The Universe is Not my Servant
BY: T. Franklin Murphy | June 2017
Unrealistic Expectations on Forces Outside of our Control
Life is about more than personal pleasures. Sometimes greater goods preside. We must sacrifice some personal wants to flourish in relationships and groups.
Oh, the ideals! We dream, picturing fantastic futures, soothing present pains with hopes of future tranquility. Dreaming serves a purpose. Realistic dreams motivate action; and action stimulates growth, but begrudging life because it fails to measure up to the perfect can overwhelm, reminding of lack in the present. Driven to achieve is wonderful; but we must remember that ideal life never fully materializes. Even when we obtain a significant goal, life still is strained with heart ache, trouble, and disappointments. Reality (the world we live in) can’t complete with the sanitized future of our dreams. If satisfaction demands the perfect job, perfect partner, perfect children and perfect bank account, we will never enjoy the imperfect job, partner, children and finances we currently have. We can chase the ideals. But waiting for attainment of the ideal to enjoy life leaves us in the perpetual misery of reality—the state we all exist in. Simply hoping for too much creates discomfort with the ordinary.
What is the ideal life? I suppose visions of a perfect life vary with different balances of riches, relationships and feelings. I have abandoned dreams of trouble free existence. I enjoy the life I have. I enjoy some relationships more than others. I worry for some loved one’s and lean heavily on others. I have goals I reach for. I look forward to some property and a large garden to enjoy. But along with these dreams, I know there will be some predictable troubles, as well as some dreadful surprises. The ideal life will continue to be slightly dirtied and tainted. I can live happily anyway.
When discomforting emotions arrive—and they will arrive—a faulty expectation of ease magnifies the pain. We continuously collide with conflicts, forcing decisions that force trade-offs. Life doesn’t follow our beautiful plans. Unplanned troubles demand a pause—time to assess and make changes. The obstacles force cognitive action and we must momentarily retreat from automatic mode. But by ignorantly expecting smoothness, the misfortunes are more devastating, demanding more energy, giving life to thoughts of unfairness, igniting anger, sadness or helplessness. Triggered thoughts such as, "this is wrong" or “it shouldn't be this way,” magnify the discomfort and interfere with creative and effective responses. We wallow in self-pity rather than taking a more active approach to survive and overcome.
The universe follows natural laws; not concerned with our sanitized dreams. Within these laws, life developed and expanded. Organisms’ with the ability to adapt flourished; while those expecting the great universe and all the inhabitants to adapt struggled and died. The universe doesn’t analyze individual needs then modify the natural laws, blessing one individual at the cost to the host of others. The universe isn’t bound to fulfill human desires, we must find our niche—our purpose, our enjoyment--within the laws of the universe.
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” Unknown author; often attributed to Charles Darwin
The universe supports survival, giving the necessary nutrients for millions of diverse organisms; Human are only an infinitely small piece of this living universe. Any universe dedicated to the thriving of a single species, would lead to the universe’s demise. The neutral and indifferent position of the universe in survival, allows the development of a complex structure of life, enjoying and competing for resources. Any person who neglects the natural laws is likely to suffer.
The universe is not our servant. The happenings within the universe occur according to laws. Each event is driven by complexity and appear random. These seemingly random events impact the future. A beautiful chain of causes and consequences that is too intricate for us to completely understand. A boss’s harsh demands influence employees’ moods; the employees’ moods carry forward impacting the family. Countless small waves of actions and reactions push energy from one organism to another, all intertwined in the complex process of living.
We have power to change this flow of energy. We aren’t condemned to predetermined outcomes. We use cognitive learning to interpret happenings, guide appropriately responses, and abandon unhealthy environments. We actively participate in the flow of experience improving opportunities and gaining wisdom.
Emotions are an integral piece of the universe, serving as an internal mechanism to guide action. Emotions work within organisms dynamically interacting with environmental cues. Without conscious cognition, the emotions direct the body—we can act without thought. The word emotion is derived from the Latin word emovere or to “move out.” Emotions are movements that disrupt internal homeostasis—balance. The imbalances motivate action to re-achieve comfortable homeostasis. The muscles contract, hormones flow, and neurons fire to create action that will reestablish balance. The emotions motivate action that fulfill wants and needs. Essentially, unmet needs and desires cause discomfort, motivating action. The human brain learns, creating complex structures of connections, associating actions with need satisfying consequences. Some knowledge is overt, we know that a specific action has a desired reward. Other knowledge is implicit, connections made beneath consciousness. We automatically respond to stimuli because the reaction has relieved emotional disruption in the past. The connections between action and consequence learned guide future behaviors. Defense mechanisms fit into the implicit knowledge category. We adapt with responses to soothe emotions that may or may not be adaptive to improving the overall circumstance of our life.
The universe—which includes others—isn’t designed for self-fulfillment. We demand partner’s or groups to fulfill our ideals, smoothing simmering emotions and scoff when they fail. We expect too much from others; we want them to cower to our emotional desires, destroying connections when they fail. Many wants must be sacrificed in the joint venture of living with others—the others we need. The unmet needs cause some discomfort. If pleasure is the only guide, all intimacy would fail.
When we place unrealistic expectations on a partner, our partner becomes an object instead of an individual. We neglect their wants and needs while demanding their action to fulfill ours. Lacking insight and compassion, we use others as the means to self-fulfillment, ignoring their individuality destroys the relationship. When self focused, our emotional disruptions are judged as caused by the partners rather than the natural disconnect of a one-sided relationship. Blaming their failures to continually succor our wounded soul creates more bitterness (for both partners). Life becomes miserable, each step painful, and we slip further from reality. These idealistic expectations of need fulfillment must be rooted out and adjusted.
Accepting personal responsibility also evokes anxiety—disrupting our homeostasis; emotions flame signaling a need to act. Many people adapt to the disjointed feelings by utilizing psychological defenses instead healthy life changes—burying responsibility, and affixing blame; blaming others and expecting the world to bend and conform. But even when others conform, giving in to our manipulations, they conform at a cost, sacrificing their wants; sacrifices accumulate, and resentments build. Group and individual needs constantly conflict and require trade-offs. We can’t have companionship and friends while remaining completely self-focused. We can’t have it both ways.
We will never experience constant pleasure but shouldn’t constantly feel pain. If life is painful, something’s wrong. Look for underlying beliefs disrupting your experience. The fix often lies within ourselves and not the fault of an unrewarding universe that fails to serve our needs.
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