Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Life Coaching a Dead Atheist

A couple of years ago, I wrote an essay.  .  I entitled it "Life Coaching a Dead Objectivist".  It obviously didn't win anything, but it was fun writing and learning more about the life of Ayn Rand.  Even though she was an atheist in mortal life, she has changed many of her perceptions now that she is on the other side of the veil.  She still is working through her issues and wants people to "get" her.  I changed the name of the essay to….

Life Coaching a Dead Atheist

            What's up for you, today, Ayn? What is your intention in seeking Life Coaching?
            I am looking for assistance with my depression.  It's not logical that I should be depressed. I have written bestselling books. I have enough income.  I am a distinguished speaker and author.  I have a devoted, handsome husband. I have a following of thousands of fans.
            And you are depressed because….?
            I am getting criticism from all over.  They just do not GET it.  They are being irrational.  I spent years of my life writing the perfect fictional vehicle for my beliefs. There should be no conflicts of interest among rational people! Why am I surrounded by irrationality?  Where IS Reason? Why do they desire the unearned?  I do not make sacrifices, nor do I accept them. People do not even notice my best qualities and I am resented for them.  I am accused of being jealous, possessive, having no empathy. I am forced to be angry.
            Let's begin with your anger.  What specifically triggers your anger?
            Just about everything.  It is necessary.  Outsized passion is required to further my work.
            What was the most recent event that angered or upset you?
            I was betrayed by one of my closest friends.  I trusted him.  He was my intellectual heir.  He is immoral, irrational, a coward.  He exploited me.  He rejected me as a person.
            What emotions did you feel?
            Don't ask about emotions.  Reason trumps emotions. I am reasonable, but anger prevailed.  Ask me what I think.  
            Relationships are our greatest teachers.  People show up to give us the experience we are holding within. See if you can tell me what you think without quoting from your books. See if you can put a label on these emotions that seem to be defying reason. They exist. Acknowledge them.
            I have been taught that feelings are inconvenient, irrational, self-contained sensations that need to be controlled and hidden at all cost. They do not provide knowledge;  however, they do exist, so, I will acknowledge them-- Anger, Betrayal, Frustration, Grief, Despair.
            When you feel this way, What does this mean about YOU?
            What do you mean, ME?  It's THEIR fault.  They are irrational and unreasonable and wrong.
            Then why is it raising such emotion and reaction in YOU?  Consider the possibility that when you blame someone or get angry at them, THEY have the power.
            That's not possible. Wait a minute…that IS possible. 
            Think about it. Grudges keep us from moving forward.  Bitterness is the biggest barrier that exists to joy and getting what we want from life. Consciously releasing resentment assists us in moving forward in areas where we were previously stuck. Holding that grudge and anger--how is it working for you in terms of bringing you happiness?
            Well, I guess it's not.
            Again, what do you take it to mean about YOU?  Looking for an "I am" statement.  What is your perception or the underlying message you are receiving about yourself? It is referred to as a "deceptive identity" because it is a false sense of self that we pick up at a very young age.  It's a belief that feels like the truth of who we are.  For example, "I am unimportant, wrong, a mistake, unlovable".  These false perceptions become our reality.  They take us further from feeling love and joy.  They create patterns of self-sabotage, addictions and coping mechanisms to deal with the pain. See if any of these words strike a chord… I am… second best, unimportant, powerless, invisible…
            Invisible, yes, invisible.   Will I ever be truly visible to anyone?  No one really SEES me.  Even my fans do not. Sometimes, my fans disappoint and depress me worse than my enemies.
            And why is that?
            They should know better.  They have read my works.  They SHOULD get it!
            When you are in this belief that you are invisible, how does it affect you and your relationships?  How do you react?
            I get angry when things are not done exactly as I want. My relationships suffer.  I have few, if any friends. I am addicted to amphetamines and smoking.  I must push and push so I can make a mark in the world, so I can be seen.
            How has this behavior served you?
            Things get done right and when things are done right, I feel safe and in control.
            Do you intimidate people into doing things your way?
            I do not think so. No….well, perhaps.
            Isn't that a form of force?
            No, they still have their own free will.
            What happens if they do not agree with you?
            I dismiss them.
            Do they sacrifice for you? Even if they agree with you, do they sacrifice?
             A sacrifice is the surrender of a great value for a lesser or non-value.  If they are rational and agree with me, of course there is no sacrifice.
            You keep using the word, "rational".  What does that mean?
            It is using reason; which is the only source of knowledge. Reason is our faculty that integrates the material provided by our senses.
            Knowing what you know, tap in to the rational truth.  Are you really invisible?
            Of course not.
            What would you rather have in your ideal life?
            I would rather be relaxed and happy. I want people to praise my novels. I would rather have people notice me because I have something worthy to say.  I would rather not have to manipulate and mold people into what I think they should be. I would rather be accepting of how things are done.
               I know you're not really into feelings, but again consider the possibility  you don't have to go out and discover your greatness or the love that you are.  You don't need to be praised and applauded.  All you need to do is peel back the beliefs that you are invisible and unworthy, kind of like peeling a dark, spotted banana and revealing the cream colored delicious fruit on the inside.  The first step is to be aware of these limiting beliefs.  We already identified one of your deceptive identities as being invisible. How often in your life have you felt invisible or unimportant?
            Pretty much all my life, way back to when I was a child.
            It can be helpful to go back to the first time you remember having those feelings.  It may be as a child around age three to five. Do you remember anything in particular?
            My mother always told me she never wanted children.  She lied to me and gave away my favorite toys.
            Pain is one of our greatest gifts in life because it encourages change.   A painful childhood can be a catalyst that carries into our adult life. Most of us don't like to change because it seems overwhelming and difficult, even when we realize we need it.  Change is necessary in order to move through pain. Those times in your life when you felt, second-best, powerless, unimportant, rejected, alone, are all within.  When you react to a current situation, the inner-child who felt that emotion is also triggered.  This is why sometimes we become upset or angry over what seem to be small incidents.
            I don't get upset over small incidents.  Everything is big, but yes, go on. This is beginning to make sense to me. 
              We are the creators of our lives.  We create circumstances for our own healing.  We attract people and situations to resolve the illusion of the limiting beliefs that have us stuck.  There are no victims, only volunteers. Instead of asking, "Why Me?", ask "What am I to learn from this?" Be an Actor, rather than a Victim. As an actor, you can create or find choices and options for yourself. Create your own moods. You are in charge of the way you react to the behavior of others and the events they create.  You have said you love to talk about what you THINK.  Become the observer of your thoughts. Take off the judgment. Destructive judgments of yourself and others are not relevant. Love yourself for being human.
            What do you mean by that?
            You are human.  That is, what is. You make mistakes. You encounter opposition and criticism. Be grateful for your troubles.  Put them into perspective.  You grow from them.  Look back on your life.  Would you have the success you have now obtained without the trouble and resistance you experienced?
            No, probably not.  I had never thought of it that way. I wonder why I haven't seen it before.  
            Gratitude is very powerful.   Express gratitude for everything as it was and is. No matter what negative thought crosses your mind, immediately plaster gratitude on it.  Practice gratitude instead of misery.  Search for everything, anything, just to put gratitude on it. It may move you out of your "comfort" zone, but just try it.  Another thing to notice is when your thoughts argue with reality.  Much suffering can arise when we believe a thought that argues with reality.
            Explain that.  Do you have an example?
            You have cats.  The fact is, cats do not bark. They purr and meow. Wanting the cat to bark is wanting the reality to be different than it is.  You could spend the rest of your life trying to teach your cat to bark, but it just would not happen.
            Yes, that is correct.
            A thought is harmless unless we believe it. It is the attachment to thoughts that causes suffering. Thoughts are like breezes or raindrops.  They appear and we can make friends with them.  Would you argue against a raindrop? Once a painful concept is met with understanding, the next time it appears, you may find it interesting.  What used to be the nightmare is now just interesting. When you put your hand into a fire, does someone have to tell you to move it?
            When the hand starts to burn, you move it. Once you understand that an untrue thought causes suffering, you move away from it. Let's go back to that wounded child who had her toys taken away.  Close your eyes and see the innocence in that child.
            Even back then, I was a thinker-- thinking ahead. When my mother said she would give back half the toys at the end of the year, I believed her.  I chose my favorite toys to save for later.  Little did I know she would give those away because she thought I would choose to keep my favorites. Even my mother didn't understand me.  I trusted my mother.  She betrayed me.
            Did she truly betray you?
            What was her intention?  Was it to hurt you?
            No….I don't think so. She thought we had too many toys. But, she still lied.
            Has there ever been a time in your life, when lying was justified?
            Possibly.  Honesty is a high and noble value EXCEPT when one is put in a position through the immorality of another, where truth would be damaging to one's own interests.
            Can you see that your mother was doing the best she knew how?  She thought that she was doing you a favor.  Repeat after me.  I forgive myself for thinking, feeling and believing that I was invisible and unimportant.  I was doing the best I knew how. I forgive my mother for giving away my favorite toys, for wanting me to be something I was not.  She was doing the best she knew how.
            I think she knew better.
            We won't judge that. Just repeat.  BE that child.
            How can that happen? How can I BE that child again?
            Just imagine it.  The mind is very powerful. You know that. You created in your mind some of the best stories ever written. BE that child. Once you are there, what is that child thinking and feeling? What does that child need right now?
            I am lost, alone, rejected, despondent.  I cannot trust even my parents.  I need to feel valuable, secure, loved, admired.
            If this scenario could have been better, what would that look like?
            What good would that do?  That's in the past.
            We are just projecting a story with our imagination. You are a master story teller. Happiness is a choice. To me, happiness is being at peace with ourselves wherever we are, who ever we are with, whatever we feel, whatever we are going through and whatever we have or lack. Could you choose to be happy right now?  Does it have to be based on future events? Does it depend on others to "make" us happy? Consider the possibility that one can be happy, no matter what the circumstances are. That is actually, the ultimate in reason and self preservation.  The ultimate in free choice. Have you ever been happy or joyful in your life ?
            Those closest I came to happiness was in 1942--the year I was writing The Fountainhead.  I spent all my time writing.  Frank and Nick prepared my meals.  It was mostly wonderful. But, I had to keep working.  I was driven, but somewhat… happy. Happiness should come from the consciousness of achieving one's values. Why am I not happy now? I do not know.
            What about peaceful?  What does Peace mean to you?
            Peace is absence of war.  Peace is having no conflicts of interest.…I cannot remember anything specific in my life that would be described as peaceful. I have always been around irrational people who create conflicts.
            Let's go back to that scenario from your childhood.  If you could change those emotions into happiness, what would it look like? Just imagine it. You can rewrite the story.
            I will keep ALL my toys to choose from.  I take some and put them in a special place.  I ask my mother to play with me and she gets down on her knees and laughs with me.  We laugh together.  My dad comes in the room and asks why we are laughing.  We giggle and I show my dad my lovely princess outfit with the long, flowing skirt and tiny crown to put atop my dark hair.  I twirl and dip and wink at him.  He lifts me up and hugs me. He is delighted and calls me beautiful. 
            Wow, I am there with you, Ayn.  Remember that feeling of love, acceptance and safety. Take a deep breath, take it into your heart…your whole body.  Now, If you could imagine the most beautiful, exquisite, safe place for you now, where would that be?
            Hmmmmm. Like Galt's Gulch.  The beautiful mountains of Colorado.
            Be even more specific.  Go to that special place…that cozy cabin, that fragrant meadow, that spectacular water fall…whatever appeals to you. The perfect, happy day…What would that look like for you in terms of images and colors?
            Teal blue sky, rugged gray-brown, snow capped mountains, green trees. I have never been a fan of nature, but somehow that is calling to me now.
            What would it taste like?
            Black coffee, freshly squeezed orange juice, dark Russian bread, Swiss cheese and oh, Swiss chocolates, the finest quality.
            What would it smell like?
            Pine, fir, birch and spruce trees.  Earth after rain.  Wildflowers.
            What would it feel like…that is, textures, not emotions?
            The hardness of typewriter or computer keyboard keys, my fingers flying across the keys.  The softness of a cat's fur. The feel of putting funny hats on my little stuffed lion cubs…
            What does it sound like?
            My music…my marches, my operettas, my waltzes.  I am conducting the orchestra. There is an orchestra just for me, here in Galt's Gulch.  I wave my arms.  The music envelopes me.  The audience thunderingly applauds me.  I have done well.  The music has touched us all.  I cannot believe I am talking like that.  Touching the heart…what a concept!  Perhaps I was mistaken in thinking that looking to emotions for knowledge is foolish.  All this time, Dagny has prized the lack of emotion in John Galt.  Wait a minute…I AM John Galt.  Wow.
            It IS an awesome book, you know…Atlas Shrugged.
            Have you read it?
            Yes, I have…twice.  It is rare for me to read a book twice. I enjoyed it and admired the creativity and story, especially the love story; but, truthfully, I skimmed over the philosophy parts, including that ponderously long speech of John Galt's.  For me, the power was in the story, the narrative and the characters….magnificent.
            Yesterday, I would have gotten angry at a statement like that. I would have dismissed the compliments.  I would have taken personal offense at my speech being skimmed over.  After all, it took me a good eighteen months to perfect.  But, now….that's okay, too.

(Thanks to Sandra Baker for being MY life coach and my mentor.  Thanks to my son Caleb for encouraging me to delve into the life of Ayn Rand as I read and edited his book, Philosophy of Freedom.)

1.     Rand, Ayn. Atlas Shrugged (New York: Signet, 1957).
2.     Heller, Anne C. Ayn Rand and The World She Made, (New York, Doubleday, 2009)
3.     Branden, Barbara. The Passion of Ayn Rand ( New York, Anchor Books, 1986).
4.     Harriman, David, ed. Journals of Ayn Rand (New York, Penguin, 1999).
5.     Katie, Byron. Loving What Is (Three Rivers Press, 2003)
6.     Baker, Sandra Weller. Awaken Within Life Coaching (unpublished notes, Highland, Utah, 2011)
7.     Rand, Ayn. The Virtue of Selfishness (New York: Signet, 1964).

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