I do have favoured ways of using the skills I developed as I learned to study the human mind. Because people fall into less than a dozen fundamental groups, you’ll see huge patterns in the sorts of challenges that each group habitually faces. So for instance, if I can identify a very rigid and unequivocal mind then I will know that the greyness of life will be the bane of the person’s existence and that most of their problems in life will stem from avoiding that greyness.
That being the case, as with all of our fears, I know they will either suffer for decades and then either develop some level of comfort with life’s uncertainties, or they won’t. Some people grow through life and approach death with interest and wonder. Other people find the world didn’t turn out the way they want and they’re bitter and want more time to make it right. So we either fight the flow or go with the flow. One we know as suffering and the other as life.
What this means is, if I see you destined to fight with the flow—and particularly if you’re still young—I’ll often gently set you on a direction that will encourage you toward having some very early experiences that are highly likely to reduce the impact of those kinds of challenges throughout your life. Because of this I’ve had the distinct pleasure of watching several friends excel at a variety of things where they otherwise would have had much, much more resistance to realizing their own abilities.
When a acquaintance’s son approached me a while back, I knew I was spending time with a kid who got lost in a mall once and now he sees the world as a pretty scary place. He often overwhelms himself with fears and paranoia over any manner of the unknown. It doesn’t take someone like me to see what sort of adult this person will grow into without any intervention. He’ll continue to see the world as scary and it will influence everything from his romantic choices to what he eats to how well respected he is at his job. This is no small obstacle in life. In fact, it’s one of the biggest things that holds people back from enjoying their own rewarding lives.
Simon likes spending time with me in the same way that he’ll be attracted to adventurous people in life. That’s who he’ll admire, who he’ll date. And for most of his life he will beat himself up for not taking various opportunities the way those people would. Those people. Who are those people?
They’re people who are comfortable with the unknown. So when Simon asks me if the kids in the jungle get scared of getting lost, I know I have a chance to place the idea in his brain that maybe getting lost is good, and if it’s not good it’s at least okay. Simon needs to be okay with that floundering period everyone has before they get a grip. He needs to understand that feeling isn’t him failing, that feeling is normally associated with new things.
So I explain that everyone knows the kids will get lost. But that’s fine because not knowing where you are is necessary before you can know where you are. Before you’re lost you don’t even know there’s such a thing as found—which is why this idea bothers Simon. That mall event was the most traumatic thing that ever happened to him. That freaked his mom out so much that Simon is now terrified of this happening again. To the point where he sees kids in the jungle through eyes formed by that early experience in a mall.
I explain to Simon that even an old path is brand new to a new set of eyes. So no one can really be taught the way back. Everyone finds their own way back in their own unique way, even if they take the same path. So before you can know anything you have to accept not-knowing it. Before you can be comfortable with anything you have to traverse not being comfortable with it. And because Simon trusts me, and because my voice is relaxed and my expression says no big deal, Simon frowns at this new knowledge. Hmmm he’s thinking. I didn’t know being lost or confused could be okay. And that’s all I need.
That one little idea will mean Simon will live a much richer life, and he will offer more of himself to the world because he won’t be wasting as much of his life-force spinning in place, questioning decisions he’s either made or has to make. Simon will live more fully. And nothing pleases me more than inoculating someone like that. And it even makes Simon and I closer because he associates me with feeling great about himself, which just makes my job easier going forward because I will reinforce his capability every time I see him.
You do this with everyone you interact with all day long. Your long time spouse. The kid you talk to at the door for two seconds. Your 85 year old grandmother. They all have ideas about themselves and they’ll overwhelmingly be far too self-critical. Don’t surrender opportunities to buoy their spirits. Give compliments. Support people. Believe in them actively. Because they’ll certainly have to deal with their share of diminishing egos as well.
Don’t beat yourself up and don’t stand for others doing it either. Remind others of their strengths and you of your own. Life’s hard enough that we don’t need to add to it by attacking ourselves. And at the same time it’s plenty rewarding, so it’s important that we’re not filling our consciousness with self recrimination or fears about our inability when we could be using that energy to absorb this great big beautiful world and all of the amazing people like you who are in it.
Now go have yourself an awesome day and affect people in an awesome way.
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own overthinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.