Every week, people from our Tuesday night group bring in self-observations based on a designated theme. This month we have focused on the idea of like and dislike. When we focus our efforts on noticing how we like or dislike something, it can lead us to understand what is behind judgement, namely fear.
Like and dislike is judgement. We form opinions and beliefs around our likes and dislikes. This isn’t just about our preferences. Our likes and dislikes form what we believe should and shouldn’t be, and so when things don’t go according to what we think is appropriate behavior, we don’t like it.
Our choices are highly influenced by what we like and so, to our detriment, we avoid what feels unpleasant.
Likes and dislikes form the bulk of our experience. When we are unable to see this in action in ourselves, we become slaves to a binary system of preferences, aversions, opinions, good and bad and right and wrong. We are constantly evaluating whether something is good or bad.
There are reasons why we do this.
We derive most of our decisions and evaluations from a mechanical and conditioned place in us known as the formatory apparatus. This means we base everything on memory and retrieve stock impressions that are stored. This is how we can have a Pavlovian reaction of fear to a big dog if we were once bitten by a dog as a child. This is how we know not to stick our hand on the burner when we feel the heat. It is how we know not to eat something that smells off.
There is a practical purpose to our formatory apparatus, aptly named by G.I. Gurdjieff. It serves as a safety mechanism and unfortunately, it has taken the place of our own ability to discriminate and act from conscience. It is a mechanism.
When mechanism rules our world, we get triggered.
Triggers are mechanistic reactions that result from like and dislike.
If we look closely at “being triggered”, it is mostly due to not liking something that is going on. There is no objectivity involved. For example, triggers are usually feelings of being offended, or taken advantage of, or being judged. We usually justify these perspectives.
They are cues that can tell us that like and dislike are in action. They are secondary reactions but we recognize them as triggers.
For example, say a regular customer expects you to remember their coffee order. When they arrive and you don’t remember what they usually have, they make some snide remark like “are you kidding me, you don’t know what I want?” You don’t like this and take it personally. Besides being rude, it makes you feel inadequate and brings up feelings of failure. You then feel justified in being rude right back at them because you are now angry. You feel justified in that anger.
There are many things to see in this scenario. When we find ourselves judging a person’s behavior as wrong or improper, it is usually because we have been offended by it. When we are offended, we have taken something personally as if it were all about us. What is triggered is mechanistic response that this is about us being inadequate in some way and we take that as the message. This is why we don’t like what has been said or done.
There is an evaluation that this person does not see us for who we are, a competent and able person. The like and dislike comes from the way it is affecting us.
Unless we are able to do the work of seeing this inner experience for what it is, we will constantly be thrown into negative states that we believe are the result of someone else’s actions. Everyone else’s actions then define us and become about us unless we see our identification with the false beliefs of ourselves.
This brings us to the next step in the scenario which involves fear.
When we judge, we have a chance to see that fear is involved. That must be verified for ourselves. This fear is stirred up from the part of us that believes what that person is saying is true. If there is already an identification with inadequacy, when that person says, “are you kidding me?”, it stirs up the insecurity that already exists.
We do not to see this insecurity because of survival conditioning. This belief that we are a failure, and the resentment we have when someone implies that we don’t have good judgement is purely our own doing.
We react to their words or actions because they have activated our conditioned response.
The first sign of reaction is liking or not liking something. It is our cue that we have deemed something as right or wrong in our own tainted eyes. We play out an inner scenario of justification that keeps us from actually seeing our identification with being unworthy.
To observe this within ourselves will lead us to see how much we lie to ourselves.
It will reveal how our judgement keeps us from seeing who we really are, what we are afraid of, and what we are really feeling. When we justify our anger, resentment and dislike for someone, we need to get the hint that we are hiding something from ourselves.
We would not be angry if their actions did not have the power to define us. When someone stirs up deep seeded fear in us whether intentionally or unintentionally, we react. That fear of inadequacy/stupidity/unworthiness is more than likely a mechanical response that gets “triggered”.
To observe is to recognize that reaction is mechanical.
The way we work with this in our Tuesday nights is not to put it all logically together. We must first really observe this dislike going on within us. We know something is behind it and so with curiosity, we begin to study this in ourselves without evaluating it. We want to avoid binary assessment which has gotten us into trouble in the first place. Once we can recognize this like and dislike in us, we can begin to see the fear that lies behind it.
The Awareness School offers online courses, meditation retreats, monthly open meetings in Seattle as well as an ongoing local group that meets Tuesday nights and an online forum for the members around the world.
I look forward to seeing you in a class soon.