The Illusion of Self

Uh oh!  Here it comes.  I’m going to threaten your sense of self.  I’m going to tell you that self is an illusion.  Run away!  You can’t take it, right?

Why do you suppose people feel so threatened by the idea that the self is an illusion?  Is it really such a terrifying idea?  Or, perhaps, have people presented that idea in a somewhat terrifying way that tends to provoke a feeling of existential terror?  Is it really terrifying?  Or have people, in an attempt to help, inadvertently tripped over the “What you resist will persist” principle and accidentally made things worse.  Maybe, just maybe, acting like the ego is real and trying to transcend it just makes things worse.

But, that’s ridiculous right?  It’s not like the people trying to teach this concept are human, are they?  It’s not like a spiritual teacher could make a mistake.  Surely, all they do is divinely inspired.  Surely, they are above us all.

There’s no way that someone who believes that they are a channel for the Divine could have a problem with pride which blinds them to changes they could make in their teaching approach, is there?

There’s no way that a goofy hypnotherapist from WV could find a way to make easy something that so many people struggle with.  That idea’s absurd.  Clearly I think too much of myself.  I should probably be more humble.  I should debase myself and trust in the ineffable wisdom of those who have gone before me.

I should definitely bow down in the muck and make a spectacle of myself to show the world my folly, lest other people start to think that they too are capable of insights and wisdom.  Yup.  Clearly, I’m the fool here.

So, here goes, brace yourself.  It’s coming.  The thing you don’t want to hear.  The thing that raises so many red flags.  The thing that people struggle with.

You have potential.

What?  That’s it?

Yup.  You have potential.

When you were a child, you had no idea who you would be today.  Your experiences in life have transformed you.  You’ve learned things.  You’ve grown as a person.  Shocking really, that someone could live life and not stay utterly the same in every way.  How did you do it?

Do you know what tomorrow will hold?  Do you know how your experiences tomorrow will change you?  Do you know what you’ll accomplish in the future?  Do you know what new people will come into your life and how they will influence you?

You mean you already know that change comes naturally, kind of on its own?  You mean you could already see that?  You mean it’s not the big deal that it’s made out to be?

In this moment, your potential to change is more real than who you have been.  Scary really.  When you know that the future will inevitable lead to transformation, that means that your potential is more real than the current iteration of the self.

<sarcasm> Whoo.  Exciting.  This is clearly a big deal.  This is clearly worth all the time and attention it gets. </sarcasm>

Yes, if someone is feeling stuck, it’s an important idea to get across.  It’s an important thing to remind ourselves and others when change seems difficult.  But, which is more palatable?  “Self is an illusion” or “You have potential.  You’ve changed before, right?”

You’ve handled things that have been unpleasant and painful before and they haven’t killed you.  I’d be willing to bet that you can do so again.  Is anyone here willing to take that bet?  I could use the extra cash.

Sure, at one point you were a child and at some other point you stopped thinking of yourself as a child and thought of yourself as a teenager and now, most likely, you think of yourself as an adult.  Yup, self is an illusion alright.  We are always in a process of transformation.  Scary!

Yes, it’s important to acknowledge that our habits do not define us and the we have the potential to create new habits.  We do have the power to recreate ourselves.  It’s a good thing to remind ourselves of from time to time.  It’s a good thing to be reminded of when we feel like (imagine) that we are stuck and incapable of change.

And yes, you’re never quite going to know how you’re going to handle a thing before it comes up and you have to handle it.  Uncertainty is inevitable in life.  But, you’ve handled things before, is this a big deal?

Maybe, it only seems like it’s a big deal.  Maybe, it only seems like some life-changing mystical truth.  Maybe it’s just a simple, ordinary truth that you already know.  Maybe you’ve already benefited from this truth, regardless.  Sure, acknowledging your potential opens doors and helps you to see possibilities that you couldn’t before.  That’s great!  But, you’re probably already doing that to some extent or another.  Right?  You’ve made life-changing decisions before?  Haven’t you?  You never really knew how those decisions would change your life, did you?

And, you’re still here, aren’t you?  You’ve survived the uncertainty.  Not knowing hasn’t killed you, has it?  Are you dead now?  Am I a necromancer, communicating with you from beyond?  Oh my gosh, that’s amazing!

I’m not really teaching anything new, am I?  I’m just saying, “Do more of what you’re already doing.  It’s been working for you.  Acknowledge it.”

Isn’t that a lot better than pushing people to acknowledge that self is an illusion?  So, what?  Darkness is an illusion, too.  It’s not like darkness is actually a thing.  Darkness is “a place where there is not light” and not actually a thing.  Does it really matter if someone acknowledges that darkness is an illusion?  What does it really change?  Illusion or not, you can still trip over a hole when it’s dark out.

Why is this a big deal?  I don’t know.  Maybe I’m being ignorant.  Why don’t you tell me?  Why is this a big deal?

Illusion or not, it’s still uncomfortable when we need to change.  It’s still much easier to maintain habits we already have than create new ones.  It still takes effort and energy to make positive changes and to adapt to life’s changing situations.

People become resistant when they don’t feel safe.  Maybe try helping them feel safe instead of condemning their resistance.  Maybe?  Maybe you create more resistance when you try to fight resistance.  Maybe, what you resist will persist.  Maybe focus on the truth instead of fighting the illusion.  The truth is real, the illusion not.  Which one deserves your attention and mental energy? Which one is productive and helpful?

Maybe, people with good intentions and a faulty understanding of this concept have inadvertently perpetuated an illusion and caused a great deal of distress for themselves and others.  Maybe all that you need to do to break out of the illusion is recognize how simple this is and laugh at how ridiculous the other way of looking at things is. Maybe, when you

But, nah, it can’t be that easy, can it?


-Adam Coles-
Heart Song Hypnotherapy
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