During the past couple of weeks several readers have asked me: “What’s so new about this ‘occurring’ distinction?  Haven’t you been saying for years that our beliefs and conditionings determine our behavior and emotions?”

Yes and no.  I have said that our specific behavior and emotions are caused primarily by our beliefs and conditionings.  But how things occur for us is a different phenomenon.  It is a new meaning for the reality we are observing that we create on the spot, even though the meaning is determined largely by our existing beliefs and conditionings.

This distinction is important because how things occur for us has a significant impact on how we view and deal with the world, apart from the influence of old beliefs and conditionings.

Consider that most specific behaviors and emotions are caused by a relatively small number of beliefs and conditionings.  For example, procrastination and social anxiety are caused by about 16, fear of rejection by about nine, and worrying about what others think of us by about 10. Even the most complex issues like eating problems and chronic depression usually are caused by less than 50.

On the other hand, the way we interact with reality on a moment by moment basis is  largely a function of how it occurs for us (the meaning we create on a moment by moment basis), which is a function of several factors, the most important of which seems to be all of our beliefs and conditionings.

To change any specific behavior or emotion, you have to eliminate the beliefs and conditionings that cause it.  That’s relatively easy. To change how we view and deal with reality in the broadest sense, we have to change how reality occurs for us on a moment by moment basis, which is the result of several factors: Beliefs and conditionings formed by our personal experiences and by being a part of specific organizations and cultures.  (I mentioned this latter source of beliefs in last week’s post and gave a few examples.)

Our Stage of Development

In addition, there is one other important factor that determines what meaning you are likely to give reality: The developmental stage you are at in life. There are a number of developmental theorists who agree that societies and individuals necessarily pass through various developmental stages, during which they view the world very differently.  (See almost any book by Ken Wilber or Spiral Dynamics by Don Beck and Christopher Cowan.)

For example people in the “mythic” or “traditional” stage view the world though a filter of traditional values and faith. They believe there is only one “right way”: that of their community in most cases.  Their beliefs are based on faith.  Most religious fundamentalists are in this stage of development.

A second stage is frequently called “modern” and is characterized by reason supported by evidence.  As a result this stage produces science and led to the industrial revolution.  Here problems are solved using reason and gathering evidence. Important values for this stage include autonomy, independence, and success.  A person with this viewpoint requires evidence before believing something.  Most scientists and businesspeople are in this stage.

A third stage, which really came into its own in the 1960s in America, is “pluralistic” or “post-modern,” and calls for equal rights regardless of gender, sexual preference, skin color, etc.  It also places importance on spirituality (as distinct from religion) and environmental sustainability. Its values include community, consensus, and equality for all. A person in this stage sees values in all perspectives and ideas, and hates hierarchy of all types. Most people in the “personal growth” movement are in this stage.

Everything else being equal, “reality” will occur very differently for people living in the traditional, modern, or post-modern stage of development.  The stage you are at determines to a great extent how you think about things, not what you think about. This, by the way, is why the same political issues can occur so differently and lead to such violent disagreement for the “religious right,” “business Republicans,” and “liberal Democrats.”  Everything from how to deal with the economy and the environment, to health care and gay rights, occurs differently for people in each of these three stages of development.  (Obviously when someone is at a given stage not all of his responses come from that stage.  It just means that over half of his behaviors are consistent with this stage.)

Two Theories On Manifesting

Here are two basic possibilities about how to get what you want in the world.

1.  You intend for something to happen, you imagine it as already having happened without any doubts, you infuse the imagined outcome with great emotion, and then you act as opportunities occur … and all of that attracts the desired outcome to you.  This (or some variation of this) is called the Law of Attraction.  (Maybe this works, maybe it doesn’t.  I’ve seen a lot of evidence for and against it. I’ve gone back and forth, and haven’t made up my mind yet. I don’t think that you, as a creation, can consistently “create” anything in reality, such as relationships or money.  It may be possible for you, as the creator/consciousness, to do so.)

2.  Your personal beliefs and conditionings, your organizational and cultural beliefs, and your stage of development determine how things occur for you, which determines how you view and interact with the world. Then you can distinguish yourself as the creator of what is occurring for you, which enables you to change the meaning.  That, in turn, enables you to really live in the present, intending but unattached from the outcome. That enables you to create possibilities and/or notice possibilities that others might not see, after which you do whatever it takes to take advantage of those possibilities to make sure that you attain the desired outcome.

If the latter is an accurate account of what determines what manifests in our lives, then the first thing we should do to help us “manifest in the world” is to eliminate all the beliefs we have that are inconsistent with what we want.   Then, be conscious of how the world is occurring for you and realize you have created it that way; it isn’t really that way.  This will increase your ability to live in the present, opening up new possibilities you can act on.

My ideas on this topic are still in a state of flux, but I am getting clearer each week on the importance of how things occur for us, what determines how things occur for us, and how to change how things occur for us. Please keep posting your comments below.  I love our discussion.

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