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The Horror Of The Concrete Self

Our confidence – as the tightly-wrapped identities we experience ourselves to be – comes about as a result of never questioning anything. We never question anything at all, least of all ourselves. Especially ourselves…

What an extraordinary thing, to live in a world that is created by the absence of questioning! It’s a brash world, a garish world, an appallingly senseless world. It’s a world that’s made up of nothing because if you did ever question it then it would fall to pieces immediately. It’s a house of cards.

What kind of things can happen in the world that is made up of the absence of questioning? Lots and lots of things, but none of them mean anything! This is the hollow world – the world of two-dimensional meanings that no one ever wants to look beneath. What can we talk about in this world of baseless self-confidence? Again, we can talk about many, many things, but it’s all just empty chatter.

The more time we spend in this ‘world that is created by never questioning’ in the more frightening it becomes to ask questions, or even admit that there is a possibility the possibility of asking them. We live in the shadow of that fear. The more fixated our attention becomes on the two-dimensional images that make up our world, the more terrified we are of  what might lie beneath them!

This is not a conscious thing – it’s not a conscious thing because it never occurs to us that they could be anything beneath the two-dimensional images. The whole point of the exercise is that we take it that there isn’t! That’s what ‘the life of the concrete self’ is all about – assuming that there’s nothing beneath the superficial images which it relates to on a daily basis. This manoeuvre does create fear however – the consciousness or awareness that we deny ‘turns into’ fear, so to speak.

This isn’t quite the best way of putting it however – consciousness isn’t ‘turned into’ something else, something different, but rather it has a ‘flip side’ and that ‘flipside’ is fear. We can’t simply ‘get rid’ of consciousness, in other words, but what we can do is ‘pretend that it isn’t there,’ and we can pretend very thoroughly! This pretence of ours works perfectly well in one way, in that we ‘get what we want’, but it works against us at the same time in that it creates a spectre which – even though we can’t see it directly – nevertheless exerts its baleful influence on us.

‘Pretending’ – in this very non-playful way that we are pretending, is an act of aggression, and no act of aggression ‘goes unpunished’, so to speak. Every violent act comes with a backlash. The backlash – as we have been saying – isn’t immediately visible, isn’t in any way ‘obvious’, but it is all the same very major in its impact, and that’s putting it mildly. The ‘backlash’ that we’re talking about here controls us totally…

In denying consciousness were also denying our own freedom – necessarily so since the two are inextricably linked. The price we pay for denying our own freedom is that we become ‘unfree without knowing that we are’. We are pretending that our inherent / inalienable freedom doesn’t exist and we are also denying that we are pretending anything, and so of course we are ‘unfree without knowing that we are’!

This is what makes the concrete self into the concrete self – this and nothing else! What makes the concrete self into the concrete self is this precise act of violence, the violence of ‘pretending and at the same time pretending that we are not pretending’. Or to put this another way, what makes the concrete self into the concrete self is the aggressive act whereby we deny consciousness. The concrete self is ‘the denial of consciousness’, in other words. That’s what ‘the denial of consciousness’ looks like – it looks like the concrete self!

Is it any wonder therefore that we live in the type of the world that we do live in? Is it any wonder that everything is about ‘empty confidence’, the empty confidence of the concrete self obeying its deterministic scripts without knowing that it is (which is to say ‘the empty confidence of the concrete self doing what it always does’)? Is it any wonder that we run around talking so much and yet never actually saying anything?

When we give away our own freedom (and at the same time deny that we are doing so) then we are playing a particular type of trick on ourselves. The nature of this trick is that we obey deterministic scripts which we take to be the same thing as a genuine individuality, and we never look into the fact that we are doing so. It’s a point of honour that we never look into the fact that all we are doing is obeying scripts, and this is what constitutes ‘the life of the concrete self’!

When this situation is ‘spelled-out’ as we have just done so then this puts a rather different complexion on what we like to call ‘confidence’ – ‘confidence’ simply means not being aware of all of this, and not wanting to know either. When we say that someone is ‘confident’ – in the usual sense of the word – then that ‘confidence’ refers not to the person themselves, but simply to ‘their flat identification with the game that is being played’. There is absolutely nothing behind it, in other words. It’s not them – it’s the absence of them, the absence of awareness.

When our confidence is knocked or broken then this is actually a better situation to be in – if we can avail of it, that is. It has more possibilities for growth, more possibilities for actual awareness. We have the possibility of learning that the confidence that comes about as a result of ‘flat identification with the game’ isn’t worth anything at all, and – in truth – is actually worse than useless when it comes down to it. We have the possibility of learning that the confidence that comes about as a result of never questioning anything (and never questioning our own lack of questioning either) is an actual horror. It’s actually the worst horror going – it’s ‘the horror of the concrete self’…

Author: Nick Williams

Nick Williams works and writes in the field of mental health and is particularly interested in non-equilibrium states of consciousness, which are states of mind that cannot be validated by standardized experiments or by reference to any formal theoretical perspective.
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  • Dan C

    Just encountered your site. Great stuff.
    Two definitions that came to mind for me after 9/11:

    Human: an ape-like mammal that builds a model of the universe in its brain, and upon physical maturity, moves itself inside the model, avoiding reality at all cost.

    Evil: an action taken based on an unquestioned belief.

    Do be do be do

    February 9, 2019 at 9:59 pm