The individual is the building block of all else. You can’t be for the group if you are against the individual. The self is no enemy, it just is. Recognizing this fact of human beings is important to letting your self be as it is. This is what I call true self-acceptance.
I’ve been thinking about the irony of the group vs. the self for a long time. Many people inherently think of “selfishness” as a bad thing, while simultaneously promoting selfish things that contribute to their health and wellbeing, like self-improvement, self-care, healthy boundaries and relationships. Many people I’ve encountered that recoil against “selfishness” even call for convoluted ideas of what they “deserve” that are remarkably greedy and demanding. It’s a tale of deep cognitive dissonance in people that are struggling to figure out the nature of what really is.
It’s also a sign of the entanglement of unhealthy relationships that disempowers everyone involved, which stems from a deep misunderstanding about boundaries. The irony is astounding. First a person will devalue their own needs, especially their need for autonomy. Then they will lay heavy obligations or demands on themselves to care for others, because all humans have the need to care for others – interconnection. And to avoid resentment, they expect the same from others as they do for themselves.
But the irony is, one of the prime needs other people have is autonomy, just like the person denying their own and becoming the martyr. Many times you have to do things for yourself. This is a reality for a balanced and liberated life. The liberated life is selfish by nature. To disentangle is to mutually claim your own autonomy and respect the autonomy of the other.
There’s an added layer of strangeness to this whole mess by people who say “the self is not real”. It might not be real, are unreal things now evil or bad? This is actually really tragic, because this kind of discovery often comes on the path through the dissolution of deep resistance, which can be directly related to enlightenment. To detox resistance, see things as they are, and grow a foundation of unshakeable inner peace.
So we have to balance these realities together to see the full truth: to be able to see the self as it is. It may not be real, and this is part of the integral reality of physical nature. You don’t have to hide from your self in fear, nor build it up into a false ego. It’s just there, and it helps us, as impermanent human beings, clearly define our actions and morality in the world.
To hate the self for it not being real is tragic, because it’s all coming from ego as shame, and continues the same old reaction. It is tragic because this path is where we have the opportunity to liberate our selves and let go of heavy burdens like old, deep shame. To begin to let ourselves lighten up and shake loose a little more. Yet so many people come onto this path and use this newfound language to continue shaming themselves. It could be called self-hatred.
Entangled further in this massive popular movement in self-hatred is something much more sinister and evil, and this is the demand for people to help others. The “helping people” part is used to disguise the toxic evil of demand and obligation. As Marshall Rosenberg has said, nobody is obligated to do anything.
This is the autonomy factor of Self-Determination. Not only is autonomy a need, it’s actually a basic physical reality of the world. Every individual is built as one closed loop, an entity operating independently of anything else. No matter what you try to do, you can’t really force anyone to do anything. The illusion of force is based on the fear of death, torture, loss, pain, and suffering.
As soon as humans established death as an opponent to life, they became afraid of death and attached to life. And this created the opportunity for manipulation and control, as well as outright violence. What the individual perceives as “force” or “no choice” is the narrowing window between the external situation and their inner resistance.
At this point we can come back to the idea of demand and obligation, and why it is so toxic or evil. For one, as extrinsic motivators are used over time, intrinsic motivation goes down. (See: Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn). So imagine the profound damage of threatening, kidnapping and putting a person in prison. Imagine how damaging this is inherently because all humans need autonomy, now on top of that, it actually decreases their intrinsic desire to stop committing the crime.
This is one of many examples of the use of demand in our daily lives, and shows that self-hatred leads to similar devaluing of other selves. It is actually attempted selflessness that leads to violence. This is because trying to get rid of something leads to violence. It is a focus on destruction instead of creation.
So if you want more autonomy in your life, if you want to see yourself intrinsically motivated to care for others, and to care effectively, come back to Self-Determination. The self is nothing to fear, for the self is not your enemy.