The Myth of Easy — We have funny beliefs, and one of them is that we “ought to be” comfortable, and life ought to be easy. This tends to mean that we think others ought to move heaven and earth so that we are. Not so!
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Last week’s article about myths has certainly touched some of you, and I’m choosing to continue with this topic.
Here’s a bit of the introductory stuff I mentioned last week.
A myth is defined as “a theme or character type embodying an idea.” In other words, a myth is a story that explains how some aspect of the world works.
For example, virtually all cultures have a “creation of the world” myth, and a myth about how people came to be — about how people are blessed by God or the gods, and have dominion over the earth.
We have also created political myths, hero myths, myths about wealth creation (typically called “economic theories,”) and even scientific myths.
Those of you born in the early 50’s will remember being taught, in grade school, the solar system model of the atom. Big nucleus, little electrons circling in orbits around the nucleus. Then, in High School, we learned how many electrons could occupy each orbit.
Now, we know that there are no such things as orbits, that sub-atomic particles make up the atom, that they are actually waves, that we cannot know both their speed and their location (making them sort of not there,) and then, we find out that atoms are 99.9999999 per cent nothing.
At least, that’s the current myth.
We seem to need someone in authority to tell us what is real, as opposed to understanding that both nothing and everything is real.
Which means that when asked what is real, a good, truthful scientist (the shamans of our age) will say, “That depends.”
The Myth of Easy
We only have to go back to the Depression and the generation after — up to and including World War II — to find the opposite of the Myth of Easy. People prior to the end of WWII would, in general, tell you quite clearly that
- life is hard,
- there will be struggles,
- and that simple survival was what life was all about.
- When tragedy struck, families rallied, and life went on.
Today, the Myth of Easy says that:
- nothing should be painful.
- There should be no lessons, other than easy ones.
- School should not make demands.
- Work should not expect excellence.
- Others (people we are in relationship with) should put us first.
- God forbid we give little Suzie the grade she deserves, or hold her back because she blew 9th grade.
- Never mind that she was popping pills and drinking.
- Never mind that she was hanging around with a group of losers.
- Never mind that when something went wrong, little Susie always blamed others: her failure was the fault of the teachers, the school system.
No, pass her. Lest her precious little ego be damaged.
And then it’s 5 years later, and a professor at University or a boss makes a demand for work, and little Susie flips. “No one told me it was like this!”
We of the 50s and later grew up under the Myth of Easy, Security and Having it Better than Dad.
Remember annual raises? We got them because that’s what happened each year, not because of performance. Raises were our right, remember? And people whine because now raises might be tied to performance or some actual standard imposed by one’s boss.
Personal growth was the buzzword of the 60’s. It, too, was to be easy and quick. One est weekend here, one colonic there, a chant and a mantra… and everything would be better.
If anyone suggested that enlightenment comes in fits and starts, after much effort and with painful, continued difficulties, the Cult of Easy said, “If I give you more money, can you speed up the process?”
So, now, in this era of Trump and the 1%, many are cocooned in their Lazy Boys, hoping that the pain will stop. They declare, “It wasn’t supposed to be this way.” And then they go out and yell at people they deem to be “illegals.”
Well, baloney. As Scott Peck reminded us in The Road Less Traveled, “life is difficult.” Learning, changing, healing, all come at a price. No learning happens without pain. The pain may be nothing more than the pain of having to give something — some behaviour — up, or it may be a “shaken to the foundations” type of pain, but it is a necessary component of growth.
The Cult of Easy has nothing to do with wholeness. It has to do with hard, hard work.
Of course, we all wish it were different, and all that wishing means that most people are stuck in one of the following “easy — comfort” loops.
Content vs. Right
Many folk want to be declared right. They want others to agree with their point of view. They see their mission as changing others. This is a comfortable place, as it never involves self-reflection. It simply involves judging others and finding them lacking.
This is otherwise known as the blame game.
A minister once had a man in his congregation who was absolutely messed up. His behaviour was atrocious. Finally, the minister decided to preach about this man. She started off subtly, making allusions to the aberrant behaviour. Each week the man would walk up to the minister, shake her hand, and say, “That’s telling them, preacher!”
This went on week after week.
Finally, there was a snowstorm, and the only two people in church were the minister and this man. She decided to go for broke. She preached right at the man. Spelled it all out. End of the service, she’s at the door. The man walks up, looking real sad, Grasps the minister’s hand. Says, “That’s telling them, preacher. If only they’d been here!”
contentment is inversely proportional to judging. The more you judge others and try to change others, the less content you are. The wise person learns that the first and greatest discipline is to focus on simply observing others, rather than trying to change them.
Manipulating others into changing
This one is a second cousin to the first. It goes, “If others would change, then I could be happy.” It’s different from the first in this way. The person does not tell the other person how to act from a position of superiority. The person wants others to change from a position of “one down.”
“If only you would see the pain you are causing in me. If you really loved me, you would change.”
People think this way because we want others to do all the work. That way, we can keep doing all sorts of silly stuff, and the other person lets us.
I had a couple for clients. He worked evenings, she worked days, and they had a one year old. She expected three things of him:
- That he do the laundry, every day.
- That he vacuum the rugs, every day.
- That he polish the kitchen taps and sink, after every use.
She declared that these were the rules she’d learned, and if he loved her, he’d do these things for her. Of course, there were always other items on the list; items that changed. And he was expected to watch their son.
I worked with her for some weeks, trying to help her to see that perhaps such rules were not graven in stone. She refused to budge. Finally, the husband agreed to do the three things, plus the rest of his tasks. He figured it was better than fighting.
What turned out to be our last session happened like this: He walked in. He was sick. Had been, all week. He announced that he had been too sick on Monday to do his jobs, but she’d forgiven him. He’d crawled out of bed on Tuesday, and done everything. Today, Wednesday, he’d managed to vacuum and do the laundry.
She walked in, glared at both of us, said; “I went home ahead of our session. You willfully neglected the taps and sink. The marriage is over.” And so it was.
We want to blame others for our distress. It is easy to blame, harder to take responsibility for the things that are happening in our lives. Because of the Cult of Easy, we think others should have our best interest in mind. It is quite a shock to discover they don’t. Many people “solve” this problem by changing people. The brave few simply recognize that wholeness is not about getting others to behave themselves.
“I’m No Good!”
Another variant. I had a client who would burst into tears and say, “It’s all my fault. I’m not a good person. I’m to blame.” This is not as bad as it seems, as at least she was using the right pronoun. It is, however, a comfort-zone technique.
Feeling bad about oneself gets to be a habit, just like everything else. It requires no effort, because people who use such lines seldom conclude with — “and so here is what I am going to do differently.”
This technique allows you to sit back, tell yourself off, feel bad, sulk, maybe get some attention from those around you, and not have to change a thing.
As opposed to the truth of wholeness. “You are responsible for your life, and only you can change the way you see life, respond to others and treat your self.” You are “response able” — able to respond.
More next week!