I find it strange when I encounter people that are convinced that only once they understand why they made the mistakes they’ve made will they be able to move forward in life. Or worse still, why they were treated the way they were, only then will they expect or demand better. The irony in this is so blatant that it’s like not noticing the air you breathe until someone suffocates you. Funny how this thought process is equally suffocating and stifling to those that subscribe to it.
Why then do we insist on knowing why before we’re willing to take the next step? I mean, we wouldn’t be able to tell that we were treated badly or that we made mistakes unless we knew the opposing truth to it, right? In other words, the moment I know that I want or deserve something better, it means I know what I don’t want. Again a blatantly obvious truth that most miss. So the question then arises as to why it is that we choose not to act on this knowledge?
Some of it I think stems from a social conditioning that suggests that if you didn’t come up with the answers when you were sent to your room to reflect on your bad behavior, then you remain in the naughty corner until you do. That might work until you reach the age of independent thought, but the moment that age is reached, that excuse or crutch falls away. As usual, to best demonstrate a point we must take it to an extreme, so let’s consider the following scenario.
If I place my hand on a hot stove, I know I will burn. I also know that in future I don’t want to burn, unless you’re a twisted sadist, in which case your problem is much bigger than this. Actually not, but let’s chat about that another day. Anyway, so it doesn’t make sense for me to continue to place my hand on that hot stove simply because I am not yet fully familiar with the mechanics or chemistry that causes such burn to happen. So in future, I will either use tools or apparel that will prevent me from burning because I still need that hot stove, or I will find a safer means to heat my food, like a microwave perhaps.
Simple analogy, but apparently not so simple to implement. I think the difference between this and life is also simple. We don’t ever have hope that the hot stove will be able to heat our food if kept cool. So we have no expectation of the nature of the stove to change, or the need for heat to be different. So I guess we could either choose to eat cold or uncooked food, which is distinctly unpleasant at most times, or we adapt our approach to get what we want without harming ourselves in the process. Imagine what it would be like if the food thought it was unworthy of being heated when the stove was cold? Or maybe it would taste better if only the stove would heat it without getting so hot? Or maybe the stove could see how beautiful all the little ingredients were that made the food such a wholesome meal and it would heat it more gently and appreciate each grain of salt and each curry leaf for the struggle they went through to get there?
Seriously though, we get caught in a cycle that causes us to resent ourselves for not being worthy of better, of hoping that the aggressor would be kinder because we can absolutely see with total conviction how capable they are of such kindness and how beautiful they will be in the process, and most importantly, we’re afraid that if we let go, we may not get anything better or at all to replace it.
It all comes down to self-worth. If we don’t believe we’re worth more, we’ll find reasons to resist making the changes we need to make because we’re unlikely to reach the point when enough is enough. At some point we became convinced that unless we have the answers for the past, we cannot progress into the future. What rubbish! The moment we know better from worse, we can make a choice for better. The moment we allow ourselves to experience better, we’ll automatically realise why worse was not good enough. All we need is to know what is preferred, but not always do we need to know why it is preferred.
The way forward is really simple, but requires courage. Do the right thing for the right reason at the right time and everything will be just fine. Stop. That conversation you just started in your head about how do you know when it’s the right time, or what the right reason is, etc., just stop it. That is the circular drivel that keeps you grounded in the past. Focus on the present. And that means that you don’t focus on how you’re perceived, because how you’re perceived requires a projection into the future based on your past experiences, which means you are not present. So let’s try again, focus on the present. Yes, the moment in which you are acting or making a decision to act. In that moment know what you’re feeling and know what outcome you desire. If your decision contributes towards that desired outcome, do it. If not, who are you trying to appease, and are they important enough to appease?
I suspect you just started another internal conversation about what if you see their importance and that you’re hoping that by doing what you think you need to do they may just realise how important they are and therefore it makes it important to appease them…exhausting, isn’t it? It’s a simple process to achieve better, but self-doubt which is spawned by a low self-worth makes it seem impossible.
You don’t always have to know why. You just have to know why not. Start there. The rest will follow. Let a stove be a stove and stop hoping for it to be something else.