So, here's the next best question: Who would you be without your morals? Stop. Breathe. Now try it again. Who would you be without your morals? Would you suddenly turn into an evil fire-breathing dragon of inhumane proportion lacking remorse and growling some more? Would you quickly try to latch onto some other strategy to stay afloat in some safe sea of goodness? Would you run fast to the nearest exorcist?
If there were no morals-who would you be? What would you act like? What would you talk like? What would you think like? Would you really be any different?
Our morals are rules laid down for us by a society called a religion or a society called a church or a school. Some will even say that these laws were laid down for us by the divine-in whatever form we see the divine. Regardless of their origin, they tell us what is wrong and what is right and we are taught that we have within us a conscience which will tell us when we have violated one of these rules by making us feel guilty. And so we have a direction and whether we land on the "bad" side of these rules or the "good" side of these rules, we do it by conforming our mind, heart and behavior to what it takes to fit into that identity. Once conformed, we could say, "I'm a bad dude" or "I think I'm a pretty good person." So, essentially what we have said is that we learn to rely on one of these two categories (or one of the gradations between them) as identity. They define us. But these are external constructs that very often do not even truly touch the deepest inner regions of the psyche.
So, how do we even begin to define ourselves without the use of these external stratagems? We go to the deeper inner regions of the psyche where they do not exist. And how, you will I'm certain ask, does one do that?
We begin by refusing to repress material in our everyday lives. We begin by staying conscious in a given moment about what's going on inside of us-and allowing it to stay in the forefront of our minds so that we can see it and feel it and even dialogue with it. In so doing we are treating the energy of emotion, thought and sensation as valid, instead of invalidating it immediately by sending it to its room in the unconscious.
That said, many of us don't even know how to access our feelings in a given moment. Try asking yourself what you are feeling right this minute. Of what are you immediately aware? Is it a thought that appears first, or an emotion. Thoughts will often describe an event instead of a feeling, or they will start off with "I think" or they will use the word that as in "I feel that...". There is no that in a feeling. A that will be followed by an explanation of why you feel what you feel, but will not state the feeling itself. A feeling will be simply described by its name: "I feel angry," "I feel sad," "I feel mildly irritated." If you find it difficult to get to a feeling you may have to try some other tricks to sort of jog your feelings loose in order to grab hold of them. You might try writing poetry or doing art work just allowing it to flow from you without edit or revision and then go back and look at the picture or read what you've written and ask yourself to find the feeling trying to be expressed. If you are still having trouble getting to a feeling, you might want to try working with a therapist on this.
Once you get to a feeling you might want to try to start a dialogue with the feeling, so that it can tell you what it came to tell you. Our feelings are telling us something about ourselves and our lives. They are not telling us about someone else or someone else's life. Are you feeling resentful of a coworker, because you end up having to do his job-but also because you hate the job and end up having to do more of it because he's not doing his job. What does that feeling tell you? Does it tell you that you must be a "bad" person in some kind of way because you have these "negative" feelings? If so, you are still using external stratagems to define yourself. If you step beyond that, what does your feeling tell you about your life? Could it possibly be telling you something like "Go get a new job that you love?"
Is there someone inside of us who can direct us from something deeper and more real than mere morality? What if loving all of life, really loving all of life unconditionally-really unconditionally-were the guiding light? What if loving life unconditionally means accepting what we have as it is without judging or interpreting it to be unacceptable. This doesn't mean we don't change our lives once we have accepted what is. It means that our acceptance of life as it is allows us to change our lives according to who we actually are, rather than according to some external and internalized code.
Loving life unconditionally means that whatever we are feeling about a given scenario in our lives tells much more about ourselves than it does about the given scenario. This means all of our work on acceptance is an inside job, and it further means that the more internal we go, the more of the external we can receive. This makes life bigger and rounder. And it allows to live with at least a modicum of peace. So, who are you without your morals?
Andrea Mathews, L.P.C., is a Cognitive and Transpersonal Therapist, internet radio show host, and author of Restoring My Soul: A Workbook for Finding and Living the Authentic Self.more...