However, I have recently been faced with an uncomfortable truth: all of my good deeds, my efforts to help, my offerings of joy were all partially, and probably first and foremost, based on my desperate need, my craving, to be liked by others, to be acknowledged by others. The driving force was how my psyche would benefit.
One could say, "What's the big deal? If you did good work that's what really matters." There is no question that I really did good work and that impact is in no way lessened by my subconscious driving force.
However, this subconscious force certainly had a negative impact upon me. In that every time I did a good deed, I expected some acknowledgment in return; when that acknowledgment did not come, it made me feel defeated, a failure. I did not feel good about myself. I took it personally.
To cite an example of how trivial this can get, I work in a middle school and every morning part of my job is to greet students with "good morning" as they pass my station in the hall. The vast majority of students do not acknowledge my greeting at all; those who I know by name perhaps respond half of the time. The result is that every morning I feel rejected by these students, even though I know full well that they are just absorbed in their thoughts or conversations and it has nothing to do with me. And I even felt this way this morning after having had this realization, sat with it, and am working to free myself from this craving. Such is the power of past trauma and the ego,. It will take some time and much spiritual work to free myself. This is core.
How, you may well ask, could I have not been aware of this previously, given my almost 30 years of Buddhist practice, and years of blogging and writing about Buddhist practice? It truly boggles the mind. But it shows how our deepest trauma-related negative energies are hidden from us, even in meditation. Mind you, I have never claimed to be enlightened.
The answer to this question is quite simple. Our trauma-related negative energies are deeply rooted in us. Those that result in suffering I was aware of, such as suffering from various fears, I have addressed through my practice and I have been honest and truthful when I have written that nothing pushes my buttons anymore, I don't get upset, I realize things are just the way they are.
But although I was aware of my disappointment when I was not acknowledged for acts either large or small, I did not identify that as suffering. Even when I wrote a post about renouncing what we've always depended on, this dependence of mine didn't register. Such is the ability of the mind to control even the reaches of our spiritual practice.
It took a dear friend to point out to me that many of my actions meant to help him in fact hurt him, caused him suffering, and when I sat with that, I came to my realization. He had also pointed out recently that my craving for acknowledgement was making me do things in the workplace which were ill-advised for my well-being and job security. I am very grateful that I have a friend who is so insightful and will speak the truth to me.
And so now I am applying the full-force of my spiritual tools to this problem. I now state in my mantra that craving acknowledgement is, "Not me!" I have once again added the trauma of not feeling wanted or desired to my list which I have embraced (The Heart's Embrace), buried, and shone the light and love of my true Buddha nature on, thus dissipating the negative energy that flowed from it. All of this is in conjunction with a core mantra that I have everything I need inside myself to be at peace and happy.
To show the complexity of the process, I'll note that I have long been well aware of this major trauma, or group of traumas, have embraced it and freed myself from it as it pertained to various energies that flowed from it, but this one energy had not been one I was cognizant of.
And so the path continues.