I was once an ardent student of the principles outlined by Don Miguel Ruiz in his book, The Four Agreements. Despite the claim that the ideas in this book represent insights possessed by the Toltecs a thousand years ago, most of them are very similar to concepts used by modern humanistic psychologists, transactional analysts, and cognitive-behavioral psychologists.
For instance, Ruiz says that all children are born as loving individuals, that they are playful, and genuine. However, parents teach their children what Carl Rogers called conditions of worth, which are standards of behavior the children must follow to receive love and avoid criticism. Eventually these standards become internalized into an unconscious set of instructions for living life. Parents that don’t do a great job of this can cause immense damage to the psyches of their children. They can adversely affect their self esteem and set them up for failure later in life. They can instill unconscious beliefs in their children that can limit their happiness and their success.
According to Ruiz, most of these unconscious beliefs are perfectly arbitrary or downright false. Many of them are irrational and unnecessarily limiting. The key to freedom is to become aware of our irrational and limiting thoughts so that we can replace them with healthy thoughts. In short, this book could be a primer for cognitive-behavioral psychology.
In The Four Agreements, the four individual principles that Don Miguel Ruiz outlines are for us to practice in order to achieve love and happiness in life. Adopting and committing to these agreements is simple. Actually living and keeping these Four Agreements? Not so simple. I recently allowed myself to get WAY sidetracked by participating in a circus that was run by clowns. Now, I have made the decision to get back on track. That sideshow can run itself.
Anyone that chooses to live these four practices will experience dramatic changes in his or her life. This much, I can guarantee. Anyone that attempts to live these principles can count on these new habits being quite challenging at first, and will probably lapse countless times. I know I have. That’s ok. With practice they become integrated into your being and in every area of your life. They become easy habits to keep.
The Four Agreements are:
1. Be Impeccable with your Word:
Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the Word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your Word in the direction of truth and love. See, Ruiz, however, should have made a little note about speaking the truth to alcoholics or drama addicts. I was in a situation that generated unrelenting stress, so I finally just decided to speak the truth….and this is the difficult part. When you speak the truth to people who are not ready to receive it, you might as well be talking to a cage full of chimpanzees for all the good it will do.
I spoke the truth to someone that is now obsessed with me, doing all of this phony crap to try to unsettle me…but I know the truth,and I stand by it to this day. She is just making an ass of her sorry self. This experience makes it tempting to discard this principle, allow yourself to get sucked into the drama of it all, and lose focus altogether, but instead, I just removed myself from the drama part of it all and am perfectly content with just the love part. That is all I need, and we’re doing just fine. Thank you.
The famous psychologist, Albert Ellis, encouraged us to screen our self-talk for negative, irrational chatter. So, what kinds of words to you use when you describe reality? Do you lie and say hurtful and poisonous things about yourself and others? Not healthy! To be impeccable with your word is to be truthful and to say things that have a positive influence on yourself and others. This is what my heart tells me to do, but I was sidetracked by another person’s rage. I spoke the absolute truth, but no positive influence was gained because, as the book says, the word is a force. It is the power that we all have to communicate, to think and thereby to create events in our lives. Speak, however, to rational human beings, not to idiots that have dependency issues. When we speak our truth to those who are addicted to alcohol, drama and delusions, no good comes of it.
2. Don’t Take Anything Personally:
Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering. In my current situation, this one is not hard to follow. Because all of us sees the world in a unique way, the way that others treat us says more about them as it does about us. To not take anything personally is to acknowledge the unique identities of other people. Some people are spineless users, drama queens, liars….and they can take advantage of someone with a good heart. It happens. It happened. It wasn’t my fault. My intentions were good from the beginning. I tried to reach out in compassion. Now, I don’t give a shit what the alcoholic thinks.
3. Don’t Make Assumptions:
Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness and drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life. The only problem with this one is that this principle DOES make assumptions. It assumes that the person one asks questions of is not going to start screaming and yelling and throwing a tantrum to divert attention from the lies that are just waiting to erupt.
4. Always Do Your Best:
Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret. Recently, I DID “do my Best”. While some might view my results as negative, I do not, at all. I gained valuable insight, learned unforgettable lessons and I have lost absolutely nothing. I am surrounded by love and I have no regrets.
As I sit here today and view my life, I know I must be doing something right. I am at peace. My life is good. I am happy. I am in love…and things are going really well. I think these truths really work.