Sunday, September 7, 2008

Judgmental Goliath

“Suspecting that perhaps (s)he is incapable of getting rid of these innumerable images, (s)he has created a super-image, and to that image (s)he has become a slave, therefore (s)he is not free.”
-J. Krishnamurti, The Awakening of Intelligence
(gender inclusiveness added by me)

In my neighborhood, today, I saw a bouncy blonde woman walking down the street dressed as a garish brauhaus maid, wearing an extremely short crinolined skirt and carrying a bunch of yellow balloons that were buoyantly traveling with her. “Would you like a balloon for your baby?” she said to a man nearby. Some teenage girls asked if they could have some. To which she replied, “Yes, if you promise to tell people that I am selling real estate.”

Further down the way I saw five children holding these same yellow balloons, that I now noticed had a big black logo on them. Each child in his or her own time was saying, “Look at mine!” Which seemed so perplexing to me because I was seeing them as exactly the same, and as marketing swag. So I looked closer, and I saw that some of the children were standing at different heights, one on the stairs of one building, one on the stairs of another, with hands holding the balloon’s string as high as they could make them go. A little girl on the grass said, “look at mine!” excitedly. And then with a note of disappointment, “It almost touches the sky.” It was as if she felt that the children who were holding there balloons higher up were a little better than her.
In the above quote Krishnamurti is observing a mental conundrum. When a person believes everything the mind serves up, sometimes we end up feeling bad falsely like the small girl on the grass, and sometimes we might feel good falsely like the children able to hold their balloons higher up. When they really are all holding identical balloons, and the way they hold them doesn’t make them better or worse children. Yet I noted disappointment and shame in the little child who felt her balloon wasn’t as good, and pride and enthusiasm in the children standing on the stairs. They had established a mental framework amongst themselves that they could measure the worth of their respective balloons. This framework created an illusion that one child’s balloon was better than another—the ones “closer to the sky” were better.

A person’s upbringing and culture helps to create similar illusions. The mind creates it’s own complicated logic based on an individual’s experience. And it works well for covering survival needs, like knowing what food to eat, and getting adequate warmth and shelter, even technology and the scientific method. But where it fails miserably is in relationships. The mind thinks it knows what it doesn’t.

As an example I’m sharing a relationship I have with myself, and just like the little girl from the opening story I tend to judge myself falsely. I too allow a framework of thought (mine has been slowly established over the course of my life) to affect how I feel about myself. This framework is the “image to which I have become a slave” from the opening quotation, and I think of it almost like a thought-monster: the “super-image”.

There are times I feel like I live under a giant dome of decisions that have already been made (it represents how I “should” be). These decisions, based on past experience, are frozen into an immense image that hovers over a “me” that is very small, and doesn’t measure up very well to the perfection of the image (of course I am describing a psychological space here). And when I fail to fulfill my expectations I feel wounded inside, almost as if the super-image has lasers that attack my sense of well-being.

I measure myself against this perfect and false super-me, and in this process of comparison I hurt myself. And what does this false “me” look like? She is married, has two kids, a normal career, and had a good and healthy childhood upbringing. This image is far from my life right now so for me my super-image becomes a stepford-wife style robot with guns. This giant she-bot doesn’t even have qualities that I like about myself. So why do I allow this image to rule? Why do I do this when this image is so far from the realities of my life in the present moment? Keeping my eye on the robot, instead of my current situation keeps me stuck. So, again, why does this image get so much power?

Well, when I feel like a victim of my past, it is very easy to see how this King Kong sized judgment-machine can dominate the little “me” who can’t help it. My image is also about cultural norms. And my image comes to me from my family. This image also comes from allowing my primary focus to be on what others think, instead of looking to see my contribution, and really creating what fits for me with my life. Very powerful is this image that has been built up over time.

In reference to the opening quote I do have a choice, even if I don’t always know it. I can let the ogre super-image monster keep me in a state of perpetual torture and servitude. Or I can begin to see differently. I can start to take responsibility for how I relate to the images, thoughts, and stories in my mind. I can take the time to understand how my mind operates, and from that experience I can learn how to use the blessed gift of mind.

Now I know that I don’t really want to be the image from my past, so I can begin to honor my life as it is. And I can learn to appreciate the magical moment we call “now.”

“My beloved child, break your heart no longer. Each time you judge yourself, you break your own heart.”
-Swami Kripalu/Carolyn Delluomo

1 comment:

Kay Burnett said...

Hi Brooks--
from my own experience, some years ago now, I know that you are getting to the other side of the monster ;-). I hear your strength emerging in your prose. Bravo!!

Here's an exercise someone took me through once -- sit comfortably and quietly and visualize the monster in its worst, most destructive form. Focus on that for a limited time and then as though it were window on your mac, shrink it smaller, smaller, smaller until it is a pinpoint on your mind/screen. Then take the image of the desired state and magnify it until it fills your entire mind and embellish it as much as you want until it is truly your best form. Then recall the pinpoint, don't blow it up again but just remember that it is there very small and that the dominant image is now your best state, where you want to be and where you are.

This can be done as a facilitated exercise but I think it can be effectively done on your own.

Knowing your imagination and visualization capabilities, I think you might have a good time with it.

thanks for sharing!