I have no shortage of character defects, which you will readily know if you have been reading this blog for any length of time at all. Today I want to focus on something strange that’s been happening as I have been confronting my shortcomings over the last week or so.
First, let me take a quick literary detour to set up this post for you.
There is a ‘mindfulness meditation’ I sometimes use to deal with my fear of death. When I engage in this meditation I calm my mind until I am aware only of myself and my feelings. Then I imagine what it would be like to die, to go through the mental, spiritual, and physical processes of dying. There is no small amount of fear than arises during this meditation, and it is difficult to maintain my meditation in the face of the overwhelming fear that the thought of death brings. However, through the process of this meditation I realize that though I have ‘died’, it is not the end of the world; life goes on around me, and the idea of the ending of ‘me’ becomes bearable.
Back to the subject of confronting my shortcomings…
When I consider my greed, for example, I am confronted with two faulty core beliefs which are reflected in my behavior:
- I should be the primary beneficiary of my income
- Spending rules which apply to my wife should not apply to me
I understand intellectually that these beliefs are faulty, but in my heart I cling tightly to them. A battle thus takes place between my head-knowledge and my heart-belief. My head, armed with wisdom and insight from sources like the Bible and the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, attacks my heart with rationale, reason, and intellect. My heart counter-attacks with feeling: “I cannot let this greed go! It hurts! It will kill me to lose this part of who I am!” But my head will not relent: Greed must die if I am to be saved. To live, I must die.
I am not exaggerating when I tell you that the physiological symptoms which accompany this war between my mind and heart are quite odd. My head buzzes with energy and tension and my body almost physically hurts; there is definite pain associated with this process. I become overwhelmed with fear, and there is an almost irresistible temptation to break from the battle and retreat, to let my greed survive.
It feels exactly like the ‘mindfulness meditation’ I described above.
When I confront my character defects and go to war against them I am really contemplating my own death. For when I confront and destroy my shortcomings I am destroying my Self, as I have been.
And though it feels like I will die, it is not the end of the world; life goes on around me, and the idea of the ending of ‘me’ as I have been becomes bearable.