LOVE, POWER, SERENITY AS DIVINE ATTRIBUTES AND AS DISTORTIONS
Key Extracts from Lecture 84
© The Pathwork® Foundation 1999
I would like to discuss three major divine attributes: love, power, and serenity and how they manifest in their distorted forms. In the healthy person, these three principles work side by side in perfect harmony, alternating according to the specific need of a situation. They complement and strengthen one another. A flexibility is maintained so that none of these three attributes can ever contradict or interfere with another. However, in the distorted personality they mutually exclude one another. One is a contradiction to the other, and so they create conflict. This is so because one of these attributes is unconsciously chosen to serve a major role in the solution to life and to life's problems… Submissiveness, aggressiveness, and withdrawal… are the distortions of love, power, and serenity… The dominating attitude creates dogmatic, rigid standards which are then incorporated in the idealized self-image.
One of these pseudosolutions is love. The feeling is 'if only I would be loved, everything would be all right.' In other words, love is supposed to solve all problems… In order to receive love, such a person… takes on more and more self-effacing characteristics in order to gain love and protection, which alone would seem to save him from annihilation. He complies with the real or imagined demands of others. He cringes and craves to the point of selling his soul in order to receive approval, sympathy, help, and love. Unconsciously he believes that by asserting himself, his wishes, his needs, he would forfeit the only value he sees in life: that of being cared for as a child… The idealized self-image of this type... submissiveness... will have corresponding standards and dictates. He must always be in the background, never assert himself, always give in, never find fault with others, love everybody, never recognize his own true values and accomplishments, and so on and so forth. On the surface, this looks indeed like a very holy picture; but, my friends, it is but a caricature of true love, understanding, forgiveness, compassion, and so on. The poison of the underlying motive distorts and destroys that which could really be genuine.
In the second category is the seeker for power. This person thinks that power and independence from others will solve all his problems. This type, just as the other, can present many variations and subdivisions. It can be predominant or subordinated by one or both of the other two attitudes. Here the growing child believes that the only way he can be safe is by becoming so strong and invulnerable, so independent and emotionless, that nothing and no one can touch him. So he proceeds to oust all human emotions… There are many ways and areas of life and personality in which this power drive and aggressiveness can manifest. It may be directed mainly at accomplishments. The person with a power drive will compete and try to be better than everyone else. Any competition is felt as an injury to the exalted special position that he needs for his private solution. Or it may be a more general and less defined attitude in all his human relationships. He artificially cultivates a toughness that is no more real than the helpless softness of the submissive person… His idealized self-image dictates standards of godlike perfection regarding independence and power. He believes that he does not need anyone, that he is entirely self-sufficient. Contrary to other, mere human beings, he does not need love, friendship, help.
Let us now consider the third attribute, serenity, chosen as a solution and being thereby distorted. Originally a person may have been so torn between the first two aspects that he seeks a way out by resorting to a withdrawal from his inner problems and thereby from life as such. That is, underneath his withdrawal or false serenity, he is still torn in half, only he is not aware of it. He has built such a strong facade of false serenity that as long as life's circumstances permit him, he believes himself truly serene. But let life's storms touch him, let the effects of the raging, underlying conflict finally emerge, and it will show how false this serenity was. It will be borne out that it was indeed built on sand. The withdrawn type and the seeker for power seem to have something in common, and that is aloofness from feelings and emotions, nonattachment to others, a strong urge for independence. However much the underlying emotional motivations may be similar – fear of getting hurt and disappointed, fear of being dependent on others and thereby feeling insecure – the dictates of the idealized self-image of these two types are very different. The seeker for power is proud of his hostility and aggressive fighting spirit. The withdrawn type is entirely unaware of such existing feelings, and whenever they come to the fore, he is shocked by them because they violate his dictates. These dictates are that he looks benignly and detachedly at all human beings, knowing their weaknesses and good qualities, but without being bothered or affected by either. This, if true, would indeed be serenity. But no human being is ever quite that far, hence such dictates are just as unrealistic and unrealizable. They too include pride and hypocrisy – pride because he is not so godlike in his detachment, justice, and objectivity. In reality, his view may be just as colored by what the other person thinks of him as, for instance, the submissive type. But he is too proud to admit that he, the exalted one, can be touched by such human weaknesses. He considers himself above all that. And since this is not true at all, since he is as much dependent on others as the other two types, he is just as dishonest. And since it is not true and cannot ever be true as long as he is human, he must fall short of the standards and dictates of his idealized self-image, which makes him just as self-contemptuous, guilty, and frustrated as when the other two types fall short of their respective standards.
…these emotional reactions are so subtle and illusive, so hidden by rational knowledge that it takes a very painstaking look at certain feelings, at certain occasions, to gain an awareness of all this. Only the work you are doing can bring out how any of these attitudes exist in you. It is of course much easier to find if a type is very dominant in one direction. But in most cases, the attitudes are more hidden and conflicted by the other types… There is always a mixture of all these 'solutions' in a person although one may be predominant… An idealized self-image may simultaneously demand of a person to be always unselfish so as to gain love; to be always selfish so as to gain power; to be completely indifferent and aloof from all human emotions so as not to be disturbed. Can you picture what a conflict this is in the soul, how torn a soul must be?!
…everything that comes naturally and without effort does not appear as something real. You are so conditioned into straining for the impossible that it does not occur to you that what is actually valuable and already there does not need straining. But you do not utilize these values; they often lie fallow… To unroll this entire process is painful at first because the emotions of anxiety, frustration, guilt, shame, etc., have to be acutely experienced. But as you courageously proceed, you will gain a very different outlook on everything. Last, but certainly not least, you will begin to see your real self for the very first time. You will see its limitations. At the beginning, it will be a shock to have to accept these limitations which are such a far cry from the idealized self. But as you learn to do so, you will begin to see values you have never truly seen or been aware of. And a feeling of strength and self-confidence in a very different way will make you see life and yourself… So far, the evaluation by others is so important only because you do not evaluate yourself, so that it becomes a substitute. But as you begin to trust and like your own self, what other people think about you will not matter half as much. You will rest secure within, and you will no longer need to build false values in pride and pretense. You will no longer rely on an idealized self, which really cannot be relied on and which therefore weakens you. The freedom of shedding this burden cannot be described in words. But, my friends, this is a slow process. It does not come overnight. It comes by the steady self-search and analysis of your problems, your attitudes, and your emotions… More and more, you will combine the divine attitude of love, power, and serenity in the healthy way, as opposed to the distorted way. Love will not be a means to an end. It will not be a need that saves you from annihilation. It will therefore cease being self-centered. So, your own capacity to love will combine power and serenity… Genuine, not self-centered love will then no longer interfere with healthy power, not power out of pride and defiance, not power to triumph over others, but the power to master yourself and your difficulties without proving anything to anyone. When you seek mastery by distorting the attribute of power, you do so for the sake of proving your superiority. When you gain mastery by healthy power, you do so for the sake of growing… Serenity in the healthy way will not cause you to hide from emotions, experience, life, and your own conflicts, but by the two previous healthy attitudes, you will not be so involved with yourself so that, as a result, you will truly become more objective. That is true serenity – not avoiding experience and emotions which may be painful at the moment but yield an important key when the courage is taken to go through with them and find what is behind them. So love, power, and serenity can live hand in hand. In fact, when each is healthy, they complement one another. But they can cause the greatest war within yourself if distorted.