Tag Archives: Criticism

The Solipsism of Creativity

img_0810For me, creativity is the joy of life. It is also a delicate fire that can be easily put out if not properly nurtured. Being creative requires a willingness to fail. It seems that for every ten failures there is one success. Very often that one success is not possible without those ten preceding failures. Being creative (at least for me) requires a certain level of exposure. There has to exist the opportunity to be judged by others to raise the stakes and risk catastrophe. This raising of the stakes gives it an energy that it would not otherwise have. This means that creativity requires a willingness to be vulnerable. In this way there are two counterbalancing forces at play. On the one hand creativity requires nurturing but on the other it must also risk negative judgment.

I make myself vulnerable in this way on a weekly basis when I write this blog. I write about what I am thinking. I enjoy the process of creating and putting it out there. The fact that what I write can be read by other people matters more than whether it is actually read because all of this is an internal and solipsistic process. In other words it is my own anticipation of my writing being read by others that (to a certain extent) fuels the fire of creativity

On the other hand there are very real, judgmental and sometimes hostile voices out there. These voices can manifest themselves as actual people in my blog’s comment section or as an internal critical voice. To a degree I enjoy their hostility because there is a power in getting their reaction. This is an ego based sort of enjoyment and as such is ultimately self annihilating in nature. As is the judgmental hostility it is interacting with. For this reason this enjoyment is something that I am not all together comfortable with. There is also a certain amount of defiance of this hostility on my part at play in this dynamic. This also fuels the fire. Moreover, if I were to not write and publish for fear of being judged I would only be stifling myself. This is a another form of self annihilation. So I must write.

These hostile forces share similar qualities. They all seem to take offense at true expression on supposed moral grounds. This is always the way with the ego who is threatened by the free expression of others. The ego is always comparing itself to others and placing everything on a hierarchy. It is threatened by the idea of equality and it employs shame to create this false hierarchy very likely because that weapon was used so successfully on it. I suspect there is jealousy at play here. The hostile force’s free expression had been shut down by shame and so it cannot bear to see free expression in others. It touches a point of pain that is too much to endure. Because it cannot be free no one else can be either. It sees freedom as rebellion and radical autonomy. It denies that freedom is actually the expression of one’s true nature which is the expression of God’s will.

 

 

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Looking Back on New Years Resolutions

NYEIt is interesting to see how much I can change in one year. Last year I wrote a piece about making New Years resolutions. It sort of makes me cringe to read it now. At the time I wrote it I was very interested in dissecting and deconstruction the emotion of shame in an effort to better understand it and by doing so, liberate myself from it. The fact that reading this post now makes me cringe (which is a physical reaction to shame) whereas I did not cringe (presumably) when I first wrote and published the piece suggests that I am indeed now in a different place psychologically. I am aware that imbedded in my cringe is a judgment of my former self. There is a sense that I am now better informed or that I have matured and am now in the position to look down upon this former me. On the other hand, I do not think that me judging my former self is any better than me judging another person. It is essentially criticism and comes from a negative and egocentric place that uses criticism of the other to make myself feel superior.

In that post, my former self began:

So you have decided to make a New Years Resolution and you feel ashamed for various reasons a good deal of the time. Here is what I recommend based upon my life experience dealing with shame issues.

Reading the phrase “[s]o you have decided to make a New Years Resolution…” makes me feel embarrassed. It has an amateurish quality to it. Perhaps this suggests that I have matured as a writer. The embarrassment comes in part from my current self judging my former self but it also comes from me assuming how other people reading this paragraph might have read it and thought that I was acting like a douchebag. This presumes these readers had the maturity then that I have now which may or may not be the case. On the other hand, I am aware that my writing last year comes from a place of compassion for other people who might be dealing with the same shame issues I had dealt with. The fact that I am now judging my former self in this way suggests that maybe I have regressed in terms of my relationship with shame. I am not sure about that because I feel pretty good about myself right now.

My former self continued:

First of all, do not make a New Years Resolution out of a sense of guilt. Only make New Years Resolutions for your own benefit. Of course, your shame ego will tell you this way of thinking is selfish and something to feel ashamed about. Remember that the shame ego is the same thing that will convince you that maintaining the resolution you made out of guilt is too difficult to keep up and then once you stop maintaining the resolution will then tell you that you are weak for giving it up. Of course this requires awareness of when your shame ego is sabotaging your efforts and looking for reasons to feel ashamed (but that is a topic for another blog post).

What I was referring to with the term “shame ego” is that negative, critical, internal voice that probably most people experience to one degree or another. I believe this voice is the result of bad programing and is passed down from generation to generation through the line of fathers. It results from the combination of shame and misplaced loyalty. A person is shamed by his parents. Because they are his parents he must internalize this feeling of shame or else he will be disloyal to them. Being disloyal in turn brings on more shame. When this person becomes a parent, if he remains unaware and has not achieved autonomy from this dynamic, he will shame his children in the same manner because it feels good to his ego which is really in charge. This dysfunctional ego is the source of shame, judgment, jealousy, racism and all the other sins.

Making a New Years resolution seems to me to be an attempt to strive towards some perfected version of the self. This can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on what the motivation behind this striving is. If the striving comes from a whole hearted place, an honest and loving place then it is good. If it comes from an egocentric, shameful, judgmental place then it will always be dysfunctional and will end in harming the self and others. It is ultimately doomed to failure.

My former self continued:

I recommend your resolution should either be to stop performing some self-destructive behavior or to take up a behavior that improves yourself. It should be something you are capable of doing with your whole heart. That is, it should be something you want to do. People with well-developed shame egos have a hard time knowing what they truly want because they have bonded to the message that what they want is wrong.

I think this last point is important. I believe a person cannot be successful in life if he is incapable of articulating what he wants. If he believes what he truly wants is wrong he will sabotage his efforts to achieve this secret goal. If he pursues goals that are not in line with what he truly wants he will not be satisfied when he has achieved them. Shame teaches a person that his desires and needs are selfish and wrong and to the extent he is aware of his true desires he should feel shame. So he buries them and they remain unconscious. The only entity this dynamic serves is the ego which revels in this morass like a pig in its own excrement.

My former self continued:

A good way to tell if something is what you want is to pay attention to how it makes you feel. If it makes you feel good then it is (most likely) good and something you like doing. If it does not make you feel good then it is (most likely) not good and something you do not like doing. Be careful. Some things feel good in the short-term but are destructive in the long-term, like addictions. Addictions are another trap of the shame ego. At first addictions seem like an escape from the shame ego’s constant criticism. That of course feels good. But eventually the addiction becomes self-destructive and gives the shame ego another reason to criticize you.

I would imagine that this last paragraph might irk a person who self identifies as conservative. Perhaps I should clarify that feeling good is an indicator that one is acting in accordance with his true purpose or indeed God’s will. It has been my experience that true purpose is almost never in accordance with the ego and acting in accordance with the ego gives rise to anger, resentment, jealousy, racism and hate.

I believe most people make New Years resolutions because they find themselves lacking and they want to improve. A person’s motivation to improve, his plan to improve and his execution of that plan can always run afoul of the wants and needs of his true self. To right the course of the ship of self, I think it is always a good thing to increase awareness of the self and the ego’s attempts to undermine the self. Awareness of the ego brings about a separation from the ego. In a sense the self becomes autonomous from the ego thus allowing it to act more fully in accordance with its true purpose.

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Dialog with a [W]hite Supremacist Part V

My biggest fan waxed psychological about the workings of the ego: “It’s not clear who exactly is writing on your behalf? Your ‘self’ or your ‘ego?’ I was always suspicious of those that try to disassociate the two to the point of mutually exclusive ‘entities.’ Where my beliefs are strong, the ‘ego’ is silent. Where trivial efficiency comes into play, the ‘ego’ sometimes goes into overdrive.”

Here, I am pretty sure I understand his point. Again, the concept of ego can be used as a crutch or an excuse but also its existence can be reasonably called into question. Part of the confusion is that the term “ego” can be used in different ways. Freud’s ego is not the same thing as the ego talked about in a Buddhist context for example. When I say “ego” I refer to that inner voice. A person who deals with shame issues might experience an inner voice that is constantly criticizing him. It might tell him or make him feel that he is not good enough or is not entitled to certain things. It might recall embarrassing memories over and over or tell him he is doing something incorrectly. I believe a great many people experience the ego I am describing undeservedly. This type of ego results from an abusive situation where a person is constantly bullied or told they are wrong at a young age. This message is then internalized and never really goes away. Because of its chronic nature it has to be managed, otherwise it will result in maladaptive behaviors, anxiety, depression, anger and in some cases violence.

Periodically, in our discussions the white Supremacist would, rather than discuss the issues civilly, resort to making ad hominem attacks. It is my belief that his unchecked ego was the source of this behavior. When I pointed this out to him he responded, “But that is exactly the kind of disassociated, ego-emergent notion that neutralizes the rightful burden at the feet of the Self.” I assume by this statement he means that his ad hominem attacks were not only fully intentional but virtuous and praiseworthy as well. Putting aside the fact that making ad hominem attacks is not really a convincing or effective debate tactic, I have to admire that he is taking his philosophy all the way without compromise. I’m not sure what he is talking about half the time but he seems to believe it whole heartedly.

He went on to say, “What you call ‘ego’ had been assimilated by my Self where issues of first principle are involved.” By this, I take him to mean he has no ego or critical voice as I have described when survival is at stake. I can only take him at his word on this point. However, he seems to put almost all aspects of life under the umbrella of survival. He sees the white race as under threat of extinction and he sees the behavior of seemingly everyone but himself at fault for this. I cannot experience his psychology (obviously). I can only piece together the bits of reasoning I have sifted from his voluminous and largely incomprehensible writing.

Based on my meager understanding I still have to believe he has this internal critical voice whether he labels it an ego or not. He displays all the characteristics of a shame dominated person. He is highly judgmental of other people. He displays an “us versus” them mentality. He tries very hard to project an image of certainty and reacts with hostility when questioned. He is obsessive (one need only review the comment sections of the last four posts for proof of this). He has scapegoats too numerous to count. A person with a shame dominated mind has to find other people at fault for his problems. He has to point the finger elsewhere in other words. Else the only person to point to is himself and that pain is too much to endure.

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Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged

I used to think the phrase “Judge not lest ye be judged” means “Don’t judge other people because you then open the door to be judged yourself.”

Now I think it means “Don’t judge other people because then you will judge yourself.”

The “judgment” referred to in this phrase does not mean legal judgment exercised by a judge or a jury in a courtroom. Legal judgment is conscious and (in theory) exercised for the best interest of society.

Nor does the judgment in this phrase refer to good judgment exercised by a person facing a moral dilemma. This type of judgment is also exercised consciously and for a moral purpose.

The phrase “Judge not lest ye be judged” refers to the ego driven and shame based judgment. This judgment takes the form of criticism, gossip and complaining. This type of judgment is exercised unconsciously and does not serve a moral purpose. Its true purpose (although typically clothed in the trappings of morality) is to make the judge feel better by putting another person down.

The source of this judgment is “constant criticizer.” This is the internal voice that replays prior embarrassments in your mind, tells you that you are not allowed to do certain things or that what you are doing you are doing wrong. This constant criticism does not feel good physically and mentally. The only way to feel better is to criticize someone else.

This form of judgment generates negative emotions such as vanity, shame, defensiveness, anger and depression. These feelings are generated both in the judge and the person being judged. This negative energy feeds on itself, growing and spreading to other people creating a negative feedback loop.

I used to work with a very negative woman. She constantly criticized the company we worked for and our supervisors. She complained about the work we performed. She talked about our co-workers behind their backs. One day she came into the office with the most depressed expression on her face. I asked her what was wrong and she told me she hated herself. I realized at that point that she judged herself with the equal intensity that she judged everyone else. When I saw this in her I recognized it in myself. The constant criticizer performs both functions. In other words there is no difference between self judgment and judgment of others. It comes from the same place.

The constant criticizer is like a foreign entity that takes possession of your thought process. Because it is unconscious, if you do not make the conscious decision to not be judgmental the constant criticizer will think for you. The more you allow yourself to judge the stronger it becomes. Awareness and conscious decision-making is the key to starving the beast that is the constant criticizer.

This is what “judge not lest ye be judged” truly means. If you allow yourself to be ruled by the constant criticizer and cede control of your thought process to it you will end up judging yourself. The more you judge the stronger it becomes. Only by making the conscious decision to not be judgmental will reverse this process.

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10 Life Lessons I Feel Comfortable Posting in a Blog

I am 44 years old. If you were to ask me my top ten life lessons off the top of my head here is what I would probably come up with:

  1. Don’t worry about what other people think of you. I spent far too much of my time worrying about this. So much so that I lost sight of myself and what I wanted out of life. I only really came to terms with this fact a few years ago. There is a big part of me that wants to regret this but regret is a facet of my ego and my ego is what convinced me to prioritize other people’s thoughts over my own.
  2. In terms of a career Do what you enjoy. Don’t do what you don’t like doing. Again, because I worried about what would make me look good in the eyes of others I made choices based on what I thought they would like. As a result I worked a miserable job I hated for eight years only to be laid off and unemployed / underemployed for a few years before I got back on my feet. I am now in the position of reaching for what I enjoy but it feels like I am racing against the clock. Far better to figure this one out in your twenties or earlier if possible.
  3. Avoid debt. I wish I was better about this early on as well. Any debt you take on is lost opportunity. It is better to have compound interest working for you with investments than against you with debt.
  4. If you never felt like you pleased your parents in childhood it probably will never happen when you are an adult. As such, stop trying and free up that energy for your passions. It might actually improve your relationship with your parents.
  5. Don’t associate with people who make you feel bad about yourself. You can recognize them if you pay attention to your feelings. Trust that your feelings are real, there for a reason and never wrong.
  6. Loyalty is earned. For so long I felt I needed to be loyal to things and people who had no loyalty to me. As such the rewards I thought this loyalty would bring if I just hung in there long enough never materialized until I was able to let go of this obligation.
  7. You are entitled to happiness. Everyone is. If you are unhappy there is a reason for it and it probably is not because you are bad, wrong or otherwise defective.
  8. Don’t judge other people. People who judge other people judge themselves equally as harshly. They do this because they were judged harshly and when they judge others harshly the people they judge will judge others and continue to spread the virus.
  9. Shame is toxic. Shame is the source and result of judgment. It is also the origin of misplaced loyalty and probably debt.
  10. Religion and politics are voluntary. Because no one can know what’s on the other side you should not and probably cannot force you beliefs or values on others. Nor should you judge another person harshly for believing something contrary to what you believe. If you find yourself doing this perhaps you should ask yourself what am I ashamed of? Who judged me harshly when they should have had compassion for me?

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Internet Trolling is Addictive

I have an addictive personality.  I think this is common among people who have shame-based personalities because to a shame-based person there is generally no escape from shame.  In the shame-based mind there exists a constant criticizing voice.  This criticizer (the super ego) criticizes both the self and the outside world. To the shame-based person these two aspects of the criticizer seem separate.  In fact, they are one and the same.  The self is constantly at fault and the world is constantly acting against the self.  With shame, the self criticizes the self as an attempt to align the self with the outside world in order to be accepted.  Ironically, this self-criticism only perpetuates the self’s isolation and alienation from the outside world.  This dynamic also demonstrates the fractured and conflicted nature of the shame-based mind.  The shame-based mind hates itself for being flawed.  It also hates the outside world for shaming it.  At the same time it wishes to be accepted and loved by the outside world even though it feels unjustly persecuted by the outside world.

This isolation and self-criticism feels bad both mentally and physically.  It can manifest itself in anxiety, depression, irritation, a lack of energy and a general dissatisfaction with life.  In the moment this feeling can only be tolerated for so long before the self (the ego and the limbic system) seeks to shelter itself.  This is where addictions fit in.  Drugs, alcohol, skin picking, pornography, masturbation and internet trolling all act to distract the self from the psychological pain caused by shame and self-criticism.  This distraction is a short-term fix but while the fix is working it works well.  Soon after, however, the criticizer reemerges and now has something new with which to criticize the self.  This time the criticism is shame for giving into addiction.  And so the cycle continues.  The shame builds up until it is intolerable and the mind seeks its addictions to quell the shame and so on.

Because the internet troll is shame-based, he takes particular delight in shaming other people.  This is his revenge against the world that has unjustly persecuted him.  He criticizes other people for their religion, their politics or personal habits.  At least in part, the troll sees himself as being in the right because to a shame-based person civilization is upheld through shame because in his way of thinking, shame is the only thing that will cause a bad person to act lawfully and appropriately.  When a troll lobs an effective zing that shames another person there is a moment of exhilaration.  This is the payoff but this is typically followed by shame for being a troll and not being able to control his behavior (giving in to addiction).  Often other people on the message board or comment section gang up on the troll.  This exacerbates the troll’s feeling of shame.  At this point the troll will swear off trolling in his mind but eventually the urge to troll will reemerge and the addictive cycle repeats itself.  It is important to note that the troll will often talk as if his point of view is very well thought out and he is crusading for the truth or some such.  In fact, the motivation to troll is only the addictive, short-term rush he gets from shaming another person.  The troll’s personal beliefs are ultimately secondary.

 

Read my ebook Shame and Internet Trolling. Available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and iBooks.

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On Judging People

The last Judgment - an icon 17th cent. from Li...

The last Judgment – an icon 17th cent. from Lipie, Historic Museum in Sanok, Poland (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the Book of Matthew Chapter 7, verse 1 Jesus says, “Judge not lest ye be judged.”  Traditionally I took this to mean, do not judge other people because you don’t like being judged yourself and if you judge other people then you open the door for them to judge you back.  Implicit in this interpretation is the idea that everyone has some flaw worthy of judgment.

Before I worked from home I worked in an office.  My adjacent cubicle neighbor was a very judgmental person who was always criticizing other people to me behind their backs.  One day she came into work with a really depressed look on her face.  The idea struck me that she was depressed because she was judging and criticizing herself just like she criticized and judged other people and it was making her feel horrible.  I base this assumption on personal experience.  I am also guilty of judging other people.  The judgment originates from a very active voice in my head that will never pass up an opportunity to point out how I should feel humiliated or ashamed because of my actions.  It also judges other people.

So now I take what Jesus said in the Book of Matthew to mean, if you judge other people you will judge yourself and constantly judging yourself feels horrible.  This makes sense to a point but Jesus goes on to talk about hypocrites and how you should not criticize a person for having a mote in their eye when you have a beam in your own.  So with that in mind it does seem like he is saying it is hypocritical to judge someone else when you yourself are equally (or perhaps more) worthy of being judged.  Either way, judging makes the object of judgment feel horrible (ashamed) even though Jesus does not address that point directly.

Judgment is also self-perpetuating because a person who judges himself and others does so from a place of shame.  He judges himself because he feels shame.  He judges others to make himself feel less shameful about himself in comparison to the other.  This shame is linked to  the illusion that judgment is upholding standards upon which civilization is maintained.  If the standards are not maintained then civilization is undermined (so goes the theory).  I happen to believe that upholding standards is a good thing.  But it seems to me that it would be better to hold up standards without judging because judging is shaming and makes people feel shitty.

In a sense it is impossible to not judge because judgment comes from that critical voice in your head.  However, you do have the ability to separate yourself from that voice by observing it without believing it is you.  You don’t have to go along with the judgment of either yourself or anyone else.  Judge not lest ye be judged.

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