I think the most important question facing humanity is, ‘Is the universe a friendly place?’ This is the first and most basic question all people must answer for themselves. ~ Albert Einstein
I’ve regaled you in a past article with a list of things that haven’t cured me yet on my path toward better mental health and higher consciousness. Now, it seems appropriate to describe what has actually helped me. Since this includes several things, this will no doubt be a multi-part series of articles.
In a sense, all the things I’ve done have helped push me along the path. If nothing else, I’ve learned what doesn’t work for me, so I could let these things go and not bother with them anymore. (OK, I’m trying to make lemonade out of lemons.) In any case, the first thing I’d like to present has to do with the question Dr. Einstein posed, “Is the universe a friendly place?”
While this question was posed by a physicist and has a bit of a spiritual flavor to it, I have come to the conclusion that we need to ask ourselves this very important question at any level and in any discipline, including the psychological. Still, being a good quasi-scientific psychologist, I saw no immediately easy way to establish a definitive answer, proving or disproving either a yes or no response. So, I chose to hypothesize my desired answer, that being “yes,” then see what happens that either confirms or denies the hypothesis.
Doing this has quite literally changed my life for the better.
Other ways of wording my hypothesis might include, “God is good,” “The world is perfect as it is,” “All stress is caused by ‘arguing with what is’,” and the ever-popular “It’s all good.” Whatever wording I chose, I found that (as with many things) I kept finding evidence in favor of my hypothesis. I quickly acquired the habit of coming up with good reasons why something good, bad, or indifferent might have happened entirely for the good.
A recent client represented a simple example. This man had cheated on his wife for several reasons, none of them “good,” and had tremendous anxiety about the future of his marriage. It immediately came to mind that if he had not cheated on his wife, he would not have landed in my office and would not have been highly motivated to look at his own behaviors, motivations, and accompanying thoughts and emotions. He was not the type to want to do this on his own volition. In a sense, the universe was being friendly to this man, even though what he had done might be called a “sin” (original meaning: to miss the mark) by others and be viewed as a punishable offense.
I found that by projecting this attitude of “the world as friendly or perfect” onto myself, much of the performance anxiety that has plagued me throughout my life went away. In projecting it onto my wife, I found myself loving her more and listening to her with greater patience even when she was (what I used to call) criticizing me. I found myself not judging anyone at all and thus harmonizing with others very easily.
At this point, you may be thinking that I have turned into a “Pollyanna,” who (perhaps rightfully) thinks that everything is great! Not to worry. I am still aware of the tremendous amount of suffering and conflict in the world. Yet, I can begin to understand the reasons for it and accept it for what it is, though not necessarily agree with or condone it.
The following quote from mythologist Joseph Campbell seems to ring true for me now:
“When we talk about settling the world’s problems, we’re barking up the wrong tree. The world is perfect. It’s a mess. It has always been a mess. We are not going to change it. Our job is to straighten out our own lives.”
Instead of projecting my “stuff” outward to others and the world in general, I found myself going “inside” to take an honest look at what was going on with me. (This would be a therapist’s dream come true, by the way, if I were my own client.) I go about my day in a very optimistic manner and am able to “love what is,” which allows a whole lot of joy to show up naturally in my life.
So, is the universe a friendly place? I really have no idea, I’m just choosing to assume so and reaping the rewards. You may believe that I’ve talked myself into something that’s not true or found a way to rationalize my way to happiness or something like that. I never lose sight of these possibilities. At the same time, I sure am enjoying this ride a lot more.
I’ll leave it to you to think on this and try it out for yourself if you like. I can’t tell you what to do since I don’t have a direct line to The Truth. Your mileage may vary. But, I can tell you what has and hasn’t worked for me and you can take it from there as to what you do with that information.
More to come …
Copyright 2015 Daniel J. Metevier