“I” Is Habit
Video = none
Please Note that in the beginning, we did not number the talks, hence the first 12 ‘numbers’ have subsections as best we could guess. If you have feedback, let us know.
Audio = Stream or Download the series of talks below:
AKS/News Items = none
Summary = pending
Diagrams = None
Transcript = See Below
“I” IS HABIT
Document: 1, December 11, 1981
Copyright(c) Jan M. Cox, 1981
Nothing you have ever been exposed to in Life can be mixed in with This. In the beginning, you can’t stop your automatic comparisons and associations any more than you can completely stop your own mental processes. So in the beginning, it is a matter of remembering that Life produces nothing comparable to, or compatible with, This. Even when you’re away from here, you can’t take my descriptions and maps and begin to improvise on them. “Well, I should be chanting a secret word,” or “I’ll mix this prayer in; since it seems so close to the method he described, maybe I’ll get a double-barreled benefit.”
Such ideas are enticing. But all you get is additional food for your imagination. Just do — attempt to do — exactly what I say, exactly the way I have described it. That’s part of the reason and necessity for having me here — for having someone who understands the Aim and the methods. It’s part of the reason for my describing all this in such detail, in so many ways. It is to help counteract that all-encompassing human habit of believing that you know exactly what’s going on with everything. The process of association is almost uncontrollable — at Line-Level it is uncontrollable. Everything you hear, you compare to what is already there — to the already activated part of your consciousness. And it all becomes a mish-mash; that natural process of association yields you nothing new.
Someone mentioned to me that when they are here, on meeting nights, they seem to feel “irrationally happy.” And I’ll use that comment to point you toward something. It is built into humanity to suffer over this feeling of irrational happiness. Everyone has a piece of it; it’s much worse in some of you, because of the particular type you are, but all of you should be able to Hear this. Everyone suffers over being irrationally happy. These may not be the words you would use, but it’s the feeling that — for no reason whatsoever — you suddenly get up one morning, and it’s almost as though you’re on dope. You feel good, for no particular reason.
It is part of the shoe-leather of Line-Level consciousness to feel that, because you feel so good, something is terribly wrong. It’s the almost tangible sensation that “I’m being set up. Fate, the gods — whoever — somebody doped my drinking water or hypnotized me during the night. There’s no reason to be so happy.” And right on the heels of that comes “I’m about to pay for this. What’s the catch here?”
I’ll assume that all of you Heard a piece of that. It’s the feeling of unaccountable happiness, and then the process of negative anticipation that, “Something bad’s about to happen. This just can’t continue. I know I’ll walk outside and find that a meteor has fallen on my new car and ruined the rose garden. I’ll probably get a phone call and find out my entire family has died from the oak plague.” Everyone has moments of such happiness, but you should also recognize that they are always accompanied by some kind of dark cloud, some vague feeling that such happiness is simply not right. Would my fictitious, reasonably insane man not have realized this for himself, and would he not have noted to himself, “This is indeed very peculiar”?
I’ll suggest to you that this is part of the intrigue of recreational drugs and alcohol: with certain types of people, it brings on a kind of forced happiness. But it’s a bought-and-paid-for happiness: you give the man four dollars for a pint; you drink it and suddenly it’s, “Hello! I do feel a bit better.” You laugh, you wink at someone, you sing out loud. But it’s a paid-for happiness. You’ve already paid your money, and you know you’ll pay later, with your hangover. So it almost doesn’t count; it’s not real.
But the kind of happiness that just seems to overcome you — you open the window and look outside, and just smile — is always accompanied by the feeling that something is definitely wrong. Would all this not have given my fictitious, reasonably insane man cause to ponder and ask himself, “Why is it so natural to suffer? I have these moments of unforced, irrational happiness, and they’re frightening. It’s very disturbing: it’s either a trick, or I’m losing my mind, or something terrible is about to happen. I can’t seem to have one without the other.”
Someone recently asked me about male-female roles: the thrust of their observation was that there are no such definite roles, but only those which one imagines. They continued by surmising that what we call male and female roles are only habit.
There is a difference between men and women. This difference is changing, and one of the absolute proofs of the change is the women now involved with This Thing. If I could play with justice and take us back a generation or two, there would be no women here. Your mothers would never have been interested in This. Things are changing. But the male-female role is not simply a habit. Of course, everyone’s personality is nothing but a habit: everything below the Line is a habit. And one’s role extends into what we could call a sex role. There’s nothing particularly astounding about that, per se; what is of great interest eventually is the power that particular role has, because of the power sex has.
Everyone has particular roles, and they exist within you in a separate, compartmentalized fashion. A man can claim, with all apparent sincerity: “I am faithful to my marriage vows; I consider the institution of marriage to be holy, and although it may take a struggle in this day and time of loose morality, I hold my marriage vows to be sacred.” It’s the same man two hours later in a bar, who will try to get the waitress’ phone number. But he can explain it away, because the two can’t meet and he can’t see it. If you confronted him with his proclamation about the sacredness of his marriage vows, he’d take another drink and say, “Well, that’s true, but I’m not a fanatic.”
Everyone’s got a story. And the point of all the stories is that two states of engagement cannot co-exist in you. Our hypothetical man was fairly well engaged when he was speaking of his marriage — he speaks with passion and conviction: it is one of his roles. But we move the scenario to the bar, two hours later, and now he’s engaged with the waitress and her skimpy outfit. Intellectually, you may be able to talk to him; you may be able to remind him of his spiel about his marriage vows, and he’d say, “Yeah, yeah.” He can’t see it. He is one state of engagement at a time, he is only one role at a time, and two conflicting roles will never meet in an ordinary person. If they did meet, he’d faint. Maybe a little smoke would come out his ears, and he’d just fall over. He literally, physically, cannot be engaged in two opposing ways. It’s always one at a time.
One aspect of Line-Level consciousness is the particular roles you play. And such roles become most apparent and observable when two roles overlap somewhere. Under ordinary conditions, that can be very upsetting. Let’s take the example of a man and woman living together. They get up in the morning, and his initial role for the day is that of husband and lover. They have breakfast, they talk of this and that, and then he gets in the car to go to work. Let’s say he’s in a carpool, and the other people in the pool don’t work with him. The only time he sees these people is every morning for forty-five minutes in the car. So he gets in the car, and his role changes slightly. The other four people all work together, they know each other, and he finds he must accommodate his role to them; he must be reasonably agreeable and, for forty-five minutes, talks about a business in which he has no interest or knowledge. His role has to change a bit to fit in. So we could call this — this time he spends in the car each morning with four other people with whom he has no other connection — a little sub-role.
The next major role shift from husband/lover occurs when he gets to his job each day, to his office where he fits right in. Let’s say he’s been in this job for years; he’s got his place, his own office, his name on the desk. It is a separate role, and so completely distinct from that of husband and lover that if by chance the two should overlap, it throws him into a momentary shock. At the office, he has an established routine; the same people have been working there for ten years, and he travels the same routes every day: back and forth to the coffee machine, stopping to talk to someone about football, stopping to talk to a secretary, kidding her about wearing see-through blouses. It is the same routine each day, and it always happens in the same way. It is his role, here at the office.
Let’s say that one day, for the first time in the ten years he’s been working there, his wife pops in the door. And there he is, deep in his office role, leaning on the desk, kidding the secretary about the blouse. Right in the middle of a sentence: “There’s a new motel down the street showing X-rated…” he turns and there stands his wife. This has happened to all of you. You may not have much memory of it, but it has happened. You turn around — and I’m not talking about fear or embarrassment in the ordinary sense — you turn around and it’s as if you’ve been dropped in a strange city. You suddenly don’t know where you are. Everything seemed normal; then you look at the person — our man here looks at his wife — and it’s as if the whole machine grinds to a halt.
“Hey! What’re you doing here? Is something wrong?” It is literally as if the gears jammed. Everything runs mechanically; and our hypothetical scenario here is almost tantamount to trying to shift into two gears at once. It all jams up. Now our man can’t even get into a perfect husband role, because he’s never played that role in the office. He tries to get into it, but everything will shut down for a period of time. Something has intruded into the way his roles mechanically run, and he has to stop and put it all back in some kind of focus — he has to straighten out his gears. So now he attempts the husband role; but he is aware of everyone else in the office, and now it’s as if they don’t belong here. When he first looked up and saw his wife, it was she who didn’t fit; now, when he shifts gears into husband, the office doesn’t fit. He can’t shift into either of the perfect roles right on the spot.
I could make up many more examples, but you should be able to see them for yourself. This happens constantly in Life. Men usually have two or three distinct roles; women of course also have their roles, but they are mechanically much better at adapting to such shifts than men. But this does happen with women — it happens with everyone at the ordinary level. And the whole point of my pointing this out, indeed, the whole point of trying to be an observer of your own life and to Remember the Aim, is not to see that you’ve got some simple habits. It’s not to detail the mechanics: “Well, I’m always flicking pencils; I’m always playing with my hair; I always slouch when I talk to so and so.” The whole point is to See that the habit is you. And you can’t see this until you willfully try to interfere with it by observing, or by my giving you some task to directly interfere with it.
But the overall, immediate area of study is to See that things operate in such a way that nothing takes any effort. You are a perfect fit in Life, and it has required no effort. You wandered around; you ended up in a particular job, and you don’t know why. It just seemed alright until further notice; it’s a place where you can be Fred: Fred-the-employee. And until this is interfered with, you’re unaware of the fact that it runs like a train with no brakes from nine in the morning until five in the afternoon. From the time you leave the car, walk in, wave hello to the guy at the door, get upstairs, hit the door, say hello to the first receptionist, you are Fred-the-employee. And you never see it.
You may be accustomed to your wife calling you on the phone; you can comfortably play husband over the phone; it’s a variation. It’s husband role #1. And perhaps she does routinely call you at the office, two or three times a week. But you’re not prepared for her to actually show up in person. Suddenly you look up — there she is — and everything shuts down.
The pertinent lesson for one trying to study himself should be, “How peculiar; this is not imagination; it’s not a funny game. It seems like I just went out of control. Everything shut down and I didn’t know what to say.”
The ordinary response to this scenario I’ve just set forth might be, “Well, in the example you used, the guy was sitting there talking to a secretary about X-rated movies in some motel, and his wife walked in. He just got frightened.” But that is child’s play. It explains nothing. I can quite easily change the example: the guy is talking to some other guy about football. The specifics of the example are not what’s important here; my examples are specific and strong enough to point you in a certain direction. But it explains nothing to say that our man was simply ashamed for his wife to come in and see him talking to the secretary. The real question, for one trying to study himself is, “It was as if my entire being shut down. I looked up and saw my wife. I think more of her than anyone else in the whole world. She’s my lover. And for the first time, there she stood in this strange context of my office, and I was absolutely speechless. If someone had stuck a gun to my head and said, ‘Who’s that?’ I’m not sure I could have told them. It would have taken me two or three seconds just to come up with her name.”
There is a difference between men and women; and it goes beyond any discussion of roles. I would ask those of you who consider yourselves to be serious, to Neuralize how it is that among you sitting here, the women hear things differently than the men. If I talk in one certain way, and use certain examples, and ten people go, “Aha,” I can hear that eight of them are women. If I talk in another way, using other examples, and ten people go “Aha,” I hear that nine of them are men. Or I can say the same thing, from different viewpoints, and the response varies between men and women. Rather than trying to come up with an answer, just Neuralize this: there is a difference between men and women, and it is not all habitual, mechanical role playing, though that does become a reflection.
I’ve already given you my word, though you can’t accept it as fact now, that everything you now see is wrong. It’s always so for one just beginning This study; it is always so for everyone. I know you don’t accept it, and I don’t ask you to. But let’s assume I’m correct. Everything you now see is incorrect. It’s wrong. It’s distorted, and I don’t mean just a little bit. It’s just wrong. But at the same time neither is it imagination. It is not mass hallucination visited upon you and the rest of humanity.
Because there is no such thing as imagination. It is a reflection of something else, just as people’s apparent roles are a reflection of something else. A very common role between men and women is that of men expecting women to do everything for them. This is just one manifestation, and it’s no worse than any other, because all mechanical behavior is contrary to your efforts to awaken the higher areas of the nervous system. But I mention it because it is so very easy to observe for yourself. There are couples among you now: simply take a look and see how common it is: the man lights a cigarette, and it’s almost expected that the woman will hand him an ashtray. Or she gets up to go into the kitchen, and just as she gets to the door, she turns back to see if he’s looking, to see if he wants anything. Needless to say, this is not true in reverse: you rarely see a man turning to see if his wife wants something.
I repeat: such roles between men and women are mechanical. And they’re no worse than anything else mechanical. It is stronger, because sex itself is stronger. And that’s one reason I do not engage in immediate, direct discussions of sex. It’s not something you can willfully get to the roots of. Sex is simply too strong, too radical, for someone to profitably focus their initial efforts on. You can’t begin by saying, “Well, I’m going to do This Thing, and my first problem is a sexual one.” It cannot be profitably, directly attacked in such a manner. There are groups that do purport to proceed so directly; that is the way of pseudo-systems, and it is the way of easy answers, i.e., impossible answers — “Here’s what you do, just follow these rules” — but it can’t be done.
There is a real difference between men and women. And then, as always, there is the mechanical habit which develops between a man and a woman.
One of the greatest benefits of being part of This Thing now is the presence of women here. And there is great possible benefit for couples attempting This together, because each of you has, in the other person, the greatest living example to work from. You have the greatest potential help and assistance in the world, right there in your partner. It is true for both men and women, but it is particularly true for men. If a man ever understands anything, he understands that whatever woman he finds himself attracted to provides him with the greatest example and lesson he could possibly ask for. And this has nothing to do with whether or not she acts consciously and willfully.
By the same token, each woman here has, in her own partner, the same opportunity for assistance. Just as one specific example, men are versed in a certain use of the intellect that has never been required of women. But a woman now in This must learn this use of the intellect, and she has a great teacher and example in her own sexual partner. It’s not that you must all become geniuses; it is rather that there can be no dark corners, no hidden aspects, either in Life or in yourself. This is true for both men and women. The overall point is that, be you man or woman, you have the greatest potential assistance and example in your own sexual partner.
Of course, that which carries such potential benefit also has its attendant danger. And so it is with a sexual relationship in This. There is the potential that your relationship will go to pieces. I don’t want to frighten you, but anything that is mechanical is subject to grave danger for anyone in This. The greater the potential benefit, the greater the danger: it is, as always, the intertwined Forces of the creative and destructive. It’s the snake swallowing its tail. Because your efforts in This work to destroy any mechanical basis, any artificial, — i.e., mechanical — connection.
There are different kinds of attractions between the sexes. To take the extremes, the attraction may be based on something real and essential, which is the basis for the proverbial, mythological tales of eternal love. It is the Romeo’s and Juliet’s. It is an attraction that reaches beyond any level of imagination, beyond any discussion. It’s simply that two people look at each other and they both instantly understand, “Hey, this is it.” And if they weren’t in the midst of civilized trappings, they’d immediately head for the bushes.
On the other hand — at the other end of the spectrum — you have an attraction based on nothing but imagination (even though imagination doesn’t exist); it is a mechanical relationship; it’s the two personalities dancing. It’s the two illnesses together. It’s two forms of engagement that complement each other and it’s not unusual at all. Everyone is familiar with the woman marrying a man who regularly beats her up. They get divorced, or he dies, and next week she marries another man — who regularly beats her up.
So on one extreme, you have the great eternal, essential loves; and on the other, the great personality loves: the masochist finding a good sadist. And that is the kind of relationship that is in danger here. That is the relationship in which there is no real attraction. So the more effort you make, the greater the danger there is to that kind of relationship, because that is what’s going on here, in This: you’re destroying that which is mechanical in you.
Everything is subject to investigation; and everything investigated is subject to falling apart. Justice does prevail. But there is no reason to become frightened at the prospect, because justice does again prevail: if you get to the point of making your own effort, of producing your own new energy, then nothing ever happens to you that you can’t stand.
And that’s an understatement. Things that now may seem to be absolutely unbearable — if someone said, “If you continue your involvement with This, your marriage will break up” and you thought, “Well, I just can’t pay that kind of price” — if, through your own effort you See the mechanical nature of your marriage, do you understand that the mechanical attraction, the engagement with that relationship, would then be gone? So it’s not a matter or whether or not you could stand it. It’s rather that it becomes irrelevant. That is the beauty, and the danger, of truly attempting to push your own nervous system higher; you may lose everything, but to put it crudely, you don’t care. That is a very crude description, and not the way it really is. But in the beginning, no one knows what is subject to danger. It’s not preordained that your marriage is doomed. But I have told you the truth: everything mechanical must be sacrificed. It’s not because I say so; it’s not a threat; it’s simply what happens, if you do make any effort. That is what effort is. But again, to the same degree that your effort brings on a realization of the mechanical nature of any aspect of your life, to that same degree that aspect, whether it crumbles or not, becomes irrelevant.
Someone wrote me an observation: “Not reacting to people in the ordinary ways seems to make them uneasy, even friends you’ve known for years…it seems that the uneasiness seems to border on the hostile.” This perception is almost entirely your imagination. It is — it seems — real enough, and I understand the basis for such an observation. What has happened is that you have interfered with the normal, mechanical running of your roles. And, of course, it will be most noticeable with people you’ve known for some time, because strangers don’t know who you are to begin with. The clerk in the grocery store doesn’t know how you normally talk or act. But when you interfere with the mechanical role-running that happens in established relationships, it can produce a sensation very close to the one I’ve already described: it’s as if everything stops.
Any interference with your role puts a brake on it. You may decide, “I’m going to quit talking so much. I’m not going to offer opinions for a whole week,” or “I’m just going to observe my normal behavior; I’m not aware of how I talk, especially around my friends. I just talk, and sometimes it rambles on and on. And just sitting here, listening to this, it strikes me that I don’t know what’s been going on for the last thirty minutes. It’s like I’ve been hypnotized; I passed thirty minutes of my life here and I don’t even know what happened.”
To whatever degree you attempt to consciously observe, it interferes with the role. You have stolen energy from it; you’ve taken a minute piece of the energy that normally supports the running of that role, and you’ve diverted it for the job of watching the role.
But it is only very, very briefly that someone else might notice anything unusual, and even then, they wouldn’t know what it was. They’d probably say, “Are you feeling alright?” but I’d be greatly astounded if anyone even reached the point of making a comment. What they do sense is an alteration in the way things normally flow between the two of you. Everything usually just flows, with no effort required. But the majority of the sensation is yours, not theirs. It is you sensing that, “I have interfered with this flow, and everything is thrown out of whack. It feels like the tracks are rocking, or a wheel is dragging.” And it is simply the sensation that, “I am not mechanically operating on a sort of rote basis.” This is your sensation more than anyone else’s. And to answer the question more directly for each of you, no ordinary human has any idea what you are doing, and moving outside of your role will not make other people hostile. I will say this: if you make someone hostile, you are not doing it right.
Attempting to observe yourself, attempting not to let all your energy mechanically run personality, will not upset people. And if they do notice something, it will be gone in a flash. Go back to the example of the guy whose wife shows up at the office. The first time puts him almost in a state of shock. Tomorrow, if she shows up again, the effect is reduced to a little jolt. The third day she comes to the office, he’ll be talking to the secretary about the motel, he looks up and says, “Oh, hey, dear. Get some coffee; I’ll be with you in a moment.”
That’s how long it takes, going from a huge shock that almost debilitates the machine, to something becoming almost habit. When you interfere with the running of your personality, the greatest feeling of uneasiness comes from you. It’s your sensation that things are not right; they’re not running mechanically. Other people do not notice. You could start talking in a silly nasal voice with your best friend. The first time, he may laugh and ask if you have a cold. But if you keep it up seriously for two or three minutes, it’ll begin to sound normal to him. Get outside your own role, and you see that people adapt to anything. And no one will accuse you of doing something strange. Again, if they do, you’re not doing it right. You’ve fallen into imagination, and now you’re willing to appear strange. You’re wanting your friends to say, “Hey, have you joined up with one of those secret groups? Are you still going to those meetings?” Of course that can happen, but if it does, you’re no longer making effort. You’re not observing yourself; you’re not Remembering the Aim.