Thanks for your last message, it was very thought-provoking and helpful. I really appreciate this conversation.
This sounds one-down and "others-defining" to me.
I'm a little confused about these words. Just to clarify...
Does "one-down" mean "putting myself down"? And does "others-defining" mean "believing I can define what other people are like", or does it mean "letting other people define me"?
I would guess how you have looked at yourself could use an updating.
It seems there are two ways to go about this.
I could think about, list, and focus on my positive aspects; the good I've done in the world, the joy I've brought to other people, my talents/strengths/achievements, the people I respect who like and love me, etc. (This approach which I've read about in self-esteem books seems essentially to be 'selfing' and trying to convince my 'self' that my 'self' is good enough.)
Or I could see that how I look at myself is all THOUGHT and not real. It's made of stories and concepts that do not match up with reality. Concentrate on seeing that the 'self' IS NOT REAL TO BEGIN WITH and therefore neither are the negative stories.
Would you recommend doing both or just concentrating on the latter 'no-self' approach?
In the rest of your message you talked a lot about... 'good', 'bad', 'right', 'wrong' being constructs, many commonly held beliefs and much of politics being essentially a means of people grabbing power and making others do what they want them to do, societal pressure, programming, misplaced sense of duty, giving authority to others.
This lead to me examining an aspect of my self-referential thinking that consistently causes me suffering; guilt.
For several years I have felt chronic guilt over my lifestyle in a certain area. That area is sexual relationships. I have decided that I do not want children or sexual exclusivity. I do not want to be sexually exclusive and I do not expect or want anybody to give me their sexual exclusivity. I am very open and honest about this with all relevant people and so I find people for whom this arrangement is perfectly fine and I form win/win, self- and other- (according to everything they've ever told me) enhancing sexual, friend, lover relationships. Everything is entirely open, honest, consensual, and above board. And yet I feel chronically guilty about it and have done for about a decade. To the extent that these significant others tease me lightheartedly about my 'Catholic guilt' or in some cases get exasperated with me for checking are they "sure
" they are OK with this one too many times. This painful guilt has been very dominant in my mental world for a long time now. It has been time and energy consuming and it has lead to me not enjoying my relationships or being as enjoyable company as I would otherwise be in several instances.
But I've been digging into this from a no-self perspective, and a realization has occurred...
'Guilt' is not real. 'Guilt' is a label for a collection of thoughts and emotions. This collection of thoughts and emotions is NOT 'guilt' - 'guilt' is a label I use to describe the collection (it is probably the case that this collection I label 'guilt' is very different to other collections of thoughts and emotions that other people also label 'guilt'.) 'Guilt' is a vague label.
By labeling the collection of thoughts and emotions 'guilt' I am making it into a THING, a noun - I am giving it power... "oh no, here comes the GUILT again!". Labeling this collection of thoughts and emotions gives it more power than it deserves or needs to be given. Labeling it almost has the effect of marketing
it - giving it a catchy and memorable title that makes it easier to remember, identify with, pay attention to.
It makes it more likely to come again and again. But guilt is itself
ONLY A STORY. There is a story that appears in awareness that goes "I always feel guilty and I can't get rid of it". But this story is merely a thought construct - a conceptual layer or lens through which reality is seen but that does not touch or equal reality itself at all. But this story of 'My Guilt' is a story that appears in awareness and tends to be identified with strongly and given a lot of attention.
"I feel guilty" is NOT TRUE. There is no 'I', and 'guilty' is a label. Both 'I' and 'guilty' are concepts that do not correspond to anything that exists in reality. The story "I feel guilty etc" is NOT real (or even true the vast majority of the time), but I live as if
it is true.
It is always NOW. THIS right NOW is all that really
exists. The story of 'my guilt' exists entirely in thought and has no existence in reality. It points to a vague collection of thoughts and emotions that arise in 'my' brain and body. This 'guilt' arises in my brain only and has no existence outside my brain, and WOULD NOT BE AGREED TO BE WARRANTED BY ANYBODY CONNECTED TO THE (guilt-provoking) SITUATION. NONE of the people involved or that I have ever talked about this situation to believe that any guilt is reasonable or warranted. (I also believe, rationally, that the guilt is not warranted - and this makes its continued existence MORE frustrating!)
The guilt is entirely made of my own thoughts. These thoughts occur HABITUALLY (the guilt thoughts are there anyway
and get connected to whatever girl(s) happen to be in my life at the time). I (the organism) must have learned this collection of thoughts and emotions at some time in the past and now they just keep on running, popping up ON AUTOPILOT (handily and memorably labelled 'Guilt'). And because it is a habitually generated story made of unchosen, uncontrollable thoughts (that are NOT what I am), it just keeps reappearing and I keep identifying with it by directing attention to it and therefore fueling
the story with attention.
There is no guilt. Right now this moment - no guilt. But there is a story that says "I am a person that suffers from irrational guilt that I can't get rid of". And this story keeps itself alive, it fuels itself, and stirs-up, again and again, this collection of thoughts and emotions labelled 'Guilt'. Therefore the guilt story feeds itself!
This 'guilt' is farted out by the brain and awareness gives huge amounts of attention to it. BUT the reality is that I am not these thoughts - they arrive unbidden, unchosen, uncontrollable, habitually in awareness and the 'self' IDENTIFIES with them.
Identifying with the thoughts and emotions and seeing them as highly meaningful and a part of ME, and trying to fix them, seems to give them more
power. This approach could help me and others dis-identify with all sorts of painful, chronic, irrational emotions.