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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

You Really Don't Have to Let it Get This Bad

The human ego is a fascinating thing. It is intangible yet you know it exists. It's existence manifests itself in the crazy things people say and do.

An ego is a false sense of self. The manifestations are all around you. It is why people who view themselves as good looking must buy good looking cars. It is why the affluent must buy Mercedes and Porsche convertibles. It is why people with low self esteem and self worth often fail to achieve "success" in our materialistic way of evaluating success. Sometimes it leads to self examination. That point when we finally get conscious and say, "what the hell was I thinking?"

All of that insanity makes the planet colorful. Today, I read the story of that Jet Blue flight attendant, Steven Slater. He had been sentenced in court for having quit his job, grabbing a beer and pulling the emergency exit chute on a Jet Blue plane while still loaded with passengers. Apparently his disruptive departure caused 25,000 dollars in repairs and caused flight delays.

I secretly cheered for that guy and thought the initial reporting was hilarious. Who hasn't worked a job, got completely fed up, and wanted to quit with similar flourish? Grabbing that beer on his way down the chute was an interesting piece of that story. It hints at something else.

As unconscious as we are when we are sober, drugs and alcohol only make things worse. For millions of Americans, drugs and booze are the immediate escape hatch, the chute. They allow us to quit "feeling", to quit dealing with our emotions. To runaway, just like this dude on the plane.

In a society that searches for an instant cure for everything, from insomnia to depression, many of us think we can just runaway from our problems. Take a hit, a few pills, a couple of beers. In fact, that idea has been marketed to us and absolutely instilled in us.

What we are really trying to do- is to quit thinking and feeling. And so we have a very successful legal drug industry that markets and sells what we want. Instant relief. A hundred bucks for the doctor, maybe a hundred or so for the prescription. Can't get a prescription? Plenty of liquor store and drug dealers.

Need someone to talk to? Psychiatrists sell their time for a couple of hundred bucks an hour.
Why is it that we are the only living beings that need that stuff? Ever see a dog looking for a shrink or some tranquilizers?

And so a large number of us runaway emotionally. We become addicted. And we find similarly situated people and we commiserate with them. We marry those like minded souls, have kids, get divorced. And because we can't deal rationally with our emotions, we teach those kids the same skills. How to runaway, how to avoid depression and conflict, by altering our states of consciousness. All of those drug companies, the beer, wine, and liquor producers and distributors, bars, cater to those unconscious and ego driven beliefs. They whisper in our ears, "we have the solution." "We will make your pain, your depression, go away." Unfortunately, it works for just a brief time. In the long run, that solution will damn you to a life of enhanced unconsciousness, misery, and death. Just as surely as tobacco kills, alcohol and drugs are responsible for a huge amount of hospital admissions and they account for upwards of 75% of every prison population.

There of course is a real solution. A long term, healthy solution. One that is simple, doesn't require any money. It does however require willingness, honesty, commitment, education, a new skill set, and work. Had Steven Slater been aware of it, I doubt we'd have heard his name.

It works. I was able to define what really matters and how to achieve that and still sleep at night.

I am able to quit a job today without fanfare or flourish. Without demeaning an oppressive and controlling boss. Without all of those war plans swimming in my head. Without going home and killing a six pack of beer. No escape chute. I evaluate all of my jobs and relationships based on two simple pieces of criteria. No drugs, alcohol, or psychiatrists needed.

Have I been as impeccable as possible? If so, is this situation making me happy? That's it. If I am not happy, I simply quit or remove myself from the situation. No one up and diminishing wars, no resignation letter calling people names, no chute onto the tarmac. No need for hope or reliance that things "will change." I accept the crazy and ego driven behavior of the world around me without diminishing it. I let absolutely nothing stand in the way of my happiness. And I am still able to get a chuckle from people like the Jet Blue guy.