This post is about judging ourselves negatively based on unexamined or under-examined beliefs. What got me thinking in this direction was the recent exploration I did on ebook publishing. I’m guessing that most unpublished writers long for the validation that acceptance for traditional publication confers: “Now I am somebody!” In fact, those ebook authors who have launched their careers by non-traditonal means have also done an end-run around our customary who’s-who assumptions. New game, new rules.
I want to consider some of the ideas we use to bludgeon ourselves. I’m not talking about (relatively) small issues: I wish I had a nicer lawn. Nor am I considering such serious and potentially clinical issues as a pervasive, non-specific, feeling that I am just no good: I am not up to taking on original sin, in any of its many variations.
I’m talking about the dozens of ideas we or our friends have used to put ourselves down. Reasons I am a loser:
- Because I didn’t make the little league team.
- Because I am dumb in math
- Because girls think guys in the math club are nerds.
- Because I’m not as pretty as my sister.
- Because I didn’t get into my first choice college.
- Because I don’t like my job.
- Because I am not married.
- Because my marriage is on the skids.
- Because I don’t have any children.
- Because the kids are out of control, which means I’m a terrible parent.
- Because I got skipped over for a promotion.
- Because I can’t handle my new job.
- Because I got laid off.
- Because I hate this town and want to live in (fill in the blank).
- Because I can’t get get my book published
- Because I want to be somebody.
Something in that list may bring to mind some past or present hot button issues. Ideas like this can be incredibly painful, but interestingly, the moment our minds change, the issues and pain disappear. We can see this by considering past ideas, the ones we no longer believe. One day in grade school, I had a revelation: I don’t really care about little league – I was just trying out because everyone else was. Instantly, all the inferiority vanished. I was no longer a loser just because I wasn’t good at baseball. Soon enough, however, new limiting ideas filled the void and I was a loser again.
That dynamic should make us very suspicious!
It made Cheri Huber suspicious. Huber, a Zen teacher who is also versed in modern psychology, has made it one of her special missions to take on the voices of self-hate she finds so rampant in our culture. Huber travels and teaches internationally, is a prolific author, has a regular radio talk show, and hosts workshops both online and at “The Zen Monastery Peace Center,” in Murphys, CA. http://www.cherihuber.com/index.html
Huber is the author of twenty books, most of them published by “Keep It Simple,” an independent press she and her sangha founded back in the ’80’s. Perhaps her most pervasive theme is contained in title of one of her most popular books: There Is Nothing Wrong With You: Going Beyond Self-Hate. In the introduction, she writes:
Every spiritual path tells us that what we are seeking is inside us. Society, the world, others, conditioning, teaches us as children to stop looking to ourselves in order to know what is so for us, and to begin to look to others in order to know what is right. We first learn to look to parents, then teachers, then friends, lovers, husband or wife, children, Jesus or the Buddha or God – all “out there.” The love, the acceptance, the approval is out there (emphasis added).
Huber sometimes uses the model of “sub-personalities,” to illustrate the origin of the self-hating voices. Simplistically, sub-personalities are a series of “mini-me’s” living inside my psyche, with the power to take possession of my awareness from time to time. Some of them hate me. Some of them do nothing but whisper poisonous thoughts, and of these, Huber says:
You can listen to the voices that say there is something wrong with you. It’s actually very helpful to be aware of them. Just don’t believe them. Most of what we have been taught to believe we had to be taught to believe because it isn’t true. This is why children have to be conditioned so heavily! We would never have reached these conclusions on our own!
I sat in a one day retreat with Cheri Huber in the summer of 2005, and got a sense of her deep commitment to this particular work. It was clear from her comments that she had come from a starting place of crippling inferiority and lack of self worth. She now seems like a joyous person, and one who believes her process is open to everyone, and judging by the numbers of people who threw themselves into the work that day, quite a few others have found it true for them.
As you learn to sit down, sit still and pay attention, you begin to glimpse that which sees through the illusion, beyond the voices of society’s conditioning, back to the original being. And slowly that perceiving becomes more real than all you’ve been taught to believe…you begin to see with a much broader view…you begin to be the love, acceptance, and compassion you have always sought – Cheri Huber.