Matt Perryman

Why you keep doing things that don’t make you happy

By Matt Perryman

I sometimes find myself doing things that I know aren’t good for me.

Whether through past experience or conscious judgment, I know that the outcome won’t be good. I’m going to pay for this.

Yet here I am, doing it anyway.

How much of your life runs like that? Don’t even think about your guilty vices. Look at your baseline daily behaviors. The habits that run 98% of your life.

How often do you ever think about what you do?

Heaven forbid, did you ever hit pause and ask WHY?

Look, I get it, if you’ve gotten everything you want from life and you bring not a single complaint, then keep it up. Five gold stars.

I’m assuming that you aren’t named Zeus, or some other godly name, and you live down here on Earth with us mortals. Mortal lives are never perfect. There’s always room to improve, errors to remove, flaws to fix.

Many of our mortal imperfections can trace back to that conflicting mass of automatic appetites that run our lives.

You do things with no real idea of why you’re doing them.

Erich Fromm, who’s book To Have or To Be? I finished reading last night, wrote about two different ways of existing and orienting ourselvs to reality.

One of them is the “having” mode. Having is all about property. In the literal sense of stuff that you own, and in the metaphysical sense of a thing’s properties. A red apple has the property of redness.

Having means possession, acquisition, and competition to get it… or not to lose it.

That’s important, that last part. The having mode is wrapped up in aggression and violence, on one side, and many feelings and emotions based in scarcity, fear, envy, and greed, on the other.

It’s a pretty ugly way to go through life, always wanting and needing things you don’t have… and then if you should get them, you’re never satisfied. It’s on to the next thing.

If that weren’t enough, you’re always looking over your shoulder like a paranoid meth-head, watching out for anyone that might take what’s yours.

Neediness and fear of loss drive most of the negativity in life.

What’s the alternative?

Fromm calls it the “being” mode.

Being concerns such elevated motives as growth, relatedness, autonomy, competence, loving, expressions of the self, and transcendence.

It’s less to do with having and possessing, much more to do with giving and sharing and releasing to the world.

For a simple example, think of the difference between a property investor who owns titles to homes but never sees them, and the men who build them.

Two entirely different ways of existing and relating to life.

What’s this mean for you? No idea.

Fromm doesn’t think that one is better or worse than the other. We need both, if only ’cause a body’s gotta eat.

But the “having” mode is all out of kilter in modern industrial civilization, and we aren’t doing nearly enough “being”.

Maybe that’s a good reminder to be mindful of your blind consumerism, or how much your thoughts and wants are shaped by advertising… and do a little more calm breathing, outdoors, around plants and water.

Matt Perryman

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