I'm Okay; You're Okay Just the way we are BY: Troy Murphy |June 2014
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Gnawing dissatisfaction with life drives hordes of seekers to the self-help industry, hoping to find the answers that will fill their emptiness. We want more; we want to feel better. The nagging discontent beckons action, demanding change because something must be missing— or dreadfully wrong. The self-help industry thrives on feelings of unhappiness, failure, and illness. We latch on to the thought that life is not good enough. After trillions of dollars spent by the lost to fix the sickness of ailing well-being, we must ask, “Has life improved?”
Maybe the constant beckoning of the well-being marketers that life can be improved magnifies our displeasure with the life we currently have, convincing us that we need help to experience more. We blatantly see these claims by advertisers of cars, cologne, and jewelry—why not well-being?
Perhaps we’re okay just as we are. You’re okay! I’m okay! (The title of a popular self-help book during the 1960’s). Perhaps we don’t need a magical cure. Our experience—discomforts, struggles and all—is the way life is supposed to feel. We only feel it is wrong because we are told it is wrong—subpar. Maybe life without the occasional shadows of sorrow would be bland. An industry that continually sparks hope of a better life—with richness and fullness—possibly encourages the feelings of lack we experience, disrupting appreciation of the moment. Maybe the marketing creates the need they are trying to rectify.
Of course, we can grow. Organisms naturally grow. With wisdom and practice, we enhance skills, improve planning and engage in better action. We gradually, with wisdom, sharpen our experience, remove distractions, and gain valuable knowledge. But growth is incremental—small and unremarkable. Our feelings of well-being remain indistinguishable from one week to another. On rare occasions, we may notice a rush of enlightenment, feel charged with joy, and glory in the new-found experience. Usually the magnitude of these feelings pass and we return to the small insignificant and unnoticed sways of feeling. We deplore the natural constant of feelings experienced through slow change because normal is boring compared to the unrealistic promises of gregarious peddlers. We mourn the normal and seek the exceptional. The imperfect existence we have becomes the enemy. We seek to transcend our biological inheritance of normalcy.
"With wisdom and practice, we enhance skills, improve planning and engage in better action. We gradually, with wisdom, sharpen our experience, remove distractions, and gain valuable knowledge. But growth is incremental—small and unremarkable."
Ideals, however, disappoint. They fail to reward with unbridled joy. We always want more. Constant attention to grand ideals magnifies feelings that something’s missing. Survival has become mundane and expected by most, we want novelty and joy—unending joy. Instead of accepting our biological existence for what it is—a bundle of emotions—we seek to manipulate feelings to gratify our experience.
Feelings are a product of recognized emotions. Consciousness brings the emotion to our attention. Emotions are the biological guidance system for action—not servants to our desire for unconditional happiness. This approach to feeling ignore the purpose of emotion. With a pill or a distraction, we soothe the warning system and lose the wisdom. Emotions, a biological construction, serve an evolutionary purpose. We can improve how we express, understand and relate to emotional arousals but shouldn’t condemn feelings—whether discomforting or not.
You’re okay! I’m okay! We don’t need another program. Living doesn’t need to be a daily battle fighting against the currents of reality. You’re okay! I’m okay! Freeing ourselves from the burden of forced change, oddly enough, invites the beautiful change that we possibly seek.