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  1. #1

    The Curse of the Self

    I just read the August issue of Psychology Today. Its article "Get Over Yourself!" is an excerpt from the new book "The Curse of the Self."

    The premise of The Curse of the Self: Self-Awareness, Egotism, and the Quality of Human Life is nothing new: Self-awareness is a double-edged sword and the "the primary cause of your unhappiness will be you."

    The best part of the article lists ways to quiet the self:

    1. Reduce self-chatter. ("The techniques of meditation can minimize self-thought.")
    2. Resist the urge to defend your ego. ("Remember that threats to your ego usually have no real implications...")
    3. Practice self-compassion. ("When failures occur...be gentle with yourself.")
    4. Don't overfeed the self. ("Chronically setting and pursuing goals can lead to seeing the purpose of life today as the achievement of some goal tomorrow.")
    5. Don't believe everything you think. ("Recognize that you do not always have an accurate view of yourself and of the world.")
    The article reminds me of Buddhism (the "self" is a painful illusion), Zen Buddhism (live spontaneously--"If you are hungry eat, if you are tired sleep"), Schopenhauer (the intellect can't compete with desire), Dr. Dyer ("connecting to source"), and the late Joseph Campbell (we need "myths to live by").

    I think this article/book may help anxiety more than depression because "quieting the self" may be more calming than energizing.

    For depression, the best advice in the article is probably "don't believe everything you think." Of course, this suggestion is the hallmark of classic self-help book "You Can't Afford the Luxury of a Negative Thought" by Peter McWilliams. (All of Peter McWilliams's self-help books are now available free online.)

    The article also reminds me of a quote from the book The User Illusion:
    Although we are unaware of it, our brains sift through and discard billions of pieces of data in order to allow us to understand the world around us. In fact, most of what we call thought is actually the unconscious discarding of information...What our consciousness rejects constitutes the most valuable part of ourselves. No wonder that, in this age of information, so many of us feel empty and dissatisfied.
    Some more info:
    WFU psychologist explains the 'curse of the self'
    "What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

  2. #2

    The Curse of the Self (New Book)

    Interesting -- thanks for the references, Daniel.

    There have been a few interesting books and articles in recent years approaching a synthesis of Buddhism and psychotherapy (e.g., Thoughts Without A Thinker, Journey of the Heart). I find this quite fascinating.

  3. #3

    The Curse of the Self (New Book)

    I'm very glad that you brought up those points, Daniel. It's true that we are our own worst enemies. I personally have major issues calming myself. Anxiety can be a royal pain in the butt. I've tried meditation but quieting my mind is extremely difficult.

    I especially liked the point of resisting the urge to defend your ego. That seems to be in line with Taoism and I find it to be very important. The ego gets in the way of living a happy, productive life. It also causes you to deal with others in a way that is not healthy.

    Thanks again for sharing this!

  4. #4

    Re: The Curse of the Self (New Book)

    Know Thyself: Easier Said Than Done
    NYTimes.com

    ...I suspect the real problem may be not that we know too little about our mental states but that we know too much. We are asked to say “what it’s like” — to dream, to imagine, to feel — as if there ought to be a simple answer: colored or not, single or double, in the head or in the heart. But, when it comes to it, the rich totality of our experience will not fit the Procrustean bed that philosophy, and everyday discourse also, tries to impose on it...
    "What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

  5. #5

    Re: The Curse of the Self (New Book)

    Related video interview with Mark Epstein:

    Can Buddhism and Psychology Co-Exist? - ABC News


    (May not play outside of the U.S.)
    "What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

  6. #6

    Re: The Curse of the Self (New Book)

    Eckhart Tolle on How to Free Yourself from Your Ego Armor - OWN TV

    Vanity and pride are what most of us tend to think of when we think of ego, but ego is much more than an overinflated sense of self. It can also turn up in feelings of inferiority or self-hatred because ego is any image you have of yourself that gives you a sense of identity—and that identity derives from the things you tell yourself and the things other people have been saying about you that you've decided to accept as truth.

    One way to think about ego is as a protective heavy shell, such as the kind some animals have, like a big beetle. This protective shell works like armor to cut you off from other people and the outside world...
    "What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

  7. #7

    Re: The Curse of the Self (New Book)

    One Brain, Many Selves? | Neuroself

    ...In my own work, I have come to the conclusion that the self, as western society understands it the private thing, the private conscious experience, which has always co-varied with a single brain or body or named individual is not what Wittgenstein called a natural kind. It is a social construct. But once our technology makes this evident, what is going to happen to our Enlightenment assumptions about the individual?
    "What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

  8. #8

    Re: The Curse of the Self (New Book)

    From a new episode of Shrink Rap Radio:

    Well, it turns out that pretty much everything your brain is doing is running under the hood of conscious awareness; your
    brain is constantly performing these tremendously complex operations
    that you have no access to or no acquaintance with so you know,
    when you do something really simple like pick up a telephone to your
    ear, it's underpinned by a lightening storm of neural activity but you
    don't detect any of that and if it weren't for biology, we wouldn't even
    have any reason to suspect the existence of muscles or nerves or
    electrical signals because it's all totally invisible to us and of course it's
    not just motor acts like picking up the telephone, but it's recognizing a
    friends face or falling in love or making any of the decisions we do or
    the beliefs we have or the actions we chose to make. All of these
    things are underpinned by these massive operations that we are just
    not aware of. All we ever receive is the sort of end product and this is
    what we think of as the conscious mind but the conscious mind it turns
    out is the smallest bit of what is happening. .
    "What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

  9. #9

    Re: The Curse of the Self (New Book)

    "What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

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