Protecting the Self: Why?

by Christian Kurmann

With globalisation, we have truly devalued leadership by utilising an application of leadership that is spurred by the ‘self’ and thus is exhausted of purpose, devoid of meaning, and no longer makes any sense.



We have accepted being lured into a sensation-driven society replete with image, reputation and euphoria as well as many other external factors, rather than looking inward.

There are elements of bad leadership or poor leadership involving ego-centric, narcissistic, psychotic and self-driven leadership factors. For various reasons, we have accepted our leaders because they, or their company, have produced extraordinary products and services which we over-value to the point that it has become unthinkable to avoid these. We tend to the extreme, because these products and services have simply become absorbed as part of our day-to-day lives. Unfortunately, we should have addressed the behaviours of these leaders decades ago. But as society is driven by the ‘self’, it has made sense to support and idolise these leaders who have made millions of people around the world dependent on them and with this kind of behaviour towards others, it has become quite acceptable, the norm actually, to increase the ‘self’ by over-performing.

But the truth of the matter is this: have we ever asked ourselves how to dissolve the ‘self’, and how to deny the ‘me’, rendering futile everything that leads to selfishness, self-entered attitudes, and eventually, full blown narcissism. For some reason, we have not been able to deny and put away the nature of our ‘self’.

Why has the ‘self’ become so important in leadership and across every spectrum of life? Why do we put the ‘me’ first? Even for those who have practiced stillness and mindfulness at great length and have attended forceful guided group meditations for measures to be free of the ‘I’ and to calm and to reduce the ‘self’, even so, little is changing because we continue to place extraordinary importance on ‘self’. We are lacking in discipline, endurance and curiosity for learning how to learn differently deep within us.

Why do we keep giving such importance to ourselves, such that selfishness has become an entrenched habit cultivated globally? We have been encouraged from childhood to behave in ways that convince us that the identification of the ‘self’ is something much greater than everything else around us. Here’s a radical thought: Is it possible that there is no ‘self’ and we are actually ‘nothing’? And perhaps it is this being ‘nothing’ we are afraid of.

How we be free of our own ‘self’, releasing us from the torture of our ‘self’, when the ‘self’ within us can have no relationship other than with us. Because the ‘self’, in its very nature, is an isolating process, we cannot handle other’s tweaking our behaviour and conduct; we must protect in order to survive. Because our ‘self’ is directed by thought, we become rational and emotionless, thereby decreasing our empathy and our consciousness, not comprehending intangibilities or the abstract, which is a part of how comprehend, finally just accepting the way things are. Because we condemn, not allowing for any kind of irrational matters, we are lacking in consciousness, clarity, compassion and courage to accept the ‘real’ reality – apart from our ‘self’. Because we feel so incredibly insecure with ourselves, we protect the ‘I’ and do everything possible to strengthen it, even while we know we are tearing apart social patterns around us.

The very nature of the ‘self’ is a movement toward isolation. We need to question ourselves: what do we need to do to avoid increasing global duality stemming from isolation, the sole and simple reason for social inequality that leads to social unrest, global migration, discrimination, economic exclusiveness, conflicts and terrorism? We assume that ‘thinking’ will solve our problems by increasing data-driven technologies integrated into many different parts of society, from judicial decision-making processes to automated vehicles to the dissemination of news. It is believed that, we are racing towards the singularity – a point at which artificial intelligence outstrips our own and machines go on to improve themselves at an exponential rate. If that happens – and it’s a big if – what will become of us ? The true question is that artificial intelligence could have knock-on effects that we have not prepared for. Because we are driven by ratio we over value when computer spits out an answer, but we are unable to see how it got there

Today we experience a tremendous increase of desire -- by regulators, civil society and social theorists alike -- to ascertain that these technologies are ‘fair’ and ‘ethical’, but even so, they are fuzzy at best. Because companies are following their market incentives, this ethical process is highly questionable. Without a doubt, it will increase the overall profitability of these industries, which again goes to highly influential global lobbyists, as it seems to be highly inevitable that huge displacement of workers and a very high rate of unemployment is to be expected. This clearly undermines the importance of human dignity.


Still, we lack the courage to explore what ‘thinking’ really is. As long as we carry on with thinking that must be sharpened by a certain pattern, our thinking responses to life are always conditioned, eventually and inevitably leading to separation and duality. That is why we must inquire into the whole problem of ‘thinking’.


At the moment, there is no freedom of thought, as all thought is conditioned. There can only be ‘freedom’ when we comprehend that all thought is conditioned and we thereby free ourselves of that conditioning, which means there is no thought at all, no thinking or applying of assumptions for making decisions.

It is in pure observation and complete attention that lies the real revolution and the immense understanding that thought does not solve any problem of existence. Understanding the process of thinking requires not acceptance or denial, but immense inquiry into ourselves, unflinching self-awareness. When our mind understands the whole process itself, there will be a fundamental revolution and radical change which will not be brought about through conscious efforts. Instead, it is the effortless state out of which emerges a total transformation.

As long we increase the pace of domination, the intensity and complexity with which we do business and how we control others, these measures will only increase the ‘self’, increasing the difficulty of ever escaping from ‘self’, whether as a simple person, a leader, a company or any industry, a nation or political party or even as global society. Things will get worse. And indeed, things are getting worse: increase of global terrorism, increase in nuclear aggression, increase of poverty in industrialised countries, growing government debts and individual financial dependency. Somehow, we always manage to escape problems by accepting some superficial, partial solutions, expecting a quick solution that must be presented overnight. Otherwise we feel trapped and lost.

But under such circumstances we can never really work through the truth, other than focusing on the problem. To complete negation, positive actions are required. But we are afraid to negate, even though we realise that we should, in fact we must, negate to dissolve the ‘I’ and the ‘self’. But as we cannot imagine being unable to foresee what happens next, we are solely driven by the rational, which does not engender the ability to intuitively comprehend and trust ourselves. 

As long as we put all efforts into maintaining the ‘self’ by setting as our priorities the craving for higher positions, broader reputation, grander image, larger fame, stronger opinion, higher prestige and more acceptability, we keep nourishing the ‘self’. In the ‘self’ is great pleasure that leads to self-control which at the end of the day is the ‘self’ still rooted in ourselves.

So how can we get away from this, get untangled from the ensnaring ‘self’? To be free from our inner torture, our isolation from others and the isolating process of cultivating the ‘me’ requires attentiveness and careful watchfulness from each of us. To understand this process, we must give full attention; ideals are merely a distraction. That is why most seem to accept the fast pace and complexity of life to escape what is. And are therefore so accustomed to postponement and ideals that supposedly help us. But if we face ‘what is’ by giving our fullest attention, there is a possibility of inner transformation, of letting go of the ‘I’ and the ‘self’.


Edvinas Grisinas