Read time: 12 minutes
Everybody lies. It’s safe to think that just because something cannot be seen, then it shouldn’t matter. Or just because something can be forgotten or repressed, then that’s the end of it.
Stories or references are not always accurate. Background checks can overlook relevant data. Pieces of evidence can be destroyed or faked. One can lie about what really happened. Add these to our already bad memories and biases. Even our emotions deceive us; just because you feel good, doesn’t mean you’re right.
We all have a built-in mechanism that helps us know when something is off or when things just aren’t adding up. For starters, it is easier by understanding the power of emotions and how they manifest. We are creatures of emotions and it is essential for us in dealing with others. You just know when something’s there. There is something there.
Whatever we repress, the body speaks. Or better, whatever you resist, persists. It goes back to Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory; one tenet is that ‘conflicts between the conscious and the unconscious, or with repressed material can materialize in the form of mental or emotional disturbance...’ And according to Freud, the mind is a complex energy system.
But he asked a question that scientists today are asking as well: ‘Where does a thought go when it’s forgotten?’ Which is similar to asking what happens to our memories; or what is consciousness; or what is a thought; or whether information in the universe can be completely destroyed.
In 1974, Stephen Hawking proposed his theory on how black holes absorb matter (which practically contains energy and information). According to him, any matter that black holes absorb is completely destroyed. It then releases what is called the Hawking Radiation. He suggested that this radiation has nothing to do with the matter that has been absorbed by the black hole and that any trace of information about the engulfed matter or energy is no more. This goes against the basic rule of physics which states that you cannot lose information. It practically goes against the law of conservation of energy — that energy can be neither created nor destroyed.
In general, matter or information, no matter how scrambled it can get is still there. Hawking’s proposition did not sit well with another giant mind in physics, Leonard Susskind, and a war between the two broke out.
You have the famous Stephen Hawking on one end. In the other is Leonard Susskind, one of the pioneers of String Theory which is considered the best candidate for the Theory of Everything, bridging the gap between relativity and quantum mechanics. Their war went on for 30 years. The short story is that Hawking ended up conceding defeat in 2004. Leonard Susskind ended up winning the war, which made him known as the man who proved Hawking wrong. (Yet Hawking has a movie based on his life story titled The Theory of Everything. Quite ironic in a way.)
What makes their war interesting is that it talks about information, or energy. A black hole is said to be immensely strong that even light cannot escape it. On a different yet related note, we have this perception that things are only real if they are some sort of a material we can feel and touch. We can’t touch light, yet it’s there. We can’t touch sound, yet it’s there. We can’t touch our thoughts, yet we know they are up there in our heads. But still, information and energy is there and everywhere.
We’re dealing with energy in general that isn’t different from how Freud described the workings of our minds. Any sort of imbalances are bound to manifest in physical form (psychosomatic) or mental (anxiety, depression, emotional disorders, etc). Freud himself has taught us the power of the subconscious mind. The very same power that can allow you to sleep without relying on an alarm clock to wake yourself up at a certain time. In short, a thought is an energy and is so powerful that it can have repercussions for your emotional and physical well-being.
We’re all curious as to what happens to our consciousness when we die or what happens to our memories or our thoughts. There is evidence that our awareness can exist for at least several minutes after clinical death, which was previously thought impossible. There are experiments that show memories passed onto genes or DNA. This leads us to the concept of consciousness, which is a big one. But we don’t really know what consciousness is yet.
Philosopher David Chalmers proposes that consciousness is a fundamental block in the nature of reality. And that we must treat it as a problem in its own right. We talk about black holes, space, time, relativity, psychology and many bodies of knowledge that allows us to get a better view of reality. Consciousness may very well be another part of the many fabrics that comprise reality or the universe itself.
Controversial Doctor Robert Lanza, the proponent of the theory of Biocentrism, firmly believes that the universe begins and ends in the mind of the observer. He pushes it further by stating that consciousness is actually what defines the universe, which is not far from what Nobel Laureate Eugene Wigner has proposed: that consciousness has an effect on a reality that is observed.
As woo woo as this may sound, there are plenty of experiments that show scientific credibility on whether our thoughts go beyond our heads and reverberate in the world around us. We ourselves somehow believe in this when we tell our friends not to be a jinx or not to send a vibe out. It’s not necessarily science fiction or some sort of fantasy anymore.
Blind people have been shown to sense emotions even if they can’t see, and the research involved shows that our eyes are emotion sensors as well; two brains in two isolated locations have been shown that they can share the exact same experience; telepathic communication is said to be within reach; we can sense if we are being stared at.
An intriguing one is Princeton’s Global Consciousness Project, which involves the placement of random number generators all over the world. The project is born from the phenomenon that a random number generator is said to be affected when someone is sitting beside it.
Random number generators are digital coin flippers. The typical result for digital coin flips should be random as it yields heads or tails. In their case, one’s and zero’s. But it is said that somehow when some conscious or thinking fat boy eating donuts is introduced near the random number generators, they end up not being random anymore. The numbers end up giving a pattern deviating from the randomness. This is what happens to random number generators all over the world, so much so that they end up producing patterns, especially when there are major events like an earthquake, Princess Diana’s funeral, concerts, sporting events, and many more.
There are plenty of applications for these kinds of developments. We may no longer have to be so obsessed with the notion of being certain about something or even stop being paranoid. We’ll probably end up being cooler, calmer and more collected, like Dos Equis’ Most Interesting Man in the World, just because we have a way of foreseeing things.
While many of these emerging developments in the study of consciousness and the mind are promising, there comes the fear of revealing ourselves. There comes the fear of revealing many of our secrets. One could theorize that as we evolve further, we’ll be forced into accepting each other gradually. As many science fictions would suggest, there will come a time in which we’ll be faced with a complex problem that must be solved for our survival that we’ll have no choice but to learn how to be highly interconnected. For one, technology has already begun challenging us.
SO WHAT IS IT WITH SECRETS?
Secrets can be driven by shame. Shame is one reason why we all put up a perfect facade. While image matters, it is also overrated. Your actions, or whatever happened to you, do not necessarily define you as a person.
For instance, our culture of shame is one reason why it is difficult for victims of abuse to come out due to the perceived image and thinking that what happened to them completely defines them. People are there ready to judge at the first onset of opportunity. ‘Stained’, ‘tainted’, ‘unworthy’, ‘damaged’, etc. are the labels ready to be plastered.
Our work culture uses shame as a motivator as well. Shit happens and fear only makes it more difficult. In attaining any result, especially out of fear of punishment or consequences, one may then be repressed by a group, a higher authority, boss or parents all for the sake of control. Subtle and persistent condescending remarks are an eventuality, for impatience cannot be avoided. It’s the typical dilemma, especially of bosses at the top trying to bite more than what they can chew and shoving the pressure down their employees’ throats. The guise of developing a ‘thick face’ seems to be the answer but only works in the short term. And you’d be lying to yourself if you pretend it’s good for your well-being in the long run.
Shame breeds and is at the root of narcissism. If you find yourself needing to prove and deliver something, then someone is just passing their shame onto you. The primary source of shame must then be addressed. Guilt comes into play as well. There’s no other way to put it: shame, when used as a sole motivator, is manipulative. It becomes toxic. Sure shame is necessary, for it challenges us to behave better, and this is where it is referred to as healthy shame. Healthy shame is okay, but toxic shame is not.
“Shame is the most powerful, master emotion. It’s the fear that we’re not good enough.”
-Brene Brown, Daring Greatly
For every mistake, a narcissist cannot distinguish his actions versus his being. He thinks he is his mistakes, his actions, what happened to him, the words he said, the image people have of him, the possessions, the labels or titles he has, etc. Thus, a narcissist is known to make a lot of excuses, cover-ups, lies and deny the truth even if things are already obvious about his actions, attitude or behavior.
A narcissist is shame based, thus nothing can ever be his fault. He will never own up to them even if he is completely found out. He’ll even play the victim to position himself as the innocent one. It’s too painful for him to admit. He’ll hide his fragile self under an inflated pride.
When it comes to developing a genuine connection with a healthy person, this is where a narcissist fails. He’ll need a co-dependent to carry his shame or simply someone with a low self-esteem. For a narcissist the interaction is often controlled or superficial, calculated and dishonest which ends with more social disconnect or conflict. Toxic shame has taken hold. It gets deeper the further it goes on. The false self is what is relied on at the cost of repressing the true self.
Driven by validation that he still needs, he’ll do anything even if it’s obvious and things just don’t add up anymore. A narcissist is exposed to this blind spot, for he or she can no longer see the difference and have therefore repressed their emotions. He has repressed his truth, but others will notice.
One big source of toxic shame is from parents who are so overly critical, demanding, punishing, strict and authoritarian that they end up making their kids feel unworthy, especially during the kids’ formative years. A child receiving love, especially from a narcissistic parent, would then be left with no other primary options but to meet the unrealistic expectations of his or her primary caretakers. The child would be conditioned to become a co-dependent, growing up in an environment where everyone is trying hard to be something or somebody they are not.
Healthy shame, on the other hand, is in line with true acceptance and growth. Healthy shame gives you the permission to be human. It means accepting that all things cannot be controlled. It means accepting the fact that many things in life are uncertain. It means accepting that you are not perfect but still deserving of love and forgiveness. If you make a mistake and you get angry, forgive yourself and make peace with yourself. Only in this manner will you not have to lie about what you did and pass the blame onto someone or something else. There’s no sense of pressure or the feeling of being obligated to always meet some expectation. And you know how to take responsibility for what’s yours.
In an environment of try-hard perfectionists, a person’s true self is repressed. His sense of healthy shame spirals downward. Thus it promotes toxic shame rather than healthy shame. It breeds resentment, anger, unhealthy competition, superficial validation, deception, blamestorming, sugar coating, dictator-like qualities and most importantly, a lack of empathy.
“Healthy shame lets us know that we are limited. It tells us that to be human is to be limited. Actually, humans are essentially limited. Not one of us has, or can ever have, unlimited power. The unlimited power that many modern gurus offer is false hope. Their programs calling us to unlimited power have made them rich, not us. They touch our false selves and tap our toxic shame. We humans are finite, ‘perfectly imperfect.’ Limitation is our essential nature. Grave problems result from refusing to accept our limits.”
-John Bradshaw, Healing the Shame that Binds You
For a narcissist, the tendency is to believe that if something cannot be seen or heard, then it shouldn’t matter. He’ll hide and run from accountability due to the toxic shame he covers up with a bravado. But it is killing him from within, because when something is there, it’s there.
With all the developments and discoveries of the mind that we are learning about, especially consciousness, you can say that dealing with each other’s shame is inevitable. We’ll be forced to evolve and be capable of handling deeper truths. There’s no other way, because when something is there, it’s there.
FOSTERING AWARENESS & SELF-ACCEPTANCE
Narcissistic personality disorder can at best only be treated at this point, but it would be a lifetime process. There is no cure for it. At the heart of psychotherapy or psychiatry, treatments for the disorder lies in fostering awareness. This entails a big amount of tough self-work and brutal self-honesty, but without shame or judgment and with a more aware observer (therapist). A narcissist cannot cure himself. Even if a narcissist reads self-help quotes or books, he’ll just end up parroting them.
Best-selling author and counselor John Bradshaw mentioned in his book, Healing the Shame that Binds You, that it took him years to differentiate his being from his actions, thoughts, mistakes, etc. What he essentially said is that you are not your actions, your mistakes or what happened to you as narcissists tend to think. Genuine growth can only happen in expanding one’s awareness coupled with acceptance — to own everything that is happening to you, your flaws, imperfections and faults and having a higher shift in perspective in acknowledging them. You can’t solve your problems by not accepting that they are yours. But accepting them as yours does not mean that you are a mistake.
Eckhart Tolle, in his best-selling book, A New Earth, said that we tend to over-identify ourselves with our thoughts and actions, especially our thinking minds, while forgetting that there is still an observer — the awareness. We scare so easily at thoughts that go on in our heads, thinking they could define us. ‘You are not your mind’, as he said. Not even the body or the emotions you feel. You are not the thoughts you hear in your head, but you are the awareness.
Things are what they are. We all make mistakes. Nobody is perfect. Your worth is beyond your shame.
Monica Lewinsky, in her recent return after being silent for a decade, gave a speech detailing her experience on being shamed on a level none of us can ever imagine. She referred to herself as the ‘Patient zero — the first person to have their reputation completely destroyed worldwide via the Internet’. What is different this time is that she’s not the girl defined by the perspective or name calling of many. She made her mistake, but she knows well at this point that it shouldn’t define her. To the applause of many, what is different is that this time it’s on her own terms. And in terms that are genuine and truly connecting with others’ consciousness because she spoke with truth.
One can guess that at one point she probably asked herself if she just wants to be silenced, living quietly for the rest of her life. But when something is there, it’s there. The truth of her awareness is there. The truth of all things in her is still there in spite of the perception of many.
It’s easy to pass one’s shame, issues or whatever release that is needed. It’s easy to find a scapegoat. It’s easy to smear or lie about someone like a narcissist would without regard to truth.
But when something’s there, it’s there. In the midst of all things that had happened or are happening to you, or even what you’ve done, is your awareness or consciousness linked with others. You can chose to live or not. You decide what happens next.