8. A loss of interest in conflict
Symptom #8 is closely related to another “Symptom of Spiritual Awakening” that is not expressly stated in this list:
a loss of appetite for drama.
Conflict and drama feed on adrenaline and undermine balance, steadiness, and clarity. Conflict and drama grow out of attachment.
Attachment means I am seeking something in the external world that I feel is lacking in my internal world. Attachment comes from the feeling that life as it is, is incomplete.
In an attempt to fill the holes I perceive in my life, I attach myself to some external goal, person, pursuit, or accomplishment. I am locating my sense of identity in the external realities of life. In order for me to feel content and secure, I believe I need my circumstances to turn out a certain way and I need you to respond to me in a certain way.
When my life is bound by attachment, I lose my sense of self in whatever it is to which I have become attached. Attachment always creates conflict and drama as I fight to preserve the fragile realities that I believe are necessary to shore up my faltering sense of self.
Attachment causes me to become the victim of those circumstances or people to which I have given away my sense of self. The problem with attachment is that I am giving myself away in the wrong place.
This points to another “Symptom of Spiritual Awakening” that is surprisingly absent from this list:
Surrender is both the path and a primary symptom of the spiritual life. It is the antidote to attachment and the death of drama.
If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23)
When you are carrying your cross you do not get to carry anything else. To pick up your cross it is necessary to let go of everything else. In order to carry his cross, Jesus put down his power and his privilege. He gave up his position. Paul described Jesus’ action saying that Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:6-8)
When I “empty myself” conflict and drama are reduced. I begin to lose my addiction to the adrenaline rush of intensity. It is not that life becomes bland but there are fewer things by which I become hooked. Grasping and clutching are just not worth the energy drain they create. My sense of identity is no longer located in anything external. When I follow the self-emptying pattern of Jesus, my sense of identity shifts to a place within myself that exists independently of whatever may be going on in my external circumstances.
The more deeply I live from within, the more deeply I will diffuse tension and let go of demanding life be a certain way. Therefore drama diminishes and conflicts arise far less frequently. Grasping and clinging begin to loosen. I do not need the world to respond to me in a certain way in order to preserve my sense of who I am.
Surrender lies at the root of all freedom. I am liberated from the constant roller coaster of conflict and drama that used to drive my life. Instead there are growing moments of steadiness, balance, peace, and a degree of equanimity that enables me to live in the midst of change and uncertainty without being constantly elated or deflated by my circumstances.