Thursday, February 12, 2009

Door A and Door B

Angela and I attended a Relational Living Skills workshop last week presented by a man named Terry Real, whose work we admire and trust. One of the things he teaches that I think is especially powerful is learning to differentiate between your “1st and 2nd consciousness.” Your 1st consciousness is your “Adaptive Child,” the part that you go to easily and by default, the part of you that has set up coping mechanisms and protective behaviors that keep you from getting hurt or harmed but which hinder relational intimacy. This Adaptive Child chooses protection over connection; it is your knee-jerk response. Your 2nd consciousness is your “Functional Adult,” the part that you have to choose to go to, the part that enables you to act maturely and responsibly with love. Your Functional Adult opens you up to vulnerability but enables you to connect more fully with others; it is your learned response. As Real puts it, “You can choose Door A or Door B. Your first reaction is usually to choose Door A. Learn to choose Door B.”

One of the more interesting and penetrating exercises each participant did was to write a letter to our Adaptive Child, thanking him for protecting us all these years, acknowledging what he has given us, specifying what he has cost us, and then telling him that the Functional Adult is now taking over and he can come along but not in the driver’s seat. As you can imagine, this was an intensely personal and even searing exercise. Each of us had to specify in writing the very concrete ways our Adaptive Child has negatively affected the person we have become. We then were empowered to put our Functioning Adult in charge.

If all this sounds sort of airy-fairy to you, I understand. I find it to be very true to my experience, though, and convincing in its reasoning. I also was struck by the parallels between this philosophy and what we read in Romans 8 about the contrast between flesh and spirit. Listen:

"For God has done what the Law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit…" (Romans 8:3-6, NRSV).

The Message refers to “the flesh” in v. 4 as “the disordered mess of struggling humanity.” I love that rendering. As any Christian knows, and as Paul freely acknowledges in Romans 7:14-25, we still experience the struggle between flesh and Spirit. We are challenged to live out of the Spirit instead of the flesh. We react in the flesh; we respond in the Spirit. We protect ourselves in the flesh; we connect with others in the Spirit. We sabotage ourselves and our relationships in the flesh; we grow ourselves and deepen our relationships in the Spirit.

It might be a good exercise for Christians to write a letter to their fleshly self and say, “Here is what you cost me. Here are the ways you keep me from flourishing in my relationship with God and others. I am giving control to the Holy Spirit now in every way I can. I am committing to choose Door B every chance I can so I will live in the Spirit."

It’s never a bad time to tell your flesh who’s in charge.


Post a Comment

<< Home