Next month I’ll be turning 40. I have spent the past six years discovering “Who I am” and my purpose here. In these years of practicing awareness, I’ve learned a few valuable life lessons that I would like to share with you.
Things Never Workout The Way You Want
In my 20s, I felt that I had figured out life, and there’s not much to think and explore. I was unconsciously following a path that was laid out before me. It was simple – compete to get a quality education, work in the corporate business sector, make money, get married, buy a house and a car, raise a family, and you’re all set.
It was a time-proven formula that always worked. I was convinced. How could my parents and the generation before them be wrong? Right? They were a living example of how to live a fulfilling life. They were successful. They were happy. They did all the thinking for me, so I didn’t have to. My life plan was predetermined, and I never questioned their thinking.
I blindly followed this path for a couple of years. I got a degree in Computer Science, acquired a high paying job with a giant corporate company in India, married a beautiful girl, and had two children.
Everything was going according to the plan, but I was not happy. There was a feeling of emptiness. When you’re young, facing challenges every day seems exciting, but as you age, you get tired of the same shit happening over and over again. It feels like you’re stuck in a never-ending mazing.
Working long hours, I could not spend time with my family. This affected my relationship with my wife, children, parents, and friends. I couldn’t make time for myself. Over time, I became depressed and angry. The situation was so bad that even my children were terrified to come near me.
Unexpectedly, in the winter of 2014, I received the news of my father’s death. He left us with a huge financial burden. Six months later, I also got fired from my job. Now I was left jobless and with financial liability. At that moment, I saw my world crumbling down.
Life is unpredictable. We live in an illusion of control. But in reality, we have no control over the external circumstances. Life happens “to” us, not for us. What creates pain in us is the blind belief that successful people have everything sorted in their life. Riches, fame, and success do not guarantee happiness.
I’m not saying that we should become slaves of destiny. We have the power to change, but that change has to be made within. What we can control is our inner world and not the external world. When we control our thoughts, feelings, and emotions, what happens outside doesn’t matter.
Nobody Can Create Anger In You, Except You
Let’s talk a little about depression before going on to the subject of anger. Before proceeding further, let me clarify that I’m not talking about severe clinical depression where a severe chemical imbalance is involved. Those cases are rare and beyond my knowledge and expertise.
Depression and anger are related. In a majority of cases, depression happens when life events don’t conform to personal beliefs. Then can we say that these events are responsible for generating anger?
Blaming external events for generating anger within is a defense mechanism of the ego. A fragile ego hates taking responsibility, so it comes up with all kinds of excuses. An easy way for the ego to delude you is to convince you that you’re right and others are wrong.
It’s not that the anger you experience comes from an outside event. It’s already present within us. It’s our psyche that generates anger. Therefore, an external event is just a trigger for the anger pent up within. Usually, anger is followed by sadness. It’s a cycle that often repeats and keeps us from taking responsibility for our emotions.
When a child cries or throws tantrums, it’s because of an unfulfilled need for acceptance and validation. The child needs to be validated because that’s how they build healthy self-esteem, but an adult showing similar behavior is abnormal. It is usually a result of unmet childhood needs and can lead to pathological behaviors in severe cases.
When you acknowledge that it’s you who creates anger in yourself, you are taking responsibility. Your sensitivities are your making. Blaming others for your anger, anxiety, or depression is playing the victim.
While it’s okay to acknowledge that you have been a victim of abuse in the past, that should not influence your present or future. That’s what taking responsibility means. Hating and blaming others for your misery is getting stuck in the cycle of anger and sadness. You keep changing the objects (people and events) of blame, but the hurt remains.
I was a victim of narcissistic abuse at my caregivers’ hands, but I never let that thought dictate my present behavior. I’m careful in my dealing with my family. I work continually on healing myself both consciously and unconsciously, especially the negative tendencies.
Anger manifests in an unconscious state when the awareness is lowest. An aware person (both consciously and unconsciously) cannot simply give away unconsciously to feelings and emotions.
So next time, when you feel angry with someone or something, think carefully! Who’s the one to create anger? And who needs to take responsibility for it?
Your Emotional State Is Your Responsibility
What happens when you don’t take responsibility for your emotions? The answer is simple. You remain stuck in your cycle of depression. You perceive yourself as the helpless victim, and you drain other people with your whining and complaints.
You ruminate over the same thoughts and mentally play the same scenarios repeatedly. With time, you lose control over your emotions. For example, you may react violently to a situation that could’ve been diffused gracefully.
In a majority of cases, the people who react impulsively regret later. But in the heat of the moment, they find themselves completely helpless, taken over by anxiety and fear. It puts their work, relationships, and reputation in jeopardy.
The worst part is that we normalize such behaviors and dismiss them by calling them “a part of being human.” Losing your mind’s control is not humanly; it’s animalistic, and it negatively affects other people. In severe cases, we see assaults, murders, road rages, and more.
We have seen peaceful protests turning violent, which results in the loss of lives and property when one of the sides is provoked. At that moment, the protest’s whole purpose is defeated because people lose control over their emotions.
In the past, I witnessed a typical scenario during annual performance reviews in the companies I previously worked with: managers turning aggressive, hostile, name-calling, and shaming the people who work below them for not meeting targets.
You can never motivate another person if your understanding of life misses compassion and empathy. To do that, one must be self-aware. A person who lacks self-awareness will struggle in all aspects of life, be it work, family, or relationships. Therefore, emotional intelligence is essential.
You cannot throw garbage at people and then walk away under the pretext of being a victim of past abuse. Just because bad things happened to you doesn’t mean that you can inflict your pain on others. Instead, take responsibility for your emotional state and work on it.
But what if I’m not aware of my emotional state and antisocial behaviors? For example, sometimes, we are unaware of the cause of anger, and we lash out at others for no apparent reason.
Let me make it clear, whether your afflicting emotions are conscious or unconscious – they’re your responsibility. You can refer to my guide on Shadow Work to understand and heal the unconscious parts of your personality.
We Can’t Change People by Shaming Them
One of the worst things I’ve seen nowadays is people shaming other people to convince them of their beliefs and ideologies. It is especially rampant on social media platforms where the sensitivities are at their highest.
No matter what you say, you’ll often be targeted fiercely for expressing your thoughts and opinions. There is no room for contemplation or healthy skepticism. It happens when overpowering emotions hijack our brain’s rational thinking region (the frontal lobes).
It hinders our ability to analyze an argument and see if it holds ground logically, or if there’s an element of truth in what the other person is saying.
When you shame others, it’s your repressed shame that you project on others. The reason you cannot withstand other’s view is that it hits something within your unconscious – an afflicting aspect of your personality that you’re not consciously aware of, but it creates discomfort and irritation.
Therefore, projection is the defense mechanism of the ego to relieve itself of that discomfort. Shaming becomes the default method to do that. However, the relief is temporary, and reinforcing this behavior repeatedly grows the discomfort. The more you project, the more it grows.
Your spending hours on social media trying to convince people will not work. Shaming and humiliating them will definitely not work. If you want to change the world:
- Work on yourself first.
- See what creates discontent inside of you.
- Get to your afflictions’ roots and develop love and compassion for yourself before you attempt to change the world.
I’m not asking you to let people off accountability. We should always raise voice against racism, injustice, discrimination, and violence. Be firm, be fierce, but do it with compassion. Understand that people who commit crime are full of shame.
So shaming people further is not going to change them. Yes, they should face the law and serve the consequences of their actions, but the element of compassion should always be present.
Shame and guilt are useful tools of transformation but only when they arise internally by themselves. The shame you feel after mistreating or hurting someone helps to change your behavior. But here’s the thing – that shame should come naturally from within and not an outside source.
I’m not a religious person, nor am I a Christian, but the other day I was casually watching an old 1956 movie, The Ten Commandments, just to revive childhood memories. I saw that movie in my childhood, and I was fascinated by the special effects of those times, especially the miracles shown in the film.
There’s one line in that entire movie that stuck with me. It’s when Moses discovers that he’s a slave and the child of a Hebrew mother. When they ask if he feels shame about his origins, he replies, “How can I feel shame when there’s none inside me.”
Learn to Say ‘No’ When Required
I wish I had learned to say No earlier in my career. I would have saved myself a lot of misery. But I lacked the confidence to refuse unreasonable requests fearing it will destroy the image that I had created over the years – a picture of a sincere worker who is always ready for any challenge.
You see, I was playing the “Hero Archetype.” I was the savior of some pious souls earning millions of dollars by making people like me work over 70 hours a week for peanuts. While they vacationed abroad with their families, I was burning my eyes sitting in front of a screen. Apparently, the reputation of their organization was resting on my shoulders.
I had to figure out the challenges and overcome obstacles all by myself. Sitting continually over ten hours a day broke my lower back over time. I had a herniated disc in my lumbar region and also experienced chronic headaches. At times, I experienced excruciating pain. Still, I couldn’t say NO and kept working, popping painkillers every other day.
It was an extremely stressful situation, and I became depressed. Despite my health condition, I was continually handed responsibilities. Some of them didn’t even match my skill set. Since I was the ‘Yes’ man, I was the person everybody could rely on. People knew that I would readily sacrifice my personal life for little validations, and they were quick to exploit.
So who was at fault here? It was me! When I realized what was happening, my initial impulse was anger and resentment towards these people. I blamed them for my miserable condition. But with time, I realized that it was I who abused myself.
I didn’t listen when my body was giving warning signals of breakdown. I didn’t understand when my friends and family pointed out my bitter behavior. It took me a long time to realize that the root cause of my people-pleasing behavior originated in my childhood. It was my low self-esteem that resulted from childhood neglect.
When children’s emotional needs are not met, they internalize the resulting pain. They blame themselves and create feelings of unworthiness. Their inability to say no comes out of fear of these accumulated feelings and emotions.
I feared that if I say no, people will think less of me. I took on much more than I could handle, only to feel the burnout later. While it might seem that saying yes can help us win over people, in reality, we lose respect and credibility.
If you’re a ‘Yes’ person, people will never tell you that because they need donkeys to carry their load. Sorry if that sounds harsh, but it’s true.
People who are too agreeable are not reliable. They breakdown under challenging situations and they burden not only themselves but also the people working under them.
Confront Your Fears Early and Follow Your Passion
I know it sounds cliche. Following passion is something people claim to know, but most don’t have a clue. They live unconsciously, believing they’re doing the right thing until they hit a mid-life crisis or face a severe health crisis.
Back in my childhood, I used to sketch. Coming back from school, I used to make portrait sketches of people and nature. My creativity and concentration were so high that I could sit from morning to evening.
Whereas, in school, I could not even pay attention for a minute. Most probably, I would have been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD. I was often beaten and humiliated by teachers for not paying attention.
During class, my mind would wander into a world of daydreaming and fantasy. I desperately wanted to escape that period of my life because I felt trapped.
Eventually, I stopped making sketches because my parents and teachers told me that I could not make a good living out of it. Therefore, as I grew up, I chose to become a computer engineer. Over time I was convinced of the stability and financial security of the career I chose.
And it gave me all of that, but there was no peace of mind. I suffered from severe anxiety and depression. I did well in my job but was unhappy because I was continually suppressing my true calling.
I was fearful and insecure, and that prevented me from taking steps towards my passion. My mind had put such strict limitations that I could not imagine living a joyous life. I didn’t even know what joy means.
I learned the hard way and wasted precious years in meaningless pursuits. It’s better to face your fears early on and take steps towards financial freedom. Don’t wait! There’s never a right time. Take small steps each day.
If you’re an artist, practice your craft every day and find out how you can convert it into a self-sustaining business.
Don’t live in scarcity. Instead, create an abundance mindset. Most people fear taking action because of limiting self-beliefs and feelings of unworthiness.
Therefore, sticking with the conventional seems safe. But it’s just a matter of time when your inner conflicts cause dissonance, and that creates pain and discomfort.
Your passion should not come from a mind of scarcity and fear. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What do you like?
- What activities make you forget the world?
- What do you like doing so much that you can continue doing it even in the face of the most tempting distractions?
- What activity leaves you with a soft and gentle feeling afterward?
- What can you continue doing for a long period even when you don’t get paid for it initially?
Discovering your true passion requires high self-awareness. The more aware we are of our thoughts, emotions, and other internal tendencies, the more mental clarity we gain.
My foray into mindfulness and meditation gave me absolute clarity about my passion – writing in pursuit of raising world consciousness.
When we are clear about our values, we don’t merely look at financial gains as the only happiness and wellness factor. We align our ambitions with the greater good of humanity. And that creates true happiness.