Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Morality Isn’t So Hard – The Psychology of Self Protection
In the previous post I talked about how far we’ve traveled away from the time when doing the right thing was what truly made us happy, until we have become a race that defines right through justifications that legitimize our own happiness without taking into account how we might be hurting others. So what happened to us? It seems we lost our understanding of logical reasoning and failed to see the flaws, even as we introduced them into our moral code.
The changes began with an ego flare. This sudden eruption of ego caused us to question the accepted belief that if the only way to get what we wanted or what would make us happy was to do the wrong thing, then we didn’t actually want what we thought we did and it would never lead to true happiness.
All of a sudden we started asking ourselves, “Who said I don’t really want that or that it won’t make me happy? It seems like it will. So if the Moral Life and the Pleasing Life are the same, gaining pleasure will not affect who I am morally.” You don’t have to be students of logic to see the flaws in this reasoning. It’s a simple transformation from A is a necessary condition for B although they exist simultaneously, to A and B are the same so when B exists A must also exist.
Luckily, before we’d traveled too far off into the wilderness, religion stepped in to clean up this misconception. Religious leaders admitted that doing the right thing wouldn’t always make us happy or get us what we wanted and that it was indeed a hard path to follow. What religion added was that despite all this, doing the right thing was still in our best interests. This was accomplished by introducing us to the concept of Heaven and Hell. So while we may actually lose what we want and not be happy all the time in this world, doing the right thing will get us into Heaven, a very good thing, while doing wrong will send us to hell, a very bad thing.
But then we lost our footing once again when our intellect became dominant and faith without proof was no longer enough for us. We entered an era when we believed nothing was required to earn being happy or getting what we wanted, because we had come to label these things “rights”. Everyone had the right to be happy and have what they wanted. So those running around talking about responsibility to ourselves and others just didn’t get it. Morality was supposed to be natural not hard.
We’d done a 360, arriving back at the belief that doing what it took, at least within reason, to be able to experience the pleasing life, now an actual right for all, was the proper order of things. And since the moral life and the pleasing life go hand in hand, morality couldn’t really be compromised by exercising our right to happiness, to advancement, to admiration, to attention, to gain in all manner of things. Logical flaws, anyone?
Unfortunately, although by this point we’d significantly shifted our moral code regarding what we believed defined the members of that magic circle, to the point of overcrowding, we weren’t done yet. We had begun our struggle with what was becoming the ever expanding “within reason” criteria for what was morally right and there’d be no regaining control of the reigns in the foreseeable future.
And then there’s the contribution of psychology which suddenly began to fascinate everyone so they learned just enough about the topic to create a huge amount of trouble. As each day passed, more and more psychological verbiage was thrown around as justifications despite the complete lack of understanding of what we were holding up as to champion our words and behavior.
And if others were hurt by what we did or say that wasn’t our fault it was theirs. Entirely blameless, our moral selves could not be touched. We created the adage that no one could be hurt unless they let themselves. This allowed us to take it another step further. Since we weren’t responsible for others pain, we became convinced it was our moral right to judge, deemed fully within reason (alas the slippery slope).
However, we also refused others the same right. Thus, any attempts at working through an issue or problem which entailed the slightest suggestion that we possibly could have played some part in whatever had gone wrong triggered our defenses. Out they came in full force, disguised by what were now automatic justifications though accepted as absolute truth.
First, the other was clearly, undeniably wrong. Then came the reasoning or attack showing just why they were wrong. Their oh so obviously incorrect position was based on low self-confidence, self-hatred creating the inability to respond to others in any manner other than hate, lack of self-esteem and poor self-concept. Add a few maladaptive coping strategies the individual was clearly using to cover all this up in particular repression of self awareness and projection of their negative traits onto others. Now mix well and bake. What comes out of the over is the justification of all justifications, “Well, heck that person should be hurt, needs to be hurt so they can self-actualize.”
While I find I’m still working through this topic, I’ll end here for tonight, but not before I challenge you to perform one task when you finish reading this. Don’t worry, it’s simple, at least on the surface. Take out a mirror, and look into to it for at least several minutes, longer if you dare. For some nothing may happen other than confirming the exercise was as stupid as originally thought; for others it may trigger something. I can’t say what exactly, as its specific to each person. But the results are up to you. For you will only see what you allow yourself to see. Do you have the courage to permit even a sliver of the illusionary self we all hide beneath to be revealed? And lest you think I hold myself apart as being above such things, be assured that you won’t be alone. I’ll see you at the mirror.