By Roger A. Peterson (Pete)
(This article appears in Pete’s Story Room, under the heading: What do you do when Life as a Human Being is More Painful than Pleasant? Remember, thoughts are “things” with a reality of their own and each of us, an artist. With thoughts in the form of beliefs, attitudes, values and expectations, we paint the landscape of our lives. In other words, thinking, feeling, acting and reacting is where it all begins, from nothing to something, from dreams to reality. – Pete)
Exploring Thoughts, Feelings, Actions and Reactions in Life
As I turned the empty bus into the dark parking lot at the end of my northbound run from Petaluma in 2003, out of the blue I shouted in great exasperation, how come I never think about how good I am, how much I do, and how well I do it? Yeah, I thought, I only react to my shortcomings and mistakes. What’s up with that? Why have I always been more concerned about how bad I am than how good I am, how little I do instead of how much I do, how poorly I do things instead of how well I do them? Cultural conditioning?
Even my dreams play into this negative belief structure. I can’t tell you how many dreams I’ve had about building bridges across deep chasms or waterways that were so flawed I couldn’t cross them without falling into one of the many holes I had left unfinished! My holey bridge episodes were extremely exasperating, to say nothing about trying to climb up to roadways whose soft shoulders kept turning into increasingly steep drop-offs while the sand kept getting softer and softer, making it impossible to gain ground.
Even rooftops played a role in reminding me of how inadequate, powerless, and unworthy I felt at times. Whether I was sitting or standing on the roof didn’t matter. On these frightening occasions, it seemed like the roof came to life with the intent to punish, injure, or kill me. I figure it was either that or my Greater Consciousness was telling me to wake up, wise up, and rise up to greater awareness and understanding. What do you think? You know what, I haven’t had a dream like this for a long time now. Maybe I’ve moved past the need for them. If so, hallelujah!
When I first said, I love myself, why didn’t I feel anything?
I began saying I love myself on a regular basis after my parking lot revelation described above. It took time but before long, my mind began to show me things about myself that I could love. Thinking I couldn’t or shouldn’t love myself was an idea that had been rattling around in my subconscious since early childhood. My mother used to say, “Anyone who loves themselves gets stuck on themselves.” Roadblock!
I assumed she was implying that once you decide to love yourself, no one else matters. At the time, I didn’t question her assumption outright but I do remember feeling a twinge of doubt about her take on this subject. However, there was always someone around to make this belief real, or at least, it seemed that way.
Why was I so shy and defensive around other people?
Maybe it had something to do with being told at the age of five that everyone was “born in sin” because Adam and Eve, from whom “we are all descendants, ate fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil against God’s Command.” The nun teaching catechism immediately followed this bombshell with another one, “…and you can’t trust the flesh because it will always betray you.” Totally dumbfounded, I protested these claims and when she told me to shut up and pay attention, I turned my back on her for the rest of the class.
The next morning as we lined up outside her classroom, she asked me if I was ready to accept the teachings of the church. Looking her straight in the eye, I said, emphatically: No! In response, she pulled out a heavy-duty, eighteen inch wooden ruler she was hiding in her habit. Holding my forearm with one hand she beat my knuckles with it as hard as she could. When I couldn’t stand the pain any longer and began to cry in front of the other students, she stopped. Her mission was accomplished, or so she thought.
On the way home from school that day, I told my older brother, Dicky, what happened and said, I was never going back to that school again. The next day, I hid in the woods behind the church and when we got home after school, I told my mother what had happened the day before and that I was never going back there again. The next day, Dicky and I both attended the local public school.
When my new teacher asked me to stand up and introduce myself to the class, I did. Then I told the class what the Catholic school* was teaching their students and how they were treated when they refused to accept the church’s beliefs. Turning to look at my new teacher, I asked him how public schools treat their students. His face immediately turned red with rage. Pointing his finger at me, he yelled, “Sit down, shut up and do as I tell you! I’m the teacher and I know what’s best for you.” Wow, it seems I was really good at making people in positions of power angry with me. Was this all on me or was there something more hiding below the surface of our student/teacher relationship?
* For more details about my early religious and public school experience, and how it affected me in life, read What I Learned in Catholic School and My Recurring Superman Nightmare. Both experiences are related to the conflict I experienced in catholic and public school.
Why did I hate my crooked front teeth so much I wanted to destroy them?
I don’t know why I felt so angry, but at some level of consciousness I thought my teeth had the power to choose to grow in straight or crooked. I certainly treated them as if they did. Maybe I was using this one obvious flaw as a catchall for all the flaws I believed to be a part of who I was.
It didn’t help matters any that not only did my stepdad refuse to spend money on braces, my mother suggested I use a finger to push on the sharp point of my most crooked front tooth. I tried her remedy a few times and found that it was impossible to push on the sharp point of my tooth for more than a minute or two because of the pain it caused in my finger. Also, putting pressure on one tooth, several minutes at a time, several times a day will not straighten out a tooth that is crowded by other teeth on both sides and deeply embedded in gum tissue and bone. I don’t know what you think, but in my story having crooked teeth in your preteens was devastating in a culture that values beauty and perfection as highly as ours. I was devastated!
Based on late-life experiences and learning, I now believe that there are no accidents and that there are reasons for everything. If this is so, does it mean that my teeth grew in crooked for a reason? Perhaps. What about the nun beating my knuckles and the teacher yelling at me in public school? Were these experiences initiated and controlled by unseen forces to steer me down a particular timeline? Who knows? Without experiences like these, how else can we learn about the need for empathy and the pain and paralysis of self-pity- “poor little old me”?
Why was I so confused and fearful about how to be with other people?
I was confused and fearful about how to be with other people early on because I only knew several people who seemed able to love without judgment, who accepted others without condition. Everyone else seemed content playing the value judgment game of, “I win, you lose, I’m right, you’re wrong, I’m good, you’re bad, I’m rich, you’re poor, I’m white, you’re black, I’m tall, you’re short, I’m male and you’re female”, and on and on it goes. Feeling as if we’re being picked apart and judged all the time is not fun unless we like to get beat down.
How can anyone feel safe or trust others in a divisive world that looks for dirt to use against us, that divides and pits us against each other? Imagine that the accumulation of money, power, and privilege is our primary measures of success. Is it a good or bad choice? Think about it! If you measure success by the amount of money, power, and privilege you have, when is enough, enough? When do the means (how you get money, power, and privilege) stop justifying the end (more money, power, and privilege)? Without moral principles or responsible guidelines, isn’t it like driving a car without brakes?
What stands behind competition and the desire to be someone? Is it the desire to survive? Why do we compare ourselves to each other and look for approval at the same time? Isn’t it stressful? In an authoritarian world that believes in scarcity, competition, and survival of the fittest how can we exercise control over ourselves and each other without judgments based on right and wrong, good and bad, enforced by the shame of guilt and the fear of punishment? Oh boy, there is so much I want to say about why it’s time to outgrow this strategy!
Why did I feel unworthy and insignificant so much of the time?
My biological father died when I was four years old. He was forty-nine at the time and managed a small grocery store owned by his father. Rarely did he interact with my three brothers and me. A year after his death, my mother married a plumber who owned a racehorse. He was a nice man and took good care of us, but even as a young boy I knew about class status and both my dad and stepdad were near the bottom rung as blue collar workers. To me that meant my brothers and I, and my mother, were all near the bottom rung of society. I don’t know about the rest of my family but this discriminatory, class-conscious system made me feel unworthy and unwanted.
Here are several messages many of us receive during childhood. “Sit down, shut up and do as I tell you. I’m the teacher (parent, policeman, father, mother, etc.) and I know what’s best for you! Children should be seen and not heard. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything. Curiosity killed the cat. What’s wrong with you?” You can probably think of a dozen more.
Whether these messages are conveyed through words, behavior, or organizational structure doesn’t matter. They exist, we know them, and they impact our behavior as they are meant to do.
Why did I feel like I wasn’t good enough?
When I asked my mother why she never complimented us (her children), she replied, “I don’t want you to get a fat head.” How many of us as adults feel the same way as my mother? As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t know how to support our children other than provide them with food and shelter, hug them, and go for walks with them. There was so much more I wanted to give our children as their father but I didn’t know how. Maybe that’s why so many of us review our lives later in life. We want to learn what we can from past experiences so we can do better in the future, whether it’s here or in other lives, if we have them.
Why did I think there was something wrong with me?
When you hear the question, “What’s wrong with you?” or you say, what’s wrong with me to yourself often enough, don’t you begin to believe it? After being told by the bible and Catholic Church that every person is born sinful and can’t be trusted, what do you do when you’re a kid? You’re only one person against millions.
Why did I hate myself and others sometimes?
Unless you consciously replace hate with love and understanding, hate begets more hate, until you wake up and see what you’re doing, not only to others but to yourself as well.
As a young man, why was I angry with so many people in positions of authority?
Abuse of power. Not everyone seeks a position of authority because they want to serve others. Some do it to serve themselves and feel like they’re somebody. The feeling of power is a great motivator for some. Then again, many of us already know we’re somebody and don’t feel any need to prove it to ourselves or others.
Why didn’t I know what to tell my children when they were growing up and needed help?
I didn’t agree with much of what I was told growing up and had too little time and too little experience to figure it out on my own. As you know, the demands and expectations of life are many. As a result, I didn’t know how to talk or what to say to my children. Flying by the seat of your pants is a disturbing feeling when it comes to marriage and raising children. Also, it doesn’t help to be told that you’re bad. If you’re bad, how can you expect to be good? Again, how can you create what you like unless you know what you don’t like?
Why did I love animals more than people?
People judge others and animals don’t. They either like you or they don’t. I believe people would act the same way if they weren’t taught to think in terms of right and wrong, good and bad. Accepting myself as a Being of Aware Energy, or Consciousness, I feel there is no longer a need for judgments of right and wrong, good and bad, enforced by the shame of guilt and the fear of punishment.
When we come to believe that there is no right or wrong, good or bad; there just IS, Being and Creation becomes a matter of learning the difference between what we like and don’t like, what works for us and what doesn’t, what makes us happy and what doesn’t, in our oneness with and separation from All That Is, as both products of creation and creation itself. There is no longer a need for scapegoats, people or organizations to blame or point the finger of blame at. We only take action when it is all on us.
When we choose to learn from our experiences instead of judge ourselves by them, we automatically take responsibility for the reality our beliefs, attitudes, values and expectations create. As a result, we change them whenever we need to. From then on, life becomes a matter of living by value fulfillment and practicing idealism, doing the best we can with what we know and learning more to do better. By removing all limiting and conflicting beliefs that keep us from being the selves we love to be, we become our True Selves.
As Beings of Aware Energy, or Consciousness, when we acknowledge that we’re not only separate from All That Is, we’re also one with it, we greatly increase the range of possible and probable experiences available to us. The same thing happens when we acknowledge that we’re not only products of creation; we’re creation itself. Accepting and understanding our role as creators of our personal reality and co-creators of our shared reality, we again broaden our horizons.*
* Genesis – A Lucid Creation Dream. Change happens much easier in dreams and visions than waking reality due to material density. In this dream of exploration, I repeatedly entered into new experiences by creating dangerous situations. When things became dangerous, I changed my mind to remove the danger. It was similar to turning a switch on and off. Only in this case, I was changing my thoughts and feelings from one state to another, as well as those of the creatures I encountered. The message one minute was “enemy” and the next, it was “friend.”
All That Is thinks, feels, acts and reacts; therefore, we ARE. As we think, feel, act and react, we create. To change what we create, we change what we think and feel, how we act and react.
All the while, I believed in a different story than the ones we tell ourselves as human beings. Until recently, I didn’t know what that story was. You can find, In the Beginning there was Nothing, in Pete’s Story Room under the heading: My Favorite Story of How All That Is came into Being. You can also read it on medium.com, a website that invites people to share their truth with others. My URL address on Medium is: https://medium.com/@rap_63049.
Roger Peterson (Pete) https://realtalkworld.com
Part 2: What do You do when Life as a Human Being is More Painful than Pleasant? Religion’s Role in Shaping Human Behavior.
Part 3: What do You do when Life as a Human Being is More Painful than Pleasant? Moving Beyond Fear, Anger, and Depression
“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” ― R. Buckminster Fuller
Always doing the best we can with what we know and learning more to do better!
Always remembering and appreciating how good we are, how much we do, and how will we do it!
What others will not or cannot do for us, we must do for ourselves.