November 2, 2011 at 4:04 PM

Choosing to Be There

"Here is a chance to review the power of language..."

By Arthur Panaro

Sinuhe Speaks

Arthur Panaro is a psychotherapist, teacher and writer. He did 7 years of hard time on fantasy island, Manhattan, NYC, before making the jump to hyper-space in New Mexico.

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No excuses. France was occupied by Nazi invasion in World War II. Some people collaborated, and Jean Paul Sartre objected to this. He himself took part in the resistance. In his philosophy of existentialism, he used his war experiences to illustrate the contrast between weak commitment or rationalization and the exacting and responsible consciousness he believed people to be capable of. He recounted a selection of excuses some of his countrymen made:

1 “What can I do about it?” --- implying “I am powerless.”

2 “I didn't start the war, did I?” --- argument that “I'm innocent.”

3 “Everyone else is doing it.” --- spreading blame . . .

4 “I'm just looking out for myself (the same as everybody else) --- argument : “It's about my instinct for self-preservation, or self-defense.”

5 “I couldn't help it; I had no choice.” --- in effect “I was helpless.”

6 “I couldn't help it; I was afraid.” --- “My feelings limit my choices.”

Jean Paul Sartre believed we are “absolutely free” --- not to do anything we want; but he does mean “Our choices are always available.” Our motives and feelings do not control our behavior. We control what motives we will follow, and how we see the world through our feelings.

From: Robert Solomon, U of Texas, Austin “No Excuses” The Great Courses / The Teaching Company

Here is a chance to review the power of language. Take the following test and rate the following statements with “0” for excuse or weak choice to “10” for strong choice.

1. I did it because “they” made me do it. 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

2. The devil made me do it.  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

3. I really must do it. I have no choice. 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

4. I have to do it, but really don't want to do it. 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

5. I'm doing it without even thinking about it. 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

6. I'm on “automatic” 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

7. I'm imitating what another person has done. 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

8. I'm just going through the motions. 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

9. I'm just “phoning it in,” as the saying goes. 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

10. I'm not sure, but I'll try to do it. 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

11. I did something without planning. 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

12. I did it with a plan. 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

13. I'm not “gonna” do it. 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

14. It happened suddenly by chance. 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

15. I don't know why. It just happened. 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

16. I'd like to do it. (Have you heard the one about the 3 frogs on a log? Two decided to jump in the pond. How many frogs are on the log?) 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

17.  I need to do it. 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

18. I want to do it.  0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

19. It's my duty. 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

20. I don't need alcohol, I don't have to have it. I just like it (this from a person who quit alcohol after getting an ulcer . . .) 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

21. I choose to do it, freely, with purpose, consciousness, and responsibility and I will complete it on the agreed date. 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

There is no right or wrong in your choice of 0 to 10. Perhaps just engaging in this process is a starting point toward introspection and holding the idea that one's words fall somewhere in the spectrum from excuse/avoidance to conscious commitment. Perhaps the best way to take this test is to share it with a significant other. Best wishes.

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