One of our main objectives is to avoid pain and suffering and move towards pleasure or at least non-suffering. Additionally, a lot of the suffering we experience is brought on by ourselves, and more specifically, by our thoughts about things. Furthermore, our thoughts about things come from the explicit meaning we give to any situation and circumstance, person, place or thing in our lives and in our worlds.
The tiny fact?
Nothing has inherent meaning except the meaning we give it. We have plenty of shared meanings, and things we agree to by default. We don’t have to and often don’t even realize we are choosing to. We usually look outside of ourselves for clues and pointers as to what something means because at one point this was an essential thing to do, it was a behavior that served us. It no longer does, for the most part it mostly acts as a hinderance.
From where do you build meaning?
What would happen if we began looking inside of ourselves to create meaning? Or what if we decided to withhold assigning meaning? If Ned walks through the door and it slams, we could give it a bunch of different meanings. Ned is angry, he had a bad day, he is angry with me or I have done something wrong. Or maybe there was a gust of wind that slammed the door shut?
This can change the whole trajectory of an interaction (or a relationship). If you believe Ned is angry at you, you may behave more nervously. Ned, not being angry originally, may be apprehensive to your nervousness and this may further fuel your nervousness. It can spin out of control quickly. It’s also a funny thing that happens, where people will sometimes exhibit that behavior we expect of them – as if we draw it out of them somehow.
How many times during your day do you interpret things and then act upon those interpretations as if they were real? Most of the time this “acting on” only happens in our minds where we worry, freak-out, or some other form of mental distress about something that is only a perception.
Practice Makes Better
Practice giving things alternate meanings in your mind if you have to give it a meaning at all. Your boss was curt with you after the meeting. What does this mean?! Are you on the chopping block, does she hate the way you spoke out during the meeting, did you do something wrong? Or has she got something going on in her personal life, perhaps she just received a text message from her child’s school saying that he is in trouble. “Not again Timmy!” She rages from within, as she replies to you absentmindedly.
Relax – it’s not about you – but it could be 🙂
When we assign meaning to things we usually make it about us. It is seldom about us. We could use this meaning making as a superpower though. We could use it to build ourselves up and make ourselves feel better, rather than cut ourselves down and make us feel terrible. It’s all about the mental habits we develop and those that we unlearn.
When it clicks, the dark will be lit
It may take a while to get, because we so vehemently believe that there is inherent meaning in so many things, many of our egos are built upon that foundation. But once it clicks and really makes sense, it is a freedom like no other. Like most of our conditionings, it may reappear time and time again, and like most, we must reinforce it.
Practice this by assigning meanings to events in your day and see how that changes your perceptions about everything else. You can also not assign meanings to anything and this will also have an effect. Good luck and happy meaning (or non-meaning) making!