Thursday, June 12, 2008

Again, More Benefits of Thinking...

It's been a strange week for me. Reading the book, The Lost Art of Compassion, has made me aware of a lot of things I was ignorant of before, which has really changed the way I see the world and especially the way I see myself.

The book begins with a long section talking about how before it is possible to show compassion for others, one must first have mastered the practice of self-compassion. Once you realize the impermanence and interconnectedness of all life, practicing compassion for others really looks a lot like an advanced form of self-compassion. In order to have compassion for yourself, it is necessary to understand the way you encounter the world and then be able to sort out how much of that is a deception.

For example, when I'm having a conversation with someone, I hear the words they're speaking to me. After I hear the words, I synthesize them and decipher meaning. Often times what I decipher them to mean isn't at all what the person actually said, but instead it's a projection of myself through their words; I'm essentially hearing what I want to hear. The same goes for all of our perceptions and encounters. We construct the worlds we live in, and in doing so we never actually get to know the people we're interacting with. We're always talking to mirrors of ourselves, talking to "imaginary friends" as Jung points out.

Let me point out something I didn't really realize before: Taking time to honestly examine yourself, to look deeper than the actions and find motives, to look beyond the motives and find the REAL motives, is very difficult. Not only is it difficult, it's really painful sometimes. It's like staring at yourself in a mirror only to discover that you're actually a lot uglier than you had hoped. Luckily, while you can't change your exterior, you have a lot of control over the reflection in your inner-mirror. I just wanted to get that off my chest!

So the past few days I've been trying to diagnose myself. How often do I do this without knowing it? Why am I doing it? What is my subconscious battling and clinging to?

The answer: I do it pretty much every minute of every day, and I'm incredibly self-deprecating. Perhaps it goes back to when I was younger and got picked on all the time by other kids (we never seem to quite get past our childhood, do we?), or perhaps it stems from the depression that flows from generation to generation in my family, but I can't ever seem to grasp the idea that I'm a person of value. I'm an end in myself, not a means to someone else's end. This idea interferes with every aspect of my life.

When I do good things, I'm not doing them for other people. I find that I'm doing them for myself, hoping that others will recognize it and give me credit, thus making me a person of value. When I date girls, I can't really love them just for who they are. I always try to fix them, because by fixing them I'm doing an action that makes me valuable in their mind (and in mine as well). In my own mind though, I'm never good enough. I can't ever measure up, and this creates a lot of suffering.

The desire to be validated, to be built up, to be recognized, will never be satiated. I've gotta figure out some way to get around it. I'm not really sure how (it's been with me as long as I can remember!), though I've got a few ideas. It's just interesting to me how I finally picked up on it this week. I can look back on the events of my life, and I realize that all of my follies in dating, in friendships, work life, etc, all flow from my need to be recognized by others in order to feel like a person of worth. I'm glad I'm figuring this out from reading a book now while I'm twenty instead of paying someone to figure it out for me on a couch twenty years from now.

So there's work ahead, but there's also a direction to go in. And the knowledge that when I figure this out I'll be able to love and help people for who they are instead of out of some selfish desire is very motivating for me. Life is good today, my friends.

By the way, I leave tomorrow for this year's week of Boys State in Warrensburg. It will definitely be a long, tiring, trying week, but hopefully I'll be able to pull through it alright and be able to effect some young guys in a very positive way. Needless to say I won't have much time to blog, so I might not see you all until the 21st or 22nd. Take care!


Anonymous said...

It's beeninteresting to watch your thinking evolve on the topic of spirituality.

Good luck with the Boy's State thing. I'm assuming you'll blog about that when you get back?

Mark said...

Most definitely! I'm sure I'll have stories to tell, insights to share, and lots of sleep to catch up on as well.