Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More

As Good As It Gets

Silverado Vineyards, Silverado Trail, Napa Valley, California, USA

August 23, 2011

This essay, As Good As It Gets, is the companion piece to It was conceived at the same time as Beginner's Mind: On Having No Memory.

Here are four ideas as "go to"  options when things aren't working. Not working can be being upset, being stuck, being out of control, or some or all of the above in combination. Not working can also be as simple as not being happy, light, and alacritous. Or it could just be whatever we mean when we use the ubiquitous descriptor "not feeling good".


There's a technology  of transformation which can be leveraged in any situation to break through being upset and stuck.
Werner's work pioneering transforming being upset lays bare the components of any upset (thwarted intention, unfulfilled expectation, undelivered communication). Once each component is distinguished, a new way of being becomes possible, a new opening for action becomes available. Being upset and stuck then simply become matters of choice:  once the components of the upset are distinguished, it's a matter of choosing to stay stuck, or choosing to invent a new possibility for action, and moving on. Really. It's that simple.

No longer oppressive, any upset is transformed into a simple choice: choose to stay upset and stuck, or choose to move on. The choice is yours.

There are times to which any parent will attest when your children drive you cr-a-a-a-zy. It doesn't matter what you say. It doesn't matter whether you're wrong or right There are times when their sole job in the world is to disagree with you - whether you agree with them or not.

"I agree with you.". "No you don't.". "OK, you're right. I don't.". "Yes you do.".

You can't win.

When my children graduated from Werner's work I was thrilled. I could share something potent from what each of them experienced. Instead I've chosen something my daughter Alexandra experienced, to represent what all three of them experienced. She was upset. I interpreted her as manipulating. I began to speak with her about it. I began to reason  with her about it. Nothing I said worked. "Alexandra I agree with you.". "No you don't.". "OK, you're right. I don't.". "Yes you do." ... you know, she had it on automatic. I was going nowhere fast.

Then, almost as an afterthought, I turned on my heel, walked away, and left her alone with whatever was going on with her. It was actually hard for me not to stay entangled with her - I love her that much. The love between a father and a daughter is something fierce. Even entanglement may be worth being in, when it's with your own daughter. Yet now she was a graduate, so I bit my tongue and walked away from her. But not too far away. I walked into the living room where I could still hear her and, out of the corner of my eye, I could still see her ... even if I pretended I couldn't. This is what I saw:

She had her arms tightly crossed over her chest. She was in what I call a sulk. Her lips were pouted. Her brow was furrowed. She was talking to herself. This is what I heard:

"This isn't working for me. Whenever I get like this, I think I'll get something out of it - but I never do. I don't know why I stay in this mood. I want him to notice me. Yet even if he does notice me when I get like this, I'm still not happy. This doesn't work. This doesn't work for me. It should. But it doesn't.".

She went on and on and on talking to herself, posing scenarios, responding to herself, always coming up with the same conclusion: she expects a particular result which just doesn't happen. I listened and watched, literally spellbound, pretending I didn't see or hear her. Then my dear, precious, darling Alexandra threw up her hands and said to herself "This is not working  for me. Why do I keep doing this to myself?". Had she been an older woman, you may have heard her adding "Goddamn it!". But she was a child so she said it in a way a child says it.

And then in front of my amazed eyes, she uncrossed her arms, lit up her face with a smile like all the neon in Las Vegas suddenly came on all at once, and she literally danced and skipped away from the corner of the wall against which she'd held herself captive. She smiled and she danced and she skipped and she skipped and she danced and she smiled. She barely noticed me standing there. Almost as an afterthought she looked over at me and ... smiling and dancing and skipping ... said offhandedly "Oh, Hi Daddy!".

Faced with the choice to stay on it or to get off it, my daughter Alexandra chose to get off it ... just ... like ... that. I submit we can all learn a lot from her.

There are three approaches Werner speaks of, to being out of control.

First, you can be with  being out of control when you're out of control. When you be with being out of control when you're out of control, you're in control.

Second, you can create  being out of control when you're out of control. When you create being out of control when you're out of control, you're in control.

Third, you can re-create being out of control when you're out of control. When you re-create being out of control when you're out of control, you disappear  being out of control, and you're in control.

If none of the above  (dismantle the upset, get off it, be with it / create it / re-create it) work, consider it might just be possible this is as good as it gets. It might just be possible that other than this, there's no alternative. There's no way out. Things are the way they are and the way they aren't. This is "IT!"  There's nothing to fix or change. There's no cure because this isn't a malaise.

Consider it might just be possible that regardless of what it looks  like and feels  like, this is as good as it gets. And this is what it looks like and feels like when it's as good as it gets.

Although I've presented four ideas here as "go to" options when things aren't working, I suggest the sooner you come to terms with this is as good as it gets, and see it as an opportunity to take back your life, the sooner things start working again.

If you listen "this is as good as it gets" as tasting of disappointment or even of pessimism, you're not getting what I'm saying here. "This is as good as it gets", which is to say accepting things the way they are and the way they aren't, is a direct access to deep, lasting happiness.

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