Alan Watts on the Involuntary and Voluntary Self:
It is contrast that defines experience. When of the self, it is the contrast of the other self that defines our position in relationships. When of the aspect of our own self-image, it is that which we less readily accept that defines what we hold to as our definition of identity and thus enjoyment and pleasure. This is identity and ability to enjoy is a measure of our relationship with our self and our relationship with our self’s relationship to the world.
If one fully embraces that which is in contrast to the self we voluntarily accept and acknowledge, then we can achieve a simultaneous increase in the self that is voluntary and controlled by choice.
They are both two sides of the same coin, one will not change without changing the other, yet you can’t get rid of either.
When this is embraced, it is like working backwards from the surface appearance of things. The lever for increasing experience is by acknowledging and controlling our reaction or response to what we don’t want to experience. Our capacity for adaptation to difficult situations counterbalances our ability for authentic enjoyment. Our capacity for enjoyment is benefited by our capacity to let go of enjoyment.
All things that appear to be two opposites are really one self-referencing idea.
This contrast derived, backwards, pro-jected, opposite, half-brained way of seeing is what humanity has developed as a surreptitious, serendipitous, and self-reflecting way of being through what we call “consciousness”.
Look at everything you do as if it is a special or complete action that contains information relative to the whole. The way you turn a corner, the way you pour a glass of tea.
Everything is hot or cold or somewhere in between.
If you want to get rid of the involuntary self then you can’t have the voluntary self.
– Alan Watts
Embrace the involuntary self and simultaneously increase the range of experience of voluntary self.
It is as if life sometimes kicks us in the butt. If we resist this process, we can’t escape experiencing it again. If we embrace the inevitable duality of experience, then we can mitigate how we react and how this affects our experience over all. We gain more control.
If you are ever in a seemingly continuous experience where the involuntary and voluntary aspects seem to blur into one, then take the initiative to mix up the style of how you are kicked and how you embrace it or respond. Thus, life remains interesting overall.
When you can help but you did not organize the occurrence so that it is predictable or easy to do, that is involuntary. Organize how your life will associate with various voluntary and involuntary means of knowing the self. One doesn’t have to help everyone, at every involuntary opportunity they find, however if one embraces enough involuntary activations of this aspect of the self, the desires and experiences we so want to voluntarily experience come more easily and directly. It’s as if the world sees these experiences as one in the same flow and we incorporate newness or power to choose based on how we integrate our self into the variety of opportunities that we have. As Alan says, from this perspective…we didn’t choose the predicament we are born in. So it is through the accepting of those involuntary opportunities to express, know, and come to terms with the self that we may not directly agree with that allows us to balance out the perception and come to know the aspects that we enjoy greatly.
The self is who you create by knowing various actions of one order or another, involuntary or voluntary action.
Remember everything is either hot or cold in the most basic sense.
If you ever lose all desire, then you have no desire to lose. This is what keeps the flow flowing. Mitigate the duality of the flow, that way you can better control or at least handle each turn of the ‘river’ of your life’s experience in this world.
As well, you become a better helper, you can see where others are on this journey and you can point out where it may better serve them to multiply their energy by going with the flow instead of constantly resisting and working against it.
Everything that we resist, becomes more resistible, or irresistible. Everything that we embrace and allow, becomes more allowable or more accessible.
It is all about whether we know where we are resisting our own becoming through the natural ebbs and flows of life and thus resisting our own desires from coming to us, and where we are enabling this action of bringing what we seek directly to us by counterbalancing the polarity of that which we seek and that which we seek to push away.
Thus is the beginning of the essence of immortality. Pushing away the most involuntary of involuntary aspects by voluntarily embracing that which is most difficult to embrace, giving us more power to control our life from a psycho-spiritual standpoint rather than just being a victim or a passerby of our own existence.
In other words, to perform the task of the involuntary self with a voluntary smile is to empower the voluntary self greatly.
Similarly, to perform the actions of the voluntary self with a frown, is to empower the involuntary self and thus give it greater power over one’s reality.