Re: Article: The Triangular Base of Training: Wisdom, Humility, and Self-doubt by "Th
I was startled by this article and the response to it, because I feel--and I don't mean this as a criticism--that I live in an internal world totally different from the author's.
For most of my life the biggest barrier that prevents me from acting wisely has not been too much self-certainty and immunity to doubt, but too much self-doubt and vulnerability to outside pressure. I meet many women, and some men, who seem to be in the same situation.
As a result my immediate reaction to the essay was pain and anger: yet another person adding ammunition to the lifelong internal assault by guilt and feelings of inadequacy. I don't think this is the author's fault, in that the people who act as he describes--too self-assured, never considering whether they are doing the right thing--do exist and do need to be addressed. But perhaps there is some way to mark that the message, while general, is not meant to be universal?
The specific example of being asked by one's sensei to train longer hours particularly struck me. In my life, as in the lives of many Americans, there is continual outside pressure to do more of many different activities--train longer hours, spend more time on my career, contribute more to community activities, become more involved with politics, spend more time cultivating my spirituality, take better care of my house, yard, local parks, relationships.... Yes, each and every outside request/demand can be met by careful soul-searching about whether this is in fact possible or desirable. But it seems quite easy to let one's life be driven, and eventually destroyed, by outside demands if they are not balanced by some inward judgement about what is really important and, equally, what is really possible. The sum total of requests coming at me for my time certainly exceeds 24 hours in each day, probably by a factor of ten. Someone must make hard choices about which demands are to be honored and which are to be rejected.
Certainly my sensei has some claim to be the one making such decisions. Equally, so does my spiritual leader, my employer, and my spouse. But I am the only one in position to know how much each of them is asking and whether, in toto, it exceeds what I have to give. So, unless I am to abandon all but one such master, I need to be able to make those decisions *myself*. And, unless I am to live in misery, I have to make decisions with which I can be at peace.
At this point my interior accuser is already saying, "Look, you're just making excuses--you're just lazy--you could do it if you worked harder and gave up some of the time you selfishly spend on yourself--other people work so much harder than you" etc. etc. But that kind of interior accuser is not useful self-doubt, it's a demon--it can never be satiated, because no matter what you do there are always people eager to tell you that you ought to be doing more, and the accuser picks up their words and turns them into interior torments.
I guess what I am coming down to is that I think any advice to cultivate self-doubt and listen to the challenges of others needs to be balanced, for sanity and happiness, with advice to cultivate interior wisdom and the ability to make one's own decisions and be content with them. The condition of being utterly without self-criticism is ugly, to be sure, but the other extreme of being constantly racked by it and unable to find peace is also ugly. And I emphatically do not believe that aikido society, or American society in general, is all one and none of the other.