One way that I’ve conceptualized the process of personal evolution has been as a kind of three-part movement: from false clarity to genuine confusion to genuine clarity.
False clarity is a frame of mind in which one’s personal belief systems are so firmly in place and embedded so far down in the subconscious mind that the person feels certain of their validity, and so rarely questions them. From this place, people frequently start sentences out with "I believe…"
"I believe that if I assert myself directly, no one will like me."
"I believe that if I acted strictly according to my desires, I’d be out of control."
"I believe it’s impossible for passion to last in a relationship."
"I believe that if I want something done right, I have to do it myself."
"I believe that to truly give to others means to sacrifice something of what I want."
And so on…ad infinitum. There are many, many such commonly accepted inner axioms with variations and derivatives aplenty.
Since these beliefs are not doubted for the most part, they are accepted as the "harsh realities" of life. Much energy is then invested in trying to find ways of manipulating the self, and other people, to get what one wants. To that end, a person will develop false selves that some have referred to as "masks," or "personas," constructed to present to the world in order to attain life’s sought after abundance and love - or its substitutes: praise, recognition, emotional validation, etc.
So, one of the first endeavors in a person’s unfolding personal process is to begin uncovering the embedded beliefs behind the masks, and challenge their validity, thereby confronting the false clarity they offer as a substitute for real knowingness and security. It is not easy. Indeed, if you believe something so thoroughly, you will create, invite, or only be able to see that very thing in your life most of the time, so it’s reality will seem absolute. And, if you have been so invested for so long in a particular method of trying to attain a modicum of happiness, you will not readily forgo it. To face that a strategy that you have been devoting much of your life force to is actually faulty is a heartbreaking proposition.
Let’s consider a common scenario. A person may have had a series of love relationships in which they’ve found themselves feeling emotionally deprived. In spite of tireless efforts to be agreeable, accommodating and self-sacrificing, they were still "not getting enough" - attention, sex, support, appreciation or affection - from their partner. This person feels so defeated and frustrated because while they believe that there really isn’t enough love in the world to go around, they are sure that the way to get what is available is by being… agreeable, accommodating and self-sacrificing! What they are in denial of is the fact that their accommodating behavior is part of a mask, and as such an attempt to hide a manipulative and demanding childish attitude towards their loved one based on a belief in deprivation that began in childhood.
The partner being bombarded with these demands, masked as obliging behavior, will often withdraw and indeed be less inclined to "give" affection, etc. No one wants to be covertly demanded of in that way. This then seems to validate the underlying belief that "there is not enough," and so, the person believes, one must manipulate even more, getting still worse results, all the while building up a stockpile of resentment. On and on this can go, in a self-fulfilling, vicious cycle.
The failure of the manipulations to get more of what is wanted is often what brings the person to some kind of self-work, seeking to find out what they’re doing "wrong", why the mask they’re sure is based in reality is not having its designed effect. This is life in a state of false clarity. So sure you’re right, sure you know how life works, but inexplicably unhappy, which if the beliefs are seen as clearly right, can only lead the person to the conclusion that they are failing - meaning manipulating inadequately.
So, where can one go from there, from the place where the self is so rigidly defined according to firmly held beliefs that are supposed to solve problems but ultimately only lead to frustration and a sense of inadequacy?
Next posting: "genuine confusion.!"

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