This is the third installment in a series of posts, Seven Degrees of Illumination.
Recap of first degree
To make sure I stay in the seat of rightness, because it’s me against all who do or might disagree with me, I set up strategies that support that game. My intent is to make all see that I’m right and wanting to lead them into a no-failure state of being, like mine. I install defenses against being perceived as wrong. I seek validation of my rightness through agreement with as many others as I can convince.
Disagreement with the concept of, “MY world is THE world,” I consider a threat to my existence. Motivated by my fear of the consequences of being wrong, I keep an arsenal of failsafe safeguards in place, just in case!
Level Two – Defense Against Failure
Offense as Defense
According to military doctrine, one of the best defenses is a good offense. To accomplish this, I keep on hand a plethora of offensive strategies. Among these are preemptive strikes called conscience and bias.
My conscience is a kind of inner sense acting as a guide to what I believe is right and wrong. It represents my training and conditioning, from which I derive my definitions of rightness (good) and wrongness (bad). It’s a subconscious perception of survival, a defense intended to validate my reasons by referring to the authority of those I consider my “betters” – such as parents, teachers, clergy, friends, and the like – folks to whom I have given my trust – and with whom I expect you should agree, too. Conscience allows me to prejudge my behaviors in comparison with others through prejudicial filters.
A bias is a prejudice in favor of or against others. At this level, I don’t care about unfair – I only care about winning!
A bias can keep me in the competition game by preventing me from getting out of it. Conscience and bias work like a sand pit trap – the loose sand of the walls slide down with every move, making it impossible to climb out.
While conscience keeps me within the bounds of propriety, bias taints every perception so as to keep them “in perspective.” Bias might make me view mine or another group as inferior, even when I see evidence to the contrary. The bias causes my senses to only accept data that confirms my belief.
When conscience and bias fail to keep me or the other person within my expectations, I tend to go to my second level of defense –
Excuses and Justifications
I may feel surprised initially at the behaviors of those I hold in specific mindsets, yet it doesn’t surprise me when my benign prejudice turns into malignant action. I am forever on the lookout for threats to the survival of my rightness. My ego likes a tidy ship and so is quick to apply a bandage to the chink in its armor, often at others expense. This bandage usually takes the form of excuses and justifications.
There’s nothing quite like a good excuse to keep things as they are and stymie progress while convincing me that I’m ahead of the game. Justification cements my thinking and prevents innovation. Let’s say that my idol makes an obvious mistake. Rather than moving on to the next level of illumination, I might choose instead to keep my idol in his/her place by saying to myself, “well, everyone has an off day…” – excusing their behavior and re-confirming my judgments of them.
Emotion as Defense
I don’t much like “negative” emotions. I prefer not to feel angry, frustrated, afraid, etc. because they tend to hurt. To protect myself from these emotional hurts, I attempt to attach them to someone else. I “project” my feelings onto them. This usually entails initiating one or more blame strategies. However, sometimes negative emotion is itself a great defense – against progress.
When someone fails to meet my expectations and especially my needs, I may feel disappointed, angry, maybe even betrayed. I could also feel disrespected when I imagine their behavior as evidence of their “bad” intention towards me. With a bias, I can use my imagination of their ill intentions to once again fulfill my preconceptions of them and justify my hurtful emotions. Projecting that hurt onto another person makes it appear as though they don’t apply to me. Especially when the intensity of my emotions is great, projection can help me keep the competition alive, returning me to level one even more determined to stay there.
Denial and Biases
When I begin to perceive incongruence in my projection, I feel an immediate need to correct the incongruity. I am capable of twisting observations that prove me mistaken into evidence of my rightness. When my judgments slip out of harmony with observed reality, I get busy molding reality to match my judgment.
Seeking balance between my observation on the one hand and my expectation on the other, I work to fill the difference with imagination. First, I imagine that maybe my observation of their failure could be incorrect, in which case I can simply adjust my observation to suit my expectation. This is the “I didn’t/can’t see it” or “that didn’t/couldn’t happen” illusion. Denial.
I might observe the “offending” behavior but filter it based on my expectations so the skewed observation matches my expectations. Even when trusted others corroborate the observation, I may not hear them or hear them say something else entirely. This is the Confirmation Bias in action, in which I confirm my expectation with biased observation.
If denial and confirmation bias don’t work for me or I completely trust my observation of failure, then I must turn to my expectations. One way to manipulate expectations is to adjust them just enough so they more closely match my observation. This is the case of, “it’s okay – they almost…,” and “It’s just a one-off…,” – in which I adjust my expectations slightly downwards to include their behavior. This, too, utilizes a bit of denial and bias to accomplish its goal of returning the game to level one.
When I don’t get the results I need, after using the above strategies, I might use a stronger means of motivation. I may employ intimidation as a tool to inspire cooperation by putting the offender back into their place through physical and/or psychological coercion – doing whatever is necessary to return the kingdom of competition to its place, unruffled by these minor setbacks.
In this stage I can justify my fading projections, restoring them to their place. Failure is seen as bad, yet natural and, most importantly, fixable. The competition CAN continue BECAUSE… [some “good” excuse to fix and make right]…
This is by no means a complete overview of how I use defense to keep me in the competition game. With a colossal human imagination at my disposal I am capable of constructing defenses that put strategies of the most successful of predators to shame. My mind can deal with just about any contingency when I feel threatened. The employment of biases and prejudices, blame and coercion, among others, extend my best defenses into an effective offense as well.
In level one I worked to enroll others into my reality to support my sense of right and wrong. The more people I enroll, the more confident I feel in my rightness – my judgments of right and wrong. Confidence breeds more confidence as I enroll even more people into my defensive support system.
Now I can use those support systems as defense against me leaving the game. These support systems usually involve some kind of authority, which I give to them with my agreement or acquiescence.
Support systems are brilliant defenses because I give them my TRUST. By definition, “support systems” support us in our collective agreement (rightness). Even when I object to some aspect of a support system, my fear of the consequences of rebellion bring me quickly back into line with the group.
Some examples of authoritative support systems I must appease include:
By joining a “club” we appear to hand over our accountability to the group. This gives me the illusion of safety as long as I stay within the boundaries of the group’s rules and regulations. Mutual agreement tends to amplify my sense of rightness such that “my team” is best – bring on the fight! Winner take all!!
Support systems are not good or bad, per se. They are simply systems that support the rightness of whatever concepts I espouse at the time. These groups are great sources of comfort, which seems like a great idea – sometimes strengthening me when I feel down or weak. It’s just that such “comfort” comes at a price – the possibility of awakening.
As long as fear keeps me in a group, I’m regulating myself back into the first degree game of right/wrong, good/bad, you vs me. Until I’m ready to release my fear of leaving a group, that support system will remain a defense for me.
This stage usually results in my return to the safety of stage one. I can loop between stage one and two for a lifetime – competing, defending, failing, fixing, competing, defending, failing, fixing… etc.
I can become aware of my condition and move on to the next stage.
Just one more thought to consider before we move on…
Defensiveness requires vast amounts of personal life-force energy. That level of energy expenditure can result in physical and mental decline over time. Just as in the previous stage, defending, failing, and fixing can be exhausting.