Excerpt About Self Image

One's Emotional Responses and Behavior are Determined by Identifications with Particular Self-Images

Not only one’s perception but of course one’s emotional responses and behavior as well are determined by the self-image a person is identifying with. For instance, to the same situation one individual might respond with fear, another with anger, another with apathy, with corresponding behaviors. Very often the behaviors are stylized and obviously automatic; in any case onenever has a choice about emotional states that arise, whether they are appropriate or not. This automaticity of response is much greater than either normal subjective experience or modern psychological theory acknowledges. It is in the nature of mind to be in a constant state of reactivity; and here we do not simply mean what is implied in the usual sense of the word. We mean something more fundamental: that the individual is always reacting with certain very limited patterns of emotion and behavior which reflect the self-image he is identifying with, and that this self-image is itself a reaction, in two senses: first, that the specific self-image that is operating is automatically elicited by the situation, and second, that the self-image is itself a construction
made up of reactions to past events from early childhood. This self-image is thus never a spontaneous response or a free choice, but is always a compulsive reaction........... We can see that this activity of personality—which consists of reacting to situations by dredging up memories of certain childhood object relations that are somehow associated with the situation, identifying with one or another of the images in the object relation and then manifesting certain automatic emotions and behaviors—completely lacks freshness, newness. It is a reaction of the past to the present. Being, on the other hand, is the absence of such reactions. Being means no reaction, no mental activity that defines who or what one is. In fact, Being is not an activity at all; it is an existence, a suchness, a thereness, a presence that is not doing anything to be there. Since Being is itself existence, it does not need the mind to be there. It is like a physical object, which does not need the activity of mind to exist.

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