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Life Ordinary

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Mask of loving-kindness

As I scrolled through social media, I saw a post about loving-kindness. It was one of those if-you-can-be-anything-be-kind posts. I unfollowed immediately. I felt like I couldn't read another call to be kind for the rest of my life. I thought to myself, what the fuck is wrong with these people who talk about kindness all the time? Isn't it natural to be kind? Isn't it obvious that "promoting" kindness only wins over believers while creating more toxic guilt in those believers? So what's the point? I don't need reminders about kindness. Or do I? Do you?

In itself, there's of course absolutely nothing wrong with loving-kindness. But it's interesting how we use this concept. I assume the "loving-kindness" concept is so popular and attractive because many of us work hard to be loving and caring while mutually accepted and loved. For the majority of us, only extreme sociopathic cases are excluded, this is our human need, actually the most human need we can think of.


At the same time, we live in a society strongly imbued with moral implications such as love thy neighbor. Tenderness and consideration for others, of which loving-kindness speaks, seems to be not only something we need by nature but also something that's socially expected and that identifies us as good citizens of the world. Heavy, right?


In a general sense, I understand loving-kindness as a spiritually and ethically endorsed policy. It talks about, and practices, beautiful things: generosity, the kindness of heart, deep compassion, and solidarity.


Metta prayer


The loving-kindness tradition has also given us a special, beautiful prayer - the metta prayer.

Metta prayer is a type of meditation practice in which one silently recites a series of phrases designed to energetically open the energy center of the heart. Heart center sustains our heartfelt, warm human connections and cultivates a kind attitude toward oneself, others, and the world.


Metta Prayer is a meditation practice and you can use it to cultivate kind attitude toward oneself, others, and the world.
ABC of Metta Prayer

Experience shows: The more we tune into our heart, the deeper we dive into our wellspring of warm human love, the more we open to love and paradoxically let it in. But is that always the case?


An attitude of loving-kindness can be genuine. But it can also be quite insincere. If it's not genuine, there's a mask of loving-kindness, and if it's a mask, it's nothing to do with genuine compassion. The mask is always an elaborate energetic strategy that serves as a protective layer for parts of us that we're not aware of - our shadow self.


The mask of loving kindness is therefore a shadow substance. It's an energetic code that runs on a collective level, and as any mask and any shadow, blocking the expression of the life energy. It has nothing to do with genuine compassion, true love and deep humanity.

The difference between genuine loving-kindness on the one hand and the mask of loving-kindness on the other is actually easy to see: it always lies in the presence and absence of an aggressive-assertive stance.


I'm sure everyone knows someone who looks sweet, cheerful, friendly, always ready to help, never holds a grudge, never curses, and always keeps herself in check. Someone who wears a mask of loving-kindness out of habit keeps their aggressive impulses tightly under control, and the cheerfulness and kindness can be really convincing - and often leaves a bad taste in our mouth.


Yet often, behind the sweet glow hides a very different realm, a fertile soil of shadowland - a background of fear, shame, guilt, and obligation.


When loving-kindness is the dominant strategy in our relationships, we basically cannot afford to say no unless we're strongly provoked, and then we cannot control ourselves from bursting into anger.


But as a rule of thumb, in general, we can neither imagine nor risk drawing a crystal clear line where our own responsibility ends and the other person's responsibility begins. A boundary can be a vague concept for us.


Aggressive impulses are the natural, valuable and healthy expressions of a life force that helps us develop our individuality, autonomy, and express our uniqueness. The nature of these impulses allows for separation and detachment from the Other, to gain an inner and outer (s)pace and develop our independent identity.


Aggressive impulses, completely bodily phenomena, are a psychological and spiritual must. They're an energetic and psychological means of separation, movement, exploration, autonomy, detachment, self-identity, individuality.


Without aggressive impulses, there is no independence, no free thought, no ownership of one's own mind, body, and Soul.

It's important to be aware of our own anger in order to set boundaries. We can set boundaries out of love or out of anger, but we can't choose how our body reacts in a particular situation, so we've to know to deal with both possibilities!


Anger

Many people are afraid of anger. They think that if they start feeling anger, they won't be able to handle it and it'll become overwhelming for them and dangerous for others. But dealing with anger isn't about "showing" others how angry we're. It's about becoming aware of how angry we're, and then deciding how to express our anger, in what way, when, to whom?


There's a neurobiological conditioned step between becoming aware of our anger and acting it out. We often say people have "anger issues." When they do, they typically miss out on the building of anger. Due to the dynamic of their brain activity involved in anger build-up (amygdala-hypothalamus axis), the conscious mind (prefrontal cortex) doesn't catch up with the energy building up in the body, signaling the onset of anger.


The unreflective reactivity - anger outbursts - is related to the lack of mental time-space distance between the emergence of the impulses in the body and the conscious awareness that ultimately allows us to channel the response intentionally.


It's possible not to perceive the impulses that our body sends us, signaling the buildup of an emotional response. The interesting thing is that if we can't read our body's signals, we can't perceive the whole spectrum of emotions and feelings, not just anger. So when we learn to deal with our anger, we also learn to connect with the whole spectrum of other feelings and emotions. This always includes learning to be consciously connected with our bodies. This is a very important part of any psychotherapeutic work for many - or at least it should be.


Aggression


When we fail to build up the energy of emotion in our body-mind, we often lapse into either suppression or open, uncensored expression. This is then called aggression with explosive behavior (anger, hitting, yelling, cursing, self-harm, immediate sexual drive, etc.), which is the opposite of self-centered aggression with implosive behavior (dissociation, withdrawal, numbness, overeating, etc.).


Explosive behavior is what we mean when we say "aggression." Aggression is an action that's hostile, destructive, and harmful to oneself or, and others. Because of painful past experiences, and overall violence issues of humanity, many of us cannot clearly distinguish between anger and aggression. Either we've "anger issues" as described above, or we suppress anger because we've had painful experiences with aggression, and our internal schemas don't allow us to experience anger, express anger consciously, and use it assertively.


The mask of loving-kindness is a level that helps us keep up with our persona, and at the same time, we control the anger that's suppressed in our shadow. When we use the mask of loving-kindness, we're afraid of anger, our own and others. We act out of the subliminal, unconscious belief that anger is a toxic agent of destruction, which means that (a) we've probably suffered painfully at the hands of someone else's anger, (b) we mix what are emotions and what are actions. Often, we are not aware that the perception of anger as harmful is an echo of our past, often childhood, experiences.


Women


Women tend to confuse the perception of anger with aggression and experience anger as toxic, unwanted, harmful, hysterical. Even more interesting is that patriarchal society, in its attempt to absolve itself of responsibility for systemic aggression, often views a woman's anger as aggression - toxic, unwanted, harmful, or "merely" hysterical.


The way women deal with their anger is, in fact, the way society has treated women's anger for centuries.

What happens when a woman is afraid of her aggressive impulses, i.e., her anger? Practically, there's a mechanism in the psyche whose task is to control impulses that might contradict social norms. When anger builds up in situations where anger is often a reaction - situations of loss and fear - guilt builds up, preventing them from feeling or expressing their anger. So in a steriotypical scenario, the woman remains calm, often obedient, and compliant. Obedient and compliant doesn't mean she's quiet or doesn't rebel. It only means that she's inauthentic and adjusts the expression of her truth to the real or imagined expectations of others.


In patriarchy, people are punished and excluded if they disobey authority. In a patriarchal frame of reference, one must submit in order to be accepted. And to avoid disobedience and rebellion, one must ignore or numb emotions, especially anger. Anger is always dangerous and sanctioned from the perspective of patriarchy because it's a guardian of free thought, independence, and sovereignty.

Women are relational beings from the word go. In her book The Reproduction of Mothering, Nancy Chodorow has developed an understanding of female psychological development. She shows that a girl's psychosexual development is related to her innate sexual equality with her mother. Position to her mother determines her degree of autonomy in every relationship throughout her life.


This observation is enormous. It has significant implications for the understanding of the psychological development of women. According to Chodorow and Stone Center feminists, for that reason, women have a more vulnerable sense of autonomy in relationships. This affects women's lives and makes life for women emotionally challenging in a different way than for men.


The mask of loving-kindness


Women's self-perception and self-esteem seem to be much more influenced by the complex matrix of our relationships than men's. If we associate this feminine disposition with the forceful demands of loving-kindness, if-you-can-be-anything-be-kind parols? A socially and spiritually favorable attitude that everyone seems to encourage suddenly becomes very problematic and questionable. We see that we can get a lot of repressed emotions, a lot of repressed inner truth, and a lot of statements, opinions, and truths that women don't dare to think and share!


When we talk about masks - like the one of loving-kindness, we're always talking about layers of Psyche that require a lot of input of energy to maintain.


Wearing masks always exhaust us.

False kindness is easy to recognize. Women can recognize it themselves. If not before, then in the shadowy anonymity of the night, sitting alone, with no witnesses and therefore absolutely no mask to maintain for anyone. At such a time, fear seeps through. A cascade of doubts, worries, and worst-case scenarios assail the woman's mind and body, a sense of being lost spreads. And then, the next day, when this experience goes unnoticed, the woman puts on makeup and continues to be kind and loving to everyone. This is exhausting, it robs the creative fire, but it's such a strong, collective, spiritually recognized, and correct attitude!


So, "if you can be anything", is it really best to be kind?



Yes, fuck kindness, just be real instead


If you can be anything in this world, be real. Be respectful to yourself and others, but be genuine. Genuine doesn't mean kind, as "loving" isn't a spiritual Olympic gold. You don't go to heaven because you're kind, nice, and loving, but you can and will get into lots of trouble if you are dealing with difficult people and managing difficult relationships through the lens of your obsessive drive to be loving and kind.


If you can be anything in this world, be genuine. Be respectful to yourself and others, but be genuine. Genuine doesn't mean kind; loving isn't spiritual Olympic gold. You won't go to heaven for being kind, nice, and loving, but you can and will get into a lot of trouble if you deal with difficult people and conduct difficult relationships through the lens of your obsessive desire to be loving and kind. When you are obsessing about being loving and kind, you are often only playing nice.


Being kind isn't the same as being nice. If we don't start our behavior from our inner authority, and we overlook what our body is telling us, and leading us, and we want to seem loving and kind, we only play the nice, the pleasing, and the pleasant.


Being nice is often a terrible strategy that leaves too many of us energetically enslaved and playing a false game in toxic relationships and abusive working conditions.

Please stop, in any shape or form, acting as loving and kind when you don't feel it deep down in your body and soul. On top of that: people should earn your kindness, and they must do so by behaving correctly, respectfully, and transparently. No one deserves your love just because you can give love or because they exist (unless it's your minor child who's, of course, completely dependent on you).


Respect yourself, respect your anger, respect your boundaries, and learn how to listen to what your body is saying. Then express yourself according to your deepest values and beliefs, and no matter what, always stay true to yourself.


If loving-kindness emerges, fine. But it should always be optional, never an obligation.

And? Next time you're hurt, try to stay out of masking your pain. Come as you're. You'll feel less lonely and much stronger. Allow yourself to be openly connected to the immense energy system of pain that we share collectively. Sit with it. Don't mask it. Don't force yourself to overdrive it with anything, even... yes, the Metta Prayer. Always stay with what comes to the surface, feel it, think about it, heal it, and then move on. It's more than possible and you can do it.


In a nutshell

Often we don't distinguish between anger and aggression. Women in particular have long had problems recognizing our anger and expressing it. Instead, we're culturally conditioned to mask our anger with being nice, which then shows up as a silent obsession with being loving and being kind. Loving-kindness is then not very far, as a concept we use to cover our deeper inner reality in a socially acceptable way. To be a liberated and free people, we must stop hiding our pain and refuse to "wear" any masks, including those of loving-kindness.


About Tina

Tina Bozic is a mom, wife, skilled practitioner, psychologist, and psychotherapist with more than two decades of experience in self-development. She helps women to own who they're on the level of their soul. Her approach to woman's issues is process-oriented, relational, holistic, non-pathologizing, neurodiversity-oriented, and trauma-informed.


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