I understand that we are fragile as humans. Doesn’t that mean that we should try to create a safe environment where we don’t have to fight against negative influences?
It is rational to value physical safety and to take reasonable precautions to preserve it, recognizing that perfect safety is not attainable. Psychological safety is another matter. In a sleeping world, there are negative influences everywhere. You cannot protect yourself from them. The problem is not in the environment. The problem is in you. So-called triggers cannot be eliminated by managing the behaviour of others. If your ego is fragile and sensitive, there is no end of possible so-called micro-aggressions. The answer is to be less fragile.
Ego fragility…let’s call it identity fragility…is the first target of work on self. What triggers reactions in you? Find out. Observe the sensations, physical expressions, emotions and thoughts that arise. Learn to observe them impartially. What does impartiality mean? It means that you do not justify or defend any of these reactions. They are programmed reactions. They have no psychological validity in themselves, they are not special in any way and they have no significance that needs to be rationalized or understood. Nor are these reactions failings you should feel ashamed of. They are simply conditioning, which every human has. The moment you judge or justify them, you are identified. The aim of this work, if we can put it into one sentence, is to dis-identify.
Therefore, triggers and micro-aggressions are welcome evidence that work on self can proceed. Not work on others, where they must refrain from triggering you, but work on impartial observation of yourself, which in time will free you from unnecessary reactions. Let me be clear that impartial observation is the work of voluntary attention, not the little voice in your head that tries to explain everything.
Attention is the key. Your circuitry has been compromised by life in this world. Impressions have imprinted themselves on your nervous system. Certain experiences in the present now trigger a reaction from the past. You can engage in therapy to explore the origins of this programming, understand it and forgive yourself and others in order to move past judgment and justification. Or you can expose your reactions to wordless impartial attention and let it gradually remove the charge from your nervous system. In so doing, you may discover compassion for yourself and others. I leave it to you.
Does impartial voluntary attention have the power to erase my fixations?
Yes. The essential issue is identification. If your engagement with the fixation is to defend or condemn it, you are identified with it and it has power over you. You become its slave. This is because the fixation is being observed by your personality which is not separate from the observed although it pretends to be. The fixation is you. Can your personality surrender itself to being observed, leaving the false seat of authority and exposing itself to impartial attention along with its fixations? Who, then is the observer? Why, attention itself.
Voluntary impartial attention is by its very nature dis-identifying. It proceeds without the interference of the thinking self. This form of attention is a higher form of energy than the energy of the fixation. Attention is able to reorganize and free the energy of the fixation. This process may require repeated exposure to accomplish its task but like wind and water it can erode even the hardest material.