Saturday, June 11, 2011

A New Personal-Development

fight clubMaybe self-improvement isn't the answer.... Maybe self-destruction is the answer.  ~Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

How do you partake in personal development, if self-destruction is the answer? Eckhart Tolle’s spiritual insight and Owen Cook’s ‘Real Social Dynamics’ seem to be part of a new genre of personal development where the goal is actually to destroy the ‘self’.

The old models of self-improvement seem to emphasize self-esteem through building up the ego. Eckhart Tolle, in his books “The Power of Now” and “A New Earth”, is quick to determine the ego as the target of destruction. In his books, the ego represents a ‘false self’ constructed by social conditioning upon which the identity of the individual rests. This identification is said to be the root of all human struggles; we are constantly trying to reinforce our positive sense of self by reacting against all those who threaten the boundaries of our ‘self' concept’.

What does it mean to enact self-destruction? Rather than trying to build up a sense of self by collecting more and more STUFF (material possessions, physical characteristics, belief-systems, and ideologies), the act of self-destruction says “screw it all".

The things you own end up owning you.  It's only after you lose everything that you're free to do anything.  ~Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

How does this relate to spiritual belief-systems? Having a belief-system is like owning a material possession. They say you are not complete without one; therefore, ‘dissatisfied lack’ is the default state of ones constructed reality. In the same way consumer culture constructs our desire to be ‘complete’ through commodities, spiritual belief-systems construct a reality where ‘lack’ characterizes the individual who is not able to identify themselves under a specific tradition.

The good news is that this reality does not apply to you if you are simply aware that it exists. This will also allow you to understand why so many religious people are quick to defend their faith; their sense of self depends on it.

Attacking someone's belief system is like attacking their sense of self in the same way that insulting their clothing may offend them. This is not to say we should avoid dialogue with religious people in fear of offending them; the opposite is the case. We should engage in conversations about spiritually more often. But remember, don’t be a dick.

The socially conditioned ‘self’ does not dissolve without a fight; attacking it will only make it stronger. The ‘self’ will sense threat, pump itself up, and come back bigger and stronger than before. Rather than setting up this reality of ‘battle’, the method of seduction is far more effective.

Be the change you want to see. Only when your own ego is dealt with will you be able to offer complete value to all you encounter. This state of being is the art of seduction (weather it be in the context of work, family-life, or dating). Arguing with religious persons for the sake of being right only builds your own sense of identity as superior. Rather than taking value in the form of argument, one must provide value in the form of careful dialogue. 

If value is light, taking value leads to darkness. We can not get rid of darkness with more darkness. When your sense of ‘self’ is not the measure of your value, the value you offer provides the basis for your happiness.

1 comment:

  1. Great post. I found it because I'm interested in the similarities between Eckhart Tolle's ideas and the self-destruction concept in Palahniuk's Fight Club. I don't really understand how to be the change you want to see though. Could you elaborate?