Friday, February 21, 2014

Prison of A Lacking Self

How sad it is, how much time I spend feeling unworthy, feeling like my voice does not matter, my thoughts don’t matter or that my very existence is in some way a problem or troublesome.  It is heartbreaking really.  I am not speaking of depression or mood disorder.  In those states the feelings of unworthy become especially acute.  They are real but not what I am discussing here.  Nor I am  looking for pity or sympathy. What I speak about here is much more subtle and much more pervasive.  It is raw.  I am speaking of a more general orientation to the world that in many ways is falsely at the core of my being. It is a false anchor upon which I hang a self, a self that lacks.  I suspect it is the dukka about which the Buddha speaks.  It’s a quiet malaise.  It’s as if the question “what did I do wrong” lurks behind my every movement thought and action. It truly colors so much of how I have operated. Even as I am writing this now I am wondering if people will review this and think is he sane?  Is he depressed?  Still I write.  Still I question.  I know I am not alone, but rather than move towards generalizations and theory, or even quick resolution, I am going to stick with my own experience as closely and intimately as I can.  Sometimes I generalize, and philosophize to keep pain at bay.  This is also not something that anyone else can help by trying to point out the many ways that I am good.  It is a more primal feeling that only can be unraveled.

In how many of my interactions with people is there a subtle attempt to control? I ask this question because it is at the heart of  the feeling of "what did I do wrong" or "what is wrong with me".  Whether its trying to control what they think of me or trying to control the outcome of the situation? or simply trying to control what they do?  I desperately want to be liked.  There is nothing wrong with that.  Its part of my conditioning.  The obsession with being liked though is at the heart of my feeling unworthy.  Its as if I look to others to tell me that I am liked and worthy because I am not courageous enough to do it myself.  If that sounds harsh (I assure you it is not).  Grace is fierce sometimes. I need constant reaffirmation  and feeding because I have not digested its truth.  My heart will not be happy sacrificing itself for the opinion of others it needs to know from the inside out of its own unshakeable integrity. Then what others said about my goodness would not hold so much sway.  Who would I be if I were not nice?  Who would I be I were not good?   It is a paradox because it is the attachement to being  and acting good which is the root of not "knowing" the goodness that I already am.

What is it that keeps me from truly being the compassionate space that I am?  What keeps me from being the opening , listening, loving, silence that is capable of connection with all things? Its that mask that feels like it must do good to be good, which is a failure to recognize or see my own nature and everyone else's.  Somehow I must figure it out, must for once and all time get it right.  Such arrogance, that is the barrier. The hole, the abyss of that hurt of "lack" cannot be filled though everyone sang my praises because it is a hole of separation, a hole that must be filled by this mind/body.  Others can shine a light that helps me to see but ultimately I must do the work.   Ultimately wholeness cannot be given to me for I am never without it.  It is simply mine to see, to feel, to cherish.

What exactly is a self? What exactly is being selfish? What if I were selfish?  What would that mean?

What is it about selfishness that is so painful for me? Why is that that the only two options for me around selfishness are to either deny that I am being selfish, pretend that it is something else eg. justify it in some way or to shut down and go into global "I must be a horrible person" mode.  Middle ground and other options exist.  I stand so fearful of selfishness that it is like it is anathema to being loved.

I must believe that when I am selfish I cannot be loved.  I think it must run that deep. 

Is that true?  That I cannot be loved when I am selfish - not only is that not true it probably flies in the face of evidence.   I am sure that I have been loved by others even when I am being selfish (though I can't think of any examples at the moment) The rose colored glasses of memory hold those remembrances at bay.

What would I gain from such a belief? What would I gain from believing that I could not be loved if I were selfish - Well I would gain a lot of external sympathy and love and appreciation for avoiding the appearance of selfishness. At the time the belief crystallized (confirmation) I would gain a sense of belonging?

Surely though there is a role for selfishness? Right?
What role does selfishness play? Why would I be selfish,

Answer: Because I feel a need to protect my boundaries, I feel a need to assert who I am, because I want to address needs, feelings, my existence in the world.

I then have two questions.  When or what causes those boundaries to come into existence or to become rigid?  Can I notice when the boundaries come into place?  I do not have to do anything about them but can I notice when they come into existence - bragging, showing off, putting someone down, measuring people, comparing people, when I get hurt?

Question: You can't live if you cannot compare people, ideas,  right from wrong,  fact from fiction.

Answer:  Perhaps true, but the more interesting question, the more compelling exploration is not whether we can live with or without boundaries.  That is an abstraction that takes us from the truth.  The more interesting question is whether you can become aware of when those boundaries come into play and become curious about all aspects of that. 
What is it that feels the need to compare?  What does it want? What does it need? What does it want to express?It seems to me that comparison goes hand in hand with judgment and oft generates problems when value is assigned, which we often do.  We can compare red to blue and most of the time it does not engender a values hierarchy.  If I attach the word politics however, see how quickly value is assigned.  Comparison is as natural as difference and diversity. It's the unconscious assigning of value that goes along with it that gives rise to separating thoughts and behaviors.

Question: But aren't some ideas truly better than others? like its better to not kill than to kill? That is a comparison. 

It is perhaps a better way of being in the world but it is not TRUTH.  Nothing that can be stated is truth though some things can be better pointers than others.  It is more interesting if  you can become curious about where that question is coming from and what its presence in your psyche may be asking?

Why is that an important question to you?

Question: Its about control. I want to know that things will be ok.

Question:  What if they are not going to be?

Then you are not ready to surrender.

I wonder if all places where I lack intimacy stem from a fear that what is here is not enough, that what is here is not good enough, that I am not good enough. That is an incredibly painful place. It's not that I believe I do not deserve to have the joys of the world but it is to say that I am in a continuous state of proving myself.  I must be perfect because  only then might I be good enough.  But good enough for what?  Good enough for whom?  What does good even mean? That said I still, as one dear friend once said, “ apologize for my existence”  It does not matter what I do or don’t do, I am always leaning in to the "fall from grace", awaiting for people to discover the fraud that I am, anticipating when the mask will be revealed and I will be seen for the fatally flawed fiasco I am.  That is a lot of weight to live under.  That is a heavy burden to carry. To believe that one is not good enough makes authenticity impossible.  How can I be authentic with anyone when I am always measuring myself and failing. How can I honestly hear what people are saying if I am busy protecting myself by comparisons or platitudes or aggressiveness. When I believe I am not enough I move to put others down, make others wrong, bolster myself by using my relationships.  That is nothing short of a sort of violence.
Intimacy is connection.  It is exquisite.  Its what I long for most. It is the intimacy of being more connected to my partner but it is more than that. It is intimacy with ten thousand things; intimacy with all of life, from work, to friends, to hobbies, to nature, to family.  I know I am not alone.  We are a massively populated society of lonely hearts. Intimacy is what we long for most as humans and yet it is most difficult and very frightening too. We want the world to accept the parts of us that are hurt,  that are unsure, that feel unworthy.  We want to be comforted and know that all is ok.  At our deepest core often we do not believe it.  At our deepest core we do not believe/understand that all is ok.  I do not believe/understand that all is ok.  It is a knot worth unraveling

From the earliest ages I remember my parents working with me to try to get me to speak to the store clerk to ask for help.  At the time I would rather do without than put myself in such a precarious position

At work it has always undermined my ability to be candid.  I have had a hard time telling things like they are.  On the good side I have built a lifetimes worth of diplomatic skill and a keen understanding of the power of words and expression to move people.  On the other side it has compromised a certain quality of authenticity and truthfulness in my interactions and relationships.  I have spent years being afraid of rocking the boat, years afraid of making sure that I am liked, years monitoring and trying to control what people thought of me.   It has robbed me of life and essence I stand now in a middle way, learning the skill of truth-telling which is more confessional than judgmental .  I stand learning a new way of being and relating.   It has always hard for me to ask for what I need. 

It is not that I believe that I won't get what I want.  There have been plenty of things I have wanted and not gotten and many, many more that I have.  What do I think will happen if I don't get something? Does that not happen all the time?  It is more that it is easier to step over how something is making me feel than it is to contact it or the feelings surrounding it.   it is more that If I don't ask for something I don't risk being cast out of someone's heart.  Therefore I don't ask for it.  I just do it myself.  But this is the antithesis of intimacy.   It is a self induced prison of loneliness whose only key is my own courage and willingness to ask the jailer if I can be free from bondage.

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