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We MUST Choose, Part 2: Conscience and Reality and the Dark Side of Daydreaming and Fantasy


We MUST Choose, Part 2: Conscience and Reality and the Dark Side of Daydreaming and Fantasy

The opposite of sanity is insanity.  The opposite of truth is lying, which includes self-deception, lying, half-truths, rationalizations, denial, scapegoating, transference, projection, i.e. the vast majority of our defense mechanisms. 

It’s clear that truth will not only make us free, it will make us sane, because the more we lie to ourselves and others and avoid reality, then the more mentally unhealthy or less sane we are.

Thus one of the best ways to become healthier and more sane, decent, and loving, is by beginning to nurture our conscience and to focus on developing our character and our reality principle (three very interrelated things).

Because one of the other marks of not very healthy or decent people is that they really don’t have a healthy and functioning conscience—or the conscience they have is very twisted and malignant—meaning, their sense of right and wrong is very twisted and malignant and subjective and not open to any real investigation and or scrutiny (what they say goes, just because they think or feel it, and without any real discussion or deliberation).  And thus they are able to freely warp and spin things and lie to themselves and con themselves into believing at some level that their bad behavior is actually secretly really good or decent or noble.  (This is one of the things about mentally unwell people—they love their secrets and abhor accountability and transparency and honesty.  In order to maintain their self—their sick self and level of mental unhealthy—they need to live in the dark and avoid the light of disclosure, openness, transparency, scrutiny, feedback, and critical thinking.)   What bad people and not very good people and unhealthy people share is that they are just not that dedicated to truth or reality—which is why their conscience is so warped, and which is why they prefer alternate fictional fantasy pseudo-realities to the real world—often elaborate fantasy worlds replete with intricate yet absurd and irrational metaphysics and beliefs.  They prefer to exist in these fantasy worlds because at some level they find the real world too demanding, difficult, stressful, painful, complicated.  The real world terrifies them, stresses them out, makes them anxious, makes them feel too vulnerable, makes them feel out of control, insecure, exposed, inadequate, inferior, insubstantial, without purpose or meaning.  The real world is not meeting their basic needs—for survival, esteem, uniqueness/specialness, love, belonging, safety, security, meaning—and so they are faced with a choice—the choice to grow and become stronger and attuned themselves and their thinking and their conscience to reality and to truth, or escape into denial and fantasy and do some serious damage to their psyche/soul. 

And the vast majority of people opt for the latter—always have, and still are doing so. 

And the sicker and more neurotic and less sane they or we are, the more we will opt for this solution—opt for escaping into a world of fantasy and unreality instead of attuning ourselves to reality—in order to survive and self-preservate. 

“I believe that the root of evil, in everybody perhaps, but certainly in those whom affliction has touched and above all if the affliction is [psychological], is day-dreaming. It is the sole consolation, the unique resource of the afflicted; the only solace to help them bear the fearful burden of time; and a very innocent one, besides being indispensable. So how could it be possible to renounce it? It has only one disadvantage, which is that it is unreal. To renounce it for the love of truth is really to abandon all one’s possessions in a mad excess of love and to follow him who is the personification of Truth. And it is really to bear the cross.

“[I]t is necessary to recognize day-dreaming for what it is. And even while one is sustained by it one must never forget for a moment that in all its forms—those that seem most inoffensive by their childishness, those that seem most respectable by their seriousness and their connection with art or love or friendship—in all its forms without exception, it is falsehood. It excludes love.  And only love is real.” – Simone Weil, from “The Simone Weil Reader,” “Letter to Joe Bousquet,” pg.90

Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.” – John Kenneth Galbraith, “Economics, Peace and Laughter” (1971), p. 50.

And this proof is often an escape into some alternate fantasy world/universe.  The proof that there’s no need to change one’s mind or to grow and mature psychologically, emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, comes in the form of the false-growth of conspiracy theories and concocting elaborate new agey fantasy worlds to inhabit with one’s mind and to believe in.  And for the sake of these false-realities and in the name of these elaborate fantasy worlds—in the name of helping to build some imaginary fantasy utopia—all sorts of bad and even evil things can be perpetrated and rationalized (rational lies) away.

Why do sane people allow themselves to be duped like this—by their own least healthy thinking, by what’s weakest and worst in themselves?  Why do they actually opt to dupe themselves in this way and cooperate in pulling the wool over their own eyes?

Because of all of the pain, difficulty, suffering, complexity, and stress, of life in the real world—meaning the full intensity of life, the full intensity of truth and reality and the demands that true mental health and growth require and would make on us—and all of the ego-threatening negative and anxious feelings they (which is to say that many of us) are hoping to avoid and evade.

And because what’s best in them—their conscience, their reality principle, their inner truth-detector, their character, their core self, their capacity for reasoning and for looking at things fairly and objectively and impartially—is so weak, so malnourished and underdeveloped, that it doesn’t offer much in the way of protest or defense or objection (dialectical thinking), or its objections and protestations cannot be heard above and distinguished from of all of the internal blather and incessant inner chattiness and discursive thinking.  Their conscience is just a fleeting, unidentifiable voice or very occasional strand in their discursive, unorganized inner monologue.  They may have a very healthy or noble or sane thought here and there, but because there is so much falsity also zipping through and taking up their inner monologue, they no longer really notice it or pay attention to it.  It’s in one inner ear and out the other and quickly followed by something that is less demanding, less truthful, and makes them feel better, happier, or is more familiar, even if it is unhealthy and discursive and unrealistic.   

The Buddha said that most people’s eyes are so caked shut with the dust of denial and self-deception that they will never be able to awaken or grow.  Most people’s thinking—their inner monologue—is so cluttered with falsehoods, unexamined thoughts, escapist thoughts—that there’s no hope for them to ever wake up from that degree of sleepwalking or sleeping-death.

Slowing down and really paying attention to our own thoughts and really listening to what we’re saying to ourselves (the deeper implications, the underlying assumptions in our thoughts, the escapist/avoidant/self-numbing tendencies that are likely rife in it, et cetera) is one way of trying to break the cycle of mental unhealthy.  (Why would anyone want to do that though!?) And consciously beginning to try to see at least two points of view with our own thinking—to begin thinking more dialectically and scientifically and logically—in terms of thesis on the one hand, and antithesis or what would disprove our thinking or prove it to be fallacious, on the other hand—and to begin playing devil’s (or God’s) advocate with our own pet theories and fantasies and start trying to see the other and less ego-flattering and more difficult to emotionally stomach side of things is another way of kick-starting our journey to sanity and mental health.

Peck defined mental health as “an ongoing process of dedication to reality at all costs” (“The Road Less Traveled,” pg. 51), meaning that in order to get healthy psychologically and truly grow we must start choosing truth over our own comfort, waking up over a comfortable life, the difficult rights over easy wrongs, reality over fantasy and daydreaming and other forms of escapism, and that we must doing so ever more consistently and heroically. 

Only truly mentally healthy individuals—or those truly on the path—can or will dare to do this.

Those of us who are not very healthy will spend much of our free time avoiding reality instead of facing.  And the more we do this, the more we make ourselves sick, or if you will, psychologically out of shape and gluttonous—it’s like doing to the mind what a steady diet of fantasy—cheeseburgers, chocolate, potato chips, fast food, French fried, friend foods, Twinkies, and a lot of time on the couch in front of the TV and no exercise—does to the body. 

Again, there’s no neutrality in life.  We must choose our allegiance—to one side or the other—to either growth and mental health and truth and reality, which apparently will set us free; or stagnation and regression and escape and avoidance—i.e. falsehoods, denial, self-deception, discursive thinking, the unexamined life, excessive daydreaming—which will put us more and more to sleep and make us less healthy, less sane, less fit for life, less good, less loving, and eventually may even seal our fate, damning us, making us unredeemable.

We must choose: sanity or insanity, truth or lies, mental health or pathology, growth or comfort, growth or familiarity, what’s best for us v what tastes/feels good right now.

There is no middle road in this; there may be a middle road once we choose one side or the other, but there is no middle road or balanced way beforehand.  There may be, and likely is, a way where we exercise our mind, stretch ourselves, and then gives ourselves some time to recover and lock in those gains, before once again stretching ourselves, growing, taking on more truth and reality, but doing so little by little, as we would if we were working out and slowly adding more weight or resistance to our work outs over the course of weeks, while cutting back on the fatty escapist comfort foods and not watching as many escapist TV shows, et cetera.

Always Do Your Best & The Power of Gratitude


These two things that I read today dovetailed quite nicely together. The first is abridged and adapted from “The Four Agreements,” and it is agreement number four: “Always Do Your Best.” The second is abridged and adapted from Melodie Beattie’s book “Gratitude.”

Always Do Your Best

There is just one more agreement, but it’s the one that allows the other three to become deeply ingrained habits. Under any circumstance, always do your best.

Keep in mind that your best is never going to be the same from one moment to the next. In your everyday moods your best can change from one moment to another, from one hour to the next, from one day to another. When you wake up refreshed and energized in the morning, your best will be better than when you are tired at night. Your best will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick.

And your best will also change over time. As you build the habit of the four new agreements, your best will become better than it used to be.

Just do your best in any and every circumstance in your life. If you always do your best there is no way you can judge yourself, because you will have done your best. There are no regrets. By always doing your best, you will be breaking a big spell that you have been under.

When you do your best, you have to be aware and learn from your mistakes. Learning from your mistakes means you practice, look honestly at results, and keep practicing. This increases your awareness.

Doing your best doesn’t really feel like work because by focusing on doing your best you will more deeply enjoy whatever you are doing.

If you take action because you feel you have to, then there is no way you are going to do your best. Instead of taking action because you have to, it would be better to take action because you want to do your best and doing your best all the time makes you so happy.

Action is about living fully. Inaction is the way we deny life. Inaction is sitting in front of the TV every day because you are afraid to be alive.

Doing your best is a great habit to have. I do my best in everything I do and feel. Doing my best has become a ritual in my life because I made the choice to make it a ritual.

Doing your best, you are going to live your life intensely. You are going to be productive, you are going to be good to yourself, because you will be giving yourself to your partner, your family, your community, to everything.

That is why we always do our best—so there are no regrets. It is not an easy agreement to keep, but this agreement is truly going to set you free.

(Adapted from Don Miguel Ruiz, “The Four Agreements,” pp. 75-83)

Gratitude

Many of us were deprived as children, and many of us have also carried that deprivation into adulthood.

Deprivation causes deprived thinking.

And deprived thinking perpetuates deprivation.

Deprivation becomes habitual. We may continue to feel afraid and deprived, even when we’re not.

We may react to deprivation in many ways. We may insist that life and the people in our lives make up for all we never had. That’s unfair. And those expectations can wreck what’s good today.

Deprived negative thinking makes things disappear. We grumbled about the half-empty water glass, so focused on what we don’t have that we fail to appreciate all that we do have—the half-full glass of water, the glass itself, or being alive and well enough to drink the water.

We become so afraid that we might not get more, or we’re so sour about only having half a glass to drink, that we may not even drink it—we may let it sit on the table until it evaporates. And then we have nothing! Which is what we thought we had anyway.

Deprived thinking turns good things into less, or worse, into nothing.

Grateful thinking turns things into more.

What we believe we deserve—what we really believe deep inside—will be what we get.

Deprived, negative, ungrateful thinking can prevent us from seeing what’s good in our lives today, and it can stop the good stuff from happening.

It hurts to be deprived. It hurts to be walk through life secretly believing we’re undeserving. So stop. Now.

Many years ago, I dreamed of getting married and raising a family and owning a beautiful little home that would be our castle. I wanted some of the things that other people had. I wanted “normal”—whatever that was.

It looked like I was about to get it, too. I got married. I got pregnant. I had a baby girl.

Now all I needed was a home.

We looked at all sorts of homes, large and in-between, but the home we got was the one we could afford. It had been a used property for fifteen years and had been standing vacant for a year. Now it was three-stories of broken windows and broken wood. Some rooms had ten layers of wallpaper on the walls. Some walls had holes straight through to the outdoors. The floors were covered with bright orange carpeting with large stains.

And we didn’t have money to fix it.

We had no money for pain, carpet, curtains. We couldn’t afford to furnish it.

We had three stories of dilapidated home, with a kitchen table, two chairs, a high chair, a bed, a crib, and two dressers, one with broken drawers.

About two weeks after we moved in, a friend stopped by. She kept repeating to me how lucky I was and how nice it was to own your own home.

But I didn’t feel lucky; and it didn’t feel nice. I didn’t know anyone else who owned a house like this.

I didn’t talk much about how I felt, but each night as my husband and daughter slept, I tiptoed downstairs, sat on the living room floor and cried. This became a ritual. While everyone was asleep, I sat in the middle of the floor thinking of everything I hated about the house, crying and feeling helpless and hopeless.

I did this for months.

And however legitimate my reaction may have been, it changed nothing.

Then one evening, when I was sitting in the floor going through my wailing and self-pity ritual, the thought occurred to me: Why don’t I try gratitude?

Gratitude, I thought. What could I possibly be grateful for? How and why should I?

But then I decided to try anyway.

After all, I had nothing to lose. And I was getting sick of my own whining and self-pity.

At first I wasn’t certain what to be grateful for. So I decided to be grateful for everything!

I didn’t feel grateful. So I willed it. I pretended. I faked it. I forced it. I made myself think grateful thoughts. When I saw the layers of peeling wallpaper, I thanked God.

I thanked God for each thing I hated about that house. I thanked God for giving it to me. I thanked God that I was there. Each time I had a negative thought, I countered it with a grateful one.

Now perhaps this wasn’t as logical of a reaction as being negative, but it turned out to be much more effective.

Because after I practiced gratitude for about three or four months, things began to change.

My attitude changed.

I stopped spending my nights sitting and crying in the middle of the living room floor. I started taking care of the house as if it were a dream home. I acted as if it were my dream home. I kept it as orderly and clean and nice as could be and made it a little better every day.

And nine months later, after a lot of learning and ingenuity and scraping by, I eventually had a beautiful home.

I had finally learned how to make something out of almost nothing, instead of making nothing out of something.

I had empowered myself and changed the course of my life!

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