Finding our true north is hardly doable when with two voices we conduct our search for meaning and purpose and for fulfillment, satisfaction and equanimity. Two voices do not make sense.
It makes sense to conduct the search with the voice of the concrete character in the playing out of our lives. This voice was shaped by and is intrinsic to America’s efforts to have us act responsibly by means of managing the ego-function or, said differently, by means of managing the freedom offered in America. Such freedom is the central mechanism involved in the design of our lives, and larger than that, in the creation of our civilization.
The fate of our transformation into civic life pivots on our ability to place our freedom in the framework of the responsible autonomy offered by America and to take this freedom seriously. Indeed, made in America, we are expected to meet the demand not just for causal efficacy and competitive maturity but also for civility and for resilience when facing disappointment, frustration and loss.
It doesn’t make sense to compromise the integrity and effectiveness of the search for a rewarding life with a disturbed and disturbing second voice—the anxious, illusion-filled and antagonistic internal chatter. Radically detached from the rocks-are-hard actual world in which we dwell, this voice believes that the transformative rules that guide our behavior and upon which civic life pivots don’t apply to it.
In this illusionary world, we are its center. When others don’t grant us our due or right-of-way, our antagonism and anxiety are ignited and expressed as moodiness, anger, arrogance, self-righteousness, unapproachability, pessimism, etc.
As a matter of fact, the disconnect between the voice of the concrete character in the playing out of our lives and the otherworldly psychologistic voice is the cause of much of our stress and dissatisfaction. It is fair to say that not all but much of our suffering can be attributed to the unrealistic way in which we talk to ourselves.
The classes and coursework offered by Autonomy and Life are focused on creating our transcendental watch over the American ego, thus on developing the freedom to manage our practical conditions and circumstances as well as the way we think, feel, speak and act.
This watch over our ego serves our own well-being, of course. It also allows us to extend ourselves to those who depend on us for leadership or affinity, for a receptivity and generosity of spirit not possible when we are psychologistically absorbed by the neediness of our own internal chatter. In short, our ability to create a communicative and cognitive in-the-world space in which others thrive is for them an immeasurable gift and for us the fulfilling experience that accompanies contribution.
In sum, before we accept and judiciously discipline our voice, we can barely believe that keeping its integrity (and minding the burden of its attendant constraints) would free us from the foolishness, alienation and moodiness that live in the psychologistic discordant voice. Yet, in our transcendent watch over the ego function, that is, in our role as a custodian of our civilization, we find our true north—belonging, meaning, relevance and peace of mind.
Arnold Siegel is the founder of Autonomy and Life and the leader of its Retreat Workshops and Advanced Classes. Visit autonomyandlife.com for more information.