How not to be a slave

Bound

This is the fourth, and final article, on how to become the person you always were. Or, to use another terminology, to exercise your Personal Genius.

The first article in the series was Why it’s ok to be a bit weird, the second was How to be strange and the third was How to be unique.

This one is about how to get free of personal slavery. For, so long as you are a slave to opinions, to convention, to other people, to your ego, or to routine, then you cannot really be you.

For some free spirits slavery to convention is the worst. Which means doing what your parents and teachers always told you to do; or following along the mores of what the ‘right’ people do – the people you went to school with, or the people in your church, your company, your club, your neighbourhood and so forth. So that you end up speaking with the same accent, dressing the same way, behaving the same way, and, what is most despicable – judging, excluding or persecuting people who don’t follow that same ‘right’ way of life.

For other fans of enlightenment slavery to opinion is the worst. That means thinking the same way as the majority. Sharing the same newspapers, the same TV programs, the same politics, the same religion and the same prejudices. And although I don’t read newspapers, rarely watch TV, don’t vote and don’t subscribe to any single religion, I certainly agree that Headmind slavery can be a problem. In this respect I remind my readers that dumb thinking is one sure path to unhappiness and illness, as well as slavery.

Sceptics throughout history have argued that slavery to gurus is pretty bad too. But since I have also written about that subject in a prior blog article I won’t go over that ground again here. Likewise I have also written elsewhere about slavery to personal ‘bananas’, the ego, and personality.

Now I agree that if you really want to be someone worth paying attention to then you are going to have to ruthlessly discard conventions, ideas and obsessions you have always taken for granted. You are also going to have to get out of your comfort zone.  Although that is hard work (the work of a life-time, in fact) the rewards – in terms of personal fulfilment – are unspeakable.

But, for me, the worst form of slavery is the one most of us take for granted. And that is slavery to routine: doing the same things, in the same way, at the same time, in the same place, with the same people, every day. Right down to the way you dress yourself, eat your food, drive your car, do the shopping, surf the internet, walk the dog, take a nap, smoke cigarettes, have a drink and so on and on and on. So that life becomes a kind of mechanical, living death. So that you go to sleep and stay there. So that life just passes you by without you ever really exercising Awareness.

The reason this is the worst kind of slavery is that, in it, Bodymind dies slowly. And when that happens the brain loses neuroplasticity. Which means that the cells in the brain (as well as those 2 trillion cells in the body that communicate to it) either die off or become rigid. Which, in turn, means that you become a zombie incapable of changing, evolving, or learning anything new.

For me, slavery to habit is the basis for all the other kinds of slavery mentioned above. Simply because it keeps you asleep. Avoiding premature death is hard work but it is simple too. All you have to do is break one habit every day.

 

Most people are other people.  Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation. Oscar Wilde.

 

 

How to be strange

Laugh

I once read a statistic – and I can't remember the exact figures that were quoted to me – that the odds are several trillion-to-one that someone could be born with the same genetic code as yours. Which, effectively, means that you are absolutely unique. There will never be another person with your temperament, character, experiences and personal gifts until God goes to sleep for good. 

However humdrum or unhappy your life might be at the moment you are a special person. You have unique experiences and perceptions that no one else will ever have. And it doesn't matter whether you have a humdrum life, or whether you suffer from the delusion that you are a failure. Nor does it matter if other people fail to appreciate just how different you really are. Just get on with the task of becoming the person you were always meant to be. Or, as I advised in my last article – cultivate your weirdness.

One way to do that is to start following what your personal genius wants you to do. Another is to break free of your personality. But there are other ways, and I shall write about each of them:

  • Be playful with the truth.
  • Become an expert at least one thing.
  • Break away from slavery.

 Be playful with the truth

I don't mean play with the truth (meaning: tell lies). I mean: telling the truth so straightforwardly that you make people laugh. Even telling the raw truth, just as you see it, is often amusing, as well as fascinating. As a rule, saying shocking things about yourself works best, but you can do the same for life, god, other people, or about anything else you like. As Bernard Shaw once said, telling the raw truth will be taken by most people as an outrageously witty thing to do.

Some examples:

1. Abraham Lincoln was once heckled at a rally and accused of being 'two-faced'. Lincoln (who was famously ugly) replied: 'If I had two faces do you think I would be wearing this one?'

2. Oscar Wilde was once listening to a rather vain artist who was complaining that the critics never wrote about him and that there must be 'a conspiracy of silence' against him. 'What should I do, Oscar?' he asked. 'Join it' said Wilde. 

3. I once met a woman at a party who told me that her husband was so depressed that he had given up his job and spent most of the day in bed. I also learnt that she had gone back to work to pay all the bills while at the same time looking after their four children, running the home, and dealing with his moods. When I asked: 'Don't you get depressed too?' She replied, satirically: 'Me? Oh I don't have time to get depressed."

Einstein is a pretty good example of how an 'ordinary' person came to seem more and more interesting to others. Although it took him a long time to get there. He was a failure at school and dropped out when he was 16. One of his teachers even wrote on his school report that he was probably retarded. From thereon he lead a dreamy, secluded, life as a University academic, his theories and himself more or less unknown to most people until he was 41, when he suddenly became famous. Therafter, his eccentricities and sayings became the stuff of legend. Here is one of my favourite stories about him: one that illustrates his personal humility, and his sense of mischief, as well as his playfulness with the truth.

One day, while Einstein was on a speaking tour, his chauffeur, who often sat at the back of the hall during his lectures waiting to take him home, remarked that he could probably give the lecture himself, having heard it so many times. Thinking it over, Einstein decided to give it the test and switched places with him. As he suspected would happen, no one knew who he was or what he looked like, and the chauffeur went on to give a flawless lecture on Relativity. Things only went wrong near the end when he was asked a question he couldn't answer. The driver pointed to Einstein, sitting at the back of the hall, and said:

'The answer to that question is so simple even my driver could answer it."

 

 

Why it’s ok to be a bit weird

Weird

When I was a teenager one of my recurring worries was whether I would ever be normal. In the 1970s being 'normal' seemed to mean the exact opposite of what I was doing at the time: living on my own (and liking it that way), being on the dole, writing poetry, reading philosopy, worrying about the meaning of life, and consuming too many drugs.

Normal people, I was told, were contented with life, unlike me. They were also good at making their minds up early what job they wanted to do and sticking at it until they made lots of money. In fact, being normal, as far as I could tell, meant spending lots of time thinking about money, making it, and then spending lots more time thinking about how to spend it. So all the people I secretly admired were skilled shoppers, and bang-on-the-mark about the right clothes to wear, the best car to buy and the newest restaurants to book.

Fashion

Back in 1976 when I was having this weird phase which still hasn't come to an end yet, that meant wearing baggy high-waisted trousers, platform shoes, and flowery shirts with big collars worn with a safari-jacket. To go with the moustache, huge side-burns and and big sunglasses that were de rigueur for normals. Which fitted neatly with the Ford Capris parked outside the Lee Ho Fook at the less grubby end of Croydon High Street. 

I could, just about, cope with the fact that I was a drop-out who didn't have any money and not the least idea how to spend it and make myself look normal. But (and I am being quite truthful here) what was more disturbing to my sanity was the fact that all the well-adjusted 20-somethings I knew were getting far more sex than I was, and were planning to get wed to one of their sexual partners, buy a two-bedroomed house, and make some more money. But the thought of having endless sex on demand made normality sound quite attractive. It was only later I discovered that many normals don't, in fact, do good sex.

But weddings were a turn off because weirdos like me aren't very good at settling down to live in the same house, with the same person, doing the same job all the time. And the thought of living in New Malden for the rest of my life sounded like a prison sentence.

So being a bit weird gave me a more interesting life than might otherwise have been the case.

Next up, I will be writing about how you can cultivate the strangeness in you – and become still more interesting than you are now.

Is your Personality based on your Blood Group?

Personality Fans of this Blog will know that I am sceptical about theories of personality. I really don’t believe people either have, or need to have, a fixed personality. Nor do I believe that standard personality tests are that accurate. And even if they are accurate at this moment in time they may not be so next year.

You will also know from me that you are better off losing your Ego and your Personality (if you have one) because they limit your possibilities, intensify your bananas, keep you in your comfort zone, and stifle your Personal Genius.

However a Japanese friend of mind asks whether I have heard of the concept of ketsu-eki-gata, in which temperament is said to be influenced by the individual”s blood group. Since there are only 4 groups:  A, O, B and AB it would seem that there are four basic types – as shown in the table below (click on it to enlarge):

BloodGroupPersonality

She goes on to say:

If this idea has some truth in it then in we have more evidence that Bodymind – working through the blood-group – has an influence on our preferences, our moods, the way we express emotions, our behaviors, our attitude towards other people, and our career choices.’

It could be that she has a point if we consider that blood group types might influence temperament (emotional make-up) rather than personality. But nobody has yet been able to show whether there is a link, and how it works, although theories like this are at least 2500 years old.

She tells me that in Japan and Korea, blood groups are widely used by dating agencies to match people up, and by employers in order to assess whether applicants are ‘right’ for the job.

Apparently my own blood group – B – has a bad reputation in Korea and Japan as we are widely viewed as mad, bad, and dangerous to know.

A few years ago Dr Peter D’Adamo published a book in which he argued that people could more easily lose weight by following the right diet for their blood type. So Blood Group O should avoid wheat and dairy; Group A should follow a mostly vegetarian diet; Group AB the same as A, but with occasional meat and fish; while Group B should avoid nuts (one of my favorites!) and processed foods like white bread. If this is the case (and this is still a controversial theory) then it suggests that blood groups can influence taste as well as metabolism. So why not temperament?

I ran the description of the ‘B’ personality past my wife and a few friends and they all agree that it is fairly accurate of me. That doesn’t make it true though!

What do you think? Do you – and those close to you – believe that these descriptions fit you?

And – for you readers who know me personally – do you think that Type B is accurate?

I promise to publish all replies – appreciative or sceptical, and flattering or non-flattering!

Connecting to the genius in you

Connect

In my last article I wrote about Enneagram weaknesses: how we develop a false personality by getting fixated on the way we appear to other people.

Today I want to write about Enneagram strengths. Specifically, how each of the Nine types, when the person is at a highly developed stage and is free of the ego, can be an expression of your Personal Genius.

In previous articles on Personal Genius I have described how your Genius is an expression of the divine in you. Your Genius drives you on to become the best you can be and fulfil your personal mission. It cares nothing for the approval of others; it is only concerned with making the world a better place.

My experience is that most of us are naturally drawn towards becoming one of the NIne types. Some of us make the mistake of getting hung up on approval from others, so we end  up with weaknesses rather than strengths. Some of us mistakenly identify with a lower type (usually out of  cowardice) and lose our divine mission altogether. But some of us go for one of the types, in a healthy way, because that type resonates most with our personal mission, how we see our selves impacting on the world.

Here is how each of the Enneagram types, in their original, untainted, glory seeks to express Personal Genius:

The One is a Reformer. Wants to help people  become better, purer and more honest. Ones are often Teachers, Writers, Preachers. Many great religious leaders are Ones. Example: Leo Tolstoy.

The Two is a Nurturer. Wants to help people be more loving and forgiving. The  developed  Two  tries to set an example through self-sacrificing compassion for others. Example: Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

The Three is a Manager. Seeks to make things more efficient for the common good. At their  best they make great managers, leaders and (respected) politicians. Example: Barack Obama.

The Four is an Artist. They can be artists with words, images, fabrics, sounds – or  even artists of life. They want to bring out the playful, creative, and original in people. They may be designers, writers and artists; or they may come across as intensely fascinating and original people in their own right. Example: Van Gogh.

The Five is concerned with Knowledge. They are  clear-thinking, objective, often brilliant – experts in at least one field. They make great teachers, scientists and philosophers. On a smaller scale they make good advisors: consultants, therapists and coaches. Example: Albert Einstein.

The Six is a Helper. They want to  make the world a friendlier place. They  sacrifice themselves for the good of the community. They prefer to work behind the scenes, keeping the family together, building up the team at work, or helping in community schemes and  organisations. Example: Princess Diana.

The Seven wants to help people become more intensely alive. They are extroverts who are fun to be with, and who bring out the best in people.  They like to entertain and make great comedians, musicians and stage performers. Or they may just  be the life and soul of the party. Example: Mick Jagger.

The Eight wants to  protect others. This  drives them on to be leaders in some way. They may  fight  for the rights of an oppressed minority, or they may want to rescue people who are in trouble.  They are natural fighters who will champion any cause they have taken to heart. Example: Martin Luther King.

The Nine is a Harmonizer. They  try to see the world through other peoples eyes and understand  how each person sees things differently. Then they  seek to bring people together and promote mutual understanding and forgiveness.

Many Enneagram teachers (including me) believe that becoming a developed Nine who is able to become any of the other 8 types, in an impersonal way, is our ultimate goal. Unlike all the other types, the Nine is not drawn to any particular vocation. Example: William Shakespeare.

 

More on the Enneagram

People

Some of you may have taken one of the two Enneagram Personality tests I recommended in my last article. If you did then it is important to remind you of the following principle:

Whichever of the Nine Enneagram ‘personalities’ you think you have (or scored highest for) you should fight as hard as you can not to be that particular way. In short, you should lose that ossified way of being.

For example, until recently I scored high for the Number 8. Here is a description of the Eight by The Enneagram Institute:

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.

In order to avoid the fate of becoming fixated on strength (and thereby making myself obsessional about it) I had to let go of the banana about having to ‘be in control’. In point of fact I never particularly wanted to be in control of anything until I became a well-known therapist. After that point my Headmind decided that it had something to prove to people who did therapy or training with me, and then the banana about having to be ‘strong’ started to work on me. Before that particular delusion took over I usually scored high on the Number 5 personality. Here is a description of that one from the same source:

Fives are alert, insightful, and curious. They are able to concentrate and focus on developing complex ideas and skills. Independent, innovative, and inventive, they can also become preoccupied with their thoughts and imaginary constructs. They become detached, yet high-strung and intense. They typically have problems with eccentricity, nihilism, and isolation.

I would guess that I was a ‘Five’ all the way from my teenage years until about 10 years ago, when I learnt to see through that false ego. What drove it was my emerging experience of being typed as ‘deaf and therefore ‘stupid’ and ‘inadequate’. That was why I went for one banana about having to be a know-all and another one about having to live in an ivory tower. Neither obsession did me any good.

Here are the fixations that go with each of the nine types.

The One: Has to be in the right. Must never be in the wrong. The Perfectionist.

The Two: Has to look after others. Must never be rejected. The Martyr.

The Three. Has to be a success. Must never be second-best. The Workaholic.

The Four. Has to be admired. Must never be ignored. The Show-off.

The Five. Has to know everything. Must never be caught out. The Loner.

The Six. Has to belong. Must never stand out from the crowd. The Conformist.

The Seven. Has to be happy. Must not be sad. The Addict.

The Eight. Has to be in Control. Must not be weak. The Bully.

The Nine. Has to be inside the Comfort Zone. Must not get stressed. The Slob.

Five ways to get rid of your moods

Mood In my last-but-one post I wrote on what your moods tell others about you.

In this post I describe how you can shake off negative moods.

The first step is to understand what a mood actually is. It’s not a feeling or an emotion but a subtle change in Bodymind energy which can be sensed both by yourself and by others around you.

For example, a self-pitying mood could manifest as a heavy, oppressive, melancholy kind of energy.

While a fun-seeking mood could be light, bubbly and playful.

The second step is to raise Awareness. Of who you are and what you are doing in the moment. Of your emotions, feelings and moods. You can’t change a mood that you don’t know you have. In some cases you can shake off a bad mood just by becoming aware of it and focusing your attention on something else.

Which brings us to the third method, which is actually the simplest one to use: listening to music. If your mood is down, put on something uplifting. If your mood is bitter, put on something sad. If you are panicky, put on something with a big beat! And so on.

The fourth way is to eliminate the cause of your moods, which reflect your relationship to yourself, to other people, or to life.

  • If your relationship to yourself is judgmental your mood is likely to be edgy, tense, strung-out.
  • If your relationship to other people is hostile your mood is likely to be prickly and ‘ready-to-blow’.
  • If your relationship to life is defeatist your mood is likely to be depressed.

In each case the answer is to change the attitude.

  • Instead of passing harsh judgments on yourself, focus on your achievements.
  • Instead of attacking people, empathise with them
  • Instead of giving up on life find new things to do or a new way to live.

The fifth solution is to get rid of your Personality. You only need to use this one if you find that the same mood keeps coming up, again and again. For example, if you are continually despondent, agitated, or bitter and you have been that way for a while then you have become trapped by false personality.

Image by nyki_m