The Chrysalis of Becoming

1362 Relax and Succeed - You've changed

Some of our circumstances in life occur suddenly and quite visibly. Others are those that we slowly slip into, without really realizing it. Then one day some unexpected thing jolts us out of our torpor and we suddenly wonder why we’re dating this person, or working at this job, or still in this city.

The sudden sense of urgency is a signal that our mind has woken up to a new reality. What is often challenging for us is that our new reality involves us realizing how much of our own life doesn’t even appear to suit us. This is a sign that we have discovered something about who we are.

The feelings that can go with these internal awakenings are often things like a repulsion for ourselves. We question our intelligence as to how we managed to even get to where we are. There is often a period of recrimination where we feel badly about the choices and regret the ‘mistakes’ we’ve made.

Following that shock, during our unfolding reaction, we tend to push things and others away. That’s a helpful reaction because we need the space, but eventually we realize that if we’re throwing away our new life, we now need a new life to live. And that can feel much scarier than pushing away a life we don’t like.

This is often a period where we tend to blame the life we had rather than realizing that it too was and is a worthwhile part of our journey, although we may not be able to recognize that value at this time.

Despite our judgment of our life experiences, our false results –our divorces, bad career choices, illnesses– are all just as much a part of our existence as the good times. The events themselves are neutral. They can feel terrible, but they can also be made into more positive things at different times in our lives.

A divorce is a chance at a better relationship and more happiness. Leaving a bad job can make us both a better employee and provide increased self-respect. And illnesses teach patience, grace and gratitude better than any other thing. It might feel at times like losing, but it’s still a form of winning in the long run.

1362 Relax and Succeed - Should the butterfly regret or be grateful for

As we begin to wake up we must remember our context. We are dissatisfied. Suddenly realizing that our situation is worse than we thought can lead us to start looking for all that is wrong. And any time in life we’re doing that we’ll be able to find as many things as we look for, and if we keep looking we’ll keep finding more. That can make things look much worse than they really are.

The real question for us often is, are things entirely bad the way they are, or does our awakening and our scrutiny only make it appear so? We can want to move, or change jobs or end a relationship, but we can’t assume that our dissatisfaction is rooted in the outside world. It is more likely within us, which is why sorting that out is wise before taking action in our external lives.

Reality happens within us. Sometimes that does prompt legitimate external changes, but we don’t need those to find peace. Nelson Mandela found it in a brutal prison. Yet he carried it with him into a Presidency. This is a liberating idea. It means no matter what, we are okay.

When we first wake up a bit, the reason that we see a strong appeal in new cities, new jobs and new relationships is that all of those things naturally deliver many reasons to not think our habitual thoughts. The problem is, over the long term they will not change how we see the world. Mandela’s soul wasn’t saved by the Presidency, it was saved by himself while he was still in jail.

Wherever we go, there we are. New situations will soon turn into the old situations if we do not first ensure that we have a good grip on our responsibilities within reality. The external world around us is shockingly flexible, we prove this by loving someone or something one day and then hating it later. It’s less the thing that changed and more that we have. There’s a real power in that if we use it wisely.

Dissatisfaction is a good basis from which to take action in our lives. That is a feeling worth paying attention to. But experiencing that feeling that is not, in and of itself, a failure on anyone’s part. It is only a signal, notifying us of the start of a necessary part of any journey through life.

Like it is for the butterfly, with greater perspective we often will come to see that our greatest gains were actually being made when we have felt we were struggling the most.

peace. s

The Suffering Child

Parents are often inadvertently cruel to their children. It’s an entirely innocent mistake. They don’t even notice they’re doing it because they don’t recognize that they live in a separate reality from their kids. That’s the kind of thing I would think about. It’s the reason I’m weird. The things I spent my childhood and adolence and adulthood thinking about are not the kinds of things people usually think about—at least not until they’re doing something like studying philosophy in university. And so without that more complete perspective, very loving parents can easily end up really disrespecting their own kids.

566 Relax and Succeed - Too often we underestimate the power of a touchThe trick is that both the parent and kid will generally see the world as being out there and happening to them. It’s an outside-in approach. But in reality it’s the other way around. The outside world exists because of the choices you make in your interior world—the world of your thinking. And because the definition of an individual is someone who thinks their own thoughts, it means that everyone is living in a different matrix of belief and awareness.

How this translates to the relationship between a parent and child is that the parent uses their life reference points when discussing things with their kid. But that lacks empathy, because you’re not really talking about the same thing. Case in point: if a kid is going through their first romantic breakup it’s normal that they’re completely upended by the experience. Tortured. Agonized. Maybe in tears, maybe angry, maybe so hurt they bury themselves. But it’s real pain. The problem is that the parent then contextualizes this against their life experience.

What this all means is that the parent looks at the breakup on a 50 year scale of life events. With that kind of perspective they can realize that they have had numerous painful breakups, but that’s been mixed in with marriages, babies, illnesses, the deaths of people and pets. The experience is graded on a much finer curve with an adult. But the adult needs to remember that, whether you’ve cut off a finger or an arm, it hurts all the same. That from the kid’s perspective, the breakup could be the most painful experience they have ever had.

566 Relax and Succeed - A smart person knowsSure they will eventually have additional experiences that will make the current one seem less powerful, but for now this is all they can know and telling them about how it’ll feel better is useless to them. We don’t hear about experiences, we have them. That’s the only way we know anything. If it’s the kid’s worst experience ever then it deserves compassion. They don’t know that it won’t seem so bad when compared to the rest of their life. So their biggest loss is best compared to your biggest loss—even if that loss is much greater in relative terms. Because that’s the point: everything is relative.

Don’t be dismissive of your kids experiences. Take the time to remember what these things are like at their age. Be like a writer and actually take the time to remember what it was like to be different ages. You might be surprised at what you remember. And the more you do it, you might be surprised at how good you get at it. And that will help a great deal with being empathetic toward your children.

Bottom line, it’s important to always respect the feelings of others as genuine. But in doing so, always do your best to remember that pain is pain and diminishing that with casual offers of future comfort is to miss an opportunity to make a powerful and useful connection with another human being. And all the better if that human being is your child. Have an awesome day.

peace. s