Really, over a lifetime, people continue to learn and grow. We understand this now. We used to think people’s brains developed until adulthood and then just stayed the same. We know better now. We are growing throughout our lives. We are learning new things, creating new brain pathways and new brain cells.
Sometimes we may feel that we would like everything to be settled and under control, but life does not work that way. We would like to predict the future, but the future is not yet formed. We will make choices and out of those choices, the future will evolve. Each choice we make alters everything that comes after it.
It can be a little scary floating around in the world with no certainty. We are responsible for our lives, but not entirely in control of them. Things happen. We have to adjust. There are limits on our choices. We have to accept them. We can get frustrated, disappointed, despairing. We can feel helpless or, worse, worthless.
What we can control, what we are in charge of, is our minds. We are in charge of what directions we choose to follow in developing ourselves and our views of the world. We may feel strong emotions, but we choose whether to take them as a serious reflection of a real world or whether we understand them as products of our minds which have a function.
Despair is an attempt by our minds to avoid disappointment: if you do not hope for anything, if you give up wanting a better future, you will not be disappointed. Disappointment is an attempt by our minds to respect our own desires: if you experience something that is less that you wanted, you can tell yourself you should not have wanted that or you can tell yourself it was okay to want that, and it’s terrible you didn’t get it. That’s disappointment. Rage is our way of saying we matter in the world: We are angry because we are not seen and respected.
All of the experiences of reality that are interpreted by our minds have a basis in our past experiences and our efforts to take care of ourselves in an uncertain world. But just as your mind is trying to take care of you, you can take care of your mind. You can recognize the sound basis in history for your unique reactions to the world, while at the same time deciding whether to accept them as reality. Each choice creates your future experience. The more you go down one path, the stronger that path becomes and the easier it is to follow. So if you feel despairing and you accept that view of the world, increasingly it becomes a stronger inner voice, and it becomes easier to choose.
We are not in direct contact with the real world. All of our experience is mediated through our unique sensory processes and our unique histories. There is a lot of room for interpretation. Our minds absorb this continual stream of information and experience and decide what each thing means, what to do about it, and how to feel about it. There are good reasons for our personal points of view, but they can be reflectively considered and changed or discarded if they are no longer helpful or accurate. We are continually learning, growing, and re-interpreting our worlds.