Posts Tagged ‘personality’

The presence of me

May 21, 2011

I wonder where our old ways of being end up after we have let go of them?

We all have habits, attitudes, and personas that we embrace and reflect, calling these features our “personality.” Some people cling to their personality no matter what the cost even when it does not serve them well, but others of us only tolerate our ways of being until something better comes along. Life demands growth. Some of this growth is manifested in physical changes, but most of it is a remodeling of our internal structures out of experience, necessity, or enlightenment. Who we were one moment ago is suddenly awkward and out of place. We discard the facets that no longer fit.

I used to smoke cigarettes. And I wasn’t casual about it either. I was a deadly serious smoker. Two packs a day for 16 years. When I was 28, my life circumstances congealed into this mass of complication that made smoking uncomfortable, inconvenient, and unnecessary.

I was serious about quitting, too. It took me four years and all sorts of experimental new behaviors before I knew I would never pick up another cigarette. I was six months into being a nonsmoker when the realization hit me that I was finished with cigarettes. I no longer desired to inhale smoke and nicotine, nor did I miss twirling a cigarette between my fingers. I knew my withdrawal and adaption to being a nonsmoker was complete when I no longer felt as if I was going to strangle any person who looked at me crossways. At that moment, I discovered that the old wives’ tale was really true: smoking does stunt your growth. I was happy to embrace the new non-smoking me. The me who I became then has lived life in a way that the smoking-me never could have.

But I still wonder where that smoker person I used to be ended up – the one who never went anywhere without cigarettes and a Flick-your-Bic lighter. And where is her cousin . . . the one who walked around flexing her fists and making red-hot eye contact with anyone who dared speak a contrary word?

Are they waiting in some kind of life antechamber for the next unsuspecting soul who requires a method to make it through adolescence? That is why I started smoking in the first place. The high school I went to was more of a teenage zoo where the teachers and principal were sometimes worse than the students. Smoking put me inside a crowd where most of those nitwits did not want to venture. I needed to cope and smoking-me came into my life. Her cousin came along to reinforce her presence. Anytime I did not have a cigarette when I wanted one, the cousin would twitch and snarl until I fed her some nicotine.

I have no desire to ask them to come back, but their absence makes me wonder: what other ways of being am I ready to say goodbye to? And because life is ruled by the third law of Newton’s physics: to every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction, I have to believe that there are other me’s waiting for me to invite them into my life.

Okay, this blog is already too long and I have digressed in three different ways. More to explore in the days to come – I need to visit that antechamber and meet me.

©2011 by Barbara L. Kass

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anonymous presence

June 27, 2010

Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities. (Alcoholics Anonymous, Tradition #12)

As one of my last assignments for the class I am taking on substance abuse, I explored the 12 Traditions that support the 12 Step programs for Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, etc. These traditions are principles that describe the external environment required for any 12 Step program to exist and be successful. The 12 Steps are an internal process of personal spiritual growth and change for recovery to occur. The 12 Traditions are regarded as the rules and regulations, but they are also a set of spiritual principles that create a safe environment for the process of the 12 Steps to be shared.

Tradition 12 is saying that being unknown and ordinary is the breath of life for all the principles of the 12 Step programs and maintaining these principles is more important than any one person’s habits or behaviors. These words imply that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one. They prevent any one person from taking over 12-Step groups.

Being anonymous is required. It protects each individual alone and collectively. By protecting the group, Tradition 12 guarantees the safety of all the principles. This does not mean that principles or other people are more important than an individual. Even while living among the many, each person must continue to put his or her own welfare first unless, by some tacit agreement, he or she has agreed to put others first. The men and women who go to war and fight battles and are willing to die to keep us safe come to mind. Yet, even then, soldiers are expected to take very good care of themselves so that they can be effective and keep their agreements.

This tradition says that the principles come before personality. Some people believe that if they cannot be their personality, then they are not being themselves. We are not our personalities. Our personalities are behaviors that reflect who we believe ourselves to be. We are all in charge of our behaviors. We select the behaviors that show the world who we are.

I thought about what it means to be anonymous. Synonyms include being nameless, unidentified, unknown, ordinary, indistinctive, everyday, unexceptional, and unmemorable. There is an element of safety in being nameless and ordinary. There is an element of loneliness in being unknown and unmemorable.

We can be nameless and still be known. I put my name aside. I set my personality along side of my name. Who am I when I have no name and no habitual behaviors to display myself before the world? Throughout my day, I am nameless and unknown at the grocery store, the post office, the gas station, and a dozen other brief encounters. I display behavior appropriate to the circumstances. At work, I am no longer nameless and I am known only to the extent that I reveal myself through my behaviors. Again, I choose the behaviors that represent how I want to be perceived in my work world. But, these are not therapeutic settings as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings are.

How can one remain anonymous in a therapeutic setting? My brief experience in attending 12-step program meetings gave me an insight that says being anonymous opens a door for exploring the individuality of the person who has been submerged under drugs or alcohol (or any other behavior that is an addiction).

It brings up the question we can all ask ourselves: who am I and how can I be in the world when I am not my name or my personality?

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass

The presence of connection

April 24, 2010

Extraordinary connections are finding their way into my life. Over the past several days, friends have been writing on their blogs about similar thoughts and ideas to the point that it has become clear we are all being awakened by a shared energy. A new friend from Gaia (http://anewgaia.ning.com/) introduced me to a book Power vs. Force by David Hawkins. Reading the foreword and preface at Amazon reveals that the author discovered his eternal presence at a very young age and followed a remarkable path of healing. Of course I will buy and read the book, but today what stood out for me was the idea that we are not our personalities.

I refer to personalities as the superficial presence that we all present to the world and believe that is who we really are. The superficial personality is ego driven, inflamed with fear, and desperate for love and acceptance. The eternal presence patiently watches the personality in action and might occasionally nudge (or, in some cases, whack) us, whispering “you are more than this.”

Some people have dramatic enlightenment, brought back from the brink of self-destruction and death by some miraculous realization.

My path to enlightenment has been one of reluctance, even though I pursued it relentlessly. I kept thinking if I just adjusted my personality all of the time to all of the people and situations I would be in, then I would “get it.” Then, I would be accepted, loved, blah blah blah. My path to enlightenment and reconnecting with my eternal presence was found by pursuing the path of working very hard to become like everyone else. It was tedious, painful, and didn’t work very well.

The path where I am connected with my eternal presence is much more peaceful, lighter, less anxious. When I am connected with my eternal presence, I am eternally connected to all of you.

 ©2010 by Barbara L. Kass