he further we drift from functional existence (meeting the demands of survival), the more distorted our thoughts. A young person may suffer from minor defects as they enter adulthood; but as they move through this impactful period, their deficits often lead to poor choices, multiplying the difficulty of survival. They drift. Instead of mindfully developing skills, they aimlessly respond to quell discomforting emotions, shirking challenges and slipping further from reality. As the malingerer loses precious time, their character not only stagnates; it decays. Their abilities become more mismatched with the challenges.
When life outmatches skills, anxiety overwhelms, and we pursue alternate adaptations. The mind unable to solve the problem of existence employs new goals, seeking relief rather than growth; instead of behavioral change, the disruptions demand escape. The struggling soul finds momentary rescue through distorting reality, soothing anxiety but imprisoning the tormented soul to the past. Addictions, personality disorders, and unhealthy dependence expand and take over otherwise capable lives, destroying futures with faulty dreams, buried emotions, and dishonest explanations.
Living in the Reality of the Present
The challenge for a therapist, a partner and especially the sufferer is to claw their way back into reality. A well-meaning observer may offer simplified explanations, pointing out the obvious, but such advice fails to penetrate the hardened shell, driving realities deeper into the unconscious. The work is clear (work, love, and abstinence); but difficulty obscures the path. When what we need to do is clear, our inability to accomplish the simple frustrates, discourages and eventually overwhelms with hopelessness.
The challenge of existing in reality isn’t exclusively for those most lost. We all lose ourselves in the distortions. I would love to have sexy six-pack abdominals. I know the work and diet required. But in the space between the desire, and achievement, I stall, tire and drink a Coke.
Whether we seek a slimmer figure, a promotion, a degree, or greater intimacy, it’s often not the lack of knowledge preventing success–present realities intervene, and we settle somewhere south of our desire.
“The challenge of existing in reality isn’t exclusively for those most lost. We all lose ourselves in the distortions.”~T. Franklin Murphy
Defensive Reactions to Protect Against Present Realities
Some behavioral economists suggest a logical explanation: “we must prefer what we have more than the goal.” When push comes to hustle, we tire, procrastinate and then enjoy one last yummy serving of fat-soaked carbohydrates, another beer, or less than stellar performance at work, while our tummies, grades, promotions and relationships suffer. We pay homage to righteous goals but sacrifice the dreams on the altar of present realities.
And here, when failure occurs, we reach for distorted justifications to rescue our conflicted mind, easing the dissonance, and soothing the soul.
The all-important juncture of change is at the point of resistance. We must mindfully see the conflict and protective justifications. We do this by stepping back and slowing down. However, we can intercede, catching the defensive justifications before falling prey to their sad excuses. If we can stop and exam the silliness of destructive behaviors, leading us from our desired life, we have a chance to intervene.
Seeking Assistance to Live with Present Realities
Mindfulness of present realities can overwhelm; challenges may exceed mental, emotional and financial resources. Humbly accepting these vulnerabilities, may demand seeking outside assistance to provide resources and strengthen resolves. Sometimes help is a necessity—not a luxury.
Protecting our ego through misrepresentations is disastrous. We, with crazed thinking, resist asking for assistance, feign strength and stability, and fight crushing forces on our own. This solitary battle is doomed. The present realities have intensified from a long accumulation of poor choices. The battle we lost at the beginning was far less demanding than the war at the bottom.
Whether the march back to the top is long or short, we need help. We need warm-loving care of others. The treacherous ascent from the valley to the mountain is possible. Many people stand as examples; but they did not travel alone. They found help. They opened to their vulnerabilities with honesty and humility, reaching through present realities and into future possibilities.