I know; I haven’t done posts on Saturdays in a few years but I owe you one from Friday. I appreciate your patience. First my parents were very ill with a stomach flu and then as soon as I got them through the worst of it I ended up catching it too. Once nice thing about being sick is that you really appreciate your everyday health a lot more, and that sense of grace helped me create, at least in my opinion, a particularly helpful post for you today.
When we’re struggling it’s natural for us to look for help. Our brain gets a lot of its base ideas from childhood, but that’s generally when our needs are necessarily met by others. As we age we progressively learn that we are much more capable than we imagine, and then as we decline near the end of life we return to a more childlike state of neediness.
Since very few infants read my blog, nor a huge amount of seniors, I tend to focus on the tough bits; the bits in the middle where we’re trying to discover our strengths and resiliencies. This is when a conflict arises between how you have seen the world versus how you will need to see before you can move forward. We all know this moments–these epiphanies–they’re those a-ha! moments where we suddenly realise we’ve been making a big, simple mistake.
Mistake is the right word because it’s not like you were making your life difficult on purpose. The mistake is generally thinking that there’s something wrong with us versus understanding that something is wrong with our perspective. Wanting to feel better is a perspective. Importantly, it’s a perspective that presumes that we need help.
Sure, sometimes we really do need help. Little kids want to do things themselves but often can’t, and seniors are often late in realising they need help. But those realities are very different from thinking we need help. Stephen Hawking obviously needs a lot of actual help, but he never would have become who he is by assuming he couldn’t do things. That’s easy for anyone to do. Even the most powerful, wealthy and beautiful people in the world face all the same human struggles and pains you do, they’re just better at hiding them.
Importantly, thinking we need help requires us to presume a state of weakness. We are reaching up. But what if this is where our mistake is? What if we’re assuming our childlike identity when it’s not the right tool for the job? And if an old identity isn’t going to help, and our current identity is experiencing struggle, then what’s required is a new identity.
As counter-intuitive as it seems at first, the answer to our wanting feelings is not for us to get what we want. That just reinforces the weak identity as being who we actually are, when what we need is to choose who to be. Wanting something implies first that there is a separate “me” and that there’s something missing, when neither is true. That’s just the subject-object nature of the conversations you have with yourself.
The way to feel better is to stop that conversation, and the way to do that is to stop making the assumption that your feelings are a result of the world rather than the result of your own thinking. So instead of listing our wants and needs to ourselves and others, we’re better to shift to not thinking about ourselves and instead focusing on the needs of others.
Even if you’re in a down state, you still have fantastic resources. Even your painful experiences are helpful to those going through those things right now. So even at your weakest you have a great deal to give. We can see this with babies. They’re 100% needy, and yet they get loved like crazy just for being. You’re actually still like that.
So this weekend, no matter what we feel our current state is, our assignment in the March of Kindness will be to feel stronger by finding a way to be generous. The important aspect of this is that you cannot generate generous feelings in the weak part of your mind.
By focusing on others you cease to create the troublesome, needy you and instead your mind is focused on the outside world. By taking generous action, you reinforce to yourself that you also contain strong identity, and strong identities tend not to review their problems, they’re too busy reviewing the strengths they have available.
Get out there today and be generous. Share yourself with others and feel more connected, worthwhile and powerful in the process. You can do a lot of little things or one big thing, but by doing either you add much more positivity to the world, you model healthy behaviour to others, and you prove to yourself that you are a multi-dimensional being with many forms. And if you’re aware of that truth, then no matter what state you’re in you know the answer isn’t to change the world, it’s to change yourself.
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.
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.