Every one of us is special, for the simple reason that no one is devoid of any capability at all. Then why some of us achieve well beyond limitations while others spend their lives in oblivion. Psychology can help us understand some human traits here. A child is innocent; he has neither apprehensions nor malice. But we are here for some purpose and tragedies are part of the process of growing up. No one grows (both physically and metaphorically) without experiencing them, first of them being; being born itself. Then there are others like Oedipus complex which Sigmund Freud explained as “first sexual impulses of a child are directed towards his mother.” It stems mainly due to adverse climactic conditions faced by the child after birth, which is very different from the pre birth conditions when child is safe and secure in his mother’s womb “it is this desire of becoming one with body and soul”. Freud adds “the child wants to have his mother but realizes that he cannot, as she belongs to his father”. It might seem taboo to some, but as Freud remarked “because the oracle laid the same curse upon us before our birth…”
Thomas A. Harris in his book I am Ok You are OK points out that every child feels- after looking up to the adults around him- that he is “little, incompetent, and often makes mistakes”. Harris also points out that “fortunate are those children, who, early in their lives gets an opportunity to prove to others, and mainly to themselves, that they are worthwhile and competent”. For lesser fortunate children, however, repetitive limiting commands such as “You are worthless”, “You are incompetent”, “You can’t do it”, are found to be playing like a tape in their heads well into their adulthood. This condition has been termed as contamination of Adult by Harris. This is not just one form of contamination of adult as described by Harris; many abnormal human traits come under this head, ranging from masochistic and psychopathic to self defeating tendencies. But the former are much less common in comparison to the latter and in this text we shall deal with the latter only.
Most children grow up feeling feeble and petite. If they are not backed up with enough love and care they might develop an abnormal perception through false learning. Sure, a setback makes us grow out of our cocoon, but it might also do so in a negative way. If a child, during his developmental phase where he encounters a tragedy, is not reconciled with love, he might develop a pervasive view of himself and the world around him. Having abusive parents makes the matters worse. If a child is abused during early years of his life there is a hundred percent chance that he will associate so much pain to being himself that he will hide under delusions, projections, and other defence mechanisms. This is what is called hiding from oneself or ‘Escapism’. If these issues are not dealt with, a person can spend his entire life under their influence.
This condition is not limited to abused children. Children, who have faced domestic violence, had broken homes, poor nutrition, or even- as Thomas Harris points out- ‘didn’t have the opportunity of proving their worth to themselves’ may develop these tendencies. They are ridden by low self esteem.
There are a lot of manifestations of poor self-image or low self-esteem, primary of them being lack of concentration. Intense moments that requires focussed attention brings us to our True Self; this is the concept of meditation. Since the one ridden by low self esteem wants to hide from himself he avoids intense moments and lacks concentration. He lacks confidence, avoids confrontations, and also avoids silence as silence, like meditation, also helps us find our True Self. People having this obliquity can be broadly classified in two categories.
Those belonging to the first one (the primary) are trepid, emotionally insecure and afraid of taking risks. They never see dreams, because a long shot often involves a risk of failure. For them failure is the cardinal sin, they can’t take the risk of coming around as one. Their energies are diverted to addictions and obsessions. They might be galvanized into action by ‘ennui’, or in case they associate a lot of pain to their former self as pointed out by Harris. But if the underlying disorders in schema are not dealt with, they might develop a secondary condition described below.
The secondary condition is quite opposite to the primary in that that the person in concern does not underestimate himself but does the opposite, he overestimates, yet they are very much alike since the pain and sufferings are all the same. Quite notably primary condition is prerequisite of the secondary one. The secondary condition, where the subject overestimates his capabilities and considers himself the centre of universe, cannot develop on its own, an underlying inferiority is always there.
The person having any of the above described disorders eventually undertakes hollow or borrowed dreams.
This brings us to the question of whether dreams can be misleading. Yes! If one pursues goals which are inconsistent with his inherent values and gifted talents, one cannot find peace even after realization of the dream. Such individuals either comes through as a thorough failure or conversely might keep climbing ladders of success one after another, but never finding any satisfaction or sense of value addition in them. They keep asking the same question over and over again, after every achievement, ‘is that all to it?’
Can this condition be revived? This is the question on which psychology, religion, and philosophy offers a coherent view. Thomas Harris calls it emancipation of Adult; Carl Jung, disciple of Freud, called it self-actualization; religion named it apotheosis; while there is no one word for it in philosophy, it can be well assumed that philosophy do advertise that there is a way out or how else would you explain the existence of so many philosophical teachings, they ought to have some purpose.
This process of revival can be understood by the ancient principle of karma. According to this principle every individual has some duties to fulfil, whether of patrician or of petty nature. These duties are his dharma. Karma is the action one performs. One’s karma ought to be consistent with his dharma. A soul’s next incarnation depends on the nature of karma he performed in its previous birth. Duties here does not mean obligations in general, as many writers have time and again reminded us that it is the duty of each one of us to realize our true potentials and share them with others.
Osho in his book Freedom, Courage to be yourself says “if you are a painter, you’ll have to paint; if you are a dancer, you’ll have to dance; there is no other way to achieve fulfilment and come at peace with yourself”.
It can also be understood through science of psychology. Jung laid the principle of Self-actualization. According to him each individual is born with some unique set of skills. Self-actualization is the process of reaching a stage where all the faculties and inherent talents are optimally utilized and works coherently. It is obvious how closely this principal is related to the ones mentioned above.
Realizing our true Self is the key to achieving eternal bliss. That is how we can come at peace with ourselves and to the world around us. Silence is a good starting point. Spending time in silence can reveal to us our true nature. But ultimately we shall engage ourselves in the pursuit of our true calling. We’ll have to ask ‘what are we born to do after all?’ Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, said in his speech to the Harvard grads “find out what you are born to do, till then don’t rest, don’t settle”. That is where our hope lies.