I met my first wife at a Transcendental Meditation event, and in retrospect, I believe we were two lonely people seeking companionship, even though we were not well suited, or even compatible. We dated, and married when she became pregnant. The marriage lasted about three years, before I was barred from the bedroom, and thus the marriage terminated when our son was about three years of age, whom I loved deeply, and was, indeed, saddened to be separated from him.
My first, of several lessons in this situation, was to learn how to deal with rejection. A very difficult subject for me to deal with, because of the rejection I felt by my father. In later years I learned that rejection, most of the time, has nothing to do with me. It has everything to do with the person doing the rejecting, for they are dealing with their own psycho-emotional issues that attracts and rejects people, circumstances and objects.
It was in America where I learned that, ‘whatever anybody thinks of me is none of my business,’ and this simple, extremely helpful sentence put into perspective how I could choose to disregard those who rejected me. Another lesson for me was how to deal with the feelings of inadequacy, as I certainly felt inadequate as a husband and a father under the circumstances. I learned that whatever anybody thought of me was purely their perception, and very often it had very little to do with the object of their criticism – in this case, me.
In hypnotherapy school, years later, I also learned the law of correspondence, or psychological projection, which describes how people see in other people and their environment, what they, themselves, project. In other words, if you don’t like something in somebody, it usually means that you are actually reflecting that ‘something,’ or you have that potential within yourself, which you actually dislike. This concept was first introduced by Sigmund Freud, the father of modern psychology, and it seems that he regarded it as an excuse employed by people who denied their own misgivings, and instead ascribed such to the world around them. This is why judging somebody is an ineffective exercise, because one is usually judging themselves, and it would be highly effective, if they recognized that the issue was within one self. Then, they would be in a position to resolve it, rather than expect others to change instead. Curiously enough, when you point your finger at somebody, criticizing them or judging them in some way, look at your hand, and while you have one finger pointing to the person of your criticism, there are, however, usually three fingers pointing back at you.
I feel the lesson here was that my strong desire to have a normal, fulfilling family experience of my own, overrode my inner guidance system that would have helped me recognize our sheer incompatibility. In this sense, my view of marrying my first wife was filled with unreasonable expectations, which was compounded by the fact that she was already pregnant. This brought enough pressure on me to do, what I regarded, as the ‘honourable’ deed, and marry her, oblivious to the problems that would soon arise.
Another great lesson was the understanding that it is appropriate not to be attached to the outcome of any desires, because, very often, the desires and their attachment create a prison in which we become firmly incarcerated. This concept is very well explained in the Buddhist philosophy of ‘non-attachment.’ There is also a saying in the West, ‘be careful what you wish for, you may actually get it.’ This was the beginning of a great lesson, to have a desire and then let it go, like the wind. If it is meant to be, it will come to you. If not, something better will take its place. This is part of the ancient philosophy of the universal law of attraction, which was presented to the world in the form of a book and movie called, ‘The Secret,’ several years ago.
Marriage number two was a source of some of the greatest lessons I have ever learned in this life. It was a journey that started in heaven and took me to hell and back, and it taught me many valuable lessons, which have helped me develop myself into a more balanced spiritual-human being. Yes, wife number two was one of my greatest teachers.
I embarked upon my second marriage with confidence, and our son was born about 10 months later, demonstrating that I got that part right this time. Unfortunately my wife experienced post-natal (post-partum) depression, which put a great deal of pressure on all of us, including the new baby. We struggled, and eventually the depression lifted, and two years after the birth of our son, our daughter was born. The post-natal depression returned, and we were all on red alert again.
Although I did my very best to help make this marriage and new family succeed in family unity, happiness and joy, my best may not have been good enough, but I did learn that no one, no one, can do more than their best. The big lesson for me, because the British attitude towards work, and which was supported by my father-in-law (of my second wife), was that you work hard, and if you do not succeed you work harder still. This I endeavoured to do in this marriage, and unfortunately, the price we all paid was far too high. I attempted to do more than my best. I failed, because it is impossible. Yes, our best can improve over time, but, in any given moment, our best is the best we can do in that now moment, which applied to my wife as well. I worked 16 and 18 hours a day and I started to make good money. I started my own business as a property developer, and for a period of about 10 years I had the Midas touch. The more I earned, the more I worked, and the more I worked, the less time I spent at home with my family. I had this warped idea that all I had to do was bring in the money, and the family would be alright. I was wrong, and as I said, we all paid a heavy price, and it had nothing to do with money.
When the going got tough in the marriage, I simply took the family on an international vacation for a month, and we all had a wonderful time. However, on our return home, our problems and growing dysfunction were waiting for us. Another lesson I learnt was and still is, ‘wherever you go, there you are.’ Whether you go on holiday, move to the other side of the world, whether you drink yourself silly, whether you take drugs, whether you have extra marital affairs, whether you are a millionaire, billionaire or a pauper – wherever you are, whatever you are doing, whomsoever you are with, you are still that same person. You are as you were before, with the same learned beliefs, learned patterns of behaviour and perceptions, until all that changes, if you do the necessary work on yourself. There is no hiding from yourself, unless you are able through some process, knowledge or practice that can change the basis by which you conduct yourself. In this sense you are then able to think, speak and act beyond your current belief systems and learned patterns of behaviour. Then, and only then, can you change your actions, and in so doing, do the results of your actions likewise change automatically. Yes, this was one big lesson for me, which I did not learn until years later. It is true what is said, hindsight is usually perfect vision, 20/20.
When I was younger I had a big ego, and when I was married a second time and making lots of money, my ego was even bigger. I must have been intolerable to be with. I guess this is why I lost a fortune, and which I did twice, presumably, so that I could learn many things, not least of which was to balance a tricky ego. I was to learn, one way or another, the positive qualities of humility. In fact I have another story for you. While I was living in Las Vegas, I had joined a spiritual group, and I was busy play-acting at being humble. The leader of the group approached me, and directly asked me, “What is all this humility crap about?” I was so devastated that I fled back home with my tail between my legs, and pondered this for a week, before I learned the lesson.
Rejection and inadequacy, therefore, emanate from within oneself, and in order to resolve it, change for the better, one is to find the issue and its solution deeply within oneself. Appropriate techniques and/or modalities can help, of which there are many available. Just have the intent, and go with the flow.
This is an excerpt from Lessons of Life, Chapter 10, which is a truncated version from my book, ’89 Lessons of Life,’ available from my website,
Anthony Altman is an author of books on Self-Empowerment, Self-Help/Improvement and Self-Healing, and also provides lectures, workshops and seminars on these subjects. For further information and contact, please visit his website.