The School of Life, and it’s Big Lessons…

By on March 7, 2016
Party ball wearing a graduate cap

Lessons Learned in this School of Life…


Today, I’d like to share with you some thoughts on what I believe we humans are here to learn (and un-learn) on this human journey.

Life is a school

  • We’re here to learn about ourselves, about others, and about Life so we can live in harmony with others, and so we can contribute something of value.
  • We’re here to evolve and to help each other evolve in a way that leads to greater cooperation, co-intelligence, co-creativity, and mutual benefit for humans and for all of Life.


We Each Have Our Own Lessons: Some Universal, Some Unique

Each of us has certain lessons that keep showing up and asking for our attention. For some of us, the area of relationships seems to pose the greatest challenge. For others, it could be money or health or creativity. But there are some lessons that each and every human being needs to learn if we want to live successfully.


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The Biggest Lesson


Perhaps the biggest and most important lesson has to do with your relationship with yourself. This lesson is one that runs counter to all our conditioning. So it’s actually something we need to un-learn.

As children, we subconsciously picked up the idea that being upset, unhappy, distressed, or in need made the adults in our world uncomfortable. Most of our parents were taught that if your baby is contented, quiet, and ‘happy,’ then things are okay and you as a parent are okay.

Plus, it’s just a lot more convenient, less trouble, to have a happy, non-demanding child. Children who demand a lot of attention can be uncomfortable to be around. Maybe adults feel helpless or ineffective in the presence of a demanding child. Many parents have anxiety about being a good enough parent—so they get uncomfortable or tense when their baby is in distress.

It Starts in Infancy

Let’s reflect again on our own infancy. If our parents were like most, then, as infants and children, we got feedback that if we were in need and cried or screamed about it, this made the adults around us upset, anxious, or angry. Since our survival depended on these adults, we were very attuned to their moods and feelings. Many of us formed the mistaken impression that…

‘The adults are uncomfortable with me when I’m in pain….so if I’m in pain, this is bad or I’m bad.’

We may have stopped or lessened our expressions of need or upset so as not to create too much distress for our early caregivers, especially if our distress triggered their insecurities and led them to be not-very-loving toward us. As infants, we probably didn’t shut down completely, but we did inhibit ourselves.

This self-suppression made it impossible for us to completely feel and process the natural emotional distress that little ones feel simply due to being dependent, helpless, and unable to do things for ourselves. So we get the idea that emotional pain is bad-  if I’m upset, I’m wrong or bad; or, when I’m frustrated or in need, this is not okay with someone.

As a result, we didn’t fully feel and express our early painful experiences and allow them to flow to their natural completion—as we do when we ‘cry ourselves out.’ Suppressing our true feelings reinforces the false impression that something about us is not ok because ‘if I have to hide essential things about myself, there must be something wrong with those things or with me.’ And unless we’ve done a whole lot of self-healing work in our adult years, We’re still being influenced by these early mistaken impressions to this day.

What I feel is what I feel, and this does not need to be hidden or altered. Click To Tweet


Emotional Pain Happens

The truth is that emotional pain is natural. Feeling awful does not make you an awful person. But since we’re operating from the unconscious belief that emotional pain is bad, we’ve developed our whole personalities around trying to control Life so things don’t get too uncomfortable.

If I feel an unmet need, I might react with a feeling like frustration, that I’m programmed to believe isn’t okay to feel, and so I’ll either have to suppress it (i.e. control myself) or get someone to stop upsetting me (control Life). In this way, much of our lives are spent trying to control the uncontrollable. It’s no wonder we often feel frustrated and out of control.

So, the most important lesson in Life is to realize (make real) that…
What I feel is what I feel, and this does not need to be hidden or altered.

That’s what I call ‘getting real.’

The things most people seem to have the greatest need to hide or alter are: ‘I feel afraid, hurt, in pain, or in need of comfort or reassurance.’ If we had learned as youngsters that our natural ‘neediness’ or distress could be easily and naturally processed by letting the feelings flow (as in ‘crying yourself out’) in the presence of a nurturing adult, then we would not be so resistant to feeling emotional discomfort today.

Let me clarify what I mean by emotional discomfort or emotional pain. We feel some version of hurt/upset/frustration when…

  • we need attention and don’t get it, or
  • we lose something we value or
  • someone tries to control our actions against our will.


It’s natural to feel these things. When we resist feeling what we feel, thinking we shouldn’t, this makes the pain worse.


When Feelings Flow, Resolution Occurs

So the key to healing is to let feelings flow naturally- not suppressing them, not exaggerating them to get attention, not acting them out as a way to feel in control. Emotions are energy in motion.

They start somewhere and if allowed to flow naturally, they motivate appropriate action, and closure occurs. When we let our feelings flow within us, the energy behind these feelings moves and achieves resolution. Your attention will then naturally move to a need that you want to act upon or to whatever the next thing is that actually requires your attention- including the need to rest or relax.

What if we could un-learn the habit of resisting emotional pain and resisting the things in others that trigger fear or discomfort? What if we could really learn to love ourselves and offer self-reassurance when We’re hurting or afraid? This is what my Getting Real work aims at. It aims us toward a friendlier relationship with the normal, unavoidable discomforts of Life. When you stop resisting your inconvenient feelings (and those of others) and ‘be with’ the discomfort, you discover the self-healing powers that Life has already provided.


Feel Free to Offer Questions and Comments to Dr. Susan Below!

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About Susan Campbell, PhD

Bestselling author of many books (including 'Getting Real') and early leader in the Human Potential movement, Susan is passionate about making the world safe for differences. A student of Gestalt founder Fritz Perls. A cross between Margaret Meade and Jane Fonda.

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