Life is Difficult
Regulating Emotions, Seizing Opportunities, and Taking Responsibility
BY: T. F. Murphy | December 2016
Life is difficult but we can succeed by working through the emotions, seizing opportunities, and keeping expectations grounded.
We dream of paradise—a life of happiness. We are idealist, entertaining beautiful visions of trouble-free existence. We trudge through the moment fantasizing of something better. We believe that just over the next horizon we will find our utopia. But life doesn’t play along, each day, month and year carries both joys and sorrows, reality continually pokes with reminders of truth—life is difficult. Daydreaming isn’t a crime; sometimes we need the escape from harsh realities. But too much focus on fairylands creates disappoints with ordinary fields of existence.
Logically, when we skeptically examine fanciful beliefs, we recognize the error. Our conscious catching of foolish beliefs mitigates the emotional impact. But many beliefs slither past conscious evaluations, hiding in the shadows and spiking emotions. When someone’s actions interfere with our intentions—whether big or small—their action demands adjustment causing discomfort. This is normal. Those who flourish, recognize the outside intrusion, evaluate current actions for adjustment, and move forward. Those less skilled become frustrated, sad or angry. The encroachment into their plans is disastrous. They label the surprise as evil, gossiping with cutting details, and retaliating with unmatched fury. The expectation of ease is exposed, and mandatory change is upsetting.
An entitlement magnifies emotions when the world doesn’t act as it should. The entitled respond to displeasing experience with astonishment.
The Emotions of Living
The emotional ups and downs work for our benefit, directing attention and demanding action. But unmediated emotions, intense alarms to changes, may misguide and disrupt the purpose of emotional reaction.
In the real world, we must wrestle with constant unmet needs and desires. When unplanned events (or people) interfere, emotions rage. The biological system jumps to life to encourage action, pushing new behaviors to secure the threatened needs. Survival needs aren’t clearly discernible; wants and complex constructions of associations get mixed in. Emotions easily go haywire instructing obnoxious, damaging and corrupt behaviors; flourishing demands more than simple emotional driven action. Securing requires learning, skills and some luck. We could survive haphazardly doing whatever the emotions dictate, just not well. Without early planning, future benefits suffer. Chaotic lives might survive but without gainful employment, comfortable shelter and reliable transportation. But these luxuries contribute to a healthier and longer life. Events threatening employment and relationships spike emotions.
See Feeling Discomfort for more on this topic.
Unrealistic expectation distorts the normal push and pulls of emotions. The constant drive for an unchallenged life generates frustrations for the normal displeasing occurrences. The conflict between expectation and experience creates a constant upheaval dragging ordinary moments into a continuous drama; life is miserable.
Focus on the coming paradise of pain free living magnifies the lack of perfection in the moment. The idealistic life always remains around the next corner, just beyond our grasp. If perfection was necessary for comfort, then life would be dismal, each step tormenting. Reality doesn’t tire, constantly reminding of imperfection. If this is not what we expect, living frustrates, hindering action and discouraging achievement of well-meaning plans. Discouraged, we return to the disappointing life of the past; complaining of its terribleness, but never changing.
Throughout life, we continue to meet challenges, face inner demons, and confront challenges in employment, relationships and emotions. Amidst these struggles, we also encounter plenty of opportunities for joy, security, peace and acceptance; we must seize on these fleeting opportunities.
See Expectations for more on this topic
"Amidst these struggles, we also encounter plenty of opportunities for joy, security, peace and acceptance; we must seize on these fleeting opportunities."
Accepting personal responsibility is a difficult. Many choose to focus blame on the outside causes. They expect the world to conform to their distorted beliefs. Instead of using the uncomfortable emotions of living to motivate positive change, they engage in manipulations, harsh judgments, and attempts of control, desperately trying to escape the haunting of personal demons.
Demons, the little nasty personality glitches, are ever present—in us and in others. Partners and acquaintances act in flawed ways with occasional hiccups to their normal loving dispositions. We must accept this, working through the surprises that disrupt and sometimes even painfully impact our lives. Even when doing the right things, consciously examining responsibilities, and making life improvements, we will still encounter difficulty.
When multiple people are involved, goals conflict and worlds collide; we must adjust. We don’t exist independent of others. Most goals require cooperation from a few others. If we expect smooth implementation of change, we will be disappointed. The interference of others will provide instant justifications because they don’t play by our rules.
Successful achievements require focusing less on what others should be doing and more on what we can be doing.
If life and relationships are painful, within the hurt, we can find the answers. Slow down, experience emotion, enjoying the imperfect existence, try a few new things, find comfort in a few old things, savor the moment, and prepare for the future.
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