In our culture there is a sad tendency to focus the entirety of our lives around what we are supposed to do. Our various duties.
But what if I told you that there are no real duties? That you really do have a choice about how you live your life and about what will best fulfill your needs and help you to grow as a fully adult being as opposed to an unhappy and probably immature drone?
There is a school of psychological thought that says just that.
For today’s purposes I will limit the discussion of ramifications to just one area.
This theory can be applied to a good deal more but let’s start with something fairly universal and simple. Your job.
The theory states that when our desires conflict, we experience the stress of ambivalence.
Ambivalence is an anti-progress pattern that all of us are familiar with and either recognize or externalize (more on that later) and which leaves us all feeling pretty damn crumby. And it also really bothers us because some decisions are actually supposed to be simple.
They’re not…but we are frequently told that they are. In fact, we are told that if we can’t make such simple decisions then there must be something wrong with us, and that then adds to the stress.
So let’s see if we can’t clear this up a bit.
Again to keep it simple we’ll use a two choice either/or example.
Let’s say you work in a cubicle but you are actually want to make a living playing guitar.
Part of that stuff is fun, but if you really want to keep your chops and make it big then you have to learn a lot of less fun stuff as well – music composition, music theory, promotion, copyright law, social networking, how to get an agent, precentage pay laws, accounting; and you have to practice chords, scales and fingerings not just your favorite rifts.
So you enroll in night school and you get a job as a telemarketer to pay the bills.
And here is where the conflict comes in.
You have just finished a hard day being hung up on and your friends invite you out to get very drunk and look at beautiful women but you have a business math exam the next day.
So there you are, and you think, “Damn, I wish I didn’t have to study for this big test tomorrow – I want to go out with the guys and get ‘faced and check out the hotties”.
But you also know you want to be the guy on stage your buddies are cheering for and that requires that you pass the test.
So the less immediately pleasurable desire tends to get alienated. You justify your want of the stronger desire. You think, “It’s unfair that people are making me take math. Society’s music business is too money oriented and discriminates against me” or whatever, and thus you have alienated one of your desires into a duty, something you have to do which is probably unpleasant, and say “Hell, I wish I didn’t have to do this.”
The two desires in conflict thus become a desire vs. duty, and we, in this society, tend to rebel against our duties.
So you study grudgingly but realizes you’ve just read the same chapter three times and it was sheer gibberish to you; and you close the books and stow your gear and kick it into a corner and then grab your keys and head out with your friends.
But then you are on your second beer looking at a hottie and you realize that what you are thinking about is how badly you are going to bomb on this test and how guilty you feel about it.
And then it’s welcome to the vicious circle, because when you rebel against your own desire that just leads to a cycle of resentment>resistance>rebellion>guilt>grudging acquiescence and back to resentment, repeat ad nauseum.
So what is the simplest solution?
Just do what you want. Chances are good that the stronger desire is what you actually want to be doing anyway. That sounds kind of bad, but being truer to oneself can open doors to new thoughts and opportunities.
What if the money you were spending on courses you missed let you buy a car actually allowed you to drive to all those gigs where you could meet other musicians, got in more performance time, and learned more about your self and your skills before you dove into the corporate shark pit?
And what if you learn that you suck as a guitarist but are incredibly talented as a producer? A position where all those years of phone work and social networking skills can really pay off?
So if you find yourself really avoiding something, or procrastinating, or daydreaming, maybe you are not doing what you were actually meant to be doing. Maybe it’s time to sit down and really think things through.
Just a thought.