By Suma Varughese
All our impressions about ourselves, others and life are based on when we flout the norm
I have an old and bad habit, which I still fall into occasionally, of beating up on myself. Each time I commit the slightest transgression, and most of mine revolve around food I should not have had, I break into a heated diatribe and finally come to the dispirited conclusion that I am self-indulgent.
Recently, I went through that routine once again, but this time, I gave a more spirited response. Hello, I told myself, I am on a very severe diet (no wheat, no diary, no non-veg, no cold food, fried food, sour food, or fruits – an ayurvedic diet to heal myself of asthma) and most of the time I stick to it. If I break the rule once in a way, does that make me self-indulgent? What about the thousands of times when I have abided by my diet?
It hit me then, that I have made the same mistake that most of us do on a larger societal level. Newspapers write about the exception to the rule in order to sell their papers – the woman who has been raped (millions escape that fate), the child who has got drowned in a drain (how about the lakhs who have not) and the youth who fell out of the train and died (how about the thousands who safely reach their destination every day?).
We read these exceptions and wrongly conclude that the world is a highly dangerous place ricocheting with violence and tragedies. But all of us in the real world know that people are generally law-abiding and peaceful.
In the same way, I too was looking at the few times I broke my rules and I was coming to the faulty conclusion that I was a rule breaker.
We apply this rule to our dear ones too. Your son may have put the cap on the toothpaste innumerable times or made his bed regularly, but it is the infractions that you remember and chastise him for. The result is that he is regarded by himself and the family as a transgressor in these two areas. Similarly, your daughter may have kept her cool innumerable times, but the times that stand out are when she has not; or she may have done her homework before watching TV most days, but you will pull her up on the few occasions when she does not.
We do this to life too. Things may have gone our way innumerable times, but the time when the bus does not wait for us, or we miss out on a promotion, or get ignored at a party stand out and goad us to wail the perennial cry, “Why does this always happen to me?”
Why do we do this? Because we are programmed to resist the negative. When things go swimmingly, we don’t notice them, but the moment they stop doing so, we holler! And that is how we build up conditioning, our own and that of others.
In short, almost all our conclusions about ourselves, others and ourselves are invalid. We simply need to dump them into the junk heap they belong to. We are whole, perfect and complete. That is what we are and always will be.
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