Everyone is just a person.
Even politicians and convicts in jail. Even that one really stuck up girl from high school. Everyone is just a person trying to live their own life- just like you and I are. We forget this sometimes, and we have a bad habit of grouping other people’s individual lives into ambiguous generalizations.
All of us make assumptions about the nature of those who aren’t in our inner circle. We make statements about what “people” are like, or about what kind of place “the world” is. We love casting judgement, but we don’t even know who we’re talking about. Is “people” every human on the planet? Does it mean everyone in history living and dead? Is it only the people we’ve ever seen with our own eyes? Only the people we’ve heard someone talk about? Only the people on the news at night? We don’t even know who exactly “people” are, but we hang so tightly onto our beliefs about them.
Sounds pretty insane, right? So why do we do it?
You go around forming these judgements about “people” because the world is a really huge place. Your mind and your ego want to believe that you have everything figured out and under control. Believing your judgements is a kind of social shorthand. You desire understanding of your environment, and it’s easier for your mind to make up some arbitrary generalizations based on a few experiences or based on what you’ve been taught, rather than investigate each individual person to see what’s really true.
Any idea you have about “people,” “society,” or “the world” is an illusion that is created and exists in your mind only. The concept of “people” is not real or tangible. You can’t define it. You can’t prove something about it or test any theory against it. It doesn’t really exist. A person’s perception of “people” or “the world” is simply an imaginary concept made up as a reflection of their own mind.
That’s good news.
Because now instead of fixing all the minds in “the world,” you only have to fix one mind- yours. But wow, doesn’t that seem impossible?! It makes us realize that if we have no idea how fix our own mind, how did we expect “the world” to fix all of their minds? How can we expect “the world” to do something for itself we can’t even do for ourselves? Haven’t we all been trying to fix our own mind for a long time and not having much success? No wonder the world can’t do it either.
Your ego also has another stake in what “people” are like. “People” are others. Any judgement you make about “people” automatically excludes you from the same judgement. You say “people are selfish”, and your ego says, “Ah, since I can cast judgement on others for being selfish, I must be unselfish.” You say “people are lazy”, and your ego says, “Ah, since I’m in a position to cast judgement on others for being lazy, I must be a hard worker.” Judging feels good for your ego, but it creates all kinds of problems in your life otherwise. When you believe ugly things about the world, your interactions with others, assumptions about events, and interpretations of your environment are ugly as well. When you believe the world is ugly, you force yourself to live in an ugly world. And that’s a terrible unnecessary shame.
Your judgements are optional, and you can let them go anytime you want.
When I was depressed, I believed there were problems in the world. And then I chose to leave depression behind. I accepted that the problems were in my own mind, and I took responsibility for what I was experiencing. Full responsibility. I cleaned up my thoughts and beliefs and replaced it with something kinder. And “the world” was kinder and brighter because I was kinder and brighter.
You don’t have to suffer with negative beliefs about the world any longer. Suffering is simply the act of believing thoughts followed by emotions followed by believing thoughts followed by emotions. Say that you believe “people” are selfish and should be kinder. You believe your thought that the world is selfish, and that causes you to suffer. You can prevent suffering by intervening between thought and belief. There’s no thought in the world that can harm you until you believe it.
So try this instead.
So instead of just automatically believing your thoughts, you question them instead. You say, “Is it true that the world is selfish?” You ask, “Can I absolutely know for sure that the world is selfish?” “Can I absolutely know for sure that the world should be kinder?” And you are honest and open and consider all of this.
Then find the turnarounds to your belief. You say, “The world is kind and charitable.” You say, “My thoughts are selfish.” You say, “I should be kinder.” You say, “The world should not be kinder.” Search inside yourself for evidence to support each of these turnarounds, and you will begin to realize that the turnarounds are just as true as your original thought. These turnarounds are the magic that heals your suffering. You realize that the thought you believed was just a thought you believed. It wasn’t a truth. Believing the thought was always optional.
And now you can stop believing it, and you can move on with your real life. You can spend your time and your mental energy on the things that really matter to you. You can see the first steps I took to build a life after suffering by clicking here.
But don’t bad things still happen?
Pain may happen to you. Injustice or illness or injury might happen to you. But the suffering associated with them is always optional. It exists inside of you only. It begins and ends in your own mind, and that gives you complete control over it. Pain happens to you but suffering is something that you do. There’s an intense freedom in realizing that you actually do have control over your own beliefs. There’s an intense sweetness in realizing that whenever you believe an unkind thought, you suffer. And whenever you question that thought, you don’t suffer.
And then you stop suffering.
I learned about self-inquiry from the works of spiritual genius Byron Katie. You can find more information about questioning your thoughts at Byron Katie’s “The Work”