An unconscious life is an innocent one. An ego is so subtly formed that each individual will have no idea it’s even there. Essentially we live as a programmed robot, largely reacting to things for reasons we’ve neither assessed nor understood. And we’ll never change that unless we become conscious of our own patterns of thinking.
An ego is a pattern-recognition system that plays back whichever behaviour it believes is suitable, and our programs are constantly being rewritten by experience. So if under stress your mom drank and your dad yelled, then you will either yell, drink, or absolutely not-yell, or absolutely not-drink, but either way it will have been those primary relationships that generated that result. You will literally have been formed by your experience. This process continues throughout life.
If you’ve never had a person cheat on you and no one important to you betrayed someone else while you were watching, then you will be a naturally trusting person because trust is a natural state. That’s why little kids make friends so easily. But if you have been cheated on, or if you watched cheating really hurt someone you care for, then that possibility will now exist within your imagination. The real question is, how often do you access that imagination?
If you’re concerned about the commitment of your partner, then remember that agreements, rules, and promises are merely ideas. No one can guarantee their future behaviour, so in reality everyone could potentially cheat. But living under that constant fear isn’t living at all. So a simple decision must be made: either we leave a situation to remove the risk, or we accept the risk as an aspect of any relationship. The real questions becomes, what is the definition of accepting?
To accept something is to cease to think about it. Our histories are our histories, so we can expect that life will deliver us these old menus regularly. We can look over the dishes that life offers to serve us, and we can see that some of these dishes involve the suffering or jealousy or fear, but while we cannot stop the menus from being handed to us, we can consciously choose to avoid ordering painful experiences into our lives.
You worrying about someone cheating won’t stop them from cheating. But you worrying about it will make you anxious, upset and short-tempered and those things will affect a relationship. While you will always be the person your life created, you still want to be a conscious version of yourself. You don’t want unproductive thoughts to take up too much of your life. Like everyone you will have your moments of doubt. But to live in a state of doubt is to surrender your entire life to fear.
Your fears in life are hard-won. You suffered for them and it makes sense that you would make serious efforts to avoid experiencing them again. But there are no guarantees in life and we cannot live based on what we don’t want to happen; we have to live our lives by creating the things that we do want to happen.
So be grateful for your emotions. Because when you feel the pang of fear or jealousy, you can use that feeling as a signal that your thinking has entered dangerous territory. And by being conscious of your thinking, you can appreciate both its validity and it’s pointlessness. This allows you to be yourself without having your past dictate your future.
Do not feel victim to your pain. Your thinking is intimately connected to your suffering, and whether you realise it or not, you always have control over your thinking. Don’t undermine your life with fears. Expand it with love. It doesn’t guarantee you will never suffer. But it does ensure that your life will be open and free, and in the end that’s both glorious and it’s as good as it gets.
Watch your thoughts. They’re yours, but they don’t control you–you control them. Now go use that power to enjoy your day, regardless of your history.
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.