To be special warms the heart; to be special tears us apart. Why this contradiction?
Both Carlos Castaneda and his teacher, don Juan Matus, who’s lineage stemmed directly from the Shamans of Ancient Mexico, taught with both humour and piercing seriousness that the greatest scourge of humankind was the need to be special. They pointed to the internal dialogue we all experience that constantly judges everyone and everything, particularly the self, which is judged as either less than or better than everyone else.
From an adaptive perspective those shamans speculated that our ability to make these rapid judgements serves well our ability to survive as we navigate our predatory world. Less benevolently they point to the lion’s share of personal energy that all humans spend grooming and protecting their self importance. This energy is then lost to the evolving human potential, which to access requires a shutting down of the overarching investment we make in feeling and being judged as special.
And yet, feeling genuinely special is thought to be one of the most necessary prerequisites to feeling worthy enough to be in this world and to feeling secure enough to partake of its bountiful opportunities. Hence, the field of mental health places a premium on attachment and the quality of care in foundational relationships in childhood.
Unarguably, the quality of attention children receive in childhood places a powerful imprint on the incessant internal dialogue they will repeat to themselves as they form an identity and strategy for living. A neglected child might become the adult whose internal dialogue incessantly reminds them that they are not worthy to live other than to serve the needs of others and that they should be grateful that they are even tolerated by others.
The overly valued child might constantly be reminded by their internal dialogue that they are superior, really of royalty, entitled to the adoration and respect of the mere mortals that surround them.
The Shamans of Ancient Mexico would argue that the true culprit here is the internal dialogue itself that channels our energy into defining and upholding our self importance, good or bad, for the better part of our lives. Rather than focus on challenging the message of the internal dialogue those shamans encourage eliminating the dialogue itself, which then frees our energy to explore our true innate potential, unbiased by the judgements that usually limit our sense of self.
From this perspective there is no advantage to having had a special versus neglected childhood. Either way we are saddled with the limiting judgements that steal away our vital energy for life. The real culprit is the internal dialogue, the true dungeon master of our lives. Rich and poor alike are saddled with the same enslavement. In fact, it could be argued that a neglected childhood may offer the advantage of seeking versus merely indulging in life.
The question of specialness is at the forefront of our current world fixation. Our world leaders express entitlement for their special interests and needs over and above the needs of others. Truthfully, persons of different cultures and religions share the same attachment to their own specialness over the needs of competing or just plain other groups.
Family, the foundation of a society, is perhaps the greatest perpetrator of specialness. “Blood is thicker than water” is the adage that summarizes this fixation of the internal dialogue. The Shamans of Ancient Mexico considered it crucial to break this fixation in order to free the trapped energy spent upholding it, to then have it available to be employed in the full realization of selfhood beyond the border of specialness.
Their methods to achieve this coup may sound severe, but they actually coalesce with the Buddhist practice of detachment. The shamans call their practice “erasing personal history.” The practice is to separate the special significance afforded family and loved ones, merely because of their family ranking and role, as well as to reduce emotional attachments. While not denying any of the truths of these relationships, the goal is to reduce them to the level of all human experiences, all entitlements removed.
Thus if someone has failed me, I fully face my feelings, but by removing the pressure of my entitlement, due to familial bonds, I am freed to see all my family and neighbors equally. A world where all is viewed equally is the template for the world we are evolving into, despite current appearances!
Freedom from the constraint of specialness is the practice that readies us for a world built on true universal love. Override the internal dialogue that creates hierarchy and special groupings with universal compassion for all beings.