Tag Archives: self-importance

Cracking the Mirror of Self-Reflection

Virginia in 1935 at 16, her graduation photo from Julia Richman High School, Manhattan…

My Aunt Virginia, who died in 2012, left me her important papers, a partially written memoir, letters, jottings, and diary entries, which she had severely edited by slicing them out of her journals with a sharp knife, leaving behind only what she wanted posterity to see.

During our recent move to Virginia I came across the box where I had stored her stuff since her death and decided it was time to sort through it. What I found has been a treasure trove of family history, as well as an introduction to a complicated, fiercely intelligent, strikingly independent and delightful young woman.

I knew Virginia intimately my whole life as my aunt, my Godmother, and my spiritual mother, but as I poured over what she chose to leave behind I learned what she had never shared; her deepest struggles to figure out life, to live and love to the fullest, to use and be respected for her intellect. She was determined to not just do what was expected, to marry the first appropriate guy that came along with a decent job. She wanted true love, a soulmate, and she stuck to her guns about it, taking a unique stance for a young woman growing up in the 1920s and 30s, delaying marriage until it was right, in spite of the many attempts to marry her off.

She did meet her true soulmate when she was 30, a vibrant, brilliant young graphic designer who was making a name for himself in the New York graphic design world of 1950. It was a love affair that swept them both off their feet and into a whirlwind of intense love, emotion, and deep spiritual connection. He proposed to her on the first night they met and she accepted, though she was inclined to take things a bit slower than he. It turned out he was right to want to speed things up because it all ended tragically when he died suddenly and unexpectedly two months after they met, on the operating table during an emergency appendectomy of an allergic reaction to an anesthetic.

His death left her desolate, but it didn’t stop her; she sought to recapture that love and intense connection in another, and another. She gained insight and wisdom the hard way, by living and learning, by looking deep into her yearning heart and by using her keen mind. She once said, “It seems that you just keep on and that’s not even so bad, so long as you keep struggling!” The “struggle” she refers to is the soul’s yearning for something that only the heart will recognize when it finally comes around.

Virginia was born in 1919 and lived through the Roaring Twenties, the Great Depression, and World War II. She lived most of her life in New York City, though she loved the countryside. When she was growing up the family always had a house elsewhere to venture to on weekends and during the summer months, a shack on the beach at Rocky Point, a farmhouse in Orange county, and later a permanent home in Dutchess County.

She held various positions in publishing, having worked at Harper’s Magazine, McGraw-Hill and the World Press Review. She was active in international relations during World War II, working at the Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies (CDAAA), The United Nations Association, and for Professor and Legal Scholar Clyde Eagleton at NYU’s Graduate School of International Affairs during the founding of the United Nations.

Virginia was an insatiable reader, her library was vast and all-encompassing. She found something of interest in every book she ever read and every person she ever met. A prolific letter writer, she maintained lifelong friendships with several international pen pals, from her teen years until her death, or theirs, many of whom she never met in person. And, always, she aspired to being a “real” writer, like many of the great writers she met during her years in publishing.

Recently, Chuck wrote a blog that included insight into one of our most intriguing human psychological traits, one that we all innately possess, that of projection, and the power we have within us to use the mirror of self-reflection to achieve a higher state of self-realization, especially by confronting our feelings of self-importance.

He wrote: We begin by assuming responsibility for the fact that we, as individuals, reflect the reality we see without. Although it may be difficult to face this shadow truth, it is also quite empowering. You can read the whole blog here.

Among my aunt’s papers I found more than a few pieces that directly confronted her own struggles with this most common trait, the power of projection in the search for a soulmate. As Chuck wrote in Soulmate 101: At the psychological, or spiritual dimension, the soul mediates our spirit’s longing for itself in matter. The root of desire is this attractive force of spirit seeking appropriate matter to realize itself, or to manifest as a physical reality. To accomplish this, soul uses the psychological mechanism of projection.

Virginia was a jazz aficionado. As she wrote when she went to her first jazz concert at Town Hall in 1942: “I was struck dumb. I felt exactly as though I had been slugged with a baseball bat… I had come home. This was the music I had longed for, without knowing it. I knew it at once, though.” After that she could not get enough of jazz. She went to as many concerts as she could, read as many books on the subject as she could find, scoured the record stores for albums, learning as much as she could about this new music that was, as she wrote, “something to believe in.”

The following example of soulmate projection and reconciliation was written when Virginia was 38. She was facing the end of one soulmate projection and was soon to meet another soulmate, her husband-to-be, Max Kaminsky. Max was a well known jazz trumpeter and cornetist and she had been one of his biggest fans, meeting him shortly after that first concert she went to in 1942. They lost contact for many years then met again when she was 39 and he was 50. Eventually, they married and wrote My Life in Jazz together, a memoir of his long career as a jazz musician. Their marriage was intense and loving, and it lasted until Max’s death in 1994, the day before his 86th birthday. Here is Virginia’s reflection:

August 9, 1957

“Dad was talking tonight about how much the old-time performers gave of themselves—and it suddenly struck me—more forcibly than ever before in my life—how little I give of myself.

This is one of my worst blocks—I noticed it in myself in the car tonight with the two women [whom she frequently rode from the city with on weekends to visit the family farm in Dutchess County]—all they really want is pleasantness. I used to be so touchy, thinking that if I gave of myself they would have a power over me—is that it— or was it that I expected so much of them that when they misunderstood I became hurt, disappointed and offended.

But it’s a prison—one I’ve made all by myself. I’m a secretary because I act like one—goddammit—a stuffed shirt. What I have to get thru my thick head is that I am free-free-free, just as free as I choose to be and that it’s not those “other” people who are holding me back—it’s me.

I don’t have to believe in the role Jacques [the man she was in love with at the time] has assigned to me. I am perfectly free to love him if I choose—and in that way it’s none of his business—as long as I don’t, overtly or insidiously, ask for his love in return. That’s the counter, [the] balance—you are free just so long and in proportion to how little you try to exact from others.”

In this piece, my aunt reflects beautifully on herself, coming to a deeper realization that she is responsible for how she feels and views the world. In her analysis, she fully owns her own part in the unfolding of her life, deciding that she can choose as she pleases, as long as she doesn’t take what is not freely given, even energetically.

Here she breaks the mirror of her own self-reflection, withdrawing her projection and owning her own inner soulmate, preparing to live it in her physical life. In fact, it was a pivotal moment; without her even knowing it, she was preparing to enter a new reality, opening the way for further true self-realization. And as we know, she did meet her true soulmate, Max, shortly after this, perhaps because she was finally ready.

At the time, she held a limiting belief about herself, that she was only a secretary. Shortly after this, her papers reveal, she decided to give more of herself and volunteered to read to the blind. She ended up as a volunteer reader for many years, reading to law students, to college and high school students, when called upon. But the actual truth is that she grew far beyond the secretary self that she so bemoaned, eventually becoming the senior editor at Harper’s Magazine. I used to see her name on the masthead, third one down from the top, after the editor-in-chief and the managing editor. And she did become the writer she had always yearned to be.

Having opened the box containing my aunt’s things and discovering what she valued and chose to pass on, I too ask myself, do I give enough? Do I do enough? Am I kind enough?

Do any of us give enough? Are any of us kind enough? How much do we hold ourselves back because of our limiting beliefs, because of our entrenched defenses, our sense of entitlement, our regrets or resentments? Why are we so offended all the time?

I thank my aunt for the little bits she left behind, modest and humble in their number yet full of profound insight into a woman’s struggle to find her place in the world, and to matter.

In remembrance of a wise woman,

Jan

Chuck’s Place: The Power of the Small

We are one cell, one bundle of energy in the great mystery of Gaia…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

If we peek inside one single cell in our body we discover a self-contained universe of differentiated parts, working in unison to maintain the life of that single cell. Thirty-seven-trillion of these micro-universe cells coordinate to form a single human body. The health and well being of each of those individual cells contributes to the overall health and well being of the entire human body.

The Earth, Gaia, has its own biological body, of which humans, as cells, comprise a specialized unit. I would propose that on a macro-level the human race, as a whole, forms the frontal cortex of Gaia’s brain. In simple terms, the human race is Gaia’s ego consciousness center, the youngest part of the brain, that which is associated with the ability to override instinct and act instead with free will and reason.

Thus, when we speak of global warming as a function of human decision making, Gaia’s frontal cortex appears to be acting contrary to its overall survival needs. In fact, to carry the analogy further, the more ancient part of Gaia’s brain, the limbic system—home of powerful instinct and emotion—can be said to be releasing its destructive reaction toward human behavior in the storms, fires, earthquakes, tsunamis, and diseases that punctuate our time.

Just as the frontal cortex does not fully come on line in humans until about age 25, the collective human frontal cortex is clearly in its early adolescence, with narcissistic and self-serving behaviors in control of some of its most vital decision making. This reality is wholly reflected in current world politics where leadership is completely self serving, unable to align with both truth and the greater survival needs of the world as a whole.

The good news: as individual cells of the collective human race, we are each in a position to address and impact the very issues confronting our greater world. The operative analogy here: As within, so without.

We begin by assuming responsibility for the fact that we, as individuals, reflect the reality we see without. Although it may be difficult to face this shadow truth, it is also quite empowering. If I can face, and change within myself, the same power dynamics now being acted out in the world, I contribute toward the maturation of Gaia’s frontal cortex. This truly is a healing action.

Turn inward to your own inner universe with new awareness. Recognize that consciousness is the psyche’s youngest acquisition. Whereas human functioning was, for eons, directed by its instinctive, pre-programmed limbic system, consciousness—for better or for worse—can now consult Google and make its own decisions! Furthermore, consciousness can indulge its desires at any time, not just when its stomach says it’s time to eat, or its hormones say it’s time to mate. Consciousness also has the ability to reflect upon itself and question its real motives, i.e., really be honest with itself.

However, this ability to reflect has its dense physical trappings. Consciousness also likes to look in the mirror and  play dress up with life. The shamans call this tendency self-reflection, which, from their experience, absorbs the lion’s share of human motivation and energy. We are currently seeing such a caricature of self-reflection in the behavior of our leader, but can we see it in ourselves?

Every one of us has the responsibility to face our own obsession with the presentation of self in everyday life, as glaringly mirrored in our fanciful leader. I am reminded incessantly of this fact by our male cardinal who continues to peck away daily at every window and car mirror at our home. Can we ever get to life beyond this level of self-reflection?!

For ego to rise above its own reflection and unholy alliance with the appetites of its limbic system, it must find its way to right action. Right action is action based on reason that transcends the trappings of the Me-Me-Me self. Right action issues from a higher spirit, one that considers the true needs of the whole, not just the ego self.

That spirit resides within the heart, but its voice is largely obscured by the ego self’s physical obsessions. Nonetheless, the ego has many opportunities to channel its higher spirit, as it must suffer its failures and defeats in this life. Ego defeats result in deflation and sobriety, where we then have the opportunity to really reflect and then  choose or acquiesce to right action, the insinuation of the spirit.

We have, as well, the ability to invoke the help of our spirit by simply asking. When we set an intent, say a prayer, or ask for help, we are directly soliciting the guidance and support of spirit. The response we get might send us down quite a serpentine path, but it’s also likely to be the path that will best mold our ego to do right action.

Take for instance the most recent presidential election, which forestalled the coming to power of the matriarchy. The more inclusive values of the matriarchy would seem to be the healing balm needed in our time, and perhaps it ultimately will be, but for now we must take the serpentine path before us and deal with what we have delivered ourselves: the ultimate patriarchal trickster. And so, spirit might have had a hand here; showing us that to properly be ready to receive the matriarchy, we must first crack the mirror of our own self-reflection. Without first mastering this challenge, we’d likely just be transferring our childish neediness to mommy!

Be empowered within the walls of your individual cell self. Be compassionate with your ego self’s developmental process. As Gaia’s ego brain, we have a long way to go, but if we can take responsibility for our own leadership role, and reach out to spirit with humility, the power of the small is sure to manifest our healing intent.

Taking responsibility,

Chuck

Chuck’s Place: Beyond Self-Importance

I am more than my physical body…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel taken at The Monroe Institute in Faber, Virginia

For many years, we must grapple with our acquired inferiority and  journey to overcome it. All humans become inferior as they grow from a childhood of oneness of connection to everything to a firmly separated ego identity whose consciousness creates firm boundaries between self and other.

This loss of oneness happens gradually as we are socialized into rational thinking, the operational interpretation system of our world. Rationality, with its cause and effect focus, fragments our  wholeness in an effort to bring understanding, order, and control into our lives. Our inherent connection to our soul group and access to the  knowledge of our journeys through infinity, as recorded in the holographic Akashic record of all life, slips away as the challenges of navigating life on earth calls for greater adaptation to the physical world.

This loss of connection to our greater wholeness is the ultimate cause of the collective human condition of inferiority. The truth is that our poor ego is inferior. How could it be otherwise? To go from a condition of interconnected oneness, what many might characterize as the oneness of God, to the puny separateness of an ego disconnected from its source is a built-in experience of inferiority.

Ego has few options to improve its impoverished state of being. One option is to learn and master the rules of the interpretation system of this world that will allow it greater adaptation to the challenges of survival. This track—good schools, good mate, good job—though still powerful, is found wanting in our time of general disintegration. Our planet can no longer house unlimited growth.

Another option for our ego is to employ either deflation or inflation. In deflation the ego keeps itself down, as it sees all others in the world as superior to itself. The advantage to this strategy is to be more accepting of an inferior life by feeling unworthy of receiving more. The downside of this strategy is possible depression and resentment for not having been able to experience or actualize more of one’s inherent potential.

In contrast, inflation fills the ego with a high level of self-importance, as it puffs itself up with an identification with a higher spirit. Narcissism could be understood as the ultimate identification with God: I am all there is! The trap of self-importance is a false assessment of self that is off-putting and generally not up to the job.

So what is a more realistic option for the ego beyond the trappings of self-importance with its artificially low value with deflation or overvaluation with inflation? First, we must actually value the ego for what it truly is: a fragment of our soul that lives in a world of space-time. This unique opportunity has an advantage over infinity. That which is born, lives, and dies can experience a maturing and discovery process while separated from the oneness of infinity.

In fact, it is likely that our greater soul group chooses life in this world to discover and grow through questions and problems that will enhance our soul’s journey in infinity. A sojourn in space-time provides the opportunity for a full exposition and living out of a question in a lifetime that enhances our soul’s knowing of itself outside space-time.

Nonetheless, the cost to our ego in this earthly lifetime is a disconnect from the mothership of our greater soul in infinity. This is simply the necessary byproduct of a life in space-time. However, this ego/greater soul axis remains present throughout our lifetime as a latent potential to be more fully realized and developed. This is the evolutionary shift now happening in the world. This is the key to the ego shedding self-importance as a survival strategy to cover up its inadequacy.

Through its sensory systems the ego is quite capable of bringing to consciousness concrete data perceived in the world, as well as mentally orienting itself to that data. If the ego can suspend the judgements of its socialized operating system, to allow for decoding the world in a broader rather than strictly rational way, it becomes well positioned to collaborate with the wisdom of its greater soul while still in space-time.

An example of this is synchronicity. In every moment of every day the world around us echoes sounds, signs, and messages to guide and supplement our decisions, reflections, and understandings. Nearly every time I reach a conclusion I am treated to an affirmation or tweak in some form by the world around me that supplements my process.

This can take the form of a song in my head, a page in a book I randomly open to, a phone call, or the chirp of a bird. If my ego is humble it immediately considers the feedback the world delivers as it orients itself to decisions at hand. This is not about ego letting go of its rational facility but instead expanding it to include wisdom offered from beyond the rational for inclusion in its processing.

When ego reaches beyond self-importance to shore up its relationship with its greater wholeness the world is moved toward greater wholeness and integration as well. Decisions made by a clear headed ego, acting in consort with its greater soul, are sure to lead us to a real world of stable continuance.

As for our ego, its connection to its greater soul assures its confidence in being fully supported in its soul’s intent in this lifetime. Now that’s support beyond self-importance!

Humbly,

Chuck

Chuck’s Place: Attention

Energy travels many paths…
– Photo by Chuck Ketchel

Energy is blood at the ethereal level. Blood is the carrier of the vital life source in the physical body. Energy is the active life force in the energy body. As sometimes we may require a blood transfusion to preserve life in the physical body so the energy body seeks energetic enhancement through exchanges of energy at the ethereal level.

Actually, we can notice this energetic transmission of energy on the physical plane through the exchanges of everyday life. Attention is a form of energy. When we give something our attention we transfer some of our vital energy to it, which then enlivens it in some form.

However subtle, we can often feel in some way that someone has their attention upon us. Often it might register as a sudden thought about the person who is thinking about us or actually looking at us, even from behind.

Human beings often interpret attention as a form of validation. Attention is currency. Like money, it fills us with value and worth.  This can result in attention seeking behavior. The greater the attention given, the greater the feeling of personal worth. This was the theorem Mark Zuckerberg exploited with the launching of Facebook: the more friends who like us, the better we feel about ourselves.

The Shamans of Ancient Mexico were well aware of the energetic dynamic of attention seeking behavior. In fact, they determined that our human obsession with validation monopolizes the lion’s share of our vital energy through our entire lifetime.

The experience of being validated may deliver a temporary  energetic boost. In actuality it proves to be an energetic drain when factoring in the amount of mental and emotional energy spent each day seeking attention and validation from the outside world.

The shamans teach us to become energy misers. They employ techniques to free themselves of the energy drain of upholding self-importance through external validation. They relish opportunities to release themselves from being offended, a major source of energy drain in human interaction.

If we can release ourselves from being offended by others whose narcissism prevents them from seeing or valuing us, in fact even causes them to bully us, then we are actually storing tremendous caches of energy. Releasing ourselves from any attachment to victimhood is central to this practice.

This doesn’t mean we simply turn the other cheek. In fact, we might have to actually fight back, but our approach is not driven by rage or revenge or preserving self-importance but is simply a pragmatic response to the challenge presented, based on what is possible in a given situation.

The energy gained and stored through losing self-importance allows that energy to be redeployed toward exploration of one’s true purpose for coming into this world, as well as the ability to explore life in other dimensions of infinity while still in physical form.

Best use of attention is to observe the tendency to be offended by others. Identifying it enables a process of detachment that both saves and frees energy for spiritual deployment.

Attentively,

Chuck

Chuck’s Place: It’s Time for Ego Refinement

Energy in action…
– Detail of Artwork by Jan Ketchel

We live in the most stupendous of times for ego development. From the moment we awaken each day we are barraged with outer world events, bodily needs, and an internal dialog which all clamor for our attention. Attention is where we employ our vital energy. Ego must decide in rapid succession how it will spend this vital energy.

Will our decisions enhance or deplete our energetic reserves? Will our decisions be in alignment with the state of our body? Will our decisions channel the deeper calling of our spirit? These are examples of the myriad of decisions the ego must make in our hyper, fast-paced, rapidly shifting modern world.

Ego has gotten a bad rap. This is largely because it is associated with enhancing one’s self-importance and outer-world possessions to the detriment of others, as well as to the detriment of the spirit. Indeed, ego can decide to employ the vital energy of the body and the spiritual self to its own aggrandizement.

In fact, perhaps the most exaggerated example of this attitude confronts us daily in the governance currently in power of our world. We all must face the real possibility of nuclear holocaust in the hands of such leadership, but here also lies the very heart of opportunity for the moment we live in.

We must all choose whether to spend our energy worrying about this fact, and this is an ego decision, or not. True, we must acknowledge the threat to our survival, the existential anxiety of pending destruction and disintegration, for not to do so would be to dissociate from our animal knowing of the real and present danger to our existence.

However, as the shamans discovered long ago, death is our greatest advisor. Knowing that we are beings who are going to die is our greatest support to stay awake and take full advantage of the opportunities of life in this dimension. The ego must decide what to do with this information.

The ego can employ the classic defense of denial and go about daily life as if nothing is different, all is predictable and unfolding as it should. Modern events, however, are really rattling this defense.

The ego could become concretely opportunistic, gobbling up power and wealth to enjoy its time here in material abundance, paying little heed to the side effects of its choices. Nature is dramatically confronting this attitude right now.

The ego might alternatively choose to face reality and attend to the impact of its animal knowing on its central nervous system through a variety of meditative and breathing practices.

Further, ego might turn its attention inward to the subtler energies of its spirit. These are the energies of manifestation, these are the energies of intent. These are the energetic pathways open to the evolving human. We all may glimpse them in the magical occurrences that frequently follow shortly after the loss of a loved one when, in heightened awareness, we are opened to the energetic possibilities of quantum connection.

Ego turning its attention materially toward outer control and accumulation are Old World technologies. It is obvious that from an evolutionary standpoint they are not favored. Don’t be fooled by the current last stand of the worst of these practices, they need to have their last dance.

We are being prompted now to discover life at a deeper energetic level. This entails tuning into the subtle energies of synchronicity and serendipity where the ego is presented with feedback and energetic possibilities that can guide life into truly sustainable evolutionary directions.

These are the amazing opportunities for ego refinement in our current volatile times. We are evolving into a  New World of energy as well as a world of concrete objects, a far more expansive world, with a wise ego at the helm.

In refinement,

Chuck

A blog by Chuck Ketchel, LCSW-R