The Most Important Thing You Can Learn To Do
The most important thing you can learn to do in your life is a two part answer. The first most important thing to do is to ask yourself, “Why?” The second is to be willing to know the truth. It’s so easy for us to point the finger outside ourselves when we encounter people or circumstances that generate unpleasant feelings within us, but the truth is that our feelings are a reflection of our relationship with ourselves.
For example, if someone says something to me (or about me) and I become angry as a result, I’m likely to become indignant toward that person for “making me” feel angry or hurt or ashamed. This is the victim position. It’s emotionally driven and purely reactionary. This position says so-and-so has wronged me and because of them I now feel badly. So in this scenario I’m hurt, maybe angry, and there’s nothing I can do about it unless the cause of my pain acknowledges me and makes amends.
There’s another scenario that liberates us from the victim position. In this case I will have to choose to separate myself from my emotions and look at myself instead of the subject I’m projecting my feelings onto. So same situation. Someone says something about me that I don’t like, and I become angry. In this scenario the first thing I do is ask myself, “Why am I angry?” If I’m unwilling to know the truth I could easily fall into the trap of emotionally defending my position and continuing to place blame outside of myself. But if I’m willing to know the truth the inquiry immediately takes me deeper. I start to discover that I’m not really angry, that my anger is a guise to conceal the pain that I’m feeling. So then I begin to look at why I’m in pain. The source of pain typically stems back to a childhood wound or something traumatic that has happened in our lives. It’s our trigger point. When we’re able to draw the line from a trauma in our past to the current situation we can begin to see the truth of our life circumstances and the reasons we react the way we do.
What we can begin to realize through this type of questioning is that we are constantly giving our power up to other people. So-and-so did this or that to me is a way of playing the victim. The truth is that no one can ever make you feel a certain way. The way you feel is always a reflection of your relationship to your self.
This doesn’t mean that it’s wrong to feel hurt or angry. I think we should refrain from judging ourselves for having feelings and, instead, begin to look at why we are feeling the way we do. Asking these questions also doesn’t mean we’re going to alleviate those feelings. But it’s going to shift our perspective. It’s going to bring the power back to us instead of leaving it out in the world in the hands of someone else.
This type of inquiry applies to collective circumstances as well. The rioting in Baltimore? Why is this happening? And now we need to be willing to know the truth. Not what the media is shoving down our throats, not what our boyfriend or girlfriend thinks, not what our peers are saying, but the truth. Too often we allow our minds to react from our cultural conditioning and preconceived notions. To be willing to see the truth means that we need to learn to pause, take a breath, and feel the pain that the courageous question of Why requires of us. Asking ourselves why leads us to the root of the pain and to go there requires us to feel the depth of our pain, individual or collective.
So of course this isn’t easy work, and you’re probably going to have to take a couple deep breaths (this is why learning to ground yourself is essential). But we need brave souls. We need brave souls who are willing to ask the big question and see the truth of themselves. Walking around responding reactively and blaming everyone else for our feelings is only going to perpetuate our dramatic, anger-driven culture. The home I want to live in is with people who are willing to face their fears in order to live remarkable lives together.