Building Your Spiritual Home

Dismantling Self

Getting rid of a big investment in self has been a long complex struggle. As a teenager, like most of my friends, I was morbidly self conscious. I knew my breath smelled, I was too bland looking for anyone to be interested in me. Even in my residency training in psychiatry, my main goal in supervision sessions was to keep my supervisor from finding out what an incompetent I was. I began developing some self-confidence toward the end of my training. But even self confidence is all about the self.

This preoccupation began to wane in my forties. By then I was becoming passionately engaged with things outside myself. I was immersed in the human potential movement, and found the EST training mind and life altering. Professionally I was writing about new ideas in therapy, and doing lots of teaching. This was challenging, and kept me on my edge. I was also reading about new ways of understanding reality. I was entering the world of psychic phenomena, learning to see auras, watching people who could read other peoples’ minds, reading about energy bodies. I was developing my relationship with God. In short, I was running into lots of stuff that seemed more interesting than worrying about whether I was okay or not.

Later I began serving meals at a homeless shelter. Then I worked on creating a child walk-in psychiatric service at an inner city health care center to avoid the six month wait at other clinics. In short, I was doing things that kept me too busy and challenged and excited to worry much about ME. This gave me freedom to just ignore concerns about my “image”. I could be myself and not be too invested in whether that was okay or not. As I’ve mentioned, playing tuba badly helped too.

This freedom to be openly myself has been a huge relief. All the energy that I used to put into keeping up some appearance- of normality, or of competence, or worse, of being a hot shot- I can now put into living my real life. Also, I am freer to become who I really am instead of who I think I should be. I do think that one of our goals in being here in these lives is to become truly ourselves, as different and quirky as possible.

The overall movement is that I am much less invested in self than I used to be. To uphold any belief about who or how I am, limits my capacity to change and to grow. The Taoists talk about the value of water which flows anywhere. A fluid sense of self allows me to flow freely in the situations of my life, without fixed notions of how I must respond. I have a greater ability to respond from my instincts, a freedom to be both more genuine and more spontaneous. And detaching from the certainty of self frees me up to see the world in ways that are unfamiliar, ways that are new and exciting.

1) How much of your thought is self evaluating, e.g. “I’m stupid” or “Wasn’t I terrific?”?
2) Do you do anything that is so important that you forget yourself in doing it?
3) What do you do that is a service to your fellow men and women? Do you enjoy doing it?

 

CHAPTERS

GET A LIFE
THE JOY OF A DEPRESSED MOTHER
OPENING MANY DOORS
GETTING COMFORTABLE WITH ANGER
THE PATH OF MEDITATION
GIVING UP CONTROL
MARRIAGE AS A CHANGE AGENT
STRUCTURES THAT SUPPORT LIFE
VERMONT AND NATURE
TO HELL WITH DIGNITY
COMPANIONS ON THE ROAD
DOUBLE VISION
WHAT SHAPES LIFE
DISMANTLING SELF
TOLERATING GOD’S LOVE
MAKING FRIENDS WITH GOD

 

 

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