and waiting for it to pass away.
Actualism is not a method of passively monitoring, watching or observing one’s feelings – actualism is a method of actively investigating the origin of those feelings and thus rocking the very core of one’s identity.
RESPONDENT: So, ‘nip it in the bud’ doesn’t imply suppression, just an acquired skill in processing the emotions as they arise. As Vineeto discussed in another thread, it’s not necessary, or even useful to pump this through the grist mill every time, just recognize it as another manifestation of a fairly well understood response. Of course, there needs to be a check on this process to ensure that this categorization is not self-deception, a red herring.
VINEETO: I take it that the thread you are referring to is from my recent post to Gary –
When I said ‘after sufficient exploration into the human condition’ I was referring to several years of actively dismantling and intensely exploring all aspects of my identity – an identity that was clearly seen and recognized in numerous ‘self’-less pure consciousness experiences as being an all-pervading yet non-actual ‘presence’. Such pure consciousness experiences are vital to the intent to investigate one’s identity because only in a PCE can I see, by the very comparison of ‘my’ absence, what havoc ‘I’ am continuously causing by ‘my’ very presence and what confusion, diversion and cunning ploys ‘I’ am inventing in order to stay in existence. The comparison of a PCE to ‘my’ normal life as an identity within the human condition also gives me the confidence that when I am ‘nipping feelings in the bud’ I am not repressing, ignoring or side-lining a ‘precious’ part of my identity.
I remember you said that you no longer subscribe to spiritual practices but given that spiritual values and practices pervade human society like odourless vapour, an investigation of potential hangovers might still be of use. In case you are interested, some years ago there were several discussions on The Actual Freedom Trust mailing list about the topic of Vipassana in distinction to actualism – Vineeto, The Actual Freedom Trust Mailing List, No 4, 5.4.1999 and 16.4.1999, and No 7, 24.4.1999, 2nd question, Richard to No 4, 10.9.1999 and No 7, 23.8.1999
VINEETO to Gary: I can very well relate to what you describe as ‘a deep and abiding terror of extinction’. The trick that often helps me turn this terror into excitement is to remember that ‘I’ have a voluntary mission which is far more dignifying that ‘my’ survival – ‘I’ am to bring about peace-on-earth by vacating the throne, permanently. And although sometimes I feel as though I am only inching my way closer to ‘my’ destiny, I do recognize that I am making progress. I only need to look back at how I used to experience life a few years back to know this is a fact. Vineeto, Actual Freedom Mailing List, Gary, 12.2.2003
RESPONDENT: Facing the reality of my own demise has been one of my favourite obsessions in the past.
VINEETO: I am somewhat confused as to what you mean by ‘facing the reality of my own demise … in the past’ – are you referring to the demise of the ego that leaves the soul intact, as taught in each and every branch of Eastern mysticism, or are you referring to facing physical death?
Or are you talking about the recent past since taking up actualism – your contemplations about your own demise of your identity in toto, both ego and soul, something that is entirely new to human history?
RESPONDENT: I’ve always known that in that conundrum lies a very important bit of knowledge, but I usually got stuck in an existential quagmire.
VINEETO: The most important bit of knowledge that I have gleaned from contemplating the demise of my ‘self’ has been, and still is, the purity of my intent as an actualist. Contemplating death or ‘self’-immolation is not something that in itself brings me closer to becoming actually free of malice and sorrow but it certainly gives me a gauge measure to check if I am becoming comfortably numb, settling for second best or hiding in fear.
I found that the best strategy is to check out my intent and then get on with the business of being happy and harmless instead of, for instance, being frightened at the thought of ‘my’ demise. It’s useful to remember that every feeling I indulge in, for whatever ‘noble’ reason, is only going to feed my identity instead of diminishing it.
I have spent many years exploring therapy groups and spiritual feeling states and it was quite a challenge to slowly wake up to the fact that feeling is not identical to actuality – in fact, feeling has nothing to do with actuality. In the past I might have felt harmless but was nevertheless quite harmful in that my ‘self’-centredness inevitably caused ripples in other peoples lives. I found that while I might have felt that I valued peace, I still instinctively acted in attack and defence mode. While I might have felt that I was willing to sacrifice my ego for a higher cause, I was actually cultivating humbleness as a means of soul-istic ‘self’-aggrandizement, and so forth.
Through the rigorous and persistent process of actualism, I slowly learnt to extend my attention beyond what I thought and felt, i.e. my ideals and passions, so as to become aware of the tangible effects that my thoughts, feelings and actions had on the people around me. I discovered more and more that feeling myself to be harmless and actually being harmless were two completely different things. This process of distinguishing between feeling and actuality is the key to actually becoming happy and harmless compared to merely feeling happy and harmless.
I’m saying this because contemplating my demise has been one of my favourite topics since discovering actualism and only lately have I discovered that, while such contemplations can serve to fuel my intent, they don’t bring me closer to the actuality of being free, simply because I am contemplating about a time that is not now.
Which reminds me that Richard always maintained that one cannot think one’s way to freedom nor feel one’s way to freedom – something that I have persistently tried to do. It’s great that there aren’t any rights and wrongs in actualism – given the sincere intent to be free of malice and sorrow, all explorations are useful explorations.
RESPONDENT: Today, while showering, the subject popped into my head for the first time in some while, and I was keenly aware that it was the identity that was clinging to that fear, and that this flesh-and-blood shall simply fade away, no fuss, no muss.
VINEETO: When you observe this experience a bit longer you will discover that ‘you’ as an identity are identical to that fear, they are in fact one and the same. ‘I’ am fear and fear is ‘me’. And when fear leaves the stage for a moment, the identity is nowhere to be found and vice versa.
VINEETO: I’d like to clarify some of your misconceptions about actualism in your recent letter to No 58 –
RESPONDENT to No 58: And don’t forget about wanting to be happy and harmless. The above strikes me as being kind of arbitrary, a shopping list of trinkets to acquire. At this point, I might have said do whatever you want if it makes you happy, but I’m starting to think that the whole notion of happiness (and it’s evil twin unhappiness) is merely another trinket, an external, artificial object to be gained. No 30 got happiness, Richard got happiness, Peter got happiness, Vineeto got happiness, but it seems to me they are all clever metaprogramming (with possible exception of Richard... we’ll never really get inside his head) – ‘I’ve defined what happiness is and I’m going to do my damndest to convince myself I am it’.
VINEETO: For me as an actualist, becoming happy means that I investigate everything that stands in the way of being happy. In other words I begin by becoming aware of the causes of my unhappiness – feelings such as grumpiness, anger, irritation, sadness, moodiness, anxiety, etc. and then I take a clear-eyed look at the causes of my unhappiness and do whatever is necessary to prevent it from occurring again. When this attentiveness becomes on-going, the feelings that are an impediment to my happiness are disempowered. Furthermore, a genuine happiness is inextricably intertwined with becoming harmless – it is impossible to be happy unless one is harmless – something that is being overlooked again and again.
You’ve raised this question before and you have indicated that you have understood that becoming happy and harmless in actualism is definitely not being ‘merely another trinket, an external, artificial object to be gained’. Vis –
What you call ‘clever metaprogramming’ is your own misinterpretation of actualism and it was one of the first issues you raised when you came to this list –
Maybe this is an apt moment to reiterate something that is essential for an actualist to keep in mind during his or her explorations – the aim and process of actualism is not to suppress feelings and emotions in order to achieve ‘merely another trinket, an external, artificial object to be gained’, as you perceive it, but to become aware of one’s feelings and emotions in order to be able to explore them deeply and exhaustively.
The automatic socially-conditioned reaction is to wheedle one’s way out of feeling the bad feelings – those that are considered bad and immoral or wrong and unethical – by repressing the feelings and if this doesn’t work we have leant to revert to denial and/or deceit. Consequently the essential first step in becoming aware of one’s invidious feelings is to be aware of one’s habit of suppressing, avoiding or denying them.
In order for the actualism method to work it is crucial to first get in touch with one’s feelings (a common expression meaning to become aware of one’s feelings) because if I want to find out about ‘me’ in all of my guises I can’t afford to only investigate the ‘better’ half of my emotions and ignore, repress or deny ‘my’ dark side. To allow oneself to experience whatever feeling is happening often needs some investigation into what Peter has termed the ‘guardians at the gate’ – the moral judgements and ethical evaluations that trigger feelings such as guilt, shame, defiance or righteousness whenever one starts to become aware of one’s dark side and begins to feel one’s dark feelings.
It is important to remember that one needs to neither express one’s non-felicitous feelings nor wallow in them in order to become aware of them – after all the most important thing for an actualist is to be happy and harmless – and the aim is always, as soon as possible, to get back to feeling good about being here or feeling excellent about being alive. When you do get back to feeling happy and being harmless then you can put your feet up and spend some time contemplating on what it was that triggered you to stop feeling happy or being harmless. If you sincerely want to be happy and harmless you will then find that it is vital to drop that part of your social identity, be it a belief, a moral, an ethic, a value, a concept, a habit, that is causing you to be unhappy, sad, resentful, annoyed, frustrated, jealous, and so on.
As you can see, actualism is all about diminishing one’s identity to the point where one becomes virtually happy and harmless such that ‘self’-immolation can happen – it has nothing to do with re-programming, re-interpreting, re-defining, re-labelling, re-shuffling, acquiring trinkets or replacing one part of one’s identity with another more shiny outfit – if applied with sincerity and intent the method of actualism will evoke actual change and that’s why many apparently find it too frightening to commit to.
Vineeto’s & Richard’s Text ©The Actual Freedom Trust: 1997-. All Rights Reserved.