One of the most defining features of the human race is our need to attack others and to defend against that attack.
My personal experience of this is that it is extraordinarily painful, even agonizing at times. I think that is what got me started on the psychological and then spiritual path. Looking for a way out of this pain.
Most of us are criticized from a very young age and what is judged in us sets up guilt and shame.
So we defend against this criticism, we do our best to avoid it.
But the avoiding does not save us from pain.
This avoidance sets up, a subtle and insidious need to hide certain traits, behaviors and characteristics which we fear will provoke further criticism.
Perhaps you are sloppy around the house, or you like watching soap operas, or porn movies or eating too much chocolate. It might be that you feel you’re a failure at work or in your relationships but you keep a positive outlook and pretend to be upbeat about it all. Perhaps you hate being called clumsy or fear looking stupid because you can’t do something or understand something.
It’s a long list!
To pretend that we don’t do these things or aren’t these things, is a lie.
The more lies you tell yourself and the world, the more stress and strain it will take to keep hiding the truth.
It takes great courage to be able to reveal yourself to the world, to have nothing to hide nothing to be kept secret.
Of course that’s too big an ask for most of us, but there is no question that the more you can be open about who you are the less you will need to defend yourself from attack and the more you will surround yourself with people who love you for who you are, not for who you pretend to be.
Kurt Vonnegut wrote a really cynical book (all of his books were actually cynical and I loved them because they so resonated with my depression at the time) called Slaughter House 5.
I read it about 40 years ago.
It’s about the allies fire bombing of Dresden during the WW2. Vonnegut was a prisoner in an abattoir (slaughter house) underground during the bombing and he survived to emerge the day after the bombing, to a devastated landscape.
It’s not a well known story.
135,000 people were killed, only about 90,000 less than the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined!
One of Vonnegut’s favorite expressions in the book was, “You are what you pretend to be so be careful what you pretend to be.”
Right now I’m thinking that he said this in another book, but I like the bombing story, so I’ll stick with it here.
Back To Pretending
I was doing a great deal of pretending at the time that I read his books and was really depressed.
I just loved Vonnegut’s expression.
I have heard so many women complain about the men they fall in love with who change after 3 or 6 months of their first meeting, who become critical and distant as the relationship develops.
Here’s the kicker, the more you hide the truth about you the more distant you are making yourself from them!
In addition to all of this, when we need to hide the truth about ourselves, we become defensive and argumentative. There is so much conflict about these issues in relationships.
A woman has a friend who says to her, “You’ve put on some weight” and there is a critical tone in her voice.
The response is defensive, angry and hurt, “Well I’ve only just started the diet you know!”
You make an impulsive purchase that turns out to be a disaster. Your friend says, “You’re very naïve.”
Defensively you respond, “I hardly ever get caught out like this.”
In both examples you end up judging and distancing yourself from the accuser and most importantly you are distancing yourself from your overeating and naivety.
The point I am making here is that if you can learn to love your overeating and naivety and no longer fear that it will be exposed, then you have nothing to hide, nothing to defend and you will have fewer arguments with the world.
But primarily you will no longer be arguing with yourself which is the source of the problem.
From another angle, we are only arguing with the world because there is something within us that we haven’t accepted.
How To Work With This
There are two aspects to this work.
The first one is to feel the traits you have that you don’t want exposed to the world and experiment with visualizing and feeling this exposure until it’s ok to do so. This is not a quick fix. If you can’t think of anything just wait until someone accuses of being something or doing something and you want to deny it.
That is now the thing that you need to feel ok about and ultimately to love about yourself.
The second part of the process is to stop defending yourself when attacked. Again, this takes work. The defensive neural pathway runs deep, very deep in most of us.
So if someone says, “You’ve put on weight,” and you have, the best reply is “Yes”…smiling and then they say, “Well you should be doing something about it,” you would reply, “You’re right.”
No defense, nothing more to say!
If they say you are naïve, you would reply, “I know, I’m often gullible” and they retort, “That’s a problem,” you could add, “Yes I have many!”
Can you feel how powerful it is to no longer have the need to appear perfect!
My final word on the matter, is that hiding our true self from the world is exhausting and in addition it masks the truth of the magnificence that we are.
To stop hiding, creates the space for our magnificence to be revealed.
If you would like to meet face to face or via Skype to discuss any of the issues in this blog, drop me a mail at firstname.lastname@example.org