I’d like to return to our discussion of conditioning or self-programming by going over some examples of my own conditioning.
While I was down at Sitara’s in Bellingham attending the meet-up, relaxing offstage after the meeting, I watched and listened to myself and saw some contours of my own conditioning. Two scripts that I noticed were (1) that of a young child and (2) that of a victim.
In the first, I was posing as a young child – cute, lovable, humorous, powerless, harmless, irresponsible. That was consistent with my birth order as the youngest in the family.
It’d be more appropriate for me to be playing the role of an elder, to match my age, but I favored being seen offstage in this other modality.
However, seeing it, I felt chafed at the constraints the role imposed on me. I felt a little shocked to see myself taking this pose at this late stage of my development. The primary benefit of it is that it signalled to others that I didn’t want to play a responsible role in life.
I asked my mind to shoot back an image to me of the time when this pose was formed and I saw myself in my room when I was around eight years old. All was choas in my family due to my Dad’s violent temper.
The way I dodged it was to remain in my room, reading about Alexander the Great, Xenophon, etc. I avoided the spotlight of attention by being the invisible child in the family whom no one needed to pay attention to. Not as an actuality, but as a role.
No one would ask me to be responsible or choose me to be a leader. I was busily signalling that I wanted to be left alone.
That act, role, and script no longer serve me, but it’s hard to let go. Marcel Marceaux did a wonderful pantomime once of a man who wears many masks – smiling, crying, posturing, etc. One day he puts on one mask that he can’t get off. It stays with him forever, despite his attempts to change it.
That’s the position that many of us find ourselves in. We once chose our conditioning and now we find we cannot unchoose it. We donned the mask. It fit. We wore it. And now we can’t get it off. We’re now stuck with it.
Letting go of our conditioning is the way to drop the mask.
The mask I don as a victim hides a person who’s seen things that so shocked and repelled him that he hurts inside. My parents would not let me discuss the family secrets (read: family violence) outside the family and so I developed a pose as a victim, hoping someone would see it and ask me what it was I was hiding. With that invitation and some additional manouevering and manipulation on my part (so that I could say that I had to discuss it), I might reach a point where I’d talk about what I had seen.
No one did and, again, I was left with a mask that, after a while, I couldn’t remove.
If one agrees to play victim, what we don’t realize is that that move is akin to being dealt into a card game. We end up playing all the roles in that particular game. That includes not only victim, but also victimizer and enabler or patsy.
Of course if I play the role of victimizer, I’m always justified. I’m always right. I cited Solomon the other day that “every way of a man is right in his own eyes.”
I have my reasons for victimizing another. And, as I said earlier in this regard as well, I hone and polish my story of what happened until I have it just right. Rough edges are sanded off. Details that didn’t fly are dropped. And now when I tell it, I get the reaction I seek.
My friends pretend to support my story, though in days gone by they probably poked fun at me or criticized me behind my back. Nowadays we don’t sidebar. But our facades are maintained nonetheless and everything goes forward in this very dysfunctional but sanitized way.
We’ve all seen ships in a bottle. Well, this level of constraint is like life in a bottle. There’s no aliveness in living from our conditioning. There’s only automaticity, masquerading, little or no manuevering room, limited options, etc.
We’re obliged to check out each word or deed we’re contemplating against whether or not it fits with the mask we wear. We end up wooden, fossilized, a juke box playing its top ten tunes over and over again.
It’s this level of constraint that we’re wishing to escape from. If we’re to be of use to the Mother in the months and years ahead, we need to come out from behind our mask, false front, constructed self, and imprisoning conditioning.
Or watch ourselves be reactivated by anything that contradicts the script we live from and the programmed and patterned moves we make, which we refuse to depart from, even at the cost of satisfaction, full self-expression, joy, happiness and, in some cases, health.