Living a Conscious Life: Value Systems, Empathy & The Pain in Personal Growth

Recently life got me to thinking about how varied peoples values can be.

From my personal perspective it makes sense that people want to be kind and helpful to others.

But that is narrow sighted.

Not everyone wants to be kind and/or helpful. 

As we all know well – there exist people who live their lives putting themselves on a pedestal.

Let’s be honest though, I hear you say… we are all the centre of our own universe.

At the same time though, we can be at the centre of our own world and look to see others around us also in the centre of their own unique and equally vivid worlds. We can empathise and thus realise we are not unique in this way.

Sonder is the term to describe this understanding.

Yet there are people who believe everyone around them exists merely to serve their existence (they see people as things to be used) and are thus beneath them. They also see themselves are God’s gift, although underneath that facade exists a deep insecurity. This is one of the gross traits of narcissism.

Narcissism lacks self-awareness, intuition and character. And this is leads to a lack of a solid personal value system. 

But I was thinking more specifically about why people stagnate (consciously or subconsciously) and prevent themselves from experiencing the natural process of spiritual and emotional growth.

The only way for me to reflect on this subject matter was to look inwards and think about times of significant learning and growth in my own life. How did it feel? Why did I go down that path? What are my beliefs about life? And I came up with the following.

Some people refuse to grow because growth by nature is painful.

Let’s take the example of babies.

Physically, at some point a child begins to teethe. This process is a painful physical growth process. But life and our humanness longs to taste food. And so it is a natural part of life to go through this pain for the greater good.

It’s the kind of pain we have no control over in terms of deciding consciously whether or not our teeth will grow. It just happens. Our mind + body do this intuitively for our benefit.

Likewise, mentally a child’s learning at a young age is exponential and almost appears involuntary. A child wants to walk, and speak, and hold a conversation like an adult. It’s not an easy process by any means.

The child will suffer the pain of stumbling often. They will talk nonsense for the best part of a year. They will try and try again to form words and stand on two legs to take their first innocuous step before leaning and tumbling uncontrollably to the floor.

And likewise again, emotionally a child will begin to understand that it cannot have everything it wants. It will go through the shame of having tantrums and still not getting what it screams for. The child will have to share things with other children.

Emotional maturity and growth is not a striven for consequence, but is ultimately a good consequence of discipline and love.

Spiritual growth is also an important factor, but my personal belief is that babies tend to be far more spiritual than their adult counterparts for they have not forgotten their creator nor have they lost touch with their innate consciousness. That same consciousness that allows them to feel pain and still push through all the necessary growth cycles of life.

Growth is painful because growth is the process of shedding limiting beliefs that define our ego, letting go of that which is not us but that we dearly cling to and identify with.

Growth will not come to many people because most of us have learned to avoid pain. 

And this is to our detriment both individually on a personal level, and to society as a whole.

Pain comes in many forms:

  • There is the pain of being “alone” (which upon proper reflection – none of us truly are);
  • The pain of “loss” which isn’t quite true bcos the people you “lose” live on in the atmosphere, in the ground, in you, your memories and the memories of others;
  • The pain of being proven wrong, since nobody likes to have their core beliefs (their “facts of life”) challenged;
  • The pain of accepting what is and learning to let go of how we think things should be.

Pain, esp mental and emotional, are directly (and typically solely) a consequence of attachment. Being attached to how we think things should be rather than accepting what is.

Avoiding the pain of growth is like conceding to live as a shallow puddle of yourself. It’s a disservice to the gift of life for you and others.

In some ways this level of superficial living is prevailing in society today. In fact it is being rewarded. Social media and high power positions are rife with narcissism. Apparently it’s in fashion.

Yes, it’s good to feel good about oneself, to love oneself.

But then we look to likes and comments to make us feel better… by the nature of posting something in the first place. There is nothing wrong with putting yourself out there, but don’t forget to put your consciousness out there too. In REAL LIFE. 

It’s more important to me to have a couple of friends that do the inner work to reach the ocean depths of themselves and their true nature and share that with the world and enjoy me doing the same, than it is to have many friends or followers who swim in a mere puddle of themselves.

Life for people who choose the puddle path is inevitably a lonely place. 

Remember who you are and what you’re apart of. Do the inner work. Get into the nitty gritty. You cannot avoid that. Shed limiting beliefs and be who you are destined to become.

I am not there yet, and I do not believe that I will get to that place or accept the nature of Nirvana as it is today. But at least I am aware of it. Self-reflection is pivotal. Catching ourselves in the act of judgement of others based on the notion that we know better is also part of the process. Thus I am hardly infallible in my adversity to pain.

We may know better, but rather than focussing on that, isn’t it better to see that each is on their own journey and our focus is better placed on our journey because that is the only one we can have some amount of control over. 

Remember you can only meet people where they are and love them at the level they can receive it. You cannot force growth on others. Only unto yourself. So focus on making the world a better place with your words, your hands, and your actions.

Please share your thoughts on this post and the topic of values, empathy, and personal/ spiritual growth in the comments below!


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