“Both sides of me were in dead earnest; I was no more myself when I laid aside restraint and plunged in shame, than when I labored in the eye of day, at the furtherance of knowledge or the relief of sorrow and suffering.”
The classic story of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” by Robert Louis Stevenson is one of many expressions in literature – and psychology – of the idea we have both “visible” and “hidden” sides.
Sometimes “good” and “bad” sides. The quote above by Dr. Jekyll articulates our ambivalence with choosing one over the other as our “real” self.
Eckhart Tolle, author of A New Earth, identifies another typically hidden aspect of our personalities that he calls the pain-body: “It can be considered almost an entity in its own right that lives in you.. it’s an energy form,” he says.
He further explains (in his online class with Oprah Winfrey) that until we become aware enough, we “are identified with that voice in the head, with its repetitive thought patterns.
“And that is what most people are trapped in, and it makes up their superficial personality with all the continuous repetitive judgment, and likes and dislikes, and prejudices and whatever makes up the content of their egoic mind.
“So people are trapped in that and derive a sense of self from that, which is ultimately insubstantial, conditioned by the past and not who they are.”
From article Our Very Unhappy Entity: The Pain-body.
Tolle makes it clear that developing awareness can defuse the emotionally restricting and destructive aspects of our psyche, that this awareness is both possible and needed for our emotional health and life satisfaction, but it is a process, maybe a very long one – not simply a matter of insight.
Psychology, as well as the teachings of Tolle and many other spiritual leaders, can help us gain that awareness.
Professor of Psychology Steven C. Hayes, PhD expresses some perspectives related to Tolle’s concept of ego and the pain-body.
Hayes says that his research on Acceptance and Commitment Therapy shows that “entanglement with your own mind leads automatically to experiential avoidance: the tendency to try first to remove or change negative thoughts and feelings as a method of life enhancement.
“This attempted sequence makes negative thoughts and feelings more central, important, and fearsome–and often decreasing the ability to be flexible, effective, and happy.
“The trick that traps us is that these unhelpful mental processes are fed by agreement OR disagreement. Your mind is like a person who has to be right about everything. If you know any people like that you know that they are excited when you agree with them but they can be even more excited and energized when you argue with them! Minds are like that.
“We get a lot of training in how to develop and use our minds, but we get very little training in how to step out of the mental chatter when that is needed. As a result, this mental tool begins to use us. It will even claim to BE us.
“Learning how to get out of your mind and into your life when you need to do that is an essential skill in the modern world.”