The ego is a tricky bastard. The ego goes around playing he is you, not only to the outside world but also to yourself. Many people can live a really long time without ever noticing or questioning this. But once you realize the some sort of imposter who tries to steer your vehicle in the way he thinks is best and that his way is not in your best interest al of a sudden the road becomes a lot more slippery.
Most of us are brought up with the idea that being rational is superior to emotional (or: irrational). When we are trained well we make all of our decisions with our rational mind. We weigh pros and cons, risks and benefits, profits and losses. If we are smart enough we can see the difference between short-term benefits and long-term benefits and we are able to postpone gratification until we harvest long-term benefits.
But then you can find out that not listening to the rational mind can be the key to a whole unexplored part of your being. You realize that you are more than your rational mind. Actually you find out that what you call rational could also easily be called fearful or constantly seeking desiring approval and avoiding rejection. Now you can see that what you once called rational (‘it is better to stick to dating people of your own skin color’) is actually just a fear (‘going against cultural norms is stepping into unknown terrain which can only be terrifying’).
I deliberately choose an example that nowadays is considered racist and offensive in many parts of our society but once was seen as completely sensible and for many people still feels valid, either overtly or covertly. It is easy to see that our norms have changed and our beliefs have changed, not necessarily at the same pace. Nowadays it is considered not ok to be racist but in most of us are still remnants of fear left. The norm might have changed but the belief not yet completely. The other side is also true: the first interracial couples were an anomaly and highly judged and now it is normal.
The ones who found out that what many people believed to be rational and true was in fact irrational were the ones who had the courage to open their hearts in a situation were other people didn’t. Believing in the need for racial segregation used to be very rational, nowadays it is considered irrational (but definitely not everywhere).
What I am trying to say is that we are very much a slave of our belief system. It is the belief system, kept in place with help of the rational mind, that is our biggest problem. But if you look back in time, you can see that your belief system has changes, although reluctantly. We can let go of beliefs, but seldom without a fight.
Today I was somewhat reprimanded by somebody for possibly pushing a bit too hard on her belief system. I was praised for the gentle dismantling thus far but now I might have done something counterproductive, I was warned. I might have shot myself in the foot.
So we see a belief at work that tells us that subtle and gentle dismantling is ‘good’, and an abrupt and confrontational message is ‘bad’. And to be honest, I didn’t ‘do’ too much. Only thing I did was exposing her to a pretty radically selfless perspective, more eloquently phrased than I could ever do myself. Then apparently the message of radical selflessness was a bit too big to swallow and now the messenger was blamed.
I do carry some ‘guilt’. It is not too wise to alienate the people who you are trying to reach. This can be quite counter-productive, to use an understatement. But I also believe that sometimes it is ok if something is too big to swallow in one go. It is ok to spend time with it, to digest it in pieces. The idea is not to offer just enough ‘truth’ to make the ego feel good about itself but and to avoid making the ego uncomfortable. The whole point is move out of our comfort zones.
Our whole exchange ended with a laugh. I think we both saw the same thing: how resistance was made king again and how the resistance had almost managed to discard the radical truth and replace it by a more convenient watered down version. Once you see the mechanism at work it loses its power immediately. I am curious how we will look at this exchange in 2 years from now.
This is why I think it is good to sit with what makes us feel uncomfortable. We find answers in the places we don’t like to look. By facing our resistance and challenging our beliefs we grow, not only as human beings but also as a team, a tribe, a society or a culture.
This is episode 88 in a series of 100 blog posts that will be published daily during the 100 Day Warrior, a unique program around physical strength, inner wisdom and meaning. All posts are written by Atalwin Pilon, founder of Basic Goodness and creator of the 100 Day Warrior. For requests for motivational speaking, in-company workshops, online coaching and mindfulness training click here. If you would like to join our international community of brave and inspiring human beings or just follow this blog and receive updates, please click here or sign up on the right side of the page. Atalwin specializes in coaching smart and creative people, both groups and individuals. If you are interested in a free coaching session click here.