Humility: the gate to power
Humility is a quality that is generally familiar to everyone. Many spiritual teachings include some reference to humility. Humility would be widely recognized as a virtue or a favorable quality.
However, beyond the occasional reference to the word humility, there may be relatively little emphasis of the benefits of humility or how humility develops. In fact, for those who are unconsciously avoiding the subject of humility, then they would also avoid focusing on exactly what humility is.
in this presentation, I will share a few stories and emphasize the internal experience of humility, as well as the benefits of that experience. In that process, we will also explore the behavioral pattern of hysterical avoidance.
in fact, it may be simplest to explore the behavior of hysterical avoidance first. We will cross that bridge and reach the subject of humility.
so, a more common labeling for what I am calling hysterical avoidance is the word shame. Here is a story about shaming and shame.
Imagine a child in a classroom with many other children and one adult teacher. On the very first day of the school year, a particular child is startled by a sudden pain and shouts out, drawing attention to themselves and disrupting the normal rituals of the classroom.
at that moment, the child who just shouted may be embarrassed and even release a few teardrops from their eyes. Embarrassment means that the child is hesitant to request assistance. In fact, because of the embarrassment, the child may neglect to assess their own need for assistance.
They don’t want to be a burden to others. In other words, they are already embarrassed and don’t want to risk further embarrassment by asking for help because that creates the possibility of their request being declined, which could release a display of their current level of embarrassment.
The child is socially anxious or unstable. There is some basic need of theirs that is not being met. They are tense in relation to the possibility of attracting social punishment. They feel unsafe.
if the child felt safe to expose an experience of embarrassment, then they would not suppress the display of embarrassment. They would not hysterically avoid the display of embarrassment. They would not experience shame. They would not be anxious about burdening others or disappointing others and then being punished for not conforming to some social expectation of how they should be.
so, back to the child who has just shouted and now everyone else in the classroom is looking at them, the child may pretend that they were not really hurt. They may pretend that they were not crying at all or simply attempt to hide the tears or remove them quickly so that there is no visual evidence of crying.
A variety of pretenses and personas may be invented by the child in that moment in order to cope with the distress of expecting social punishment. If a very unfavorable social punishment is expected, then the child may even be eager to accept a more moderate social punishment.
The child just wants the big threat relieved. They just want the spotlight removed from them.
Or, maybe one of their coping mechanisms is to bring a particular kind of spotlight toward them selves. In order to avoid being perceived as socially weak or unstable, they may present themselves as a rebel or a class clown. They glory in their small acts of noncompliance and compete for the attention and social validation of at least a few of the other children in the classroom.
If they are actually tender, then they may present a persona of being tough. They may bully targets who they assess to be vulnerable as in safe to target with ongoing bullying. However, their bullying may be mostly verbal and social. And they have no real concern for humiliating their target. Their only purpose is to impress their friends.
how do they impress their friends exactly? The most obvious way is to bully their selected victim in the presence of at least one of their friends. If one of their friends witnesses the event, then the first-hand witness can verify the story when the bully makes reference to it dozens of times in the following week.
But there is an even more complex and dramatic scenario that is possible for the schoolyard bully. If the bully is aggressive enough in the presence of a teacher, then the teacher is likely to socially announce some punishment to be inflicted on the bully.
The teacher may censor from their public announcement the details of who was victimized and how. However, the stage has been set. The bully has attracted the spotlight and, with the spotlight on them, The bully now has a context to attract the attention of their friends.
how does the bully do that? The bully does not announce to their friends that they were being a bully because they were socially anxious and wanted so much to impress their friends that they found some target to abuse. The bully presents themselves as the victim of the teacher’s unjust punishments.
maybe they justify their activities as “being nothing.” They may say that it was no big deal or that they were not the ones who started the trouble. They had simply been annoying and pestering their target for several minutes when, suddenly and unexpectedly and with no justification, their target said something very mean to them, like accusing them of being a bully. So, their totally justified response was to do whatever they did. The teacher victimized them by too severe of a punishment or by failing to punish the other child as well. Maybe someone else did something similar a week prior and did not even get caught.
so, even if the ultimate complaint is that it is so unfortunate that they were caught doing the thing that they admit they should not have done, the tough rebel will complain. They will not say that they were a bully. If they admit to briefly bullying someone, they still do not socially present the identity of bully. They are a tough rebel. They are actually very brave and do not need the social validation of the teacher, who is deserving of their criticism for whatever list of reasons.
They may even hysterically condemn people who are obedient and who are interested in social validation. Their social pretense is that they are not like that at all. If someone suggests that the tough rebel is simply a bully who wants the social validation of their friends, they will say that the accusation is ridiculous or disgusting or infuriating or simply deserving to be completely dismissed and ignored. They will absolutely not invite A social platform for the hearing of the accusations or complaints.
through their complaints, they attempt to dominate the social dynamic. If they are disruptive to someone else’s voicing of an accusation, that is because they are a tough rebel who is justified in their holy heroism. “Someone needs to stand up for those victims over there,” says the tough rebel.
Does the tough rebel actually go and get involved in some nearby opportunity for social activism? Maybe they do. If they do, they may not be very focused on victory or success. They may be willing to invest massive amounts of time in a campaign that produces little or no return on their investment.
However, the tough rebel isn’t investing specifically in the resolving of a social problem. In fact, the ultimate resolution of their favorite social issue would be a kind of failure to them because it would create a void in their theater of tough rebellion. They might feel the need to find some new issue.
what is the real target of their investment of time (or other resources)? What are they really doing when they talk to others about their social heroism? Are they attracting validation or are they pursuing a cold, strategic campaign designed simply to promote a specific outcome efficiently?
The social activist organizes their attention around the idea that they are powerful. They may not actually experience themselves as powerful and if there is any element of whining in their complaints, then they are presenting a narrative of helplessness and victimization and injustice. However, they may label their narrative as a narrative of empowerment. The label maybe a deceptive pretense designed to attract social validation.
so, the reality is that most people don’t really care that much about social validation. We only are hysterically attracted social validation when we have a pretense that we wish to maintain. We want others to validate that pretense or reassure us that they are not going to expose the reality behind the pretense.
Some people may openly care about publicity and public relations. They may strategically target social validation and even measure it. They are not pretending to be independent of the issue of social popularity. They are taking polls or reading poll data in order to measure the popularity of their ideal. They may even be looking for a particular poll that supports the idea that there ideal is already popular.
there is a distinction between hysterically obsessing over social validation and intentionally pursuing social validation. Those who hysterically agonize about social validation tend to also condemn the pursuit of social validation.
they are ashamed about their own pursuit of social validation, so they condemn it in others. They agonize hysterically because they are in distress about the possible exposure of their lack of social popularity or social power.
So what do we care about that so many of us pretend not to care about? We are concerned about social punishment. We do not want to be targeted by any foreign military or local law-enforcement agency. We do not want to be punished even if we have been targeted.
we prefer to avoid altercations in public or in private. We do not want to be bullied or harassed. We do not want to be swindled or defrauded. We wish to avoid detriment or injury or loss or even risk of loss.
we are not actually afraid of disappointment or humiliation. We are afraid of powerlessness or helplessness and we May bury that fear under some words about disappointment or social humiliation.
ironically, we may say that we organize our life around avoiding disappointment but that is still organizing our life around the subject of disappointment. We may say that we are attempting to avoid all disappointments and we may sincerely believe that (as in consistently and passionately present that display socially). However, by hysterically avoiding small disappointments, we may set ourselves up to create a much bigger disappointment. We may create a relatively dramatic cause for the social punishment or embarrassment.
we May want to hysterically avoid the admission of our own small amount of social power or social stability. We may be completely outgunned by the mercenaries of the local court system or the soldiers of the various empires throughout the world. But how many of us simply humbly acknowledge our almost negligible influence on society at large?
Most people may not even want to acknowledge the tremendous influence of society on their own life. They may downplay the importance of the economic climate. They may downplay the importance of certain political freedoms.
they may obsessively display their own pursuit of glory. They are social activists who present themselves as heroic in their toughness and their rebellion. They are “social justice warriors” who do a thankless job but have a lot of emotion come up if someone does present them a display of gratitude.
they are pretending not to be interested in social validation. They’re displaying a pretense of humility.
for someone who actually experiences humility, they will be relaxed in the midst of gratitude or even flattery. They do not whine about the absence of gratitude or validation. They are interested in effectiveness not vanity.
They do not even have a dramatic response to being accused of vanity or arrogance. It may not be of great importance to them to make a dramatic accusations toward all the people in their mitts that manifest vanity or arrogance or shame or pretentiousness.
so, is it acceptable socially for people to admit a desire to increase their own welfare or social power? It depends on the social group, right?
In some groups, selflessness is hysterically glorified and selfishness is hysterically vilified. In other groups, personal responsibility and adaptiveness is valued or validated or emphasized.
those who are unusually humble may be free of the typical social obsessions of most people. They are not obsessed about whether other people offer them social validation as being humble. They’re not insulted by displays of social invalidation.
People who are hysterically avoiding some aspect of their own reality Will be easily insulted or upset. Imagine an infant who does not understand English and someone says in their presence that The infant is very small and very young and not very fluent in the English language. Will the infant be insulted by someone in their midst forming a sequence of sounds to make the statement about the infant?
humility is our natural state. The distress of being concerned with the potential for future social invalidation is a common experience among adults. How did we go from a state of constant humility or groundedness to a state of continuing shame or emotional instability?
we are targeted with social intimidation throughout our youth and also our adulthood. The infant has not yet come to comprehend verbal displays of social threats. So, the infant is not socially threatened… Or not yet.
In my own life, I was socially threatened so effectively that I learned to pretend not to be experiencing a constant social threat. I learned to hide my anxiety or distress. I learned shame.
I was traumatized socially which created a transition from relaxed humility to tense shame. What is the solution to the experience of shame? It is not to shame others, which does nothing to reduce one’s own shame. It is also not enough to simply be ashamed. Wallowing in shame perpetuates it. Shame is an effect of a particular neurolinguistic paradigm or model. Shame is a type of hysteria.
We can resolve shame by noticing what it is and then relaxing our habits of creating shame through our patterns of speaking. We can notice how certain patterns of speaking express shame and even cultivate it. We can notice the social behavior of shaming and respect the fact of that type of behavior.
we can notice the hysterical pretenses of people who are ashamed and pretend to be humble or confident or socially powerful. Those people may be labeled as arrogant or easily insulted or easily threatened by ideas. A person who doubts the scientific merit of their own doctrine and will be hysterical in response to skepticism if they are ashamed of the possibility that their doctrines lack scientific merit.
someone who is confident in the scientific merit of an idea or theory does not have a hysterical contempt for people who are insufficiently enthusiastic about that idea. They are not beginning with the hysterical shame so they do not practice of behavior of hysterically shaming those who they perceived as threatening to their pretense.
humility can correspond to an awareness of our relative lack of social influence. Society can exert a massive amount of influence on us as individuals and even if we are socially powerful, that may be of no significance relative to something like the sun or a lightning bolt or a tornado.
those who are humble can precisely recognize where they have power or potential for influence and where they do not. They are not hysterically pretending to be more or less powerful than they are. They are not hysterically pretending. They are not ashamed.
they probably have been ashamed, but their prior shame is not a crutch that they use to move through life. Their History of having experience shame or social intimidation is not a major theme in their narrative of how society has victimize them and chained them in their past.
they are alert. They are not presumptive in a dysfunctional way. They presume lots of things but can easily admit what is a presumption and can easily admit when a presumption has been invalidated by observation. They are open to learning. They are open. They are humble like a child. They are capable of entering the kingdom of heaven. They do not already insist that they know what the kingdom of heaven means, that they are already in it, or that they are not already in it. They are humble.
They are relaxed. They are innocent or pure, as in free of distress about guilt or anxiety about the possibility of social threats.
Social threats or risks are possible. The total absence of all activity of social threatening is impossible. Those who are humble are not trying to save reality from the existence of the issuing or presenting of social threats.