Powerful = Ruthless?
Cool = cold?
Better, superior = emotionless?
Funny = submissive?
Glamorous = sterile beauty?
These are some of the associations we are making in our lives once we reach a certain level of success. At some point, when you’ve got both the money, the power and the charisma to influence with ease, these became the status quo.
Yet, I wonder how true they are.
A few days I saw Fifty Shades of Grey. I’ve also read the books, the first two. And yes, Christian Grey is a fictional character I look up too. Rich, in control, charismatic, controlled movement and hypnotic.
Like it or not, for most people in business, he is the new Gordon Gecko. Yet, is it practical to aim to be that way? Because in the end … we are humans.
I admit, people like people who are cold and reserved. I know this because this is how I’ve been for a long, long time. I want to correct that – I am. It started when I’ve first read Atlas Shrugged, a book that has been condemned for promoting extreme emotional restrain. Yet, I don’t know how useful is that anymore.
Yes, you make money. Yes, you are powerful. Yes, you get a lot of sex.
But at the end of the day, you don’t laugh. You don’t cry. You don’t enjoy. You don’t find yourself singing in the shower. You don’t enjoy yourself like a little kid when the time comes.
Is this the price you must pay for being successful – canceling emotions? This is because, positive and negative emotions are not divided. You can’t cancel negative and keep the positive. If you feel, you feel. It comes as a package.
I don’t believe so. I think that there is a better way. I think that people like Gordon Gecko and more recently Christian Grey are not really the best examples to follow in life if you want to be happy. People like Gregory House (I know that I’m using fictional examples but you are more likely to know them than any business leaders I may mention – but for example, Steve Jobs) or the guy from House of Cards – Frank Underwood.
Because we are slowly turning into a society of sociopaths.
Every person that is goal focused will eventually have to make this choice – do I want to be a sociopath or not? Do I want to see people just as tools, everything like a game of chess, or not?
I’ve been on both ends of the spectrum. I don’t know what is better. I don’t consider myself a sociopath but I am emotionally withdrawn. On one side, no emotions = more power. On the other side emotions = happiness.
And what is more important in life, happiness or power (power meaning money, power over others and to some degree, power over yourself).
It is a hard question, one that I don’t know how to answer.
But here’s the thing – maybe they are not mutually exclusive. Power is about playing nice with others so you can use your combined efforts to achieve a goal. Happiness is enjoying the process of living. It is true, a tendency towards sociopathy makes gaining power a lot easier and it may be required if you want to reach the very top but it is worth it?
Again, I don’t know. This is not a cautionary tale of “don’t sell your soul for money”. I know many moments in my life when I would have sold my soul for many things. It is instead a question that I’m asking myself and that I provoke you, the reader, to ask too …
The question being …
“Can I achieve the heights of success while still retaining my humanity, my emotions, my joys and my love for other people and for people in general … while knowing that this world is sometimes a heaven and sometimes hell?”
And maybe you can.
Maybe you don’t need to be too cool for school and cold like ice in order to succeed. Maybe it is OK to laugh. Maybe it is OK to be fine with being human. Maybe it is not required to transform you, your body, your life in just a mechanism to accomplishing a goal and to remember that the only purpose of the goal is to increase your happiness, therefore, sacrificing your happiness to accomplish your goal is kind of a negation in terms.
But I don’t know yet. This is a question that most people never ask and that was just raised for me. But I think there is a better way. I think that we don’t need to glamorize not being human so much.
I think that we can stop acting like models on a stage, beautiful, interesting, the height of perfection but who are empty inside and are just a nice package. I think that in this world, especially for us, people who are trying hard to succeed and people who are successful, we can remember from time to time or even, all the time that what’s inside the package is just as important as the package itself.
That your new BMW is not really relevant if you can’t enjoy driving …
That your new trophy wife is not relevant if you don’t love her …
That your $100.000 bank account is not relevant if you are not finding happiness or safety in them …
… and that even if you need to be a great package outside (I’ve never said that this was not required, I know in what world we live in) we need to tend to our inner substance too. Both what’s inside and what’s outside.
Not to be yourself but to be your best self and to enjoy this.
Not to just look good but to feel beautiful and cherished in the same time.
Not to just be rich but to actually feel rich.
NOT JUST TO BE SUCCESSFUL BUT TO USE YOUR SUCCESS TO BE HAPPY.
Because … this is the essence of true fulfillment.
Giving it your best in life … and enjoying every moment of happiness that this brings you.
I don’t know how …
But I’m starting to understand the why.
That if you go through the process of self-disowning, you are like a general, fighting a war, fighting like a pro, but when he gets home, there is no kingdom to have. It is fighting while sacrificing what you are fighting for.
It is glamarous to be a winner, to be the gladiator. But it may be more interesting, more beautiful to be happy. It is not as seductive since we live in a society where the quiet, strong, emotioneless figure is at the top of the food chain and it gains respect, every single time but … the price may not be worth it.
I’ll update in the future with a new post about this process of transformation for me.
I’ll leave you with a description of two key concepts:
The Disowned Self explores, “…the problem of self-alienation – a condition in which the individual is out of contact with his own needs, feelings, emotions, frustrations and longings, so that he is largely oblivious to his actual self and his life is the reflection of an unreal self, of a role he has adopted. The problem of obliviousness to self, the causes and consequences of such obliviousness, and its treatment psychotherapeutically – is the theme of this book.”
Psychological repression, or simply repression, is the psychological attempt made by an individual to repel one’s own desires and impulses toward pleasurable instincts by excluding the desire from one’s consciousness and holding or subduing it in the unconscious. Repression plays a major role in many mental illnesses, and in the psyche of the average person.
Repression (German: Verdrängung), ‘a key concept of psychoanalysis, is a defense mechanism, but it pre-exists the ego, e.g., ‘Primal Repression’. It ensures that what is unacceptable to the conscious mind, and would, if recalled, arouse anxiety, is prevented from entering into it'; and is generally accepted as such by psychoanalytic psychologists.
However, regarding the distinct subject of repressed memory, there is debate as to whether (or how often) memory repression really happens and mainstream psychology holds that true memory repression occurs only very rarely.