Do you want to trust yourself?
Learn to Trust Yourself
One of the most valuable lessons in human life, in my opinion, is learning to trust yourself and listen to your inner voice, rather than anybody else’s. By uncritically accepting the beliefs and opinions of other people (we know how common it is for children to do this and how much of their true self they can lose), we renounce our own responsibility and power, to the extent that we cannot even call our successes our own.
You can probably remember an example from your own life, when you placed a lot of trust in the ideas and opinions of others only to realize one day, either in an easier or more difficult way, that they don’t have all the answers and that their truth doesn’t necessarily have to be yours. This is a very important lesson and I believe that everybody needs such an experience, sometimes more than one.
Many people look for spiritual teachers, and if they find somebody they like or feel impressed with, they might be ready to take his words for granted. However, not even the wisest spiritual teachers always have a ‘clear channel’ or the correct answer. Even if they did, there is always the question of whether there is such a thing as an absolute truth applicable to any situation. If such truths exist, then I believe them to be small in number.
Maybe you have experienced a situation when you felt an inner urge to do something that wasn’t quite attuned to your beliefs, only to realize after some time that this action created much more benefit for both you and other people than if you had stuck firmly to your principles. Life is endlessly diverse; people, relationships and circumstances are unique and our inner voice can access a much more powerful source of information than our rational mind.
Rules, Rules, Rules
Unfortunately, most religions and spiritual approaches require you to follow a great number of rules, sometimes very detailed ones, in every aspect of human life; this doesn’t allow much space for listening to your inner voice and personal truth. I believe that while seeking security and trying to build self-esteem, through following such rules, we emotionally try to please our spiritual authority in the way we tried (unsuccessfully) to please our parents during childhood. If this requires suppressing your spontaneous urges and feelings, sooner or later you will fail.
Not even the most caring parents are always able to fulfill their child’s needs as, at this current stage of human evolution, most parents do not have nearly enough love and respect for their child as a human being. Moreover, parents often lack time and skill, and the organization of society works for the benefit of corporate owners, and not of families and children. Hence, the child soon learns that love is given to him only conditionally and starts trying to earn it by striving to be perfect or, if possible, better than others. Blindly following any rule as an adult is a subtle result of this need.
Moreover, many children learn not to trust themselves and their own decisions, thus, as adults they continue to seek advice and direction from other people, rather than accepting the risk of making a mistake. This creates a more or less subtle dependency on external authority. For this to occur, another aspect of the problem must exist – that of the person who places himself in a position of authority in order to wield power over others.
Most people tend to trust authority as most of us were taught to do and, in fact, we are often ready to trust a person who seems to be very certain of his opinions. If something is written in a book or a newspaper, many people will automatically accept it without question. While some people who have a great need for power try to present their ideas as an absolute truth, others, usually those whose feelings of insecurity are closer to the conscious side of their personality, can easily be swayed just by the other’s self-confident approach.
Benefit of Doubt
The greatest damage can be done by people who are subtle manipulators. You can often find yourself in a situation where everything you are told sounds reasonable and correct and it’s difficult to find a counter-argument, yet you still feel that something is wrong or missing. My suggestion in such situations is to take a moment to really listen to that subtle feeling in your body, to try to put it into words. Information acquired this way usually will ‘disarm’ the person who is trying to manipulate you better than any rationally thought up argument.
We should accept doubt as a useful and friendly feeling. Without it, it would be easy to get carried away by an idea and we would be much more vulnerable to manipulation and exploitation. Doubt motivates us to question and differentiate between what are sometimes very similar ideas and information. It’s quite normal for scientists, who by definition should have firm proof for their theories, to have very different and conflicting ideas; old theories are thrown away and new ones are ‘proven’… and how much easier it is to create theories if we substantiate them with proof created in our minds.
Listen to that feeling ‘in your stomach’ whenever you read a book or talk to someone. Still, be aware that a feeling of resistance can be healthy or unhealthy. Healthy resistance is the one when you can find a reason for your resistance and disagreement when you examine your feelings; the unhealthy one is typically irrational, often more suppressed and we can feel it even if we are aware that everything we read or hear is acceptable and without manipulation.
Unhealthy resistance comes from activating suppressed infantile rebellion against authority and its demands: for example a child who was forced to behave unselfishly before he was naturally ready to develop that quality might easily develop a resistance towards any encouragement to be unselfish. If you notice feelings of resistance, explore which words and idioms are the strongest triggers for it. The difference between healthy and unhealthy resistance can be very subtle and sometimes both of them can appear simultaneously. Still, it’s possible to learn to recognize them through practice and familiarizing yourself with your emotional reactions.
Don’t take anything for granted. Check the information you are given, notice the words and idioms the other person is using. Try to think up reasons why some claims might be incomplete or misleading. For example if someone shows you the result of a research study, ask yourself what could have influenced that research to make it insufficiently objective and reliable.
It is quite possible to sound very intelligent even if what we say doesn’t really make sense. Sometimes all it takes is to use a lot of unusual scientific words in a grammatically correct sentence. Some people who are skilful with words are able to easily create different combinations of words and make them sound meaningful, even wise. I have met quite a few such people and you probably have too. Just for practice, try reading some ‘highly intellectual’ books, or listen to similar types of radio or TV shows, and then explore within your body which words sound to you as carrying a certain depth and which sound like hollow intellectualizing.
One way of manipulating people is to draw conclusions from unproven and unreliable statements. Many people will be too blinded by the apparent logic of the conclusion that they will not pay attention to the reliability of the facts from which they were deduced. Even if the person is not lying consciously – how are we to know that the facts he has are correct?
Since we ourselves are not perfect either, it is equally important to check our own behavior. However, since self-examination is a topic of many of my articles we will not focus on it here and now.
Manipulators refer to positive ideals and emotional aspirations through abstract words such as love, light, truth, spirituality, God … This often covers up a lack of sincere, rational arguments. Most religions use high ideals as a cover for deep manipulation and control over people. High ideals are what attracts people, but the core of religion (or a cult) are all the dogma and rules that come in the package.
A true quote: ‘You must let your High-Self show you I’m right!‘
This is an example of low grade manipulation – skilful manipulators are less direct.
Actually, in average human communication it is very rare to hear something that we can accept as the truth without any reservation. Talking from one’s own limitations and convictions, creating conclusions on the basis of a small number of examples, selectively adjusting ideas or facts to one’s own convictions or to the needs of the situation, embellishing a story for one’s own benefit (or just for effect), accepting ideas only because they sound nice or help build one’s ego…Some good advice that I was given recently was: if somebody talks in big, abstract words, check what he wants from you! Some might want only your approval or admiration, while others might want to take advantage of you in a much more specific way. Even a simple lack of respect for your own personal choices and beliefs is sufficiently good reason to be cautious, even if you feel the person might be right.
There are an infinite number of ways in which reality can be twisted, even if unconsciously and unintentionally. Keep this in mind while talking to people you trust – people that you know do not wish to manipulate you. And regardless of how much you appreciate somebody’s intelligence, experience, wisdom, or even spiritual authority, keep in mind that even this person could make a mistake at any moment. Not in order to criticize that person – it is completely unrealistic to expect anybody to be perfect – but rather in order to stay within your own truth and live your own life, instead of somebody else’s.