War, Part 1: At War with Myself

The Battle Rages
I’m at war, right now.

Not on some distant battlefield, halfway around the world.
Here, in my heart.

I don’t always notice the battle.
Sometimes I don’t even feel it.

Maybe I notice a brief inner struggle while reaching for a piece of cake.
Part of me wants the pleasure, while another part of me says that it’s not good for me.

It’s like I have soldiers of different armies, with opposing goals, fighting it out within me.

Then there are the personality/emotional wars.
There’s one part of me that’s calm, thoughtful of what others need, and focused on what’s truly important in life.

Then there’s another part of me.
He’s unhappy, angry, better than everyone else.

The Many
There are too many “I”s within me to count. The physical drives within me have certain priorities. My various emotions, dreams, and thoughts have many other priorities, and push me in a wide range of directions.

Many of the personalities or character “traits” within me directly oppose some of the others.
When I’m acting tough or self-absorbed I may have disdain for the compassionate one, and when I’m in the grip of the loving personality, I may find the hateful part of myself unbearable.

There are different emotions appropriatein different situations. There are distinct situations where love, joy, hope, even anger could each be appropriate. We don’t act and feel the same way at all times. That’s not the problem.

But we often act, or feel in contradictory ways in a single situation.
And I feel for a moment that I’m lying to myself, that I’m betraying my sense of what I know is right.

The strangest thing about this collection of contradictions is that I have one name, and that I pretend to be one consistent personality.

It’s like someone started 100 songs playing at once.
Would the listener hear any of them clearly?

Built for Possibility
Why don’t we notice the contradictions and hypocrisy of our actions more clearly?
Why doesn’t this situation drive us mad, or motivate us to change?

Here’s one way to look at it:
You’re built to handle the contradictions. Your mind is capable of considering dramatically different approaches to life. Your mind is a great simulator, able to consider a dozen or a thousand approaches to a situation, and life in general.

Each program, each goal, each simulation can be set up in isolation so that we can learn from the unique insights of a particular approach, and different situations may require different behavior.

What’s the problem, then?

Let’s say that you want to send a package from New York to Chicago, an 18 hour drive.
You appoint a driver who starts to travel along a direct route for a couple of hours.

Then that driver gets tired, or hungry, or bored. He stops at a truck stop, and tosses the package at random to another driver who is sitting there. Maybe that person is going to Chicago and maybe not. The first driver may not even tell the second where the package is going. Who know where the package will end up?

There’s extraordinary possibility present in each of us. We can barely imagine the places we can go and the things that we can accomplish if we would focus on passionate goals and keep moving steadily in the direction of those goals.

Instead, we’ve taken the incredible flexibility that our mind possesses, and used it to build an inner world of warring personalities who keep switching goals, switching direction, and accomplishing relatively little.

It’s one thing to simulate different, contradictory approaches to life. It’s something entirely different to try to live multiple, contradictory lives at the same time, in one body.

When the multiple personalities in an individual consider themselves completely different, don’t pretend to be a single person, and often have different memories we call that Schizophrenia.

The difference for most of us is that our warring personalities pretend to be a single person, and don’t view themselves so distinctly. And we share all our memories.

How did we get here?
We didn’t decide to do this consciously, of course.

We’re not born knowing what to do.
We learn. We grow.

And I inevitably have goals for myself that reach far beyond who I am now.
So I have to be able to live with who I am now as I keep moving forward.

My goals don’t make the present me blameworthy or bad.

The difference between now and my future isn’t a contradiction.
It’s a gap. It’s a force that pulls me forward toward the future.

The power of that difference to move me depends on me feeling the gap.
If I pretend that there’s no gap, there’s nowhere to go.

I’ll Pretend. You pretend.
When we were children, our parents and the world around us was full of contradictions.
We were taught to believe in stories that are full of contradictions:

  • You’re told that you “can’t”. You’re told that you’re not capable of doing certain things, just because your parents or your society think it’s too hard.
  • You have to pretend that everything’s fine when it’s not
  • You have to pretend to be in control. Pretend that you have a way to deal with everything: give in, attack, avoid
  • No one’s perfect, but it’s bad to make mistakes
  • When you feel that something’s not right, look for someone to blame instead of accepting responsibility to do what’s in your power to do

What happened when we were forced to pretend that lies were true?
We learned how to justify ourselves. We learned how to explain away the contradictions and to bury the feelings that arose from contradiction.

Contradictory behavior is so common around us that we’ve come to expect it.
In contrast, people we meet who have clear, powerful goals and act consistently with their goals astound us.

These are the people of great personal power in this world.
You and I can cast off our old stories and find that power for ourselves.

(Read Inner Contradictions, Part 2: The Story of You)

Inner War                     Next in Series >>
  1. War, Part 1: At War with Myself
  2. War, Part 2: The Story of You and the Lies You Tell
  3. War, Part 3: At War with Others

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