On False Joys and True Sorrows
Growing up, I observed a strange phenomenon. As a child, I was encouraged to explore my world, see what I could, understand everything and you know what…choose. Yes, I was given the power to choose until I was around 10 years old. Then, it all stopped. Not in every sphere but in many.
People started getting anxious if you changed your favorite color from red to blue. People panicked if you suddenly shifted your college major. People panicked if you expressed interests in hanging out more with friends than your parents. It was highly confusing and frightening to a child who had received complete acceptance from the day he was born, until a magic day where he was suddenly surrounded by fear – fear of other people who couldn’t tolerate him trying out new things any more, fear of other people who couldn’t tolerate him changing in the slightest bit.
This raised the question – what is fear? And indeed, what is change? Why are people so frightened now, when they were not frightened earlier? When a new baby was born in the family, I observed the same phenomenon – it was pampered and …listened to. The moment it crossed some magic invisible age when everyone felt they understood it, they stopped listening to the child and instead telling it how it should be based on the first few years of its life.
People listen only as long as they feel they have understood enough to control you. And then they stop listening and resist all change.
Imagine a romantic encounter – a man and woman go on a date. The man or woman may have gone through a hundred different experiences, left their homes, faced innumerous challenges and ‘fashioned’ or built their lives based on what makes them happy. Everything goes well until they meet a potential romantic partner who in the initial days of courtship listens, really listens and provides them support and validation. We feel a rush of hormones and healing as we are flooded with acceptance.
However, this is short-lived. The moment your partner has understood you, they start resisting any further evolution of your personality, any efforts at your self-development. “You have changed” or “something is wrong with you”, or “this is not who you are”, they say. My point is yes, exactly, that is no longer who they are- people evolve every day. But the biggest problem occurs when your partner starts holding you to the personality you had at the initial point of your courtship and he/ she tells you that’s who you are and should always be. That can never be the case – no one except yourself can or should tell you who you are. No one except yourself has the right to change you or not change you. You have the right to completely throw out your past personality and become a new person every single day.
Our partners, parents, families and ‘well-meaning’ friends don’t just resist change in you. By questioning who you are, and who you have become, by insisting that you are no longer who they are comfortable with, they try very hard to take away a very fundamental right – the right to choose your life and life path, the right to choose who you are, what your personality should be like, who your friends should be, what you need to learn and unlearn. These rights are taken away from you and transferred to the ‘other’ person in your relationship (again family, friend or partner).
At this point, you forget what was subconsciously a natural part of you since you were a baby- your right to choose who you are, what you stand for, what you want to become, who you want to form relationships with and who you do not wish to be related to any more. You forget that you have the right to form and break relationships – you are not bound to your relationships, relationships are entities that are chosen by you.
When you forget that relationships are a choice, you make the mistake of prioritizing relationships over yourself as an individual. A relationship can be kept stable only in two ways – if no individual in the relationship changes, ever; or if both individuals in the relationship change in the same or mutually acceptable ways. The moment two people (naturally) begin to evolve in different directions, levels of acceptance need to increase drastically in the relationship to sustain it. Relationships are meant to be an evolving structure – the moment you try to make a relationship ‘stable’, it becomes a prison for both the controller and the controlled within it.
We can now see why we idolize our childhoods and initial days of dating or courtship. Listening and understanding who your partner is at every moment is blissful romance, resisting change and control becomes marriage (not for all, but for many). Listening and understanding who your child is at every moment creates a golden childhood, resisting change and control becomes stagnant adulthood and a mid-life crisis (for many).
Friendships do not make any such demands on the people involved. Friendships are built on acceptance of change, on understanding and listening and giving helpful advice only when asked (not involving unilateral demands). It is often surprising that people don’t recognize that in the initial days of courtship or babyhood, we are friends with our partners or parents. As we grow, our partners and family cease being our friends and become controlling, manipulative or otherwise resist any form of evolution. Guilt, fear, anxiety, worry, and constant rejection soon become parts of the family environment, with every person constantly adjusting their behavior to satisfy someone else around them.
When everyone is constantly adjusting their behavior, no one is real/ authentic/ original anymore. Truth flies out of the window. The entire family or marriage becomes one built on false projections of our character. At this point, a sad chain of events is set into motion – people begin to prefer their relationships to be like mirrors, reflecting what they want to see, rather than actually seeing the other person in the relationship.
Thus, the family unit becomes a crucible for a false self – a cemetery where your true nature and ability to evolve are buried. It becomes a graveyard of hopes and dreams – and yet families celebrate this by praising other members for ‘sacrificing’ their lives for others. Sacrifice is unnecessary when you accept others for who they are. It is only when people hide from the truth that sacrifice of your dreams, hopes and personality come into play.
Thus, instead of sacrificing their outer relationships for true inner authenticity, people sacrifice inner truth and begin celebrating outer falsehoods and artificiality in relationships. Thus, even sacrifice which people begin to worship as a wonderful human quality becomes a false characteristic. False relationships lead to false sacrifices and worship of false values in each other. Listening becomes replaced by ‘walking on eggshells’ or ‘concern for others’ so as to not disturb those around you.
While it is good to respect boundaries, most relationships break down these boundaries so that you forget where you end, and where your partner/ family begins. Emotions become a confusing mess (which is again celebrated as a sign of closeness). Two people can be close only if they are first themselves as individuals, and then choose to be close. Relationships are not about merging with each other, but about sharing who you are. You cannot share who you are, unless you are fully and authentically yourself. A false closeness generated due to confusion and power struggles (however subtle – manipulated by fear, anger or guilt-tripping) can never be aligned with your true nature.
When you thus forget who you are, and choose falseness in relationships over inner truth, you stop listening to your soul. And when you stop listening to your soul, it stops speaking to you. Thus, you lose your connection to your deepest self and live an unenlightened life, filled with false joys and false sorrows. The only thing that such false joys and false sorrows can lead to is unmitigated suffering – it starts slowly by nagging you with a quiet inner voice, insisting that something is wrong in the way you are living your life.
But sadly, many ignore this voice for years and this malaise moves into stage two – you begin to feel lost, somewhere around middle-age. Society encourages you to ignore this or asks you to take medication – alcohol or drugs to kill this voice, and your soul stops trying to guide you altogether. You move into the last stage- inner death. Life becomes a monotonous journey, devoid of meaning and soul and purpose. You neither have the energy to live, nor die and you walk wearily up to death, where your family gathers around you and weeps upon losing you. But the sad thing is, they didn’t lose you now, they had lost you a long time ago. They only lost your body now, but your soul which is the True You had died a long, long while ago.
It is unfortunate that our friends and families don’t realize that the soul is more important than the body. Their attachment to our outer manifestations makes them lose their connection with the inner self. And thus, they weep for the wrong reasons, at the wrong place, at the wrong time in your life. And many of us die, thinking that their tears are genuine, for we ourselves have forgotten what we should be really sad about.
Listen to your soul, choose your inner truth, live a life of true joys and true sorrows. It is only then you will know when to really be happy and when to really feel sad. You won’t need others to tell you when you should be sad or happy (based on their false perceptions). The real truth will never ever be the same as the false truths that are forced upon you.
Therefore, if you wish to live a life of truth, find your own truth, let others find their own truth, do not ask others to justify their truth to you, and do not justify your truth to others. In that way, when you die, you won’t weep, for it will only be your body dying, while your soul will be very much alive and ready for the next part of its journey.