The Desire to be Special

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Western Society continues to encourage a trend towards a kind of hyper-individuality. Hyper-individuality is all about what one person can do "by him or herself"--which ignores the reality of our interdependence. The popularized idea of being a "Supermom" embodies this idea. This woman is expected to be able to be a full-time mom, have a full-time career, have a great romantic partnership, manage the household, cook the meals, and probably do even more stuff than that. It's impossible, of course, but this is one example of what hyper-individuality looks like.

Furthermore, part of that pressure of hyper-individuality typically includes an emphasis on individuals being special. You need to be someone. That's the message anyway.

Additionally, the emphasis on being special is not on the "being," but on the "doing." So a more accurate understanding of this social message is that, "You need to do things to be special." You can write down the list of what that entails for you. 

It's not hard to see people struggling everywhere in the Western world with this belief. Some are working endlessly to prove their specialness. There are countless blogs, social profiles, video channels, and much more where people are trying to get noticed. Others strive after money, fame, and athletic achievements. And while there are a whole host of reasons people do these things beyond just the desire to be special, lately it seems that the goal of specialness is taking on a whole new level of importance to people.

Seeking to Be Special to Feel Like You're Enough

You know what society is meant to do? It's meant to help us survive.

But for some of you, you've already crossed that threshold. You have enough food, water, shelter, clothing, and so forth to live. But you're taught it's not enough. You're taught you're not enough.


That belief and the feeling of not being enough is powerful. It drives people to seek solutions, and that gives the social message that you need to be special all the more power. One of the implied goals of that message is that once you are special, the madness of needing to achieve something can end, and you will feel like you are enough.

So, you get that pay raise. You get married. You have kids. You win the championship. You get 1 million followers on YouTube. Whatever. The momentary high comes, and then it goes. And the feeling that you still need to do more remains. 

Defending the Illusion of Specialness

One tactic people employ to deal with this madness is to decide that they're special. Some do it after getting done whatever they thought they needed to get done. But the road to success is fraught with more failures than winners.


Instead, some people just decide that they're special, but now, they have another problem. They have to defend this illusory idea. There are so many ways that people have to boast, brag, affirm, and reinforce themselves. Sometimes, that means demeaning and devaluing others because others can't also be special too. Specialness has an implied hierarchy of being better than others. All of this is truly absurd...and sad.

On a less destructive side of things, some people try all the affirmations, get friends to tell them only positive things, balance energy centers, and so forth to fend off the feeling that they're not special after all. Some people even travel around the world to get different spiritual teachers and gurus to tell them that they are special. It's a lot of f'ing work.

And it's all a failing effort. Specialness is an idea, and ideas are made-up. So no one can ever succeed at this game.


Seeking Specialness in Spirituality

But when society has subtly and overtly drilled into your brain that you need to be a special individual, it's hard to let it go. So people keep looking for an answer, and there's something about spirituality that draws those looking to find or affirm their specialness more so than other avenues. 

Probably it's because of the idolization of spiritual teachers and gurus that goes on. After several thousand years of adulation and positive marketing, the Buddha and Jesus look really special to everyone. It doesn't matter what they thought and felt about themselves, millennia of marketing has won out.

So on a subconscious level, people think, "Hey those guys are special. Maybe if I follow them or have a spiritual experience, then I can be special too." For some, this leads them into pathways that turn them into wounded healers and false teachers. A few develop savior complexes because they think they can be "The Chosen ONE!" 

All the while, the deeper ego issues and attachments are untouched; their suffering continues and potentially brings more suffering to others.




Becoming No One Special

Then someone like me comes along and says, "You don't need to be special." And with all the social ego programming going on in your head, that statement makes no sense.

Then I say, "There's nowhere to go on the spiritual path."

Still the ego can't fathom this. It's been trying to do so much to get somewhere.

I say, "Be nobody."

And people are departing my blog and unsubscribing from my newsletter.

"Go within."

There are now five people left reading this post out of the couple hundred who started. haha

We are not socially conditioned to seek freedom from desires, so it takes time for the truth to sink in. We are conditioned to indulge every kind of desire no matter how much suffering it brings, and this must be unlearned. Otherwise, the ego will try to twist the spiritual path to get to some kind of experience of specialness.


Breaking Out of the Specialness Trap

Firstly, there are more than 7 billion other humans who are equally beautiful beings to you. Secondly, there are countless others beings and energies on this planet and in this universe. They are all held equally in the hands of the Divine, and part of understanding true reality is seeing this profound level of equality. From that space of Divine seeing--the awareness in you--evaluating anything as special or not special does not make sense.

Everything and everyone Is.

And that's enough. There's no way to make anything more special than it is.

But the ego doesn't want to hear it. It's too mired in its quest to find eternal safety, happiness, and health, which are the true goals behind seeking specialness. So if we want to break out of this trap of seeking to be special, we have to acknowledge the existence and futility of these deeper ego goals. We have to see that everything we've been doing has been about reaching an unending happy and safe life, and we have to realize that no such life exists.


Dealing with Your Ego's Tantrums

Any of you who have done any amount of inner work have had to watch your ego have its tantrums. Those are not fun moments...or days...or weeks. But like all things, they do pass when we stop giving them energy.

Yet, we've wired up our brains and nervous systems and hormonal systems and a bunch of stuff to every ego thought we have. So when the thought of surrendering specialness comes to some people, the ego hits the panic button. A flood of emotions hits, and you think you are under threat.

But you are not under threat, my friend. You are out of control. In trying to control life and win this specialness game, you've actually lost control of you. Your ego is running the show. It will continue to run the show until you stop giving it energy. Even then, the residual energy in the ego will have to burn itself out, and that may take awhile.

Keep breathing. Keep surrendering.


The Desire Breaks, Truth Arises

Everything I've written can and should be tested by you, but if you want to find out if what I am saying is true, you must surrender the desire to be special to yourself, to your mother, to your country, to your race, to your partner(s), to your child(ren), to your father, to any and everything you're trying to be special to. In so doing, the desire will break. In that moment, you see the next level of truth.

But that next level of truth is probably not so much about understanding more about others or life. It's usually more truth about yourself. It's usually more about why you wanted to be special and all the emotions and memories that you were trying to cover up. It usually means experiencing a deeper level of your suffering, and this tends to send people running.

Again and again, I point people towards discipline. When we are deeply out of touch with reality and twisted around in acting out unhealthy beliefs like trying to be special, it takes time to break out of this patterning. But it does happen through discipline. With the shedding of deeper levels of ego, peacefulness arises among other experiences. Like all experiences, it comes and goes, but it tends to stick around longer when we aren't mucking things up.

And with that peacefulness, we find that it's actually nothing special. It's just being here now.


Comments

  1. Funny to read about people's reactions.. Indeed, if we have been brainwashed our whole lives by this culture of individualism and success, modelled very well generation by generation - it can be very difficult to reconcile this with the notion of "just being" or "being noone".
    I am curious to look at it from anthropological perspective. I guess most of the previous generations have had to learn to survive- meaning, they had to get ahead at all costs. Privileged few could afford to accept themselves as they are and practice "beingness"- probably they were mostly priests and monks.
    Now that we live in a hugely different time, more of us are able to cross that chasm, yet the culture has not moved on and past generations have their hold on us too.
    This seems like one of the challenges we could acknowledge, and appreciate the tremendous effort and discipline that is required given the societal, family and other pressures we encounter daily..

    :)

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    1. Hi Katia. I don't know about the idea of "getting ahead at all costs." That's very much a notion of Western Culture. Beingness has no issue with survival. It's with us always. So it's not just sitting around praying/meditating.

      Survival isn't getting ahead. It is just survival. And it depends how far back we want to go in terms of anthropology. It sounds like you are guessing in the last couple of centuries. Human beings were around for a couple million years before we started the experiment of civilization. So the hunter gather mindset would have been different than people in civilizations I would guess, but they would all still be in the here and now.

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