Identify your guiding virtues

He argued that if someone is not at peace with themselves, virtuous in their habits, attitudes and passions, and honestly conscious of their own self-worth to such an extent that they can get over themselves, they will not be able to befriend themselves, let alone another. I consider their commitment, their track record of success, and how much social interaction and self-control their change requires. Emily presented with four factors, not all of them working to her advantage: This is good. When we advertise our desire to change, we are openly risking failure, putting our reputation and self-respect on the line. It’s the difference between betting on ourselves with hard-earned cash and settling for a friendly no-money wager. Losing weight targets solo rather than interpersonal behavior. When we decide, for example, to be a better listener, our success requires the participation of other people. We have to display our new behavior consistently so that people recognize we’re listening more than we’re talking. We can’t claim we’re a better listener; others must claim it for us. No! Don’t want it! Not safe! The response is automatic–mediated by deep body memory. There is no sense of some earlier trauma being recalled. Let’s be clear here: There is no Well, I had a tough experience with intimacy before, so I’d best be careful here. No, it’s all automatic. Unconscious. These transactions happen outside of awareness.

With these body reactions, there is no sense of time–of then and now. Christina so wished to be rid of the sense of meaningfulness that oversaturated her interactions with Michael–the very meaning of which made no sense. She’d also turned to therapeutic articles on love addiction, hoping she might recognize herself in their articles. Christina felt powerless over her longings, and the addiction paradigm could perhaps explain why. She had struggled earlier in her life with the seductive lure of drinking, and she could well imagine that her thoughts of Michael offered a similarly self-destructive form of escape. But again, she was disappointed. Love addicts obsessively focused on partners who couldn’t love them back. Christina had no such pattern. She wasn’t repetitively attracted to withholding, love avoidant men, and she didn’t habitually look to love as a drug that temporarily allowed her to avoid her problems or blur healthy boundaries or shun adult responsibility or feelings of emptiness. She could not reasonably slot herself into any love-addict type or pattern. In the midst of her recitation, she blurted to me, I have this image of Michael confiding his marital troubles to me, and I can’t get it out of my mind. He is surely right. The rarity of soul friendship does not imply that connection and belonging may not be found in other more common relationships, just that they are not necessarily of the same quality. For example, many find a tremendous sense of belonging in a partner, others in their families, both representing profound bonds: husbands and wives, boyfriends and girlfriends share a jealous love, and family ties can arguably never be wholly eradicated. The point is that they are not necessarily bonds of friendship – indeed, they may be exploitative or oppressive. To put it another way, friendship is not the fundamental human relationship, though any acquaintance, partnership, association, marriage or relationship of blood or love may be friendly, to greater or less degrees. Rather, friendship is something that may grow from them, on occasion perhaps to share features of the closest friendships. So circumstance and timing were necessary conditions for the birth of their friendship. But that is true of any friendship: it is not a sufficient condition for the depth of the soul friendship that subsequently emerged. So another element to add to the alchemy that made their friendship exceptional is not just that they lived in exceptional times but also that they were exceptional individuals: as human beings they met the conditions for close friendship that Aristotle identified.

A combination of historic circumstances, good timing and human character is, then, what makes for soul friendship. Emily was in a different situation. She’d be losing weight on her own, grading herself, not being graded by others. If she faltered, she’d only disappoint herself. She was working in isolation, which meant she had total control over her destiny. All things considered, going solo had to work to her advantage. Emily wasn’t doing herself any favors working at Whole Foods. Not only was she spending her workdays in a food emporium of abundance and temptation, but she was also put in charge of the cheese department. Like an alcoholic working at a brewery, she wasn’t in the most conducive environment for promoting weight loss. Emily presented a success profile I’m not accustomed to. Unlike my business clients, she didn’t have a lengthy track record of achievement and overcoming challenges. It is all happening now, just as it did before, but without any perspective, any subjective sense of recall. It just is the way things are. Explicit memory is quite different. It is a later and more mature form of memory, not present until the second year of life. It has none of the qualities of automaticity and unconsciousness characteristic of implicit memory. Explicit memory is true autobiographical memory, which involves conscious awareness of the events being recalled, and includes a subjective sense of time and self. For example, Oh! I remember precisely how it felt that day at the beach when I was four years old–sitting with my mother, playing in the sand, and feeling the warmth of her presence next to me. Yes, I recall exactly how it felt.

This was one of my first experiences of being alone in the presence of another. I saw firsthand the unnerving intrusiveness of her thoughts, the way they broke through her normal consciousness, and the effort it took to counter them. She continued miserably, I see us on a park bench, and we’re both telling each other what we’re going through. We’re understanding each other, and feeling so close. Despite her earnest attempts to insist on its senselessness, her episode starkly revealed the tortured logic of the love triangle. I had the thought that lovesick yearning almost invariably involves both love and exclusion. These exquisite doomed loves noisily leave other people out. Demoralized in her search for intellectual understanding, Christina tried to exert more self-discipline. She plunged into the widening pool of willpower articles, which helped her fend off ego depletion (people’s diminished capacity to regulate their thoughts, feelings, and actions) by getting enough sleep and eating at regular intervals. Exercise also helped. But she found that even the willpower experts didn’t claim that you could actually change your emotions through willpower. Others aim at the petty benefits of friendship; they are cherry-pickers in the business of friendship, going for the quick wins and low-hanging fruit, rather than waiting for the deeper friendship thatmany summers and many winters must ripen’. In a similarly horticultural vein, Emerson notes that it is only natural to want to pick the beautiful flowers thrown up by the majority of friendships, and to hope that the wiry roots buried in the damp, dark soil of another’s character, soul or mind do not come with them. Nature provides another way of analysing this predicament:Is it not that the soul puts forth friends as the tree puts forth leaves, and presently, by the germination of new buds, extrudes the old leaf? Rotation is a law of human relationships as much as a law of nature. What is the problem with friendship? Why is it in general so readily altered and so rarely simply true? The fundamental reason is again familiar from Nietzsche: Every man alone is sincere.

At the entrance of a second person, hypocrisy begins. She was young, just starting her professional life, and in fact, had already failed several times at weight loss. That’s a significant disadvantage compared to successful businesspeople. To them, taking on challenges and succeeding is like exercising a muscle. The more you use it, the stronger it gets – which instills confidence that success will happen in any situation. When I first worked with Alan Mulally in 2001, he was running the commercial aviation division of Boeing. He patiently listened as I outlined my approach. I get it, he said. This is a replicable process. Well, there’s more to it than that, I started to say. Alan chuckled. I remember it with a flood of emotions. It’s present now, but I remember that it happened before. There is a sense of time here. Of sequence. Of cause and effect. As I have said, true autobiographical memory develops more completely during the second year of a child’s life, when he develops a kind of cognitive mapper. This mapper allows him to recall the order in which events in the world occur, and allows the child to develop a sense of time and of sequence. This cognitive mapper helps us to identify context and to create a multidimensional sense of a self existing in the world across time. This cognitive mapper develops rapidly.

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