Going numb with a Life situation is a natural response; but it pins you down and makes you unhappy!
A reader’s comment on my Blogpost yesterday invites me to clarify between two different states that we can possibly be in when dealing with Life. One is when we are unmoved. And the other is when we are numb. The two are distinctly different states of being.
Let me share what I have learnt from Life about these two states.
Being numb is an inactive state. It signifies a resignation. There is a detachment here, a let-go too, perhaps. But all of it is passive, inanimate, almost as if you are feeling dead and are just going through the motions.
But being unmoved is a very alive state. Here you are conscious of everything that’s happening to you, but you are choosing not to respond. You can feel pain, you can feel the weight of whatever is being thrust on you, but you are choosing not to get snowed down by any of it. Being unmoved is a spiritually evolved state. Here too there is detachment, there is a let-go, but you are letting go while fully trusting the process of Life.
In our case, Vaani and I going through this decade-long bankruptcy. In a physical sense it is numbing. It has incapacitated us materially. It has slammed us to the ground and pinned us down. Yet, we are unmoved by the situation. We soldier on unmoved by the gravity of our problem or by the debilitating nature of our circumstances. We awaken each morning to live a Life of Purpose – of Inspiring Happiness among all those who care to pause and reflect – but we are unmoved about whether we are successful or not, we are unmoved about what people think of us and we are unmoved about how much longer we have to go through this phase of our Life.
Going numb with a Life situation is a natural response to a shock, when Life deals you a crushing blow. When you are numb, you are unhappy. But choosing to be unmoved is a lot of work. You have to, over time, train your mind to be alive to the moment. You have to make an important, intelligent, choice to be non-worrying, non-frustrated and non-suffering. And only by being unmoved can you be happy!
Neither impatience nor denial is going to solve a problem or make it go away.
A lady we know is embroiled in a legal dispute over her property with her siblings. Her matter has been pending in court for over 25 years. She said she was at her “wits’ end” and wanted to know this: “How much more patient must I be?”
I shared with her my perspectives on patience with solving problems.
When confronted with a problem the human mind responds typically with impatience – you want it solved in a jiffy, immediately. Or the mind wants to live in denial, it wants to run away from the problem. What we must realize is that both responses are wasted. Neither impatience nor denial is going to solve a problem or make it go away. Only when you accept a problem, only when you start living with it, does the problem – even though it may drag or linger on – reveal its teachable point of view. Every problem we face is teaching us something about ourselves. And only through learning from our problems do we evolve into better leaders of our Life.
In the lady’s specific case, her problem was not just that she was fighting over property with her siblings. It was also that she was fighting over it in an Indian court. So there’s being impatient is absolutely futile. She has to recognize that a resolution will take long and possibly may not even arrive in a lifetime. When she is in that state of acceptance – and clarity – she can either let law take its own course or opt for an out of court, mediated settlement. Not will to go with either choice will only cause her suffering. Which actually explains her current frame of mind, what she is experiencing right now.
More than anything else Life, teaches you patience by throwing you in the deep end of the pool or by hanging you from the edge of precipice. Yes, you have a choice to be impatient with Life. But when you are impatient, you are suffering simultaneously. Patience with a Life situation does not mean your problem will be solved immediately or that it will go away. It only means that you will not suffer, it means that you will learn to endure the pain while working diligently on resolving the situation.
Never allow yourself to think that you are worthless just because you have been rejected.
We met a gentleman the other day. A seasoned IT professional and a very sensitive human being. In his early 50s now, he has been asked to leave an organization that he had barely joined a few months ago. This was the third job that he was having to quit in the last three years. We were informally counseling him on how he could cope with this phase of his Life. Although his age and experience had imbued in him the maturity to know that such phases do happen to all of us in Life, he broke down a few times during his conversation with us. He confessed that he was deeply hurt by the manner in which some people were treating him. He was suddenly finding that all his experience and professional abilities were being viewed warily. He had been repeatedly rejected by his last three bosses and employers. All this was hurting him and he was finding it difficult to hold himself together.
I can relate to and empathize with this person’s situation. I too have struggled with being rejected. It really, really hurts; especially when you have put in your best, when you are being pushed to a corner and are told – without logic or reason – that you are not good enough. But over the years, through severaI experiences, I have learnt to deal with the grief that follows rejection. I have realized that grief is a very self-serving emotion. All it does is that it makes you depressive. Yes, it is natural that when you are rejected by someone, you will feel sad. And depressive. But wallowing in that depression is of no use. It will pin you down. It is like being locked up in a coffin that’s dumped into the sea. Now, you – and I – are no Houdini to stage a great escape. So we sulk, pine and suffer.
There’s a way to deal with rejection though. That way is to never take the act of rejection or the person rejecting you personally. Let’s understand, accept and appreciate that everyone is entitled to their opinion, their choices and their decisions. If someone exercises their prerogative with reference to you, they have only done what they are entitled to. Their choice need not necessarily be viewed as a judgment of your ability or character. Well, it may be possible that you can learn from the experience of being rejected and you may want to improve yourself. But in any case, don’t let the experience of getting rejected get to you. It is just another situation in Life where you have the opportunity to develop and demonstrate strength of spirit and character. Don’t get obsessed with rejection and use it as a benchmark to measure yourself. What can help you is your moving on and trying again. Chances are you may get rejected again. Then you move on again and try one more time.
All our lives have fragmented phases when things don’t go according to our plans. Unfortunately, there’s no Life Defragmenter that you can run to fix such phases. You have to endure such phases patiently. Feeling frustrated, humiliated and sorry is of no use. Instead remember that what you are going through, whatever is happening to you, is no reflection of who you are or of your ability. With time, every phase passes, everything changes and nothing lasts – not even tough times!
Someone asks me what my biggest disappointment is. On this Podcast, I talk about the futility of feeling disappointed and share how each one of us can drop all expectations and profit from happiness.
Listen time: 5:44 minutes
Life is a function of time. Everything happens in its own time and at its own pace. So, as I share on this Podcast, when you can’t solve a problem, you just let go and let people and things just be.
Listen time: 4:58 minutes
When you make choices based on what makes you happy, you can never go wrong.
I was waiting the other day to record my Podcast at a studio. One of the visitors there got talking to me about Life and relationships. She asked me if it is okay to be “blunt” with people, especially with those in “close relationships”.
I told her that it’s a personal choice. Now, there’s nothing wrong in being nice, being accommodative, adjusting and understanding. But if you try to do all of that at the cost of your inner peace, you will end up feeling miserable. So, it really is a decision you have to take – do you want to be happy and peaceful or do you want to feel unhappy and suffer trying to please others?
I shared with the lady an experience I had had earlier in the day. My cousin had called Vaani and me. She was inviting us to play godparents at her son’s engagement ceremony coming up later in the month. She is a single parent and her own father is no more. Her brother is not likely to attend the ceremony and so my name, as a male member of the family, was proposed. While I was humbled by her invitation, I was very clear, even as she proposed the idea, that I was not going to sit through any rituals. Besides, I had issues with any ritual or tradition that accorded men special privileges. All her Life, she had raised her two children, but just because she is a woman and she is single, “tradition and culture demand” that she could not be leading the engagement ceremony? I found this idea both regressive and lacking empathy. I told my cousin that I was not going to accept her invitation and instead advised her to lead the ceremony herself.
In taking this decision, I employed my time-tested principle of asking myself the following questions: 1. Do I believe in what I am being asked to do? 2. Will I be happy doing this for myself? I have noticed that whenever I weigh any option based on what gives me joy or makes me happy, I am a lot clearer with what I want to do. Or I am sure about what I don’t want to do. So, appraising any situation on the happiness question is an important and efficient way to make choices.
Over the past few years, I have become very distant from rituals – and religion. I have also stopped seeing marriage as necessary for people who want to live together. So, I was clear that I was not going to play godparent to my nephew to “simply perform some rituals that are meant exclusively for men”. I told my cousin exactly that. She respected me for my forthrightness and left the matter at that. I appreciate her understanding.
So, as is evident from my experience, conversations must be honest – you need not necessarily bother whether you are being “blunt” or “rude”. Being honest is more important. Your being honest may make the other person uncomfortable but it will always leave you peaceful. As I said earlier, it is always, finally, your call, a personal choice.
Whenever in doubt, whenever you are unconvinced about doing something for someone or even for yourself, ask yourself – will doing this make me happy? If the answer is no, simply don’t do it. There are no two ways to be happy. Choosing to be happy is the only way. And you can never go wrong with being happy!