Fear, judgement, and social anxiety

I read a phrase a long time ago which resembled: “If you meet Buddha in the garden, destroy him.”

I liked this phrase, but I appreciated it in a literal sense: that no-one should acknowledge another person as being greater than themselves, and should they find themselves in this position, then they should do everything within their power to overcome it. As a self-identified individualist, this resonated with me.

Now, I don’t mean that one shouldn’t ever recognise the authority of another. Surely sometimes we encounter people smarter than ourselves, more knowledgeable, more capable in certain areas, they aren’t necessarily any better than us as individuals, but we might learn from them. To occupy a place in society is to recognise when to sit your ego aside and be amenable.

Reflecting on this idea recently, I’ve come to acknowledge that while I accept no person as intrinsically greater than myself, I haven’t yet accepted the opportunity to become my own master. I’ve lacked the courage to occupy that title, and let myself float through life, hiding from opportunity and personal responsibility.

My sister and I share the concept of the turtle: As a child sometimes you feel defenseless in the face of a greater enemy, so you retreat inside your defenses and won’t come out until you feel safe. This pretty much applies to any social situation. Fear overcomes you.

Unfortunately, long-term, you become incapable of facing any great hurdle. You never learn to face the toughest challenges in life because when they come, you slip inside your shell and draw on the walls, because it’s safer with your imagination, shoring up your defenses with ideologies, rationalisations and your vibrant imagination.

I ditched Christianity as a child and searched for ideologies to fill the void. I believed there was no God to pray to, and I could not face life as I was, so I searched for ideas and structures to supplement my broken ego.
LaVeyan Satanism had a strong pull. The core concept is essentially that every individual is the master of their own universe. You own and occupy your own space, your own world, and are responsible for that, but for noone else. You have no intrinsic obligations. It’s an attractive idea to a turtle, and for me it led to internalisation: trying to convince myself that the world is not a scary place because it’s actually really all my reflection. But of course, if you find the world a hostile place and if you take responsibility and blame for that, if the world comes from you, then every slight becomes an act of masochism.

Jumping back up the rabbit hole, clearly indulging fear is not the way to go.

I’ve discussed social anxiety before. I believe that social fear centres around judgement. Turtles never really form a healthy detachment from the judgements of others, they feel it keenly. When you say something offensive, they absorb it as a reflection on their worth as a being. Which brings me back to the Buddhist statement: A key point in being your own master, to being a self-contained and healthy individual is to acknowledge the boundaries of the self. For example:

You are not your thoughts. You can’t control them, you can merely quiet them.
You are not responsible for the thoughts, feelings or actions of others.
Given that fact, you deserve no blame for another’s judgement. If you accept and internalise their judgement as valid, as a reflection on yourself, then you take them as your master, at least for a brief period.
You are responsible for your actions, and those actions have consequences. If you directly inflict pain on someone, you are responsible for that pain, but there’s no need to be cautious with strangers. If we were careful never to offend anyone, we could never say anything.

My conclusion? Look at your life and what holds you down, or keeps you back, those things you feel you need but cause you harm, and be honest about where you’re responsible for keeping that. Then strip it away. Own yourself.

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