There is an amazing post on Peter’s blog The Buddha Diaries that really struck a chord with me. He talks about something he learned in a writing class that had a direct impact on his life and how he saw himself.
This something he calls The Big Lie. Peter’s definition of this is “that mental formulation we invent to stand between our creative impulse and its fulfillment” It is a crucial key to who we think we are in many ways and why we may tend to sabotage things that are in our own best interest. We can dig deep into supposed reasons why we are not more successful, happy, spiritually advanced, loved, etc. and find many rationalizations for that but until we get to The Big Lie at the bottom of it all these are only symptoms of it. Peter has explained his discovery of his Big Lie and what that has meant to him. I want to share mine with you as well because I have the feeling that there are a lot of people struggling with some void that they are scared to reach into and fearful of what they might discover there.
In Peter’s post he talked of his difficult birth. (Do go and read it first so I don’t have to type a whole summary please and his way with words is well worth the read). And what that meant in terms of his discovery. My comment to his post was:
This birth story of yours is a remarkable coincidence. The circumstances are almost exactly the same as mine. The only difference is substitute doctor for midwife. To this day I cannot wear a turtle-neck sweater or tight scarf.
My big lie though starts even before that-I should have been someone else-I would have had an elder brother but my mother miscarried-so two girls (I am the eldest) and no one to carry on the family name. It’s a strange process dealing with those lies.
So that is my big lie. I should have been someone else. Taken at face value it seems rather ridiculous. How could such a ridiculous thing have an effect on my life? And how could I have believed it for so long? And how did I come to terms with it?
With the ghost of my older brother, Gary (a name had already been chosen for him) pervading my parents and other’s memories, in my childhood there was always a certain amount of tension. I knew something had gone on before my birth, a previous child, but I didn’t know the whole story about Gary until I was in my 20s, but I felt him there for as long as I can remember. There was an over-protectiveness coupled with an exaggerated sense of expectation. My younger sister was not included in this situation but was influence by it in some ways as well.
The effect of this was manifold. Initially and until my teens I was a cautious, introverted, over-achiever. Scared to voice any sort of preference or discontent. Always worrying if it was the “right” thing or not. But other times varying between bossy, when I could get away with it, and socially inept and uncomfortable the rest of the time. I did not play well with others. Then all hell broke loose for a dozen years rebelling against caution, introversion and achieving anything conventional. Then the pendulum swung back again to being an anxious, introverted, over-achiever. And by then doing a lot of meditation and self-examination, and having the knowledge of my pre-birth situation the Big Lie started to emerge enough so that I could get a sense of what it was about. I came to see that it had influenced whatever I had come to believe was my identity in pretty significant ways.
I have to say that studying Buddhism was incredibly helpful in that emergence because it enabled me to accept the possibility that it was really a lie or illusion. And even the possibility that I was not who I thought I was. If I had not known that, I might have been too overwhelmed to recover. I would probably have committed suicide. That was something I considered during the rebellion years.
Since realizing that, life has changed considerably. And in some ways this particular lie has benefited me much later on. Trying to live up to an illusion, to fulfill a role not really mine has broadened my skill sets at the very least. I started learning Jujitsu around age 6 from my father who was studying hand to hand combat for his army training. I can also shout a drill (FORWAAAAAAAAAARD MARCH!) just as authoritatively as any drill sergeant-Dad was a sergeant. I went on to study Karate and compete in martial arts tournaments. I could hit a softball out of the park at age 10. I know how to adjust a carburetor on a 69 Chevy. (this came in handy on a jeep safari to high altitude Ladakh a couple of years ago-car kept stalling) I got to learn all kinds of “boy” things in addition to all the “girl” things like sewing and cooking and stuff they taught in school at that time under the heading of Home Economics. At this point I am glad I can rewire a lamp and install new washers in the taps myself. Am also glad I can cook. Saves a lot of money.
Beyond that ultimately it gave a sense of confidence in my abilities, a willingness to take a risk when necessary, a lack of fear regarding expressing myself or using my intelligence-and the latter is something many women grapple with-who wants to be labeled the nerd-girl or “Marion the Librarian”-allegedly men don’t find intelligent women attractive (or that’s what MTV/magazines/ads/talk shows would have us believe)-from experience I’m saying it ain’t so. It also gave an appreciation for truth and honesty, a desire to get to authenticity within myself and others and in the longer term the courage to face reality. That’s pretty much what life is about for me now.
Going to those shadowy places and meeting the monsters reveals extraordinary things. Fear, well met, tends to diminish. As do uncertainty, indecisiveness, insecurity, anxiety, regret and even anger.
Big Lies lead to Big Truths if one is willing to confront them.