Self is who we think we are. According to Cambridge Dictionary, s01.elf is “the set of someone’s characteristics, such as personality and a bility, that are not physical and make that person different from other people.”
But is it our True Self? I questioned this notion with logic and was amazed to find I am not who I think I am. Who I think I am is in fact a virtual entity that was downloaded into me as I grew up in the society. Hence, I call it the Acquired Self. It is a self that we are not born with, but acquire it as we grow up in a society. Gradually, it steals our identity. Then, we start to believe that is who we are. We can also call it the False Self. In contrast, there is self that we are born with. We can call it the True Self, or Original Self.
To figure out who I am not and who I really am, I used logic. As a true scientist, I wanted to find the answer myself without any preconceived notions. With this intent, I went to my neighborhood park one evening in 2006.
Let me share with you my own journey to Awakening.
My Personal Awakening!
Using logic, I realized that I was still me before I became a doctor, bought a house, and owned a car. I was still me before I became a father and before I became a husband. I was still me before I went to medical school, college, and high school. I was still me before I started elementary school. I was still me before I started talking, walking, standing, crawling, and sitting. I was still me when I was born… So, I was me, the real me when I was born and everything else, I acquired later on in life.
With this realization, a shocking sensation went through my body. Then suddenly, there was relief, as if a huge load was lifted off my shoulders. Then, there was a feeling of inner peace, freedom, and joy. I have enjoyed this feeling to varying degrees ever since.
It is such a logical truth that needs no argument and no validation. I had found the real Me: The true, original Me, the one that I was born with. I call it the true, original self. Then I acquired another self as I grew up. I call it the Acquired Self.
You, me, and every other human on the planet is born with the original, true self and later on, acquires another self, the Acquired Self. Let’s take a closer look at these two psychological selves.
The True, Original Self
In order to know your true, Original Self, observe little babies, just a day or so old. I had the opportunity to be in charge of a well-baby nursery in my early career as a doctor and observed about sixty babies every day. Later, I had the wonderful experience of having my own baby.
Content and Joyful
When I observe little babies, I see that as soon as their basic physical needs are met (i.e. a full stomach, a clean diaper, and a warm blanket), they are joyful from within! They smile and go to sleep. Once their stomach is full, they don’t want any more food. If you were to force more food than they need, they would regurgitate. They eat to satisfy their hunger and that’s all. Wanting more does not exist and that’s why they are so content. You could feed them breast milk, cow’s milk, or formula. To them, it doesn’t matter as long as it agrees with their stomach and satisfies their hunger.
They don’t say “I don’t like your milk, Mom. I like formula milk better.” You won’t hear, “Mom, you wrapped me in a pink blanket with butterflies on it. I’m a boy. Therefore, I need a blue blanket with pictures of dinosaurs on it.”
Likes and dislikes do not exist. Concepts do not exist. There are no preferences or judgments. No embarrassment or shame. They are simply practical.
Babies don’t like or dislike someone because of his color, religion, nationality, or wealth. That’s because they have not acquired any concepts about religion, nationality, history, or money.
No Past Or Future
They have no past or future. They are not worried if mom will be around for the next feed. If they did, they wouldn’t be able to go to sleep. Because they don’t think about the future, there are no worries. That’s why they have no problem going to sleep. They are so vulnerable, but fear remains miles away. There is a total lack of control, but no fear whatsoever. Similarly, they have no past.
Living In The Now
Completely free of the thinking busy mind, babies are utterly in the Now. That’s why they are so joyful, and peaceful.
No wanting more, no likes or dislikes, no preferences, no prejudices, no fear, no anger, no hate, no religion, no nationality. Just pure joy, contentment, and peace. Living in the Now. This is true human nature. I like to call it the “True Self,” the self that you and I and everyone else on the planet is born with.
Now let’s see what happens to this wonderful, joyful, peaceful, and fearless human being.
The Acquired Self
Gradually, another self develops as you acquire information, ideas, concepts, experiences and so on. This, I call the Acquired Self. This Acquired Self develops because of psychosocial conditioning. It is given to you by your parents, your school and then your society in general.
As you grow, this Acquired Self gets bigger and bigger. It gets in the driver’s seat, pushing the true, Original Self onto the passenger side and later into the back seat and eventually, into the trunk.
As a grown up, all you see is this Acquired Self. You identify with this Acquired Self. That’s who you think you are. Your identity gets hijacked by the Acquired Self. Instead of seeing the hijacker for what it is, you think that’s who you are. Amazing!
This Acquired Self controls your thoughts, emotions, experiences, and actions. This Acquired Self is the reason for your psychological pain and suffering which constitutes your inner stress.
Amazingly, you are not even aware of it. Why? Because it has taken you over, like a parasite or a hijacker. You think this is who you are. I like to call it the Monster within because it is seemingly powerful, very controlling, treacherous, cunning, but in the end, is virtual and unreal.
This monstrous Acquired Self torments you and creates stress even when there is no stressful situation. In life, sooner or later, you are faced with a stressful situation – what I call outer stress. Already up to your neck with your inner stress, you over-react to outer stress, the stressful situation, and that makes it worse.
Sadly, you don’t even have a clue what’s going on, because you completely identify with the monstrous Acquired Self, the mastermind behind all your stress. What an irony! You could call it the enemy within.
Sadly, you’re completely out of touch with your true self: the source of true joy, contentment, and inner peace. In the total grip of the monstrous Acquired Self, you suffer and suffer and create stress not only for yourself, but for others as well.
Please be aware that I am using the terms hijacker, parasite, monster, and enemy simply to communicate. I use these terms without attaching any negativity to them.
How You Acquire the “Acquired Self “
The Acquired Self within you is very complex, has many layers and keeps getting bigger and bigger every day.
Your Acquired Self primarily consists of thoughts and emotions. With every thought, there is an emotion attached. The bundles of thought and emotion constitute your Acquired Self, the monster within.
The composition of the Acquired Self varies from person to person depending upon his/her unique environment and upbringing. However, its main features are more or less the same.
The architect at the root of making and feeding your Acquired Self is your society, which itself is a Collective Acquired Self. Let’s call this collective acquired self the Society Monster, just for the sake of description. (It is not my intention to attach any negativity to the Collective Acquired Self.)
Think of the monster within you as an offspring of the Society Monster. Your Monster is produced by the Society Monster and depends on its constant feeding to get stronger. The Society Monster works through your parents, school, books, news media, movies and society in general.
Mechanisms For Creating The Acquired Self
There are three mechanisms responsible for creating your monstrous acquired self:
- Psychosocial conditioning.
- Instillation of information.
- Creation of past and future.
1. How Psychosocial Conditioning Creates the Acquired Self
Psychosocial conditioning plays a major part in creating your acquired self. It starts at home. Parents and grandparents play their role to condition your mind. Then comes school, where teachers sincerely do their share in conditioning your mind. Later, it’s society in general that continues to condition your mind.
Psychosocial conditioning obviously varies from person to person, depending upon the environment you grow up in.
As a baby, you start getting attached to your parents who provide you food, comfort and warmth. It works for a few months but then they want time for themselves, too. So they look for some distraction for you. They find an answer in “toys.” Initially, you’re curious about these things that look cute and make funny noises. Slowly, you get attached to them. Soon you’re hooked on them. “They are mine.” The concept of “mine” is added to your Acquired Self. With time, the concept of “mine” gets deeper and deeper and the toys gets bigger and bigger.
Judging, Reward and Punishment
Now your parents go one step further. They start to control your behavior through these toys: If you do what we tell you (good behavior), you’ll get more toys on your birthday and Christmas, but if you don’t do what we tell you (bad behavior), then you won’t get any toys. Sometimes they even take away your toy to punish you for not listening to them. The concept of good behavior and bad behavior, reward and punishment is added to your Acquired Self.
The concept of toys soon gets glorified into the concept of gifts. Now you receive toys wrapped up in paper and these are called gifts. The concept of gifts is further refined: you receive a gift because you’re special and the person who gives you a gift loves you. The concepts of “I am special” and “love through gifts” are added to your Acquired Self.
Excitement and Boredom
Toys, gifts, being special and being loved gives you momentary thrill and excitement. However, that soon fades away and you get bored. You want more momentary thrill and excitement. You can’t wait until your birthday or Christmas. The concept of gifts is so exciting that you can’t wait to count the gifts and open them. That’s where you get most of your excitement. You may not even be interested in what’s inside the package. You develop an insatiable appetite for momentary thrill and excitement, which only increases as you grow older.
There are a lot of other ways in which your parents provide you with momentary thrill and excitement. Video games are very popular these days. Starting at a very young age, you get your fixes of momentary excitement through these virtual games.
Reward, Punishment, Good, Bad
Most of these games are built around the concepts of competition, goal and reward. You have to achieve certain points, usually by killing some object (troll, demon, spy, etc.) called evil or bad. If you win, you’re the good hero and a reward follows. The concepts of bad, evil, hero, killing, winning and losing are added to your Acquired Self.
At the same time, you also start getting exposed to stories, books, movies and plays, most of which further deepen the concepts of good, bad, villain, hero, reward and punishment. You get strongly attached to these concepts and love to wear T-shirts with pictures of these heroic characters (which cost your parents a whole lot more than a regular shirt!)
Mental Labeling and Judging
These video games, books and movies create mental pictures in your mind, with a story attached as good or bad. That’s how the concept of mental labeling and judging is added to your Acquired Self. You also hear your parents constantly calling some events and behaviors good and others bad. They also often use phrases such as “I like it. I don’t like it. I love it, I hate it.” Soon you start to replicate these phrases.
This mental labeling and judging provoke intense emotions inside you in the form of thrill, excitement, sadness, horror and fear. You may have nightmares with the random distorted replay of these mental images during your sleep.
ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder)
In some children, this sensory load of virtual information from video games, books and movies is so enormous that their developing brain can’t handle it. These children start exhibiting signs of sensory overload in the form of jitteriness, disruptive and impulsive behavior and difficulty focusing. They become a problem for their teacher, who calls in the parents to have a session with the principal of the school.
Upon the teacher’s insistence, parents often take their child to a pediatrician who conveniently gives a diagnosis of ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). The child is then put on a drug to alter their brain chemistry. It’s a band-aid approach to calm the kid down so the classroom isn’t disrupted. Meanwhile, the root cause for the problem, the Acquired Self, keeps getting bigger and bigger.
Your parents, who have been so loving and who you are so attached to, one day decide to leave you with a stranger called a baby-sitter. You feel intense emotional pain of abandonment. You cry and cry and cry! Finally, you are distracted by toys or get exhausted from crying and eventually go to sleep.
Later, when your guilt-stricken parents ask the baby-sitter how things went, she lies with a smile on her face that you were no problem at all; “I would love to baby sit her again,” she says as she receives her hourly wages.
Repeated episodes of this emotionally traumatic experience of abandonment keep adding to your Acquired Self. Please be aware it’s not your parent’s fault. They are doing what society’s collective acquired self has advised them to do. “You should have some private quality time, – just the two of you, away from your children to keep your marriage alive.”
Competition and Comparison
Sooner or later, another concept is added to your growing Acquired Self: comparison and competition which often become the main driving force behind your upbringing.
At home, you’re compared to your brother, sister, or cousin. You remember your dad saying “Why can’t you be like your older brother, John?” Comments like this cause the emotion of humiliation, worthlessness and jealousy. All these negative comments with their associated negative emotions get added to your Acquired Self.
You also hear your parents constantly comparing and judging people, events, objects etc.: “Better than, The best, Worse than, The worst.” All this comparing and judging keep adding to your Acquired Self. Soon you start replicating them. “My best friend, My favorite toy, My favorite uncle. My dad is the best in the whole wide world.” Your parents keep reinforcing these ideas into your Acquired Self.
Rules and Consequences
When you enter school, the making of your Acquired Self gets into high gear. Soon, you learn you can’t be at ease in the morning. Now you need to be at school on time or there will be consequences in the form of punishment. You have to follow certain rules in your classroom or there will be consequences. You also hear a lot of rules at home. Follow them or face the consequences. Initially, you resent these rules and their consequences.
You develop resentment against those (parents and teachers) who implement these punishments. Ultimately, you may develop rebellion against authority. Ironically, you also develop fear of authority as you know they posses the power to punish you.
At school as well at home, you also learn the concept of how to be good and receive rewards in the form of praise, recognition and even some toys. Your parents may start rewarding you with money as an allowance for your good behavior. These rewards give you excitement.
More Competition and Comparison
At school, comparison and competition is the main driving force. Spelling bee competitions, football games and cheerleader competitions are just a few examples. Kids are also enrolled in dance, gymnastic, skate, music and speech competitions. Plus, there are all the sports competitions: soccer, basketball, volleyball, etc. Then there are local beauty pageants, debating competitions, and academic decathlons. You get the idea.
In teenagers, competition for a boyfriend or girlfriend starts to take place. Girls compare each other’s looks and clothes while boys compete to be the captain of the football team. Often there are verbal as well as physical fights. Everyone wants to be popular, wants to be praised and acknowledged, wants to dominate and humiliate the others. The school often becomes a battlefield. Everyone wants to win and defeat others. The concepts of victory and defeat get embedded into your Acquired Self. Everyone wants to be a winner and not a loser. However, in life, you sometimes win and sometimes lose.
Emotional Consequences Of Winning
Each time you win, you’re thrilled and feel superior to others. You receive praise and validation from those around you. You feel you’re at the top of the world, in full control, but these feelings are short-lived and you want more of these exciting feelings.
Wanting More kills contentment. You develop a chronic restlessness. You’re constantly looking for more thrills and excitement. You want to be in charge and in control. When you don’t get your fix, you get frustrated, agitated and bored.
Emotional Consequences Of Losing
Each time you lose, you feel humiliated, inferior, worthless and jealous; If you feel that you lost because of unfairness, then you also become bitter, resentful, hateful, revengeful and angry.
All of these emotional experiences continue to add to your Acquired Self in the form of memories. Over the years, you accumulate tons and tons of memories which become your emotional baggage.
You are also judged constantly at home as well as at school, in the form of your report card, good behavior, bad behavior, good attitude, bad attitude, good manners, bad manners, polite and rude.
Society’s Collective Acquired Self gives your personal Acquired Self the concepts of “how everyone should behave.” It’s as if your Acquired Self is downloaded with a book which describes how everyone in society should and should not behave.
For example, it tells you “This is how a true friend should behave… or how a good boyfriend/girlfriend, /husband/wife should behave… This is how a good parent should behave… or how a good child/student should behave.”
Equipped with this “book of role description,” your Acquired Self constantly judges others while they judge you.
Expectations Builds Up Into the Acquired Self
You also build up expectations around this “ book of role description,” naively thinking, “If I do everything by the book, then the other person will keep up his end of the deal.” When the other person doesn’t behave as expected, you get disappointed, frustrated or outraged.
In addition, you also judge yourself. When you don’t or can’t behave according to the “software of role description,” you criticize yourself. This is the basis of self-criticism and guilt.
I, Me, My, Mine
The concept of “I, Me, My, Mine” continues to embed deeper into your growing Acquired Self. My friends, my school, my teacher, my books, my home, my neighborhood. The concept of “I, Me, My, Mine” is the basis of selfishness and psychological separation from everyone else on the planet.
Virtual I, The Core Of The Acquired Self
The concept of “I, Me, My, Mine” creates an illusion of who you are. This becomes the axis of your growing Acquired Self. In this way, your Acquired Self hijacks your identity. You lose your true identity and start to believe in this illusory “I” to be who you are.
Emotional Stress Created by The Acquired Self
An innocent, loving, trusting, joyful, contented you is replaced by an agitated monstrous, virtual “I” – the Acquired Self who wants to win at all costs. This “I” always wants more (greed), is self-centered, does not trust anyone and carries a huge load of worthlessness, bitterness, jealousy, hate and anger. It wants to defeat, control and also humiliate others to take revenge for its own previous humiliating experiences. This Acquired Self is always looking for momentary thrills. It is constantly judging others while others are judging it. Often it is judging itself. It looks for rewards, praise and validation and easily gets hurt, frustrated and disappointed.
Acquired Self Enters The “Real” World
Now this “monstrous you” enters the so called, real world. Competition, comparison and judging gets even worse. You see everyone competing for money. Naturally, money becomes your main goal. You do it in the name of career and profession. You fight for jobs. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. At the workplace, everyone competes for a promotion. Even when you’re at the top, you want more: more bonuses, more recognition, more fame. Everyone also remains scared of losing their job, promotion and reputation.
Society’s collective monster in the form of news and entertainment rigorously conditions you regarding competition and comparison. Just consider how often you hear the words winner, loser, better than, the best, worse than, the worst, top ten.
Your Acquired Monster is so competitive that even in social discussions it wants to win the argument.
Everything in life gets focused on winning; and life becomes a battlefield. You see it everywhere – on the freeway, at work, on TV shows. Everyone wants to get ahead. No one wants to lose.
Most men get hooked on sports. By clinging to a team, they are in virtual competition. When your team wins, you get a momentary thrill and when it loses, you feel humiliated and even angry. This cycle continues. You get addicted to it.
Addictions Become Part Of Your Acquired Self
Others get addicted to the win-lose cycle of gambling, horse racing, car racing, etc. Sometimes, emotional pains and desire to have momentary thrills are so strong that a person gets addicted to alcohol, drugs or sex.
Socio-Political And Religious Fights
Many people also get involved in political, social and religious groups and get trapped in the cycle of “win and lose.” They experience all the emotions resulting from this game of win-lose. All these experiences keep adding to the growing monstrous Acquired Self.
Looks, Beauty, Appearance – Another Addition To the Acquired Self
While competition is usually the main driving force in the making of men’s monsters, comparison becomes the driving force for most of women’s monsters. They are conditioned by the Society Monster to compare each others looks, clothes, jewelry, etc. They constantly judge others looks as well as their own appearances.
A nice compliment can make you feel on the top of the world: a momentary thrill. Then of course, you want more of it. That means spending more time and money on your appearance.
A negative comment, on the other hand, rips you apart, makes you sad and sometimes even revengeful. You get so attached to your looks that even a slight reminder of reality, such as grey hair, a wrinkle or weight gain of a few pounds throws you in a downward spin and creates huge anxiety.
The Concept of Romance and Marriage
The Society Monster also downloads the concept of romance and marriage into your personal monster, starting from a very young age. All those storybooks and movies about princes and princesses, and later on, TV shows, movies and books about romance feed into your developing Acquired Self.
To find a mate, you start competing. In bars and parties, there is intense competition for mates, sometimes resulting in verbal and even physical fights.
As a man, as soon as you can get sex, you have conquered, won the game and you are no longer interested. Now you’re on to the next hunt while she chases you. You feel high while she feels hurt and low. Your excitement is usually short lived. Sooner or later, you fall in love with a girl and now, she may dump you. Now she is the winner and you are the loser.
After playing this game of “win and lose” a few times, people start looking for marriage.
The Honeymoon is Over
After marriage, there is an initial period of excitement which usually wanes in a few months. Then the monster in each one of you starts to act out. All the piled up anger, humiliation, abandonment, sadness, jealousy and “need to win” starts to surface. Arguments and fights become routine. Romantic love fades away.
Acquired Self Dwells In Self Pity
In the meantime, if you also have a child or two, your selfishness is further enhanced. You start to feel that you’re working hard for everyone else and have no time for yourself to do the things that you want to do to have fun. Life seems so meaningless and boring.
Working like a Machine
At work where everything is routine and stressful: customers, colleagues and bosses are so demanding. You are basically trying to survive all day long. When finally you come home, you are irritated, annoyed, and tired, often with a headache.
One of you has to get the kids to school, keep house and prepare meals as well. Usually, it’s a female, working to be a career woman, raising a family and trying to be a super mom.
Be On Time _ Says the Acquired Self
Morning time is often very stressful because school starts on time. Your monster has learned that there will be consequences if your kid is not on time. Unfortunately, your kid’s monster hasn’t grasped the whole concept yet. Without being aware, you start yelling at your kids for being late again. Soon, they start to yell back. Now, you’re really enraged. “Don’t talk to me in that tone, young lady.”
Then you have to be at work on time. Most people encounter morning rush hours: bumper to bumper traffic. Scared of the consequences of being late (may lose job), you feel anxious and irritated. You may easily explode in anger if some other driver doesn’t behave according to your expectations which arise out of the traffic rules embedded in your Acquired Self.
Stress Of The Kids Activities
One of you also has to take your kids to after-school and weekend activities. You feel obligated to enroll your kids into these activities because those are good for your kids, says the Society Monster. These activities start on time and often you’re rushed to make it on time. Often, everyone is yelling at each other and in a bad mood by the time you reach the playground.
If your team loses, the kids feel sad and humiliated and sometime even start crying. As a loving parent, you also endure all these pains. Next time when your team wins, it’s the kids and parents on the other side of the field who experience sadness. However, your Monster doesn’t let you think about them. It tells you to celebrate your victory and be happy.
At home, you are easily annoyed at the demands of your kids and spouse. Finally, your inner irritation can’t take it any more and you yell at them over some little annoyance.
Guilt Creeps Into Your Acquired Self
Then you feel bad and guilty about it. Why? Because the Society Monster has written a “ book of role descriptions.” It describes your role as a husband, wife, parent and child and downloads it into your developing Acquired Self at a relatively young age. If you do your role according to the software, Society judges you to be a good husband, wife, father or mother. Otherwise, you are a bad husband, wife or parent. Often, there is a conflict between how you’re supposed to act according to the software and how you actually end up behaving in real life. This is the basis of guilt.
You can’t even tell anyone how you truly feel about your spouse, children or elderly parent because you’re afraid how others will judge you. You feel isolated and lonely. No one seems to understand you. You are constantly irritated. You feel emptiness inside you.
You look for some relief and often find escapes into excessive work, alcohol, sports, drugs, gambling, etc. Many people pursue more and more money. With money, you can buy expensive presents for your spouse, buy a bigger home, buy a more expensive car or take a trip to an expensive vacation resort. From each thing, you get a momentary thrill and excitement, but it fades away fast and returns you to your chronic state of unease, irritation and emptiness.
No Control Over Life
To pay for these expensive items, you have to work harder. Often you spend most of your time at work, which you don’t like, especially if you’re a caring parent and want to spend time with your children. This adds to your sense of having no control over your life and deepens your frustration. You start hating your job.
Extra-Marital Affair Was Just Waiting To Happen
On the other hand, some people find relief in being way from their family. It’s as if the family is the cause of all of your problems. Often you end up having an affair. You find someone who feeds your monster’s hunger for praise and validation. Soon, you’re in a serious mess. The stress of hiding the affair eventually implodes into a big blow out when your spouse discovers your deceit. Often, it ends in divorce.
Acquired Selves Blame Each Other
Now the monster in each of you comes out with full force. It is full of hate, anger and revenge. Each one of you tries to cause as much harm to the other as possible. Kids are the one in the middle and may suffer the most in the long run. Each one of you blames the other for all the problems.
Blaming others is one of the features of the Acquired Self. Blaming is actually a form of judging others. It doesn’t see any problems in itself, but is quick to find someone else’s faults. Your Acquired Self has learned to never admit any faults, because admitting fault means you’re a loser. It may also put you at risk for punishment for your actions.
Role of The Step-Parent
You may go through a couple of divorces before you settle down in a long marital relationship, which often requires another role for you – the role of step-parent. Step-parenting creates a host of new emotional challenges, often centered around control issues.
Battling With The Teenagers
The Society Monster has taught your Personal Monster to treat children in a certain way: “Treat them like a superhero or princess when they are little and as they get older, control their behavior with toys, gifts, money and discipline.”
Most parents get frustrated and even quite angry at their teenagers. On the other hand, teenagers also get very frustrated with their parents to the point that they can’t wait to leave the prison of their parent’s house. They get tired of hearing “you have to obey my rules while living under my roof.”
Teenagers are in the grip of their own monster created by the Society Monster through TV, internet, magazines and video games. Their Monster is taught to disobey, rebel and not follow rules under the illusion of independence and freedom.
Acquired Self Plays the Game of Divide and Conquer
Meanwhile, the Society Monster tells your Monster to discipline your teenagers with rules and the same Society Monster tells teenagers to rebel against the rules. Interesting, isn’t it? The Society Monster plays the trick of Divide and Conquer. In this way, it escapes detection and continues to thrive in you and your child. Ironically, neither of you sees the tricks of the Society Monster. Your Monster and your teenager’s Monster continue to tangle with each other, leading to frustrations, disappointments and anger.
Empty Nest Syndrome
Then one day, your children leave the house and now you may suffer from what the Society Monster calls Empty Nest Syndrome. What really happened is that you treated your children as possessions and now you don’t have that possession and control any more.
Children also serve as a distraction from your own deep seated emotional pains. With them gone, you’re faced with the demons stored in your memory box, which is part of your Acquired Self. Children also satisfy your desire to be needed. After their departure, you feel worthless.
Now you’re middle aged. The Society Monster has already downloaded a bleak picture into your Personal Monster. You’re “over the hill” and your looks are fading away. Your children don’t need you anymore. You start feeling worthless and depressed.
Acquired Self Becomes Fearful
The Society Monster also forecasts a future in which you lose you health. Fear of losing your health is immense. Fear of losing your job, your house and your savings may also creep in.
If your child dates someone you don’t approve of, you also develop fear of losing your child.
Anxiety and depression are pretty common at this stage of your life, all created by your own Monster but you don’t see it that way. You always blame someone else for your emotional problems.
Your Society Monster also creates a future for you that it promises will be better than the present and it calls it “hope.” And it wants you to firmly believe in hope. It often blames most of your stress on your job and promises you golden years after retirement. You’ll have no responsibilities and can travel and have as much fun as you want.
After your retirement, your dream of golden years is often shaken when you or your spouse is diagnosed with some chronic or incurable illness. You feel cheated. “What did I do to get in this mess and how can I get out of it?” You’re a regular visitor to doctors and hospitals. You want your health back, but often the answer is that you can’t. You get bitter at the system, the government, and even God.
Acquired Self Learn To Be In Denial
Now the Society Monster tells you to fight your body dysfunction whether it be cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes or heart disease, It is interesting to note that stress created by your Acquired Self is a big contributing factor for causing most of the chronic illnesses.
So you put up a wall of resistance without realizing you are fighting your own body. The Society Monster tells your Monster that you can cheat death. It implies that medical technology can make you live forever. Therefore, don’t question all the diagnostic procedures he orders and take all the medicines that your physician prescribes.
However, when reality hits and someone close to you dies, you become fearful of your own death.
Fear of Poverty, Disability and Death Creeps Into The Acquired Self
At this late stage in your life, society considers you a useless, economic burden and even makes numerous jokes about you.
You’re probably living on a budget. A great deal of your money is eaten up by the cost of drugs, doctors and hospital bills. You keep hoping for a better future as the Society Monster has trained you to do, but you are also afraid you may not have enough money left to take care of your needs. You are also afraid of disability and death. You read stories about nursing homes and get scared. What if you end up in a nursing home? You read a horrible story about someone dying a miserable death from cancer, and you become even more fearful. What if that happens to me?
It’s primarily your Monster who’s afraid of dying and wants to live forever and it continues to suffer from the fear of death. Then one day reality hits and you are gone from this world.
The Acquired Self Continues to Live On!
You are dead, but your Acquired Self has skillfully perpetuated itself through your children. Your children behave and carry on much like your Acquired Self with the special addition of their own Acquired Self. Then, they download all of their Acquired Self into their children and those children repeat it in their children. In this way, the drama of stress created by the Acquired Self goes on forever!
2. How Information Strengthens Your Acquired Self
Society’s Collective Acquired Self, (what I call the Society Monster), also instills a huge load of information into your developing monstrous Acquired Self.
This is Your Name
Initially it uses your parents (and grandparents) as a tool. They put a carefully selected label on you. They call it your name. Often, there are some emotional attachments even when parents select your name. Most people are named after some religious figure, or national hero or family member, etc.
This is Your Religion, Culture and Nationality
Parents and grandparents slowly download all sorts of information into you: their religious belief, nationality, customs, traditions, cultural values, eating habits, their likes and dislikes and their personal stories.
You must Acquire More and More Knowledge
The Society Monster then uses teachers in school to reinforce information you acquire from your parents. In addition, they download a whole lot more information: the information from storybooks, movies, history books, geography books, science books, etc.
You’re encouraged to read and acquire as much information as possible. Your fun and play time starts to decline as you advance through school. Initially, you don’t like it. “What happened to all the play and fun I used to have?” However, teachers and parents skillfully use the “reward and punishment” strategy to tame you and often succeed in their mission.
Don’t Blame Your Parents or Teachers
Don’t blame your parents or teachers for instilling all of this information into your Acquired Self. They do so with good intentions. In their hearts, they believe they’re doing you good. They’re preparing you to be responsible and productive citizens of the society.
In most cases, your parents also reinforce their cultural and religious ideas by taking you to churches, temples, mosques and celebrating religious and cultural holidays. The idea of nationalism is reinforced by celebrating national holidays.
An Insatiable Appetite for Knowledge
As you grow up, you gain more and more knowledge about the collective human past in the form of history. Your growing Acquired Self keeps gathering all this information and gets bigger and bigger.
By the time you grow up, your monstrous Acquired Self has an insatiable appetite. It wants to get as much information as possible. It wants to be the first one to know the latest stories and it doesn’t want to miss any gossip. So, it starts the day by feeding itself a healthy breakfast by watching TV and reading the newspaper. For the rest of the day, it uses TV, internet and colleagues as a source for its food. It continues to add all sorts of information throughout the day. Then, it makes sure to feed itself a good dinner in the form of the evening news or internet updates. Before going to bed, it uses the 10 o’clock news as a bedtime snack.
Opinions Become Truth
Information in the form of stories, concepts, ideas, beliefs and dogmas becomes an important part of your Acquired Self. Often you don’t even realize that most of this information is actually the opinions of others. You start to believe all of this second hand information is the “truth.” Then you look at the world through the filters of this acquired information. Consequently, most of your experiences are tainted by those preconceived notions. Hence, you don’t have any original experiences!
Then you look at the world through the filters of this acquired information. Consequently, most of your experiences are tainted by those preconceived notions. Hence, you don’t have any original experiences! For example, you look at the appearance of someone and based upon the information in your head, you judge that person without even exchanging a word. This is the basis of prejudice.
You may hear about some country. Soon, you regurgitate all the information you have heard about that country including its people, culture and history even though you’ve never been there and haven’t met anyone from that country or culture.
Sometimes two people may even take mental positions and start arguing, each one believing that his information is true and the other person’s information is not. This can lead to verbal violence and sometimes even physical violence.
Collective Hate, Grievances and Revenge
In the same way, people argue about some figure or event in the collective human past. Everyone believes his information is accurate without realizing that it’s simply someone’s (the historian’s) point of view and obviously these stories are tainted by the historian’s own Acquired Self. That’s why there are so many conflicting stories about the same figure or event in the collective human past. Often, one set of stories has been downloaded in the Acquired Selves of people in a group, party or country. Meanwhile, another conflicting set of stories is downloaded into the Acquired Selves of another group, party or country. Collectively, people in each group believe their story to be true because they identify with their group of people and they also see everyone around them believing the same story.
Often these stories perpetuate hate, grievances and revenge and sometimes can lead to verbal or physical violence and even battles and wars.
3. How Your Acquired Self Creates Past and Future
“Past and future” are major components of the Acquired Self. Have you ever wondered what really is the past and future? Use logic and you will realize that whatever happened in the past is not happening right now. Whatever may happen in the future, of course, is not happening right now. The past is dead and gone and the future never arrives. Hence, both are virtual and unreal, aren’t they?
Just like a monster, the past and future are virtual, and each has huge power over your Acquired Self. It may seem they are real, but in fact they are not. Can you show me your past or future, in reality, right now, not as a mental abstraction? Of course not! We cannot see, hear, touch, smell or taste our past or future.
The past was real when it happened, but it is not happening right now. Hence, it is unreal at the present moment. The future never happens. When it happens, it happens in the present moment. The past and future are nothing but mental abstractions. Both are created by the mind.
How your Acquired Self Creates Your Past
For a while, I used to ponder the question: How does the mind creates the past and future? Then one day, the answer just struck me. I was sitting in my backyard looking at the sky, clouds, birds, flowers, trees and feeling the breeze. Then a friend of mine visited me. We had a chit chat for about 15-20 minutes and then he left. About five minutes afterwards, I had a flashback of my friend’s visit. I heard him calling my name, then coming and sitting on the chair next to mine. I could recall his conversation and eventual departure. The whole event was as fresh in my mind as if it was happening right now.
A realization happened that truly transformed me. I realized that my friend’s visit was an event, with a beginning and an ending. However, my mind took a mental picture of it, attached the whole conversation as a story and labeled it as a good experience. This triggered a feeling of happiness and the entire bundle of picture, story, mental labeling and provoked emotion was stored as a sweet memory. Now my mind can go back to it any time it wants and experience the whole event over and over again. That’s how the event is kept alive, although in reality, the event has ended.
Events happen all the time. Each event has a beginning and an ending. But our conditioned mind – the Acquired Self takes a mental picture of the whole event, attaches a story to go with it, labels it good or bad, which triggers a good or bad emotion, and the entire bundle is then placed in the memory box. That’s how it creates the so called past.
How your Acquired Self Creates Your Future
With this background, your mind also tries to figure out how the next event is going to be (or rather how it should or should not be); At times, it even creates a virtual picture. Each thought provokes an emotion and the whole complex of self-generated thoughts and emotions, it calls the future.
The Busy Mind
The “past and future” is all in our heads, isn’t it? It’s all virtual… an unreal, mental abstraction… an illusion. In reality, neither the past nor the future exists. However, to the mind they are real. Why? Because the mind creates them. How could it not believe in its own creation?
Since the mind creates these entities called the past and the future, it loves to dwell in them. You could call them its home. That’s why your mind stays in the so called past and future.
Medically speaking, the more often this network of memory neurons (brain cells) is traveled, the stronger the network of neurons becomes. Then impulses can run more easily, without much impedance, through these neuronal networks. This is the basis of the busy mind, which runs through the same old events, thoughts and emotions of the so called past, as well as projected thoughts and emotions it calls the future.
Stress Created by the “Past and Future”
By keeping the old dead events alive, your busy mind keeps the fire of old emotions burning inside you. It calls them “my past” and “my memories.” By replaying bad memories, your busy mind continues to experience the negative emotions attached to these memories in the form of humiliation, anger, hate, bitterness, jealousy and revenge. Subsequently, your body also gets affected by these negative emotions.
In the grip of good memories, your busy mind starts to miss those wonderful experiences and becomes sad. Subsequently, your entire body feels the impact of this sadness as well.
The Acquired Self Wants to Change Its Past
Here’s another interesting phenomenon. The busy mind wants to control the virtual world of memories. It is strongly attached to sweet memories, but it wants to run away from bad memories Therefore, it tries to modify the stories and events.
But of course, the busy mind can’t change what has already happened. It feels annoyed, frustrated, angry and sometimes guilty as well. The more it tries to change those painful memories, the stronger they get. As I mentioned earlier, those networks of brain cells which are traveled more, grow stronger. It is an irony, but the busy mind doesn’t know it.
The Acquired Self Wants To Secure A Happy Future
In addition, the busy mind doesn’t want any bad event to happen again, ever! It wants perfect security. The Society Monster trains your individual Monster to learn from the past. Therefore, it wants to create a perfect world for itself in which there are only good things and bad things do not exist. It wants to create a paradise for itself. Therefore, it continues to generate new thoughts along the lines of how to prevent bad events from happening again.
The “What If” Syndrome
But then another thought erupts: “What if I can’t prevent it from happening again?” That triggers huge fear and anxiety.
Caught up in the “What if, What may, What will I do Syndrome,” the busy mind creates a virtual movie and in this way creates perpetual fear in you. In the pursuit of security and peace, your busy mind robs you of any peace of mind and torments you with everlasting fear. How counterproductive!
The Society Monster reinforces this syndrome of “What if, What may, What will I do” in the form of information conveyed by newspapers, books, TV and the internet. It teaches you to learn from the past. Meanwhile, the busy mind inside you, your Monster, keeps generating huge amounts of fear and anxiety.
The Expansion of Past and Future
In addition to personal experiences, the busy mind also borrows experiences of others and considers them its own. For example, you watch a story on TV about someone who died a miserable death from cancer, leaving behind young children who struggled to adjust. Your mind snapshots the images conveniently shown on TV, attaches the provided story, judges it to be bad (which triggers sad emotions) and the entire bundle gets stored in your memory box. The mind then generates another thought: “This must never happen to me!” Then another thought pops up: “But what if…? ” Before you know it, you’ re having an anxiety attack.
Collective Human Past and Future
Your Society Monster, which is basically a reflection of your Monster, also creates its own virtual past and a virtual future. Then, it likes to dwell in its past which is calls history. It also promises you a future in which everything is good and nothing bad ever happens. In this way, it promises you ultimate security.
But then it also gives you “What if, What may, and What shall we do” Syndrome. It wants you to never forget its past and thus, continues to propagate hate, grievances and revenge. Additionally, it spreads fear and anxiety about the so called tomorrow. Also, it creates hypothetical fearful situations for you, and then tells you how to prepare to deal with the frightening situations as if they were happening right now. In doing so, it continues to torment you. This is one way the Society Monster keeps you under its control.
Don’t Start To Hate Your Acquired Self
Please don’t start to hate your Acquired Self. It is a pre-requisite to live in the civilized world. However, there are two components of the Acquired Self: one is emotional and the other is non-emotional. The art of stress-free living is to rise above the emotional part of your Acquired Self. Then, you can utilize the non-emotional side of the Acquired Self to function in the society peacefully.
You are born with a True, Original Self which was joyful, practical, content, and peaceful. Unfortunately, it got eclipsed by another self, the Acquired Self which you acquire as you grew up in a society. Your Acquired Self is the basis of all your emotional stress, but don’t start to hate your Acquired Self. Simply utilize the non-emotional, logical aspect of your Acquired Self to function in the society without creating emotional stress for yourself and others.
To learn how to Be Free Of The Acquired Self, please refer to my book, “Stress Cure Now.”