Speaking broadly, one of the principal outcomes of self-awareness is the change in one’s being. Impartial observation strips off the veil of illusions about oneself, and reveals inner reality and unresolved problems.
If one wants to go within oneself, one must be prepared to face some unpleasant revelations. The illusions the mind creates are powerful and breaking free of them hurts. Ego makes every effort to hide inner contradictions and sugarcoat itself, and is bruised each time the truth about the actual state of events is revealed and destroys the foundation on which it tries to base itself. That explains why people who are exhausted with unconscious suffering and desperate not for bliss, but simply inner peace, find it difficult to believe that conscious suffering can be of any benefit.
A desire to escape suffering transforms a person into a slave: He becomes a lifelong hostage to fear and equally dependent on all types of psychological defense and emotional anesthesia mechanisms. Therefore, if people are trying to avoid pain, they will not be able to cultivate self-awareness, because the very desire to escape suffering pressures them into retreating into unconsciousness and self-distraction. They don’t want to wake up; they want to fall into yet a deeper sleep.
The same principle works for those who feel that they are inferior and attempt to hide this feeling from others or even try to conceal it with ostensible attractiveness. Self-inferiority is imaginary and is developed in childhood as a response to invalidation instilled by “kind” caregivers, yet the very attempts to compensate make this feeling very real. After investing so much time and effort in compensating and making oneself attractive, it is difficult to turn away from the task of a lifetime and embark on eliminating self-illusions. The fact that a person’s illusions are maladaptive (belief in deficiency and inadequacy of self) does not make the process any easier; he is afraid to face inner reality and is hesitant to discover it.
This doesn’t imply necessarily that individuals with the problems outlined above are totally incapable of advancing to higher levels of awareness. Rather, the initial stage of managing attention will probably take a bit longer than normal. Moreover, of course, successful progress necessitates recognizing and accepting the problem in the first place. Therefore, everyone reading these lines is encouraged to look at themselves sincerely and try to find the answers to the following questions:
1. How bad is your fear of pain (physical, emotional, etc.)?
2. How badly do you want to prove to the world that you are smart, brave, charismatic, basically, that you are not a jerk?
Fear should be addressed by observing it using the passive observation technique, which, in addition, helps cultivate patience and willpower. A chronic sense of worthlessness and inferiority calls for preliminary compensation, embracing some degree of self-realization in career, sports, or hobbies. When a person achieves a certain inner balance, he is ready to undertake consistent efforts to achieve self-awareness—not just dream about it. Unfortunately, experience shows that when feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness are sufficiently severe, achieving at least partial self-realization and accomplishments in life is imperative. This will give one self-confidence, which is important in working on oneself. Those who dismiss this factor and attempt to practice self-awareness regardless become trapped in the error of comparing themselves with the enlightened, the saints, and allied companions in the search quest, if any. Comparing yourself to others leaves you feeling frustrated, disappointed, and sorry for yourself; moreover, a drive to inflate our self-esteem causes us to lie to ourselves and others increasingly, and causes ostentatious and inappropriate behavior.