I’ve had quite a lot of experience running groups and seminars (business related), and being part of a group. In such a setting people invariably become very defensive, and typically unwilling to share experiences or contribute ideas. It’s like they are still at school with a teacher that humiliates anyone who gets the answers to teacher’s questions wrong. Such humiliation is clearly diminishing, making a person feel inferior to others.
We all grow up protecting our ego, and if necessary will do so through violence. The opinions of others are so important to most of us that we would rather do anything than look a fool or inadequate in some way. The idea for this post came from a comment on the Corporeal Fantasy Facebook group. I posted a picture of someone who had collapsed in a Parisian street, and of course, no one came to his aid. The commentator said that he probably wouldn’t help either because it could be a mime. So let’s pretend it is a mime, and you get suckered in. The mime makes you look like some gullible fool. Does it matter? If it does this says something about you, and specifically that you are highly dependent on other people’s opinions. This is slavery.
The alternative to this form of slavery is to have a sense of inner validation that is not dependent on external events or other people’s opinions. How do we get such inner validation? Only through understanding. We need to understand why we and others are so desperate for each others’ approval. If you have read any other blog posts or listened to podcasts on Youtube you will know that I reiterate more times than I remember that all our desires are based on the survival drive. Looking gullible diminishes the survival intelligence of a person in other people’s eyes. And we may feel the same way about ourselves. The odd thing is, that by understanding these dynamics in great detail, they become less compelling. It’s a bit like understanding that a thunderstorm is not the anger of the Gods but an electrical discharge. The understanding diminishes the dread of thunderstorms.
It is quite possible to acquire such a sense of inner approval through understanding, such that the opinions of others matter less and less. This does not mean we become reckless and deliberately do things to diminish our standing in other peoples’ eyes. They are machines, as we all are, and need to be treated as such. If it is important that you look good in someone’s eyes then do what is necessary – but do it consciously, and not as a slave. Gurdjieff encapsulated all this through his concepts of internal and external considering – explained in great detail in Chapter 8 of In Search of the Miraculous.
If you want more on this then I produced a podcast called “Are You Inadequate?“. The most powerful person on Earth is the one who has nothing to lose. If you want an excellent example, then the meeting between Alexander the Great and Diogenes is a classic. Alexander was the most powerful man on Earth, but having heard of Diogenes’ wisdom he paid him a visit. Diogenes had nothing other than a blanket and a small bag of food. He slept wherever he could. Alexander asked if there was anything he could do for Diogenes. In return, Diogenes simply asked that Alexander move to one side because he was casting a shadow.
I think most of us, if paid a visit by today’s equivalent of Alexander the Great, would fall into all kinds of fawning and groveling behavior.
While a person believes they have something to lose they will be a slave to the opinions of others. Through long-term, intense work it is quite possible to manipulate the opinions of others to one’s own advantage if needed. Otherwise, we simply don’t give a damn.