A man crouches in a field of glowing grass. His head is bowed, his face concealed by a wide-brimmed hat. Is he having a moment of blissful, peaceful community with nature—or is he dragged down by the weight of the world, oblivious of his surroundings?
That depends on whether he believes life isn’t fair or whether it is impartial.
It is blindly obvious that life isn’t fair. Some people seem to struggle with everything. Others seem to have been born with the proverbial silver spoon in their mouths. Jobs, relationships, money just seem to tumble into their lives. Some people are more handsome, some have better social skills, some seen to have a hidden sixth sense that allows them to navigate the twists and turns of life with grace and ease. Whatever it is, life isn’t fair.
Life, actually, is impartial.
You may not have any choice in how fair your life appears. But you can choose how you respond to this apparent unfairness. You can crouch in a field of glowing grass, head bowed, face concealed by a wide-brimmed hat, and let yourself be depressed by the thought that life isn’t fair—and you’ve been dealt a poor hand.
Or, in the midst of whatever isn’t working in your life, you can have a moment of blissful, peaceful community with nature. And you can draw strength from the knowledge that life is impartial. What that means is there’s a set of consistently reliable emotional mechanics we can consciously use to shape outcomes in our lives in a more positive fashion.
These emotional mechanics are simple—in theory, at least:
1. Identify the problem
As I have written elsewhere, our lives are constant feedback loops continually trying to draw our attention to the aspects of ourselves that are out of balance. They do this through what we tend to think of as problems, negative events and experiences, and emotional pain.
Feedback can be ignored—the “life isn’t fair” position—or it can be heeded. It all comes down to whether you are willing to accept responsibility for the way you feel, and are willing to do the hard work to change things.
In reality these are all forms of feedback. Feedback can be ignored—the “life isn’t fair” position—or it can be heeded. It all comes down to whether you are willing to accept responsibility for the way you feel, and are willing to do the hard work to change things. Identify where you’re stuck, challenged or hurting, and that’s Step 1 ticked off.
2. Accept the pain
Step 1 is fairly straightforward. Most of us know, deep down, where we have issues that need resolving. Anything that’s emotionally hard goes straight to the bottom of the to-do list. There it lurks while we complain that life isn’t fair.
Such issues can be resolved. It isn’t easy or painless, but it can be done. It always involves stepping outside our comfort zones, and it always involves accepting the reality of a situation before that reality can shift for the better. It also always involves feeling the unresolved pain of the situation.
This pain tends to be long buried—sometimes even across multiple generations—and when it pops out of your unconscious into your consciousness, it really stings. I’ve written about this in 5 Tools for solving personal crises. For more detail, try The mechanics of emotional pain, Part I and Part II.
3. Watch for the miracle
This is the fun and easy bit. Once you’ve processed the unresolved pain around a situation, that situation has no option but to change. This is when the magic and the miracles happen. Seemingly intractable problems suddenly evaporate in the most extraordinary ways.
I could give examples but they are so personal they wouldn’t make any sense—you have to see this to believe it. And you have to do it a few times before you trust that the process is consistent and reliable. But it is. And, the more you practice it, the better life gets and the less you see it as unfair.
Life draws no distinction between those who abdicate responsibility for how they feel and complain that life isn’t fair, and those who regard life as impartial—a level playing field of emotional rules that can be learned, applied, and turned to our advantage. How do you choose?