Being fooled does not make you a fool.
Reflect back on some time you were fooled by a prank, or tapped a stranger on the shoulder thinking they were your friend, or bought something worthless at an inflated price.
You were fooled – by a joke, by appearances, by attractive marketing.
And you might have felt a bit foolish, then shaken your head, chalked it up to experience, laughed and moved on.
But then it comes to what we call the ‘separate self’ – the idea of self that most adults have developed the habit of thinking, feeling and acting on behalf of. Not as a conscious choice, but more a background assumption taken as the fabric of reality.
With the separate self it feels personal. There’s shame attached. If I’m wrong about who I am, then I must be a fool who is wrong about pretty much everything, surely?
Just as a sleight of hand trick is designed to fool you, so the system is set up to make it easy to believe in, and identify with, the separate self.
It’s the logical risk of the necessary opportunity to develop a sense of identity in the world. The freedom to learn to recognise our unique personality and characteristics would not be a freedom if it didn’t include the possibility of believing that to be our true self.
So, if you have had a long career on behalf of the separate self, that is not foolish. It was a pretty normal element of growing up.
And it’s not foolish to admit you realise you’ve been fooled.
It’s just a wake up call.
PS Of course, if you want to go a step further (and it’s a big step) ask yourself this: Who was fooled? The separate self doesn’t exist and awareness could never be anything other than knowingly aware.