Embracing Imperfection & The Predictability Of Values
It’s time to face the music, people are ridiculously predictable.
It’s our nature.
As the old adage rightfully declares, “human beings are creatures of habit.”
It rains and we mumble and grumble in our artificial caves.
The sun breaks and we run to its rays like a bathing iguana.
Sure, we are a bit more nuanced and complex than a herd of cattle, yet our movements and patterns are pathetically formulaic.
So, how can we hack this design to our advantage?
The trick is to correlate our patterns of behavior with our patterns of thought – allow the predictability to flow rather than be forced by white-knuckled will.
This is because predictability fosters security, that is why it’s so crucial.
If it’s forced, it can hardly be predictable in the truest sense because the second the force begins to deplete so will the predictability and the security it provides.
The Natural Flow of Values
Values naturally create predictability and security (see my article: The Four Absolutes: The Real Origins Of AA).
If one lives detached from these values they must manipulate their surroundings to create the same predictability and security.
Confused? Let me try to break it down a bit further.
Remember, as a species, we are formulaic and thrive in consistency. All action we take is seemingly to achieve this end.
However, there is an ethical fork which presents two roads – one of truth and the other of deception.
For instance, if I have a core value regarding relationships which states
- That each individual should be treated with honor and respect
- That honest communication should be the standard by which needs are met interdependently, and
- That love means nothing more than contributing to each other existence regardless of personal feeling or difference
Then how should I handle an abusive relationship?
Naturally, that value should effectively bar the potentiality let alone the actuality of such a relationship, nonetheless, I find myself in it.
Well, I molded my abuser per my values.
That’s not as absurd as it sounds if I convinced myself that they were something other than what they are.
I’d simply laser target and amplify the areas in their lives where they are in accord with my value and minimize, if not abandon entirely, the areas where they grossly deviate.
The Amplification Proclamation
We must bring our attention to the fact that we choose this.
It may not necessarily be at the forefront of our consciousness and there are most likely factors from your past that are influential.
Nonetheless, once we coerce it into our awareness, we are confronted with a choice.
We can either separate the idea from the person and see the individual as incapable of fitting our value-mold then perhaps move on.
Or, we can make the infamous amplification proclamation.
This is nothing less than continuing to accentuate the perceived good – a corollary being the minimization of the bad – and ultimately perpetuate our own abuse.
Eventually, we will be unable to differentiate the true from the false and almost entirely unable to see the bad even when evil is staring us in the face.
We will effectively blind ourselves to the truth all in an effort to keep our system consistent and intact, but instead, we lost our ability to reason – we’ve essential lost power of the will.
How To Regain The Will
Per Carl Rogers – the great humanist psychologist of the twentieth century – we encounter self-actualization only in a state of congruence.
Self-actualization is “the tendency “to fulfill one’s potential and achieve the highest level of ‘human-beingness’ we can,”
This zenith of human potential occurs only when a person’s ‘ideal self’ (i.e., who they would like to be) is congruent or consistent with their actual behavior (self-image).”
This is another way of saying when who we want to be (our projected values) is in agreement with our self-image (our projected self).
This congruence or consistency is demanded because it’s the real drive behind human function.
Whether the agreement is real (an actual alignment between our self-ideal and our self-image) or it is a lie (a manipulated agreement i.e. amplification proclamation and minimization), this is the determinative factor – the need for congruence/consistency
If this doesn’t make sense, I am prepared to confuse you more. Strap in and hold tight.
Freudian Triad: Id, Superego, and Ego.
Sigmund Freud was…well, let’s just leave it at he was different.
As all “different” people are, his creative and innovative thought processes produced entire worldviews and therapeutic paradigms that still have a powerful hold on contemporary psychiatric thought.
Whether I agree or not is irrelevant. Power is found in concept creation and development, and Freud was, to say the least, a conceptual engineer – he was able to stimulate deep thought in his successors.
One of his concepts, which was as ancient as revolutionary, was that of the Id, the Superego, and the Ego.
Congruence From A Different Angle
Let’s look at it a little more focused.
What’s the Id? It is primitive wants, impulses, and drives.
What is the Superego? It is more or less the socialized or domesticated aspect of humanity – resembling a conscience of sorts.
And what is the ego? It is the conscious self and therefore the arbiter between the two.
Thus, whereas the Id and Superego are irresponsible, irrational, and unconscious, the ego is responsible, rational, and conscious.
The Freudian Highlight Reel
Let me be a psychological commentator of sorts and give a John Madden-like play by play.
The Id is barbaric, at least in the sense of having a want and letting nothing stand in the way of satiation. Granted, most of its desires are fairly basic needs, the Id knows nothing of social propriety (contrast this with my article regarding Plato’s tripartite soul).
The Texas Ranger of social law is the Superego, prepared to carry out the strictest punishments for the tiniest of infractions. Ruthless and relentless it has one purpose – to strike guilt in the heart of the ego.
Therefore the ego lives in an apartment, lit only by candlelight in the midst of heavy darkness, curled up in the dusty corner of the empty pantry feeling only strong desire and immense guilt.
Starving for resolution yet experiencing only conflict.
Dying for vindication but only experiencing an existence it cannot justify and for this a consistent guilty verdict, regardless of numerous appeals.
To cultivate an awareness that the Superego sets an impossible standard, that the guilt is a pang of false guilt, and that the Id can be satisfied by meeting the most basic of needs – needs which can be discovered and unrepressed through deep psychological excavation.
But could it be something a bit more simple? Something more about consistency and values rather than deep psyche expeditions?
Similar to Rogers, though preceding him by many years, Freud saw the Superego as not only the moral fiber of the psyche but also the component of self which constructs its image, its ambitions, its goals, etc.
In short, it constructs the ideal self – which is either realistic or unrealistic.
Unrealistic and we have incongruence (amplification proclamation and minimization) or it’s realistic and we have the beginnings of self-actualization.
Valid consistency versus invalid consistency
Because one’s self-image, their actual behavior, must embody the ideal.
Focus too much on the image and blur the ideal.
Focus too much on the ideal and make an impossible image.
So congruence is a balancing act and it’s consistent. That doesn’t mean it’s perfect, just consistent.
Consistency is crucial for the harmony of all invested parts – a holistic congruence.
So, what’s the key to holistic congruence?
One word: Honesty.
That’s the one key ingredient.
If the triangle ceases to have three sides it thus ceases to be a triangle.
If the holistically healthy individual ceases to be honest he or she thus ceases to be a holistically healthy individual.
Brings us back to predictability because honesty leaves no room for overwhelming fear.
You might be wondering, “How is that possible?”
It’s by the very fact that honesty fosters its own security.
Our fear actually fears it…
But that’s just the unreasonable demand of the Superego; a heavy bent toward the ideal or the angel (we will get to this shortly!).
Therefore, if honesty is consistently employed it becomes the shell that encapsulates empathy – the only weapon capable of breaking shame.
I know what you’re thinking, “Does this post ever end! What in the heck is shame?”
Well, I’m glad you asked 🙂
Shame is the state of mind of the incongruent life – it helpless, broken, and lost; constantly striving to earn its mark, to prove and validate its existence.
It’s in constant sway between two poles, fighting the tension, rather than becoming it.
Still striving for perfection.
What’s worse, is when shame takes the lead it thinks it’s creating congruence!
Unfortunately, as we’ve all experienced, it’s consistent madness.
This is how the basic mechanics of shame work: attempting to create congruence by means of control, coercion, denial, lust, addiction, fantasy, minimization, self-deception ad infinitum.
Or, to put it another way, it’s external consistency as opposed to internal consistency.
The amplification proclamation is therefore combated with rigorous honesty. I’m sure that’s obvious, like telling a drug addict to just not drink.
Nonetheless, it’s that simple.
We Just Don’t Like The Options!
We always have a choice, but the choice is often limited to a strict set of options.
We very well may dislike each of those options, but that’s what’s in our control so that it where we must work from.
To try and change the situation or circumstance prior to engaging one of the available options is simply another way of refusing to accept the options, thus falling headlong into shame and incongruence.
It bears repeating, you may not like your options but attempting to create options that don’t exist is merely the birth of psychosis – living in a reality that does not exist.
How To Break Free From Radical Incongruence
A Spirituality Of Imperfection
According to Ernest Kurtz shame/inauthenticity is overcome by transcendence (a multifaceted word) and since shame is the flight into incongruence, its antidote will also be the key to congruence.
He compares shame with guilt – the two are often used interchangeably but this is a grave mistake. Guilt has to do with forgiveness and reformation where a law is broken and restitution must be paid for absolution. Shame, on the other hand, has to do with identity and demands an alteration in perception, a renewal or recreation; namely a complete transformation to be absolved.
Guilt is a wound that can be mended… Shame is a sickness of the consciousness that thinks it can create internal congruence in ways which it cannot – it only delivers momentary glimpses of it.
Hence it’s danger.
The Solution: Transcendence
How is transcendence acquired?
You guessed it – values.
Yet, how does one set the standard of values which are impossible to uphold without its accompanying shame?
Once more, it’s honesty – but honesty in the right form, namely with a motive of empathy and vulnerability.
It’s more or less concepts to be acquiesced and accepted. It’s submission to a paradox of confusion.
How’s it done?
One does it with their humanness – not delusions of divinity. Yet, at the same time, one does it with their divinity – not delusions of their humanness.
Blaise Pascal touched upon this when he wrote, “Man is neither angel nor beast, and unhappily whoever wants to act the angel, acts the beast.”
In other words, man is neither Id or Superego – he is both!
Man is neither angel nor beast – he is both!
Shame is the consequence of a strong sway in one direction.
Try to become fully angel and you’ll become a self-righteous beast. Try to become fully beast and the angel condemns the conscience unyieldingly.
Therefore, though values perhaps be infinite are entrusted to finite souls…
The truth is that man is neither angel nor a beast. Man is the tension that resides between. Thus, man is both. A walking contradiction. An imperfection. This, we must fully know – this is transcendence, the path of congruence: awareness.
We must be honest knowing full well that we will never be precisely what we think others want us to be. This takes immense vulnerability and ultimately maximum brokenness (hence the whole rock bottom piece). Further, sometimes the outcomes suck, but it is what it is.
At the end of the day we have two choices:
- Go for perfection and let shame win
- Go for vulnerability and let life win.
From the words of Our Lady of Asgaard,
“Everyone fails at who they’re supposed to be, Thor. The measure of a person, of a hero, is how well they succeed at being who they are.”
Thank you for permitting this rant.