I recently read a passage from Swami Vivekananda that really rang a bell with me (Swami Vivekananda was an Indian Hindu monk and chief disciple of the 19th-century saint Ramakrishna – learn more about him HERE):
“You must not criticize others; you must criticize yourself. If you see a drunkard, do no criticize him; remember he is you in another shape. He who has no darkness sees no darkness in others. What you have inside you is that which you see in others. This is the surest way of reform. If the would-be reformers who criticize and see evil would themselves stop creating evil, the world would be better. Beat this idea into yourself.
We are responsible for what we are; and whatever we wish ourselves to be, we have the power to make ourselves. If what we are now has been the result of our own past actions, it certainly follows that whatever we wish to be in the future can be produced by our present actions; so we have to know how to act.
Those who work without any consciousness of their lower ego are not affected with evil for they work for the good of the world. To work without motive, to work unattached, brings the highest bliss and freedom.”
There is so much hate, anger, and misery in the world that it hurts my heart just to think about it. So much suffering, so much judgement. Sometimes it is really hard for me to see the positive when there is so much negative in the world. But I persevere – because I really don’t want to get sucked into the negativity – I don’t want to live my life that way.
Which is why I really love this passage: It makes sense.
It all starts from within ourselves.
Others are merely a mirror of our own experiences.
I believe we spend far too much time focused on the “other” and not enough time focused on ourselves. After all, judgement of the “other” is so much easier than working on our own challenges and weaknesses. And let’s be honest – we all do it. It is part of our culture, it is part of the human experience.
Swami Vivekananda’s passage very much mirrors the work we do with projection in psychotherapy. Projection is a defense mechanism we use subconsciously to cope with difficult feelings or emotions ~ it is the act of imposing these negative feelings or emotions on to another person as if is their experience and not yours, which you then react to, and often in judgement. A classic example of this is a woman who has been unfaithful to her husband but who accuses her husband of cheating on her. Being unfaithful is uncomfortably and difficult for her, so in order to cope, she projects this experience on to him.
But in order to find happiness and love, we need to let go of the notion of “the other” and realize that you are they and they are you.
We must learn to see the world as a union, not as separate. We must learn to reflect deeply on our ourselves, as hard as that may be, in order to really love ourselves and in turn love others. We must accept the good and the bad of “the other” just as we would accept and love the good and bad within ourselves. And we must experience and then release our negative emotions and feelings, rather than repress and project them.
I believe this is how we will find true love and subsequently be able to work towards a more unified and peaceful world.
Is this an easy process? Certainly not.
But it is definitely possible – and let’s be honest – it takes work to grow and change and be a better person.
And with the right guidance, discipline, and the willingness to do the work, I believe we all have the potential deep within to love and be loved.
Helping clients understand their own experience of the world and how they might project that on to their relationships is the core of the work that I do. This is why I am so passionate about combining psychology and yoga philosophy – there are many parallels and the two blend together quite nicely when helping individuals learn more about themselves and how they experience the world around them.
So what do you think of this passage? What do these words mean to you? Share your thoughts below!
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