Under-developed talents

Under-developed countries are usually ruled by dictators. The domineering use of power by elite rulers eviscerates the economic and social progress in the country. The peasants remain weak while the big shots in the governmental palace persist in abusing their power. The country lacks paved roads, airports, power grids, fuel storage and water treatment facilities. The guerrilla insurgencies fail to overthrow the oppressive regime. The subsistence-level existence seems inescapable while so much is neglected, antagonistic and oppressed.

A similar dynamic plays out in the minds of all of us with under-developed talents. We fail to live up to our potential for reasons that appear inescapable. We lack the infrastructure to develop those talents. Our desires to change are over-ruled by an inner tyrant. We repeatedly experience being our own worst enemy and harshest critic. We see no way out of this misery even though it's self-imposed at some deeper level. Attempts to change, rebel or escape all fail. The satisfying development of our talents remains a wishful fantasy.

We get trapped in this because our brains are designed to internalize excessive caution at all cost. Early in our lives, we discover we are poor judges of danger. We rely on authority figures to look out for threats to our well being and forewarn us of trouble we might be getting into. Rather than continually needing to ask for their vigilant guidance, we internalize their speech patterns and lines of reasoning. We then have a voice in our heads that guards us against dangers, changes and unknowns. Its fear-based logic cannot handle complex tradeoffs, mind-boggling paradoxes, nuanced issues or gradients between extremes. It's voice berates us for any mistake, embarrassment or risky behavior. It's outlook remains vigilant to meet others' approval, avoid their rejection and maintain a low profile. This voice can go ballistic with fear when we consider doing anything as weird as cultivating a hidden talent.

We don't assess whether the authority, in whom we put so much trust, is really a paranoid, control-freak who misperceives genuine opportunities as imagined threats. We assume his/her evaluation of danger is extremely realistic and reliable. We then sacrifice the development of our talents because our survival is unquestionably in danger when it sounds the alarm. We "know" our control of a situation is "really being" challenged. We embody those instinctual priorities which frame our hidden talents as luxuries to cultivate only when we're basking in safety, abundance of opportunities and freedom from oppression. Otherwise, "desperate times call for desperate measures" which includes following the dictates of a tyrant in our minds.

Different models of therapy offer different names for this voice in our heads: toxic introject, a super-ego, internalized abuse, a negative father complex, unresolved power issues, a top dog, a gremlin, an inner enemy, or toxic shame. Whatever the name, it functions the same and serves the same purpose: keeping us out of danger. Developing hidden talents looks extremely dicey and deviant. The voice inhibits, sabotages or ridicules any of our inclinations, planning or initial attempts at the development of hidden talents.

With so much inner opposition, most tentative explorations of latent possibilities get defeated after a few attempts. Like under-developed countries, we don't develop the infrastructure that makes it possible and easy to develop our hidden talents. We don't read books/blogs/articles about our particular potentials. We don't cultivate friendships or other resources who encourage us with their own experiences and aspirations. We fail to make a conscious effort to deal with the inherent limitations of the voice's intentions. We don't get beyond trying to overthrow the inner tyrant like the imprisoned rebels who oppose an oppressive dictator.

To liberate our minds and unleash our hidden talents, we need to become better judges of danger. This calls for beating the inner tyrant at its game.
  • How dangerous is it really to not meet with others' approval?
  • How perilous would rejection turn out to be?
  • How risky is it to deviate from what others are doing?
  • How important is it to be confined by what others think?
  • Which is more dangerous - not fitting in or not being true to one's own talents?
  • What are the specific dangers in cultivating a particular hidden talent?
When we've formulated confident answers to questions like these, we can disregard the extreme voice -- while watching out for dangers all the same. We will create a context with some safety, abundance of opportunities and freedom from oppression. Our instinctual drive to survive will relax and allow us to development our hidden talents.

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