You're The Problem


I have been reading the book Awareness - The Perils and Opportunities of Reality - by Anthony De Mello. This is an incredible book. If you glance the details you might think this is a religious book. It's not a religious book, it's a spiritual book. I've only ever read one other spiritual book, The Four Agreements which I very much enjoyed. I'm the type that mainly reads success/personal development books.

I am now seeing spirituality as a great and welcome contrast to a success mentality. I love the book Atomic Habits but if I could only read one, I would read Awareness. For me, Awareness is hard to process at times. I will have to read it multiple times, take notes and think on it. There are many parts of it that I think I understand the essence of but I'm not sure exactly how to apply it, or what all it applies to, or how far it could or should be taken.

This book has so many concepts and ideas that your average person will have never considered and I believe this book would be polarizing to many. It challenges the American way of life and thinking at nearly every page. People are emotionally attached to their beliefs because subconsciously they attach their beliefs to their identity which they think is their self worth. Not sure what I mean?

Just think about any time you started to express or talk about an idea, way of life, way of thinking that did not jive with someone else's belief system. Your intent in your expression was never to hurt someones feelings but someone got angry with you. They didn't just question your belief which in itself is completely fair, they got upset, maybe even said you were stupid. Now think of a time where you did the exact same thing to someone else. We think our beliefs define us. That's why people are willing to kill themselves and other people to defend their beliefs. It's not our fault that we are like this. I believe it's hard wired into us as some evolutionary advantage.

The three big ideas I like most in this book after the first read...

  1. Attachment leads to despair - you don't need what you think you need
  2. Nothing needs fixed - all of your problems are inside your own mind
  3. Change and awareness comes through non judgmental observation, not directed effort

Keep in mind that these are my interpretations of concepts in the book and what I'm saying might not be accurate to what the author was trying to express.

This post will cover some of number 2 which is how I got the title. If nothing needs fixed, then you're the problem.

To me this idea all boils down to taking responsibility for your own mental state – your own thoughts, feelings, emotions. Anthony describes a situation where you are irritated with a coworker at work, an example I think anyone could relate to. He explains that not everyone would be so irritated with this person which means that the problem is with you and not with them.

You may be imagining your particular situation and you think that it's not just you, anyone would be annoyed by this person you have in mind. And no matter how "bad" that person is, this just isn't true. There are people that wouldn't be bothered by them. Which means if you changed your perspective and really dug into your annoyance, you could find a way to not be annoyed by it.

You can't go around fixing and changing everyone else. Unfortunately that's just not how life works. What you can do is change yourself. I like this idea because it makes life a lot easier. Drop all the stress associated with your issues with other people. Just come to terms with it all and move on with your life. In doing this you open the door to a higher standard of mental state.

Anthony also gives an example where someone goes to the doctor and they complain about their wife, their kids, their lawyer. The doctor writes a prescription for the wife, the kids, and the lawyer but nothing for the patient. Doesn't make much sense does it? So why would you think your coworker needs to change instead of thinking you need to change?