Breaking Off Your Rough Corners: A Practical Exercise

A tool we learn early on in Freemasonry is the Common Gavel, which we use as a reminder that we always have to break off the corners of our rough stones. Put more plainly, you always needs to work on improving themselves by fighting their own personal bad habits, character flaws, and personality traits that hold them back from being who you really are. Because you are not your flaws or unnecessary excesses. You don’t need your pain; doesn’t make you who you are. The various pains you have, the issues that could fill a magazine rack, they’re nothing but excess flack, covering your true self. Like Michelangelo said, the masterpiece already lives within the stone; just remove the superfluous pieces.

Put it this way. A Mason strives to always be his Authentic Self. The Authentic Self is who your Architect designed you to be. It’s that Quintessence, that First Matter, that spark of divine in your soul that your flabby body was built to lug around because it has convenient opposable thumbs.

From childhood we’re all beaten into shape to fit whatever need society has for us. We’re told to sit down, shut up, and eat our greens. To not make faces in church, and to learn our sums because these are all very important things if we want to succeed in the world. And honestly, many of these things can be important to succeed in this world. But we don’t just live in this world. We live in our Creator’s world, which He made for you. Your Creator gave you all the tools and interests and traits required to be exactly who you were supposed to be. This doesn’t mean we popped out of our moms perfect and it was all downhill from there. Babies make terrible adults (just try holding a conversation with one). But that to live in this material world we have all been conditioned. Don Miguel Ruiz, author of The Four Agreements and related books, calls this domestication. It’s like being broken, like a wild stallion, so you can be better used by people who want to ride your ass for the rest of your life.

In this process of domestication we tend to develop a lot of inner voices. There was a great BritCom called Red Dwarf that explored this perfectly as your Confidence and Paranoia. One tells you you’re great, you’re terrific, you’re a winner, and you’re better than all these losers around you. The other tells you you’re trash and you’re ugly and you’re a loser and everyone hates you.

Lister with his Confidence (right) and Paranoia (left) …and Rimmer (behind) who is a complete Smeghead.

Both of these voices are parasites living off your soul. And while it’s fine to listen to what they have to say, you need to learn to disregard them, ultimately, because they’re merely resistance, keeping you from your Authentic Self. Here’s a technique to try to do this.

EXERCISE: Personifying your inner voices

We’ve all got this Confidence and Paranoia in ourselves. And we act as if our Confidence is our self-esteem, and our Paranoia is our neurosis. But the mistake we’re making in this thinking is to assume they’re ours at all. They’re not. They’re not other peoples issues with us. These are other people’s issues with us. They’re judgement that, for no reason, we’ve accepted and agreed to believe, because we thought it would get us more love. They literally belong to other people. So make them other people.

Imagine that voice that tells you you’re great, and that voice that tells you you’re crap, are actual real people. Imagine they’re your friends since childhood, even the nasty one, because sometimes we have that nasty friend, like Cartman on South Park, and you’ve never gotten rid of them because they’ve been your friends forever.

And really imagine they’re people. Give them names, a face, a haircut, their own sense of style. How tall are they, how fat or thin? Give them a backstory, a hometown, a job, etc. What kind of car do they drive? What’s their ex-girlfriend like? Imagine anything you need to to visualize them as someone else, and not you.

Got it?

Okay, now ask yourself “Why do they act like this toward me?” And I mean psychoanalyze them. Walt has been hanging around you since you were a kid, but every time you fall on your face, he’s the first one to laugh. Anytime you’ve got a problem, he’s the first one to give you crap about it. When you lost your job he told you it was because you sucked at it. When you divorced your wife he pointed out all the mistakes you made and said you were a failure. What the Hell is this guy’s problem?! What would make someone treat his friend that way?

If Walt was an actual human being, then the only real answer is that he treats you like that because tearing you down makes him feel better about himself. Why you? Because he respects you. Or did, at least. He loves you, but one time, maybe a long time ago, without even knowing you did it, you hurt his feelings and wounded his pride. And he’s been making you pay for it ever since. He’s been dwelling on it. Obsessed with it. He’s blown it up in his head (you can see it every time he adjusts his toupee) , and won’t let it go because he’s essentially attached his identity to this unjust wrong he thinks you committed.

And maybe you did hurt Walt. Or maybe you didn’t. But he tears you down, because deep down in his own heart he loves you and thinks you’re the best, but believes you think he’s a joke. And he’s held a grudge against you. It eats at him because he can’t let it go.

This is why someone would act like this. Because he loves you, but can’t let his own issues go.

Don’t you pity him? Can’t you help but feel sorry for someone capable of holding a lifelong grudge against you for a slight you don’t even remember committing? It’s sad. Walt, your Paranoia is sad. Of course he’s going to dump on everything you do. It’s the only thing that keeps him going.

And what about Wally, your Confidence. This guy worships the ground you walk on. You can do no wrong in his eyes, even when you’ve done stuff you’re not proud of. He’ll still take your side even against you. He lifts you up and puts down everyone else around you. “You’re the King, baby!!!”

What a suck up. What a sycophant. What makes a guy like Wally behave the way he does? It’s pretty obvious, isn’t it? Wally’s got no self-esteem. He’s got the opposite problem of Walt, who’s got too much pride. Wally’s got no pride. No self-respect. He’s made a covert contract with you too. He strokes your ego; you protect him, because he can’t protect himself. He’s empty inside, and so he’s attached his identity to you as well. And that’s so sad too, isn’t it.

Ever since you were a kid, your two best friends have been these hollow people who need to orbit around you to give them any definition. If you weren’t in the picture, they couldn’t do anything but dry up and blow away.

When they’re in your head you think you’re mentally ill. But if you imagine them outside of your head you can see that it’s them with the problems. You realize that they’re not a part of you, you’re a part of them. And that like a couple of freeloading roommates, they’ve been living in your head, rent-free, and you’ve been taking care of them all this time.

It’s not that these voices in the back of your head are wrong about everything. It’s not like they can’t give you a helpful perspective on your life, but it’s like watching the news. You’ll get more out of it if you know their biases going into it. Neurosis and Egotism are, after all, partly genetic. And like all genes, they desire to thrive and propagate, and they’re doing it on you. Everything they say is expertly constructed to serve their own selfish, mercenary motives.

Listen to them, sure. But don’t take anything they say to heart. They’re not here for you. They’re feeding off you, like parasites.

For complimentary works on this concept, check out The Art of Self-Mastery by Don Miguel Ruiz Jr.

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