There’s a movement that encourages checking out, one that considers disempowerment a wise response to circumstances. The beer brand “#Adulting” captures it well. Similarly, self-deprecation is now fundamental to being a pleasant person. If you don’t begin a sentence with “I could be wrong here” or “Not sure if I missed something” you risk looking sincere. Feeling aligned with your speech is now something to be ashamed of.
According to this trendy perspective, you are compassionate and smart if you focus on the world’s problems and tragedies. If you don’t, it’s because you’re too steeped in privilege to see it. This is the same voice that sees authenticity and peak experiences as “corny” or “cheesy.” You get a sense for the split between the sarcasm-soaked voice I’m discussing and the alternative I’d like to present by comparing the hysterical person who just survived a car accident who proceeds to call her friends and family members to remind them of her gratefulness for their existence to the person with an itch too far down his leg to scratch stuck in traffic after working a 14-hour shift that involved repetitively pulling a lever.
An exaggeration depending on who you’re talking to, but still: there’s a tremendous difference between the moved, open person, aware of the preciousness of experience, and the burned out, embittered, and numbed mind so weighed down by wrongness that his only option is to double down on all the misalignment by becoming critical of anyone who finds a better solution than being detached, cynical, and complacent.
Perhaps the cynicism aimed at sincere and forward-moving people is part of the widespread breakdown of trust in institutions. Or a side effect of the fact that all news sources must milk the slightest indication of disarray in order to maintain their reader- or viewership. Nevertheless, there are several features about this mindset that do you no good.
Yet even the title of this post might strike the wrong chord. Some say that being useful to the world misses the point or is against your dignity as an individual. But the truth is this: as a social animal, you are wired to feel a sense of reward when other animals signal that what you’re doing is valuable. You are wired to derive pleasure from being of benefit to other people. But you need a perspective able to alchemize challenge, disappointment, and sadness into power. You’ll struggle if you sense that everyone is corrupt and circumstances are stacked against you.
I want to address the widespread assumption that there is something obligatory about feeling stressed or painfully aware of all that’s going wrong. Sure, it’s true that pain or otherwise “negative” emotions are signals. They’re present for good reason. Their purpose is to suggest that re-calibration is needed. But unlike pain felt in the body, there’s always mixed incentives to the “sky is falling” outlook presented by news outlets, the media, marketers, or anyone else with the intent to persuade. These entities are all driven by their own survival needs.
In spite of messaging to the contrary, cultivating empowerment is not a matter of impracticality, of ignoring reality and being naïve or overly idealistic. Rather, cultivating your mind so that you feel vital, at ease, and effective is fundamental to having authority over experience, and in turn, having a positive impact on your parents, siblings, friends, family, community, and reality at large.
Here’s what I mean. Have you ever wanted anything so badly that you were willing to do whatever it took to have it? You envisioned yourself in a desired state and something clicked. You felt a wave of pleasure that immediately translated into incentive. Being in that state unhooked you from sadness, jealousy, irritation, and the like. Yet as time when on, you witnessed events and statements and other jabs from the senses that jolted you out of your vision, and you lost faith in it. You became cold, mean, and inhibited.
Well here’s a re-frame: what if everything you experience is conspiring to make your intention a reality? Everything that occurs is exactly what you need to alchemize in order for your desired state to make itself known to you.
This is what writer Neville Goddard calls the bridge of incidents. It’s a series of events that facilitate your growth if you are able to understand how they are leading you into the state you desire.
An example: you want to open a successful business, but you’re confronted with signs that make it look unlikely, such as the news that the economy is flat lining and western civilization is collapsing. Rather than taking these messages as invitations to check out, you might instead see them as part of the bridge of incidents necessary for materializing your success. All the talk of financial disaster encourages you to read more, act more, become better at navigating stress, and so forth. Without all the discouragement, you might have been less persistent, less resourceful. By recognizing the tension as just one part of a larger and much-needed bridge of incidents, you’re motivated to use struggle to your advantage. In other words, you move forward because of your struggle, not in spite of it.
This allows you to calm down. It gives you permission to feel the rightness in each moment instead of managing your experience by squeezing it into some direction you believe is right. You can approach each moment as an invitation to the next. And a gentle one. As Ram Dass said: you can confront each event, obligation, or circumstance as if it were a big weight on you or as part of the dance.
When you frame your circumstances optimally, you participate in the unfolding of events that lead you to better places. Seeing everything as necessary to the fruition of your ultimate aim is really a strengthening of your resilience muscle. Every moment presents an opportunity to become more conscious but only when you’re aware that the calling is there.
Next time you read an article that insists that the world is a sad, dark, scary place you must hide in your bedroom to avoid, first, ask yourself about the incentives behind that narrative. Is it an unbridled representation of the truth, or a convenient spin in the direction of sensation? From there, remember that you can’t experience anything without confronting its opposite. For every inconvenience or injustice, there’s also a surprising realization or leverage point.
Everything is in your favor when you’re willing to negotiate.