Read CHAPTER X. One’s self of As a Matter of Course, free online book, by Annie Payson Call, on

To be truly at peace with one’s self means rest indeed.

There is a quiet complacency, though, which passes for peace, and is like the remarkably clear red-and-white complexion which indicates disease.  It will be noticed that the sufferers from this complacent spirit of so-called peace shrink from openness of any sort, from others or to others.  They will put a disagreeable feeling out of sight with a rapidity which would seem to come from sheer fright lest they should see and acknowledge themselves in their true guise.  Or they will acknowledge it to a certain extent, with a pleasure in their own humility which increases the complacency in proportion.  This peace is not to be desired.  With those who enjoy it, a true knowledge of or friendship with others is as much out of the question as a knowledge of themselves.  And when it is broken or interfered with in any way, the pain is as intense and real as the peace was false.

The first step towards amicable relations with ourselves is to acknowledge that we are living with a stranger.  Then it sometimes happens that through being annoyed by some one else we are enabled to recognize similar disagreeable tendencies in ourselves of which we were totally ignorant before.

As honest dealing with others always pays best in the end, so it is in all relations with one’s self.  There are many times when to be quite open with a friend we must wait to be asked.  With ourselves no such courtesy is needed.  We can speak out and done with it, and the franker we are, the sooner we are free.  For, unlike other companions, we can enjoy ourselves best when we are conspicuous only by our own absence!

It is this constant persistence in clinging to ourselves that is most in the way; it increases that crown of nervous troubles, self-consciousness, and makes it quite impossible that we should ever really know ourselves.  If by all this, we are not ineffable bores to ourselves, we certainly become so to other people.

It is surprising, when once we come to recognize it, how we are in an almost chronic state of posing to ourselves.  Fortunately, a clear recognition of the fact is most effectual in stopping the poses.  But they must be recognized, pose by pose, individually and separately stopped, and then ignored, if we want to free ourselves from ourselves entirely.

The interior posing-habit makes one a slave to brain-impressions which puts all freedom out of the question.  To cease from such posing opens one of the most interesting gates to natural life.  We wonder how we could have obscured the outside view for so long.

To find that we cannot, or do not, let ourselves alone for an hour in the day seems the more surprising when we remember that there is so much to enjoy outside.  Egotism is immensely magnified in nervous disorders; but that it is the positive cause of much nervous trouble has not been generally admitted.

Let any one of us take a good look at the amount of attention given by ourselves to ourselves.  Then acknowledge, without flinching, what amount of that attention is unnecessary; and it will clear the air delightfully, for a moment at any rate.

The tendency to refer everything, in some way or another, to one’s self; the touchiness and suspicion aroused by nothing but petty jealousy as to one’s own place; the imagined slights from others; the want of consideration given us, ­all these and many more senseless irritations are in this over-attention to self.  The worries about our own moral state take up so great a place with many of us as to leave no room for any other thought.  Indeed, it is not uncommon to see a woman worrying so over her faults that she has no time to correct them.  Self-condemnation is as great a vanity as its opposite.  Either in one way or another there is the steady temptation to attend to one’s self, and along with it an irritation of the nerves which keeps us from any sense of real freedom.

With most of us there is no great depth to the self-disease if it is only stopped in time.  When once we are well started in the wholesome practice of getting rid of ourselves, the process is rapid.  A thorough freedom from self once gained, we find ourselves quite companionable, which, though paradoxical, is without doubt a truth.

“That freedom of the soul,” writes Fenelon, “which looks straight onward in its path, losing no time to reason upon its steps, to study them, or to dwell upon those already taken, is true simplicity.”  We recognize a mistake, correct it, go on and forget.  If it appears again, correct it again.  Irritation at the second or at any number of reappearances only increases the brain-impression of the mistake, and makes the tendency to future error greater.

If opportunity arises to do a good action, take advantage of it, and silently decline the disadvantage of having your attention riveted to it by the praise of others.

A man who is constantly analyzing his physical state is called a hypochondriac.  What shall we call the man who is constantly analyzing his moral state?  As the hypochondriac loses all sense of health in holding the impression of disease, so the other gradually loses the sense of wholesome relation to himself and to others.

If a man obeyed the laws of health as a matter of course, and turned back every time Nature convicted him of disobedience, he would never feel the need of self-analysis so far as his physical state was concerned.  Just so far as a man obeys higher laws as a matter of course, and uses every mistake to enable him to know the laws better, is morbid introspection out of the question with him.

“Man, know thyself!” but, being sure of the desire to know thyself, do not be impatient at slow progress; pay little attention to the process, and forget thyself, except when remembering is necessary to a better forgetting.

To live at real peace with ourselves, we must surely let every little evil imp of selfishness show himself, and not have any skulking around corners.  Recognize him for his full worthless-ness, call him by his right name, and move off.  Having called him by his right name, our severity with ourselves for harboring him is unnecessary.  To be gentle with ourselves is quite as important as to be gentle with others.  Great nervous suffering is caused by this over-severity to one’s self, and freedom is never accomplished by that means.  Many of us are not severe enough, but very many are too severe.  One mistake is quite as bad as the other, and as disastrous in its effects.

If we would regard our own state less, or careless whether we were happy or unhappy, our freedom from self would be gained more rapidly.

As a man intensely interested in some special work does not notice the weather, so we, if we once get hold of the immense interest there may be in living, are not moved to any depth by changes in the clouds of our personal state.  We take our moods as a matter of course, and look beyond to interests that are greater.  Self may be a great burden if we allow it.  It is only a clear window through which we see and are seen, if we are free.  And the repose of such freedom must be beyond our conception until we have found it.  To be absolutely certain that we know ourselves at any time is one great impediment to reaching such rest.  Every bit of self-knowledge gained makes us more doubtful as to knowledge to come.  It would surprise most of us to see how really unimportant we are.  As a part of the universe, our importance increases just in proportion to the laws that work through us; but this self-importance is lost to us entirely in our greater recognition of the laws.  As we gain in the sensitive recognition of universal laws, every petty bit of self-contraction disappears as darkness before the rising of the sun.