Our 5th installment in the Serious Resiliency Series
So far in this series we’ve examined how the demons of anger and anxiety are like corrosive acids, burning through emotional power, energy, and the capacity for being present in our lives. Relatively speaking, these demons are easy to identify. When venting anger strikes, the perp is immediately aware of the impact on others (and self I might add) and retains the choice to plug it. With anxiety, as far as corrosion, the damage accumulates slowly, like steel oxidizing into rust rather, than the explosive qualities of raw anger. Yet anxiety, too, remains within our field of awareness. We know what’s going on and will want to change it.
The third of these insidious demons is as equally nasty as anger and anxiety, but in a twist of additional insidiousness, it is typically hidden from the perpetrator, who is inside the bottle and can’t read the label. The third demon is arrogance.
The demon of arrogance can be completely hidden from our view, though there is no question everyone else around us is painfully and silently aware of it.
I was a victim of this third demon in my early twenties. An accomplished athlete with an imposing physical presence and solid IQ, I tricked myself into feeling overly confident about my place in the world. This was a false confidence that betrayed itself occasionally through arrogant behavior. For instance, I found enjoyment in sarcasm, and playing funny, but cruel practical jokes on less fortunate peers. Had I not stumbled into a mentor relationship with a martial arts master, who knows where this arrogance would have led me? If I had a time machine I would go back and have a do-over. Now I am careful to earn my trident of respect every day.
Arrogance is born of insecurity, underpinned by a fear of not measuring up. Perhaps you are smart, but fear not being the smartest. Or you are unsure of where you stand with the “in crowd,” and uncertain about your physical looks. Seeking approval and acceptance externally only leads to deep internal confusion. You feel like you are navigating through quicksand-filled jungle growth constantly changing course to avoid sinking up to your neck. You have no sense of internal direction or balance and no intrinsic sense of self-worth. This is a painful way to live, leading to much suffering. Is this part of your story? If so then it is time to move into humility by training out arrogance, which can be the underlying force beneath pride, prejudice, judgment or, as in my case, false confidence. Let’s examine these four indicators of arrogance.
In his seminal work, Power vs. Force, Dr. David Hawkins devised a scale of emotional energy from the lowest of negative energy, shame (0), to the highest, universal love (100). Interestingly, pride registers just above the demarcation line between negative and positive emotions. It is not as damaging as shame, but it sure isn’t going to propel you forward in life. Pride is a self-centered or ethnocentric emotion, which shuts out others and charges up your ego mind. Pride feeds the fear wolf. That which you are prideful about is ephemeral and can be taken away. Like the SeaHawks in the 2015 Super Bowl, you may make it to the championship but fail on the one-yard line with a prideful Hail Mary attempt. If you don’t measure up, in anything you deem to be socially or professionally important, pride can easily devolve into anger, shame or guilt.
We continue to see nasty examples of prejudice playing out across the globe. Black prejudice towards whites, whites toward blacks, followers of Islam toward Christians, Christians toward Islam. Round and round we go, where it stops nobody knows. To pre-judge others removes any chance of truth arising, understanding to unfold and authenticity to develop. Overt racism is the most extreme form of prejudice, and shares a bed with arrogance. Covert prejudice is felt more than seen through behavior. You may state otherwise and trick yourself, but deep down you still believe it. Your views toward gays, marijuana, women in power, Marines vs. SEALs (or whatever) are examples of beliefs that unlock the demon of prejudice and cut off connection. Take an honest look at where you pre-judge in life, including subtle things as the food you eat, the clothes you wear, and the people you hang out with. To this day I recoil from eating fish because I was brought up on a Friday night frozen fish fry. I can still evoke the stench of the fried fish wafting out of the crumbling Moore Hotel in Barneveld, NY. It took a move to Hawaii and a prodding wife to get me to try fish again. Amazing…my prejudice against fish as food had made me an arrogant consumer of red meat, and cut me off from a healthier and delicious alternative.
Whereas prejudice is hard-wired into our awareness through our families and tribes, judgment is a function of how you learn to think. And it is sloppy, arrogant thinking that leads to negative teams and ineffective results. One of the hallmarks of SEAL thinking is to learn to not judge something by it’s initial appearance. Often the best ideas, most creative solutions and the seizing of victory come from a source that would be easy to judge: the new guy, the enemy, the weather, the broken gear, etc. Judging things as good or bad shuts down creativity and channels us onto a known path. But what if we train ourselves to see things without judgement, neither good nor bad but just as they are? What if we could be open to the possibility of good and bad in everything, every person (including ourselves) and every situation? Consider the Yin-Yang symbol of Taoism. The white half represents feminine, soft, receiving and positive energy. Black represents masculine, powerful and negative energy. Both exist simultaneously in all things, symbolized by the intersecting half circles that bleed into each other. The key is to learn to ride the razor’s edge between the opposing forces and tap into the boundless energy that ripples there, not judging good or bad, just being and noticing.
The final form of arrogance is what I caused others to suffer when I was emerging into adulthood. Deeply uncertain about my place in the world, not clear of my purpose or able to answer the question “why?” if someone had thought to ask. To cover for these feelings of insecurity and inadequacy, I overcompensated with false confidence, tricking myself into a feeling of being indestructible and, perhaps, better than others. This arrogant stance almost got me killed. In contrast, true confidence begins with a deep intrinsic sense of self-worth. It is fortified by a commitment to a deeply meaningful vision and purpose for your life. With true confidence in place you can always answer the question “why?” This brand of confidence is accompanied with a growing humility. This humility prompts us to persistently search for knowledge and skills related to our pursuits, and refining our character. Please check in and notice if you suffer from any of these four attitudes of arrogance: pride, prejudice, judgment and false confidence.
I am excited to announce the completely revised 3rd edition of my Unbeatable Mind book will be available soon, where I expound on the training to get rid of your demons and step up to a life of self-mastery in service to others. Look for more info on that soon.
Until next time, stay focused, train hard and drop the mask of arrogance.
–Commander Mark Divine