J. G. Bennett
IDENTIFICATION - J.G. Bennett << back to negative Triads
IDENTIFICATION – The World of Delusion
J.G.Bennett / Deeper man/pag. 170-173
Identification plays an important role in Gurdjieffs psychology. It appears many times in Ouspensky's books, In Search of the Miraculous and The Psychology of Man's Possible Evolution.
It is one of the earliest ideas that I was introduced to when I first came in contact with this teaching. Identification is a false freedom, the illusion of freedom, where we feel free because we are doing what we want to do. Instead of finding ourselves we lose ourselves in what we are doing; and then what we are doing may be free but we ourselves are enslaved. People can also become lost in what they are doing even if it is not what they want; even when it is something they have no choice about. When we are in this state we feel any interference with what we are doing is an encroachment on our freedom. If we are, let us say, cooking in the kitchen, we become so excited, so identified with what we are doing that if anyone comes and tells us that we are not doing it the right way, we become offended and feel that we are being interfered with. We feel that our freedom consists in doing it in our own way; but what freedom we might have had we have given away, and, having had a possibility to be free to do anything, we have chosen to become slaves.
When we are identified it is true to say that we are no longer ourselves at all because we have transferred our sense of our reality to something outside of ourselves. We even make it somehow seem valuable to be identified, praising a man who is really wrapped up in his work or spending vast sums of money for the latest sensational, that is, identifying, book or film. We become the slaves of everything that we are doing, enslaved by all the people we meet and the situations we enter into, and yet there is this terrible absurdity that in all of this we think that we are free.
We can, for example, be struggling with ourselves, trying to hold back the _expression of some negative state while we are boiling away inside. Then suddenly we let it all go and, while objectively we are throwing away all that we had gained by making that effort, we feel better for it, feel free, and justify it all by saying that we wanted to be sincere. We have let ourselves be controlled by this negative triad, yet we feel good, feel all the better for it, because we do not even suspect that such negative states have no place at all in anyone who aspires to the name of man.
Or, again, we find this state in ourselves quite clearly in regard to our possessions. All of us have some possessions we are attached to, as we say, or identified with, and if there is any danger of its being lost it is worse for us than if we were to lose ourselves. I can remember a very striking example of this which took place long, long ago when I was in one of Ouspensky's groups. We were talking about the difficulty we were having in remembering ourselves and he said that in order to remember we had to have a reminding factor. He continued that to have a reminding factor we would have to sacrifice something that was precious to us, put away from ourselves something which we valued. One woman said to him that she was becoming desperate, that she had been trying to do something for several months and had been unable to do anything. He told her that she should look around her home and find something that she really cared about and sacrifice it. She looked very embarrassed for a moment and then said, "Well, to tell the truth, I have a very beautiful old tea-service at home which I inherited complete from my mother, which I'm attached to." His reply was, "Break one of your Dresden cups and you will remember yourself." The next week she came in a genuine hysterical condition, saying, "I have been so agonized by what you said about my Dresden cups. I could not break a Dresden cup even if it were to save my soul." His answer to her was simply, "Do you see what is meant by identification?"
Our personal relationships are constantly being spoiled because we are identified with people and what they may be thinking or feeling about us. Someone has only to make the slightest little gesture and our inner world is filled with all sorts of emotional reactions. Anything at all can be exaggerated to the most absurd lengths. A word of criticism and we believe that we are hated outcasts. A nod and we believe ourselves to be acknowledged as wise or supremely important. In all of this, nobody else has made us identified. We ourselves have done it. When something shakes us out of the state of identification, there is something very disagreeable in realizing how lost we have been; we can hardly bear to acknowledge the truth.
When we are identified, our vision of the world is terribly small. The present moment shrinks to a point. But when we are totally identified, utterly lost, we believe ourselves to be most free, that we see everything that is real. At first, when we come across this idea, it is almost impossible for us really to accept that we can ever be identified: other people, yes, but not us. But once we have really seen this in ourselves, when we have tasted the bitter reality of it, it is no longer possible for us to look at ourselves as we did before. We can no longer "sleep in peace," as Gurdjieff put it. That is why self-observation must be undertaken with the resolution not to stop at any barrier, not to flinch from anything that is discovered, and not to fail to follow up the inferences that inevitably follow from what is seen.
When I was working in one of Ouspensky's groups, we would meet only once a week but would spend months and even years trying to come to an understanding of just how these negative laws worked in us and how, once we have understood their working, we might supersede it, how we might place ourselves under the influence of higher laws. In reality, there are not two different approaches to this work, one which deals with the negative laws and one which deals with the higher laws, the essential laws. Every time that, through struggling with our negative states, we come to a point where we are able to separate ourselves from ourselves and observe ourselves impartially, we are not only coming to understand how the lower laws work in us but are also, at the same time, creating a place in ourselves that is free from their influence, that is working under different laws. And every time we approach any theoretical study of higher laws, of the laws of essence, which is not founded on work on ourselves, then whatever our subjective sensations may be, we are not experiencing the action of higher laws but only the action of our imagination. Gurdjieff said more than once that this teaching originates from a conscious source. To understand it we have to be able to approach it consciously, to be able to approach it through and not from the machinery of our ordinary selves. We can say that the whole theme of negative laws is of immense importance for an understanding of human psychology in general and of special importance for an understanding of the psychology of our possible development, provided, of course, that it is all approached in the right way, that is, practically, in terms of our own negativities and our own mechanicalities. And though we ourselves are the only proper subject of this study, it is not something which we can do alone.
Copyright - J.G.Bennett and Elizabeth Bennett