Laying The Foundations For Something Greater
“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.
When you’re faced with a problem, it may seem the circumstances are deliberately happening to you.
It is difficult to step away from the problem and see it from a different perspective because you’re invested in it.
When you seek a different viewpoint, you are able to step back from the drama.
Psychologists talk about catastrophizing situations that are not as grim as they appear.
In the academic book Stress Consequences: Mental, Neuropsychological and Socioeconomic the author George Fink defines catastrophizing as: “Catastrophizing is a cognitive process that includes negative self-statements and excessively negative beliefs about the future.”
The key to overcoming your problems is to distance yourself emotionally and allow the pieces of the puzzle to come together before drawing a conclusion.
Life has a complex way of developing and it doesn’t always go according to plan. What may initially appear as a problem is often laying the foundations for something better to take place.
If you focus on the problem only, you miss out on the entire process unfolding as it should.
Take, for example, if you are building a new home. You may need to first demolish the existing home to make way for the foundations for the new home.
However, if someone were to visit the site and see the home being demolished, there would be no semblance of a new home other than the rubble left behind.
This setting may also take place mentally when events don’t unfold according to what you had in mind.
That is because you’re responding to what is essentially the old collapsing in order for the new to fill its place.
Many believe life is happening to them instead of appreciating that life is just happening, irrespective of them.
Step Back From The Drama
“Life is a process. We are a process. The universe is a process.” — Anne Wilson Shaef
There’s a wonderful Zen Koan in which a master is walking through the countryside with his pupil.
The pupil sees a flock of ducks flying overhead and says to the Zen master: “Look at the flock of ducks flying away from us.”
The master instantly corrects the pupil and reminds him the ducks are not flying away from him, but flying in a direction that passes over him.
Put simply: when untoward events arise, it’s easy to think you’re the victim because events are happening to you.
But what if you considered it as just another event devoid of meaning?
To take a comparative view, the renowned father of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud was once asked by a student of his fondness for smoking cigars.
Freud associated most human behaviour with a sexual meaning. He believed in symbols and by smoking a cigar, his student attributed this as a phallic symbol with a deeper psychological meaning.
Freud responded: “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”
He was stating that sometimes events do not have meaning save for the meaning you assign them.
For this reason, try to accept life as something that is constantly evolving and happening through you.
After you and I leave this earth, life will continue to evolve. It has done so for thousands of years and will do so for thousands more.
To accept life means to step back from the drama and appreciate what is unfolding is for your greater good.
To offer another perspective, Dr. Alex Lickerman explains in The Undefeated Mind: On the Science of Constructing an Indestructible Self that our obstacles aren’t externally generated but arise from within us: “At other times, the true obstacle isn’t the obstacle in front of us but the obstacle inside of us. Perhaps it’s our inflexibility, our arrogance, or our fear, but when victory over external barriers is contingent upon victory over internal ones, the greatest benefit a situation has to offer us is wisdom.”
A Tiny Piece In A Puzzle Within A Grander Scheme
“I could not, at any age, be content to take my place by the fireside and simply look on. Life was meant to be lived. Curiosity must be kept alive. One must never, for whatever reason, turn his back on life.” — Eleanor Roosevelt
I advise people to mentally step back from their problems by observing patterns throughout their life.
Patterns are all around us, whether it be via people’s behaviours or the patterns of life.
I have come to realise, when something appears untoward, it is laying the foundations for something greater to unfold further down the road.
If I’m to judge the experience based on first impressions, I would judge it as an unfortunate event and try to solve the problem.
If I am patient and allow the process to unfold, it will do so of its own accord without me judging the condition as unfavourable.
For example, you may be late for an appointment and be held up by traffic. You think it’s terrible because you’ll be late to your appointment.
But what if the delay turns out to be a blessing in disguise?
What if that delay is re-routing you to a different location to help someone in need?
Or to discover something you’ve been looking for?
Or prevent you from being involved in a similar car accident?
What I’m saying is, you are a tiny piece in a puzzle within a grander scheme orchestrating itself every moment of the day.
You are a pawn in a chess game that has millions of pieces simultaneously moving across the board.
This doesn’t mean you’re not important in the scheme of things. Rather, if you judge something on first impressions, you miss out on seeing what is likely to unfold later on.
Psychotherapist David Richo writes in The Five Things We Cannot Change: And The Happiness We Find By Embracing Them that we lack the trust to accept how life will play out: “We worry because we do not trust ourselves to handle what happens to us. We worry because we do not trust that the way the chips fall will work out for the best. We worry because we have not yet said yes.”
So suspend your judgement and avoid reacting to situations by practicing infinite patience.
Look for patterns throughout your life and refer to the past when similar conditions turned out in your favour.
Nothing is as unwelcoming as it first appears, it is only your thoughts that add meaning and context to a situation.
Step back and let life unravel the pieces of the puzzle before you judge something as good or bad.
In doing so, you realise that life is always serving you but not in the way you imagine.