Restraint is not repression – it is the roadway to real expression

Many people champion self-expression and deride restraint as repression.

But is it really repressive?

Consider musicians wanting to express themselves. Do they go on stage without preparation? If they do, what will come out will be nowhere near their best self – it will be a pale shadow. Musicians who excel at extempore performance have spent long hours in meticulous training. And what is such training if not restraint? It involves careful churning of one’s musical instincts to repress the unwholesome instincts and express the wholesome ones.

Whenever we allow uncensored self-expression, what usually comes out is our lower self.

This principle of screening applies for all forms of self-expression. Gita wisdom explains that our real self is much deeper than just some artistic or similar aspect of our self. Our essential self is spiritual – we are pure souls, reservoirs of glorious qualities, and parts of all-pure Krishna. But the way to that self is blocked by a lower self, which is primarily the mind running according to the default program created by our past indulgences. This lower self often imagines the basest indulgences to be the most enjoyable. And because we have pandered to the lower self for a long time in this and previous lives, it is frequently swifter than our authentic self. So whenever we allow uncensored self-expression, what usually comes out is our lower self, which makes us behave worse than our normal self, leave alone our best self.

Restraining ourselves according to scripture, as the Bhagavad-gita (02.64) recommends, enables us to firstly check which self is expressing itself and secondly kindle the expression of our authentic self, thereby bringing out our best. Such spiritual self-expression, by propelling us towards life eternal with Krishna, brings real freedom and lasting fulfillment, which is what champions of self-expression actually long for.

Thus restraint far from being repressive paves the way to authentic self-expression.


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