Stop! This is an Illusion!
We are more – much, much more – than our jobs. Learn to gain fulfillment from your work without becoming your work.
Recently I went through a breakup with a woman I cared deeply about. She told me she had feelings for me but was afraid of repeating past mistakes and needed to date other men.
I was devastated. I truly believed that I would marry this woman one day. Now not only was she no longer in my life, but I had to process the idea of her being in the arms of someone else.
I was flooded with anxiety, my mood plunged, I had a hard time sleeping. I felt the old black beast of depression and anxiety [link to Learning to Live With the Beast Within] clawing at me, trying to pull me back down into the abyss.
Romantic relationships – specifically, the ending of such relationships – have always been a vulnerability for me, as they are for other highly sensitive people.
All of my depressions have occurred around the loss of an important romantic relationship. When someone I care about rejects me, it dredges up deep-rooted insecurities. It seems that somewhere early on in my life, my inner child came to believe that I was not worthy of love and would never get it.
Through thirty years of personal growth, I have become aware of my emotional triggers and the beliefs that underlie them, and I am better able to temper my reactions to the slings and arrows that are part of this life.
Still, I am human, and so inevitably it happens that I sometimes get off track and find myself feeling down, as I was following this breakup.
Day after day I found myself obsessing over the times she and I had had together, our last conversation, what I said and should have said. Going over and over it in my head like an endless tape loop that I couldn’t turn off.
This went on for weeks. Until one day, fed up with feeling crappy, I shook myself of my funk, reminded myself that I was suffering from an illusion, and got back on track with [my feel-good regimen of knowledge, acceptance, and gratitude].
Anytime you are feeling depressed, anxious, hopeless, guilty or some other toxic emotion, remember this: you are currently under the spell of an illusion.
The human mind has tremendous creative capacities to create illusions that have no basis in reality. These illusions can be extremely convincing and can cause us great suffering.
Now keep in mind that illusions are powerful things. An illusion can make us think that the people we are seeing on the movie screen are real; that the shimmering we see in the desert is a source of life-giving water; that the person lying on the table is truly being cut in half by the magician holding the saw.
Illusions can make us hungry, thirsty, angry, fearful, upset, depressed. These emotions are very much real. But the illusion is not real and never can be, no matter how much our minds might tell us otherwise.
Here’s the truth: no situation or set of circumstances carries with it inherent suffering. We ourselves create that suffering with the thoughts we think, the stories we tell ourselves, and the illusions we carry about in our heads.
Wait, you say! These emotions I’m feeling aren’t illusions! They’re true! I should be depressed because my spouse or significant other left me. I should be anxious because I lost my job. I should be feeling guilty because I did x, y or z.
Not true. If any of these were true – true in the universal, objective sense – then they would be true for everyone. And that is not the case.
If it were true that you should feel depressed when your significant other leaves you, then why do many other people in similar situations shrug it off and move onto the next person in their lives?
If it were true that you should be anxious when you lose your job, why do some other people feel excited when they end a job, seeing it as an opportunity to do something more fulfilling – as was the case when I recently lost my well-paid corporate job after 28 years of working there?
The difference is in how you view the things that happen to you and why you believe they happen to you. Perceptions fuel our emotional reactions. And behind all of those perceptions are beliefs about ourselves and the world.
Those beliefs are no more real than the mirages in the desert. Show me your beliefs. You can’t. They are nothing more than mental concepts. Illusions.
And here’s the key thing. We get to choose our beliefs. We get to choose what things we believe or don’t believe. And if we want happy, joyful, peaceful lives, we will choose those beliefs that lead to happiness, joy, and peace.
Here’s what I choose to believe.
I believe that life is a gift that has been given to us to be enjoyed.
I believe that every day on this earth is something incredibly magical and wondrous.
I believe that joy and happiness and peace are our birthright, and it is only our thinking that keeps us from claiming that birthright.
Perhaps I’m deluded. But I’m a peaceful deluded.
If you are in turmoil, if you are suffering and feeling hopeless, you are under the spell of a powerful illusion that is feeding you lies and blinding you to the truth.
Enlist the assistance of others to help you identify that illusion and the beliefs that lie beneath it. Be pragmatic about it. Ask what good these beliefs you’re holding are doing for you.
If they’re not helping you, they’re hurting you. Let go of the illusion, choose more empowering beliefs, and watch as life opens up for you in magical ways.