If you miss your connections or get enticed out of your current, then you can easily find yourself involved with negative relationships. But even if you are in your current making your connections, you can still have negative relationships with other people. Why does this happen? In 1978 I was deeply reflecting on why people have negative relationships even if they were generally oriented the right way in life. I was intensely absorbed with this question for weeks, concentrating my attention on it. Somehow I had a deep, intuitive insight into the reason why.
I realized that around everyone’s body there was some kind of energy field. Furthermore, whenever people interact with one another, there is an exchange of this energy; in every interaction or relationship, some energy is exchanged from one person’s energy field into the other person’s energy field. In order for any interaction or relationship to occur, there has to be an exchange of energy between people’s energy fields. Thus only if a person had an opening in her energy field to receive the other person’s negative energy could she receive it.
I also saw that the openings in a person’s energy field are not random. These openings are a manifestation of how a person views other people and how they interact with other people. People who are totally selfish have different kinds of openings in their energy field than people who care about other people. People who are focused on sex have different kinds of energy openings than people who are focused on math problems. People who have issues about being teased or bullied have different openings in their energy field than people who do not have these problems.
The most important point about this insight was the next one: because our energy fields are connected to our ways of relating to other people, it means that as soon as a person changed her ways of relating to others, she also instantly changed the openings in her energy field. If someone were a selfish person focused only on the newest fashion trends, she would have corresponding openings in her energy field related to selfishness and vanity. But if she changed her selfishness, her energy openings would change too.
As all relationships are exchanges of energy, if one closes the opening in the energy field that allowed a negative energy exchange, then one could be free from the negative relationship. Because a person could change her energy field through changing her way of relating to other people, then she had power to change her negative relationships.
Obviously, this wouldn’t change the negative things that had already happened to a person, but it empowered a person to change the future so that these negative situations wouldn’t reoccur. Past negative feelings therefore lose some of their sting because the fear of them reoccurring is gone.
This model of relationships as energy exchanges means that if a person can face her problems and change her way of relating to others, she can change her relationships. No matter how horrible a relationship is one is never merely a helpless victim.
Not long after I had this insight, I tested it. I was having relationship trouble with a friend of mine. Using this model, I found an explanation of why the relationship was having problems. As soon as I figured out the problem, the situation between us changed in a radically more positive way. Of course, you may ascribe this change to coincidence, and I would not blame you for doing that. But the theory seemed so elegant and simple and worked so well, I thought it must be true. I also remembered studying at Dartmouth College the way some scientists and mathematicians would talk about their deep insights. They would sometimes describe a theory as being so elegant and simple it must be true.
Science is great because it has a method of separating good insights or intuitions from bad ones. Science allows for intuitions or insights as one way of arriving at hypotheses. By insisting, however, on such things as measurement and reduplication, science also has a way of separating the few good insights or intuitions from the many bad ones. This winnowing process is one of the main reasons science has so advanced human knowledge and deserves the cultural prestige it has. Unfortunately for me, there is no objective way of testing my model as the energy I am talking about is not any kind of energy that can be scientifically measured.
The shame of non-traditional spiritually oriented people, sometimes called New Agers, however, is that they allow any supposed insight or intuition to be considered true. As long as something rings true or feels true to people, many New Agers consider it true. They forget that it rang very true to the Nazis that the Jews were the cause of Germany’s problems.
Many New Agers say that our thoughts create our reality and maintain that quantum mechanics shows that our thoughts create the world to be the way it is. Quantum mechanics is much more complicated than these New Agers make it out to be. The dominant way of understanding quantum mechanics, the Copenhagen Interpretation, asserts the quantum level of reality does not have a fixed condition until we measure it. But that is not the same as saying our thoughts create reality; instead, it is saying our measurement of something at the quantum level forces it into a certain state. Moreover these physicists think this idea only applies to the quantum level of reality and not to the much larger world we inhabit. Finally, the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum mechanics is only one way physicists understand quantum mechanics; some physicists do not even agree with it.
In philosophy someone who thinks the external world is a certain way regardless of our beliefs about it, and that a belief is true only if it corresponds to the external world, is called a realist. I am very much a realist and want my internal theory of how the world works to match how the world actually is. I find non-realist theories of truth give people too much wiggle room to believe what makes them feel good, and in the long run, this will get them into trouble. The same holds true for people who believe something is true if it works, which is a pragmatic theory of truth. I am so much of a realist I do not accept the Copenhagen Interpretation of quantum mechanics as ultimately true and have spent considerable amounts of time studying whether a realist interpretation of quantum mechanics is viable.
I am telling you this philosophical side of my theory of truth to show you that I would not hold on to my energy model if it were not true. Many skeptics think people believe non-scientific ideas because believers find them comforting or these people need something to believe in. I do not find the energy model comforting in any way; while it says there is a reason why something happened to you, it also says it is due to a problem with you and how you relate to others. That is not so comforting. I am also extremely good at living with ambiguity, and so if the cause or pattern I thought I was finding turned out not to be true, I would rather give it up than hold on to it. In the long run, that is only being sensible.
In the thirty years since I discovered the energy model, I have had many, many more confirmatory instances of its truth. I use it on my relationship problems and those of other people who want my help. But I am not a counselor; I am much more of a solitary intellectual. Thus I really do not meet tons of people who want help with their relationships. And my approach lacks two things compared to more popular alternatives: it is not promising an easy answer like those who say we create reality through our thoughts, and it does not give a wonderful sense of community like becoming a Buddhist. (There are many points of agreement between my ideas of those of Buddhism. There are also significant differences. I discuss this in chapter twenty.) Instead, it forces a person to constantly face up to harsh truths about her way of relating to others and never gives a person space to wiggle out of this by blaming others.
This summer I discussed my thirty years of testing this model on myself and other people with my son, who is an extremely intelligent professor. I told him I was convinced this model was true and it was a principle of human relationships. He was amazed that I thought I could have somehow intuited a universal law of human relationships. He thought such a claim was a manifestation of incredible arrogance on my part. I responded that we should test it on the troubles in his romantic relationship and see if it applied in his situation. He responded that the theory did not make enough intellectual sense for him to do that. But one night he was having extremely difficult problems with his long term girlfriend and so we tested the insight out.
Using methods I describe in the upcoming chapters, my son saw that my analysis of the negative features of his important romantic relationship quickly led to a very insightful and helpful analysis of his relationship and how he had to change. (I discuss his problems in the chapter labeled “Reflections.”) But this help did not change his attitude to my insight: he still thought it was ridiculous I was making a claim that had I discovered something that happens in all relationships.
I am very sympathetic to his skepticism as he has no reason to think people in general, or me in particular, could discover such a law. And he is right that just because he saw it help him very quickly, that is little evidence of it being a law. A law covers all instances of something happening. He experienced just one time it was useful. I have used this method and techniques to help other people too, but he is right that I am making an almost laughable claim to somehow have discovered a principle behind all relationships.
I had my insight to convince me and have seen it work in my life and in other people’s lives I have helped, but why would you bother to think this idea was credible enough to even test it out? Especially with all the other ridiculous claims about insights and intuitions many people make nowadays and in the past?
In order to make it more likely that you will think this claim is credible enough to try out, I will try to deal with the two biggest objections that could cause you to throw this book away right now. The first major objection is the seeming similarities of my view to those who think we create our reality or who believe in the Indian concept of karma. Both of these views blame the victim and also justify inaction in the face of social oppression; my view does neither of those things. The second major objection is my claim to have tested this insight and my finding that it works all the time (as a universal law should). Scientists who study the brain say we are wired because of evolution to look for causes even when there are not any causes there. They also say that our minds have other biases such as faulty memories and selective attention that would cause me to not notice the times my model was wrong. People who are skeptical of my insight would understandably criticize me as suffering from these biases.
Many popular teachers such as Deepak Chopra, Rhonda Byrne and Wayne Dyer assert we create reality with our thoughts. They say our thoughts have some kind of attractive power so that it brings things to us. These people say we should focus on the things we want such as money, health or a new job, and these things will come to us through the supposed law of attraction.
In my model you are not creating reality through your conscious thoughts; instead, you are unconsciously contributing in a small way to bringing about a negative situation. You cannot make things happen by just wishing for them. Nor are you to blame for what happens to you as you are not choosing or creating these things. The evildoer is also in no way absolved of the horrible thing they have done. The bullied person’s energy is not like a tractor beam attracting the bully to harass her; nor did she have thoughts that created the situation. Instead the energy is more like a little blinking light letting bullies know that this person can be bullied.
People who say we create our own reality through our thoughts totally neglect the social and political dimension of human existence. In fact, they do something even worse: they say that thinking about negative social realities, such as that minority neighborhoods or reservations are much more likely to have toxic chemicals situated in them, is bad. Thinking about this problem and trying to change the situation is counter-productive as we are thinking negative thoughts and thus helping to create the negative situation. Their slogan is that what you resist, persists. They say we can change social realities by teaching individuals to think better thoughts.
My model does not neglect the social and political dimensions of our lives. What it does is say is that if society is not making you safe from negative relationships, then there is an individual way of dealing with the problem. My method does not come from unconcern for social and political action, but from practical realism of its limits. My father was a garbageman, and I grew up in a working class area of Detroit along Eight Mile road; my life experiences have given me no expectation that society will soon improve things for people who are not rich or privileged. (In many ways I still consider myself a child of nineteen sixties radicalism. I am very focused on how to bring about effective political and social change. I think that many of the ideas discussed in this book will help do this as people who see things more clearly in their own life will also do the same in the social and political sphere. I devote a chapter to this topic. The chapter is labeled “Political and Social Change.”)
Those who know about the religions or philosophies of India may think my model has some connection to the concept of karma. The idea of karma, at least as it has been used in India, has two significant problems that my model does not suffer from. First, karma has been used to justify severe caste and gender oppression. Karma says it is okay if women or lower caste people suffer from terrible social oppression; it says these people were bad in previous lifetimes and so now deserve to have a lower social status. Secondly, there is usually thought to be no way to escape from your karma. So if you blinded someone, in some lifetime you will be blinded yourself as your karma comes to back to you. No matter how much you have changed or improved as a person, your bad karma from previous lifetimes will come back to you and you will suffer from it.
Neither of these things are part of my model. The karma model says that if you are oppressed now, you deserve it or are to blame for it because of what you did in previous lifetimes. In my model there is no such idea of deserving and blame. To have blame for something or deserve something implies that you wanted the negative thing to happen or consciously did something to bring it about. In my model the forces that contribute to bringing something about are usually. Thus there is no way you deserve your negative relationships or take any blame for them.
Nor does my model discourage political and social action. In fact, the fundamental idea of this book, that we are often intertwined with our connections, inherently leads to seeing that we are intertwined with other people in our country and world. Thus it leads to a deep and abiding concern for political and social action. (As I said earlier, I devote chapter fifteen to this topic.)
The most important difference, though, between the karma model and my model involves the inexorability of karma. Karma is usually conceived in such a way that there is no chance of escaping from it. My model is a much more optimistic and hopeful one. If we change our ways of relating to others, then our energy openings are changed, and thus our relationships will change. We are not stuck in the cycle of experiencing the negative repercussions of our previous actions.
Both those who say we create reality through our thoughts and those who believe in karma have an explanation for every human problem; the energy model is more limited. It only says that relationships have causes, not every problem. So those believing in the power of either thoughts or karma say we get sick because of one or the other; the energy model is not committed to being able to explain why people get sick as that does not necessarily involve a relationship. The same is true for many other problems such as not having enough money or suffering in a natural disaster.
A second major objection to my model is my claim to have tested this insight and find that it works. Neuroscientists say because of evolution our brains have many biases or software glitches. People who are skeptical of my insight would understandably criticize me as suffering from some of these biases. Skeptics could say my model suffers from the bias of thinking there is a cause (some kind of energy) when our relationships are really often just random. My testing of this model could also by criticized by saying that it was subject to the biases of faulty memory and selective attention. For this reason I would not notice the times when my model was not confirmed. I will first look at the objection about causes.
The reason our mind suffers from a tendency to see causes is that early humans were more likely to survive if they saw causes behind things. For example: when the grass rustled if a person automatically perceived causes, such as a lion causing the grass to rustle, then she would run and survive. If she did not have this safety mechanism of perceiving false causes, she was more likely to be eaten.
Many scientists explain religion and other spiritual ideas as being the result of our tendency to see causes in situations or events that have no causes. We have no explanation for why some things happen so we project out a cause to explain them. These people could criticize my model for assuming a spiritual type of energy causing negative relationships when they are often just random.
This is not the only time the ideas in this book could be criticized by saying that I believe in them because of biases inherent in the human brain. This problem will also come up when I discuss God or the divine in chapter twenty. Furthermore, in chapter thirteen I talk of getting extrasensory intuitions, or intuitions that involve knowing things in other ways than through our senses or mind. Someone could say I only believe in these intuitions because of brain biases. Finally, in chapter eighteen, I discuss my experience as a day trader. Many writers on brain biases say there is no pattern at all in the stock market, and we fool ourselves into thinking we can find a pattern. But for eleven years I was a day trader. During this time the market as a whole went down ten percent, but because I found a pattern behind successful day trading, I more than sextupled my money.
Day trading is the outlier in this group as it is the only one not about a spiritual cause of some type. There is no reason obvious to me that brain scientists have to be committed to the idea that the stock market is random. In fact, they might thoroughly approve of my day trading methods as I took advantage of other people’s brain biases to buy stocks at a time when other people were under the influence of these biases. So a scientist could say that you can beat the stock market if you know how to take advantage of other people’s biases. In fact, I think scientists should say that unless they are committed to the idea that no one can ever get past these biases. And I do not see how they can be committed to this idea as many of them think they have gotten beyond the bias to see spiritual causes behind unexplained natural events, and so they no longer believe in God or spirits. It is not even clear to me we could have the scientific method with its claim to discover universal truths if we believed our brains are biased in such a way that we cannot ever get past these biases.
The other three points all involve spiritual things, and they are much more important for the main ideas of this book. The authors Jonah Lehrer and David Myers both wrote very popular, good books about brain biases. They both say the stock market is inherently random and we only think there are patterns in it because of our brain biases. My eleven years of successful day trading tells me they are overreaching; that is, they are making a claim that is not supported by good research. Actually, I think they suffer from randomphilia or patternphobia. I wish I could say that skeptics who say that there are no spiritual causes behind things are similarly jumping to conclusions. But I do not think the best of them are.
Every day I read the blogs of the prominent skeptics/atheist/scientists Massimo Pigliucci, Jerry Coyne, and P. Z. Myers. While I do not agree with their positions, these sophisticated New Atheists (and their kin like Sam Harris, Victor Stenger and Richard Dawkins) are not rashly jumping to conclusions: they give very intelligent arguments for their position after carefully weighing the evidence. Their main position is that there is no good evidence for God or other spiritual forces actively working in the world.
I would agree with the new atheists that there is not good public evidence for spiritual causes behind things. But there is good private evidence. That is, there is evidence individuals can see in their own lives. This does not rise to the level of proof, or even solid evidence that other people would find convincing. But it does rise to the level of enough evidence to make it justifiable for some individuals to believe in it.
Skeptics dispute whether there is even good private evidence for spiritual causes. I will discuss this criticism as it relates to God and extrasensory intuition in later chapters. Now I will focus on this criticism as it relates to the energy model.
My private evidence is that I can see it working in my life. When I have a relationship problem, I apply techniques based on the model and then the negative relationships stop.
The skeptics criticize this concept of private evidence by saying that spiritually minded people only notice the evidence that supports their spiritual position and ignore the disconfirming evidence. So they say people who think there is evidence for spiritual causes suffer from biases built into our brains involving memory and selective attention. Before giving an answer to these criticisms, I will explain them in more detail.
Current neuroscientific research into memory has consistently shown that people’s memories are unreliable. Even worse, many peoples’ memories are unreliable while they think their memory is totally reliable: that is, they think their memory is like a video recording of the event, but it is not. Instead their memories often come from a hodgepodge of many different factors.
To test peoples’ memories, researchers have had people write down what they were doing at the time of a significant event such as a national tragedy. Then years later they would ask people to describe what had happened to them at the time of that tragedy. Peoples’ memories varied significantly from what they had written down. Worse, some people were so sure of the correctness of their current memory of the event, that when presented with their description of the event right after it happened written in their own handwriting, they would deny it was their handwriting! In general, researchers have shown that our memories suffer from all kinds of distortions. For example our memories are influenced and changed by our later attitudes and what other people think happened.
The second criticism of my saying there is good private evidence of the existence of spiritual causes is the bias of selective attention built into our brains. We perceive so many bits of information that we are only able to consciously process some of them. The things outside our attention are just not noticed. This was the best way to survive in a dangerous environment. This tendency is revealed best by the Invisible Gorilla experiment. Experimenters asked people to count how many times a group of people in a video pass a basketball back and forth between them. In the middle of the video, a person in a gorilla suit walks on and stands still for a couple of seconds. After watching the video, when people were asked if they saw anything unusual, only about half of them mentioned the gorilla. The rest never saw it. Most interestingly, after being told about the gorilla, they denied that it was there in the original video, even after being shown the original video again.
My claim that I have individual evidence that my model works could be criticized by saying I was using selective attention to neglect the times my model did not work or by saying that I just did not remember the times it did not work.
My trouble with this criticism is that these relationship problems are not the kind of thing that you do not notice or remember. They are often dealing with the most important things in your life. If you solve the problem, your life is so much better. If you do not solve the problem, you are stuck with the same problem happening over and over again. You have no choice but to notice it as it is continually being thrown in your face. Furthermore, it has a tendency to get worse over time.
For example, I had one problem that was continually thrown in my face for over three years. There was a distinct moment in time when the problem started but I had no idea why it started. Using the model that it was not random and instead some unconscious energy attracted the problem to me, I continually looked for a solution to the problem for over three years. Despite many attempts to solve the problem it was obvious that I was not solving it as the problem kept recurring. During that time I wish I could have selectively ignored it, but the problem kept demanding my attention.
My self image was that I was like a scientist discovering things, and testing my hypothesis in my life. (I said I was like a scientist; I am not claiming in any way to be a scientist. Scientists deal with things that are publicly observable and testable. There is no way I could rise to the level of being a scientist as I was not dealing with publicly testable matters. I saw myself as emulating the scientists the best I could, but I am not making Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung’s mistake of claiming my work is scientific.) If this was the first time I was testing the model, I probably would have given up years before and declared the unconscious energy hypothesis a bad one. But I had seen this method’s power many, many times and so I had good justification for sticking with it.
In the history of science, there were many times an alternative paradigm to the dominant one was put forth. Often times this alternative paradigm met road blocks. Sometimes these roadblocks were total deadends and the alternative paradigm was abandoned. Other times the roadblocks were just temporary troubles that required a deeper understanding of the paradigm or more facts.
To solve my three year old problem, I needed a deeper understanding of the energy model. In this case, I realized that because I was still attracting the same kind of people to myself like I did at the beginning of the problem, that meant I was still stuck at the same unconscious energy level. To understand the problem, I needed to link the troubles at the origin of the problem with seemingly unrelated problems in my current life. (I know this cryptic description may be very hard to understand. I describe this in much more detail and with good examples in the chapter labeled “Origins of the Problem.”)
After I adopted this approach, I solved my problem quickly. I knew I had solved the problem because my negative relationships changed and I stopped meeting the same kind of people.
Of course skeptics could say this is just a coincidence. When I was a day trader, during the eleven years I traded, the general market went down ten percent, while I sextupled my money. If my stock system worked for only a little while or only in bull markets, then it is reasonable to say my beating the market was only a coincidence. After awhile, it seems less and less likely to be a coincidence and maybe I actually had found a pattern of how to beat the stock market. I say the same thing here. I have seen my method work so many times and create such a major difference in people’s lives between when they had the problem and when they had solved it, I can justifiably say it is not a coincidence. Of course I am only claiming this is private evidence for me and the people I have helped.
While I was developing these techniques, I used them to help my wife and some other close friends. I was not that effective in knowing how to apply the model to other people’s problems because I had other personality troubles that got in the way. It has taken me a long time to clear away these personality troubles of my own and develop practical, easily usable techniques that I consistently help other people.
In the last several years, I have gotten better at how to do this. Now with other people, while I am talking to them, I immediately write notes of all my conversations. This helps them understand things when I am no longer talking with them. I also keep a file of each conversation, and so this memory bias of changing things is not a problem for me in my talks with other people.
Because I keep a file on each discussion, I also think the selective bias issue is not a problem for me in my talks with other people. I do not ignore the instances when my method could not help with the problem. When I talk to someone I say at the very beginning of the conversation: “You say this is your problem, let us write that down and see if we can help you with it.” If my techniques are unable to help with the problem, then the conversation has to be considered a failure.
My model has given me significant evidence in my life and those that I have helped that it works. But as I said before, I have dealt with a relatively small number of people and these people are highly motivated to improve their lives. But even if you accept my answer that I am not succumbing to brain biases when I say that my work with myself and other people show my model is true, there is no way my relatively few instances of confirmation can show it to be a universal law of human relationships. In fact, even if I had worked with thousands of people and I was able to always help them, these results alone would not be enough to justify claiming I had discovered a law.
While I may have given you a reason not to just totally dismiss the energy model, I have not given any solid evidence that the model is universally true. For that you will have to read the following chapters and then apply it to your problems.
While it is obviously not a rousing endorsement to say there is no good public evidence of my ideas, I want to end this chapter on a more positive note. If you seriously apply the techniques of the following chapters, you will find that you will totally change your relationships. Relationship problems that once seemed unfathomable will become much more easily understood. Your life will become significantly better, even wonderfully enchanting.
After this book is written, I am hoping to get it published. It would be helpful if you tell me any questions you may have or any parts that you have found helpful. If you have sections that you do not understand or you think are stupid or misguided, I would very much appreciate if you tell me. It is much better to hear these comments now, when I can easily change things, then later, after I have published a book. I will reflectively consider your concerns and, if warranted, I will change things to incorporate your concerns into the book. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please put “About Connections,” into the subject heading of the email.
This book was written by Joseph Waligore with the help of Michelle Stage. Joseph teaches philosophy and religious studies at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. More information about him can be found at his MySpace profile or his Facebook profile. Michelle works in a bank in St. Paul, Minnesota as a learning consultant and in a Minneapolis night club as a dominatrix.
This website is one of four websites I have. Another one, www.followingtheflow.com is for spiritually oriented people and discusses very similar ideas from a more spiritually oriented perspective. Another one, www.josephwaligore.com is for academically or intellectually oriented people. It has my writings about spiritual philosophies such as Stoicism, Socrates, the Deists, the Enlightenment period, and the rise of modern science. Another one, www.spiritualcritiques.com, has critiques of many popular spiritual teachers and spiritual teachings. It looks at teachers like Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra, Ken Wilber, and Pema Chodron. It also looks at teachings like “All is One,” “The Hundredth Monkey,” and “If it Rings True, it is True.”
There is a Facebook group called Flowing. People interested in meeting other people who are interested in these ideas and/or participating in discussions about these ideas are invited to join the group.
Many people reach this site through keyword advertisements. It might be of interest that Joseph got the money for these ads through his day trading profits.