Being Human: A Catalog of Insights

At the heart of all sacred traditions is the idea of people getting along together in harmony. The Hawaiians know that it's all about aloha. And the Christians know it's all about love. And the Buddhists know it's all about peace. And so on through all the great ancient spiritual teachings. They are directed towards cultivating caring companionship for people with one another--the kind of human relating that involves compassion, understanding, fairness, competence (mastery), and altruism . . . or, love, instead of selfish manipulations that hurt other people into doing what we want them to do. This non-manipulative relating is a kind of companionship that we are capable of as humans. Yet, it is rather rare.

The traditional spiritual teachings ask us to suspend the sides of our selves that bring conflict, war, mistreatment, taking advantage, selfishness, insensitivity, and cruelty into the lives of other people, and to supplant this wounding way of life with something better that is already inside and available to us--an inner essence of strengths and qualities that we are born with. These essential strengths are what we can have going for us in seeking to find happiness in life, instead of relying so often on those wounding manipulations.

And the ancient traditions even tell us how to go about this. Their teachers are saying: "be awake," "be alert," "be mindful," "be watchful," have "the presence" of mind, to simply see what there is to see . . . and "repent," as some would put it (that is, lean towards another direction); and "be free," as others put it (that is, let go of the side that brings conflict, in order to dwell in the "liberation," "deliverance," "salvation," of the side that can love and live in peace).

This secular study1 shows those two sides of any ordinary human being of today, in high relief--the side that is driven to seek selfish advantage over others, called the "personality" here, and the altruistic and masterful side, called the "essence." The elements that are described in the wheels presented here are easily seen in the daily lives of every person in any group of people--family, business operation, team, club, circle of friends, society. We are all doing some of these behaviors every day. In any social circles, the eight types described here will be frequently and even constantly visible to those who have learned the types by heart.

By recognizing these types in our own selves, we can see our manipulative side in clear highlight, and recognize at the same time the best of what we've got going for us in our peacemaking side. And by recognizing these types in others, we can also understand the best that is in them--underneath their manipulating--in the essence of what they have been born with that is peacemaking, as well.

All of us--if we wish to--can learn to lighten up a little bit in the manipulations we do to other people. They hurt. And (obedient to Newton's Law) they only get other people manipulating us back, anyway, to the same intensity as we have manipulated them!--although perhaps with some lag time. And so it goes with people, without their even knowing it, that they are often manipulating each other, back and forth, nearly every time they meet, and even when they talk on the telephone and write each other letters. And all this largely ignored manipulating hurts. It creates incalculable pain in the lives of our families, associates, friends, and acquaintances.

For there to be a change in this ordinary pattern of manipulative life, people would have to learn to "wake up," "be mindful," "pay attention," "be aware" of it. Yet it all goes on every day, passing by "without us," so to speak.

Most people don't even know what manipulations look and sound like. They don't know how to recognize them. They aren't sure when they are being manipulated by other people--except there is always an uncomfortable or painful feeling when that is going on. And they usually aren't aware of it when they are manipulating other people, either--although, again, this is always accompanied by discomfort and even hurts within. Mitsuo Aoki, my principal teacher, pointed out: "The first thing that happens when you judge another person is that you get an uncomfortable feeling in your own body."2 And any of us--if we're interested--can learn not to be subject to the painful manipulations of other people, as well, when we have the presence of mind to see how we're being manipulated by them, and recognize that it's happening.

It is only a question of learning what these manipulations look like and sound like, so that we can spot them--both in ourselves and other people--when they are going on. The personality and essence wheel is a tool for being able to do that. It takes study. And it takes practice in live situations. Yet, anyone who would like to use this tool to harmonize their relationships with any other people, can do so if they will practice playing the simple game that I call "the awareness game" that is explained here below in Supplemental Coaching.

This game consists in waking up and recognizing your own manipulations when they are happening, and dropping them. Then the natural strengths and qualities of the essence that you were born with can show through, and be put into play. Next, this game involves recognizing other people's manipulations, and learning to step aside from them--just let their manipulations pass right on through without "gaining purchase" on your body.

And finally, this game invites being alert enough to say whatever you have to say to other people (particularly in tense situations) by using "authentic non-manipulative communications." This is illustrated at the end of the wheelbook. By taking these three steps in playing the awareness game, you can improve communications and understanding with any other person that you'd like. These steps will enable you to be who you really are authentically (i.e. underneath your manipulations) and to honestly play, on purpose, for peace and companionship with other people.

Most people would like to have more harmonious relationships with at least some of the people that they know, yet they may not know what to do, exactly, when they are standing right there with them, that might achieve that. It probably doesn't occur to them that dropping their own manipulations would be a solid step in the right direction. And they may not be able to pin down exactly how the other person is manipulating them and--as they see it--making them feel bad. They may not know exactly what they can say (other than manipulating) that will actually enhance communication and understanding, on the spot, and cultivate a spirit of harmony and companionship with the other person at that very moment.

This information is what this catalog of insights provides. And it points out these elements of ordinary human behavior in high relief in the passing life that is going on within you and around you every day. The wheelbook--which can be "read through like a novel"--shows you clear and easily recognizeable examples of the manipulations that people do. You may hear the phrases that are shown here, or variations of them, from the people you see and know at any time, as well as in your own thinking and the sound of your own voice. And the awareness game shows you, as well, what you can do about it, if you'd like.

I wish you all the best, in the use of these insights. They will only have value when you see them on your own. And if you can learn to use what you find in the personality and essence wheel for harmony and understanding, instead of for taking advantage, then you will come to appreciate the full value of the strengths and qualities that lie within you in the essence of who you are.

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©1999 Teaching Tools For Mindfulness Training