Imagine that you are in a garden party held by one of your friends. As you are walking along by a group of people, you cannot help but overhear their conversation as they are making fun of somebody else who is not there. You walk on, but suddenly you realise that the person they are talking about is your best friend, Pete. Thoughts come up: ‘Wait a minute. They are making fun of Pete. They shouldn’t talk like this. Pete is a very good guy. I have to do something. I have to protect him.’ The body becomes tense, and you feel frustrated. You turn around, hasten your steps back to them to pick up a fight to protect your best friend.
What do you think who are you protecting? Are you really protecting Pete or just protecting the concept of Pete in ‘your head’?
During the ten-year friendship, an intricately detailed mental concept of Pete has been built up in your brain. This concept is compounded of a mental image of his body, his name Pete, the sound of his voice, his habitual reactions to certain circumstances, his likes and dislikes, the stories he frequently tells, and all the good and bad memories of times you spent together.
But this mental image is not him. This construct ‘lives’ only in your mind. Actually, there is a huge web of conditioned neuronal networks in the brain that creates and re-creates this image of Pete every time you have a thought of him.
This mental image of Pete serves a seemingly quite important job; to be a building block of ‘you’. This concept of Pete is a small segment of ‘your self’. The illusion of ‘I’ lives in almost every concept and all beliefs. The ‘I’ is assembled from these small fragments. When a part of it is seen through, then the identification with that part is no longer total. A segment of ‘you’ is dissolved.
So, who do ‘you’ protect when protecting ‘your’ friend?
‘You’ are protecting ‘your-self‘.
The separate self that does not exist other than an idea.
You protect an illusion of you being an independent autonomous entity.
You protect an idea of who you think you are.