You feel caged. You can’t escape thoughts about something. Maybe you were treated poorly at work and you felt helpless. Maybe you were treated poorly in a relationship and it felt like being jailed. It’s a stabbing feeling as you replay thoughts about the betrayal—about the pain—about the unfairness of it all.
But of course there is no such thing as unfairness. There is only what happens and the consequences. Unfairness lives only in people’s imaginations. It is not something we can actually see, touch, or use. We may agree upon a definition, but that does not guarantee that people will abide by it. In fact the agreement itself is just as ephemeral as the concept of fairness.
These are things that only exist in the human imagination. These are mental constructs built of word-meanings. So there are no human rights, there is no right and wrong, there are some patterns that nature follows like the laws of gravity, and thermodynamics etc. But the laws of man are not demands made by the forces that create the universe—they are merely beliefs that exist purely in the imaginations of some people. These are what we call people’s values.
Yes, many people share many values. But there are many shades of grey in there, just as every religious person is religious in their own unique, private way. But if we try to see our personal beliefs as solid, predictable rules governing all of society then we are certain to experience optional suffering. Because beliefs are like expectations. And expectations are little more than future regrets, disappointments and losses.
If you choose to build mental frameworks that you expect others to follow, then you are living in ego and you are certain to suffer within that illusion. Only you can see your own beliefs and only you can decide whether you will follow them. But to apply them to other people is to disrespect the existence of separate realities. To one person something is offensive, and yet to another it is funny, and yet another may think it’s deserved. It all depends on your perspective.
The important part is not to spend your life ruminating about how life didn’t go—or how it should have gone… the way you wanted. Life is big and grand and you are not its author. You are merely one of the characters that has been written. And so you should simply play your character and not take the story too seriously.
There is no need to re-read certain pages over and over and over in the hopes of changing them. No amount of wishing will give you a different past. Those pages are gone and past. Rereading them is pointless and it steals you away from the rest of the story. You can’t move forward when you’re stuck re-reading old chapters.
The cage you live in is made of your own thoughts. You don’t need to figure out how to pick the lock, you don’t need to find a guru to open the door for you, you need to stop building the bars with your thinking. Stop revisiting the same useless thoughts. Those pages are past. Read on.
There’s nothing to fix. Every good story has some conflict. Accept yours and move on. Because your jailer is your ego, and the key is to realize that the door isn’t locked. The door isn’t even real. The door exists only in your imagination. So the secret to escaping is nothing more than you focusing your reality-building-attention on something other than building that barrier between you and something better.
Use your power to create reality wisely. Don’t create confining narratives, create rewarding opportunities instead. It’s a lot more up to you than you realize.
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.