The Hyper-moral Mind

April 14th, 2014

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“What happens to us does not matter so much as what we become through our experiences.”[1]

 

 

Most people might say that morality is a good thing. This is usually because the assumed alternative is to be amoral. This is the Conscious Health blog however and it would be remiss of me not question unconscious assumptions like this one, particularly where they affect our health.

 

 

The trouble with morality

 

right and wrong

 

What is considered moral is highly subjective. Collectively, moral values align themselves to particular groups. These groups may be defined by social, cultural or economic status. For example: White, middle-class, tertiary-educated, Stockholm-based Swedes. Other groups may be defined more by region, religion or political affiliation.

 

Morality is also subject to time. What was considered appropriate behavior (i.e. accepted by the group) for say, a woman living in Sydney in 1940 may be very different from a woman living in Sydney in 2014.

 

Morality is a tricky thing – because it is not a thing. It is whatever a given group conditioned by subjective and changeable circumstance says it is. For example, murder or suicide (self murder) is considered wrong by many groups – but not all. The highest praise and honor in a certain group may go to someone who kills his enemies (those with different moral values than the group with which he identifies) and himself in the process.

 

In some countries euthanasia[2] is considered a compassionate option for the terminally ill or comatose. In others, it is considered murder. Even within the same country different moral and legal judgments on the same issue can vary dependent on the region or state.

 

 

 

Individual versus group morality

 

At a personal, individual level, morality is also subjective. It is linked to the ego-based concerns of fear and desire – what is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ for me.

 

The individual is also affected by the values of the group to which they belong. These are called super-ego values – what the group considers good or bad, punishable or praiseworthy.

 

The limitation with groups is that they, by their very nature, tend to hang out mostly with each other and therefore reinforce what we have now seen as rather subjective moral values. This leads to the unconscious (there is that word again…) assumption that they are universal values.

 

 

Moral mind games

 

True Lies. 1994 Universal Pictures.

True Lies. 1994 Universal Pictures.

 

 

The world has witnessed many times where such assumptions lead:

 

My country, right or wrong

We represent the one, true God

Death to the infidels

Death to the terrorists

The White Australia policy (thankfully no more)

The Patriot Act (still going strong)

 

– and so on and so on till Jesus (or the moral example of your group’s choosing) wept.

 

 

Morality and health

 

We may by now be able to appreciate what a profound impact our moral mind can have on us and how we feel, interpret, think and act in our world.

 

When illness, accident and disease visits us or a perhaps someone close to us a moral interpretation of the situation can cause us to suffer twice (as it so happens there is a blog about that very subject here). Quite apart from the medical problem itself we also suffer against a perceived injustice. It is not fair that we or someone we love should suffer.

 

The moral mind is bound up with egoistic concerns of me and mine. After all, is it fair that anyone suffers? People we do not personally know suffer every day on the planet and we do not suffer with them. The very idea that fairness for oneself exists suggests an assumption of the world existing in some narcissistic justice court of ‘me’.

 

The idea of a scale of justice also creates a very manipulative attitude to health and disease. Our ego starts doing deals:

 

“If I am a very good boy/girl I will not get sick or, if I am already sick then I should get better. See mum, dad, God? I’m doing the right thing. I should be rewarded and not punished.”

 

It is an attitude that the health industry is quick to take advantage of too. Books and products with key buzz words and phrases like ‘ageless aging’, ‘fit for life’, ‘youth and beauty’ and so on just continue the sentiment of the satirical song “Keep young and beautiful”

 

 

In other words it plays on the twin ego drivers of fear (I don’t want to be rejected/abandoned!” [ego death]) and desire (“I want to be loved!”). Simply put, the moral mind has no constructive role in health.

 

 

The hyper-moral mind

 

I first came across this term in the book ‘The Holographic Universe’ by Michael Talbot.[3] One part of the book describes an experiment in regressive hypnosis to see if people could be taken back to the time of their birth – to see if we really do have a kind of inbuilt ‘black box’ that records every event in our life whether we consciously remember it or not.

 

The researchers got more than they bargained for. While indeed many test subjects could be regressed back to their birth, others could go back even further – to a time before they were even conceived.[4] Subjects described their life to come – often involving some very difficult and challenging events they had chosen to experience[5] – in a very calm way.

 

The researchers, scrambling to couch this surprising development in more scientific terms, described their subjects as being in a ‘hyper-moral state’ during these revelations. The subjects showed no undue concern that their road ahead may have very difficult moments of suffering or hardship. From their hyper-moral standpoint these were seen as useful for their personal growth and evolution.

 

 

Leaving the moral mind behind

 

Our moral mind represses this hyper-moral attitude. But what if it were to be consciously reawakened? How might that look in daily life? All of a sudden seemingly empty platitudes like ‘everything happens for a reason’, ‘nothing happens by accident’, and so on take on fresh meaning when not judged morally.

 

We are no longer  imprisoned by the needless suffering of our ego-driven, moral mind. We can develop greater acceptance of what is instead of what should be and trying to control it with our grasping mind.  We would be free to use every situation as ‘grist for the mill’ of our personal growth. What happens to us would be less important than what we become through those experiences.

 

Where have I heard that before?

 

 

Till Monday is unique once more, beyond our moral concerns for it being a good or a bad thing,

 


[1] This is a paraphrasing of an unaccredited quote written on a scroll on my clinic wall. It serves to remind me and my clients that every experience, even difficult ones that are hard to understand from a subjective moral perspective, is valuable.

[2] The painless killing of a patient suffering from an incurable and painful disease or in an irreversible coma.

[3] The Holographic Universe © Michael Talbot. Harper Collins. 1991

[4] Yes, I am aware that such a thing, much like the virgin birth of Christ, appears inconceivable…

[5] This subject opens a fascinating can of worms that is a whole other blog, or book, in itself.

 

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© Jeremy Halpin all rights reserved. All images are the author’s own unless otherwise indicated or if the original source is unknown at the time of writing. You can subscribe to this blog by clicking the button in the bottom right hand corner of the page – or share it on the social media of your choice. If you have any wishes or questions regarding subjects to be discussed on this blog use the contact information below. Jeremy is also available for seminars, lectures and personal consultation: info@jeremyhalpin.com

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