Be Gentle with Yourself
When you pressure yourself to do something unpleasant, your ego is working against your will to life. When you force yourself to do things you don’t want to do, you accept an unacceptable situation. This acceptance is timidity, bullying, where the victim is you, and the bully is also you. So, be gentle with yourself, acknowledge the ego in control, keeping things as they are. Just observe it, even if it seems wrong. Actual change only comes through understanding.
For Spinoza, timidity is power. Spinoza calls it evil, meaning a diminishment of power. When fear of power being stripped away from us is more frightening than the fear of timidity, we are timid. When you are in fear, you cannot function rationally because your emotions control your actions and reactions. Fear is a part of the fight and flight system, and it evokes timidity. When you act timidly, you block your desires and thwart your best interests. In other words, timidity is the power of action that you turn against yourself. Therefore, it is a form of self-hatred.
Timidity is power. Spinoza has a lot to say about timidity. It is something he calls evil, in which he means a diminishment of power. When we act timidly, we fear a more frightening diminishing of power. Fear is part of the fight and flight system and evokes timidity. When you are in fear, you cannot function rationally because your emotions control your actions or reactions. When you act timidly, you do not acknowledge your desires and thwart activity in your own best interest. Therefore, timidity is the power of action that you turn into and against yourself. As such, it is a form of self-hatred.
Spinoza mentions timidity as part of consternation (or, as we might call it, procrastination). He likens timidity as part of the double ideas or actions of consternation. On the one hand, you are confused because you are timid, yet you remain apprehensive on the other hand. Hence, confusion. This lack of action leads to indecision and may take on the form of procrastination. Procrastination is nothing more than double timidity. It is what they call a catch 22 situation where you cannot win.
One way to win is to observe the timidity and don’t try to change it. The change will never come by force. Any change will happen necessarily through your observations of it, not by force. Alternatively, you can go right into timidity and be timid beyond the possibility of your imagined dreams. You can do both to observe your timidity with greater clarity. These two behaviors are something to play with as exercises.
Therefore, consternation arises from a double timidity. It can better be defined as a fear which keeps a man senseless or vacillating so that he cannot avert evil. Spinoza, then, also saw cowardice as “a desire thwarted by timidity.”
Courage as an alternative knows the dangers that lie ahead and yet decides how to act.
Consequently, timidity is the diminishment of your power due to fear. Understanding this fact is power. You realize that you replaced a greater imagined evil (the threat) for a lesser one (timidity). When you see both paths are viable, you have the knowledge that leads to being gentle with yourself. This understanding will work for you in tackling the thing you fear. Your insight deconstructs your timidity. This transforms timidity into power.
What can you accomplish when you are not timid?
People Pleasing and Self Diminishing
It must be acknowledged that people-pleasers are timid because they’re afraid to insist on their needs being met. Wanting to be liked relates to timidity. When you are scared, you hate the imagined cause for that timidity. Whoever or whatever you hate is the imagined external cause of your sense of a diminished state. So, if you fear flying, you hate airplanes, and if you fear your boss, you hate your boss. Then what does Spinoza say about hate?
Timidity Can Cause Hate and Pain
When we hate others, we imagine them to be the cause of our pain. However, the only real cause of our pain is ourselves. Timidity towards someone or something happens when you cannot confront the fear or exhibit your power over the fear. Sometimes this is a legitimate fear, as with a boss, yet you still have the power of action. You can report them or leave. This affect takes consistent observation to understand.
External triggers are an accidental cause of most emotions, including hope, fear, pleasure, or pain. Your response to that external thing is what hurts you. Emotions are triggered through imagination due to an accidental external cause. This trigger can recollect a painful memory or evoke fear of a negative expected outcome. The only real thing is what is happening inside you.
A caveat here is that we are not dealing with physical pain but emotional pain and timidity.
We understand that people can get stuck in timidity and destroy themselves because they fear somebody’s approval. An instance of this is a young boy who wants to be liked by a girl. He wants to ask her out but is too timid to do so. He is terrified in his imagination of the humility he will feel if she rejects him, so he never takes the chance. This lack of action is unfortunate.
Perhaps we believe that our self diminishment will reward us? This idea is inadequate because we cannot possibly know what another person wants. The only thing we can understand is our own needs and desire. As such, we strive to further the occurrence of what we imagine will lead to joy. We avert or destroy what we believe is contrary to pleasure or leads to sadness. Adequate striving empowers us, and this requires courage to be ourselves and know our nature.
Focus on What Gives You Pleasure
Part three of the Ethics gives us an insight into this. It reminds us to further focus on what we imagine will lead to joy and enhance our power. Therefore, keeping our attention on the things that strengthen our existence will give us joy. Focus on keeping the beast fed and striving for power. When we focus on something where we have experienced disempowerment, it will lead to sadness. We cannot escape the roller coaster of pleasure and pain. But it is worth noting that understanding this process generates power within us. This power can overcome timidity and turn it into a necessary action of force. We are no longer timid; we are taking the option, which is being gentle towards ourselves. Action may even mean punching the boss on the nose and walking out!
“People-pleasing withdrawal” is hesitation in following a course of action. We are fearful because we are afraid of how others will react. When you follow a course of action for yourself because you don’t feel that it will please others, it’s about the fear of losing love and approval from others. Because of this fear, we continue to give our power and authority to them. We try to please them in every way possible. Yet, they have no idea who you are when you do this because you suppress your true self. They will likely prefer your authentic self. They probably know or suspect what you are genuinely are anyway.
This behavior applies if someone felt that they always must do what other people want. They fear people being mad at them or stop liking them. This person would feel guilty when they refused a request from someone else and would often apologize unnecessarily.
This particular person also has difficulty acknowledging their needs, making decisions on what they really want, etc. They might not even know their individual wants because they are ignorant about them. They are victims of their imagination and lack of self-knowledge.
How Emotional Investment Leads to Aggression not Timidity
People who consistently do things their way and refuse to listen to others may also have an overly strong sense of being right in doing so. Many of the following statements can be accurate, but some aren’t necessarily true:
“I never make a mistake; I’m very much a perfectionist.”
“If I change my mind, it’s because my mind is changing.”
“It’s not fair when other people can change their minds. And they shouldn’t be able to change their minds anyway. Why should I change my mind if you’re not willing to change yours?”
“If you don’t like something, then just refuse to do it.”
“I’m never wrong about anything.”
Now obviously, those statements above aren’t necessarily a good thing. The person can be very dogmatic and stubborn. They might also have trouble understanding others. They may not accept that others have different needs regarding interaction, such as not being interrupted. It’s all about how the person uses their behavior.
Being Flexible by Using Timidity as Power
It’s a lot easier to be flexible when we’re not so emotionally invested in something. And we don’t have to deny others’ wants, desires, and feelings either. Yet that doesn’t mean they can have everything they want. It does mean they’ll have to let go of a fear of losing love or approval from others. Most people who refuse to listen to others are more afraid than others who are timid, yet they are so asleep that they dare not acknowledge it within themselves. Fear underlines most interactions between people, and the most fearful tend to be the most aggressive. When someone timid learns to challenge them, they crumble or get aggressive. Either way, their inner equilibrium has been destroyed. You are the accidental cause of their disempowerment. It is a state they have feared for all their life and avoided.
Stepping out of emotional investment with this person is not easy, but it is liberating. Well done!
Be gentle with yourself and forgive yourself for your fears.
– and why it’s not always in your own best interest.
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