Sunday, March 3, 2013

Dealing with myself

I have a habit of calling myself impolite words and names.  I find that I left the milk out when it should have been put in the fridge.  "Stupid!  Why can't you be more aware of what you are doing?"  Sometimes, I speak to myself in the second person and sometimes in the first: Why can't I be more aware of what I am doing?  Either way, I notice the wording and inner voice tone is not complimentary, not polite, not what I would use with someone I like and respect.  That might not matter much but on the other hand, it could.

We are reading The Bartender's Tale about a reasonably taciturn father running a bar in a small Montana town and his young son.  The father is parenting by himself and the boy watches and thinks about his father and the other people in the bar.  Questions come to his mind all the time about his life and how to behave and why things happen but he must think rather than talk since the dad is not very forthcoming on any subject.  We all grow up with unanswered questions about our birth, our parents, history and reasons for events, customs and differences between one sibling and another, one parent or grandparent and another, other families, tribes, ethnic groups, religions.

I was surprised to find that among some sociologists shame and guilt are treated quite differently.  Their theory is that shame as a social force is used in more primitive societies while guilt, a system of punishment and eventual rehabilitation and restoration are available in more advanced societies.  But I think internally, regret and disapproval of myself are not separated from negative judgements.  Further, I guess I may unconsciously decide that I am not worth much, not admirable, not appropriately alert, intelligent, slim, devoted, conscientious, etc.  I may make such a decision and cling to such an opinion without realizing it.

Various educational, religious and political authorities (note: all social) can try to habituate my thinking about me in directions of fear, self-disgust, self evaluations that result in giving myself low grades in all important areas.  Internal thinking and awareness systems are known to be lightning fast in their operation but both hidden and primitive.  So, how can I present my case to myself that I am pretty good and deserve some honor and respect, despite the pranks I played?  Several tools are emerging that assist in such a project.  Writing, as in a journal, talking to a friend or a therapist and hypnosis are gaining respect as workers uncover methods, approaches and language that assists.  Recent work by Cheri Huber where one records advice to oneself finds a way of talking to oneself.

I guess most societies are more or less built on customs of modesty, self-restraint and civil manners.  How could they function otherwise?  So, we all get the picture that we are not that special and shouldn't fall into the habit of thinking otherwise.  However, it may be possible to retain civility while at the same time getting a picture that is both more accurate and more complimentary of ourselves.  It's tricky ground but that is just what the video course created and run by Sounds True is about.  It is free, includes contributions from many of the best known and respected workers in the field and begins tomorrow, Monday, March 4.  You just need to pre-register here.

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