Examining Your Premise

Exam­in­ing Your Premise  —  your beliefs under­lie every­thing you think and do  —  and most remain unex­plored and unex­am­ined. Let’s look at how this hap­pens, and pro­pose a cou­ple of ideas for look­ing inside

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Examining Your Premise

We stayed overnight in Toronto, at a hotel. The photo above was taken in the lobby. The joke is subtle; did you get it?

The word premise is wrong. It ought to be premis­es.

I’m imag­in­ing the trail­ing “s” threw the sign writer. A “premis­es” is a sin­gle loca­tion, and a premise is, “a propo­si­tion upon which an argu­ment is based or from which a con­clu­sion is drawn.” Thus, a premise is the basis of a belief or understanding.

I wonder how many of us would like to have our beliefs under video scrutiny

You might think of a premise as a core belief – for exam­ple, some people 

  • believe that oth­ers are dan­ger­ous, and some believe in the inher­ent good nature of others. 
  • believe all peo­ple of a par­tic­u­lar group are a cer­tain way, and some peo­ple treat each per­son as a “blank slate”  —  and respond accord­ing to the individual.

We’ve learned to hide the underpinnings of our behaviour

Social­iza­tion requires bland­ness. We’ve all learned how to blend in and “not make waves.” We guard what we real­ly think from pret­ty much everybody. 

The work we propose is “learning to flex our surveillance muscles.”

This is decid­ed­ly dif­fer­ent from try­ing to fig­ure oth­ers out. Most of us spend (waste) our lives try­ing to dis­sect the motives and desires of oth­ers  —  we engage in end­less inter­nal dia­logues, play­ing all the roles, as we peck away at our near­est and dear­est. And we nev­er “get” that all of our work is about “me-think­ing about others.”

I used to ask clients about their stuff  —  their world-view, their desires, what path they are “walk­ing,” and I was met with blank stares, or embar­rass­ment. Alto­geth­er too scary to explore the qua­si-hid­den stuff. 

Their video surveillance equipment was on pause.

Oth­ers replied by telling me who they aren’t, or what they don’t want. Or, they, said, oth­ers should fig­ure it out for them.

Just a Note! Back in 1994, My first book, Sto­ries From the Sea of Life was pub­lished. It’s now out of print, BUT is avail­able as a pdf file. If you’d like to read more of the sto­ries con­tained there­in, go to the home page of The Phoenix Cen­tre Press. Once there, sub­scribe to the site’s mail­ing list, and you’ll get the pdf for FREE!

I wrote this little story in that book:

A “Pas­sion­ate Encounter”

The daugh­ter of one of my best friends came in for coun­selling one day. After assort­ed pleas­antries, Car­ol said, “Wayne, all of the pas­sion has gone out of our rela­tion­ship.” (Car­ol had been dat­ing Will for six months, and liv­ing with him for five.) I asked her what she was doing about it. Car­ol replied, “Every night, I say to Will, ‘Will, all the pas­sion has gone out of our rela­tion­ship.’ But noth­ing ever changes.”

I asked Car­ol if she’d be will­ing to play a game with me. We would pre­tend that we were in a rela­tion­ship. She agreed. I said, “Car­ol, all of the pas­sion has gone out of our rela­tion­ship. What are you going to go about it?”

Car­ol said, “Well, I’ll make you din­ner, and then we’ll drink wine in front of a roar­ing fire and fool around on the couch.” I said, “Car­ol, that was a fine din­ner, the wine is great and you real­ly know how to fool around, but Car­ol, all of the pas­sion has gone out of our rela­tion­ship. What are you going to go about it?”

Car­ol said, “Well, I’ll buy a sexy night­gown and give you a back rub and we’ll take a show­er and then make love.” I said, “Car­ol, that’s one heck of a nice night­gown, and my back feels great, not to say any­thing about what you did for the rest of me, but Car­ol, all of the pas­sion has gone out of our rela­tion­ship. What are you going to go about it?”

Car­ol said, “Well … damn it, what do you want?”

I said, “Maybe Will is won­der­ing the same thing.”

Car­ol learned to ask for what she want­ed, instead of end­less­ly list­ing what she did­n’t want. This inter­nal obser­va­tion is as dif­fi­cult as we make it.

1. Self-awareness is not self-judgement

A client once wrote:

I fig­ure we can spend our lives apol­o­gis­ing for who we are. Apol­o­gis­ing for not being beau­ti­ful enough, for not con­form­ing, for dis­ap­point­ing our par­ents, for choos­ing to not earn a mil­lion dol­lars, for going home ear­ly, for not lov­ing hard enough, for not mak­ing it bet­ter, for just about anything.

Or not.

What if we say this is how it goes down for me? In this 100 years, in this life­time, I make no apolo­gies for being me. I make mis­takes and I’m messy and some­times I real­ly don’t behave well – because some­times I just don’t. While I say sor­ry when I hurt some­one else, and try to avoid doing so, there is no apol­o­gy for being me. Or you.

There is noth­ing to be gained in apol­o­gis­ing for my exis­tence. It’s incred­i­bly rude to want to say sor­ry for being you. You is what makes the world work, or not. This plan­et is a bil­lion yous. None of us have any need to apol­o­gise for being here right now. We just are here.

This is your sto­ry. Yours. How pow­er­ful is that?”

2. Self-awareness is seeing your prejudices

A prej­u­dice is a “pre-judge­ment.” The ver­dict is in before the evi­dence is pro­duced. I sus­pect most prej­u­dices are foist­ed upon us by tribe, cul­ture, reli­gion, etc. Pre­dictably, we’re quick to notice prej­u­dice in oth­ers, and slow to notice it in ourselves.

If I watch myself, I like­ly will notice a cer­tain tight­ness, fol­lowed by a sense of self-right­eous­ness, when I trig­ger myself over a prejudice.I’m as as left wing as they come, and I still have a vis­cer­al, knee-jerk reac­tion to right wing con­ser­v­a­tives.

I’ve learned to pause… I start by keep­ing qui­et, while I exam­ine what I want to do / say, and then, have anoth­er breath. I’ve learned to be crit­i­cal of a belief, with­out (nec­es­sar­i­ly) judg­ing the speak­er. After 50 years of prac­tic­ing this, I seem to deal well with this 90% of the time.

3. Self-awareness is focused on what do

See above. I have not changed my opin­ion regard­ing con­ser­v­a­tives. What I just wrote about is how I express myself  —  a doing. My work is all about this: notic­ing the feel­ing (in the body) of tight­en­ing up, clos­ing down, shut­ting off. Then, using the body aware­ness as a “wake up point,” so that rather than oper­at­ing on auto pilot, I go inside and see what I’m doing to upset myself.

From there, comes the fork in the road

I can still enact what­ev­er knee-jerk retrac­tion I nor­mal­ly toss out, or I can choose to go anoth­er way. Dar­bel­la describes one of hers as, “In small group I want to pull back and stop talk­ing, so I lean for­ward and speak.” Our path is not about flaw­less­ness… it’s about choice in the face of our flaws.

4. Self-awareness comes through dialogue

We can and must watch our­selves, and para­dox­i­cal­ly, we can’t do this alone. We are so good at pulling the wool over our eyes… find­ing excus­es to repeat­ed­ly engage in dam­ag­ing behav­iours, that The Path­less Path requires dialogue.

It’s essen­tial to devel­op inti­ma­cy projects  —  open, clear, direct dia­logue aimed at cut­ting through the bull­shit; get­ting to the core of the dilem­ma. In a sense, we do video sur­veil­lance on our­selves, and then share the tapes!

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