‘World peace’ is one of those lofty goals that most people seem to want, but have no practical steps in mind to achieve it. It seems too big a task for one individual to take on, and to many, it’s simply unrealistic. While I do firmly acknowledge that world peace will require a lot of time and a collective effort, I also believe it’s completely feasible. How? Because social affairs are not just things that happen to us: we’re constantly creating them. Every day, each one of us is choosing what type of society we live in by the way we choose to live as individuals. There are so many people in this globalized world today that we tend to forget that we are a fraction (however tiny!) of society. And so, if we seek positive change for the world, we must first begin with ourselves. International Day of Peace is a great start.
Easy as Pie
Imagine all of world suffering as a gigantic blueberry pie. (If you feel any emotional or physical pain, you are a part of this pie!) However, if you find inner peace by bringing light to the shadows within yourself, you immediately will be eating away a bite of that pie. And I guarantee that this light is infectious. When you do not struggle with mental battles yourself, you bring a sense of calmness to those around you. This leaves space for them to feel more at ease– an ideal environment for self-reflection and personal growth. They will think to themselves Wow, that person seems to feel pretty good about themself, and they make me feel good about myself. Maybe I’ll try some of that pie too! And, before you know it, a pie-eating ripple effect has been catalyzed because you decided to take that first leap in choosing peace within yourself.
Now, you may say that I’m a dreamer (I had to add a John Lennon lyric during International Peace Week!): If I knew how to take away my own suffering, I would have never had these problems in the first place! Life doesn’t work that way!
To which, I respond:
- Life does work that way! In no way am I saying that it’s easy: It requires facing your deepest, darkest fears. But it is possible to overcome them because you are a strong, powerful individual.
- You cannot even begin to tackle world peace without mastering the art of inner peace. Society is the macrocosm; the human mind is the microcosm. Learn the universal truths behind your own suffering, and you will see how it directly mirrors international suffering.
Darkness Inside of Us
I’ve learned that the darkness inside of us– traumatic memories, fears, doubts– is something that will never go away on its own. We may distract ourselves with the busyness of life: work, fun times, relationships, everyday stressors. Yet, these shadows are always in the subconscious part of ourselves. They distort the way we perceive the world; they appear in our dreams; they come to our waking minds every so often. The subconscious rules a great deal of our mental state.
And so, I say, if you want to take control of yourself, you must bring these shadows to light. This is the most difficult thing you can do. It means being present with your most unpleasant feelings and asking yourself the truth behind them: Why am I reacting this way? Why can’t I let go of this memory? What is the belief I hold that keeps me from moving on? I’ve found that the common denominator to all of our suffering is fear. Therefore, the ultimate question you must ask yourself is:
What do I fear?
The answer is not always clear. You have likely spent your entire lifetime validating your fears, covering them up, and procrastinating them. But, I promise that the answer is always within you. Where else could it possibly be? Although this is a lengthy process that only you can do for yourself, you never have to go through it alone. This is the reason that support groups, close relationships, and therapists are so valuable: You may have to walk through the darkness, but there are people here to keep you safe and hold your hand along the way.
I picture my personal demons as items on a shelf (the shelf being the weight of accumulated painful experiences). That shelf, and the items on it, will always be inside of me until I decide to pick them up–one by one— and take them apart– piece by piece. I don’t have to clear the entire shelf at once. I can put an item back to work on later if it’s too much to tackle in one sitting. But, those items will be on the shelf, pestering me all of my life until I decide it’s time to get rid of them. It’s very difficult, but it’s in my power. The thing is, however, that even if I’m able to clear just one item from that shelf, my mental state’s ‘set point’ is just that much more elevated than before.
It is, truly, a weight lifted off my shoulders. Each shadow that I cast into light brings a sense of pure joy and inner peace that is indescribable. And the more I take out those items and examine them, the better I understand that all of my problems have been the workings of subconscious fears and limitations that I’ve placed upon myself. I’m not saying that my life is perfect or that I feel one-hundred percent in alignment with my highest self. However, I’ve decided that I’m no longer a slave to fear, and I realize I’m in control of my own inner peace.
Once we truly understand how to implement peace in our own lives, we will watch it unfold on a worldwide scale because, ultimately, all conflicts come from the same space: fear. There’s fear of losing power, fear of embarrassment, and fear of attack. This is why we can categorize all of human suffering into that same ‘blueberry pie’. So, start with yourself, and then, when you’re ready, expand to those around you. Those around you become the people you’ll elect as representatives and government officials. This is a large task, but it is inevitable.
We spend our whole lives looking to solve problems and feel happy with ourselves, yet we carry our pain and toxic belief systems up to our final days. Therefore, perhaps the problem is not that eliminating world suffering is impossible– it’s that our approach is all wrong. We’ve been looking to our external reality when the answers have been inside the entire time. And so, each one of us is left with a choice: do we choose to live in a society of peace, or a society of fear?
If you want to discuss further, let’s explore how Perspectives can help you.
Perspectives Therapy Services is a multi-site mental and relationship health practice with clinic locations in Brighton, Lansing, Highland, Fenton and New Hudson, Michigan. Our clinical teams include experienced, compassionate and creative therapists with backgrounds in psychology, marriage and family therapy, professional counseling, and social work. Additionally, we offer psychiatric care in the form of evaluations and medication management. Our practice prides itself on providing extraordinary care. We offer a customized matching process to prospective clients whereby an intake specialist carefully assesses which of our providers would be the very best fit for the incoming client. We treat a wide range of concerns that impact a person's mental health including depression, anxiety, relationship problems, grief, low self-worth, life transitions, and childhood and adolescent difficulties.