Our Anxiety about Inferiority and Our Need to be “Someone”

Notes on the Sunday address by Dr Francis Macnab, 2 August 2015.
By John Abbate.

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Colin Wilson, author of the existentialist novel The Outsider (1956), believed that human beings tend to underrate their own potential. They drift through life on auto-pilot, becoming increasingly “mired in triviality” and convinced of their own ordinariness.

The illusion of our being “average” can blind us to the possibilities that exist for us, the pathways that might lead us to a more meaningful life. With the downgrading of our significance, we stop listening for the opportunities that might call us forward into a new way of being.

Dr Macnab uses the New Testament story of the Man Healed at the Pool of Bethesda (John 5) to illustrate the way we can be bamboozled by our belief in the wrong things. The man’s infirmity meant that he perpetually missed his opportunity at the healing pool. Others would always take his place. Nobody helped him, until Jesus of Nazareth saw him and said, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” And he went way healed.

The moral of this story, according to Dr Macnab, is not to get stuck, sitting around, waiting for things to happen. A meaningful future is within your power to achieve, if you can only leave the past behind and rediscover the inner resources at your disposal.

The ghosts of the past have effects on the personality that do not wane with the passage of time. As memory dims, old hurts and subconscious resentments remain pointed.

“[When we let the past get the better of us] we lose touch with our best inner strengths, and we’re likely to surrender to the things that have happened to us. And so we downgrade our significance, the value of our personality, and we start saying, ‘Well, I’m only an average person after all.’”

A capacity to put the past into a better place, so that it no longer hinders the shaping of your future, is one of the fundamental markers of a mature personality.

Marks of the Mature Personality

Dr Macnab lists several further capacities of the mature personality:

  1. A capacity to listen to yourself, and to the new possibilities that could be emerging for you.
  2. A striving towards a meaningful future.
  3. An ability to accept that there are many sources of help and healing; they can be found in more than one place.
  4. A capacity to discover and rediscover your inner strength.
  5. A capacity for change. Dr Macnab asks us to believe, with him, that human beings can change in positive ways, even after years of being stuck in one place, convinced of their own inferior status.

 “The mature personality is one that is immersed in life,” said Dr Macnab.

How does a former president of the United States, for example, bring a vitality of spirit with them into the next phase of life? One final characteristic of the mature personality that Dr Macnab touches on is the ability to re-evaluate the sources of health and vitality after an important stage of life has ended, after you’ve already been somebody.

Dr Macnab leaves us with the message to “remember, there is more than one way to feel good about yourself, and to offer a very vital personality to the world.”

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