Be Serious

Thursday 7 February, 2002

07.30 E&M 30 mins followed by physiotherapy. As I walked to the bus stop after physio, my thoughts turned to Jonny and Jonathan. After all the talk with Francis about the differences in the two personas, I am starting to feel that there is a place for some of Jonny’s traits in my life, if only for some childlike frivolity from time to time to lighten Jonathan up. There is room for certain aspects of Jonny’s character – exuberance, playfulness – and the thought of using all the tools I have at my disposal makes me feel stronger, and the thought of combining the best of Jonny and Jonathan makes me feel as though I have some company. Strength in numbers.

Talked to Karaj about the above paragraph and, as I knew I would be, I am wrong. He told me to remain serious. That’s who I am and that’s who I’ve always been. I have never been a frivolous person. Remember the arguments I had with religious people. The more serious I become the more I will smile – paradox (see here for a similar example). So, if I knew and felt that I was mistaken in trying to bring Jonny back to life why did I overrule those feelings? Why did I need Karaj’s confirmation before accepting myself as I am?

[Karaj: Your script wants to get back to the good old days!!!]

Men’s Group

We were given ten minutes, in pairs, to come up with our agendas for the evening. I sat with Ishwar and talked about the low feeling I have had since Germany. As I talked I could see how ridiculous and Child-ish I was being and also how negative. The only thing I had not done was meet up with an old acquaintance and I have used that to bash myself up ever since the day of my return. In doing so I am negating all the good things which happened while I was there. Another thought which occurs to me is that I am in too much of a hurry to make Germany work. I had seen my liaison with that person more as a business meeting than a social event, so I suppose this serves as another reminder to slow down and have some fun.

Another Man’s Pain

Anyway, the evening soon turned in a way which gave me an important perspective on my ‘troubles’. Sunil went first and talked about the sale of his marital home which is planned for tomorrow. He got bogged down in the details of the television licence and Karaj challenged him that, at a time when he is losing his family home, he is preoccupied with unnecessary details. As he was challenged further he began to cry, saying that he misses his family so much. I felt relief at seeing Sunil cry because it is something which has been long overdue. When we did the video rehearsal for his first court appearance last March, he was unable to get in touch with any of his emotions and now here he was, almost a year later, finally breaking down with the weight of what has been happening to him.

The tears did not stop and they intensified when Sunil said, ‘I didn’t want to come to this country anyway’. This struck me as being the root of his sadness and when Karaj told us all to stand up and hug Sunil he was really able to let go. We all stood around him and hugged him tightly, Ishwar urging him to allow the young boy, who was sent to this country on his own, to let all of his hurt out. We stood there for a good 10-15 minutes and Sunil cried and cried and cried.

Learning Points

Karaj then asked us all to consider what this process has done for us. I talked about my relief at seeing Sunil express emotions with which he has not been able to connect up to now. It also gave me a perspective on my own mood. I was being negative about one aspect of my German trip and here was a man whose life had fallen apart and who had been sent away by his own family when he was only seven.

The learning points from this process were also aired. Sunil realised that by surrendering to the support of the group he can get in touch with the sad seven-year-old inside. Karaj told him that only by getting back to being that little boy can Sunil grow up. Karaj then turned to George and asked him why he had been asked to lead the project to decorate Sunil’s flat. The answer is that, aside from George learning to give and share unconditionally, he is looking after a seven-year-old boy – something he does professionally as a schoolteacher. The outcome is that Sunil’s flat is being reborn and if Sunil returns to being that small boy, then he can be reborn too.

It is only because Sunil has been the sad little boy in front of us all tonight, that this can be explained to George. If all this information had been given to George before now he would not have seen it – his mind would have taken over and made up all sorts of absurd scenarios and explanations which would not have helped anyone. The mind is a very powerful force after all. This is important because it shows that Karaj treats the group dynamic in precisely the same way as he does the individual – namely that he can only reveal to people what they have already seen. Any sooner would be at best counter productive and at worst disastrous.

A Problem When There Isn’t One

There followed a good lesson for me when George talked about a problem which he thought he might have. Karaj told him straight – that he often makes a problem when there isn’t one. Before I take on what I think is a problem or a negative issue in my life I should talk to someone. The chances are they will tell me that there is no problem at all – it is all a figment of my imagination and a construct of my conditioning. Remembering that thought takes form, if I think I have a problem then the chances are that it will become a problem. If, however, I talk to someone about what is on my mind they will be able to see clearly, because they don’t have my conditioning or my particular negativity, that I have nothing whatsoever to worry about. So, verbalise.

Blocked & Blocking

Robert had some big insights – like Sunil, he was also moved to this country as a four-year-old boy. He was against it at the time and the loss and powerlessness he felt then made him say ‘no’ to everything. Karaj had to tell him that he has been saying ‘no’ ever since. Also, he realised that at work he is acting like a four-year-old child. Karaj told him that he has a lot of work to do and Robert replied, as he often does, with the words, ‘I’m up for it’. Such declarations make me suspicious and this was no exception. Karaj told him, ‘That’s what you always say’ and Robert blocked him with the counter, ‘Can you prove me wrong?’.

I challenged him at this point because he was clearly in blocking mode. I told him that I had been waiting for him to say that he has been saying ‘no’ for nearly all of his life but he didn’t. Karaj had to do it for him. He replied that it had not been necessary to say so in front of us. But that was my point: if he is not going to say it in front of us then he is not going to say it ever, and if he cannot verbalise it then it cannot be released and it cannot be healed.

Also, such an attitude is saying that the rest of us are worth nothing. He blocked me on this too, which brought Karaj back in again with the story of the pathway to the sunken garden. Robert had started it and it was seen as his pathway. However, with the recent rain the walls have collapsed and now the pathway is blocked. This is such obvious imagery and not only is Robert’s pathway blocked but everyone else is prevented from accessing the garden too. So, Robert, with his negativity and blocking is hindering everyone else’s progress. How accurate. Furthermore, it has happened at the beginning of the year, thus setting the tone for the next 12 months. That means that we can predict how Robert will be in December – blocked and blocking.

What Are You Going To Do About It?

George then gave Robert feedback on Robert’s contribution to him with regards to George’s memo. Robert had promised to look through it but had not done so and when he did contribute to George it was half-hearted and nowhere near the level of intellect and ability which Robert waves above us in his arrogant, superior way.

Robert replied that he was mortified and ashamed to have let someone down. But Karaj was not interested in feelings and simply asked, What are you going to do about it?. He told the story of the time he was lambasted by a group of German directors on his first day with a training company. They thought him to be incompetent and wanted him out.

Instead of getting emotional about it, Karaj stood up and gave a short speech about his intention and his commitment to what he was doing. He was given a reprieve and for the next ten days he worked so hard to make sure he succeeded that he received an award for his efforts. He did not break down and cry, he took action, fought for himself and won the day. His point to Robert was that he took his fate into his own hands and showed responsibility. Robert does not do that – he does not drive his own process but relies on Karaj to do it for him. This is not good enough.

Karaj – ‘Always give according to your capacity to give. Do not overdo it because it will always backfire.

Karaj then told the core group that, in future, they will have to provide their goals for the weekend a week in advance followed by an appraisal of the work they do. As Karaj said, ‘I need to be able to defend myself when your scripts kick in’. Also, a written statement of intent will help to focus the men and enable us to return to the highly productive weekends we had at the tail end of last year rather than the habitual ones we have had this year.

You Have a Choice Whether To Indulge

One more important learning point for me came when Leon gave his feedback on the evening. In Sunil’s sadness he had been taken back to his own grief but had chosen not to indulge in it. This was great news for me because I have never given myself that option. I have always indulged, sometimes because I cannot help myself but other times because I have wanted to. There is no need. I can choose to remain in Parent and that is a very liberating aspect. Karaj added that we don’t have to become emotional if we don’t want to but if we do then we should do so fully. I certainly do that. He added that because the men had largely stayed away from their own emotions (only Robert cried), they had allowed Sunil to indulge in his by not detracting from his process. Something which proved very effective not just for Sunil.

I discussed my learning from the evening with Calvin – a man who keeps a lid on his own emotions, at least until he is alone. Talking to him made me realise that people I see as cold or better able to cope with situations, people who are strong and resilient, are hurting just as much – they stop themselves from showing emotion because they think they should be okay. This could be a damaging way to live life because of the conflict between the perception and the truth. Karaj once said to me that when I sort myself out I will be glad that I came at it from the emotional side of life. I am now seeing what he means. Tonight has provided me with further confirmation that I am indeed fortunate that I can cry. I also realised that because I have different aspirations regarding wife, family, house car, possessions etc. I have less to lose. Tonight has also added more strength to the need to let and get things out. Verbalise. Release.

Serious Feedback

The feedback to me was, once again, very good. It confirmed my serious nature in a very complimentary way:

  • You have been sharp and consistent (Dev)
  • You have been clear and concise (Robert)
  • The way you supported Sunil and the way you held him – that’s the way people need to be held when they are experiencing grief – it is impressive (Earl)
  • Everything you have done tonight has been very simple and straightforward, no show. Your comments have been precise and you have written everything down – that takes some doing. That’s impressive. And your seriousness was evident throughout (George)
  • I want you to be simple, straightforward and serious (Karaj)
  • You have shown sensitivity and have been meticulous with the recording of everything (Leon)
  • You have been serious all night and it has been appropriate (Ishwar)
But not too serious: It’s What You Say, Not How You Say It

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