The Danger Of Quick Fixes
I happen to be born in an era where the latter half of my life was marked by a tidal wave of dizzyingly fast technological changes happening worldwide. I felt that I was a lot less anxious growing up until my teens only to become progressively more flustered subsequently.
The anxiety was a dreaded sense of not doing quite enough and never quite getting there yet, wherever “there” might be (See my post on The Busy One Inside). There was always something to catch up with and if I stopped, I felt that I would slide back down the river of progression and never catch up again.
Part of these rapid anxiety-provoking developments means too that the whole attitude towards how we approach problems have changed. We come to expect collectively quick fixes and magical elixirs to our problems. The urge for quick fixes have also invaded the sphere of emotional health.
Some of these quick-hurried-miracle cures seem to work (for the moment) so we start to apply them to all our emotional struggles with great hope. The sad thing is that most often and ultimately do NOT work.
It’s like expecting a band-aid to be able to fix a broken leg.
Here’s a little story to make our case:
Nick was one of our friends and he was very POSITIVE and impressed as an encyclopedia for people who wanted pep-talk phrases. He was always glowing and optimistic and talked machine-gun fast. Initially, we felt that he was great to be around and he seemed to brighten up interactions.
As we got to know him better and listened to his life story, it turned out that he had experienced some painful traumas and adversity and we wondered how he could be seemingly unaffected by them. Perhaps he has had time to work through this and come out the other side settled and peaceful.
Yet, that was not the sense that he eluded. He did not feel like he had developed the scars that go with working through troubling emotional experiences.
Eric always said that Nick was like a bouncy little Leprechaun, hopping around on borrowed optimism. My own felt sense was that Nick’s glow and optimism had an artificial and plastic-glossy feel to it. Eventually, it got to the point where we felt quite uncomfortable just hanging out with him. Whenever the topic of his painful life surfaced in conversations, he was very quick to dismiss this and assure us (and seemingly himself) that all was fine. Then up came the glossy veneer to Joy and Positivity, full of Vim.
Except perhaps it wasn’t all fine.
Nick has acquired many quick fixes in his life – quick fixes for painful emotions and has worn them like many layers of protective clothing. I once wore many layers of clothing below my ski-gear when I went skiing knowing how clumsy I was and that skiing could lead to accidental suicide due to said clumsiness. Nick gave off the same sense of being wrapped around with the magic Secret of the month. Yet underneath was this sense of raw unprocessed pain that was sometimes palpable.
His optimism held up only as far as he kept his armor wrapped tightly around him. He needed to apply consistent effort so that the armor doesn’t fail (more effort than servicing our cars!). Eric and I have seen brief cracks in his armor more than once, and so we’re worried about when it does fail and how much pain would burst forth for Nick.
Perhaps if Nick had gradually allowed some of his armor to relax and gave room for the buried pain to surface little by little, to be acknowledged and processed (a la Focusing), than they could have been transformed. If he had sought out professional help, knowing that he did not need to process his pain alone, he mightn’t have needed so much quick-fix armor.
Granted that Focusing on the pain is opening up a can of emotional worms, the worms do have to be let out or they can fester. Of course, Focusing on the pain would worsen it in the short-term, and yet continuous empathetic listening in to it would gradually lead to emotional healing.
Eric and I recognize too that it’s not always appropriate or timely to open up our own can of emotional worms. We may have other things to prioritize and day-to-day obligations to meet. We can’t afford to just open up at any time and at any place because we’ll not be very useful in our daily lives.
But when time permits, we would like to encourage you to slow down and turn your attention inwards towards that can of worms and apply Focusing compassionately to them. It doesn’t have to take very long each time. A minute here, ten minutes there. It all adds up.
If this is too hard, at the very least recognize and acknowledge your own armor and what it does for you. We’ve all got to start somewhere if we ever hope to grow emotionally.
Above all, beware of picking up armor like Nick.