We have all had experiences in Extraordinary Human Relationship. These are moments when love seems to work. Our mind is empty of busy-ness and full of quiet respect, our heart overflows with joy, our body vibrates with passion, and our being is inspired with electric aliveness. We bathe in an abundant love that cannot be described, only felt, and it feels so right. Perhaps you have only dreamed about a love that hits on all four cylinders and hums smoothly and long, but I suspect it has been an actual experience for you – possibly long ago, perhaps only for a few moments. Still. I think that you already know deep in your bones that Extraordinary Human Relationship exists and that you want to get back there . . . often.
There is no secret. Extraordinary Human Relationship is an automatic side effect of responsible Adult actions. For the most part, however, we have a fuzzy idea about what is meant by responsible Adult actions. That is no fault of our own. Our lack of understanding and experience in Adult responsibility is also a characteristic of our general culture.
The tendency of our culture to avoid Adult responsibility creates a virtual boundary that we will have to approach and eventually step through if we want to enter and explore Extraordinary Human Relationship. The virtual boundary restricts our perceptions, our thinking, our feeling, and our actions, and remains an effective barrier until we are ready to take responsibility for breaking the rules. Taking the situation into our own hands and finding our way to the other side of the “normal” barrier is a prerequisite for entering Extraordinary Human Relationship.
Gaining competencies for creating Extraordinary Human Relationship is the equivalent of a university graduate degree program. Your success will come from committing to acquire Extraordinary Human Relationship skills at that same level of discipline and professionalism that you would commit to obtaining an advanced degree. Along the way, large chunks of past understanding about reality and how the world works will fall away in the face of experiential clarifications about what it is to create and maintain Extraordinary Human Relationship. This chapter opens possibility after possibility for finding your way into the domain of Adult responsibility. Because of how quickly the game can slide from Extraordinary back to Ordinary again there is no time when your efforts are not important, even if in the moment they appear to have no success.
RESPONSIBILITY AND PRACTICE
Our education about responsibility has been thorough. We have been trained to avoid taking responsibility. We have been trained to be irresponsible about responsibility.
Instead of learning the ways of gripping responsibility cell by cell and nerve by nerve, so that the universe moves when we move and responds when we speak, we have learned the ways of cheating and getting away with the most for the least. If we can receive a benefit and avoid paying the full price we call this profit. The game has become: Whoever has the most toys when he dies wins! Avoiding responsibility is the life plan we have inherited from our modern culture.
As children we innocently admitted full responsibility for anything we did. But then we found out that if we broke a vase and took responsibility we might get scolded. If we started a fight with our brother and admitted our motives we might get spanked. If we were late for school and revealed that we chose to come late because catching frogs in the stream was far more interesting than sitting in class there would be serious consequences to contend with. We rapidly learned that creating excuses, blaming circumstances, finding scapegoats, lying and cheating were far less painful than taking responsibility. Over the years we perfected our techniques, until now; evading responsibility has become an automatic response that may form the basis of our relationship to life.
We avoid responsibility because we have learned that:
• Responsibility has painful consequences.
• Responsibility makes us guilty.
• Responsibility means it is our fault.
• Responsibility means we are to blame.
• Responsibility means we are the one to get punished.
• Responsibility is a burden difficult to carry, even more difficult to put down.
There appears to be nothing attractive about responsibility.
What we have not been shown is the cost of living life as a game of “Responsibility Dodge Ball.” The price tag is so high because we live in a responsible, cause-and-consequence universe.
A responsible universe works like this: if you decide to do an experiment and walk through the woods and pick up litter, even if you hate picking up litter, even if you know that your picking up this litter is a theatrical act, if after the walk you have picked up litter then the litter has actually been picked up.
Avoiding responsibility brings us out of relationship with our fellow human beings, with nature, and with the practical realities of the universe.
The opposite of maneuvering to avoid responsibility is taking responsibility for responsibility. Taking responsibility for responsibility means:
• Being at source for.
• Being the cause of.
• Being the creator of.
• Being in relationship with.
• Being the originator of.
• Taking care of.
• Speaking for.
• Taking a stand for.
• Having the consequences of. . . and so on.
Taking responsibility is a delightful and honorable expression of caring for yourself, for others, and for the world. Responsibility is Extraordinary Human Love in action. Entering the domain of Extraordinary Human Relationship will depend on establishing a passionate relationship between yourself and responsibility.
Inquire about this: Is winning the lottery high up on your wish list? If yes, why? Why do we want to win the lottery? From the perspective of responsibility, winning the lottery is how we can cheat the world out of having to be responsible. Western culture teaches that the game of life is won by cheating. If we somehow feel left out or disappointed for having never won the lottery, this could only occur because we lack skills and practical experience in how the technology of responsibility works.
True responsibility is not a burden, despite what the culture tells us. It is a joy and a privilege. Responsibility is intimate participation in a dance with the moment-to-moment causes and needs of the universe. Through responsibility, your creative spirit exuberantly lives and expresses its passions in the world.
The process of establishing reciprocity with responsibility includes both internal and external changes. New parts of the Box get born, a few parts get ejected, and some parts get reengineered. Entering responsibility could be likened to being swallowed whole by a giant, and proceeding through his digestive system with no way out until the stinking end, at which time you have become useful to something greater than yourself. Being digested by a new relationship to responsibility occurs over time and through efforts. Efforts involve both starting new behaviors and diverting yourself from repeating other behaviors. Many experiments for developing responsibility-muscles are outlined in this book.
For starters, begin tracking the little ways that you habitually avoid responsibility in your day-to-day life. At the office, on the street, at home with the family, at parties, in private, wherever you go, whatever you do, simply notice the details. How are you trying to get away with things? Who do you specifically not listen to? What do you avoid noticing? Where do you make little messes without any consideration about cleaning them up? How do you avoid seeing the long-range picture? How do you numb yourself to feeling the consequences of what you do or don’t do? Where do you leave responsibilities to someone unknown to you? Start keeping an Irresponsibility Journal; list whatever you discover. The exercise is not to blame yourself, but rather is meant to encourage you to be accountable and to discover how responsibility is avoided. The more precise your personal examples are, the more clearly you will grasp exactly how your Box works.
The most important ingredient in creating Extraordinary Human Relationship is practice. You don’t get practice by reading a book. Practice you get only when you practice.
You can practice alone. You can practice in the company of others. You can practice in trainings, in workshops, in weekly meetings, in men’s or women’s groups, and in many other different circumstances. Intellectual understanding is valuable and interesting, of course. But regardless of what you understand, long-term changes occur only through consistent practice.
We could have learned many of the skills related to creating Extraordinary Human Relationship as children, but our culture did not provide these skills for us. If we want these skills now, it is within our power to search for them wherever they exist, and start regularly practicing them ourselves. When we speak differently or process our thoughts and feelings differently, the improved quality of our relationships will naturally radiate. Each more responsible behavior improves our relationships over time.
Establishing responsible Adult attitudes and actions in our repertoire of behaviors is like paying the ante to get into a poker game. If we don’t pay the ante we can’t even start to play the game. Of course, paying the ante does not guarantee that we will win – it just gets us into the game. But if we don’t pay the ante there’s no chance at all of winning. The way to pay the ante in Extraordinary Human Relationship is to practice relationship according to certain clear distinctions. The rest of this chapter is devoted to establishing those distinctions. It will present far more than you can reasonably be expected to absorb all at once. An individual can only manage to effectively advance one or two change initiatives at any one time. Otherwise it is easy to feel overwhelmed and then to stop all efforts. If you stop all efforts, the Box wins. Overwhelm is one of the Box’s favorite self-defense mechanisms.
THOUGHTMAP OF OVERWHELM
Overwhelm is one of the Box’s favorite self-defense mechanisms:
STEP 1: Take on too much.
STEP 2: Feel overwhelmed.
STEP 3: Stop practicing.
STEP 4: Go back to normal.
Voilà! The Box wins. Very clever, Mr. Box.
Pace yourself. What this means will be different for each person. Perhaps you can best pace yourself by first reading all the way through this chapter while making notes about what most interests you. Then you can go back to those items and start working with them. Or perhaps while reading you will find one or two practices that inspire you to take immediate action. In that case, start experimenting with only those few things, but on a regular basis. Whatever your approach, make the decision now to take persistent baby steps. In terms of change, stable results are more likely to blossom through micro-experiments repeatedly practiced over the long run with consistency, rather than through dramatic but sporadic sudden moves.