“[What] we do not know about ourselves persists and subtly infiltrates our values and choices . . . one of the sure signs of our defense against our shadow is our ready rationalizations that surface to justify our position on any subject.” pp 10-11
As I hear these words, I hear echoes of fundamentalist thinking I have heard in the voices of others, and to be honest, in myself. Though I have long ago learned that truth is relative, and by that I mean in terms of how each of us sense the world and interpret what we sense. Any police officer will tell you that given any number of witnesses, there will be as many versions of what had happened at a witnessed scene as there are witnesses. And each of those witnesses, will believe firmly their version which they would take with them to any trial where they would swear an oath. Why? Why so many versions of reality? Shouldn’t there be a simple, uncomplicated version? Well, regardless, it is what it is as we all are unique with unique histories, abilities, sensory organs and psychological filters.
I have tried more times than can be counted to have discussions on any number of topics, discussions that didn’t require depth. Typically I am confounded by the apparent inability of others to actually hear and understand what I have said. What happened while I was talking was the activation of some trigger with the listener who then begins to deliver his or her truth. It is as though there is a knee-jerk response that has as its motivation a rationalisation of an opinion that is held tightly as a truth.
I am guilty as much as anyone else of justifying my opinion as a truth. “There should be a law!” often escapes my mouth when I react to a situation involving another person who is somehow offending me. I don’t realise at the time that the other really isn’t offending me at all but simply living their own version of truth and reality. I create the sense of being offended within myself and it is expressed unconsciously as a projection of that which I deny about the shadows within myself. Do I dare, do you dare to confront all those things we do or say for which we justify as being the fault of others? If we are ever to become more conscious or ourselves, more responsible as humans, the answer is “Yes!”
“The complexity of the universe, and the complexity of our own souls, is so immense that the fantasy of truly knowing ourselves is like standing on the mountain at dusk and believing that we are encompassing all the stars that wheel in their sidereal orbits through the limitless spaces above us. . . . So, the ego seldom really knows enough to know that it does not know much.” pp 11-12
There is an old saying that many of us have learned, “the more we learn, it seems the less we know.” Applies to the word written here by James Hollis. As parents we have seen our children, as teenagers, grow to become “know-it-alls” who think parents are not all that intelligent. Yet somehow when our children become young adults they wonder how fast their parents have been learning. It seems funny for us as we see this development. It is part of our developmental cycle to be in the stage of being certain, or “know-it-alls.”
As adults, it seems that it becomes less funny when we are confronted by other adults who are self-proclaimed experts who have an answer for every question, even the questions we haven’t asked. Yet, we are not much different as we hold onto certainties of who we are thinking that what you see is all there is. When confronted by others about our moods, attitudes, biases, fundamentalism, and even our actions; we often regard these others with surprise as we are adamant that we are anything but what they claim. We know that we are in control and reasonable people. If we have an opinion, we are more than justified because of the evidence others present.
We can’t see or admit our biases, we are blissfully unaware that we have projected our stuff onto others, blaming them for what we have yet to know about what is going on within our own psyche. If we could just come to understand that anything for which we have a strong, even unmoveable opinion, is indicative of something beneath ego consciousness being activated. If we are lucky enough, maybe we will get to the point of realising that the more we learn about our “self,” the more we will realise remains to be learned.