Inner Morality Starts With Outward Behavior

Filed in Gather Politics News Channel by on September 23, 2007 0 Comments

A note to readers: this is a three-way collaboration between Gerry Wass, Boris G. and myself.  It will take a bit for all the links to be in place, so please bear with us.  I’d like to extend the invitation to you to extend the dialogue with us as well.


Please see the other pieces of the collaboration here:

Boris G.The Inner Morality part 2

Gerry WassMoral Immunity?




So, the issue is inner morality, AKA be good to yourself, not just others.  Seems like a good idea.  Yet, all around us people are treating themselves with a disdain otherwise reserved for Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer, or Celine Dion. 


In an effort to address this problem it’s been suggested that we design a moral code, a social contract, to help people stop treating themselves poorly.  While this is a noble idea, I fear that it is untenable.  First, I personally will never allow anyone to tell me what to think about myself or anything else.  This eliminates this idea right off the bat for me.  And unless you hook me up to some serious scanning technology, I’m not sure how you can really tell what I’m thinking. 


But to continue as an exercise, I also feel that enactment of an idea such as this is self-defeating.  For example, if we had this type of code, or contract, I presume the premise would be that failure to follow it would result in some type of corrective action, or sanction, whether that is public embarrassment, exclusion from parts of society, or something else.  So, who’s going to know who violates the code, unless someone turns themselves in?  And by turning yourself in, volunteering for corrective action, aren’t you in fact just using a different vehicle for self-abuse?  So rather than helping, I believe this would simply increase the issues with which this person is struggling.  Rather that “training” them through a code of conduct to stop abusing themselves, we are creating an additional way for them to do just that.


So what can be done?  There are a lot of institutional answers:  Psychoanalysis, religion, meditation, drugs.  All these offer benefits, some more than others.  But one thing they all have in common:  they all hope to help you become nicer to others.  In some cases this is an ancillary benefit, but it is a component of all these approaches. 


Let’s take a look at understanding the causes a little bit.  Why is it that these people act the way they do towards themselves?  Low self-esteem, repressing childhood anxieties and traumas, anxiety born of overstress at work or in a relationship, inherited chemical imbalance…there may be others, but let’s look at these common reasons.  I would posit that all of these, save the last one, are a result of your nurturing experience and interaction with other people.  Your self image is in great part a reflection of how you conform to societal expectations.  Whether it’s being overweight, slow academically, or any number of other reference points, expectations form the basis for our self-image.  Success in conforming to basic guidelines in our society is a significant way in which we evaluate each other, and ourselves.  I believe that your expectations are formed in reaction to the society in which you live, taking off from your first experiences with this process as a youth.


Familial discord, abuse or other traumas are a direct result of your interaction with others.  These things can’t happen without the other person there to commit the abuse.


Stress, whether at work, in a relationship, financially or otherwise, is also a result of your ability, or lack thereof, to deal with the expectations you set for yourself, expectations which are formulated based upon what society considers acceptable.  Stress, really, is a common factor in all these examples. 


Inborn chemical imbalance or illness is different.  Although you could argue that in many cases it’s a result of poor decision making (alcohol, nicotine, other drugs) by or injury to the parents, it often is an unavoidable genetic inheritance. 


Will negative stimulus resolve these issues?  I don’t believe it will.  I believe the answer, ironically, is to treat everyone else with tolerance, support, understanding, respect and love.  If everyone did this, we would have a world virtually free of self-esteem issues, except the tiny fraction who suffer from inborn physical or emotional ailments, and I would bet that the numbers of these would decline as well.  Perhaps we should consider sanctions against people who don’t act accordingly with this premise.


Trying to regulate how people think and reflect on their actions and lives, whether formally or suggestively, can never be a good idea.  Those who find that they are berating, criticizing, or generally being hard on themselves, probably have good reason to act in the manner in which they do.  This behavior should be welcomed as a sign of emotional wear and tear, as a sign that countermeasure is necessary.  Making self-criticism (even to the level you could call it self-abuse) a sanctionable wrong, would only serve to increase the sense of inadequacy that leads to mental self abuse.  One of the institutional therapies mentioned above might be appropriate.  There are many well documented ways of dealing with stress and emotional discord.  Of course, there are many other ways to arrive at a balance, but to me, the key is how everyone treats each other. 


That’s what I think.  What about you?


I am not a doctor, or a psychiatrist or a psychologist.  If some of the things I’ve said about causes of emotional self-abuse seem shallow, please feel free to point out where I have missed something.


About the Author ()

Mildly athletic, mildly overweight, mildly old

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