Random Blog Clay Feet: January 29, 2008
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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Emotional Synchronization

A close friend made a comment recently while we were listening to a song from a concert that has got me to thinking again about our cravings for life-giving sources. She said that it was a nice song but that she had grown to dislike it simply because she has heard it too many times.

This is a very normal response and a feeling shared by many people I suspect, but I am the kind of person that likes to know why that is and what is going on at the heart level to cause such a reaction. Part of the reason I want to know is because when one person feels turned off by something that to their close friend is a source of deep inspiration, then the synchronization of spirits between the two friends is disrupted and an atmosphere of potential conflict is created. I am not saying that conflict is inevitable in situations like this, but the potential is greatly magnified by the dissonance caused by the disparate reactions inside each person.

One approach to addressing this problem is sometimes to try to change the other person's reactions and try to bring them more into alignment with your own feelings about that particular thing. This is usually not very successful as it is only symptom management and trying to force externals to be in line with another person's internals while still feeling the same discomfort inside that they did before. We cannot usually make another person simply start liking something we like through peer pressure when the underlying triggers causing them to dislike it have not changed. This is an approach of uniformity through coercion and is never effective at bringing hearts into closer proximity.

Another solution that is often practiced is to seek out someone else that has likes and dislikes closer to that of our own and form relationships with them in place of those who don't align with our feelings as much. This can easily be seen the sports scene, the nightclubs, clubs of all types and even the churches people choose to attend. Most of the groupings of people that are formed come from a rearranging of social attachments in attempts to find others to bond with who share the same reactions to the same stimuli that we have. How much this is good or bad I cannot say with any authority but it is very clear that many of our friends are acquired by this means.

But if we simply have friends only because they share our interests, which is generally the case with a great many people, are we not avoiding looking into ourselves to examine or challenge our own motives and reactions? Realigning our friendships to make ourselves more comfortable instead of examining our hearts to see if we are avoiding pain and addressing those issues looks like living a life of escapism instead of becoming more alive.

Another aspect of this that comes to mind is the whole idea of where we get our sense of aliveness and identity. Often we are unconscious of the sources we look to and from which we draw our sense of value. I believe most people are generally in denial of the fact that they are looking to any number of sources other than God to get their sense of well-being, value or whatever label you want to place on what we hope will make us feel alive and able to grow and thrive. Or maybe we have come to the point where we are looking for things or stimuli to just help us cope and mask the ever-present pain or sense of worthlessness that we cannot shake off. Every addiction is an attempt to address an inner pain that has not been faced clearly and addressed properly, and there are far more addictions in our life than those we typically give that label. Our mind has been deceived into believing that the temporary numbness or intense pleasure that we experience from our preferred addiction of choice is the fix that will somehow give us the resolution or satisfaction that we so desperately need. But of course it is just yet another lie in our confusion of selfish perspective.

But what about the original scenario where my close companion has very different reactions to a particular song than I do which then creates dissonance between us. In situations like this I notice a very distinct feeling of emptiness of maybe even loneliness when I realize that this person who I care for deeply cannot share my deep, positive emotional reaction to a piece of music due to what they consider as a negative experience with that same music. I am left feeling that I cannot share my heart with them at a level that I long to be able to do because of their antagonism toward something that I find so fulfilling. To put it rather bluntly, that bothers me a lot and makes me feel alienated and potentially even resentful.

But then the inevitable next question asserts itself – why am I bothered by that? I have to stop and think about that because there is likely more than one reason and also because I am maybe afraid to express some of my reasons for fear of ridicule or shame from others. In the way this world is set up, even our livelihood is often affected by how our set of likes and dislikes line up with enough others around us to make us “successful”, both socially and even financially. Those who seem to listen to a different drummer are not well received or compensated for their efforts to share their views with those around them. Not fitting in affects all areas of life which creates intense incentive to simply conform and become squeezed into the mold of those around us as Paul says in Romans 12:1.

What difference does it make if I cannot emotionally synchronize with my close friend while listening to one of my favorite songs? How far can I go in trying to change their opinion and feelings to align more closely with mine? Or how right is it to simply go off and find others who more closely share my feelings and reactions and preferences with which to keep company instead?

Sharing deep emotional experiences with others is an intense bonding episode. As such, we want to be able to do it with people that we already love and want to feel even closer to. There is usually nothing wrong with forming new attachments to others who share our passions, but that does not address our need to bond more closely with those who do not share a particular enjoyment that brings us deep inspiration. How am I to relate to this?

I believe there is much more here than what I can see right now. However, there is a factor embedded in here that I have not explored very much yet. It is the unconscious expectation that we can receive something life-giving, something that will transmit into our souls that spark of energy and vitality that we are all designed to long for and desire and seek. I don't think that most people are even aware of this desire very much at the conscious level but it is ever-present in all of our lives.

This inner drive to find and increase our sense of aliveness is displayed in nearly every aspect of our lives, and I believe it is revealed in some respects that many find shocking. I believe that many of the behaviors that most people find reprehensible in the lives of others are simply attempts to get life through illegitimate means. This intense desire to increase our sense of aliveness is really condensed well in the word “lust”. I realize that this word is typically associated with sexual issues, but in fact its primary meaning is an intense desire to have something – anything – immediately. I have written about this before and have discovered very enlightening statements that help me to understand it better.

Lust, like pretty much everything else in this distorted world, is a counterfeit of something very genuine and healthy that God designed into our original creation. We are supposed to desire life with intensity and long for life-giving things. God designed the whole universe in such a way that all things are supposed to work together for the good of everything else and everyone else when synchronizing properly under the natural and moral laws under which they were created. Selfless love and service is the true economy of heaven and is what we are all designed to thrive within. Our needs are to be met by others and we are to give and serve others in joyful, self-forgetting love and with passion.

All of this activity and joy was designed to be coordinated by the original Designer who alone is the original Source of the life that flows from one being to another, from one part of creation to the rest. But it all works effectively and flawlessly only when those involved recognize that God is the loving Source of all life and everything and everyone else are simply intermediate channels through which the life of God is to flow. Whenever we allow our spirit or mind to think that the object, experience or person is a source of life for us without believing and living in the greater context of ultimate trust in the God who provided this resource for us, we will unwittingly in our hearts create a god of the thing from which we are trying to extract life for ourselves.

Whenever a person thinks that they can feel more alive by hurting another person, in reality they are trying to extract the essence of aliveness from that person to make themselves feel more powerful or more alive. Whenever a person shames others it is really an attempt to feel more valuable themselves by contrast. Whenever a person uses deception, force or manipulation to take advantage of others, be it financially, socially, sexually or emotionally, they are trying to satisfy a deep hunger to find a source of life that may make them feel better inside if even only for a few moments.

All of these choices and activities are rooted in beliefs deep inside the person that are counterfeits of true principles by which we were designed to live and to enjoy life. Our dysfunctions are driven by lie-based thinking that feels and seems very true and reliable to us. Deception never feels like it is false but feels very true and reliable until enough light of truth is allowed into our souls to expose the counterfeit beliefs that we have trusted in for most of our life. Most people really do not realize how many false ideas they have about how to feel more alive, they just follow their feelings or formulas depending on whether their nature is bent toward right brain deceptions or left brain deceptions.

So how does this apply to my first example of wanting to have a closer bonding experience of sharing my deep emotional appreciation of a favorite piece of music with a friend who thinks it is long past its prime? I think it is very helpful and enlightening for me to remind myself that the music and the musicians who perform it are only channels of life and not sources of life for me. When I remind my heart that the intense enjoyment that I feel when I listen with my heart wide open to the words and the deeply enriching music that so fills my spirit with unspeakable passion, that the music itself can never be trusted or relied upon to be a genuine source of real life for me no matter how much my intense feelings tell me to the contrary. If I insist on looking past the music (or even through it) to the God who originally inspired that music and musician to convey to me a very tiny part of the much greater passion and love that He has in store for me by means of many other sources, then I will not have my heart attached to the music itself but will direct it to be more attached and bonded by this experience to the Real Source, the only reliable Source of all life.

I don't believe this is just an incidental concept that is just a piece of nice theology. I believe that it is a fundamental and crucial truth that needs to be far more clear in my heart in relationship to everything that causes me to feel alive. I was created to enjoy life, to pursue life, to desire life and love and joy. There is nothing wrong with those desires, but I must be aware of the subtle counterfeits that are constantly trying to deceive me into believing that they can provide me life and invite me to, in essence worship the channels in place of God. For worship is what we all do all the time. Worship is the very act of looking to anything or anyone as a source of making us feel more alive, more happy or more valuable. As soon as we fail to see God behind every source of life He has provided for us and look to the person, object or activity itself as our source, then we have entered into the arena of worshiping false gods. And this is something we do far more than any of us realize. A famous theologian centuries ago got himself in a lot of hot water when he declared that every man who went into a house of prostitution was really looking for God. But he was really trying to articulate this very point.

In the situation with my close friend I ponder how I might relate to our difference of feelings. I want to share a deep bonding experience of mutual, intense enjoyment of something that makes me feel very alive together with them. That person has very different feelings about that song and cannot bring themselves to appreciate and share my experience. I have to choose to let go of that particular desire and leave it for some other time or with another person who is more in tune with my emotions. But I can also pray for the synchronization of God's Spirit to bring my heart and my friend's heart into closer unity through some other channels that are better suited to knit our hearts together. I need to keep a loose hold on the things that I feel strongly about and seek to find what is nourishing to the soul and heart of my friends (and even enemies). I can ask God to use me to be a channel of life-giving energy in some way that meets some empty part of other people's hearts in ways that are more enriching and satisfying to them.

God, keep my heart open to the channels you have for us that we often ignore or overlook. Your deepest desire is to impart real life into our hearts and lives and souls and bodies. Help me to be more aware of the ways and means that you have to channel life into me and transform me today into a more open channel of blessing to others. Fill me with Your grace, Your compassion, Your perspective of everyone I touch today. Cleanse me of the lies and the false gods that so fill my imagination with false promises of life. Make me real, alive and thriving in the strength of Your joy.