We have experiences. Some we enjoy. Some we don’t. These experiences are interactions we have. We interact with friends when playing a game, with colleagues when sitting in a meeting, with family when eating breakfast. We have experiences of interactions. There are rules or guidelines that influence how we interact during these experiences. The rules of the game, the agenda and protocols for the meeting, the rules for eating at the table.
Someone set these rules. Most of the time, we accept them. Sometimes we do not. When I ask people why they have experiences they do not enjoy, they tell me that they just have to, “That’s the way life is.” Then they tell me that they have experiences they enjoy, because they can. If we have experiences that energize us and those that don’t, why do we accept those that don’t? Why do we accept agreements that we don’t enjoy, that deplete our energy? I suggest four possible reasons why this happens: (1) because of the questions we ask; (2) that is what can be seen in low-vibrancy experiences; (3) it is developmental; (4) it is socially embedded.
The questions we ask
We tend to ask about what we want and how to get what we want. I want to have fun and be financially secure — that is the what. I get that by the experiences I have and the job I take — that is the how. When we ask why we want to have fun and be financially secure, it quickly gets metaphysical — for my own better wellbeing — that is the why. To be happy. When I think about the structure in which I will do the how, I look at the constraints or the boundary conditions — what do I need to do to get the credentials that are required for the job I want. If I want to change the experience of what I want — if it is not going the way I want — then I can change the how I go about getting it. I can choose different experiences or a different job. These choices often seem to be constrained by the boundary conditions — these are the friends I have nearby or it is hard to find another job. This form of the why, what, how questions tends to box me in between the metaphysical why’s and the boundary conditions for my how’s. Not much agreement there.
Another way to frame this would be to see that what I do is interact. Why I interact is to have experiences and achieve outcomes — the journey and the destination. How I interact is through agreements, the rules that guide our interactions. If I want to change the consequences of my interactions, the experience and the outcomes, I can change the how, the agreements.
Maybe part of the difficulty in seeing the agreements we tend to unconsciously accept is because we ask (1) what we want, (2) how we get it, and (3) why we want that. Maybe it would be easier to see the agreements if we ask (1) why I interact and (2) how I interact. Interacting is what I do.
What we see in low-vibrancy experiences
Survey responses from 2,400+ people from around the world suggest that when we experience energy-depleting relationships, we tend to experience very little of our own self, being unseen and unappreciated by others who tend to focus on the outcomes, using the rules of how things are supposed to be done. There is no creativity, no space for you to see or ask something new. It is not surprising then that we tend not to see the agreements in those experiences. There is not enough energy available to see or ask for it. This is the reality most people describe when asked in a recent global survey about their workplace.
This contrasts completely with the energy-enhancing experience, where I learn a lot about my self, developing with you and your support, with my own unique contributions being invited by the group, in a creative process of seeing possibilities and pathways for bringing them to life, experiencing creativity all around us. In this space, it is much easier to see the agreements we have in our relationships with self, other, group, nature, and spirit.
Maybe part of the difficulty in seeing the agreements we tend to unconsciously accept is because we allow ourselves to experience low vibrancy relationships, most of the time. Maybe it would be easier to see the agreements if we spent more time in higher vibrancy experiences.
It is developmental
As human beings, we are built to have experiences. When we are still inside of our mother, we begin to become aware of our experiences through our senses. We are born with the experiential orientation alive and well. We are phenomenologically oriented beings — in the experience and in our awareness — from the start.
Over the first couple of decades of a human life, society works hard to educate us, to socialize us, so that we can become competent members of society, so that we can understand the rules of the game and how to play by them. It takes quite awhile to become epistemologically oriented beings — understanding and knowing things.
Most of us are content with experiencing life, and knowing something about it. Some of us are not, and we delve into the study of how the universe works. What are the building blocks of reality? How does it work? How to design new realities. Some people become philosophers of a field of inquiry, studying its deeper roots. It usually takes a long time to become ontologically oriented beings, trying to understand what reality is.
Maybe part of the difficulty in seeing the agreements we tend to unconsciously accept is because, from birth we are oriented towards experience, and over the first two decades of life we also orient towards knowing, towards understanding how to be successful within the rules, not yet asking about the rules themselves. Maybe it is hard to see agreements, because it is not part of experiencing and knowing. Maybe it would be easier to see the agreements if we learned to explore how the universe works, asking why things seem to be one way, when they could be another.
It is socially embedded
The agreements about how we interact are influenced by what we have, who decides, who enforces, and what we value. Lots of deeply embedded agreements, founded in millennia of evolution in our local understanding of bigger economic, political, cultural, and social questions. Agreements in any one of these realms are deeply interwoven with the others. Why we play nice is deeply influenced by our cultural values, by the elders who tell us how to play, by the systems of enforcement if we don’t play right, and by the access some have to resources that others don’t.
Maybe part of the difficulty in seeing the agreements we tend to unconsciously accept is because the agreements have multiple, very complex facets that are really hard to see. And, maybe it would be easier to see these agreements if we realized that economic, political, cultural, and social questions are not completely different things, rather they are four ways of understanding the same thing, the experience we have. How much is there? Economics. Who decides and enforces how we allocate what there is? Politics. What criteria are used to decide? Culture. How do we interact? Social.
Maybe these are four different reasons why agreements are hard to see. Maybe agreements are like sauerkraut or bread. They seem hard to make, so most people buy them already made. They are in fact very easy to make. Cut up cabbage, add salt, mash it, add whey, cover it, wait 2 weeks. Sauerkraut. Very tasty, and easy to experiment with different flavors. Bread is just as easy.
What do you see? Please share your reflections with us in the Comments section here.