personality

Cultivate Attention and Discernment (4)

“Just as the constant increase of entropy is the basic law of the universe, so it is the basic law of life to be ever more highly structured and to struggle against entropy”

— Vaclav Havel


Reading time: 25 mins

Creative Vs Entropic influences *

To get the engine of discernment running we need to be aware of how certain influences lead to cultural hypnosis and consensus trance, keeping us stressed, dependent and spiritually asleep. To bypass those toxic effects which we have taken on as normal, we must seek to build a sacred space within so that we are ready and receptive to attract the more subtle influences which positively stimulate the mind toward soul growth. Of course, they are less obvious and more difficult to isolate, which is why it is most challenging to attain spiritual development in our current round of society – everything is set up so that we remain numb and compliant or angry, fearful and volatile.

All of which is good for the system, not so good for the seeker.

Searching out Creative Influences (CI) in this context, is about cognitive and psycho-spiritual adaptation to society and culture without becoming subsumed in its pathology. When we can, we minimise an otherwise probable path to psychological entropy. [1] Gathering and applying these creative influences becomes an art and science since it is concerned with how to live in harmony according to the 31 principles.

The embodiment of psycho-spiritual creativity denotes character which endures. And character is formed by differentiating the qualities of thoughts, feelings and actions. Searching and getting to know these qualities is much like panning for gold in the mud – we recognise, understand and extract the properties which heal and integrate. These are processes which are made up of objectives, which, in turn, comprises our primary aim founded on energy dispersed or knowledge shared. The union or synthesis of “little ‘I’s or ego states begin to come under the influence of the soul which begins to grow from the various stimuli. It leads us to experience lessons which might eventually lead to an authentic level of Being.

Lies and self-deception cause a reversal or mirror image of these creative processes twisting back to the opposite path. The trajectory may appear to be the same in every way, the only difference being that the adaptive unconscious remains tied to the same narrative with no real changes occurring deep within whereby all changes are merely cosmetic. When we start to perceive the specific context and relationship in which creativity, entropy and the three forces interpenetrate we begin to differentiate which energy is operational and determine whether or not we are assimilating creative or entropic influences (EI) thus Being, or Non-Being, the latter resulting in a slow attrition of the soul.

With its inception in thermodynamics and information theory, “entropy” refers to the amount of uncertainty and disorder in a system. Everything in the universe tends towards entropy. All living creatures interact with there environment and self-organise and adapt to reduce the prospect of external entropy overloading our open feedback system and changing it to a closed system. Sentient life consists of a diverse range of open systems which extract energy/information from their environment to maintain a stable state, which, although far from equilibrium, continually keep the balance of entropy displacement into the outside world so that it never overwhelms the inner state – operational to abstract, disorder to order. This spring-cleaning and stabilising of energy is called “negentropy”, the process which prevents psychic entropy overload.

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Choose Constructive Emotions (and don’t forget your greatest asset) (8)

“There is a great deal of unmapped country within us which would have to be
taken into account in an explanation of our gusts and storms.”

– George Eliot

“I’m not asking anything” she said. “I’m merely passing on the advice of a succession of shrewd old birds…Start by becoming aware of what you think you are. It’ll help you to become aware of what you are in fact.”

— Aldous Huxley, Island, 1962


Reading time: 20-25 mins

We’ve looked at the importance of positive emotions (and its dark side); fantasy over creativity; as well as an overview of male and female brain differences in processing emotions. We’ve also explored how constructive emotions are overall, an essential part of moral, psycho-spiritual identity.

In this final post on constructive emotions we’ll have a closer look at how they operate within a specific metaphysical/esoteric tradition with particular attention to the theory of chakras or centres. These ideas are present in much of the occult traditions but also in “esoteric science”, or the old, custodian forms of Eastern and Western traditions behind many of our religions.

This might appear to be a bit abstract, so those averse to too much theory on that score, hang in there, even it’s just theory at this point, it’ll give you a working knowledge as to how your “subtle energy” might be working in your system. Similarly, if this is just an interesting curiosity, the mere awareness of new possibilities is useful since it gives you further information to process within your personal open feedback system. Information can always be turned into practical knowledge if you test it against the whetstone of reality.

That said, a word to the wise: the following theories of esoteric work isn’t something to flirt with – a point I’ve made at various junctures on this blog. Better to just have that awareness than fully engage with what esotericists call “The Tradition” or “The Work” than only half engage. That’s as dangerous as entering a dense jungle in flip-flops, with  a plastic water bottle as your only means of survival. A paucity of sincerity and mere intellectual curiosity is not a good combination. ( know well of what I speak!) Beyond a certain point, to turn back from that Work will create a chaos you can barely imagine. As the Buddha mentioned:  “There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth: not going all the way and not starting.”

Cautionary warning dispensed with – onwards!

Fourth Way /The Centres/Chakras

There are three major influences that determine the personality and its trajectory:

  • Genetics
  • sociocultural programming
  • spiritual/religious beliefs

Our spiritual beliefs – occult or esoteric/metaphysical – have been directly or indirectly influenced by the ancient idea of chakras or subtle energy centres.

The chakra systems as we know them today have been put through the new age and occult grinder so it’s no surprise that the theory behind their functioning bares little resemblance to their original sources, be it from the yoga-tantra traditions or from esoteric Christianity filtered into the West.

The particular system I’ll focus on I believe retains the original template of the “subtle energy centres” which is the system of teaching called The Fourth Way delivered to the West by George Gurdjieff, P.D. Ouspensky and later Boris Mouravieff among others lesser known.

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1. Heal Your Past (1)

By M.K. Styllinski

“I’ve always thought that we are what we remember, and the less we
remember, the less we are.”

— Carlos Ruiz Zafon, author

—————-

“The paradox of trauma is that it has both the power to destroy and the
power to transform and resurrect.”

— author and creator of somatic experiencing, Peter A. Levine


Reading time: 25 mins

The above photo illustrates well the relationship to healing and the mind-body complex. We often place useless band-aids over the wall we have erected within ourselves and the promise of a more fulfilling life. Trauma, hurt and an array of psychic wounds are bricked up and plastered over so that we might pretend all is well and struggle on regardless. After all, it can be frightening to address deep-seated issues we know are holding us back. It can be even more disruptive to acknowledge we need help or that we need to go beyond just surviving. (Assuming that is, that such a wall hasn’t blocked out any awareness that there is a problem).

The triumph of the spirit over adversity resonates to everyone because we admire and relate to the person who has faced seemingly insurmountable odds and returned from the Dark Night Of the Soul to offer healing redemption for all. They become beacons of guidance that lights the way on our own path so that we may learn from and thereby transcend the trials and tribulations which emerge in our own lives. When someone is not only victorious but shows how we can be the same, they become an example.

One of the very first things we must do to obtain a more fulfilling and meaningful life is to heal the past. It is our accmululation of knowledge which allows us to “anticipate, protect and know ourselves.” [1] The will to survive and those survival mechanisms – our in-built means of protection against the threat of death – can then be placed in proper context so that they do not overwhelm us; where our views of the world are not violated through a lack of knowledge and adaptation. We can reduce the propensity for trauma in this trauma-inducing world. Without understanding this we cannot move ahead. Without seeing challenges as opportunities to grow and develop a creative complexity that enriches life. We must simplify our lives so that greater complexity can eventually arrive when we have the character to handle it. The “bliss” of chosen ignorance numbs the pain but stagnates potential.

The nature of trauma is a complex one. It is not just children who suffered from abuse or grew up in dysfunctional families that take on post-traumatic stress and the continuance of dissociation in adult life. There are many incidences in the lives of young children which induce trauma purely due to the fact that they are here, existing in this beautiful and horror-laden material world. Parents are often entirely clueless that their children have even suffered trauma that has overwhelmed any capacity to cope and laid down potential problems for the future. What’s more, infants and children do not have the mental or emotional maturity to mak sense of or communicate what has happened to them. At a certain age, they must stew in the juices of trauma and survive as best they can.

Take these imaginary examples:

Jenny is four-years-old. She has had an operation the evening before to remove her tonsils and has woken up in a strange room all alone. She vaguely remembers something about an operation and her parents reassuring faces that it would all be okay. But it’s dark and an odd blue glow envelops the room. Alien noises come from the large window to her right and a low hum to her left. It smells like the bathroom, and when she’d cut her knee her mother would put a plaster on it. She is scared and her throat is very, VERY painful. Such pain is entirely new to her and she feels a rising panic. Why is she alone? Where are Mummy and Daddy? Her heart rate rises. She hears voices outside and sees a yellow-orange glow spilling through the bottom of the door. She doesn’t recognise the people. Why is he alone in a strange room? Why isn’t the light on? Shadows leap and twist and turn in the corners. Her heart beats faster still. She tries to move but she can’t. The blankets and sheets are so tight and he feels so weak. Tears begin to stream from the corner of her eyes and he starts to sweat. Maybe he was naughty too many times and didn’t pay attention to what Mummy said. Maybe they decided to leave her here? She would be a good girl in future…She would be good…If only they would come back…She tries to cry out but only soft gurgle escapes.

After twenty minutes Jenny is beside herself soaked in sweat and salty tears and the pain-killers administered by the nurse on duty have worn off. It is only when the nurse arrives to check on Jenny at the allocated time that she calls the parents in. Amidst the jolly, cheerful atmosphere of relief and the complete ignorance of this little girl’s hour and a half of emotional and physical trauma goes unrecognised. Her mother mentions that her daughter’s face and hair is damp, her eyes red and that she looks very hot. The nurse takes her temperature and finds it a little above normal. “No worries. It’s all good. I’ll top up her pain relief and she can go home before lunch.” The nurse adjusts the drip and strokes Jenny’s forehead. Her parents sit on either side of the bed holding her hands. The father stares at his daughter. “She seems very quiet. Are you sure she’s okay? Jenny? You all right sweetie? On her way out the nurse responds: “She’s bound to be a bit groggy and spaced out. She’ll be fine.” Jenny stares ahead, pale, glassy-eyed, unresponsive … and traumatised. Where once distant voices seemed reassuring they would now signify loneliness, pain and abandonment.

***

Six-year-old Jonah and his parents are visiting Auntie Janet and Uncle Bob on their dairy farm in the country. Since they live in the city this is a trip Jonah has been looking forward to. He loves the countryside and his Aunt and Uncle. He has been mucking around with his cousin Jimmy who is 12 years old – much older than him. Jonah had never felt very comfortable around Jimmy and he was always so rude to his parents. He didn’t understand why Jimmy was always so mean. Jimmy has been told by his parents to show Jonah around the farm, very much against his will. Reluctantly he takes his cousin along who follows behind struggling to keep up.

They look at the tractors and all the farm equipment and he shows Jonah the cows in the milking stands and a warehouse full of corn feed. Then Jimmy has an idea. “Want to see the hay-loft?”

“Sure!” Jonah replies, trying to appear enthusiastic and unafraid.

Jimmy takes him to an old barn and stands in front of a long ladder attached to the facing wall stretching up about 15 ft up into loft full of sweet-smelling hay. From Jonah’s perspective, the ladder might as well reach to mars.

“Get up there”. Jimmy suddenly barks.

Hmmm?

“Get up that ladder!”

“I — I can’t climb up there.”

Jimmy draws closer. “Chicken. You’re just a weak little chicken. Get up that ladder NOW! If you don’t I swear to God…” He shoves his fist in front of the little boy’s face. Jonah’s eyes widen. He is shocked at the anger from his cousin seemingly from nowhere. Why is he being like this? He hesitantly places his hands on the ladder and slowly begins to climb, his fear rising at each step. Jimmy is behind him. “Faster!” he bellows. By the time Jonah reaches half way his mouth is dry and he is shaking with fear. He has never felt this fear before, his whole body shivering like he is very, very cold. But he doesn’t want to show Jimmy he is so afraid. He can’t show his fear. When they reach the top. Jonah unbuttons his blue duffle coat and sits on a hay bale. Jimmy sits on another opposite and fixes him with a malevolent gaze. Jonah looks at the floor and tries to recover.  Jimmy produces a knife from his pocket and turns it over in his hands.

“I could kill you up here and no one would ever know.”

Jonah feels cold and stares at his cousin incredulously. Jimmy suddenly throws the knife just to one side of his leg and it sticks in the hay-bale with a “thunk”. Jonah feels the world shrinking, he can hear the blood rushing in his ears and his heart beating as if it would break through his rib-cage. Then he begins to feel nothing. He is numb, switched off and nothing matters anymore. He can hear Jimmy yabbering obscenities but he, Jonah has gone somewhere else. Soon, Jimmy forces him down the ladder again, and this time, though Jonah is afraid and he begins to sweat, something has broken inside and he doesn’t really care if he lives or dies. Jonah manages to tell his parents what happened. But it doesn’t come out right, sounding like a mischevious game. When he tells them about the knife however, their smiles disappear. They call for Jimmy but he is nowhere to be found. By the time they have reached home they have forgotten the incident. Jonah realises that his parents don’t consider it important enough to follow up, so Jonah convinces himself it didn’t mean anything. He would never mention it again. He goes to bed early that night feeling very tired and lays in a fetal position under the covers. The little boy doesn’t know that he is traumatised the effects of which will remain in his unconscious and locked into his body for decades.

***

Sarah is four-years-old and its her first time on the school mini-bus. She started kindergarten this morning and is on her way home. She has a backpack and an extra sandwich provided by her mother whom she knows that she will be there to pick her up. He mother told her it would be a very short trip and that she would have picked her up if she’d had a car but there was no other way around it. Sarah didn’t like to be away from her mother and would rather be playing with her toys in her comfy, cosy bedroom. Tears were just below the surface. She is surrounded by a lot of big, noisy school children and she is afraid. Everything is so loud! She looks out of the window and thinks about Alfie her dog and his big pink tongue. She wished he was here with her – he would make it all right. It isn’t long before the bus judders to a halt and everyone piles out in a mass of shouting, bustling bodies. Sarah remains in her seat not sure if she should follow. Her heart begins to thump and she wanders down to the driver and pulls on his sleeve.

Hey, sweet-pea, this your stop?

Sarah stares at him wide-eyed. She nods…”Mom’s coming to pick me up.”

Well, okay then, you better get out here. You don’t want to be going into town.”

She nods again, brushes the hair from her eyes and adjusts her Power Rangers backpack. Turning to the doors she gingerly clambers down the steps and onto the warm pavement. The mini-bus pulls away. The other children have departed and there is not a soul to be seen. Sarah find herself alone.

Her heart begins to thump faster and her breathes become shorter. Sarah wanders over to the bus shelter and waits. She sits on the long plastic seat her legs straight out in front of her. Her mother will be here soon and the the thought calms her down. She bobs her shiny shoes up and down as if in happy confirmation. Sarah absently looks at the occasional passer-by hoping that the person is her mom. Each time, it is a stranger and each time she is disappointed she becomes more agitated. After half an hour Sarah’s chin begins to wobble and she calls for her Mom. She breathes rapidly looking around wildly in the vain hope if spotting her mother. Everything looks so strange. She doesn’t recognise anything or anyone. She frowns and screws up her face and begins to cry punctuated by cries for Mom. After one hour Sarah is calling her mother’s name only occasionally and plaintively between wracking sobs. But still no one comes. The street is empty.

She goes and sits on the side of the pavement as the sun begins to go down in the hope that someone – anyone will take her to her home. She sees a man walk hurriedly past on the other side of the street and is trapped between desperate wish for him to help her and her equally desperate fear of a stranger. She looks at all the homes and doesn’t even consider knocking on someone’s door. Everything is alien and therefore threatening. After an hour and a half, Sarah has cried herself dry. She is fiddling with her backpack and tracing her finger around the stitching repeating the process again and again. She barely looks up when her mom arrives and gathers her up weeping with relief. Sarah has been collected at last but this little girl has transported her mind somewhere else. There are no tears and not much recognition. She is in a state of detachment and drowsy acceptance of her fate. She is traumatised. The next morning Sarah will appear much better but the trauma of that event will have etched its itself into her mind and body with repercussions for the future.

These examples illustrate how precarious and vulnerable children are to the everyday trials of life growing up. It is impossible to avoid negative events as they are simply a part of what makes us human. But what we can do is build our knowledge base so that these inevitable challenges do not define us in later life, where traumatic experiences lie undetected and unresolved, keeping us unnecessarily locked in within the confines of the traumatic memory that claimed us through no fault of our own.

The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE)

Fully remembering our personal history can be a painful process – almost unbearable for some. But it must be done to bring us back to ourselves. As that wise old bird Hippocrates noted: “Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity.” Depending on the level of repression/suppression of emotions, time may heal. But trauma and adversity may just “freeze” the system in complex ways. As co-director of the The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACE) Vincent Felitti MD notes: “Contrary to conventional belief, time does not heal all wounds, since humans convert traumatic emotional experiences in childhood into organic disease later in life.” [2]

Donna Jackson Nakazawa’s book Childhood Disrupted: How Your Biography Becomes Your Biology, and How You Can Heal is an excellent place to start in discovering how to evaluate ACE and to implement the solutions provided. The studies and their questionnaire scaling shows, with surprising accuracy, that the number of Adverse Childhood Experiences an individual had, predicted the amount of medical care that person would require as an adult:

  • Individuals who had faced 4 or more categories of ACEs were twice as likely to be diagnosed with cancer as individuals who hadn’t experienced childhood adversity.
  • For each ACE Score a woman had, her risk of being hospitalized with an autoimmune disease rose by 20 percent.
  • Someone with an ACE Score of 4 was 460 percent more likely to suffer from depression than someone with an ACE Score of 0.
  • An ACE Score greater than or equal to 6 shortened an individual’s lifespan by almost 20 years. [3]

So, why such dramatic results?

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Why Young Lives Lives Are Losing Meaning and Purpose V: Faking it to Fit in

By M.K. Styllinski

The Wallflower or Attention Seeker?

“The fraudulence paradox was that the more time and effort you put into trying to appear impressive or attractive to other people, the less impressive or attractive you felt inside — you were a fraud. And the more of a fraud you felt like, the harder you tried to convey an impressive or likable image of yourself so that other people wouldn’t find out what a hollow, fraudulent person you really were.”

— David Foster Wallace


Reading time: 10-12 mins

Another aspect to consider in this overview of happiness is the introvert/extrovert poles and the mix of both, classed as ambivert. This is a useful starting point from which to guage how imbalance can manifest and impressions start to depart from who we really are, to become camouflage rather an expression of our essential nature. The trick is to become internal auditors of our self-awareness – an introspective quest of self-observation. With the help of others, we begin to employ an objective analysis as best we can, which is where Eurich’s “imaginary therapist” comes in.  Equally important is an extrospective quest or external auditors to increase our self-awareness with other people and to discover how they really see us. Once we have both introspective and extrospective quests covered then we are in a good position to start the climb toward greater awareness and a bigger vista from which to make further progress.

Of course, you can excel at one and not the other. That means introverts may be better at seeing what many of us miss, but suffer when it comes to externalising and applying those discoveries. For instance, they might have a harder time establishing that supportive circle of true friendships that can house the creativity for community, although they harbour a greater understanding of the covert psychological strategies at play, mostly due to their bid to remain under the radar and away from the spotlight. Generally, extroverts will have more difficulty with sufficient introspection since they are often more comfortable with an external focus. Such people usually have no problem creating social circles but they will a) likely have friendships that enjoy their charisma and entertainment value but seldom have friends that get close enough to access their real nature outside of that “larger than life” persona, b) the large amount of friends they may have is due to the possibility that these contacts can only stand them in small doses c) imbalanced extroverts tend to suck the energy out of a group or gathering in their bid to be the centre of attention which ultimately leads to friendship fatigue and/or accumulated tension, jealousy and conflict. (Unless of course, their behaviour is due to the Dark Triad which is a whole different ball-game).

For the imbalanced introverts who are immersed in a culture that unfairly values extroversion, such people often feel lonely, anxious and depressed. The imbalanced introvert will likely believe she does not have the courage or the likeability to engage sufficiently with others and will think that people would probably misunderstand her anyway, especially if her social skills have atrophied. Acute shyness seldom recedes if these fears aren’t addressed. Many introverts who are concerned about their personality type (whether such an expesssion is natural or artificial) place too much importance on what others might think of them and are locked into erroneous fears about the impressions they might engender should they have the courage to properly exchange. Social exchange is harder for those naturally preferring solitude, peace and one-to-one relationships but the sensitivity and perspicacity that often goes with introversion is much needed in our culture. Imbalanced introversion can lead to the kind of self-pity which produces the Damsel-in-Distress or Little Boy Lost Syndromes which seeks to ellict attention in manipulative way. Neither ploys evoke long lasting relationships.

The imbalanced extrovert doesn’t place enough importance on the art of exchange and may place great stock in his own perceived value – or at least, his need to operate in such a way that delivers what he needs i.e. required energy through attention – which may or not be in synch with others’ needs. His or her self-concept can be limitless and they can thrive in situations of pressure, risk and responsibility. They can be the life and soul of the party or a heavy jack-boot on true exchange, hogging the conversation and dominating all those in his presence whether at a board meeting or the pub. God help us if he isn’t entertaining and charismatic. Behind all that bravado however, they can be as insecure as the timid introvert, preferring to use a different mechanism to fill up the emotional tank of the ego. Obnoxious behaviour with minimal social skills will gradually deliver the extrovert to the same place as the introvert who is busy wallowing in her own shadow. The only difference is that the imbalanced extrovert will refuse to believe it and attempt to “entertain” amid uncomfortable smiles and polite excuses to catch the last taxi home.

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Why Young Lives Are Losing Meaning And Purpose IV: Impression Management

By M.K. Styllinski

“The only way to find true happiness is to risk being completely cut open.”

Chuck Palahniuk, Invisible Monsters


Reading time: (10 mins)

Studies published on life satisfaction in 2016 by economist Hannes Schwandt were based not on future situations, but on how young people felt about where they would be in five years. The gap between the optimism of the early years and the disappointment at the end of those five years was extremely clear in the graphical data. As a result, by their thirties realism had kicked in and expectations had levelled off and conformed to the well-documented U-shape trajectory of happiness for their fifties. So, there is reason to be hopeful. Meantime, the curve downwards in twenties and thirties appears to be getting steeper and the parameters and focus by which happiness is defined appears very narrow. i.e. equated with material possessions and employment. As discussed before, while the latter is important, they are not reliable indicators of happiness, the very concept of which is highly ephemeral and quite different to core, creative joy. Jonathan Rauch wrote in The Happiness Curve (2015) about the nature of a natural, U-shaped curve, a mid-life transition rather than a dead-end crisis: “This transition has a direction: something you could even call a purpose…The upslope of the happiness curve has an emotional direction, which is toward positivity. But it also has a relational direction, which is toward community….This is a social story, although we rarely experience it that way.” [1]  Why is that? Perhaps because we are programmed to fabricate our own personal islands on a sea of perceived separation from our fellow humans. After all, it’s a dark world out there and society is designed to actively limit pragmatic and constructive cooperation outside the State.

In truth, the myth of the middle age crisis is just part of an overall crisis of meaning that reaches pressure points throughout our lives. Such crises appear to exist outside time and space. It may well be an archetypal/mythical narrative that demands to be heard and acted out so that creative energy can be released. If we don’t consciously address what is lacking then the adaptive unconscious will do it for us to survive. We might see this recognition as a form of recapitulation as described by Carlos Castaneda, whereby we go over our lives with a fine tooth-comb, remembering all we have met, places we have visited and situations we have experienced in order to glean insights and realisations. This focus may create a form of resonance and feedback from the past to aid us in the future. Personal responsibility in this regard and to social interaction in general, could determine how we handle the happiness-unhappiness seesaw and if we can transcend it; whether we become masters of our ship and gain satisfaction from the simplicity of life as much as the dramatic flourishes of success, as defined by our culture. This would explain the common period of discontent at various stages in later life from the late thirties and forties. Rather than a mid-life crisis of lost opportunities perhaps it is a realisation that all that creative energy is not being used as it should?

The emotional and relational drive toward meaning and purpose is intimately tied up with our natural social intelligence that can guide us to connect for the good of the whole and the health of the individual. The desperate ambition and self-oriented focus of youth, a natural egocentricity which has been inflated by our cultures can, through the crises that happen, become a redemptive process when tied to community initiatives. Abstractions and conceptualisations have the potential to become concrete and specific, grounded in real-world solutions and tailored toward our own local needs. Trying to save oneself is transposed to “saving” others. Trying to save the world is transposed to “saving” the community. These efforts outwards, reflect the work taken place inwards, and paradoxically away from self-absorption. This can foster greater authenticity and the slow shedding of the narcissistic traits that we have allowed culture to create for us.

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