Making Choices

It’s my belief that we are here on earth to have experiences that help us evolve. The majority of those experiences are through our relationships. So if we feel stuck or victimized in some or all of our relationships, we have to look at ourselves to understand why. We’ve all heard “no one else can MAKE you angry.” And I think most of us would agree with that intellectually. But do we really understand it?

When we are angry about someone else’s behavior or feel their actions have caused us pain in some way, we are allowing other people, and events to dictate our environment. Some would argue that we have a right to feel whatever we feel. I agree. Just be sure that while you’re feeling, acknowledge that it is a choice you’re making.

Our emotions are not what our experiences generate, they are what generate our experiences (Neale Donald Walsh). From this perspective, our emotions are chosen. We feel a certain way about something or someone, based on our perspective about ourselves and our connection to that other thing or person (or what we believe to be true). Our perspective creates our perceptions, which in turn lead to our feelings.

Beliefs are not innate. They are based on thoughts that come from our environment – our parents, our church, our education, our friends, and the things that have happened to us over years. The thoughts generated from all these places that we feed are the ones that gain weight and eventually become our beliefs.

What is innate, is that which we “know.” I’m not speaking of the knowledge we gain through our education or life experiences over the years. (As I said above, that is information that helps to form our belief system). This kind of “knowing” is that “aha” feeling when we read or hear something that resonates to our souls. It’s a feeling that “I’ve always known this.” Sometimes we didn’t even realize we’ve known it; sometimes it’s been swimming around under the surface for a long time, but since it might be slightly different from the concepts that others around us articulate; we’ve never really formulated the idea fully.

Another concept we need to keep in our consciousness is what is called confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for or interpret an event or comment in a way that confirms one’s preexisting beliefs. This can make us dig our heels in and refuse to be open-minded about any given situation. Doubt is seen as a weakness. There’s a lot of confirmation bias going around these days! It can make our relationships difficult because if we aren’t careful, we can become people who can’t change our minds.

It’s one thing to have a set of beliefs that guides our morality. But the opposite of faith is not doubt, it’s certainty. When people start putting political views, racial or gender bias and certainty about any other belief before faith, it’s a recipe for hate and judgment.

This might be a bit confusing if this is the first time you’ve considered this angle to your life. But, in any given situation, if you ask yourself, “what is another way I can look at this?” or “if I were in the other person’s circumstances, how would I see this?” and you’re truly able to come up with an alternative perception, you can follow the process through and see how you are making the decisions at every step. (I would add here, that if you are not able to put yourself in the other person’s circumstances, maybe you need to find a way to experience life as they do for a few days – volunteer or research in some other way how their lives are different from yours. I’ve always said that if our congressmen and women had to live just a month or two in the shoes of their least privileged constituents, we all might have a much different sense of what equality and privilege means).

When I can imagine rising above and look down on my life – seeing the big picture, it eliminates the victim mindset that someone is doing something to me. All the minutia that wasn’t what I had planned, and that I think is screwing up my life, is just the weeds I know I have to wade through to get to the garden.

It gives me a sense of freedom to feel, and more importantly BE what I choose, based on the lessons I’ve learned on that trek through the weeds. But more importantly, what I choose is to be free of the constraints put on me by all the different “supposed to’s” from society and open to the wisdom of knowing there is a multitude of options that may lead me to a better and more fulfilling life.

What screws us up most in life is the picture in our head of how its supposed to be.