The Glue Of ‘Identification’

The everyday mind creates an image or idea of who we are that is based upon its own unacknowledged limitations (the everyday mind can only ever do anything on the basis of its unacknowledged limitations) and then the next thing is that we become flatly convinced that this really is who we are, that it isn’t ‘just an image or idea’. The narrower our mind is therefore, the narrower will be the sense of self that is produced by that mind.

 

The sense of self that we are talking about here so very casually is no small thing – it may be only a ‘sense’ but it’s as entrapping as a Category-1 prison. The SOS isn’t just like a prison, it is a prison – it’s the most formidable prison ever constructed. The idea that we have of ourselves may be only an ‘idea’ but in practice it’s like a deep dark hole that we fall into and can’t ever climb out of. Our conceptual identity is only ‘an abstract description’ it’s true, but we’re stuck fast to it as if by the strongest glue ever invented. It is as if we are bonded to it on the molecular level.

 

The power that the everyday mind has to trap us in its picture or image of us is absolutely overwhelming – we have no more ability to escape from it than an iron filing has the ability to escape from an ultra-powerful magnet. It is such a very unequal fight that we’re talking about here and in this context it just never happens that David overcomes Goliath. So powerful is ‘the glue of identification’ that we don’t even know that we’re ‘stuck’ to the mind’s description of us. We just can’t get it, and even if we did – by some fluke – catch a glimpse of this truth, then we’d still have that immense magnetic pull to content with and the thing about this pull is that when it ‘sucks us in’ we lose whatever bit of perspective we had gained and with the loss of this precious perspective we forget what we had learnt. What we had just learned makes no sense to us anymore. And even if we do still remember it is very hard to trust our insight or give it any credence when the Tyrant of Thought is exerting its full hold on us. It’s very hard not to be browbeaten by the Tyrant of Thought…

 

Certain states of mind cause the thinking mind to tighten its grip on us even more than usual. Examples of such states would be anger, anxiety, obsession, desire and jealousy – when we are under the power of these constrictive states of mind we are identified with image or sense of ourselves that is extremely narrow and this causes us pain. Rage or jealousy, for example, causes us to become a veritable caricature of ourselves – as we all know. We become distorted, laughable, ‘cartoon versions’ of ourselves and yet somehow – we ourselves don’t know it, even though everyone else and plainly see the transformation that has occurred to us. [Thought always turns us into caricatured version of ourselves, but it’s not usually as dramatic as this.] When we are in the grip of what Tibetan Buddhists call an ‘afflictive emotion’ such as anger we aren’t directly or honestly aware of the pain that being trapped in such a very narrow ‘sense of self’ is causing us – instead of seeing the pain where it belongs we project it outside of ourselves and see it as being the ‘fault’ of someone or something else, which – of course – fuels the anger all the more. Anger is a ‘self-fuelling mechanism’ therefore – it doesn’t need a basis in reality in order to continue to exist!

 

The very same ‘displacement mechanism’ is at work in all the afflictive emotions, as well as operating in anxiety and the obsessional states – which are not strictly speaking ‘emotions’. When we are in the grip of desire then our sense of self narrows viciously and causes us pain but because we are fixated upon the object of our desire we believe that the pain we’re in (which is the suffering of craving) comes about because we don’t have whatever it is we want to have. When we have obtained the prize – we believe – then the pain will end and instead of the suffering of craving we will experience transports of joy. This then – in an exactly parallel fashion to the case of anger – fuels and reinforces the ‘desire state’ and so it is – as a consequence – very hard to escape from this loop of logic. In the case of anxiety we don’t feel ‘the pain of restriction’ because we are – again – ‘fixated entirely upon the outside’; we see our distress as being due to the possibility of ‘things going wrong’ (not because of our assumed identity being so painfully restrictive) and so we see the only possible solution to our predicament is as being ‘the correction of the situation that is threatening to go off the rails’. We are always ‘looking for solutions’ in other words and this automatic mental activity of ‘looking for a solution’ feeds back into the anxiety-cycle and reinforces it. Once anxiety starts up it can (and it does) keep on going all by itself, in other words.

 

Because of the compensatory mechanism that comes into operation just as soon as we get subsumed within the ‘afflictive emotion’ in question, we never see what has happened to us; we never observe that our awareness has been restricted to the tremendous extent that it has been. All of our attention is ‘on the outside’, all of our awareness has been consumed by whatever passion it is that has afflicted us. We can point to this mechanism very easily in the case of the afflictive emotions (which are known as ‘the seven deadly sins’ in Christianity and ‘the five poisons’ (or ‘five Kleshas‘) in Mahayana Buddhism, but there is a subtler point to be made here and that point has to do with the way this mechanism operates in the case of the mind-created sense of self, which is also ‘a pain-producing restriction of our being’ – even when it’s ‘in neutral’ with regard to emotional state. Exactly the same applies to the everyday identity that we have been supplied with by the thinking mind and which we understand in all good faith to be ‘who we are’ – we are effectively prevented from spotting the trick is that has been played on us by our mind by constantly having our attention drawn (compulsively drawn) to various ‘issues’, various things that either need to be either fixed or escaped from, gained or avoided. When we see someone who is always running around trying to attain their goals we say “How inspiring!” – the one thing we don’t say “Here is a person with a lot of pain-displacement activity going on…!”

 

We don’t say this because we are not a psychologically-minded culture, we don’t say this because our entire way of life, our entire modus operandi, is based upon seeing the ‘concrete identity’ as being fundamentally and irreducibly real. This is ‘The taboo against knowing who you are’ that Alan Watts speaks of. When we put the thinking mind on a pedestal, as we have done, then this absolutely means that we have to accept the mind-created sense of self as ‘something that must never be questioned’ – this is the price we pay for adulating the everyday mind in the way that we do (instead of seeing it as simply being ‘a useful tool that must not be on any account be allowed to ‘run away with itself’ and switch places with the one who is supposed to be operating it). Putting our total trust in the TM means totally and unreservedly buying into the package of ‘the mind-created sense of self’, obviously enough…

 

We idolise the thinking mind in the way that we do because we are afraid to learn that the thought-created world isn’t the only world that there is. If we ever did discover that there is ‘a reality outside of the reality that the thinking mind allows us to know about’ then this might turn out to be ‘the thin end of the wedge.’ If the thin end of the wedge is discovering that there is a reality outside of them so-called ‘reality’ that the thinking mind has provided for us then the thick end of the wedge is realising that the world the thought-created world isn’t actually real at all! With a wedge like this the only thing to do therefore is make very sure that it is never allowed entrance in the first place and this is exactly what the system of thought (which is the same thing as ‘the system of society’) does. The ‘wedge of space’ is never allowed entrance, not even to the smallest degree. To allow any space at all would be the same as allowing the awareness, in a game, that ‘winning’ is a perfectly meaningless proposition – an awareness like this would finish off the game on the spot, just as a dose of cyanide taken by mouth would put a halt to the vital Krebs cycle operating in all the cells of the body that this poison has reached. ‘Awareness of the freedom that we have not to play the game’ is cyanide for the game, which is why James Carse says that we need to ‘veil our own freedom from ourselves’ in order to play a finite game.

 

Excluding ‘space’ (or eradicating ‘intrinsic freedom’) is the prerequisite of being able to live in the world that thought has created for us therefore – that’s how we get to play this particular game. The ‘plus’ side is that we get to be able to ‘play the game of positive reality’, whilst the ‘minus’ side is that this puts a very big pinch on us. The ‘pinch’ is that we don’t have any space available to us any more – none at all. To say that the positive or mind-created world is ‘a tight fit’ is putting it mildly – it fits like a glove, but the problem with this is that it doesn’t fit ‘us’ but the mind-created construct of us – the positively-defined reality is perfect for the mind-created sense of self (it’s actually an extension of it) but because the mind-created sense of self isn’t in the least bit congruent (in any way) with who we really are, the ‘straitjacket-like fit’ between the false idea of ourselves and the positively-defined environment that this idea needs to be surrounded with on a full-time basis just isn’t any good for us. It’s actually the worst thing ever!

 

What a terrible trick this is, therefore! The only place we have to look for freedom is in the ‘extrinsic space’ that we are surrounded with on all sides, and which is a projection of the ‘positive self’ that operates mechanically and deterministically within it. ‘Extrinsic space’ is the same thing as Krishnamurti’s ‘psychological time’ – psychological time is the time between wanting something and getting it, it is the virtual space between the formulation of the goal and the realisation of it. Extrinsic space is the space between defined locations on a logical continuum, which isn’t space at all. It is the space between ‘where I think I am’ and ‘where I think I’d like to be’! We have eased the pain of our cruel existential restriction by searching for freedom, meaning and fulfilment within the Realm of Extrinsic Space but this is a barren hunting ground. There never was a more barren hunting ground than this…

 

We can never find freedom or meaning or fulfilment in the Realm of Extrinsic Space, obviously – how could we ever find freedom, meaning, or fulfilment in the space between ‘where we think we are’ and ‘where we think we’d like to be’ when both of these propositions are entirely non-existent? How can my search for freedom ever get anywhere when the one who is striving so hard to find it isn’t real, any more than the goals through which it believes it can find release through are (and they aren’t real because they are only ‘the deficit-fuelled projections of the unreal self-concept’)? How is this ‘misplaced endeavour’ of ours ever going to come to anything? And yet at the same time the thing that we are most resistant to ever seeing is that there is any ‘pain displacement’ going on, and that the self-concept we think we are doesn’t exist, any more than its cherished and super-attractive goals do. The illusion fuels itself, reinforces itself, and continually reinstates itself, and we’re fast stuck to that self-fuelling illusion with the ‘glue of identification’…