We all must learn to "carry our own weight" they say, which means to take responsibility for ourselves and not to expect others to "carry us". Some people have more to carry, as they have had the misfortune to come from difficult family circumstances, unhelpful environments and little opportunity for education or personal growth. And yet some who began in the most disadvantaged of situations have emerged, found ways to thrive and find happiness -- we say that such individuals have "resilience." These individuals have discovered how to unburden themselves of unnecessary weight, to keep only what is essential and valuable.
Why do so many of us appear "weighed down" by our emotions and problems, as if we are carrying the "weight of the world" on our shoulders? Why not just set down the heavy load, and allow ourselves to feel light and free? This is not merely a rhetorical question, but a central philosophical and psychological problem. Each of us must look deeply into our own eyes, into our soul, to our past, present and imagined future, to make sense of existence, to see ourself clearly, to finally say, "I understand why I do this," before we will be able to let go...
To understand ourselves we look within, but we can also learn by looking at the outside, seeing ourselves as another would, as an observer. In this sense, look at your physicality, at your body, your posture, your facial expression, your movements. Look at how you do things, your attitude. To take a simple but relevant example, look at how you eat. What is your attitude towards the food? Do you value the food? Respect it? Give it the proper attention? Use it sparingly, rather than greedily? Do you consume it slowly with mindful pleasure, or aggressively and quickly? Look at your attitude towards food and the act of eating as a reflection of your attitude towards yourself, other people and life itself. Perhaps this is a radical idea, but give it a chance...
When we carry too heavy an emotional burden it is bound to come out in many small but ultimately significant ways - in our eating, sleeping, moving, breathing. The central human dilemma is to gain self-awareness and to find philosophical meaning in our lives. This is not merely an intellectual, academic exercise, but the key to health and happiness!
Stephen Stotland, Ph.D.