‘I NEED TO LISTEN TO MYSELF.’ Are you sure?
A woman friend and I had a lengthy exploration together of the issue involving ‘self and other.’
Her voice had echoes of very similar voices that I hear frequently.
In a nutshell, here is what she said to me: “I have spent years listening to others. I have made so many sacrifices for my relationship and family. I have given my life to helping others though my work. I have given up so much to make myself accessible for others. I have committed my life to service, to the practice of loving kindness and compassion.
“I have ignored myself. I have not listened to myself. I have ignored my own needs. I have made so many sacrifices. I have denied myself.
“Now I am listening to myself. I have realised I have to acknowledge my own needs and respond to them. And that is what I am doing. My therapist is really encouraging me.”
We can look at this view in a sympathetic light that reinforces the current belief system of the self. Or we can take a hard edge Dharma view. A Dharma view is free from support for the other-self, self-other view that the ‘self’ has adopted because it does not know anything else.
My friend is clearly struggling with her ‘self.’ She sounded like she was in a crisis. Her self has conceived a story. The self has placed itself in the position in the past of engagement in acts of self-sacrifice. With this belief, the self now intends to make another sacrifice, namely the sacrifice of other (s) to concentrate on her ‘self.’
There is a withdrawal from the world of other and a highlighting of the self. ‘I have to listen to my own needs.’
The woman told me that she believed that Dharma teachings encourage self sacrifice for the sake of others. With such a view, she reinforces her standpoint with her interpretation of Dharma teaching .
I responded that I understood that dharma teachings encourage all practitioners to meditate regularly, to make time daily for silence and solitude, to attend retreats, to make personal retreats, to participate in sangha events, perhaps go to India, to the East, to make time for inner renewal in various ways as vehicles to look into the inner life. I asked her if that endorses enquiry or a martyr complex. She agreed it was the former.
I added that Dharma teachings also encourage practitioners to be present for others through acts of kindness (metta) and service. Apart from metta and service as a challenging practice, the practice guards against the narcissism in Buddhism and psychotherapy.
I have sacrificed everything for love, for others, is a self gratifying view of personal history.
I have to let go of others to listen to myself is another self gratifying view. This view is based on a reaction to the previous view. It is the same problem.
Nothing has changed. Self is still grasping.
There will be no increase in happiness, no real peace of mind or wisdom through a tortoise like mentality of withdrawing into the personal self and perhaps reducing contact to two or three selected loved ones.
The world of self and other is utterly insubstantial, without any foundation.
The woman did not understand. I sensed she had made her mind up. Perhaps, she did not want to be confused with any insight into the emptiness of her self-other story. Liberation comes tantalisingly close through seeing the emptiness of believing in substantial differences between self and other. The substantial differences depend upon reaction, avoidance, projections and belief in the reality of the self, here or there.
Life is a free movement without the limitation of a direction to it, especially the absurd story of backwards and forwards between self and others.
Perhaps the women will reflect on the non-duality of self and other and know the happiness of such relief from the imprisonment to such views.