Many go through life with the distinct feeling that the world is against them. Some even voice this mantra — some version of “Everything is against me!” — when things don’t go according to plan.
When I get cut off in traffic, I get cut off because the world is against me.
When my spouse disagrees with me, it is because everyone is out to get me.
When my computer breaks down, it is because nothing will ever work for me.
If I were a betting man, I would wager that virtually everyone has felt this way at some point in life; some make it into their personal life philosophy. It’s an understandable position — no life is free of pitfalls and frustrations.
There is a problem with this worldview: it is false. This way of looking at the world presents us with a picture of the world that is focused on us, individually. The problem with that is that, besides myself there are about 7 billion other people in the world. When one considers those numbers, it becomes fairly obvious that the vast majority of the things that happen in the world have nothing to do with me, including the things that happen to me.
Let’s unpack that idea for a minute. If I get cut off in traffic, I can react in anger. When I do so, I can do so believing subconsciously that (1) such things happen only to me, that (2) these things will always happen to me, and even that (3) the events on the road are somehow orchestrated to make my journey more difficult.
But there are problems with that mindset. First, such things happen to everyone. And second, though we may believe that we will always get cut off in traffic when we drive, this is highly unrealistic and unlikely. Relative to the experiences of all other drivers on the road, it is highly, highly unlikely that we get cut off more than anyone else on the road. Finally, it is impossible that any events on any road are orchestrated.
What does this mean? This means that, even when I do personally get cut off on the road, it is most likely that the event has absolutely nothing to do with me. There is no conspiracy, no vendetta. Nobody is out to get me.
These events only have something to do with me when I choose how to react.
This is the drug of choice.
I believe we easily become addicted to such narratives. On the surface it sounds like torment: the belief that the world is out to get me. However, just like a drug, this mindset is deceptive. It gives one a sense of superiority and victimhood at the same time, and to some degree it sets one apart from the rest of the world. People don’t understand me, we say, because if they did they would realize that the world is actually against me. Things will always go wrong for me. Nothing will ever work.
While it does seem sad — and, make no mistake, it is — it offers one a strange method of escape from responsibility. This is because, if the world is out to get me, then my life is not my fault. My failures are not attributable to me.
The only escape is community.
There is a solution to all this nonsense, but it isn’t easy. Here it is…
The enemy is isolation, because as isolated people we have no chance to counterbalance the craziness inside our own heads. If we believe that the world is against us, then we have almost no hope of changing our outlook by ourselves. The reason is, if we believe something, we are highly unlikely to tell ourselves to start believing the opposite of what we currently believe. That’s the opposite of believing something.
When I share these awkward, unproductive beliefs with people I can trust, my unproductive beliefs are dispelled, and I am able to get back on the path to productivity. This takes some time and courage, but the results are worth it.
Imagine, knowing and believing that the world doesn’t revolve around you. Imagine knowing that when your car breaks down, it’s not because of some cosmic plot against your life. When your computer breaks down, it’s not because you have a hex on yourself that causes any electronics to quit working for you. You can take hold of your own life, free from the belief that things will inevitably go awry.
And, you will be able to go forward, perhaps most importantly, with an improved attitude and an improved sense that people around you are able to help you through even the most difficult of times.