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The Devil You Know vs. The Desert You Don't

I was recently listening to a podcast which was exploring the process of letting go of our beliefs and changing our mind frame. It can be logically explained as an easy process in which we remove old beliefs and create new ones, but there is the phase after removal that the individual is left with a blank slate. There becomes an empty space which can become an overwhelming period of fear, unknown and uncertainty.

I recognize this period, and I’m also perplexed by it. In my own journey, I did not expect to feel this period of emptiness, confusion and longing. I assumed that the period of letting go and the freedom that came from it would be followed by with happiness, joy and peace. But instead, I was overcome with a feeling of being lost. I did not know who I was, once I let go of my old habits and belief systems. My momentum forward in letting go became somewhat hindered by the fear of creating more emptiness and uncertainty. It wasn’t until I began the process of creating new beliefs and habits that I became more at peace and comfortable with the process. The podcast used a powerful example that left a huge impact on me, so I wanted to share more.

The main example Jordan used was the Israelites once they leave the tyranny of Egypt, they become lost in the desert. But what happens is that in the aftermath of the collapse of a tyrannical belief system, well the tyranny disappears, but then you’re lost. And it’s not obvious at all that being lost is preferable to being in tyranny. And that’s why people will develop nostalgia for tyranny.

In the Israel example we can see the human draw to things “we know” or that we’re comfortable with when faced with change or adversity, but how does this apply to everyday life and society? When we look into society we can see many examples on how conformity can play into social narratives. I know in my upbringing, there was a heavy influence towards the type of work we should aspire for, going to post-secondary, when to get married or have children and so on. These are only personal examples, but I know I felt conflicted between my own personal desires and the societal pressures to conform. I was not even aware of the internal battle occurring. The pull to societal pressures is alot stronger than we think. The historical evidence can give us individual courage to trust and develop our own values, opinions and personal beliefs.

Jordan’s explanation helped me see the basic principle of letting go and the process in which we seek the comfort of “knowing” versus trying to overcome the fear of the unknown. This could be applied to our mundane everyday tasks or far more complex situations such as discovering our life’s purpose, toxic relationships or even addiction. This blog can serve as a reminder that we have an innate draw to comfortability, to structure in our belief systems and living within certainty. And in order to break free, to let go and create new systems that are aligned with our true self, we will go through a period of discomfort, uncertainty and sometimes fear too.

It’s also why people will not let go of their beliefs. Imagine you stubbornly stick to a counterproductive pattern of behaviour. And why would a person hold onto something that they know is hurting them? Well the answer is, “Better the devil you know, than the desert you don’t”. - Jordan Peterson

With Love,

The Way

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