In this column we welcome editor, author, journalist and relaxolutionary Brian Dean. His website Anxietyculture.com really helps takes the edge off. Welcome, dude. Bar’s over there.
By Brian Dean
Social Commandment No. 13: Thou shalt not avoid problems or responsibilities
An unfortunate result of this commandment is that by the time we become adults, our avoidance and evasion skills are badly under-developed. When we finally get high blood pressure or ulcers, we need to drop social duties and quit work, but nothing in our upbringing tells us how to make this escape.
A mind that sees “avoiding responsibility” as cowardly and dishonorable will never achieve full relaxation (i.e. letting go of all concerns). It’s impossible to be duty-bound and happy at the same time, which is why those who obey social commandments usually look unsatisfied.
The more we dwell on responsibilities, the more responsibilities we get.
Preoccupation with work, obligations and duties is a potent form of negative self-hypnosis. For example, every time a compulsively house-proud person tidies up, he/she becomes more sensitive to the onset of untidiness. Eventually it becomes a necessary duty to vacuum every thirty minutes, which does nothing but annoy the neighbors.
The ‘required amount’ of work is arbitrarily determined. How often does the car need washing; how much of our work is necessary? More to the point, how little could we get away with? People who talk a lot about duty and responsibility probably never know how much they depress everybody else.
It’s always better to postpone worrying.
The ‘responsibility’ function of an adult’s brain is to receive the cornucopia of rich sensory impressions from the environment – color, taste, touch, movement, sound – and then translate it all into problems we feel responsible for. We find burdens wherever we look because that’s what we’re educated to do. Social roles such as ‘hard worker’, ‘responsible parent’, ‘devout follower’, etc, merely allow us a choice of burdens to identity with. If we detach ourselves from these burdens, it’s regarded as a moral breakdown.
Minor worries can be postponed indefinitely
The irritation/anxiety reaction to a sudden problem is caused not by the problem itself, but by the thought that we must do something about it (ie that we’re responsible for it). This is a conditioned response which can be reprogrammed with a psychological gimmick. The technique is to do nothing when you notice a problem – or rather, suspend judgment for a few days. Problems often disappear by themselves if they get the chance (especially if they appeared by themselves). In settings tinged with urgency or guilt (e.g. work or family) they don’t usually get the chance.
(If you’re not convinced by this, and you remain attached to solving problems, there’s always the comforting thought that as long as you focus on problems, there’ll be an endless supply of them – which conveniently justifies the need to solve them).
Often the unpleasant effort ‘required’ to solve a problem is just ritualised self-punishment.
The cliché, “never put off until tomorrow..”, can be reversed for people who worry about problems. It’s always better to postpone worrying. An effective postponement device is the ‘worry sheet’, which is a piece of paper for writing down your problem/worry as it occurs – so you can forget it now, and deal with it at some later date. Minor worries can be postponed indefinitely.
Rather than putting off life’s pleasures until after you’ve solved all your problems (i.e. after you’re dead), you postpone all the worrying until after you’ve finished having a good time.
Often (and probably subconsciously), the unpleasant effort ‘required’ to solve a problem is just ritualized self-punishment. This results from the dubious belief that we deserve our problems (and thus require punishing). When this notion is replaced with the understanding that you deserve nothing but effortless bliss and happiness, many problems seem to vanish.
How true. I can relate to what you’re saying, and some of my own thoughts are quite similar.
I never really understood why recreational activities such as bowling, taking a nap, drink oat soda and chat with friends or what-have-you, are limited in the way that they are.
They are where I come from, anyways. Like bowling, for example. It’s something you do maybe trice a year or so, because it’s something out of the usual in everyday society, and have a good time with friends is something you “save” for the weekend. Just because it’s an implicity.
And I wonder: “Why? Why must we “save” the fun parts, the good parts of our lives, procrastinate them if you will, when we have all the possibility in the world to make it happen, right here, right now? Why won’t we enjoy ourselves as much as possible, since we have the opportunity to do it?
The undudes reply: “Well, you can’t have fun all the time, you’ve got to think about “living” also.
Well, in my opinion, life isn’t worth living if you don’t try hard (or in the spirit of dudeism) just say “fuck it” and go out in the world, have fun and enjoy yourself as much as possible. That oughta be, according to me, the proper meaning of “living”.
The pins are right there. Knock them over, dude.
Sorry about “Just because it’s an implicity”. I meant that it’s understood, it is implicit. Something that is taken for granted!
Easy A says
I’ve been forced to abidance and have unlearned the worry response. I suspect that given the general state of the economy a large number of people have been likewise forced to abandon futile worries.
I imagine that this is the latest trend in a weird social Darwinism. Eventually those who are most effected by the machinations of the economy ‘ie’ the working class are eventually populated by those capable of a requisite docile nature while those who react with outrage are selected out with aneurysm’s and cardiac arrest.
Worry sickness and hurry sickness, two modern maladies that take a heavy toll on folks, both physically and psychically. Or psychologically, if you prefer. Fortunately, we have the answer, Dudes…it’s Dudeism.
Doctor Joe says
Live the Dream. Live in the moment. The problems will be there in the morning.