We Are All doing the Best We Can

Children act out or act troubled because the thinking they have learned and taken on has made them lose touch with their natural state of well-being and common sense. This thinking has made it appear to them that they should act exactly as they are. In other words, given what they believe and how the world looks to them at that moment they have no other choice but to feel and act that way. This is why they are always doing the best they know at the time. . . . . . . . Children are acting out of innocence. So are we. . . . . . . . .Bad behavior is nothing more than people acting out of insecurity.

Excerpts from Parenting from the Heart by Jack Pransky

All of us hold beliefs which feel sacrosanct so when someone questions these beliefs, we often take it personally and become upset. In other words we have decided that certain beliefs define who we are and therefore are the truth. If someone believes differently than me, then they are wrong because my beliefs are the truth. Questioning my beliefs if attacked is too scary because I have decided that my beliefs are who I am, therefore I defend and attack instead. This is a prescription for all arguments which can escalate into wars. The social psychologists call this cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance occurs when we behave in ways that contradict a deeply held attitude. When people experience cognitive dissonance, it is especially unpleasant and they will feel strongly motivated to resolve it to feel comfortable again. Since we can not change past behavior, people will justify their behavior by reinforcing the deeply held attitude which they feel is an essential part of who they are. (A parent verbally hurts their child, however they believe they are a good parent therefore the child’s behavior caused them to be hurtful or the verbal abuse was necessary to toughen up their child to survive in this world.) A wonderful book to read about this is, Mistakes Were Made (But not by Me) by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson.

Our deeply held beliefs are created from our experiences which teach us how to cope with life. Beliefs are thoughts attached to emotions. Without the emotions, they would just be thoughts. Barry Neil (Bears) Kaufman at the Option Institute teaches that the formula for everyone’s actions is stimulus-belief-response. An event occurs which triggers a belief and then we respond based on the belief. Therefore all events are neutral or just thoughts till we attach an emotion to the thought which then becomes a belief. This belief causes us to act in a certain way. We are often called to examine these beliefs when we are struggling, or in pain or depressed. Kaufman has developed a set of questions called the Option Dialogue Process to help us discover and understand the emotions which fuel our beliefs. Byron Katie has also developed four questions called “The Work” to help us inquire into our beliefs.

Our beliefs have developed over the years and we often act without ever recognizing the deeply held beliefs that cause our actions. When someone says or does something which we take personally or pushes our buttons then they have trod upon a deeply held belief and we often react negatively. When we can examine the emotions which are attached to a belief we begin to understand that the belief is just a thought and a thought cannot harm us. We begin to remove the blocks to loves awareness. We can once again access that stately calm within which is with us always but obscured by our beliefs. Now our actions come from this place of peace rather than unexamined beliefs.

Recently I was blessed with the opportunity to question one of my cherished beliefs. I have a belief that taking lots of Shaklee vitamins keeps me healthy. Everyone close to me knows this and periodically tries to change my mind about this. There has been some recent research supporting the ineffectiveness of vitamins in fighting cancer which several people close to me were happy to point out and I took it personally. Of course the reason they pointed it out to me was because they have at times felt my judgment that they would be healthier if they took vitamins. Taking Shaklee vitamins is emotional for me because I associate it with healing my debilitating migraines. Therefore someone challenging my belief that vitamins can heal caused me to feel insecure. This gave me a wonderful opportunity to examine the emotions surrounding the belief which resulted in finally understanding that “vitamins make you healthy” is just a thought. I created a personal story about taking vitamins and then decided because it worked for me it must work for everyone. Divest the story of emotions and it becomes just a story. This does not mean that I have to stop taking Shaklee vitamins and believing they keep me healthy; it means it is no longer personal. This allows me to release judgments about other people’s health beliefs and views and no longer impose my own beliefs.

By examining our beliefs (thoughts with emotions attached) we can choose to let go of the emotions which are causing us unhappiness and judging others. Through inquiry or questioning our beliefs we can begin the process of understanding how we have used our cherished beliefs to judge others who do not share our beliefs. In the larger world we see this happening with political and religious discussion constantly. Absolutely everyone uses deeply held beliefs to judge others whether we are democrats or republicans, fundamentalist Christians or progressive liberal Christians or Buddhists or any other faith tradition. Therefore we can begin to understand that all of us are always doing the best we can with the understanding and awareness we have in any moment.

Gaining an understanding of our deeply held beliefs concerning parenting and our children is critically important or else we may end up trying to control our children or pass on our own insecurities rather than guiding from a place of peace, love and joy. For many parents of children with labels, we think we are unhappy because our child has some type of disorder or disability. In reality our experience always comes from within from the thoughts and stories we create about our child based on our beliefs. If we are upset and unhappy about the way our children are behaving, it is only because we are seeing our kids and the label they have in ways that are making us upset and unhappy. If we change our thoughts and look at the experience differently then our children will change. We can only do this by examining our beliefs. Until we do this, then we act from our insecurities. When we trust in the internal dialogue or inquiry process then we can begin to truly understand that each one of us, including our children, is always doing the best we can with the awareness we have in any one moment. Therefore in a sense we are all innocent. It is immensely freeing to be able to embrace this truth. It allows us to drop assumptions and judgments in order to parent from the heart. It allows us to understand that we can only experience what our thoughts create.

Categories General Spiritual Musings | Tags: | Posted on January 10, 2009

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