Transformation, Context, and Why Conditional Happiness Reiterates Shame

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Transformation is a funny thing.

A lot of the time, I feel like I’m at a standstill. Like I’m just nose-to-the-grind doing my work. And nothing is really moving that quickly. And my days are pretty similar.

And then I look back just two or three years, and everything feels entirely different. I look at how much I’ve grown into myself and into the work, and I’m shocked. And I wonder how I even had time to catch my breath. Even though it feels slow in the moment.

I don’t think most of us actually want the rapid transformation we think we do. At least for me, any desires for rapid transformation is really a desire to be saved. To suddenly wake up in a totally different situation where life feels easy. Where we don’t have to learn and evolve and grow through the discomfort.

Which is ironic. Because we’re talking about transformation. Yet what we really want is to skip that step and be in this mythical place that we believe is going to be better.

It’s why I’ve been talking about happiness this week. Because any framework that is conditional—any framework that gives weight to content over context, or to only the “positive” side of things—is pretty useless to me. No, wait, it’s dangerous to me. Because it reiterates shame.

The idea that I’d somehow be happier or better if I just achieved X, Y, and Z reiterates so much shame. Because it tells myself that I’m not good enough as I am today. But I might be if I hit some arbitrary milestones. I might be in my content changes, and I’m saved.

Unconditional fulfillment isn’t about having certain situations come into your life; it’s about seeing all the situations as equal. Accepting that they’re happening. Regardless if we “desire” them or not.

We can’t act to affect change on reality until we accept it first. Not that we condone it, but that it’s happening. Without desperately wishing it were something else.

And I’m more interested in subjectivity work. Understanding not just what we want to feel. But who we are. How we see the world. What personal significance and meaning we assign to things. Why this happened to us. How it affects us. All of that.

Because then even—and maybe especially—the trauma and drama are helpful. Because they teach us more about ourselves. They help us to grow more into ourselves.

And that’s way more interesting than just desperately trying to manifest very specific content in our lives.

When we learn to understand our context over our content, we can love ourselves unconditionally. Because there are no conditions. And everything is just about stepping deeper into ourselves. As we are.

That doesn’t mean we can’t see injustices in the world or want to affect change. If it’s subjectively true for us, we can always take action. And the more we widen our lens of subjectivity, the more we can see beyond our immediate pain and toward others’ issues.

But it’s accepting that we feel called to rectify those injustices for a reason. Because of who we are. Because of our subjectivity. And even our work in transforming the world is a deeper becoming of ourselves. We’re simply showing up more fully. And a fully express us takes action on those things. Without conditions.

Outside transformation—or content-based transformation—is easy to see. It’s easy to see a new relationship or new home or income increase. But inner transformation is so subtle sometimes. It’s almost invisible sometimes. Because the outside might not be changing. But our context—our ability to discern meaning from that content—is transforming.

And that is all the more powerful. And all the more subtle.

I’m so lucky to have my therapist every week. Because I want in talking about what’s going on, and he’s like, “You come in here with radically different transformation every time we talk.”

And I’m thinking, “Seriously? I feel like I’m just chugging along, doing the same old thing.”

But then I remember that the outside doesn’t need to radically change for there to be massive transformation. In fact, the bigger transformation is the inner one. The context one. The stepping more fully into myself one.

And then I get to be me regardless of the external content around me. I get to be me unconditionally.

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