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Walking Together Alone

Walking Together Alone

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A friend recently suggested that people are defined by those things that bother them the most. And, although I’m not willing to accept the general proposition, I think there is something to be gained from this perspective.
A friend recently suggested that people are defined by those things that bother them the most. And, although I’m not willing to accept the general proposition, I think there is something to be gained from this perspective.

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Published by: Dr. Earl R. Smith II on Apr 21, 2008
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Walking Together Alone – Searching For the Self 
By Dr. Earl R. Smith II
Dr. Smith is a successful entrepreneur, published author and publicspeaker. He serves on boards of directors and advisory boards or as astrategic advisor to CEOs. Dr. Smith specializes in leadershipdevelopment and advising management on leadership styles. Heworks as an executive and/or life coach in the areas of personal growthand spirituality.
 You Are What Eats You
A friend recently suggested that people are definedby those things that bother them the most. And,although I’m not willing to accept the generalproposition, I think there is something to be gainedfrom this perspective. Heres a suggestion;eavesdrop on a group of close friends talking in arelaxed setting. Inevitably the conversation becomescolored by their apprehensions, phobias, maladiesand discomforts. If you listen quite closely you’ll alsonotice that certain individuals seem to be avoidingcertain topics.If you couple this with the idea that every individual must face thesame demon over and over again until they finally slay it, you mightbegin to see people as stuck within a certain cycle - only breaking thecycle when the circle is opened and becomes a spiral. The gatekeepersthat persist in maintaining these ‘vicious cycles’ are those very sameun-slain demons. So to paraphrase the theme song from the originalmovie version of the Thomas Crown Affair, life may not be a ‘circle in aspiralbut a circle which, once broken, becomes a spiral whichinevitably establishes itself as a new, and hopefully wider circle. In anycase the idea of the ‘windmills of your mind’ may seem useful whenthinking this way.Here is an experiment you can do during a quiet time. It will take a bitof courage and the comfort that you will not be interrupted – thatnobody will be looking over your shoulder. Make a list of those thingswhich distress, frighten, offend or cause you unease. It will beimportant to be honest about this list for, if you’re not, you will end upthinking about some mythical individual who you have constructed in
order to keep others (and you) from meeting your true self – you willend up criticizing the mask rather than getting to know the maker whohas felt the need to construct such a thing.Now connect items on the list with parts of whom you are or who youare becoming. In other words, try to connect items on the list withbehaviors that you see as part of you as a person. A simple examplemight be “I do not travel because I’m afraid of flying”. Still anothermight be “I avoid heights because I suffer from vertigo” or “I do notswim in the ocean because I’ve seen the movie Jaws”. A more seriousexample might be “I avoid intimate relationships because I do not trustmyself in them”.
Finally connect the behaviors with the costs that they bring. “I havealways wanted to tour Europe but it will never happen because I’mafraid to fly or I am uncomfortable in countries where English is not theprimary language.” Or “I’ve always wanted to see the Grand Canyonbut I’m afraid that I couldn’t get close enough to the edge to reallyexperience it – so I don’t go.” “My life is lonely and I crave intimacywith a special person, but I will never experience it because I fear theexposure.”
If you take this exercise seriously, you will be on your way todiscovering something very important about your self.
Wherever You Go There You Are
Where it comes to self knowledge, there is no avoiding your self – theonly choice is to avoid the process altogether.
To begin the process –to shake your own hand in greeting – is an electric event. Coming incontact with your self for the first time can bring on severe vertigo.Once the virtual distance is erased, there is nothing but the self as self – alone, isolated but sufficient unto itself. But, before real contact canpossibly occur, the dance must end – a dance which can go on fordecades unproductive and self-deceiving until the very end. Itbecomes a matter of how close you allow yourself to your own self. This complex idea may take some time and careful reflection beforeyou come to see precisely what it implies. The idea of maintaining a
I refer to this as the ‘list of the lost’ - the idea is to convert it into a ‘bucket list’ – things you are going todo or experience while you still can – before you ‘kick the bucket’.
I am reminded of a wonderful short story by Truman Capote – I believe it is in his collection
Music for Chameleons
– in which he asked an elderly lady what she had learned during her decades of life. Toparaphrase, she said “I’ve learned that I don’t have to be afraid to eat lobster. I don’t like it, but I’m notafraid to eat it anymore.” Overcoming may simply substitute a real aversion for a virtual one – I leave youto decide which one is better had.
As the old saying goes, “if you don’t want to hear the answer, avoid the question”. But then, why live atall?
discreet distance from your self – perhaps as a result of guilt, shame ora feeling of inadequacy – is presumptuous - in that it ‘presumes’ thatyou can be divided into a true self and that which prevents closecontact with that self. But, in fact, the two are one in the same. Thedistance is virtual (imagined) and is assumed as a convenience risingout of a decision to avoid self knowledge.Wherever you are is the only place which you can be at the time. Theancient Greek idea of 
is based on the assumption that the‘meaning’ is separate from ‘being’ – that the implications of ‘being’ areit’s ‘meaning’. Although this may be useful for things outside of theself, it has some insidious implications if allowed to pollute self-reflection. Self reflection is a special category – where the concept of 
is a non-sequitur. The idea of bringing the ‘self’ to the self isonly viable if that self has been artificially divided into self and ‘self’ –self and ‘mask’. The tendency towards virtual distancing is, if anything,stronger when the self reflects on itself – but it is a trap – a road tonowhere - and the tendency towards convenient self-deceptions morecompelling once it is sprung. It induces an addiction to not knowing.Consider the idea of memory. Most people casually assume that theirmemories – particularly those intensely re-lived – are connected outthere – in a world that has been experienced. But that world is goneforever – it no longer exists, if it ever actually did - and memories areonly imperfect recollections of occurrences from a single perspective.
Imperfect memories are the residual images – the detritus – of a pastwhich we carry through our lives. We tend to see those accumulatedmemories as part of us – as a component of a more complex whole.But the famous guru’s formulation –
I poked my finger into my eyewhich disturbed my min
clearly demonstrates a problem whichcannot be avoided. If it is my finger and my eye and my mind, what orwho is left as the observer? Memories, like all such things, are masksand echoes of masks. Are they my memories or part of the self that Iam without a possessor? The distinction has tremendousimplications. The very act of creating a mask and memories aspossessions are a mask - is an overt attempt at suicide of the self –
Noema (plural:
) is Greek for the
of something . It is the mental equivalent of a schemaor schematic of something. It is the "representation" of an experience of a meaning based system throughits own self-referential process. It could also be considered as the projection of one's own experience ontooneself. Something noetic has to do with something involving intellectual activity (from the Greek nous,"mind"). One can speak of the noetic faculty as the "intellect proper." Another Greek word for mind is
(noema), which translates as mental thought or perception: that which thinks of an idea. There isa noema corresponding to every act of memory, expectation, and representation. (Source: Wikipedia)
Modern historians recognized this when they redefined ‘history’ – no longer a recounting of ‘what actuallyhappened’, history is now a collection of remembrances – some reliable and others less so – to be siftedthrough in search of … well, probably whatever it is that the searcher set out to find!!

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