This is something that helped me massively, and I think it would help you as well. I’ll explain it in the simplest terms I can, in the way I understand it. I hope that will be enough for you to understand it too.
I didn’t discover this approach myself. I learned it from a friend.
So first – what is this, and what did it help?
Think back to your earliest memory. A real memory, a time from kindergarten, or earlier.
You’ll have a sense that you experienced the world very differently back then. Colors were more vibrant, feelings were more intense, you had a sense of wonder, you were happier and more carefree (given a stable living environment, of course).
Most of us remember something like that. If you don’t, look at a baby – at how they’re looking at the world. You can see how mesmerized they are by everything.
We all know, over time, it life slowly lost its vibrancy, peace, and wonder. Yes we can still small glimpses of it in nature, and bigger ones in dreams (and on psychedelics?), but our daily lives are dulled.
Most people assume it’s responsibility, familiarity, or just the harshness of reality which took that away.
I’m going to propose that it’s another thing entirely, and that there’s a way to undo this corruption. It worked for me.
What’s the problem?
In a word, pride.
More specifically, it’s the way in which pride operates. It’s not just arrogance. It’s the automatic process where our mind is constantly building a false image of a good person – a good you.
We become mesmerized by this image, addicted to it, addicted to trying to become more like it, and addicted to convincing others that we are it. We worship it, essentially.
You can see this happening very easy if you watch your thoughts.
Find a charity online, donate $10 to it. Actually do this now. Fuck it, it’s a charity. Watch your thoughts afterwards. They’ll be an automatic impulse to start praising yourself for doing this.
“I did something good!”
Or, if you’re more of a cynical bastard like me, and didn’t donate:
“I don’t need to actually do this, I can understand all of this without it.”
The actual contents of your thoughts aren’t important. There’s a million different ways this could play out. The point is – all of your thoughts point in the direction of you as a worthwhile person. Or smart, or good, or honest, or humble. Whatever you personally value of yourself. All thoughts point in the direction of vanity.
And by all, I mean all. Even simple thoughts like “what will I eat today?” That “I” isn’t real, it’s it doesn’t point to anything real, it points to a fake mental image of yourself as a good person.
If you start arguing with this in your head, look at those thoughts. “I already know this!” (I’m so smart). “This isn’t true, I think other things.” (Therefore I’m not completely corrupt). “I may do this now, but I’m trying to be a better person.” (I’m good because I’m trying). In some way, all thoughts turn towards your own goodness.
We all know we do this sometimes, we all ourselves being prideful once in a while. But it’s the times when we *don’t* catch ourselves doing it which are the problem. That’s where the false self is hidden from us.
Here’s one of the main false assumptions that sustains that camouflage:
“I feel kind, loving feelings towards someone, so I must be a kind loving person.”
Feelings of kindness don’t count as evidence of kindness. The only thing which counts as evidence of kindness is the act of doing something nice to someone else for their own sake.
And even that isn’t evidence of you being kind. “You” can’t be kind, you are a fake mental image. Kindness doesn’t come from you, anymore so than hair color comes from you. It may come from an instinct that our bodies naturally carry out, it may come from something greater than that. It doesn’t come from you.
So what we have are feelings of love or kindness that are used as evidence to build a mental image of a good person. Nowhere in this equation are actual nice acts towards other people involved. If you actually do something to improve another person’s life, that act gets used as more evidence to build that false image of a good person, so we can look at it and be mesmerized.
And not just feelings of love or kindness. Intellectual acts are used as evidence to build a prideful image of a smart person (but intellect doesn’t come from you). Determination and preservation are used as evidence to build an image of a valuable person (but these qualities are based on a million factors, none of which originate from “you”)
I think humans *have* to be mesmerized by something. Or love someone. Naturally, it should be the beauty and wonder inherent in the world. The pseudoself (fake self) corrupts this process, turning all of our feelings of beauty and love inwards towards it.
How do you stop this from happening?
You can’t. We’ve all been conditioning ourselves for decades to do it. There might even be some deeper factor, but I don’t think it can be stopped.
However – it’s harmful effects can be broken.
Think about a magic show. We’re mesmerized by magic tricks only if we don’t know how they are performed. If we know how they are done, they just look kind of boring and fake.
If you can see the tricks that pride uses to keep you mesmerized by it, you can severely weaken its ability to fool you.
Doing this is simple, but extremely uncomfortable. Essentially, you have to see evidence in your own life of how pride operates, and how it had damaged you. Just see it – just see the magic trick.
The uncomfortable bit is this: You have to see that it is true about *everything*. If *everything* you think you care about has been corrupted by an addiction to pride, then your prideful self image has become more important to you than the actual things you care about.
In other words, you have to see how:
You care more about your self image as a caring person, than actually caring about people.
You care more about your self image as an honest person, than actually caring about the truth.
You care more about your self image as a smart person, than actually caring about doing worthwhile things with your intelligence.
You care more about your self image of “I’m trying to become a good person”, than actually doing nice things for others.
You don’t believe your beliefs, you just like how they make you look.
This isn’t a judgement, far from it. This is the damage that pride does to a person without them realizing it. So, realize it.
And I’m not saying “believe these statements”. I’m saying check if they’re true in your own life. If they aren’t, cool, I’m wrong and you’ll see exactly why and how. You’ll lose nothing and gain insight. But if they are true, then fuck. Shit. Fuck. You need to see it. You *need* to see it, or you’ll always be fooled by them.
Seeing it in individual thoughts and actions isn’t enough. Meditation can make a person do that, but meditation leaves room for the pride of “I’m improving myself”! You need to see that building a prideful false image is literally the only thing your thoughts are doing, and that prideful image is the only thing that “I” refers to when you talk about yourself.
You’re trying to trigger a process here. Keep looking until the process takes over. You’ll know when it happens, because you won’t be able to stop it.
Once it happens, things become very intense very fast. You might feel a huge sense of dread or anxiety as a response. But one of the major, and worst, symptoms of depression and anxiety is that they pull us deeper into the false image:
“I feel bad about being bad, so I must be good!”
“I’m so worried about this, so I care!”
I’m not talking about the actual feelings or neurological causes of anxiety or depression, I’m talking about how they are used as fodder to drag us deeper into pride. They aren’t caused by pride, but pride uses them to drag a person’s attention onto it.
But, you’ve seen that your fake self is fake. You’ve seen *how* it’s fake, and so anxiety and depression can’t convincingly drag you into it. The pain continues to rise, but for some reason, suffering doesn’t. It’s tolerable in a way that it shouldn’t be.
This pain might last for several days. After a while, you simply stop getting shocked by this horrible truth about yourself. It’s still true, but it’s not painful to look at anymore. Feelings you haven’t felt for a very long time start rushing in. And you’ll see your pride trying to build a fake image of an “enlightened” you.
And it’s successful. And there’s nothing you can do to stop it, but you can recognize that it has the same pattern as all the other false pride. Eventually, there’s a crash, you won’t feel as good anymore, and you can see your mind trying to scramble to get back to that peaceful wonderful place. But that’s just more “I want to be this wonderful person again” vanity. And so that desire fades away. This happens a few more times. Stay humble as fuck, because vanity fueled by these incredibly strong emotions can easily lead into madness.
You haven’t escaped the problem, your pride is still building fake self images. But they’re far less mesmerizing. The beauty of the world becomes far more mesmerizing as a replacement.
This isn’t the end of humility, but the beginning. Again, you’ve been conditioning yourself to do this for decades. The only way forward is to actually be nice to others for their own sake. To learn to truly treat others as you would yourself. To serve other people. Pride will continue to corrupt this, but it can become less than 100% corrupt. And now you have something truly beautiful you can show to others: a glimpse of Heaven on Earth.