Taking Care of Busyness
An excerpt from How to Survive Your Childhood Now That You’re an Adult by Ira Israel
Every adult wants to live a version of what he or she imagines is “the good life.” Yet, many struggle with a default voice in their heads that tells them that whatever they do will never be good enough and that they will only be happy when they get a new job, relationship, physical appearance, etc.
In How to Survive Your Childhood Now That You’re an Adult: A Path to Authenticity and Awakening, author and psychotherapist Ira Israel explains that the origin of this voice of dissatisfaction is the wounded child within who is subconsciously and retroactively seeking the acceptance, approval, and love of primary caregivers who either withheld love, loved us conditionally, or treated us in ways we did not understand.
We hope you’ll enjoy this short excerpt from the book
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We need to question what we were taught would make us happy: did we learn from the narratives of films, songs, television, and literature that having passionate love affairs would make us happy? Were we taught that having one partner for life would make us happy? Did we learn that having millions of dollars in our bank accounts would make us happy? Did we learn that driving sports cars or boats or having expensive accoutrements would bring happiness? Because it turns out the one thing that correlates with happiness is the quality of our intimate relationships, how much we can depend on other people, and how securely we are able to connect with other people. Isn’t it ironic that the supposed prizes of our brand of capitalism pull us apart and push us into big houses with fences, exclusive first-class lounges, country clubs, private boxes at sporting events and concerts, and so on? And maybe once people taste exclusivity they become unwilling to share it, they want to keep it exclusive so that they can believe they worked hard to earn it, or that God loves them, or some other myth or fictional subconscious narrative? No sane person wants “Worked Really Hard” on his or her tombstone, yet every day I hear people respond to the question “How are you?” with: “Crazybusy!” which obviously makes no sense since crazybusy describes what one is doing, not how one is doing.
I am not advocating slackerism; I am advocating balance. And being truthful about our life situations. I am advocating that each of us derives our personal identity from who we are, not what we own, where we vacation, or what we do to earn money. If we believe Malcolm Gladwell, then we agree that Steve Jobs and Bill Gates would not have become Steve Jobs or Bill Gates had either of them not been born in 1955, hit high school the same year that mainframe computers entered high schools, and had ten thousand leisure hours to obsessively tinker with hardware systems and design software for those
Maybe it is time to unlearn “living to work” and relearn “working to live,” and to do so before our first, or next, heart attack or the traumatic sudden death of a friend or loved one with whom we regret not spending more time, or we develop an addiction, affliction, or dis-ease that is a signpost screaming, “I am not a dancing bear! I do not want to be a cog in the wheel of capitalism! I am sick and tired of working hard so that other people can get richer! I am fed up with people exploiting my limited time on planet Earth!”
The average retiree in America watches television forty-five hours a week. Are we working harder and harder just so we can spend the last twenty years of our lives on a sofa? I think we need a new metric for mental health, happiness, and success. And it could be different for every person. But if we buy into the current version of the supposed American dream, then we are signing up to live financially beyond our means, to be on hamster wheels of consumption, to constantly work until we drop dead or retire or are put out to pasture to make room for younger, hungrier workers.
If I am right and the current barometer of mental well-being relates to showing up for our jobs, to being productive members of society in order to earn money to pay our credit card debts, mortgages, and student loans, then instead of over 20 million Americans taking antidepressants every day, maybe it is time to reframe the American dream; build vibrant, loving, noncompetitive communities; take vacations; and allow time for people to bond with and attach to their families and friends. Maybe it is also time to stop blaming people and labeling people as lazy if they are not rich, stop ostracizing people who do not play the game of consumerism, and allow people to decide for themselves who they want to be and to find for themselves the things that will keep them at the higher ends of their happiness spectrums.
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Ira Israel is the author of How to Survive Your Childhood Now that You’re an Adult. A licensed marriage and family therapist and professional clinical counselor, Ira graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and holds advanced degrees in psychology, philosophy, and religious studies. He lives in Santa Monica, California, and you can visit him online at www.iraisrael.com.
Excerpted from the book How to Survive Your Childhood Now that You’re an Adult: A Path to Authenticity and Awakening. Copyright ©2017 by Ira Israel. Printed with permission from New World Library — www.newworldlibrary.com.