Self-Mastery Requires Mindfulness


Mindfulness is the key to true self-mastery. It behooves us to awaken to our truer, deeper selves. And behooves us further to stay awake. It’s far too easy to live our lives on “autopilot.” That’s how we let our appetites and aversions govern our behavior. (See, also: Self Mastery over Appetites and Aversions.) Countering this tendency is difficult. It requires deliberate, proactive effort.

There are many ways to awaken. And there are many ways to remain as awake as possible. Most of the major philosophies and spiritual disciplines offer mindfulness techniques. Techniques include yoga, transcendental meditation, and centering prayer. But the end is the same: maximum awareness or consciousness. Heightened awareness has many benefits. Through it we connect ourselves not only to our deeper selves but also to the very energy that fuels our life. There’s great power in this, too. Mindful people are more likely to be maximally healthy. Moreover, they’re more likely to connect with others in healing, constructive ways.

How We Fall Asleep

We live in a stressful and often cruel world. So, we learn to cope as best we can. Our innate tendencies play a role in this. Our environment and experiences play a shaping role, too. Along the way, various things please and attract us. Other things frighten or wound us. We might fully realize it, but we’re always making decisions about how to deal with our appetites and aversions. If we’re not real mindful of this, we can become a slave to them.

Gaining mastery over our appetites and aversions is key to our character growth.  Moreover, it requires deliberate, conscious, steady effort. But first we have to commit ourselves to staying awake. Mindfulness is a real challenge for most. It’s far too easy to fall asleep, to go back on autopilot.

The Dilemma for Disturbed Characters

Some disturbed characters are unwitting slaves to their appetites in particular. I’ve written about this before. (See, pp. 141-142 in Character Disturbance. See, also: Hedonistic Thinking.) Such folks become hedonists both in attitude and behavior. They expect life to afford them a good time. Moreover they feel entitled to this. They feel it’s owed them. Accordingly, they spend a lot of time “chasing highs.” (That is, they persistently and rabidly seek pleasurable experiences.) As a result, they can easily fall into addiction.

Disturbed characters expend a lot of energy avoiding the unpleasant, too. Therefore, they fail to develop the will to bear discomfort. It’s why they have such poor frustration tolerance. (See: Character and the Will to Bear Discomfort.)  Many of life’s most ultimately rewarding experiences require that we suffer some first. Folks having no stomach for this will have problems forging a rich life for themselves. Of course, they’ll also have big problems forging good character. Mindfulness is the key to all of this. You have to know what’s driving you. And the odds are it will either be some nobler guiding principles or it will be your baser appetites and aversions.

I’ve worked with the character-impaired for years. And I can tell you that helping them cultivate the will to bear life’s inevitable discomforts is crucial to them becoming healthier. Most want everything to come the quick and easy way. They generally see no point in suffering. So they avoid anything that taxes them or demands anything of them. They’re quite content to let others shoulder life’s burdens. Never learning to cope very well, they simply fail to grow. They need lots of reinforcement demonstrating any willingness to bear discomfort.

Growing in Character

Mindfulness alone is not sufficient for character growth. Rather, it’s the tool by which we connect to something bigger. And it’s that something bigger that has the power to grow us. It can help us live life on a plane higher than the “pleasure principle” to which most of us are married. And I’ll be talking more about that in next week’s post.

7 thoughts on “Self-Mastery Requires Mindfulness

    1. Joey,

      The music is beautiful and I am going to buy the CD. Every time I play it I will think of you. This is such a beautiful gift, thank you for thinking of me.

      I think of you often and am glad you stop by and let all of us, Andy, Lucy and Dr. Simon know how you are doing. Of all the posters on this blog, you my dear one have a special place in my heart.

      Hugs and Gods Blessings.

      P.s Stop back on Fathers/Brothers Day, I will have something special for you:-)

      1. Hi BTOV and Joey,
        Haven’t been on here a while. I still appreciate Dr. Simon’s posts, they help me to remember the struggles I went thru with the ex and make me grateful God saw fit to help me understand what was happening. How are you BTOV?

        1. Hi Kat,

          So nice to hear from you, you always add so much to the blog with your experience and wisdom. I am glad to know you stop in once in a while, I am sure all missed you especially Lucy and Andy.

          Thank you for asking about me. My SIs died and her suffering was great, at least she is now with Jesus. My friend is still in the nursing home and recovery is slow. He still has not gained the ability to drink or eat anything yet. I can’t imagine the agony of not being able to take in and nourishment.

          How are you? Just so very happy to hear from you.

          1. BTOV thank you! I am glad you mentioned your friend, that’s a long time to hang in there in that condition. He must really have a will to keep going. Its so hard to see people in your life suffer like that. It really tries our faith that God’s plan is best. So sorry to hear about your sister having to suffer so much, yes glad it is over and she is enjoying God now. I had a Christian friend of about 20 years die of cancer recently, the sad thing is she was a believer but she really struggled in believing she was good enough for God, but I truly believe she is also now enjoying Gods presence. My daughter is going to move out of state, we have never been away from each other our whole lives. I would say I am probably somewhat codependent on her, but I have to trust God He will see me thru this adjustment. I will miss my granddaughter too although she is a teenager now and I didn’t see much of her the past few years. Are you still making your tinctures and is it helping?

  1. If I’m understanding the above correctly…it’s about dealing with the events of everyday life & having the patience for results. I’m thinking examples of not accepting responsibility would be like when my spouse (now my ex), flew into a rage because I made him file a tax return (1st one in three years), & he owed money. He always spouted that the government owed him money, and when that turned out not to be true, he blamed me for him owing money because I made him file. Crazy reasoning.
    Or when he got angry that he kept getting parking tickets. He said he got parking tickets because I paid some, and so they kept giving them to him. It had nothing to do with his illegal parking habit. He was unable to accept responsibility for anything.

    And I noticed he had no patience for results. His cycle of expectations would get shorter & shorter, to the point where it was like, for example, if he thought of something, the pleasant results should manifest right after he had the thought. This would end when something would blow up dramatically & then he would become more realistic with expectations, but only for a short while as the pattern repeated. I guess I’m lucky I got out of that marriage.

  2. Your In Sheep’s Clothing book is phenomenal! I hold a B.S. in Psychology and a M.S. in Clinical Mental Health Counseling – my 9 month graduate internship occurred at a correctional facility. Your In Sheep’s book explained character disorders better than anyone else I have encountered. Particularly, it was gratifying to learn that you and your colleagues have discovered that some people are just aggressive from childhood. This information resolves some lingering questions I had about a few of my past clients. Additionally, I can now see how the dissociation I learned in childhood continued throughout adulthood. To add to your mindfulness post, it is helpful to note that freedom from human suffering comes from mindfulness. Due to being mindful and asking God for direction, I found your site and work. I am eternally grateful.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *