In order to fix something, you must first know that it is broken. Now you can target the part that is broken, and then fix it. The problem is that although most people are aware there is something wrong, they do not know what the real problem is, and so cannot fix it. This is commonly expressed with the question of; “Why do I do what I know is bad for me, but do not do what is good for me.”
How often do you know what you should or should not do, and then do the opposite? How can this be explained given that you assume yourself to be a normal, sane person. Why do we consciously go against nature and hurt ourselves either by actions we should not do, such as getting drunk when we know it is not healthy or safe, and likewise, not do what we know we must, such as talking to that attractive person you desire.
Both common and simple examples that from the outside objective point of view would describe someone who is not in control of themselves. Needless to say, if early in the conversation with a new person, or even an old friend, if you said that there is a little creature inside you that made you do what you did, it would not go over well.
In the case of low self-esteem and a feeling of self-hate to any degree, the negative feelings are enhanced and get a tighter grip on us each time we fail to act according to what we desire and know is really so simple for any ‘normal’ person. This just makes it worse next time.
I propose that the machine of your mind is broken and, that there actually is a little gremlin inside you who is controlling your thoughts and actions. Of course I am speaking metaphorically, but there are times you can almost feel this little monster in your head telling you things. Let go of your fear of sounding crazy, no one can read your thoughts, just think about it. When you are in the situation that fear or lack of self-confidence paralyses you, does it almost feel like there is someone chocking you, or nailing your feet to the ground so you cannot step forward and speak up?
The problem is not that you cannot speak, rather it is the negative emotions you feel towards yourself in frustration of your limitations. Ponder this thought; “If I know what I should do, and I know that it is really as simple as talking, which I do all the time anyway, why is it at this moment I cannot speak? What is really preventing me?”
Of course you will list the usual text book reasons, low self-esteem, your parents put you down as a child, you never received encouragement, etc. But those are not the pair of hands you feel chocking you at the moment. What if there really was some little gremlin inside that was controlling and preventing you from moving and speaking?
Bear with me please before you write me off as a nut, remember this is a metaphoric way of conveying a concept in order to see the mind as a machine which is broken and needs repair. The analogy of my little gremlin is expressed in the example of riding a horse for the first time. You get up on the horse and you are told to pull the reins and say ‘Whoa’ when you want the horse to stop. The lovely horse is walking along gently, then all of a sudden takes off at full speed.
You are hanging on for your life, scared that you will fall off and break your back, or worse. You pull the reins and scream profanities at the horse, but it will not stop or slow down for anything. How do you feel? A lot like the fool who puts one foot in his mouth after the other or is standing there in front of the most beautiful woman with his mouth frozen like stone. Totally helpless.
You are not in control of your own body or mind. Much like the rider on the horse, you will be taken wherever the horse goes and have no ability to stop it. The difference is, when the ride is over, you curse the horse, but when the night is over, you curse yourself.
Knowing the machine is broken prevents feeling the negative emotions when we fail or find ourselves believing the lie that we can do things differently but do not. Yes, freedom of choice is a lie, we do not have it. Certainly you make choices in your life, but possessing a quality means it is always at your disposal, and you can see how you and everyone else, simply does not truly possess freedom of choice. We are all riders on a wild horse who just happens to walk slowly at times and then run wild at others. Do not be fooled into thinking you are in control just because the horse wants to rest.
The first step is to realize you do not have freedom of choice, the evidence is plentiful. If this is true, as I am sure you will find with enough observation, then who exactly is in control? Another point to make is that when you are angry and negative, depressed and lost in self-pity, you do not think straight. This means you will not be able to see the gremlin who is controlling and binding you.
By eliminating the negative emotions, we are changing our state of mind and gaining freedom from the broken machine that is run by a gremlin inside our body (again just a useful image to help understand this) by staying calm enough that we can see it at work.
I am very fixed on the belief that we must take responsibility for all our actions, however as all rules have an exception, so does this one. When you find yourself in the situation that the gremlin is in control, you must know that is not you. You are being manipulated like the hypnotist who gets the subject to eat a raw onion and imagine it is a sweet apple. It is not you who is frozen, it is the gremlin controlling you.
As long as we remain negative, that keeps the machine broken and allows the gremlin to stay in control. If you are no longer negative and accept that you are fine, but you simply do not have the freedom to choose your actions, that you are a puppet controlled by a little man behind the curtain, the Wizard of Oz will be exposed and lose his power.
We stay negative through our self lie that we are capable of doing anything, but in fact, the truth, proven by our lack of ability to act, shows we are not capable of actually ‘doing’ but are only a rider on a horse being led through the course of actions and emotions. If you think it is you, then you are a mess of confusion as to why you are paralyzed. But if you know that you are being controlled beyond your ability to act, then you have no choice but to submit. This is the time that denying responsibility can be beneficial if you do not make it just an excuse.
The power to control you comes fully from your own negative emotions. That is the food which keeps the gremlin in power. If you want to conquer a formidable enemy, you must first starve him to near death, and when he is weak enough, you can get him to succumb to you and become a slave instead of master.
The creature inside me eventually lost the ability to control me when I looked at it long enough and knew it was controlling me. I was free of my master when I saw I had a master and then, looking straight in his face, refuse to be his slave.
The Sufi call this creature the Nafs. This is often translated as the ego, and there are many kinds of Nafs to describe the many different natures of the ego, but here we will just group them all into one. The Sufi also have a saying; “He who knows his Nafs, Knows God.”
That is very telling indeed. They do not say, he who kills, defeats, destroys, removes, or any other such term. They say ‘knows’. By knowing, we accomplish the same thing as defeating. I shall explain.
You cannot exist in this world without your personality, which is your ego, so we cannot kill it. The problem is the ego, Nafs, gremlin, is in control of our mind and makes us do all the stupidities that we do. So we cannot live with it, nor without it. All we can do is see it, and in so doing, it loses its power once we know who is behind our foolish actions.
It takes time, but the more you follow the exercise, the stronger your vision of the Nafs will become and eventually the Nafs will become weak enough that it will not have the power to control, or paralyze you with fear.
The exercise is to observe your actions, and the actions of other people. Look for events in which you cannot explain the actions other than by saying that you or they must be controlled by someone else. It is that simple. Gather as much evidence to prove that there must be some other creature in control.
You can make a list of your life, the major events in which you clearly knew what you should or should not do, there was ample evidence as to what the correct choice was, yet you did the opposite. How else could this happen? You are defending your case to prove the existence of the Nafs in front of a judge and jury with evidence that cannot be otherwise explained.
Eventually, you shall be master and in control of your life to be able to do whatever you choose.