Unless you are willing to be diligently honest with yourself about your emotions and learn how to express them in helpful instead of harmful ways, you participate in your family and all groups and communities including society at large as a co-conspirator in perpetuating lies. Pretenses, deceptions, images, roleplaying, lies, propaganda, marketing, spin-doctoring, excuses, justifications, rationalizations . . . It does not matter what we call them. They are all classified as unhealthy for relationships at all levels or “dysfunctional.” Don’t let the variety of terms fool you. What matters is that they are all of the same nature at heart. In their essence, they are all expressions of our failure to be honest with ourselves about our emotions and about our lack of skills in processing our emotions in healthy, caring ways.
Failure to be in touch with, aware of and capable of expressing our emotions in healthy, helpful ways causes our hearts to be deceitful because we need habits of deceit to keep our emotions from coming to our awareness or letting them be spontaneously expressed. We each build our habits of deceit to mask our emotions. We build these habits one step at a time through painful experiences as we practice denying how we feel and instead pretend that we either feel some other way or do not feel emotions at all. For most of us, our habits become reactive and we operate on autopilot while no longer aware of how we hide our emotions from ourselves and others as if emotions are dangerous. Might we want to practice another, deceit-free way of relating to ourselves and one another and stop pretending that we enjoy our deceptive lifestyles? Might we want to unwire our autopilot and become consciously aware of and responsible for our emotions again? The automated deceptive way is not our only option. We are merely mistaken to believe it is. We could choose to become diligently, courageously and compassionately honest in all humility and enjoy life a whole lot more simply because we’d be a whole lot more whole.
The root cause of the painful emotions we feel is the way we crucify ourselves and others on the cross of pride and shame as the horizontal bar and guilt and blame as the vertical shaft. By pride and shame we bar the door to heartfelt intimacy. By guilt and blame we continuously give ourselves and each other the shaft. We draw and quarter ourselves on this quadrant of crucifixion when, truth be known, we do not need to crucify ourselves or anyone else if we’d let go of the habits of judging ourselves and others by how successful we are at being dishonest. We could instead appreciate each other for doing our best to be honest as we struggle together to change our habits and master the art of humble honesty. And we’d no longer have reason to hate ourselves for lacking the courage to be honest about the sensitive nature of our hearts.
No one starts out with the intention of building a life based on lies. Every one of us without exception begins life as a sensitive, innocent child who knows no better than to blurt out the truth about how we feel. Yet, so long as we are raised around people who have been well-trained in the social rules and traditions of censoring and silencing their hearts, we will learn to censor and silence ours as well. We learn as we are punished for being honest and rewarded for pretending. To get along with others whose hearts are censored and silenced according to the “reward-and-punishment rules of the game,” we must learn to play the game of pretending. If we learn the game well, we’ll learn to punish ourselves before anyone has to punish us or to shift the punishment to others by blaming or shaming them. “He started it” is a good start in shifting disapproval to the other towards whom we point our finger of ill-fate. The other fingers point back towards ourselves in silent self-hate.
To fail to learn to play the game well is to be exiled into loneliness or condemned to suffer at or near the bottom of every pecking order in town. We learn to scratch in the earth in the barnyard for our tidbits of approval and be afraid of those with more powerful social status and pecking power than ours. Only when we can peck as well the best of them do we dare to challenge those who previously pecked us and take our turn as a pecker. Most of us live as chickens, too scared to challenge the roosters in the barnyard, but a few dare to challenge them and learn to crow as loudly and peck and kick as furiously. But few challenge the whole idea of being a member of the farmer’s cooped-up flock. To sustain such a challenge promises only more heartache of the most primal nature – total rejection from the group by whatever criteria we identify the group.
The roosters compete to rule the roost. In the human flock, a rooster need not be a male cock. She may be a hen who decided to copy a cock’s ways and out-do cocks at their own game. Female roosters are increasingly more prevalent in modern times as feminism asserts the rights of women to be as nasty in their ways of competition as men have ever been. The rules of the game don’t change. Only the players change according to the current trends favoring dominance under the group’s rules for power-grabbing. And when competing within the rules fails to gain the goals we seek, we subvert the rules and grab power some other way if we can get away with it. Layers of deceit hide our corruption of the rules. Politics continues as business as usual in all arenas of life in which power-dominance rather than power-sharing prevails as both the means and the end. Only the rare bird who declares there is another way of honoring power as a shared community asset to bless the whole community dares to stand apart from the politics of the day and show himself or herself as an example of what could be “if only” we dared collectively to try this alternative long enough to give it a realistic opportunity to prove itself.
On the way to proving that an alternative does truly exist, those who dare to stand apart as examples fall and disappear because the roosters in the barnyard set no self-restraining limits on how they will exercise power to keep and advance their rooster status as they also protect the game that favors their dominance. Assassination is an acceptable means for those who have in mind as their ultimate goal the maintenance and advancement of their deceitful claims to roosterhood. Rather than be exposed for their ruthless means of maintaining their roosterhood, current roosters will go to any length to wipe out (or at least disembowel) the opposition’s leadership, oppress the opposition’s followership and write history to demonstrate the superiority of maintaining the status quo of the roosters’ dominance in the face of claims that an alternative exists. It’s always better that one man or woman should perish than that a whole barnyard of peckers in their pecking order should perish. By whatever means necessary, these truthseekers – and worse, truth-tellers — must be silenced.
And so it goes throughout human history. Men and women who seek to stand up for justice for the whole flock and dare to challenge the way things have always been die if they are not willing to be silenced some other way. The more they speak from positions that may be heard by the flock, the more likely it is that they must die. Silencing them simply will not be permanent enough for the sake of roosters’ collective claim upon permanent dominance. Roosters prefer to fight beak and spur against other roosters on rooster terms than to see the whole system by which rooster dominance is preserved be replaced by a system with other values, means and ends. Roosters fight for preservation of the status quo even when they have to switch out their positions of dominance and take up other roles of power within the flock. Why? Because they have no idea how to participate in the alternative way of distributing power equitably among the members of the flock for the benefit of the flock instead of for the roosters’ own private benefit. Private benefits, private property, exclusive control and dominance and similar values swing widely out of balance when the roosters become desperate to preserve their positions of power by any means available. Heartlessly deceptive means are as good a means as any other when the chips are down. What is heartlessness to the man or woman who long ago gave up having a heart in favor of pretending to be satisfied with amassing power for powers sake?
How might we stop playing by the roosters’ game and participate in the alternative way of shared power? We must stop being self-deceptive and start being honest with ourselves and others about our emotions. Denial of emotions produces egos that are more than willing to continue to play games to manipulate other people to amass power, property and popularity by any means. The more hardhearted the ego, the less the rules — as well as personal character, integrity and authenticity — matter. All that matters is gaining more power. What the cocks and their competitors for power among the hens won’t tell you is what they do not know for sure but likely do suspect. In their lust for power, greed for prosperity and vanity for insanity there’s something of great value missing from their lives.
What might that “missing element of life” be that can only be experienced by those who are honest about their emotions and free their hearts once again to be tender and compassionate? What do the defenseless have an opportunity to experience that competitive egos miss? Listen to your heart. You may well sense the answer there. It’s a truth that we all share. It’s the one true power that really matters. It is love that has gone missing while we’ve scrambled in the dusty barnyard for our bits of grainy approval flung to us by very few who own the barnyard and pen us up so deceitfully. It is love that can come our way as unexpectedly as insects and worms might pass our way to supplement our artificial diet of bits of putrefying grain. Love has the power to liberate us to range cage-free.
Might we dare to value love more than another insect or worm that holds protein for our bodies but no energy for our spirits? Might the owners of the barnyard and our pens be amazed if we were to fly the coop entirely and cease to be imprisoned by our egos? Might we be willing to discover once again that we have wings meant to fly free and range beyond our cramped cages and fenced-in barnyards? Might we discover what’s been too long missing in our own lives and value it so highly as to stop pecking on each other long enough to discover that in each of us is a sister or brother who once was a good egg until she or he mistakenly learned the barnyard’s games of power-dominance and mistook it as the only way to survive? Might by love’s power it be possible that we all may thrive – all without exception or exclusion, including the roosters who previously believed so cruelly and self-deceptively otherwise? As we each forsake the way of self-deception let us always remember that we once, too, were deceived into forming ego’s habits of dishonesty. May we allow every other person to rise free of ego too – without pride or shame, guilt or blame remaining to taint their risen presence. We all need to be resurrected from the ego’s tomb and allowed to see and be the light again.
© Art Nicol 2016