Quick summary: Most of us believe that the outside world is responsible for our emotions, that our emotional dispositions are externally controlled (ex. he/she or this event etc made me feel this way). I am going to suggest that the meaning that you place onto an occurrence in often what you are emotionally reacting to… I will suggest that you have a freedom to choose your emotional experience as you have a choice in what meaning you place on the occurrences in your life.
Why do we all experience life with different emotional reactions?
- Why can one person pick up a snake with curiosity while another person flees in terror?
- How can one group of people celebrate the death of a loved one with dance and thankfulness while another group of people reacts with hopelessness and depression?
- How can the results of an election bring some people to tears and other people to cheers?
- Why is sitting in the woods devastatingly boring to one person and awe inspiring to the next?
- Why can one group of warriors hold sincere respect for their enemy while another group of warriors holds contempt?
If the outside world causes our emotions, then how is it that we all have different emotional reactions to the same stimulus?
We have the power to attribute our own subjective meaning to our lived experiences… the meaning we create can foster a wide range of different emotions.
- The meaning that one person attributes to an event might lead them to feel depressed… the meaning that another person ascribes to the very same occurrence might make them feel hope.
This insight is received as being very hurtful to many people… many interpret this insight as blaming the victim for their very real pain.
- A common response to this insight is, “so you are saying that I caused my own suffering based on the meaning that I placed on my traumatic experience? You are saying that I would not ‘suffer’ if I just changed the way that I looked at the event?”
- In honesty this is often where that conversation will end as the message, though good intentioned, is being interpreted in such a way that the person receiving this insight is experiencing even more suffering.
- This insight has the intention of offering freedom so as to reduce suffering… the very common interpretation listed above is very often the source of increased suffering.
- Not everyone is ready for this message and you would be wise to share this insight with compassion, empathy and gentleness.
This message does not condone the ill intentions that produce suffering intentionally…
- This message allow for the receiver of ill intentions to emancipate themselves from the emotional control of he/she who intended to cause suffering.
- This is quite similar to the elusive concept we call forgiveness… forgiveness is for the forgiver… true forgiveness allows a person to free themselves from their emotional reactivity to the oppressor.
- What about the oppressor? Your forgiveness will not free the oppressor from their suffering… they must forgive themselves.
There are also many instances where great pain was experienced though no one or no thing ever had the intention to cause suffering… there are natural disasters, accidents, poor decisions, and selfish decisions etc that people experience with great suffering.
- These events feel ‘meaningless’…. great pain is being experience and there is no apparent reason for the pain to have entered into our life… there is no good answer as to, “why did this happen?”
- Such occurrences throw us into a chaotic storm of meaninglessness in which all the structures, laws, and rules that we believed to govern this world crumble before us… our beliefs can no longer offer us hope, comfort, and resolve.
- This is when this message in your guiding light in a sea of chaos…
You have both the power and the freedom to apply structure to the chaos you have found yourself in as you have the power to make meaning of meaninglessness…
Your truth is your reality… your consciousness lives within the landscape of your own creation… The internal and external world are one… their apparent separateness is simply an illusion.
Suffering is a terrifying impassable river which traps you on the far bank in pain… with your freedom to create meaning you build a bridge in the landscape of your consciousness so that you can now safely pass to the other bank where perhaps you will find peace and happiness… the river is still there and the bridge heals the suffering of that river.
Your ability to create meaning is your tool for emancipating yourself from suffering.
One of the most significantly ‘traumatic’ events that I experience in my life happened when I what in my late teens… my interpretation of the experience at the time left me feeling inadequate, hopeless, and alone… I cannot imagine feeling more love than I do for the woman with whom I am married to and we have a baby boy arriving in a few months. The love and joy that I experience in this moment could not have happened if not for the ‘traumatic’ event in my teens… I now place a different meaning on that event… that event was the metaphorical seed for the wonderful life my consciousness lives within at this moment…
That event was quite possible the best thing that ever happened to me… my new meaning brings me bliss… my old meaning brought me suffering. The event opened my eyes to the path that I was on… there are hundred of decisions that have helped me in achieving an authentic sense of purpose that arose from the meaning I created related to that one event.
Therefore with meaning I emancipated myself from both suffering and from that which inhibited my authentic purpose.