Friday, October 30, 2009

Huffington Post Column 4 - What of What You Are Is No Longer You?

On his website at, HP blogger Dr. Pavel Somov says:

Mind is its own hostage. Each belief, each schema, each defense is both an adaptation and a handicap. The very anchors that have helped you feel grounded may now hold you down with all the weight of their historical usefulness… Yes, mind is its own hostage... But mind is also its own search-and-rescue.  Take a look at what of what you are is no longer you…

It may be that this hit me at a particularly opportune time, or maybe I'm so much of a Zen geek that it struck me, but I find myself haunted by this concept.

He prefaces the statement with a quote from a song by Russian musician, Boris Grebenschikov, who is described in Wikipedia as one of the founders of Russian rock music:

"There's only one way out of prison, which is to set your jailer free."

(The Time, Radio Silence, 1989 CBS Records)

which only complicates the matter further. If I'm my hostage to "each belief, each schema, each defense," then how do I "set my jailer free?"

For example, if I have an old, long-established behavior pattern, the more of less standard way to approach that is "well, that's just Ed," and most people in my life kind of accept it with a shrug and a tolerant smile. Yet in another area of my life, where different things are expected of me, the response when that pattern arises is "Ed's not himself today" from people who know me well and "Ed's behaving in an unacceptable way" from those who don't. So which "Ed" is me? In Somov's terms, which is the what I am that is no longer me? I guess it's for me to say.

But hold on, it's not that simple, because this "adaptation and handicap," this "anchor that helped me feel grounded" is what I've historically considered not just "useful," but "me!" It's one thing to declare that that's no longer me, and another to experience it as suddenly alien when it comes up.

The point is that, while I think Somov is right, and have even coached people along just those lines, when I am in the grip of an old pattern I don't experience it as alien to me but rather as exactly how I need to be at that moment. So how do I "set my jailer free" if I don't experience being in jail?

I'm betting that the answer is outside of me. As a coach, I must surrender to being coached; I must find someone I trust completely and bet that when I forget who I am committed to being and think that I'm who I have always been, he or she will know and remind me and return me to how I want to be. In other words the way to set your jailer free is to find someone to aid and abet in the jailbreak.

In my seventh decade of life, I've been actively engaged in my own personal and spiritual development for at least half my life, and I know it's never done, so I'm under no delusion that this will be the end of the story. If (and it really is "if" for me) I beat this particular demon, there will be another, but at least it'll be different.

I'll keep you posted.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What I love about this blog is it doesn't leave me agreeing or disagreement. It leaves with thinking and reflecting. How wonderful!