Finding in ourselves what we criticize in another

10-05-2018 | Bob Sabath

A suggestion for an inner work practice comes from Elizabeth O'Connor, Our Many Selves: A Handbook for Self-Discovery, "From Judgment to Empathy: Exercise Four", page 71:

"What you criticize in another, try to find in yourself. We want to discover our dark selves, not in order that they may be blamed and banished out of sight, but in order that we may have conversation with them and they may lead us to the light. This is the promise if we will attend to them."

"An added discipline for this week might be to say nothing negative about anyone else or about yourself. This will give you more energy for inner work on the subject. If you find it a difficult discipline to keep, do not be discouraged. A discipline is to help us learn, and there is often more learning in failure than in success."

Maurice Nicoll writes more about internal considering and external considering in his Psychological Commentaries on the Teaching of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky, Vol. 1, 1996 Edition: Samuel Weiser Inc., pp. 257-260 (edited to reflect more inclusive language):  

"In the practice of external considering it is necessary to realize that other people are mirrors of ourselves. If you have taken an album of good photographs of yourself through long self-observation, then you will not have to look far in it to find in yourself what you object to so much in the other person and then you will be able to put yourself in the other people's position, to realize that they have also this thing that you have noticed in yourself, that they have their inner difficulties, just as much as you have, and so on."

"Remember that when you find the same thing in yourself that you are blaming in someone else it has the magical effect of cancelling the whole situation out."

From Cynthia's basic course on Spiritual Practices from the Gurdjieff Work:

"External considering is the bridge between the inner world of personal awakening and its real-time practical applications in the collective."

"External considering is basically the Work equivalent of "practical compassion." It is fundamentally no more complicated or exotic than simply the capacity to actually see the condition of another, to walk in his or her footsteps, to "love my neighbor as myself" — all familiar territory in every religious tradition. But so often in the West these ideas have become infused with sentimentality and duty; there is no real consciousness involved. In the Gurdjieff version, as by now you might expect, the chief operatives are conscious attention and a well-honed moving center."

"The opposite of external considering is internal considering, of course, which for Gurdjieff meant an excessive interiority and a preoccupation with one's own internal states, needs, and narratives. In this state, lost in one's story, it is very difficult to assimilate the actual condition of another, let alone see how to help. Everything moves in relationship to one's own interiority. Like trying to understand a phrase in French by first mentally translating it into English, one moves from "self" to "other" and back to "self" again without ever grasping the relationship directly. That is why, according to Gurdjieff, so much of what we call "self-awareness" nowadays is merely narcissism writ large. True self-awareness begins at the next level out, when those rigid boundaries between self and other are dissolved in a single, flowing energetic field. External considering does not require great personal empathy or emotional drama. It requires a quiet mind, a complete lack of inner talking, and an ability to take one's cues directly from the present moment."

"External consideration is the Gurdjieffian version of 'skillful means.' It's about being uncluttered enough, alert enough, and present enough to see what will actually help, and balanced enough in your three centers to bring the right force and the right timing."