In this section of the book, David Richo talks about the processes of transformation that occur through learning Assertiveness and Spiritual Receptivity. He describes them both as programs for the inevitable human experience of fear, however, Spiritual Receptivity is “handling fear with higher consciousness” (p. 195).
As a reminder, assertiveness “progresses from clarity to asking for what we want to taking responsibility for ourselves” (p. 195). That means starting with learning self-awareness and being clear about your internal experience. Next, it means being in communication and processing what is occurring with people in your life so that you are fully engaged in a feedback loop of your internal experiences and theirs in order to create a full relationship that is inhabited by both human beings (i.e. not just having the whole relationship/interaction occur in your own mind/heart through assumptions and withholding). Finally, it means being responsible for your feelings and experiences, resolving feelings and being aware of as well as allowing the experiences of others. For more about this, see my post Own Your Power. Be Assertive.
These are very essential human skills that help us be successful in our relationships and limit drama. These are steps that are the majority of my work as a therapist because most people are not taught these skills in the process of growing up. For whatever reason, in our culture, we tend to operate in the dark about the human emotional system. That would be like knowing nothing about nutrition and exercise so just sitting around eating cookies and cupcakes, then wondering why we have health problems and don’t like the way we look/feel. Well, when we don’t know how to work with our natural system of emotion, people end up having trouble in relationships of all kinds and feel unhappy with how things look and feel in their life.
I saw a family several years ago where the mother had been in therapy. One day during session, I was talking with the mother and her four year old turned to her and said “I feel sad, Mommy. Can you hold me so I can cry?” The mother held her in her arms and the little girl cried for a minute, then she was done, got up and went to go play with some toys on the ground. I was blown away. How beautiful that this little girl had been taught to be aware of her feelings, knew how to move through them and was able to ask for that from her mother. And, her mother was completely supportive. There was no drama, no judgment and no big deal. Yes, this is what we all need to know. Then we can move past the tangled web that comes from blindly dealing with the human emotional system and move toward a much more fulfilling expedition that we are all driven toward, often without knowing it: Spiritual Receptivity.
The process of building Spiritual Receptivity is “moving from self-awareness to letting go to self-transcendence and compassion” (p. 195). In the beginning of this process, my interpretation is that you become aware of who you really are. You experientially realize that you are actually really connected to everyone and everything even though your body is separate. This shift is transformational. It creates space for the letting go to occur, where there is much less attachment and drama because there is an awareness that existence is so much more profound than the little things right in front of you. I understand this letting go as being like looking at the ocean and realizing that there is so much more beyond what we are immediately aware of like things on our to do list or how that person is on the phone in their car and not paying attention. Another time I notice this is when I stand in front of something really big, like the red rocks in Sedona or the beautiful faces of Yosemite. In that moment, I am humbled and all the small, close up stuff just lets go. Finally, I understand the step of self-transcendence and compassion to be accepting that everything inside and outside is exactly as it should be. David Richo says: “As we open, we become aware of how much truth is accessible to us by effortlessly tuning in on what is” (p. 196). Yes, the more truth we are aware of, the easier this whole business of living is. You become aware of the fact that things just are as they are and everything is OK. There is no need to control anything. Neurotic fear has no place. You might still react to things with fear, but all you need is a simple reminder that there is nothing to fear. Fear is what causes a lot of pain and interrupts love. So, if fear has no place, then what’s there? Love.
At least today, this is my understanding. I bet that the more I read this section and the more my own journey unfolds, I will understand this with more depth.
As a therapist, I have worked a lot with people on being assertive, the “doing” part of handling fear and their humanness. But, I have to tell you, my mission is so much bigger. My mission is to work with people in such a way that they can move beyond the preoccupation with the pain or suffering that comes with being human by helping them learn to manage the human emotional system. The goal is accepting and being at ease with this system in order to go across the bridge of awakening to who they really are and being able to feel the tremendous joy and power of handling fear with a higher consciousness where there is a lot more room for love. By living this as best I can in my own life and dedicating my work as a therapist to this mission, I can spread light one person at a time. Each one of those people illuminates the people around them and loving transformation spreads. I bet this is a version of David Richo’s mission. He inspired me to write this whole series without even knowing and his work helped me get clear about what I am up to in this life.