• Quote of the Day
    "There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered."
    Nelson Mandela, posted by Daniel

Daniel

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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'
 

David Baxter

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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.
 

Ash

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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!
 

Daniel

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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...
 

Daniel

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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...
 

Daniel

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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?
 

Daniel

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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. .
 

Daniel

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Re: the ego as a painful illusion

"Death is a stripping away of all that is not you. The secret of life is to die before you die — and find that there is no death."

— Eckhart Tolle
 

desiderata

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I first learned of the self and mindfulness well over 20 years ago reading "wherever you go there you are" by Jon Kabat-Zinn. He also liked to use quotes from Emerson.
 

Daniel

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“When you get out of the driver’s seat, you find that life can drive itself, that actually life has always been driving itself. When you get out of the driver’s seat, it can drive itself so much easier—it can flow in ways you never imagined. Life becomes almost magical. The illusion of the “me” is no longer in the way. Life begins to flow, and you never know where it will take you.”

― Adyashanti, The End of Your World
 

Daniel

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The Acceptance Paradox | Feeling Good
by David Burns

Let's say you struggle with anxiety and shyness. You may have the fear that others will judge you because you are inferior, or not "good enough", and this thought can cause tremendous suffering. But this thought is based on the notion that you have a "self" that can be evaluated or judged. When you see through this notion, you can experience liberation from your fears.

The Buddhists called this "The Great Death". Of course, we all fear death, and struggle to keep our egos alive. But once you've "died", so to speak, you can join the Grateful Dead, and then life suddenly opens up in unexpected ways. And for those who may misread me, or interpret my words literally, I am not referring to physical death, but death of the "self".
 

Daniel

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"You find peace not by rearranging the circumstances of your life, but by realizing who you are at the deepest level."

— Eckhart Tolle


“We don’t realize that, somewhere within us all, there does exist a supreme self who is eternally at peace.”

— Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love
 

Daniel

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You're a Completely Different Person at 14 and 77, the Longest-Running Personality Study Ever Has Found

If your patterns of thought, emotions, and behavior so drastically alter over the decades, can you truly be considered the same person in old age as you were as a teenager? This question ties in with broader theories about the nature of the self. For example, there is growing neuroscience research that supports the ancient Buddhist belief that our notion of a stable “self” is nothing more than an illusion.

Perhaps this won’t surprise you if you’ve had the experience of running into a very old friend from school, and found a completely different person from the child you remembered. This research suggests that, as the decades go by, your own younger self could be similarly unrecognizable.
 

Daniel

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'Humans were not centre stage': how ancient cave art puts us in our place | Art and design | The Guardian

4928.jpg
The Cave of Altamira in Spain


In the Paleolithic age, humans were probably less concerned about the opinions of other humans than with the actions and intentions of the far more numerous megafauna around them. Would the herd of bison stop at a certain watering hole? Would lions show up to attack them? Would it be safe for humans to grab at whatever scraps of bison were left over from the lions' meal? The vein of silliness that seems to run through Paleolithic art may grow out of an accurate perception of humans' place in the world. Our ancestors occupied a lowly spot in the food chain, at least compared to the megafauna, but at the same time they were capable of understanding and depicting how lowly it was. They knew they were meat, and they also seemed to know that they knew they were meat –- meat that could think. And that, if you think about it long enough, is almost funny.
 

Daniel

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The Key to a Good Life? Lose Yourself in Something.

Unfortunately, the current ethos promotes self absorption. Examples include social media; the supposed importance of building a “personal brand”; or the self-improvement and self-esteem movements. More than ever, it seems, we’re being being sold the idea of a separate self. This is a trap. And while there are a handful of ways out, I want to briefly explore two of the most dependable ones.

Pursue Mastery (In Anything)

Be Kind
 

Daniel

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Scientists Say Your "Mind" Isn't Confined to Your Brain, or Even Your Body

Our mind cannot be confined to what’s inside our skull, or even our body, according to a definition first put forward by Dan Siegel, a professor of psychiatry at UCLA School of Medicine and the author of the 2016 book, Mind: A Journey to the Heart of Being Human...

"In our modern society we have this belief that mind is brain activity and this means the self, which comes from the mind, is separate and we don't really belong. But we're all part of each others' lives. The mind is not just brain activity. When we realize it's this relational process, there's this huge shift in this sense of belonging."

In other words, even perceiving our mind as simply a product of our brain, rather than relations, can make us feel more isolated. And to appreciate the benefits of interrelations, you simply have to open your mind.
 

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