Have you ever met anyone who lives in hell? I have. Lonely men dying of drug abuse, women who lost their children to war. A young woman who saw her Father die in a terrible bicycle accident. Tragedy and violence befall us, though with no fault of our own. Hell can also visit us as the full accumulation of our deeds and behavior. Hence, consequences can materialize in our lives, especially if we have been dilusionally pursuing our personal versions of hell with impunity depending on how far we have wandered from our goals and ideals. No wonder many religions have diverse versions on this theme.
Mostly in my case I have seen people who didn’t bother to get off the dark path they were following until it was too late. Completely in denial to make any changes until they had to face dire consequences to their health, relationships, finances, etc.
We are moral animals and civilization exists only on the surface as I have seen traveling through the world. Often during civil unrest ethics give way very easily to evil, betrayal, and malevolence. Sometimes ethnic hatred is more important than our humanity. Suffering can become our daily bread if we are not careful of where we are heading.
Are we good because we are afraid or because we love? Fear plays an important role in our lives. The baby boomer generation faced it with the contemplation of the bomb. Nuclear fears were real and I believe it lead to a generation consumed by denial and pleasure-seeking behavior. Before that, moral virtues such as endurance, courage, compassion, and the agony of the human spirit were commonly part of the narrative. William Faulkner said it best when he directed himself to the new generations during his acceptance speech for The Noble prize in Literature:
“I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help a man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.”
Morality is often used as an appeal to motivate others. Self-efficacy however cannot just be mustered after a slogan. The individual has to think and feel himself capable, self-empowerment has to be born inside the human spirit. People have to witness that the results of their efforts can create significant change in their lives. This is often accomplished through questioning their beliefs and thought structures. There may be a need to work in cooperation with others to enact social change. One’s personality has to fit into an organization’s culture to succeed within that organization. It often comes down to values in common. It is the same in relationships, values often become the bridge or the wall for progress for developing trust and intimacy.
To begin our journey beyond the walls of powerlessness we have to look into our values and personality first. A self-analysis and questioning has to take place after a period of mindfulness exercises. Some critical questions such as: What do I want from friendships, what do I expect from my significant other, and what type of career and education do I want are also very good. How do I go about confronting my urges and desires when they become in conflict with accomplishing what I want? What mean will I use to stay physically fit? How will I stay mentally fit and deal with stress? What corrective adjustments and strategies will I enact to avoid my vision of possible hells that could come to fruition given my behavior so far? Make a 5-year plan to avoid it. Where do I want to be? See it, feel it, smell it.
The musty and strong walls are our own creation. Brick by brick the wall is made of bitterness, victimization, lack of forgiveness, and self-hatred. To set up adaptive functioning we must re-program ourselves by instilling new habits that eventually will become routine. One day it will become our way of life and an integral part of our personalities.
To accomplish this we must seek excellence. We’ll reject the status quo and the comfort-zone. We will awake from our lies and the delusions we tell ourselves and let go of negative attachments and obsessions with controlling others. To master ourselves and break the wall of self-delusion, we must accept with sobering realism and courage the facts of life such as death, inevitable changes, and others’ betrayal. We can aim high, push the envelope, and find in the edge the truths we have been seeking. We must think outside the box and develop generative skills that over time can result in extraordinary competence.
The aim is to develop confidence in our abilities and self-efficacy to be significantly active in the service of others. Ultimately, as a conquering hero that overcomes the dark sea of negative emotions we can pass beyond the wall to open our own life path. Finally, in the wise words of The Spanish poet Antonio Machado: ” Wanderer, your footsteps are the road, and nothing more; wanderer there is no road, the road is made by walking.”