Thought creates. We create and re-create our version of ourselves constantly. We may say “ I used to be a worrier but now I’m much more relaxed about life” for example. We recognise that we have changed in some way. If we get stuck in a pattern we do not like we need only remember that we can change that aspect of ourselves.
Events in childhood shape our views – we may accept certain viewpoints and reject others based on our experiences and choices. I remember the story of two brothers whose father was an alcoholic. One was also an alcoholic and the other never touched alcohol. When asked why, they both replied in the same way – ‘With a father like I had, how could I be otherwise?’
The important thing to remember, however, is that we are the ones in control.
How we behave in any given moment reflects our current version of ourselves and who we are. If we change our thought about ourselves then everything changes – we literally re-create ourselves according to our new version of who we are.
It is common for us to go through life trying to get others to change their behaviour towards us and get very frustrated because this never works. The only possible change is our thinking about ourselves.
Say, for example, we have been neglected. This neglect has led us to decide we will never treat others the way we have been treated. So we then go down the other extreme, giving of ourselves to the point of self-sacrifice. This can cause us all sorts of problems. But then, one day, we realise that our ability to give like this stems from the very neglect we condemned. If we had not experienced the neglect, we could not have known its opposite. This understanding frees us to come back into harmony and balance for ourselves. We have created ourselves as loving and giving – we can drop the self-sacrifice, the extreme opposite of neglect, and enjoy the loving, compassionate person we can now experience ourselves to be. Life is all about experiencing who we are and changing anything we want to change about ourselves. We can re-create ourselves as many times as we like. As far as others are concerned, we can only be an example of how it is possible to live. Any striving towards an imagined perfection, “getting it right” limits us hugely and can often leave us feeling miserable in the process.
There is no such thing as a fixed ideal, a right and wrong. From a personal perspective, neither is there such a thing as good or bad. Nobody ever deliberately sets out to do something which they consider bad. They can always justify it from their own perspective, even if we consider what they do to be completely unjustifiable from our perspective.
In education, in particular, we need to re-define what we think of as right and wrong, to teach our children to enjoy making mistakes to improve their experience of learning.
Alexander criticised the teaching methods of his day:
Under the ordinary teaching methods, the pupil gets nineteen wrong to one right experience. It ought to be the other way round.
There may well come a time when we stop teaching our children what is right or wrong or even material that has right or wrong answers, teaching them instead to make good mistakes, thereby discovering their own answers instead of collecting data out of memory.
Alexander also stated:
The old idea of trying to be right has remained with us, in spite of the fact that conditions have changed and our right is wrong.
Everyone wants to be right, but no one stops to consider if their idea of right is right.
From a historical perspective, our ideas of right and wrong are not fixed – society’s views change all the time. It is no longer acceptable to hang someone for stealing a loaf of bread, for example. It is currently OK to end someone’s life, against their wishes, in a war situation or if ( in some societies) it is an execution. It is not generally OK if we help someone, who wishes to die, to end their life, even though this act could prevent a great deal of suffering.
Yet thoughts change, the rules change, and what we think of as right and wrong changes too. Not long ago, there was huge stigma in many countries, including Britain and the USA, if you were unmarried and pregnant – enough to drive people to attempt suicide. Now, in a number of these countries, many people have children and see no point in getting married and nobody cares about this!
Our world is experiencing unprecedented change at this time, and this is happening faster than ever before. As the rules continue to change and we continually re-define what is considered acceptable and unacceptable, we have to be prepared to change too, connecting within ourselves on a physical, mental and spiritual level and observing who it is we choose to be in the very powerful ‘now’ moment.