The Toolbox Starter Kit: Tool Two

Thinking about thinking can be very confusing. It's somewhat like using a mirror to look at a mirror. Fortunately the mind comes and goes, depending on some factors we don't entirely control. There are times when we can see clearly and understand lots of things, and then there are times when we can only feel; no thoughts are clear then. This is when a "tool" can help. A "tool" is a little piece of logic you build when the mind is not clouding your vision. Later, when your mind fogs things over, you pull out your tool, and you fix the thought engine.

Not all "tools" are those you use on yourself. Some allow you to decode the actions of others. When a thought is consciously created by you, I call it a "tool". But when a thought is created as a solution to hide something, call it a "lock". Here is the "secret decoder ring" I plagiarized from Charles Berner. It is a powerful tool to break "locks!"

Tool #2: People are critical of the things they do themselves.

Did you ever notice how President Nixon was critical about who could be trusted? I was always amazed about how paranoid he was. Remember Vice President Spiro Agnew? He didn't trust anyone. It should have given us a clue about the trust we put in him.

This is not an easy "tool" to build. You must really study a person's statements in retrospect. I find people fascinating, and at the age of 50 my memory has enough data, that I can appreciate how natural it is to project out to others the holes one feels inside. Spiro Agnew was probably feeling untrustworthy, so he was projecting out, "They are not trustworthy." Note that he was not just saying it as fact, he was being "critical." He was stressing the concept, "It was their fault." Of course, this critical review he made of others, blows whatever good-will he had with the people he was accusing. It created the "good guys" and the "bad guys" mentality, making it easy to fall into the power of hate. I hated to hear him speak. His criticalness was a thought created by him to hide behind. This "lock" is an attempt to cheat reality.

This "lock" is a solution to hide something - - In this particular case of being critical of others, based on your own guilt. The criticalness of others appears to "work" in three ways:

1). It "solves" the problem of who is guilty. The act of getting critical of others, deflects the attention away from the real guilt.

2) It starts a justification process. It's similar to the claim that others are this way so I'm not so bad. It's kind of a data collection mode in preparation for when you get discovered.

3) It's a good ice breaker. The first person discovered, sets the firestorm and acts as the lightning rod. The second person discovered is often forgotten. Therefore if you can find someone guilty, later, when they also discover you, it will be a mild ho-hum experience.

You can now start to build "Tool #2" "People are critical of the things they do themselves," by reviewing your own past experiences. Before you read on, take some time to consider the truth of "Tool #2." There is much more here than meets your first glance.

Having thus described this "lock," and to some degree why people are seduced into using it, I would like to speculate as to what the really big secret is. Suppose you did something you are not proud of. So what is the real problem? Why do people get critical so often, and go around being angry? For me, there is an underlying mechanism, a secret so big that anything is better than to face up to it. (Admitting the real secret would then uncreate the "lock" solution, wash away the anger, and we would be starting down the road of being responsible for our own actions.) The "lock" solution is used because there is a lack of effective hooks into other people's lives. That is, there is a lack of control. There is no real process of "controlling" others. You lack a way to manage the thinking of others. Further, there is no real reason for other people to even care about us. If they care, it is an act of love. That is something they do, and not us. That lack of control is just too painful to admit to anyone. This lack of control is the big secret.

When you don't let others judge you, you keep the big secret, and you have only toxic shame for yourself. Toxic shame is what John Bradshaw calls "a true sickness of the soul." They think if they told the real truth, we would have no choice but to think less of them. They love us, and desperately only want to tell us good things. This makes the world a smaller place in which to live. Even more unfortunate, they are always insecure, since they keep the big secret, and are trying to control everything to get more love.

Control is not the answer, and being critical of others does not work. In short, speaking in coded messages, being angry all the time, and looking for "a few good men" is a waste of your valuable time.

I hope you can add this second tool, "People are critical of the things they do themselves," to your toolbox. Also recognize that, as any good tool, it works on many levels. If you find yourself becoming critical of others, you may need to do some soul-searching. It is really not what others do that bothers us, it's just those things that we cannot help them with that really bother us. For example, if someone could count to 10, add one and one to get two, but could not add two and two to get four, you probably would not get critical of them. You would instead teach and help them. As you can see, it takes a lot of personal work to really understand and build a tool so that you can use it.

Now that we have created a secret decoder ring type tool, how do we prevent others from using it on us? How do we talk so that others don't need a decoder ring? Here is a Lemma, it is similar to a tool, but it is more direction and less logic and it must be taken more on faith. This Lemma will help you to not lock up!

Lemma #1: Whenever possible, tell the truth!

Don't go out of your way to manipulate how others see you. Life is hard enough, without adding the pressure of maintaining a lie. There is a natural boundary, where you end, and they begin. You cannot extend your control beyond yourself and have it work for long. Besides the added effort you must achieve to maintain a lie, a lie will not accomplish real communication. It will leave you with a bad taste in your mouth.

A further possibility; there is a concept called "progress in a relationship," and that this can take place only when both sides are telling the truth. You cannot make the other person tell the truth, but you can take care of your side of the relationship. In general, you want to do the possible and avoid the impossible. Another useful Lemma is:

Lemma #2: Allow people to do what they don't need your permission to do.

Recognize where your power ends. Consider this lemma with Tool #2 and Lemma #1. People always have the right to judge us. We can only do so much to affect their judgments of us. Remember, if they are talking to you about their judgment, they are indirectly asking for your blessing, so you can give them more information.

In order to appreciate other people, you need to recognize what they are responsible for. Their judgment of you is their responsibility. When they give you praise, thank them! Some people get themselves all stressed out unnecessarily. They need to let go of responsibility that was not theirs in the first place. The current popular culture term for this is boundaries. You will need healthy boundaries.

This is a particularly difficult concept for parents to understand. Since parents often feel falsely responsible for their adult children, they in turn don't give them any respect. The parents don't know where their power ends. Of course, parents don't need permission to continue to feel responsible; this is their choice. If you have this kind of parent, it can be frustrating at times.

I hope that you can get a handle on this new Tool for your toolbox. But even more, I hope you allow other people to be really different but not disconnected from your love.

To some degree, life is being forced to make a decision without adequate information. Often you find out after the fact that your information was wrong. Therefore, it is only prudent to realize the limitations inherent in being forced to act and then gaining information from the act itself. Therefore, this next Lemma is only prudent, under the circumstances of most knowledge.

Lemma #3: Use the minimum force necessary to get the job done.

Everybody makes mistakes, so when you opt to use the minimum force, you make the minimum mistake. It may take a while, but sooner or later, you will make a mistake, and you will be glad you chose not to use excessive force. If you act without hate, this one is easy.

Another benefit of using just enough force is that you tend to pay attention to what you are doing, and what is taking place. Having to use force is a bit troublesome, since we would rather use understanding, or some other preserving process. Unfortunately, there are times when you need force, the one that comes to mind is getting out of bed in the morning. (One must be careful in talking about words that have so many uses.)

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