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Source: As A Matter Of Course
TO be truly at peace with one's self means rest indeed.
There is a quiet complacency, though, which passes for peace, and is
like the remarkably clear red-and-white complexion which indicates
disease. It will be noticed that the sufferers from this complacent
spirit of so-called peace shrink from openness of any sort, from
others or to others. They will put a disagreeable feeling out of
sight with a rapidity which would seem to come from sheer fright
lest they should see and acknowledge themselves in their true guise.
Or they will acknowledge it to a certain extent, with a pleasure in
their own humility which increases the complacency in proportion.
This peace is not to be desired. With those who enjoy it, a true
knowledge of or friendship with others is as much out of the
question as a knowledge of themselves. And when it is broken or
interfered with in any way, the pain is as intense and real as the
peace was false.
The first step towards amicable relations with ourselves is to
acknowledge that we are living with a stranger. Then it sometimes
happens that through being annoyed by some one else we are enabled
to recognize similar disagreeable tendencies in ourselves of which
we were totally ignorant before.
As honest dealing with others always pays best in the end, so it is
in all relations with one's self. There are many times when to be
quite open with a friend we must wait to be asked. With ourselves no
such courtesy is needed. We can speak out and done with it, and the
franker we are, the sooner we are free. For, unlike other
companions, we can enjoy ourselves best when we are conspicuous only
by our own absence!
It is this constant persistence in clinging to ourselves that is
most in the way; it increases that crown of nervous troubles,
self-consciousness, and makes it quite impossible that we should
ever really know ourselves. If by all this, we are not ineffable
bores to ourselves, we certainly become so to other people.
It is surprising, when once we come to recognize it, how we are in
an almost chronic state of posing to ourselves. Fortunately, a clear
recognition of the fact is most effectual in stopping the poses. But
they must be recognized, pose by pose, individually and separately
stopped, _and then ignored_, if we want to free ourselves from
The interior posing-habit makes one a slave to brain-impressions
which puts all freedom out of the question. To cease from such
posing opens one of the most interesting gates to natural life. We
wonder how we could have obscured the outside view for so long.
To find that we cannot, or do not, let ourselves alone for an hour
in the day seems the more surprising when we remember that there is
so much to enjoy outside. Egotism is immensely magnified in nervous
disorders; but that it is the positive cause of much nervous trouble
has not been generally admitted.
Let any one of us take a good look at the amount of attention given
by ourselves to ourselves. Then acknowledge, without flinching, what
amount of that attention is unnecessary; and it will clear the air
delightfully, for a moment at any rate.
The tendency to refer everything, in some way or another, to one's
self; the touchiness and suspicion aroused by nothing but petty
jealousy as to one's own place; the imagined slights from others;
the want of consideration given us,--all these and many more
senseless irritations are in this over-attention to self. The
worries about our own moral state take up so great a place with many
of us as to leave no room for any other thought. Indeed, it is not
uncommon to see a woman worrying so over her faults that she has no
time to correct them. Self-condemnation is as great a vanity as its
opposite. Either in one way or another there is the steady
temptation to attend to one's self, and along with it an irritation
of the nerves which keeps us from any sense of real freedom.
With most of us there is no great depth to the self-disease if it is
only stopped in time. When once we are well started in the wholesome
practice of getting rid of ourselves, the process is rapid. A
thorough freedom from self once gained, we find ourselves quite
companionable, which, though paradoxical, is without doubt a truth.
"That freedom of the soul," writes Fenelon, "which looks straight
onward in its path, losing no time to reason upon its steps, to
study them, or to dwell upon those already taken, is true
simplicity." We recognize a mistake, correct it, go on and forget.
If it appears again, correct it again. Irritation at the second or
at any number of reappearances only increases the brain-impression
of the mistake, and makes the tendency to future error greater.
If opportunity arises to do a good action, take advantage of it, and
silently decline the disadvantage of having your attention riveted
to it by the praise of others.
A man who is constantly analyzing his physical state is called a
hypochondriac. What shall we call the man who is constantly
analyzing his moral state? As the hypochondriac loses all sense of
health in holding the impression of disease, so the other gradually
loses the sense of wholesome relation to himself and to others.
If a man obeyed the laws of health as a matter of course, and turned
back every time Nature convicted him of disobedience, he would never
feel the need of self-analysis so far as his physical state was
concerned. Just so far as a man obeys higher laws as a matter of
course, and uses every mistake to enable him to know the laws
better, is morbid introspection out of the question with him.
"Man, know thyself!" but, being sure of the desire to know thyself,
do not be impatient at slow progress; pay little attention to the
process, and forget thyself, except when remembering is necessary to
a better forgetting.
To live at real peace with ourselves, we must surely let every
little evil imp of selfishness show himself, and not have any
skulking around corners. Recognize him for his full worthless-ness,
call him by his right name, and move off. Having called him by his
right name, our severity with ourselves for harboring him is
unnecessary. To be gentle with ourselves is quite as important as to
be gentle with others. Great nervous suffering is caused by this
over-severity to one's self, and freedom is never accomplished by
that means. Many of us are not severe enough, but very many are too
severe. One mistake is quite as bad as the other, and as disastrous
in its effects.
If we would regard our own state less, or careless whether we were
happy or unhappy, our freedom from self would be gained more
As a man intensely interested in some special work does not notice
the weather, so we, if we once get hold of the immense interest
there may be in living, are not moved to any depth by changes in the
clouds of our personal state. We take our moods as a matter of
course, and look beyond to interests that are greater. Self may be a
great burden if we allow it. It is only a clear window through which
we see and are seen, if we are free. And the repose of such freedom
must be beyond our conception until we have found it. To be
absolutely certain that we know ourselves at any time is one great
impediment to reaching such rest. Every bit of self-knowledge gained
makes us more doubtful as to knowledge to come. It would surprise
most of us to see how really unimportant we are. As a part of the
universe, our importance increases just in proportion to the laws
that work through us; but this self-importance is lost to us
entirely in our greater recognition of the laws. As we gain in the
sensitive recognition of universal laws, every petty bit of
self-contraction disappears as darkness before the rising of the