So. I’m putting it on the table: these happy hippy dippy everybody hug and be peace-loving platitudes that stain my facebook wall ad-infinitum (and ad-nauseum) are starting to make me feel a bit like hitting myself hard on the head with a stainless steel ladle (why ladle? One of the great mysteries).
Nah carn people, can I PLEASE just have ONE DAY when I’m not being moralised at about HOW TO BEHAVE PERFECTLY?
Today alone, it’s been suggested by a ‘multitude of platitude’ that I really should be striving to:
BE HAPPY SO THAT WHEN OTHERS LOOK AT ME THEY FEEL HAPPY TOO.
ALWAYS BE KIND BECAUSE EVERYONE IS FIGHTING A BATTLE.
COMMIT MY DAY TO LOVE, JOY, PEACE, PATIENCE, KINDESS, GOODNESS, FAITHFULNESS, GENTLENESS, AND SELF CONTROL (I think this list is a little too short, don’t you?)
BE IN THE PRESENT MOMENT.
BE QUIET SO I CAN LISTEN AND HEAR WHATEVER IT IS I’M MEANT TO BE HEARING.
ACT ACCORDING TO: RIGHT VIEW, RIGHT THOUGHT, RIGHT SPEECH, RIGHT INTENTION, RIGHT ACTION, RIGHT EFFORT, RIGHT CONCENTRATION, RIGHT MINDFULNESS.
Newsflash: I don’t know about you, but I’M A HUMAN BEING.
Where I come from (namely, earth), human beings are a messy tapestry of body bits and pieces, electrical impulses, chemical reactions, neural pathways, thoughts, senses, emotions, behaviours, and possibly, spirity bits (yet to be confirmed). Human beings are not ROBOTS. We FEEL stuff. We might not WANT to FEEL stuff. And that WANT might be a big motivator for us to seek out ways of getting past our feelings. Who doesn’t want to transcend suffering? Nobody. But who can? Very few. If any. Really. There’s a lot of talk about it. There’s a lot of self-aggrandising around it. But if you’re feeling defensive about what I’ve said right there, sorry to break it, you’re not quite there yet. If you’re not feeling defensive around it, you’re either (a) Buddha, (b) having a good day, (c) a sociopath, or (d) a self-acknowledged human.
WHY do we relentlessly pursue this need to transcend our human qualities? Why do we always have to behave or strive to behave ‘perfectly’ (whatever perfect means)? Why does the world have to always be peaceful? Why do we NEED it to be? Is it possible we’re frightened? And that this fear expresses in a need to convince ourselves and others to strive towards idealistic ways of thinking and behaving because that helps us feel safe? Is our incessant platitude-ing really just a mirror to our own discomfort with imperfection? I put it to you, the jury, that this striving for perfection in behaviour is, in fact, counter-productive. Why? BECAUSE IT’S NOT REAL. AND! It’s an attachment. Like any other. And it leads us to REJECT parts of ourselves as if they’re NOT REALLY parts of ourselves. And that opens a door to a world of pain in itself.
What if the real truth is – we have to suffer? That’s life? What if all these platitudes simply express… a resistance to suffering?
Another Newsflash: We ALL have dark parts (if it pleases you to label things as ‘light’ and ‘dark’).
Some of the most toxic and destructive people I’ve come across in my life are those who cannot ‘see’ their own ‘darkness’. Theoretically, you could surmise they’re trapped in what Freud refers to as ‘the super-ego’ – the moralistic part of the self that feels that if it doesn’t adhere to the highest moral standards, then it is ‘bad’ (you are a ‘bad person’). It’s that voice inside our minds that says we should always ‘be nice’, we should ‘never get angry’, we must always ‘be loving’, we should always ‘do everything for the highest good’. It is the programming of our society, our parents, our religion, our culture, our FEAR, that lives inside our heads and does everything in its power to control our behaviour, even if it creates dissonance in our emotions. Super-ego is the internal critical parent that tries to control the child – at any cost. When we’re dominated by the super-ego, we do anything to maintain the image of our self as a ‘good person’. Anything that threatens this self-image is pushed away, pushed down, repressed (any feelings or actions of anger, or jealousy, or hate, or shame, or sadness, or ingratitude) because ‘being good’ is connected deeply, and primally, to our survival. Repression is the ego’s defence against that terrifying fear that we might be ‘bad’ – that we might be ‘rejected’ for being so. It’s ugly. It hurts. Make it go away.
But repressed darkness doesn’t go away. It sneaks out covertly, insidiously, in behaviours that harm but that are never resolved. If you’ve ever been beaten up by passive aggression (the communication of choice for repressed darkness), you will know that it can be far more damaging than overt aggression. At least in-your-face aggression is undeniable. It’s there, it’s in front of you, it can be named. It’s not something confusing and hateful that lurks beneath a veil of denial and can never be directly dealt with. If someone can’t be angry (but they are), how is that dealt with? It’s not. Let’s all just smile and hold hands and throw around a few glib platitudes. That’ll sort things out.
So when I see these endless platitudes about being ‘good’, the first thing I think, after ‘groooaaaaannnnn’, is ‘oh hello, there’s the super-ego.’ Super-ego ain’t gonna let me feel sad today. Super-ego ain’t gonna let me feel angry. Super-ego wants me to paint over my darkness coz super-ego is scared of being less than perfect. Super-ego ain’t got no self-acceptance. Super-ego needs to make the world ok so super-ego can feel safe. Super-ego needs everything to be happy and peaceful and love-filled and calm. Super-ego ain’t comfortable with this messy world. Super-ego don’t ever want to suffer and don’t ever want to die. Super-ego don’t wanna be human.
Feeling angry, being mean, not always being ‘good’ or ‘happy’ or ‘peaceful’ creates suffering and that’s the reasoning behind why we ‘should’ try to reverse these things, if not for others then for ourselves (or for a higher spiritual purpose or karma, if that floats your boat) – I get it. But I put it to you, that if we released the pressure we put on ourselves (and others) to never feel angry, to never be mean, to never, essentially, give expression to our HUMAN EMOTIONS, there’d be a lot less anger, meanness, bad behaviour and suffering all ‘round and a lot more friggen peace and joy! For one, I wouldn’t feel like hitting myself in the head with a ladle.
When we remove the shame from being less than perfect, there’s nothing to repress. Acknowledging the human parts of ourselves = self-accepting. If we HAVE or NEED to transcend, we haven’t accepted.
So, I’ve decided, in protest, to write my own platitude and foist in upon you and it goes a little sumfin like this:
TODAY YOU ARE ALLOWED TO BE HUMAN.
Enjoy it while you can.
© The Yoga Experiment, 2013