Relationships: Subjection of the Self with Others
“You are the prime factor in your experience, and to whom you submit yourself, that person will you obey and from that person will you receive.” – Joel Goldsmith, “The Foundation of Mysticism”, p. 88
What is focused upon, so shall we be. This is an accurate appraisal of an essential doctrine within New Thought and also a recognition of the power of conscious awareness. We are not conscious of the vast majority of data being brought in by our senses. What becomes conscious is almost entirely outside of any form of control that we would classify as such, but that does not mean awareness is a static thing or incapable of affecting change. Rather, it becomes like a rudder on a ship, capable of guiding but still at the mercy of extremely stormy seas and prone to breaking or becoming stuck. Training and education can help with this, strengthening the power of focal conscious awareness (FCA, it’s my phrasing) to broaden what is capable of being consciously appraised and the ability to “choose” what is at the so-called forefront of mental activity.
This power of “choice” has a consequence in that consciousness comes out of the unconscious unbidden, but has a reciprocal relationship traveling back down the neural firing pathways and helping guide what is formed there outside of our immediate control. It is not a system completely known, understood or easy to put into practice. In studies by Ritchie Davidson, some Buddhist monks have the capacity to stop the startle reflex but this took thousands of hours of meditation and a particular lifestyle, neither of which the majority of people are able to do. However, it has also been noted that even after a few minutes a week of meditative practice, the brain is more capable of dealing with stressful events and engaging in compassion.
So then, the “you” in Goldsmith’s point above can be seen as focal conscious awareness and how that awareness is utilized will determine, in no small part, how behavior will become actualized. Submitting the “self” to another, in other words forming a relationship connection, is an inevitable aspect of human experience, we are hardwired to form connections, even making up figments if none are available otherwise and/or creating connections with those who have long since died (as is the case in many religions). Our relationships are introjections of a projected narrative, as such they are as much a part of our own story as they are an objective contemplation of what is presented to us, which is why people can legitimately declare to have a relationship with Jesus or Mohammed or a deity, whatever the reality of their previous death or lack of existence in objective reality. These interrelational connections determine the course of our FCA and give it substance.
The number one topic of gossip is relationships. David Livingstone posits that our evolutionary behavior of grooming as a form of relational bonding, combined with the surplus of neurons our ancestors began developing, played an integral part in forming language. Language is the means by which we instantiate and give form to our connections, relegating what would have required hours of grooming and picking ticks out of fur into just a few words or sentences. Language is the principle form information takes in communication and is a bedrock for the creation of relationship bonds. This is why lying is ethically negative, because it creates a distortion in the information available within the relationship and makes it that decisions and the very neural processes of attachment and personality are being changed by a false sense of reality. When a person lies, ignores promises, breaks commitments, the repercussions are not just hurt feelings and anger, but an actual change in the physiological make-up of the other parties involved and have effects on their future ability to form healthy attachments. The severity of these repercussions is determined by a host of other factors, from history of other relationships, how the person takes in and integrates information and what if any other relationships are currently available to mitigate. None of these, however, dismiss the power of what a close relationship can do when it devolves to deception and a lack of guidance by life-giving principle.
Thus it is that we return to the initial quote by Goldsmith. The connections one makes is a form of subjection, of placing oneself under the influence and therefore care and manipulation (generally speaking and hopefully of a benefical kind) of that person(s). The care with which this is done should be a constant evolving educational enlightenment of everyone. We do not have the power to simply choose anything regardless of circumstances, we do not have the power to affect or select all of the circumstances of our lives, but we do have some power in who we have connections with. That power helps shape how circumstances are integrated and how then our lives our shaped. This is the substance of our lives, this is the power humanity possesses. We do well to remember and act accordingly.