Spiritual Insight from Eckhart Tolle's Stillness Speaks
A question was asked recently that raises an important topic. Probably many have this same question. The reader writes:
What happens when someone you trusted and loved dearly betrays that trust with years of lies and deceit?
You say it’s the ego that makes up stories and causes conflict, but isn’t it actually the other person’s deception that has caused the conflict? How do you deal with these people and not have an underlying judgment toward that person based on the facts of their past behavior?
To forgive someone is one thing, but to say that my ego is responsible for my inner turmoil and my inability to see beyond another’s egoic behavior is something I just do not understand. There are truly times when the facts about someone are legitimate and not created by someone’s out-of-control thoughts. How do you deal with situations like this without losing yourself?
At the heart of this issue isn’t what the other person does, but whether we react to it emotionally, telling ourselves a story of victimhood, or respond to it constructively by figuring out where we want to go from here.
No one has the power to make us miserable. We may be sad that someone chose a particular course, but that doesn’t have to lessen our inherent joy. We can experience the joy of being, and simultaneously experience sadness about what has happened.
What someone else does have the ability to do is to trigger any residual pain that’s already in us, left over from growing up and reinforced by events since—what Eckhart Tolle calls the pain-body, and Michael Brown in The Presence Process (now in audio for instant download) calls our emotional charge.
What about when someone has an affair, as with a number of well-known people recently? No doubt we feel betrayed. But who actually got betrayed?
Dr David Schnarch, in his book Constructing the Sexual Crucible, shows that the individual betrayed themselves. That’s the real betrayal: their own integrity.
Dr Schnarch points out that if we believe the other person was out to get us, to make us hurt, why are we obliging them by making it about us?
It isn’t about us, it’s about them.
Our choice is to either react or to respond. Reaction is driven by the story we tell ourselves based on past hurt—the pain-body. Response is a choice we make that enables us to become more truly ourselves and more fully differentiated.
If we don’t go into a “poor me, look what life has done to me now” frame of mind, telling ourselves a sad story about what has befallen us, a situation like this can actually be the springboard to honesty, authenticity, increased differentiation, and even meaningful connection. It can also be a reason to move on, if that's what we choose in freedom, not as an emotional reaction.
A "crash in the desert" of this kind has awoken many of us to a deeper level of reality, in which we have at last found our true being, as the Namaste audio book Lessons in Loving: A Journey into the Heart shows, drawing on the classic story of The Little Prince.
The point is, we get to choose. What we choose—what we tell ourselves—makes all the difference.
*Editor's note: The Compassionate Eye appears several days a week. Eckhart Tolle's second book, Stillness Speaks, which followed The Power of Now and preceded A New Earth, is available in hardback and also on CD. To go more deeply into living in the present moment in an ongoing state of consciousness, especially as it relates to being true to ourselves in our relationships with others, join us in the daily blog Consciousness Rising.