Executive Summary: The level of satisfaction you get from yourself and the activities you partake in, is strictly related to the degree you tyrannize yourself. The tyrannies are many. They stem from a plethora of whys, hows, and shoulds. Yet, they can be tamed and eventually act as gadflies that will propel your growth.
Side note: This is a long but important read. Make sure to make some time to read it because it covers a diverse set of topics.
Readability: 2701 words, Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease 64.6/100, Estimated reading time: 20 minutes
When we were young, we learned to internalize the messages that behaviors of others around us seemed to communicate. These messages eventually cemented themselves as rules and dogmas that we mindlessly follow later on in life. They torture our sense of well-being and impede our attempts to get our adult needs met. We unconsciously become tyrants to ourselves. We cause the stress and tension that break down our bodies. We separate ourselves from reality. We become isolated from others.
The tyrant works through the inner voices in our heads. He drives us to act counter to our developing values and perception of reality.
Below are the ways of which these voices manifest themselves, acting as road blocks in different aspects of our lives. If these words came from somebody we knew, we’d stay away from that person as far as possible. Yet these voices are trying to protect us, albeit from dangers that no longer exist. They were coded into our emotional responses when we were very young. If we never fully put those perceptions to the test, those voices haunt us.
Becoming conscious of them helps us alleviate and even eliminate them. The key to disposing these tyrannies is not to fight them or layer them on top of each other. You simply recognize their origin and how they cause disvalue to your life. The more you notice them, the less power they have over you. Once deep acceptance happens and corrective actions are taken, often times in the face of anxiety, they have a natural tendency to melt away. They become awkward clothes that we were forced to wear as kids, but we quickly outgrow as adults.
Tyranny of the Urgent
Expectations and tasks that come from outside seem so urgent and threatening to our status quo, but they only serve to distract us from our life’s task–to transform and actualize ourselves.
Strategy: Consciously prioritize what you do throughout the day starting with what matters to you most, and from the inside out.
Several factors are at play when we reframe our perspective on the things we do throughout our days:
- Inside out vs. outside in: Urgent tasks are outside in, since some imagined danger is posing a threat if you don’t do something right away to please others, such as paying your bills. Yet the most important tasks in your life will be inside out, where you give your deepest gift from the inside. Those tasks seem to lack important tasks that we were taught to perform.
- Process vs. results: Most tasks we do in life are result-oriented, meaning that we care more about the what rather than the how. These tasks are menial and they don’t transform us. The process-oriented tasks are the ones we should love to do no matter the result. There is an intention, but the goal isn’t as important as the enjoyment we derive from doing them.
- Quantity vs. quality: When we just do things to get through the day, we get a lot of stuff done but we don’t feel any better. When we do something really well, there’s a sense of internal validation. The internal validation drives a positive feedback loop for you to do things with high quality and attention to detail just for the emotional reward of doing so.
- Experience vs. efficiency: If we had to do everything with deliberation, we’d run out of time very quickly. Most tasks should be done quickly and just good enough. However, we have a tendency to overgeneralize and do everything this way, thinking that the more we get done, the better we feel. This is hardly the case. Learn to do some things just for the sake of doing something new to get experience. You will stumble and fail, but you will learn and grow.
With these factors in mind, you can prioritize the tasks that lay ahead of you. Write them down so you can be conscious of them. Simply be willing to try out the tasks that are the most meaningful, enriching, and that you can pay the most attention to. The more you attempt them, the more self-validation you will receive. Over time, the tyrant of the urgency loses his grip on you. You will see how most of the important tasks that others put on you are ultimately meaningless and often inconsequential.
Then you can focus on filling up your day with tasks that support your life’s task, one way or another.
Put it on your side: Sometimes you can consciously put yourself in situations where the adrenaline of an urgent task compels you to draw up unknown energy and creativity. Robert Greene calls this the Death Ground strategy. However, be very conscious and aware when you put yourself in this situation. You cannot rely on its energy all the time since the death ground will wear itself out. Be random and sparse with this strategy.
Further reading: Tyranny of the Urgent! by Charles E. Hummels
Tyranny of the Should
The messages and dogmas from family, culture, and media create the shadow self by making you think that you have to behave in a certain way in order to get your needs met. You constantly feel like you have to live up to certain expectations that are beyond who you are and what you feel.
Strategy: Know your true needs, then find effective ways to get them met through honesty, compatibility, and availability. Shoulds come from an outdated and hierarchical dependency belief that if you act in a certain way, somebody out there will see how valuable you are and automatically provide you with what you need. This is the covert contract of the pretenses we feel like we have to put up to survive. 1
While doing so, you see how you intend to act, which replaces the word “should” with the word “ought”. “Ought to” means that you have an intention to get your needs met, and without manipulation or covert contract, you show others how you can both get needs met mutually. Ought has none of the psychic weight that dependency puts on each other. Ought is simply a suggestion that allows itself to be accepted or rejected.
Put it on your side: On the way to eliminating the word should from your vocabulary, learn to listen to those voices, not repressing or ignore them. They point to a need that you have. Consciously identifying and prioritizing your needs is the most useful thing you can do. Once you know of them, you can use framing and reframing to modify the voices to say ought instead of should.
Further reading: Neurosis and the Human Growth by Karen Horney
Tyranny of the Internal Boundary (Self-Limiting Belief)
Internal boundaries that were meant to keep you safe when you were a child keeps you from seeing life as an abundant event rewarding you for every risk that you take.
Strategy: Recognize the intent of the internal boundaries, then take gradually bigger risks to push out. 2 Then learn to form best self-protection mechanisms through calculated risks, awareness, ability to learn from mistakes, and the growing belief that you can handle anything as long as it’s real.
- Awareness of your boundaries: First, you need to bump into your self limiting beliefs. You do this by triggering yourself in ever more challenging environments. When you are triggered, you are anxious and overwhelmed. First, learn how to sooth yourself. Second, learn how to identify real dangers from the ones you imagined.
- Calculated risks: Your anxiety from being overwhelmed typically stops you from truly evaluating the threats and taking the appropriate level of risk to your skill level. Once you have learned to calm yourself to the level that you can effectively evaluate the situation and yourself, you can take appropriate action. It doesn’t need to be perfect. You don’t need to succeed on the first go. You just need to survive and try again.
- Learn from mistakes: You will fail. So fail fast and fail forward. Your ability to learn is proportional to your ability to counter the negative self talk from failing. Take responsibility for producing the outcome and try again.
- Grow the belief that you can handle it: You have and will handle anything that comes your way, but only if it’s in the present and you have truly immersed yourself in the experience. If it’s in your imagination, you have no tool to handle it. If you deny the experience, including your evaluations and emotions, then you will end up validating your self limiting belief instead. However, if you truly step up to the plate and own whatever happens, a belief inside of you will grow that you can handle anything. You will use it to keep testing yourself.
Put it on your side: Form appropriate internal boundaries, but know to challenge them again from time to time: some boundaries are valid. Put markers and reminders in your memory to let you know your true capabilities and drawbacks. However, since you are always growing, remind yourself to go back and check on these boundaries again and again.
Further: Transforming Negative Self-Talk by Steve Andreas
Tyranny of the Worst Case What-If Scenarios
Our brains are wired to imagine the worst case scenarios to prepare us to handle them. It’s useful for us to take the necessary actions to prepare, but it’s counter-productive when we just ruminate.
Strategy: Be willing to face the worst thing that could happen if it happens, then validate these scenarios as a habit. Then the rumination is a beautiful game you play with your own mind. When it ruminates, you have the automatic reaction of going “oh really?”
The ruminating mind, or what I call the “memory-simulation” machine, was a very useful tool for our ancestors to overcome their challenging and changing environments. This ability to encode experiences and project them to future events allows us to learn quickly and concretely. This machine works exceptionally well under the following conditions:
- It has to be constantly and continually reprogrammed. Since our capabilities are constantly growing, what we perceive as dangerous and challenging must also evolve. Our memories serve us best when we are able to create new ones. Our projections serve us best when we put them to the test.
- It has to be tested against actual reality. The more we remember and imagine, the more off-base we can become. Being able to come back to reality and take the right actions to test our concepts determines how healthy our minds are.
- It has to be put to rest from time to time. Like all well-maintained machines, our brains need rest and restoration. This is the point of sleep. Although we never stop perceiving and taking in information, we can stop processing once in a while. That allows the buffer to flush and build up with new information.
- It has to be able to communicate truthfully and with integrity with other machines. Since our needs are complex, we must coordinate and mutually meet each others’ needs. However, the effectiveness of how this can happen is proportional to our ability to communicate honestly our needs and how we plan to get them mutually met.
Although all this seems daunting, the simple answer to keep the mind fresh and sharp is to just be willing. Willingness is the greatest personal power a being has to overcome the challenges of his environment and even his own ruminating mind. Being willing means you put your memories and projections aside and attempt to create more functional paradigms of which to operate on.
Put it on your side: Worry gives you a window into your insecurities. Use conscious worrying (obsession appointments) in a scheduled, time-bound window to bring those issues to the surface. You can then devise challenges and exercises to deal with those insecurity issues. A simple way to do this is to schedule 10 minutes every morning and every night to think about all the things you need to worry about. In fact, do it right now if you haven’t performed an obsession appointment before. What do you notice?
Further: The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle
Tyranny of the Outcome (specifically, the emotional attachment to a specific one)
Life tends to reward us in many different surprising ways. Yet we get pigeonholed into thinking that only one way could truly satisfy us. This attachment to a very specific outcome, aided by memory and fantasy, can only result in emotional pain. When we don’t get what we want, the child in us cries like someone took away our favorite toys.
Strategy: Recognize your own attachment patterns, including fantasies and thoughts that create specific outcomes. As you consciously learn to detach and let go of outcomes throughout the day, you can use it to let go of outcomes as you attempt to achieve a particular value. When you are free to act and take huge risks, the rewards will come to you in ways that you can never imagine. Grace and miracle enter your life.
Then imagine what if that outcome has already occurred or is guaranteed to occur somehow. From that position, you don’t have to worry and become attached anymore. You can just sit back and let life take you on that ride.
Put it on your side: Imagine what if the opposite was to happen. If you are attached to getting 1st place, imagine you are getting last place and see how you would emotionally respond. You’ll find that you can certainly detach when the outcome actually doesn’t matter that much in the larger perspective. What you learn from the action does.
If are you afraid of being rejected, then actively trying to get rejected frees you from the outcome and lets you act freely with all your potentials. So, anytime you feel anxious in anticipation of some external event that you hoped for, it’s your cue to recognize this attachment to outcome and be willing to accept the complete outcome.
Further: 4-Part Podcast by Dr. Robert Glover on Attachment to Outcome
Tyranny of Perfectionism
Believing that you have to do everything right and perfectly leading you to avoid doing great things and hide your mistakes instead of learning from them. You believe that the outcome says something about you instead of outgrowing your challenges.
Strategy: There’s no way around it. You have to open yourself up to doing things imperfectly, clumsily and fall flat on your face from time to time. To escape the jailcell of perfectionism, you have to admit how it protects you from the outside world and then put a big gaping hole through it so that the inner true self can grow.
Perfectionism is against nature, which needs variation and willingness to evolve and transform. However, when men seemed to transcend nature, we extended the nursery of which we spent our childhood. This childhood means learning to expect and behave in such a way that is considered vaguely as perfect. This idea of perfectionism varies wildly from person to person and culture to culture. Yet we cling onto it since we think that’s what it takes to survive.
This extended stay in the nursery means we never got to mature to our full potentials, unless we make conscious attempt to do so. However, to get out of the nursery means that we have to learn to make mistakes and learn from them. This means to be perfectly imperfect. In essence, we have to poke a hole in our image of perfection, and live life as an imperfect but whole being.
Put it on your side: Train your perfectionist tendency to become detail-oriented. This allows you to do more things with high quality. Whenever you find yourself fretting about something, see which detail you are missing instead.
Tyranny of Comparison
You compare yourself to others in an inappropriate way, with inconsistent standards. You see others as having more than you. You fret over what others who are further along than you possess instead of see how much further you are than others. Yet instead of motivating you to take more risks, these comparisons make you more dependent on external factors instead your own internal faculties.
Strategy: Be grateful for anything and everything you have. A gratefulness practice, which starts from the mind, becomes a habit, then sinks deeper into the being feeling grateful for partaking in the cosmic dance of consciousness. Gratefulness has the power to let you see through all the habitual ways we compare ourselves to others.
Comparisons were what your parents did to you to get you to behave like your siblings and peers. This makes it easier on them but creates a host of difficulties for you in adulthood. But don’t blame them, they were done the same by their parents. This is how behaviors were controlled through the generations.
Put it on your side: Consciously, subjectively, and selectively compare yourself to others who are less fortunate than you. This is still comparison in an unfair way, but it is unfair in your favor. You see how truly blessed you are that you are given the mental tools you need to achieve your values in life. While others depend on external condition to derive happiness, you can do it from an internal standpoint, no matter how unfair. This can be the start of the road beyond comparison, when you won’t need it to feel secure and worthy anymore.
Further: Beyond Success and Failure – Ways to Self-Reliance and Maturity by Willard Beecher and Marguerite Beecher
Tyranny of the Procrastination
You don’t believe that you have the mental tools to achieve certain tasks now, so your mind comes up with reasons to put them off until later. You subconsciously tell yourself that you are not good enough, to either get the task done with high quality or enjoy the benefits that it brings. This mental resistance makes you do the task with a half heart and half mind and often in conjunction with the tyranny of the urgent.
Strategy: Create a habit of doing things that you love, no matter how small and pointless. Simply put your body and mind into action creates a momentum and creativity that allows you to tackle any task. Learn to observe and modify the voices from within and from outside that seem to tear you in all different directions and create resistance instead of acceptance. With this habit of simply acting, you propel yourself into an almost unstoppable momentum.
Most people think too much before they attempt a task. They make it bigger than it is. Their grandiosity gets in their ways. Then, when it time comes to actually get it done, they put it off by finding reasons, no matter how specific or general, to avoid doing it. The simple act of grazing our ways to success through incremental failures is blocked by the mind.
Acting small cures all this. A body in motion wants to stay in motion. The key is to do things that you love in a very small way. Create no expectation for outcome. This may just mean going for a walk through the park. Suddenly, creativity and motivation spring up almost from nowhere. The mind cannot perceive where it comes from since it doesn’t know that it was there, latent in each person all along. All it takes is for you to get out of your own way.
So, when you find yourself in analysis paralysis, just do something small. Don’t make a thing out of it by overplanning or prioritizing.
Put it on your side: you may procrastinate on purpose to put yourself on death ground. However, this needs to be done sparingly and consciously. 4
Procrastinating on some task may mean you don’t want to do it, period. Then learn to simply let it go.
Further: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg and How to Stop Procrastinating: A unique 5-step Strategy by Andrian
Tyranny of the Fairness
Believing the world should be a fair and just place, we repress our own drive to achieve. This drives us to act unfairly and inconsistently in our attempts to achieve those values unconsciously.
Strategy: Learn to maximize the resources that were unfairly given to you so that you can give more to others that come into your life, and treat others consistently regardless of their background and life situations.
Fairness, like all other tyrannies, come from our childish beliefs about how we should act to get love and resources from our caregivers. This hurts us when we go out to the world that has no notion of fairness. Some people were given more resources and opportunities than others. They get more from luck than others. Instead of celebrating grace and rewards that life gives us, we corner ourselves into feelings of jealousy, which pushes us further from grace and virtue.
To overcome this, we become grateful to the resources and opportunities that we do have. We start to see that we are blessed in much much more ways than we realize. We become conscious of the ways that the media and culture use fairness as a way to make us into well-behaving but repressed beings.
Instead of striving for fairness or justice, we strive for consistency, receiving, and giving. When we truly receive the gifts that we were given in life, that is to appreciate and put them to maximum effect, we can learn to give to others without expectations of anything in return. 5
Put it on your side: When you feel that life is being unfair to you, immediately take action that promotes any value you hold. Go get a massage. Go to the gym. Call somebody close to and invite them for dinner. Remember to observe the voices screaming for fairness in your head as always, but don’t let the voices become a belief.
Further: Fairness is Overrated by Tim Stevens
Tyranny of the Unconditional Love
Believing that we were not unconditionally loved, we live our lives like wounded beings blaming our parents instead of finding the wholeness from within that is required to live openly and honestly. This is simply a matter of perspective and we can change it anytime.
Strategy: Find the wholeness from within. That is all the unconditional one ever needs to integrate oneself from the mind to the consciousness. This allows us to fully develop our consciousness and pass that gift on. This gift is seen as unconditional love since it is free of the shame and conditional leverages that most children were raised with. This consciousness, this differentiation, this independence is built into all beings and can be discovered anytime. 6
Further: none, just my theory
Put it on your side: Simply the last words on willingness. When you are willing, you love yourself unconditionally. It means that no matter what happens out there in the world, you will find a way to strive and grow. This willingness is not so much taught as it is inhibited by the mind. The mind creates conditions. When we transcend the mind and program it to serve the well-being, we are loved unconditionally. We are willing to try and fail and be a unique experimentation of consciousness that each of us is. That in itself is the joy of living and being in the moment. That transcends all conditions of love living in an egotistical world seems to do. Take care.
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Andrian’s note: I edited and designed the article. The choice of images was based solely on intuition.
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