Self & System
the seeking self
PT III. If we can agree that the system needs to change, and we want to do something about it, what can we as individuals (i.e selves) do about it?
This demands a deeper, internal approach than most of us realize. Transformation hinges on our collective willingness to look inward toward the soul.
THE AMERICAN DREAM
We're trying to ascend a ladder, because intuitively we know we are going somewhere. This intuition (which could not be more true) is co-opted by the system we explored above.
Again, we must remember that the system is not itself bad. All us selves have created (or inherited) that system. And the feature of any good system is that it should sustain itself.
But the feature of a GREAT system is that it evolves and, in time, transcends itself to gives way to a better one. That's what a brilliant system would do.
Earlier we talked about
Whole Human beings
But what do most of us know about that? How can we see the world as one Whole when we live our lives as individuals. I know it sound overwhelming, but I think you know more about expansions of consciousness than you may realize. Surely, there has been moments in your life where you suddenly saw things in a new light. Perhaps something significant happened that shifted or broadened your perspective. have forgotten yourself or lost yourself -- perhaps in someone or something. Maybe a love affair, a creative project, or any number of adventures.
but what drives all this seeking?
what are we truly after?
But underneath all this, what drives all this hustling, seeking, and consuming which define our modern capitalist-consumerist society?
We’re seeking lots of things. We're seeking safety, security, and belonging. We're seeking, what Joseph Campbell called, "an experience of being alive." But we’re also seeking ourselves. (but as we’ve seen, the system feeds us false ideas of fulfillment that sustain the system but do not truly satisfy us.
We seem to feel perpetually insecure, unsatisfied, and unworthy. While it’s clear this benefits the system that wants to keep us hungry, seeking, and consuming, we understand intuitively that this doesn’t really work for us. And since systems exist to support selves, we need to pay close attention to this. Otherwise, we’ll just keep chasing our tails.
For a moment, let's put aside the fact that the modern system (defined primarily by capitalism and consumerism condition us to be dissatisfied so they can sell us stuff (that keeps the system humming). For now, let's focus on our susceptibility to such things. After all, why do we take the bait? I believe it’s because, on some level, we already believe we are not enough. Typically, the modern narrative is that consumer culture and advertising manufacture this insecurity out of thin air. I call bullshit. I say the insecurity is already there.
Advertising (and other forms of cultural conditioning) simply capitalize on this sense of inadequacy. If you’re not sure that’s true, I want you to imagine for a second the most confident person in the world. Not someone arrogant or cocky, but someone who is truly comfortable in their own skin. If you walked up to them and tried to convince them that they really needed to buy this new thing to be happy/fulfilled/sexier/etc, do you think they’d buy it?
I think we know they wouldn’t. Why? Because, if they were truly confident, there would be no sense of lack to exploit. Any attempts to convince them they needed something more to be more full or whole would fall on deaf ears because they would know they are enough already.
Of course, most of us don’t meet that picture of perfect self-confidence. We do have insecurities and doubts and so get pulled into the game. But for now let’s not worry about that. Let’s focus on our instinct to feel whole and the origin of our insecurities and doubts. After all, if we could address these, then the whole game above it would change.
As we dig into our innermost motivations, we realize that we’re trying to accomplish something more than just becoming our best selves. We’re trying to fill a hole within ourselves. We’re trying to feel whole. Usually we don’t look deeply enough to see that this innate sense of lack drives us down the path that it does, but it does. And the reason we are so susceptible to being sold and so get sucked into the game of self-seeking is because we think playing that tame will deliver us that wholeness we’re after.
But what do I mean by wholeness exactly? I mean feeling completely at ease and at peace with what is. I mean a state of being where we embrace life fully — both the good and the bad — and so allow a rich aliveness to pervade our experience. When we are whole, we are “at one” with what is even if the moment doesn’t perfectly fit our mind-made idea of perfection. In wholeness, we know that achieving perfection is not the point. The point is to be perfectly content with the moment as it is, since it could be no other way. That’s wholeness.
Now that we’re feeling into that space (which is a quite groovy space to be sure) the question is why we don’t usually live there and feel that way? Why is that the norm is to feel incomplete, unfulfilled, and inadequate? Said another way, how is that we became estranged from life and began to feel that we did not have enough?
As I see it, the culprit is something very deep in our consciousness. Arguably much deeper than we can consciously access or understand conceptually. Because the culprit is trauma. It is the horrible things that happened to us early in life before could even comprehend the consequences.
As individuals — as selves — we are always working our way up the ladder of safety, security, acceptance, and acknowledgement, and. As the psychologist Abraham Maslow suggested, this the hierarchy of needs that we are seeking to “pull off” in our lives if we can. It’s a useful model and one I often refer back to. But, for the sake of simplicity, if you had to put one word on ALL OF THAT—the feeling of safety, security, acceptance, acknownledgmentwhat would the word be? Can you think of one?
In my mind, the world is LOVE.
As we think about everything we’ve talked about above, about what’s been “ driving the ship” We are seeking LOVE all along, only the paths we take and the obstacles we encounter are different—and even then only superficially. Love is always there, but our ability to receive it is limited by the mind’s false ideas (thanks to the capitalist-consumerist conditioning delivered by the attention economy) about what we must do or become to be worthy of such a gift . That and/or we are caught inside the reverberations of the past traumas that our subconsiocus mind cannot even touc that fills us with a sense of lack and loss. We wish to rid ourselves of this lack and so we seek.
Human beings, just want to love and be loved. They want to give the gift of love and receive the gift as well. It’s a beautiful instinct, and one which reveals a deep misunderstanding. We wish to love and be loved, but do not see that, at our most fundamental level, we are Love.
And why do we not see?
Because we are forgetful, fearful, and distracted by a culture that is itself forgetful, fearful, and distracted. We are caught in, what Einstein called, an “optical delusion of consciousness” that we are separate beings. And you can’t blame us for that.
Our entire lives we’ve been taught to see ourselves as separate selves. We were given names and then titles and responsibilities and all manner of things and experiences which loaded our minds with meaning (or ME-aning) that set us apart from the pack. And this gained momentum in our lives.
Taught to look outward and not inward, we turned love into an object that every self could gain from life, not realizing that Love is the gift we are here to give to this world to heal the wounds of separateness and restore it to Wholeness.
Like most human beings, I've been known to indulge in more than a few self-destructive tendencies.
Whether it's getting lost in anxious thinking or smoking and drinking to relieve temporary stress,
At a logical level, I know these habits are not good for me. I know, big picture, they're "bad" for me. So why do I keep doing them?
In the moment, my egoic mind--stuck in it's suffering--can only see the benefit of "relief". I cannot see yet the effect or adverse impacts. The future--that thing which we tend to entirely obsessed with all the other times--in this moment, simply does not matter; at least not as much as relief does.
I share my own tendencies, not because I am proud or ashamed of them, but because they are human tendencies. They are coping mechanisms we turn to when we can't turn toward the truth.
And if we wish to understand human behavior, then we cannot expect to solve the problems of our society from a systemic top-down approach. We must understand ourselves first and foremost.
Even now, as I write to you I understand, on a certain level, that this work has an element of futility to it. I can shout what I believe to be important and true, but ultimately you must decide for yourself. And you must seek the truth of it yourself.
Said more simply, the mind perceives the present through the filter of the past. Now if we're at all curious why human beings continue to stay stuck in self-destructive habits or conflicts with one another, you really need look no further than this.
Understanding that we can't cope without something to numb our senses is proof that we are simultaneously overwhelmed by our experience (inner or outer) and unable to meaningfully approach our the true source of our problems.
If we look at the source of our private self-destructive patterns
and that of the world, they are ultimately one and the same. They both emanate from a deep lack of love. A lack of love for ourselves and one another creates animosity, hostility, and pain.
I look at my own habits and acknowledge that, rather than recreations, they have been forms of escapism. Tools for hiding from responsibility. Denying my own capacity. But rather than fully embrace growth, I often ignore challenges that seem too big to tackle. I fall into countless diversions and consumer distractions.
Speaking for myself, the only way I'm about to justify my self-destructive tendencies is that they don't kill me on the spot. When the urge comes over me, the voices in my mind insist it's worth the benefits. In fact, the short term benefits are ALL I can see. All I can see is the nice cognitive vacation (or adventure) which is about to ensue.
all I can see--far outweigh the long term consequences the weight of which I cannot fully imagine.
Logic and basically all modern science confirm that lungs and smoke are not a good combination. And the same thing goes for pollution in the air we breathe. Same thing goes for a culture of hatred and deceit. These are not good for us.
So what allows me to keep going?
It's an inconvenient truth for all the well-intentioned teachers out there, but Self-destructive tendencies is that they often make us feel more alive. Living at the proverbial edge, gets our blood pumping.
Is humanity's failure to move quickly in the face of ecological disaster simply part of our need to flirt with disaster to feel something?
Writing that, it feels like an overstatement. And yet I can't tell you how many times I've spoken to individuals who seem eager to tear the whole thing down. Post-apocalyptic anarchy sounds exciting to them. They seem ready to press their foot down on the gas and bring the civilization to its boiling point.
They say cooler heads prevail. But we live in a time where a lot of hot hands near the levers and triggers.
The doomsday prognosticators tell us that something very bad must happen for there ever to be change. Something big must "shake up" the order from the outside to wake us from slumber.
But could not there not also be some way to wake ourselves from within? Right now, it feels like most of us are waiting for some large, resounding gong-crash of a moment to make our big move.
Capture and Control demand ego
TRAUMA & SEPARATENESS
Of course, that's easier said than done. We can't just drop our guard and surrender. Many of us have been hurt or harmed in the course of our life. Even if we might think we've dealt with it or left it in the past, we've all endured some form of suffering or trauma that acts as an obstacle to the deeper connection we seek.
Transformations of CONSCIOUSNESS = Inside-out game of self