Hiding Unwanted Things in the Fog

Number 32: Do not hide unwanted things in the fog.

-- Jordan Peterson on "What are the most valuable things everyone should know?"

When a person does not want to think about something, the mind will get to work putting up blockers to ensure the issues are never addressed. What's interesting is that we can choose to not think about specific -- high resolution -- things such as a memory and we can choose to not think about unknown -- low resolution -- things such as an emotion. We do this by avoiding introspection and busying ourselves with something else, be it other thoughts, chores, or our phones. However, avoiding the items we don't wish to confront may work in the short term but it's not a successful strategy for the long term when something truly bothers us.

In the Fog

Yesterday I was asked if I've been able to complete the Self Authoring Suite and the answer is a resounding "no". It's a difficult process because in order to get the most out of the effort, a person needs to be completely honest. This would be Rule 8, Tell the truth -- or, at least, don't lie. Despite the fact that the Self Authoring program is completely private and there is -- hopefully -- nobody going into the database to try and make sense of the things people write, I find it incredibly difficult to answer some of the questions in a manner that befits the overarching objective of the exercise, which is to make a realistic and concrete plan for the future. The ugly truth is that I do not like who I am inside, nor do I like some of the things I've done in my life.

It's difficult to write about them without feeling deeply ashamed. Sure, "we all make mistakes", and the best we can do is to learn from our errors to ensure a better present and future, but this dismissive statement only makes sense if the mistake was a genuine accident. The things we do with intent, knowing they're wrong before embarking on the action, cannot be played off so easily because they reveal to us who we are inside. When we willingly ignore our conscience and do the wrong things to appease our inner demons, we get a glimpse of who we could be if let loose.

When I was a young man, I thought that people were generally good inside and that bad things were done out of desperation more than malice. This changed almost instantly when I was 18 and confronted by a predator in priest's clothing. At this point I discovered that inside me was not only the ability to consider and plan a murder, but the ability to justify it, too. Better decisions were made. Rational actions followed. Evil was avoided, but not defeated. It persists.

In the years that followed I did all sorts of stupid things, from petty crime to driving drunk to hacking systems. Activities I knew to be wrong before embarking on the endeavour. Though I have not done any of these things in over 15 years, the fact that I could willingly do them at all is nothing short of disappointing. Can I avoid the temptation to do these things in the future no matter the short-term reward? How can I be sure?

Inside of us is the potential for incredible good as well as unimaginable evil. For the better part of the last four years, I have made a concerted effort to be better a better person tomorrow than I was yesterday. Sometimes I fail, but every morning offers another opportunity for incremental improvement. Looking forward, I see potential. Looking back, I see shame.

It's just easier to avoid thinking about it at all.