Practitioners of many spiritual traditions, such as Buddhism, would say that attaining such a state is a necessary part of the journey toward enlightenment.
One definition of humility is:
a psycho-social orientation characterized by 1) a sense of emotional autonomy, and 2) freedom from the control of the “competitive reflex.”
What is the competitive reflex? It is:
the preconscious, visceral impulse to oppose or outdo others, or to auto-react against perceived threats to one’s established sense of self.
Consonant with the premise of what humility is not, as I think of it:
– It’s not letting others “push you around.”
– It’s not being a doormat, a sucker, or letting people “walk all over you.”
– It’s not constantly sacrificing your interests to those of others (and then feeling like a victim or a martyr).
– It’s not avoiding conflict or confrontation – not of your making, anyway – for the sake of “being nice.”
– It’s not about hiding your feelings or suppressing your views to avoid alienating others.
Humility is about emotional neutrality. It involves an experience of growth in which you no longer need to put yourself above others, but you don’t put yourself below them, either. Everyone is your peer – from the most “important” person to the least. You’re just as valuable as every other human being on the planet, no more and no less. It’s about behaving and reacting from purposes, not emotions. You learn to simply disconnect or de-program the competitive reflex in situations where it’s not productive.
The legendary gestalt therapist Fritz Perls said, “I am I and you are you; I am not in this world to live up to your expectations, and you are not in this world to live up to mine.” It’s a liberating idea, I believe.
So, how do you free yourself from the competitive reflex? That requires, first, that you recognize the reflex when it rises up in you; and second, that you choose a more versatile response.
How aware are you of the competitive reflex in yourself?
Let’s consider an example. Your friend has just remodeled her home, and is pleased and proud of the results. She invites you in to have a look. The premise of the situation, whether your recognize it or not, is for her to show off her house; for you to appreciate it and praise her for it; and for her to feel good about it. So what do you do?
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