November 22, 2016

The internal narrative

The just ended US presidential election was fraught with so much negativity and mudslinging that one begins to question the very process of democracy that is being played out in the world. This is not to say that I doubt the value of democracy. No i just feel that the process need so much reflection and reframing. In this home of the democratic institution  -- so to say -- what transpired during and after the election are events to behold and reflect with alarm. The internal narrative divided a powerful nation – one that was supposed to be the paragon of a democratic nation.
Yes we all live by our internal narratives. And that is where the human personality is defined. But how evolves the internal narrative?

Whether good or bad narratives, the basis is in our past. Both good and bad are the stories about ourselves that we have gathered from the past – those that have been pointed at us many times over and that has slowly got embedded in our subconscious. These have come to define our personality. For instance, when a parent scolds a child, for whatever reason, that he or she will “not measure up to anything”, or any other negative statements whenever their child does not measure up to their expectations. Or when a child’s mischief is given colour by parents or neighbours as the unruly child who is always “bad”. And there can be many other examples of negative stereotyping. In the same vein there can be positive stereotyping also that can get embedded in our psyche as good potential.  

Over time, these repeated affirmations from these familiar sources then become our daily reinforced affirmations too, and soon we start believing these to be true. Now as time goes this weakness or inadequacy does not remain confined to that conditional inadequacy alone but it has expanded – to be our general attitude -- at school, on the social stage, and at the workplace, and perhaps in all our relationships. Negative comments and statements continue to feed this pain within us - so much so that whenever we face daunting situations in life, this pain or fear of incapability kicks in, and we automatically and inadvertently or subconsciously allow it to snowball and affect our attitude to life itself. Imagine how this has grown and this feeling can surface in response to the slightest negativity, or even perceived negativity, of a given context. Like a mirror, our internal fear is reflected in the world around us. We imagine an antagonistic world and so we act with defensiveness. Our social interactions are laced with defensive negativity, and if becomes difficult for us to accept another person’s point of view without being argumentative or challenging. We live in the bubble of our own narrative.

In adult life, these inadequacies surface as personality traits that make or break society. Those with the negatives will attempt to deny these by putting on the airs of the opposite. Weakness is covered in the drape of power and dominance or violence or repression (to cover up the fear of weakness). Negative personalities find expression in the attitude of negation. Most power mongering people are actually those with much internal psychological fear. The tyrants of the world and those with habitual anger and pride and ways of dominance are those that are crying out inside to be seen as capable, but imprisoned in their fear, or jealousy or resentment. They cause society so much damage as they attempt to reclaim the confidence that they so sadly lack.

Conversely, it is not too difficult to know that when one is confident and content there is no need to show dominance, for one is fully satisfied with oneself. It is the truth. So a caring society that doesn't have jealousy and resentment to the fellow neighbours and other citizens is the product of satisfied and calm minds. Of course there also are others who in the state of negative mind are unable to to become such power wielding tyrants. They ply their way in other smaller and less significant negativity or they are just stuck in the misery of their narratives unable to get to the front of society just sitting moping and a slave to their negative emotions. And sadly some embracing the negativity as a pain body that has by now perhaps become their companion and friend. They can't imagine life without that negativity and thus their judgemental nature.

Therefore it is so necessary for parents to understand the painful consequence of an unhappy childhood and attempt to make this precious formative stage of our children’s lives joyful and cared for; a time of building their character and a time they will reflect with fond memories. For many parents this will be difficult, for they too have perhaps had difficult childhoods and are perhaps also grappling with the trappings of an unkind past. But with awareness, we will not be unconscious anymore in facing life. 

We can rise above the petty internal narrative and allow the next generation to grow into fearless and confident individuals. Inabilities are a part of any human being just as well as strengths are. As parents we need to promote beliefs of strength in our children for they will be the future citizens. We need clear thinking and confident human being in our nation unclouded by these mental trappings of weakness and negative sensibilities. We need those who can appreciate others and inspire confidence in others and be the responsible human being that Allah SWA created us to be -- the competent vicegerents on this earth.

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