Fundamentals #1: Where Do We Start?
Bear with me here. This will seem rather long and convoluted but will give you an understanding of where our ability and willingness to act come from, how early they develop and why they may be so difficult to activate. It’s important to note that the trigger for our willingness comes from our feelings. It is extremely important to understand that learning language and developing the mind completely changes our perspective on how we deal with our feelings. Our culture has become so obsessed with the mind and its performance that we have lost most of our awareness of and connection to our feelings and our ability to deal with them. What follows is an explanation of the process of how this occurs. When you read this, please be in a place where you can concentrate, undisturbed and focus clearly on recognizing the underlying concepts. You may have to read through once or twice to get the “feel” of what I’m putting forward. Later articles will explain what we can do to counteract these influences.
The first thing that needs to be understood is motivation and what it really is. Everyone might have a different idea on this so it will be best if I give you a dictionary meaning so we’re on the same page. Motivation is a derivative of the word move which comes from the Latin movere meaning to move, set in motion, remove or disturb (etymonline.com). So, it’s whatever impels us into action or movement. Now, we all understand things that can encourage our interest or catch our attention to a subject, circumstance or activity. What most of us don’t realize is that the “power switch” or the “go-button” that actually allows us to get moving is almost always solely dependent on our Self-Trust and Confidence in our ability to manage what is needed to handle that movement. If we lack them or if they are diminished in any way, action most likely won’t happen.
The next question that begs to be asked is where do Self-Trust and Confidence come from and what are they? Are they learned? Inherited? Given? We might say all three since they occur during our early formative years through the interaction between us and our caretakers. They are qualities that start developing within us before we develop language skills. You might say, well, that’s sort of vague, and you’d be right because at that age our language skills have yet to be developed and all our interactions occur in the feeling mode. To learn, inherit or receive, which are qualities of exchange, implies that they come partly from our relationship with our environment. But becoming aware or sense how we separate into the environment after birth is a newly occurring experience and we have also not yet formed an awareness of that separation let alone how to navigate it. Because we are humans and the quality of separation has been fairly well developed in most of us as adults it may be difficult for us to identify with this state of “no mind.” A baby, initially, exists in this state of “no mind;” or in a “soup” of feeling. This is one of the reasons we humans find it so difficult to move into meditation and free ourselves from the discriminating, gymnastic and pervasive mind. It’s hard for us to get back into an “empty” state that you no longer remember. So, as a child this pre-verbal or pre-mind state is just beginning to develop our awareness of separation. In this environment our newly and slowly developing mind IS a vehicle of separation. Currently, our only interactions with the world consist of involuntary body functions, crying and laughing and how we connect them to our feelings.
So, we still don’t know what Self-Trust and Confidence are yet but we’re well on our way toward understanding their genesis.
As babies, laughing and crying are almost always a reaction to what we feel in the moment and a response to what we’re feeling coming from our caretakers as tangible or intangible as that may be. When we’re born we emerge from a “self-sustaining” (mother generated) environment into a world of polarity where we must interact with others for support. It’s difficult enough to deal with the separation that comes with being born but it’s even more intense to have no sense of or experience in navigating within that separation since we’ve emerged from a world where everything has been previously provided for. Birth truly is a traumatic experience. This focus on navigating heightens our need to develop an external awareness and focus.
In that external focus the first thing we feel outside of our own feelings are our caretakers’ responses, or lack of same, to our laughing or crying. Here we begin to make the connection between our action and the outside world but only through our feelings. Remember, we have no language or thinking skills developed yet and it’s still all about what we’re feeling. If the responses we receive from our caretakers are in line with our support and what we need, we “pair” our feeling and action with their response and begin a rudimentary memory of their responses within our feelings. It’s almost like we’re “creating” new instincts. In receiving what we need, we can say that our developing and socializing might allow a “normalcy” to occur relative to where we pay attention and, as yet, produces no appreciable difference between internal or external. If, however, if we perceive that our quest for support is met with resistance, ignoring or apathy by our caretakers, we develop a feeling or “instinct” of lack and our attitude becomes much more concentrated on things external as a result of the intensity of the augmented need we now feel. As we grow in our ability to distinguish between ourselves and others, our attitude or “instinct” concerning what we have or haven’t received begins to form a hazy set of fundamental building blocks for developing a “feeling” of worth. If we’ve received what we need physically and emotionally, that is, food, safety, comfort, touch and good attention, that attitude will enable a balance of attention between us and our “external” world. In the case of not receiving what we need, our attention migrates more toward a feeling or “instinct” of lack while strengthening its connection to the external and the fact that lack is somehow connected to the responses of others to our expression (laughing or crying). The balance between our internal and external attention then becomes distorted more toward external and we begin “losing” attentiveness to our own internal feelings in anticipation of needed “external” worldly responses. Our developing sense separation is still occurring through this interaction but in a slower and more lopsided way.
At this point you’re probably asking yourself why would I care where my attention goes? The point is that where our attention goes, hence our energy, is where our initial experiences in development take place. Those experiences set the first foundations forming our attitude in facing the world. If we don’t receive a response, or at least a preferred response, to our efforts and quest for support (laughing and crying) our “exertions” in those directions will slowly diminish but our attention to the feeling of lack will remain. As with any conditioning or encouragement, lack of reward diminishes behavior but not necessarily attention.
Remember, as a child our minds and ability to separate, let alone put what we feel into words, has only begun to form. We still live well within the undifferentiated soup of feeling, partly hanging between our own feelings and partly through empathizing what our caretakers feel. When the mind is not in control, or almost entirely absent, we are left with only our feelings and empathy – our inner sea of diffusion with minimal-separation. This may be difficult for us to comprehend given that we have lived the major part of our lives in the separative, time constricted environment of our minds…so much so that some of us think that we are our minds.
So, we now can see that our initial memories and reactions to our first attempts to receive the support and nurturance that we need (through laughing or crying) occur in a non-verbal or pre-verbal mode within the realm of our feelings or “instincts.” It’s important to note here that learning the language and developing the mind not only creates a separation between the things we identify and recognize but distance and separation is also created between our feelings and our mind. When you’re thinking about something you’re no longer in the moment feeling it. This means that what is felt pre-verbally is total in its intensity making all our first memories powerfully encompassing and nebulous through our feelings. Learning the language and developing the mind separates us from our feelings making it much harder to deal with the “pairing” or memories made pre-verbally let alone describing them.
Secondly, it’s also important to note that if we don’t get the support we seek our attention becomes more fixated on what’s happening externally than internally or on the needed balance between them. This early external focus on receiving negative responses is the crux of our tendency to short circuit motivation which, you will remember, is powered by our Self-Trust and Confidence in receiving what we want or need through our efforts. That Self-Trust and Confidence, essentially, equates to a learned expectation or faith in our ability based on our pre-verbal experiences. Because these responses occur during our pre-verbal stage it is virtually impossible effect a change in our Self-Trust and Confidence using affirmations, skill improvement, peer encouragement or monetary incentives (contrived mental transcripts) in the face of feeling or “knowing” that we will expect negative responses. They simply give attention to what we feel we can’t do and add energy and momentum to its influence. This is so because the earlier feelings established through the creation of our pre-verbal memory have not been altered by them relative to our previously learned expectations. Language and mind are only tools. Feeling is an experience. To change our expectations, which control whether we act or not, we must change our feelings by creating new experiences that support our Self-Trust and Confidence in our ability to be effective in our actions. This statement is extremely important to understand and digest so I will repeat it. To change our expectations, which control whether we act or not, we must change our feelings by creating new experiences that support our self-trust and confidence in our ability to be effective in our actions.
So the factors that contribute the most toward acting on our motivations are our feelings, pre and post-verbal, the type and amount of support and nurturance we’ve pre-verbally received, the degree to which we focus externally as opposed to internally and our expectations relative to all the factors. Our internal/external relationship with our environment holds a lot more bearing than you might think and has a very profound effect on whether we develop as an introvert or extrovert. This will become clearer as we broaden our understanding of our internal/external relationship with the world.