(this article is a chapter of my future book – Conscious Evolution – Crafting Our Way Together)
It isn’t easy to maintain your generosity and kindness while communicating with someone who “reduces you” or “rejects you” or is “unfair to you” etc. It’s not easy to let your guard down and not fight back when someone “undermines you” or “treats you unfairly”. So, what is to be done in such situations?
I noticed that I can remain a kind observer only for a while, without retaliating aggressively, while someone else “undermines me”. But suddenly I find myself the blind actor fighting back. My preconditions hijacked me again, and compelled me to defend myself in the old way. Indeed, they succeed in hijacking me when it seems to me that “my survival is at stake”, “my boundaries are violated” etc.
My impressions are in quotes because they don’t necessarily represent reality, but the perception of my self-centeredness. I am perfectly aware that my preconditions are not my enemies: they have been shaped by what has meant success in the past. But I don’t want to live in this logic anymore. I am at a threshold between a world built on the logic of competition and self-centeredness and another built on the logic of symbiosis and interbeing. I am trying to cross this evolutionary threshold and build around me a world based on the logic of interbeing. For this, I need to root myself in the relational reality I want to bring to life around me. But how can I “root myself” in the “future that wants to emerge”?
I need a different understanding of myself within the social fabric, one able to stand the logic of my conditionings. This different understanding of myself within the social fabric is the very definition of another level of consciousness.
Our preconditions reduce us to the level of “gladiator”: short-sighted, narrow-minded, fighting blindly in the arena for a petty success, far from the success that loving understanding, correlation and cooperation can bring. What can I do to get rid of these preconditions?
I try to see “from above”, as an “observer” and I see that we are all playing a “game”. The way we relate can be considered a game, because nothing stops us from changing the rules of the game. Usually, we forget that our competition is just a game and that it isn’t necessary to go to war with each other, even if in the “game” we are apparently enemies. It is just a game with rules established by others! We can understand that through cooperation we can meet our needs better than through competition and change the way we play the game.
A broader picture in time and space makes the stakes of our everyday struggles no longer seem so important and certainly not the ultimate purpose of our life. A larger picture in time and space makes cooperation seem like the best strategy. We aren’t just individuals fighting each other, but symbionts of a superorganism. There is no need for us to be enemies. There is no need for one’s gain to be at the expense of another. Cooperation and symbiosis can fulfill everyone’s needs.
That’s how it is for the “observer in the bifurcation point“, while for the “gladiator in the arena”, the entire reality is that of competition. There is nothing above or outside it: it all boils down to the battle in the arena. What the “gladiator” doesn’t understand is that the competition is only a modality in which we can play the “game of life”. We can choose to play it in another modality, called cooperation.
Calling the way we relate a game, I emphasize that it isn’t the only reality we can bring forth around us. We can engage it differently, creating another “game”, another reality around us. Through the lens of competition and self-centeredness, we are enemies. But we can change the game in symbiosis and suddenly, we – the same players – are no longer enemies, but symbionts.
Becoming the “Observer in the bifurcation point”
As long as I am still playing the game of competition (I am still under its logic), I am not a true observer. I am not at a “bifurcation point” where I can really choose. Being under the spell of the “competition game”, the moment I notice that I “lose” in this game (according to my old preconditions), the moment I feel that something from my “safety” is threatened, I feel compelled (by my old way of assessment and old set of emotions) to act to regain my position.
When I (still being caught in the logic of competition) consider that my well-being is at stake, I entrust the leadership to the “gladiator”, who acts energetically to “defend my borders” and “regain my rank and position”. This is the moment when I “switch” from “observer” to “blind gladiator”. But if I could really emancipate myself from the logic of competition, I could switch to the “cooperation game”. I could stand for the values I chose. I could finally remove the ego from the game and really transform the game around me from competition to cooperation.
The “place” in which we can retreat to resist the logic of competition is that “point of bifurcation” where we can be a real observer and choose between competition and cooperation. In the end, everything comes down to the way we choose to perceive.
How can I detach myself from the consequences of the game of competition?
It is all about our perception and assessments. A different perception will bring forth a different logic and a different emotional response in us. If I manage to perceive with loving eyes, my switch will be toward the new edifying lines I consciously chose. From “observer” I would become “creator”. Freed from the tyranny of competition’ logic, I could speak nonviolently. Only now I could give others the chance to respond according to the logic of cooperation and symbiosis. Only now will I be able to bring out the best in others – because only now will I be able to act with generosity and the clairvoyance that sees the light in others. Only now will I be able to offer myself.
Melting together Marshall Rosenberg and Joseph Campbell words, I will become alive, connecting what is alive in me with what is alive in others and nourishing this aliveness! Only now will I be able to fulfill my destiny: to bring life into the world. The others will feel this generosity and will feel freed from the pressure of competition. They will feel generous in their turn. They will feel encouraged to respond with the same ”kindness and generosity”. “By removing the ego from the logic of the game, I change the rules of the game”.
To detach myself from the logic of the “competition game” and resist the pressure of my old preconditions, what can I do?
1) I have to address the first leverage through which the old preconditions hijack me: the impression that I am “losing” something if I let my “guard” down. I started to be aware that this is a false assessment. By choosing cooperation instead of competition, I don’t lose anything, but I give myself the chance to fulfill my higher needs. Remaining stuck in self-centeredness, I won’t be able to fulfill my higher needs of self-transcendence. Because I chose to serve life, I have needs that cannot be fulfilled by acting according to my self-centeredness. Thus, I don’t really lose anything by choosing cooperation, on the contrary! Also, it is obvious to me that through cooperation we can fulfill all our needs together – from the physiological to the most spiritual ones. Choosing cooperation is advantageous for me.
2) The second leverage through which my preconditions hijack me is the assessment of my subconscious. Beyond my conscious choice, my subconscious will inevitably make its assessment. And my subconscious is susceptible to the slightest trace of aggression from others (in the tone of their voice/ in their way of looking/ in the meaning of their words etc). This assessment will automatically bring me emotions and feelings not conducive to cooperation or kindness. What do I do in this situation? Simple, I resist this compulsive assessment of the subconscious and replace it with one made by me, consciously. Through my new assessment I choose to see a person in need (and not one that attacks me, or speaks the way he speaks), I simply see him as a person with needs as mine, caught in the tyranny of his preconditions. Behind his aggressive words or actions, I can easily discern that he – like all of us – has needs to be fulfilled. Now, thanks to my new assessment, other emotions (of compassion) are born in me and I can act according to them. In this step, my spiritual practice of attunement can help me, indeed.
3) If the old linguistic preconditioning still overcomes me, sooner or later I will notice myself thinking or saying “I feel this way, because you…” This perception is obviously false. If I feel something, it is only because of the way I choose to perceive. So, what I have to do at this moment is to stop myself and replace the old assessment (which sees the other person as an aggressor) with a new one, in which the other person is seen as a person in need.
4) Only by voluntarily fulfilling others’ needs (servant leadership), can I lessen the pressure that the competition generally puts on us. Over time, the others will feel different in my presence, less pressured – because with me they no longer need to fight, because I give them what they need willingly. By acting like this, I attract them to the game and the logic of cooperation. As they open up with me to the game of cooperation, things will go much easier for both parties.
This new understanding is the very base of nonviolent communication, symbiotic behavior and any attempts to live together in Butterfly fellowships or communities.
Without a renewal of self-understanding within the social fabric we will find ourselves powerless to overcome our preconditions and self-centeredness. Everything we do, will continue to be in the same logic of competition and separation.
If we succeed in changing our metaphysics with one conducive to cooperation, we will succeed in changing our adaptive goals. Our new perception will serve this new direction, bringing forth different emotions, suitable for a symbiotic behavior.