Have you ever wondered why you have the thoughts you do? Where your emotions come from? Bad habits? There’s probably some things about yourself you’d like to change. Have you ever wondered why certain areas of your life are so hard, or so easy?
There’s more to life than meets the senses. Haven’t you ever felt, when you were talking to someone, that you were “sensing” the kind of energy coming off of them – bored or scared, friendly or annoyed, arrogant or genuine? Yeah, you do need your senses for that, but what you might not realize is that you are not sensing the other person – you are sensing an energy that’s inside yourself.
Certain dynamics of energy are going on inside of you already. When you sense another person’s energy, the way you respond is dependent on how something within you responds to the type of energy coming from the other person as it already exists inside yourself.
Allegory of the Cave
Let’s take a look at Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” for a minute, since its metaphor is similar to what I’m talking about. You can find the full text here.
A Quick summary of the allegory: Life is like a cave where we are chained, along with other prisoners, looking at a wall with shadows being cast onto it. Because we know nothing else, we take the shadows to be real, but they’re just shadows cast by people and objects passing by in front of a fire. However, there is a reality outside of the cave, where sunlight exists, and sometimes the longing for the sunlight, which we can sense, causes some prisoners to escape.
So what does this mean? Well, I don’t know about what Plato intended, but this is how I’ve come to see it:
- The Shadows on the wall are the people and objects we take as real in every day life. It’s the external world, which can never fully satisfy us.
- The objects and people to whom the shadows belong are the aspects of ourselves, who are reflected in what we see in other people. It might be our own ego, our inner critic, our violent nature, our laziness, our practicality – all sorts of things.
- When we react to other people, we’re never addressing the energy that’s at the root cause of our behavior, instead, we’re jumping at a shadow. Or loving a shadow. Or getting angry at a shadow.
Everything Within Awareness is Within Us
“Wait – so, Oliver, what you’re saying is that everything is just a reflection of something inside myself?“ Yes. Everything you see, smell, taste, touch, interact with – all of it, are reflections of things inside. And if that sounds like I’m suggesting we all isolate ourselves from the world – no. I don’t mean everything is inside your skin, I mean it’s inside your awareness. Because the energies of other people are inside your awareness, you can act as you think appropriately around that energy.
Ever been in a situation where you didn’t know if someone was joking or serious? Knowing that is important because we want to know how to respond. Our way of responding comes forth from inside of us depending on if we decide they’re joking or serious. But regardless, the energy of joking AND seriousness exist inside of us. And our way of responding to serious energy versus joking energy is different. Just like with all kinds of energies.
In love with a beautiful woman? Well, maybe you’re really in love with the energy of beauty.
Angry at a controlling boss? Perhaps you are really angry at your mind, who tries to control you with threats meant to exploit your fear of death.
See how this works?
Just remember this: you don’t have to go to the people around you who are exuding a particular energy, you can go to the energy itself.
Yeah, but how is this useful at all?
Well, let’s say you have a thought, “I hate myself.” Easy to see how that could be a harmful thought, right?
After that, ask yourself – what is the energy dynamic here? Why do I hate myself? What in me causes me to hate myself?
Now it could be many things, but here’s one example. After sensing the dynamics, here’s what you find:
A part of you thinks, “You should hate yourself.” And you, or rather the part of you who feels the self-hate, believes what this other part of you thinks!
When other people pick on you, cast judgement on you, or point out your flaws, the self-hate you feel as a result was already there. Why? Because there’s that inner demon more than ready to tell you, “They’re right! You should hate yourself.” That’s why what other people say can be so toxic – you have a toxic relationship between parts of yourself already inside of you. And you can always choose to change your inner relationships.
If you know this secret of self-awareness, you can stop the damage that’s going on inside yourself. You can always ask a “side of yourself”, “Why do you want me to hate myself? What’s in it for you? Why are you picking on me?” Once you uncover the truth of your particular situation, the problem stops. After you question it and find the real truth of any inner difficulty, you can end its negative effects, end anything that tramples on your spirit. It might be difficult to do this, sure, but is it worth it?
Is it worth it to feel healthy, whole, and empowered inside? To feel free and happy? To flow with life? You tell me.
And while there are many benefits that can come from discovering the truth, just remember that it’s not an easy road. After all, these are your beliefs you must deconstruct in the process. And you’ll have to cast aside a lot of self-delusion as you come to realize your inner world is full of a lot more demons than what shows up in your personality. Yeah, it’s hard to face sometimes, it’s humbling, but it feels damn good in the end. And it’s exciting too. New discoveries around every turn, new ways of looking at life.
I hope this gives you some idea of what the path of self-awareness is like for me. Maybe it’s not the easiest subject to pick up, but it’s one of the most rewarding I can possibly think of. After all, these are the real treasures of life, they’re not shadows of the treasures like you might find in a pile of money. It’s finding the feelings that a pile of money might give you: comfort, safety, security, freedom. But finding those feelings in such a way that you don’t need money to have them!
And no, I’m not saying I’ve discovered everything. Hardly. But I’ve discovered enough to open up an amazing area of life for myself, a place to explore that I didn’t know how to before. And that’s the gift I hope I can give. A new doorway in life when all others are closed, an opening to something amazing.
After I just hijacked Plato’s Allegory for my own purposes, you might want to go read it for yourself here.