Overcompensation – The Curse Of The Spiritual Seeker
Overcompensation is the experience of using mental concepts as a way to shield ourselves or avoid something uncomfortable in our experience. That “something uncomfortable” could be the sheer fear of death, unconscious pain that we have avoided our whole lives, or even the prospect of seeing our entire reality shattered, really seen as the illusion it is.
The Inquiries leave no stone unturned. In other words, they are developed so that the mind cannot land solidly on any concept or story. This is essentially why they work so well. First, not being able to land solidly on a concept or story just provides more restful presence. In the simplest of words, it just allows you to live in the moment. That’s not a landing place once the mind sees the emptiness of even those words. Second, not landing on concepts and stories allows you to feel and release unconscious pain and energy that has been there for years, since childhood. The mind is so clever. It will just keep seeking something, anything. Or it will just keep believing that it knows something for certain as a way to avoid facing the deepest existential fear, which is usually the fear of death or non-existence. When the facilitators are working with people, sometimes at the end of the session, a client cannot find the self or whatever thing they thought was inherently real, only to see the client crawl back into ideas that make the self or other thing appear real again. That’s overcompensation in a nutshell. It actually takes people out of our facilitator program on a somewhat regular basis. It’s that thought, “there must be something more, something called awakening that I just haven’t found yet.” But in that thought, the deficiency story is still active. In fact, “There must be something more” is the cry of the deficient self who believes that there is something fundamentally wrong or missing in his or her life.
It’s much more hopeful to be chasing something in the future than to see that your entire world is an illusion right now. Hope for something better, whether it is a state or an experience or something we might call liberation, happiness, enlightenment or awakening is almost entirely a game of avoidance of this deep rooted uncomfortableness. We have a body, or so it seems. And with that body comes the pain, the discomfort, the puke, the nausea, the tightness, the contraction, the fear, the feelings of lack, all of it. Everything that goes with the sense of separation.
Overcompensating is a way to avoid all of that and to dream a sweet dream that somewhere, someday down the road, all the pain will be wiped away. But in that dream of getting somewhere, you avoid the pain as it arises in your experience right now or that pain or fear that might arise if you begin to see through your dream of future and your mental certainty. And that’s the insidious thing about overcompensation. The more the mind says “I’m not there yet, I have to keep seeking” or the more it lands on nice, neat spiritual concepts that appear real, the more the body is avoided, the more present experience is avoided. In overcompensation, labeling wins the day, every time, rather than actually being with whatever the labels are so busy covering up. And usually the labels are covering this discomfort, fear and pain. Overcompensation leads to more than just avoidance of this. It actually keeps our heads focused on seeking and/or thinking we know something about what reality really is, so that the little, beautiful moments in life, like watching a leaf blow through the air or feeling the warmth of the sun or just sitting and enjoy being alive get overlooked. Virtually all of the diversity of life can be drowned out by overcompensating and landing on spiritual phrases like “oneness” or “liberation” or “it’s all just happening.” These phrases have a way of reducing the vast and diverse beauty of life into one liners.
I’ve seen it so many times. And I’ve written about it often. I watch clients who start to go deep with the inquiries but then back out when the real prospect of feeling and releasing the deepest pain and fear starts to show its head. This is fine, of course. The mind apparently has mechanisms that it believes it needs to protect the self from feeling pain and fear. But for those who don’t back out, for those who are no longer content with dreaming the dream that freedom is a future attainment that they just haven’t found yet, for those that are open to looking into every single thing they believe, there is a sweet and beautiful freedom in that looking. A freedom that is not a carrot. It cannot be chased into the future. It cannot be neatly packaged in a concept. It is not even contained in the word “freedom,” which is just another label.
If you are experiencing overcompensation, the first thing to do is spot it. And then, if you are working with a facilitator, have a long discussion about what you might be avoiding, what you haven’t been open to look at with the inquiries or whatever other mechanisms of defense might be in play. That conversation might be the most important one you ever have on your pathless path to freedom. I have watched people not have that conversation with someone who has been through it all. And I have watched those people leave this work and pick up all sorts of beliefs that continue to tell them that they are “not there yet” or that they know how reality really is. Under that kind of thinking, the deficient “me” is running the show, trying to get somewhere or claim it knows or has something that others don’t. But under all those beliefs in a future gain and under all that certainty, there is usually just unfelt, unconscious energy.
If you can see this, you are half way there. The other half involves actually looking into these beliefs, so that the mind can relax just long enough to be with those energies as they are and release them just by letting them be. Overcompensating is the opposite of letting energies be as they are. It’s a way of distracting yourself from them.
But when they fully release, I would be willing to bet everything I have on the notion that you will never seek again, nor will you ever believe you know something for certain. I would also be willing to bet that you will be begin to see the mind for the beautiful unfindable mechanism it is. It’s ability to label things, including the labels in this writing, can be fully seen and appreciated, without thinking that things are inherently objective and real anymore. So please, whatever you do, don’t think that anything here that I’m talking about is being spoken in a way that is meant to be objective, true or real. These are just words on a page describing an experience that many of us share. But if the words seem to point to this overcompensation in your own experience, you now have the tools to release it – the inquiries. Start with whatever you believe is true and real right now, as you read this, or whatever you think you are looking for down the road or whoever you think you are right now. When the pain and fear start to arise, be grateful that you are putting down the overcompensation in favor of a deeper look into experience. Stick with the looking. Don’t back out no matter how intense it gets. Here’s the cosmic joke. It feels intense precisely because more words and pictures are attached to the energy. Those words and pictures ARE the overcompensation. So it appears safer to go back into them than to face the fear and pain. But it’s not actually safer because overcompensating leads to more seeking and suffering down the road. Peel the words and pictures away right now by seeing that none of them are the thing you are looking for. Then watch the energy release like a mist into the thin air. Therein lies the peace and freedom.