Shifting the locus of control

Bad things happen to everyone. Sometimes we bring them on ourselves, sometimes we do so a little or unintentionally, and sometimes we have no control over it whatsoever. But as I’ve mentioned previously in this blog, I feel a lot of guilt and shame for bad things that happen to me. 

I have the perspective that I am failing. I try to make my life better and I keep falling short. I guess because I see myself as responsible for myself, there is only one source of success or failure: me. 

Always finding myself wiser after a hardship, in hindsight I generally am thankful for the suffering. Yet I blame myself for not having been wise without it. I am the simultaneous victor and victim. Like I’m weak or foolish for not being able to figure it out on my own. If only I were a true master of life, I would be able to avoid all the negativity and find brilliance on my own. 

I’m trying to stop having that feeling. It’s bad enough to endure something bad; guilty feelings only make it worse. I feel guilty for not being something that is essentially impossible, although somehow in my mind I think that it’s achievable and I’m just failing at it. 

Until today, I misunderstood Buddhism’s position that suffering is a part of life. I thought that by saying suffering was normal, it was validating suffering – endorsing it, almost. To me this was the antithesis of everything I strive for, namely, the pursuit of wisdom as a means to avert suffering. But now I understand that the Buddhist philosophy is simply an accurate statement. There is no life free from suffering. Buddhism says to harness that suffering in order to achieve enlightenment.

I really thought I could reach a point where all suffering I endured was due to external circumstances, like getting rear-ended or randomly assaulted. That I would one day know better than to walk into something that became a bad situation. Basically, I thought that one day I wouldn’t have to learn anything “the hard way.” Even saying it now, I still believe it. I need to let it go. I hate cheesy metaphors, but it’s impossible for me to learn lessons unless I sit in the classroom.

I’m going to try. But now there’s a new problem: does that mean I can no longer accept responsibility for my successes, either?

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