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Thread: Self-hatred? What-self hatred?

  1. #1
    Senior Member Nenka's Avatar
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    Self-hatred? What-self hatred?

    Ever since I read The Three Pillars of Zen last year, something in the afterword by Bodhin Kjolhede has stuck with me:

    One hindrance Westerners face [. . . ] is one that other teachers and I have come to see through years of close work with many students: a tendency, seemingly most pronounced in Americans, toward negative self-judgment. One American Buddhist teacher has referred to it as "self-hatred," another as "the inner critical voice." It is not just a sense of lack, or an awareness of one's faults, but an abiding conviction, deep inside, that there is something wrong with oneself. The self-excavation process of serious meditation will expose it eventually, but in the intimacy of dokusan it is often revealed to the teacher before the student sees it.

    This core sense of unworthiness would seem to be an outgrowth of our Western notion of the autonomous self (in discussions at East-West conferences, Asian teachers have been unable to grasp what we mean by it). It can be seen as the underside of the American celebration of self, or even the shadow cast by our Judeo-Christian God-concept. It may be masked by grandiosity or self-confidence, but peel away enough layers and, more often than not, there it is. (emphasis mine)

    I find this very interesting as a Westerner who has been struggling with feelings of dissatisfaction in myself since the age of thirteen. (I was going to say "self-hatred" . . . that might have been the correct term to describe one period in my life, but not so much these days.) Is it really true that this kind of thing is not felt or understood in the East? Frankly, I can't imagine living without some fundamental nagging voice convincing me that everything I do, wear, say, accomplish, choose is wrong or lacking or could be better. I do mean everything, from something as major as a career choice to something as stupid as gaining three pounds. And I know, before someone else says it: What me? What self? I am better than I have ever been at recognizing the absurdity of it but even so, I am still a product of my culture and times; I find these old feelings and thought patterns difficult to conquer.

    Anybody have any thoughts or experiences?

    Gassho,

    Jennifer

  2. #2
    Treeleaf Unsui Dosho's Avatar
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    Re: Self-hatred? What-self hatred?

    Hi Jennifer,

    I don't have a good sense of why "easterners" wouldn't understand such feelings in "westerners"...I could guess, but perhaps others could describe it from first hand experience. As for what he says about those of us in the west having more self hatred, even if that sounds a bit strong, I think he's exactly right. It's funny that he mentions this coming out in dokusan because one of the reasons I have never really asked Jundo for dokusan is an assumption, deep down I think, that I am total crap. I don't mean "full of crap" which usually connotes an overabudance of ego or self centerdness. I mean that deep down I think I am literally useless. It's a sense that I'm not worthy of his time...not because he is some exalted zen master...but because I am not worthy of his time or anyone else's for that matter.

    Now, I am definitely not feeling that way so much anymore, but I have identifed a part deep inside that clearly feels that way. I was actually just talking about this with my wife and I think "full of crap" and "I am crap" both spring from a self centered focus that is common in the west. Those with huge egos who need to be adored by others are rather self centered, but those like me that grew up believing they were wrong, well that's actualy self centered too! If I am the cause of everyone's problems, that's saying, "Me! Me! Me!" just as much as an egomaniac.

    In either case I think it is an attempt to deal with the world by either complete denial, "That could never happen to me!" or complete chaos, "Why wouldn't that happen to me?" Many westerners who come to zen are of the first group and need some knocking down to develop true empathy. But there are a few like me who are in the second group, perhaps needing to be built up first. But in both cases that part of us that focuses on the wonders or the tragedies of life we call the self needs...well, I'm not exactly sure what we need as I'm still trying to figure that out! Perhaps "I" need to stop trying. For now, let's just say our western conception of self needs some adjustment and maybe even complete removal

    Not sure if that's at all helpful. I'll be interested to hear perspectives on how these attitudes may differ in "easterners".

    Gassho,
    Dosho

  3. #3

    Re: Self-hatred? What-self hatred?

    Hi,

    Just a couple of quick comments. Statements like "Asian teachers have been unable to grasp what we mean by [autonomous self]" often reflects "Western teachers unable to grasp Asian teachers' English, and visa-versa". :shock: In almost 30 years in Japan (and a bit of China), I can say that "people are pretty much people", even if the tendency in Japanese society is to be a bit more "group oriented" and reticent to stick their own opinions out to the group (not something exclusive to Asia either). I believe, no real doubt, that folks here have a feeling of "self" like about any human being. In fact, I would say that so many many (most?) Japanese ... because they are so worried about meeting personal and group expectations ... are incredibly self-punishing and stressed and concerned about whether they (theirself) "meet the mark as a person" or are a failure!

    Next, on the question of "self-loathing" in general ... Yes, this is the little "self" judging it"self" precisely as the "self" judges and categorizes (and often bashes, runs toward or away from) so many things in life-self-world. So, we sit on the cushion dropping such judgements ... allowing things to be "as they are" (even as we try to fix what is best fixed). Shikantaza is excellent medicine for "self loathing".

    More on the subject here:

    viewtopic.php?p=41795#p41795

    (gee ... I hope you guys liked what I wrote above, cause I would hate to be thought a loser!) :roll:

    Gassho, J

  4. #4

    Re: Self-hatred? What-self hatred?

    I remember hearing when the Dalai Lama was in conference with western Buddhist teacher, they were discussing this idea of low self-esteem, and the Dalai Lama could not understand it, he thought it was some kind of new mental illness... :shock:

    But I think the reason why the west has this tendency to have low self esteem is due to the way our culture brings us up. We are told from a very young age to succeed, to win, to try to be the best, we constantly see celebrities and sport stars glorified, so it is a natural out come to look back at our selves and to think we are no good.
    In my schooling I have never heard a teacher tell me that I was good enough as I was, it was always do this better, be better at that, be like this and that person.

    I feel this trying to fit into a cultural norm that has so high standards in the west must have an effect on our way of looking at ourselves.

    some ideas...

    Gassho

    Seiryu

  5. #5

    Re: Self-hatred? What-self hatred?

    Quote Originally Posted by Seiryu
    In my schooling I have never heard a teacher tell me that I was good enough as I was, it was always do this better, be better at that, be like this and that person.

    I feel this trying to fit into a cultural norm that has so high standards in the west must have an effect on our way of looking at ourselves.

    some ideas...

    Gassho

    Seiryu
    Hmmm. I have had teachers in America tell me that, over the last many years, there is such a tendency to tell every child that "he/she is a winner", that everyone in the contest must get "some prize", that "all children are special" ... that it has backfired a bit. These kids, entering school and then the workplace, then insist that they should get rewarded and be treated as a "special winner" without particularly earning it or exerting themselves.

    This is something happening in Japan too, as the kids have been a bit more spoiled these last few generations, and there has been more equalitarianism in the society.

    Gassho, J

  6. #6
    Treeleaf Unsui Dosho's Avatar
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    Re: Self-hatred? What-self hatred?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo

    Hmmm. I have had teachers in America tell me that, over the last many years, there is such a tendency to tell every child that "he/she is a winner", that everyone in the contest must get "some prize", that "all children are special" ... that it has backfired a bit. These kids, entering school and then the workplace, then insist that they should get rewarded and be treated as a "special winner" without particularly earning it or exerting themselves.

    This is something happening in Japan too, as the kids have been a bit more spoiled these last few generations, and there has been more equalitarianism in the society.
    My oldest is just finishing kindergarten and I haven't seen much of that "everyone's a winner" mentality. His school tries to emphasize each kid's strengths and how they compliment those of the other kids. His class seems to work very well together and his teacher told us he will often cheer on other kids having trouble with some activity. He is scheduled to start t-ball in the summer and they have already indicated everyone gets a trophy, so we'll see how he reacts to that. However, when it comes to sports he participates though doesn't really ever seem that concerned about mastery. He just likes being around other kids, whatever they happen to be doing.

    It's been a theory of mine, but I often wonder if the membership at Treeleaf would tend to be skewed away from the "everyone's a winner" type of school experience, thus not really representing the actual norm. Just a thought, but I can't really imagine many of the jocks and bullies I went to school with having the least bit of interest in what goes on here.

    Gassho,
    Dosho

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    Senior Member Ekai's Avatar
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    Re: Self-hatred? What-self hatred?

    Not so much self-hatred but self-judgement, being overly critical and driven is something that I have had to work on over the years. Before my Buddhist practice and in the beginning years, I used to be so hard on myself for making the simplest mistake. I drove myself crazy with unrealistic expectations. I, too used to beat myself up for gaining just a couple pounds. And it so silly to do that. I am not nearly as hard on myself as I used to be, but it is something I continue to work on and I still catch myself at times. At least I realize it sooner before it manifests into something much more that it really is. I agree that our culture has an affect on how we perceive ourselves. It is up to us to see through these perceptions by letting go of our self-concepts and being at peace with ourselves whatever the present moment is. However, this is much easier said than done which is why is takes a lot of practice.

    Jodi

  8. #8

    Re: Self-hatred? What-self hatred?

    Before I started practice I was the typical depressed, hate the world, I'm crap, I'm no good, why bother going on-type. I was convince that my state of mind was directly because the world just sucked. If it got better I would be better.duh...

    it wasn't until a friend brought me into zen and Buddhist philosophy that I noticed that my pain, and anger was not created by an external force, but I was creating my own hell. At first I hated this idea, the idea that it is my own fault that I was not happy, I wanted to blame something else. But after practicing and realizing that I do have control over my mental state, it was much easier to get over some self hating. It does pop its head back every now and then. Like if I think a sitting period is no good, I tend to say. "this sucks, I'm never gonna be enlightened, why bother" but when these thoughts come, it kinda makes me smile. To know that I now can recognize them and let them go, is a great empowerment for me.

    When self- negative thoughts do come up, though, I do try to remember this: No matter how bad I think my situation is; there is someone in this world who will see it as a pure blessing to trade places with me. No matter how bad a I think my situation is; there is someone who will be blessed just to know that they have access to clean water, fresh food, a roof over there head.

    When I remember this, it doesn't make the bad situation go away, it just puts it into a new light that makes it much easier to get by.

    Gassho

    Seiryu

  9. #9

    Re: Self-hatred? What-self hatred?

    One hindrance Westerners face [. . . ] is one that other teachers and I have come to see through years of close work with many students: a tendency, seemingly most pronounced in Americans, toward negative self-judgment. One American Buddhist teacher has referred to it as "self-hatred," another as "the inner critical voice." It is not just a sense of lack, or an awareness of one's faults, but an abiding conviction, deep inside, that there is something wrong with oneself. The self-excavation process of serious meditation will expose it eventually, but in the intimacy of dokusan it is often revealed to the teacher before the student sees it.

    This core sense of unworthiness would seem to be an outgrowth of our Western notion of the autonomous self (in discussions at East-West conferences, Asian teachers have been unable to grasp what we mean by it). It can be seen as the underside of the American celebration of self, or even the shadow cast by our Judeo-Christian God-concept. It may be masked by grandiosity or self-confidence, but peel away enough layers and, more often than not, there it is. (emphasis mine)
    Exactly. Also added an emphasis. Mostly it comes from the need to push ourselves all the time, and be independant etc., etc.,. Childhood goes way down. Zen practice brings forth much that we can do without. Yet, we should not linger on it.

    Gassho

    W

  10. #10
    Senior Member Amelia's Avatar
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    Re: Self-hatred? What-self hatred?

    Quote Originally Posted by Seiryu
    I feel this trying to fit into a cultural norm that has so high standards in the west must have an effect on our way of looking at ourselves.
    In terms of education, western culture doesn't have as high a standard as eastern culture. They go to school longer and more, and their scores are better. It seems like they have pressure to succeed, too.

  11. #11
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: Self-hatred? What-self hatred?

    Seiryu wrote:
    When self- negative thoughts do come up, though, I do try to remember this: No matter how bad I think my situation is; there is someone in this world who will see it as a pure blessing to trade places with me. No matter how bad a I think my situation is; there is someone who will be blessed just to know that they have access to clean water, fresh food, a roof over there head.
    Thank you Seiryu this is exactly how I feel.
    Seeing the bigger picture, i feel, is one of the keys to happiness!

    Gassho,
    John

  12. #12
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Re: Self-hatred? What-self hatred?

    Thank you all for your teachings and will to open up,

    The big picture is the unobstructed, undefiled, boundless field of shikantaza. We may find oursleves in all kind of difficult situations, yet this is embracing it all. The compassion of space knows no bounds.

    gassho


    Taigu

  13. #13
    Friends of Treeleaf Dokan's Avatar
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    Re: Self-hatred? What-self hatred?

    Quote Originally Posted by Amelia
    Quote Originally Posted by Seiryu
    I feel this trying to fit into a cultural norm that has so high standards in the west must have an effect on our way of looking at ourselves.
    In terms of education, western culture doesn't have as high a standard as eastern culture. They go to school longer and more, and their scores are better. It seems like they have pressure to succeed, too.
    I was in a great discussion about this topic with a neighbour and he recommended reading Outliers by Malcom Gladwell.

    Add some interesting perspectives on why some succeed...

  14. #14
    Treeleaf Unsui Dosho's Avatar
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    Re: Self-hatred? What-self hatred?

    Quote Originally Posted by Amelia
    In terms of education, western culture doesn't have as high a standard as eastern culture. They go to school longer and more, and their scores are better. It seems like they have pressure to succeed, too.
    The term "standards" when applied to eductaion is a less than clear concept. As testing has increased, yes test scores have gone up...but achievement? No, that has only gone down. Standards is a term used by politicians that sounds good. Higher test scores sound good. But do they make our students any happier and in tune with themselves? I don't believe so.

    Gassho,
    Dosho

  15. #15
    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest Taigu's Avatar
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    Re: Self-hatred? What-self hatred?

    I cannot agree more with you, Dosho.
    A lot in today education is flowers in the eyes, a very big lie. The world has changed, education can't catch up.
    Most of the kids I teach are clueless about themselves and the world, drunk with media , games and computers and very negative. And yet, still an amazing light shines through. Japanese education is not better than Western education. We are in a global hazy zone. My job is to tell these kids that the world is not going to end and that there is a place for beauty, love and peace. My job is also to teach them that work has a profound meaning.

    gassho

    Taigu

  16. #16

    Re: Self-hatred? What-self hatred?

    Hi.

    As a teacher myself, i cannot but agree with the above said, it is also so while we in the west, sometimes, have an lower standard and grade we often believe we have an higher standard and grade than those in the East...

    The question is, as far as education, what are we to teach them and what do they need to learn?
    And what are schools for in todays society?

    And now, back to topic?
    I beleieve that school can be a good tool with dealing with and giving tools to deal with these things, the question is how often it is so...

    Mtfbwy
    Fugen

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