The “ladder of selves” was a concept of Brithish philosopher, Colin Wilson. The ladder is an excellent metaphor for how our mood effects our relationships with others. The “ladder” is a quick way to take our emotional pulse.
At the bottom of the ladder is our base self. At that level, we go through life in an unconscious and reactive manner. It’s a superficial, self-absorbed way of being in the world.
As we move up the ladder, we become less unconscious, but we are still in a reactive state. We automatically react to the things that others say and do. We are likely to behave in an offended, irritated or fearful way. We seek revenge and harbor resentments.
A little higher up the ladder, we may still be somewhat unconscious in our reactions, but we are able to experience a few more positive emotions. A few more rungs up, is where we become more thoughtful, creative and compassionate toward others. Our career and relationships are fulfilling and we are more content. Life is relatively peaceful. At the top of the ladder is pure spirit.
What is difficult for most of us to grasp, is that our position on the ladder has nothing to do with our finances, our health, the weather, the traffic or the behavior of others. That’s just a few of the things we typically cite as the reasons for our moods. I know that can be a difficult concept to grasp. It is more common to believe that our sullen teenager, unpredictable boss, or the tree that just fell on our house is to blame for our frustration and discontent.
But, if you look around… you’ll see people who are poor, laughing and dancing. I’m sure you know wealthy people who are worried and fearful. Do you know people in relationships who are miserable and they want out; and people who are alone who believe happiness can be found in a relationship? Have you seen children with rooms full of toys and games who are bored, and children who have nothing more than a stick and rock, but they are playing joyfully in the street?
Our experience of life is created on the inside. Happiness is not out there, in the next lottery jackpot or when you finally leave your unfulfilling job. I have seen this play out in my own life. I know this is the truth, but like many of you, I have tried to find my happiness, peace of mind and contentment externally.
Looking for love in all the wrong places…
I looked for love, happiness, and security, in my first three marriages. I looked for my value in my relationships with others and in the work I produced. What I didn’t realize then, was that my value was inherent, and I was already lovable and worthy. No person, career, or circumstance can make any of us worth more. There is not one thing I can do that will make me a more lovable, valuable or worthy person.
That does not mean that I should give up on helping others, doing the best work I possibly can, or that I should ignore my health or my financial well-being. The trick is to do those things from a position of wanting to do them for the fun of it, or the pleasure we get from doing those things. Not do them because we feel we need to do them to be lovable or valuable.
Why is our position on the ladder important? It’s important because when we are living on the upper rungs of our state of mind, we not only enjoy our lives more, we impact the lives of those around us in a positive way as well.
Think about the last discussion you had with a store clerk, coworker, your spouse, parent, sibling or child? Where were you on the ladder during that conversation? Did you blame the other person for your state of mind? After the conversation, did you leave the other person feeling good about the relationship they have with you?
The more we practice being aware of our position on the “ladder”, the easier it will become to move ourselves up the ladder as needed to live at the levels that bring success, creativity, great relationships, joy and contentment.
Where are you on the ladder of selves? That’s up to you.