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


The #1  Incident, And More

Cowboy Cottage, East Napa, California, USA

September 23, 2018

"Life is kind of like a Monopoly game, and you can't play a Monopoly game unless you have a piece - a Scottie dog or a top hat, or whatever it is - and in life, I need one of these, and a personality, and a mind, and all of those things."
"Experienced experience disappears."
This essay, Impact: The #1  Incident, And More, is the one thousand four hundredth in this Conversations For Transformation internet series. That doesn't mean anything. It's just what's so.

It is also the companion piece to
  1. Know Where Your Body Is At All Times
  2. Matchbox Cars
in that order.

It is also the third in a trilogy of Incidents:
  1. Authentic Truth: The Coca Cola Animals  Incident, And More
  2. Seeking Approval: The Watermelon Basket  Incident, And More
  3. Impact: The #1  Incident, And More
in that order.

I am indebted to Steve Zaffron and to Laurel Scheaf and to Gale Barnum and to Charlene Afremow who contributed material for this conversation.

When I was about seven or eight years old (circa 1957) we, my family and I, moved into a ten roomed three bath mansion on Silverhill Crescent in Kenilworth, a suburb of Cape Town in South Africa. It had a detached three roomed one bath maids' cottage, as well as two garages with space for three cars. It was the first property my parents owned. They renamed it Honor Oak  (its original name was Stratheyre)  after Honor Oak Park in Lewisham near London where my father Asher Manfred played cricket during his student years in England. On the north side of the property was a large "weeping" willow tree with stout, low hung branches, making it easy to climb. I loved climbing that tree - until one day I didn't love it so much anymore.

I don't recall missing my step on a branch which precipitated me falling from that tree. I do recall tumbling down through the air. I clearly recall the sickening thud  as I hit the ground, flat on my back as a small consolation. Fortunately my head missed the nearby sharp edge of a brick patio, as well as a few extraneous rocks in the vicinity. And I clearly recall my sister Anthea Sarah who witnessed the entire incident, running to summon our mother Andee who was home at the time (our father Asher Manfred was at work, and our brother Brandon David was visiting friends on a play date). My memory of what happened next is blank ... that is until I woke up, still lying flat on my back, this time on my bed, my hips encased in a plaster of Paris  cast. I lay there on my back on my bed for six weeks.

Whatever injury I sustained (of which I have no memory of the specifics) eventually healed. Once I'd recovered, my participation in athletics (track and high jump), sports (cricket, field hockey, surfing, swimming, and occasionally soccer and rugby), and martial arts (karate) was unimpeded. It was only later, much later, that I discovered the stored trauma, the muscle memory  (if you will) of that incident and its impact persisted in the background so to speak, for decades.

 Three Types Of Incidents*

How we survive following an incident ie how we include that it happened at all  in our lives and in our ongoing experience, is its legacy - in other words, its legacy is how we compensate for its ongoing persisting tyranny, until we complete our experience of it.

Type #1  incident:

  Falling from a tree is an example of a type #1 incident. A type #1 incident includes

 1)  impact,
 2)  pain.

Type #2  incident:

  The death of a spouse / significant other / loved one, is an example of a type #2 incident. A type #2 incident includes

 1)  loss / shocking loss,
 2)  real or imagined threat to survival.

Type #3  incident:

  For a young child, their parents' divorce is an example of a type #3 incident. A type #3 incident includes the triumvirate

 1)  the thought "Something's wrong ...", followed by
 2)  the sense of a break in belonging, followed by
 3)  the conclusion "I'm on my own ...".

Impact Of The Impact

What's characteristic of muscle memories of type #1 incidents, is long after the pain and trauma of the impact heals, they continue. Decades after my injury had healed, I could still not bear to experience my mid-section entirely. I could not give myself over to whatever natural sensations occurred there. The muscle memory laid down during the impact and the following six weeks, was "avoid the pain". It was strong enough to not let me experience the sensations fully ie to not let me "go there" for many, many years.

The impact of that #1 incident ie the impact of the impact  was that I learned to avoid / resist experiencing my own body fully ie I learned to avoid experiencing my piece  fully, particularly from the hips down. During the six weeks on my back on my bed, I learned to avoid the pain. That became the legacy of the muscle memory. It would be at least another twenty years before I would even consider the possibility of experiencing  the pain in the muscle memory, rather than avoiding it. What good could experiencing the pain do? And well may you ask. The good that could do, would be that experienced pain is more likely to disappear, whereas resisted pain is more likely to persist (as Werner Erhard may have said). And during those six weeks, I had learned to resist the pain. To do that, I had to avoid experiencing my body, at least from my hips down.

I now know of a better way to handle a muscle memory laid down during a type #1 incident than to avoid it: it's to experience it. That's hard to get at first. It's very hard. At first it feels unnatural. That's because the purpose of a muscle memory is to protect. And the legacy of a muscle memory laid down during a type #1 incident, is to protect against experiencing pain. In my case, that meant avoiding / not experiencing my body fully.

Experienced Experience Disappears

Little by little I've re-learned to experience the sensations I once learned to avoid, indeed that I once could do nothing other than avoid. I've taught myself to un-learn avoiding them. As I've done so, their muscle memories have miraculously relinquished their holds. My posture has improved, and with it my sense of well being.

And then there's also this: since my fall from that tree, my sensation of my own legs has always been somewhat blurry ie vague below my hips - not surprising, since that's the area I blocked out / avoided experiencing. As I've become willing to experience the muscle memory fully, I've been experiencing my legs clearly going all the way down to the floor. Now as odd as that may sound to you, it's a victory for me. My feet now have the sensation of gripping  the floor ie there's intentionality and presence in my legs all the way down now, whereas before my feet simply ended up  down there (that's actually a lot closer to the truth than it sounds).

Decades after it happened, I completed my experience of falling from that stout weeping willow tree on Honor Oak's north side, the #1 incident. How? By gradually being willing to experience the experience, rather than resisting it. Wait! What experience are you talking about Laurence? How can you experience an experience that happened decades ago? It's true it happened decades ago. Yet until I experienced it which completed it, it was right here right now, just as it was then, but as a muscle memory. To disappear / complete the experience of a type #1 incident, even if it happened decades ago, fully experiencing its muscle memory today, works.

* Postscript:

The definitions I've presented here for three types of incidents, are neither verbatim nor exact, and may not even be 1,000% accurate although they do come pretty close to total accuracy.

I first encountered their original definitions during Werner Erhard's est  Training in the last weekend of August 1978.

In doing my research before publishing this essay, I made extensive inquiries to determine the exact original wording of these definitions. The manual from which the est  Training was delivered and in which these definitions were transcribed, was removed from circulation by request when the est  Training was retired in December 1984. So the exact, verbatim original definitions are no longer available.

What I've presented here is therefore nothing more (and nothing less) than derivations of my own careful recollection of them, which draw on those of the eight est  trainers of the day with whom I consulted.

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