The oxford dictionary meaning of the word spiral is “continuous curve around a central point or axis usually harmful”. The best example in nature is spiral forming in the river which drowns even the experienced swimmer and the spiral forming in the air called “hurricane” which destroys everything on its way! We have similar spirals in our life where we get stuck psychologically and get drowned in the process. If we have to escape from such spirals, we need someone else’s help. The spirals are vicious circles which veil our wisdom temporarily and prevent us from using our rationale. As the famous Psycho-analyst Sigmund Freud defined, spirals create a “script” which runs our life there after till we come out of it. We often pass judgement and start punishing ourselves till we realize what we are doing in this planet? Let me deal with such spirals more in detail.
Let me try through my own life history as an example – please bear with me for my autobiography which I have chosen because it is safer than injuring someone else’s pride!
Right from childhood, I had a dream to become an engineer although my father was a medical doctor. I have mentally benchmarked where I wanted to study my pre-university (PUC as it was referred to during those days) and engineering thereafter. Having born as the last child in a family of 11, by the time I came to my school final, all resources were exhausted. Compounding to this effect, my performance in the school final was not good enough to challenge those limited seats offered in the pre-university college of my choice. What was the outcome? – The spiral was waiting to gulp me!
I was advised by my brothers to take up a polytechnic education which I hated to enter. I was dejected, felt defeated and rebellious to mankind. This is a state of mind not unfamiliar to many Indian youths – which Lord Krishna in Bhagawat Gita calls “Arjuna state of consciousness” – confused and wanted to run away from the battle field.
J. Krishnamurthy refers to this state as “Escapism” as we are trying to escape from the onslaught of life which is the reality one has to face courageously. This challenge has created the spiral, leading to a self-talk that “I will prove to the rest of the world who I am!” These circumstances created an empty feeling in me due to the loss of “self-esteem” which triggered a chase for degrees till I reached 38 finishing my M.Tech. My hunger to prove myself was continuing even during my 40s haunting me like a ghost.
This was the time I met my friend and class mate Prof. P. Seshu in IIT, Bombay while I wanted to register for my PhD at the age of 45. Knowing my history, he asked a simple question “Whom are you trying to prove?”; “Are you not chasing a wild goose?” These questions he asked dawned on me a new insight that I was trying to fill that empty space created by my childhood dreams and failures. One may argue that this spiral created a positive outcome in my life. But the endless empty feeling would have continued in my life if my friend had not brought me out of my delirium. I was in college throughout my life missing a precious part with my wife and children as I was perennially feeling empty. Don’t you see a similar syndrome in many of us who get into a spiral and find it difficult to come out? As Swami Vivekananda says “We create our own net around ourselves and blame others for our circumstances”
Recently, I happened to counsel a brilliant boy who just finished his 12th standard with lesser marks than what was needed to enter some of the premium engineering colleges. He had a dream to study engineering only in a few colleges of his choice, which was shattered due his inadequate score. These are the spots in life where the “spiral” is waiting to start its menace!
He chose to challenge the educational system by repeating the 12th standard exams till he got a score that would get him to those premium colleges he was dreaming about. All of us face similar circumstances in life where we are confronted with a situation which challenges our ability. Many times we take these things personally and get even with the situation spending rest of our life proving ourselves right. The efforts that we may invest in proving ourselves right will be so enormous and will often not result in any worthwhile outcome. How do we deal with this situation?
Under these circumstances the following thoughts run in our mind leading us to the spiral:
- Am I inferior to the rest of the students in IQ?
- How can I say to people that I am studying in C-class College?
- I will prove to the World who I am and what I am capable of!
Lets us deal with each one of those thoughts wisely:
Inferior or superior is not decided by what your academic achievements are and it is often decided by what the results you produce in life. In ultimate analysis, I measure success based on “How peaceful you are in Life”. Even if you are the topper in class or studied in Harvard Business School, how you succeeded in your career is more important than your academic pursuits. I am not belittling the premium institutes as I myself am a student of IIT. If the CEO positions are reserved for people who top the class in the popular institutions, then the data should show that all corporate are headed by them.
Paradoxically, most of the CEOs of the corporate are neither the toppers in class nor are from the premium institutions. This disproves the hypothesis that we need to study in premium institutions to be successful in professional career. Strangely, most of the entrepreneurs are academically pathetic and all learned people work to make money for them and live their life for paying their bills, as the author of the popular book “Rich dad & poor dad” Robert T Kiyosaki says.
The next two questions are “How can I tell the World that I am studying in a C-class university?” and proving yourself to the rest of the World. It is not important where we have studied; It is important “How we have studied?” It is not important where our marriage was performed; it is important how we are living with our spouse! Often our self-worth is decided by what the society thinks rather than how we feel! As Swami Shukabodananda said there are three states in which we exist:
- Looking Good
- Feeling Good
- Being Good
The “Looking good” is a state where we want to look good in the eyes of others – this is the lowest rung in our maturity where our actions are guided by the “non-existent entity” called the society. This is a syndrome called “Dhunia kya sochega?” (What the world will think?). The society is busy in looking good and has neither the time to see what we are doing nor it is interested in our well being.
Feeling good is the next state of maturity where we want to study our own feelings and make choices to fulfil our feelings rather than a non-existent entity called “society" (Dhunia). In this state we are guided better to make our choices than the earlier state of “Looking good”
In the highest state of consciousness called “Being good” which a few people like Jesus and Buddha have attained. In this state of a being every worldly thing loses its significance. When you have relinquished everything in Life, everyone touches your feet and follow you. Alas! It is paradoxical to see when we don’t need anything, everything chases us; be it money, fame, people and what not? When Gautama became Buddha he is remembered after 2500 years and Jesus is followed by two third of the world’s population even after 2000 years. Alas, we don’t even know our great grandfathers who lived a few centuries ago or their photographs are not found even in the junk in our basement! This means our photographs probably may find a place in our children's home after our death and slowly find its place in the basement to disappear into oblivion.
- Spiral is a state of a being where you have a script that runs your life to prove to the society that you are somebody.
- Spiral swallows your well being as you start chasing a “wild goose” which keeps you busy with a false goal orientation to prove your worth.
- There is no one there in society as everyone is caught up with their own “spirals” and chasing their wild dreams.
- It is not important where you have studied; it is all the more important how you have studied and how you have used the opportunities without a myopic view
- Try and move from “Looking good” state of a being to at least to “Feeling good” – the second state will guide you from your heart rather than an imaginary entity called “Society”
- Follow your inner calls and beware of spirals that will consume your energy and take you nowhere!
- There is nothing called “second hand human being” and there is only “second hand thinking”
- Explore all avenues in Life as in the ultimate analysis “Nothing Matters” which is the title of my next article.