Validating one’s moment to moment experience is an important thing. It underpins our sense of identity, and has the power to either reinforce or destroy relationships, and I refer to all interrelationships with others. When our individual integrity is called into question a pivotal moment is created in which evaluative decisions are to be made, that will either maintain equilibrium or instigate radical change. It is either a move towards further closeness, or it is a move away resulting in separation.
The manner in which we seek this validation is always one of comparison: Validation can only occur if there is a pre-existing condition to which reference can be made, and against which contrasts can be assessed or measured. In other words, we measure and interpret the world according to our expectations and our existing beliefs, and if things clash or just don’t fit, then our sense of integrity is threatened. How we respond to the threat is dependent upon the degree to which we are dependent on our existing expectations and beliefs to support our notion of selfhood.
When someone feels as though who they are is being brought into question, it is deeply personal, because without that sense of personal integrity we are without purpose, and that is a far scarier notion for most than even death itself. This sense of self-preservation is the motivation behind everything that we feel, think and do in life, and so it would appear for many of us to be almost sacrosanct, and something only we ourselves have the right to talk about.
I can guarantee that most of us will object if another attempts to explain to us who we are in justifying their own sense of integrity. It’s hypocritical, and a deflective tactic used to both prevent and inflict harm. That is, prevent harm to oneself by deflecting it back to the person issuing the insult cloaked in matter-of-fact language posing as wisdom and expertise. And people will go back and forth in this manner until resolution is sought. Any end to the conflict is a resolution, even if it isn’t amicable. For most of us, pain and conflict is anathema to the purpose of our lives. We all want and desire a sense of ease and contentment, and so it can be said that our life’s purpose is in discovering and maintaining that sense of equilibrium, as frequently as we can and for as long as we can. In fact, it is our sole priority if we really think about it. How we feel about anything matters a great deal to us, and so any challenge will be seen as an act of war. And the more entrenched we are in our notions of selfhood, the more we will fight to protect who we believe we are, because that in turn delineates the kinds of inalienable rights that we believe our individuality affords us, irrespective of whether it infringes on the equally inalienable rights of others.
When we are entangled in the act of self-defence, it is nigh on impossible to see anything coming from another as empathetic. Indeed, it’s my view that empathy requires a suspension of personal belief in favour of reaching an acceptable consensus with another. True consensus will only ever be a compromise wherein all parties involved agree to disagree in a mutually amicable manner, but in a fashion that does not hinder further communication and interaction. Progress within a community is only possible through compromise and tolerance, and I refer to community here in the context of a collaboration between two or more people.
When we are alone, physically or within the confines of our own minds, we are more than free to think and feel what we wish, without it necessarily compromising or harming anyone else. But in the moment that we decide to share our thoughts with another we are involved in a collaboration in which the rules change if we wish to continue to feel at ease, because suddenly our sense of identity is at risk of being challenged by those other parties.
Our sense of identity is such a powerful force, that the more we feel that it is or is likely to be challenged – whether that is occurring in actuality or not – the more we want to talk about it and tell everybody, so that we are able to reinforce and justify what we know and who we are. And though it can serve as a valuable tool in social interactions in that it encourages people to evaluate their own positions and thus make decisions accordingly, the sole purpose of it will only ever be to preserve one’s own sense of integrity.
I am more than aware that my analogy makes us all sound selfish and callous, but the reality is that we just don’t do very well if we do not prioritise who we are. If we are unable to put our needs before those of others, then our chances of survival greatly diminish. And this very easily equates to our happiness, because the more uneasy and unhappy we are, the more we put our own survival at risk.
However, as an upwardly mobile, rationally thinking species of beings, we become so embroiled in the idiosyncrasies of culture that we often fail to see that there are many things we choose to ignore or turn a blind eye to in favour of keeping up appearances. The thing that many of us seem to ignore more than anything else is our personal role in the events of our lives, and the very divisive way that we influence the direction of our moment to moment experience in pursuit of our own sense of wellbeing. And we do so at the expense of others all of the time. Our propensity to contrive the nature of our reality and expound it as an absolute truism is by our own design and solely motivated by our need to preserve ourselves. Nobody made us who we are, nobody has a say in that. Therefore, there is no middle ground. Ever. If someone offends us, our desire to put space between us and them is a strong motivational force, and we do it by whatever means necessary. In the heat of the moment do we seldom exhibit any compassion towards them. Our sense of self-preservation very clearly becomes our sole priority, because it triggers our very natural fight-or-flight response.
We show compassion only when we are at ease and feeling content, because only then do we feel safe. Safe to be who we are, or who we want to believe we are, or who we want others to believe we are. Whatever the method, our fundamental motivations are always the same. If we do not feel supported by others or the world we inhabit, then we place ourselves in a position of defensiveness because we don’t feel safe, and so our interactions are automatically fraught with difficulty as we search for the presence of a potential threat, and a way of diffusing it before it has the ability to arise and thus endanger us further. If we feel unsupported and therefore unsafe, then everything is a potential threat to us. We seek communion and consensus with others in order that we can feel protected and safe, though it isn’t because we feel insecure in our solitude, but because our solitude and sense of individuality separate us from others in a way that puts our safety at risk if another should take umbrage to our presence and our methods of survival. We are more than capable of being content within ourselves and our solitude. We don’t need the company of others all of the time, or indeed any of the time, if we feel safe and stable in who we are. Except our reality is full of other people, and so negotiating the terms of our social tenure becomes a predominant occupation for all of us, to one degree or another.
In being more aware of the mechanics of how we construct and maintain our identities, and our subsequent interactions based on those tenets, we are better able to make beneficial decisions that do not necessarily result in disagreement, and therefore threaten anyone’s sense of safety. Our individuality is ours to protect and to promote, but great care should be taken when insisting that others be concerned with it also, when they have their own individual needs and agendas to attend to, and when we do not share their concerns. We do well to be mindful of our own business, and to be aware that reconciliation and agreement between ourselves and another is always going to be on a negotiable basis, as both parties assess merit and adjust accordingly.
Neither blood relation, nor marriage, nor money entitles any of us to more than we are. We cannot buy or own another person’s loyalty or sense of integrity in support of our own, or even in lieu of our own. If we cannot feel safe and at ease within ourselves, then we have no business imposing our insecurities on others, because all we do is impose sanctions on others that are rarely met. It is our problem to resolve, and if we have the willing support of another while we attempt to do so, then we are fortunate indeed, but taking that support for granted is a mistake, and it’s something that we can all relate to in one way or another throughout the course of our lives.
The message of this culmination of work is to be mindful of who we are and how that influences our lives. In having mastery of who we are, we are enlightened, and through being enlightened our actions and interactions become more transparent and filled with more ease and wellbeing, thus we are able to fulfil our continuing purpose and be fulfilled by it. If we are able to feel that way, then we all benefit.
The study or the discussion of metaphysics is not an excuse to divorce ourselves from accountability, in the way that science or organised religion encourages us to do so, it is instead a move towards taking control of who we are in a more dynamic and inclusive way by tending to our own needs and desires in a way that nobody else can, and where neither you or I suffer unnecessarily, but also in a way to which all of us can relate to one degree or another. Furthermore, in a way that all of us can take decisive action in applying to our own lives with immediate results. If we change the way we think about something, then it is changed and our decisions and thought processes will follow accordingly. It isn’t magic, or supernatural, or even pertaining to any dictionary definition of what metaphysics is supposed to be, it’s just common sense. The Physics of Common Sense. It’s the result of paying attention to one’s own thought processes and behaviours, and evaluating their worth in view of one’s sense of fulfilment and wellbeing. Because if that is what we all strive so hard to protect and uphold, then we do ourselves an invaluable favour in paying closer attention to it.