What Buddhism has given me is boundless and priceless. It has awakened me to reality, true reality. I know that nothing is permanent and that everything changes. I know that everyone in my life will experience illness, aging, loneliness, and death. I reckon that life likely has no cosmic meaning, that once we die, it’s over. I have accepted these truths. But not only that, I’m OK with them. I found peace with them.
With that in mind, think about our Western culture. . . Hollywood films, sitcoms, soap operas, pop songs, advertising, Disney stories. . . think about it. . . there’s a component of “happily ever after” in all these mediums. The message is that everything’s going be all right, everything will come together, the good guy will win, boy meets girl, they fall in love, they get married, buy a home, have kids, and they live happily ever after. . . . well, we all know that only happens in the movies. Nevertheless, whether we deeply know it or not, most of us still believe it. We believe in magic. I suppose we can call it hope.
We are dreamers. We love a good romance novel or film. We love heroes and heroines. And we have these ideas of how our lives should be. Essentially, we have unrealistic expectations. Moreover, we are setting ourselves for disappointment, disillusionment, and emotional and psychological trauma.
Indeed, we’ve been misled, taken for a ride, scammed, bamboozled by the powers that be. No doubt, we’ve been hoodwinked, and now and again we realize it but hate to acknowledge it. Like when we get fired from our job, or when our lover leaves us, or when our spouse cheats on us, or worse yet, when a loved one dies an untimely death—it shakes us to the core, it rocks our world, but we still hold on to our fantastical dream for dear life.
Some of us learn from our difficult experiences and grow wiser. But more often than not, many go into denial, never waking up. Yes, it might take a few more tragedies for them to see the light, but some never do. Some grasp on tightly to their fantasy and pipe dreams, not wanting to face the reality of it—life is not a Hollywood movie.
For certain, life is hard. But we make it harder. We must stop setting ourselves up for trauma. And more importantly, we must stop setting our children up for unnecessary heartache as well. And so, here are 5 ways to prevent psychological and emotional trauma. . . .
- Acknowledge and accept that you’re going to age.
- Acknowledge and accept that you’re going to get sick.
- Acknowledge and accept that someday you’re going to die.
- Acknowledge and accept that you cannot prevent people from changing, leaving you, or dying.
- Acknowledge and accept that you cannot avoid the consequences of your actions.*
Reflect on these truths every day of your life and I guarantee you will experience less psychological and emotional trauma and suffer much less. More importantly, carry this message to your children in some shape and form. It will not only make their lives easier, it will change the world for the better.
We cannot ignore, avoid, or escape these truths. They are inescapable. Yes, we can pretend they’re not there and go on whistling in the dark. But sooner or later we are going to be confronted with these realities. Why not accept them and find peace with them now? After all, they are part of this extraordinary experience we are all having, why go around fearing them? Invite them into your life. Be with them. Make friends with them. Embrace them.
To conclude, unquestionably we all need to dream and hope. We need motivation, drive, and adventure, and dreaming seems to be an impetus for creativity, change, and the betterment of the world. That being said, having a deeper awareness of true reality, and being equipped for change, loss, and death will ease our journey and prevent unnecessary trauma. And surrendering to what is and what will be will liberate us and free us from further suffering. Surrender and acceptance has freed me from needless suffering, no doubt, it can free you as well.
Please feel free to add to this conversation in the comments section and or share it with others.
*Adopted from Buddha’s Five Remembrances as translated by Thich Nhat Hanh.
- I am of the nature to grow old. There is no way to escape growing old.
- I am of the nature to have ill health. There is no way to escape having ill health.
- I am of the nature to die. There is no way to escape death.
- All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them.
- My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground upon which I stand.