By Jarrad Hurley
We all like a good ‘fix’ of pride, but what is it really?
Pride is a state, a feeling and an emotion heavily linked to society’s traditional views of self-worth and esteem.
Pride is a beaming, self-assured and self-congratulatory sensation that has the ability to motivate us in many of the things we choose to do. Whether that’s taking on a more intensive line of work, or starting that new diet and workout regime you have been putting off.
We can also experience pride vicariously through those we align with—perhaps through the successes of your local football team or milestones reached by your children—and in many ways the things that make us proud can help us identify commonalities and build alliances with others. Pride is like the emotional chips we cash in after a success or alignment with something especially worthy.
In Buddhist philosophy, according to William Gundling of Buddha House in Tusmore, South Australia, pride is an emotion best tempered with moderation by the laymen, and best avoided by those seeking enlightenment.
‘Pride is essentially a type of value judgement we make about ourselves and then pass onto others,’ Gundling says. ‘As with any form of judgement, it sets up a dichotomy of inclusion and exclusion.’
‘Inclusion can provide an immediate sense of acceptance, certainty and security, while exclusion can lead to bigotry, prejudice and stigmatisation.’
Buddhist teachings convey the duality of nature. They teach that nothing is inherently independent; everything in existence is dependent on another factor.
In this fundamental rule of nature, nothing is excluded. However, pride asserts a delusionary independence from the external world; the principles of karma, cause and effect, and living things.
It is a state that is separatist by its very nature.
‘There is no separate state of being, but rather a continuously interacting state of inter-being,’ Gundling explains.
Pride, he says, is an attachment.
We are feverishly defensive of our pride, often to the detriment of ourselves and those we care about.
Gundling says pride is an emotional attachment that must be fed, fuelled and maintained. He believes that such attachment is inherently irrational and not conducive to happiness.
‘Attachment is a state that is manifested in our failure to recognise the impermanence of all things,’ he says.
‘Through attachment, we develop the attitudes of desire, grasping and clinging towards impermanent things and emotional states of this world.’
In Buddhist teachings, attachment is inseparable from suffering. As life is an impermanent state, there is nothing in this world we can keep forever, be it emotions, our home, that new Audi in the driveway, or sadly even our friends and loved ones. To be attached to these things is to live in the prison of your own mind.
‘Pride, as an attachment, binds us to an endless cycle of dissatisfaction and suffering in this life,’ Gundling adds. ‘In the Buddhist context of rebirth, it severely impacts negatively on future lives.’
As the trial and error sciences that are psychology and psychiatry continue to advance, the link which pride was believed to have with a healthy self-esteem has become tenuous at best. Pride could be considered fuel for the ego, which is generally seen as a pseudo-self by psychologists. It is an interface we create in childhood for the outside world, a persona that shields the self to some extent from reality and direct suffering.
The ego is like our avatar; it plays a similar role as a Facebook page does for our online identity, except ego is for the external, physical world. It may have our likes, dislikes and preferences, but it is not truly ‘us’.
Gundling explains that psychologists are now moving away from attempting to placate an individual’s pride and ego when working with depressive patients, and towards ideals that Buddhists have advocated for eons.
‘There has been a pronounced investigation in the fields of psychology and psychiatry into what are essentially Buddhist practises, regarding the development of personal mindfulness, insightful thinking and social consciousness, as tools for improving mental health,’ Gundling says.
It is wise to be mindful of mindfulness. To put it simply, mindfulness is the non-judgemental acceptance and appreciation of the moment.
There is no attachment to this moment; there is no particular labelling to the moment, no predetermined predilection or prejudice to it. The moment simply is what it is.
While pride presupposes outcomes and expectations, mindfulness does not weigh the practitioner down with any of those things.
‘Mindfulness allows one to be open to accepting the experience of the moment as it occurs,’ Gundling says.
‘Pride always includes a degree of “separation from” something as being integral to the nature of its existence.’
The reader is best to be mindful of pride and its effects. While it can’t be expected that anybody would give up their lifelong admiration of Port Power or the Adelaide Crows after reading this article, perhaps it is wise to temper pride with humility as a counter-balance.
Pride, in those of us not searching for spiritual enlightenment, can be a completely healthy emotion and can inspire many levels of achievement.
Nonetheless, pride is not in itself happiness, nor is it a guarantee of happiness. Gundling says there is
no Buddhist replacement of pride, as the layman would understand it. The emotion that would fill that conceptual void, he suggests, would be one of a tranquil, unattached sense of belonging and one-ness with all that exists.