Thursday, March 30, 2006

Borrowing Trouble

When my father died, it wasn't a huge blow. It was sudden, it was unexpected but it wasn't devastating or crippling. He'd never been one of those fathers who said, "I'll always be there for you." He had always been clear that someday he would die and someday mom would die. That someday, each of us will be alone. He said that his entire duty as a parent was to prepare us for that. Death had never been anything special in our house. The proper attitude to mourning was to focus on the ones who were hurting most and help them.

Dad's wake was a big affair and in many ways it clued me in that there was a lot about his life that I didn't know. One memory of that night, however, still pisses me off. A well-meaning pair of relatives, an aunt and uncle took me aside to tell me I was taking dad's death "too well" and needed professional help.

That stayed in my head for far too long. When someone with a medical degree or counseling experience tells you that there is a problem, it's hard not to second guess yourself. It's easy to "borrow trouble", to create a problem because you expect one.

I've said it several times before, but most of the world is imaginary. What people think of you exists in their head. It only exists in yours if you let it. I'm not denying that people with power over aspects of your life can't change things based on their thoughts... but how important those changes are exists only in your thoughts. It is possible and far too easy to put so much belief and energy into an imaginary problem that it sucks energy and creates stress like a real wound.

It's said that the unexamined life is not worth living. That's absolutely true. To develop you must experience life AND you must integrate that experience. But humans are monkeys and are driven to play with things. We are genetically programmed to see patterns and can find or create patterns (or excuses or entire religions) in completely random events. And that's a danger with introspection.

The goal, for a lot of soul-searchers, is to clarify life to a point that there are no glitches. That things, even unpleasant things, are what they are but don't cause discomfort or a bad reaction when they come into awareness. You don't freeze on them. For people obsessed with clarifying parent issues (for example) they want to remember their childhood and see the effects without reliving the pain. They want to see the source of some of their problems, give themselves power to change their behavior.

Do you see that the goal, really, is to NOT think about it too much? Not wallow, at least. Simply, not borrowing trouble.

I've read a series of articles lately by people who didn't have a problem until they fell in with a group of people who existed for that problem. They were told that if they were a certain... (size, age, color, religion, economic class, social class, gender) they must have these problems, that any belief that they didn't notice or didn't bother was (egad!) repression...

After months of soul-searching and deep meditation, they found the problem. They found deeply buried resentments and hates and repressed acts of repression. Most disturbing, to me, the writing of these two people changed palpably from voices of strength and wisdom to voices of hurt and anger. I can't help but feel that there was less uncovering of hurt than creating of it, because they had been told by people that they love and respect what they were supposed to feel.

Rule of thumb- if soul searching makes you more angry and less loving, you're probably deluding yourself. Remember that the human monkey-mind likes creating stuff out of nothing and needs to be part of the herd... but a unique part of the herd... but not too unique... but special... but not ...


Molly said...

Most of the family thought you needed "professional help" before the wake, and there hasn't exactly been a drastic change in opinion over the years. Consider the source. I'm pretty sure a shrink wouldn't have a clue what to do with you.
Love ya - :)

Anonymous said...

Good post Rory


Anonymous said...


It's a piece of common sense with very good timing for my thoughts.


Anonymous said...

If you're living in today and not controlled by your past, why look for something wrong? You've achieved the goal of most people in therapy: to react based on what's happening right now, not based on what happened before.

The thing about sh*t is, if you have to deal with it, it will be relentless. No need to go looking, it will wake you up with its stink.

Kai Jones

The Moody Minstrel said...

One of the few good things about the movie Star Trek V (*shudder*) was its fundamental concept that everyone has a secret pain buried inside. When all those characters had that pain taken away, they seemed happier on the surface, but they were clearly weaker...and more easily dominated. Kirk was the only one that refused to have his secret pain dug out of him, saying, "I NEED my pain!"

Just as physical strength is developed by repeatedly overcoming physical resistance (i.e. weight), psychological strength is developed by overcoming psychological turmoil, right down to dealing with the First Shock - being forced out of that nice, warm, secure womb and into the cold unknown. You could even say that the human heart stands on a foundation formed of the cement of every hardship encountered and dealt with over the course of life.

No hardship, no strength of will. Face it: the psychologist only wants to dominate you. His "cure" is simply seeking to hammer your character into his ideal. Who knows? It may actually work for you...but you won't be you anymore.

(I'm's late...)