What is the cost of living a life that undergoes no reflection? In Plato’s Apology, Socrates said…”The unexamined life is not worth living for a human being.” I respectfully take this quote to emphasize a different problem in human history.
In a case study for purpose of expose, I know a man who I could say had not ever really looked deeply into his life, had not deeply looked into his behavior, and has never really learned from his mistakes. If asked, he could not connect the behavior to the problems that arise out of the experience. To him there was no problem, to him, there was no reckoning because he simply ignored it, or dismissed it. In this case he probably is a level 5 type 8 Enneagram candidate: Eights are self-confident, strong, and assertive. Protective, resourceful, straight-talking, and decisive, but can also be ego-centric and domineering. Eights feel they must control their environment, especially people, sometimes becoming confrontational and intimidating. Eights typically have problems with their tempers and with allowing themselves to be vulnerable. Their basic fear: Of being harmed or controlled by others, their basic desire: To protect themselves (to be in control of their own life and destiny). Level 5: Begin to dominate their environment, including others: want to feel that others are behind them, supporting their efforts. Swaggering, boastful, forceful, and expansive: the “boss” whose word is law. Proud, egocentric, want to impose their will and vision on everything, not seeing others as equals or treating them with respect.
There exists in our humanity a sickness of the soul that equates might equals right, or my way or the highway, or basically a self-centered philosophy that subjugate all other voices when the need for those other voices is a necessary condition for a balanced viewpoint. Enneagram theory and other psychological and sociological reasons for these conditions existing in our culture are prevalent and explain much of the dynamic behind the personality that develops within a mind. Essentially the childhood experience has much to do with developing a mind that seeks to satisfy a self driven focus, and going unchecked through out their lives, these minds often become fixated on self orientation and exclude much of the true reality in our shared world of perception. The following example excerpted from Enneagram theory type Eight: The Challenger – The Wisdom of the Enneagram Hudson/Riso 1999
As young children, Eights were ambivalent to the nurturing-figure, the person in their early development who mirrored them, cared for them, and provided affection and a sense of personal value. This is often the mother or a mother substitute, but in some families, the father or an older sibling may serve as the nurturing-figure.
Eights did not strongly bond with or identify with their nurturing figure, but they also did not psychologically separate from them entirely either. As a result, Eights learned that they could maintain some kind of connection with the nurturing-figure and fit into the family system by functioning in a role that was complementary to the nurturing-figure. The nurturing-figure represented (and therefore “owned”) the qualities associated with motherhood: warmth, caring, nurturance, approval, gentleness, and sensitivity. Thus, the Eight identified with the complementary patriarchal role, and learned that the best way to get some sense of value, affection, and nurturance was to be “the strong one,” the little protector, the one that others turn to for strength and guidance, especially in a crisis. Eights then identified completely with this role, feeling that to give it up is to lose their identity as well as any hope of ever being loved or cared for.
Like Twos and Fives, the other “ambivalent” types, Eights feel that their well-being and survival are dependent on fulfilling their role in life. Twos believe that they must always selflessly nurture and care for others, Fives believe that they have no role to play and must find one, and Eights believe that they must be the decisive, strong person who can handle the big problems and who is indifferent to hardship and suffering. As with all of the types, the healthy manifestations of these roles can lead to extremely important contributions to the people around them, or even in the world. However, as fear and insecurity grows, these roles become prisons which trap the types and prevent them from expressing the full range of their humanity.
As we have seen, Eights begin to repress their fear and vulnerability so that they will be strong enough to meet whatever challenges they must. In highly dysfunctional families or in otherwise dangerous childhood environments, those challenges may be considerable, and in Eights, the result is a tough, aggressive person with a limited capacity to get close to others or to acknowledge their hurt. It is as if Eights must construct a tough carapace of aggressive ego defenses so no one will ever again be able to get at the soft, vulnerable person inside.
If Eights have suffered serious abuse in childhood, their faith in others and in the world becomes so damaged and closed off that they live in constant anticipation of rejection and betrayal. They find it difficult to trust anyone, and are consumed with rage at the injustices they feel have been perpetrated upon them. Unlike Sixes, who also have trust issues, and who may develop an aggressive style of defense against the world, Eights do not believe they can rely on anyone or anything outside themselves. Within their family system, they experienced themselves as the authoritative person. There was no one else to turn to for reassurance or guidance, so Eights are unwilling to allow their destiny or decision-making capacity to be placed in anyone else’s hands (“The buck stops here.”)
If there was some degree of warmth, nurturance, and mutual support in the Eight’s early childhood environment, chances are good that as an adult, the Eight will take a strongly protective role, especially with the few people that they trust and are close to. If there was little support or nurturance available, Eights tend to grow up with an “every man for himself” attitude. They feel as though they have had to struggle and fight to survive on their own, and if others are going to make it, they better be able to take care of themselves. Looking out after “number one” is a full-time job, and caring too much about others becomes a survival risk.
We can see very clearly in this type how a child’s natural qualities—in this case, high energy, physical endurance, and willpower—combine with a family constellation to crystallize a particular pattern of behaviors and attitudes that determine a person’s identity. On the healthy side of the scale we will also see how these natural qualities, when positively encouraged and expressed lead to constructive, empowering human beings who leave a lasting legacy behind them. At the other end of the scale, where these energies have been twisted and distorted by abuse, we see vengeance, destructiveness, and a legacy of another kind. see http://www.enneagraminstitute.com/
A damaged self-image, and a narcissistic personality are just a few of the traits that impede a healthy introspection worthy of any integrity. The term narcissism comes from the Greek myth of Narcissus, a handsome Greek youth who rejected the desperate advances of the nymphEcho. These advances eventually led Narcissus to fall in love with his own reflection in a pool of water. Unable to consummate his love, Narcissus “lay gazing enraptured into the pool, hour after hour”, and finally changed into a flower that bears his name, the narcissus. Note that the myth has Narcissus reflecting upon his shallow external features and not upon an examination of the deeper reflections of the soul.
To the extent that parents are narcissistic, they are controlling, blaming, self-absorbed, intolerant of others’ views, unaware of their children’s needs and of the effects of their behavior on their children, and require that the children see them as the parents wish to be seen. 
Narcissistic people blame others for their own problems. They tend not to seek psychotherapy because they fear that the therapist will see them as deficient and therefore are highly defensive in relation to therapists. They do not feel free or safe enough to examine their own behavior, and typically avoid the psychotherapy situation. Co-narcissists, however, are ready to accept blame and responsibility for problems, and are much more likely than narcissists to seek help because they often consider themselves to be the ones who need fixing.
The tragedy of a life is what the Dalai Lama noticed in his rendering of what surprised him about humanity.. in that “Man…. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”
The reality outside our case study’s perception was ignored and not recognized so there was no opposition in his mind despite the pleas of issues brought forth from others in the events that occurred. There is ignorance, and then there is stupidity. If one ignores reality, and only see’s the world according to their view despite all of the information from other sources, then one will lead a lonely life of tyranny. One leads a life, going through the motions, working, doing those things that one can do to sustain themselves, yet in many cases these people do not stop and think and question their lives in ways that challenge the status quo. They don’t stop to live in the moment, enjoy the events of the now, but rather only take part in their favorite pastimes, like watching football, or their television programs which take them away from their families, and friends. It also takes them away from dealing with issues about their lives if their minds are distracted and filled with non-essential information that is truly not an important feature of our lives. Sadly the lack of being a non-reflective soul over the course of a lifetime has caused a tremendous amount of dissension within his personal life. Even more remorseful is that he cannot understand why most people choose not to associate with him, he cannot fathom or connect the factors of his life’s modus operandi to those who have gone their own way, leaving him alone, baffled, and in silent misery.
Accountability is a huge factor in processing events that occur, and if they are not held accountable for their behavior, they will most likely not learn, and continue to think, act, and behave as they have always done. If no force of opposition is ever met, than the chances of change are seldom. There are many who pass the days, years, decades, or lifetimes without questioning themselves or the paths they have chosen to remain on. Often these cases support the statistical data showing that a life not reflected upon is not worth living. Many end up alone, and are perplexed why their lives turned out the way they did. The “Blame game” is often a retort that they will use, again deflecting the responsibility for their behavior or actions, and continue to live in denial.
In the “Oz Principles” of accountability training, the mantra one learns is …”See it, Own it, Solve it, and Do it.” Accountability means …”A personal choice to rise above one’s circumstances and demonstrate the ownership necessary for achieving desired results.” Training oneself not to fall into the victim cycle that prevents one from achieving any of these steps to greater accountability is paramount. It is often overlooked, but one must consider that one can only do what is within one’s power, so do not fret over things that are not in one’s control. In other words, control what you can control. Common mistakes we make when we “fall below the line”, are ways we see the world that lead us to an unsuccessful path and obtain results that are counter productive if we choose to be a victim. Common victim cycle explanations that are “below the line” are: (1) Ignore and Deny, (2) It’s not my job / responsibility, (3) Finger – pointing, (4) Confusion / Tell me what to do, (5) Cover your tail, or (6) Wait and see.
Taking ownership of one’s life includes the way we perceive the world. The way in which we perceive this world is dependent upon our lens of perception that is often shaped early in life. If our lenses are smeared, so to will our perception of the world; this includes our own self-perceptions. Given the assertion: an unexamined life is not worth living has much credence. Socrates was on trial for encouraging his students to challenge the accepted beliefs of the time and think for themselves. The sentence was death but Socrates had the option of suggesting an alternative punishment. He could have chosen life in prison or exile, and would likely have avoided death.
But Socrates believed that these alternatives would rob him of the only thing that made life useful: Examining the world around him and discussing how to make the world a better place. Without his “examined life” there was no point in living. So he suggested that Athens reward him for his service to society. The result, of course, is that they had no alternative and were forced to vote for a punishment of death. I suspect that those who choose to live an unexamined life may be susceptible to leading a very unsatisfying life if they are fallen prey to the extremes of self prioritization. The illusions of this self-imposed trap are deep, but can be championed. Next time we look into the mirror, let us also look upon our soul’s reflection, I wonder what we would see?
__ Plato’s Dialog of the trial and death of Socrates 399 BC
__ The Oz Principle: Getting Results Through Individual and Organizational Accountability 1994
Kind words can be short and easy to speak but their echoes are truly endless.
I thought about how I would be remembered when I pass from this life. How my family would remember me, and how my friends would remember me.
I was watching a podcast on actor Andrew McCarthy, as he was discussing his new book “The Longest Way Home- One Man’s Quest for the Courage to Settle Down”. He spoke about his personality, and how he came to be a writer. Intrigued I purchased and read the book. He talked about his travels and how he seems to feel more comfortable in his skin the farther he is away from his home. He said that when he travels, the destination is really not about where he is going, but rather traveling allows him to simultaneously find a destination within himself that is brought out from the traveling. It is not so much where the destination is, but rather what the destination does to him inside that counts. I was surprised to find that after listening to him, we seem to share similar approaches in dealing with the world. He was speaking about some of the issues with intimacy he has struggled with in his life. A quest I have sought in the time of my continuance on this earth.
I think that at times the further I was out of my comfort zone in life, the more I was able to allow an uninhibited experience and project a truer form of my self, without the subterfuge the ego often interposes. The meanings that we come to understand this world; however beautiful and lovely, or however cruel and unkind the world may be is ultimately a decision that is up to us. Long ago I came to conclude and deduce that on some levels we are ultimately alone in the universe, and that it is up to our own reckoning of our experience on how we should act and live our lives. To some degree I still believe this, but as I age and the more I study, I see other degrees of understanding that just might complicate this premise. Of course it all depends on the information you immerse yourself in, but I will usually derive the foundation of my education in a “common sense” basis, ergo using pragmatic approaches to the world as cited by the likes of John Dewey, or Confucius. Ruefully others who approach the world without any intelligence and understanding using the aforementioned premise: are destined to shape attitudes from others around them unleashing their unapologetic and narcissistic egos on the world.
Sadly yet understandably many of us become cynical, embittered, and even hostile to the ignorance and aggressive acts that others impose upon us who happen to share our collective environment. The manifestations of our behavior may touch many people that we truly do not fully appreciate the length and breadth of this reach. We cannot of course be accountable for every nuance of our behavior that impacts others due to the interpretation and judgments of others sensibilities, but the principle of the premise argued here supports that we should be held accountable for our behavior in the world. Those that do not comprehend the scale of this notion are unaware, thoughtless, or in worst case scenarios: apathetic, and care nothing about their impact on others. I fear that these individuals have truly lost their way, and as Leo Buscaglia postulates the opposite of love is apathy and not hate as many may believe. Lacking any feeling about our way in the world, how we affect others, how we go about our business within our social provinces is probably the defining element that ails our society at large.
When Mother Teresa was asked if she needed help with money or fund-raising in a town she was visiting to see the opening of a shelter, she replied, no thanks, that there was nothing anyone could do for her since her cause was not about money, or publicity. When asked again if they could somehow do something to help, she replied….”If you really want to do something, wake up at 4am and go out on the streets and find someone living there that believes they are alone, and convince them they are not!”
I sometimes struggle to find an association with others that I greatly care about. I may have disappointment, or I have not understood them for either a lack of my comprehension, or for choices they have ultimately made without consideration of their loved ones. I too have shown an apathetic eye, (something I am not proud of), toward segments in the life I have known. I have tried to reconcile this to the best of my abilities by building better coping strategies, educating, and reinforcing my existing strengths. My combative blueprint for this disease of the soul provided me with an awareness that I have personally undertaken to qualm any exhibits within my behavior. The Me mentality seems to be a major contributor to the problem and once again sources back to the creation of ego.
I still find myself in dissension and often have issues with others that lack a citizenship our culture truly needs. My perceptions and observation usually give me a dose of cognitive dissonance when I leave my home and meet the world every day. I ask myself why do I let others impede my happiness? Why do I consider such circumstances, and why is my mind so prone to think about such pestiferous subjects? Am I arrogant in thinking that I do not take part in such behaviors that I find myself criticizing? I know I cannot expect the world to change its present course, but I can change my ability to cope with it. I can find the fortitude to compel myself to change my beliefs about those that I struggle to find peace with. I think I must have been disposed to finding such events by the way my mind works. It is a curse to me at times as I pontificate the matter at hand.
Finding my salvation lies within the power of my creation. I remember some years back as I progressed through higher levels of managerial positions; I took a battery of expensive psychological exams testing various attributes of my personality for my employer. Out of that experience I scored in the top 10 percentile of my company, and was told in my results evaluation that “I care for people!” Oddly I sometimes think this is a burden on me to this day, due to the amount of time I spend on how others feel, think, and rightly so since the current dominant mindset is to think only about one’s own best interests, or for that matter the company’s interests: the company’s should supersede the individuals. They may intend to do the right things, but often they politicize the handling of the communications to the employee’s, and the overall practice by the leadership through-out many companies do not show the values they subscribe.
The core values I have adopted contradict the thinking that we should infringe upon others, and I cannot find myself to render it with any credibility. I for one believe we have a moral obligation to one another. What those obligations are can be and are debated by many, but in my conviction, I have a long road ahead of me before I can find a resolution to this position.
How we are remembered is telling of how we led our lives, how we influenced and effected others, and how many people would miss us on our departure. I hope to be remembered in good light with my family and friends. I hope they do not remember me for my nutty verbalization about like dialogs, but more for that of the essence in my character. The ripples we create often cross great distances and have profound effects on those at times we least suspect. The ripples we create can and do have an impact on some of our closest unsuspecting family members, friends, and acquaintances. In the process of discovering my peeves to ignorance, I too send my ripples out to the world….One page at a time!