There's a meme being circulated in which George Carlin tells us, "Here's all you have to know about men and women: women are crazy, men are stupid. And the main reason women are crazy is because men are stupid."
I don't know how much I agree with this—it's a pretty sweeping generality—but it does make me laugh.
The thing is, we're all stupid sometimes and we're all crazy sometimes... right?
There's an awesome article in this month's O Magazine by Martha Beck. The magazine itself has fallen disappointingly far in the past few years, diminishing in breadth and quality, but Beck remains just as smart and on-point as always. Her article, "Hurts So Good," addresses why we do stupid things sometimes and, more importantly, why we continue to do stupid things. "What have your bad habits, deep-seated issues, or damaging behaviors done for you lately?" Beck asks. "More than you know."
Beck writes about secondary gains, which she likens to "beating your head against a wall because it feels good when you stop—a painful experience is linked to something that feels better, and to get the good feeling, you subconsiciously repeat the pain." There's a lot to think about there. In fact, when I read her article the first time, I got only that far before I had to close the magazine to give myself time to really think about that. I came back to it the next day, and this time I got deeper into Beck's thinking.
She explained that we do this secondary-gain stuff because, "in general, our culture doesn't allow us the freedom, kindness, and rest we need." She gave lots of examples, but generally she says we run around like fools, trying to balance our lives at the very time we are imprisoned by them. We engage in bad habits because we don't have the time and energy to determine what's really bothering us. To break the pattern, what we need to do is actively seek those things: Freedom, kindness, and rest.
It makes sense. A lot of sense.
Consider Beck's argument: "Many people think [breaking the pattern] will lead to wanton selfishness and the breakdown of civilized behavior. The truth is just the opposite. Think about it: When you feel free, loved, and rested, you're far more benevolent, far more likely to offer support to other people. It's when you're suffering and exhausted that you become unavailable, focused solely on your own needs and how to fulfill them."
That is certainly true for me. When I'm at my worst—grumpy, snappy, angry—it's always because I feel trapped, treated poorly, or exhausted. Always.
Something to think about.
(By the way, Martha Beck is really fantastic. She blogs at http://marthabeck.com/blog/)