Suchen und Finden
n the high grass of the lake, at the edge of the forest, they lay entwined on a bed of thick moss. During last summer’s school holidays, the young woman had noticed how, more than once, the boy’s eyes lingered on her ample bosom. Intuitively, she had sensed his burgeoning transformation, realizing he was no longer the little boy she had known for a few seasons now, since she and her husband had begun living at the cottage as caretakers. A robust yet quite attractive country girl, she dealt with most of the chores during the weekly absence of her partner, who was busy making a living in a faraway town. When the boy shyly suggested she should join him at his secret fishing spot, she took him at his word.
Nobody would disturb them in his hideaway, perfectly concealed from view by a thick row of reeds. His father had travelled back to the city, working, and his mother would not be looking for him, assuming he’d be fishing as he always was. Besides, she would be too afraid of mice and other creatures rustling about to even consider venturing into the woods at this late hour of day.
At first, he had felt apprehensive and awkward. It suddenly occurred to him she may be more than he could handle. What do you do? This was no sexy poster-girl in a glossy magazine, nor was she one of the few shy, inexperienced girls he had attempted to explore sex with. No, this was a real woman, and she sat close to him now, on that bed of moss, so close, so impossibly sensual in the intimate glow of the setting sun.
Attuning to his needs and fears, she kissed him lightly and tenderly, guiding him with expert patience through the dizzying realm of his most secret desires. His head spinning, his body on fire, all fear suddenly dissolved, he surrendered to the flood of intense new sensations he never imagined could exist.
In the fading light of the lake, the boy became a man.
We depend on people and things
In a desperate effort to cope with our anxieties, we find comfort in dependencies on external sources. We keep looking in the wrong places, just as the South African farmer who, in search of wealth and riches, sold his farm to try his luck at digging for diamonds in other places. He kept digging and searching and ended up dying poor and wretched while the new owner of his land eventually discovered the richest diamond field ever unearthed.6
In an ongoing quest for what we perceive to be happiness, we attempt to replace inner emptiness with external fullness. We mistake excitement and entertainment for contentment, not realizing that, by nature, outside components shift and change continuously, therefore in fact making it impossible for us to reach emotional stability. This is, of course, a prime recipe for stress and anxiety—yet most of us fall precisely into this life trap. In Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung7 underlined this specific issue by sharing his professional experience: “I have frequently seen people become neurotic when they content themselves with inadequate or wrong answers to the questions of life. They seek position, marriage, reputation, outward success, or money and remain unhappy and neurotic even when they have attained what they were seeking.”
No doubt, life would be a sorry and sad journey if we couldn’t enjoy the many pleasures it offers us. But the question then becomes one of whether temporary pleasure—however each individual defines the term—constitutes happiness. You can ponder that question, but before you think you have the answer, consider the following for a moment: You buy a new car you have fancied for quite some time. It’s comfortable, has fantastic acceleration and is equipped with all the imaginable gadgets. It makes you feel happy! But for how long? Until it becomes scratched or bumped, or worse, until you are involved in an accident. Even if nothing of this sort happens, after a while you become used to it, and your “happiness” fades away. Your car loses its lustre as the newness wears off. The same process unfolds with a new watch, a new jewel, new clothing—you name it. For how long will it bring you happiness? Until it becomes so much part of you that you do not even realize you are wearing it anymore.
We have been conditioned to this “toy syndrome” of sorts since babyhood. One fancy, colourful toy after another waltzes into our lives, delivering a dose of so-called happiness, when in fact, it is only momentary distraction and excitement. Today’s technology manipulates us adults even further into distraction, playing right into the hands of our predisposition for entertainment and instant gratification. Our attachment to smartphones, iPads, computers and other devices enslaves us to a degree of distraction never before witnessed in history.
This need to be entertained takes on an even more pathetic dimension when we rely on people to bring “happiness” into our lives. You may be thinking this is taking things a little too far. Of course, you will protest, other people are essential to our well-being! By nature, humans are social animals who thrive on interaction with other people and whose wellness depends on physical touch, affection, communication and love. Yes, this is all true, but reflect for a moment. Our dependency on people manifests in two major ways.
First, although we are so-called social animals, humans also need solitude to reflect on life and become comfortable with their own company, with their deepest inner selves. Yet in today’s world of cell phones and instant communication, many of us are unreasonably uncomfortable with healthy solitude—we can’t bear to be alone for even a few minutes. Thus we surround ourselves with real people or virtual “friends,” often to fill a deep void that we are unable to fill ourselves. We need reassurance and approval. We feel we need protection, which often has to do with deep existential insecurity. Or, at the other end of the spectrum, we feel that we are protectors, and with that comes a subtle sense of dominance. In his book The Celestine Vision,8 James Redfield interprets relationships as an interesting interplay of energy during which proponents act in different ways to replenish their own subtle energy levels. In mostly subconscious ways, some play the “poor me” role, others play the “interrogator,” while still others play the “intimidator.” Unfortunately, relationships based on those equations are unstable at best, do not last long and often lead to emotional casualties. That’s precisely what we witness happening around us again and again. Perhaps you yourself have created or are still creating some of these negative dramas and interactions?
Second, we live to please others. From early childhood on, we have been conditioned to seek approval. How often have we had our parents tell us, “That’s a good boy! Good girl!” and then reward us with a smile, a pat on the head, an ice cream or a toy? On the other hand, if we misbehaved, we were punished by harsh words, angry looks, a cold shoulder, banishment to our rooms, perhaps even a beating. Conditioning for approval continued in school as we were pushed to please the teachers—happy when we received a word of encouragement and devastated when criticized. In my days you would even occasionally be rapped with a ruler over the knuckles. Thus we grew up linking our inner harmony to the idea of pleasing others. Is it surprising, then, that as adults we replicate exactly the same behaviour within our own relationships? We need to please the boss, we want to please friends and family, we feel the urge to please by looking good, our confidence and self-esteem often depending on a bright set of teeth and a trim physique. With great expectations we watch for more “likes” on our Facebook page, and when we get none we feel distraught and neglected. At what cost is all this to our own inner harmony? Taken to extremes and more than just a play on the phrase “living to please,” some people literally die to please when they passively absorb the abuses of their partners and retain that negative energy.
We also make our “happiness” dependent on circumstances. Holidays are anticipated with great excitement. We work all year to take a break, looking forward to that time in the sun, reading a good book, enjoying being away from the cold, getting a tan, escaping the everyday routine: so relaxing! But is it really? Travelling has become more stressful than ever, involving increasingly invasive airport security procedures, uncomfortable seating, scarce and expensive luggage storage, cancelled flights, and when one finally gets to the point of relaxation, it’s almost time to fly back home and start all over. Often we’ll go on a holiday to escape a problem we should have faced and addressed instead. We hope that by the magic of the sun, the sea and a few cocktails, a failing relationship can be repaired or a nagging issue will go away. They won’t. The problem at hand only poisons the holiday in subtle ways, and meanwhile, the situation gets worse. Some people even link their happiness to the weather, to the day of the week or even to the time of day. Heart attacks are known to happen predominantly on Monday mornings.
Finally, but not least, we depend ever more on technology. In today’s world, how could we exist without the Internet and our screens? How could we fill our lives if there were no emails and text messages to check up on, no social media interaction, no post here or tweet there? Just consider the anxiety and stress you experience time...