What if we’d try to not think about a pink elephant?
This probably won’t work. Because as soon because the pink elephant emerges in our minds, it’s impossible to induce obviate it by consciously not considering it. and also the more we attempt to get obviate it, the more it persists.
The pink elephant, during this case, represents our general dissatisfaction, which can manifest as negative emotions like sadness, stress, anger, or boredom. Ironically, the more we attempt to be less dissatisfied, the more dissatisfied we become. So could or not it’s that this inclination to be so invested in becoming free from dissatisfaction, trying to be happy, trying to be content, is precisely the explanation we aren’t?
Here we see the paradox of willpower, which is that the basis of ‘the law of reversed effort’ also remarked as ‘the backward law by philosopher Alan Watts. or just put: the harder we try, the less likely we’ll succeed.
On the flip side: once we stop trying, we’ll have what we would like.
So, if we wish to prevent considering the pink elephant, during this case, abandoning our struggle and letting our ‘desire to urge obviate it’ dry out is that the paradoxical solution rather than trying to get rid of the elephant from our thoughts forcefully, we let it dissipate by itself by leaving it alone. Now, how exactly does this backward law add practice?
Or more specifically: how exactly will we get what we would like, by not trying to urge what we wish? How can we get what we want without trying to urge it?
This looks like an impossible and absurd thanks to operate; especially in an exceedingly world where we’re accustomed striving and putting effort into getting what we wish.
Willpower may be a viable solution to get things within the external world.
For example, if we would like to urge rich (in the monetary sense), it possibly takes effort to get a particular amount of cash that’ll classify us as ‘rich. And if we wish to run a marathon, we’ll have to put within the necessary effort to create our stamina up to the purpose that we are able to run such an extended distance. But the backward law isn’t most not about worldly achievements – if anything, it transcends them. It’s about getting what we actually, truly want. It’s the shortcut to the holy grail; the thing we’re all after; the goodie. But what’s it? Is it wealth? Is it love? Is it friendship? Is it an extended and healthy life?
Even though such things are pleasurable; they’re just cheap imitations of the 000 thing. they’re the items that we believe will lead us to what we seek. But, because the backward law makes clear, the more we seek, the less we discover.
The more we chase these outside circumstances, the further we’ll be far from what we truly desire.
So, what will we desire? will we desire happiness? And if so, what’s happiness? Is it something that we acquire through things like love and material possessions?
According to Alan Watts, we don’t know what we truly want because we cannot define it.
“Why don’t you actually know what you would like? Two reasons that you just don’t really know what you want.
Number one: you have got it.
Number two: you don’t know yourself, because you never can.
The Godhead is rarely an object of its own knowledge, even as a knife doesn’t cut itself, fire doesn’t burn itself, light doesn’t illuminate itself.”
So, could it’s that what we seek is obscured by our look for it? which we’re trying to find something that we cannot define?
But if that’s the case: why can we keep searching?
The human predicament may be a collective delusion which tells us that getting external things or changing external circumstances, from objects to money, to adjustments of the body to changes of scenery, will fundamentally release us from our sense of lack.
The backward law shows us that the alternative is that the case. We feel lacking due to our discontent with current circumstances. The greater our discontent, the more we suffer. The greater change we’d like to be content, the less content we are.
Imagine that you’ve set yourself a goal, which is that you just want to become a millionaire, believing that this can cause you to happy. Setting such a goal not only means it takes plenty of effort to succeed in contentment; it also implies that being to this point aloof from that goal causes you to unhappy because you realize how inadequate you’re compared to what you would like to be. Or how best-selling author Mark Manson put it: pursuing something only reinforces the actual fact that you just lack it within the first place.
The more you desperately want to be rich, the more poor and unworthy you are feeling, irrespective of what quantity of funds you truly make.
So, if you’d increase the number of cash necessary to be happy, you’ll feel even brusquer and subsequently more miserable. But if you’d significantly lower the edge, your feeling of inadequacy will decrease, because the goalpost is moved much closer to where you’re.
Nevertheless, we still favor to set the bar high; oftentimes far above our current position, and by doing so our feeling of inadequacy deep and persisting. The human tendency to repeatedly pursue more as a cure for the itch, while simultaneously maintaining that itch by that very pursuit, seems illogical. And that’s precisely the case in keeping with German philosopher Schopenhauer.
Schopenhauer concluded that we wish what we would like because, like anything within the universe, we are representations of the will-to-live or, simply, the will.
Schopenhauer argued that the ‘will’ is an illogical, directionless, continual striving that causes us to measure a lifetime of suffering that can’t be ended by anything that the planet needs to offer. thanks to this, we pathologically want over what we’d like, driven by an incessant sense of lack.
The mind perceives lack because it believes that the current moment isn’t enough; something is missing, but it doesn’t know what. And thus, we keep escaping what’s, into situations that we perceive as more pleasurable. But once we get there, we eventually find ourselves within the same dissatisfied state that we tried to flee.
Schopenhauer stated, and that I quote: “Thus also every keen pleasure is a slip and an illusion, for no attained wish can give lasting satisfaction.”
There’s a Zen story that illustrates this paradoxical idea by explaining how we will clear cloudy water.
Imagine there’s a pond with cloudy water and that we want to work out its floor.
We can stir the water or try and remove the cloudiness with our hands, but this won’t work. the sole thankfulness to see its floor is by doing nothing until the cloudiness subsides and therefore the water is obvious. The cloudiness represents our desires, our thoughts, our dissatisfaction. The stirring within the water and attempts to get rid of the cloudiness represent our grasping for happiness. ‘Seeing the floor’ represents contentment, which only happens after we leave the water alone and let the cloudiness subside by itself. Hence, stop trying to urge it and you may have it.
Being alert to the workings of the backward law doesn’t mean that we must always never set goals, never have ambitions, or never pursue change. There’s probably an endless amount of reasons why we must always make a change, and shouldn’t accept the establishment.
However, the backward law does teach us to not be fooled by the concept that the pursuit of happiness ends up in happiness. It’s quite the alternative. And therewith knowledge, we’re able to enter that blissful state of ‘not wanting a touch more often.
Because, as Alan Watts stated: “The mystery of life isn’t a controversy to be solved but a reality to be experienced.”