Shut Up. I want to punch you!

In an online group recently, someone shared that he was getting mightily fed up of wanting to pick fights with other people because they didn’t seem to be living in the real world.  The inference was that only he was living in the real world I suppose. He made me smile.

Firstly, it strikes me that we don’t see reality as it is. We see it as we are. And our own unique take on that has been formed by many, many different influences over time, personality, heredity, family, environmental influences, education, belief systems, stages and states of consciousness and so on. There are no two people who see reality the same way. In fact, anyone’s individual view of reality will be constantly shifting and changing in light of every single thought that goes through their minds from moment to moment. So, to get annoyed with someone else because they don’t see reality as we do is kind of comical really.  It’s really very funny. But it also explains why two people can hold wildly different political views or see an otherwise controversial figure very, very differently.

Secondly, it struck me that our usual viewing platform is utterly inadequate to judge what is real and what isn’t. Until you’ve had some kind of awakening experience that lets you see trough the illusions of the false self -and that usually involves a kind of ego death, then it’s largely useless to think you  have any kind of handle on reality. And so all that you’re really doing when you pick a fight with someone, (on the grounds that your version of reality is the more correct) is pitting your false self  against someone else’s false self and that is doubly funny. But hey, that’s where we all find ourselves in today’s polarised, polemical political world. Is it any wonder we can’t move on?

Now, please be aware that I don’t mean that unless you have had an awakening experience you can’t recognise truth or truths very well. Even a five year old is capable of that. And I also don’t mean that those who have awakened are superior to those who haven’t. That would be pride of the highest order and we are all capable of awakening on a daily basis to deeper realities. What I mean to say is that unless you are constantly surrendering to something higher than the false self with all its useless defences and counter arguments, then you are unlikely to make any sense of the divided world we live in. Transcending the ego is maybe just plugging it into into something bigger.

“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

Like all great stories, The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams expresses some universal truths. As the Skin Horse tells us, it takes guts to be real because in doing so, we open ourselves us to other people and so to the possibility of hurt. When we fall in love, we can’t tell, for example, if that love will be returned.

In everyday exchanges we can’t tell if our actions will be welcomed or met with criticism and negative feedback, and that can make us vulnerable. But the journey to real is seldom pain-free. It involves stepping into the water and getting wet. It involves risk and so the possibility of hurt and failure. But I think as we progress through life the call to real becomes more compelling.

Up to that point though, rather than expose our vulnerabilities, we tend to dissemble, choose to engage in politics or hide behind group think; we side with the majority or those whose false selves we recognise, because it’s expedient and preferable to the fear of going it alone and facing possible rejection. Being pack animals with a need to conform, we look to what the others in our in- group are thinking rather than stand out from the crowd.

Abraham Maslow, who studied healthy, happy people, noticed that they shared a common characteristic—they learned to become independent of the good opinion of other people. They were happy to stand alone; to think their own thoughts. They had their own internal locus of control. They didn’t give away their power. They didn’t wait to hear how others reacted before they made up their minds. They didn’t let other folk determine how they should feel about anything.
And time and again we notice in life that secure people can handle being the only ones doing something, thinking something, risking something that is different from the expectation of the group. They don’t get insulted or even surprised that others don’t see ‘reality’ as they do. They tend to throw their metaphorical punches instead, at whatever is inauthentic. And that of course, takes much inner work. Once you start seeing your shadow side and all that it’s capable of, the tendency is to sit with the complexities and paradoxes, and to hold them without judgment, holding the seeming contradictions without coming down on one side or another, until a third way emerges. The third way is not balancing or even eliminating the opposites, but holding them, and meanwhile living with the creative tension. The binary, dualistic mind cannot deal with contradictions or paradox but though it might take some time, it will happen, if the heart remains open to transformation, for, at the heart of reality itself is the reconciling principle.

5 thoughts on “Shut Up. I want to punch you!

  1. “The third way is not balancing or even eliminating the opposites, but holding them, and meanwhile living with the creative tension.” Best explanation of shadow integration I’ve come across yet.

    Hi, Grace, small world. Recognise me yet? 🙂 🙂 (can’t find the emojis so parentheses will have to do?)

  2. Oh you just beat me to it Morag, though I admit I had to look at your blog to make sure! I remember talking philosophy with your mum on occasion. 😀 She was very easy to talk to and had a lot of self awareness I remember. Are you well? Glad to see you’re writing. I don’t know how I feel about anything until I write it down. And what I write is mostly inspired by Integral theory, in particular I’m influenced by contemplatives Richard Rohr and Thomas Keating. Yes, integration of shadow is a lifetime’s work. 👋

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