3.5 You Don’t Need to Know What It Is to Work With It
This is one of the most important sections in this book, and, here, we detail a point that was one of the main reasons for working all this out in the first place:
You don’t need to know what something is to effectively work with it.
In other words, for a variety of reasons, Level-3 phenomena will not always link with Level 2. And Level-2 phenomena won’t always link with level 1. These reasons for this will be covered later, but for now we’ll just acknowledge that this is possible. And, for some people, especially if they’re just starting to work with Level 2 and Level 3, it will be very common.
You’ll know something’s there, but you don’t know exactly what it. You know something’s wrong, but you don’t know exactly what it is. You know you want something, but you can’t put your finger on it. You know something works in particular way, but you can’t put it into words. You know you must do something, but you don’t have words for it.
It is extremely satisfying to know what the thing is, to be able to put anything and everything about yourself and situation into words, for yourself or for other people. It’s helpful for making predictions, it’s helpful for reasoning about yourself, it’s helpful for asking what you want from other people, it’s helpful for planning, it’s helpful for relating to yourself and caring for yourself, and having fun with yourself.
But, sometimes, for a variety of reasons, you won’t get a Level 1 or a Level 2 linkage. Much of what will be discussed in subsequent sections will help with creating linkages and putting things into words. And sometimes putting things into words is a useful or goal or simply valued in and of itself.
Other times, getting things all the way to words won’t be worth the effort or it will even be counterproductive.
Above, I used the phrases, “but you don’t know exactly,” and “you can’t quite put your finger on it.” In fact, though, I will claim that, almost always in these cases, you do know, exactly; you know, precisely. It’s just that there aren’t linkages to levels above.
Sometimes parts of you are blocking linkages.
Other times, there’s no linkage to, say, Level 1, because, say, the felt meaning on Level 2 is vast, rich, intricate and precise. It would take a painstakingly crafted haiku, or a laboriously written philosophy tome, or a heartfelt short story or novella to really capture what you’re experiencing. And maybe that very same experience is richly evolving in response to external events or your changing relationship with yourself, maybe it’s evolving on a second-by-second basis. Maybe no words will do, at least at first.
And, being able to gently stabilize attention on Level 2 (not to mention gentle simultaneous stabilization on emotions, feeling, and imagery) allows you to be with that content, to explore it, to experience it, to engage with it, to have a relationship with it, to be able to act from it, precisely and fully, without having to put it into words. Or, perhaps you’re able to work out some language for it, in order to more easily reflect on what’s happening, or to be able to talk about it with someone. But, even in so doing, the words don’t dim the entirety of it. You still have access to all of it, in all its richness and complexity.
Other times, to go into this a little bit, here, it’s not that you want to have this glorious relationship with parts of yourself, but that parts of you are in conflict. Parts of you might be profoundly alienated from or terrified by other parts of you, and under some combinations of circumstances, this can lead to you not being able to have words or even felt meaning or imagery for objects on Level 3. Again, under these painful conditions, being able to gently stabilize attention on and work with Level 2 and Level 3 allows you to gently, consistently, acceptably, constructively move forward, even when you “can’t put your finger on it,” or won’t, or “can’t bear to,” or “don’t know.” A part of you does, as scary or painful as it sometimes is, and access to Level 2 and Level 3 lets you maximally respectfully, maximally gently, work with all of that, rather than getting stuck on language that can’t point back.
There is much of you beyond linguistic descriptions, as powerful as language is, and access to Level 2 and Level 3 give you tools to relate to, and act from, parts of yourself in ways would would otherwise be very challenging.