Compassionate Counseling

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Operating Manual-Lost and Found


Operating Instructions for Your Life

Actually, this is a summary of the Operating Instruction Manual. The full manual is many pages long. When I found it many of the pages were torn and had been exposed to the weather so they were a little hard to read. I'm working on interpreting those pages. As I get them cleaned up and readable, I will be publishing them here.

Unfortunately, when you were born, the operating instructions were lost almost immediately. We learn to drive a generic automobile but have to adapt to the differences in models. Here are a set of generic operating instructions for the human being. Each person will have to adapt them for her or his own model, but they are broadly applicable to all versions of whatever color, location or year of manufacture.

  1. The present is the only place to be; the only place you can be. In the present you can be alive to reality. In the present, if there is a bad feeling, you can take action to respond to it. In the present you can decide how to correct for past bad action. In the present, you can plan to make life better for the future.



  2. Only the present exists. The past is done. You can’t change it. Don’t even try. You can change your feelings about the past, and you can learn from the past. But the past is gone. The present is partially a result of your past but it is all you have, all that is real.



  3. Your emotions are largely the result, not of what happens to you but your beliefs, attitudes and thoughts. It is as if you had tape recordings. What happens to you pushes a button that plays a tape that was recorded long ago. Those tapes have little or nothing to do with present reality.



  4. One corollary is, guilt feelings are never a good thing. Guilt doesn’t motivate someone to correct the problem or make restitution for damage. If you are sorry for your actions, apologize, fix the damage to the extent possible, make restitution. Then learn from the mistake and move on. Guilt will only keep you estranged from the other person. Guilt keeps you in the past.



  5. Worry keeps you in the future and is another way to avoid making the present changes that would be helpful,. Worry allows you to feel bad ahead of time and not make the plans or take the actions necessary to change the future.



  6. Anger, like guilt and worry, is not useful or necessary. We largely get angry because we feel helpless to change a bad situation or we use anger because we are frustrated. Some people also use anger to cover sadness. It would be better to feel the deeper feelings so they can be dealt with. It would be better to find a way to change the bad situation.



  7. In the reverse, when someone says something harsh or in anger, it’s really not about you. The other person may think it is and say it is, but it’s really about themselves, their situation, their own lives, their own emotions.



  8. If you are stuck in a hole in life, the first thing is to stop digging.



  9. Your feelings are based on your beliefs about yourself, other people and the world in which you live. Epictetus, over 2000 years ago, said it right, “People are not disturbed by things, but by the view they take of them.”



  10. Treating someone with contempt is one of the surest ways to destroy a relationship. This is true for friendships, lovers, and working relationships.



  11. Don’t lie to anyone you respect, love, admire or with whom you are friends. It may be necessary to lie to someone who is an enemy or means you harm. But this should be a very rare exception.



  12. On the other hand, don’t ask questions to which you don’t want a truthful answer. Don’t answer questions unless you can tell the truth.



  13. Keep other’s information in confidence, unless you have their permission to share it. It belongs to them not to you.



  14. Words are metaphors; they have no real meaning in themselves. The meaning changes with context. We need language to communicate, but every word is an invitation to misunderstanding. No two people really speak the same language. Always be prepared to accept that you may have misunderstood. Always be prepared to be misunderstood. Also, be prepared to sometimes be understood correctly.



  15. Our beliefs, to a large extent, are both formed and expressed by our choice of words. During war, to call someone a “gook” or a “rag-head” dehumanizes them and helps us believe and act as though they are not really a human being. While this makes it easier to kill them, it does not provide a way of making peace with them. Even with a war, eventually there must be a peace. (And even in the efficient prosecution of war, it may cause us to misjudge the other person’s offense or defense.)



  16. There are no bad people. There are people who make poor choices. Everyone does what they believe to be right in their view and under their circumstances. Even psychopaths believe they are doing the right thing. Of course, some of those behaviors are harmful to ourselves and others. Those behaviors must not be allowed. Sometimes that means physical restraint like jail and prison. But that does not make those people inherently evil or bad. However, some may well use the word "evil" for their behaviors. (See instruction #14)



  17. Three very strong keys to having a good life are non-judgement, gratitude and forgiveness. They acknowledge our connections with each other; how much our lives are interconnected. They tie us to the larger community as well.



  18. You are more than your body. It becomes very confusing to talk about soul, spirit, even mind. It would be so much simpler to ignore the spiritual; even more so to be dogmatic about it. Yet something more is going on than just your body and brain. Consider your basic reason for existence, what has been called, “the ground of being.” There are a wide variety of spiritual “languages.” Aside from dogma, there is a lot of similarity among them.  Gratitude and forgiveness are spiritual qualities more than emotional. Communities of spirituality, church, mosque, synagogue, temple, and coven are all places where your own individual spiritual journey can be supported. But don’t succumb to the easy answers of any doctrine or dogma. No group has the answer; the best communities are the ones with the best questions not the best answers.



  19. There is no “Secret” that some guru can impart to you. The true teacher is like any good educator, helping you to find what will make your life whole. Even the instructions in this manual are only generic. A true teacher will help you to find the specific ways they apply to your life. Every real guru or teacher knows how little she knows. A true teacher knows himself to always be a beginner. Someone certain that they know the truth, doesn’t. Don’t follow them.



  20. There are no absolutes for all times and places. Orthodoxy is always wrong; even this statement. That’s true for religious, spiritual, scientific, psychological orthodoxies. It is also true for orthodox atheism. Even so, you have to rest your life on some sense of purpose, a ground of being. Existence demands it—or else your existence is an absurdity; which is absurd. Even the "always" in this instruction is not absolutely true.

©David M. Pittle, Ph.D., 2009