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Acknowledgement Part 1: The Basic Conflict

In this series of posts I will go through Acknowledgement. I will explain the concepts, give you exercises to do, and train you in troubleshooting. If you do the exercises I assign (which will mostly be pretty quick and easy) you can get pretty skilled at Acknowledgement rather quickly. I’m talking in the range of less than an hour for basic proficiency. As always, this is a work in progress and feedback is welcome.

Now you might be wondering. What the heck in Acknowledgement anyways?

Acknowledgement is a tool I created a few years back. I designed it so you can use it to help end your suffering, to work on ‘fixing’ yourself from psychological and emotional problems, to solve unsolvable problems, and to help yourself (or others) change.

It’s extremely simple and extremely powerful. Jimmy gives a decent description of his experience with it on his blog (perhaps he’ll link to it in the comments).

And so with that, let’s begin.

I’m going to start here with a simple premise.

Any suffering we experience is a conflict between a wish/expectation (I will use the work ‘wish’ and it’s interchangeable with ‘expectation’) and the reality. This that we don’t wish for, we don’t notice or suffer from.

Here is a simple example. When I fly I suffer because of the long lines, the small seats, and the bad food. If the plane was on time and I was in first class I would be perfectly happy. But hold on! Even in first class I have other passengers there, I don’t have a hot tub on the plane, and I can’t sing at the top of my lungs! In a private jet, that would not happen. So how am I not suffering?! And truth be told, if Bill Gates was stuck on a commercial flight, even being in first class I think he would suffer from all those things.

And the difference is simple. I wish for no more than first class. And so when I’m in first class there is no discrepancy between my wish and the reality and so I’m not suffering. For Bill, he wishes to be on a private jet, and so first class is suffering for him.

Now this idea is nothing new. Not by a long shot. In future posts I hope to describe this idea itself in more detail. It won’t be terribly easy as I have a lot interrelated ideas on this, and I hope to be able to get it down on paper.

Ok. So suffering is when we wish for things that aren’t reality. The gap between my wishes/expectation and the reality. And so the question is obvious. Why then do we persist in wishing things that aren’t happening?! Sure yesterday I had a ticket for first class, but I lost the ticket and today I’m flying coach. So now the reality is that I can’t fly first class! So why don’t I just recognize that as my new reality and why doesn’t that new reality automatically exclude any further wishing? And so how is it possible to wish?! And why do we wish when all it really brings is massive suffering!

And the answer is simple. All our wishes are in essence messages (from a certain angle all of us is messages, it’s something I’ll speak about in other posts). It’s the message of ‘pursue the wish’. If we accept the reality that the wish is not possible, well then the message will be automatically ignored. And so the wish itself, the message itself, is still ‘calling’ to be heard. Accepting the reality is therefore something the wish will ‘fight’. The wish ‘fights’ to be heard.

In another sense… Since if I accept reality the wish must disappear and die, the wish itself blocks my full acceptance of the reality. The wish has its own self-preservation instincts and it doesn’t want to die. And so it is BECAUSE of my wish that I don’t fully accept the reality. The wish doesn’t want to ‘die’. I will explain this all in a later post that goes deeper into the concepts of The Basic Conflict, but for now I ask you to work with the metaphor of a wish that doesn’t want to die.

And so in essence, whomever gets there first ‘wins’. If I first want/expect something and then I find out that I can’t have it, then the wish will block my accepting that I can’t have it. And so we have The Basic Conflict and we have suffering.

However if the reality gets there ‘first’ then the wish never gets generated and there is no suffering.

Here is a cute little intervention that works with this concept. Say you won 2 million bucks. Spent a million and lost the remaining million a year later. And it’s hurting. Here is what you do. Imagine for a moment that you’re going back in time to BEFORE you won the lottery. So it’s the day before you won your 2 million. And someone comes over to you and says ‘hey, do you want to win 2 million of which you will spend a million during the next year and then the second million will be given back’? And I can imagine that you would say YES! Now get the cash, spend the million, and lose the other million, going till the present moment. Notice how now the missing million doesn’t bother you.

Why? Simple. You don’t wish to have the remaining million as it was never a possibility. Why? Because the reality got there first. You never wanted to have it past a year as you knew before you got it that it was for a year. Case closed.

A good illustration of this is a child that asks for candy and is informed that there is none. Often times the child will dispute that and keep shouting that there is a candy! Why? Same thing. If there is no candy then they can’t ‘want’ it! Had we told the child in advance that there was no candy before the wish came we would be fine (and it’s a very useful parenting technique as we will discuss in those posts). But now, once the wish is ‘active’ accepting that there is no candy ‘kills’ the wish. And so there is no acceptance.

Now I want to make it clear that there are complications and permutations of this that we will discuss. And this is the basic idea for now.

Ok. We got it. So what do we do? How do we fix this conflict?

That will be the subject of future posts.

In short… When we want or expect something and it’s not happening, that is the experience of suffering. The conflict. So why do we keep wishing and expecting?! The answer is that the want doesn’t want to die. And so if it gets there before the facts, it won’t just roll over and die because the facts showed up. If the facts get there first then the wish never even starts (with many exceptions). In the next post we will give a solution to this problem.

Comments welcome. They make me feel good and I do stuff that makes me feel good. So I’ll post more. So if ya like it, comment. Even just to say that you liked it or disliked it.


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4 Responses to “Acknowledgement Part 1: The Basic Conflict”

  1. Jimmy H says:

    Since you asked:


    I do have to note, however, that I see things a bit differently now. I have my own set of posts on (new and improved!) acknowledgement routines and how it meshes with Focusing and Coherence Therapy, but I’m backlogged about 30 blog posts before I get around to prettying them up and publishing

    • Joe K Fobes says:

      Ah excellent, I look forward to reading your work. Feel free to create an account for me on your blog so I can look at the draft versions of your work 😉

      My Acknowledgement posts will fall under 3 categories.
      1 Explanation (like this one)
      2 Exercises
      3 Theory (explaining things more broadly as I have promised in this post, Focusing will be involved as well as other cool stuff)

      The series will have a natural progression and will build to a full explanation and competence in Acknowledgement. I figure at least 20 posts, perhaps more.

  2. Dean says:

    Awesome, Joe! I’m looking forward to trying the exercises.

  3. Micky says:

    Inspiring, I really enjoyed the article and looking forward to read the next ones. Thank you very much!

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