You’re a spiritual person. You’ve adopted a way of life, a practice, a set of beliefs, and you’ve done this because they strike you as being good and right and likely to make your life better. Maybe for a while life is better, and you feel uplifted, reassured, affirmed and good about what you are doing.
Something goes wrong.
You can count on this. Someone gets ill, or dies, or is hurt, someone else’s anger impacts on you, or your boss is shitty or you lose your job or some practical thing stops working or explodes, or one of those things happen to someone you care about or somewhere in the world some awful thing happens and the images on the TV make you cry.
The sane and sensible answer is to admit that your religion is not a cure-all and that you are not so enlightened and magical and special as to be able to avoid all of this. Other options are available though. What the other options do is allow you to uphold the superiority of the system you are in, or perpetrate an illusion of your spiritual superiority. None of this does a person, or the people around them much good in the long term.
- Denial: Just refuse to let yourself think about it or admit there is a problem.
- Blame: It’s the other person’s fault for thinking negative thoughts, having bad karma, not trying hard enough.
- Justify: This is really good for you, that’s why it’s happened.
- Insulation: practicing not caring so as not to feel either your own troubles or anyone else’s.
None of these choices help us improve situations. Pushed far enough and any of them can turn into cognitive dissonance – where the story you tell yourself about what’s happening is so far removed from reality as to be dangerous to you. This is what happens when victims convince themselves that their abusers are only doing it as an expression of love, for example.
Often, when you infer the existence of a higher plan, a spiritual failing or a deservedness to explain something awful, what you do is remove any need to take action. It ceases to be your problem, and while that has an insulating quality, it also dehumanises all of us. It dehumanises the person whose situation is being explained so as to be ignored, and it dehumanises the one who is refusing to recognise that sometimes, life is a bit shit.
Sometimes, life is a bit shit, and if we can be honest with ourselves and each other, we can do something to alleviate the shit bits, sometimes. No one is so saintly, enlightened, magical, or clever enough to avoid the nastier sides of life. Anyone who claims otherwise is probably trying to sell you something.