It’s Shocking How Little People Settle For, How Much They Put Up With and How Much Better They Deserve

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Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D. is a seasoned clinician with experience working with adults, couples, families, adolescents and older children since 1976. His aim ...Read More

Our Level of Awareness/Consciousness Purely Finds Itself in Selecting and Attracting Everything Our Minds Think We Deserve

—Marianne Williamson, A Return To Love


It seems like I’m rather frequently saying two statements to my clients in therapy: “What do I know?” and “You deserve better!” The former rhetorical question is simply a way to acknowledge the truth of reality in this moment that most everything is unknown. Actually this awareness is wonderfully freeing to all concerned given it whole-heartedly welcomes the curiosity, exploration and enthusiasm of discovering everything. The latter assertion spontaneously arises in seeing or hearing some self-limiting or self-depreciating view of someone. The phrase has nothing to do with entitlement, vanity or anything ego-driven, as best can be determined to date. Its insertion into the moment always seems rather abrupt and equally poignant to this observer, especially since it almost unfailingly is met with a certain amount startled shock, like being struck dumbfound without words to respond. What’s going on here?

It’s been a good number of years that this experience has repeated itself and from time to time it becomes a source of bemusement, wonder and astonishment all wrapped up in an untidy package. This interaction appears much like a hastily bought, quickly wrapped, last minute gift almost forgotten of which the receiver has little idea what to make of it since so little caring and discernment was engaged in its choice, presentation and actual giving. It’s not that my heart doesn’t crack open in seeing their heartache in aiming so low, settling for so little respect and putting up with so much baloney. In truth it is palpably painful down in the gut, like a muscle spasm that won’t easily resolve and carries on for a time, even after the initial hit. To begin to shine some light of understand on what underlies this pattern and how the voicing of “You deserve better!” can possibly be heard is the vision of this writing.

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How do people settle for so little and put up with so much baloney? Am I just remarkably unaware of my own naïveté, so easily shocked, or so without a realistic perspective on human nature? It seems a bit unlikely. Is it that they have become somehow deadened, defeated or resigned to their fate? Is it the unenviable yet predictable outcome of untold ego wounds, personal humiliations and outright harm and abuse that has left scars on their souls and continually reasserts itself to demand attention and healing care until wholeness is somehow forged and once again reclaimed? Is it the unholy toll taken by repeated incidents of not being good enough now displayed as crippling, defeating and destructive low self-esteem with allowing poor treatment simply matching their poor sense of self? Or is it a certain determined fatalism and resignation that some endlessly repeated falling short of reaching their goals, dreams and vision for their life is just their fate and must simply be accepted as not only all they’re worth but further all they deserve out of life? Or, perhaps some combination of these is the key? Or, maybe none of them honestly address the real phenomenon? Frankly, all these ideas seem spot-on and totally miss the issue, like pat answers and reasonable explanations shine little light and offer less help.

Calmly perplexed over this state of affairs, it slowly dawned upon this one that the outer circumstances and universe were simply reflecting mirror-like the inner consciousness. Feature the possibility that one’s level of awareness or consciousness purely finds and reflects itself in selecting, attracting and finding everything our ego-minds dream up and think we deserve. This view is sometimes called “the looking glass universe” given there is an acknowledgment that what is being seen as outside of one is only accurately reflecting one’s inner universe, awareness and consciousness to a gnat’s twitter.

ithin this context, your level of awareness or consciousness finds its match in another, literally finding, selecting and attracting the very same, like finding like. Mismatches may occur, but tend to be short lived, awkward and ill-fitting for both parties and are soon discarded as poor choices or simply put, “What was I thinking?” This is exactly the point-it is the ego-mind, its past conditioning or programming, that is doing all the thinking while selecting and attracting. We blindly follow its dictates on unconscious autopilot, instead of claiming our freedom from it by making the unconscious conscious.

If this paradigm is the long-standing norm for the great bulk of humanity, then how can this perspective be applied in the context of intact marriages, even factoring out the 50 percent divorce rate that has held steady for many years in the United States? The options appear to number four, as follows:

1. Both continue to not grow in a relatively stable and familiar pattern, although boredom is an ever greater risk along with a periodic awareness of settling for something less than true comfort, developing our unique abilities, intelligences, talents, gifts and genius, and remaining less than happy, satisfied and fulfilled on the highest of levels in being the whole person Divinity would have us be;

2. One starts to outgrow option #1 and their partner decides to not grow, and further fights, sabotages, undermines and uses passive-aggressive and sometimes outright aggressive means to stop their partner’s growth, necessitating the first partner to repeatedly acquiesce to their partner’s fears, manipulations, threats and ultimatums and maintain the status quo, or continue to grow in spite of these obstacles and leave their partner.

3. One starts to outgrow option #1 and their partner decides to authentically grow as well, even with both periodically taking some back steps that typically come in the stutter step of change taking the form of one step forward and a half-step back, two steps forward and one step back, with more steps forward and fewer steps back over time, allowing both partners to grow and discover if they are growing together in similar or complementary directions or not, therein deciding whether to stay together or amicably go their own ways and sometimes remain good friends.

4. Both remain single or go through multiple relationships and marriages while bringing a commitment to grow in action, whether steadily or only periodically, until such time of arriving at a level of mature development and being whole people who have built strong internal resources, are living in the present, acting with self-responsibility as adults, can adaptively bear strong feeling/emotional states, and have come to peaceful adaptive terms with the major issues of their ego-mind’s conditioning, hereditary predispositions, and have made the unconscious as fully conscious as they are able, and are authentically themselves-their level of awareness / consciousness-in selecting and attracting their true partner.

It has been my experience and there is some research support for the overwhelming majority of married couples operating out of option #1 with a fair number struggling with option #2. A little over a third of married individuals seem challenged with option #3 and less than a tenth have grown into option #4. A remarkable study of 8,385 couples by David H. Olson, Ph.D., head of family social science at the University of Minnesota, collected data in the early 1990’s by evaluating marital partners, as both individuals and the overlap or consensus between them, along nine dimensions previous studies had demonstrated were areas of conflict and trouble. Using the sophisticated statistical approach of factor analysis, Olson found seven distinct profiles of marriages and showed that the vast majority of couples (65 percent) are in distressed and unsatisfied marriages, with only 35% of couples in moderately or highly satisfied marriages. Only Type 7 Vitalized marriages (9% or 1 in 11 couples) were highly satisfied and are described as personally integrated, having strong internal resources, agree in most external areas, and develop difficulties but seem to resolve them well. Indeed, marital instability and insecurity even arose for the Type 7 couples given one in four wives had considered divorce. 1

In the lead quote of this article, Marianne Williamson, best-selling author, speaker and activist on behalf of A Course in Miracles, sounds the alarm on people settling for playing small and shrinking so that others don’t feel uncomfortable around them. Possibly she is pointing to the great majority of people who seem to conform to societal standards and are unwilling to extend themselves beyond them by challenging themselves. Given the multiple wounds we all carry that remain blind spots lifelong to the majority of us, who is so wise to even begin to know the depth of paradigm change it would take to grow beyond the status quo, and what is conventional and convenient, along with challenging authority when artificial limits are assumed, implied or dictated by people in positions of power? This view is reminiscent of the aphorism that the only way civilization grows, transforms and transcends is through its extremists while it is sustained, supported and maintained by its conservatives. Williamson makes explicit the Divine impulse to grow, transcend fear and liberate ourselves to make manifest the divine within every one of us that, in turn, automatically liberates another. Isn’t each step our ongoing arrival?

Saying “You deserve far better” is at best planting a seed for growth, while hearing “You deserve far better” is at best a wake-up call for another reality available when awareness arises to hold and bear, trust and tolerate our lives being whole, complete and just as they is. Until Being is reclaimed, revealed and unveiled for what it truly is, how does such a communication have any chance of landing? Once again, the statement “You deserve far better” is not to be interpreted by the fictive ego-mind as signaling scarcity and neediness, ego-driven whiny entitlement or a battle cry for more and more and more. Possibly one can get a hint of something else being available in this present moment that one is missing. Possibly one can get a clue of something that lies beyond one’s capacity to see, experience and know. Possibly one can be touched on the level of love and the heart for what makes no logical or reasonable sense to the mind. Possibly one’s very presence is enough to touch another’s soul to wake up.

I remember coming across the idea that every one makes to the penny what they think they deserve. Similarly, you can say everyone has in their life in this moment exactly what they expect and deserve to have, as their minds dictate by thinking and believing it to be so, and so continually is. These statements only make any sense within the context of the mind proving itself right again, sometimes called the Pygmalion Effect or self-fulfilling prophecy. Thus, whatever you think will be or you so deserve to be in your life ends up being exactly what you program and so bring into your life and live. Within this all pervasive mindset it is not surprising that all true life change, transformation and transcendence can only occur at another level than the status quo. Albert Einstein brilliantly knew this is recognizing that a problem is never resolved at the same level it was originally created at. Only when we can honestly and fully see the current level of functioning and somehow gain access to another level to address it do we have any real opening, capacity and wedge to powerfully work with it and change it.

The reality remains precisely what it is. Until there is the consciousness or awareness to see what is in this moment, how will any one be able to see what is right here-and-now within? It is certainly not our history, nor the journey, but rather where we are in this very moment that actually counts. The leading edge of humankind’s evolutionary impulse is cultivating the willingness, interest and curiosity put into action, also known as praxis, to extend, expand and elaborate all that lies fallow and waiting to grow within us into all that is available for us to realize and embody, express and contribute. The opportunity each moment of life affords us is to consciously arise to see the reality of who we truly are within us, meeting the unvarnished ego-less perception of what is all around us, within the context of a rock-solid commitment to grow and expand, develop and evolve, moment by moment into authentically being all we are available to be, expressing duality nested within an all-encompassing non-duality.

Turning all “what if’s” into “what is’s” can occur right here and right now. Honestly see all false assumptions, like scarcity, and all false beliefs and thoughts, like being selfish, to fully see abundance and healthy self-acknowledgment in this moment: 1) Refuse to settle for anything less than authentically being who one truly is, what is true, real and beautiful; 2) Take the stand to not put up with anything that does not resonate with the deepest respect and loving consideration as one divine expression meets another divine expression; and 3) Reach up to claim all that is within us to create in compassionate service and embodying loving kindness. In clarity, where direction is obvious, this is not the same world.

There is a field of Original Sanity and Authentic Liberated Self that transcends hope and fear, mine and yours, and all ego-mind driven polarities. What if the truth is that every one of us is powerful beyond all measure? At the current level of human evolution on this planet, this field of Original Sanity is almost entirely only a possibility, surely not a reality yet. At the same time, it is no small measure of contribution on every level to be the catalyst for one’s own, another’s and our species’ ever-present possibility of awakening to who each of us truly is and grow our whole soul impregnated with the Divine’s qualities, sentiments and virtues you can love by our apparent choice and God’s grace, ushering in our timeless eternity with the Most High. Does this not begin to truly answer the two eternal questions: Who am I? and What do you want? Is anything more important in this moment that calls to you louder than to stretch for awakening to Life? What greater gift can anyone give another, oneself and Divinity?


1. Yoav Lavee, & David H. Olson, “Seven Types of Marriage: Empirical Typology based on Enrich,” Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 19 (4), October, 1993, pages 325-340; also in “An Arrangement of Marriages,” Psychology Today, 26 (1), January / February, 1993, page 22.

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