On Having the Courage to Be
This process of the good life is not, I am convinced, a life for the faint-hearted. It involves the stretching and growing of becoming more and more of one’s potentialities. It involves the courage to be. It means launching oneself fully into the stream of life. Carl Rogers
In her book The Awakened Family parenting psychologist Dr Shefali Tsabary suggests “we awaken when we become who we truly are. We want nothing more than to feel the deepest connection within ourselves and with others. To touch upon the wonder and abundance that we know is our sovereign right. To rediscover who we once were. To reclaim the purpose for why we were born.” Tsabary argues that it is parenting and culture that gets in the way of becoming who we truly are.
The irony, Dr. Shefali explains, is that we once had this “special something” we now yearn for. “You had it as that child who knew its might,” she says. “Who had wonder. Grace. Presence. Beauty. Worth. Significance.”
As we grow into adulthood we lose our authentic selves, because “the adults in your life happened,” Dr. Shefali says. “Your parents happened. Culture happened.” So, we enter adulthood with beliefs that have been “installed” by our parents and our cultures, which manifest in our behaviour and the choices we make in all aspects of our lives – in our careers, and in our partners. These installed beliefs thus become “rules” for how we bring ourselves to the world.
Psychologist Carl Rogers argued that as adults we are continually aiming to fulfill our potential, to become a fully functioning person, which he called “the good life”. Agreeing with the main assumptions of Abraham Maslow on the process of self-actualisation, Rogers argued that self-actualisation occurs when a person’s “ideal self” (i.e. who they would like to be) is congruent with their actual behavior (self-image). Dismantling installed beliefs, and consciously choosing new ones that are in service the purpose for why we were born, is part of the process of becoming fully functioning.
As Rogers says this is not for the faint-hearted, because it threatens our fundamental sense of self, the ego. In The Power of Intention: Learning to Co-Create Your World Your Way, Wayne Dyer states that “ego, the false idea of believing that you are what you have or what you do, is a backwards way of assessing and living life. It pushes us to promote our self-importance while we yearn for a deeper and richer life experience. It causes us to fall into the void of self-absorption again and again, not knowing that we need only shed the false idea of who we are”
Whilst much success in our lives to date might have come from using our minds and IQ, applying critical thinking to the challenge of becoming fully functioning keeps us stuck, because, Eckhart Tolle suggests, thinking, the content of our minds, is conditioned by the past: upbringing, culture, family background, and so on. The central core of all our mind activity consists of certain repetitive and persistent thoughts, emotions, and reactive patterns that we identify with most strongly. This entity is the ego itself.
Since every ego is continuously struggling for survival, trying to protect and enlarge itself and maintain the internal “I am..” narrative we all run, attempting to “out-think” an ego hell-bent on maintaining the status quo only causes us pain.
However, if we connect to our heart and gut we draw upon our “spiritual intelligence”. According to Marshall and Zohar spiritual intelligence is the “soul’s intelligence” that integrates the many fragments of our lives and connects us with the depth of our being and the deep well of our potentiality. It is our quest for deep meaning and values. It is the basis for a kind of “meta-strategic” thinking – thinking that can stand back from and assess the strategies themselves. It’s also that deep sense of being connected with something much bigger than ourselves and serving a purpose much bigger than ourselves.
The courage to be – for the whole-hearted, not the faint-hearted.