You may have seen this Sept 4th, 2013 TED talk by psychologist Dr. Kelly McGonigal who basically says that it is not stress that kills you, it is the belief that stress can kill you that kills you. Check out the video on YouTube.
It may kill you to believe this, but consider that it is not disease and problems that makes you unhealthy, but the belief that they can make you unhealthy that is what is making you unhealthy. Disease, problems, symptoms or relationship struggles are all various forms of conflict. Does conflict conflict with health? Or is there healthy conflict?
I’m sure there is a study about this somewhere but if not, maybe you can still agree with me on the premise: Take 10 couples all of whom have regular arguments of some kind to some degree about something. Ask them independently if arguing is a sign of a weak, failing and hateful partnership or if it is a sign of a strong, open and respectful partnership. Say that 5 couples said ‘weak’, and 5 couples said ‘strong’. If we were to check in with these argumentative couples ten years later, which set would you guess is more likely to still be together?
Now, if you are thinking that the five so-called strong couples were probably miserable for those ten years, this may reveal some of your own bias about that same question. If ‘arguments’ isn’t the topic, it could as well be drinking habits, religious opinions, exercise and diet differences, sexual interests, scheduling difficulties, child rearing, snoring, romantic gestures and the list goes on and on. Somewhere there will be conflict.
If conflict and health are found to be friends, then could we lump in misery too? Is misery an element of health? It would seem not, right? Then is misery an element of conflict? While that may at least seem more likely, let’s dig a little deeper.
Consider the couples; if arguing is one of their conflicts and they engage with that behavior fully, they are both at least on the same page and arguing together (please note that I am not promoting or condemning arguing). If arguing is their conflict and one or both of the couples resist the behavior in themselves and/or their partner, it is easy to see how that resistance to what is actually occurring could manifest as blame, abuse, manipulation, defensiveness, turmoil, or in one word: misery.
Having no resistance to arguments does not imply a resignation nor does it mean you have to enjoy it. We all have our likes and dislikes. Being content can include being content with acknowledging that some things are just not for us and that we’d prefer to improve the situation.
Resisting a disease-conflict can be miserable too. Not resisting it in no way means you have to keep living with it, or embrace it or even like it. We can probably all agree that misery is an impediment to well-being of any kind. If so, then we could also agree that in the absence of misery (and therefor the absence of resistance to the conflict), that that situation would be to our benefit?
Have you noticed that the times you are miserable are the times when you can’t seem to get ahead, or make any progress or have a harmonious relationship? When the conflict itself is being fought against so hard, it is nearly impossible to see a resolution. Do we believe that conflicts make us miserable? Or do we believe that conflict is a process of achieving a higher consciousness and an improved state of well-being?
Perhaps now we can see the value of misery. Misery is our signpost that says, ‘You’re going in the wrong direction!’ The more miserable we become, the less we are able to continue in that wrong direction. Life is so complex that reasons and intellect cannot have the full picture. And not everyone is intuitive enough to always have deep insight into what is best for the situation but we all know what misery is. Thanks to misery, we can learn by our experience. As this happens, the whisper of intuition becomes more familiar, “You sure you want to go that way? You’ve been down that road before. I know it is scary to take this new unknown path, but at least listen and know that the way you are facing now is the path of misery.” You know that whisper. I sure do. Ask this yourself question, Am I sick and tired of being sick and tired?