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

Born Into It:

A Way For Family

Fairfield Inn, American Canyon, California, USA

June 30, 2012

This essay, Born Into It: A Way For, Family, is the companion piece to It Shows Up Personal But It Ain't Personal.

I am indebted to Clare Erhard-Trick who inspired this conversation.

A good friend and I were talking openly one evening recently about his experience of his family.

He's a good Dad, a very good Dad, committed to his family, generous almost to a fault. He was sharing something with me, a new undercurrent  if you will, which he noticed had surfaced in his family resulting in conflict.

The thing about family is there are always  undercurrents. There are undercurrents of intention, thwarted  intention in particular. There are undercurrents of expectation, unfulfilled  expectation in particular. There are undercurrents of communication, undelivered  communication in particular. These three undercurrents (thwarted intention, unfulfilled expectation, and undelivered communication) provide the essential ingredients for being upset. Family, it would seem, is a veritable Petri dish  in which upsets are created. Of course, family is also a veritable Petri dish in which love is created ... but we don't complain about having too much of that, do we?

The minutiae, the details of what happened when this new undercurrent surfaced in my friend's family (that is, the details of what happened when this new undercurrent surfaced in his family among all the other undercurrents already present  in his family) actually aren't relevant to this conversation. In any case, they're his and his family's personal and private affair. Gratuitously sharing them would violate his trust. What can  be shared, however, what's both OK and useful  to share is our ensuing observations of how undercurrents in family are disproportionately more consuming than any other undercurrents in almost any other area of living. What's also OK and useful to share is our ensuing realization of a way for family  to correctly regard undercurrents so they're no longer consuming, and allow instead for fully appreciating the gift family is.

We're mastering this game of being Dads - he and I. I would have said we've master-ed  this game of being Dads except family is always expanding so being a Dad is an ongoing, expanding learning experience. I'm learning more and gaining more leverage and traction with it every day. Being in relationship with my children, being in relationship with my mother, being in relationship with my sister and my brother, I know when to talk, I know when not to talk. I know when to get close, I know when to draw back. I know when to come on strong and when to let well alone. I also know I'm the guy my children want to be independent of (it's not personal) so my gift to them is to let them be independent of me, even if I miss them. Who else do they get to push away from just in the process of Life itself?

Given all of the above, it could be said there's no more deeply reactivating and occasionally no more disappointing milieu  than family. There are so many woulda coulda shoulda  undercurrents in and around family, there are so many opportunities, so many missed  opportunities (real and imaginary), there are so many expectations, so many unfulfilled  expectations. One of the things my friend and I have in common is we agree that without the edge granted by transformation, it's almost impossible (if not outright  impossible) to regain freedom, power, equilibrium, love, and affinity once an upset takes root in a family - which is to say once an upset is triggered  by an ever present undercurrent (it's all on automatic, yes?).

We noticed that because we're thrown  to take things personally, indeed because our machinery  is wired  to take things personally, the first place we ordinarily go to when family undercurrents surface, is being threatened (even if we're not being threatened), being accused (even if we're not being accused), being invalidated (even if we're not being invalidated), then to retaliate, to be right, to make wrong, and to avoid being dominated at any cost.

That's the ordinary way of responding to an upset, yes? Actually I should say that's the ordinary way of being triggered  in an upset because in this  model there's no choice: it's all on automatic. In a family upset, once the trigger is pulled by some surfaced undercurrent, then freedom, power, equilibrium, love, and affinity fall like dominoes, like houses of cards. They stay fallen until enough time has passed for them to be forgiven and forgotten, a process in which (please observe) while a good result is produced, there's no mastery.

In a separate conversation you and I can speak about Werner's Erhard breakthrough technology for dismantling upsets. In this  conversation, however, I'd like to suggest another way of being with family when the family undercurrent surfaces causing upsets. Not a better way - just another  way. There's no better  way, in any case, when it comes to this sort of thing. Whichever way works  is a better way. Any way of being with the surfaced family undercurrent or being with upsets or managing upsets or dismantling upsets is simply a tool in your toolbox which you'll use as and when the need arises. And you may have more than one tool for accomplishing the same result. You may have more than one wrench, for example, in your toolbox.

Here, then, is another way of being with an undercurrent - a family undercurrent, to be sure, but any undercurrent really: realize it's not personal. It never was  personal. It was going on before you got here. You were born into it. The family undercurrent is the condition you were born into. It's the condition called being human. And it's not personal (it's never  personal) unless you make it personal - which is to say unless you take it personally.

When a family undercurrent surfaces triggering a family upset, it's not personal. You didn't cause it. They  didn't cause it. You're not at fault. They're  not at fault. There's no blame. The undercurrent was already going on long before you got here. It was already going on long before they  got here. You were born into it. They  were born into it. It will continue after you're gone. It will continue after they're gone. It'll be going on forever. It's ... not  ... personal. It's not personal that you were born into the morass of undercurrents of family which is the condition called being human ... and  ... it's not personal that you were born into the exquisitely rich and unspeakably joyous experience of family which is the condition called being human.

What my friend and I realized is getting it this way starts with being who you are, loving being who you are, and being powerfully, unashamedly, fearlessly  who you are. In this way, you don't vote  on a course of action for family or for a particular outcome in response to upsets caused by the surfaced family undercurrent. Instead you simply offer leadership. Period.

Be careful: realizing you were born into it, realizing it's not personal isn't a way of avoiding being responsible. Rather it's a way of creating space  for what's going on, a way of allowing  whatever family undercurrent is going on rather than being consumed by it - in other words, it's a way of not simply going off  on family. It's a way of having the space to choose family and to be  with family. It's a way which actually facilitates enhanced responsibility rather than diminishing or obfuscating it.

If there's a way for family which interferes  with the ever-present undercurrent which results in conflict when it surfaces, if there's a way for family which honors, respects, and deeply appreciates  the gift of family, if there's a way for family which stands with family  and stands with each individual family member regardless of anything upsetting which results, even unknowingly, from the family undercurrent, then this is it.

If there's a way of realizing the family undercurrent isn't personally caused by family members even when it looks like it's personally caused by family members (including you) then this is it.

No one  created the family undercurrent. You were just born into it. It's like diving into a warm mountain pool. You didn't make the pool warm. It was warm long before you dived in.

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