To thine own self be kind
That's the phrase Liz left us all with after her talk at the Eisemann Center last month. You may be more familiar with the classic variation of being true to thine self, and after reading up a bit more about personality type preferences and the influence of our cultural backgrounds, I got to thinking about the connection between the two.
I grew up an optimist and happy and I’ve the wrinkles to prove it - crows feet, laughter lines, whatever you want to call them. One thing I realize, though, is that the older I get and the more I know that I don’t know, the more I want to know. It’s like opening a can of wriggly worms and that's quite frustrating at times. I used to be perfectly content in my ignorance, it was blissful, truly, but now that I know about all those theories and psychological approaches and how good Eastern philosophy is for the nervous system - and it is - I want to know why I’m finding it so hard to adopt a daily meditation and yoga practice. The easy answer is, I’m simply not wired for it.
If I’m really honest, over-the-top lovey-dovey fluffy-duffy icky-sticky optimism and balance and happiness and positivity talk only remind me of what a long road I’ve yet to walk towards happiness and fulfillment. All the books I’ve yet to read make me fear I’ll never get there. However, we all know that the journey is the goal, so to make the journey more enjoyable, from time to time I slip back into old, more familiar ways of critical and negative thinking. They just seem so much easier to do and more fair, too! I mean, come on - mankind survived before all this political correctness, didn’t they? Raise your hand if you can still remember the days when smoking was cool and advertised everywhere, and now they’ve basically outlawed cigarettes. Well, they haven’t banned freedom of speech or thought yet, so call it my guilty pleasure, but sometimes I bitch, I moan, I gossip, I call all sorts of spades and pots and kettles, well knowing that I should take the high road, that I should take my emotions out of certain situations, but ooh, does it feel good to curse.
The paradox of my wishes and intents for happiness and the reality of my inner critic got me thinking about the different attitudes we all have. As I continue telling you about my views, feel free to notice where you agree and disagree with me, and why you think that is.
Personality type explains how everybody has certain preferences about what energizes them (being with people or spending time alone), what they pay attention to (big picture or details), how they make their decisions (logically or according to values), and what their outlook on life is (more structured or more relaxed).
If you imagine personality type preferences as the inner circle of what makes up a person, one of the outer circles is culture. Our culture is the unspoken unwritten rulebook of how things are done where we come from. Dilemmas and problems have always been dealt with in a certain way and everybody is so familiar with the answer that the solutions have found their way into the collective unconscious and nobody can really explain to an outsider why that solution works, it just does.
For my meditation example, it will be logical to a monk in Tibet that everything is one and that every organism is meant to be and loved for the mere fact of existing. For my German understanding, on the other hand, it is logic to ask “well, what has that person done to deserve to be loved?” Welcome to a clash of the culture of being with the culture of doing.
Clearly both approaches make sense in different circumstances, and depending on what you want to achieve, one may be more effective than the other. I found preliminary peace accepting the nature of my critical doing self, striving to embrace and reconcile with a loving being notion. In other words, I'll meditate when I feel like it, knowing it will make me feel better when I do, but not beating myself up about the fact that I don't every day.
What experiences do you have bridging two different points-of-view? How much of the dilemma do you think roots in your cultural background or personality type? And the $64,000 question: does being aware of the differences make it easier to overcome them? Please leave a comment and share! This thread will be continued next week.
Til then, have a good Easter weekend!
Thanks to Japonka for the free image.