Reflections on Self Trust & American Society
I lost my job a few weeks ago. On my 3 year anniversary, the two co-founders told me that I was going to have to let my department so we could eke out a few more weeks to try to get an A round. Shortly after that, my CEO told me that due to some covid-related tax complications, we actually had less runway than we thought, and there was no coming back.
It was over.
This wasn’t the first time I watched years worth of my work melt into nothing. In fact, it was probably more like the 4th. Maybe the 8th, or something, if we count some of my contracting work, I dunno.
And, something that brings me comfort in times like this, is to think back on my blog, actually. Or, more accurately, blogs because I have many — scattered throughout space and time, over different platforms, all written at different stages of personal development. Some anonymously, some under usernames that only friends knew, and one actually under my real name.
I like to imagine they’ll out live me, and that sometime some human-alien hybrid cyborg scientists will be examining archives of the archives of the internet, and they’ll run across my blog. And, on that nostalgic day, Quxeids will turn to Grokxi and telepathically ask, “what does queefing mean?”
And that can be my contribution to humanity!
But, I haven’t been writing in my blog much. Especially when I’m employed at a difficult job, nearly all my mental effort goes into my job. Then, when the company goes under, and all of that effort goes to waste. It feels… bad. It feels bad. I’ve just put multiple years worth of effort into nothing.
Anyway; something I’ve decided on, is that — I can’t just keep prioritizing what other people want from me over what I want from myself. Time marches on, 40 is only a few years away, and… well, I’m not really happy with what I’ve contributed to the world work-wise so far.
But, I’ve struggled to focus on my own work for more reasons than just work. One reason, is that I do get criticized a lot, and that’s hard. It’s not like, super painful in the moment exactly, but more in a long, slow way it’s worn me down. And, I actually never stop writing; I just stop writing publicly. Because, if I’m just writing for me, why bother putting myself through that? If my primary goal is emotional catharsis, why deal with other people’s opinions?
Yet, I do want to write in my blog for the reasons outlined above — but, my motivation has to change, I think. So, I’ve been thinking to myself, if I could give one thing to the world — no matter how crazy or out there — what would I want to give?
And, it’s difficult to articulate and I think this may not be the final version of it, but it basically comes down to this.
I believe we are living in a deeply coercive society; like, very, very deeply. So deeply, that the vast majority of people don’t see the influences on them that are preventing them from realizing their own true essence (for lack of a better word.) However, the result of this coercion is essentially a lack of self trust; we don’t do what we really feel is the most important, we do what other people think is important.
A simple example is the one I outlined here, aka, my blog. I would love to write my blog more, yet I don’t because I end up doing the more “valuable” work that society expects of me. The irony, of course, is this more “valuable” work has actually contributed nothing to society at large overall because the companies I work at keep failing.
I would love to help other people become a little bit more free, to be able to to (for example) the work that is valuable to them. And, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing; for example, while I would love more time to write, if I can get a little time to write, that’s infinitely better than no time to write. I don’t know what other people need for themselves, but I would like to find out, and help them figure out solutions to the problems that are blocking them.
One of the best places I have seen these ideas of “ubiquitous authoritarianism” expressed is in the book The Guru Papers, which is an exploration on spiritual gurus, and how they maintain their authoritarian old over other people’s minds. However, as the authors explored spiritual gurus, they also began to see how much of “normal” society was under a similar spell as well:
We thus began to pull on the thread of authoritarianism, and in doing so, much of the fabric of civilization began conceptually to unravel. Historically, authoritarianism has been part of the structural weave holding social orders together. It still is interwoven and disguised in most arenas of human interaction, including religion, morality, power, institutions, the family, intimacy, and even sexual relations and personal problems, such as addiction. We found authoritarianism embedded in people’s psyches, affecting much more of day-to-day existence than is generally conceived. This is because in most people’s minds authoritarianism is associated with political systems such as dictatorships, rather than with worldviews, values, and the usually unconscious programming people use to maintain control over their own lives and over others. In the process of writing this book, we deepened our understanding of how authoritarianism in its varied guises has been and largely still is a primary mode of social cohesion — and also how it has now become a major factor in social disintegration.
Preface of The Guru Papers
The Guru Papers was written in the 90s, and yet, I find so much of their discoveries to be more relevant today than ever. Or, another way of thinking about it, is we are currently seeing such a sharp rise in authoritarianism in the outside world, because so many of us internally harbor authoritarian constructions in our inside worlds.
This isn’t because anyone is bad, or wrong, or “sheeple” or anything like that (in fact, this idea that people are “bad” or “wrong” or “sheeple” is a concept that supports authoritarian structures IMO.) It’s just… the reality for many humans alive right now. And, it’s a situation that if we deal with effectively, we can have more genuine enjoyment of life than if we don’t.
That said, this is a HUGE topic, and one with many parts I’d like to explore. However, it has a few simple premises:
- When we coerce people into doing things by threatening them (implicitly or explicitly) with pain, then we are trying to impose authoritarian control over them.
- If you can convince someone to lose faith in themselves, then you often won’t even need to use coercive pressure to get them to do what you want.
The primary complication, and what will take ages to explore, is the various different types of pain that humans can inflict on each other, and what type of impact this has on the other human.
The more obvious types of pain are of death or bodily harm, which is generally restricted to prisons and police, or areas criminal instability inside the US. (I live in the US and so will usually reference the US explicitly, but expect much of this would translate to other countries as well.)
The less obvious, but still somewhat more visible, types of pain are when we use negative emotions — like shame or humiliation — to try to control people’s behavior. A currently typical example of this, is when people “call out” each other for some kind of social infraction. When you call someone out, you are attempting to get them to change their behavior by subjecting them to the pain of humiliation. This is an authoritarian tactic; I will not make a moral judgement on if some types of social infractions are severe enough to justify authoritarian counter tactics.
And, the most subtle is when we have raised people (often children) to hold beliefs about themselves that will generate negative emotions so they will internally police themselves. For example, we generally raise young girls to believe they are not physically attractive. This creates internal pain for them, which makes them susceptible to other forms of manipulation with minimal effort (e.g. buying makeup, dating people who mistreat them, etc.)
To become free of these authoritarian influences, you must become free of the pain that they are using to control you. How can we become free of pain that is causing us to engage in behaviors we otherwise would not?
This is a central question for me.
Related to this, I’m also going to be making youtube videos on this. I assumed that I’d put out blog posts and youtube videos simultaneously, but actually… I think that won’t work, lol. I’m a bit too “stream of consciousness” so I’ll probably end up covering topics that are easier to explain verbally on Youtube and topics that are easier to explain in writing in my blog.
Anyway, here’s my Youtube channel:
I’m starting from scratch, so you know… may be rough going at first.
And! I’m also starting an Etsy shop! Right now, I have one sale, and it was to a friend, lol. I have a few goals for my Etsy shop! One goal is money, obvi — but, I don’t think I’m going to make enough money short term to make much of a difference. However, if in 1–2 years, I was making enough to help me take a longer break between jobs, that may actually allow me substantial creating time which would be pretty good.
The second goal, perhaps the more important one, is to try to get an idea of what topics people find valuable. My first two real products, (other than some silly print on demand stuff I made for fun) are printable workbooks, that are both aimed at trying to solve specific issues around coercion that people may have. I offer them for $1.99, because it seemed like a low enough price that it wasn’t going to bankrupt anyone (and, if you want to know what’s in them without buying them, I’m going to explain the ideas in future blog posts — but it won’t be in a cute 1 2 3 workbook type format.) But, if people are interested enough to pay a little for them, that’s a sign I found a down to earth phrasing of “how to counter authoritarianism” in a way that seems like it’s helping people solve a relatable problem in their life.
Anyway; naturally it’s early and rough, bu if you’re curious, my etsy shop is here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/DigitalDetoxDiaries
And, I guess that’s it for now! More to come!