Your Strange and Confusing Tendencies
You have tendencies. I have tendencies. We all have tendencies. But, what are those tendencies? Do we recognize them and if we do, what do we do about them? Do we need to do anything about them?
This recognition of tendencies in our everyday lives is found in both Buddhism and the Yogic Philosophy of Vedanta. Tendencies are your habits, your way of viewing the world, the choices you make, the way you relate to other people, or to your dog, or to the tree outside your window. Tendencies are the patterns of your thought, the patterns of how you move through the world, and the patterns of your emotional life.
In psychology tendencies are often called a pathology. This word comes from the Greek word, Pathologia which means the study of the passions. In medicine, pathology is the study of a disease. Whew! Western culture sure has a way of identifying the most simple things and taking them so very seriously. In psychology if someone has a pathological behavior it is usually in the context of a wrong that needs to be made right. When the word is used in medicine to describe disease it essentially means there is a dis-ease, the antithesis of ease. It is clear that the words we use to describe something have a very significant effect on how we feel about what is being described. “Pathology” sounds serious and heavy and even dangerous. “Tendency” is softer. A tendency is something that we can recognize in the context of our lives, how we behave and react to things that happen to us or how we respond to what someone may say to us.. It is much more beneficial for our well being to explore our tendencies rather than worry about them or become anxious about them.
Is a tendency something we have to do something about? This brings us to a deeper question. How do we live our lives knowing that we have this propensity to engage in particular tendencies? Do we have to get tied up in knots in an attempt to get rid of our tendencies? The answer is, “No.” By trying to get rid of your tendencies you inevitably move into the space of an internal battle with yourself. This inner conflict perpetuates the tendency. In addition, this conflict creates new and more disturbing tendencies. We always seem to be searching for a way out of this internal struggle. Suppose, instead, we simply stop searching for a way out and acknowledge that the moments of your life are simply something that we can call, The Way. By this I mean, being in your life and seeing your life moving along from one moment to the next moment as an observer of your life; your life as a path, the Way of This Life.
For example, imagine you have a tendency to think badly of yourself? You say to yourself, “I’m not good enough.” You compare yourself to other people and feel you are lacking in some way. Then you compensate for this feeling of lack by bloviating. You focus on the ego to prove to yourself and everyone else that you are good enough or better or more knowledgeable or stronger or better looking than that person over there. You denigrate others to make yourself feel better. Those are tendencies.
What action can you engage in to free yourself from this struggle and pain that you are causing yourself? It’s not difficult at all. You cultivate the space within yourself where you can observe your behaviors and thought processes, where you can see the source of these tendencies. When you realize the source of your tendencies you then develop the skill to see the behaviors and thought processes for what they are. They are nothing more than what you tend to do or think in particular circumstances. When you realize the dynamic of your internal experience, you then have a choice. You can continue to go down the path of thinking ill of your self and engaging in actions to compensate for it. Or, as the observer of yourself, when the initial “I’m not good enough” feeling arises (or what ever your particular tendency is) you say to yourself, “Oh, there I go again, acting on this tendency.” Then you catch it before it becomes a full blown ego reaction.You realize that the thought, “I’m not good enough,” is a tendency that manifests itself into this particular thought form that has nothing to do with the reality that, of course you are good enough.
Why would this thought come up that you are not good enough? It is a habit. It is a tendency that you know is not true. What are you not good enough for? It doesn’t matter. That thought is a thought that has its source in comparison. You compare yourself to others or compare yourself to some idea that perhaps your parents instilled in you as a child; that you had to be better or do more in order to be loved. Then you spend the rest of your life trying to live up to someone else’s idea of who you are supposed to be.
You are not supposed to be anything other than who you are. You are the perfect you. Who else could be the perfect you? So, of course, you are not only good enough; you are completely and perfectly You. Nothing more is needed. Never allow anyone (including yourself) to do anything that would squash your potential. Also, we cannot allow the culture that we live in to determine our way of being in the world. More of our thoughts about how things should be are determined by the influence of our culture than we might imagine. And, these cultural influences can be a source of our tendencies.
We all have a deep quiet place within ourselves. All we need is to create the conditions that allow this quiet place to reveal itself. When in this quiet place of observing allow it to open into your consciousness. See the tendencies and then realize who you really are. You are a deep well of peace, calm, and well being with endless potential to realize your True Self. Everything follows from there.