If you have ever asked yourself where exactly you stand on the mental health food chain, consider the following; what, if anything, do you truly do for other
people? We all know that pain and suffering constrict our consciousness, and that pain above a certain threshold demands our immediate attention to the exclusion of most everything else. However, once you achieve a little breathing room and are no longer in constant distress, our thoughts and concerns can include others and the world around us. The last thing any of us needs is one more moralizing diatribe on the right way to behave or how to live our lives. The Primal position has always been to think dialectically and as such, views behavior as an organic whole, linked to our internal state and personal history. For many of us, the intuitive appeal of Primal Theory is that mankind, at its healthiest, is basically good at heart. An essential component of Primal Theory is that if our basic needs can be met at the appropriate developmental stage in life, then our true nature, which is peaceful, loving, and life affirming can flourish. This is the bedrock upon which therapy is built. Why else would we bother to go through all the pain, the anger, the loss, the hopelessness, if not to emerge with a sense of self that is less tormented and as a result more deeply connected to the world around us.
What exactly is generosity and why should we care about it anyway? When I
think back to my University days, I recall reading philosophy and religious
based definitions of generosity. Most discussions would tend to focus on either the behavior of giving something away or the reward in self-esteem and happiness that “the giver” can expect in return for their magnanimity. “Giving to get” if you will. Are there other types of generosity? Does the motive of the` giver effect the experience of the recipient? In other words, if you give a homeless man money for food to impress your date, does it matter? Doesn’t the homeless man still get to eat dinner? Win, win, right! This topic will probably raise more questions than can be addressed in a short article, but it is a worthy topic for consideration. Have not philosophers, clergy, psychologists, mystics and great writers all advanced opinions of man’s ultimate aims?
I have read a fair number of autopsies (don’t ask why), and I believe most
medical men would agree with me when I say that no one dies from old age! In
fact, no one yet has ever died of old age. The ultimate aim of medical science is to allow us to die of old age or even better,to somehow discover the secrets to regenerating adaptation energy (life force). Autopsies teach us (excluding a bullet to the head and traumatic death), that we die prematurely because one vital component has worn out in proportion to the rest of our body. Life is only as strong as its weakest link. With this breakdown we can no longer sustain life as a single living being. This is the price we pay for the evolution of the human body from a simple cell into the highly complex cellular organization we call human beings. One lesson from this is that we must find ways to live that are in harmony with our true biological nature. To the extent that we live in conflict with our true selves, we will age more quickly, vital organs may fail,and our general health and sense of well-being will be compromised. The complex organization of our bodies is designed to work together, to share the stress of the workload of life. If any one system is called upon to do more than its designed share, for prolonged periods, stress, breakdown or what we call aging occurs. Whether aware of it or not, the typical physician spends his professional consulting time treating the symptoms of this unbalance.
Our Primal perspective understands that the metabolic cost of unmet needs and repressed pain is staggering. The lifetime effects of stored pain may be one of the greatest scientific discoveries of all time. As previously stated, as individuals there will be times when our acute pain and anguish will force us to focus inward. In our quest to find some possibility of healing we discover that we must become selfish. It seems to me that selfishness has gotten a bit of a bad reputation in modern culture. The true biological reality is that an organism must first and foremost survive for itself, it must do that which will insure and sustain life. All instincts, behaviors and pleasures flow from this elemental truth. What we learn from autopsies, Darwin, and the study of complex systems in general is that all the parts must work together, functioning in sync if the complex system is to thrive. Life, it seems has evolved and continues to progress from the simple to the complex. Consciousness is part of this evolution. The natural and healthy narcissism of infancy and childhood, if all goes reasonably well, matures into a complex consciousness that includes self preservation, individual pleasure and achievement, but also need for, and love of others. Further growth will include a sense of community with friends, family and a profound sense of wonder and belonging to the physical world. Admiring a sunset, or appreciating great art is part of our heritage as is the understanding that we are part of a larger universe. This evolving consciousness,or Primal consciousness, is made manifest as we heal and resolve the deficits of our personal history. In the course of the development of a species, every member of each generation must relive, as an embryo, the entire history of its ancestors from the primeval amoeba up to the contemporary newborn state. “Ontogeny recapitulates Phylogeny” is an accepted scientific truth. This layering upon layering of complex coordinated cooperation from the cellular all the way to our political and social systems is our biological destiny. Benevolence and a sense of our place in our family, city, country, and solar system are additional evidence of this evolution in progress . For many years now we have incorporated techniques, and I use the term very loosely, at our Retreats that are designed to arouse, promote, trigger, and help resolve feelings that block the inherent , natural self-expression of generosity. It is interesting to me, that for many, this gets translated into the purchasing of a gift. This is not a criticism because for some this may be a first and critically important step. At the same time it is our view that generosity can eventually be expanded beyond gift giving. As always, in Primal terms, we are more interested in the feeling of generosity or the feelings that interfere with the natural expression of generosity. To feel charitable is to have achieved some measure of success in providing for oneself. To feel an ability to give one must have found ways to confront or conquer acute pain, be it physical or emotional. The continuum of consciousness suggests, and clinical observation of Primal patients supports, that as we resolve personal repressed pain, our sense of connection to people and the world around us deepens. Generosity is a state of being that can only sometimes be viewed in terms of words, behavior, or exchange of material goods. If you have ever had the good fortune to have a simple conversation with a truly giving person, you will understand the following. One feels cared about, as if this person simply and sincerely wants to know who you are and is happy to spend a few moments with you. The actual content of the conversation many not even be of interest to you. Still, one feels, in the presence of generosity, that the person does not seek approval or advantage, but only the chance to be here with you, however briefly, to know you. It is a breathtaking experience and you will know it when it happens. My point again that generosity at the most basic level is a state of being that cannot easily be measured or observed, but that has an unmistakable feel when one is in the presence of it. Giving is a form of self-expression and like
all forms of self expression can manifest in many ways limited only by the creativity of the individual. What to do if you find yourself still in too much pain, if you distrust others and only care about what is good for you?
There are steps one can take toward growth and options worth considering.
Foremost, you must continue your own personal exploration and trauma resolution. Generosity is our species birthright, so be alert for
even the smallest impulse to give of yourself. Notice I said, give of
yourself, not give a Starbucks gift card or material currency. I am not poo-pooing these types of gifts, just reminding that self-expression and altruism are part of our true nature and can be expressed in infinite ways. We do things all the time in our lives, and in therapy to stimulate our feeling, why stop with generosity?
If we can be alert to impulses of self expression and giving in all its possible forms, and more importantly, act on those impulses, we further the process of Primal consciousness which means coming just a bit closer to the person we were meant to be. There is no greater joy than being able to give to and love those around us. Our lives in the final reckoning are about the love we have created and nurtured. Possessions, achievements, titles, status, money, matter much less than we allow ourselves to see. Only love, in all its wondrous guises really matters. Don’t let yourself forget, don’t be distracted by all the bells and whistles of our modern chaotic world. The final link in breaking the chain of Primal pain and deprivation can only be realized by the active expression of our generosity towards others.
Connection to others and this world at large is our birthright, pursue it
with all that you have inside and become the person your were truly meant to be.
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