Monday, October 17, 9932

Why We Cling to the False Self

When we are very young we are mostly blank slates. This enables us to absorb data directly because we haven’t yet developed a mental filter. We become attached to things and people, such as certain foods, our mother, our lifestyle, and our religion, because there is nothing else to compare them to, so they seem like unquestionable “givens”. That is, since there is nothing else to compare them to, there is no question as to whether they are true or real. They are all we have, and so we attach ourselves to them. This is known as imprinting.

Later in life we might become exposed to other people, foods, lifestyles, and religions. They might be very different from what we’re used to: the people might have a different skin color, the materialism of other lifestyles might be greater or lesser than that of the one we grew up in, foods might taste very unfamiliar, and religious dogmas might contradict what we’ve been taught. Since we have already imprinted on a particular set of people, things and ideas, we might view these new ones as “bad” or “wrong”. This is why people tend to cling to and defend their own race, lifestyle, and beliefs. No amount of logic, reason, or even proof will convince people that what they are used to isn’t necessarily any “better” or more “right” than anything else. They can’t fathom that if they just happened to have been born and brought up with a different skin color, lifestyle and belief system, they would think that those were “correct” and that the ones they currently cling to are “wrong”.

Why does this stubborn blindness occur? Because people make a (false) self out of their circumstances. They have built the idea of an action figure with a particular skin color, nationality, religion, lifestyle, community, family, etc, and have imprinted on it. By the time new data arrives, the mental construct that they view as their “self” has already been formed. Even if they see that different nationalities, lifestyles, and beliefs might have equal validity to their own, they see their “self” as unchangeable. Hence they cannot – or, rather, will not – change anything about themselves, because that would be tantamount to self-annihilation.

This is a simple case of mistaken identity. The true self is unchangeable, so feeling unchangeable is a good thing; but people apply this sense of permanence to their false self, which is changeable. In fact, since it doesn’t actually exist, the false self can be changed at the drop of a hat. People cling to the false self for a sense of permanence, when the only permanence resides in the true self.