Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Pleasant Excursions Around The Midpoint

I've just started reading Dr. Weil's new book, Spontaneous Happiness. I've read almost all his books over the years, so the "Spontaneous" part I got, as he's used it before. But "Happiness?" Oh no, not another feel-good book. But Dr. Weil is a smart man with good ideas. I wondered where he would go with this.

It's the Introduction, and Weil is describing the benefits of recognizing and accessing our mental "midpoint:"
"It is perfectly normal to experience "the blues" just as it is perfectly normal to experience joy and bliss, but optimizing emotional well-being means gaining greater control of the variability of moods, damping down the oscillations, and enjoying the rewards of the midpoint."
Given my engineering background, that made me envision a graph with big amplitudes. But Weil has a better image:
"Imagine yourself on a see-saw. The goal is to have pleasant excursions around the balance point, not to endure violent swings or to stop moving. And you certainly don't want to get stuck on the ground."
Have you ever had your see-saw partner impulsively decide to jump on the swings instead? While you were in the up position?

Back to Weil, and bliss:
"I advise you to beware of the countless books, websites, television shows, seminars, religions, and drugs (especially drugs) promising ceaseless bliss. The notion that a human being should be constantly happy is a uniquely modern, uniquely American, uniquely destructive idea."
The image of ceaseless bliss may be personally destructive, but it sure can sell cruise ship vacations.

One last excerpt:
"A German friend recently told me that the American greeting ritual -- person #1 says, "How are you? and person #2 must summon a smile and respond, "Great! Great! -- strikes her as bizarre, artificial, and exhausting beyond measure. I agree. I am asked how I am all the time, and as I recite the obligatory "Great!" I can't help wondering what I'm doing. The question feels intrusive, the answer disingenuous, the whole exchange false."
________

8 comments:

Bix said...

Just because I discuss someone doesn't mean I subscribe to all their teachings. I'm not keen on the extent to which Dr. Weil promotes vitamins, for one.

Claudia said...

This is the social media culture. Everything on Facebook or Twitter is like "Yay!" "Yummy!!" "You Go Girl!" or the opposite "You idiot!" And with 15 exclamation points!!!!!!! It feels so loud and falsely caring. Not many midpoints there.

Claudia said...

My seesaw partner Donna would get off if she saw the boy she had a crush on. Whomp! I'm lucky all my parts still work.

Bix said...

Oh boy, what a great point. I don't see how social media can't be affecting our psyches. And all these Like and Plus buttons are placing us in groups, reinforcing polarity. As Bush said, "you're either with us or against us," a phrase I find not altogether sensible because it doesn't account for a neutral stance, or a nuanced one... a midpoint.

Bix said...

By the way, I'm glad all your parts still work, Claudia.

Dr. Mel said...

Bix, either the seesaw metaphor has been around for awhile, or Weil read Terry Pratchett's 2010 book, _I Shall Wear Midnight_. To wit: "Balance. It was all about balance. That had been one of the first things that she had learned. The center of the seesaw has neither up nor down, but upness and downness flow through it while it remains unmoved. You had to be the center of the seesaw so that pain flowed *through* you, not *into* you."
@Claudia--I remember that feeling when the other person jumped off. I also remember what it felt like to sit on the center of the seesaw while two others rode it up and down. Kinesthetic memories are pretty powerful.

Bix said...

It's a likely image to call upon to describe cyclical movement, isn't it. Where your citation draws focus to the center of the seesaw, Weil draws focus to the extremes, and suggests dampening them, or reducing their point of equilibrium, their amplitude.

It's interesting that the point of equilibrium, the point at which the curve changes direction, is located at the extreme position, not at a fulcrum. Reminiscent to me of yin yang.

Dr. Mel said...

Too mathematical for me, Bix!