Do I live by trying to do what I please or doing what I do with pleasure?
Contribution by Isabel Hernández Negrín, Las Palmas, Canary Islands, Spain.
The first part of the question talks of doing what I like. This also implies, in my view, avoiding what I dislike or even fighting against it.
All of this sounds very ordinary, very normal and in line with social norms. I believe that it is something that we all do instinctively. Without us even realising it the impulse arises in us to avoid or fight against a situation, people, responsibilities, etc. because we dislike them.
It is a given that we flee from dislike, as well as the opposite: we approach what we like. Even an amoeba can do that, although it does not call it like/dislike, but I believe that fundamentally it is the same. Avoiding what is threatening or harmful and seeking what is pleasurable, what helps us to survive. Doing this does not require any reflection, meditation or planning. It comes unprompted because it seems that we have had it embedded in us right at the start of our programme for survival as a living being. It is an instinctive attitude. If it is too hot in one place, we look for somewhere cool. If the air is badly polluted we leave the place. When we do it we feel relieved, relaxed. If after so many millions of years of evolution, we are just left with this simple principle as the basis of our lives, we may have a few little problems. If I mention the words narcissist, egocentric, hedonist you may know whom to apply them to and it would almost certainly not be you.
Being tied to the impulse of just looking for what I like and running away from the rest, ends up making me plaintive or frivolous. What happens when I have to deal with things that I would not have chosen, but that I am confronted with, right at the heart of my life? I have a mental block, I ask why it has happened to me, I say that I do not deserve it, I complain, I cry and stamp my feet. I am talking about things that affect all of us or pass over us like a moving train: the death of someone we love very much; losing a job; an enormous change in the plans we had; being diagnosed with a serious or degenerative illness etc. But there are also situations that we dislike although they may be more low key, like having to do certain kinds of housework, being stuck in a traffic jam, family disagreements, attending a boring work meeting, going shopping, looking for a job, etc. We complain about and resist everything that we dislike. This unseen attitude of resistance towards the facts as they stand, accounts for at least 50% of our psychological malaise. If, not more. It drains our energy and our peace of mind without us realising it, whilst we believe that complaining is normal, good and healthy, something that everyone does! I invite you to review this cycle of resistance. For example, you are annoyed that you have to wash the dishes when you arrive home, you start to think that there are lots of dishes, about why you always have to do it, that someone or other always gets out of it, that they are taking advantage of you, you already feel like a victim and now that you are a victim, you feel justified in protesting dramatically to the first person who arrives home, and that will then create trouble with the others. The others will see that you always do the same thing and tell you not to play the victim, that if you do not want to do it, then do not do it, and that will make you angrier and etc. etc. Everything began with your resistance towards something that you disliked at that moment. Perhaps we could do things differently? What does changing this attitude that is so destructive, depend on? Perhaps it just depends on me? Can other people change my attitude? No. Just me. It is a habit and if I observe it, I can change it and thus avoid 50% of the psychological malaise in my life. What do you think? Are you tempted? It is all about applying yourself.