Monday, October 9, 2017

“You Have To Do Something!”: Misunderstanding Inactivity

by John Boodhansingh of Zero Mindfulness

Nothing Must Be Something because Nothing Is (Non-)Actionable

People have told me many times throughout my life: “Do something. You have to do something!”

But I didn’t.

I mean, I did.

I did nothing.

Because I didn’t know what to do or how to do it or anything like that.

It took me 30 years of deep suffering, years of self-help, and a major spiritual awakening into a dark night of the soul—to the point where I lost everything except food, clothes, and shelter and my health went totally to hell—to see that I’d spent my life struggling with helplessness, hopelessness, worthlessness, disempowerment, abandonment; embedded with lack, failure, and victim mentalities; believing myself unlovable and invisible; inept socially and sexually; feeling interminably disconnected from everyone; laden with copious amounts of shame, guilt, anger, and depression; endlessly fearing threats, abuse, and punishment; and manifesting experiences of self-sabotage of anything personally meaningful.

Carrying all this baggage, for someone to say to me, “Do something!” was meaningless.

To me, walking down the same general hallway of (apparent) life-options that 7 billion other humans are also walking down, there were no higher-self-serving doorways. Sure, there was the eat-oatmeal-for-breakfast-yet-again doorway, as were there the doorways like visit-the-dentist and go-to-work-then-to-the-gym-then-come-home-eat-dinner-and-play-videogames-all-night. But otherwise, where many saw open doors leading to potential and growth and pleasure, I saw featureless wall space.

Okay, so I exaggerated a bit. Sometimes I did see an open doorway. But why even attempt going through? After all, I’d just fuck it up, or someone would rip me a new asshole in the process. Might as well just stay at home and play videogames.

The Outward Appearance of So Much Baggage: Laziness and Boredom

Whether I or other with these or remotely akin troubles, a common way this inner muck may reveal itself (temporarily excluding neurotic and dependency/addiction-type behaviors) is through laziness.

Outwardly, it’s as most all of us know it. The “lazy” person feels ho-hum, only gets bare necessities completed, and otherwise mostly sits around watching TV or smoking pot or absorbing one’s self in some other “time-killing” manner of escape. If one is lucky enough to have something in their life that motivates them (e.g.: a sport they enjoy to play), they may or may not exhibit higher intensity about it, but they will ever return to the state of lethargy.

What’s key to recognize, well beyond the superficiality of apparent laziness or observer-created beliefs such as, “It’s just a phase,” or, “It’s part of his personality,” is that this behavior is a numbed reaction to unresolved traumas.

A related trait is boredom. The first thing that comes to mind when I think of boredom is overstimulation. In order to deal with all the internal and consequent stressors of trauma, one has to have an abundance of coping mechanisms. But all the stressors plus all the added stimuli included with coping will put one into increasing levels of overload.

To some greater or lesser degree, is this not how most people are now living? We’ve been treading into depths of stimuli more abundant and stronger than ever before, so much so that we have to dramatically desensitize in order to block ourselves from overwhelm. (Most people having no clue how much.) This numbing may have its survival benefits, but it also makes us dependent: when the stimuli are reduced we experience withdrawal and feel as if in a void—we experience boredom.

Back in the day people could peacefully chill on a rocking chair and play cards with another or sit under a tree and gaze at the horizon and feel satisfied. But now people are so overstimulated and traumatically numb while carrying such a strong, culturally-induced belief that they “must do something productive” that life becomes a vacuum when nothing immediately and sharply stimulating is available.

Generally, then, when in this position, even when one seriously considers “doing something,” what the person looks for internally is a feeling, which is to say that things like income, possible material gains, etc. don’t necessarily even come into the picture, or do so as more of an afterthought. This person thinks of possibilities of what they could do based on what would give them some sense of being alive, some sense of fulfillment, of value and importance.

Trouble is, few things light them up, and of those few things, none appear conceivable of achieving. This leads to a lack of motivation and a mental reinforcement of one’s seeming inability to do. Laziness and boredom thus perpetuate.

How Does It Feel?

Think about this for a second. Unless you’re living or have lived what I’m talking about and know it, imagine having no motivation, no inspiration, no belief that you can achieve, no sense that you deserve better than the worst. And someone starts telling you, likely in frustration: “Stop being so lazy! You have to do something!”

Not very motivating, is it? No, it’s not. And it’s wildly unhelpful, too. In fact you feel pathetic and despairing, worse than if they’d said nothing at all.

But they don’t see this. They don’t see the hurt in your eyes, the sadness in your face. They don’t see your slumped shoulders or hear the words between the lines that you speak back to them. They don’t see beyond the blatant visual inactivity before them.

They see only what they want to see, and that’s what keeps them safe…

Hypocritical Commands

What’s striking about this type of situation is that, by the nature of the blindly demanding words, the speakers almost necessarily have to have their own traumas; they must almost necessarily have psycho-emotional blinders on that prevent them from seeing the truth of the situation—that if people aren’t bothering to do anything productive—are being “lazy” or are “bored”—it is because they can’t do anything productive.

Furthermore, while words are the weakest of ways to teach or help (action and energy being the strongest), statements as mentioned here, although they will cause upset, are frequently empty in the sense that they’re usually spoken by one who cannot see his own flaws: The subject one is challenging another about is the same thing he either wishes not to face or simply doesn’t have the conscious awareness to see as also existent within himself.

For instance, when someone tells a “lazy” person, “C’mon. You have to do something,” all they’re doing is revealing one of two things:
  1. they have the exact same issues and don’t want to change—think of parents who can’t quit smoking so they repeatedly urge their kid to stop, or
  2. while they personally may not exhibit the characteristics of laziness, they are either overachievers or, at minimum, doing for fear of rejection (likely by their parents, even if their parents are dead).
The former should be self-explanatory: it’s laziness teaching laziness through an unwillingness or inability to walk one’s talk. Of the latter: One doesn’t act under the belief that he "already is" a reject, and one acts for fear of “becoming” or being perceived as a reject. They’re merely two sides of the same coin. One doesn’t comprehend help, whatever that could imply, and the other sees nothing amiss because he fits in with authoritative direction and “The Almighty Way of Busyness.” Yet, because the “pusher” is also troubled but his troubles are culturally praised, he imagines that by telling others what to do he must be somehow “helping.” Of course, he cannot be, for he has not helped himself. What can he give to another that he does not himself first have?

Live Clearly To Give Clearly

In nearly all unsolicited cases, when we actively point out where we perceive others to be wrong and incompetent (in whatever way) or we tell them what they “should” do as if they are wrong and incompetent (that’s the subtle message we send them), we’re only serving to point out the same things denied or unrealized within ourselves.

If we truly want to help, we must be clear about ourselves first—because if we can’t be clear about ourselves, we haven’t the foggiest about what’s really going on with someone else. Even if one, such as a psychoanalyst, were to intellectually get it, the knowledge remains useless if unintegrated, if unfelt, if prior trauma still obscures one’s willingness to see or accept the uncomfortable truth in another because it resonates with the uncomfortable truth in one’s self.

To get to this point requires serious, inward-focused effort. It doesn’t magically happen due to the process of aging, it’s not intrinsically bestowed when acquiring titles like “parent” or “coach” or “teacher,” and it doesn’t come about with our external accumulation of medals or degrees. It’s vastly, if not wholly, a result of scouring our inner world and opening to both our feeling and intuitive capacities.

Only in this way is there an understanding of the line between when we’re seeking to control others and when we’re truly helping them; only in this way is there clarity as to someone who’s consciously choosing not to be productive and one who’s being inhibited by deep inner struggles.

The kind of people who can truly help others as described here are the ones who:
  1. Quickly recognize the inhibition as caused by deep psycho-emotional wounding, and
  2. Reach out with a hand and ask, “Would you like some help?” and, if accepted, offer compassionate service rather than dump on them for not being who they're "supposed" to be.

Guidance: Useless Vs. Useful

The last thing I’d like to discuss is the form of guidance, and I’m going to ask you to imagine again.

Imagine that you join a baseball team and practice regularly with the team, at home, and with friends. You’re interested in the sport, but your skill level is quite poor. And people, maybe even the coaches and your parents, are forever saying to you, “Catch the ball!” “Dang, kid. Put your glove in front of the incoming ball and close it!” “Why can’t you just catch the ball?”

Makes you feel like a self-loathing, failed waste of life and space, does it not?

Wouldn’t it be magnificent, then, if people would instead say something kindly and useful? “Avoid hiding your face behind the mitt. You’ll never catch the ball if you can’t see it, and it’s far safer.” Or, “Let’s try working with catching at shorter distances and work up to longer ones.” Or, “You’ll get better with practice. I’ll show you some useful techniques.”

What this imagining reveals to us is how open-endedly useless a phrase like, “You have to do something!” is. It's like telling an alcoholic, "Stop drinking!" Such statements neither point out specific issues nor offer anything by way of solution.

What needs to be done can be described using an immediate example: this blog. Generally when I write, I
  1. point out specific issues,
  2. thoroughly illustrate my points, often through experience, and then
  3. offer solutions.
I do this because it’s the practical, meaningful, helpful thing to do. And I don’t publish anything unless I feel I have a sufficient handle on it; something for which, although, yes, I can make mistakes, I’d like to believe I can be quite honest with myself about because the inner work naturally results with ever-deepening self-integrity, honesty, and so forth.

Know Yourself, and Know Your Place

They say, “The road to hell is filled with good intentions.”

I understand that those who use phrases like, “Just do something!” are usually well-meaning. But this is also the proverbial “road to hell.”

For the idle one, such “advice” is taken not as help but more as an attack, and one they cannot adequately defend against. Thus the “commander’s” words do the reverse of the intended. As for the “commander,” he most likely is only using this type of phrase to in some way, unconsciously to himself, protect his own ego. He’s thus doing double damage.

It’s therefore vital to do the inner work. For only then, to the extent that we have helped and have begun to know our true selves, will we be able to serve others, will we be able to clearly feel and intuit what is truly going on with another and how to help them effectively—something for which, as will probably be both surprising and disturbing to many, means that sometimes we help by not helping at all.


You may also wish to see this similar post from 5/1/15 titled, "Change Your Perspective! (Damnit!)"

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