Safety is elusive!


In this post Jesse Bering reviews an article by Roy Baumeister, reporting that:

“… idealistic conditions actually heighten suicide risk because they often create unreasonable standards for personal happiness, thereby rendering people more emotionally fragile in response to unexpected setbacks. So, when things get a bit messy, such people, many of whom appear to have lead mostly privileged lives, have a harder time coping with failures.”

I have often speculated along these lines. Not thinking in terms of suicide per se, but just that psychological robustness seems to me to need exposure to hardship, in the same way that muscles need to be exercised to become strong.

Life is full of ironies like that… the more privileged you are, the weaker you are; the less sanitised your environment, the stronger your immune system; and when morality is policed and coerced, it dies. It’s like an endless search for a control and a safety that ultimately eludes us. Life refuses to be squashed and boxed in to the confines of our ideals. Just when we get one part of life hemmed in, we spring a leak somewhere else.

I don’t find that depressing. I just find it interesting to reflect on. Amusing. Comforting, almost… in the sense that anxious striving becomes easier to stop. In all the different ways that people live in the world, there is risk; different types of risk. What type of risk am I more comfortable living with? Something to think about as I start to paint on the blank canvas that is now my life.

I think this puts a very positive spin on difficulty, too. It breathes new life into the old cliche that “what doesn’t kill you (or what doesn’t make you kill yourself :D) makes you stronger”.


2 responses »

  1. Yes, it does….that’s a really good way to look at difficulties. I guess they are here to stay so I might as well start “appreciating” them. 🙂 Thanks for the good reminder!

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