While previously exploring what I imagine mature religion might be like--should it ever exist, I observed what appears to me as a direct correlation between religious and personal maturity, that is, that the two may in practice be synonymous.
This led me to think more about personal maturity itself. What does it mean to "grow up," to mature as a person, to truly become oneself?
This essay is the result of my speculations on this subject. My premises include these:
-- Religion, psychology, and natural humanity all share similar goals, namely, ideal living.
-- "Salvation" in religion, "Emotional health" in psychology, and "Happiness" in everyday language are, in my understanding, about the same subject. Certainly, terminology and beliefs differ in each arena, while practitioners often view them as entirely distinct. Still, on analysis, I see them more like approaching the same "elephant" from three directions rather than being three different subjects.
-- In this perspective, "heaven," "mental health," and "the good life" are synonyms, even when those who think in the different categories see them separately.
-- Also, in my "theology," being saved and being yourself are synonymous. Salvation or heaven here is to be found through becoming who-you-are--that is, being whole, and therefore holy.
Questions to be explored: What does it mean to be yourself? How important is being yourself?; How is being yourself related to instincts? To consciousness? What does your body have to do with being yourself?; What is the relationship between self and ego? How is being yourself related to being honest?; Is there a place for deception in being yourself? What is the relationship between self and soul? How is being yourself related to self-sacrifice? To love?
-- From perspective of religion:
--To be yourself is to be saved.
-- Salvation is "showing up."
-- The path to knowing God is via becoming yourself.
-- Wholeness is holiness.
-- Being yourself is being godly.
-- Sin is not being yourself.
-- Self abuse is sinful.
-- Self-destruction is the unforgivable sin.
-- From perspective of psychology:
-- To be yourself is to be emotionally mature.
-- Mental health and being yourself are synonyms.
-- To be yourself is to be whole, that is, a whole person.
-- From perspective of secular language:
-- Happiness is to be found through being yourself.
-- Well-being is being yourself.
-- If you want to "feel good" be yourself.
-- Two major arenas (elements) for being yourself: alone and with; in skin and in world; with yourself and with others; with genes and with memes.
-- Two primary materials (sources) for being yourself: instincts and experience; inherited wisdom and acquired knowledge.
-- Primary path toward being yourself is via unrepression of natural instincts and embracing inherited personal capacities and unique attributes.
Selfing is a coined word intended to represent human being without the nearly universal judgments attached to the common term selfish. I use selfing as a synonym for being yourself.
Selfing is different from selfish. To be oneself is to be selfing but not selfish as the latter is popularly understood. To an outsider a selfing person may be seen as selfish, but inwardly selfing is not the same.
Selfing is synonymous with being a whole person. To be selfing is to embrace all human capacities, inherited instincts (bodily wisdom) as well as personally acquired experience and knowledge. Selfing is both ancient and modern, a combination of universal human genetics plus individual attributes.
Synonyms: Being yourself; being present; "showing up"; being whole; being spirited; being saved.
Summary: My subject in this essay is selfing or selfingness, not being selfish. Selfing and selfingness, as coined words, are useful for me because no common or familiar terms clearly represent the concept being explored and amplified here. Only the negative forms of selfing are well known, namely, selfish and selfishness.
SELFING AND LANGUAGE
Given the familiarity of words such as self and/or soul for representing human beings, why create new words, such as, selfing and selfingness, rather than simply using accepted nouns and adjectives?
I begin with several observations about language and its usage:
1. Language--that is, words and established relationships between them, has underlying concepts commonly unrecognized by those who simply use a language as given.
2. After one learns a language he thereafter uses its words and underlying concepts to shape and give structure to conscious thinking--that is, he "thinks inside the boxes" of an acquired language.
3. Each language has its own particular advantages and disadvantages, depending on the focus of its underlying concepts.
4. Three primary concepts underlying the English language are: objects in space and time--that is, things (entities, separable "its") existing in and measurable by secondary concepts of physical space and chronological time.
5. English is particularly advantageous for understanding and coping with human perceptions and experience in the external world, as explored by scientists and used by individuals in dealing with survival and satisfaction among outside elements and circumstances.
6. But at the same time, English is notably limited in its application and ability to express internal realities of human experience, as dealt with in religion, psychology, and ordinary efforts to be happy in the outside world.
7. Consequently, clear understanding of inward experience, commonly categorized as "spiritual" or "emotional," can be especially difficult, given the fact that after we learn to talk (use words and their underlying concepts) we tend to limit our thinking to these perspectives--that is, we think in terms of objects in space and time, not only in dealing with the external world, but also when we consciously consider internal experience.
8. I conclude that serious misunderstandings with exceedingly significant results have arisen, become culturally ingrained over the course of history, and currently exist, inviting individuals to participate in limited, even erroneous, notions about who we are and how we may live well.
9. The major arenas for these potential errors include: objectifying inward experiences which only exist in their activation and process; projecting awareness of inward realities onto outside things, personages, and places which are then presumed to possess powers inherent in the experiences themselves; trying to understand and measure inward events with outside objects, persons, and places--that is, concepts about objective entities in physical space and chronological time. In popular religions these include images of external gods, spirits, angels, and demons; personages, such as, Jesus, Mohammed, etc.; places, like heaven and hell; and time as everlasting.
10. Although these traditional understandings still infuse much of existing world cultures and are staunchly held as objective facts by many persons today, I see them as dangerous and consequential errors. Even so, since we have no choice but to use our inherited language in the midst of prevailing perspectives (unless we somehow learn to "think outside the box"), I choose here to use a few established grammatical structures for trying to free myself from the limitations of English when applied to inward experience, in order to more clearly understand what my un-languaged body already knows.
11. In particular I use three of many grammatical elements, participles, gerunds, and predicate nominatives, for re-looking at inward experience as I find it to be, in contrast with more popular and well accepted perspectives shaped by English and its underlying concepts. I am, in effect, trying to use our available language for "seeing through" its apparent meanings to discern realities which may be missed when we think only in terms of objects in space and time.
For clarity, perhaps a brief review of English grammar may be useful.
BRIEF GRAMMAR REVIEW
Nouns--names (of persons, places, and things). In general, nouns are names of "its"--that is, tangible or intangible entities which may, in effect, be set apart in space and time.
Verbs--express actions of nouns.
Adjectives--words used to describe or modify nouns and verbs.
Articles--words like a, an, or the, which set a noun apart from a group or class, such as, a tree, as distinguished from trees in general; or, the man versus all men.
Participles--verbal adjectives, words derived from verbs and used as both a verb and adjective, such as, "He is running," or, "They are fighting." The participles (running and fighting) are verbal forms describing the subjects (He and They).
Gerunds--verbal nouns, words derived from verbs and used as both a verb and a noun, such as, running water (run, a verb, is changed into a verbal adjective to describe water); jumping frogs (verb jump made into a verbal adjective to describe frogs).
Participles and gerunds are often "ing" words--that is, verbals ending in ing. The two are indistinguishable except by the way they are used. Since these distinctions are beyond the scope of this exploration, I ignore their differences and most often use the word participle for representing both.
Predicate nominatives--subjective complements, that is, words which "complement (complete) a verb and identify a subject. For example, in the sentence, "He is the man," man is a predicate nominative; it "complements" or completes the verb is, and identifies he. Or, if I say, "I am he," he is a predicate nominative, completing the verb am, and identifying myself.
Figures of speech--similes, metaphors, and personifications.
Simile--an expressed comparison, usually with like or as. "She moves like a cat." "His talk is smooth as butter."
Metaphor--an implied comparison in which the qualities of one thing are taken to describe another, such as, "Love is a rose, (but you better not pick it!)," or, "She is a doll." Rose and doll are metaphors. Certain of their qualities are compared with love and she.
Personification--a figure of speech which gives the qualities of a person to inanimate objects or non-human things. In these sentences, "Wind raced over the prairie," and, "Fear crept into his eyes," wind and fear are "personified" as persons (who might run or creep).
PARTICIPLES AND NOUNS
Speech-wise selfing is an active participle, like running and jumping, rather than a static noun, like self (or an "it"). Certainly, for thinking and communication in the English language based primarily on nouns and verbs (entities or "its" and their actions) we may use the word self as a language convenience; but, and this is the critical distinction I make here: humans (in my understanding) only exist literally as participles, not as nouns--that is, in activated capacities rather than as static entities.
A human being, commonly represented with the noun self (or my coined participle, selfing) is more like a hurricane (noun) which only exists in activated winds (over 74 mph), than an entity called self or soul assumed to be an "it" temporarily housed in a body.
For thought and speech (in English) we may properly and usefully create nouns, such as, hurricane and self, as concessions to the nature of our language structure; but a significant error is made when we go the next step in logical thinking and conclude that these active participles represented with nouns literally exist as "its" or "things."
This error becomes evident when one making this mistake asks such logical questions as: "Where does a hurricane go after winds drop below 75 mph?," or, "Where does running go after a person stops moving?," or, "Where does a soul (or self) go after a person dies?"
Within the framework of English (and many other languages) these are logical questions, but each is literally unanswerable because they are based on a false premise, namely, that the descriptive participle (like running, jumping, or selfing) is an actual "it."
Once one understands that a noun representing a participle (e.g., run, to stand for running) is simply a language convenience, then its use as such is often functional (as in, "I went for a run). But once the error noted above is made (e.g., seeing a run as an "it"), then serious consequences in understanding may follow. One making such a mistake might logically ask: "Where does a run go after one stops running?," but obviously running only exists in the activated movement it names, not as a separable entity.
And so with selfing and other participles related to being who we are, such as, hoping, caring, loving, etc.
This language problem, and the familiar mistake of confusing a noun-made-for-convenience with the participle it represents (e.g., self with selfing), may be clarified from another perspective. If we think in terms of categories, as our language easily allows us to do (e.g., inches for the category of spacial measurements, and degrees for the category of temperature, then we may easily see the error of asking questions across categorical lines. For example, "How hot is an inch?," or, "How long is 32 degrees?"
Each such question, which is sensible within the category where the noun is applicable (e.g., inches and space, or degrees and temperature), is both absurd and unanswerable-as-asked when taken out of its applicable category.
And so with taking selfing out of its category of "livingness" or activated human capacities, and asking about "it" as though it were a static entity (a literal "it"). Asking, "How long does a self (or soul) last?" is similar to asking, "How hot is an inch?" The error lies in trying to apply terms created for one category (e.g., inches for space measurements) in another distinctly different category, such as, heat. Not that the question is dumb or illogical when one does not yet grasp the categorical differences, but that descriptive terms from one category simply do not apply to events in other categories.
Or, from the perspective of comparisons, trying to compare or measure selfing with time and space entities is like "comparing apples and oranges" in that they are distinctly different "fruits."
This error may be difficult to grasp because in traditional thinking self (or soul) have for so long been seen as nouns ("its") only, that recognizing this categorical difference (participles versus nouns) is understandably difficult.
Even so, I conclude, until one grasps this critical difference between selfing as a participle and self as a noun, then understanding the former will remain literally impossible.
ARTICLES AND SELFING
Grammatically speaking, an article, such as, a, an, or the, is a pronoun used to set apart or distinguish a particular entity from the class to which it belongs. For example, trees are a class of plants; but a tree refers to one particular member of this class. Or, an oak tree refers to a separate one in its general class. Likewise, the event distinguishes a particular happening from the entire class of events in general.
Point: Whereas articles can properly be used with any entity, material or immaterial, they may be misleading when applied to events or processes which only exist in their activation. For example, selfing is a critically important process (especially when I or you are being referenced!), but to think, write, or speak clearly, I cannot use any article in referencing myself without implying that I exist as a separable entity (like, a tree, or a soul) which might be subject to independent existence and/or possession, either by myself or someone else.
I may, for instance, be myself, or not be myself; but, literally speaking, I do not exist as an independent entity, such as, a self (or soul); nor can I "have"--that is, possess, a self as "mine."
This literal and grammatical fact becomes even trickier when I try to use possessive words in referencing self, such as, "my" self, or, "one's" self. Obviously such usage is sometimes feasible in rapid communication (as language short-cuts), but when heard or taken literally, as though I am a one who "has" or owns a separable self, then a significant error has occurred.
For example, a careful reader may note that I often refrain from using the possessive term, one's self. Although this phrase (or others, such as, myself) can be useful in short-hand communication, each invites a serious misunderstanding of the nature of being oneself. Consequently, when I wish to be careful, I use oneself for referencing personal identity, but avoid the possessive form one's self which all-too-easily leads to thinking that one actually has a self to own or be.
When I want avoid risks of misunderstanding which are inherent in using nouns and verbs based on concepts of objects in space and time, I try to think, write, and speak within the following guidelines:
-- Use participles (ing words) rather than nouns and articles, such as: selfing rather than self. "Selfing" implies the lively, on-going nature of the subject, whereas "a self" implies an object or "it."
-- Use ed words in descriptions, instead of articles and nouns or simple adjectives. For example, say, "Selfing is embodied" rather than "Self has a body", or, "She is depressed" rather than "She has a depression."
-- For definitive statements, use predicate nominatives which can properly be reversed without changing the essential meaning of the sentence. For example, in "God is creating"--creating is a participle used as a predicate nominative. Certain attributes of God are identified with creating. Because the predicate nominative also identifies the subject (as is the nature of this grammatical device) the sentence can also be reversed: "Creating is God."
First, the participle, creating implies more than a verb, such as, creates would mean. And since in the statement, creating is a predicate nominative, the meaning is more than naming a simple act an objectified god might do (as in, "God creates."). Rather it is an identifying statement which can properly be reversed. Then, for fuller understanding one might turn it around and see the deeper implied meaning, namely, that Creating is God.
Or, as would also be implied in the sentence, "God is loving." Love is not simply a deed God does; but with loving as a predicate nominative, the sentence can properly be reversed to remind us that "Loving" literally "is" what God is.
-- For short-cuts in thinking or speaking, I often use simple nouns, verbs, and adjectives; but to avoid misunderstanding I try to remember than they are actually language conveniences rather than references to literal entities (names of things or 'its') subject to measurement in space and time.
For instance, even when I use the noun self, as is often convenient in writing or communication (as in, "I said to myself...."), I try to remember that my literal meaning is lively selfing, not about an entity. I do not mean that "I" am talking to a separable entity, but rather than myselfing, at the time, is talking.
And so with love as a short cut for loving, or hope to stand for the wonder of hoping.
Or I may use similes and say, "Love is like a rose," or, "God is like a father." But in each case I try to remember than the statement is actually a simile for a short-cut noun which is literally a participle (Loving or Goding), rather than making the error of thinking of love or God as "its."
Even personifications--as language short-cuts, may be useful if I remember that they are figures of speech rather than literal statements. For example, I may think, "Selfing is a blast," or, "Being myself is pure delight." But of course I am more than a literal blast or even a pure delight (as many others might testify!)
Likewise with such theological statements as: "God is light." Light may be a useful way of thinking about "Goding" in certain regards. But I must be careful to remember this is but one possible personification for use in particular descriptions, rather than a conclusive description. At other times, for instance, it may be more accurate to think of God as dark.
My statements about language and selfing have two other major underlying observations. Grasping them first may make understanding my conclusions easier to follow. First, I make general distinctions between primary and secondary language, and then between outward and inward experience. These differences become the basis for my larger conclusions about the relationship between language and selfing.
For an overall view I break language down into two categories: primary and secondary, basic and advanced, or, literal and figurative. Primary language is basically composed of nouns, verbs, and adjectives, while secondary language is made of advanced forms, such as, adverbs, participles, gerunds, and figures of speech, etc. In general, primary language can be seen as literal, while secondary language is figurative. These last two distinctions may sometimes overlap--but more about that later.
Generalized human experience may also be broken down into two large categories: outward and inward--that is, what we experience in responding to what we perceive "out there" or beyond our skins, and what we experience "in here" or internally. Outward experience, we might say, is objective, while inward experience is subjective. (These two categories turn out to overlap at times, but may be useful in initial observations.)
Outward experience is perception of the world beyond our skin--that which we see, hear, taste, touch, or smell with our five basic senses.
Inward experience is awareness of sense receptions within the body, that is, how we genetically react to what we perceive below levels of conscious thinking (cerebral cortex activity) and hence language itself. For example, "I see the sun (or rain)" reflects outward experience. "I feel excited (or depressed)" is about inward experience.
Outward experience is commonly understood as about "objective reality" or "things" which exist "out there" in the physical world, and is often thought of as "facts," "objective truths," or simply "how it is" regardless of what one may think.
Inward experience, in contrast, is commonly referred to in secular language as "emotional," in religious language as "spiritual," and in everyday talk as "feeling." The range of inward experience is vast, but includes such specifics as: pleasure or pain, like or dislike, hope, love, joy, depression, happiness, concern, hate, boredom, impatience, etc., etc.
In general, inward experience is the result of senses directed outward, to perceptions of what is beyond our skin; but to confuse the issue, we may also have inward experience to sense perceptions of in-skin or bodily events, such as stomach disorders or bowel constrictions.
A stomach ache (perception of stomach disorder) or constipation is an inward event comparable to "seeing the sun" as an outward event. Both are based on sense perceptions--the first directed inwardly, the second, outwardly.
But inward experience (as I intend the term here) is about how-we-respond to either of these types of perceptions, rather than the factual perceptions themselves. For example, I may be "turned on (an inward experience)" by "seeing the sun" or "turned off" by sensing a stomach disorder; but "turned on (or off)" is not literally about a sense perception of outside sun or inside discomfort; rather it is about how-I-personally-respond to either.
For example, one may be excited (inward experience) about seeing the sun, while others may see the sun but ignore it ("feel nothing" about it). Or, some may be deeply moved (inward experience) by a stomach disorder, while others ignore such bodily perceptions (at least, temporarily).
Other terms for these distinctions include: physical pain versus mental or emotional pain. Both are pains, but the meanings are distinctively different. To exactly-the-same physical pains, one person may respond with immense emotional pain, while another has little or no emotional response at all. In general, outward experience is about physical perceptions, such as bodily pain, while inward experience is about how we respond (or don't) to the physical perceptions themselves.
The point of understanding these distinctions is to recognize that our language is primarily structured for grasping outward experience but is grossly inadequate for understanding inward experience. Even so, since we have only one language for both types of human experience, we have no choice but to use what we have, namely, English, for both.
But to accurately apply language structured for the first type of experience, namely, objects in space and time, we can only use language in its secondary ways, never in its basic forms.
When we attempt to use language for thinking, writing, or speaking, as we must because it is the basic tool for each, about inward experience, we must use figurative language only; we can never accurately speak, for example, of inward experience with literal language.
All literal statements about inward experience are made with secondary or advanced forms of primary or basic language--that is, with adverbs, participles, and figures of speech, etc., rather than with basic nouns, verbs, and adjectives. No primary language statements are possible about inward experience unless they are understood metaphorically or figuratively, rather than literally.
Literal talk about subjective experience is only possible with secondary language.
However, once we grasp this essential fact about language (literal language being about outside experience), then we may, for convenience in thought and talk, revert back to using basic language--but always with the understanding that we intend it figuratively only, like shorthand language or code words for convenience sake. For example, self, a noun, may be used for the inward experience of what is literally selfing (a participle), but only when this distinction is understood.
True conversation (real com-muning via words) can never occur when either party is taking shorthand language (nouns, verbs, etc.) literally, for example, self, soul, or God as "its" rather than inward experiences.
Even if participles, such as selfing, souling, or Goding are unfamiliar of unavailable, if we are to speak literally about inward experiences, we have no choice but to create and use them; otherwise we fall for dangerous misunderstandings when we see the nouns as literal entities.
SELFING VERSUS A SELF
In popular thinking, self is an "it"--a thing or entity, a set of supposedly permanent, unique, characteristics (traits, feelings) which is temporarily housed in one's body. "It" is variously though of as: a soul, a personality, a self, a mind, or simply an I. But although its names may vary, each can properly be modified with an "a" or "an"--indicative of its assumed existence as an identifiable reality.
Beliefs differ about when "it" is created (at conception or birth?); whether it is stuck in one's body or capable of leaving, e.g., in "outer-body travel" and/or exodus at death. Also beliefs differ as to its degree of setness at inception or capability of development during physical life; but in common, in popular thinking "I" as self, soul, personality, mind, or whatever, am believed to be an entity.
Conversely, I think of self as a grammatical personification of inherited and acquired capacities to be activated or repressed in varying degrees during physical life time, but not as a literal entity of any sort. Self, for those who are being themselves, is more like a named hurricane which exists as a nameable entity, like Katrina, when winds reach a speed of 75 mph, and ceases to be when activated air "dies down" to 74 mph or less, than an "it" of any sort.
For reasons of communication and conscious thinking, this lively collection of activated forces needs a noun to function as a subject of sentences; but, like named hurricanes, I do not see self as a static entity existing before or beyond activated capacities ("winds" or breath).
For example, questions of when does "it" begin?, and where does "it" go after death, are as irrelevant and unanswerable as asking where does a hurricane go after winds die down below 75 mph? Within our language forms, based on notions of things in space and time, such questions are logical, even inevitable, but literally impossible to answer because the premises are in error. Asking, "Where does a soul or self go after death?" is like asking, "How hot is an inch?," or "Where is hope to be found?" While there is nothing wrong or even unreasonable about such questions, they can never be answered literally because they try to relate conceptions (temperature and space) which fall into uniquely different categories.
Recognizing self as a useful name rather than a static entity allows selfing persons to avoid wasting valuable time pondering unanswerable questions and/or devoting limited energies to pursuing illusions (e.g., permanence of self) or impossible dreams, like everlasting life. More relevantly, flexible names also allow the luxury of accepting the evolution and continually changing nature of selfing without falling into the traps of trying to identify and/or preserve some mysterious, permanent "it."
Recognizing that genetically based capacities plus learned skills which are personified ("languaged") as self or I are continually in flux, subject to acceptance and expression or denial and repression, as well as ever-changing degrees of activation during waking times of limited life, allows those who are being themselves freedom to explore the mysterious and exciting process of being whomever one may continually be becoming.
SELF VERSUS EGO
Selfing is real; ego is a fiction. You can be yourself, but you cannot be your ego. "Your ego," as the phrase implies, is a possession, something you have, but not something you are or may literally become. Conversely, you may become and be yourself, but you do not and cannot have a self as a possession.
Ego is a self-created illusion, usually unconscious, and commonly identified with (mistaken as) oneself, in escape from the challenges of being yourself. After one creates an ego, usually "without thinking"--that is, in the darkness of unconscious mind, he or she typically comes to "feel like" or believe that it (the ego) is I. Thereafter one is likely to try to protect, defend, present, or even advance such an ego (then mistaken as oneself) as though "it" were truly who he or she is.
IMAGE VERSUS EGO
Although image and ego are commonly used as synonyms, as though they are the same, I use the word image with distinguishing differences. One who is being himself may consciously create and use an image for many practical purposes in society; indeed healthy persons (those being themselves) typically do so, even developing artistry in its presentation.
But ego, as I distinguish the terms, is something distinctively different. Whereas a healthy image is a consciously created and maintained form of being oneself, used for functional purposes in society, professions, and relationships, ego is typically an unconsciously created entity which is commonly mistaken as oneself.
To an outsider, especially a casual observer, image and ego may appear or seem to be the same; but they are not. Image is like ego in that both are forms-of-presentation; yet they are distinctively different in that while both may be used, protected, and fostered, an image is never identified with oneself, as ego commonly is.
One's consciously chosen image is like an actor's role, taken for effectiveness in daily encounters ("dramas"), but never confused by the actor as who he or she actually is. "Off stage," or "after the curtain closes" on any immediate encounter or event, one using an image may freely "drop the role" and return to being himself as he was before the role was taken.
Summary: an image is a chosen way of presenting oneself for functional reasons with others. True selfing is most always presented in some type of image, even in the most intimate relationships (such as, friendships or marriage) because of prevailing levels of self-deception and self-repression in present society.
The idea of "total honesty" or "just being yourself"--that is, absolute visibility to others, is rarely practical in the social world as I find it to be. Oft idolized "total honesty" as a goal for a relationship (like the "holy grail" of love)--that is, looking or hoping for someone to "love me as I am" is mostly like a dream used to escape the challenges of reality, an excuse for lack of courage to become oneself and responsibly relate to others This familiar dream is like looking for someone else to, in effect, "go first" or "open the door" or "make it easier" to be oneself irresponsibly, without consequences, as though one might literally "sow-without-reaping" or present "causes" with "no effect" anywhere in this real world.
IDENTIFICATION AND SELFING
Self-identification is the way we come to view who-we-are in relation to nameable entities, such as, aspects of ourselves, family, peers, teams, ethnic groups, and nationalities. Although literal being ourselves is fully possible without self-identification, the nature of consciousness strongly invites such associations. Small children, for example, as best we can tell (or remember), are fully themselves--that is, "be who they are" naturally, with no discernable self-identification beyond inherited instincts. "What you see is what you get," at least until typical repressions begin to kick in.
But as soon as we begin to "think for ourselves"--that is, when fuller degrees of consciousness become possible along with developing bodies, the option for self-identification with more than inherited drives becomes possible. And, as best I can tell, all people rapidly begin to form discernable self-identifications, about the time of "weaning" and "toilet training."
Ideally, I speculate, we would identify who-we-are with every real aspect of our inherited capacities, as well as our actual connections with both the physical and social worlds of which we are literally apart-of. We would, if you please, be fully embodied--that is, self-identified with every aspect of our individual physicalness: body, heart, and mind, and also with outside elements essential for staying alive, including relationships with other persons whose lives actually effect our own.
In summary, we would identify ourselves with all that we are--both in-skinned and out-of-skin. We would see ourselves as whole persons who are world citizens--that is, ones who, paradoxically, are both apart-from and apart-of at the same time, simultaneously, both alone and with. We would avoid the self-limiting traps of both illusionary independence and falsely conceived dependence. Instead, we would recognize and embrace the reality of inter-dependence in the world as we find it.
Unfortunately, such full self-identifications seem to be extremely rare. Most commonly we tend to settle for identification with parts of our inherited capacities, limited or no identification with the world beyond our skins, and/or with imagined entities, such as, egos or souls. Thereafter we are left with short-sighted views of who-we-are, predictable conflicts with other real-but-unaccepted aspects of our larger selves, plus unrealistic and unnecessary struggles for existence among other peoples with similarly accepted short-comings.
To further complicate the issue, when the inherited gift of potential consciousness is perverted by repression--as seems to be near universal, some of our limited self-identifications powerfully exist outside of personal awareness. We may, for example, be strongly self-identified with an unrecognized ego erroneously conceived as far greater or smaller than actual capacities allow. Or, even more dangerously, we may identify ourselves with an imaginary soul which is presumed to exist entirely independent of physicalness, perhaps capable of leaving body during life time, and/or of perpetual existence beyond death.
I conclude that the costs in terms of fulfilled living, personal happiness, and more functional social structures, which predictably result from any of these limited or erroneous forms of self-identification, would be impossible to even estimate. When we pervert consciousness from its natural sense-making abilities, either into conscious exaggerations or reductions of inherited capacities, imaginary immaterial entities, or unconscious and unrealistic self images, we cannot but pay high prices in reduced or lost personal happiness and social health in the here and now.
Among the more common errors in realistic self-identification I have either made and/or seen in others are these:
-- Men identifying with genderedness only--that is, trying to literally be "real men" without feminine characteristics and non-gendered personhood; also recognized in self-identification with mind ("being reasonable"), dis-identification with heart (emotions), and/or trying to make and be a name, literally "for (in-the-place-of) ourselves," which may have no correlation at all with actual capacities.
-- Women identifying first with their hearts ("feelings"), to the exclusion of actual reasoning abilities which are thereafter perverted into use mainly for rationalizing feelings; and secondly, with femininity itself (baby-making and mothering), while ignoring larger capacities for personhood beyond both gender and family.
-- Religious folk identifying their selves with an imaginary soul assumed to temporarily exist in their physical bodies and everlastingly in some other world, often called "heaven" or "hell," one or the other presumed to be entered after physical death.
-- Actually embodied persons who ignore real physical capacities (instincts, emotions, and thinking) in favor of identification with an unconsciously created self-image or ego; thereafter, natural bodily energies which would otherwise be available for fulfilled living are perverted into massive efforts to present, protect, defend, and advance this fictitious entity. Predictably then, ego failures are perceived as personally devastating. Even if and when "it" is successfully presented and acclaimed by others, such persons may deeply realize that "it" is not the "real me," and yet long for happiness after trophies are put away, stage lights turned off, and finally they sleep alone, only then to discover they have lost being themselves along the way.
-- Persons who ignore temptations to dis-embody themselves and identify with an ego or separable soul, but then somehow pick and blindly identify their sense of themselves with only one of our three major human parts, namely, instincts, emotions, or thinking. Some, for example, identify completely with "selfish desires" while ignoring feelings and sense-making. Thereafter they evade the real world by trying to ignore other persons and "just do what they want to do." Others, who identify with emotions only, try to suppress all physical desires and rational thinking in favor of blind emotional expressions only. They are, in effect, "ruled by their feelings" and their blind worship of "emotional comfort."
Still others identify with conscious thinking only and spend massive energies in trying to repress natural desires and "not be dictated by emotions." They may feel temporarily happy when reason seems to prevail; but since this is so often rare in the larger world beyond sense-making, much of their attention as well as energies for good living must be given over to fighting feelings and wants while secretly caught up in idolatry of reason.
SELFING AND SELFISH
As previously explained, I coined the word selfing to distinguish healthy self activation from the familiar word selfish, which is generally judged negatively. But that I affirm selfing doesn't mean that I see all types of "selfishness" as bad or that the two don't share certain characteristics. In fact, some negatively judged evidences of "selfishness" closely resemble key elements of healthy selfing.
For example, both selfing and selfishness are apparently "self-centered." Although at heart there are major differences, on first glance the centeredness of selfing may look much the same as that commonly associated with selfishness. To be selfing is to be centered within the process of being/becoming oneself; and to an outsider this careful attention to personal desires and well-being may appear much like the egotistical stance of selfish individuals.
But I qualified this comparison with "apparently..." because while both may look alike to an observer, they are in fact deeply different. While selfing is centered-within one who is being himself, selfishness is more clearly recognized as ego-centered, more like Solipsism ("I alone exist") than honest selfing which includes relationships with others.
Even so, the centeredness of selfing looks more like the egotism of selfishness than the self-sacrificial stance of "unselfish" persons. True selfing has no element of martyrdom within itself, as is typical of those who strive to be "unselfish."
Instead, selfing is intensely focused on "taking care of oneself" as a basic aspect of self-love, itself a prerequisite for other-love. Although higher degrees of selfing may indeed "put others first" on many occasions, such concern for others is but a practical consequence of fulfilled self-caring, not an act of self-sacrifice or "being unselfish."
When selfing chooses to "put others first" or "serve others"--that is, devotes attention to the needs and desires of others, there is no sense of self-righteousness as is a characteristic of those "trying to be unselfish." Selfing persons only serve others, as noted before, as a pragmatic expression of greater selfing, as an overflowing of self-love, not a form of self-sacrifice.
Comparisons and explanations aside, in ordinary daily circumstances one who is being himself (selfing) is primarily focused on personal desires or private "wants," as avenues to increased satisfactions, expanded pleasures, and escalated self-becoming. Often, "putting others first" or "serving others" is a practical part of this continuing process, a way of achieving more harmony and happiness in personal relationships; but, and this is my point here: when a selfing person "takes a back seat" to the desires or needs of others--that is, "puts others first" or "does what they want," he is being "more selfish" rather than "denying self." He does so only as a pragmatic way of maximizing long term gains through short term compromises or concessions.
A selfing person is literally the "center of the universe" as he perceives it--that is, worldly perceptions of "things out there" are all weighed in light of personal experience, in how they relate to and effect individual well-being. But unlike "self-centeredness" of selfish persons, one who is selfing recognizes his apart-of-ness as well as his apart-from-ness--that is, the importance of connections which effect personal well-being. Giving attention to artful maintenance of inter-relationships, such as family, friendships, marriage, etc., is more like caring for one's garden than sacrificing oneself for others.
When a selfing person is alone or apart from potential effects from or to others, he is fully attentive to personal satisfactions, to "doing whatever he wants to do," to consciously maximizing pleasures--that is, to "being himself" as honestly and completely as possible. Activities which express or expand private delight are freely engaged in, even if they might otherwise be publically unacceptable or socially dangerous.
Social and religious ideals of self-sacrifice in service of others are not privately shared by selfing persons. Indeed, a selfing person values his own well-being before and above that of others. If, for example, "It's me or thee," as in who is to survive in an emergency, or who exists a sinking ship first, all things being equal, a selfing person chooses "me."
If faced by enemies (those who would hurt of destroy oneself), like a cornered animal a selfing person will take any measures necessary to protect himself, even to the extent of zapping enemies. Valuing the lives and welfare of others above one's own is contrary to the nature of selfing. In fact, many forms of social heroism are seen as pathological rather than virtuous by a selfing person.
On analysis, the "self-centeredness" of selfish persons--as seen in "acting like they own the world," or "not caring at all for others," or "thinking they are king of everything," or "ignoring what other people want or think," or "wanting what they want when they want it," or "trying to have their own way, regardless," or "thinking the sun rises and sets on their head," etc., etc., may be revealed as foreign to the essential nature of truly being oneself.
Those who ignore facts about inter-relationships and act like "I don't need anybody," as though they are or might be totally independent of others, may erroneously be devoted to a self-created ego or self-image which is not at all who they are as inherited beings with certain acquired personal traits. The "one" such persons try to indulge, promote, defend, protect, or "get you to accept," may in fact be but a figment of their own imagination, an "it" with no basis in reality, and yet the object of their erroneous self-identification. Even though they often "truly believe 'it' is I,"--that is, that their unconsciously manufactured image of themselves is actually who-they-are, other persons may easily recognize the error of their assumptions.
Again, as noted before, those who are truly being themselves may sometimes be seen by others as having similar traits. For example, selfing persons, like little children yet to repress themselves in quest of other (mother)-approval, also "want what they want when they want it."
Indeed, personal desires which link instincts with consciousness, are regularly in awareness as primal guides toward self actualization. When they choose to reveal themselves, selfing persons are easily recognized as not only careful about "taking care of themselves," but also as very desirous of "getting what they want." The difference, however, is that the "wants" of selfing are always in the context of wider relationships with other persons and the world in general. Consequently, selfing persons will often be contained or even hidden to others when immediate circumstances deem otherwise.
SELFING AND BODY
The first and most basic fact about selfing is this: selfing is embodied. Initially and ultimately, self and body are synonyms in the sense that each can be identified with the other.
This is perhaps the most basic and crucial distinction between my perspective being amplified in this essay and popular notions about self and body. Familiar, socially accepted ideas, sharply distinguish the two, as though self (or soul) is one thing, and body is something else. In this popular perspective their relationship is only a matter of proximity or temporary connection, as in the idea that self (or soul) resides in one's body while one is alive, and may leave when body dies. Others hold that self may make temporary exits during bodily lifetime.
In popular religions self is more commonly called soul. In psychology, self may also be called mind, personality, or simply I or me. But in my understanding, all such names are titles for the same reality as viewed from differing "windows." Soul is a religious name for secular self or mind. I or me are synonyms for both types of language.
Now back to my premise here: in sharp contrast with these familiar religious and psychological notions of body and soul or self as different entities ("its"), I see both as synonyms referring to one reality from different perspectives or categories of human perceptions. In a similar use of language we might correctly describe one tree as tall and green (or brown). From the perspective of space, the tree is tall. From the perspective of color, the tree is green. But tall and green are not two separable entities; they simply describe one tree as perceived from two different categories. One might properly say, "This tree is tall" and/or "This (same) tree is green," while referring to one tree.
And so with self and body. In this comparison "I" am the tree," but I may be described from two perspectives, say, mental or physical (like tall and green). With mental categories, "I am self." With physical categories, "I am body." But self and body are no more divisible than are tall and green; each simply describes who-I-am from a different perspective.
Pushing the comparison further, since the two are simply different perspectives on the same reality, one cannot properly say, "The tree has a tall (or a green)," but only that the "tree is tall and/or green." In like manner, one cannot properly say that "I have a body," or "I have a soul," but only that "I am body and/or soul.
At this point the language comparison breaks down, because while a tree is truly an entity which can be described with two (or more) categories, selfing, as I understand, is not a separable entity. Limiting these observations to nouns, one can only say and be equally correct, "I am body," or, "I am soul," or more accurately, "I am body/soul."
I literally exist in bodying or souling, but not as a separable entity which has one or the other, or both. Since nouns by definition represent separable entities, clarity about selfing is best achieved with verbal adjectives, such as, "I am spirited (or 'without spirit')."
I belabor these mental (grammatical) distinctions because crucially significant errors commonly occur in regard to human well-being, happiness, or salvation, when one perceives of self or soul or mind as entities separable from body, and hence capable of independent existence as literal nouns.
Summary: In my perspective of being oneself, "I," literally am embodied. I do not have a body or soul as might be possible if "I" existed independently of each, but when I am selfing, I am bodying or souling, depending on which perspective I think from--that is, physical or mental (spiritual).
Whenever I use nouns in thought, writing, or speech, as English requires in order to make complete sentences, I mean them metaphorically (as figures of speech), as when one describes an animated person by saying, "He's got soul (or spirit)," meaning he can be described as "lively" or "spirited." But in these and similar colloquial expressions, "He's got soul" describes a quality of being, not a literal possession.
And so with "He's got (has) body"--not as a possession of "He," but as one way of describing who he is.
I place noting these distinctions first because other descriptions to follow, such as, how selfing relates to wants, feelings, and thoughts, are simply subdivisions of bodying; or, as nouns, they are parts of body. Literally, our three major capacities--namely, desiring, emoting, and thinking, are inter-related-yet-distinguishable aspects of being embodied. To be oneself (selfing) is to be embodied, which, broken down, is to be wanting, to be feeling, and to be thinking.
SOUL AND BODY
-- Soul and self are synonyms, the first being more commonly used in religion, the second in secular society.
-- Self as a noun, and my coined word selfing, a participle, are synonymous. I coined selfing because thinking in terms of the participle helps me avoid the trap of taking the noun as literal.
-- For clarity in this exploration of body and self, I also coin the word souling as a participle to more clearly represent the reality of soul (for the same reason as above). Consequently, selfing and souling are synonyms in this discussion. The nouns from which they are formed, self and soul are, as noted first, also synonyms; but in each case a literal participle is reduced to a noun as a language convenience. More clearly, with less risk for misunderstanding, we might think and speak of the participles, selfing and souling to represent the lively, on-going nature of each (both). Unfortunately, such language accuracy requires coining these new and therefore unfamiliar terms.
This is true, I speculate, because organized religions long ago lost awareness of souling as a process or event, in favor of visualizing this happening as an entity capable of being possessed rather than experienced only. Perhaps reducing what exists only as a lively participle into the form of a static noun was both easier to understand as well as to be managed by religious authorities.
In either case, this language reduction which allowed literal souling to be thought of as a figurative "it" also set the stage for an even grander error, namely, creating the illusion that "I" have "a" soul--that is, that souling exists as a personal possession (a "thing" I have), rather than a possibility for becoming and being.
Then--I continue to speculate, the easier-to-manage illusion of souling as an "it"--like an inherited possession, must have become so popular and well accepted that the fuller, realistic recognition of souling (as a participle) was eventually lost to popular understanding, and hence dropped from everyday language.
Whatever may have happened in language history, my point here is to affirm the opinion that whereas souling (or selfing) exists as the essence of human being (literally), there is no such think as "a" soul, like an entity which might be temporarily housed in a body (as visualized in the notion of "a ghost in a machine").
This is to say that whereas souling is potentially real--and crucially important, soul is not. Soul only exists literally, as an entity, in the fertile imagination of those who might otherwise be devoting attention to realistically becoming "souled" or "embodied" rather than settling for lessor degrees of human wholeness (actual splitness)--and hence, happiness.
Properly, in my opinion, understanding souling or selfing as participles rather than as nouns (soul and self) also short circuits equally erroneous but familiar attempts to relate existential experience to concepts of time and space--as in wondering or asking, "How long (time question) does a soul live?," or, "Where (space question) does a soul go after the body dies?," or, "Can a soul leave the body while it is yet alive?," etc., etc.
Although such questions are fully logical and understandable within the framework of a language such as English, based on the concepts of things (objects) in space and time--that is, "its" existing as entities (nouns) subject to measurement by the two additional concepts of space and time.
After one errs by assuming the existence of soul as an "it," then the above questions are sensible and logical. After all, "everything's gotta be some place," and also "last just so long." But, and this is the crucial point in understanding souling as a participle only (rather than as a noun), experiences (participles), such as running, jumping, hoping, loving, and souling, are not subject to measurement by spacial and chronological devices (rulers and clocks).
To ask "Where is soul?," is like asking, "Where is running (or hoping or loving)?" Running, etc. (the participles), exist wherever a person happens to be running; but not as separable entities subject to measurement by spacial locations. And so with souling.
Likewise with time concepts. "When is running?" is obviously an unanswerable question because running is not a thing subject to measurement by clocks. Moving bodies may be measured in time, but running itself cannot. Nor can souling.
"Where does a soul go after a body dies?" is like asking, "Where does running go after a person stands still?" Even though the questions are logical within the constructs of English language, they are literally unanswerable because the realities they refer to are independent of space and time.
Perhaps this familiar error of trying to comprehend soul by applying the measuring devices of space and time may become clearer if we approach it from the perspective of another synonym, spirit. In popular understanding soul and spirit are often used interchangeable--that is, as synonyms.
But by some quirk of language history, the active nature of spirit--as in, spirited ("He or she is spirited"), has been maintained as a description of liveliness rather than as an entity only. When we think of a person as "spirited"--even when described with the noun form, as, "he certainly has spirit," we are not likely to go the next logical step to wonder, "Where does spiritedness go when he sleeps (or body dies)?," as we commonly do with soul.
Point: Even though soul and spirit (the nouns) may be recognized as synonyms, for some reason the descriptive form of the latter (spirited) is less often confused with literal existence as a noun--as is commonly so with soul.
If, as I understand soul (or self) to literally exist only as a participle (with the nouns as language conveniences), and, as stated before, if soul (or self) is embodied, then popular beliefs in "immortal souls" are inherently in error. Im-mortal means not mortal, or literally, not bodied; but if soul or self is embodied, as I understand them to be, then the notion of "an" immortal (not-bodied) soul is in fact an illusion (mental notion only).
In reality, one may be spirited or "souled," but one does not, and cannot, have either as a possession or entity subject to "going somewhere" after bodily death, or "living forever" as in heaven or hell. These "places" in space (heaven "up there" and hell "down there"), where souls (as "its") may exist "forever" are but secondary illusions made necessary for placing the first illusion in space and time.
My point in these extended excursions into the nuances of language is to amplify what I see as a wiser direction of human energies toward the real possibility of becoming more spirited ("with soul") in the here and now, as contrasted with the aims of popular religions to believe and behave now in ways presumed to result in perpetual post-mortem existence in idealized circumstances of space and time.
Stated negatively, I have no interest in arguing about or trying to disprove the existence of souls as "its," or of heaven and hell as geographical locations for their post-mortem futures; but I do affirm, at least for myself, what I see as the more realistic possibility of being embodied and spirited, present tense, as contrasted with hoping for heaven later while ignoring, even attempting to negate, bodily spiritedness now.
In religious language, my devotion is to a quest for heavenly existence embodied on earth. I leave dreams of post-mortem bliss to those who are greater gamblers than I am.
SELFING AND WANTING
Survival instincts are the most primal and powerful of all inherited urges--most primal because they evolved eons before human consciousness was more than a gleam in Mother Nature's eye, and most powerful because they come with the directions of 44 of 46 chromosomes in each of our 50 trillion cells, leaving only two for moving our second most powerful drive, namely, for self replication.
So called "survival instincts" are about maximum personal existence, which begins with literal survival--that is, "keeping on breathing" at all costs, but are evidenced mostly in blind urges to enhance individual existence, to find fullest possible satisfaction of all personal desires.
Although "survival instincts" are most dramatically evidenced in life or death situations, when breath is threatened, or when "it's me or you," the overwhelming forces of this most primal instinct are exercised in daily life situations when air is plentiful and the death angel seems to be safely at bay.
But because they evolved so long before consciousness and hence "thinking" became possible, they have no words to give them voice. Their powerful forces become known via "wants" alone. The massive drives of this dark dynamo are mediated in awareness, if at all, through blind desire--not through the lighted-but-limited forces of reason, "sense," or even conscious "thinking" itself, but via "wants" alone.
I use this basic word "wants," and put it in quotes to imply a specialized meaning, rather than more formal names, like desire, because the powers and strength of this urge arise even in the womb, long before language itself becomes possible--and certainly before formal words can be learned.
The familiar observation that children "want what they want when they want it" comes closer to recognizing the dark but consistent and prevailing nature of these blind, pre-conscious urges. The three "wants" in the sentence above testify to the inherent forcefulness of these drives which "just come naturally" before later-to-evolve attention to "thinking," and with it, knowledge about time and space.
That is to say, personal awareness is flooded, as it were, with a wealth of dark knowledge, even inherited wisdom, about "what I want" long before the fragile forces of "sense" are even possible. And, I might add, for long afterward, even until the death angel's knock can no longer be ignored.
The major enemy of being yourself, the primary cause of not being yourself is self-repression.
But these universally powerful private urges, summarized here as "wants," quickly find themselves challenged by public forces evolved along with civilization itself--which, paradoxically, has survival needs of its own. Even before the time of any child's potty training, "what I want"--that is, personal desires, find themselves in conflict with "what they want" from me.
And in this inevitable conflict, unfortunately, the most primal personal desires find themselves directly at odds with the most powerful public forces. As it turns out, "what I want (genetic drives)" in most situations is 180 degrees opposite from "what they want (memetic forces); and before I know it, my fledgling selfing is at war with their established virtues.
To make matters worse, at least for me, the weight and force of their established powers (memes) is vastly greater than the newly created urges summarized as "what I want (genes)." My amateur genes, an adult might say, are seemingly at war with their professional memes.
More specifically, my basic instincts, first for breath and comfort, and later for self replication, are called by them "selfish" and "sexy," both of which are fiercely judged as bad, and strongly suppressed whenever they conflict with public values--which is most of the time.
In the face of these near universal conflicts between infantile selfing and long established forces of outward suppression, personal repression seems to be the most oft taken mode of compromise. Most all infants, as best I can tell, soon opt for using this psychic device as the easiest and safest way to "make it in the world" as we find it.
In varying degrees we confront outward suppression of self and sex with inward repression. We come to accept their negative judgments, and, in the face of possible punishment, if not rejection, quickly learn to outwardly deny (or try to hide) our contrary "wants."
At first, I speculate, these overt denials are but cover stories for contrary inward awareness. Even as we learn to curtail revelation of unacceptable "wanting what I want...," for good and practical reasons with parents, we must remain at least partially aware of "trying to fool them."
But, as is the nature of this psychic device, what begins with inward suppression as a workable compromise with outward suppression, quickly tends to phase into private repression--that is, we must soon fall for our own ruse. In time, pragmatic "fooling others" ends with "fooling ourselves" as well. Smart suppression turns into functional, but damaging-in-time, repression.
But at least we survive, with primal drives for selfing and sex locked away--at least temporarily.
"Wants" or desires are nature's way of mediating primal instincts for survival and replication into personal awareness. Our oldest genes, as it were, aim at "staying alive" and "making babies"; but for these primal drives to be activated in bodily activities, as is required for success in the world, some medium is necessary for their translation into the awareness of bodies comprised of genes with these imbedded urges.
This, I theorize, is where "wants" are born--that is, evolved over the course of time. Probably the most primal "want" is for air, as necessary for physical life outside the womb for more than a few moments. Next the innate need for nutrients essential for extended survival probably evolved as other "wants" later to be named hunger and thirst.
Once basic survival needs for air and food are satisfied, in time they expand into more sharply discriminating desires for increased sense satisfactions beyond "just staying alive"--that is, "wants" for better and better tasting foods plus escalated responses and resources from "out there," beginning obviously, from mother in the form of her warmth, touches, and care, past nursing alone.
Then, as physical growth continues, bodily needs, all genetically encoded, expand to include satisfactions related to movement and encounter with the larger world beyond mother's breasts and arms. What begins with "wanting" air and milk, expands into "wanting" warmth and the comfort of holding, eventually escalates into "wanting" movement and contact with an ever-expanding variety of sensations as perception capacities increase almost daily--as reflected in reaching out, grasping, and trying to touch things. Eventually the familiar description of babies and young children "wanting that they want when they want it" becomes apt and pervasive.
In summary, as I analyze these obvious stages of individual development in the immediate world outside mother's womb, all such desires are Mother Nature's evolved way of mediating genetic needs into the awareness of human beings so as to secure and enhance primal drives for survival and replication.
Quickly on the heels of "wanting" or blind desire, other bodily capacities, such as, emotions, soon become possible. But first in the natural order of human development, "wanting what we want" sets the stage for all other bodily capacities.
But, as noted before, the speedy appearance, first of desire and then of accompanying emotions--that is, of drives for becoming our primal selves, is met head on with "out there" forces aimed at curtailing, even suppressing the very "wants" which are the substance of who we are at the time. This is where invitations for personal repression are first presented, and, I conclude, where we are commonly tempted to evade the challenges of being and becoming our natural selves.
When one is being himself he is, by the nature of selfing itself, always wanting--that is, consistently desirous of having every desire fulfilled. Like yet unrepressed children, he "wants what he wants when he wants it"; but unlike children, he adds discretion to all expressions of his desires.
Whereas selfishness reflects in blind acting out, that is, "doing what I want to" regardless of its effect on others or consequences to myself, selfingness is conscious "wanting," but with discretion added--that is, with awareness and attention to consequences, both for oneself and one's relationships with the world as well as with other persons.
Selfish is existing in the illusion that "I alone exist (Solipsism)," ignoring facts about human connections, that is, of self as both alone and with, apart-from and a-part-of the world outside one's skin. Selfing clearly realizes that personal existence is in community, that, as John Donne noted long ago, "No man is an island, entire of himself," but each one is literally "a part of the continent..."--that is, an inter-connected world, including self with both the physical world of nature and with other persons.
But unlike typical unselfishness, selfingness involves no repression of "wanting" itself. The second is like total selfishness in the extent of its desiring, but is also distinctively different in its addition of added discretion to all expressions or revelations of desire.
Selfing is consequently to be distinguished from the apparent unselfishness of "good" people who appear to be totally focused on the needs/desires of others, but do so based on self-repression, denying personal desires in favor of the wants/needs of others. These "goody-goody" persons are the exact opposite of the totally selfish who live as though "I alone exist," or as though "I am truly the center of the universe," and commonly feel deeply self-righteous about repressing personal desires as much as possible.
Often these "public servants" or "devout Christians" who try to ignore their own wants in favor of "sacrificing themselves" in service of others will, in effect, "work their fingers to the bond" in "helping others," all the while denying private desires, even any "selfish motives" for their seemingly benevolent services to others.
Often their cloaked self-righteousness is visible to others, even though they themselves try to act completely "humble" in their "dedicated services." Because this stance cannot but involve self-repression (given the inevitability of inherited drives), including self-blindness to instinctive desires, those who try to "live for others" and make a virtue of self-denial may often fool themselves about their assumption of goodness and secret hope for later rewards, even when their denied pride is easily visible to others.
One sign of such blind self-righteousness is negative judgment of any apparent selfishness in others. Overt self-repression is inevitably accompanied by covert self-elevation--that is, "pushing down," as it were, on personal desires reflects in "pushing up" of one's sense of self in relation to others who are less repressed and/or more revealing of private wants. It is as though one makes himself "better than others" by "putting down on himself" and serving their needs/desires rather than his own.
In assuming self-sacrifice to be inherently virtuous, one who "puts others first" cannot but feel "better than" those he "tries to help," especially those who seem to be most selfish themselves, "taking advantage," as it were, of services given them.
Such negative judgments, even when cloaked by self-righteous "humility," may also be reflected in feelings of resentment, even anger at those one is "trying to help" when they are not equally "trying to help themselves," or, when they fail to show "proper appreciation" for services given to them.
Even when personal resentment of "unappreciative takers (selfish recipients of goods and/or services of others)" is held in check, those who serve based on self-denial are apt to "be bothered" by signs of selfishness in any others. "How can they be so selfish?," a sacrificial person may privately wonder.
On analysis, "being bothered by," or, "taking offense at" selfishness in others, is likely to be rooted in repressed and therefore projected desires to be selfish oneself. That is, one is offended by anyone else doing what a repressed person does not dare do himself. His repressed and hence dark desires to be openly "wanting" are, in effect, seen reflected in the mirror of those who do openly reveal their desires.
On an even deeper level of analysis, taking offense at selfishness in others may cloak hidden envy of those who, for whatever reason, dare to be openly wanting. One in effect "accuses them (actually condemns)" for what he secretly wishes he could do himself. On deep levels, self-righteous, self-sacrificial persons who risk self analysis are apt to discover jealousy at the roots of their negative judgments.
Wants and the participle wanting are colloquial terms for what is more formally called desire. Like all human experiences, wanting comes in degrees. Lessor wants may be phrased as "wanting a little" as contrasted with "wanting a lot," or "liking" as distinguished from "liking a lot" or "loving." Smaller wants may be called inclinations, with greater wants seen as passion. Related words and phrases for distinguishing degrees of wanting include: wishing, craving, yen for "am attracted to," "would like to do (or have)," "feel an urge for..."
NATURAL VERSUS PSYCHOLOGICAL
Wants may be further distinguished as either natural or psychological--that is, occurring naturally as an expression of inherited instincts, and hence common to all human beings, or as a result of uniquely individual experience, learning, and personal "thinking."
Natural wants are an evolved way for genetic drives to be mediated to consciousness--that is, for one to become aware of what genes "tell us to do," especially when some physical action is required for their satisfactions. Because genetic instincts evolved so long before consciousness arrived on the human scene, they "move us" blindly--that is, they came before we "learned to think (and speak in language)" and therefore require some medium for being transmitted into awareness.
For example, we all have instincts for seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. We are naturally inclined to follow their dark directives, that is, to seek what "feels good" and to stay away from "what hurts." But because such pursuits commonly require some action, they often need to be activated in awareness. This is were wants come to the rescue. They "tell us" what our genes "want (or need)" for their satisfaction.
But on the other hand we all also have psychological wants which are rooted in each person's experience with life--that is, from what we individually learn while coping with our unique circumstances. For natural satisfactions we have no choice but to learn how to survive and thrive as well as possible with our own parents and life conditions. This learning results in uniquely individual modes for "making it" as best we can--that is, in developing personal traits, habits, personality patterns, and ways-of-surviving in life-as-we-find-it.
Our unique modes aimed at achieving maximum genetic satisfaction in immediate circumstances obviously have their own "needs" or requirements for success. If, for example, we learn that "being liked" works best for "getting what we want," then we may be moved by this information to "do whatever it takes" to gain favorable attention from others, beginning with mother. The ways we learn to "be liked," such as, to smile and not cry, bite, or hit, then acquire, as it were, needs of their own. Thereafter, we want to smile (since discovering that it works), and we want to avoid crying or biting--that is, we want to do whatever it takes to get favorable approval from others.
These types of wants rooted in individual learning rather than in genetic drives are what I call psychological wants for distinguishing them from inherited or natural desires. Although natural and psychological wants may overlap, even be the same at times, often they are diametrically opposed to each other. For example, Mother Nature may move us to cry or bite when we are not genetically satisfied; but if our individual mothers say "Stop crying," and, "Don't bite," we find ourselves in a conflict between natural and psychological wants.
In life, where we all come with natural wants but are soon confronted with social desires which require immediate attention, we quickly learn to respond to both in some hopefully functional way. Because inherited drives are so often in conflict with social needs (beginning with desires of our mothers), and these seem most pressing at the moment, we commonly give more attention to coping with social needs than to expressing natural wants--that is, we smartly learn to respond more quickly to our local mother than to Mother Nature.
This, of course, is common knowledge. I only enumerate it here to make this point: even though ancient "voices" calling for selfing satisfaction, and current messages from mother, et al, calling for social adaptation ("getting civilized") may in fact be distinctively different, in practice they are commonly confused. What I distinguish here as natural wants, and motivations we acquire for meeting social demands--which I call psychological wants, quickly come to be interwoven or merged into each other so that we lose the ability to distinguish them.
Even so, I find that understanding the difference is relevant to coping well with both, rather than, as so often occurs, one is made virtuous and used as a means of trying to defeat the other, as when we come to elevate, even idolize "pleasing mother" and condemn "Mother Nature" as evil.
Whereas natural wants are mostly common to all human beings, psychological wants are typically unique to each individual and the differing circumstances in which we all exist. However, there are certain psychological desires which are fairly typical for many. Among them are:
-- To be loved for who I am.
-- To be taken care of ("babied").
--To be liked by everyone.
--To be made happy by others or someone else.
--To be irresponsible--that is, to live without consequences, as though sowing and reaping are not naturally combined.
--To get even with those who offend ("revenge").
-- Pride and shame.
--To live forever.
Commonly we distinguish the two by thinking of a need as a necessity for staying alive, such as, air and food, and of a want as an unnecessary-for-life desire--such as, cake and ice cream. Or, as my Aunt Irene sometimes responded to what I wanted, "What's want got to do with anything?"
Although these distinguishable categories are socially functional and may usefully clarify certain extreme examples, such as, those chosen above (we obviously need air more than ice cream!), for human well-being, for "being yourself," the lines are far less distinguishable.
We may not, for example, need cake, but we do need fun and many other satisfactions not essential for mere existence. Selfingness, I conclude, pays much attention to "what I want," because true needs, being more deeply engened, tend to insist on satisfying real needs, regardless of personal desires.
Wants are crucial to selfingness because fuller measures of liveliness are dependent on lessor ingrained urges for their satisfaction. Natural wants (as distinguished from psychological desires, are the voices of Mother Nature's finest directives for becoming our whole selves as unique individuals. Satisfying a minimal amount of biological needs may keep us breathing, but only careful, conscious attention to personal wants can open the path to fulfilled living.
This is especially true for wants related to personal creativity and replication.
RELATING TO WANTS
In personal experience following typical human repressions made in quest of social acceptance and approval, natural and psychological wants tend to become seriously confused. To the degree of my self-repression I may find the two to be indistinguishable. Indeed, psychological wants often seem far more real and pressing (critical and necessary for happiness) than those I consciously see as natural.
This is because, I think, the typical path of seeking public approval via self-repression involves honoring social "shoulds" and putting down on personal, especially, bodily desires. Often, in fact, what they want for and from us seems to require repression, not expression, of natural wants.
Consequently, typical human experience in growing up in society may be summarized as: 1) Striving to want (or at least do) what others want from us--that is, to live by "shoulds and oughts" usually seen as "good" and inherently virtuous; 2) Trying hard "not to be 'too' selfish," that is, to "not give in" to natural wants which are mostly tainted with negative judgments and invite shame and guilt when one "indulges in" any of them anyway; and 3) Being unwittingly ("unconsciously") moved, even directed by unrecognized psychological wants resulting from self-repression in quest of other-approval.
The substance of daily living for typical citizens, especially those most successful in society, seems to involve a constant struggle between "being good" and "doing what one should do," and "being bad"--that is, evading established virtues and "giving in to temptations" to "indulge" in natural wants.
I am well acquainted with these three modes of living, having spent most of my life in their midst. A more productive approach toward fulfilled living ("heaven here") lies, I am coming to realize, in this stance: 1) Being aware and attentive to all social requirements and expectations, summarized as "shoulds and oughts" as determined by others; 2) Being even more alert to all natural wants--which often requires diligence in unrepression; 3) Striving for a functional balance in all activities and arenas where "shoulds" and wants are both relevant--which involves respecting the first but honoring the second (and not vice versa); and 4) Constantly engaging in working through dictation by psychological wants, giving increasing attention to natural wants, and developing artistry in functional activation of the latter in all social structures.
As best I can tell, typical natural wants include these:
-- Freedom (move without constrictions)
-- Comfort (pleasure versus pain)
-- Independence (to take care of oneself)
-- Expanding satisfactions
-- To be Number One
-- To compete and win
-- To gamble, take risks, feel excitement
-- To "girl watch"--that is, to look for signs of conceive-ability as personified in "pretty girls"
-- To touch females, in quest of confirming estrus information
-- To have sex, especially with "pretty girls"
-- To love darkness, as in caves ("wombs")
-- To be reasonable ("left brained," "thinking")
-- To have things functional
-- To be with others, in contact, communicating
-- To be in harmony, in peaceful conditions
-- To feel safe and secure
-- To be beautiful, "looking good," attractive, in body and circumstances (home, etc.)
-- To find a strong, dependable, male for sex when pregnancy is desired, but mostly for security
-- To be "feeling" ( "right brained"--intuitive, sensual, emotional, romantic)
-- To have things clean
SELFING AND EMOTIONS
Emotions are a second major element of being oneself. "Feelings," one might properly say, "are a large part of who I am. Not all, but certainly a significant and respected aspect of myself."
For clarity, emotions are to be understood in a twofold way: First, there are physical emotions which are an inherited bodily capacity, primarily common to all human beings. Basically these are lower brain or brain stem products. These instinctive, pre-conscious ways of reacting to perceptions can be summarized as fourfold: mad/scared and glad/sad. There are, of course, may variations and combinations of these four primal emotions, plus a host of other names for each, such as: mad = angry; scared = fear; glad = happy; and sad = grief, etc., etc.
For thought purposes, however, all bodily based emotions can be analyzed down to this basic four.
But there is another source of pre-conscious reactions which is often grouped under the same name. For mental clarity I use the word feelings or "right brain emotions" for this second type of "non-thinking" knowledge.
Names are relatively irrelevant to experiencing this second kind of "emotions," but understanding the difference is important for mental clarity, and respecting such "feelings" as valid is critical in being one's fuller self.
Common names for these advances or expansions of the four basic physical emotions include: intuition, "gut feelings," "knowing in your heart (or bones)" as distinguished from "in your head (or mind), and ESP (extra-sensory-perceptions).
I sometimes think of this second segment of overall emotional capacities as "psychological feelings" because they are more related to psyche (mind) than to soma (body). Or, with emerging knowledge about the two halves of the brain, these "psychic feelings" seem to be more rooted in the right hemisphere than the left, which is more identified with words, language, and conscious reasoning.
In summary, "being emotional," as one major part of selfing or "being oneself" can be further broken down into two types: physical emotions--mad/scared, glad/sad, and psychic "feelings." Physical emotions are more primal and powerful because, I think, they were the next major evolutional advance after basic urges known as desires or "wants."
First, I speculate, for survival, early life forms (amebas, etc.) evolved reaction capacities for what we might call pleasure/pain, or "feels good/bad," or "tastes good/bad" which eventually expanded into urges for greater satisfaction and against perceptions of displeasure ("want/don't want").
As brains enlarged, the lower brain stem brought capacities for expanded emotional reactions (the basic four). Eventually brain hemispheres evolved, and with them, capacities for "right brain" knowledge on the longer path to "left brain" words and language, and finally, outer brain cortex and consciousness.
The second type of emotions, "psychic feelings," are the basis for such expressions as, "I just feel like...so and so," or, "I don't know why, but I think he is a mean person (etc.)." I theorize that such intuitive, pre-rational knowledge is rooted more in personal experience than in inherited urges and emotions. If, for example, an inherited capacity for fear is activated in a personal experience of threat, say with a dog or a bearded man, then one in effect "learns" to "be afraid" of dogs or men with beards. These "psychic feelings" of threat associated with dogs or beards are then an example of one element in a vast reservoir of personal knowledge based on individual reactions to private experiences.
On an even deeper level, sound and rhythm knowledge, as experienced in music, may also be a primal element in "right brain" or "psychic feelings." Somehow, we "just know" when sounds are discordant or "offensive to my ear." I speculate that this same right brain-based capacity is the source, not only of musical or sound knowledge and creativity, but also relational nuances based on the sound of voices associated with emotional experiences.
For example, "That sounds fishy to me," or, "I smell a rat," or, "I don't believe he is telling the truth," may reflect right brain knowledge rooted in personal experiences related to particular sounds, smells, and other bodily senses.
My primary point here is to recognize two distinguishable types of emotions: the inherited four, plus a vast array of intuitive or psychic feelings which may go by similar names, yet are not the same as primal anger or fear, etc.
The overall distinction for both types of "feelings"--physical and psychic, is that they differ and are distinguishable from conscious "thinking," a later development in evolutional time. Negatively stated, "emotions are not rational." They don't necessarily "make sense" when weighed on the scales of "left brain" intellectual-type knowledge. Even so, they may reflect dark "forgotten" learning.
Both thoughts and feelings may be in awareness, but only the first are subject to validation by object facts or "head knowledge." Feeling capacities, as noted before, are older and hence more powerful. Thoughts, the product of left brain reasoning, are currently more respected in society than are emotions of both types; but feelings are stronger motivations for action. When rational ideas are pitted against irrational emotions, the latter almost always win.
Also, basic emotions tend to be both more powerful and respected than psychic feelings. Even so, insofar as being oneself is concerned, both types are essential in fuller selfing. One cannot be him or herself while rejecting (repressing) either type. Emotions are certainly not all one is; but they are an essential element in being oneself.
SELFING AND EXCITEMENT
Our two most powerful genetic movers are to avoid pain and seek pleasure. In consort, they guide us toward successful living. When we are truly being ourselves, that is, selfing, our overall state is one of relative excitement, graded from minor degrees of "feeling good" to major times of real excitement.
So far so good, until we are confronted with the demands of socialization and opt for repression as a mode of adaptation. Because our best clues to the prohibitions of civilization, beginning with parental directives, are centered around the natural delights of self activation (avoiding pain and seeking pleasure), we learn early that curtailing or suppressing "wants" is the easiest way of "fitting in" with the good graces of society, beginning with mother.
In time, with training in suppression, as conscious denial phases into unconscious repression, we commonly seem to learn to be suspicious of pleasure itself--that is, whatever "feels good," and especially what "feels best." And it turns out that greater pleasures are associated with instincts for self replication, being sexual, that is.
If we want to "be good" in the eyes of society, we predictably learn early to be wary of feeling sexual, because this is our best clue to nearing the lines indicative of possible social punishment, if not rejection. In time, with practice in repression in quest of social acceptance, we typically come to consciously view any escalation in excitement, especially when apparently related to replication instincts ("feeling sexy") as dangerous and consequently to be avoided lest we face social rejection.
The end result is ambivalence about pleasure or "fun" itself; on the one hand, genes direct us to "have fun"--that is, feel pleasure/avoid pain, but on the other hand social learning tells us the opposite. "Beware of pleasure; it will tempt you to be bad (break social directives which are by then ingrained via "conscience" resulting from personal repression).
For most people, it seems, the voices of social suppression, now ingested through the process or personal repression, are so loud and overpowering that we only hear dimly the inner voices directing us in the paths of pleasure, and even these as clues to "be careful" lest we trangress a socio/religious directive.
ROOTS OF NOSTALGIA
Desires to "go home again," clinging to artifacts of the past, etc.--that is, all the actions summarized as nostalgia, are, I conclude, surface signs of unconscious desires to re-connect with self-as-we-were back then, that is, less repressed, more in touch with pleasured living.
"Fear of fun" as symbol of ambivalence about repressed desires for pleasure, is, I think, at the roots of these dark attractions to times of old when repressions were less.
Urges to return to (or forget) the "scenes of the crime" are also about re-connecting with the less-repressed person we were before then, or the expanded pleasures we either felt or were "tempted" to experience at the time of a memorable event. The places, things, times in consciousness are cloaks for deeper yearnings for who-we-were before greater degrees of repression cut us off from normal capacities for pleasure, especially as related to sexual instincts.
Perceptions of "God's blessings" are, I suspect, also rooted in repressed and projected capacities for embracing and enjoying natural pleasures reflected in "feeling good"--especially in expanded ways, on our own, that is, as inherent in "being ourselves."
Once we repress awareness of desires for natural pleasures, and hence the innate capacity for feeling naturally excited about daily living, we may predictably project the right or authority for experiencing such delights "out there," either onto places, other persons, or, if religious, onto God himself.
Thereafter, whenever pleasure sneaks up unexpectedly, that is, when we unwittingly encounter and experience higher degrees of excitement, we "reasonably" look for its source beyond ourselves. When we have previously projected "happiness powers" onto God, for example (or women, as is often the case with repressed men), then we may logically conclude that "God is blessing me"--or so and so is "turning me on" or "making me happy."
SELFING AND THINKING
I have briefly explored the relationship between selfing and the two most primary aspects of being oneself, namely, wanting and feeling. Now I turn to consider the last-to-evolve human capacity which is essential for successfully mediating the first two in the physical and social worlds. Because I find conscious thinking to be even more challenging than desires and emotions, I give more attention to this element in being ourselves.
"Thinking," as I mean the word here, involves perceptions, images, symbols, and concepts. Concepts may be religious beliefs, such as, God, Jesus, angels, etc., or secular ideas, such as, time, space, reasons (vs. feelings), efficiency, etc. Selfing, I note, is rigorous in thinking, reaching sensible conclusions, but never blindly devoted to any notion so that mind is closed to other options on a subject, including awareness of being totally wrong about any current conclusion. A whole person, that is, one being himself, is open-minded, always thinking, consciously attentive.
In regard to brain itself, selfing is whole-brained, that is, one being himself embraces and activates upper and lower, right and left hemispheres. Selfing is as consciously thoughtful as possible with outer brain cortex, plus darkly emotional as instinctively evolved via lower brain stem.
Also a selfing person is as rationally logical and conceptual as possible with left hemisphere activation, plus instinctively creative with right brain capacities operative. Selfing is not identified with any part of brain to the exclusion of other parts. For example, selfing is not "left brained" as many men tend to identify ourselves; or "right brained," as is more typical of females. Nor is selfing identified with lighted conscious reasoning (logic) to the exclusion of creative intuition or dark emotions and desires.
BIRTH OF SELF
The possibility for selfing arrived when the capacity for consciousness evolved on the human scene, somewhere between 10 and 100,000 years ago. Before that, Homo sapiens were simply highly skilled animals with clan instincts but no option for true individuation.
Self, we might say, was born when the enlarged human brain developed enough cortex to allow the addition of reason or sense-making to the long established capacity for instinctive (non-thinking) reactions to individual perceptions.
All previous animals could re-act to reality with pre-programed (instinctive) actions; but for the first time in the history of creation, the possibility for re-sponding was added to well-established re-acting.
As was so in the microcosm of Homo sapiens history, so it is in the macro-history of each new born human baby today. As the inherited but yet fragile capacity for con-sciousness (meaning with-knowing, as contrasted with "sciousness (knowing as shared with other creatures)," became operative in new born humans, so the miraculous possibility for self-becoming ("becoming oneself") arrived also.
But I say possibility because true individuation is by no means certain. Unlike other evolved capacities, such as, circulating blood and digesting food, which inevitably come with the human territory, selfing is far from assured. Even though every baby probably has the same potential for full self-becoming, fulfilling this possibility remains the responsibility of each biologically unique person.
Ideally, we all naturally become ourselves, adding self or personhood to the wealth of older genetic capacities. But, obviously, ideals aren't always.
Reason: because in the long course of human history, powerful memes (social genes) have also evolved in the civilized world. Now, inner forces embedded in genes ("instincts") are met soon after birth with outer forces embedded in family and society.
Although these outer forces ("memes") ideally share the same overall goal as genes (inborn forces), all too often they operate in direct opposition to instinctive urges--as though memes and genes are mortal enemies. What is deemed to be best for society is often found to be at odds with what is best for individuals in society. In these instances, what genes, in effect, "tell us to do," memes, with more immediate powers, say, "No, you don't. You'd better not or you will be punished." It is as though the voice of Mother Nature soon comes into conflict with that of one's personal mother.
Result: every baby, beginning about the time of toilet training, faces the choice of which voice will he or she as an emerging self respond to. Will one identify with genes and respond as inwardly directed? Or, will he or she respond more to memes--that is, outward directives, and identify with them?
It is precisely this universal baby-choice on which rests the possibility of self-becoming--or not-becoming oneself. Paradoxically the same gift of consciousness which holds the option of self-becoming also comes with the opposite possibility, namely, of not-being our natural selves.
As Shakespeare voiced long ago: "To be or not to be; that is the question." I see this as the universal choice facing every newborn infant as he or she begins the unavoidable trek into human civilization. "Will I be myself, or will I not be me?" Consciousness may, in effect, expand itself in time like an unfolding bolt of unique cloth, or unwind like a string ball of individual potential. Or, paradoxically, like the proverbial snake who bites his own tail, consciousness may be turned in on itself and used to not-be, rather than to be.
Translated, the snake metaphor points toward the human possibility of abusing the gift of consciousness by perverting it into an enemy of itself--that is, into a tool for self-negation rather than the way for self-becoming. Instead of expanding "sense-making" from the material of personal perceptions--that is, "being reasonable" about what one experiences ("thinking for oneself") consciousness is often misused (abused or perverted) in three major ways.
First, instead of truly making-sense of personal perceptions, one may use the magic of consciousness to make up quasi-"reasons" for darkly motivated actions. Psychologists call this rationalizing as contrasted with reasoning--that is, making up notions which sound sensible when they may in fact be irrational.
Secondly, consciousness may be perverted into creating an imaginary self, an image or ego which is actually an illusion, to substitute or take the place of one's natural or "true" self. Thereafter this, in effect, "false self" is identified with, as a growing child practices presenting the illusion as real in society.
Thirdly, consciousness may, in effect, be "given away" to others, beginning with one's mother. Inherited reasoning capacities, which might be called "minding" or "using one's own mind," may be transferred, as it were, "out of one's own head" and magically assumed to exist "out there" instead of "in here."
Such a child, for instance, may come to "mind his or her mother"--that is, to do what she wants him to do rather than "minding himself." And in time this familiar metaphor which compares minding with behaving becomes literal--that is, a child may, in effect, "give his mind to his mother" and instead of continuing to "think for himself"--as consciousness would naturally work, such an all-to-common child begins to stop thinking for himself (making sense of personal experience) in favor of living by the thoughts of his mother--if not always, at least whenever she is present.
And habits of non-thinking which begin with, in effect, "giving your mind to your mother," all too easily phase into doing the same with other authority figures outside oneself.
The possibility for conscious thinking, in which one makes reasonable decisions based on personal perceptions, is the apex of human evolution so far. This capacity is, as noted before, the basis for the birth of selfing, and also the most crucial element in fulfilled living, present tense ("salvation" in religious language, "mental health" from the perspective of psychology, and "happiness" in street talk).
This type of thinking is to be distinguished from: 1) unconscious mental activity--that is, automatic firing of neurons in the brain, and 2) rationalization.
Since large brains have evolved in humans, much like circulating blood, except later in time, we have no choice but to "be thinking" in its crude, biological sense. Insofar as simple brain activity is concerned, such "thinking" is now as genetically based and impersonal as digesting food (another impersonal pre-conscious capacity). But such non-scious mental activity is a far cry from conscious thinking as I am attempting to distinguish here.
Also, rationalizing, a look-a-like perversion of conscious thinking, is to be recognized as a totally different type of brain use. In this all-too-familiar misuse of conscious thinking, mental powers naturally activated in personal sense-making for maintaining and moving forward in successful selfing are, in effect, turned in on oneself in service of social acceptance and affirmation. Instead of thinking naturally one who rationalizes simply makes up socially acceptable reasons for private decisions, especially those which may be socially unacceptable. To make clarity even more difficult, most rationalizing is done unconsciously--that is, "without thinking."
I estimate that perhaps 90% of what commonly passes for ''reasonable thinking," including most all social conversations, is actually rationalizing. In typical social exchanges rationalizing often takes the form of repeating old thoughts (another escape from thinking) or giving voice to "party line" beliefs (both religious and secular) which are taken to already be socially acceptable.
Although we have yet found no way to measure conscious thinking, I speculate that this is the most abused and/or underused of all human capacities. Conscious thinking, I conclude, is like a gold mine lying hidden or undeveloped below the personal mental ground of everyone's natural selfing--that is, the potentially most valuable but un-used of all human assets readily available for structuring maximum satisfactions in daily life.
Personifying this observation in an average-man-on-the-street, I would say that less than 2% of a typical individual's mental activity is actually conscious thinking as I am trying to describe here.
WHAT IS THINKING?
At first glance this may seem like a silly question. Doesn't everyone know what thinking is? Like breathing, thinking just comes naturally. Or so it seems.
But on analysis, thinking is far more complicated--and rare, that it may appear. True, like breathing, thinking is a natural human capacity. But unlike breathing which evolved early in our evolutional history, conscious thinking is a relatively new comer. Of course firing of brain cells as a biological function is almost as old as breathing. We may in fact limit understanding to this purely genetic operation.
But the birth of consciousness brought a new and added dimension to the kind of animal-like thinking we do indeed share with other breathing creatures. Consciousness allowed us to both think, in the sense of brain cell activity, and, miraculously, to also "hold thoughts" so as to vastly expand what we initially know from sense perceptions alone. It brought, if you please, the additional capacity for "reasoning," for "sense-making" out of data from the past as well as the present. With this additional possibility, we soon began to leave our animal ancestors far behind in our ability to make tools and, in effect "run the world," other animals included.
But, unfortunately, the dark side of consciousness is that we can not only "hold thoughts" or "know what we know," we can also turn this wondrous ability in on itself and "not hold thoughts" or "deny what we know." We can, that is, be both conscious and unconscious; we can remain aware of what we know, or conversely, we can "forget" or repress what we know.
It is this latter option, so widely used in adaptation to social demands, that makes this apparently simple question--"What is thinking?," relevant today. Whereas breathing is so deeply engened that we simply do it "without thinking," that is, without "having to learn" or use conscious effort, thinking is not. Perhaps it would be the same with natural thinking, were it not for the flip side of consciousness, namely, pushing knowledge out of awareness; but the option for repression of thoughts places thinking in an entirely different arena from natural breathing.
And, relevant here, is that fact that whereas we can't live long without breathing, we can, with practice in repression and habitual reactions, "get along"--even live long insofar as mere existence (keeping-on-breathing) is concerned, with almost no natural thinking at all.
From the perspective of full human think-ability, as naturally emerges from dark genetic wisdom combined with lighted conscious knowledge, we may accurately note that many people today do almost no real thinking at all. Others think occasionally, as in emergencies, but soon lapse back into habitual living which functions well enough without the support of "being reasonable." And, I conclude, even those who are apparently the most thoughtful of all, the so-called, "intellectual," may in fact only actualize a relatively small portion of natural human think-ability.
Speculations aside, what then is thinking? If not simply brain activation, similar to lung activation in breathing, what is the difference between what animals and many humans do with their genetic brains, and the human capacity for conscious thinking?
THINKING AND CONSCIOUSNESS
First, perhaps the most distinguishing of all differences is that thinking, as I am trying to clarify here, is conscious rather than "non-scious" or unconscious--that is, done in awareness rather than by rote or genetic initiative only. This fuller expansion of natural mental abilities with the added gift of consciousness is a chosen activity, as contrasted with decisions made "without thinking," as in, "just doing what comes naturally," or being dictated by "feelings" and/or desires. Often what passes for "thinking" is simply rationalization of wanting--that is, making up quasi-reasonable explanations for blind, predictable reactions which involve no present-tense thinking at all.
Or, folks often say, "I think I will....so and so," when they are only using words to make acted-out-emotions or primal desires sound rational. Analysis, should it occur, would reveal that much (most?) human activity is simply the blind, unconscious acting-out of instincts, desires, emotions and/or established habits--all of which require little or no conscious thinking at all.
Summary: thinking is, as I mean the term in its fuller sense, first of all consciously done, rather than acted-out unconsciousness.
REASONING AND THINKING
Secondly, thinking and reasoning are almost synonymous--that is, to be thinking and to be reasonable are essentially the same. "Thinking," we might say, "is being reasonable." I place being in italics to imply its existential meaning. When one is thinking, one is literally being rational; not just using the capacity for "sense-making" to justify or explain an acted-out emotions as in typical rationalization (reason-making). Rationalization, which commonly passes for rationality, is "making up" phony reasons, in contrast with reasoning which is literally a way-of-being rather than an abuse or misuse of inherited think-ability.
Reasoning, as distinguished for rationalization, is consciously weighing all available data related to any given situation in the light of previous personal experience, and reaching a conclusion which sensibly merges all that is known. Ideally "reasonable decisions" are in harmony with "feelings" and/or personal "wants"; but, as we all know, what we "want to do" and "the sensible thing to do" are all too often quite different.
In either case, thinking or being reasonable is to be sharply distinguished from "doing what I feel like," or any of many other types of non-conscious activations which may or may not then be explained with quasi-sensible rationalizations.
FEELING AND THINKING
The term feeling, as noted before, is commonly used in two differing ways. First, feelings are often the name for one or more of four basic biological emotions, namely, anger/fear, glad/sad, or overlapping variations of each. But the same name is also given to any instinct or inclination arising into awareness from the lower brain stem or right hemisphere of the brain--that is, to any urge, desire, inclination, or pre-conscious knowledge yet to be shaped into language via the left brain.
Intuition, for instance, or any dark summary of primal knowledge ("Sophia's Wisdom") which is yet to be "thought out" is commonly called a feeling. These often smart but non-emotional feelings may also be called "gut knowledge," "what I feel in my bones," "what my heart is telling me," or even "messages from God."
In either case, the relevant point here is that although thinking will certainly take such feelings, whether blind emotions or lighted intuitions, into account as other data-to-be-weighed, reasonable thinking is never dictated or determined by feelings alone. Emotions and "gut feelings" are, in effect, more "grist for the mill" of conscious thinking to be considered along with all other known facts; but finally, thinking and feelings of all varieties are two different animals.
CLICHES AND THINKING
Colloquial or non-technical language, familiar cliches which may fall short of "educated speech," are sometimes clearer as well as easier to understand than "proper grammar." I find this to be especially so when I begin trying to clarify what I understand conscious thinking to be like.
For example, "sense-making" may be a clearer term than "being reasonable." Thinking, as I mean here, is "making sense" of human perceptions--that is, translating raw sense perceptions (sights, sounds, smells, etc.) into refined concepts and ideas. This is in contrast with "not making any sense" or "being unreasonable."
Thinking is "using your head" as implied in the colloquial expression, in contrast with "not using your head," meaning "not making sense" or "doing dumb things when you know better." "Using your head" means much more than "having a brain but not using it," or having information being ignored in a current decision.
Thinking, negatively speaking, is "not being stupid (or dumb)"--that is, refusing to take all that you know into account in any current conclusion or decision.
All thinking is personal--that is, mental activity of an individual who is "doing the thinking." Personal also means that any idea, notion, conclusion, or decision made by a thinking individual is personally his or hers--and not necessarily the same as that of anyone else.
Personal also means that the material or knowledge being considered in conscious thinking is always drawn from one's own experience. My thinking is a translation of my perceptions, including my personal experience, not simply an idea, notion, or belief of any other person. Certainly I may consider the thinking of others, especially when mentally exploring unfamiliar territory; but, and this is the crucial point here: the ideas of others are only more "grist for the mill" of my own thinking--adding conclusions drawn perhaps from the perceptions and "sense" of others (if not simply made-up notions), to those of my own, but never just taken in without correlations with my personal perceptions.
One of the dangerous capacities of the big brain is its ability to hear and take in the thoughts of others without any personal thinking at all. Thoughts-or-others, formed into ideas, principles, beliefs, or "truths," may be simply accepted as though they were one's own, and thereafter "lived by"--without ever entering into the rich domains of potential self-thinking.
One may, for example, read an idea in a book or newspaper, or hear the worded thinking of another person, and adopt it like the baby of another mother, as though it were a child of one's own--all this without a single degree of personal thinking. Much of the so-called "thinking" or beliefs of many persons is simply "party line" talk taken in without any personal evaluation at all.
The authority of a writer or speaker, as shaped into his or her ideas, all too easily becomes a substitute for authoritatively "thinking for oneself." Thereafter such a "true believer" may repeat, utilize, even try to promulgate the thinking of others (or another), without ever having a single honest though of his or her own.
My point is that thinking, as being described here, is always personal, never simply a notion, idea, or set of beliefs, acquired from others without being carefully filtered through the insights of one's own experience (personal perceptions shaped into personal concepts).
Surely the ideas of others may richly inform one's own mind, much like food grown by others may strengthen one's body; but--to mix my metaphors, just as any food must be digested before it is transformed into personal energy, so, for a truly thinking person, any notion from another person (including the so-called "wisdom of the ages" or "beliefs of our fathers") must be mentally "digested"--that is, considered, weighted, and compared with personal experience, before it energizes personal living.
TIME AND THINKING
Thinking is always present tense--that is, a lively mental activity going on in the immediate moment. I choose the gerund (verbal noun) thinking to name this human capacity, rather than the familiar noun as used in the phrase, "having thoughts." Thoughts, as ordinary nouns (or names and ideas, notions, beliefs, etc. formed from them) may be a useful language convenience, a kind of short-hand use of grammar for speedier thinking and/or communicating; but, and this is my point here: thinking, as the gerund implies, is a lively, present tense, on-going mental activity, not the same as simple possession of static (dead) thoughts--even when they are artfully arranged and logically described in beautiful words.
One may recall thoughts (nouns) from the past, or hear the thoughts of others in the present; but thinking is to be distinguished from "having thoughts"--either from one's own past (kept in the storehouse of memory), or as listened to from others in an immediate situation. "Thoughts," we might say, are the material or substance of thinking, but possessing thoughts is certainly not the same as thinking.
Nor is holding and recycling old thoughts, the remnants of past thinking--even when they are sensibly arranged, recalled with pleasure, or convincingly explained to others, the same as lively thinking in a present moment.
Thinking, in the perspective of time, is always and only now. Thoughts (nouns) may be preserved in time, remembered or forgotten, resurrected and reused and/or represented to others; but not so with thinking. Even when thinking utilizes recollected thoughts as material for present-tense mental activity, still it exists only in immediate events (literally, processes) of a currently lively mind.
Returning to the metaphor of food and digestion: thinking is like digesting food, the process of translating tangible material into intangible energy. Thoughts are food for the mind, ideally to be digested into mental energy for use in artful, pragmatic decisions; but just as undigested food may constipate the body, resulting in discomfort, even disease, rather than useful energy, so thoughts held too long or made sacred into beliefs may constipate the mind. Just as the remains of digested food are excreted as shit, so digested thoughts are released, as it were, into the air, making room for more energized thinking.
At least, ideally so.
But all too often, once useful but now dead thoughts (ideas, notions, and beliefs), are bronzed like baby shoes, placed on the altar of one's mind, and thereafter worshiped like sacred shit, rather than moving on in the continual process of lively thinking.
END OF THINKING
Thinking itself, like breathing, is an innate element of being oneself. As an operative process it continues until breathing stops--that is, physical death. Just as an alive person is always breathing, so one being him or herself is always thinking while awake and regularly dreaming ("night thinking") while asleep.
Unfortunately, mental repression, typically done in quest of social acceptance, not only curtails, even stops, natural thinking, but also reflects in significant misunderstandings about conscious thinking itself--such as, the erroneous ideas that "thinking is hard to do," or that "thinking will wear you out."
Actually these notions are true about repression, but false about thinking in an absence of repression. While mental repression is truly "hard to do" and may indeed "wear you out," resulting in tension, stress, anxiety, exhaustion, and depression, not to mention physical and mental illness, conscious thinking is inherently healthy.
Even though conscious thinking is less "hard wired" in genes than is breathing, and consequently more subject to self curtailment than "holding your breath" for an extended time, it is equally natural now that consciousness has evolved as a human capacity.
Actually, thinking, like breathing, when not encumbered with attempted repression, is not only "easy to do," but also rejuvenating. Instead of "wearing you out," honest thinking, like natural breathing, not only relieves tension and stress, but also "makes you feel better." While natural thinking is energizing, "trying not to think" can literally "wear you out."
I theorize that the evolved function of thinking, the pragmatic reason Mother Nature introduced it in the course of human development, was because thinking is useful in smoothing the difficult path from animal to human, from jungle to civilization, that is, was/is needed for dealing with social complexities innate in living among large groups of people. Like all other evolved capacities, it served to enhance survival and self replication, else, like other anomalies, natural selection would have weeded it out in time.
But also, like all other natural capacities, from breathing to digesting food to movement to being sexual, "use it or lose it"--that is, genetically speaking, what we "can do" we "should do." Capacities, as it were, "cry out" for activation, and when any one capacity is restrained or curtailed for long, it tends to wither and result in overall imbalance, discomfort, and ill health.
As with, for instance, a bound up and unused muscle or limb soon leads to physical pain, so with curtailed think-ability which results in mental pain.
Summary: Natural thinking, barring self repression, is continuously operative as long as one is alive. Those being themselves "think all the time."
SUBJECTS AND THINKING
Although thinking itself is continuous in healthy persons, ending only in physical death, the subjects of conscious thinking are constantly evolving--that is, changing from one arena to another as natural living advances. "Natural thinking," we might say, "is endless." But what we think about changes often, when its normal process is not hindered or curtailed by repression.
Personifying subjects, we could say that "arenas-of-thinking (subjects) die," as it were, "natural deaths" once they are absorbed into self--that is, persons being themselves "lose interest" in any given subject once it has been appropriately ingrained in daily living. "Preaching (thinking)," we might say, phases into "practicing" what was first preached, thus ending the life of any given "sermon (subject)" until reality calls for its activation.
The nature of the Creative Process of all human experience (which I have explored in other writings) is that, ideally, when not interrupted by various forms of self repression ("denial"), perceptions (Step 1) lead to emotions (Step 2), which reflect in images (Step 3), themselves to be de-coded into concepts (Step 4), which are eventually absorbed into oneself (Step 5) and thereafter activated in daily life without "having to think about it"--thus completing the ordinary process of typical human experience.
That is, "head knowledge" is transformed into "body (or heart) knowing" and consequently "lived out" without "having to consciously think about it."
TELLING AND THINKING
The natural course of conscious thinking is movement from Step 4 of the Creative Process to Step 5--that is, becoming or absorbing intellectual knowledge into oneself, where it is thereafter "lived-out" with little conscious attention.
But when, for whatever reason, one fears of habitually avoids being himself (is it lack of courage?), a common interruption of the Creative Process involves stopping at Stage 4, delaying absorption-into-self by "telling others (or wanting to)"--that is, by projecting personal knowledge "out there" instead of absorbing or becoming one's knowledge "in here."
On analysis, efforts to "tell others"--as in, "sharing secrets," "explaining oneself," "trying to 'get understanding'," or, as in my case "preaching" one's beliefs (intellectual ideas), may boil down to an unconscious effort to seek outside support for what in reality remains a personal challenge.
"Do you see what I see?" and similar ways of "telling" one's thoughts may be a natural human question as we involve ourselves in the human community; but, I conclude, a need to do so, as "to be understood"--that is, an inner sense-of-necessity for confirmation of "what I see (think)" by someone else is always an escape from the larger challenges of self-authentication (moving from Step 4 to 5 of the Creative Process).
When one is being himself, regularly absorbing insights into ever-expanding selfing is the natural order. Nothing, I think, is more natural than the move from "seeing" to being--that is, from "knowing about" to "knowing what I know," from insight to becoming, from preaching to practicing.
But, so far as I know, no other human possibility requires more faith (courage, "nerve") than this natural move from "having knowledge" to "becoming what one knows" as an element of oneself rather than a mental possession "in one's head" only.
Small wonder then that when one is fearful of being himself, in this instance, the thinking element of selfing, we look to others for outward support or confirmation of what we see, especially when private vision seems to be at odds with accepted public ideas or beliefs.
Even so, all such needy efforts, even when "well-intentioned," (as in my case, preaching aimed at "helping others"), are ultimately destined to failure because in the final analysis, self-becoming is a matter of personal faith which is unavailable from any outside source.
In religious language, "no one can save me, make me be saved, or give me salvation, apart from my own faithing." In psychological language, "no one can make me grow up or mature as a person--that is, make me emotionally healthy, even if they understand me completely and fully agree with and support my thinking." Or, in street talk, "no one can make me whole and happy, even if they "love me completely" or give me "unqualified acceptance."
Whole-being is, in final analysis, an entirely personal endeavor. Although the process is natural, as evidenced in children before repression sets in, once we curtail or stop being ourselves, for whatever reason, the return to natural self-becoming can be a grand challenge. Certainly others, especially those who love and care for one, may be temporarily useful as one seeks the courage necessary for unrepression; but finally, self-becoming is a private endeavor.
That we look for "understanding" from others or someone else to "make me whole and happy (as in traditional marriages)," is, of course, understandable. Just as preaching is easier than practicing what one preaches, so trying to "get understanding" or to "be understood" by others is easier than "standing-under (the root meaning of under-standing)" what one sees as a separate person, whether or not private vision is shared by anyone else.
Summary: Natural thinking, in the absence of repression, is self-authenticating. In reality (sans repression) there is no inherent need to "be understood" or for others to "see what I see." But when one fears being himself, or lacks the courage for unrepression (looking for salvation, mental health, or happiness) "out there" is, of course, predictable and understandable.
Even so, bottom line: "The buck ends here"--that is, re-becoming one's naturally thinking self is ultimately a private matter whether in the presence or absence of others.
CERTAINTY AND THINKING
It doesn't much matter
what they think
about your thinking
But if you want to go to heave here
that you think
what you honestly do think
is critically important
Honesty is a criterion for conscious thinking. "This is the way I truly see it"....whatever "it" may be. As such, all honest thinking is "true for me"--that is, "right as I see it."
Honest means that each conclusion reached by a conscious thinker, each concept one holds, is an accurate summary of his or her prior experience related to the current subject. An honest thought is one in which the knowledge of the thinker is clearly translated into the words which shape or express it. The statement (or idea) is a reasonable conclusion based on data available to one who reaches it.
As such, honest thinking is always subjective--that is, of-the-subject, the person doing the thinking, rather than literally objective. Subjective means that such thinking is based on the recognition that all human perceptions are of, from, and by the subject, the one who is perceiving. Consequently, literal objectivity, as though one were outside himself, looking down on reality like a god, is never humanly possible.
From this perspective, all conscious thinking is human rather than godly--that is, emerging from a limited human being, not an omniscient god. To thus be human is to recognize that although human knowledge is potentially vast and wonderful, still it is limited by the boundaries of human perceptions--that is, what we can grasp via inherited senses and learn from prior experience.
Humans may wisely "try to be objective" in our thinking--that is, to base conclusions on as wide a range of data as we can possibly grasp, to consider as much information as is currently available in reaching a sensible summary; but, and this is the critical difference: "trying to be as objective as possible," rather than jumping to grand conclusions which ignore some of the available data, is not the same as assuming one can literally escape subjectivity in any final sense.
Honest thinking is, as noted before, personal--that is, of-the-person, rather than what one has read, heard, or been told, unless or until an idea from outside oneself has been correlated with and confirmed by related personal experience. When no such confirming personal data is currently available about an idea from outside oneself, when "it doesn't make sense to me," the notion may be held in mind space (kept for further examination); but no thinking-from-others is truly embraced until it is supported by one's own honest evaluation.
A conscious thinker is naturally confident with his thinking because he knows it arises from his own perceptions; it is, literally, a reflection or product of who-he-is. Con-fidence literally means: with-faith, and by nature of itself, conscious thinking inherently requires personal faith in order to occur.
But such human confidence is always without ultimate certainty. Certainly my conscious thinking is true-for-me, and therefore, given similarities between all human beings, may be true-for-others; but may is in italics to emphasize and remind me of the risky nature of projecting my knowledge onto others. In many regards our shared human experience may be alike; but always there is the possibility that what I see may differ from what you see.
"What I see" or "the way I see things" may correlate with "what you see"--that is, your potential experience might turn out to be the same as mine; but not necessarily so. Your truth may fact be different from mine, even entirely opposite. Perhaps I am, for example, color-blind, limited in my perceptions of color, while you are not. Then, although I honestly see things as plainly black or white, you may see rich variations in the color of all things.
And so it is with all other personal perceptions. Truth as-I-see-it is potentially the same as you may see it; but often my vision may be contrary to what you see--and vice versa.
In recognition of these facts, when I remain honest with myself--that is, don't fall into illusions of omniscient godliness, I always know that I may be wrong. All my confidently held conclusions still have room for error. To remain truthful with myself, I must always hold the door open to further information, even that which may completely contradict what I have previously thought in all honesty.
Although all conscious thinking is confidently held because it is based on honest conclusions, the limitations of all human perceptions is also recognized--that is,the knowledge that "I may be wrong" is always surrounding me when I "think I am right."
Recognition of personal limitations--that one may in fact be wrong, even in his most confident conclusions, also means that an honest thinker has no need to defend or explain or look for support from others for what he thinks, because he knows it is true-for-himself.
Bottom line: An honest thinker will naturally be con-fident (with-faith) in what he thinks, because faith is required for translating personal perceptions into individual concepts; but not so overly confident as to presume certainty.
True confidence, based on faith required for any honest thinking, is always surrounded by recognized uncertainty--that is, the acknowledged fact that all human knowledge is like a flashlight beamed into the darkness of ultimate mystery, a true beacon-of-light for one holding the flashlight, but always with awareness of surrounding darkness.
JUDGING VERSUS THINKING
In common understanding judging and thinking are synonyms--that is, interchangeable terms for mental activity. I view this as an extremely significant error with potentially dangerous consequences in regard to good living in the here and now.
I see judging as a popular escape from conscious thinking. I titled this section: Judging Versus Thinking, because in my understanding, the two are opposites of each other. When one is consciously thinking, there is no judgment; and when one is judging, he has stopped thinking.
Judging, as I mean the word, is "putting down (or up)" on some perceived aspect of reality which one brings into consciousness ("thinks about"). Thinking is viewing reality as though on a level plane, with neither I nor "it" better or worse than each other. The primary activity of conscious thinking is making increasingly sharper discernments in what one perceives. What begins with crude this or that--broad categories capable of containing all, first made with single senses, quickly moves on to finer and more complex discriminations formed from multiple senses.
What begins, for example, with the sight of light or dark, soon expands to include discernable objects in the light, each with a multitude of differences as picked up by other senses and compared with prior similar perceptions.
But healthy conscious thinking always remains open to continually expanding discernments about whatever is perceived--that is, to increasingly sharper discrimination as other aspects of any perception are consciously made.
All such thinking, however, remains, as it were, "eyeball to eyeball"--that is, with self and perceived reality, I and "it," on a level plan of equality. Even when discernments lead to emotional reactions and/or decisions, such as, like or dislike, or, "I will (or won't)....touch, eat, etc.," still all such responses and actions remain on a level plane of equality.
But judging stops this continual process of ever-increasing degrees of discernment via conscious thinking. The natural mode of, for example, expanded sharper seeing, is stopped in favor of "putting down (or up)" on what has been seen--that is, condemning (or praising) a prior sight.
Judging is, in effect, "playing god"--that is, assuming inhuman, unnatural qualities and rights, such as, omniscience, omnipotence, and total objectivity (attributes commonly assigned to or left with a God)--as though one were truly in position to lower or elevate what he perceives, removing it from the level plane of reality.
The spiritually disastrous consequence of all such judging is less in the apparent judgments made (down or up) than in the internal move required for making any judgment--that is, from being human (and thus limited) to assuming false godhood (omniscience and omnipotence).
This usually unconscious assumption of false godhood effectively stops the human process of conscious thinking, "shutting down," as it were, on-going thinking. One can continue thinking (with ever-increasingly sharper discernments) or one can judge what has already been "seen (or thought)." But, and this is the critical fact: one or the other, but not both/and. We can, that is, either think or judge; but not both. So long as we continue thinking consciously, we escalate degrees of discernment, but in the instant we judge what we "see," we stop the normal process of thinking. We, in effect, abandon real humanity in favor of assuming false godhood.
As best I can tell, judgments are typically made unconsciously. We don't realize (consciously recognize) what we are doing at the time. Others may easily see signs of false godhood which are hidden to us who have become self-righteous. But only in hindsight, if ever, may consequential judgments sometimes be recognized by us who make them.
Although judgments are commonly seen, if a all, only in their negative forms, namely, "put downs" or condemnations, in which one views a judged object, person, or quality as below oneself, so called "positive judgments" in which one "puts up" an other are perhaps even more spiritually dangerous because they are not only socially acceptable but also commonly rewarded.
Such "positive judgments ('putting up on')" often take the forms of compliments, praise, admiration, emulation and even "love," all of which are both socially and religiously deemed favorably. Although they may actually be signs of literal idolatry, in religions they are typically viewed as inherent virtues when groups of people agree on the same icon (e.g., "God" in Christianity and "Allah" in Islam).
In secular society, similar acceptable forms of literal idolatry ("positive judgments") occur when people "fall in love"--that is, blindly adore, even worship another person.
But whether of a religious or secular nature, these typically accepted, even "idolized" forms of "putting up (rather than down)" on any other, are rooted in unconscious judgments with the same negative consequences as "putting down on."
JUDGING AND WORDS
Judging is an internal move, a spiritual or emotional event which may occur with or without language (worded or unworded); but words can be examined as clues to possible internal acts of judgment. Obviously they are never synonymous so that any term is inevitably connected with a judgment. Typically judgmental terms, such as bad or good can be used when no judging has occurred; or, a judgment may be made silently, with no associated words in conscious thought or speech.
Still, however, particular words can be useful clues for discerning judgment, either in oneself or others. In general, judgments are, first of all, seen as negative or positive. Degrees of judgments may be termed: criticism or compliments, condemnations or adorations.
Associated words typically include: bad or good; wrong or right; evil or virtuous. Acts judged bad are seen as what one shouldn't do, while deeds judged to be virtuous are what one should or ought to do.
Less evident but often implied judgments may lie behind such terms as "too....whatever." For example, "She is too fat," or, "He talks too much." In either case, judgment may be hidden in this adverb, cloaking one's assumption of omniscience, of actually knowing how much fat or talk is too much for others.
Obviously, as noted before, judgment and words are not inherently synonymous. One can use any term without judgment, or one may judge without any associated term. Even so, these and other words may be useful clues to discerning between godlike judgments and human discriminations.
Although the distinctions I make here may not be commonly recognized, I see them as both significant and extremely consequential insofar as healthy living is concerned. Namely:
-- Judging and conscious thinking are totally different phenomena. Although they may look-a-like and are seldom distinguished, especially by those who make them, each falls into a significantly different category.
-- Conscious thinking is a natural human activity made possible by the evolution of consciousness onto the human scene.
-- Judging is an abuse, even a perversion, of the gift of natural think-ability, a psychic device which effectively kills normal thinking, as one, in effect, assumes false godhood in an escape from inherited selfing.
-- Consequently, one can think or judge, one or the other, but not both. So long as one continues thinking he escalates degrees of discernment; but he does not judge what he discerns. Or, conversely, whenever one falls into judging (playing god) he literally stops the process of conscious thinking.
-- The spiritual or emotional consequences of opting for judging over thinking are predictably disastrous in time, insofar as mental health, human happiness, and heaven here are concerned.
When I am concerned with living well, I try to carefully discern between every this or that I perceive; I seek to escalate my degrees of discernment as a basis for increasingly more accurate conclusions and wiser decisions; but, as Jesus advised long ago, I try hard to "judge not." Even when tempted to judge others who, for example, may "be caught in adultery," etc., etc., I try, as did he, to respond, "Neither do I condemn thee...."
BEING AND THINKING
What is a proper relationship between being oneself and conscious thinking? How important is thinking in relation to other aspects of being--such as, body, wanting, and feeling? Where is greatest natural power concentrated? If one had to live without some part of selfing, which would be easiest to live without?
Time, I think, provides a good window for viewing relationships between aspects of being ("being oneself" or selfing). Chronologically speaking, on the calendar of evolution, basic bodily capacities and associated instincts and desires came first; then, in the long course of time, emotional capacities rooted in the brain stem and lower parts of the brain emerged. Finally, with the evolution of the two hemisphered larger brain and outer cortex, the possibility for conscious thinking evolved.
In broad summary then, selfing has three overlapping yet distinguishable aspects ("parts"): 1) body, with instincts and desires ("wants"); 2) emotions ("feelings" or "heart"); and 3) mind, for speech and conscious thinking. In practice ("life") we are unified--that is, with all parts so inter-connected and related that sharp lines are literally impossible; still, for analysis, we may observe these distinctions:
From the perspective of longevity--"staying alive," "keeping-on-breathing," or "mere existence," body matters (#1 in time) are obviously more important than emotions (#2) and thinking (#3). Also, more blind power is rooted in dark instincts and desires, than in "heart" or mind. We are more driven to stay alive and to replicate (our two major instincts) than all else. We share these urges with pre-human animals.
Next, we evolved emotional capacities rooted in the lower and mid-brain, with awareness of them mediated mostly via the right hemisphere. The moving powers of feelings are second only to those of instincts for physical life itself.
Finally, mind or conscious thinking is the Johnny-Come-Lately on the evolutional stage. Thinking is the New Kid on the human Block. And, although critically important for living well outside the jungle, in the civilized world, conscious thinking ("being reasonable") is also the weakest part of selfing. We are most moved to keep-on-breathing and making-babies, as moved by wants; then come urges to react emotionally to whatever we perceive; and finally, with least power of all, we may opt for conscious thinking and responding reasonably to the world as we grasp it via bodily senses.
For "mere existence," body matters are most imperative; "feeling good" comes second; and "being sensible" matters least of all. But once instincts for life are primally satisfied (with enough air to breathe and food to eat and drink) urges for higher satisfactions or "really living" kick in.
For these, were we living apart from civilization, emotional pleasures ("feeling good") would probably matter more than either "food and drink" or "being reasonable (conscious thinking)." Moved by this second-to-evolve part of selfing, emotional delights, beginning with being emotionally comfortable, matter more. But once group living is added to the human equation--that is, society, with friendships, marriage, and business relationships, then mind (conscious thinking) comes to its pre-eminence. For living well with others, "making sense" or "being reasonable" as is possible via conscious thinking, is crucially important. With this agenda, emotions and bodily desires both take a back seat.
Summary: Conscious thinking, the latest-to-evolve human capacity, which, being youngest, also comes with the least amount of ingrained motivation, is least important in "mere existence." Older, pre-conscious capacities and instincts, do quite well for that, with relatively little need for emotions or consciousness.
But when concern for fuller living (happiness or heaven here) arises, then conscious thinking becomes crucially important, both for meeting survival needs in society, achieving some degree of emotional comfort, and certainly for maximum happiness.
Finally, appropriate respect, balance, self-identification, and artful activation of all three aspects of "being ourselves" are essential for well-being in this present world. Only limited happiness, if at all, is predictable when either part of ourselves is ignored and/or suppressed.
Men, for example, who typically identify ourselves with mind and blindly worship at the altar of "being reasonable" while "trying not to be emotional," predictably limit our fuller possibilities for being human. Women, who often identify themselves with their emotions and avoid mind development, also undermine our shared possibility for well-being in society.
Even though emotional powers are naturally greater than mental forces (feelings typically win over sense), giving females the edge in cross-gender relationships, both men and women short-circuit our possibilities for heaven here when we repress, curtail, or fail to artfully activate either of the three primary aspects of human selfing.
Love, for instance, at least in its fullest sense ("agape") is, I conclude, literally impossible when conscious thinking is not added to desires and feelings.
SELFING AND GOD
Selfing is godly (god-like), but a whole person has no gods--that is, does not practice idolatry in any form, either heavenly or earthly. He or she has no other-worldly gods, or any local idols either. All idolatry (having gods) is a consequence of repression/projection. By nature of itself, repressing human capacities, even with the best of intentions, inevitably reflects in projection. When the power associated with natural capacities is denied within (repressed) it is blindly but predictably projected, typically magnified, onto some external image, such as, an otherworldly god or an earthly woman (e.g., a mother or lover).
Whether of a religious or secular nature such idolatry is absent in one who is truly being him or herself.
When selfing is seen from window of religion, heaven is here and now versus there and later. Sin is self-negation, not-being-who-you-are versus doing/not doing certain deeds seen in religion as good and bad things to do. Selfing, however, is a matter of being rather than doing. Also, all selfing is this-worldly rather than other-worldly. Virtue lies in self-becoming and self-affirmation rather than in self-sacrifice. Helping others is not inherently virtuous, except as an overflow of fulfilled selfing.
Selfing is mortal versus immortal (is mortal versus not mortal). Only genes are "immortal"--at least relatively so; self is temporal. Dreams of personal immortality (not being mortal) are, in this perspective, an ego trip or an unrealistic fantasy.
SELFING AND OTHERS
What is a proper relationship between being oneself and other people? How significant are others to one who is selfing? What is an ideal relationship like?
I suggest that more misunderstanding about selfing lies in this arena than perhaps in any other. Looking back, I suspect that I have erred more in this regard than in most others. Among popular errors I have made and/or observed with others are these:
-- That selfing is for others; that ideally, best selfing is totally devoted to helping others, to serving or meeting the needs of others, as contrasted with "taking care of" oneself. In this popular perspective which is often idealized even by those who do not "live up" to it, attention to personal desires beyond bare necessities required for survival and minimal subsistence is viewed as "selfish," which is almost always judged as "bad," if not inherently evil.
In my own experience this ideal was expressed in the "J.O.Y. Principle," the idea that greater joy is to be found in putting Jesus first, Others second, and Yourself last.
From a negative perspective, this popular error involves making a virtue of self-sacrifice itself, no matter what its aim may be. Not only is serving others seen as "good," serving self as"selfish" and therefore "bad," but abusing or sacrificing self, even apart from service to others, is often taken as inherently "good."
Jesus statement that "greater love" may even involve "laying down one's life" for others, is commonly interpreted to mean that really good people will sacrifice life itself in service of others. This ideal is especially upheld by countries at war, as they seek to enlist citizens in military service. Deaths of service personnel are consequently highly honored in accord with this ideal.
Although this ideal of total dedication of self for others is only practiced sincerely by a relatively few individuals who are then seen as saints or martyrs, the ideal is still maintained by many. Even when the notion of virtuous self-sacrifice is consciously rejected, and martyrdom is consciously seen as pathological rather than healthy, still this overall human ideal is so ingrained even in secular cultures that sacrificial persons are commonly admired and those who live "selfishly" often experience private guilt for "not being as good as they should be."
-- A second widespread error about selfing and others is the often unconscious belief that personal well-being or happiness may be gotten from others, or at least acquired from certain relationships with others.
The near omnipotent meme, What They Think, so present and operative in all cultures, is perhaps the best reflection (if not source) of this error. When we fall for its dictation, we live-as-though the "thinking of others"--that is, public approval by some if not all others, is essential for personal well-being.
When so, massive personal efforts are diverted from self-tending to an everlasting quest for social affirmation--to "being liked by others," to "pleasing other people," to getting recognition and awards as signs of public approval, to always "being polite, never rude (offensive to others)," to dressing and acting as determined by current fads and socially approved behavior, to diligent efforts to receive compliments and never get criticism, to think and believe only popular notions and beliefs.
In this immensely widespread error, persons live-as-though "What I Think (want, like, need)" is relatively unimportant in comparison to illusionary rewards assumed to be inherent in "What They (others) Think" about me.
Of course the nature of selfing, which includes elements of being apart-of-community as well as a-lone-ones (apart-from) means that a certain amount of attention to social acceptance is also a part of being oneself. The powerful meme, What They Think, emphasizing the social importance of group thinking over personal ideas is consequently somewhat relevant to all.
But, I conclude, in the lives of us who have fallen for this second major error, the importance and realistic reward-power of this meme is vastly overvalued. In the overall economy of selfing, I have assumed in the past that "What They Think" of me, for example, in comparison with "What I Think (my 'thinking')," is immensely more significant.
Much of my devotion to securing the smiles, good graces, understanding, approval, and affirmation of others, I finally see, has been less aimed at the legitimate values of social membership than used as an escape from the greater challenges of being true to myself and socially responsible at the same time.
Apart from these two familiar errors, the ideal relationship between selfing and others (people-in-general) which I envision, even when I fail to live accordingly, involves a healthy respect for both aspects of genetic selfing--that is, instincts for self-alone (individuality, or survival and self replication) and for self-with-others (commonality).
Genetics alone, apart from civilization and its many powerful memes devoted to social stability, gear us for public/private living--both/and, not either/or. As evidenced in flocks of birds, herds of animals and clans of pre-civilized humans, evolution has, I conclude, majored first on group or species survival, and then on individuals within each group.
The possibility of individualism has evolved, I speculate, out of successful collectiveness, and not the other way around. Relatively functional groups of breathing life forms must have eventually allowed the fuller development of certain individuals within each group. Then, in the long course of time, as civilizations further stabilized group survival, there was room for increasing individualism without threatening the group as a whole.
In other words, larger and more stable groups of people made possibly by advances in civilization, in turn allowed for greater degrees of diversity (individuality) within each group.
As noted before, I have speculated that the challenges of living well as individuals within larger groups which were themselves needed for coping with other differing groups, was one of the reasons for the evolution of consciousness itself.
Before consciousness and with it the possibility of selfing as we know it today, genetics must have been primarily geared for the necessities of flocks, herds, and clans (groups of members), not for lone individuals. But, I continue to speculate, the convergence of these two major developments--1) larger and more stable groups which could safely tolerate more diversity of members, and 2) advanced selfing as made possible by expanding consciousness, must have heralded the possibility, even support, of potential individualism as we see it today.
However history may have evolved, my point here is that a proper relationship between selfing-as-is-now-possible and society (other persons) must begin with a healthy respect for both aspects of selfing--that is, genes for group membership and group survival (for being apart-of) and genes for personal existence (happiness and self replication) within such groups.
Healthy selfing, I conclude, is never possible when all energies are devoted to either one or the other--that is, to being a member only, or being a separate self only (apart-of or apart-from). Our genes, I think, instinctively move us in both directions at the same time.
Ideally, group or public structures as reflected in memes ("social genes") also respect and support instincts for private well-being, wisely attempting to balance both without degradation of either. But, as is even more evident than my speculations about how civilizations and individualism have evolved, societies often take on, as it were, a life of their own in which only public values are respected and supported, while equally essential aspects of private citizens are either ignored, disrespected, or even rigidly suppressed.
Temporal memes (social and religious forces) may become, as it were, autocratic, dictatorial, and repressive toward ancient and abiding bodily genes, functioning as though a group and its members are enemies of each other, instead of inter-dependent aspects of each other.
Or, members may come to view the authorities of their own group and/or the social structures as enemies of themselves, as when citizens of a state rebel against existing officials or attack their own government or when individuals rebel against community standards.
This, unfortunately, seems to be an apt description of many current relationships between social authorities and governments and those they rule over--that is, between states and citizens making up the states.
When either of these types of imbalances occur, energies and initiatives otherwise available for improving social structures and/or strengthening communal ties, are perverted into weapons of attack which further degrade the qualities of essential relationships between self and others.
Such problems aside, or when one (a group member) comes to recognize these familiar unreached ideals, how does healthy selfing relate to other members of society--both in his own circles as well as members of societies and/or ethnic groups other than his own?
First, a negative answer: Not in either of the two erroneous ways previously described--that is, 1) not as though members exist for the good of the group and/or other group members, or, 2) not as though personal well-being is obtainable through service to others and/or from good citizenship. That is, not via self repression or idolization of others and/or society itself.
Positively speaking, a proper relationship between selfing and others, including the structures of one's surrounding society, begins, as noted before, with a healthy respect for both aspects of selfing, namely, alone-one-ness and apart-of-ness. Healthy selfing respects both the urges of primal genes for maximum personal satisfactions, including successful replication and the necessity for social structures and values which commonly require some curtailing, concealing and sublimating of individual desires (what I want for myself).
Otherwise, without such respect and appreciation as expressed in a positive attitude toward private desires and public laws and mores, valuable selfing energies are needlessly wasted or perverted into battles, as noted before, either in rebellion against society (memes) as an enemy, or unrealistic devotion to socio/religious values as though personal salvation is available "out there."
Such a healthy respect and positive attitude both for oneself and others--as contrasted with self repression and/or idolization of others, has two major arenas for expression: First, one's view of others and mode of relating, and second, one's ways and degrees of self revelation with others.
A proper view of others is as, in varying degrees, parts of oneself, rather than as totally separate entities. Those closer to oneself, such as, family members, friends, peers, and shared ethnic group members, are seen as more apart-of-oneself, since their immediate effects on one are greater, while those more distant, either geographically or racially, are seen as lessor parts of oneself. But to the degree of one's fuller embracing of selfingness, all persons, both near and far, are recognized as parts of one's larger self. We are all, as members of the human race, truly brothers and sisters in the family of mankind.
This means, in practice, that how we relate to and what we do for other embodied selves is literally for ourselves as apart-of each other. Outwardly, for example, services to others may be erroneously seen as "benevolent," "unselfish," or "impersonal," while in fact they are essentially selfing in nature.
In so-called "helping" others, we are literally helping ourselves-as-apart of them. All "caring for others" by a selfing person is literally but a larger degree of self-caring--that is, an expansion of self love beyond one's own skin.
Consequently, when a selfing person attempts to serve ("help") others, he will never "feel proud of himself" for "being unselfish (or 'good')" because he knows he is simply attending to larger aspects of himself. Instead of "being unselfish" or "self-sacrificial," he is, in colloquial language, being "more selfish" than when attending to in-skin aspects of himself alone.
Paradoxically, even though the services of a selfing person may appear to others as "unselfish" or "sacrificing self for others," those being themselves will clearly recognize the error of such compliments because they know they are only "taking care of" extended parts of themselves--that is, being more, not less "selfish" than when or if they ignore needs of others.
Point: For selfing persons, that is, those who are truly being themselves, services to those in need are simply expressions of one's larger self, "expansions," we might say, "of self-becoming," not "unselfish" forms or "self-sacrifice."
When selfing is understood thusly--that is, as a higher degree of "selfishness" rather than a virtuous act of self-denial, then choices to serve others are freely made in a context of basic self love. One does not serve others because it is a duty or "good thing to do" regardless of personal desires, but only when helpfulness-to-others is an overflow of self-caring, an expansion of selfing, not a deprivation or negation of selfing.
Nor does a selfing person (one who is being himself as contrasted with one "trying to be good") use service to others as an escape from or attempt to deny personal needs and/or desires.
HOW TO RELATE
If I respect others as though we are on a level plane, looking, as it were, out to them rather than putting them down or up (judging negatively or idolizing), and if I am able to avoid using "helping" as a way to achieve approval or as an escape from the challenges of becoming myself--than how shall I relate to others?
Answer: Love them. Whenever I am able to love others as an overflow of loving myself, this, obviously, is the proper way to go. But the significant question is: What type of love? What is the nature of "overflow love"? How does it differ from other types of relating which go by the same name, for instance, "romantic love," "motherly love," and "brotherly love"?
My first observation is that while each of these familiar types of love share certain similarities to what I call "overflow love," their differences are far greater than their likenesses. Would that we had a new name which might convey these distinctions. But alas....
In the past I have tried to resurrect the older Greek word agape for noting these differences. I still think with the word, but its unfamiliarity today limits its usefulness in conversation and writing. But the greater problem is grasping the concept of "overflow love" or agape or whatever else it may be called. In the past, as amplified in many other of my writings, I have summarized agape, as I understand it, with three major characteristics: acceptance, affirmation, and freedom.
The type of love I endorse for oneself and for extending ("overflowing") to others, begins with: 1) Acceptance--that is, openly allowing them in one's conscious presence without judgments, either negative or positive. Then, respectful acceptance is expanded into 2) Affirmation. What is first openly allowed-to-exist, is secondly affirmed as it appears--that is, related to with positive regard, supported as totally okay-with-me.
But agape does not stop with 1) Allowing, and 2) Okaying; it goes on to confront the grander challenges of 2) Freedom--that is, facing the unknown of what that-which-is-present might become in the future if truly allowed to freely be-itself.
In practice, these three elements in this type of love are continually expanding from one to the other. Acceptance phases smoothly into affirmation; and affirming what is immediate is constantly opening the door toward whatever might come.
Furthermore, the activation of these three elements in regard to one aspect-of-being (any present revelation) is concomitantly operative with each new perception. As, for example, one recognition is being moved from affirmation to freedom (2 to 3), another may be in the first stages of recognition and acceptance. Consequently, in regard to different traits, for example, just as one if moving from affirming one emotion, say, anger, and freeing this feeling to become whatever it will (instead of trying to stop it), at the same time previously hidden tenderness may be first appearing.
Then a lover will be engaged in 1) accepting tenderness on the longer way to 2) affirming softness with positive regard, while at the same time, 3) Freeing anger to whatever it may become (e.g., to expand or diminish or be recognized as a cloak for jealousy).
Thus when this type of love is operative, accepting, affirming, and freeing are continually overlapping as one moves from one revelation to another. Just as one is daring to free one thing, he may be faced with the challenges of just beginning to accept another which is yet to be affirmed on the longer way to its own freedom.
Point: Although I describe these three phases of agape ("overflowing love") as distinguishable steps, in practice they are likely to be so inter-related of juxtaposed one over another as to be relatively indistinguishable.
Agape, as I intend the word here, is: like romantic love in that both share positive regard for the other person; like motherly love in shared concern for the welfare of the other; and like brotherly love in shared degrees of granted acceptance and freedom.
But beyond these similarities, agape as I understand it is vastly different in most all regards from these familiar forms of relating which share the same name. I will explore further differences later when I speculate about self-love and selfing and marriage, but for now I summarize the aspects of agape to set the stage for noting the similarities and connections between self-love and other-love.
Primarily I note two factors: 1) That ideally, self-love and other-love are essentially the same, and 2) That self-love must precede other-love and form the basis for a proper relationship with all others. Initially I identified agape as "overflowing love" in order to point out this second observation.
Ideally, I conclude, we are to love others, Jesus noted long ago in what has come to be called the "great commandment, "as" we love ourselves--that is, other-love is exactly like self-love. But, I also conclude, we literally cannot love others "as" we love ourselves unless or until we do in fact love ourselves first.
The greatest distinction between agape and the three familiar types of "love" is that the similarities are all focused on how one person is related to another, with no attention to, let alone requirement for, how one relates to him or herself.
In fact, each of these three familiar kinds of love is based on varying degrees of self-negation, not self acceptance and affirmation. Romantic love, for example, places self in the background (if not entirely negated) while it idolizes a loved one; mother love is inherently self-sacrificial in favor of total focus on the needs of those loved accordingly; and while brotherly love (friendship type) makes more room for oneself as it extends acceptance and freedom to the other, still self-love is not required.
"Overflow love" or agape, in sharp contrast, cannot exist except to the degree that self-love precedes it. Small degrees of self-love allow for small degrees of other-love; more self-love opens the door to more other-love; but fuller degrees of loving others in this way requires similar measures of self-love first.
Attempts to extend agape to others, either before one comes to love him or herself, or to a greater extent than self-love already exists, are predictably destined to failure. Overflow, as the word implies, requires underflow first; and so with agape.
Why is this so? Why can't, for example, self-sacrifice be a basis for agape, as with motherly love? Because, I think, meeting the challenges and demands of loving others in this fashion is impossible without the grounding, strength, and power inherent in loving oneself similarly. Otherwise, one could hardly avoid being "done in" by any such attempt.
If, as I suggest, other-love is based on self-love and can only exist to the extent of one's self-love, then understanding self-love becomes very important. Since I have already outlined the nature of other-love, it may seem that self-love is essentially the same, except applied to oneself first.
While this is true in practice, an error in understanding can seriously undermine the process. Self-love is easily mistaken in the literal sense of the term--that is, that one is simply to apply agape to oneself just the same as to others.
But the potential error in this literal understanding is the mistaken premise that one's self actually exists in the same sense that other persons do--that is, as a separable, discernable entity to which the principles and activities of agape may be applied.
When self-love is understood as a simple re-direction of other-love--that is, love back toward "me" rather than out toward others, the error is operative. "Loving yourself," when yourself is assumed to exist for "you" to love (or hate)," supports the illusion of "I" exist as an "it"--that is, a thing (an entity), such as, a soul or an ego, which "I" may then love (or hate).
But if, as I previously amplified, "I" is only a grammatical convenience, a noun created for language purposes, rather than a literal thing, then I cannot love my self literally, as I may indeed love others who are truly separable entities in my perceptions. Taken as a useful figure of speech rather than literally, self-love is obviously functional for thinking and communicating in English; but all too easily one may slip into the existential error noted above.
When so, when "self" is treated as an "it," then the dangers inherent in popular religions and/or egotism are amplified. If, as in popular religions, "I" have a soul, or in egotism "I" have an ego, then apparently "I" must exist as the "one" who has (possesses) a separable soul or ego.
When these illusions are mistaken for reality rather than simply used as language conveniences, then, for example, questions about where a soul goes after bodily death become reasonable. Or, when "ego" is taken to be a thing which "I" have, then defending one's (note possessive) ego makes sense. Or, even more dangerously, ego may be erroneously identified with "my" self, in which case "protecting (or promoting) one's ego" becomes the same as taking care of oneself.
The predictable negative consequences of these errors as related to fulfilled living in the here and now are, I observe, inestimable.
Summary: To avoid these and other similarly consequential errors, self-love is best understood in its metaphorical sense only--that is, with "self" as a metaphor for the existential process of being alive as one-apart from others.
When so, self-love is better understood as self-becoming--that is, the process of being oneself, rather than a certain way of relating to an entity called "self." Love, then, is not something I do for or to myself (as though "I" and "myself" are two separate "its"), but rather a describable manner of being who I am.
In this perspective, the previously described principles of agape (other-love)--namely, accepting, affirming, and freeing another person, become the loving way of being myself. In other words, self-love and self-becoming are synonyms. The way I love myself is literally through becoming myself, not through "treating myself (as an entity)" in a describable manner.
When I am being/becoming myself--that is, who-I-am, then, paradoxically, self-love is operative, not as acts done to or for me, but in the activation of the unique set of capacities known, for language purposes, as "I." Only in this sense, I think, can the principles of agape as related to selfing be properly understood.
Conclusion: The "way to love myself (metaphors)," is to: 1) Non-judgmentally accept who I am as inherited and as I have developed since birth; 2) Positively affirm my common and unique capacities (regardless of public judgments, favorable or unfavorable), and 3) Continually hold the door open to becoming ("changing into") whomever I might be when my unique capacities are freed to emerge and develop as they will, regardless of any prior speculations, wishes, or hopes about who I am.
Only in this sense, I conclude, can self-love be understood without inviting dangers inherent in objectifying oneself (as a soul or an ego).
SELFING AND MARRIAGE
How is marriage viewed by a selfing person? What is the relationship between being oneself and being married?
First, a selfing person, being naturally alert to his or her environment, recognizes and respects the fact that family--seen as a monogamous marriage between a man and a woman, plus their children, is the primary stabilizing institution in modern society, even more highly valued than the institutions of religion, education, and democracy. As such, this view of marriage is so honored as to be seen as sacred by many, who consequently feel deeply threatened by any other type of family union.
Although selfing persons view sacredness as a potential quality of human experience, rather than properly applicable to any social institution, they also recognize the minority status of this perspective in current society. And, perhaps even more relevantly, they recognize the near universal acceptance of magical qualities commonly attributed to romantic love as the primary basis for monogamous marriage, as well as the force supposed to sustain it "as long as ye both shall live."
This latter illusion is, I think, the primary distinction between the popular view of marriage and that of a person who is being him or herself. A selfing person, recognizing the illusionary nature of this familiar form of acceptable magic, does not make romantic love the basis or reason for being married.
Indeed the notion that a half person could in reality be made whole by any other person, such as, a lover or spouse, is recognized as a socially accepted, even glorified form of psychic pathology.
Consequently, a selfing person approaches marriage with realistic rather than magical expectations. While respecting the popular illusion that one might be made whole and hence happy by some other person, or that romantic love could literally sustain such a relationship over the often stormy course of time--after proverbial "moonlight and roses" predictably phase into "daylight and dishes," etc., one who is being him or herself resists such tempting notions and marries, if at all, for more realistic reasons.
Such as: 1) respect for and participation in this established form of stabilizing society, which is, as it were, "the only game in town" for living together without stigmas attached and risks of social rejection; 2) using the most functional and socially accepted structure yet evolved for seeking genetic immortality through one's children; 3) association with a co-laborer for coping with the demands of daily survival as oneself, along with the exceptional challenges of rearing healthy offspring; 4) experiencing delights potentially present in companionship with another human being in circumstances stabilized by law and outside social support; 5) structuring circumstances for pursuing the universal human goal of personal wholeness and happiness in the here and now, including the possibility of learning to truly love oneself and another human being.
Stated negatively: Even if tempted to seek personal salvation from without rather than within, as in popular religions, romantic love, and monogamous marriage, one who is being him or herself resists participating in such illusions in general, and certainly in making them the basis for a lifetime relational commitment.
In colloquial language, a selfing person does not "marry for love," at least of the romantic type. Possibly one may seek a relationship in which he or she might eventually come to be loving; but not as a device or way of getting and/or giving love.
Excluding romantic love as a legitimate basis or reason for a relationship with so many challenging elements as a monogamous marriage expected to be "forever," does not mean that a healthy marriage may not begin with romantic love or that it has no room for romance itself. Indeed, chosen romance, with no hidden expectations, can be one of the regular delights of being oneself while being married.
Viewed and approached realistically rather than magically, marriage is properly faced as one of the most demanding of all socially established human relationships. Even with the many functional values and potential delights inherent in a monogamous marriage, still the challenges innate in such an exclusive relationship are seldom recognized except in hindsight.
Among oft ignored but always present challenges inherent in monogamous marriage are these:
-- The anti-genetic nature of certain fundamental elements of socially sanctioned marriage, such as, 1) male sexual fidelity and 2) female suppression of instincts directing one to seek best available sperm at times of ovulation, as well as potential for extensive sexual pleasures not commonly experienced with one male partner. Apart from social restraints to the contrary, males are genetically geared for maximum self-replication; monogamous marriage is obviously directly opposed to this ancient, pre-conscious male urge.
-- Limiting one's intimate relationships--both sexual, emotional, and intellectual, to just one person with whom many other vested interests are best supported by degrees of pragmatic distance.
-- Extended proximity of any two individuals who are naturally moved to become their fuller unique selves in circumstances more fitted for sameness and conformity than for potentially divisive self development.
--Set up for massive amounts of time together, with predictable threats of being apart; all this closeness while individual development and personal creativity are better served by attention to oneself more easily discovered alone.
-- Psychological challenges of being closely related to another person in the midst of shared responsibilities with immense legal as well as personal consequences, without falling into illusions of possessing one's partner and/or being possessed--either of which undermines the reality of being separate selves together.
-- Temptation to participate in illusions of possession. Biological male instincts, not only for self-replication but also for assurance of paternity, predictably reflect in a man's dark, even unconscious, drive to possess females, especially exclusive rights to their sexual favors.
Temptations to possess are equally inviting to females with shared instincts for self-replication, but with their best odds of needed security placed in one often fickle man.
Although being possessed by another person for any reason is contrary to deeply ingrained human urges for self survival and personal enhancements, as seen in natural desires for independence and freedom, these familiar and accepted illusions that marriage comes with possession of and by a spouse, must be universally tempting to fall for.
Remaining intimately involved with another person, as marriage dictates, without at the same time falling for illusions of having someone, or the equally dangerous possibility of being had, must be two of the grandest of all human challenges.
-- Marrying parents in disguise, that is, the almost universal temptation to re-live childhood scripts as unconsciously resurrected in acquiring chosen mates to replace them, is another constant danger inherent in monogamous marriage.
Many unsuspecting and predictably disillusioned wives wake up all too soon after the honeymoon is over only to discover that the grown man they thought they were marring turns out to be a little boy in a man's suit, more concerned with finding a second mother to replace the first, than with responsibly providing the security she hoped for.
And across the marital bed, many equally blind and eventually disappointed husbands who imagined they were acquiring good sex for a lifetime, even if certain motherly capacities were lacking, find that instead of a mature woman, they sleep with a little girl still longing for a perfect father.
Point: Another of the grand challenges of marriage involves resisting the temptation to resurrect childhood memories and dreams about perfect parents and then to project them onto very human spouses, or, conversely, to avoid falling for similar projections of one's mate.
-- The many advantages of family structures based on monogamous marriage for effectively rearing children come with risky temptations to evade other challenges inherent in "keeping romance alive" by devoting all attention to "providing for and/or raising the family"--that is, to use children to justify personal failures to give proper attention essential for keeping any extended relationship alive and well.
-- Learning the arts of deception cloaked with appearances of sincerity, as are often essential for maintaining closeness with another person when real and honest-but-threatening differences inevitably appear.
With strangers, or even close friends, potentially disturbing differences, such as, offensive traits and desires, may be dealt with by physical distance (or merely changing the subject); but the structured intimacies of marriage make "running away" and/or hiding unfeasible if not impossible options. Consequently, mastering the artistry required for fooling a loved one without fooling oneself is another demand of all successful marriages--especially when one may have harbored desires for finding at least one person "who loves me for what I am," or "who I can be completely honest with without any repercussions," and imagined a spouse to be such an one.
I speculate that more childhood fantasies and unrealistic expectations have been projected onto "love and marriage," which, as a song says, "go together like a horse and carriage," than onto any other type of relationship or social institution.
Paradoxically, the union which holds both the grandest of physical and psychological opportunities of any yet socially established relationship, as well as amazing invitations and possibilities for personal growth--that is, for being/becoming oneself in the presence of another human being, including the rarely embraced possibility of truly loving beyond one's individual self, also often cloaks some of the greatest human disappointments on the heels of our most familiar magical wishes.
When married, a selfing person is being him or herself with, rather than for, a spouse--that is, being/becoming oneself remains the primary agenda, even as before marriage. Instead of seeking self completion through a spouse, as commonly results when we "fall in love and get married," or giving up selfhood in favor of devotion to an adored spouse, a selfing person remains who he or she is, with a spouse, as was so before marriage.
Although the language is paradoxical as well as contrary to common perspectives, in principle a sane or healthy marriage involves being separate together as distinguished from being separate apart "while just dating." The many intimacies, freedoms, and responsibilities of marriage do not change the essential nature of existence as separate individuals who have chosen to share many aspects of themselves together.
In principle, beneath myriads of intimate contacts and responsibilities which structure the daily lives of married people, a selfing person relates to a spouse much the came as to other persons outside the marriage. The massive differences in degrees of closeness and quantities of events together, as contrasted with relationships outside marriage, do not change the essential nature of being oneself with or apart from a spouse.
In practice, of course, while exercising the many wonderful freedoms and expanded responsibilities inherent in a socially sanctioned marriage, this primary stance may be completely hidden to view by others. But even so, a selfing person never forgets or strays far from this primary stance of being one with rather than for the other.
While circumstantial well-being may be seriously effected by marriage, either positively or negatively, personal well-being is not determined by the shifting tides of marriage-related events. Obviously, the shear quantity of inter-related experiences between spouses reflects in vastly more occasions for being (or not being) oneself. But the muchness and moreness of such encounters does not change the private agenda of a spouse who is at the same time being him or herself.
For example, the physical or mental illness of a spouse, as contrasted with similar sicknesses in others, will obviously bring far more circumstantial changes for those who are married. Still, however, the primary well-being of one who is being him or herself while married is essentially unchanged by such debilitations in a spouse.
The same is true with undesirable traits and hostile or negative activities which may first appear after a marriage ceremony, as well as simple differences (like those between genders) of a spouse, such as, passive/aggressive behavior, moodiness, irresponsible acting out, angry outbursts, criticism, complaining, bitching, or differing degrees of concern with cleanliness and reason.
Obviously, a married selfing person will necessarily have to deal with such traits and events of a spouse more so than with those in other relationships, but--and this is re relevant difference here: since self-responsibility is never transferred to others by one who is being him or herself, including while married, necessary coping with undesirable attributes and activities of a spouse does not seriously effect, and certainly does not undermine, the heartedness of a selfing person.
Of course one may wish for perfection in a spouse--that is, that a loved one be and behave "exactly like I want him (or her) to"; still, however, given the natural humanity of all married persons, including predictable imperfections and limitations, a selfing person is not "done in" or "moved from one's own green spot" by those evidenced in a spouse.
Even acts of unfaithfulness, such as, betrayals of marital vows, do not devastate a married selfing person. Obviously such events may call for major changes in modes of overall coping as well as in immediate encounters; still, while one is being him or herself, such undesirable acts by a spouse do not destroy the spiritual stability of a selfing person.
Finally, even the death of a spouse, as circumstantially devastating it may be, does not kill the heartedness of one being him or herself while married.
As is true with negative or undesirable traits in a spouse, so with positive, admirable characteristics and events. Because those who are being themselves while married remain essentially "in their own skins," they are no more inflated by a mate's successes than they are deflated by their failures. Certainly one may "feel good" when a spouse succeeds in an endeavor or is favorably acclaimed by others; but selfing spouses do not "take credit" for what a mate achieves, any more than they do not blame themselves for a mate's failures.
Ideally, marriage might unite two equally selfing persons into one union. But in practice, differing degrees of embraced selfing in each spouse are far more predictable--that is, one is likely to be more or less him or herself than the other; or, in psychological language, emotional maturity levels are typically different even when the short-comings of a mate are temporarily hidden by the magic of romantic love.
But even when vast differences in degrees of embraced selfing exist--that is, when one spouse turns out to be far more mature than the other, the essential principle of being separate persons together remains the same. Obviously, equality in degrees of personal maturity is desirable and may ease some of the challenges inherent in any marriage; but still the basis of being oneself while being married remains unchanged.
In other words, immaturity or undesirable attributes discovered in a spouse after the honeymoon is over are no legitimate excuse for not continuing one's personal quest for expanded self-becoming while married. It may, as a song words it, "take two to tango," but it does not take two "perfect dancers" to "make a good marriage." One diligent selfing partner is more than enough for a healthy marriage to evolve in spite of disparities in emotional maturity.
Certainly the demands, as well as invitations to expanded selfingness, may be greater in such a typical marriage; but so are the daily opportunities for escalated self-becoming.
ROMANCE AND MARRIAGE
That I see romantic love as a pathological condition rather than an ideal state, as popularly viewed, does not mean that I think it is bad and to be avoided. Indeed I embrace "falling in love" as a potentially positive phase of the longer path toward agape--which I do see as a proper human ideal.
The kind of love one "falls into" is, I think, like an eye-opener, a first glimpse of what one has previously been blind to, namely, a grand and beautiful vision of what might be but is yet to come. Romantic love is an awakening of human capacities which have previously been repressed from awareness, kept sleeping, as it were, awaiting a resurrection day.
At first arising from the relative darkness of half-person existence, an initial glimpse of the sun of lighted living may indeed seem like ultimate arrival. Surely, lovers may have never known such exaltation as seems to be brought by the presence of the loved one--the one they have "fallen for."
Understandably, such newness of heralded life is easily taken: 1) to be a gift from the amazing person one loves (if not from God), and 2) to be the ultimate possible state of human existence, the holy grail of personal possibilities, an undeserved wonder well worth sacrificing all for.
Given the amazement inherent in truly waking up to the sunrise of a new day, small wonder that we have historically come to glamorize, even idolize, this unique psychic phenomenon enough to make it a basis and reason for marriage, itself imagined to be a way to perpetuate the glory of the new awakening occasioned by "falling in love."
But also, even smaller wonder that when the daylight of reason is introduced to the moonlight of romance, all such blissful honeymoons predictably end relatively soon.
Reason: A first taste (I mix my metaphors) of personal wholeness, easily misconceived as a gift from the beloved, is actually a long way from the full meal of becoming oneself. The challenges of ceasing idolatry of an imagined-to-be bringer of new life, of recognizing the extent and content of personal repression, and daring to re-embrace aspects of self long denied in quest of acceptance by others, all lie ahead.
Analysis of disillusionment at the end of a predictably short honeymoon of romantic love may reveal that one was literally dis-illusioned--that is, faced the death of a delightful illusion which seemed larger than life at the time. The daylight of marriage, for example, quickly throws light on the illusion of an idolized perfect lover capable of continually gifting a repressed person with real wholeness.
Whereas the awakening of a sleeping self initiated by "falling in love" is in fact a real and significant personal event, attributing the discovered powers to an idolized lover is an illusion. Although he or she may indeed seem to be a rescuing Knight In Shining Armor, or a Golden Goddess bringing eternal life, these illusions, seldom recognized as such at the time, are actually formed from personal projections blindly made when one first "falls in love."
The well recognized illusion--commonly mistaken for reality at the time, is often praised in countless songs with the single theme: "I was half; now I am whole..." Each such hymn of praise to the glories of romantic love graphically testifies to the unembraced fact that what does indeed seem to be a "fall into" something given by a lover is, in reality, a "rising up" from a previous state of personal repression.
Lovers may properly be credited with, in effect, holding up a mirror so that one may catch a glimpse of his or her yet to be embraced self--that is, those elements of oneself which have previously been repressed to smooth the way into social acceptance; but lovers are erroneously adored as actual bringers of wholeness to one who was only "half a person" before "falling into love."
Whereas the "feeling of wholeness," as though one were literally being "made whole" by an adored lover, may be a true awareness of degrees of self-resurrection, it can also the time of creating a lovely illusion which commonly leads to idolatry of the "mirror" rather than embraced self-awareness.
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