This week is about the False Self System which we can become aware of by watching our emotional responses in our daily activities. When we feel upset, either through anger, grief, apathy, pride, or lust, we follow these emotional responses with "commentaries" about ourselves, which often result in feeling more upset. Here is a brief synopsis of some of Father Keating's thoughts on the False Self System and our afflictive emotions. This is taken directly from Father Keating's talk for this week with a few additions and clarifications in bold:
NOBODY HAS TO CHANGE, EXCEPT OURSELVES Grief (or anger, or apathy or pride or lust) is a very frequent experience when our emotional centers are frustrated. And it tells us infallibly: “Brother, or sister, you’ve got a problem.” Any upsetting emotion tells you that you’re in trouble. It’s not somebody else’s problem. It’s not the events of life. It’s your problem and you, as a mature human being aiming at full Mental Egoic consciousness, which is that of a human being, have got to take yourself in hand, take responsibility for those emotions, and change them, and stop blaming other people or events for how you feel. Nobody has to change for us to change except ourselves. And if other people have problems, that’s their problem. But if you’re upset, you’ve got a problem and you’ll always have it until you change it, and you can change it. And the effort to change it is what in our Christian tradition is called the practice of virtue. It’s as simple as that. Virtue simply is the introduction of reason, balance, moderation into our emotional life, which up till then has been irrational, subhuman, and childish, or infantile, if you prefer.
Our false self system takes over when we feel strong emotions but Not God. He’s trying to save us from this nonsense. But pride always suggest that we’re not doing enough, not measuring up to our great potential, not converting the world, if that’s what we’re after, not being the president of this multinational, if that’s what it is, not being the abbot of this monastery; if that’s what it is. The false self is the most deceitful of all creatures. It easily adjusts itself to any state of life whatsoever. And so, it graciously changes its clothes, its address, the furniture ... anything else ... as long as you don’t ask it to change itself. But, I’m sorry to say, it does not drop dead upon request.
When the False Self System hears that we have heard the great call of the Gospel to change, and we resolve, now, to adopt the principles of the Gospel, and we’re not going to give into these security trips, these ego trips, these power trips, the emotional centers just say, “Ha. Ha Ha. Just try it, brother!” Then, then you’re in the spiritual combat, because what you want to do, you can’t do. And so, you experience with Paul who describes it magnificently: “What I want to do, what my mind approves, I don’t do. What I hate doing, what I don’t want to do with my will and good judgment, I find myself doing.” That’s the exact description of what happens when you start taking yourself in hand, confronting the fixated, emotional patterns of a lifetime and trying to change them. It’s a job, but it can be done. It’s not done by pursuing extremes, but by the patient effort to dismantle the emotional centers, one by one. Fortunately, if you can determine what the biggest one is in your personal history and work at that, all the others diminish because they’re all interrelated.
Stay tuned for more next week.