Is sex a spiritual thing? longer version

Many of us are inclined to rebel when someone tells us what to do. We do not always take kindly to being told what is right and wrong behaviour. However, ethical living is part of spiritual healing according to the world’s spiritual traditions. That following a set of rules of conduct is conducive to spiritual growth. How does this apply to sexual relationships?

Infidelity

People may not be concerned about the rights and wrongs of sexual behaviour. They ask:

  • “Isn’t sex a basic drive that needs to be satisfied, just like hunger and thirst?”
  • “Isn’t sexual expression one of our inherent freedoms?”
  • “Isn’t sexuality a way of expressing our unique individuality?”

To answer “yes” to these questions may be correct for some but it is to miss a spiritual principle, for it ignores the idea of a growing union of mature love between two people. There are many reasons for coldness developing between a couple but one of the most damaging tends to be the sense of hurt and distrust in one partner caused by the other becoming sexually drawn to another person.

In Britain these days, people tend to speak as if it were tolerable to have more than one sexual partner as long as you do not deceive anyone. Consequently, a few people have a so-called `open’ relationship. More common is an apparent social norm of `serial monogamy’. In line with this view, one should finish a sexual relationship before taking up with someone else. However many people in a relationship seem to be vulnerable to sexual wandering. A casual attitude to sex can lead us to make light of any indiscretions.

A lot of things in life particularly in the mass media seem to have become sexualised these days – from small girls clothes to cars and even chocolate. It has been suggested that a casual attitude to infidelity can develop as one starts to watch extra-marital passions on TV or at the cinema. It also grows if we linger on the pages of a magazine with sexually provocative advertising, if we fixedly gaze at the figure of an attractive man or woman in a way that arouses sexual feelings or if we engage in any sexual fantasy not involving our partner. I would suggest that people more at risk are those without an interest in any productive activity such as study or business. This can result in a wandering desire. With nothing else to absorb our interest, it is perhaps only natural that our thoughts might turn to sex! But:

“I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
(Matt 5:28)

“Right action is to abstain from sexual lust”
(The Noble Eightfold Path of Buddhism)

Noticing an attractive person other than one’s lover is naturally likely to happen most of the time. I would argue one can appreciate good physical looks while at the same time respecting the person. However, there are increasing degrees of disloyalty – for example flirting, spending time with this other person, sharing intimate confidences, lingering kissing or embracing as part of social greetings and farewells, not to mention engaging in physical intimacies when alone together.

Mature Love

Young adults tend to fall in love. Sometimes this is falling in love with love – romanticising the other person, as the embodiment of all we consider to be ideal. Sometimes this is called the `halo’ effect when we notice just one aspect of the other person that particularly appeals such as their bravery or kind-heartedness and become enamoured with just that one aspect regardless of their other characteristics. Sometimes our infatuation is really all about physical attraction, or the perceived glamour, power or wealth of the other person.

We might possibly be trying to fill loneliness or an emotional vacuum with a love relationship. Some psychotherapists have written about this kind of immature love. They say this follows the principle “I love because I am loved.” “ I love you because I need you.” On the other hand they say that mature love follows the principle `I am loved because I love,” “I need you because I love you.”

In addition to giving, mature love implies other basic elements such as concern for the life and growth of the other, responding to their needs, respect for their uniqueness, seeing them as they really are and helping them to grow and unfold in their own ways, for their own sake and not for serving oneself. Seeing one’s partner accurately is possible only when one transcends one’s self-concern and needs, seeing  the other person in the other’s own terms. One needs to listen and to enter and become familiar with the private world of the lover, to live in the other’s life and sense his or her meanings and experiences.

I believe the union of mature love preserves our integrity and paradoxically our individuality. When in intimate love two beings become one in heart and mind, Swedenborg calls it a state of `conjugial love’. By this, he partly means a deeper level of love in which the couple have grown closely together in mutual trust and affection.

Sexually Loving Only One Other Person

We can compare an interest in having more than one sexual relationship with having a desire for intimacy with only one lover. We can distinguish between love of the opposite sex and intimate love of one person of the opposite sex – between on the one hand a roving desire with on the other an exclusive commitment. The latter is a chaste kind of attitude. Chastity is a somewhat antiquated term in today’s world. However, it conveys a sense of purity, innocence, and decency with respect to sexual partnership. It also unfortunately has a connotation of not letting oneself have any fun, and of prudishness, but this is not what Swedenborg means by the word. A chaste attitude for him is not to be confused with sexual abstinence. Rather it is primarily concerned with what is going on in a person’s heart and mind – with the purity and cleanness of a person’s feelings and thoughts. A chaste attitude is a deep desire for a one to one relationship solely with one other person.

In other words, sexual desire is not an unchaste thing in itself. However relationships of a sexual nature with someone other than one’s spouse involves a disregard of the trust and intimacy that has been shared in marriage that is extremely hurtful to the innocent partner. The idea of extra-marital relationships is sometimes softened to such terms as: `fooling around’, `sleeping around’, `flings’, `affairs’ and `dalliances’; suggesting that infidelity can be guilt free and harms no one. If people are not looking for a conjugial relationship, then it is possible to understand how they might come to believe in the myth that extra-marital relationships are harmless.

Conjugial love 

The aim within conjugial love is a closer linking of minds and profound linking of lives in intimate friendship and love – the essence of a harmonious long-lasting personal and valued sexual relationship. On the other hand using another person as a sex object demonstrates a complete lack of true caring. It is not showing love to someone as a person, but simply using their body as a source of excitement, physical pleasure and perhaps conquest. Why cause hurt to one’s partner by carrying on with someone else? Loose sexual conduct is likely to tie in with self-justification and a lack of interest in the spiritual healing dynamic of conjugial love.

According to Swedenborg the origin of conjugial love is spiritual. The conjugial state mirrors the state that Swedenborg terms, the `heavenly marriage’ within a person. This is a harmony between feeling and ideas when a desire for what is good matches a wise thought. These do not harmonise for example when we are feeling resentful towards a workmate whilst realising we are being unfair. Another example is blaming a neighbour for a problem in the garden when one knows this to be unjustified. The spiritual state of the heavenly marriage can be present within even a single person who has no close relationships for this is the basis of finding the meaning of life. Such a person would be ready to receive the spirit of conjugial love if a suitable partner becomes available.

Gender

Much controversy surrounds the subject of male and female gender roles. I believe neither sex is superior to the other – just different. Modern feminism is less concerned these days about proving women can do what men can do. Instead, it places more emphasis on feminine values and interests. We do well what we are interested in. This might be successfully helping to create a collaborative mood within a professional meeting or calm atmosphere within the home. Women tend to give importance to feelings and relationship whereas men tend to act in terms of rules, and what they judge to be right.

Thus the sexes complement each other according to their tendency to have different interests or as Swedenborg would say what they each love.

An objective stance is thinking about the external aspect of things whereas a subjective one is seeing things from a personal angle. Men have no exclusive hold over objectivity in their thinking but they tend to be more interested in this stance than women. Neither have women any exclusive orientation towards subjectivity but they have a tendency to be drawn to this approach than men.  In common parlance we speak of feminine intuition.

Partnership

In my view these differences are the basic reason why an erotic interest usually develops between the sexes; why male and female get together. They say opposites attract. When a man and woman are in harmony as to what they think and feel, do and say, then a conjugial partnership can potentially be formed. Each partner can develop to be a different side of the same coin; growing together they may become as one. The husband tends to love having ideas, ideals and projects to accomplish, whilst his wife tends to love nurturing and embodying them in their relationships together and with others.

Each individual sees their happiness in the life of their partnership. When the couple are devoted to each other and growing together spiritually, they increasingly act as together as one unit – they are working in harmony and finding spiritual healing. Seeing their ideas and feelings reflected in each other they are then drawn away from self-orientation. As far as their ideas and feelings are good, they receive heavenly innocence, peace, and tranquillity.

“Conjugial love is directed to and shared with one person of the other sex. Love directed to and shared with several persons is natural love, for man has this in common with animals and birds, which are natural creatures. But conjugial love is spiritual, special and proper to human beings, because human beings were created, and are therefore born, to become spiritual”.

(Swedenborg. Conjugial Love: section 48)

Extracted from the book Heart, Head and Hands by Stephen Russell-Lacy

Sex – Is it a spiritual matter?

sexMany of us are inclined to rebel when someone tells us what to do. We do not always take kindly to being told what is right and wrong sex behaviour. However, ethical living is part of spiritual healing according to the world’s spiritual traditions. Following a set of rules of conduct such as monogamy is said to be conducive to personal growth.

Sex with Different Partners

“Isn’t sex a basic drive that needs to be satisfied, just like hunger and thirst?”

“Isn’t sexual expression one of our inherent freedoms?”

“Isn’t sexuality a way of expressing our unique individuality?”

To answer “yes” to these questions may be correct for some but it is to miss a deeper principle, for it ignores the idea of a growing union of mature love between two people.

There are many reasons for coldness developing between a couple but one of the most damaging tends to be the sense of hurt and distrust in one partner caused by the other becoming sexually drawn to another person. Does a casual attitude to sex lead us to make light of any indiscretions? The idea of extra-marital relationships is sometimes softened to such terms as: `fooling around’, `flings’, and `affairs’; suggesting that infidelity can be guilt free and harms no one. But of course it does.

Serial Monogomy

Perhaps this is why In the West these days, people tend to speak as if it were tolerable to have more than one sexual partner as long as you do not deceive anyone. Consequently, a few people have a so-called `open’ relationship. More common is an apparent social norm of `serial monogamy’. In line with this view, one should finish a sexual relationship before taking up with someone else.

Noticing an attractive person other than one’s lover is naturally likely to happen most of the time. I would argue one can appreciate good physical looks while at the same time respecting the person. However, there are increasing degrees of disloyalty – for example flirting, spending time with this other person, sharing intimate confidences, lingering kissing or embracing as part of social greetings and farewells, not to mention engaging in physical intimacies when alone together.

Mature Sex Love

Some psychotherapists have written about an immature kind of love. They say this follows the principle “I love because I am loved.” ” I love you because I need you.”

On the other hand they say that mature love follows the principle `I am loved because I love,” “I need you because I love you.”

In addition to giving, mature love implies other basic elements such as concern for the life and personal growth of the other, responding to their needs, respect for their uniqueness, seeing them as they really are and helping them to grow and unfold in their own ways, for their own sake and not for serving oneself.

A roving desire seems very different from exclusive commitment. Using another person as a sex object demonstrates a complete lack of true caring. It is not showing love at all to someone but simply using their body as a source of excitement, physical pleasure and perhaps conquest. Nevertheless many people feel they fall in between these two extremes. Exclusive commitment is seen as difficult. It conveys a sense of purity, innocence, and decency with respect to sexual partnership – an attitude thought to be an ideal not easily attained.

Sex and Gender Differences

There is a good case to argue that the origin of exclusive sexual love is spiritual. One argument is that sexual attraction corresponds to human gender differences.

Much controversy surrounds the subject of male and female gender roles. I believe neither sex is superior to the other – just different. Modern feminism is less concerned these days about proving women can do what men can do. Instead, it places more emphasis on feminine values and interests. We do well what we are interested in. This might be successfully helping to create a collaborative mood within a professional meeting or calm atmosphere within the home. Women tend to give importance to feelings and relationship whereas men tend to act in terms of rules, and what they judge to be right.

An objective stance is thinking about the external aspect of things whereas a subjective one is seeing things from a personal angle. Men have no exclusive hold over objectivity in their thinking but they tend to be more interested in this stance than women. Neither have women any exclusive orientation towards subjectivity but they have a tendency to be drawn to this approach than men. In common parlance we speak of feminine intuition.

In my view these differences are the basic reason why an erotic interest usually develops between the two sexes — why male and female get together. They say opposites attract. Each partner can develop to be a different side of the same coin; growing together they may become as one. The husband tends to love having ideas, ideals and projects to accomplish, whilst his wife tends to love nurturing and embodying them in their relationships together and with others.

When a couple are devoted to each other and growing together, they increasingly act as together as one unit. Seeing their ideas and feelings reflected in each other they are then drawn away from self-orientation. As far as their ideas and feelings are good, they can grow in contentment and tranquillity.      Longer version of this article

Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

Build trust — How to help my organisation.

Do you trust senior members of your organisation to get it right or to be a credible source of information? Do you trust the constant stream of commercial messages and political spin to which you are exposed.  What can be done to help to build trust?

Benefits of trust within an organisation and community

Organisational and community life is not risk-free and depends on an appropriate degree of trust. Trust makes social life predictable, it creates a sense of community, and it makes it easier for people to work together.

“Trust makes the world go ’round,”

Where there is an element of distrust between neighbours over social nuisance issues or between local tradesmen and customers, then there is damage to community cohesion. Whatever the type of organisation you are associated with, you will probably know that to try to build trust among its members, stakeholders and users is crucial for things to go well. Significant distrust much increases the time it takes to get things done.

Help to build trust by being trustworthy

Trying to build trust can help the general quality of life so that people can thrive. Be trustworthy by doing what you say you will do and doing it well and on time.  Keep secret what people confide in you and don’t betray the organisation’s confidential information. At the same time talk straight and don’t spin facts, telling the truth even if this is not always comfortable or pleasant. For example own up to mistakes and if caught in a lie admit it explaining why you were less than honest.

Help to build trust by trusting others

Show trust with neither gullibility nor cynicism (see here ) For example getting recommendations before engaging a plumber or electrician but then trusting them to do a good job and not overcharge beyond their estimate. In the last analysis life is not risk-free.

Being a little open speaking your feelings means being a little vulnerable. You can be truthful about how you define a boundary around what you are keeping secret. Honesty helps to create rapport and rapport builds trust. Likewise volunteering information you didn’t have to give. In other words demonstrate your trust in others and they will trust you.

Help to build trust by being generous

Trust grows when mutual commitments are delivered without concern for personal advantage or attempted manipulation or control. So be willing to share your knowledge, your contacts, and your sympathy — without expecting anything in return. The more you take the initiative to give, the more it builds trust.

Help to build trust by making positive contact across social lines

Build trustSince its legal inception in 1921 Northern Ireland has been plagued with violence and dispute. The central problem of mistrust there has been probably caused by a mixture of perceived imperial action by Great Britain,  an entrenchment of the past, cultural clashes and a severe identity crisis.

Research by social psychologists has established that positive contact across social lines when it is frequent non-threatening, non-anxiety provoking, tends to reduce prejudice. This was true in the results of study of students in Northern Ireland who identify themselves as belonging to either the Protestant or Catholic community Friendships across a group divide such as the religious divide, can powerfully reduce prejudice and suspicion. Simply knowing other ingroup members who have friendships with outgroup members can also lead to reduction in prejudice.

Help to build trust by looking for the good in others

According to spiritual philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg there are limits of trust in this world because we are not all in a heavenly state. There are people who increase mistrust due to selfish greed and dishonesty. However he says that people with a charitable heart try to look for the good in others.

I would interpret this to mean, when challenging someone, first speak to what is good about someone rather than overplaying the negative — in other words showing respect even when you are inclined to be critical.

Help to build trust in diversity

Swedenborg says that heaven hangs together as a unified whole in harmony although it shows a huge variety of individual differences between its inhabitants. No two people are ever entirely alike as to their memories, perceptions and thoughts, or to their feelings, inclinations and intentions.  Despite this, because of their heavenly character, they live in complete unanimity and harmony.

Being open

He also describes the heavenly afterlife in terms of openness. In heaven this is said  be as a state of being where one’s inner state is seen by others. So he maintains that the wise ideas and intentions of one individual are directly shared with another.

“Heaven is where everyone shares everything of value. This is because the very nature of heavenly love is to want what is one’s own to belong to another.” (Swedenborg Heaven & Hell section 268)

For him, this love is the basis of heavens trust and happiness.

Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

Christmas spirit – How do I foster it?

Christmas spiritYou want to experience the Christmas spirit but you feel uneasy. You will be with the relatives and in-laws, whom perhaps you don’t often see, and you want it to go well without too much family drama. But you know you will be spending a lot of time with perhaps a person or two you can find irritating or with whom you don’t particularly get on. If seems that there is always someone who never likes the present you buy, the food you cook or the family game you suggest.

There may be disagreement over what to watch on television. Embarrassing questions may be asked and unresolved issues touched on. If some one has a dig, it is so easy to take the bait and get upset with people on top of each other. You may even sometimes wonder whether you can survive Christmas with the relatives.

Yet the Christmas spirit is supposed to be about generosity and warmth, for family togetherness, children and fun. How can we foster that Christmas spirit in the face of our unease? Here are some suggestions.

  • If the strain is beginning to tell, why not take some time out for yourself. Think of some reason to leave the company for a while if someone is really getting under your skin — going for a short walk “to clear the head after too much to drink”, going into the kitchen “to do the washing up”, going upstairs “to check on the children.”
  • You might be able to suggest a change of scene for at least some of the family group e.g. going out to a football match or the pub for those who might enjoy this. It could distract people from what had been going on.
  •  You might try taking a step back from the emotional atmosphere around you.  Adopt passive observation rather than active participation. Observe what is going on as if you are watching a television drama. In this way you can achieve a degree of emotional distance from the person who is irritating you and feel less involved in any arguments.
  •  In these days of ready expression of personal feeling we tend to say ‘Let it all hang out.‘ The idea of suppressing our feelings is not what we are supposed to do. The old Victorian saying ‘Least said, soonest mended,‘ has gone out of common use. But perhaps its time has come again. When feeling provoked, why not try counting to ten  before rising to the bait? Instead of immediately saying what is on your mind, you could ask yourself whether a social occasion such as a special family occasion is really the time and place to have a row about something that is under the surface and not going to be resolved easily. Ask yourself whether speaking your mind would really help clear the air rather than make something bigger than it need be and add ammunition for future tension. Then you can choose between saying nothing or asserting your viewpoint (quietly and with respect for the other person’s perspective).
  •  Don’t allow someone sulking or getting overexcited to spoil your own good time. Even when they are boring or annoying you, try to appreciate the presence of people with whom you have ties of family identity and common interest. It is easier to overlook someone’s negative side when you can see their good points; easier to have fun when you are in good humour. In other words why not enjoy what you can in making the most of the situation you find yourself in?

I believe if you think ahead about possible choices and then at the time choose the wisest one for any given situation, it should be possible to rise above family difficulties and foster a Christmas spirit.

From a deeper perspective, this means letting the ordinary attachments of what has been called the ‘little self’ to die. The ‘little self’s’ ordinary attachment is to receiving attention, praise, or pleasure at the expense of the needs of the social context. I would suggest that only when the ‘little self’ dies can the ‘higher self’ become fully alive. Only when you let your selfish cravings die will the Christmas spirit or Christ’s spirit become incarnate within you.

Copyright 2011 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

Criticise them – But how to do so safely?

criticiseYes it can happen. No one likes their faults to be pointed out and some people with thin skins when you criticise them see this as a personal attack. They get shirty, defensive or bite your head off. You probably would think twice before taking the risk of saying what you really think to them. Yet keeping quiet means not doing anything about the problem.

 

“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.” (Winston Churchill)

So what’s the best way to criticise someone?

Shirley needed to criticise her neighbour

Shirley was really getting fed up with her new next door neighbour who played his music loudly some nights after coming home from shift-work. Once, she had called round to ask him to turn the volume down, which was done, but the level of loudness would resume another night. It probably wasn’t bad enough to make a complaint to the local authority. The adjoining walls of their homes were not sound-proofed. She  had heard from someone that her neighbour could turn nasty if provoked. How could she deal with the problem which was upsetting her a lot?

Next time Shirley tackled the guy, she wasn’t sure she could trust herself not to shout and lose her temper. When you criticise it is important to keep the matter in proportion, neither overdoing things, nor being too timid. If she were to come over as arrogant, curt or annoyed, she probably wouldn’t be listened to properly. And were she to resort to insults and hostility the chances are the door would be slammed in her face.

How not to criticise

A Laurel and Hardy comedy comes to mind when the two friends engaged in a tit-for-tat war with their neighbour, each side doing things to damage the next door property, with the punishing actions mounting, until the ludicrous outcome was the destruction of both homes.

The film comically showed the pitfalls of an unkind attitude — using the opportunity to make the critic feel superior or perhaps want to provoke or vent a bit of anger. Shirley could soften her criticism by saying things like “I have made the same mistake myself…” It avoids showing any air of superiority.

Criticise showing respect

The common advice psychologists give is “Respect the individual, and focus the criticism on the behaviour that needs changing – on what people actually do or actually say.”

Good criticism generally comes with some degree of humility and respect for the  possibility of other equally valid points of view. In other words Shirley is advised to refrain from any criticism of the person but merely of the noise he makes. Giving respect means not assuming that he is being thoughtless, inconsiderate, or selfish.
Perhaps he is hard of hearing and doesn’t appreciate how others find loud noise annoying.

Once you start to jump to conclusions about someone’s character then you are liable to show this in how you talk to them revealing sarcasm, anger, hostility or condescension. People hear how you say things more than they hear what you say. You mainly communicate through the tone of voice and facial expressions.

Also choosing the right words still matter.

“You can disagree without being disagreeable.” (Zig Ziglar)

Criticise in a precise way

It is important to explain what it is that the other person is doing that is a problem for you and how you feel about it. Don’t say ‘You are causing me grief’ but say ‘I feel the noise is causing me grief.’

If the individual is respected with a bit of humour, and due credit is given to the possibility of their sympathy for your difficulty, it is vastly more likely that the criticism will be understood, and taken seriously.

To criticise can be less difficult

Shirley had the disadvantage of not knowing the person she wanted to criticize. It is easier to point out a fault if you have an ongoing friendly relationship with the person. You have a greater chance of counting on their sympathy or embarrassment. At least she could try to get into rapport with the neighbour before voicing her issue. Perhaps if she invited him into her own house when somebody else was also present when his music was on then her neighbour could more easily appreciate the nuisance he was causing.

When a relationship has already turned sour, then it may need a bit of patience, waiting before the right time and place arrive to make a fair criticism. It may take considerable effort to create the situation in which the criticism will be “heard”. On the other hand if the relationship between enemies is so bad the best thing may be to get a mediator for justice.

“Virtues which have to do with … moral wisdom … have various names, and they are called … integrity, kindliness, friendliness, modesty, honesty, helpfulness, courteousness; … not to mention many others…. In all of these justice and judgment prevail.” (Conjugial Love section 164 by Emanuel Swedenborg)

Copyright 2012 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

Honesty – Is it really the best policy?

honestyA lot of us have grown careless in what we say. “It wasn’t my fault we lost the game, I didn’t hear the whistle.” or “I was pushed over and my foot hurt.” Who has never made up an excuse to stop feeling embarrassed?

This covering up may seem harmless enough but over time a pattern of making up excuses can become an ingrained habit, a way of defending oneself against any inconvenient fact that might otherwise expose mistakes, greed, or failure.

As a way of avoiding criticism sometimes people unfairly blame others.

So if telling lies gets you off the hook why is honesty the best policy?

1. Honesty involves no wasted time and energy

Only a spurious conscience would worry about telling the odd white lie spoken to pull someone’s leg, or to give a needed compliment. However, lies that are used to defend yourself can grow and multiply and there can be a lot of nervous energy involved in not getting found out. You have got to make sure it’s a credible story that hangs together and remember what was told to whom at various times.

2. Honesty means connecting with others

Who doesn’t get irritated from time to time by other people? Like with a neighbour who has not returned your garden tool or a relative who won’t take no for an answer. Sometimes one ends up saying nothing, or saying “it’s just fine” and pretending not to mind when really one does.

Not being honest actually takes away the chance of connecting with others authentically and experiencing the satisfaction of true friendship.  On the other hand sometimes people assume that being honest means giving vent to their feelings without restraint and of course this can do much harm to a relationship.

What does work is to be firm with someone about your point of view without going over the top and without taking a blaming attitude. Honest communication can be clear and to the point, yet tactful and kindly meant.

3. Honesty can lead to a sense of forgiveness

If you don’t confess to someone anything you have done wrong that affects the person, how can you hope to find their forgiveness? It is difficult to forgive yourself without a sense of the other person’s forgiveness.

4. Causing harm by gossip

We have all probably enjoyed telling tales about someone behind their back when they are not around to defend themself. Sometimes what we say is true but often we give a biased version, slanting the truth to bring out an unhelpful meaning.

Unfortunately a spirit of antagonism rather than harmony develops. Chinese whispers come into play as what we say is repeated and perhaps further exaggerated along the way and our put-downs have maligned the person.

5. Honesty and reputation

Honesty in business and professional life means being true to one’s word, honouring commitments, and keeping promises. Twisting the truth, exaggerating details, deliberately changing a word or leaving out aspects of a story in order to prove one’s point, are all kinds of dishonesty.

When someone’s dishonesty gets found out they lose their reputation for being trustworthy. And once lost, a reputation is very hard to recover. This loss can even affect their livelihood. Who is going to ask for professional advice that is suspected of being unreliable or who is going to deal with a dishonest trader?

6. Honesty with yourself

When reflecting on a mistake you have made or something wrong you have done, it is tempting to believe the rationalisations that come to mind.   It is easier to secretly but unfairly blame someone else than acknowledge one’s own mistakes; nicer to indulge feelings of self-justification and even self-pity.

But self-deception means living a lie and results in all sorts of anxiety because one is not in touch with one’s inner self. What is needed is an honest self-examination to acknowledge one’s errors as well as one’s strengths.

7. Honesty with God

Adam and Eve in the biblical story, after eating the forbidden fruit, tried to evade personal responsibility by dishonestly blaming God and blaming the serpent. Just think how such an attitude might affect the authenticity of one’s relationship with God. According to religion, prayer just doesn’t work without honesty: for the truth will make us free.

8. Honesty prevents distorted thinking

The truth is often sidestepped when we are experiencing a dark mood, or a feeling of anxiety, anger, or guilt.  A distortion of what is reasonable can be an exaggerated way of seeing what is going on, or an over-generalisation unwarranted by the facts. “The plane will crash”; “I will die in the operating theatre”; or “The future is completely without any hope.”

Distorted thinking like this can result in worsening feelings of fear, fury, or despair – emotions which often result in unwise actions such as panic attack, violence, or suicide.

Better to be helped to think rationally getting a more balanced view of how things really are. For what is true has a power to rebut such distorted thinking.

Copyright 2012 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

Healing presence – How to have this?

Healing presence
Carl Rogers

One of the conditions of a healing presence in counselling, according to Carl Rogers, is unconditional acceptance. The counsellor is not meant to judge the client who consequently becomes less fearful of talking about things about which he or she feels guilty or ashamed.

Some people believe that unconditional acceptance can be a healing factor also in ordinary interactions of everyday life. For them this would involve practising forgiveness when someone hurts you, and giving encouragement to those who fail to show good behavior, and even not criticising those who do wrong.

But just how realistic is this approach?

Difficulty having a healing presence with certain individuals

We don’t choose our neighbours, nor our bosses and work-mates, not even our relatives. Sometimes these people are uncomfortable to live with, difficult to talk to, or they just break the normal social rules. What they do may conflict with your own interest. So just how do you adopt a healing attitude irrespective of their behaviour?

Taking turns helps create a healing presence

One answer might be to do with the spirit of give and take. Children learn to take turns in throwing the dice in a board game. Adults resolve awkward situations in a similar way for example by taking turns with friends to pay for a round of drinks in the pub or taking one’s turn in the checkout queue at the supermarket. But this isn’t unconditional acceptance. You can have your turn on the condition I get my turn too.

Sharing helps create a healing presence

Children also learn to share things. They might share a toy. Each individual gets a slice of the cake. Restaurant staff often share out tips customers have left. When you come to think of it there are innumerable examples of how people practise sharing. The social norm is we give on the understanding we also receive. But does sharing amount to giving on an unconditional basis?

Not that people always take turns or fairly share things even in close intimate relationships.  Do you and your partner fairly share the responsibility of earning money, doing DIY, making social arrangements, maintaining the garden, looking after the children etc? Or does one partner do more of the work than the other?

Do you share decision-making in financial affairs? Or does one of you actually determine more of the important choices? In other words even in close relationships there are conditions – each feels it sensible to ensure their own needs are not neglected.

How not to have a healing presence

And the notion of unconditional acceptance seems even less realistic where the relationship is fraught and where you would rather avoid the other person if it were possible, thanks very much.

The trouble is we are obliged to communicate with all sorts of people regardless of any differences of opinion or any unwillingess to co-operate. Collaboration with such a person may be a non-starter – after all it takes two to tango and however willing you are to work on an issue the other person may not be.

In trying to adopt a healing presence it is perhaps easier to say what not to do. Not jumping to conclusions about the character of the person. Not discriminating against them on the basis of social prejudice. Not rejecting the person who behaves in ways you assess as unacceptable.  And of course not showing hostility.

Pointing out uncomfortable consequences can help create a healing presence

Sometimes you might get involved with someone who turns out to be quite needy. It seems that you are doing all the giving and the other person doing all the taking. This can happen at work, with your friends, or even in the family. You seem to be giving more and more of your time to listening to their worries and complaints — time that you would have spent doing your own thing. And when you try to put some limits on what you do for him or her, this person seems very good at pressing your guilt button. You start to dread that phone call or knock on the door.

Failing to set boundaries on one’s time for this type of person will likely result in you eventually getting burnt out: other people in your life just get less of you. Giving in to the demands of such a person may not help heal their inadequacy. Sometimes healing involves pointing out unpleasant consequences or issuing a challenge.

I would suggest that adopting a healing approach to people means looking for what is good in them, rather than being preoccupied by what is bad. Recognising their strengths and good intentions rather than feeling aggrieved about their weaknesses.

Negative self-attitude hinders your healing presence

I believe there can be a stumbling block hindering this healing attitude: it is to do with one’s self-attitude. In my view you can’t forgive others until you can first forgive yourself: you can’t encourage others until you can first encourage yourself: you can’t take care of the needs of others until you first take care of your own basic needs.

“Usefulness to oneself is also usefulness to others, for to be of use to oneself is to be in a state to be of use to others.” (Emanuel Swedenborg DLW section 318)

I would say that to be a healing presence you need to accept yourself ‘warts and all’ and then you have a chance of accepting other people. Physican first heal yourself!

Copyright 2012 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems