Key Thought for this session:

“Without the context of a bigger stage, BEING TRUE TO SELF is a flattering allegiance to bias and voices of deception.”

In session 4 we discussed the story of your community and how your community’s worldview affects you. While you live in community all your life, your worldviews ultimately are affected by your own personal story. What makes you who you are? Where do your imagination and your needs take you? We will examine the ways your individual worldview forms what is called ‘self’, driving how you think, feel, and act. We each have our own worldviews on topics such as religion, business, economics, government and family. But underneath THESE, are basic needs and beliefs that form our tendencies to view the world the way we do. Because of these underlying needs and beliefs—which we also refer to as core assumptions or core influences, each of us sees things differently than the others in our communities. It’s how these core influences operate in you that ultimately help determine outcomes in your life and your level of success and satisfaction. Take a moment and think about these questions:

Where do you want to go in life?
Why do you react to events the way you do?
Why do you disagree with other people? Or maybe, why do they disagree with you?
What makes you feel alone or depressed?
Is it uncomfortable for you to receive from others?
What’s really on your heart? Or what are the targets of your passion?

We are not trying to make you an expert in human behavior, but we do want you to grasp the complexity of worldview and appreciate why and how your worldview is special and unique to you. We also want you to get a feel for the many ways we can be a “victim”, so to speak, of internal influences that we might not be aware of. What is it inside us that can distort the true meaning of a situation and keep us from getting where we want to go? Everyone experiences what we call dissonance.

In the recent book entitled, “The Importance of Breaking Free of … Yourself,” the authors explain the human dilemma this way - “when today millennials encounter Chinese philosophy, they are often relieved to learn that there was a group of thinkers who thought hard 2,000 years ago about the very same things on their own minds. These philosophers had keen insights into human psychology. What they discovered sounds bleak at first. They saw us for who we are: messy creatures, full of contradictions and anxieties, petty jealousies, complicated feelings, ambitions, hopes, longings, and fears.”

This thing called dissonance occurs within us when we find that we are feeling or acting in ways that do not fit what we believe. We have many competing forces at work in us and this confusion can frustrate us. A really good exploration of these influences can be helpful. Maybe Confucius saw something important, ...that we should not FIND “self,” but become FREE of “self,”

“Chinese philosophers would say: don’t discover who you are, let alone embrace what you find. Instead of choosing self-acceptance, choose self-cultivation. Instead of embracing yourself, overcome yourself. This is not just how you become a flourishing adult. It is the best way to create a flourishing world.”

There are certainly some interesting ideas here we should ponder. We may debate whether we personally have the power and capability to recreate our self, but all of us can somewhat agree that change can be a good thing, and working for change is better than working against it. While it is difficult and sometimes impossible to change core influences, becoming more aware of them and developing helpful ways to manage the dissonance you feel is worth a little of our time together. And hopefully you feel the same way.

I have a close friend who is a pilot, and I was explaining these behavioral principles to him one day. He looked at me, smiled and said, “in pilot training the first thing the instructor does is convince you that you cannot rely on your senses when you fly. Your senses will deceive you and you must trust the flight panel, the instruments that are not subject to the biases or distortions you may get from what you feel is real.” This is the same with the way our psychological ‘self’ works. We cannot always trust what our mind and emotions are telling us for a number of reasons. That is what we want to discuss in this session.

This brings us to our next Memory Principle: “Without the context of a bigger stage, being true to ‘self’ is a flattering allegiance to bias and voices of deception.” This may sound a bit hard-hitting, but after we discuss the many influences on you that make you who you are, hopefully this memory principle will click with you a little better. A popular aspiration in our culture today is “to be true to self.” The question is: Is this even possible? Can we be true to our self when there is dissonance within us due to the inevitable conflicting influences that keep pushing us in different directions? We can go way back to Confucius to see it has always been important to challenge our natural inclination to serve ‘self’. However, in this course we even challenge Confucius’ claim that we should recreate ‘self’. In this course, it is preferred that you focus on WHY being TRUE TO SELF is “messy” and why you cannot always trust ‘self’. Can you recognize the built-in deceptions that can knock you off track and that putting ‘self’ in a greater context (or the bigger picture of who you really are) is a more worthwhile consideration? This is why we have the memory principle, “Without the context of a bigger stage, being true to ‘self’ is a flattering allegiance to bias and voices of deception.” This is a hard truth, but so very helpful to understand!

In ancient days when people used the word “hearing,” they meant not only understanding the message, but also doing what it said to do. There is an old Hebrew expression that says, “He who has ears to hear, let them hear.” This refers to the fact that just because you hear what someone says, personally witness a situation or get advice from others, you may not fully understand exactly what you are being asked to do. We do not want you to be confused about yourself. Our intent in this session is not to add to your dissonance or make you something that you are not, but we do believe you should begin to question the confidence you have in what you believe in order to find better ways to experience satisfaction and contribute to your community. Therefore, in one way we have the same objective as Confucius, a more satisfied ‘self’ and contributor to community. However, I personally believe that the same flaws and mess that constrain you and me, also make it risky for US to be the SOURCE for recreating our ‘self’.

What about you? Do you think it is possible to follow Confucius’s advice to recreate (or as some people would say: reinvent, or radically improve) yourself? And if so, what sources would you most trust to do that?