essence of man

i’m afraid of men.

i’ve been reading a book about Buddhism – Why Buddhism Is True by Richard Wright.

these two things are not unconnected.

the book has a lot of information about the brain and how it works, it delves into the biological and behavioural areas of psychology and connects current discoveries regarding how we think and process and feel and are to beliefs found in Buddhism. it’s interesting, effective, and has been very helpful in increasing my understanding of philosophical tenets that, at times, seem incomprehensible.

i am about halfway through the book; i’m currently reading about forms. about what things actually are beyond what we perceive them to be. it’s very intriguing and difficult to explain given that i’m new to studying this particular philosophy, but i’ll do the best i can.

Wright suggests, and science backs him up, that we imbue things – forms – with an essence, a meaning that parts of our brain respond to in either positive or negative ways. it’s the meaning we give to a thing and the response that’s generated from that meaning (the feelings) that we react to, not the thing itself. the thing itself, whether it be a book or a spider, has no value beyond what we give it.

Wright uses as an example a weed he encountered on two different occasions. the first time he came across the plant was in his lawn, and its presence there was deemed unacceptable. he has an “it’s a weed, it doesn’t belong in the grass; it’s a weed and therefore awful and hideous; it’s a weed and i think i’ll buy some herbicide” kind of response.

he encounters the plant again while out walking in the forest while on a meditation retreat and this time, his response is quite different. he thinks it lovely; bright and green. he thinks it looks right in the environment it’s now occupying. he feels happy and at peace in the forest and the presence of the once-hated weed doesn’t negatively impact him at all.

these two very different reactions to the same plant clarified some of the teachings regarding form for Wright; the plant hadn’t changed, but his perception, the perception that was driven by a feeling generated by an underlying belief about weeds, had. the plant hadn’t changed, but in the forest, the essence of weed that coloured his previous thoughts had been removed from his observations. without that essence, without a meaning attached to the form, his response was quite different.

i read this and suddenly had a thought. maybe that would work on essence of men.

you see, men scare me. all of them do, to a greater or lesser degree. i have too much history, there have been too many molestings, and too many sexual assaults. at the core, underneath it all, even when i’m with male friends, even when i’m with male family, there is a low-level hum of fear and trepidation. i don’t trust. i don’t like this facet of my personality but it doesn’t seem to respond to the cognitive conversations i have with myself. i try to remember that men are people, that they’re someone’s brother, son, spouse, and so on and that’s helped with the overt fear reaction, but it hasn’t addressed the bit that lies underneath, colouring my interactions with everything male.

what if, instead of cognitively debating my reactions, i started to address my underlying beliefs about essence of man instead? what if i sat down in my new armchair (another small victory, a chair to call my own) and started to unpack my essential beliefs about men? what if i could change my perceptions of men on a fundamental level into something that didn’t lead to a negative emotional cascade? that would probably lead to significant changes in my life. it would affect a lot of different areas – for instance, my aversion to leaving the house, a feeling that is, like my reaction to men, fear-based.

the first step will be figuring out what those beliefs actually are. that can be challenging. i don’t know what i’m thinking or feeling a lot of the time. still, the only thing to do is to start.

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