We are all prisoners of our own minds. We are trapped in fighting with life, expecting it to be in a certain way, while it continues to disappoint us, again and again. And this gap between our expectation of life and the reality brings us untold misery. Most of our problems fall into one of these categories: job & finance, relationships & family, health & wellness. The altruistic ones worry about the state of our world, society and politics. However, when push comes to shove, for most people personal problems take a priority over larger societal problems.
One approach, traditionally adopted in India is the ‘Drop all expectations since they lead to misery‘ route. This route may appear to reduce your problems, but it also kills self expression. You then become no better than a meaningless stone, going through life without the capacity to feel. Always remember that if you shut out pain in life, joy will also disappear. Life then starts appearing meaningless. This is the plight of many in modern societies – cut off from the capacity to feel. They are functional, but robotic. Efficient but lack any capacity for empathy. And before we begin to look for such people outside, we can begin to look at ourselves. Do we run away from pain?
As human beings, we are endowed with a great capacity to imagine things – to imagine and wish for things – usually linked to the future. This capacity for imagination helps humanity and ourselves propel into a better future. We can travel in time – in our minds of course – building a vision of a better future. The birthplace of such imagination is in our feelings. Each of us, feel uniquely based on our experiences of life and our inborn capacities. This feeling is expressed as desires and imaginations, which when properly actuated give rise to external changes in the world. When we connect to our innermost desires, we feel alive, we feel a fountain of energy welling up in us.
But when these desires do not come to fruition, it leads to bitter disappointment. And slowly and surely we begin to give up on life. This is where we should have the audacity, the courage to dream, to imagine and yet gladly accommodate its own failure. And this sounds so strange. Dream and accept that it might fail. This sounds like nonsense. Know?
No! What we must realize is that we must express the capacity to dream notwithstanding its results. As a kid, I used to have a strong imagination of playing cricket for my country. This did not come to pass. But I still fondly remember the thrill when I used to go out to bat on the street. The exhilaration of imagining a filled ground of admiring spectators. Nothing can replace such childish dreams. But as we grow old, we start to lose the courage – the courage to dream. As kids, we dreamt, not caring a world whether they will come true or not. But as we grow old, we only want to dream of those things which we know will succeed. What sort of dreams are those? That is being pusillanimous.
As adults, we want to have the foresight – we want to make sure every hole is plugged before we set sail. The element of risk and play has gone out of our lives. Why is that? Simply because we are afraid of failure. As we grow old, we start to become aware of people’s opinions about us. In the need to fit socially, we drop our individualities. We give up the desire to dream. To have a vision. This stems from a fear of being judged. In general, if we are brought up around people who have been very critical of our actions and abilities, the more we are prone to lack the courage to dream. For, in order to develop a strong sense of self, we needed to have at least one parent who said, “Go on. Let’s see where this gets you. Don’t worry if you stumble” . This is the duty of every parent. To allow the child to make its own mistakes.
Most parents do want to rear independent and loving children. Their intentions are almost always in the best interest of their child. But they lack the awareness and tools to help bring this out in the child. They pass on inherited patterns and end up being overbearing and judgemental. Such parenting leads to either total conformity or total rebellion. Conformity means that one’s personality is crushed and fear of judgement is rife within oneself. However, being desperate to gain approval from their loved ones such people comply to most social constructs (often unconsciously though). Rebels also fear judgment and are often very insecure about themselves. However, they are desperate to gain approval and attention from the extended circle – friends, people on social media and the larger society. Such people do extreme things to gain approvals – color their hair, tatoes, become social media influencers or become vociferous activists. It is important to note here that tattooing oneself or being an active member on a social media platform is in itself not bad. This awareness is not meant as a means of judging and labelling people who do this. But what has to be taken into account is the attitude behind such actions.
We need to recognize such patterns in ourselves first and then in the rest. I for instance, had this habit of taking profound quotes from the internet and attributing it to random strangers I met in bus journeys and posting it on facebook. I was desperate (although unconsciously) to be “liked” as someone with profound wisdom (given the fact that I was never physically well built). Clearly, I wanted to be respected and loved through my ‘so called’ wisdom. Such behavior, gave me attention, but never fulfilled me. It left me seeking for new ways to garner many more likes. I quickly realized that I was living on the basis of “others” opinions and did not in fact have the courage to explore what I wanted. In fact, I didn’t even know what I wanted.
Therefore, to be ourselves, we need to have the courage to dream. But before that, identify these patterns that might be holding you back. Are you seeking some sort of approval, even subconsciously? You can identify this by being completely honest with yourself. Why are you posting that picture with your girlfriend on social media? What is it you are expecting people to tell you? Isn’t the fact that you are with your partner enough? Observe and reflect on your motivations – constantly.
As we begin to get in tune with ourselves. We will be afraid. We might not want to face ourselves this way. And this is the true courage. This is what it means to be a courageous human being. As we begin to develop this courage of looking at ourselves in the most naked, intimate form, something magical begins to happen. We begin to start acting in a way that we see fit, through our own values – and not borrowed ideas of others. You cannot, after all go online and borrow values from a website. Only when we drop the idea of being liked by someone, can we be who we are. Then, people’s opinions about us stop mattering so much. We gain freedom. We can the ability to stand on our own feet – not complying with society and neither rebelling against it. We simply are who we are. This is a wonderful way to live life.