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Acknowledgment—a powerful catalyst
By Joe DiMaggio, MD
We doubt, endlessly we doubt. If we had the chance to be “free of doubt,” would we take it? If yes, what then.* Starting from a premise that who we really are is already inherently fulfilled and satisfied, we are able to live fully, not merely to get somewhere, fix something, or become something—we are left more powerfully engaging in life, with authenticity, spontaneity, and the possibility of fulfillment. Doing so, however, requires a certain recognition, a giving up and leaving behind of old, “default” concerns.
When we think about being acknowledged or recognized for something, for some success, for some contribution, for who we are, we tend to look at it through an unexamined (unseen, unsaid, unnoticed) background of scarcity, of not enough. That wiring is wrapped up in some sort of an “in order to….” In-order-tos are a strategy for dealing with some default concern that started so long ago that we have no memory of and no awareness of it even being at play. In just recognizing that dynamic, a new world of possibility becomes available.
So what is acknowledgment when there’s no “in order to”? Real acknowledgment is not true-or-false, right-or-wrong—it doesn’t describe, report on, express, command, or manipulate. It’s not to make something happen, produce a result, make us or another feel good. There is no scarcity of things for which to acknowledge someone, there’s an abundance. When we’re really generating acknowledgment, we’re literally standing in nothing, being given by nothing, and bring nothing into our giving or receiving of acknowledgment. Nothing is the foundation for possibility. Acknowledgment ultimately brings something into being—something that we’re actually creating. Acknowledgment at that juncture becomes a very powerful catalyst. It’s the beginning of responsibility as a freedom and a transformed relationship to who we have considered ourselves to be. It leaves us standing in a bigger future, able to step into an opening that previously wasn’t there—a place where we get to know what’s possible in being human.
*Adapted from Tobias Wolff, 3 Minutes or Less: Life Lessons from America’s Greatest Writers (PEN/Faulkner Foundation, 2000).
Image: Illustration by Mark Mark McGinnis
Landmark Forum leader
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