Fulfilled and Free - Part 02/03
Written by Sue Fuller-Good (MSc Physio WITS) Physiotherapist with a special interest in the mind-body connection
People have different ideals and values, and when they pursue those, everything works. But when you chase a moving target outside of yourself like money, power, fame, social acceptance, thinness, an image, an identity then you squander your life resources (time, energy and money). Worse still, you remain on the treadmill, aiming to get somewhere but going nowhere.
When you are driven from the inside by a purpose and a passion, any one of these may be your reward, even if it’s not what you’re actually chasing after. Because you are not chasing after it, you won’t be left feeling as though you always need more of it and that you never have enough of it. Your drive for purpose and passion cannot be measured and it cannot fall short of your expectations. And you won't be stuck on a hamster wheel of perpetual chasing!
Your brain is programmed to keep you alive in the world and to keep you safe from harm. Your brain’s job is to protect you from suffering and pain. Pain and suffering come in many different forms. The pain may include loneliness, powerlessness, lack, deprivation, rejection or exclusion, judgement, or many other possible uncomfortable experiences. If your brain fears that you may be in danger of being harmed, or caused to suffer, it does whatever is necessary to avoid this harm and pain. It does this unconsciously. Your brain also uses perceived threats as stimuli to unconsciously do whatever is possible in order to avoid you experiencing suffering and pain. This is the work of the ego. Ego is a good name for this protective part of your brain, which is part of the unconscious. None of us is exempt, we all have it.
Essentially, we are all victims of this inherent reactive response. Unless we become aware of what is happening, we are defenceless against it. Once you become aware, you can use your ability to choose, and do something different to your unconscious habitual response. Without consciousness in the process, the response is robotic. So often the response has occurred before there is even any awareness of a threat or any sensation of discomfort. You have probably experienced this knee jerk reaction many times in your life. Before you have even thought about it, you are drinking that glass of wine, or eating that slab of chocolate, saying yes to that opportunity, or working towards that life-changing-deal, and sometimes you wonder how it all happened.
The ego is by nature never satiated. Whatever your unconscious ego mind perceives that you need in order to keep you protected and safe, you will ‘need’ in ever increasing volumes. If it’s money, it’s never enough, beauty... the same, power... more is always necessary. This is the human condition. Until you are conscious of what is going on, you are powerless against it. Once you can see it clearly for what it is, you can choose to do things differently. But only if you stay conscious constantly and remain vigilant.
So, why do we do the things we do? Because we are automatons, being puppeteered by our ego’s, unconsciously trying to find safety from what our unconscious mind detects as harmful and producing of suffering. Unless we tune in consciously, we are unable to ascertain if there is indeed potential harm on the horizon. Will exclusion, judgement, rejection, or some form of lack or denial really harm us? None of us get the chance to wonder, because the brain is working with information from eons ago, and from what was modelled in our growing up years.
Without reflection, no remodelling and no habit change is possible. The brain is saving energy (which it is also programmed to do) by committing as many processes as possible to the unconscious. This brain function of committing responses and behaviours to habit and unconscious control, is an adaptation that frees up conscious attention span for scanning the world for danger. Again, this is aimed at keeping you safe in the world. Now this would be useful if you were living on the savannah and in danger at all times, but since you are now living far away from many of the threats that could harm you, going through half your life unconsciously just isn’t that useful. It is useful to work towards unwinding this, so you can do more than just survive in your precious lifetime. If you want to find peace of mind and grow as a human being, striving to “un-habitualise” your actions and be conscious is an essential practice. We are all in this together!
In short, your brain isn’t aiming for your growth, your happiness or your fulfilment, it’s aiming for your safety, survival and the survival of the species of homo sapiens.
I firmly believe that it is possible for people to live in a world free from the suffering caused by this void and the destructive urge to fill it with something external rather than something within. Because of this, I believe that awareness is the only ability we truly need in order to flourish. Reflection is the essential bridge to wellbeing. It’s the way you can come back to yourself. It’s the way to get off the treadmill and stop the ongoing search. It’s the route map to peace of mind and calm. This is why I am so passionate about mindfulness practice. Maybe this will persuade you to give me a call to discover how you can engage with mindfulness yourself. I’m here to help you!
I wish us all relief from the void, and peace in these trying times