Who am I without my inner judge?
Who am I?
This is the age old question that accompanies every seeker on the path. It is the koan that makes us take risks, jump out of our habitual ways of being and living, challenges the boundaries of our personality and makes us reach for the impossible.
We follow different teachings to show us the way back to ourselves.
We may travel to the other side of the globe to be with our master or teacher; no mountain is too high, no valley too low…
Once the question has arisen, the thirst is here and wants to be quenched.
Through all kinds of groups and practices of meditation, inquiry and prayer we reach great openings and experience states of freedom, often only to fall back into old patterns.
How come this happens again and again?
How come we do not manage to support ourselves unconditionally and wholly? How come we do not recognize the beauty of our soul to such an extent that we let nothing and nobody create separation in us?
How is it possible that even though our bodies grow older, many people, when asked, report that their inner feeling is rather like that of a child?
And that at closer observation it turns out that they often do not have a direct felt sense of their adult body but again a rather psychological sense of who they are.
How come we do not manage to be fully present and be here/now?
What blocks our access to our essence, our true nature?
One of the mechanisms that is probably the main obstacle to our embodied self realization is what has been called the Inner Judge or the Super Ego.
It is that part in our psychic structure that constantly judges, pushes and manipulates the experience of the present moment.
So far only few people have developed a direct work on the Super ego.
AH Almaas writes:
"The superego is in reality the most structured and most highly developed part of the psychic structure or ego. It becomes the inner regulating agency, containing one's adopted and developed moral codes and standards of being and action...The individual, in other words, learns to approve of in himself what his parents approved of, and to disapprove of what they disapproved of. What is disapproved of becomes mostly pushed out of consciousness, relegated to the unconscious; and so these defense mechanism are ultimately forms or repression...."
Osho has referred to the Super Ego as conscience:
“Conscience is a pseudo thing. Conscience is created in you by the society. It is a subtle method of slavery. The society teaches you what is right and what is wrong. And it starts teaching the child before the child is aware, before the child can decide on his own what is right and what is wrong, before the child is even conscious of what is happening to him, before the child is even awake....”
In recent years I had a good opportunity to meet and understand this mechanism deeply.
For about 5 years I experienced the bliss and emptiness of simply being here. During this time I was completely unhindered by the judge. I did not need to keep its inner company. Aloneness was bliss, emptiness was peace and there was a deep sense of having come home. I could, if I wanted to, still detect it at the very periphery of my awareness but my attention was with the bliss of my experience and I was not interested at all in what the voice had to say.
I had no clear understanding of how the relentless commentary in my mind had all of a sudden come to a stop. When people asked me how “to do it” I had no answer other than to say: Don’t listen to it, which not many managed to do.
Then the death of a close friend threw me back into the world of form and pain and of the great disillusionment of being thrown out of paradise. With that “fall”, the super ego made its come back with a fury. It had been lurking by the side for 5 years (without me understanding its functioning) and grabbed the first moment of weakness to jump in and try to put me back in a very old place.
(“See that you are nothing? Now everyone can see that you are fake! I told you, you would never get enlightened. You have cheated everyone!” etc)
It was so overwhelming that for some time I totally believed what it said and collapsed in depression as a result of it.
After some time I called a friend to share my distress and he said very cheerful: Don’t listen to your super ego!
And all of a sudden it dawned on me again that I was not wrong, that I had just blindly fallen prey to the relentless fury of a mechanism inside that was not even personal.
A mechanism that functions totally automatically and mechanically and is therefore not always so easy to recognize.
In the year that followed I started to observe and study this phenomenon in myself and others deeply. Reading different books, following groups, retreats and a specific training on the subject.
The “monster” was unmasked and visible and while it is experientially real, it also shows to be as illusory as the rest of the mind.
Nevertheless, as Avikal wrote in his group description: The most important step to fully be myself and actualize my individuality is to learn to defend against the attacks of the judge by developing focused alertness and skillful means.
While this is not the place to give an elaborate psychological chart of our ego, super ego and its functioning it might be interesting to stop for a moment and ask yourself the following questions:
Am I fully present right now?
Do I have a full physical sense of my body? Am I in my senses?
Am I aware of my exquisite preciousness and beauty? And can I feel that?
Am I connected to my heart right now? If not, then what am I connected to ?
Am I relaxed?
How do I actually experience myself right now? Is it factual or psychological?
Most probably the answer to quite a few of these questions is no.
Instead of presence you may find judgment about the fact that you are the way you are.
Often these judgments appear in the “I” form with our own voice, like: “Oh, I am again not present”, “I will never get it”, and we immediately believe these thoughts. When we do that, we turn against ourselves and experience some measure of contraction somewhere in the system. We move away from ourselves and from presence.
We do not even recognize that these voices have their origin outside of ourselves.
After such an attack our life continues from behind a veil of shame and guilt and our energy and body are shut down to some extent.
If the judgment comes in “you” form, (“You are so stupid. When will you ever learn. How long have you been meditating? You might as well stop now”) it may be easier to recognize as a voice that is not intrinsically yours. But then again: Whose voice is it? And even more so, why do we listen to it?
As said before, it is the internalized voice of our parents, telling us how we should and should not be, the inner judge.
This judge still believes that we need protection from reality, just as our parents did. It tells us where to focus and what to believe.
In fact the judge is nothing else but an accumulation of very fixed beliefs.
The negative beliefs speak for themselves (e.g. life is dangerous, people will always cheat you) while the positive beliefs are a bit more tricky. For example, the judge may believe in qualities like strength, courage, value and compassion but it believes that you can acquire them through doing. It does not know that there are intrinsic qualities that we are born with. So it may praise you when you make a lot of effort and “do” good. It may make you feel good for the moment but that feeling good is very conditionally based on what you do and not on who you are. The moment you do not “produce” the wanted state anymore, condemnation will hammer you down.
The voice of the inner judge constantly pushes you to create particular qualities, e.g. as a seeker and beats you up when you don’t manage to produce them.
Each time we follow the judge it is a form of self betrayal and we unconsciously relive the wounds of the past.
No wonder that our inborn intelligence does not appear anymore.
No wonder we get sick, as judgment is the original auto- immune disease. It creates self-rejection as opposed to self-defense.
It is not surprising that there is often some measure of anxiety running in the background of our experience.
You may find that there are places in your life where the judge is more dominant.
Let us take sex, money and relationships for example.
In our childhood there was often a lot of condemnation of our instincts, so the judge has attached itself to our three basic instincts; the sexual, the survival and the social one. That is why the attack is often so immediate.
When we find ourselves in a situation that threatens our survival we will immediately find the judge there, reinforcing old beliefs about scarcity.
“Don’t spend so much money, like this you will anyway be broke soon”
“Look at the world, the entire economy is going down”, “If you act like this you will never make it, better hurry up and do something”
In this way we stay within the frame of scarcity and only reinforce it and feel frustrated because we do not find a way out.
When you are meeting a beautiful woman or a beautiful man that turns you on, there it will show and tell you that: “Don’t even try, you know you are not attractive. He/she will anyway reject you.
Look at yourself! “ Shutting down your joy and juice.
In relating to others it can tell you that you are not good enough, that no one will like you or see you. Better you hide from the beginning otherwise you only get hurt. Or just the opposite: “Puff yourself up. Show that you are somebody, let them see who you are!!!”
Etc. etc. the examples are endless and painful.
The judge stops us in our tracks. It blocks spontaneity and builts up stress and tension as the natural flow of energy is interrupted.
Why would any intelligent being keep listening to these voices?
Why did we not leave them behind after our first group or first dynamic meditation, thrown it out once and for all?
There are many reasons. Let us look at a few fundamental ones.
First of all it is the glue that keeps our conditioning in place.
The imprints are often cellular and out of our direct conscious reach.
We need to access them through the felt sense in the body.
Most of all we listen because we feel so lost and are consciously or unconsciously always looking for guidance and support.
In the ideal childhood father is there to guide us into the world, providing support in the vast unknown that we are facing as toddlers.
Of course for most of us this was not the situation. Father was rather absent or angry or castrated himself.
Already disconnected from the source (which provides eternal and natural support) the child desperately needed some guidance and there was nothing else there but the ideas and beliefs of the parents and the child’s direct sense of loss of Self.
As a child we need a sense of identity to know who we are once we lost our original face. We cling to whatever is given. We lose ourselves before we can think and determine for ourselves what is right and what is wrong. So we depend entirely on others.
( Our relationship with the Super Ego is the root of all Co Dependency )
We cling so much that even when the parents no longer tell us what to do we have internalized their voices and cling to this company.
It gives us the illusion of support and of having a certain identity and image.
You may again want to stop reading for a moment and ask yourself what support means in your life?
Do you feel you have it? Do you feel its absence? How was it for you as a child?
Do you look for support outside of yourself or into the core of your being?
You probably recognize absence in some form or other.
The truth is that there is eternal and unconditional support available to us, AT ANY TIME.
It is not something we have to built up. It is already here. We haven’t even lost it. The only thing that got lost is our connection to it.
We have an inbuilt knowingness that life is here to support us, that we are capable of doing what we need to be doing. It brings the trust that we are okay as we are.
When we reconnect to this inner support we find a deep sense of relaxation and ease of being.
We no longer crave guidance from this judge. We reconnect with the true guide within. We no longer crave company. We enjoy being ourselves.
Which brings us to another aspect of why we hold on to our Super Ego.
If we let go of our Super Ego , we let go of our parents and when we let go of our parents we let go of the child. And with that we let go of our identity. Mostly this frightens us, as we are not accustomed to so much open space and energy.
We carry beliefs that we need to know what we want to do before we do it. We believe that we cannot function from open space.
The truth is that here real life starts, because here we finally leave survival behind.
Instead of having a self image we ARE ourselves.
We can say: “Here I am, passionately present in my own life. I am here to actualize my full potential”
Perhaps take another moment to feel yourself and notice how the above is affecting you.
Can you conceive of yourself as completely free? Can you imagine yourself without the weight of your conditioning? Being spacious and open? Fully alive and fully conscious?
If not, know that what is holding you back is your Super Ego.
Now of course the question arises:
How to do this? How to deal with this?
The more we want to grow, the more we step out of the boundaries of society, the more active the judge can be. The more groups we do, the more we meditate, the more our survival is at stake from the judge’s point of view. It will do whatever it can to maintain the status quo.
(And remember, it beliefs that this will bring you success and that it guarantees your survival)
It takes some determination to make the effort to know yourself so deeply.
To effectively deal with the judge it will need a commitment from your side. Often we need some support.
Here I can share a few guidelines to orient you towards your true nature instead of engaging with the judge.
First “rule” is : extend your awareness.
When under attack we tend to focus on the contraction and pain and we become oblivious to everything else that is going on.
Personality versus being From Bondage to Freedom # 42
Personality is borrowed. It is what others have made of you. Individuality is your nature. It is what you have brought from your very birth with you.
The guide helps you to destroy the personality. The moment the personality falls apart, suddenly you discover your original face. And your original face is always a tremendous transformation. You have got hold of your natural being, of your spontaneity, of your freedom. And these are the basic elements which will help you in the way.
Now you can move on your own, without any leader, without any father figure, without any pope, without any God. You feel a strange contentment with yourself. You feel whole unto yourself.
So remember, whenever I say something or I give a message to you, it is simply to destroy your bondage, your chains, your imprisonment. I am not shaping your being, I am simply deprogramming you. Your being is already there, covered under so many programs Christian, Hindu, Mohammedan, communist.
You are almost like an union. layers upon layers. My message is : start peeling those layers, And when you come to the very center of the onion there will be just nothingness in your hands, silence. From that silence, from that nothingness, everything becomes possible-- and you need not do anything. Just as the seed, finding the right soil, starts changing into a sprout.........The seed dies-- its death is absolutely necessary for the birth of the plant. And soon there will be a lush green bush full of flowers and fragrance.
But your seed has been covered with so many layers of culture, etiquette, education, religion, country, that you have completely forgotten that you are here to grow, that you have to become a lush green bush full of flowers, fragrance, dancing in the wind and in the rain and in the sun. To me, that is religiousness.
Avikal Constantino: The freedom to be oneself
AH Almaas: Work on the Super Ego
Byron Brown: Soul without Shame