You've more than likely heard about the Ashley Madison debacle. But just in case you've recently been rescued from a deserted island, I'll give you the highlights.
Ashley Madison (AM), who's motto is "Life is short. Have an affair," is the online go-to site for married people looking to hook up. In late July, the site was hacked by a group who demanded that the AM site and other similar dating sites operated by Avid Life Media be taken down or the information obtained would be made public.
The intel included customer names, addresses, emails, photos, and credit card info. Yikes! (It makes perfect sense to ruin lives by exposing the intimate details and personal info of people because you oppose what they are doing and how it ruins lives. Right?)
The AM database, which boasted over 37 million members, was released on the dark web a month later when the conditions weren't met. Security researchers confirmed that the data was legit and contained the personal specifics of real Ashley Madison members.
Politicians, prominent business people, well-known figures, and neighbors were on that list. Maybe even you or someone you know was unfortunate enough to be included.
Only three zip codes in the U.S. were untouched by AM. One was a small town in Alaska where with temperatures reaching 60 below zero, it's just too damn cold to sneak around. The other two places, a second one in Alaska and a third in New Mexico have little to no Internet access. Figures.
Whether you think the hack was an act of divine justice or a mammoth breech of privacy, that's a whole lot of people unhappy in their current circumstances looking for something on the side.
Having been married for 18 years, many of them unhappy, I can relate and empathize.
I wed my high school sweetheart right out of college. As the years rolled by, we had two sons and relocated for his job 11 times -- and I mean states. With each passing year and move, I became bitchier, more miserable, and more lost in what was supposed to be my life.
And yes, I did have an affair. But back then, there were no cell phones or emails to leave a trail. Unless you were actually spotted or left a credit card trail for a weekend at a B&B while your wife was visiting her parents with the kids, like my ex, being clandestine was possible.
I never did get caught, but I did divulge my indiscretion nine years later in a marriage counseling session. Erroneously, I thought you were supposed to be totally honest in those things.
And you know what? At the time, the affair didn't make me gloriously happy, magically solve my problems, or fill up the hole in my life that I was seeking to fill. While it did make me feel desired and was exciting, it only added to my problems and confusion in the end. Besides already being unhappy, now I got to add feeling like a horrible person to the list because I had cheated. I didn't even understand how I could do such a thing and crucified myself mercilessly.
In his book, The Heart of The Soul, Gary Zukav explains that this type of sexual attraction is never really about sex. The cravings for something else signals a person's feelings of emptiness and desire for meaning, purpose, and value in their own life. These type of feelings attract people with similar feelings. The sex provides momentary relief from the physical urge, but doesn't satisfy the underlying emotional needs driving the behavior in the first place. The attraction is never really to the other person, but to the illusory image of that person and the promise of them fulfilling an underlying emptiness.
According to Zukav, while such sexual encounters may seem intimate, they actually are barriers to intimacy, because both people are only exploiting the other person seeking to fulfill their needs. Each person is both the predator and the prey.
After a decade post divorce, a mountain of self-help books, and years of cognitive behavioral therapy, I'll tell you what I've learned. As John Paul Satre said, "We are our choices."
Gary Zukav writes, "All choices make perfect consequences."
He posits that energy can only leave the body in one of two ways: as fear and doubt or as love and trust. When a person comes from a place of fear and doubt, it produces an appropriate experience. When a person puts out energy in the form of love and trust, a totally different experience is created.
According to Zukav, when energy exits the person as lack and fear, the result is always painful and produces corresponding emotions, such as anger, jealousy, grief and vengefulness. When a person acts with love and good intention, the resulting experiences produce gratitude, contentment, and joy. Feeling painful emotions is always a signal to that person that they are releasing energy as fear and doubt. Energy is released by thinking, speaking, and acting - which would certainly include being a member of Ashley Madison.
Zukav believes a person becomes an authentically empowered individual when they have learned to release energy as love and trust. I would add that this is a person who has learned to control their mind and to choose their words and actions consciously in order to do so.
When energy leaves this center in love and trust, you see the wisdom and compassion of the Universe wherever you look. When it leaves in fear and doubt, what you see appears cold and frightening. In the first case, a path through the woods appears sunlit and welcoming. In the second case, the same path appears dark and foreboding.
These days, I choose the sunlit path every time.
I have gone from a depressed, numb existence to having a happy, fulfilling life. I now know that with the choices I make every day, I am creating my present experience and my future. With a sense of trust in myself and the universe, I know that everything is going to be OK - good even.
Not because life will be filled with sparkles, rainbows, and unicorns, but because I will consciously choose my perspective and act from from a place of love and gratitude.