Manipulation is a part of existence. From the day we are born our actions are guided by everything – family, friends, weather, nationality, religion, geography, government to name a few. Complete freedom from influence can only exist in a vacuum of nothingness nowhere to be found in the physical domain.
This manipulation can range from the grand to the trivial. For example, even our roads and sidewalks manipulate how we decide to move around a city. If we didn’t have these structures in place I think we could all agree that chaos would ensue. So manipulation in itself isn’t a bad thing, despite the negative connotation this word may carry.
However, what happens when we are manipulated into chaos? This type of manipulation could be through propaganda, religions, beliefs (self imposed & collective) that manipulate us in ways that we aren’t even aware of.
This manipulation can strip us away from the essential essence of who we are. I’m not saying that this is the absolute truth, I’m just raising the possibility of this happening. If you agree that this is possible, then isn’t it worth investigating? If it is possible that we have lost touch with our essential essence isn’t it worth diving deeper to understand the truth of it?
On a day to day basis it is hard to see the forms of manipulation at work in our lives. However, on the occasions where life throws us a curve ball and we do hit that low, it is the perfect opportunity to reflect to understand what you would have to believe to feel the way you do. Once you start to understand why you feel certain emotions and why you react in certain ways you’ll start to understand the belief systems you have bought into over the years.
At that point you’ll have the opportunity to write a new story and change the rules of the game to be more favorable for you. This could mean working to change and challenge some of your beliefs, or focusing on shifting your mindset.
The economic recession in 2007 is a perfect example of an opportunity to shift and view life through a different paradigm. Up to that point many people bought into the idea that if they work hard and save for retirement they will be taken care of, and that quickly changed when the housing bubble popped towards the latter half of the last decade. A lot of people lost their physical possessions and life savings in this time period. Perhaps this period gave people an opportunity to question some of their core beliefs on material possessions and the meaning of work in their lives.
I remember on the eve of my college graduation during the recession, one of my professors encouraged our class to delay graduating by enrolling in extra classes since the economy was so bad. In that moment I realized that all the beliefs I bought into about education and the American economy had little substance behind it. It gave me the opportunity to re-evaluate the purpose of education and the purpose of work in my life.
I’ve recently come back from traveling for the past few months in countries vastly different than the United States and its been difficult settling back into life in California. Leaving the US gave me an opportunity to really understand how heavily we are influenced by our culture, society, friends, and family. Interacting with an extremely diverse group of people has opened my eyes to how much our lives are dictated by the ideas that we have implicitly bought into. Sadly, we often inflict so much emotional and physical pain upon ourselves and others because we have bought into a perspective on life that we ourselves have created.
I think it is really important to cultivate the awareness to really see the truth of this existence, and understand the underlying beliefs and resistance that generate whatever suffering each of us may experience in our lives.