One of the Reasons We Run (Away) in Life. . . . Krishnamurti on Self-Knowledge & Relationship


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“Relationship is self-revelation; it is because we do not want to be revealed to ourselves that we run away and hide in comfort.” – Krishnamurti

“Only in relationship can you know yourself, not in abstraction and certainly not in isolation. The movement of behavior is the sure guide to yourself. It is the mirror of your consciousness: the mirror will reveal its content, the images, the attachments, the fears, the loneliness, the joys and sorrow. Poverty lies in running away from this. . . .” – Krishnamurti

“Relationship is a process of self-revelation; relationship is as a mirror in which you begin to discover yourself, your tendencies, pretensions, selfish and limited motives, fears, and so on. In relationship, if you are aware, you will find that you are being exposed, which causes conflict and pain. The thoughtful person welcomes this self-exposure to bring about order and clarity, to free his thought-feeling from isolating, self-enclosing tendencies. But most of us try to seek comfort and gratification in relationship; we do not desire to be revealed to ourselves; we do not wish to study ourselves as we are, so relationship becomes wearisome and we seek to escape.” – Krishnamurti

“The understanding of the mind is possible only in relationship – in your relationship to property, to people, and to ideas. At present that relationship is reaction, and a problem that is created by reaction cannot be solved by another reaction; it can be solved only when the whole process of reaction is understood – which is the self, the ‘me’. Then you will find there is an action which is not reaction. . . . ” – Krishnamurti 

“[R]elationship can be a means of self-discovery. Relationship is a mirror in which I can see myself. That mirror can either be distorted, or it can be ‘as is’, reflecting that which is. But most of us see in relationship, in that mirror, things we would rather not see, and things we want and hope to see; so we do not see what is.” – Krishnamurti

“If we examine our life, our relationship with another, we shall see that it is a process of isolation. We are really not concerned with another; though we talk a great deal about it, actually we are not concerned. We are related to someone only so long as that relationship gratifies us, so long as it gives us a refuge, so long as it satisfies us. But the moment there is a disturbance in the relationship which produces discomfort in ourselves, we discard that relationship. In other words, there is relationship only so long as we are gratified. This may sound harsh, but if you really examine your life very closely you will see it is a fact; and to avoid a fact is to live in ignorance, which can never produce right relationship.” – Krishnamurti

In the choice between distorted self-knowledge and genuine self-knowledge, most of us choose distorted self-knowledge, because it’s more comfortable–the distortions make life easier, more comfortable; the distortions make it easier for us to live with ourselves as we are, and to keep doing what we do.

And so as long as life doesn’t get too challenging, too difficult, and we can remain in control in our comfort zone, this self-deceptive approach to life will “work” for many of us.

How does this apply to our relationships?  It means that when a relationship exposes more of ourselves than we want to see, then we will sever that relationship and emotionally cut the other person out of our life.  In the choice between keeping distorted self-knowledge about ourselves versus facing uncomfortable truths about ourselves, we will keep the distortion and get rid of anyone who reflects things about us that we’d rather not see, that we’re not ready to face.

In the choice between love and self-preservation, most of us choose self-preservation.  In the choice between growing and giving up our distortions and self-deceptions versus keeping these and ending a relationship, many of us would rather end the relationship and keep our distortions rather than give up our distortions and illusions and grow into a more genuinely loving and honest relationship with another and ourselves.

“Only the best in us talks about the worst in us, because the worst in us lies about itself and its own existence.” – David Schnarch

“Until you make peace with who you are, you’ll never be content with what you have.” – Doris Mortman

“We all wear masks, and the time comes when we cannot remove them without removing some of our own skin.” – André Berthiaume

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You Must Not Fool Yourself!


“The purpose of our lives is to give birth to the best which is within us.” – Marianne Williamson

And what’s best in us, I believe, is our humanity, compassion, capacity to get outside of ourselves and truly try to understand another.  What’s best in us is our conscience–a healthy conscience.  What’s best in us is our honesty–the courage it takes to be that raw and honest with ourselves.

“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself–and you are the easiest person to fool.” – Richard Feynman

This is the first principle of personal growth and self-awareness and the examined life–ceasing to deceive/hoodwink ourselves. Until we have learned to be honest like this with ourselves, we will never be capable of being truly honest with another, and we will never reach the ground of our authentic or core self.  The first principle in real growth is this degree of fierce honesty with oneself–not just what we’re feeling or what we want, but why we want what we want and why we’re likely feeling what we’re feeling.

Until we have some durable sense of this, we’re asleep.  We’re fooling ourselves, and we’re fooling others with our self–with our false self.  We’re fooling ourselves most of all with our false self.

It’s quite an unpleasant dilemma to be in–to be so adept at fooling oneself that one can’t be sure when one isn’t fooling oneself.

The truth we most need to hear is the truth we least want to hear and face.  Yet that’s the truth that will most help us to grow.  In fact, being able to sit still long enough to actually hear that truth at all would marks a significant bit of growth.

Dedication to Truth versus A Dedication to Anything Less


Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.” – Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection, pg. 49.

We know we’re getting healthier as a person when we can start admitting the truth about ourselves—and about our own falseness—aloud, and not only to ourselves but to others.

The quickest and surest—as well as toughest and most demanding—route to mental health is to dedicate ourselves fearlessly and fiercely to truth and to reality—to the way things really are, and to the way we actually are.

The goal at first isn’t to change ourselves, because such attempts at changing ourselves will be inherently flawed until we have made it a real priority to dedicate ourselves to truth– and to practice choosing and living this priority so often, so fearlessly, so ruthlessly, that it becomes second nature to us.

If a person truly wants to “wake up” in life and not die asleep and die an unlived inner life, then complete dedication to reality and to truth is the answer—it is both the path and the destination.  That is the essence of waking up—seeing the truth about ourselves and having the courage to finally admit it; no more bullshit, instead a fierce and unceasing dedication to truth and reality. Waking up means that we are seeing ourselves and reality and our lot here for what it is, and that we’re not escaping behind a façade of religious dogma, new age pablum, and other escapist avenues (i.e. drugs, even so-called “enlightenment” type drugs, which ultimately too are an escape and an avoidance of the rigors of real growth).

The most pivotal and life altering decision we as human beings can make in life is this most basic one—to voluntarily give up our illusions, buffers, deceptions, bullshit, softeners, and start taking a fierce and hard-nosed look at ourselves, our fears, and life itself—including death—and no hiding out from death behind the hope for reincarnation or an afterlife—because to do so is not to live the question, but to uncourageously avoid asking it.

As we begin admitting the truth about ourselves and our fears and about life to both ourselves and to others our life and our relationships will begin undergoing a powerful and radical transformation, for instead of our daily life and our daily interactions being based on comfort, escapism, avoidance, psychological numbing, hedonism, they will now begin to be based on truth and grounded in reality.

I read (scan) a fair amount of blogs, especially some where I know the person writing it has a form of mental illness. And in very few—make that almost none—do I find the level of fierce dedication to truth that I am describing here—posts where the author takes real responsibility using “I” statement to describe in lurid detail the bad things that they have done. There are plenty of posts on the bad things that have been done unto them—and some of these things are indeed hideous—but few to no posts describing their own errors and the wrongs they have perpetrated on others. Too often instead there are posts full of rationalizations and excuse-making with lots of supportive “I understand”s and such—which all makes sense because we live in a culture where “nonjudgmentalness” and “acceptance” and “tolerance” are king, and where our wrongs can be explained away and excused because of this or that past trauma, and where we all need some emotional support and validation—no matter how questionable to source—if we are to feel OK enough to make it through the day without collapsing or having a nervous breakdown.

There are very few real truth tellers and very few people fearlessly and fiercely dedicated to truth and reality. Most people are dedicated to something much less—and much less honorable and noble—comfort, convenience, location location location, ease, “happiness,” pleasure, hedonism, the path of least resistance, avoiding truth, and avoiding difficulty. And so if we sense that we “need” support and validation in order to make it through the day and not collapse psychologically then we have yet another reason to dummy ourselves and our capacity for truth and reality down in order to “fit in” and gain approval, acceptance, validation, support.

What use is it if a person gains the world—or gains a lot of emotional support and validation—yet loses his or her soul?

And all of the psychological explaining away that we as a species do is stultifying our character and retarding the development of our consciences. It is not the route to real mental health and true personal growth; instead it’s just a perpetuation and deepening of mental unhealth.

The twelve steps are a way of life based on truth and dedication to reality.  The twelve steps basically reduce to this:

1. Admit the truth. Admit the truth that you’re an addict; admit what you’re addicted to—alcohol, drugs, sex, lying & manipulating; admit that you’re helpless to overcome this on your own; admit that you’re your own worst enemy; admit that your own “best” thinking and efforts haven’t made a dent in this and in fact usually make it worse; admit that you need help.

To be able to cleanly admit all of this is an example of dedication to truth and dedication reality in action.

And such a moment is not enough. It has to be done again and again and again. It has to become a way of life. It has to be practiced constantly and unceasingly until it becomes habit, second nature, one’s new nature.

2. And then this truth has to be admitted or confessed to others in the form of our taking a searching and fearless moral inventory, admitting our wrongs—not just to ourselves, but to others—to those we actually wronged, lied to, stole from, used, et cetera—and then humbling ourselves and making real amends—doing some real repair work and making our contrition, showing real remorse and sorrow, and asking forgiveness.

All of which is incredibly difficult. Which explains why there is so little of it (truth, remorse, honesty) in general in the real world.

It’s easier to lie and bullshit ourselves and live in denial of our own mortality and transience when we’re surrounded by others basically doing the same—escaping life, escaping stress, escaping anxiety, reading shitty escapist books and magazines, having gossipy trivial conversations, et cetera.

The vast majority of human beings would prefer to be validated for their bullshit rather than be ostracized for being too truthful and too truth-loving.

And so the decline of Western civilization and the perpetuation and spread of mental illness and unhealth. . . .

Escape sells, reality doesn’t.

Thinking (or “On the Virtues of Not Being Soft-Minded”)


“All too many people are content with a soft mind. Soft-mindedness is expressed in a person’s gullibility. A soft-minded person believes anything. Soft-minded people are susceptible to belief in all kinds of superstitions. Almost any irrational fear can invade a soft mind without any sign of resistance. There is little hope for us in our personal or collective lives until we become tough-minded enough to rise about the shackles of half-truths and distortions. The shape of the world today does not permit us the luxury of being soft-minded. Hitler realized that soft-mindedness was so prevalent among his followers, not to mention humankind as a whole, that he said, ‘I use emotion for the many and I reserve reason for the few.’ A nation of soft-minded men and women is purchasing its own spiritual death and destruction on an installment plan. It is a rarity to find someone who is willing to engage in hard, serious thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than the idea of having to think.” — Martin Luther King, Jr. (this is my abridgment from his sermon “A Tough Mind and a Tender Heart“)

I have a lot of reservations about dichotomizing the heart and head and trying to separate the two completely. The whole heart/mind dichotomy strikes me as a bit of a false dilemma and also a dangerous and misleading one to present people with—that it’s somehow better to live from the heart rather than the mind. —After all, wasn’t it the heart getting wounded in the first place that necessitated it armoring itself up?

I would bristle less if the dichotomy were presented in terms of living from the heart versus living from the ego, or even better, living from the soul versus living from the ego. That last one, in fact, makes the most sense to me.  I actually am a big fan of the mind; I like the human intellect a lot—especially when it’s not driven by too much ego or blindness to oneself.  And I like it even better when it’s working in unison with what’s best in our hearts. (I’m not sure how pure our hearts are to begin with; I’m not willing to chalk everything up to bad parenting and bad societal influences; I tend to suspect the human heart is much less than all-pure and all-innocent and all-good.)

To try to dismiss the head in order to “live from the heart” seems, well, to be perfectly honest (and blunt), rather foolish, if not regressive.  It seems to be yet another case of all-or-nothing thinking, of throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

It seems to me that the ideal for each of us would be to couple a soft, open, compassion, loving and kind heart with a wise and discerning and insightful mind.  Martin Luther King Jr. seems to have seen it that way—that the ideal that each of us as human beings should strive for (and thus that we each owe to ourselves and to the world) is the actualization of both a tender heart and a tough mind—

“All too many people are content with a soft mind. Soft-mindedness is expressed in a person’s gullibility. A soft-minded person believes anything. Soft-minded people are susceptible to belief in all kinds of superstitions. Almost any irrational fear can invade a soft mind without any sign of resistance. There is little hope for us in our personal or collective lives until we become tough-minded enough to rise about the shackles of half-truths and distortions. The shape of the world today does not permit us the luxury of being soft-minded. Hitler realized that soft-mindedness was so prevalent among his followers, not to mention humankind as a whole, that he said, ‘I use emotion for the many and I reserve reason for the few.’ A nation of soft-minded men and women is purchasing its own spiritual death and destruction on an installment plan. It is a rarity to find someone who is willing to engage in hard, serious thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than the idea of having to think.”

A soft-heart is no protection against a soft-mind. The heart can be easily misled and manipulated and suckered into believing all sorts of cons and ruses and appeals to its sympathies.

Yet shutting down the heart and or armoring it up extensively is no better a solution.

The ideal, it seems to me, would to be for each of us to become as wise as serpents and gentle as doves (Matthew 10:16)—to have both a soft-heart and a wise and tough mind (that is, to be able to think critically and objectively and without bias—which means being able to look at ourselves discerningly as well!).  Not one or the other, but both.  Because one without the other is (likely) a recipe for personal, if not societal, disaster.  “To have serpent-like qualities devoid of dove-like qualities is to be passionless, mean, and selfish. To have dove-like qualities without serpent-like qualities is to be sentimental, gullible, aimless, and empty” (Martin Luther King, Jr.).

Marianne Williamson on “Facing Oneself”—Real Warriorship 101


As anyone who has ever been in serious psychotherapy is well aware, the process of personal growth isn’t always easy. We must face our own ugliness. . . . You end up seeing things about yourself that maybe you’d rather not see.  We have a lot of armor that has accumulated in front of our hearts—a lot of fear self-righteously masquerading as something else. . . . [And usually] [w]e . . . must become painfully aware of the unworkability of a pattern before we’re willing to give it up. It often seems, in fact, that our lives get worse rather than better when we begin to work deeply on ourselves. [But] life doesn’t actually get worse; it’s just that we feel our own transgressions more because we’re no longer anesthetized by unconsciousness. We’re no longer distanced through denial or dissociation from our own experience. We’re starting to see the truth about the games we play.

This process can be so painful that we are tempted to go backwards. It takes courage. This is often called the path of the spiritual warrior—to endure the sharp pains of self-discovery rather than choose to take the dull pain of unconsciousness that would last the rest of our lives.

Marianne Williamson, “A Return to Love,” pp. 132-133

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Dedication to Truth & Lying to Oneself


Truth or reality is avoided when it is painful.  We can revise our maps only when we have the discipline not to avoid the pain.  To have such discipline, we must be totally dedicated to the truth, not partially.  That is to say, we must always hold truth, as best as we can determine it, to be more crucial, more vital to our self-interest, than our comfort.  Conversely, we must always consider our personal discomfort relatively unimportant, and, indeed, even welcome it in the service of the search for truth.  Mental health is an ongoing process of dedication to reality at all costs.  What does this life of total dedication to the truth means?  It means, above all, a life of continuous and never-ending stringent self-examination and honesty with oneself. — M. Scott Peck, from “The Road Less Traveled,” pp. 50-51

Try just for a moment to accept the idea that . . . you lie to yourself. That you always lie to yourself every moment, all day, all your life. And that this lying rules you to such an extent that you cannot control it any more. You are the prey of lying. You lie, everywhere. Your relations with others—lies. The upbringing you had, the conventions—lies. Your teaching—lies. Your theories and art—lies. Your social life, your family life—lies. And what you think of yourself—lies also.  But you never stop yourself in what you are doing or in what you are saying because you believe in yourself, you believe that what you’re doing is always right: in other words, you believe your lies.  And you never doubt or suspect yourself.  You never doubt or suspect that you or what you are doing might in fact be wrong, very wrong.  “I’m doing the best I can,” you’ll tell yourself, but it’s a lie; you’re not doing your best.  “I’m doing the best I can considering where I started;” another lie. “I’m doing this to get better, healthier,” et cetera; another lie. “Everything will work out in the end,” more lies and self-deception.

No one wants to slow down and stop and consider this–that perhaps they’re wrong; that perhaps what they’re saying to themselves, the course that they’re taking in life is completely wrong, that it’s not for the best, that in reality it’s a product of yet more lies.  Yet this is just what mental health demands: that we question ourselves, question our own course, question what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.  But you won’t do this, and neither will most people; so you’re not alone, and that brings you comfort.  But just look around you: the evidence is there, all over the place; the evidence is there and indisputable that you are not right, that you have rarely ever been right.  But still you deny it, still you believe yourself again this time.  And so you fall for your own lies again.  And again.

Why?  Because you’re a coward.  You lie because the truth about yourself is painful and you’re weak and don’t want to deal with reality.  You lie because you never think honestly about your own mortality.  But you don’t want to hear any of this (which is just further proof that you’re weak).  But it’s what you are, and it’s what you do.  You lie because you’re weak and afraid.  You lie because fear is your leader.  You lie because you have no love in you, nothing good left in you.  You lie because the truth will sting you too much, hurt what little pride you have left, be too bright and blinding, too disorienting, too stressful.  And so you settle for lies, because lies can always be paid for with other lies, and lies have never really cost you a thing yet because your last line of defense is that you have always been able to lie to yourself about the cost of your lying to yourself! “It was for the best.”  But look around you: Your life is a lie and a cheat.  The evidence is there, all around you.  But for you, it’s deniable.

What would it take to get you to face the truth about yourself?  What would be required to get you slow down and stop and be honest with yourself about what you’re doing and who you are and what you’ve done?  What would it take to get you to stop blaming others or your past, and instead take responsibility for what you’re doing and be honest about all of the lies you’ve told yourself and others and what they really say about you–how weak, cowardly, unhealthy, wrong you are?  How much force would be necessary for you to admit the truth?  What would you have to lose or have taken away from you?  (And the more that would be required, the more truly lost and unsalvageable you are.)  Can you even be honest about this?  Can you even be honest with yourself in answering these questions?  Or are you so lost that lie to yourself automatically and effortlessly in response to these questions, and your mind is so cluttered that you’re already onto the next thing, the next lie, the next great deception? 

Is there nothing of yourself remaining?  Nothing that recognizes the truth, that wants to know the truth, that craves the truth?

No one wants to consider that perhaps nothing remains of oneself but an organism adrift, a body deprived of intelligence and seduced by any- and everything, and wholly at the mercy of “I like” and “I don’t like.” No one wants to consider that what they really are is an automaton living under the law of accident and nature.  But this maybe the truth.  One may have lied so well and so often to oneself that there’s simply nothing left of oneself that can tell the truth anymore.

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(The following excerpt is taken from: “Gurdjieff: Essays and Reflections on the Man and His Teachings,” by Jeanne de Salzmann, pp. 2-6.  It is my abridgement and adaptation)

Your life is the mirror of what you are. It is in your image. You are passive, blind, demanding. You take all, you accept all, without feeling any obligation. Your attitude toward the world and toward life is the attitude of one who has the right to make demands and to take, who has no need to pay or to earn. You believe that all things are due you, simply because it is you! All your blindness is there! Yet none of this strikes your attention.

None of this strikes your attention because you have no measure with which to measure yourself. You live exclusively according to “I like” or “I don’t like,” or “I feel like” or “I don’t feel like.” You have no appreciation except for yourself. You recognize nothing above you—theoretically, logically, perhaps, but in actuality no; you submit to nothing except your own desires and subjectivity. That is why you are demanding and continue to believe that everything is cheap and that you have enough in your pocket to buy everything you like. You recognize nothing above you, either outside yourself or inside. That is why you have no measure and live passively according your impulses and likes and dislikes.

Yes, this lack of appreciation for anything and anyone except for yourself blinds you. It is by far the biggest obstacle to a new life. You first must get over this threshold, this obstacle, before progressing even one step further. This crux alone is what divides human beings into two kinds: the “wheat” and the “chaff.” No matter how intelligent, how talented, how gifted, how brilliant a human being may be, if he does not change his appreciation of himself, there will be no hope for real inner development, for a work toward honest self-knowledge, for an awakening. He will remain such as he is now for his entire life.

The first requirement, the first condition, the first test for one who genuinely wishes to work on oneself is to change his appreciation of himself. And he must not do this theoretically—he must not imagine, not simply believe or think; rather he must do this in actuality: he must see things in himself which he has never seen before—which he has never had the nerve or courage to see before. And he must see them fully. A person’s appreciation of himself will never change as long as he or she sees nothing new and untoward in himself.

Today we have nothing but the illusion of what we are. We do not respect ourselves. In order to respect myself, I have to recognize a part in myself which is above the other parts. And my attitude toward this part should bear witness to the respect that I have for it. But so long as I treat all parts of myself equally, I think too highly of myself and I do not respect myself, and my relations with others will be governed by the same caprice and lack of respect.

In order to see oneself, one must first learn to see. This is the first initiation into genuine self-knowledge. In order to see ourselves realistically, we must see all the ways in which we habitually over-estimate and over-appreciate ourselves. But you will see that to do this is not easy. It is not cheap. You must pay dearly for this. For bad payers, lazy people, parasites, there is no hope. You must pay, pay a lot, pay immediately, and pay in advance. You must pay with yourself; you must pay with sincere, honest, conscientious, disinterested efforts. And the more you are willing and prepared to pay without economizing, without cutting corners, without cheating, without falsifications, the more you will receive. Because from that moment on you will become acquainted with your nature. You will begin seeing all of the tricks, all the dishonesties that your nature resorts to in order to avoid paying with real cash, real effort, real expenditure, real sacrifice, real cost to oneself. Because up till now, you like to cheat, you like to cut corners; you like to try and pay with your readymade theories, your convenient beliefs, your prejudices and conventions, your “I like” and “I don’t like”; you like to bargain, pretend, offer counterfeit money.

Objective thought is a look from Above. A look that is free, that can see. Without this look upon me, seeing me, my life is the life of a blind person who goes her own way, driven by impulse, not knowing either why or how. Without this look upon me, I cannot know that I exist.

I have within me the power to rise above myself and to see myself freely—and to be seen. My thinking has the power to be free.

But for this to take place, my thinking must rid itself of all of the garbage that holds it captive, passive, unfree. My thinking must free itself from the constant pull of emotions. My thinking must feel its own power to resist this pull—its objective capacity to separate itself and watch over this pull while gradually rising above it. For it is in this moment that thought first becomes active. It becomes active while purifying itself.

If we cannot do this—if we refuse to do this—our thoughts are just illusions, something that further enslaves us, that we use to numb and avoid ourselves, a snare in which real thought loses its power of objectivity and intentional action. Confused by words, images, half-truths, fantasies, falsehoods, it loses the capacity to see. It loses the sense of “I”. Then nothing remains but an organism adrift, a body deprived of intelligence and seduced by any- and everything, and wholly at the mercy of “I like” and “I don’t like.” Without this inner look, without this inner seeing, I can only fall back into automatism, and live under the law of accident and nature.

And so my struggle is a struggle against the passivity of ordinary thinking, being seduced and led astray and obliterated by it. Without struggling against ordinary thought, a greater consciousness will not be born. At the heart of this struggle—to create order out of chaos—a hierarchy is revealed—two levels, two worlds. As long as there is only one level, one world, there can be no vision. Recognition of another and higher level is the awakening of thought.

Without this effort, without this struggle, thought falls back into a sleep filled with seductive and consoling words, images, preconceived notions, approximate knowledge, dreams, fantasies, and perpetual drifting. This is the thought of a person without any real intelligence. It is a terrible thing to realize that one has been living for years without any intelligence, without a level of thinking that sees what is real, with thinking that is without any relation to the real world. It is a terrible waste to think this way.

But without realizing this—without realizing that perhaps one has been thinking for years without intelligence—there is no hope for awakening.

Try just for a moment to accept the idea that you are not what you believe yourself to be, that you overestimate yourself, in fact that you lie to yourself. That you always lie to yourself every moment, all day, all your life. And that this lying rules you to such an extent that you cannot control it any more. You are the prey of lying. You lie, everywhere. Your relations with others—lies. The upbringing you give, the conventions—lies. Your teaching—lies. Your theories and art—lies. Your social life, your family life—lies. And what you think of yourself—lies also.

But you never stop yourself in what you are doing or in what you are saying because you believe in yourself. You never doubt or suspect yourself. You must stop inwardly and observe. Observe without preconceptions, accepting for a time this idea of lying. And if you observe in this way, paying with yourself, without self-pity, giving up all your supposed riches for a moment of reality, perhaps you will suddenly see something you have never before seen in yourself until this day. You will see that you are different from what you think you are. You will see that you are two. One who is not, but takes the place and plays the role of the other. And one who is, yet so weak, so insubstantial, that he no sooner appears than he immediately disappears. He cannot endure lies. The least lie makes him faint away. He does not struggle, he does not resist, he is defeated in advance. Learn to look until you have seen the difference between your two natures, until you have seen the lies, the deception in yourself. When you have seen your two natures, that day, in yourself, the truth will be born. You will finally be born.

– Jeanne de Salzmann, abridged and adapted and at points modified from “Gurdjieff: Essays and Reflections on the Man and His Teachings,” pp. 2-6.

http://fullcatastropheliving.wordpress.com/2011/12/13/the-truth-will-it-set-you-free-or-will-it-completely-fry-your-ass-and-undo-you/

Dedication to Truth versus Dedication to Comfort and Emotional Reasoning


Again and again, the question is asked of us by life, what is more important to us:

Our own comfort? or truth?

Our own emotional comfort and equilibrium? or truth?

Not being overwhelmed–or feeling overwhelmed–by guilt and shame and mountains of emotional pain we’ve buried and buffered ourselves from? or truth? 

If we are not genuinely dedicated to truth, then our inner life is apt to be a free for all–a veritable minefield of lies, deception, denial, lies about our lying, et cetera.  If truth is not our guiding and organizing principle, then anything goes, anything is permitted and can be rationalized, explained away, spun, blamed, et cetera.  If truth is not our priority, then by default comfort will be–comfort, meaning not being shown anything unpleasant, difficult, unsettling, unnerving, terrifying, about life and ourselves.  We won’t want the light of truth, which is often harsh; instead we’ll plead for the soft light of pseudo-truth, and that will leave the door open for self-deception, lies, falsehood, denial, blame.

Being dedicated to truth means that what’s best in us–our conscience–runs the show, and not our want of comfort, ease, the path of least resistance.

When we are dedicated to truth, our reasoning honest and objective, we are self-examining, self-awarem and willing to self-confront, and thus our reasoning is more likely to be true, and if it is off, then it’s more likely to be corrected, because we ourselves are open to being corrected, to criticism, to learning, to revising.  Why?  Because the truth is more important to us than our own ego or pride or comfort.

But when truth is not our primary concern, but rather comfort is, then our reasoning is apt to not be very reasonable and grounded in truth and reality, but much more likely to be emotional and thus much more prone to being false and much more impervious to correction or reality checks or feedback. . . .

“Welcome to the Land of Emotional Reasoning”

By Dr. Tara J. Palmatier

http://www.shrink4men.com/2011/08/29/welcome-to-the-land-of-emotional-reasoning-id-turn-back-if-i-were-you/

Welcome to the Land of Emotional Reasoning. To the north, you’ll find Never-Never Take Responsibility Land and just to the south you’ll find the Land Where It’s Always Somebody Else’s Fault.

Wikipedia defines emotional reasoning as “a cognitive error that occurs when a person believes that what [s]he is feeling is true regardless of the evidence.” On a personal note, as a Thinking type, emotional reasoning is frequently the bane of my existence or rather one of my “banes.”

Emotional reasoners are prone to confusing their feelings with facts. Feelings are subjective internal states. Oftentimes, feelings arise because of an external event.

For example, a loved one dies and we experience grief and sadness. In this instance, an individual’s feelings and external reality are congruent.

Alternately, sometimes we misinterpret an external event and feelings arise that are incongruent with the precipitating event.

For example, you see a friend across the street and call out to her. She doesn’t acknowledge you and continues walking. As a result, you become angry and hurt because you assume that your friend rudely ignored you. In reality, your friend had her iPod on and didn’t hear you calling to her. * This is where reality testing comes in handy, but we’ll get to that later.

Sometimes feelings arise from an internal event. Many emotional reasoners are prone to manufacturing dramas in their minds without much input from the external world. They live in the permanent present of whatever their immediate feeling state is — regardless of whether or not there’s a basis for it in reality.

The basic assumption is, “If I’m feeling this way, there must be a reason for it.” There may be a reason for the feeling, but it might not have anything to do with reality, but with unresolved fears, hurts and, quite possibly, pathologies.

Emotional reasoning, or rather, social-emotional intelligence isn’t all bad. It can be quite helpful actually. Empathy, compassion, knowing how to read others, picking up on the needs of others and being sensitive to the feelings of others are just as important as critical thinking and reasoning skills.

Research shows that the best managers and strategic reasoners utilize both IQ and social-emotional reasoning.

Critical thinking occurs in the brain. Emotional reasoning takes place in the heart, gut or some other part of our anatomy — this goes for men and women. Emotional reasoners make choices based on what feels “good” or “right.” Critical thinkers make decisions based on facts and what is just or sensible.

Why is understanding emotional reasoning important for the Shrink4Men community?

If you’re married to, dating or divorcing an abusive and possibly unstable ex, odds are she’s an emotional reasoner and emotional reasoners are also often persuasive blamers and persuasive blamers are often at the root of many a high-conflict divorce/high-conflict custody case, false allegations, smear campaigns and a host of other Kafka-esque behaviors, tactics and sometimes criminal offenses.

An abusive emotional reasoner will verbally eviscerate you, call you a shitty father or mother in front of your kids, hit you and then tell you that their behavior was all your fault because you did . . . whatever they feel you did and insist that their behavior wasn’t really hurtful or abusive. They really love you and how could you accuse them of being so mean, selfish, abusive, etc., etc.?

These individuals can weave a web of distortions, half-truths, confabulations (lies told by liars who believe their own lies), blame, shame and guilt around you until you’re lost in a pink haze of their alternate emotionally-based “reality.” You may even start to believe the emotional reasoner’s “logic” even when you know better.

By the way, if you can fall prey to this, so can judges, attorneys, psychologists, court evaluators, friends, colleagues and family members.

Emotional reasoning can be seductive — even for those of us who are predominantly critical thinkers. The emotional reasoner is so persuasive, so convincing. You start to think, “Maybe it wasn’t that bad. Maybe I really did deserve to be called names. Maybe I really deserved to get hit. Maybe I really am a shitty dad . . .”

Stop yourself. Stop yourself right there. This is when emotional reasoning becomes a contagious trap.

Reality test. If your mind is too clouded from the pink haze to do this on your own, call a friend. Call a family member. Call a shrink. Call someone whose judgment you trust and reality test.

Emotional reasoning is usually easier than critical thinking. Critical thinking based on facts, evidence and logic takes effort and work. Emotional reasoning — not so much.

Don’t remember what really happened because your emotions were too out of control? Make something up.

Embarrassed by something you did or said? Deny it ever happened and blame whomever it is that’s making you feel bad about yourself. Like Jason Alexander’s character George Costanza once reasoned on Seinfeld, “Jerry, just remember, it’s not a lie if you believe it.”

Want to get your way at the expense of someone else? You deserve it. You’re entitled. The person standing in your way hates you/is trying to control you/doesn’t understand you/doesn’t care about you/isn’t making you feel heard/isn’t making you feel loved/isn’t making you feel special. Tell everyone what a monster he or she is and maybe even have them arrested. After all, they deserve it. Who are they to tell you no or get in your way?

Hey, if it makes you feeel better who cares about anyone else’s needs or feelings or pesky little minor details like the truth?

It’s not just individuals who are prone to emotional reasoning. Our society is becoming increasingly governed (I don’t mean politically, although, one could make an argument for this) by emotional reasoning.

You see evidence of it in the news everyday. Injustice results when we combine our proclivity for emotional reasoning and the rampant gender bias of “women = victim; man = villain.”

For example, in the Land of Emotional Reasoning and gender bias, “Susie” murders her children in cold blood during a bitter custody battle. Susie then claims her husband abused her and she was afraid he would molest their children. All of a sudden, Susie is magically transformed from heartless, murdering psycho to poor, abused, downtrodden, confused woman who killed her own children as a desperate cry for help.

Heck, more often than not Susie doesn’t even have to claim her husband abused her. We do it for her because if a woman commits a violent crime, there must be a good reason for it and, of course, that reason must be some man.

It’s much easier to believe Susie is a poor, stigmatized, misunderstood woman than face the fact that there are monsters among us and about half of them are women. This is why many of us continue to fall prey to emotional reasoning and make excuses for this kind of horror show, even when we’re otherwise critical thinkers.

Social-emotional intelligence is just as valuable as critical thinking and IQ. For your own well-being and safety and the well-being and safety of your children, it is imperative that you don’t get lost in the emotional reasoning of your unstable and abusive partner or ex (or your partner’s ex). Reality testing is your life preserver, which is one of the reasons abusive types try to isolate you. They want to control your reality.

Please take my advice and don’t let them.

Reflections on Courage and Truth: Are you mentally healthy or one sick little puppy?


Reflections on Courage and Truth: Are you mentally healthy or one sick little puppy?

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all . . . ”

(Compare the following excerpt with Pascal’s thoughts on “Flattery, Truth, and the Ego.” This is how most of us develop and maintain our sense of self and borrow our emotional pseudo-stability. And it’s really quite sad. Because if we stopped to look at what we’re doing to ourselves and if we really thought about it, is this really what we would want for ourselves? Or for our children?—is this what we would want to raise them to do and how to be?)

“Most people must look at themselves only from a distance—and only through the false and distorted reflection of others—in order to find themselves at all tolerable or attractive to behold. Self-knowledge is strictly off limits for them. Thus people such as these (which is to say the vast majority of us) are very well defended against their own spying and sieges, against their own attempts at self-knowledge. Their self-attempts at self-knowledge are futile—they are rarely able to make out any more of themselves than their outer fortifications. The actual stronghold is inaccessible to them, even invisible—unless—unless friends and enemies turn traitor and lead them there.”

– Nietzsche, from “Human All Too Human” # 49, and “The Gay Science,” # 15

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Metal health will drive you crazy, metal health will cure you sane” (or something like that)

(From “The Road Less Traveled,” by M. Scott Peck, pp. 50-63.)

Mental health is an ongoing process of dedication to reality at all costs.

What does a life of total dedication to truth (reality) mean?

First of all, it means a life of continuous and never-ending stringent self-examination.

We know the world only through our relationship to it. Therefore, to know the world, we most not only examine it, but we must simultaneously examine the examiner.

Examination of the world without is never as personally painful and unsettling as examination of the world within, and it is because of the pain involved in a life of genuine self-examination that the vast majority of people steer away from it, distracting and anesthetizing themselves to it through various means (drinking, shopping, television, movies, bar-hopping, superficial relationships and interactions, “having a good time,” dissipating ourselves in thousands of ways).

Yet when one is dedicated to the truth the pain inherent in it seems relatively unimportant—and less and less important (and therefore less and less painful)—the farther one proceeds down the path of self-examination.

Truth or reality is avoided when it is painful. To overcome this pain we must be totally dedicated to truth. That is to say, we must always hold truth, as best as we can determine it, to be more important, more vital to our self-interest, than our own comfort. Conversely, we must always consider our personal discomfort relatively unimportant and, indeed, even welcome it in the service of the search for truth.

Thus a life of total dedication to the truth also means a life of total honesty. It means a continuous and never-ending process of self-monitoring to assure that our words and deeds match and that our communications invariably reflect as accurately as possible the truth or reality as we know it.

Such honesty does not come easily or painlessly. The reason people lie or shade the truth is to avoid the pain of challenge and it consequences.

Insofar as the nature of a challenge is legitimate—and it usually is much more often than not—lying is an attempt to circumvent legitimate suffering and hence is productive of mental illness.

Most people are resistant to challenge. They talk volubly enough about this or that, but they leave out crucial details. They are wasting time in their effort to avoid challenge, and usually they are indulging in a subtle form of lying.

Thus a life of total dedication to the truth also means a life of willingness to be personally challenged.

The only way to revise our understanding of reality is to expose our map to the criticism and challenge of other map-makers. Otherwise we live in a closed-system—within a bell jar, to use Sylvia Plath’s analogy—rebreathing our own fetid air, and more and more subject to delusions.

Yet because of the pain inherent in the process of revising our map of reality, we almost always seek reflexively to avoid or ward off any challenges to its validity.

Leading a life of total dedication to truth and of openness to challenge may seem like a never-ending burden, an extraordinary task, a “real drag.” And indeed it is difficult; it is a never-ending burden of self-discipline and calling ourselves out on our self-deceptive and avoidant tendencies. Which is why most people opt for a life of very limited openness and honesty and relative closedness and self-deceit, hiding themselves and their maps from the world and others.*

It’s easier that way.

Yet the rewards of the difficult life of honesty and dedication to the truth are more than commensurate with the demands. By virtue of the fact that their maps are continually being challenged, open people are continually growing people and strengthening as human beings. Through their courage and openness, they can establish and maintain intimate relationships far more effectively and more deeply than closed people can. And because they are dedicated to being impeccable with their word and not speaking falsely, they know that they have done nothing to contribute to the confusion and darkness in the world. They don’t have to slink around in the shadows, construct new lies to hide and maintain old ones, and waste time and effort covering their tracks and maintaining their disguises (their false selves).

Ultimately open and growing people find that the energy required for the self-discipline of honesty and dedication to truth is far less than the energy required for secretiveness, deception and avoidance. The more honest and transparent one is, the easier it is to continue being honest and transparent, just as the more lies one has told, the more necessary it is to lie again and more frequently.

By their openness, people dedicated to truth live in the open, and through the exercise of their courage to live in the open, they become more and more free from fear.

The healing of the spirit has not been completed until openness to challenge and a fierce dedication to truth become a way of life.

(*Peck is talking about the “emotional cutoff” here. He is talking about the tendency that the vast majority of us have to act out on what’s worst and weakest in ourselves and to emotionally cut off or banish those who do not flatter us and who do not reflect back to us ourselves in a way we wish to be seen. Those around us who see us too accurately, or whose gaze is too perceptive and unsettling, so much so that it makes us uncomfortable, we avoid them, emotionally cut them off and cut them out of our life, banish and excise them. We’d rather live in a hall of mirrors life in a funhouse, being surrounded by those who are so weak and unloving and who care so little about us that they reflect back to us our distorted and malignant sense of self while we provide the same disservice to them. [a mutual admiration and distortion society].).

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Rilke on “Acting Just Once with Beauty & Courage” (from “Letters to a Young Poet”; letter no. eight)

We must accept our reality as vastly as we possibly can; everything, even the unprecedented, must be possible within it.

This is in the end the only kind of courage that is required of us: the courage to face the strangest, most unusual, most inexplicable experiences that can meet us.

If we imagine the being of our person as a larger or smaller room, it is obvious that most people come to know only one corner of their room, one spot near the window, one narrow strip on which they keep walking back and forth. And in this way they have a certain security. Yet how much more human is the dangerous insecurity that drives those prisoners in Poe’s stories to feel out the shapes of their horrible dungeons and not be strangers to the unspeakable terror of their cells? We, however, are not prisoners.

If our world has terrors, they are likely our terrors; if it has abysses, these abysses belong to us; if there are dangers, we must try to love them. If only we would arrange our life in accordance with the principle which tells us that we must always trust in the difficult, then that which now appears to us as most alien will become our most intimate and trusted experience.

How could we forget those ancient myths that stand at the beginning of all races, the myths about dragons that at the last moment are transformed into princesses? Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage.

Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.

And this fear of the inexplicable has not only impoverished the reality of the individual; it has also narrowed the relationship between one human being and another, which has, as it were, been lifted out of the riverbed of infinite possibilities and set down in a fallow place on the bank where nothing new can occur. For it is not inertia and indolence alone that causes human relationships to be repeated from case to case with such unspeakable monotony and boredom; it is timidity before any new and inconceivable experience with which we feel ourselves ill-equipped to cope. But only someone who is ready for everything, who doesn’t exclude any experience, even the most incomprehensible, will live the relationship with another human being as something alive and will himself sound and draw on the depths of his own being.

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“Get busy living or get busy dying,” or “If you’re not growing, you’re dying . . . “

(From “The Way of Transformation,” by Karlfried Graf Durchheim, pp. 107-108.)

[T]he aim of a genuine spiritual practice is not to develop an attitude which allows a person to acquire a state of harmony and peace wherein nothing can ever trouble him. On the contrary, a person’s spiritual practice should teach him to let himself be assaulted, perturbed, moved, insulted, broken and battered—that is to say, it should enable him to dare to let his futile hankering after harmony, surcease from pain, and a comfortable life go in order that he may discover, in doing battle with the forces that oppose him, that which awaits him beyond the world of opposites.

The first necessity is that we should have the courage to face life in all its intensity, and to encounter all that is most perilous in the world.

When this is possible, meditation itself becomes the means by which we accept and welcome the fears and anxieties and demons which arise from the unconscious—a process very different from the practice of concentration on some object as a protection against such forces.

Only if we venture repeatedly through zones of discomfort and annihilation can our contact with what is Divine, and with what is beyond annihilation, become firm and stable. The more we learn wholeheartedly to confront the world and a patterned way of living and reacting that threatens us each with isolation, the more the depths of our own being will be revealed and the more the possibilities of new life and inner transformation will be opened to us.