WHEN YOU ITCH FOR SOMETHING ELSE
I think one of the most uncomfortable states I’m in is when I feel I’m not growing in the direction I want to grow.
When I feel like life circumstances, people, or anything, really, slow down my need to create, or learn, or contemplate.
I get frustrated. Things feel repetitive. It creates uneasiness.
I guess existentialists might say that my uneasiness is the sense of urgency that comes from being whacked in the face by the knowledge of my mortality, and in turn, my limited time to do everything I want.
Maybe that’s the core of it. Nevertheless, it feels unnatural to me to stay the same. It’s painful.
OUR PATTERNS OF THOUGHT BECOME OUR LIVES
Throughout our lives, our patterns of thought become our way of being.
If it has been a while since we have challenged, our opinions, assumptions, and lifestyles, chances are we haven’t changed much. Not in ways that would significantly impact important choices.
That is because with every new experience we have, we interpret those experiences using the same opinions and assumptions we’ve always held. Then our reactions to new experiences create a cycle that becomes our way of being and interacting with the world.
THE ILLUSION OF COMFORT AND STABILITY
Most of the time, our way of being is okay. We feel comfortable and are comforted by the way we’ve been doing things. But there are times when we realize it’s not enough. There are times when we are ready for another way of being. When our usual way of life is causing such discomfort that we have to drink a lot, spend a lot, and eat a lot to push the feeling down again.
In The Discovery of Being, Rollo May describes our imperative to continuously develop ourselves. He says:
“If one tries to study the human being as a composite of substances, one does not need to deal with the disturbing fact that existence is always in process of self-transcending. But if we are to understand a given person as existing, dynamic, at every moment becoming, we cannot avoid this dimension.”
According to May, as dynamic beings, we cannot ignore our fundamental need to continuously self-transcend. When we maintain the status quo of our patterns of thought and lifestyle, we are denying an essential part of us. The part that needs to self-transcend.
Hence, when we feel that our routines, social lives, and jobs are not helping us to grow, we feel discomfort. Even when things are “comfortable”, familiar, and pleasant on the surface.
There is a way to break this pattern.
TO CHANGE YOUR LIFE, YOU MUST EXPAND YOUR PERSPECTIVE
I believe that one crucial element needed to break this monotony and begin to experience personal growth is to expand our perspectives as much as we can.
In The Phenomenon of Man, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin states that “for our mind to adjust itself to lines and horizons enlarged beyond measure, it must renounce the comfort of familiar narrowness. It must create a new equilibrium for everything that had formerly been so neatly arranged in its small inner world.”
If you really want your life to go to the next level, you need to continuously expand your perspective.
I mean really, really expand it. You need to turn your assumptions about life upside down.
This is hard because we have to accept the possibility that we were wrong about everything all along.
Not to mention the fact that it requires a lot of humility and courage to admit that we really don’t know what the fuck is going on out there and we are uncertain.
WE NEED SUPPORT FROM OTHERS
This is no joke. There is a lot of hardcore emotional sorting out to do when you begin to consider that you, your family, your world is all a huge question with no real answers. It takes a lot of courage to look beyond your existing belief systems. But Rollo May says that “courage is necessary to make being and becoming possible”.
In fact, I don’t think any of us can really do this without support. We need to have at least one person in our lives who will listen and not look at you like you’ve totally lost it.
Just so you know though, it’s really hard to find others like that. It’s because by taking on new perspectives, others around you are forced to question their own. Most people don’t feel safe enough to do that yet. If possible, talk to a counsellor for support, or join a group of likeminded people.
SORRY NEO, YOU CAN’T GO BACK
For me, the more I learn, there is more clarity on some levels, but at the same time, a whole crap load of really scary, weird crap that fills my thoughts too.
I found there is a burden that comes with committing to expanding your perspective. There is an adjustment, a breaking away from the old to the new.
It’s like the story of the frog in the well, if that frog sees the world outside the well, she can’t go back to the well and live the same existence knowing what is out there.
But she must adjust her life and make new decisions based on her new knowledge. She must make really hard decisions. Should she try and leave the well even though it is difficult and scary? Or should she stay and accept her life in the well and continue the comfortable life she built in the well? Would she truly be able to accept her life in the well knowing what she does now?
Ernest Becker says the following about this:
“Indeed, because of that development his eyes are opened to the reality of things: there is no turning back to the comforts of a secure and armored life.”
Our newly expanded view provides us with new insights with which we can begin to create a more authentic life, but those same insights open us up to, let’s face it, sometimes alarming realities about life at the same time.
But you can’t go back to the more narrow view of life you had before. You can try to live life the way you always did. You can try to converse with close others the way you always have, but it will be different.
You know what is outside that well.
In the movie The Matrix, after Neo learns that the life he was living was an illusion, he says, “I can’t go back, can I?” Morpheus responds with, “No, but would you really want to?”.
Ultimately, expanding your perspective makes you hungry for more. More learning, more contemplation, more life creation.
So, why would you want to go back?