The next level is when people figure out that their problems come from the inside.
Instead of “I don’t want to go back to work because I’m scared of COVID”, they have the intellectual sophistication to say, “Hah, it looks like I’m sick of my job and need a break from going in every day.”
Or instead of saying, “I don’t want to have children because of global warming” they say “I don’t want to have children because I had early bonding problems / I’m immature / I lack energy, etc.”
At this level, people start beating themselves up for the problem they identified within themselves. “I’m lazy, I’m no good, etc.”
At the next level, they start keeping the problem in check by self-control, discipline, stoicism, etc. It’s a more advanced level of development but the problem is that this self-control slips during moments of hardship. For instance, a person quits drinking and stays sober. Then, a bad moment comes. A tragedy, a personal loss. So he says, “I’ll just have one shot of tequila to relax ” and then he sucks down a whole bottle and passes out. The next day, he has to start erecting the whole edifice of self-control all over again.
At the level after this one, the person discovers a powerful source of energy precisely in those difficult moments. He plugs into them like a charger into an electrical outlet.
And then on the level beyond that, he learns how to stay connected to the charger permanently. He lights up from the inside and glows even when he sleeps. And the people around him get some of that energy for themselves.
There are more levels but very few people reach that far, so it’s unnecessary to discuss them.
8 thoughts on “More Levels”
Can one skip levels as they grow? Also, what does it mean if a person seems to be at different levels depending on the area of their lives we’re talking about?
Hi Clarissa, I’m a relatively new reader here so I hope my comment doesn’t offend you—but how do you tell where someone is on these levels of existence (even for oneself)?
In my experience, some people who get energized by hardships have a hard time functioning in the absence of hardship, and they often strive to manufacture hardship when it is not needed. This can cause problems for people close to them.
And sometimes people who appear as a shining beacon of energy to friends can be cruel narcissists to people who are closest to them (spouse and children). How does one make this distinction?
LikeLiked by 1 person
It’s ok, I’m not touchy. 🙂 Welcome to the blog.
You are absolutely right, you can’t determine this about others with certainty, unless you know them very well. Usually, it’s impossible to have a close relationship with anybody who is two levels away from you in any direction. So you can intuit it that way.
But it’s not necessary to figure out other people’s levels. I think it’s more of a hopeful guide for oneself that shows how one can direct one’s development.
I’m totally with you on the subject of a narcissist who bullies their family and fakes being a wonderful person to strangers. I’ve been there, so. . .
I agree it’s not necessary to figure out other people’s levels in order to be able to interact with them. But I do think it’s normal to look to others as examples, and inevitable that we set examples for others (including our kids, but also coworkers, friends) in how we live our lives and manage our anxieties.
For me, it was an important realization that that a person who is a shining beacon of energy for casual acquaintances but achieves this at the expense of the well-being of one’s family is not setting a positive example. And that there’s no shame or personal failing in being unable to emulate it.
I’m some days late to seeing this blog post, and I expect you’re busy, but I hope you can answer my questions anyway:
How do you go about ‘leveling up’? I probably spent most of my time at the lower levels, but achieving the level of “stay[ing] connected to the charger permanently” would be awesome. How?
I agree that any levels higher than ‘permanent connection’ are probably of purely philosophical interest for almost all of us, but I am still curious: what are they?
LikeLiked by 1 person
I can plug in sometimes but definitely not permanently. I’m hoping to get there at some point.
The level beyond that is the people who can plug others in. But it’s very very rare. I’ve never even met anybody who met anybody like this.
How do we level up? There are several things we need to do:
We have to liberate our attention from everything and everybody who tries to fracture it and direct it towards what matters to us.
We need to track down moments when we act in accordance with what we think is expected of us and stop doing that.
Practice inner stillness and focus.
Practice your own ethical and aesthetic judgment. For example, think about a movie you really liked recently and think in detail about what specifically appealed to you and why.
The leveling up is supposed to happen automatically if you do these things consistently.
Thanks for this advice, Clarissa!
I’m chagrined to realize how much I’ve let myself be inveigled into routinely doing the opposite of all of the things you suggest. Fortunately, your advice not only makes sense but is easy to start following. Mostly, it comes down to doing a lot more of the sort of things that I did without thinking much about them, when I was an undergraduate. ;^)
As I type this, I’m listening to Handel’s grosso concertos rather than to the latest infuriating podcast.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Yes! This is supposed to be enjoyable. It shouldn’t be a struggle or a miserable experience. Usually people go, “Oh! So I could have been doing this the whole time and really enjoying myself?”