In The Matrix, the 1999 science fiction movie, Neo (played by Keanu Reeves) learns that he’s living in a simulated reality created by machines and decides to rebel. Although the movie is meant to depict a dystopian future, it actually accurately illustrates how reality feels when we believe the stories of self-unworthiness that we tell ourselves: “I’m not good enough”, “my body is disgusting”, “I eat like a pig…I don’t have willpower”, “I’ll end up alone”, “I’m a failure”.
These stories are a product of what society tells us is desirable. Our beliefs around wealth, success, health, and love inform our stories. They pop up every day and generate our reality, just like when Neo was connected to the machines. Because they create our reality, the stories also determine our behaviors, feelings, decisions and reactions. We then become our stories. We get stuck in virtual reality, very far from what we really are.
Who would you be if you didn’t work so hard on fulfilling others’ expectations?
This simulated reality is painful and has two main negative effects. The first one is that by its nature, the simulator pulls us out of the present moment (e.g. you’re having dinner with friends and all you can think about is how your belly looks or how much smarter or successful they are).
The second one is that, because we’re conditioned to escape unpleasant situations and emotions, we look for immediate refuge in food, which only creates more pain and frustration. For others the refuge is alcohol, drugs, TV or video games, for example. The problem is that food (or any other external refuge) won’t satisfy the need or desire that’s looking to be satisfied. Is it company? Love? Affection? Recognition? Certainty?
Food cannot satisfy anything else but hunger.
The idea of simply accepting what is. It’s not complacency. It’s about not resisting what cannot be modified in the present moment. The more we resist something, the more it hurts.
The first step towards radical acceptance is pausing and observing without judgment. Next time you catch yourself inside The Matrix, make an effort to not react (e.g. go to the food, send the aggressive text or email, lash out at your partner…), stay with the unpleasant feeling and observe what happens.
This capacity to pause and observe non-judgmentally is a skill you already possess but need to relearn to make it more readily available to you. Awareness and compulsion cannot happen at the same time. Pausing is the only way out of The Matrix.
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Written by Lina Salazar.