WHY IS LIFE SO CHALLENGING?
By Roland Watson
The picture that I have presented is as follows. Our needs and motivations are channelled through the behavioral influences of our genes, social form, free will and life force, to yield our intended behavior. Our intentions are then translated into what we actually do through the interjection of chance.
This simple model gives a basic explanation of human beings. While I will continue to modify it a bit in the final articles in the series, it nonetheless shows where our behavior, and hence our nature, comes from.
It is important to note, though, that the strength of any one factor is situation dependent. In other words, the relative effects of the factors will vary, depending on the circumstances.
For example, if you buy a product that was shown in an advertisement, which was specifically targeted at you, and to which you were exposed, that is the dominant influence. You may also have a genetic predisposition to be a follower, but in this situation it is the ad that will have the largest effect. If, on the other hand, you don't buy it, that is a manifestation of your will.
The importance of will
I want to emphasize the paramount importance of will. One of the best ways to do this is to talk about how you can use it, to offset the effects of aging.
Here, though, I'm not concerned with the gradual decline that we all experience as we grow older: How our bodies and brains degrade from one day to the next at the chemical level, from the negative effects in the cells of what are called "free radicals."
I'm more concerned about the setbacks that you suffer, and injuries, both physical and emotional.
Some people never recover from setbacks and injuries, but others do. They use their willpower to find a way to keep moving forward. No matter what happens to you, you can recover from it, at least some, if you don't give up. We use our willpower not to give up.
Adapt and overcome
In combat situations, soldiers follow the adage: "Tough. Deal with it. Adapt and overcome." If you think like this, too, even after the worst setback, you can establish a new balance and be happy.
One of the main points of these articles is that too much of our behavior is driven by our genes, and social influences, and too little by our free will and life force. One reflection of this is that modern psychology accepts determinism, with the current shift in focus to genetics. It discounts free will as a factor in our behavior, and does not seriously study it.
Also, there is an important consequence of all of this for our attempts to use our behavior to satisfy our needs and motivations. Since our environment is subject to flux and chaos, our needs - our goals - are often changing as well. And, we are changing - in motion - too. A human being trying to meet his or her needs, is like a moving gun shooting at a moving target.
Of course, it is not as if we don't know this. One of the main objectives for which we express free will is to achieve control over our environment. We use our will to quell the chaos of life, to steady the gun and target.
How hard can it be?
At a deeper level, though, it is even more challenging. What is happening is that over time you are changing, as is your perception of your needs, as is the environment in which you must satisfy them. It is really a moving gun, shooting at a moving target, against a moving background.
Even worse, and as I have described, you actually have two sets of needs: those that derive from your will, and those that society wants you to have. Over time you change, as does your perception of your needs, and over time society changes, as does its perception of your needs.
For you to be in balance, you must reconcile your perception of your needs, and society's expectations, which is a difficult and sometimes even impossible task.
Also, society's expectations may themselves be in conflict, reflecting the demands of its competing sectors and institutions. For example, your family may want you to do one thing, and your employer something else.
And, as if all of this were not enough, there is also a feedback mechanism involved. You are part of society. As you change, it changes - if only a little - and as it changes, you change.
In summary, what is involved in guiding and achieving our behavior is far more complex than is immediately apparent. Hence, it is not surprising that many people fail.
In the next article, I will review the links between our behavior and our thought. I will also consider the life force in greater detail.