Ideal Isn’t — It’s easy to get bogged down into trying to be perfect, to fit in, to be good. We look at the Ego Voice, and how this happens
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The normal path through life
Let me just mention that the drawing for this series of articles comes from work done by Ben Wong and Jock McKeen. I’ve fiddled around a bit with the wording and the arrows, but the concept is theirs.
So, today I want to move to the upper left of the chart. See above. (The full chart is here)
We talk a lot about the effects of the Social Lens (the process of teaching our kids to fit in)—but I want to simplify here.
Who you are at age 18 is almost completely the result of social conditioning. Who you are and how you are is so hard wired that you’re mostly running on auto-pilot.
As the drawing shows, the Social Self, or Small Self is made up entirely of societally approved-of ways of viewing things. I often suggest that it’s like wearing blue colored glasses. If such glasses were put on our faces when we were infants, our brains would adjust to the tint. (Parenthetically, if the glasses were removed, the world would appear yellow, and then the eyes would adjust again – back to normal.) If that’s all you know, that’s all you see.
The point is this.
We are all looking at the world through tinted glasses—our biases, prejudices, opinions, and stories are all colored by the socialization process. Because this is what happens to everyone, we simply do not notice, unless someone helps us to remove the glasses.
And here’s the kicker.
There is absolutely nothing we can do about our social conditioning. This material is so old, so repeated, so focused upon, that the best we can hope for is that we can find the ways and means to make it “go background.” In other words, we can learn to dial back the noise of our socialization, we can learn to pay attention to the stories we tell ourselves, and then we can begin to make other choices.
Which is not to say that this is easy.
Most of my clients have spent decades vainly attempting to defend the way they’re choosing to live their lives. They are quite unaware of the tinted glasses. They find it hard to believe that others are not seeing exactly what they’re seeing, hearing exactly what they’re hearing.
And when it comes to feelings, it gets even stranger. One of the interesting things that happens in Bodywork is when the recipient begins to feel the energy flowing. You see this amazing, surprised look on their faces. They’ve been so busy feeling what they were told to feel, and especially blocking what they were supposed to block. So it really is amazing to them to suddenly discover what lies under the surface.
Now, that’s not to say that they will not freak themselves out, tighten down, and re-block the feeling. I see this a lot when people are first exploring their anger. The cultural paradigm is very strong here, especially for women. Big emotions like anger are almost never condoned, let alone expressed. The feelings rattle around inside, just below the level of consciousness, and when they peek out, most just want to jam the lid back on the bottle.
The chart for today shows the road most taken
The Cultural Ideal has to be present. It’s the target that the Social Lens aims at. There is, for every culture, a “state of excellence.” It’s been fine tuned over centuries, promoted ruthlessly, and the repressive action of the Social Lens removes the other items not valued by the society.
The two green arrows are what I call the “Ego Voice”
It’s the job of the The Ego Voice to keep us moving ever upward and onward. The Ego Voice is loud, harsh, and persuasive. It speaks in the voice of the absolutes.
- “Everyone knows…”
- “All (wo)men are…”
- “It’s right to…”
- “You should never…”
The absolute being promulgated or resisted is determined by the Cultural Ideal. The ego voice wants nothing more than for us to fit in—to not be ostracized, rejected, or judged. It’s deathly afraid of anything that falls outside of the norm. So it doesn’t want to know anything about Shadow material contained in the Sea of Chi. (More on this next week.)
No, it just wants us to behave.
While the Ego Voice might sound familiar (it might sound like mom, or dad, or some significant power figure) it’s just us, talking to ourselves. Like the parable of the recalcitrant donkey, the Ego Voice waves a carrot, and uses a stick.
The carrot is the promise that we can achieve greatness, but greatness of a peculiar kind. We hear, “If you try really hard you can be perfect,” where perfect means “fit in even better.” We are urged to try harder, to make more, to be more, to think like the masses, and to do it all without making waves.
The stick is the judgement, “You have failed again.” You tell yourself “loser” stories—examples real and imagined, all from your past, designed to make you feel really, really bad. The Ego Voice has learned that punishment often gets people back on track.
Then, after making us sufficiently guilty, the Ego Voice once again purrs, ” But if you try harder, you can be perfect.” It’s no wonder people describe their lives as being caught on a merry-go-round or a roller-coaster.
Same game, different day.
Just notice, when you go to a cocktail party, that everyone’s complaining of the same thing—it isn’t going the way it’s supposed to go—and there are groups of people describing being held back by circumstances, the economy, politics, or the boss. Virtually 100% of the time, the finger being pointed is aimed at an outside villain, and all that changes is which finger is being pointed.
Or, if the person is in to self-flagellation, all that you hear is how change is impossible. And because they believe it, of course it is.
So today’s article is really meant to point you to noticing the glasses you’re wearing. In other words, to pay attention to the way you see things, the way you act, and the stories you tell yourself.
A quick story. Darbella and I were off to the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival this past Saturday. Big event—often, 100,000 people show up. Our neighbour grew up in Elmira, and we lived there for almost a decade.
The neighbour asked if that’s where we were heading. We allowed that we were. She said, “Too bad, it always rains for the festival.” I mentioned a couple of years when we wore shorts. She repeated, “Yeah, but it always rains.”
The joke: “It was 12 degrees C and sunny when she spoke, and it didn’t rain all day. But, of course, it always rains…
Here’s some homework
- Notice how often you seem compelled to fit in.
- Notice how, when a new feeling arises, you tendency is to re-block it rather than explore it.
- Notice how, when a new perspective is offered, you tend to argue for what you already believe, despite the fact that it’s not working for you.
In the next article, we’ll look at the other path, which involves challenging where you are, what you believe, and were you think you’re going.
In the meantime, just have are real, serious look at how you are blocking yourself, keeping yourself stuck and and doing nothing more than complaining about it.
Life is a meaningful flow of energy – QiGong Secrets – Week 3
Last week I was experiencing some cold symptoms. My biggest difficulty was getting a good night’s sleep. Friday morning, I struggled the most. I was too stubborn to stay home from work and get some extra rest. I quickly decided that it was going to be a very, very bad day! I was miserable and grumpy and I had not even left for work yet or had to deal with another human being.
There was a little tiny voice in my head that was questioning why I would want to set myself up for having a very bad day but I chose not to listen.
I have been practicing my QiGong in the morning before work. I set a goal to practise every day. I knew if I skipped my morning practice time, it would be easy to find excuses about why I could not possibly practice later in the day. Even though I wanted to skip this morning’s practice, I spent some time doing the simple movement I learned in the first two weeks of the course, and then continued on to get ready for my awful, miserable, no-good day.
About half way through my drive to school, I noticed that I was smiling.
My next thought was wait a minute – I am having a terrible, awful day – I can’t be smiling. That resulted in a bigger smile, a chuckle at myself for being so silly, and a very good day. Did my fifteen minute QiGong practice that morning make the difference? I don’t know, but I do know that my daily QiGong practice and my mediation practice do make an incredible difference in my life.
According to TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), there is only one illness. It is natural to be healthy. Yin is our body’s natural ability to keep us healthy. Yang is anything that may cause illness. Our natural state or good health is to have Yin/Yang harmony in your body. The only illness is a disharmony in this Yin/Yang balance.
This disharmony can be caused by a depletion of Yin caused by things like excessive worry and poor life style choices. An increase of Yang can be caused by exposure to disease causing agents. Both will result in illness. Qi flows through the meridians in our body. When the Yin/Yang is in disharmony, blockages occur in the meridians and the Qi flow is slowed or stopped. This results in illness. An increase in Qi flow is needed to get better no matter what the symptoms.
Practising QiGong promotes the flow of Qi through the meridians. Your practice can help maintain or restore a harmonious chi flow. It can help remove the blockages. The best part is that you do not need to know where the blockages are located. When you practise QiGong, simply let go and let the Qi flow. Qi will naturally flow to an area of low energy, increasing the energy flow in the area of the blockage and creating a more harmonious Qi flow in your body and better health.
Although this is very simple, it is not easy. QiGong practice only needs to be 15 minutes a day. The movements are generally easy to do. These movements have to be practised in a mindful way. Your mind is engaged in the actions as much as your body is. You can’t spend 15 minutes in the morning, with your body completing the movements, as you mind plans out the day and what you will have for supper. You also can’t expect that a few simple movements even if you practise them mindfully will undo years of bad habits. The good news is that it does not take long to feel the results of a mindful practise. This does not mean that you will never again have a bad day if you practise QiGong, but you will change and how you show up on that bad day will be different. Life is a meaningful flow of energy.
That brings me to this week’s learning. Marcus presents a simple relaxation technique to practise. Qi does not flow when the body is tense, so learning this simple technique to relax will help to make your practice more effective. The more relaxed you are, the more Qi flow you will experience.
If you have not already checked out this affordable online QiGong training course, I suggest you take the time to click on the link. The two week free trial is fully refundable if you are not happy with the course.