Why Your Life Sucks So Bad

Why Your Life Sucks So Bad

“What’s the ugliest part of your body?…. I think it’s your MIND!”
–Frank Zappa

Since time immemorial, people across the world have been asking this question: “Why, when I have enough to eat, a place to live, and clothing to wear, does life still suck so damn bad?”  As soon as we stopped hunting and gathering and started having stable civilization, this question cropped up and has stuck with us ever since. Life sucks. Bad. Why??

There’s a simple answer, believe it or not.  The answer is, it’s not your life that sucks, it’s your mind that sucks.

It’s Your MIND That Sucks

Yes, your mind sucks. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great for things that it’s built to do, namely keep you from getting killed. That’s what minds are for, what they evolved to do over millions of years of evolutionary pressure. But what minds did NOT evolve to do is help you live a passionate, vibrant, satisfying life. They are uniquely crappy at that.

Life Sucks Because of Evolution

Picture this: You are a small animal. Maybe you’re some sort of proto-rabbit or lemur or something. And you’ve got, say 11 brothers and sisters. You’ve never been too relaxed, you’re more the type to be squirrely and tense, always on the alert for what bad things might happen. A couple of your sibs are pretty mellow, they enjoy nibbling on nuts and lying in the sun. Along comes a predator. Guess who’s the Lunch Special today, and guess who runs away and saves his/her skin? Guess who lives long enough to reproduce and pass along her/his genes to the next generation of small, furry animals? What kinds of genes does nature select for–happy genes? Not seeming like it.

Life Sucks Because Our Minds Are Survival Machines

Life sucks because we have a mind that evolved to save our skin and ensure that our genes were passed down to the next, sucky generation of people suffering with sucky minds. As soon as we had towns, as soon as we had reliable and safe living conditions, we noticed that our minds didn’t stop looking for things to worry about and torture us with. Why would our minds stop, just because our species happened to figure out how to eliminate most external threats? We’ve only been that safe for, maybe 10,000 years, whereas our nervous systems have evolved over millions of years, modified constantly through natural selection, under enormous pressure to improve survival rate. If our minds weren’t focused on survival, it would seem unlikely that I would be here to type and you would be here to read.

Life Sucks Because We Believe What Our Minds Tell Us

Though we are STRONGLY predisposed to f*** up our own lives by believing what our minds tell us — namely that threats are everywhere, and that nothing can be good enough — we actually have a choice as to whether we want to believe our minds. That’s right, you do NOT have to believe everything you think. The process of separating from the mind (not divorcing it, which would be impossible and undesirable since we still need to stay alive and calculate taxes), the process of coming to believe less and less of what our minds tell us, that’s the process we call mindfulness. Mindfulness is a whacky term really, because what we’re really talking about has more to do with paying attention to the body and other aspects of our experience that are ACTUALLY happening, as opposed to what the mind is going on about, which only bears some vague relationship to reality, and often is focused on stuff that’s not in any way, shape or form happening.

Mindfulness Gives Us a Choice

When we practice mindfulness, we take responsibility for noticing a choice that we all generally ignore, mostly by habit. Namely, we have a choice to direct our attention to actionable questions that have to do with our values, rather than inactionable questions that have to do with physical or metaphorical survival and/or avoiding suffering. “What shall I spend my time on that is worthwhile to me?” is an actionable question connected with values, with real meaning in life. “Why am I so stupid?” is an inactionable question connected with our sucky mind that is focused on the futile search for safety from suffering.

What have you noticed about your mind and its helpfulness in living well?

Do you manage to live fully and vibrantly WITH a sucky mind, and despite it?

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Joseph Rhinewine, PhD. People collaborate with me to live life fully: with principle, passion and vigor. My expertise is providing and teaching Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), an evidence-based, experiential and relational behavior therapy. I also apply Acceptance and Commitment processes to coaching those who wish to take their lives to a new level.

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