In the middle of the night, woken by the cat sitting on my hair, a sentence flashed through my mind: to know you are sane your inside world has to match the outside one. I had read this years ago in a book by Australian Ian Gawler and it made a strong impression, though quite why it re-emerged at 3.00 am thirty years later, I can’t think.
It had been an aha moment for me: sanity, or rather insanity, had always been a fear of mine, along with skeletons under my bed, the result of reading my father’s medical books. More seriously, as a child whose brother was institutionalized when I was nine, I came face to face very young with the stark truth that bad things indeed happen and not to nameless strangers, but to us, our family.
The contingent terror was the realization that our minds are not safe and certain. They may be the instrument with which we understand our world, but they can also be faulty, unsure. I felt like the fourth little pig whose house was built on quicksand.
So, having expelled the cat and unlikely to sleep, I pondered. What do we suppress in ourselves so that our inner self matches the person the outside world, or our parents, demand we are?
How much effort goes into silencing the parts that seem not to fit? What mental gymnastics do we perform trying to make our personal square peg fit society’s round hole? And as a result do we end up with a sneaking feeling that we are somehow faulty?
Is this why we find it so difficult to admit our mistakes – and why those times when we confess and apologize, we feel so cleansed and relaxed, no longer struggling to align those two selves: the inadequate hidden and the buffed up persona we show the world?
How can we keep true to this inner self, especially if we are trying to grow, like a seed under a stone. I don’t know except that integrity matters – and by that I don’t just mean not keeping quiet when we are given too much change, telling white lies to keep the peace or exaggerating our achievements. But a deep honesty which admits where we have failed, not wallowing in sin but calmly accepting that we have failed and from that truth building a newer, cleaner self. One perhaps we can live with and like.
In an earlier post, I asked the question, “What would I do, how would I act if I were whole?” I have been applying this day to day. The beauty of this question is its simplicity: no arguments, no desperate aligning of inner and outer selves. Its assumption that I am not whole but that is OK, allows me to see through the distortions, the fabrications and defences that I have built. It is immediately clear what I would do and I choose so to act.
The Mind that Changes Everything by Ian Gawler
Meditation: an Indepth a Guide by Ian Gawler
Blog post – If I Were Whole – link