Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Coming to terms with the gap between our wished for view of reality and what is

There is a simple formula for frustration.  First take the reality of a situation thing or person then try to impose on it/them what you think they could be if they reached their full potential, responded to your efforts to control or in other ways complied with what you think could be.  The resulting gap is the cause of frustration. A variety of carrot and stick approaches have been used throughout time to try and bring about change at the individual and societal level: fear, ostracism, monetary gain, social position, prestige, propaganda, conditioning. Sometimes temporary change can be brought about by these measures but remove the incentive or disincentive and what we tried to control usually reverts to its original state or else something unintended.  Its basic physics really, remove the heat from the boiling water and the steam will revert back from its gaseous state back into water.  Sometimes things don't revert exactly back to what they were but are still not what we intended.

There is a temptation to think that things, people and events are the way they are due to simple causes such as a bad upbringing, politicians succumbing to the gravy train, pollution causing global climate change.  Reality is often more complex than that. Bob Frissell in his book "Nothing in this book is true but that's exactly how things are" puts his finger on it when he says that we don't look far enough back in the causes of things. We tend to blame the latest obvious causes in a long string of causes and effects. If a child is bullied we are tempted to look to the bullies as the cause but not what made them bullies.  If we do follow the chain of causes as far back as we can go then we probably get all the way back to the first humans or maybe the ancestors of us and the chimps. So who is to blame for the deficiencies in our world? No-one or everyone?

Our power rests not in attempting to change others but in finding how we ourselves exhibit or influence the very thing we criticize,  taking responsibility for ourselves and our actions, accepting what we are and changing what we can. We can be the very break in the chain of cause and effect that we are seeking. Like it or not what we will choose to change is what will give us the biggest pay back for effort. When we see ourselves as part of a greater connected whole then the usual benefit to self gets broadened out to our extended self, the pleasure and happiness of another is our pleasure and happiness.

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