TO be truly at peace with one’s self means rest indeed.
There is a quiet complacency, though, which passes for peace, and is like the remarkably clear red-and-white complexion which indicates disease. It will be noticed that the sufferers from this complacent spirit of so-called peace shrink from openness of any sort, from others or to others. They will put a disagreeable feeling out of sight with a rapidity which would seem to come from sheer fright lest they should see and acknowledge themselves in their true guise. Or they will acknowledge it to a certain extent, with a pleasure in their own humility which increases the complacency in proportion. This peace is not to be desired. With those who enjoy it, a true knowledge of or friendship with others is as much out of the question as a knowledge of themselves. And when it is broken or interfered with in any way, the pain is as intense and real as the peace was false.
The first step towards amicable relations with ourselves is to acknowledge that we are living with a stranger. Then it sometimes happens that through being annoyed by some one else we are enabled to recognize similar disagreeable tendencies in ourselves of which we were totally ignorant before.
As honest dealing with others always pays best in the end, so it is in all relations with one’s self. There are many times when to be quite open with a friend we must wait to be asked. With ourselves no such courtesy is needed. We can speak out and done with it, and the franker we are, the sooner we are free. For, unlike other companions, we can enjoy ourselves best when we are conspicuous only by our own absence!
It is this constant persistence in clinging to ourselves that is most in the way; it increases that crown of nervous troubles, self-consciousness, and makes it quite impossible that we should ever really know ourselves. If by all this, we are not ineffable bores to ourselves, we certainly become so to other people.
It is surprising, when once we come to recognize it, how we are in an almost chronic state of posing to ourselves. Fortunately, a clear recognition of the fact is most effectual in stopping the poses. But they must be recognized, pose by pose, individually and separately stopped, _and then ignored_, if we want to free ourselves from ourselves entirely.
The interior posing-habit makes one a slave to brain-impressions which puts all freedom out of the question. To cease from such posing opens one of the most interesting gates to natural life. We wonder how we could have obscured the outside view for so long.
To find that we cannot, or do not, let ourselves alone for an hour in the day seems the more surprising when we remember that there is so much to enjoy outside. Egotism is immensely magnified in nervous disorders; but that it is the positive cause of much nervous trouble has not been generally admitted.
Let any one of us take a good look at the amount of attention given by ourselves to ourselves. Then acknowledge, without flinching, what amount of that attention is unnecessary; and it will clear the air delightfully, for a moment at any rate.
The tendency to refer everything, in some way or another, to one’s self; the touchiness and suspicion aroused by nothing but petty jealousy as to one’s own place; the imagined slights from others; the want of consideration given us,–all these and many more senseless irritations are in this over-attention to self. The worries about our own moral state take up so great a place with many of us as to leave no room for any other thought. Indeed, it is not uncommon to see a woman worrying so over her faults that she has no time to correct them. Self-condemnation is as great a vanity as its opposite. Either in one way or another there is the steady temptation to attend to one’s self, and along with it an irritation of the nerves which keeps us from any sense of real freedom.