The Choice

Years ago, someone with wonderful intentions and a world of truth told me that my feelings are literally my choice, and choosing not to redirect my feelings -- that, too, is my choice. This has tumbled down the hills of my thoughts over the last twenty years or so, and my agreement has vacillated over the years. It's easy to consider being in a group of people, joking, and the conversation makes you laugh. In a heated exchange, one can -- because of their deep knowledge of you -- make a deep verbal incision, making you recoil in horror, making you feel a visceral sting to your core, or one can view the herds of strangers and be made to feel insignificant or inferior.

We are conditioned to believe this. We are conditioned from earliest observations of others that our minds exist as a reactive element, because we saw a stimulus from one person and a response from the other. Children don't have the mental wherewithal to parse finer elements, so these ingrained patterns present a challenge when we accrue the cognitive capacity and observation experience to understand a stimulus can produce any number of responses.

One memory highlights this: in a Stanislavsky Method class in college, we were instructed to choose one phrase, but say it two different ways -- one set of words to express two different ideas. The usual one was, "I hate you," screamed and, "I hate you," through a head shake and a chuckle. It opened a series of dynamics that applies to more than stagecraft. We've all experienced the Disagreeing Agreement -- the, "Oh, well, sure ... yeah," carrying the subtext I'm not so sure, or I'm just agreeing with you to keep the peace. Understanding the single layer of communication nuance branching into duality, there is a tertiary level few consider.

Remember the child watching two adults communicate -- one initiating, one responding with high emotion. Take the words out of it, turn the sound down. One speaks, face neutral, lips moving, but the other recoils, eyes wide before screaming kicks off. This is straightforward -- level one reactive function. Let's rewind. One speaks, face neutral, lips moving, but the other casts eyes down, turns and walks away. This is a different form of disagreement.

I was the screamer. Well, that's unfair. Like any other dynamic being, I was a little of both. If you've ever been around people who hand you a large dose of verbal and emotional consequences when you feel free and happy, settled and comfortable with yourself, you learn how to flatten your affect, to deny those basic impulses of how you react and weigh your responses. While not ideal, this is the seed of something. Conceiving of the idea you can is the first step, but knowing you can do something is the second step. This is when I knew I could understand this better.

Why does this person feel the need to suppress you? Why does this person seem to hate you for being yourself, for being relaxed and honest? What makes this person a fucking asshole? That is the third level of communication. What is the mental network which generates that sort of output? I once had a person who felt guilty over their life's major mistakes ask me: Am I going to hell? This is sort of teary-eyed worry, this tender vulnerability, brought out the compassion in me, and something beyond my conscious thought came out ...

"People act out of their own needs the best way they know how, and that's the limits of their knowledge in the moment. Any creator who loves you enough to create you and see you were nurtured knows why you've done everything you've done, laid before you the ideas and the means to fulfill your needs as you knew how, and understands. You didn't say, 'I want to be a scoundrel.' No being would create you, set the elements of your path, and then not understand why you took your path and cast you away to some eternal damnation."

I'll let that sit there a moment.

My last post concerned meditation, quieting the body to access the mind and quieting the mind to access the spirit or soul or core or being. If we are to begin that with a clean slate, unburdened by interferences of low self-worth, that explanation is a quick and easy understanding of our place in creation, but, even larger an idea is that this applies to everyone around us. Understanding this, the reactivity fades away. Sometimes it takes a cognitive process, but like playing scales on a piano, we start awkward, needing sheet music reminders, until we play without guidance but from deep-ingrained memory and finally from subconscious muscle memory.

Every moment ... every second ... offers the choice the title of this piece refers to. I spent decades in the reactive state, but only certain circumstances educated me, revealed to me the full power of my ability to recognize the choice, like pieces to a puzzle, factors set before my path. There are reasons people say and think what they say and think how they say or think it: their level of understanding ... fulfilling their needs ... the only way they know how at the limitations of their knowledge and ability. The choice, or the capital C Choice, is to decide from the moment of input what has created it, and what is the proper response -- what do you hope to accomplish with your response?

I hope to accomplish inner peace. I hope to maintain inner peace. I also hope to display that I understand the larger picture.

Oh, if only you'd read some of my suppressed blog posts. But those posts -- they're incongruent with what I want to be. I made the choice.

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