I’ve been pondering, lately, the idea of the “unconscious core commitment”, as per this YouTube discussion by one of my favorite spiritual luminaries, Teal Swan. The basic idea is that we each function in the world by means of, and in accordance with, a deep core commitment, uniquely our own, which we may not even be aware of. This commitment acts almost like a magnet, powerfully attracting or repulsing circumstances, people, even our other (conscious) decisions, based on their compatibility with our UCC.
It’s Teal’s assertion that an unrecognized core commitment may function well enough in our lives, so long as our conscious commitments don’t conflict with it; but that to the extent they do conflict, we suffer – a lot! And unnecessarily. We try to force ourselves to go through with the courses of action we’ve intellectually decided are in our best interests, and we castigate ourselves for deviating from them, particularly when it happens over and over again. We lose trust in ourselves; we worry we are unreliable protagonists in the plot line of our own damn story.
I can definitely offer an example from my own life. My conscious commitments to occupations and people have unraveled, repeatedly. Lots of occupations, lots of people. It’s not even about leaving bad situations; I leave amazing situations, and not for any particular reason, except…I just do. If I understood it myself, that would be one thing, but I’m not sure anyone in my life grasps how hard I’ve tried, historically, to stay…put. Employed. Engaged. Whatever. I just don’t. You hear that phrase, “fear of commitment”, and I’ve wondered for years if that applies to me.
This is the kind of unnecessary suffering Teal is talking about.
According to her, we can alleviate this suffering through discovering what our unconscious core commitment is, so it can either be accepted or updated, consciously.
In her discussion, Teal offers some techniques for ascertaining what one’s UCC is, which I tried out. Guess what: it was really fucking helpful. Seriously, I recommend this, and while it was only several weeks ago that I encountered the video, I’ve already noticed huge improvement in the way I conceptualize myself, the way I make decisions about what to include or not include in my life experience, the way I convey myself to others, and most importantly the way I feel on a daily basis. My basic self-esteem feels more stable, like I can maybe actually trust myself to do the right thing for myself – the jury has been out on that one for years.
So without taking up too much more of the blogosphere, I want to share my current understanding of my operative unconscious core commitment, as sophomoric as it may be. This is big stuff for me, and it might be big stuff for you.
Be advised that the following, although I may have felt blindly around the edges of it at times, is stuff I have not holistically understood until engaging deliberately with this inquiry. So: there is a thing that I’m going to call “Hannah’s secret garden”, okay? It’s a physical place where I can be alone, in an environment of (ideally or at least symbolically) richness, beauty, peace, and creature comforts. I’ve recreated this physical space, this feeling-place, over and over in my life, ever since I was a kid. I’m so good at it, I can evoke this garden, this feeling-place anywhere – a tent, a truck, an incredibly shitty hotel room, you name it.
What do I do, there? Well, that’s the best part – I pursue creative ideas to their logical conclusions. The ideas become songs, meals, poems, blogs, outfits, book manuscripts, whatever feels best. I’ve often mistaken this gestalt for being evidence that I should emerge and go forth and BE a [writer] [musician] [poet] [blogger] [whatever], partly because subconsciously I’ve known that others will respect my garden’s legitimacy and privacy that much more if I can produce some consistent and seemingly valuable output from it. But usually when I start barking up that tree, I get overextended. I don’t care about the snakeskins, I’m the snake. I’m not saying I can’t be a [writer] [musician] [poet] [blogger] [whatever] on some kind of consistent basis – only that the muse doesn’t care what’s trending out there. The muse is the leading edge, the beginnings of a sneeze.
The other major thing to know about the secret garden is that all outside influences – i.e., people, jobs, events, circumstances – represent either one of two things: ingredients, or imposition. Like any animal in a cave, I need to come out now and then, prowl around, get some food, recharge the minuscule capacity of my itty bitty social batteries. But I am viscerally territorial about this space, wherever it might currently be set up. Even when it’s set up, perforce, in a place where I don’t even technically have the right to be territorial about it – like, for instance, my fuel truck this past summer, in the middle of the fire camp – it doesn’t matter, I still get furious. Furious! I take umbrage, with extreme prejudice, when my secret garden is transgressed, by people or circumstances who drop in without warning, or out-stay their welcome, or when I’m prevented from spending the time there that I need.
The good news is that nothing is wrong with any of this. It just means I’m a creative and extremely self-possessed person who has a method, a process, that works, and that makes me very happy. Right?
The bad news is that, without having consciously understood it all, and indeed in the course of making conscious decisions and commitments against the grain of it – doing things I see normal people do, like getting married for instance, taking promotions, telling love interests they are more than welcome to stay for the week, etc. – I have deeply and chronically antagonized the bejeezus out of myself. I mean, this is the experience, in a nutshell, of like every boyfriend I’ve ever had:
Me: I’m sooooooooo super into you!!
Also me: getthefuckawaygetthefuckawaygetthefuckawaygetthefuckaway I CAN’T BREATHE!!!!!!!
And, oh yeah, every job too. And most friends.
It’s the unconsciousness of this unconscious core commitment that causes me to leave everything – not when it gets bad, but when it gets good! Because when things get good, by everyone else’s definition, they get really invasive, by my definition, despite whatever I may have consciously decided or promised to the contrary.
Unconscious core commitments are strong. You can’t fight them.
So the biggest reason I’m excited about all of this is that I can stop making myself wrong, and instead just give myself what I need. God, won’t that be a treat. Worth it!! Secondly, I can be more truly available when I am engaging, having given myself un-conflicted permission in advance to disengage when and how I need. Thirdly, as I practice communicating along these lines, more of my genuine appreciation will flow through to others – less of a confusing mixed-messages kind of thing. (Oh – tragically funny side-note: the combination of my mixed messages, arising from the circumstances described above, and the “forbidden fruit” effect of my strict retreats into a secret garden headspace, tend to have the unintended side effect of causing really nice people, who care about me, to “try even harder” to break in or break through, which as you can imagine only further antagonizes me, to the point where I feel the entire world is actually trying to crawl up my ass, and I won’t even admit to my geographical location on social media unless I’m fairly certain no one I know lives there.) And fourthly, maybe I won’t spend the next 40 years of my life starting everything over from scratch all the time. Maybe I can have consistency in jobs and friendships and relationships, like a real adult – but on my terms, unusual as they may be. I mean, all of my ex-bosses and ex-boyfriends, my ex-everybodies, over the years, have basically asked me what they could do to keep me around, but I was usually too busy hacking back the kudzu to respond.
And fifthly – don’t think that’s a word, but 5thly, maybe my honesty and self-inquiry in this regard will inspire others similarly, to investigate their own core commitments, conscious or unconscious, as Teal’s discussion inspired me!