Wednesday, November 9
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
People are like onions, they have layers. They do cover up their dark side (don't we all), but perhaps there's more beneath that dark side. It's just that when it's hidden and then uncovered, it seems more "true" than what's beneath it because of earlier attempts to disguise it. Like discovering a spider in a bag of candy, the possibility that there's more candy beneath the spider doesn't seem so obvious. Perhaps in many cases the coverup is more damaging than the crime.
And, of course, someone who works hard to cover up their darkness and then exposes it in a stressful situation may be reluctant to repair the damage done, preferring to avoid the hard work of regaining trust. After all, if someone sees the darkness as your true essence, how can you convince them otherwise? Anything positive would seem like an attempt to cover the darkness back up, and the well would be poisoned. So the relationship would end without closure, one party feeling betrayed and the other feeling judged. Both would be left with a very one-dimensional view of the other, with little opportunity to transcend that view. The onion would stop at the last layer to cause pain.
It seems to me that people develop "selves" (whatever a self really is) to meet various situations, and some selves are more honest or real than others. The false ones are like scabs, they cover wounds and hide more than they reveal. False selves are generally about security and control. To be "real" is to allow oneself to be affected by another person and to express oneself without too much strategizing or vigilance. A false self would be a mask one develops in order to feel in control in a threatening environment, and if others react to that mask with defensive masks of their own, the entire relationship system is thrown off course.
Each person feels the others are inherently dangerous, threatening, dishonest, manipulative and so on. Each reacts by distorting his or her own behavior, minimizing their own participation in an unreal system as a necessary response to the actions of the others. At some point, the urge to be real (perhaps felt as a spiritual drive) asserts itself, with varying results. Who wants to be the first to drop their defenses? Easier to give up on the poisoned relationships and focus on more positive ones... but then, each person is left with an image of the others that is unreal and contaminated by bad experiences. Perhaps the baggage can accumulate and poison an entire culture. In systems regarded as evil (fascism, communism, etc) there is a general distortion of behavior and a fear of exposure that poisons all relationships. Understanding how those systems work might prevent our own from sliding into the same pattern. At least I would hope so.
Sometimes an "unreal self" can be made up of so many layers of defense and denial that it can be almost impossible for most people to see a core of integrity and
sincerity in the person. Perhaps the impulse for revenge is also a false self,
interacting with another false self to create more falsehoood. Yet beneath the false maks may lie a positive impulse, the desire to be seen, recognized and given respect
for what one truly is.