“This should not be happening to me!”
– motto of the malcontent
For goodness sake, mind – it's already happening. Always.
This is a prime example of a failure to recognize a distinction between conceptual and actual reality – and the mental suffering that results from it. It's a good place to start to take an honest look at your behavior.
Likely you're familiar with this motto. But honestly, how familiar? How many times a day do you think “This shouldn't be happening”, or something like it, without realizing you're doing it? There are many versions:
“This is boring – I could be doing something else.” “Oh crap, It's raining!” “My life should be better than this.” “I'm supposed to be home by now.” “Why did I agree to this?” “So and so shouldn't be such a jerk.” “I shouldn't worry so much.” “If only I'd said...” “How dare you...” “I hate... (anything you can conceptualize)” And so on. There are as many versions of “this shouldn't be” as there are possible Human experiences – and every single instance is an attempt by you, mind, to replace reality with a concept of it.
Sorry, but as much as you protest, the reality of your actual existence is inescapable – and the reality where something else is happening to you is purely imaginary. It doesn't exist (in this universe anyway).
So while you're in your conceptualizing trance, busy condemning your circumstances or scheming how to remodel them to your liking, are you forgetting someone? Where's your actual person? Stuck in the reality of what's happening while you're away from the wheelhouse? How does your person feel about your insistence that you be in some other reality?
lack of contentment; dissatisfaction with one's circumstances.
It doesn't feel so good, does it?
But whose dissatisfaction? Who's feeling it? Are you, mind, the one who feels things – or does your person?
If there's any confusion over this point, it's your's entirely – due to your failure to distinguish between your conceptual and actual person. It's your conceptual self that you imagine could be somewhere else or in different circumstances. You pretend you are this conceptual person – and pretend you are feeling the ire over things not being as they should. Thus you can pretend that the “shouldn't be” circumstances are causing your irritation, and that you are entitled to a better reality.
But is this actual reality? (The unending question a sane mind asks.)
Be honest. Look at it truthfully: It's your actual person that suffers – mentally suffering your obdurate attitude about reality. Your person can't possibly be in any other reality than the one you object to, so it's the notion that you could-be or should-be that's painful to your person. With discontentment you are, in actuality, tormenting your person with an unrealistic mind-set.
Think about this: The pain of discontentment is not from your dissatisfaction with reality, but rather it's reality's dissatisfaction with your attitude. Reality is simply trying to tell you through the bitter feelings of your person that a conceptually rooted disgruntled attitude is inappropriate to the miracle of your actual existence.
Remember the dope slap mentioned earlier? The irritability of discontentment is the suffering of reality's inescapable psychological rebuke for the arrogant and persistent effort to ignore reality. The harder you try, mind, the more your person suffers the futility of your efforts.
Oh proud Human mind, how did you ever come to believe that you could argue with reality and win?
* * *
“OK yes,” you say. “I experience discontentment. But terrible things do happen in reality. Things I would rather not happen to me – or anyone. Are you suggesting it's pointless to object? that I should do nothing – just let it happen?”
What terrible event? The conceptual one you imagine could happen? Or the one that's actually happening? Notice how you only experience discontentment when terrible things aren't happening to your person. If they are, you're usually too busy dealing with conditions to be dissatisfied. And if the terrible event is not happening, why would you torment your person with the concept that it could be? Angst and worry are just other forms of discontent –– uncomfortable emotions through which reality motivates you to face actual reality: the wonderful reality where nothing terrible is happening – like now.
If something terrible is actually happening to your person, is your insisting it shouldn't be happening helping the situation? Likely it's making things worse, as you mentally disengage – denying your person crucial perceptions. It's when you let go of your objections to what's happening that you and your person start working as one to alleviate the terrible circumstance, i.e. cope with it. (You and your person are powerless to change what is already happening – the only reality that exists. Participate within the continuous unfolding of reality, yes; influence its potential to unfold according to its rules, yes; but change it into anything other than what it is, even as it unfolds? Never. It's already unfolding in accordance with its rules and your person's well or ill-chosen actions (undertaken with acumen or in ignorance of reality's rules).) Wisdom, and effective coping, comes with an ever clearer understanding of reality's rules, to better play by them – as there is no other game to play, or way to play it.
This same cooperation can be experienced in ordinary circumstances you wouldn't judge to be terrifying, but merely painful, inconvenient, annoying, worrisome, or in some other way unfavorable. Let go of your conceptually based objections – appreciate the advantage of keen awareness and help your person live consciously.
Mind, the idea that you let or don't let things happen is problematic. It's that arrogant attitude again – pretending to way more power and ability than you possess. Your job is perceiver/understander, and your hobbies speculator and commentator. Other than this, you don't actually do anything. Sorry mind, but it's true. Your person is the one who does or doesn't do things in actual reality, and depends on you to awaken from your conceptualizing trance; to perceive things clearly and understand as best you can without pretense, objection, iffy speculation, or superfluous commentary – especially in dire circumstances.
So yes it is pointless for you to mentally object to anything that's actually happening – and very appropriate for your person to actively object to life-threatening events (which is actually a means of embracing life.) You, mind, may assist – or interfere – in proportion to your conceptualizing habit.
You're familiar with the Serenity Prayer?
“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, The courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference.”
What your person is actually praying for, willful mind, is your willingness to surrender your conceptual beliefs in favor of truthful perception – so your person may live without conflict.
Ch. 3 image © Les Wallach FAIA