Maturity and Dis-identification: Transcending Subjectivity

Maturity and Dis-identification: Transcending Subjectivity Since all defiled states of consciousness are born from ignorance the most deeply embedded defilement, the final and ultimate purification of mind is to be accomplished through the instrumentality of wisdom, the knowledge and vision of things as they really are. Bhikkhu Bodhi So that in the absence of both other and self, there may be known the perfect peace, Of the presence of absolute absence. Wei Wu Wei A pillar of the Buddha’s psychology is the radical no-self insight, and modern psychology has developed interventions that can help us to de-emphasize and eventually see through the ignorance of a belief in an inherent self. Cognitive psychology, as I explained in my previous book, “The Buddha’s Radical Psychology: Explorations”18, explains how normal, developmental identification creates and maintains the illusionary belief of a substantial and fixed self. A brief definition of identification is a usually nonconscious act or process of determining classification or nature of and a sense of oneness, or psychic continuity with another person or group. While the use of identification has positive developmental functions including social attachments and social modeling, the Buddha saw the ignorance and dangers in the subjective belief that identities are ultimately factual and indisputable. Attaching to identities creates alienation and suffering with its conviction and affinity for this unequivocal virtual reality world of representations, ideals, and images. This cognitive overlay of representation and image/mirage is a construction by our schemata on our internal as well as external world. As Wolfram Schommers explains, this, ‘Basic reality, i.e., reality which exists independently of the observer, is in principle not accessible in any DIRECT WAY. Rather, it is observable or describable by means of pictures on different levels, i.e., levels of reality.’40 Therefore, developing a mature objective understanding of how we create and use identification is necessary in assisting us to dis-identify, develop insight and, finally, the transcendence of our identifications. Dis-identification describes a vital aspect of both Cook-Grueter’s and Kegan’s process of ego transformation, or the capacity to make objective what before was subjective. Dis-identification is an effective method to understand the relativity of the concept of identity, as well as alter how we construct and maintain a ‘self’ with identities. The Buddha taught that we become who and what we believe we are -my ‘self’- through our identifications with our thoughts, feelings or actions. We are always the author, either creatively or by doctrine, of our autobiography or ‘I’, making the process of identification an enticing chimerical drama/production in which we usually enjoy scripting and participating in. It excites us, mystifies us, and creates strong emotions and desires/aversions. We even like to ‘possess’ external objects and revere them (like precious metals/minerals, automobiles), usually forgetting that in the end, these valuations are solely creations in our mind’s world. Through identifications, we sublimely create our ‘self’, with which we are infatuated and attached, desiring to maintain, expand and defend or despise wanting to ‘dis-own’. Indeed, reminding us of this condition is the Greek story of Narcissus who saw his own reflection in a pond and not realizing it was merely his self- image, fell in love with his reflection. Narcissus stared lovingly transfixed at his reflection until eventually, he died. Each identification has the word "I" within it, either literally or subtly. Through this profound cognitive process, we can identify with anything: including our bodies, our sensations, our thoughts, conceptions, beliefs, our impulses, our emotions and objects. With identifying and attaching to our mental constructions, we interfere with the natural flow of experience and, in a sense, freeze time. However, when we become mindful or knowing and observe these many ‘things’- we make objective what was previously subjective. We learn to put some cognitive and emotional distance from our subjective entanglements, and by doing so, dis-identify or release the cognitive knot, thereby opening to the natural transience of experience. In fact, objectification of the subject is to dis-identify and, by doing so, we lose the previously narrower, less intricate schematic lenses or point of view through which we had constructed our world. Importantly, through understanding the dis-identifying process, we develop a certain equanimity because we come to understand how also others, who are still entangled with their own identities, are foolishly seeing and reacting to the world in a more ignorant, egotistical, self-serving and immature way. To not identify with a phenomenon means to ‘impersonalize’ it. When we identify with something, we energize and sustain our conviction, and make the phenomenon alive in us. At the same time, identification has an apprehensive, tense feeling to it since we cherish, try to grasp and preserve that which is inherently impermanent- both cognitively and materially. This creates a misapprehension and misunderstanding over everything, and it formalizes, therefore, limits us. Identities are stored in our memory. Later associated sensory experience or latent tendencies easily trigger them. When triggered, there are roughly four levels: (1) Reaction, (2) Evaluation, (3) Attach, and (4) Acting out. •Reaction is the immediate arising of either desire or aversion. •Then we Evaluate different scenarios and have discussions in our minds, rehearsing what action to take. •Then we decide and Attach with conviction on an action. •Finally, with intention, we Act it out. When we actively identify with an event, we often quickly rush through all those stages and we hardly even know what we are deciding. When we live this way, we are highly habituated and reactive, continuously grasping with ‘me and mine’, exist on ‘autopilot’, and we frequently act in selfishly unskillful and unwholesome behaviors. Meditation and other cognitive behavioral interventions help us learn that our identifications are purely habituated mental constructs associated with a fallacious sense of self - the "me" assembled by our cognitive apparatus. An important insight created through the proper training of non-identification is that our presumptions and emotions are contextual, relative and purely created by our cognitive apparatus. However, when we remain identified with them, we believe just the opposite. In the process of learning dis-identification, we, of course, begin with a tenacious subjectivity. We are sure our identifications are ‘me’ and legitimate and, in a feedback loop fashion, we attach to whatever affirms our identifications and ‘me’. At the start of developing dis-identification, even though we still identify with the various aspects of ‘me’, we begin to stand back and objectively analyze our identities. Once we can see our subjective representations of mind as ‘just what they are’- singularly personal, this intellectual understanding steadily develops into wisdom. With the maturing wisdom, we develop happiness and tranquility. The Buddhist Right View is that the self is not an inert, static substantial substance and, therefore, attachment is ignorance. With Right Effort, we keep practicing dis-identification, and we eventually cultivate an insightful moment of the wisdom of ‘letting go’ when we understand that our identifications are only subjective mental constructions. We temporarily ‘wake up’ and have an ‘Ah-ha’ moment of the direct experience of owning and transcending our cognitive representations. However, even though we can temporarily experience our dis-identification and seeing with our pure Original Mind, there is a long journey between ‘letting go’ and ‘totally have let go’, which refers to Awakening or Enlightenment. Nevertheless, with each step forward, life becomes more based on well-being, wisdom, and maturity, more cognitively original and creative, more reciprocal and responsive, calmer and, therefore, happier. Continuing, we eventually transcend identifications by naturally residing in our inner ‘refuge’ of the knowing mind, allowing our thoughts to arise, abide, change, and pass away without attaching or resisting and we ‘Awaken’ to our pure awareness or Original Mind.

Join the Network    
Users are able to post wisdom-related news & publications, maintain a profile, and participate in discussion forums.

Sort By