The Third Power, Part II
This is another article in a series on self-esteem,
of which there are four parts, or Powers, as I call them.
The First major component of self-esteem is basic Worth,
which is the First Power. The Second Power is Competence.
Both of these have been discussed in other articles, some
of which are on this specific article directory.
The Third Power is Ego Strength, and it is comprised of two
parts, Assertiveness and Thick Skinnedness. In this article
I address the second part in this article.
Thick Skinnedness ("TS") is the result of becoming
assertive and it is the midpoint in personal development
between Competence and the development of the Fourth Power,
which is Self-Acceptance. TS is not merely insensitivity to
the world around us, although on the surface it may appear so.
Those of us who seem impervious to insult or have such thick
skin that nothing bothers us appear to have developed TS.
However, there are many maladaptive states that, on the surface,
appear this way. Personality disorders, intoxication,
extreme fatigue are a few that come to mind. In these states,
it does not really matter what goes on around us. We do not
care so much, so it looks like we are not bothered.
These states are still pathological, and cannot positively
contribute to a health state of self-esteem.
No, the TS referenced here is about remaining connected to
the world, yet processing the "inputs" of the world in a
different, more effective way. One can remain wholly involved
with the world, be sensitive and responsive yet also experience TS.
One way of doing this is mindfulness, which is a very popular
term in outpatient psychotherapy these days. Mindfulness is
about processing events in your sensorium (consciousness,
sensory experience, quality of thoughts, etc.) to the fullest
extent. However, in the mindful state, we do not form the usual
attachments to our experience. It is more like watching the
movie of your own experience in a movie theatre. You are in the
front seat, watching your experience on the screen in front of you.
You fully participate because it is about you, but you also
have distance from the primary experience because you are in the
front seat, not in the picture.
Cognitive and other meditative-oriented therapists sometimes
call this witnessing, or monitoring. In this state, we fully
experience life. What we do not do is get stuck in any particular
experience so that our perceptions, appreciation and enjoyment of
life stops. This is different than avoidance, distancing,
non-attachment or detachment. These latter states are characterized
by not fully participating in life's present moment.
Enjoyment is less.
Both overall states (mindfulness vs. "other"), on the surface,
appear to manifest Thick Skinnedness. The former produces such
outer behaviors because of effectively processing each moment's
experience, then releasing it or yielding to the next moment's
experience. Think of this as writing on water with your finger.
The water does show what is written, but "holds on" to it only a
very fleeting minute, after which the water becomes flat again.
It registered, then released. Similarly, in the mindfulness
state of mind, awareness does the same with experience.
On the surface, there is less reaction, hence the appearance of TS.
In contrast the distanced, disconnected state fails to produce fully appreciation, hence enjoyment or even basic "processing" of experience.
This detracts from life's experience. It reduces perceptual richness,
even though on the surface there appears to be the same TS.
This qualitative distinction is crucial for the development of
healthy TS, which is neither non-reactivity nor reduced enjoyment
of life. When done effectively, this second part of the Third Power
greatly increases self-esteem, which is described in much greater
detail in my ebook, entitled, The Four Powers of Self-Esteem.