What makes us do what we do? What compels us to action? For human beings, I believe, these motivations speak to the very heart of the matter, the soul.
The great spiritual traditions on this planet have a similar goal, that people grow beyond their ego to some sort of insight leading to a higher consciousness. The “Kingdom of God” is the metaphor that Jesus used to describe this process.
Jim Baugh, a clinical psychologist in Jackson and a fellow Episcopalian, wrote a book in 1980 entitled Solutions Training. In the book he describes five irrational beliefs, called “drivers”. These messages are “life-commands” of our culture. They are taught us by parents, schools, churches and the other authorities of our culture. These “drivers” are the part of the world view of our culture.
The underlying belief here is that You and I are valid so long as we don’t make a mistake. the road to success lies in the ability to do things perfectly. Not well, but perfectly. When doing things perfectly, you can feel good about yourself. You name it – from grades to weight, from career to parenting, from religion to recreation to retirement – the underlying message is “Be perfect.” Your choices of failing and therefore feeling like a heel are multiplied by the number of “be-perfect” situations in which you find yourself. the more there are, the worse it is. The only problem is, when was the last time any of us were perfect? How long did perfection last? How depressed did you feel when it did not work out as planned?
Not only do we have to do things perfectly, but we have to do them fast. Count the number of times we tell someone or ourselves to “hurry up,” and it will astound you. There is fast food, Jiffy Lubes, the one minute manager, worship in an hour, TV dinners, SAT’s under the clock, rush hour, Turbochargers, pizza delivered in twenty minutes or you get it free, microwaves, the Concorde. … Wood Allen summed it up well, when he said, “I took a course a speed reading and was able to read War and Peace in twenty minutes. It’s about Russia.”
This could be retitled, “Don’t feel what you feel but what you ought to feel.” Put up a good front. Big boys don’t cry. “Ladies” don’t get angry. Christians are nice. Be anything – but a wimp. High tech, low touch. Be better than. Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing. Live your life from the neck up. Be a cold reactor. Ignore high blood pressure. Others die from heart attacks.
To violate this canon is a cardinal offense for WASPs, (White Anglo Saxon Protestants). It translates into, “I can feel good about me as long as I’m pleasing to you.” So long as our understanding of ourselves is only validated externally we are in trouble. When pushed to its limits, it means getting sick rather than standing up for yourself. It guarantees victimization and all the benefits that come with it. It means I never have to find out what my needs are, not examine my own defects of character, because I’m obsessed with taking care of your feelings. Depression through hyper-vigilance to satisfying the needs of others is a high price to pay for being perfect at pleasing others.