As I stumble through my own process of self discovery, I am reminded of a line from the movie Bull Durham. The character Annie Savoy says: “The world is made for people who aren’t cursed with self-awareness.” Funny, but as with most humor, there is a vein of truth in that line. In light of the prevalence of personal disconnect and economic crisis in our society, maybe it’s not so funny. But, I can relate to the humor in watching my own pitfalls that continue to seduce me into diversion. Underneath diversion is a desire to avoid some thing or feeling. When we engage patterns of behavior that are centered in distraction and denial, our psyches run on automatic. Instead of being in control or observing of our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, our egos become our pilots. Our journey is momentarily forgotten. Some might call these patterns neuroses. Ram Dass writes about his journey and how he didn’t necessarily rid himself of his neuroses, instead he befriended them. I think this speaks about acceptance. Accepting that the journey of awareness will always present opportunities for our patterns to steer us towards diversion. Once again, I am faced with the task of acceptance. Accepting that there is no magic fix that will rid me of my ploys to divert my attention elsewhere in an effort to avoid being present.
My psyche’s ploys are clever. They can mask as simple relaxation, taking a moment to gather my energy before proceeding, and trick me into believing that I am not utilizing diversionary tactics. Don’t get me wrong, relaxing, playing, and gathering one’s energy are valuable practice. It’s just that I know, deep down beneath the denial and wishful thinking, that there are times when I am rationalizing or making excuses instead of being present. I am forgetting my journey instead of living it. In all fairness, I must confess that confusion can complicate matters. However, confusion is also a defense mechanism that diverts our attention away from the underlying doubts, fears, and pain.
What I have come to realize is that as we expand our self-awareness, there is another layer to our usual patterns. We still fall prey to conditioned responses and defense mechanisms, but intuitively we begin to realize that there are consequences to our diversionary behaviors. Consequences that typically remain hidden when we are in the throws of distraction itself. Similar to overindulging with food, drugs, or whatever, and thinking that there will be no hangover later. The buzz feels good; whether it’s playing on the computer, working too much, sitting still too long or keeping busy too much, there is an illusion of peace. Not genuine peace. Neurotic peace; a false calm that seems to be riding out the storm or avoiding the storm altogether. An illusion of relief from suffering.
As we realize there are unwanted consequences to our diversionary tactics, the illusion of relief wanes. The dangling carrot of comfort remains out of reach, and suffering is created. Threads of doubt and belief in our actions serving our well-being emerge. The seeds of guilt, lack of worth, and regret sprout. Self-awareness can derail diversion by breaking down the illusion of comfort. The curse may be that our conditioned responses no longer hold the same power they once did. We are left with the work required for growth and healing. Ironically, allowing ourselves to bear witness to that which we were trying to avoid in the first place is the path to genuine peace. Self-awareness is the journey that brings healing.