Your ego is the source of your pride and shame. All the shitty things you do that you regret later on is the fault of the ego. Your ego came into being because you encountered the pride and shame of others and internalized this energy under the misconception that internalizing these qualities would protect you and help you survive in a dangerous world. The world is dangerous because it is filled with people governed by the whims of their egos. So you adopted an ego too. With an ego you would fit in with everyone else. With an ego you could protect yourself by lashing out when threatened and always being on guard for threats that might materialize. Other people would encounter the energy of your ego and develop egos of their own. And so the over all system self-propagated like a virus infecting bodies and spreading to other bodies.
In a sense your ego is a blessing because you do not need to feel responsible for those crimes you committed while your ego drove the ship of self. It is your ego that is to blame and your ego is not yourself. It is something other than your true self. Therefore you may forgive yourself for these things you feel shitty about. More accurately, there is nothing to forgive. You had falsely accused yourself of these crimes your ego really committed. Your ego set you up.
But isn’t this argument just a convenient way to get yourself off the hook and avoid taking responsibility for your own actions? Recognize it is your ego who is asking this question. Your ego does not want you to recognize that your ego is not really part of your true self. When you do not recognize this separation your ego can take control and steer the ship. When you do not recognize this you take the blame for your ego’s actions and your ego gets off scott free. In a sense, your ego hides itself within yourself by convincing you it is yourself.
But what about the victims of the crimes committed by your ego? Are they to take comfort in the fact that it was not your true self who wronged them but rather it is your ego who is the true culprit? Of course not. You may differentiate between your ego and your true self but other people do not do this. To them you will always be the sum of all your actions. It is your responsibility to separate yourself from your ego. In that sense you are responsible for your ego’s actions. But you cannot separate yourself from your ego without first realizing your ego is in fact separate. You cannot be blamed for not knowing what you do not know.
Even the concept of blame and the concept that there must be someone who should be blamed is an ego invented concept. Your ego wants to blame others to shift the blame from itself. And so it blames others. And so it blames you and you feel shitty for the things you have done.
You may forgive yourself. It is not your fault.
My ego pushes me to present a false image to the world so that other people will like me. This image is a version of me but it is not the real me. I try to make other people laugh so they will think I am funny. I try to talk about interesting subjects so they so that other people will think I am intelligent. I hide my flaws so other people will not judge me and abandon me. The motive behind these actions seems to presume that if the other people knew the real me they would not like me and they would not be forgiving.
The ego seems to have its own personality. Over the years I have observed the qualities of my ego. It is dishonest and unforgiving. It does not trust and is paranoid. It seeks self-aggrandizement. It seeks approval through self-deprecation and false modesty. It becomes angry when criticized and jealous when it sees other people succeeding. It is spiteful and critical. It ceaselessly judges other people and situations. It judges itself (myself) unmercifully.
The question arises, why does my ego need people to like me in the first place? Is it lonely? Does it fear being lonely? Does it think I need allies to protect me? Does it fear being attacked? Does it seek validation? Do it want me to be important? Does it fear being a nobody? Does it fear being labeled a failure? Does my ego want other people to like me to protect me because it assumes that other people will attack me under normal circumstances?
It seems like the ego is a protection device that has gone awry. It seems like the ego originally came into being to protect me. When I was a child other kids picked on me and adults shamed me. I created my ego to protect me from these forces or to mitigate the damage they caused but now that I am an adult those same forces do not exist in the same way. But my ego remains still performing its old function.
If I was alone in the world would I still have any of these fears? If I was alone in the world would I still have my ego? Does my ego exist because other people exist? Is it the separation between people where we cannot know each other’s minds that creates the ego? Do I need to create my own other person (i.e., my ego) so that I can anticipate what these other unpredictable people might do and thus protect myself?
So the challenge lies in dialing back my ego. I do not think it is possible to completely eradicate it. Being aware of its functions and behaviors seems to be the first step towards diminishing its power but awareness alone is not sufficient to happy. The next step is probably developing the ability to ignore or actively marginalize my ego. I must develop those qualities that are the opposite of the qualities the ego possesses. I will let you know when that happens.
People motivated by shame are not capable of truly forgiving other people even though they may outwardly appear to forgive wrongs committed against them.
I was taught to forgive because it is the Christian and moral thing to do. But forgiveness motivated by a sense obligation, that forgiveness is the right thing to do and withholding forgiveness would induce guilty feelings is not true forgiveness. It is shame.
In order to truly forgive I must first feel my anger for being wronged. When this happens I must also feel entitled to my anger. I must appreciate and acknowledge the wrong committed against me. If I do not do this any pretense at forgiveness is a farce.
If I am motivated by shame I will not allow myself to acknowledge the wrongs committed against me because I do not feel entitled to my anger. I will act like I forgive readily out of a false sense of morality. I will say I forgive because I want people to like me and think that I am moral and kind.
But when I do not allow myself to feel anger it stays inside and comes out in passive aggressive forms. When I do not allow myself to feel anger there is nothing to forgive really. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that if I do not feel my anger and feel entitled to it, I am not in a position to forgive. I have no standing.
Only when I properly feel my anger for being wronged am I in position to choose to forgive. It has to be a real choice and not one I feel obligated to make. If I forgive out a sense of obligation then I am not the one offering forgiveness. In that situation, whoever imposed the obligation upon me is the one responsible for forgiveness. But forgiveness is personal and cannot be given through proxy. So really, no forgiveness is given at all.
In Roman Catholicism, the sacrament of Reconciliation is performed by a priest acting in the name of God. This is forgiveness by proxy. I am tempted to say that because this is forgiveness by proxy it is therefore not authentic. But I believe something else is at work in this sacrament. Sometimes a feeling of shame is so intense that forgiveness for the sin requiring reconciliation is required. When a person seeks forgiveness of sins through Reconciliation I think he is really thinking of a way to forgive himself for whatever transgression he committed. The shame he has felt for the sins he committed is punishment enough. The anger he has vented on himself has been fully felt only there has been no release because it is directed towards himself. In this instance an outside entity may be required to release him.
Of course self-forgiveness is possible without the sacrament. Like all religious practices they are merely tools we use to relate with the grand, infinite, unknowable universe that exists both inside and outside ourselves.
Filed under Religion, Shame
In order get out of the hell of my job I had to get laid off. I was too ashamed to quit with all the bills I was responsible for and the family I had to feed and clothe. If I quit my job simply because I found it unsatisfying I would be irresponsible and undisciplined. But, if my job could kick me out of our relationship I could tell myself and the world that it was not my fault. I would avoid the shame of being irresponsible. And so I self-sabotaged until it happened. I put less effort into my work. I did not learn the million rules to the document review that bored me to tears every day.
Passive aggression is the primary tool a shame-based person has to get what he wants in the world. To come out and claim what he wanted would be selfish, childish and undisciplined. To be honest would risk hurting someone else’s feelings. To the shame-based it is always better to employ a strategy of plausible deniability.
Once I left my job I found myself in a position where, if I chose to, I could finally begin face the issue of shame in my life. But, in order for me to finally face my shame I could not do this through passive aggression. I had to face my shame honestly. For me, that meant I had to go back to the source of my shame, which is my parents.
This sounds condemning and critical from a shame-based perspective because shame cannot admit its faults. That is too painful and opens itself to attack. In a shame-based world there is no mercy or forgiveness. There may be the pretense of mercy because to be unmerciful is shameful but below the surface were truth resides there is none. All mistakes, faults and flaws are punished and leave a permanent mark that can never be erased. So for me to say the source of my shame is my parents is very difficult. To say this is being ungrateful for all the good they did for me. To say this is to be disrespectful to my parents, which is something that a good son would not do. To say this would hurt their feelings and would be selfish of me. All these moral precepts were instilled in me by my parents. All these precepts (whether true or not) are my shame’s way of keeping me from facing my shame. So, in order for me to face my shame I had to see clearly and honestly what my parents had done to me. In order to do this I had to see clearly and honestly that this shame did not come from a place of love. That is not to say that they did not have love for me but rather the shame they instilled into me did not come from love.
Of course I did not know any of this before my wife, our two daughters and I moved in with my parents. But I was in a position to find out. I had finally reached the rock bottom of my shame. I was 39 years old, unemployed and living with my parents in my childhood home. I was so humiliated that I was laid off and could no longer afford the mortgage on my house. I was so ashamed that my wife and I were not getting along. I was so utterly ashamed that I could not afford to buy my kids the things and the lives I thought they should have.
I had hit rock bottom and there was nowhere to go from there but up. To go up from there, however, required effort and understanding. Thank God I received the teaching that gave me the understanding. Thank God I developed the courage to put forth the effort and truly face shame.
Be merciful, therefore, even as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you shall not be judged; do not condemn, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive and you shall be forgiven; give and it shall be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, shall they pour into your lap. For with what measure you measure, it shall be measured to you.
At the beginning of time the entire universe was compressed into a singularity. Everything was intimately unified. This was the garden of Eden where God and man lived together without shame and God and man (and the garden) were one. But within this singularity there was an impulse to separate, to experience individuality. Call this impulse the serpent. In order for the serpent to affect its desire it had to convince more of the singularity to join in with it. So it tricked Eve to eat of the Tree of Life. She did and convinced Adam to eat of it also. Their eyes were opened, they became ashamed and covered their genitals with fig leaves and they hid from God. The singularity exploded. This was the Big Bang. The universe expanded at an accelerating rate. There was separation but it was no longer perfect.
And so we now find ourselves on this Earth at this unique point in time. We are all a piece of God from that original singularity. Some of us are more aware of this than others. We all possess a nostalgic yearning to return in some fashion. Again, some more than others. And even ourselves are divided. There is the part of the mind that wants pleasure, and safety and wealth and power. There is the part of the mind that tells us not to give into those desires. There is the part of the mind that observes these other two parts and is aware of itself when it does not sleep. Perhaps it is this last part of the mind where the nostalgic yearning resides.
I have found that judgment goes both ways. If I judge other people it was because I was judged by others and I judge myself with constant criticism. But if I learn to be merciful to myself I can begin to be merciful to others. This does not happen all at once. But with effort and mercy from others it slowly begins to happen. And the acceleration of the universal expansion begins to slow. And mercy and forgiveness beget more mercy and forgiveness measure for measure.
Because even in this state, within this seemingly infinite expansion of the universe the totality of all that comprised that initial singularity exists. That is God. We are each a cell of organism called God. From the perspective of one cell, the entire organism is a mystery. And yet each cell contains a strand of DNA which in turn contains the blueprint for the entire organism. How much more vast is the seemingly infinite universe than a seemingly finite organism? How much vaster and incomprehensible is the mystery?
If God is love then it is God that binds us together both with others and ourselves. Love, the binding agent, is the recognition of the self in others. It is the flashing memory of the singularity before the separation. This is why you must forgive the other and forgive yourself. This is also why when you forgive yourself and you forgive others, the others forgive you and themselves.
Filed under Religion, Shame
Separation of Light from Darkness ( ) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Everyone has darkness and lightness. If you feel judged all the time this judgement comes from inside of you. That means you are judging yourself. There may be other people judging you as well but the feeling of being judged comes from within. The part that judges you is the darkness. This part does not love you. However, if feeling judged makes you feel bad then this means there is also a part that does not like being judged. This is the light and is the part loves you. I believe the light is your “true self”. The darkness came from the outside world and was internalized. The darkness is not your true self but pretends to be and if you are not aware of it then you will believe that it is your true self. In this state of affairs you feel judged and you believe whatever is judging you is right to do so. In order to love yourself this state of affairs must be dismantled.
Step One: Separate Yourself From the Darkness
To gain separation from the darkness you must become aware of it. You must accept it as a part of you but also know it is not truly who you are. To become aware of the darkness you must start with the intent to become aware of the darkness. That is enough. Cultivate this intent. Take time each day to intend to do this, as a meditation. Soon you will recognize when you become self critical, judgemental, jealous, resentful. When this happens say to the darkness, “I see what you are doing.” The more you do this the more you will become aware of the darkness and the more separate it will become from you.
Step Two: Cultivate the Light Within You
There are many ways to cultivate the light within you. Probably the most powerful way to cultivate the light within you is to forgive yourself. This may be hard to do at first. Here is how I started to do this. I would always remember embarrassing events in my life and literally cringe. This would happen several times throughout the day, every day. I decided to let myself off the hook for these situations. I allowed myself to remember these situations and love myself nevertheless. I would say, “I can love myself through this.” There are other ways to cultivate the light. Make a list of 10 things you are grateful for (I have James Altucher to thank for that), do something whole heartedly, allow yourself to enjoy doing nothing or something you really want to do and meditation are all things that I have found will cultivate the light.
Step Three: Learn to Trust the Outside World
I learned this lesson in a men’s group. The facilitators were therapists trained in the Gestalt body centered technique. One session was particularly powerful for me and I broke down sobbing. This would normally be a pretty humiliating situation for me. But the group supported me and did not judge. This was a key moment in my journey towards trusting the outside world. I certainly have much further to go.
Step Four: Learn to Not Need the Outside World’s Approval
Ultimately, whether the outside world judges you or loves you, what really matters is that you love yourself. There will always be judgemental people but if you can be there for yourself and support yourself through it that is the way out. For me it is a long journey. It comes in very small doses and I have a way to go, but I know there is truly a way out.
Last night I murdered a man at a gas station with a shot-gun. My friend told me to leave the gun like in the Godfather. Actually he wasn’t a friend. He happened to be a childhood acquaintance. At one time I thought was my best friend. He was always criticizing me in the form of ball busting. He always purposefully misunderstood what people said and rephrased it as something risqué. For example, I might say, “My heart is beating.” To which he would reply, “Your fart is beating?” Later on I found out he was talking shit about me behind my back. This was in middle school some time. I remember working up the nerve to buy a ticket for a dance for the first time. They were selling tickets from a table on the stage in the lunch room. I had never bought a ticket to a dance before because I felt like people would make fun of me. I was a nerd trying to do something the cool people did. It was funny in the way a chimp riding a bike is funny. I was nervous and standing in line but people were cutting in front of me. Someone told me later that he was laughing at me and calling me a loser. I felt ashamed and betrayed when I heard that but it sort of opened my eyes that this guy was not really my friend. I sort of drifted away from him after that.
After I shot the guy I went back to my childhood home. I remember lying in my childhood bed afraid that I would get arrested for killing the guy. I prayed to God that no one would ever find out. Then I thought there must have been a security camera at the gas station. I felt panic and dread. I lay there waiting to hear sirens approaching the house and anticipating that it would happen any second. I prayed some more asking God that I be let off the hook some how. I thought about what prison would be like. I did not really have a reason for killing the guy. I just did it. Maybe I was trying to impress that childhood friend of mine.
As the dawn light filtered in through the window, I realized I had been dreaming. I had never shot anyone. Instead of lying in my childhood bed I was lying on the floor of my new apartment in North Carolina. I did not have a mattress yet.
Even though this was a dream I actually felt like God answered my prayer. It was as if the me in the dream was a different, yet equally real, person living in a different reality. God transported that me into this reality where the crime had never taken place. By doing this God had wiped the slate clean. It felt liberating. This is what forgiveness feels like.