Another area of doubt is very important — self-doubt, and doubt of life itself.
Since your first day you have turned to others and to the world in general in the confidence they will provide what you want. Your needs were first met by your parents; and as you grew your needs were met by friends, teachers, employers, and, in time, perhaps a marriage partner. Somehow your situation changed from being quite a dependent, “taking” little creature into one who learned, from example, to become a progressively more giving person. Perhaps you are now grown and have little children depending on you; the whole process has started again.
Whatever our age, we tend to count on the world to provide our needs and satisfy us. Not only must it feed us, but it should entertain us as well.
But! — perhaps the economy declines. You lose your job and perhaps the means to pay your rent or keep your car. Or, people who used to make you happy have their own problems now and somehow they’re not such fun to be with anymore. Or, perhaps you were playing a sport that gave you a lot of satisfaction and adulation. Suddenly something went wrong. You broke your arm, your hip. Not only do you have lots of pain, but your need for enjoyment of that sport is not capable of being satisfied. Especially is it true that your world changes with the death of a beloved one. You realize how much your sense of fulfillment depends on the give and take of a love relationship. Now he or she is gone. Grief in its many forms sets in.
When your world changes, a specialized form of doubt usually occurs. When something you were expecting from others or from the world is suddenly denied, you will tend to feel frustration and go through a period of grief. These unfortunate shocks in life create an accompanying major problem as well: You doubt the ability of the world or anyone to satisfy your deepest needs.
When your world shocks you into this profound doubt, you find yourself beginning to doubt most everything. You may begin to feel you cannot possibly find happiness or meaningful experience through your present relationships with others. Life is no longer a party. Nor does life seem to promise satisfaction anymore. No matter how good the world looks, it can leave you stranded or cause pain. Life has a vicious stinger. In this way your doubt grows into a gnawing, underlying anxiety that people and things cannot satisfy you in the long run. People may provide some satisfactions, but then again they may go away — through inclination or burial. Having been deeply hurt or disappointed, you look at the world fearfully. You doubt the ability of the world to give you lasting happiness or any comfortable, ongoing fulfillment. You just can’t count on the world!
Your doubt can become more deep-seated and even more fearful when it is not caused by someone or something in the outer world that lets you down. Imagine being able to rely on your legs for years, only to find they do not work today — and have to be cut off next week. Imagine having had fine eyes to see with but today all’s a blur. What of having great vitality and suddenly you’re paralyzed with a stroke? Suddenly illness has a frightening impact on your view of life and of yourself. Similarly, big or frequent shocks in realms of romance and career can push you into this state of deep doubt and anxiety.
In some cases, this form of doubt becomes so pervasive people not only question the ability of others and the world to satisfy them in any lasting or deeply significant way, they even come to doubt the substantial existence of the outer world. Of a philosophical and intellectual bent, they sense that the world may be (or is) but an appearance, an inconstant reality which their senses cannot adequately communicate to them and which their minds may be falsely presuming to be as they think it is. To many Buddhists — after years of spiritual exercises — the world is seen as a play of spirit, conscious energy, reaffirming itself every split second, but it is essentially spirit and nothing else. Others say the world may be pure energy expressing itself in combinations of atoms, but the world surely has a relative reality since when you move your atomic head against the atomic wall, there will be an atomic pain and perhaps even an atomic bruise.
These “relativists” say whether you want to call the world an atomic/molecular phenomenon or not, it is real. Relativists further observe that however involved or non-material your philosophy may be, there are commonly shared views of the world which enable vast possibilities of interrelationships, whether each person’s perceptions of reality are similar or amazingly divergent. Culture, society, learning, and thousands of other areas establish that there are numerous units of awareness shared in common each moment.
For example, billions of people travel each day, and most observe traffic laws and courtesies which protect life. At every intersection there is a sharing of reality, even in argumentative societies. Most of the time people agree who should proceed and who should wait for the light to change. Shared perceptions enable people to have standards in cooking, communication, chemistry, medicine, construction, law, and even rock-and-roll. So, relativists maintain the world is real, on its own, independent of human thoughts and feelings, even though each person’s mind may register inputs from the world entirely differently.
A consideration of different views of reality is a fascinating pursuit on its own. However, the shocked and overturned doubter wants his pain to stop; he doesn’t want to explore philosophies and physics.
Distrust of the World and Yourself
As doubt spreads, nothing seems to satisfy. You begin to feel a churning fear that no one and nothing in the world will give you fulfillment. Worse, you doubt your own life. You feel that because of your negative state you are incapable of ever extricating yourself from your miseries. Distrust of the world and of yourself is a most profound doubt. As the doubt becomes interiorized, it extends to your ego — your sense of self. You begin to doubt your capacity ever to be happy. You may doubt the capacity of yourself to know anything. Certainly your self-esteem is shot down. Your self-confidence cracks apart. You feel little joy in being you. You sense your ego is only a makeshift structure which holds you together each flimsy day. You do not have an intrinsic sense of who you are or that you are a significant and worthwhile person.
This invasion of doubt motivates many suffering people to seek professional counseling. Questions of what makes life worthwhile, and why, result from this shattering of confidence in the outer world, in others, or oneself. Too many people today feel their lives have substantially no value and therefore life itself has no substantial value. They run about the planet killing, shooting, and torturing other people in the most insane manner. Doubt of one’s worth or capacity for happiness is a highly significant problem, especially in an age which involves considerable disorientation and regular shake-ups of society. Also, at this time young people dread the earth will not survive — that they will not be able to grow old. Even the existence of the earth and life itself is in doubt.
Break Out of Your Shell
What does the seeker of higher consciousness do? If your life has been severely shaken and extreme doubt is invading your mind, don’t yield! First study your behavior and attitudes. Seek to be, if you can, more of a giver than a receiver. Seek to be more a satisfier of others’ needs than some dependent infant. Stop and think, “Did I ever sign a contract which guaranteed me that other people and the world were designed specifically to satisfy my personal needs?”
The seeker of higher consciousness breaks out of his narcissistic shell. He leaves it behind with glee, realizing that happiness is impossible through total ego absorption. He sees the world was not built to satisfy him; nor do Mommy and Daddy, or intimate friends, exist solely to satisfy him.
The cure from feeling abandoned or severely unfulfilled is based essentially on a major redirection of understanding. Life requires that everyone grow. The pressures of growing will build to a life-changing climax whenever reality is ignored or neglected. And these life-shaking climaxes can bring great doubt into the mind of one who misperceives the nature of the outer world. Dependent attitudes must yield to maturity and independence. These highly significant turning points occur to most everyone. Unfortunately, these changes are too often misunderstood and breed or reinforce deep inner doubts.
“This I Must Discover”
When crisis and doubt smash into the seeker of higher consciousness, he does something brilliant. He uses his doubt constructively. He faces his doubts and uses them for his motivation.
Move forward. Seek to resolve your doubt. Become progressively determined to find answers and fulfillment whenever doubt surges within you.
“If the world as it appears does not satisfy me, well then, what does? This I must discover.”
More vigorously than ever, search for answers and fulfillment. May you become like a warrior, charging into the unknown bravely, ready for whatever befalls, in service of your inner majesty, your Yearning.
If I do not sense the meaning of my life, then I seek to know who I am and what I am for. If nothing satisfies me for long, then I seek to find and realize what will satisfy me forever. And I will never quit my quest — never!
Further, I will be alert for answers and growth. I will also seek the help of others who made the search and found fulfillment. I say this from the flame in my heart!
You are dealing with the unknown. Be like a knight of old. Go forth. Find what you seek. Or, be a scientist, search for reality. Be a philosopher, a lover of wisdom, and love wisdom with every sinew. Seek the truth of life. Face your deepest doubts and be on fire to solve the mystery of life!
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