If we were to see someone trying to warm himself on a winter’s night by snuggling up to a color photo of a fireplace, we would easily recognize this person as being deluded. We know that the glossy paper image which he clings to for life-sustaining heat is powerless to do anything but mock his obviously oblivious mind.
But this unfortunate man can’t see the futility of his own misguided actions. Why? Because it’s his own mind, his level of consciousness, that has confused a mere representation of reality for the fact of it. Mental pictures have no reality other than to that level of consciousness which creates them.
This exaggerated illustration — of a man trying to warm himself with a photo of a fire — hints to us of a common, and yet virtually undetected glitch in our own mental machinery. While you and I may not stand beneath a photo of a waterfall to get cool and wet, we do try to stand on images. And no image is permanent or real. Here’s further proof.
We live with certain unspoken, but flattering mental pictures of ourselves. For instance, maybe we believe we’re strong, the unafraid type. We may even have others in our lives who, because of their image of being too weak, look to us to tell them how to conduct their lives. As long as our self picture of being wise, strong, or kind remains intact, it only makes sense to us that these people are better off trying to mold their lives after ours. But then, as it always does, reality bursts our pleasing self picture. Pop goes our beautiful bubble!
Perhaps a bitter feud that’s been long-brewing finally erupts in the home. Or there comes some unexpected bad news at the office. In a flash, we may find ourselves either trembling in the face of some shaky situation or fawning over some person of “power” — a person who, coincidentally, we had only moments before been telling off from the safe and secret confines of our now fearful mind. Where did all of our strength go?
It was never there!
All we ever possessed right up until the moment of that encounter with truth, with reality, was a pleasing picture of ourselves as being someone strong. Which leads us to:
No image of being self-commanding possesses either the strength or confidence it sees itself as having.
When the images we have of ourselves as being strong collide with the facts that show our pleasing self pictures to be only touched-up phonies, these shocking experiences are not the proof that strength doesn’t exist. We are never closer to being strong than when given the chance to see what is unreal about ourselves. Learning to welcome these healing moments — of seeing what is false within us as being false — is the same as welcoming a new kind of strength.
(Excerpted from Freedom From the Ties That Bind by Guy Finley)