I found myself today commenting/reflecting on a (FB) posted article quite extensively, so I decided to put that comment here as a blog. The article was called "How Morality Changes in a Foreign Language: Fascinating ethical shifts come with thinking in a different language." You can find it linked at the base of this blog. What the piece inspired in me was recollecting on various behavioural principles I noticed when I first went travelling in Europe in my mid-teens. Particularly how I noticed that not just morality, but also how we view the world and our social permissions seem to be dictated by concepts inherent in the culture/language. More specifically that even in countries that appear similar (my case studies: England, Holland, France, & Germany) social reality can be quite different. Anyway, here's what I wrote:
I remember when I first noticed that people process/think/judge differently from culture to culture. Coming from a repressed English environment, and then the first foreign country I lived in and learned the language being France. It was quite a difference. It felt like my brain had new wiring put in place by the new language. I observed that certain concepts in English didn't even seem to exist in other languages! (And vice versa.)
Varying social permissions seemed to be somehow present in the way people put together concepts and perceptions in different languages. The next country I spent time in and learned the language was Germany. That was a huge eye-opener about how the language structure appeared to restrict and channel thought processes and perceptions, not to mention social permissions. Then later I added some Dutch (Netherlands) and Spanish (Ecuador) to complete the research package.
Morals (right & wrong) became apparent as being to some extent arbitrary. Rather than being these things I'd been told were set in stone actually depended on the language you were using. They varied in different countries. It was very interesting to notice the freedom in that. (I'm talking about self-expression and social interactions, not criminal activities!) It felt that the differences were embedded in cultural values, and those values were embedded in the language structure itself - which framed concepts differently from other languages.
It felt to me as if language structures reflected psychological and emotional beliefs. It was a bit of a 'chicken and egg' conundrum. I was asking myself questions such as: “Do people think a certain way because their language structure encourages them to think that way? Or did the language structure evolve to reflect the way people thought originally, and if so how come people in diverse countries thought differently from one another in the first place?”
My main conclusion (at the time) to myself was that whatever the origins of concepts/judgments etc (language or original ways of thinking) when one is born into a culture, the structure of that culture's language moulds and restricts how one sees the world, interacts with the world, perceives the options of self-expression and judges what is right and wrong. It was a very expansive experience to learn some new languages and in so doing to liberate more of my options for being an alive and expressed human being. (Beyond those structures taught to me through being English.)
Later on (mainly in Melbourne) I was very fortunate to study NLP with a few different organisations, but most prominently with James Tsakalos. This gave me more of an understanding of what was happening in the human 'mind' when it came to 'processing the world'. How variation in language structure even in the same language could have an enormous difference on one's experience of life and relationships. I still to this day, for instance, gain huge beneficial mileage from entertaining the concept: “One's quality of life entirely depends on the quality of the questions you ask yourself.” But that's another huge topic, and I digress from the original focus.
Arven (29 Sep 2016)
Click here if you would like to check out the original article mentioned at the start of this piece.
Thanks to CR for encouraging me to turn our conversation into a blog.
The word 'Jealousy' is a nominalization. (That's the act of naming a dynamic multi-faceted experience, and by doing so oversimplifying and overgeneralising it.) 'Jealousy' is not one thing, does not have one cause, and does not have one simple way of getting a handle on it.
What I offer here are inter-related perspectives that significantly changed my life for the better, and I've been told were useful to clients I've worked with. Maybe you (the reader) will also find some or all of them helpful, or maybe you won't. This piece, like every other, is a collection of my thoughts, reflections and experiences. Not every individual's 'Truth'.
A Self-Generated Experience
Some years back I attended an ecstatic dance class with a woman I really liked, a new friend I was getting to know. I had a strong intuition we had powerful potential in terms of an intimate relationship (which turned out later to be true, but at that point we'd only just started hanging out). I noticed her dancing with someone, and was struck with powerful unhappy feelings that I labelled as 'jealousy'.
I've always been quite pragmatic, and rather than getting lost in that unpleasant experience or dwelling on it (which to me would have felt like a waste of time and energy) I decided to 'dance it out'. Coincidentally within 10 or 20 seconds a song came on that was a big personal favourite, and I went off on a trip with that. After less than a minute (let's say another 30 seconds) I noticed that I wasn't feeling jealous any more. In fact every last hint of jealousy had vanished from my body.
A pivotal moment of learning happened. As soon as I noticed the jealousy had gone it came flooding back. Literally reinventing itself. But it was too late. I'd seen it for the false thing it was. Rather than being something I couldn't avoid – something that 'just happened' – I'd experienced the truth of it. Jealousy was something I'd generated in my body. I did it to myself! It wasn't something my friend or the person she was dancing with had done to me. I was the one responsible for it. The song that came on was one that I loved dancing to so much that my body literally forgot I was supposed to be 'jealousing' myself!
This was a turning point that massively reduced and contextualised any similar experiences from then on. I have never experienced jealousy again in the same ways I used to before that moment. This revelation didn't make me immune from jealousy. Again as a pragmatic person I continued to use other tools too. In dance I used to go to a different part of the room if I was being triggered, so that I could process without distraction. I would also ask myself the very useful question: "Am I jealous because this is something I would like to be doing? And if so, can I do anything in the short or longer term to make that more likely?" (With the extra bonus question: If this exact thing isn't possible for me, what is sitting deeper behind that experience that I'd like to achieve?)
A Warning about Emotional Over-Investment
Now I'd had that reference, and had clearly experienced myself as the one who created the jealousy in my own emotional body, I decided to investigate what exactly my unconscious was doing. I wanted to uncover and identify the processes. Luckily I'd already had some excellent NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) training, so I had good basic ideas of the unconscious patterns we run, and how we run them.
(As the merest super-simplified hint towards NLP 101 and to neuro-psychology... We unconsciously create patterns all the time. EG: 'Life Experience A' happens. Then our unconscious imposes 'Conclusion B' onto that experience. Followed by creating default 'Emotional Experience C'. Bang, bang, bang. One switch tripping the next. Except that most people don't know that this is a learned pattern rather than an inevitability. With the biggest challenge being that it 'feels' like an inevitability.)
So I did some research and found some smart commentary in different places. One was an article or podcast or possibly a book on Polyamory. Or it may have been a Menswork perspective on relating. Sadly I can't recall. Whatever the source was, it explained that a lot of jealousy stems from our emptiness when it comes to deep intimacy. Most people don't receive healthy fulfilment around close relating when they are growing up. Our culture teaches us very poor lessons in that regard. So we unconsciously look for someone else to fill those developmentally significant spaces.
That all means it can be very easy to want too much too soon from a relationship. It's a culturally accepted dysfunction, and the source of many soap opera plots. I talked about this in another recent blog, so won't say much more. I'll only clarify that in this context some people unconsciously (sometimes consciously) invent a future with someone before actually knowing someone well enough for this to have any grounding in reality. As opposed to getting to know that person and waiting to see if a healthy and appropriate relationship emerges as a possibility. The energetics that accompany such an invented future are what I call 'emotional over-investment'.
Over-investment can happen at different stages of getting to know someone too. You might be immune from doing it when you first meet a person. You might be quite happy for all manner of things to go on between them and their friends. Then once you're actually 'going out' - 'oh oh' the challenges start. Activities that you were completely fine about before are suddenly no longer so fine.
A Sign-Post that Relationship Agreements are Inauthentic, Inadequate or Unconscious
Jealousy at low and relatively low levels to do with someone you are already relating intimately with can sometimes be (and in my opinion I feel very often is) purely and simply an indication that something hasn't been discussed/clarified. Something that needs to be discussed/clarified in order to have the deepest and most authentic relational journey together.
I'm pretty sure the general source of one piece of information was a book on conscious polyamory. The information went something like this: 'You might not like the idea of creating relationship agreements. Maybe it seems too formal. However, whether you are poly or monogamous, the unconscious assumptions you already have around relating and about your partner's beliefs/values towards relating are EXACTLY the same as relational agreements. So the actual choice is not whether you want to have such agreements or not. It is whether you want to make them conscious or whether you want them to control your life without your input.'
Another intelligent source made a similar point: 'People want and expect different things from intimate relating. There is a crazy assumption that we all want the same thing, or even broadly the same thing. In some areas many people may be close as regards what they want, but never underestimate human diversity. In many areas even small variations can be 'make or break' differences, especially if they are not brought to consciousness and discussed.'
Another pervasive myth is that there is a binary distinction between one clearly definable relational structure named 'monogomy', and another clearly definable relational structure named 'polyamory'. Bullshit! Polyamory is a vast collection of different relational structures. To place them all under one heading and try to discuss that heading as if it's a discrete single concept is a deluded act. (EG: Someone with 12 lovers is polyamorous. Someone with 2 lovers is polyamorous. Do those two situations carry the same challenges, structures, rewards, and dynamics? Absolutely not.)
Likewise with monogamy. It's less diverse, but is still very much not just one definable experience. For instance, in Monogamous Relationship Example Number 1 (MRE1) partners can dance intimately at Five Rhythms (or wherever) with attractive people, and hug their attractive friends. This is fine in the context of MRE1. Nobody blinks an eye about it. Whereas in MRE2 even hugging another person more then momentarily is an unthinkable act. One that's absolutely forbidden in one partner's unconscious relational agreements. Dancing with any degree of intimacy with another person than your partner in MRE2 might in fact be considered the very definition of infidelity, even though it's never been discussed. And don't even get me started on the hypocrisy inherent in the massive proportion of monogamous relationships where one or both partners have secret affairs.
Final myth of the piece: That having any relational agreements mean an automatic loss of spontaneity, excitement and fulfilment. They can do if you're with an unsuitable partner. If you're with a suitable partner then they are tools to assist everyone involved to go even deeper, and explore even more adventurously, than would otherwise be possible.
Another blog in the not too distant future will contain further commentary on the value and creation of relational agreements. For now I'll just close by clarifying the relationship between jealousy and relational agreements. The act of co-creating a few key agreements and doing some future-pacing risk management on potentially tricky situations opens up a wonderful dialogue. Discussion around what all the participants are OK with. This allows people (a) to make sure they're all roughly on the same page about what they want and expect from intimate relating, and (b) creates the opportunity to manage situations that are likely to trigger jealousy before they even happen.
For some people jealousy is a great trigger for self-awareness leading to potent evolution. Wide-open polyamory might suit them well. For others, jealousy is an overwhelming and trauma-related experience that blocks any possibility of evolution. In fact, leading to retraumatisation. For them a more committed and clearly defined conscious relationship may well offer the most potent pathway for expansion and fulfilment. Nonetheless, as mentioned earlier, people are very different. For instance I've met more than one person for whom a committed 3-person relationship provided the most satisfying dynamism and the most opportunities for growth. As opposed to a monogamous relationship which proved to be an invitation for unhealthy co-dependency. It's a diverse world.
Arven Alexander is a self-development enthusiast, currently residing in Melbourne, Australia.