We are a ‘work in progress’: Learn to change oneself – The Himalayan Times – Nepal’s No.1 English Daily Newspaper

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Clinical psychologist and YouTube personality Jordan Peterson said something along the lines of: “…..and if you think tough men are dangerous, wait until you see what weak men are capable of”. This applies to everyone, of course.

I was going down the rabbit hole after having discovered the YouTube channel –Soft White Underbelly.

The phrase was a reference to Italy, when the US Defense solicited Churchill’s advice while assessing the Achilles heel of the Axis Alliance. Metaphorically speaking, they wanted to hit at the most vulnerable spot.

The channel interviews people from the fringes of society and conveys to the audience an empathetic perspective on their lives, reminding us that we all have a soft white underbelly.

Having been a believer and proponent of Jung’s shadow, one can’t help but remember how he prodigiously said that we would continue to relive the same patterns time and again until we make the unconscious conscious that we call fate.

As of now, it can be deduced that three things dictate our course of life. Karma –the mechanical juxtaposition of us and the world. This transcends the confines of science as we understand it today. Childhood – any personal, poignant experience that we have when we are forming concepts of the world, which has a substantial impact on the trajectory of our lives. A plane flying from New York to Los Angeles will land at Tijuana if it takes off three degrees or about 80 inches from its initial take-off position.

Which begs the question – are we the fully functional adults that we are meant to be or did we lose our maps somewhere along the way? A neglected child may have difficulty finding meaning in human connection and a narcissistic abusive boss might just be a harassed, bullied schoolboy with unprocessed rage.

The better half part of the topic is culture, and this might resonate with people born in between the 80’s and 90’s Nepal. The foundation of the authoritarian monarchy was beginning to crumble.

The age-old tradition of power gyrating to and fro from the whimsical wand of the palace failed to adapt to the evolving and developing needs of the population.

It was something like the ruler and the ruled, and there was nothing in between except for the gradual amalgamation of an eventual political revolt.

Discontent was rife. Envy and contempt had strongly established themselves in the place of value creation.

Then there were the Maoists – I might as well add a humorous note that suddenly and strangely, novelty bottles of whisky were seen as fruits of exploitation. Everything that contributed to the enjoyment of life had to be sold off or hidden away for good.

Land was usurped where and when possible and extortion was rampant.

We were reduced to a culture of fear.

Those of us limited within the confines of boarding schools had our own grievances; young boys from all walks of suddenly had to fend for themselves. Some of us thrived, but not all made it. Hiding in corridors and rerouting were coping mechanisms and tactics to avoid bullies adopted by the meek. And the culture of abuse never went away even among friends. Confidence and self-esteem were at an alltime low. Like minded juvenile delinquents ganged up and started the never-ending downward spiral of raising hell and self-harm, which in time transitioned into the idealistic philosophy of “it is our suffering that binds us together”. Not surprisingly, by the time we left education, most of us were angry, delusional and spilling to the brim with trauma before we catapulted ourselves abroad to chase our illusions of grandeur only to be met by more disappointment.

Life abroad is far from what one thinks it is. Exposure to Western media and literature is enough to believe that one is familiar with the ways of another country. It was interesting to discover the subtle similarities and contrasts between one English speaking country from another.

It can be said through experience that visiting a country on a holiday is a far cry from actually living and mixing with the local culture in the long term.

It does not take long to realise that the Nepali diaspora is contained within the shackles of blue-collar jobs. Our countrymen and women are the one’s guarding the banks, cleaning buildings, building another country’s stadiums and serving at gas stations.

Very few make it past those ranks, and despite this grief of being abroad, it is these courageous souls that have been contributing about 30 percent to the country’s GDP since the early 2000’s.

A pattern of transitioning from being a student to simply working to make ends meet can be observed.

And without knowing, the pressure to make payments and survive begins to take centre stage of one’s life.

To find that mainstream media is quick to associate Nepal with poverty in the beginning paragraphs of any news concerned with Nepal can be quite heart wrenching. In between such hardships, one begins to ponder one’s identity and one’s competence. This eventually propels one to engage in self-discovery.

When life contrasts greatly from whom one thought one was to what reality actual is, a lot of philosophical questions begin to arise.

Who am I? What am I supposed to do in life? What is God and religion? A series of such unending questions with implausible answers begin to riddle the mind.

Following the phase of self-inquiry, one realises the importance of the people of our lives, our family and friends and the privilege of being able to sustain oneself in one’s own country.

Happiness is not materialism but simplicity.

Some of us are okay, and I congratulate those few with high flying careers and happy marriages – those brave souls who found their way out.

The majority among us are still left with debilitating addictions, disorders and abusive partners still pondering how our flights took off wrong.

Perhaps, the only way is to change oneself, change one’s heart for the better.

For those of us trying hard, we will get there.

A version of this article appears in the print on December 2, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.

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