Updated: Sep 4, 2019
by Sensei Aaron Bowen
Do you eat the donut? It looks good; you've had a hard day. Also, you've been doing really great, what with the eating of the healthy foods . . .
"Eat the donut," says the voice that lives in the back of your mind. "You're allowed to enjoy one donut."
I see our selves as split into two; there is the higher self that knows what is good, and wants to do right. But living in my brain, along with that higher self, is also a collection of voices that encourage me to indulge. One might be called "revenge," and another "sweet-tooth," and still another "procrastination;" beyond these there are a dozen more, unnamed. They use sound logic and reasoning, and every trick of an effective orator to convince me that I'm "allowed to." I've spent entire seasons of my life keeping my higher self subdued as I allow that congregation of voices to dictate my actions.
The problem is that, when I let those voices-- I call them demons, meant metaphorically and not literally-- drive, they invariably lead me to self-destruction; the most disgusting thing is that I go to my doom smiling, insisting that I am living as my "true" self.
That your demons are your true-self is an idea that our culture, here in the U.S., has been selling hard recently. Someone who is hurtful to others turns that into a feature of their identity: "I'm just being honest with y'all." Someone who has no self control at mealtime adopts a lack of moderation as a positive character feature: "I'm not ashamed of my body." A student who cannot bring himself or herself to do any schoolwork that provides no immediate reward argues that the work his beneath him or her.
Of course, the greater problem is that the logic they use, under the right circumstances, would be totally valid; too often, however, we use sound reasoning as a mask for the truth, which is that the demands of the higher self are difficult, and fraught with discomfort, while the demons are easy to please.
Others might even be taken in by our charade. "He's body-positive." "She's so fearless." "She's just too smart for regular school." And when others validate our choices, then we can add another layer of self-deception, pretending that, because someone else buys the line I'm selling, then I must be right.
But all the time, in the background, there is the higher self, whispering. We hear, and are secretly filled with self-loathing, because its not enough for other people to validate us, even if it were the entire country, the entire continent, the entire world telling us that we are good, and right, and whole. We all know too much about ourselves, because our view is backstage, unfiltered. We are dissatisfied, because the one person we truly want to praise us never really can.
... unless we put the higher self into the driver's seat.
Now, in order to do that, we must deny the demands of our demons. So, do I eat the donut? On the days where I live as my highest self, I do not.
"But you've had a hard day!"
Eating the donut will make me feel worse.
"You've been eating right for so long!"
Then why would I want to do the one thing that would cause me to backslide?
"It looks so good!"
But it's not; it's a poison. Now that I think about it, if I let you drive, Sweet-Tooth . . . you'll kill me, won't you?
And why would I ever take advice from a force that's trying to kill me?