We MUST Choose, Part 2: Conscience and Reality and the Dark Side of Daydreaming and Fantasy


We MUST Choose, Part 2: Conscience and Reality and the Dark Side of Daydreaming and Fantasy

The opposite of sanity is insanity.  The opposite of truth is falsehood, which includes self-deception, lying, half-truths, rationalizations, denial, scapegoating, transference, projection, i.e. the vast majority of our defense mechanisms. 

Truth—insight, self-knowledge, greater self-awareness, clarity—though perhaps very painful at first, will not only (eventually) make us free, it will make us sane, because the more we lie to ourselves and others and avoid reality, then the more mentally unhealthy or less sane we are.

Thus one of the best ways to become healthier and more sane, decent, and loving, is by beginning to nurture our conscience and to focus on developing our character and our reality principle (three very interrelated things).

Because one of the other marks of not very healthy or decent people is that they really don’t have a healthy and functioning conscience—or the conscience they have is very twisted and malignant—meaning, their sense of right and wrong is very twisted and subjective and not open to any real investigation and or scrutiny (what they say goes, just because they think or feel it, and without any real discussion or deliberation).  And thus they are able to freely warp and spin things and lie to themselves and con themselves into believing at some level that their maladaptive (bad) behavior is actually secretly really good or decent or noble.  (This is one of the things about mentally unwell people—they love their secrets and abhor accountability and transparency and honesty.  In order to maintain their self—their sick self and current level of mental unhealth—they need to live in the dark and avoid the light—the light of disclosure, openness, transparency, scrutiny, feedback, and critical thinking, questioning.)   What bad people and not very good people and unhealthy people share is that they are just not that dedicated to truth or reality—which is a large part of why their conscience continues to be skewed and warped, and which is why they prefer alternate fictional fantasy pseudo-realities to the real world—often elaborate fantasy worlds replete with intricate yet absurd and irrational metaphysics and beliefs.  They prefer to exist in these fantasy worlds because at some level they find the real world too demanding, difficult, stressful, painful, complicated.  The real world terrifies them, stresses them out, makes them anxious, makes them feel too vulnerable, makes them feel out of control, insecure, exposed, inadequate, inferior, insubstantial, without purpose or meaning.  The real world is not meeting their basic needs—their needs for survival, esteem, uniqueness/specialness, love, belonging, safety, security, meaning, purpose—and so they are faced with a choice—the choice to grow and become stronger and attune themselves and their thinking and their conscience to reality and to truth, or escape into denial and fantasy and in doing continue doing damage to their psyche/soul. 

And the vast majority of people opt for some degree of the latter—always have, and still are doing so. When reality becomes too painful or too demanding it is denied or otherwise avoided.

And the less mentally healthy and the more neurotic and less sane they or we are, the more we/they will opt for this solution—opt for escaping into a world of fantasy and unreality instead of attuning ourselves to reality—in order to survive and self-preservate. 

“I believe that the root of evil, in everybody perhaps, but certainly in those whom affliction has touched and above all if the affliction is [psychological], is day-dreaming. It is the sole consolation, the unique resource of the afflicted; the only solace to help them bear the fearful burden of time; and a very innocent one, besides being indispensable. So how could it be possible to renounce it? It has only one disadvantage, which is that it is unreal. To renounce it for the love of truth is really to abandon all one’s possessions in a mad excess of love and to follow him who is the personification of Truth. And it is really to bear the cross.

“[I]t is necessary to recognize day-dreaming for what it is. And even while one is sustained by it one must never forget for a moment that in all its forms—those that seem most inoffensive by their childishness, those that seem most respectable by their seriousness and their connection with art or love or friendship—in all its forms without exception, it is falsehood. It excludes love.  And only love is real.”

Simone Weil, from “The Simone Weil Reader, “ Letter to Joe Bousquet“, pg.90

Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.” – John Kenneth Galbraith, “Economics, Peace and Laughter” (1971), p. 50.

And this proof is often an escape into some alternate fantasy world/universe.  The proof that there’s no need to change one’s mind or to grow and mature psychologically, emotionally, spiritually, intellectually, comes in the form of the false-growth of conspiracy theories and concocting elaborate new agey fantasy worlds to inhabit with one’s mind and to believe in.  And for the sake of these false-realities and in the name of these elaborate fantasy worlds—in the name of helping to build some imaginary fantasy utopia—all sorts of bad and even evil things can be perpetrated and rationalized (rational lies) away.

Why do sane people allow themselves to be duped like this—by their own least healthy thinking, by what’s weakest and worst in themselves?  Why do they actually opt to dupe themselves in this way and cooperate in pulling the wool over their own eyes?

Because of all of the pain, difficulty, suffering, complexity, and stress, of life in the real world—meaning the full intensity of life, the full intensity of truth and reality and the demands that true mental health and growth require and would make on us—and all of the ego-threatening negative and anxious feelings they (which is to say that many of us) are hoping to avoid and evade.

And because what’s best in them—their conscience, their reality principle, their inner truth-detector, their character, their core self, their capacity for reasoning and for looking at things (especially themselves and their own behavior!) fairly and objectively and impartially—is so weak, so malnourished and underdeveloped, that it doesn’t offer much in the way of protest or defense or objection (dialectical thinking), or its objections and protestations cannot be heard above and distinguished from of all of the internal blather and incessant inner chattiness and discursive thinking.  Their conscience is just a fleeting, unidentifiable voice or very occasional strand in their discursive, unorganized inner monologue.  They may have a very healthy or noble or sane thought here and there, but because there is so much falsity also zipping through and monopolizing their inner monologue, they no longer really notice it or pay attention to it.  It’s in one inner ear and out the other and quickly followed by something that is less demanding, less truthful, and makes them feel better, happier, or is more familiar, even if it is unhealthy and discursive and unrealistic.   

The Buddha said that most people’s eyes are so caked shut with the dust of denial and self-deception that they will never be able to awaken or grow.  Most people’s thinking—their inner monologue—is so cluttered with falsehoods, unexamined thoughts, escapist thoughts—that there’s no hope for them to ever wake up from that degree of sleepwalking or inner shame and denial.

We are what we think
All that we are arises with our thoughts
With our thoughts we make the world
Speak or act with an impure mind, and trouble will follow you, as the wheel follows the ox that draws the cart
We are what we think
All that we are arises with our thoughts
With our thoughts we make the world
Speak or act with a pure mind, and Happiness will follow you, as your shadow, unshakable
How can a troubled mind understand the way?
Your worst enemy cannot harm you as much as your own thoughts, unguarded and unexamined
But once mastered, no one can help you as much, not even your father or your mother.

Buddha

Slowing down and really paying attention to and examining our own thoughts and thinking and really listening to what we’re saying to ourselves (the deeper implications, the underlying assumptions in our thoughts, the escapist/avoidant/self-numbing tendencies that are likely rife in it, et cetera) is one way of trying to break the cycle of mental unhealth.  (Why would anyone want to do that though!? Especially when it is paying off in some way for a person. . . . ) And consciously beginning to try to see at least two points of view with our own thinking—to begin thinking more dialectically and scientifically and logically—in terms of thesis on the one hand, and antithesis or what would disprove our thinking or prove it to be fallacious, on the other hand—and to begin playing devil’s (or God’s) advocate with our own pet theories and fantasies and start trying to see the other and less ego-flattering and more difficult to emotionally stomach side of things is another way of kick-starting our journey to sanity and mental health.

Peck defined mental health as “an ongoing process of dedication to reality at all costs” (“The Road Less Traveled,” pg. 51), meaning that in order to get healthy psychologically and truly grow we must start choosing truth over our own comfort, waking up over a comfortable life, the difficult rights over easy wrongs, reality over fantasy and daydreaming and other forms of escapism, and that we must doing so ever more consistently and heroically. 

Only truly mentally healthy individuals—or those truly on the path—can or will dare to do this.

Those of us who are not very healthy (and those of us with a lot of internal pain and wounds we’re trying to avoid dealing with and facing [because of shame]) will spend much of our free time avoiding reality instead of facing it.  And the more we do this, the more we make ourselves sick, or if you will, psychologically out of shape and gluttonous—it’s like doing to the mind what a steady diet of fantasy—cheeseburgers, chocolate, potato chips, fast food, French fried, friend foods, Twinkies, and a lot of time on the couch in front of the TV and no exercise—does to the body. 

Again, there’s no neutrality in life.  We must choose our allegiance—to one side or the other—to either growth and mental health and truth and reality, which apparently will set us free; or stagnation and regression and escape and avoidance—i.e. falsehoods, denial, self-deception, discursive thinking, the unexamined life, excessive daydreaming—which will put us more and more to sleep and make us less healthy, less sane, less fit for life, less good, less loving, and eventually may even seal our fate, damning us, making us unredeemable.

We must choose: sanity or insanity, truth or lies, mental health or pathology, growth or comfort, growth or familiarity, what’s best for us v what tastes/feels good right now.

There is no middle road in this; there may be a middle road once we choose one side or the other, but there is no middle road or balanced way beforehand.  There may be, and likely is, a way where we exercise our mind, stretch ourselves, and then gives ourselves some time to recover and lock in those gains, before once again stretching ourselves, growing, taking on more truth and reality, but doing so little by little, as we would if we were working out and slowly adding more weight or resistance to our work outs over the course of weeks, while cutting back on the fatty escapist comfort foods and not watching as many escapist TV shows, et cetera.

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3 thoughts on “We MUST Choose, Part 2: Conscience and Reality and the Dark Side of Daydreaming and Fantasy

  1. Pingback: We MUST Choose! | What Is Real True Love?

  2. I could not agree more with you on this one. What you are describing here is the majority of people. Not just a few sick puppies. And the levels to which this fantasy land illusion plumb are astounding. We are talking about entire nations full of people who are living in la-la land. The scariest part is that the leaders of our world are the worst culprits. They are likely most lacking in conscience and most likely to be psychopathic. Kennedy knew it – which is why he was assassinated.

    “For we are opposed, around the world, by a monolithic and ruthless conspiracy that relies primarily on covert means for expanding its sphere of influence; in infiltration instead of invasion; on subversion instead of elections, on intimidation instead of free choice; on guerrillas by night instead of armies by day. It is a system which has conscripted vast human and material resources into the building of a tightly knit, highly efficient machine that combines military, diplomatic, intelligence, economic, scientific, and political operations. Its preparations are concealed not published. Its mistakes are buried, not headlined, its dissenters are silenced, not praised; no expenditure is questioned, no rumor is printed, no secret is revealed. It conducts the cold war, in short, with a wartime discipline no democracy would ever hope to wish to match.” – John F. Kennedy

    Entirely reasonable questioning can be ridiculed by labeling it a conspiracy theory. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary to conspire is to:

    “Make secret plans jointly to commit an unlawful or harmful act; (of events or circumstances) Seem to be working together to bring about a particular result, typically to someone’s detriment.”

    Yes, this is happening all of the time!! This is an implicit aspect of the society we live in.

    So if someone begins to ask some reasonable questions about something like, say 9/11, that does not conform to the party line – they are labeled a conspiracy theorist. Sometimes the ego is so invested in a false belief it will use irrational methods to argue away the uncomfortable truth. That is what we are seeing in the everyday populace.

    I think though that it is dangerous to link “conspiracy theorists” to the “New Age”.

    The term “New Age” is so over used, I hardly know what it means or represents. I will say that the “You Create Your Own Reality” thinking is all about depriving people of their last bit of common sense as far as I am concerned. The height of subjectivity and solipsism.

    If consciousness and reality are connected, and I believe that they are, I would hypothesize that the connection could be described as subjectivity breeding disorder whereas objectivity establishes order. A fantastic example being that many Americans believe in the demonstrable lies of government. The belief being in contradiction with facts contributes to chaos. As can be seen quite obviously by looking at the state of our country right now. (Last I checked, the debt clock was at $15 trillion and climbing)

    The entire country is currently living in “some alternate fantasy world/universe” … we spend time worrying about our clothes, our cars, our houses, getting our kid’s into the best schools, whilst we are afflicting other nations (and the poorest of our citizens) to horrors we dare not imagine. This way of life is completely immoral, gluttonous and unsustainable.

    TS Elliott once said the ‘man cannot face too much reality.’ This is so also as regards to conscience. Man cannot face too much conscience. Especially the modern Western man.

    It seems this entire country is based on the Declaration of Wishful Thinking.

    • Hello Jennifer,

      Thank you for the very nice response.

      And I would describe the current state of affairs as adhering to the Declaration of Avoidant Thinking or the Declaration of Self-Avoidance—the avoidance of facing ourselves and our own wounds and deepest fears. For most of us that’s what constitutes happiness and good day—not having to face our deepest fears and pains.

      Wishful thinking and avoidant thinking are probably just two ways of describing the same thing. As I quoted in another post— https://fullcatastropheliving.wordpress.com/2011/11/08/the-last-taboo%e2%80%94thinking-honestly-and-deeply-about-oneself-and-ones-life/

      “[Y]ou can see that basically our lives are, to a large extent, spent in avoiding confrontation with ourselves. And then you can begin to make sense of the enormous amount of our culture’s daily activities that attempt to distract us from ourselves, from deep reflection, from deep thinking, from existential confrontation. There’s a wonderful phrase by the philosopher Kierkegaard, ‘tranquilization by the trivial.’ And I think our culture has mastered this better than any culture in history, simply because we have the wealth and means to do so.” (Roy Walsh)

      And that’s the point of this post—to promote a truly examined life or way of life that starts from the inside out. To put the focus back on ourselves and our own thinking and whatever it is that we’re each trying to avoid or deny within ourselves—our pain, past, wounds, anxieties—and to worry less, for the time being, about what’s going on “out there.” What’s going on out there, while important and interesting and relevant, often serves primarily as a distraction, a way of avoiding dealing with ourselves and facing ourselves and what we’re doing, or what was done to us in the past, or what scares us. We may think we’re concerned about this or that and that we’re better than all the other people who are living mindlessly and unaware of what’s really going on in the world, but we’re just like them—we’re unaware of what’s really going on in our own inner world. Until we start facing ourselves—our inner shame, our existential fears, our own fragility and precariousness and fleetingness and mortality—and doing so honestly, sincerely—then what’s going out there—politically, conspiracy theories, new age metaphysics, what have you—just serves as a way of anesthetizing ourselves and distracting ourselves and distancing ourselves from ourselves and our pain and fear and shame.

      The ego—our assemblage of automatic and largely unconscious defense mechanisms and reflexive patterns of avoidance and self-deception (falsehood)—is very sly. The ego is like a wall or hard shell or casing. And it is always trying to keep us distracted and in the dark and from facing itself (ourselves) and what happened to us, what we’re ashamed of, or what terrifies us, and from dealing with (actually feeling or feeling again) the pain and or shame or terror that that it is has cordoned off and sequestered behind its slick walls. The ego in this sense (not Freud’s sense, but in the sense of Eastern thought) is primarily protecting us from something (or many things that are) intense, overwhelming; things we’re ashamed of, things that frighten us and make us anxious and panicky, or that make us feel inadequate and no good. So the ego likes to concern itself not with truth and reality—which ultimately will undo it and bring us face to face with whatever we’re ashamed of or terrified of and trying avoid/deny—but with outside things, with things going on out there or over there. The ego doesn’t ever want us to really know (be cognizant of) the deeper reason why we’re doing what we’re doing or why we’re interested in what we’re interested in or why we’re reading what we’re reading. It’s a good day—a great day—for the ego any day in which we never really slow down and examine ourselves and our thinking; any day in which we successfully avoid facing ourselves and feeling whatever pain or shame or terror we’re hiding from, running from, et cetera. The pain and difficulties we experience out there are much preferred to having to feel and face that pain that’s much closer to home—the pain that’s deep inside us. Thus why the ego is always so interested in busy peeking over everyone else’s fence and seeing what everyone else is doing—because it keeps us from looking at ourselves and what we’re actually doing, how we’re living, how loving we are, how we spend our time, how we treat those around us minute to minute, et cetera. I think there was something in one of Ouspensky’s or Gurdjieff’s book about a wealthy lady who goes to see a show and is moved to tears by the suffering she sees portrayed on screen, but then after the show she is without any hint of similar compassion or concern for her own chariot driver. That was a great day for the ego—the lady didn’t have a clue—she never faced herself and her own hypocrisy; she left the show feeling edified about how decent of a person she must be because she was able to feel the pain portrayed on the stage, and she didn’t have to dirty her hands actually caring about the real live person right in front of her. That’s the ego in action—constantly keeping us each in the dark, full of concern over what really ought not yet concern it, full of neglect for those people and things that ultimately matter.

      Paraphrasing Jung—“Our vision will become clear only when we look at ourselves. He or she who doesn’t and keeps looking outside, dreams; but he or she who starts looking within, can awaken—or at least stands a much better chance of doing so.”

      Also paraphrasing and elaborating on Jung—“We do not become enlightened by avoiding what is unpleasant and difficult to look at and to acknowledge about ourselves; rather we become enlightened by becoming more aware of and honest about our own weaknesses and darkness. We become enlightened by letting light—by letting truth, questions, awareness, scrutiny, examination—into those dark dank places within ourselves that we are ashamed of, that frighten us, that we feel are too sensitive or too raw or too overwhelming to look at, those places that make us feel bad about ourselves or inadequate or guilty or ashamed.

      “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious. The latter alternative, however, is extremely disagreeable and difficult and therefore very unpopular.” – Jung

      There are powerful reasons why people lead unexamined lives—most of us have a lot of shame and existential fear and terror that we’d rather not deal with or have to feel. And those feelings and fears and that sensitivity needs to and ought to be respected, meaning we need to treat our shame and pain and terrors with compassion and understanding. But it cannot be ignored that the more we tend toward leading an inwardly unexamined life, then the more we will tend at best to contribute mediocrity and nonsense to the world, and at worst contribute abuse and neglect and downright evil, all in our frantic effort to avoid facing ourselves and dealing with what we’re ashamed of and terrified of feeling—especially our own mortality. Most (all?) of the nonsense and evil in the world is caused/perpetrated by people who are unwilling to open themselves to the light of scrutiny (self- and other-), questioning, discussion, reason. People who are truly leading an honest and self-examined life just don’t seem to be causing that much nonsense. (They may however be quite the pain in the arse for the rest of the people who are trying to avoid themselves and life and pain and difficulty and their own mortality, et cetera!)

      Any time we actually face ourselves, look honestly and compassionately and steadily at ourselves, acknowledge our pain or fears or shame or what terrifies us and instead of running from it, burying it, trying to avoid it, but instead try to stay with it and be honest with ourselves about it, is a good day for us—for what’s best in us, for our “soul”, for the healthiest part of us. Any day we communicate honestly and deeply and meaningfully with those closest to us about things that ultimately matter , that too is a very good day for the soul, for what’s best in us. Any day—any time, really—we are able to face ourselves instead of just going along with the ego’s agenda for the day—distraction, diversion, avoidance, consumerism, discursiveness, gossip—and instead focus on the Dharma, truth, reality, honesty, transparency, objective, self-examination, then it’s been “a bad day for the ego and good day for the soul.”
      I hope this helps clarify what I was aiming at with my post.

      Namaste,

      John

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