Stop taking yourself so seriously
There was recently a spat on one of my many WhatsApp groups.
It was about a bombed sale — some pernickety misunderstanding involving two people who were both right, with neither willing to budge.
In the past, I enjoyed watching these quarrels from the sidelines — and you do, too, if you’d care to admit it.
There’s little as satisfying as knowing you’re not the one facing the firing squad.
Inside most of us is a cheeky monkey, attuned to gossip and addicted to voyeurism.
Lately, though, I’ve been reading a lot of philosophical content dealing with the meaning of life.
There’s sufficient content out there; it’s simply a matter of finding the useful bits.
What I have learnt, over the past few months, is that Don Juan Matus, focus of Carlos Castenada’s series of books on shamanism (and so much more), may have nailed it with this pearl: “Self-importance is man’s greatest enemy.”
Summarising the theory, Dr Lucio F Teoxon Jr explains that one of the most valuable lessons discussed by Castenada, a US anthropologist, in the course of his books, is the danger of self-importance.
“What prevents the full unfolding of the luminosity of man’s true nature and the unleashing of his unlimited powers, Don Juan ... explained, is his self-importance.
“The main problem with the average man is that he takes himself too seriously.
He is doomed whenever he thinks he is at the centre of everything or imagines that he is the sun, and all others outside his skin are but satellites going round him.
“His great undoing consists in allowing the centripetal movement to get the better of himself, so that he always thinks in terms of what he can get for his own personal gain without the counterbalancing action of the centrifugal force, which should enable him to consider what he can give of himself to others.”
At no other time in my life have I ever seen such overblown, egomaniacal self-importance as that which trumpets on social media all day, every day.
Trigger fingers have made aggressive opinionistas of us all — a quick click to a link starts a flame war; one foul move elicits highbrow investigations and the threat of legal action; our tendency towards being outspoken social justice warriors has made it more critical, than ever, to choose our words, images and viewpoints carefully.
“Don Juan told him (Castenada) that one formidable roadblock to becoming a warrior (a metaphor for a man of knowledge) is the lack of understanding about what the self is,” Teoxon says.
“He said that the self is the source of everything that is good in us — but that it is also the core of everything that is rotten in us.”
You have to dig deep to find this psychologist beast, because, honestly — how many of us are willing to admit that resentment, hatred, entitlement, jealousy and separatism are simply dark, and alarming, reflections of ourselves?
The antidote to self-importance is a detailed recipe. But, to begin is child’s play.
Laugh at yourself.
Stop taking yourself — and your issues, background, history and relationships — so seriously. “We are all afraid to be nobody — and cling to being somebody.”