What is the most important decision of your life?
And how can we make the most important decision of our lives, when for most of us, most of the time it does not feel like we’re deciding at all?
Often we come into situations which feel more like things have been decided, that the choices have been made, and that we are only dealing with the consequences.
Yet, we get to decide everything about our lives, every day.
We are at a point in history at which it is crucial that we learn to step into our power and to decide for ourselves. And if we want for humans to continue living on this planet, it is also crucial that the decisions we make are wise.
One of these decisions, that we need to make, might just be the most important decision of our lives: We have to decide on which side of history we want to be.
The one that continues as before, the group of people who will go down in history as the silent bystanders, who were too caught up in their own problems, to do anything to protect our planet and to find a way to live together peacefully.
Or the one that will embrace our current situation as a wakeup call to create change. The people who are willing to make the necessary changes in their lives so that we can create sustainable and loving ways of being together.
– If you do struggle with your problems and if you have a hard time making the necessary changes, that is absolutely OK. It can be difficult. –
But everything can be figured out, even when it does not seem possible. Once you start somewhere, the rest will fall into place bit by bit.
A benefit that comes from opening up to these kinds of changes, is that our lives get better automatically and with every step we take, it becomes easier. A body in motions tends to stay in motion.
If we open ourselves to compassion for others, we can also learn to be compassionate with ourselves.
And this goes both ways: if we don’t judge ourselves so hard, we don’t have to judge others so hard either. Until we get to the point at which we don’t have to judge at all.
If we allow ourselves to try new things, we develop the patience to let others learn and grow too, and so on. Life becomes easier, happier, and so do we.
All it takes, is to be uncomfortable for a moment, while we break out of old routines and belief systems.
How do we do that?
The first and most important step, which we have to take, is to take responsibility for our lives. If we stop blaming the circumstances or other people for the decisions that we make and the way we live, we empower ourselves.
When we stop making excuses and act and think consciously, we can gain the confidence we need to live lovingly and peacefully instead of continuing in destructive and exclusive ways.
Why do we find this so hard?
I’ve come to the conclusion that there are two reasons for this.
The first one is that we feel like our lives depend on our groups. We feel a lot safer doing what everybody else is doing, or wondering why we have to change, when other people are not making the same kind of changes.
But the thing is: they might want to change too, but might not do it because you are not doing it, so somebody has to start.
The second reason is that our society is sick, traumatized, and that we’re all suffering from the consequences.
We have to deal with personal as well as collective trauma
Thomas Hübl has put into words what many of us have known and felt for a very long time: that we’re all in a state of trauma.
These traumas come from wars, colonialism, racism, sexism, famine, displacement, exploitation, environmental destruction – they affect us whether we’ve experienced these events ourselves or through our ancestors.
They have influenced our upbringing, our parent’s upbringing, their parents’ upbringing and so on.
People over generations have changed their behaviours to adjust to these traumas, but they have also shaped everything that we know in a state, that is focused on individual survival and not on collective well-being.
Trauma creates a mistrust of the outside world, which has been experienced as a threat. It keeps us in a reactive state and deals with life in a way that tries to protect ourselves from it.
It makes us think that things have been decided, instead of feeling able to decide about and shape our lives as we wish.
The mistrust and protectiveness keep our bodies in a constant state of alert and stress.
To this, we add all the unprocessed feelings, things we, or past generations, pushed away because they were too much to handle in this struggle to survive.
It makes many things that could be easy, very hard. It makes it difficult to be open, loving, giving and joyful.
This way to see the world has been passed on from generation to generation.
In the past, at one point, or repeatedly, real dangers were present and due to the reality of those times there was neither the information, nor the time and space available to work through these harmful thought patterns.
For our generation, however, which had a relatively safe life and more access to information, there is no reason to hold on to these patterns.
However, if we don’t actively engage with our collective trauma and these inherited thought and action patterns, it leads to us having conflicting assumptions about the world, which makes change incredibly difficult.
We have enough information to understand why our own change is so difficult, which in most cases is conflicting assumptions (Read Immunity to Change for more), these assumptions, however, come from a traumatized society.
So while we have to work through these thought patterns and assumptions on an individual level to create change, it is also important to see, that they don’t come from a personal deficit, but from a collective trauma.
The Time is Now
Jiddu Krishnamurti, one of the great spiritual leaders of the last century, said: “It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society” – something that is still true today.
The Buddha said something quite similar, by noticing that all ‘worldlings’ were mad.
And even in the Bible it is said: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.”
The ideas of living together peacefully and lovingly as well as what we need to do to put that into practice have been around for millennia, really, yet the critical mass to make this thinking mainstream has never been as possible as it is now.
Our World is sick
When we look at our society from a distance, it is not hard to see how our world is ‘sick’.
We deal with numerous extremes: extreme poverty, extreme wealth, some people being able to use the latest technology to prolong their lives or their fertility and other people not being able to afford to even see a doctor and get medical assistance and so on.
We have enough resources to feed and house and provide medical care for every person on the planet, but the resources are not distributed evenly and access gets denied in many ways.
Studies show that given the current demands, our sense of well-being rises until we earn around $100,000 a year. After that, it stagnates.
Yet, we try to accumulate more because there’s a hole we want to fill, one we will never fill with more money or things, but only, by doing the inner work, by working through our emotions and by focusing on becoming whole, instead of constantly suppressing our feelings and hardening ourselves or – from the opposite, which is suffering and depression caused by the fact that we can’t.
Now, in this moment, while you are reading this text, you are part of this sick and mad society, which you, we all, can only escape by renewing our minds and changing our habits.
And it’s not like people haven’t tried before or done incredibly great work. Every step that has been taken has led to this moment, and we wouldn’t be here without it.
But unfortunately, until now, this fight has been very frustrating and paradox for many of us, who have been trying to do the work and create these changes for so long:
Those well-adjusted to this sick society, who think they are doing fine, do so because they have suppressed so many of their feelings and emotions and pushed through so many of their own warnings that they don’t even notice any more how horrible and wrong their behaviour is.
A behaviour which ultimately is also hurting themselves and their own families.
They think they are the winners, yet the idea that having individual winners itself was something more positive, than working for collective wins, shows that their perception and values are misguided.
They are the ones with access to most of the resources, and they are not using them wisely.
At the same time, those who see that our society is sick, struggle because they try to defend their values and lives against all odds, a struggle that takes up much valuable energy, but is not appreciated enough in a sick society.
Which is why it is up to us to set these things right, and to make a better future possible.
This leads us to the next problem: we have to actually think and imagine new ways of being and living together.
We have to open our minds and get creative, and look for people who are already successfully living the values we need and want.
Because on a larger scale, we are missing visible role models and on a personal level, we will have to become the role models for change.
To come back to the quote from the Bible: we need to renew our minds, with fresh ideas, new confidence and the knowing that there are more and more people willing to put in the work to create collective well-being, so that all of us can be happier, experience true love and be free to be themselves.
To add a little lightness – Funkadelic maybe said it best: “Free your mind and your ass will follow!”
Let’s free our minds and get moving
How does this collective trauma show up in our daily lives?
It shows up in contradicting views that we have of how we perceive reality. One conscious, one subconscious.
The conscious one analyses the situation, sees what is necessary to create the changes we need, and wants to act accordingly.
The subconscious view, informed by our collective trauma, is usually based on mistrust and fear and wants to protect us from dangers which are not actually there any more.
These contradicting views, though, render us unable to make the necessary changes because we are fighting an internal battle without even knowing.
They lead to us wanting to make a change, but our bodies saying: No, not safe.
This makes change very, very hard.
In our daily lives, it looks like this:
Consciously, we say and agree that every person should be loved and accepted for who they are, yet, subconsciously, we have difficulty accepting and loving ourselves or those around us unconditionally.
This is because many of us have never experienced unconditional, selfless love and most likely (at least as children) thought it was because we weren’t good enough/did something wrong, even when the reason why our parents couldn’t give us unconditional love, was because they never experienced it either and had nothing to do with us.
As a result, we try to change and fix ourselves to become worthy of our parent’s love, or later the love of a partner. We believe things shouldn’t be this way, yet we also only know them to be this way.
We would also agree that each child should have a safe home to grow up in, and the same opportunities to grow and learn and thrive. Yet, we barely do anything to make that a reality.
Because deep down, we also believe that there’s not enough room for everyone. We’ve learned to think that we have to protect what we have and that the world isn’t fair.
Yet in reality it is in our hands to decide, whether it stays that way or not. Do we want things to stay that way, or do we want to break this circle? This is where we need to learn to trust.
We would probably also agree that our lives shouldn’t be full of stress, worries and fears.
Yet, they are and we accept it as normal because we’ve barely ever met anyone who lives without. If we do, we might consider these people to be weird or think that something must be wrong with them because they freed themselves from the pressures we seem unable to break out of.
We do believe that we have to suffer for our success, while we also think that we shouldn’t.
We can also probably all agree that we would much rather experience true love and acceptance from our partners, the people in our families and communities and to find fulfilment and purpose in our lives and jobs, than to sooth ourselves with buying, owning, controlling, sugar, alcohol, cheap entertainment or other distractions.
But it’s the way how we learned to sooth ourselves. We’ve become addicted to these dopamine kicks instead of looking to create oxytocin, gaba or serotonin, which is what we’re really looking for and what can help calm us and make us feel safe.
And we might also think that real unconditional love is not really attainable because we’ve never experienced it. (It is though!)
The same way, we can all logically understand and will agree that we shouldn’t poison our waters, use pesticides to grow our food, eat tortured animals, exploit our resources until they are all gone, or kill parts of our ecosystem until it collapses.
We want to live healthy lives, and want our children and grandchildren to be able to do the same, but we simply have no experience how to live differently and are already at our limits trying to handle ourselves in a sick society.
So, if we, like the Buddha, were to look at what is going on with some distance, wouldn’t we think that people must be mad as well? Are we not acting like mad people?
Saying one thing, yet doing something else? Or doing the same things again and again, yet hoping for a different outcome?
Again: It’s the only way we know how to be.
It’s what our parents did, it’s what our grandparents did.
They didn’t want to go and fight in wars, they didn’t want to leave everything behind to live a better life, yet they felt that they had to.
They didn’t want to take that job, but they felt that they had to do it to survive and provide for their families. They suppressed parts of themselves to deal with the harsh realities around them.
They live and lived with trauma, and they are and were passing it on to us.
And if we’re not careful, and start the work of overcoming these traumas, we will be passing it on to future generations as well.
Yet, luckily, we find ourselves in a place and time, in which our internal conflicts come to the light of day as everything is simply getting too much to handle.
Our individual immune systems are down because we’ve been poisoning ourselves, our collective immune system is down for the same reason.
One definition of madness is to do the same thing over and over again, but to expect a different outcome.
So if we, once and for all, want a different outcome, for ourselves and for future generations, we need to change our ways to break out of this madness.
We need to change how we think, how we interact, how we live, how we work, and how we live in community. And we can do that.
Learning from our children
Have you ever seen a kid cry, when it learns that animals have to die for us to eat meat?
Or the black and white children who think that they are identical twins: same hair, same nose, same eyes, same height, same everything.
Children don’t have problems with homosexuality, the colour of our skin, the different ways in which we can use our bodies. Children feel for people and other living beings who suffer.
But children also copy their parents and other people around them.
And so did we. We learned to harden ourselves to ignore suffering, death, disasters, pollution or mass slaughtering of animals. (Or we didn’t and are suffering from not being able to fully participate in a society that expects us to function, despite it all)
We learned that we need to protect our goods, or that we’re better or worse off than other people, and that we need to defend our privileges.
We learned to suppress that voice that told us: this is wrong. We swallowed our feelings, silenced our emotions, and now we have to live with the turmoil that has built up inside ourselves.
The generations before us hardened themselves and they taught us to do the same, yet it is possible to come back to our inner innocence, wholeness and love.
While we have to unlearn and unpack a lot to do so, we all carry unconditional love and the ability to live peacefully with each other inside us.
Imaging a new future
Abraham H. Maslow dedicated his life to studying the most wholesome human beings of his time.
These people were successful, incredibly influential, and able to free themselves from the collective trauma.
He described them as self-actualized: they lived their full potential, excited to take on new challenges, centred, non-judging, open-minded and able to tap into genius.
He studied them, so we can all learn from them. The people he looked at, were people like Einstein, or Eleanor Roosevelt. But we can find your own role models, people who embody the wisdom that we need in these times.
We can find out how they do what they do and how we can do the same (and again, we can! No matter what our circumstances are. It’s only a question of how, and that can be worked out – write me if you need help.)
One of the wonderful and joyful things we can do to start healing, is to imagine how we want to live and to find people who want the same, or who might already be working towards these same goals.
This way, we can learn from each other and help each other out.
Another daily practice, that we can use to free ourselves, and to work through suppressed emotions and conflicting assumptions, is to stop suppressing more feelings.
I’ve created a year-long course, to help you do that in all areas of your life. The course is called A Magical Year and registration is open until the end of July or until all places are taken.
A few behaviours that keep us stuck and add to our stress levels, but that can easily be changed, if we wanted to be good to ourselves, are:
Instead of watching TV (which we think helps us relax, but it really doesn’t), we can think of ways, that will actually help us to relax (and produce serotonin, gaba and oxytocin) like a good conversation with a friend or partner, laughing together, dancing, singing, working out, reading a book, gardening, or even sitting in silence to process our thoughts or meditating.
Instead of eating ice cream or other forms of sugar when we feel stress, we can look for the causes of our stress and see how to eliminate them. Breathing consciously helps to regulate our system in these moments.
In a way, most of the time we are still very much caught in infant behaviour, unable to sooth ourselves, grabbing for any kind of pacifier available, instead of processing what is going on.
If we think we need alcohol or other drugs to give us energy, to cope with difficult situations, or to be more open or ourselves during social interactions, we will have to come to realize that we are dealing with an addiction, in which we rely on substances to be ourselves.
We can start our own inner work simply by noticing each time in which we feel uncomfortable inside, and try to soothe ourselves by trying to find explanations or cures on the outside. They will never work.
We have to change our though patterns, give ourselves the validation and love we need ourselves, and learn what actions are beneficial for us and which are not.
I’m quite aware, as this is my work, that many people have lost the trust in themselves, and simply do not know how to regulate their own feelings.
Again, this is not something that any individual is at fault for, only very few people have learned this because their parents have already done the work of breaking through these cycles and could guide them by example.
It’s why people like me, who are and have been doing this work for some time, are here to help.
I have gone through these changes myself and would wish for nothing more than for more people to experience first hand what a relief it is to come out on the other side.
These things can be learned by anyone and you can come back to trusting and regulating yourself, you just have to start by making some changes.
Another place to start is to notice when something that other people do is upsetting to us.
It’s usually something that we find upsetting in ourselves, something that we have suppressed in ourselves.
This way, we can save the energy it takes to be upset, especially as it does not solve or benefit the situation at all and instead see it as a gift, that opens the opportunity to resolve an inner conflict that we have and to become more free in that area of our lives from that point on.
I can come up with many more examples, but I think you get the idea:
Every time you look to solve problems, which you experience on the inside, outside yourself, you can take a break and think: how can I break this old, unhelpful and unnecessary pattern?
The problems we experience on the inside, the pressures we feel, our unquestioned fears or mistrust, have formed our subconscious ideas and are not based on reality but based on unacknowledged and unresolved traumas.
If we don’t resolve them, they keep us caught in a circle of longing.
Together with our conscious and analytical view of our situation, for as long as they remain unresolved, they create conflicts that take up all the energy, which we desperately need to make the changes we need in the world.
This is why it is essential to start doing the inner work and resolve these conflicts, before we start to change the world. Otherwise, we experience burn out, cause more conflicts and are unable to create lasting change.
Our mind is mirroring the expectations, the conditioning of a sick society and we need to and can free ourselves from that, so our asses and all the wonderful people around us can follow.
And let me say this clearly: If you still think everything is fine, you’re doing OK, your life is happy enough, you don’t see yourself struggling that much – then all that shows is that you’ve got so good at suppressing your feelings that you don’t even notice. It is no measure of health, to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society.
Our Future depends on you and me
Have you ever wondered why women, who went through genital mutilation, would do the same to their daughters? What do you think?
They do it for the same reasons our parents have inflicted their suffering onto us, and the same reason we will continue to do so, if we don’t make the conscious decision to change.
It’s not because they, or we, want future generations to suffer, but because they, we, want to believe so badly that there is a reason for our suffering and our struggles, that we don’t dare to question it.
We think that if there wasn’t a good enough reason for it, if there really was another way, if the world wouldn’t actually fall to pieces if we stopped hurting ourselves, then somebody would have put a stop to it long before.
But as sad as it is, the only reason there might be, that this change hasn’t happened yet, is, that so far a critical mass has not been reached.
It’s simply because no one felt like they could do it. And those who did and do try to change things, did and do not reach enough people yet.
It’s because most people don’t dare to break out of what everybody else is doing.
They, we, are afraid to be outsiders. That is based on our evolution and absolutely OK.
But fear should never be a reason to stop us from anything. It’s a reminder to tune in and to act carefully and consciously.
The magic happens outside our comfort zone, once we overcome that moment of discomfort, we become more free. We have to break out of our addictions to our old patterns and ways of thinking. And we can!
We are afraid that going against the grain would make us lonely, put us on the spot. And it might for a moment. But if we do the inner work, we win so much more.
We become more independent, can experience new things, find a new sense of freedom and well-being, see so much more beauty and learn to fully love and to accept love.
A body in motion tends to stay in motion.
Usually, we continue on our path until something severe happens. A fatal illness, a sudden death, a natural disaster. We need a disruption to change our ways.
But that doesn’t mean, that we can’t decide to make these changes at any point in our lives, simply because we do not want to continue to suffer and struggle with these self-inflicted difficulties any more.
And at this point, a lot is at stake. To change our ways is not just necessary to make our lives easier and more joyful.
We have to make the most important decision of our lives.
We get to decide on which side of history we want to be: the one that will continue to do what’s bad for ourselves and for our environment, or the one that dares to go new ways.
The one that fixes what has been broken and comes back to our inner and collective wholeness and beauty, or the one that is complicit with the destruction of ourselves, our planet and each other.
Which side will you be on? This is the most important decision of your life.
Our world needs you and all your unique beauty and abilities. You can contribute to making the scale tip to the other side, and I sincerely hope you will. Again, do reach out if you need help.
For now, thank you for reading to the end. You are a beautiful, strong and brave human being. I send you love and hope you have a wonderful and powerful day.
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Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.To make this change has probably been the biggest game...
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