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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Price of Selling Your Soul

Remember Ebenezer Scrooge? "Bah! Humbug!" were his favorite words. He seemed to have forgotten about his humanity and only cared for wealth. Ho-hum, you say, it's just an old Dickensian Christmas tale. Well, what about Gordon Gekko (played by Michael Douglas) in the movie Wall Street? Had he not also forgotten about his humanity in his eternal quest for even more money? Was he not personifying the lust for continual acquisition that overtook us in the latter half of the 20th Century on a scale more vast than we had ever seen? Just a movie, you say? Well how about Bernie Madoff and his Ponzi scheme that left countless investors who had trusted him with their life savings? Did he not also forget about his humanity? Did he not sell his soul? Yes, you say, but those are not people like us. We don't have access to that kind of money to be able to manipulate someone like that … we'd never be able to do such a thing.

Fair enough. Let's look a bit closer to home. How often - at least traditionally - have woman not sold their souls for the security of a comfortable home in suburbia and a relatively carefree life by marrying someone they liked but did not really love? Or, how often do others (both men and women) give up their heart's desire and sell their soul to have that safe job as an accountant or mid-level manager for the security of a job, a guaranteed salary, two weeks paid vacation per year, and a pension?

Wearing Someone Else's Clothes

When I was still in the corporate world and received my first important promotion, I went to a tailor and had five suits made that looked like men's suits. I even wore some of them with a jaunty kind of feminine tie. Fortunately the suits looked rather good on me, but that phase of my wardrobe did not last very long as I soon realized I did not have to wear men's clothes to do what was - then - considered to be a man's job.

Wearing someone else's clothes happens when we take on the characteristics and mannerisms, the personality traits, the beliefs and the way of behaving of another human being. It may start out because we admire someone. It may begin because we wish to emulate what they have done in order to get there ourselves.

But there is a great distance between emulating someone's proactive behavior in order to achieve a goal and actually taking on that person's characteristics because we have not given our own being enough importance, or, what may be even worse, because we have not come to know and appreciate ourselves to any extent.

Back in the day women would often take on their husband's political and religious opinions. In conversations (and I remember hearing this phrase when chatting with friends in the early 70's), many sentences would begin with 'my husband says that ...' or 'Johnny believes that ... ' or ' Bill says we should ...'. It's not hard to grasp that this happened in part because these women gave little weight to their own opinions (which again, we could say formed the tapestry of the patriarchal social paradigm that already was in the throes of a major shift, but had not yet truly changed).

But in our present world this often becomes apparent in the way many of us take on the opinions of a majority - opinions we have not necessarily examined and thought out properly. Frequently this happens despite the fact that in our gut we may feel another opinion is more correct, but we don't want to stand out from the crowd. Or we may behave a certain way (consuming alcohol beyond what we really want to consume, for example, or buying more articles of clothing than we really want or need) in order to fit in - another (albeit lesser, perhaps) selling of the soul.

A good part of this happens due to a lack of living an aware life. The more aware an individual is, the more he will either give weight to his own opinions and character traits, or recognize that they need some tweaking, and will begin the process of doing this. Awareness leads to a greater love of the self and a greater (healthy) love of the self means that you would never want to sell your soul and wear someone else's clothes.

Are You Choosing Your Thoughts?

What you think and believe does not necessarily originate in you. We're all endlessly (and often mindlessly) influenced by that which we hear and see on a daily basis, including, but not limited to TV, the press, billboards, talk shows, and even reality TV, not to mention what our family, friends, and work colleagues discuss with us.

Well yes, you may say to me, but I still choose what I think about and what I believe. I beg to differ. Remember when we were told eggs were bad for us? Raise your hand if you changed your eating habits based on that one (or perhaps you still believe it). Ditto margarine being better for our health than butter. How about when they said that surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy were the best (and some say the only) way to go with cancer treatment? How about hormone treatment for andropausal men and menopausal women? Is it good or bad? Does it cause cancer or not? Or when they say that this politician is bad, that one is good and will save your country. Or: sugar is bad for you, therefore have artificial sweeteners such as saccharine or aspartame. Not to mention the amount of thoughts and beliefs we hold to be true because they form part of what we see on those talk shows, sitcoms, and reality TV as well as what we see on our pervasive social networking sites.

What does this mean? Have we all been converted into walking, mindless zombies? I believe a large part of it is due to the reading, listening and viewing choices we make on a daily basis. We appear to have lost the art of discernment, as well as the art of verifying things we hear. Just because we heard it on the news, or because all our friends are saying it, means little. We should, perhaps, take a closer look at the origin of some of these thoughts and beliefs, or do some research - even if just cursory - which nowadays is so easy thanks to the Internet, in order to substantiate what we are hearing. If I base a portion of my life on a specific set of thoughts or a belief - even if it is just something as simple as whether I make the choice to eat eggs in the face of a barrage of so-called expert commentators on TV, and articles in the mainstream press - it must be because I have first satisfied my own set of criteria for this belief.

So in some fashion this whole thing boils down to how much I care about myself. Am I willing (and aware enough) to look at things in a slightly deeper way in order to decide whether to believe something? Or will I take the easy road and simply accept, think and believe because it's out there ... everywhere and thus sell my soul?

Neglecting Yourself

This scenario happens more frequently than we care to admit: you may neglect your other interests, if these interests are not of importance to your significant other. In some fashion, therefore, we might say that you are neglecting your own life. And this is very important because when you may need the support of those interests in your life at some future point, you will be disconnected from them. (Interests can support you because when things are difficult in other areas of your life, they can help hold you up, precisely because they capture your attention in critical ways and hence are capable of giving meaning to your life, something which is always of significance, but tremendously important during bad times).

Alternatively, you may neglect your friends in order to spend more time with your partner. This is crucial because when you may need that social network at some future point, it - your friends - may no longer be available to you.

Another possibility is that you may decide to give up certain ideas and opinions in order to mold yourself more closely to your partner. If you think only a wimp would do this, only someone with no character and no moral fiber, allow me to remind you of the fact that we are extremely good at rationalizing and convincing ourselves that we are doing something because we really want to and only recognize after the facts that we did indeed drop those ideas and opinions to fit in better, or to please the other. And lest it be thought that I am advocating never pleasing the other, that is not the case. But it is a case of being very conscious and clear about what is going on when you do so. You might please the other with an article of clothing, a certain type of perfume, taking up a sport (if you really want to and really enjoy it), or any other example you care to mention,  but if you convert to Judaism or Catholicism or Buddhism to please the other, or if you change political parties to please the other (or to have a better atmosphere at home), or if you start (or stop) smoking to please the other, or start going to the opera or football games to please the other, then do make absolutely certain that you are, in fact, also pleasing yourself.

You may ultimately lose a portion of yourself by doing some of the above or similar things because in some ways that are not healthy, you will have become fused with the other person, and this lost portion of yourself will only then come back into your consciousness when you either recognize what has happened, or perhaps when the relationship breaks up. Losing this part of yourself to please another or to have a relationship without problems, or because you want to continue feeling the way you did at the beginning, is a very large price to pay.

Selling your soul is dangerous. But it's far more dangerous not admit to yourself that somewhere along the way you did this. Because if you never admit it, you'll never recover that soul that you sold. And don't get me wrong: I'm not criticizing any of these hypothetical individuals I've described, at least, not the ones in all but the very first paragraph. But any kind of selling of the soul is heinous when you examine it from the point of view of what it does to you. It numbs you, it deadens you, and it leaves pieces of you in a place from which you may never be able to retrieve them. Give clear and aware intention to becoming more conscious and in the process retrieve your soul. Do this because you care for yourself.


Also visit my book website: www.gabriellakortsch.com where you may download excerpts or read quotations from any of my books. My latest book Emotional Unavailability & Neediness: Two Sides of the Same Coin is available globally on Amazon in print & Kindle. You can also obtain it (or any of my other books) via Barnes & Noble.

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