Many of us think, “If I had no problems, my life would be filled with peace and tranquility”. I suppose only monks might tolerate that sort of life, but I doubt they could do it as well. It’s human nature to need problems to solve, some struggle or another to conquer. Some rail against or stress over problems they don’t want to bear. I doubt that many of us could stand a state of perfect bliss and harmony for very long. Our lives are so filled with opposing forces and ideas, we simply can’t stand having nothing to present us with some sort of challenge.
Consider this: because we are affected by the Earth’s gravity from birth, most never think of it as a problem, but it is – in that we are daily working at not falling down, nor dropping things that could break easily upon impact. Imagine if your body felt as light as a feather and that heavy objects you must lift seemed as light as the air. The gravity problem would lessen, but other problems would arise. Hit a big bump in the road with your car and end up in the next county!
Just because we are used to something, doesn’t mean it isn’t a problem. Defining their anatomy is useful for understanding how to identify individual problems. A problem is defined as force – counterforce. If a force has nothing opposing it, it will never become a problem. If the counterforce is easily overcome, we are well pleased. Those are the kinds of problems we like. If all our problems are bested with only a little effort, we will invent or find more difficult ones to strive at. Humans thrive on challenges; the greater ones we defeat, the greater the satisfaction.
When we are facing challenges greater than we feel we can overcome, we may begin to think we would be better off without any problems. We can become overwhelmed, sometimes to the point of a greater or lesser degree of mental breakdown. Insanity, depression, apathy, constant anger, and irritation, are all conditions brought on by problems real or imagined, ones we don’t think we can conquer, crushing our spirit. On the other hand, a person with too few problems will often invent or find something challenging to take on.
In the early part of this century, psychologist Carl Jung wrote a paper stating “what you resist not only persists but will grow in size”. It is commonly stated, “what you resist will persist, or you will become it”. Jung was essentially describing “creating problems for ourselves”. The same principle is also practiced in martial arts by doing the opposite – by flowing along with any force brought to bear against us, rather than pushing back at it.
I practice that flow in my own life. If I get into a funk, feeling depressed, I work to turn it into a full-blown melancholy. I find some depressing music, movie, or book, and revel in my despondency. It can become kind of fun actually, and soon I discover I can’t maintain that foul mood in spite of any further effort. Before long, I’m past it. By not resisting, but going with the flow of the negative emotion, I overcome it and return to good spirits.
To live life to its fullest, we need to find balance in all things. That means choosing our problems with goals in mind and divesting ourselves of problems that are more challenging than is good for our happiness.
If you find you have too few problems, check with me. I have a few I would like to pass on to some deserving person.