CoffeeHouse Philosophy #27

Seeking Reasons to Feel Good About Ourselves

Navigating the labyrinth of the mind – The answers for successfully navigating this world, life and feeling well all reside there. Tracing the pathways to a beneficial set of beliefs, thoughts and perception of reality can be challenging. It took me practically a lifetime to determine that this was even possible (and still, I must remind myself of this each day). Must our sense of self worth come from events in the external world? It seems that our minds try to tell us so. I happen to have a hobby of growing bamboo. The other night I discovered a languishing bamboo culm (stalk) on a new specimen I had planted. Was this caused by gophers or something falling against it? I felt I must save it regardless. The leaves were curling, it was loose in the dirt, attached to one long, spindly root and sure to perish. Later I thought about how good I would feel about myself if I succeeded in starting new plants from sections of this compromised culm. How odd, looking for a reason to feel good about myself! Evolutionarily there is a healthy and natural part to this since animals need something to motivate them to live and flourish. That something is impulse satisfaction. If an animal did not feel something negative when it failed to satisfy an urge it may not attempt to improve its tactics. Even though we have free will and advanced intelligence, we still run to a large extent on impulse satisfaction. We however, have a unique challenge apart from other animals. When we fail at satisfying a desire, we think about it. All manner of things are invented to explain external occurrences and we assign meaning. The damaging mind-inventions are the ones that say something like, ‘I am inferior and this is why’. Having been through our own experiences both positive and negative we have each formed and set into memory, unique pathways through the maze of our psyche. Thus we have varying ‘programs’ running in the background affecting our perception of the world. Some of us attempt to prove to ourselves that we are ‘OK’ as this would in turn mean that we are worthy of the life we desire. If we are trapped in this ‘proving to our self mode’, we must somehow upgrade to the ‘confidently moving forward with plans mode’ if we wish to advance. The proving mode, suggests an underlying belief of insufficiency. This is akin to a ‘bug’ in the software. It might be interesting during periods of introspection or meditation to tease out the self defeating programs and follow their pathway back from whence they came. We desire success just as we desire a meal when hungry. However to crave continuous little successes in order to feel worthy seems like an addiction. This suggests a focus on, or a perception of some basic lack. Satisfying the addiction takes the place of something more fundamental such as a natural sense of self worth. At the very least it is worth a bit of exploration through the paths of the forest of our mind.

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