“… the lucky ones are the unhappiest of all.”
We are all damaged goods, and those who would deny this are the most damaged of all. The causes of damage are legion – disease, injury, disfigurement, abusive parents, abusive siblings, abusive teachers, school bullies, cheating partners, abusive partners, physical violence, financial distress, betrayal – and much, much more. Our environment, in most aspects, is essentially hostile, and as a result we are frequently wounded. This is not an exercise in self-pity, but an objective assessment of the nature of life. Even the best intentioned parents fuck their kids up, and as Ernest Becker reports in The Denial of Death, life itself is terrifying for kids and so they retreat into imagination. Later in life societal pressures will cause people to suffer as they fail to match up to the heroes portrayed in the media. The net result is that, without exception, we are all damaged goods.
The most important question is how do we live a life when we are damaged? There are two approaches. The most common is to try and fix the damage – psychotherapy for mental damage, and physical regimes for body damage. Underlying this approach is the notion that we are not OK as we are, and there is some preferred state that we should aspire to. This approach can be helpful, but it carries dangerous undercurrents, and particularly the notion that we are not good enough as we are, and we are responsible in some way for the damage that has occurred. A more wholesome approach is self-compassion and the willingness to do what society would prohibit us to do – to acknowledge that our mental and physical state is the result of both reinforcing and destructive events in our lives. This is not self-pity, but just an impartial analysis. If you had an elder sibling who bullied you for most of your childhood then it is quite likely you may find yourself full of rage at times. The rage is not your fault – this is how life has shaped you. The idea that we can iron out this damage is ridiculous – it’s not going to happen. Acceptance of the fact that you are a conditioned being, more or less damaged by life, will bring a sense of relief. We can forget about the images of perfect people we see in the media – no such people exist in reality. Your rage, depression, physical impairment, financial struggles, and so on, are normal, because the so-called abnormal is actually normal.
Ultimately life passes its sentence upon you the minute you are conceived – it sentences you to death. Life is not a benign force. It will use and abuse to get what it wants – namely that you survive long enough to rear the next generation. Be kind to yourself, because almost no one and nothing else is going to be. It is the height of politically incorrect behavior to say these things, but I’m of the impression that people who visit this blog are past being politically correct.
The assault that life makes upon each of us does serve a useful purpose, however. Depending on the intensity of the assault, and its duration, a person may eventually wake up to the reality of life and stop behaving like a dog around the dinner table waiting for scraps. When we come to realize that life operates in its own interests, and when we are sufficiently disappointed, so we might see through most of the tempting mirages life offers us, and focus more on our own inner well-being. It is ironical that the very things that might crush a person, are also the things that might be a catalyst for greater inner freedom.