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


Freedom To Choose:

Freedom To Say No

Sonoma Mission Inn, Sonoma, California, USA

April 20, 2011



I am indebted to Charlene Afremow who inspired this conversation.



Recently on two occasions about a month apart, I was asked to make financial donations. When I was asked to make the first donation, I knew immediately I would say "Yes"  given the cause. When I was asked to make the second donation, I knew immediately I would say "No"  given the cause. There was no pressure with either request. They were simply requests for donations, to which I was free to choose "Yes" or "No".

Saying "Yes" to the first one was easy. And although I had just as much freedom of choice with the second, I struggled to say "No".

Eventually I did say "No". I was clear it's what I was going to say. I was clear it's what I wanted to say. Simple. Saying "No" was the correct response. But it didn't go as easily as my "Yes" response - that, plus I found myself thinking about my "No" response long after I declined to donate, and I noticed I didn't give the first request and my "Yes" response to it, a second thought.

It seems to me there's the "Yes I'll donate" which is a simple choice - and then there's my pictures behind  the "Yes I'll donate.". What's behind the "Yes I'll donate" are my pictures of how I see myself as a "Yes", and how others see me as a "Yes".

<aside>

"How others see me as a 'Yes'" is better expressed as "How I see  others see me as a 'Yes'" since it's all what I make up about others anyway.

<un-aside>

With the "Yes I'll donate", all my pictures of how I'm seen as a "Yes" don't interfere.

On the other side of the same coin is "No I won't donate" which is also a simple choice. And then there's what's behind the "No I won't donate.". What's behind the "No I won't donate" are my pictures of how I see myself as a "No", and how others see me as a "No". And with my "No I won't donate", all my pictures of how I'm seen as a "No" interfere. I notice I'm more concerned about my pictures of how I see myself as a "No", and how others' see me as a "No" than I am about my pictures of how I see myself as a "Yes", and how others see me as a "Yes".

"Yes" is easier for me than "No" not because of the choice itself but because of what's behind the choice. I've noticed I'm not afraid of what's behind the "Yes". I've noticed I'm afraid of what's behind the "No". I don't mean "I'm afraid" like "I'm experiencing blind terror.". I mean "I'm afraid" like "I just don't like it there.". I mean it like I just don't want to go behind the "No". Behind the "No" are my pictures of myself as a "No" - that's for sure. But I prefer  my pictures of myself as a "Yes". It's not the "No" itself I struggle with. It's not the "No" I'm afraid of. It's what's behind the "No". So although I made a "No" choice declining to donate the second time, it wasn't a powerful  choice. And that's when I noticed with a kind of an "Oh Wow! ..."  that by the same token, my "Yes" choice in agreeing to donate the first time, wasn't a powerful choice either - even though I didn't struggle with it or fear it.

Through this I've discovered what a powerful choice is. It's when I select freely  after consideration (as Werner Erhard may have said). That's a powerful choice. What diminishes my power to choose is when I'm not free of what's behind  my choice. When I refer to what's behind my choice, I'm not referring to what's behind what I'm choosing. I'm not referring to whether it's a worthwhile cause to donate to or not. I'm referring to my pictures of how I see myself, and how others see me as a "Yes" or as a "No". When they interfere, that's when I can't select freely  after consideration ... which is to say I can decide  but I can't choose powerfully.

Long after I declined the second request to donate, I noticed the space  of the communication was still incomplete. Even though the conversation was over, more still remained unsaid. I realized I'd said  "No" but I hadn't chosen  "No" powerfully. I went back to whom I declined to donate, and I declined again, powerfully this time - not because I hadn't said "No" earlier but because I hadn't chosen "No" earlier powerfully.

This time the space of the communication is complete. This time there's no more to be said.



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