Ego Analysis of Confidence and Courage

The mistake people make about confidence, and life in general, is about shame.  They are living from an orientation that they can’t be afraid.  

The ego analysis of this condition is so shallow that it is deep.  If you don’t want to be afraid it means you think it is bad to be so.  So to be afraid means that you are bad.  They are ashamed of being afraid.  They don’t want others to know they are afraid because they think it is weak, bad or crazy to be afraid about whatever it is they are dealing with.  (As an aside, there may be little difference between excitement and anxiety other than how you relate to them.)

Your fear is ego-dystonic if you don’t want it to be true about yourself.  You are trapped in this sense invisibly by the language signification of the problem:

  • You don’t want it to be true about yourself
  • Therefore it is true
  • You identify with the disavowal

You also don’t want others to know it about you.  This is just as bad since this again carries the presupposition that it is true.  It can seem like there is no way out.  There are three solutions, as I see it: Accepting the truth, fighting the truth, or desiring the truth.

The depressive solution here is to accept the spoiled identity of lacking confidence and believe that you are inferior.  This leads to resentiment.  You can blame and look down on people who are phony, or blame and resent people who have undermined your confidence.  You can appeal to medical and evolutionary explanations.

The narcissistic solution is to deny the shame as noted above and try to get by on convincing others you aren’t afraid.  The unspoken logic goes that if you convince other people you are not afraid then somehow their reaction will eventually transform the fear itself.  This is the “fake it ’till you make it” perspective.

You wind up fighting reality, and by extension yourself and others, living a series of superficial behaviors and manipulations to try and prove that it isn’t true.  If you can successfully fake it, you may relieve your anxiety about it to the point it doesn’t matter.  But you are still always at risk of feeling bad about yourself, or feeling like a phony.

There is a way out of all this that can leave you born again.  The mistake is fundamental and it exists in the belief that you just can’t be afraid.  This belief hides shame.  The resistance to feelings of inferiority can spawn endless searching and striving.

What if you wanted other people to know you are afraid so that they would know you are being courageous?  What if you yourself were not threatened by fear, but indeed wanted to be afraid, too, because you wanted others to know you were courageous?  Isn’t that confidence?

The way out is pride.  You can’t see it because of shame, and you can’t experience your shame directly because much of what we all do is designed to hide it from each other.

We do this from a superstition so deep that we have built the world around it.  That superstition is identity – part of which means that if you feel something, you are something.  If you feel inferior, you are inferior.  That is why shame becomes invisible.  Again this is a trap of language, the infinite regress of signified concepts.

To want to be better means that you really are worse.  

The desire to be know as you are can help you live the experience that you really aren’t anything but desire and experience.  And what you’ll experience is the freedom and pride of being, living your experienced feelings, not a relationship to a concept.

So repeat after me:  The truth is I’m afraid. I’m ashamed of being afraid and I worry you won’t take me seriously if you know that I have doubts and insecurities about what I’m saying.  This matters to me because I care about you, and I care about what I’m doing.  So, now that you know this, let’s get on with things, shall we?

The key is that you can learn to want to be afraid.  Once you can want to be afraid the sting is gone.  Your challenge in life is to find something worth being afraid of, something worth being ashamed about.

The reason you would want to feel ashamed is so you can have pride and self respect.  If you’re looking for the trace of your shame I’ll give you a hint, it’s grief.

Of your fear say, I will it thus!  You may discover all along that the only thing you were ashamed of was living a lie, which can stop at any moment.

The Worst Question to Ask Yourself

 

Picture by Moyan Brenn on Flickr
Picture by Moyan Brenn on Flickr

A commonsense approach to your psychological world is to consider the question “How do I really feel?”  This view implies that you have a real authentic self with real feelings that are distorted, hidden, covered up by some combination of false self/feelings – often attributed to societal pressures and an eastern-Oprah style take on egocentricity (loosely defined as an attachment to how others see you).  The admonition is that you should introspectively consider what you really want, parse this by means of an internally arising sensation or experience, and then act on it.

Reality, in my view, is much closer to the surface.  Your actual feelings when you consider the question (How do I really feel?) are what are being avoided.  Contemplating the questionHow do I really feel? ” is an imaginary process of fantasizing about your ideal self.

The power of this perspective is immediately clear when you consider that you, the reader, have probably already reacted to this with the assumption that fantasizing about your ideal self would be weak/immature/bad/crazy/wrong and that an adult couldn’t or shouldn’t enjoy spending time doing that.

It’s the combination of both the stricture (“Stop it!”) and the admonition (“How do you really feel?”) that can lead to compulsion and rumination – i.e. suffering and feeling stuck.