So I wonder…
If I were to completely, utterly stop myself somehow, then start again from zero, where would I end up? If I were to look for a new beginning, specifically and only for myself, and look for it by myself, what could I find? I mean, If I were to ignore all answers from elsewhere--from religions, mythology, wise people--could I find anything on my own? Because I know now, after all these decades of trying, that I can’t take the beliefs of others seriously enough to wear them myself. I can only seriously believe myself and my own discoveries. They’re the only ones that to me consist of more than just words and abstract ideas.
So I’ll begin here and see where I end. I might at least make a baby step.
First. One thing I know about myself is that I’ve been soaked in good and bad. Since I was a child, it has poured on me like rain. Its clouds have never parted. I have feared punishment of one kind or another, and desired praise of one kind or another, continuously, all my life. Good-and-bad is the person I have always been. Do I exist other than as that shell, perhaps inside it? Or is the shell empty?
I do know that good and bad themselves are illusions, because the eyes of science have let me step out of my wet self to see the rest of the world naked. I know that world exists. Looking back on myself, I know that even I exist without good and bad. There is a dry me, an inner me who might be able to truly see the dry world, not just imagine it. If only I could step in there, wholly. In where there is no evaluating, no judging, only acceptance of everything. If that’s what a dry self is, then my dry self would just exist with everything else. Including that world of fear and reward and punishment. That’s who I would like to be because I would then embody truth.
How different would I be? Is good and bad, reward and punishment, the need to please others, such an overwhelming part of me that without it I would be completely different? Certainly, I would be a lot different from my nearly lifelong self that had been built from shyness, from that world of fear. But would I see reality in a completely different way? Like night and day? I have always felt that my sight was deadened, blocked somehow. Maybe this is the reason why.
But would a change like this actually be possible for me? In reality? I can see that it should be possible. And I know that I could pretend to myself to be that person. And I would certainly like to just exist with everything, including with myself.
It may be possible but very difficult to bring about. Instincts may force me to remain as I always have. And habit. And a long-trained unconscious mind. And if I consist so deeply and fully of good-and-bad, and if all the other people in the society I live in are constructed the same, then to exist outside of it might require me to be a hermit.
But when I think of all our interactions, of what they’re like, it doesn't feel like being a hermit would be absolutely necessary. If it isn’t necessary, then might it be possible that all of us are closer to being this pure person than I suspect. Might it be possible that the pure being of others is always alive in there, and living with their good-and-bad self? That the two, working together, are flexible and more accepting of another pure person than I would expect? And therefore, might it be possible that I am one of those people, always seeing everything through both sets of eyes? In which case, could it be that I wouldn't have to become a completely different person? I don’t know. I’m just wondering.
PS: After posting this, in the comments below it, Aldous Richards astounded me with what must be the answer to my question.
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Like · Reply · 47 mins · Edited
Stan Burfield It's nice that you noticed that allusion to interaction as wetness, which I began as the constant drizzle of good and bad, reward and punishment. The question to me is how deeply and all-encompassing is that in our lives. How much of what we do and think is a reaction to all that and nothing much else? When I do something now, at 66, am I still just responding to what I want or don't want from my parents, even this much later in my life? Is there ever any getting out of it? Presumably, we can meditate ourselves into totally existing in the present, but I'm not convinced that a present moment is what a human being is. That's more like a slice. We are past and future much more than the present. Looked at that way, the question is, what is still a human being, but not just more reaction to the fear of punishment and the desire for praise? What remains?
Like · Reply · 34 mins · Edited
Aldous Richards I think Freud would agree with you. The Pleasure Principle is all about that. I do believe, that at the most fundamental level - call it infantile or primal - we continually negotiate with the reward-punishment dynamic set up by parents and other relatives. Yet we are more than just our infant selves, even if much of that inner conversation is still significant to us. So we can 're-negotiate' a new relationship with our past, with what we have 'learned' and have taken to be fundamental to our lives and character. I truly believe that we are 'hard-wired' in our brains by the time we are about ten (some say earlier). We have reacted to conscious and unconscious stimuli and developed habits of thinking, of perspective... and have pretty well established how we think we need to behave and interact in order to get praise and avoid punishment and censor. But this can be very detrimental to us, even if it served a purpose for a long time. I know, for example, that my chronic (major) depression is a result of learned helplessness, from living under the thumb of a narcissistic, controlling man who thought he knew everything about everything, and reduced it all to simplsitic garbage. It took me 59 years to come to that place. Now I am re-negotiating with my psychic habits, and re-envisioning a present and future swept clean of that pollution and pain. I may never rid myself of the depression - but I feel I must rid myself of any remnants ( and there aren't too many) of that hard-wired, damaged self. It sounds like you are going through much the same process. As to your final question... whether we are destined to repeat that cycle of fear of punishment and desire for praise, I think that may be true. (Gestalt therapy has aimed to rid us of such nightmarish repeating, but who knows how successful it is). But I also think that we can evolve by making decisions about what praise we look for, and from whom, and what punishment we are going to take seriously and which we can throw away as remnants of childish nightmare. SO, while I may still look for approbation and love, and good friendships (as my reward), I am not, first and foremost craving praise. I see it as welcoming the respect I am due, according to who I am and what I accomplish - on my own terms. And, on the other hand, I can now turn to those who don't like me, don't see eye to eye, and even those who try to hurt, and simply (in my private self, or to their face if need be) tell them that they have no power over me, and no right to punish, criticize or condemn. Essentially, the parent-child dynamic is long gone, and has no healthy part to play in relationships between equals, or even between yourself and idiots. :-)
Like · Reply · 15 mins
Stan Burfield Wow, Aldous, I think you may have answered my question! Or at least a good chunk of it. I really like the idea of taking ownership of our needs and fears, seeing them clearly so that even if we still have them embedded in us they don't overpower us. That's a wonderful answer. That's the human being I was looking for, I think. Also, I like the idea of being able, once we own that, to be equals with others, not having to fear them or mistreat them.
Like · Reply · 5 mins
Aldous Richards So good to hear that, Stan. For my part, I really value what you have expressed here. It shows me that I am not alone in this evolutionary struggle. Your honesty and straightforwardness are not only refreshing, they are compelling. Thank you.
Unlike · Reply · 1 · 4 mins
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Stan Burfield Writing this and other things like it here is part of my insistence on being and finding myself. By putting what I truly think here in public, I'm forcing myself not to care whether people see me positively or not. It's a step, and about as far as I've gotten so far.
Like · Reply · 28 mins
Aldous Richards That's a pretty huge step, to essentially carry on a confessional in public. I think it will bear fruit, since it is courageous, and you are both honest and one who thinks deep and articulates beyond the 'normal.' Have you ever come across a book called The Five Ages of Man? It's by a writer/philosopher named Gerald Heard. In it, he talks with real insight about contemporary humans having to come to an evolutionary step where they find fulfillment and further evolution while living in a society that pretty much has little use for them. He's talking about people of our vintage. I like to think that we have power, precisely because of seeing from our 'vintage point.' :-)
Like · Reply · 7 mins
Stan Burfield Vintage point. That's good. Well, I can only speak for myself, but I expect that it applies to most people our age, that so much more is obvious to me now than ever was when I was younger. And when I hear younger people talk, no matter how bright, I can see the circumference of their consciousness, so to speak, in that I can find a younger version of myself that compare. It seems like we just soak in more of reality as we age, without noticing. .... No I've never heard of the book. Sounds good.
Like · Reply · 1 min