That we are in a time of profound, extreme and for many, overwhelming transformation and adjustment, is unmistakable. Arianna Huffington, observed, “Transformative change rarely happens without a catalyst and a crisis,” in an article entitled, “We are Never Going Back.” No, we are, and never do, go back, despite our yearning for the “good old days,” that we erroneously believed were free of severe hardships and emotional turmoil. After all, it was Franklin Pierce Adams who said, “Nothing is more responsible for the good old days than a bad memory.”
From anxiety to depression, from rage to detachment, people have been disturbing themselves since the beginning of time. Our cognitive biases too often have us believe that things were better yesterday than they are today. From negativity bias, in which we magnify the negative and minimize the positive, to the news media feeding us horrifying thoughts, and to our taking for granted what we have now, the good old days seem to be the place we’d often prefer to be.
Every difficulty we face in life is laced with opportunity for us to grow, change and thrive, in our own way. The gifts that are ours to seize from CORONA-19 and its seemingly inevitable turmoil will depend on our ardent, fierce individualism. The independent mindset anchored in William Johnsen’s “If it is to be it is up to me,” will help transport you to your better days, your chosen outcome, your preferred life, not anyone else’s. Yours.
The danger of whining for a return to the past, to whimpering about “re-opening and going back to____,” to moaning about all of the “terrible news,” is that it is moored in victim thinking. You do not have to play into the Hegelian dialectic of “problem – reaction – solution.”
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, the German collectivist, an anti-individualist, was a 19thcentury philosopher who developed a strategy of psychological projection and taught that human beings cannot understand anything unless it is divided into two polar opposites. Robert Benchley once said of our commonly faced dichotomizing impulse, “The world is divided into two kinds of people: Those who divide the world into two kinds of people, and those who do not.” Do we need to see the world as right v wrong, good v evil, left v right? If so, why? Is it healthy for us to fall into this? No. It is not. It is more harmful than most realize. Time to wake up.
Hegel’s theory formed the base of what many see as an attempt by the ruling elite, so-called “agents of change,” to a) carefully create a problem, b) anticipate the common human reaction to the problem and c) then control the outcome through a prearranged solution to that crafted problem, one that feeds their best interests and goals, no one else’s. These “agents of change” believe that all progress is brought about by conflict, a traditional Marxistbelief.
In fact, Saul Alinsky said, “Any revolutionary change must be preceded by a passive, affirmative, non-challenging attitude toward change among the mass of our people. They must feel so frustrated, so defeated, so lost, so futureless in the prevailing system that they are willing to let go of the past and change the future. This acceptance is the reformation essential to any revolution.”
Indeed, Huffington noted, “The severe trials of the pandemic have revealed fundamental weaknesses in our society — many of which we knew about but were content to ignore.” Have we blindly allowed ourselves to be emotionally seduced, deceived and manipulated, having passively swallowed a proliferating set of casualties over many decades that have harmed our emotional and physical wellbeing? Do we really believe that “we are all in this together”? Have we forgotten that our lives are molded from the inside not the outside? Remember a column I wrote recently on internal v external locus of control, on what Marcus Aurelius referred to as our “inner citadel of serenity”?
Want to live the “if it is to be it is up to me” life, especially in crafting a “now normal” mind incline in your life? We must step outside of this Hegelian dialectic by sculpting a new consciousness, one that frees us from boundaries and restrictions of controlled, restrained, and perhaps even designed thinking.
Aurelius referred to this psychological “inner citadel of serenity” as being fixed on a) social standing, jobs, health, possessions and setbacks, b) past, present, future expectations, c) the opinions, wellbeing and actions of others, d) reflective emotions of grief, fear and anger, e) on rushing tides of war, flood, fire, disease, etc. Sound COVID-familiar?
Pierre Hadot, the French philosopher noted, “Most people are not alive, because they do not live in the present, but are always outside of themselves, alienated, and dragged backwards and forwards by the past and by the present. They do not know that the present is the only point at which they are truly themselves and free. The present is the only point which, thanks to our action and our consciousness, gives us access to the totality of the world.” So why want to “go back,” when the present is where we are alive? The concept I call the “present normal,” appears to be the best place to reside – fully on your own terms. Owning yourself, often with its loneliness and fear, is a healthy way out of this crucible. The Mercatus Center of the George Mason University notes, “With government shekels come government shackles.”
The following guidelines will help support your living on your own terms, not fastened to a Hegelian dialectic, a “plandemic,” or an Alinksy “passive, affirmative, non-challenging attitude.” Our genuine freedom from this type of control exists in acting upon the well anchored belief that we always have the ability to choose our response to any given situation. Nothing outside of us can force us to commit “moral evil.” Living with virtue is the true key to the inner citadel.
Stoics guide us in this manner:
Aurelius: “Everything – a horse, a vine – is created for some duty… For what task, then, were you yourself created? A man’s true delight is to do the things he was made for.” Live with virtue.
Seneca: “If you shape your life according to nature, you will never be poor; if according to people’s opinions, you will never be rich.” And “Man’s ideal state is realized when he has fulfilled the purpose for which he is born. And what is it that reason demands of him? Something very easy—that he live in accordance with his own nature.” Live with virtue.
Epictetus: “What troubles people is not things, but their judgments about things.”
To live emotionally independent, uncontrolled by any external manipulation, is an inner resilience, an understanding that you can face and solve any condition that comes your way. Since you recognize that you are the driver of your own choices, based on the beliefs you hold about external events, be sure you are focusing more on your inner thoughts and how you respond to circumstances, than on the circumstance itself.
It’s time to step away from the news media. Try this: write your own news program, be your own news anchor and director. Get to know yourself better. Learn more about YOU.
Those shoulds, musts and have to’s in your life really need to go. Life is your breath. No promises, no little piece of paper you were holding when you were born with guarantees written for a certain type of life. Decide now to free yourself up from expectations otherwise you’ll continuously feel unfulfilled.
By unconditionally accepting yourself, free yourself from judging yourself, reframing the negative into opportunities for growth, drop the grudges, be a comfortable nonconformist, be ready to defend your authentic principles, you will begin to unhook yourself from the veiled methods of some to keep the masses demoralized into demanding change. Look around. Hegel may have hated individuals. Marx may have believed that nothing is absolute or sacred. Want to live free, as an individual? Then realize what is sacred and absolute is your freedom, and that, like everything else, is up to you.