Mental health: coping with the conditional

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You are like an artist, making a life from the materials available to you, seeing possibilities. Photo by Alex Jones on Unsplash

Conditionality is an existential truth.  It stems from our lack of knowledge.  Without perfect knowledge, everything will seem to be conditional on something else.

This finds its way into our language as an ‘if’ clause.  ‘If person A does that,’ we say, ‘then I will have to do this in response.’  Sometimes we use conditionality wisely, as a token of possibility.  Sometimes, however, we use it unwisely, as a token of control and restriction.

Put in simple terms, life is uncertain.  We can respond to this uncertainty, either by enabling, or by disabling.  How we respond, when we are faced with uncertainty, is crucial.

CLOSING DOWN POSSIBILITIES

An example of using uncertainty to close down possibilities, is the reactive threat.  ‘If you do that,’ we threaten, ‘then I will have to do this.’  We really believe that the possibilties are being closed down by others.  But really, if we look closely, we may see that we are using the situation to try to gain control over life.  We fear uncertainty, and so we react to close down the alternatives.

OPENING UP POSSIBILITIES

However, sometimes we use uncertainty to open up possibilities.  Artists are used to this approach.  We take life as it is, and if it brings us a lemon, we see what kind of lemonade might be possible.  Under this option, we open up possibilities for the future.  This requires putting our fear on hold, so that we can experience our vulnerability without fear.  It is a hard act to do, but it’s always possible.

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A MEDITATION

Do I feel uncertain about life?  Am I in the dark about the future, about how things will turn out?

Do I sometimes respond to that uncertainty by imposing my own conditions on others?  Do I threaten them by pretending I am constrained to react to them in certain ways… when, really, I can react freely, and can choose whether to enable or disable the future?

Can I be an artist with my life?  Can I accept the current situation as the canvas and tools I have to work with?  Can I take responsibility, as an artist, for painting a decent picture with whatever I have available?  Can I resist the urge to control and narrow, and, instead, enable and open up possibility?

Peace is a picture we paint with our own mind.  The thing is, the only paint we have is suffering, and the only brush we have is compassion.

If we misuse our suffering as a vehicle for hate and control, then we are all the losers.  By accepting our suffering, and treating everyone with compassion, we can make a better life.

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