THE CONCENTRATION CAMP WITHIN US
In my last Blog, I had written about the insights shared by my friend, Ajith, during an interactive P.D. session, yesterday. Ajith had stressed on the theme – ‘Voice versus Noise’. To take the discussion further, he has sent me a full article written by him, today. I am delighted to share it here in my Blog. Hope, it will help my readers.
THE CONCENTRATION CAMP WITHIN US
- By Ajith Nair
“Man is born free but everywhere he is in chains”
- Jean Jacques Rousseau, “The Social Contract”
OUR INNER VOICE
In the book ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’, Viktor Frankl talks about how you can take everything away from a man but hope. Confined to a concentration camp by the Nazis, seeing death and distress around him every day, Viktor Frankl managed to get in touch with something deep within himself that helped him cope with the fear and suffering that was all around him. Mind you, there was much to fear - fear of death, fear of torture, fear that he would never be able to see his beloved wife who was in a similar camp elsewhere.
Viktor Frankl managed to outlive the concentration camp, become a famous psychologist and author, while many of his friends and colleagues at the concentration camps died, even before they were gassed by the Nazis.
How did Viktor Frankl survive?
He did not lose hope. He found meaning within the fearful existence of a concentration camp. He says in his book:
“Everything can be taken away from man but one thing: the last of human freedoms - to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s way.”
Unfortunately, even though the Nazis have long gone, but, even today, many of us remain confined in our self-created concentration camps, choosing to let ourselves be victims to the Nazis within us. Yes within us.
What is this concentration camp within us?
This concentration camp within us has many voices. The harsh voice of the critic, who tells you how you have failed to do many things in life, or how you take shortcuts or how you have let your loved ones down. The voice of the pusher, who makes unreasonable demands of you, makes you do things that you don’t enjoy doing but end up, makes you act in ways that are not aligned with your own values. It is also, often, the voice of pity, who says “oh poor you, how big a loser you are!” or “how you deserve everything that you are getting!”
We were not born with these voices inside us; we acquired them as we grew up with people around us. In some ways, we allowed these voices to setup camps within our minds, gave them space to grow and, now, they are like encroachers who refuse to leave, wanting to stake claim to the mind-space they are occupying.
OUR TRUE INNER VOICE
One of the earliest voices within us is our inner voice. This is the voice that gives us hope, makes us want to sing and dance, be a free bird, try out new things, make friends, explore the world and become who we can be. This is the voice of our true self; believers might call it the voice of God. As we grow up and hear people around us, we tend to suppress our inner voice so that we can blend in, we can belong, we can be part of some group, family, community etc. Over a period of time, in trying to adapt to the world, we drown out our inner voice completely, letting the outside world tell us what we should pursue, what our dreams should be, where we are lacking, how we are an utter failure etc. We allow these voices into our own heads, submerging our inner voice, sometimes burying it so deep, that even when it speaks, we can’t hear. Mind you, the external world might, sometimes, be trying to help; but the way we hear those voices and allow them to settle is the equivalent of creating concentration camps. For e.g. someone criticizes the way we dress up… We store it in our heads as “Oh I am undesirable!” This voice, then rings in our heads every time we wear something, or every time someone comments on how we are looking. It doesn’t matter if a thousand people tell us later, that we are looking awesome, the inner Nazi voice wins.
REDISCOVERING OUR TRUE INNER VOICE
It takes time, to drown out the noise and hear the voice. Some practices do help though:
· Ask yourselves, what is it that gives me joy, something that given a choice I could do every day? Whatever it may be, find time to do this particularly activity for some time, every day. It might be painting, writing, music, helping others, teaching, playing a sport. Doesn’t matter what it is, do it every day.
· Journal your feelings - write about what made you glad, mad, sad during the course of the day. Write about the high points and low points in your daily life; write about what you felt as you went through them. Be honest, even if nobody’s checking. You owe it to yourself.
· Share your life. Find that trustworthy friend whom you can confide in, a friend who hears you without judgement. Open your doors and your heart to this friend. In return become a confidante to this friend, hearing him or her without judgement, become a safe place to them.
· Try and go beyond yourself. See how you can help someone who needs your help, it could be that little kid in the building who wants to learn cycling or that colleague who is struggling with a particular office routine. Put your hand up, volunteer, start small, stay with it.
· Stay silent and hear yourself. Every day, find time to sit in silence in a peaceful place, close your eyes, just by yourselves and witness what is happening within you. Remember the idea is to just witness, not judge. It will be difficult at the beginning, you will feel uncomfortable, and you will feel impatient to open your eyes. Stay as long as you can, silent and with yourself. Nothing that you think about is good or bad. Everything that is coming to you is ok, witness it and let it go. When you do this long enough, you will start hearing your inner voice… You will know it when you get there.
And, last but not the least, practice self-compassion. Those who are angry and harsh with the world are actually beating themselves up a lot within. Move away from this space by treating yourself with self-compassion.
Pics.: Ajith Nair