At Home with the Inner Self

Jim Burns

James J. Burns, III


Jim Burns


...I really can't talk to people who can only think what they can get out of it. There are people who think every second they are with someone what it's going to get for them. When I lived in the ___ area of ___, there were people there with almost exclusively that mind state. As far as I am concerned, they are a cancer.

The key to understanding the essence of the circumstances of these driven type of people, lies in the fact that they almost universally had bad childhoods, in varying degrees. It is beyond my capability to imagine a person with that unusual amount of energy to have found that energy through anything but through frustration. What they are doing every day is going out the door to prove what a "good kid" they are. They don't care a thing of whom they kill in the process. They are still being a "good kid."

If I go out the door in the morning to be engaged with society, which is a specific feeling, for me the greatest kick is just to be knocking around with other people. It doesn't matter if it is teaching or digging ditches. This is not true of the success-oriented person. The success-oriented person sees everything in the form of hierarchies, and evaluates everything in terms of his position on the pole, and what it's going to get him.

Nothing succeeds like success except for one thing that is wrong with it. It's addictive. Like all addictions, it takes a little more every day to get the same high. If the person is fortunate and happens to be at the right place at the right time often enough, and also able to do what is required of him in his work without messing up wholesale in his handling of people, then he can make it and continue succeeding. In the long view, though, how many corporate presidents are there?

Obviously the success-oriented person is necessary for our economy. As soon as these people get into middle management positions and climb about as high as they will, their dreams begin to die. I've seen half a dozen of my friends in their fifties go through this process. Everyone of them became a total loss. They start getting their hopes up about being able to accept defeat, which they are never able to completely do, and somehow crawl across the line to sixty-five and retirement, which becomes a vahalla of sorts, whereupon they promptly die within six to eighteen months.

No matter who you are, if you don't die young, the bullshit is going to be stop being bought sooner or later. If you have to prove yourself every day all over again, it gets very tiring. Even if a person doesn't know what's going on, it still gets tiring. You get all sorts of variation of reaction. One guy will go home and whimper to his wife all night, which is a common reaction. Some go whimper to the bartender. Some go whimper to their buddy. I'm referring to people who are in relatively high achievement positions.

What I'm trying to suggest is that I would love to see just one case of a person who isn't like this, because I don't think there are any. I'm saying that they are poor Johnny one-notes. Some are just the opposite. They scream from the minute they come in the door until the minute they leave. If you are saddled with having to prove yourself all the time, it's a hopeless task. I had a couple of friends I thought weren't going to have this problem. They got to forty-five or fifty though, and every one of them fell apart. There has to be some that don't fall into this pattern, but I've never met them.

I gave up on altruism as an explanation of people's actions. There are a few people who's basic interest is knowing how to be important to other people in positive ways. They are not masochists or sadists, but a third type. These people are interested in getting the day's affairs in order and accomplished and in developing a smooth flow of effort, and so are the best kind of managers. Unfortunately there aren't too many of them.

The majority of people are motivated by their effectiveness at what they are doing. If they loose this effectiveness, although it doesn't happen too often, they just fall apart. All people are effective at least to a degree at what they do. The minute they don't have something to give them a sense of accomplishment, they have nothing to fall back on and their whole world comes apart.

The average guy has a job because the boss has to have somebody there to do it. If the boss could do it himself, the guy wouldn't be there. He doesn't see the boss that often, but generally speaking, bosses have a tendency to be a pain in the rear because of some specific reasons. The boss got to be boss because he was effective at doing something real. Now he's got nothing to do, so he has to stick his nose in somewhere it doesn't belong so he can have a feeling of effectiveness. This is the biggest problem with managment. They have a tendency not to have anything real to do. It depends on the situation. Most are up to their eyes in paperwork. The paperwork isn't like being on the line and doing the work. You don't get the same sense of effectiveness out of it.

In psychological patterns, it is a matter of having or not a sense of effectiveness. If there is no one around to listen to the boss's ideas, then no matter where he is in management, in his own eyes he considers himself a peon. He's always looking to be upstairs, so he always has the inferior feeling. Every time he gets a rebuff of any kind, it comes back down the line. That's the difference between good and bad managers. The whole error in their thinking lies in that they see thier whole world as tied up in their job situation. They have no world view.

If I had had my mind and gone into something, I would have, I think, come to the place where I was doing as much as I wanted to do. I've known a few people that consistently turned down promotions because they didn't want to be bothered with the pressure of the higher level. The trouble with most corporations is that they won't let you get away with it. You turn down a promotion and they end up firing you.

To me the idea was to run just as fast as the situation pulled me. I wasn't interested in being anything beyond what I wanted to be. I knew that in myself I didn't want to be over-driven. I knew too many people in way over their heads.

In the matter of continuing to maintain a sense of function and capability, which is the key to the whole thing, there are people who want to feel personally close to those around them and there are people who abhor it. The ones that abhor it are the ones who have the negative pattern of having never known what it was like to be cooperative with anyone in their life.

When I was working and had any type of job with people working for me, the thing that was most important to me was the sense of personal involvement. There are some people you work with that don't want any part of it. They can't tolerate the sense of closeness, any kind of a sign of closeness. They want to come in, do their work and leave, and they have nothing to do with you personally. There are others who are just crazy to have company.

We are always looking for an expansion of the communal feeling. The fact that people do this or that because there is a buck in it is what kills it. It is cheap prostitution. The power-chaser will never let you see his soft side. On the other hand, a person who trys to be all heart with people will never let you see how they cheated someone. Generally, neither can even see it themselves. That place in the middle is what we're seeking. The more good company you are, the more you get. The more you give, the more you get.

"Positive thinking" or "correct mental attitude" has nothing to do with success. If you examine the people who propose these theories and say they are responsible for their success, you find the theory has nothing to do with it. They were in the place it happened and there's nothing more to it. It is outside our range of control. Success comes to one person and not another and there is no accounting for it. There is no rich man who ever created a family of rich men. There is no king that ever created a king. There is no philosopher that ever created a philosopher. It just doesn't work that way. Our type of comprehension wants us to believe that when we get smart enough we'll achieve success. This is the tragedy of the ego.

At puberty and after puberty for a certain period of time exists the possibility of knowing that what you want to know is about your own internal nature. If you don't have any reinforcement to know what you can find, you don't find anything that means anything to you. So you end up loosing the opportunity. Once you loose the opportunity, the urge gets misplaced or sublimated into the urge for material things, status, and all the rest of it. But you can never satisfy the need for a square peg with a round one. You can just never do it. You can chase it all your life and never get any measure of what you are looking for.

What is unhappiness? People are unhappy and never question it. If what you have now makes you unhappy, what would make you happy? In each person's mind are a certain number of routes to his own fulfillment. They are different from person to person. What are you really striving for? It is the desire for a fulfillment which can't be found in the marketplace.

I am convinced that the people that succeed in this world in the ordinary sense, have views of the world that permit them to maintain fantasies that will not suffer examination. Their head is addicted to some view that permits their mind to function in a response pattern where they are beyond the capacity of doubting. This is not really bad. There would be no life on earth as we know it if it weren't so. We have the belief that we have to answer to success in order to answer to our own inner needs. It is a fallacy of reasoning that is almost universal. We're putting round pegs in square holes. It is an inaccurate view of what our needs truly are.

I have had a very clear outer mind at times in my life. This permitted me to understand that when a mind is free of the inner stress, it hungers for activity in the outer world. Not for the purpose of success, but for the purpose of utilization of energy, to maintain a sense of internal tranquility. As soon as you're doing something in terms of success, you're off the track. The reason you do things is that the pressure is there to do so. If you do nothing, the build-up becomes unbearable. The doing is the satisfaction, not the successfulness. The real relief is finding a place to put the energy that answers to itself in the doing of it.

The other day I was coming from downtown ____ on the bus. There was a street person who got on the bus. You don't see nearly as many of these people in Pittsburgh as you do in some of the bigger cities. This person was probably in her fifties, massively overweight, wearing about five coats, the last of which just fit around her and was buttoned at the top. She had on a knit hat and was carrying four cloth shopping bags. Because of my knowledge of these people, she was carrying everything she owned. She was completely out of her shoes, her feet were sticking out all over. It was cold, she had on about three pairs of stockings and then a pair of socks. It's a great question whether she had a regular place to sleep.

Now this can be very upsetting. It is upsetting to everyone on that bus, whether they know it or not. We all identify with the possibility of being in that condition, whether we identify with it or we don't. It's automatic. This is why we like to be near successful people. The load is less. That's the only reason. The mutual responsibility is less, period. But if you get too far down the road, being around successful people can be a very bad drain because that side of your being feels inferior. You find youself in the flip-flop of the thing.

I lived in the YMCA downtown and all the rest of it. It's an existence that completely eschews the success mode. For one reason, it isn't available to these people. Anyone, on the other hand, who answers to the success mode in that their bills are regularly paid and they can be looked upon as being about the norm in society... So long as these conditions are met, a person is incapable of escaping it. It requires personal failure to generate insight, the way we go about it.

It is my hope that when we come to know how to answer to the inner being as its capacity develops in children... If we come upon that line and never loose it, we can attain the ability for insight by a totally painless route. The way it is now, it takes a crash before the outer self can be forced to admit that there even is an inner self.

top of page