The biggest problem we face todayJul 22, 2020
If I had to describe 2020 in one word it would be ‘Uncertainty’.
Global uncertainty about the present and the future.
Uncertainty about the virus:
Should we be afraid of it and how afraid should we be?
What measures should be taken to keep us safe? Who has the expertise to know what is true, and who is telling the truth? Do they know the truth? Who can we trust?
Uncertainty about our health and well-being:
Are we safe? How likely is it we will get it? When we get infected, will we get very sick or die? Will my family be safe? How contagious is this thing? How long will this thing last? Is it safe to go to a hospital or doctor’s office when I need to?
Uncertainty about the economy and financial well-being:
Will I be able to go back to work (or school)? Is it safe to go back to work (or school)? Should businesses (or schools) close? Re-open? Stay closed? Will the government support me? Will l survive and be able to support myself and my family?
Uncertainty about how we interact and connect:
How long do we have to maintain this physical distancing? Is it safe to visit elderly parents? Have a wedding? Give birth? Can we get together with friends or family safely? Should we wear a mask or not?
To create a sense of security and certainty in our life we would have to make our lives smaller and contained. Like a prison:
Should we all just stay home or as close to home as we can and avoid close contact with others except the direct family we live with? Create a safe bubble with our loved ones and not let anyone or anything else in?
Should we listen to the experts and our government and blindly follow their advice, and trust that they have our best interest and they truly know what they are doing?
Should we keep the borders closed, the schools closed, businesses closed and create a bubble where we can be safe?
Why is Uncertainty a problem?
Uncertainty triggers fear, and fear does something to your brain. Fear turns on the survival mode. All beings have an incredibly sophisticated, powerful nervous system. This part of the nervous system is often referred to as our primitive nervous system, but it isn't primitive at all, it is actually the most incredible part of our nervous system. It is responsible for the fact that we humans are still on this planet. And we are not just surviving, we are thriving. We are wired to survive AND we also are wired to thrive, unless we stay stuck in fear.
Don’t underestimate the power of this ‘primitive’ system. It takes complete control over your mind unless you know how to take back control and maintain it.
How Fear makes your world smaller and smaller
Fear makes people look at the world through a narrow lens with a bias for danger. Our five senses are hyper vigilant: we are on the lookout for threats and danger.
Fear shuts down the creative part of the mind, the mind that sees possibilities, hope, and joy.
Fear also makes people narrow minded, and unable to see things with a different perspective. Often people get aggressive, protecting their view point, calling others ignorant or stupid for not seeing their ‘truth’. There is no discussion possible. There is only one ‘right’ answer and the rest are wrong. And only they know what is right.
Fear makes people determined and they desperately hold on to what they believe will save them. They rely on authorities to tell them what to do and what not to do without questioning. Any one that dares to question is deemed a danger and a threat to their own personal health and safety.
Fear makes you take everything personally, it makes you defensive and you constantly want to explain yourself.
Fear creates a binary world: good and bad, right and wrong and nothing in between. There is no nuance.
Fear makes people do things that are unintelligent, hurtful, and damaging.
Fear makes people even more reactive than they normally are, and they are more likely to do something impulsive (like buying all the toilet paper in the store).
Fear makes people self-centered, after all, their survival is at stake.
Uncertainty and fear reinforce each other, creating a positive feedback loop with a lot of momentum. Like a freight train at full speed without working brakes.
Living in a world filled with uncertainty
That is the world we are living in right now. A runaway freight train splitting the world into right and wrong. Those that carry the ‘right’ torch become powerful, making those carrying the ‘wrong’ torch feel guilty, ashamed, small. When the 'wrong' stand up for what they feel is right, they are simply bullied into silence. Canceled. Torn apart.
Those who claim to be right hold the trophy of being the ones that are morally sane, qualified to judge the rest who do not deserve a voice. Not any more.
Uncertainty and fear does that to people, they are under the spell of ignorance and bias.
The real pandemic is one of uncertainty and fear. It has created a world filled with division, reactivity, hatred, violence.
It is easy to manipulate people who are in fear mode and convince them that they need to do something to repent, make things right again, by joining those carrying the trophy of justice and high morality. It is easy to influence people by making them feel guilty and coerce them to apologize for being, and having a voice, in order to be reinstated as a human being. Or else….
It is easy to be driven into self-protective behaviour that is hurtful to others. Fear takes the humane out of humanity. If it happens gradually enough, every step of this behaviour can be justified. But where do you draw the line?
It’s like the frog in the pot of water that is slowly coming to a boil. The frog doesn’t realize the water is getting dangerously hot until it is too late.
Well meaning groups of people have been hijacked by ideologists. They don’t question any more, they join in with this judgement of those that they deem wrong, those bad people that need to be silenced. They believe these bad people are a danger to society and to the health and safety of our country, our world! How dare they!
We are unconscious prisoners of a life filled with uncertainty.
We have been given a script, the story of our life, and we have taken on the role, the character of the person we believe we have to play in that story in order to survive. We are doing that of our own free will. We choose to believe that one story, and we choose the character we play. And fear keeps us stuck playing that role.
We believe the story, based on information that our five senses are receiving and our own thoughts are confirming that. But we only perceive what we actually pay attention to. We cannot perceive what we don’t see, or hear. We cannot perceive what we are not actively looking for. We cannot find the story that isn’t being told repeatedly, without looking hard for it.
The life we experience is nothing but a series of habits of thinking, feeling, and doing. We are trapped in endless loops, with a trigger and a response. No higher intelligence, consciousness, or mind power is necessary to survive. None. We are living in a world where too many are functioning on automatic responses triggered by uncertainty and fear. Surviving but not living a free, happy, joyful life.
The road to freedom, well-being, and joy.
And all of this is unnecessary!
It is all based on the false assumption that there is something to be feared. That uncertainty is a bad thing and it should not be happening.
As if uncertainty is a new thing. Well, it isn’t. For decades, maybe even half a century, we had ourselves convinced that we have control over our life, that there is such a thing as certainty and security. But all it ever was, was a false sense of security. For a while we got away with believing it. Until all our certainty evaporated. And we seem surprised, yet it shouldn’t surprise us at all.
We talk about a NEW normal, as if there ever was a normal. Define normal. How do we measure normal? What if normal is change and uncertainty? What if normal is pain and suffering? And death! What if unfairness is normal?
What if we expect life to be hard, unfair, painful, and uncertain?
Then life is not looking so bad. It could be worse, it has been worse, far worse. And it is far worse for many people in the world.
It is just too painful to recognize that truth, isn’t it. It’s just easier to create another new normal, some certainty, even if we don’t like it, at least we have some sense of knowing what to expect. Even if this new normal makes no sense at all.
Whenever we think something that is happening shouldn’t be happening, we operate in fear mode.
It is unintelligent thinking. We are not in control of our mind, and as a consequence we are not in control of our thoughts and our actions. We may think we are, but they’re all repetitive, habitual responses. What we think is our life happening to us, is nothing but a series of habits of thinking, feeling, and doing. More of the same.
We are not free. We are not choosing. We are reacting. We have made up our minds and rigidly hold on to our own created version of the truth. We have heard it enough times, we have the confirmation we need to feel justified.
A good dose of reality: The facts of being alive.
The moment we are born, it is certain that we will age, we will suffer disease and pain, and we will die. There will be uncertainty, in fact everything is uncertain except death, pain, and aging.
Life is full of suffering, but somehow we believe it shouldn’t be happening. It is in itself the source of our suffering. The reason we suffer MORE is because we believe it shouldn’t be happening.
The parable of the second arrow:
This is a well known Buddhist story:
The Buddha once asked the question: “If a person is struck with an arrow, is it painful? if a person is struck by a second arrow, is it even more painful?
He then went on to explain: “we can’t always control the first arrow. However, the second arrow is our reaction to the first. The second arrow is optional.”
The second arrow is our emotional response, the manner in which we react to something painful that happens. The second arrow is the story we create around the pain as a way to resist it, make it wrong, or make ourselves wrong. We attach ourselves to the drama and the trauma, blaming our pain on the outside world.
It is the cross we have to bear when we live conditional lives. But we don’t have to live a conditional life.
The world we live in today is a result of the actions of emotionally immature humans, loaded with emotion that is out of control.
When we come to terms with the fact that suffering is part of life, that there is nothing or nobody to blame, and we do all we can to not injure ourselves more with the second arrow, we will experience RELIEF.
No one to blame, not even ourselves. No drama, no trauma. Nothing to see here, deal with it and just move on.
We torment ourselves with psychic irritants constantly: anger, resentment, frustration, worry, anxiety, distress, etc.
We make ourselves angrier, fuel the fire, we make physical pain or disease into something terrible to fear, aggravating things, making the world a horrible place, with evil people doing dreadful things, a virus that is devastating and we have to stop it or more people will die from it.
We desperately try and take control over things we have no control over and it never ends well.
We look for a scape goat, something or someone to blame. We look for trouble were it is not and create not just a second arrow but hundreds of them, thinking it will ease the pain of the first arrow. But it never does.
How to find true relief
- Step out of your story, stop telling the same narrative over and over, and stop looking for information that only confirms your bias. The problem is you have already made up your mind. Now try and change your mind. Change the story. Stop playing the same character, and start choosing a role that actually will benefit you and everyone else. It is not about being right. It is about feeling relief and feeling well, joyful, peaceful. No matter what is going on in the world.
- Your opinion is not worth defending. It only creates more suffering. It is unskillful, it is not wise, even if you are convinced you have the science based facts. It is not important enough. Nothing is more important than well-being. And well-being is cultivated from within, not from the outer world. Would you rather be right or at peace?
- Let go of the need to be right. Let go of the need to control. You have no control over what other people think or do. You can only learn to get more control over your own mind. Work on that!
- Let go of the fear of death, pain, and suffering. Why would you dread and run away from something that will happen for sure? Work with this fear and become free from it.
- And lastly: Befriend uncertainty, expect it
Would you like to learn how to get relief and be free from worry, doubt, fear, anxiety, the need to control or the need to be right?
Sign up for a free coaching analysis to find out what you can do to gain control over your emotional life: https://www.ernastassen.com/free-analysis
Learn more about training the mind and my life coaching here: https://www.ernastassen.com/coaching-packages
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