I’m not a touchy-feely type of guy, just ask, well, anybody. I’m kind of cold, self-centered and by no means a people person. When people use the phrases “smother them with love” and “kill them with kindness”, I seem to fixate a bit on the “smothering” and “kill” parts of the phrases.
So, when I see something like “Letting Go With Love” I see “Emotionally Losing Stuff”. It takes me a little while to understand what is going on. And yet, that is the phrase that I saw in the book “The One Skill” by Leo Babauta. His premise is that by letting go of different things we can immediately improve our loves. Some of his examples include:
- Stress: Our stress comes from wanting things to be a certain way, and then we get stressed when things inevitably don’t go that way. But if we could let go of how we wanted it to be, and accepted and appreciated reality as it is, we would let go of the stress.
- Procrastination: We procrastinate because of a fear of failure, hard tasks, confusion, discomfort. But if we could let go of wanting things to be easy, successful, comfortable … and just accept that there is a wide range of experiences, we could just do the task.
- Habits & distractions: By the way, most people have a hard time changing habits for this same reason — we procrastinate on the habit just like we procrastinate on work tasks. We also go to distractions all day long for the same reasons.
- Irritation/frustration with people: We get irritated with people because they don’t behave the way we’d like. And this damages our relationships with them, because we’re angry at them. It makes us less happy. Instead, we could let go of wanting them to be a certain way, accept them as they are, and just be with them. It makes the relationship much better — I’ve seen this with my dad, my wife, my kids.
While I appreciate his attempt at helping people to “let go”, to become more accepting of different things, I personally find his approach too simplistic for most people to implement. While his solution may work for him and many of those following his programs, the reality is that people who are seeking out his method, perhaps subconsciously, are those that are going to be his most ardent supports and advocates.
Now, this isn’t to say that I disagree with everything that he says. I think he has a number of gems of wisdom that are applicable regardless of whether you adhere to his philosophy or not.
- There is no absolute right — that’s just an ideal that we have. We have expectations that everyone act in the “right” way, but that’s not going to happen in reality.
- With regard to children: You want to control them, but they resist. It turns out, they’re their own people. They are independent, individual people, and they’ll grow into people they want to become. You have some influence on that, of course, but not control.
- We are not permanent beings. Even the self that we think we are is constantly changing — there’s some continuity, perhaps, but not the same self. Everyone is like this.
So, I finished his book (it was rather short and writing this note actually took more time) and what I came away with was not a change in philosophy, a “eureka” moment that marked my life as being radically altered. No, what I came across were a few “that’s cool” moments where the author said something that I connected with. They said something that was not only meaningful to me, but something that I instinctively realized was applicable to me and my life.
Self-help books are, for me at least, much like that: a series of “that’s cool” moments. While I have tried to drink the kool-aid on a number of them I invariably find out that they don’t fit me. I can take bits and pieces of them and use them in my life, but I can’t surrender myself whole heartedly to their way of thinking. Like this author said about children “… they’ll grow into the people they want to become …” a self-help book, course or event won’t have an impact on me unless I want to surrender who I am, who I want to be, and let someone else make me in their image.
It won’t work. I’m just too pig headed to let someone tell me who I am.