Monthly Archives: January 2015

Michael Voris and Shame Based Criticism

I’ve been watching videos posted by Michael Voris who is a Roman Catholic apologist and a self-appointed lay defender of the faith. Here is one of his videos:

In this particular video Michael Voris talks about a movie released on the life of christ.  I have never heard of the movie he reviewed and if I had I probably would never have gone to see it. What I found interesting was the message he drew out of it and how he went about explaining his point of view.

In his review he talks about the differences between Catholic and Protestant theology. He talks a lot about the “real presence” in the consecrated bread and wine during mass and how Catholics believe this and Protestants do not. He seems to imply that a Catholic who does not fully believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist is not a real Catholic.

Voris talks about how this movie appeals to emotions and not the intellect. He goes on to say that this is emblematic of the Protestant view of Christianity. I don’t know whether this is true or not. What I find interesting is that Voris, like Admiralbill (the conservative on the Star Trek message board I used to torment and documented in my ebook “Shame and Internet Trolling“) has to make his points by criticizing other people. In his analysis Voris takes an “I’m right. You’re wrong” approach and then criticizes his opponents to make his point. He then says that he does what he does for the good of the people he is mocking.

Voris argues Catholic truth appeals to the intellect whereas Protestant truth appeals to the emotions. There is the sense in his argument that emotions are not authentic or important. He says “emotions do not save … often times they deceive.” Admiralbill once typed, “WE THINK YOU FEEL” as a response intended to convey his belief that thoughts are more important than feelings and conservatives base their views on thoughts whereas liberals base their views upon feelings.

It is interesting to me that Michael Voris argues using the shame playbook just like Admiralbill. He claims to be motivated by saving souls but his method of argument (ie, shaming those who disagree with him) and the hostile energy he emits suggests to me that his real motivation is to shame others to make himself feel better about himself. This is what shame-based people do.

I am not commenting on the substance of his arguments. That is a question of faith I would suppose. He seems to have faith that Roman Catholicism is the one true faith. I am a Roman Catholic, I will make no argument with that. I am really questioning the motives he claims to be striving for. If I am being honest, if his true motivation is to assuage his shame ego then his arguments seem to carry less weight to me. Perhaps this is valuing feelings over thoughts on my part. But I am not entirely convinced that feelings should be weighted less than thought.

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What is the point of having a point? My review of “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt

Yesterday I finished reading a book that touched my soul entitled “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt. I feel an emptiness now that I finished because I no longer have those characters around to experience on a daily basis. This feeling of emptiness is important and cathartic. As I approached the end a depression set in. The main character Theo described how his life was a catastrophe. I identified with that. There is all this struggle and persevering and for what? It is one thing to say this but it is quite another to experience through a character. There were scenes in that book that made me weep because they articulated the tragedy that life increasingly becomes the older I get. I felt depressed as I approached the end and saw my own life as a series of struggles I always hoped would resolve into something better but now sadly suspect (and afraid to fully admit) that it probably will not. Not in that way. But then when I finished the book and set it down I experienced the catharsis. The hopelessness of the depression lifted and resolved into something more akin to peace and truth.

There is happiness in life. I have experienced it from time to time. But as I become older happiness becomes more of a memory. It has become something to achieve. It is something I recognize when it happens as a long, lost place of rest, my old home that for some reason, at some point in time I left and because I left I could never really return. I can return. But when I do it not home but rather a place I used to call home. Theo experiences this tragedy and the book in large part is him dealing with the aftermath. He struggles and gets along with life but the damage was done and there is no getting around it.

I was sold a bill of goods at a very young age. I was told that life is good (a gift in fact) and everything would turn out just fine. If I worked hard and played by the rules I would be rewarded. As I got older I struggled with the cognitive dissonance that my own experience did not quite match up with this original picture. I was unsatisfied and concluded the fault must be mine. I was ungrateful, deficient, weak and touched by original sin. I did not deserve this great gift that had been given to me and the only moral solution, the only way to balance the scales was to punish myself with shame. Shame destroyed me and set me back. I can never regain that ground. But here I am still existing, not uncomfortable, happily married with two beautiful daughters. I have largely overcome or worked my way through my shame. But now I am 44 and have so much ground to recover I doubt I ever will.

The point of something is the reason for it to exist. If I make an argument the point of my argument is to convince someone my point of view is correct. But what is the point of that? What is the point of having a point? In 100 years both I and whoever I was trying to convince will be dead and no one will remember the argument I made or even the reason I made the argument in the first place. In a billion or so years the earth will be engulfed by the sun and at some point down the road al the stars will burn out. What then will be the point of my argument? What could possibly be the point of anything at all during this lifetime if nothing in this lifetime has permanence?

Life has no permanence but I live it as if it does, accepting the idea of impermanence outwardly, paying it lip service, but never fully taking it in. This discordance is the tragedy of life. Life is suffering. Trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. Samsara. Having this point articulated, “pointed” out in a way that touched me the way “The Goldfinch” did feels important. There is some degree of recognition, satisfaction and resolution in the midst of the sadness. Through it, I caught a glimpse of that long-lost home.

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Thoughts on Prayer

What is the point of prayer? How do I know it is accomplishing anything? There have been many times in my life where I have prayed in the form of asking for something that did not come to be. This might suggest that there is nothing to prayer. That it is at best ineffectual and at worst an ubsurd and foolish waste of effort. I know the advocates of prayer will say something like “God always answers prayer it just might not be the way you expect.” I find this clichéd and unconvincing.

If there is something more to the universe than materialism and mortality (which I suspect there is but having no way of proving) then I want to communicate with it. I want to approach it in some way. Prayer seems to be the way to do this. This is an external prayer. That is, a prayer that originates inside of me and travels to some external recipient. But prayer can also be a way to communicate with my innermost self, the part of me that is still in communion with that something more, the divine. This is an internal prayer, a prayer that originates inside of me and travels deeper down to an internal recipient. This is meditation (perhaps).

So essentially, prayer is a form of communication, like a phone call or an email. In everyday life these types of communications are sent, received and responded to. Some are sent and received but not responded to. Some are sent but never actually received. This seems like a more reasonable way to look at prayer than the “God always responds to prayer” mentality. It accepts the possibility that the communication could not have been received or received and ignored (for whatever reason). But there is something unsatisfying about looking at prayer in that way. It’s too mechanical. It reduces prayer to the level of logic and materialism.

I want prayer to be more than this. I want it to breach the chasm between the everyday world and the divine. It seems to me the divine is so wholly other that it cannot be reduced to merely another recipient (like me but more powerful) who may either choose to respond or ignore my prayer. The divine is beyond my comprehension.

Why do I want to communicate with the divine? My motivation is more than simply asking the divine to intervene in my material existence. It has to do with communing, being in relation with, being near. Because as beautiful and interesting as it is, ultimately there is something unsatisfying about the material world. There is an inner longing for that something else, that long-lost realm I used to call home.

This inner longing does not prove the existence of the divine but perhaps it can be seen as evidence thereof. It is enough for me to base my faith upon this. It gives me enough reason to pray, to reach out to that hidden, mysterious, long lost home.

 

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Shame, Critical Thinking and Loyalty

Shame derails critical thinking because truth is not the shame ego’s main objective. The shame ego’s main objective is looking good in the eyes of others. Put another way, the main objective of the shame ego is to avoid humiliation. Put another way still, the shame ego’s worst fear is being humiliated.

If the shame ego were primarily interested in the truth and thought critically it could hear both sides of a debate and determine the winner objectively based on the merits of each argument alone. But with political debates in particular I find that most people do not evaluate the arguments primarily on their merits but rather based upon pre-existing loyalties to political camps and not wanting to appear foolish in the eyes of the opposing camp. I do this myself. When I do this I must realize that I am allowing my shame ego to take control of my thought process and am therefore not thinking critically.

In this context, loyalty can be a tricky subject. Most people think loyalty is an admirable quality. I would say, generally speaking this is correct. However, shame egos are more apt to invest their loyalty for the wrong reasons in the wrong causes. For example, a shame ego might be loyal to a cause because it does not want to appear to be following the wrong or loosing side. It is not so much that the shame ego ignores its critical thinking, but rather the shame ego prioritizes not appearing foolish or wrong above what cause actually deserves or has earned its loyalty. This is why (I believe) arguments involving religion and politics devolve into shouting matches and ad hominem attacks. These type of arguments are about personal beliefs and therefore in some ways define the people making them. If their beliefs are wrong then they as people are wrong. Shame egos cannot abide by this.

Critical thinking requires dismissing shame in order to be objective but a shame ego will not allow this. As such, a person with a shame ego never properly learns to think critically and therefore experiences a warped sense of reality and truth. At its heart, the shame ego is afraid of truth because the shame ego ultimately believes itself to be wrong. As such the truth (it believes) is humiliating and must be avoided, hidden or dismissed. In fact, a shame ego will sometimes deny truth even to itself and will react with anger or aggression against the people who insist on the truth.

Rather than feel the discomfort a shame ego experiences when confronted with the truth it will avoid the truth and therefore is incapable of thinking critically. In order for a person to think critically he must free himself from his shame ego. He must embrace the truth and allow himself to experience humiliation in a supportive, non-judgmental environment. If he is judged then the humiliation becomes too harsh and he will retreat back to the protection of the shame ego. But if he is not judged and can take in the compassion in the face of the feeling of humiliation, then he can start to have compassion for himself. This is the first step in the arduous road to liberation.

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Put Yourself Out There

Yesterday I wrote a blog post about how to stay in a job you hate. In the post I talk about an office job I worked and hated for ten years. It was sarcastic and discussed the things I did to make the passage of time less excruciatingly boring and how I avoided going down those dark thought holes that lead to life dread and depression. I ended up not posting it because I envisioned applying for a job in the future and not getting an interview because someone stumbled across the post. I actually thought the post was pretty funny and clever. And I have heard that the most successful posts are the ones where you feel a little scared to post them. I have not confirmed this statistically (nor could I probably) but I feel like there is some truth to this idea. The posts where I am a little afraid to publish are the ones that expose some secret part of myself and contain real emotion. Anyway, I ended up not posting it because I was scared that it might come back and bite me down the line. This is an example of me not putting myself out there. It might be a missed opportunity. Maybe some book publisher or movie producer might have stumbled upon it and offered me some kind of book or movie deal. This is where my mind goes anyway.

As I said, I did not end up putting myself out there on that one. But I know I have to put myself out there sometimes otherwise I will remain stuck and frustrated with life. But the act of putting myself out there is tough for me because I am shame oriented and expect people to judge me negatively. I can forgive myself for not publishing that post because I recently did put myself out there in an e-book I recently self published. I fear other people’s reactions to this book because I got pretty personal talking about my emotions and I mention other people although I did not identify anyone other than myself specifically by name. Still, anyone who knows me would probably be able to figure out who most of the people are.

On that one I did put myself out there. I cast the die and let the chips fall where they may. Mostly likely nothing will result from it one way or the other. That is probably worse than getting a bad reaction come to think of it. The fear of no reaction is actually a big reason not to put myself out there. Of course if I do not put myself out there I guarantee that I will receive no reaction. To bring things full circle, I think not putting myself out there was certainly a contributing factor as to why I stayed working a job I hated for ten years of my life. Of course the root of this behavior is fear and fear is not easily overcome but it can be.

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To Any E-Book Author Needing a Book Review… I will Review Yours if You Review Mine

I recently wrote and published an eBook entitled Shame and Internet Trolling and am looking for an independent reader to write an honest review on Amazon and Goodreads. I have noticed that there are many services available on the internet offering to review independently published books for a fee. I assume there are a lot of authors out there who are in my situation but do not want to pay for a review. Here is what I propose:

If you are an independent author who has recently published and want a review please contact me in the comment section below. I will read and review your book if you read and review mine.

I am looking forward to hearing from any other independent authors!

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Fear of Fear Blocks Success

Franklin Delano Roosevelt said in his first inaugural address, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” This always struck me as a catchy and memorable phrase. But I do not think that I have really grasped its meaning until recently. I now take the phrase to mean the “fear of fear” is what stops me in life and blocks my success.

Fear itself is a physical sensation that indicates I am pushing my envelope. Every fear (itself) is valid and exists for a reason. There seems to be two types, instinctual fear and learned fear. Instinctual fear is passed down through evolution and hard-wired into genetics. It is what tells a deer to freeze when it suspects danger and to bolt when danger is approaching. Learned fear comes from some traumatic event that a person has learned to avoid so as not to repeat it. Both types of fear are defense mechanisms designed to avoid danger. This is a good thing, but when I accumulate too many fears or fixate on one particularly deeply rooted fear in a key area my envelope becomes shrunken and the avoidance of blocks my growth.

As such, facing fear is how I push the envelope and grow. If I run from fear I will remain stuck in life and will never grow.

When I was a kid I was horrible at sports that required hand-eye coordination. I felt humiliated when I struck out or did not catch a ball thrown to me. Over time I avoided playing these types of sports as a way to avoid humiliation but as a result I never gained mastery. Running from this fear effectively meant that I would never grow in this area.

I suspect the “fear of fear” comes from shame. There was a time in my life when I simply experienced emotions and did not process them to the extent I do as an adult. Over time I learned to fear certain things and they accumulated in my mind forming what I call my shame ego. It is the shame ego that produces meta thoughts and meta feelings. These are thoughts evaluating other thoughts or feelings about other feelings.  A ball is thrown to me (for example) and I put my hands up but the ball sails past me and lands on the ground. I then experience the thought that I am not as proficient at catching the ball as other kids. I then feel humiliation. I then think I am weak and a spaz, etc. The next time a ball is thrown in my direction I experience the fear that I will fail again and repeat the experience of humiliation. I then begin to avoid experiences that elicit that type of fear.

Fear of fear is a meta feeling. For the purposes of this article there is no need to go into where these meta thoughts and meta feelings come from. It is helpful enough to begin to be aware of them and notice them when they occur. When this happens I can begin to separate myslef from them. Then I can choose not to let my actions be governed by them.

If I fear fear then it becomes a wall. If I respect fear and know that it is there for a legitimate reason and therefore nothing to be ashamed of I can then become curious and playful about the fear. Then fear becomes an opportunity to push my envelope and grow.

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Waiting on Hold

English: American Way of life

English: American Way of life (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recently I was on hold with the Water Department.  I needed to change my billing address because I had moved.  At the time I was renting the house I owned in Philadelphia.  For some reason the water department would not change the bill to my renter’s name so I had to get the bill and add it to the rent every month.  I remember the hold music was cool jazz and was designed to have no beginning or end.  It just seamlessly repeated itself over and over.  I recall listening to an episode of “This American Life” where someone was on hold with similar music.  They posited that the music was designed so that the listener did not experience the passage of time and therefore did not realize how long they had been on hold.

Sometimes I find myself waiting at a red light and it seems like the light has been red too long. I start to wonder if the timing mechanism on the light is broken. After a period of time I have to make a decision whether I should run the red light or to continue waiting.  Running the red light means breaking the rules. Waiting carries with it the possibility that I am being foolish in some way. And so I am left in an unsatisfying limbo.

I just published an e-book. Some friends of mine said they would read it. I have not heard back from them and am left to wonder, did they read it? If so, are they not getting back to me because they did not like it and either do not care or do not want to hurt my feelings. Similarly, I hate sending out an email to someone and they simply do not respond. It makes me feel like I am unimportant. It makes me feel like they think their time is intrinsically more important than my time. Thinking about this makes me angry. It touches my shame and brings up past hurts.

Of course most of this is just my shame ego messing with me. The Water Department is a bureaucracy staffed by government employees punching the clock. I am no more or less important to them than any other caller. The red light is a mindless, mechanical contraption (at least for now) and has no agenda or motivation to shame me. My friends have their own lives and of course their time is more valuable to them than my time is valuable to them. It would be ridiculous to think otherwise. Just as my time is more important to me than their time is important to me. But when there is a lack of information my shame ego fills the vacuum. As will all things connected with my shame ego, awareness of this dynamic is helpful. But awareness does not really erase my impatience. I suppose I must chalk this one up to samsara (life is suffering) and of course I have some nostalgic longing for life not to be like this. As the Buddha said, life is suffering and the cause of suffering is desire. Not that I am a Buddhist but I do think there is some truth to it. Perhaps I am continuously being reincarnated like that hold music the water department plays on the telephone.

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Passive Aggressive Behavior and Shame

(The bulk of the material for this blog post came from my original post entitle Passive Aggressive Behavior, The Truth Will Set You Free. This has consistently ranked as my most popular post in terms of views.)

I used to troll a message board.  I describe this in my recently published eBook entitled Shame and Internet Trolling. I targeted a conservative, ex-military guy from Texas.  All I had to do was post an article that put the Republican party in a bad light and that would set him off on a vicious anti-Liberal rant.  It felt exciting to get him riled up.  When he accused me of trolling and / or baiting I would defend myself saying that all I did was post an article I thought would generate interesting conversation.  Because I did not comment on the article directly I maintained plausible deniability.  It was fun to get him riled up but when he attacked me back I felt horrible.  I had to get the last word in.  I could not let him get the better of me.  Sometimes other members on the message board would take his side.  Then I would feel even worse.

The truth is that trolling and all passive aggression comes from shame.  If I really felt the article was valuable in and of itself I would have advocated for it.  But instead I tried to maintain deniability to protect myself from counter attack and maintain the illusion that I merely posted the article to stimulate discussion.  Shame based behavior such as passive aggression comes from a mind that assumes that its true thoughts and feelings are not okay.  If somebody else were able to observe these thoughts and feelings they would judge the mind harshly so the thoughts and feelings must be hidden and denied.  To the shame based mind image is more important than reality.  Of course this mindset is ultimately undermining and self-defeating.  Reality is real (by definition).  If the mind values image over reality it is in a sense denying reality and at odds with it.  This results in more shame and anxiety to boot.

In the Book of John, chapter 8, verse 32, Jesus says, “[T]he truth shall make you free.”  In the context of this post this statement is very powerful because shame (the motivation behind passive aggression) is a prison of untruth and unreality.  In order to escape the prison of shame the mind must face its highest fear, to expose the truth within to the light of day and for all to see and judge (if they choose to) without excuses.  This is a very tall order for someone who suffers from shame.  I speak from personal experience and in my experience just as this prison takes many, many years to build and perfect it also takes some time (though not as much) to be torn down.  The fear of exposure must be approached with caution and the waters tested gradually over time so that trust of the outside world is built up.  Further, and most importantly, the shame based mind must learn to not abandon itself in the face of shame.  I used to involuntarily say, “I wish I was dead” to myself whenever I felt shame or embarrassment.  Then I would feel bad about what came out of my mouth. Now, when I experience shame or embarrassment I try to be aware of what is going on inside of me and then I say, “I can love myself through this experience.”  I have more capacity to let myself off the hook. The reality of the situation is that shame is just an emotion and all emotions are real and okay.  They have to be otherwise the one who feels the emotion is not okay.  It is difficult to emerge from shame and appreciate this at first.  But doing so brings forth the dawn of liberation for a shame based person and when this happens behaviors like passive aggression begin to fade away.

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