Thursday, February 11, 2010

But the Light's Better Here

A quick note. I missed yesterday. So we have two blogs this morning. Please don't miss Faith Clarke's wonderful post "To Sulk or Not to Sulk" below. Teflon

Regarding Tuesday's blog, More Doing, Less Thinking, Sree commented:
Tef: you say "...there actually is no big's likely that the big unhappiness is a side effect of other smaller bits of unhappiness". Pray tell us more about this seems to stand all by itself.
So, I thought that I'd dive into the concept of no big unhappiness.

There's an old story that goes something like this:
A guy leaves a bar late at night and comes upon his buddy (who'd left the bar an hour earlier) crawling around the parking lot on his hands and knees.

The first guys asks his buddy, "Hey, what are doing crawling around the parking lot? It's nearly two in the morning!"

The buddy responds, "I dropped my keys and can't find them. I've been crawling around here for an hour!"

The first guy joins his friend in looking for the errant keys, first walking about, then stooping to look, and finally joining him crawling from place to place.

After another hour passes, the first guy comments to his friend saying, "I don't know where your keys could be. There's plenty of light from the street lamp. I'm sure that if they were here, we would have found them by now. Are you sure you lost them here?"

His buddy stands up brushing himself off and declares, "No, I lost them way over there, but the light's much better here."

Where Are You Looking?
If you experience stubbornly persistent, big unhappiness that you'd really like to overcome, then it could just be that you've been looking for answers in the wrong place. The thing about big unhappiness is that it's, well... big. It's bright. It's like a beacon in the night among all the smaller, less brightly lit bits of unhappiness. As such, big unhappiness tends to draw most of our attention while the little bits of unhappiness go unnoticed.

If you've been frustrated in your attempts to use Option to chase down and eradicate your biggest, most elusive forms of unhappiness, you've probably cycled through the same sets of beliefs more than once (or twice, or a perhaps hundreds of times). You've probably dialogued repeatedly covering the same ground and coming to the same conclusions. And yet nothing changes. (For the sake of the theoretically inclined or addicted, I know that something always changes, but, hey, we're trying to get something done here.)

If you've experienced this cycle (or something similar), I would dare to say that doing the same thing another hundred times probably won't get you where you want to go.

Why Not Just Decide?
Let's start with why we need Option in the first place. Remember, Option is for people who don't believe that happiness is a choice. So, the first question would be, "Why don't you believe that happiness is a choice?"

The answer lies in the levels of indirection (the steps) between our unhappiness and the source of our unhappiness. If everything were simply direct cause and effect (A directly causes B), then deciding to be happy would come quite easily. I could simply look at A and decide not to be unhappy about it. However, it's not usually (if ever) the case that cause and effect are so closely related. Usually the source of our unhappiness is several if not many steps removed from the immediate experience.

It seems that every time I've seen people finally overcome persistent unhappiness, it's been because they explored something that seemed to be completely unrelated to their unhappiness. I wrote the other day about a guy whose smoking cigarettes was not so much due to addiction to nicotine as it was to not managing anger. I wrote a while back about how Mark K and my dad overate and overdrank (respectively) in response to feeling depressed... which in turn was a response to being bored... which in turn was a response to inactivity... which in turn...

So, the reason deciding to be happy (in the specific, not the general sense) doesn't work is because the subject of our decision isn't the source of our unhappiness. We decide not to be unhappy about thus and such (our jobs, our partners, our finances, our weight, our schedule), and it doesn't work or it doesn't stick.

A Miracle Cure
The reason that Option is so effective (when properly applied) is that it's great at getting past the brightness and bigness of the immediate, supposed source of unhappiness and ferreting out the root cause of unhappiness. I would venture to say that, correctly used, Option can eradicate any unhappiness with just a single application.

So, the question becomes one of, "what do you mean by 'properly applied' or 'correctly used'?"

Good question.

Although I'm sure I could stretch this out into a long dissertation on the proper application of the Option method to persistent unhappiness, the answer involves just two words: specificity and relevance. Forget theory. Forget stimulus-belief-response. Forget whatever you've learned. We're going back to the 'happy detective'.

Follow the Thread
A couple of metaphors for the Option self-explorer are happy detective and happy alien.

As we explore the beliefs that drive our unhappiness, we take the role of a happy detective who explores all clues no matter how relevant or irrelevant they may seem to be. We take the role of a happy alien who doesn't know anything and therefore can make no assumptions, but instead must ask questions that lead to greater specificity no matter how obvious the answers may seem to others.

When we dismiss avenues of exploration as irrelevant, we end up bypassing potential exit ramps from our cycles of unhappiness. When we dismiss details as unimportant or obvious, we can completely overlook the very answers that we so intently desire.

Betcha a dollar that, if you're someone who consistently experiences the same unwanted unhappiness, it's not just that you suck at Option, but that you specifically suck at pursuing 'irrelevant' paths of exploration with intense specificity and lack of assumption.

No Big Unhappiness
So, back to no big unhappiness. If the causes of our big unhappiness were themselves big, then they'd be big, bright and easy to see. The reason we can't find them is that they're small and hidden in vague irrelevance. Option is great because it's specifically designed to ferret out even the smallest, most seemingly innocent causes of our unhappiness.

When we do Option but leave out specificity and assume relevancy, we throw out the most important two components of the method. We have a beautiful car that has everything but steering and brakes.

I'd like to invite you to revisit some of your big unhappiness and explore it as a happy detective or alien. Nothing is irrelevant, nothing unimportant or insignificant. Drill down with great specificity until you get HD clarity and see what happens.


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