Frequently, we think our problem is solved, but all we’ve really done is trade problems.
This is relief. We shift our concern from one place to another.
If we have frequent headaches, Advil may relieve the pain. But, frequent and long-term use of Advil may present its own challenges.
If we don’t like the way someone engages with us in a relationship, avoiding the person may temporarily dam the frustration. But, we’ll pay the price in letting emotions percolate.
If we’re seeking relief from the angst of market volatility, outliving our money, or simply not knowing if we’re doing things most efficiently – every detour becomes appealing, whether helpful or not. Sometimes there’s relief in screwing up just because we did something – and not nothing.
It’s a bit like being in the boat that springs a new leak each time you plug a hole. I remember several old Looney Tunes episodes where the antagonist of the story would find themselves in a boat unable to keep up with new leaks. Each time they tried to stop a leak with a finger, a new leak would emerge behind him.
Eventually, we run out of fingers to relieve the problem.
Eventually, we have no choice but to realize that relief isn’t what we’re seeking – it’s neutrality.
The leaky boat resembles the construct of life that we cling to ever so tightly. How badly we want to keep our health or make it better. How badly we want for something to accelerate professionally. For a relationship to play out differently. For a retirement account to be more than enough.
However, when we’re neutral, these concerns aren’t leaks in a boat. They’re just the small waves that make the boat rock a little.
But, finding neutrality is far more challenging because you can’t actually go looking for it. Chasing neutrality is a tail-chasing activity. Being neutral and striving are in opposition. Oddly, striving is easier.
Neutrality is not to be confused with apathy. Each predicament and dilemma represents greater opportunity to see their impermanence. In other words, we aren’t sad people or happy people. We might just be experiencing sadness or happiness at that point, but neither are our identity.
Fixing the leak, solving the problem, and seeking relief are investable activities that make a concern grow – or worse, misplace the concern somewhere else so that it’s disguised from our knowing.
Counter-intuitively, we do not want relief. We want the pain, so that we can learn to be neutral.
Thanks for reading,