Tag Archives: self-fulfillment

The yoga psychology of the Twitter follower count

I read an article a few weeks ago with statistics on fake Twitter followers of Dutch politicians. It was a reminder to me that having followers on social media is generally considered to be an important thing, and served as an extra trigger for me to try and understand the psychology of having Twitter followers a little bit better.

The method that I use to understand such subjects is self-study1 through contemplation. In this case this started for me by observing my reactions to gaining and losing followers on Twitter. I found that whenever I gained a follower I had a sense of happiness, and whenever I lost one I felt a bit sad or annoyed. I also started noticing that thoughts of my Twitter follower were popping up in my mind more regularly during the day. I took this as an indication that underneath this ‘follower count’ there is something that is important to me.

I asked myself why I am having these feelings; more specifically, I asked myself what needs of mine are being fulfilled by gaining followers. The answer that my mind gave me was loud and clear: “Attention, recognition and approval.” This means that I was unconsciously seeking the attention, recognition and approval of others, and that I was interpreting being followed as being given attention to, being recognised and being approved.

I consider spirituality to be the process of making my happiness independent of other people or things outside of me. This is what I consider to be the practice of non-attachment2. I therefore always remind myself of the following: whatever I seek outside of me is something that I am not finding or giving to myself, and that will eventually lead me to misery.

I have noticed that only the realisation that I am seeking something outside of myself is not enough: as long as I have the perception that I am indeed finding what I seek, I am not able to change the behaviour of seeking that something outside of myself. I have already described one method of breaking this habit on this blog, which boils down to coming to the understanding that if somebody likes or dislikes someone/something, it has (almost) everything to do with that person and (almost) nothing with that someone/something. This understanding paves the way to self-fulfilling our needs.

In this specific case of Twitter followers however, it doesn’t even go to ‘liking’ or ‘disliking’. I have observed that quite a large number of people don’t follow others out of interest, but merely as a strategy to be followed back!

This whole idea of having Twitter followers has become almost entirely meaningless to me after this examination. It has left me with amazement at how our mind leads us to nonsensical behaviours when we seek to fulfill ourselves through external means.

1: ‘svadhyaya’ in the Yoga Sutras
2: ‘practice’ and ‘non-attachment’ lead to Self-realisation according to Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras

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The nature of the ego

Part 1
Part 2 – This article

I briefly touched upon the subject of self-fulfilment during last Sunday’s workshop. That in turn reminded me of this article about the ego, which I have been wanting to write for a while but had almost completely forgotten about.

Some years ago I had a realisation that whenever we are looking for something outside ourselves, we are not giving that something to ourselves. If, for example, I am looking for a person to love me, it means that I am not giving myself enough love. This is true for all the other basic needs that are rooted in love, such as respect, attention, appreciation, meaning, etc.

To give ourselves these basic needs, in other words to fulfil ourselves, we need to realise that we are the source of these basic needs. When we do not realise that we, ourselves, are the source of love, life becomes more difficult to enjoy. Our behaviour becomes more externally oriented, because that is where we are seeking fulfilment. This ‘additional’ externally oriented behaviour is what is often perceived as caused by the ‘ego’. It is for example when we are seeking appreciation from others that we start boasting to others about ourselves, become vain, or some other behaviour that is associated with the ego.

I often thought the ego is some sort of thing inside me before I had this insight into it. I started to believe that the ego is something that is preventing me from experiencing ‘enlightenment’ and that it needs to be curtailed, controlled or defeated. I now realise that this approach to the ego is useless, because the ego is not a thing and so you cannot battle it. It is correct that it seems like the ego is unbeatable, for the simple reason that it does not exist. I experienced relief when I understood this.

The ego is simply a misunderstanding or misbelief about who and what we are. We are the source of all the basic human needs and my experience is that we start experiencing this more when we start to act according to that understanding.

Those who are familiar with Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras can compare the explanation in this article to his explanation of the kleshas. Patanjali says that ignorance of our true nature (avidya) is the root cause of all suffering and that ‘I-ness’ (asmita) is a product of this ignorance.

Part 1
Part 2 – 本文

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