Super Joy Thinking: Playing around is not something we do as a reward for “really hard work.” Non-competitive, time-wasting fun activities engaged in without full involvement are healthy in themselves.
The hang-gliding husband I met on the beach echoed one of the most frequent ideas of a modern society that blocks our super joy.
He felt that we should live “hard,” do everything intensely and with vigor. He felt that anything less than maximum effort, even while playing, was a human frailty, a cop-out, missing out on the full range of life experiences.
Our stress addiction, and the counter addiction of depression, become so pervasive that even a game of checkers can be a life-and-death struggle. “I bid wrong playing bridge,” said the husband. “For God’s sake, you’d think I just lost our house. She doesn’t play bridge, she uses it as a weapon, an arena to act out her need to win.” This husband was identifying a major problem with stress addiction; once we are addicted, we cannot turn the addiction off. It sneaks into everything we do, every activity from how we get up in the morning, how we wash our hair, to how we drive a car or feel while we are driving.
“I knew my stress addiction had the best of me,” said one man.
“I was stuck in another traffic jam. As I sat there for minutes with not a single move forward, I thought to myself, ‘somebody better be in a terrible accident up there to cause this delay. If this is just a stalled car, I’ll kill somebody. I want to see a massive accident.’ I couldn’t believe what I was thinking, and when I finally got up near the accident, I felt guilty, almost like I had wished this on somebody. But you know what? I sort of thought, “Well, okay, at least somebody was injured. I guess it was a justifiable delay.’ Then I knew I was over the brink.” Try this test yourself. Notice today how you do the simple things, like getting a drink of water, buying a newspaper, entering and leaving a car or taxi. Notice how other people do these simple things. You will probably notice that you and most people are doing things with intensity and rush, not delight. We are chasing our respective white whales, but we are far from enjoying the hunt.
Society has constructed an entire set of stress addiction facilitators. Have most of society’s inventions and modern conveniences really made things more enjoyable? Are we mistaking easy and fast for fun and happiness? Have we lost the balance between modern progress and personal joy? Look around you today and see what you think.
The wife of the man on the beach said, “He would never just hit the tennis ball back and forth with me. He wants to play a game.
When he says, ‘Let’s play,’ it seems more like he’s saying, ‘Let’s wrestle.’ When we play golf, I beat him, so I suggest that we just forget keeping score. He suggested we just forget playing golf together. Now he fights tennis with his victims and I play golf with my friends.” This example shows just how destructive stress addiction can be to relationships. Joy involves connecting with other people, not defeating them, outracing them, or getting the best of them. Getting the most out of everything you do sometimes involves learning how to get a little less out of some things you do, or being able to “just play around.”
“You Should Get The Most Out Of Everything You Do vs. The Value of Just Playing Around” is an extract from Super Joy, the New York Times bestseller by Paul Pearsall, Ph.D, now available in paperback from Amazon and other bookstores, and on Kindle, Nook, and iTunes.