HAPPY AS A RAT
There are times in life when we can feel trapped by routine and uncertain about how to make changes. We self-impose limitations constructed of attitudes, beliefs and assumed expectations such as, “I have to look successful” or “I can’t disappoint my family”.
These attitudes and beliefs – although being deeply entrenched and invisible – are often more powerful than physical prisons. If we ever do come close to recognizing our truth we’re stopped by the terrifying question “what if”, “what if I fail?”, “what if it makes things worse?”, “what if… what if… what if?”.
In 1981 psychologists did a study on addiction using a group of rats, which they separated into two groups.
- The 1st group was housed in a 200 sq. ft. rodent paradise called “RAT PARK”; a colony so to speak where rats found accommodations for all their favorite pastimes; mingling, mating, raising pups… imagine “Leave it to Beaver” for rats.
- The 2nd group was housed in traditional, cramped, isolated cages.
Both groups were offered a choice of PLAIN WATER and SUGAR WATER LACED WITH MORPHINE.
- Like rats in other studies the traditionally caged animals, in group 2, became instant addicts. However, residents of the rat park, group 1, tended to “Just Say No”, avoiding the drug-treated sugar water altogether.
What proved staggering about this particular study was when the addicted rats would visit Rat Park they would tend to avoid the laced water – laying off the hard stuff – but once they were put back in their cages they became STONERS ONCE AGAIN.
This study gives insight to how we sometimes dull our pain or lack of fulfillment with mood altering substances or other distractions. It’s not uncommon for people who are miserable with their jobs, their relationships or simply their daily routines to indulge in having one too many scotches at the end of a workday, taking too many pills or super gluing phony smiles onto their faces.
If we spend many hours playing roles that don’t match our innate personalities or essence we can get stuck in what feels like a never-ending maze.
Many of us have areas of our lives where we are like these rats and nothing ever changes, we feel stuck, and so we engage in all kinds of behavior:
- Too much shopping
- Too much drinking
- Too much of most things.
This over-indulgence happens because we don’t believe we will ever get unstuck, and more than anything, we want to make “being stuck” feel a little bit better.
One of the most important things to understand about getting unstuck is that, unlike those rats, you can create for yourself a rat park – Change is within your control. Once you make this decision and have the understanding that you can, with absolute certainty become unstuck, there are two tools that you can use to help you.
The first tool is something that is innate to all of us, if we pay attention to it. We all possess the innate sense of what is bringing us toward change and meaning and what isn’t. We need to start harnessing that strength and putting it to good use. I don’t know if you ever played the “getting warmer, getting colder” game as a child… you’re in a room with friends, one leaves the room; you hide an object in the room and when your friend reappears, they have to find the hidden object. Based on the words “warmer or colder”, they are guided toward the object.
We all have this ability and this is how we need to start leading our lives. You need to ask yourself, your soul, day to day, when making a decision, “am I getting warmer, or am I getting colder?” It isn’t necessary to know exactly how your ideal life will look. You only have to know what feels better or worse. So, instead of thinking my life is so far from perfect, and I don’t know how to fix it, start choosing what feels warmer.
Your spiritual and emotional feedback is unique because it’s your life path, and your life path is unique. It’s important to trust your emotions and your choices, even when they don’t align with people around you. So you would maybe ask yourself do I want to go out drinking tonight, or do I want to read a spiritual book? What feels warmer? Or— what will lead to more fulfillment and meaning, being around enlightened people, or being around relatives who suck my energy, let’s say?
And if you make mistakes, it isn’t a problem, because you will soon feel colder and you can correct yourself. And it’s a great foolproof plan. You just go by what you feel. It feels cold. It feels warm. This will work. There’s ultimately only one thing that makes humans deeply and profoundly bitter, and that is to have thrust upon them a life without meaning.
The second tool you can use is the simple concept that you don’t have to make huge changes, just small change after small change & eventually these add up to great change.
Philosopher and engineer Buckminster Fuller understood this concept only too well when he engineered and implemented trimtabs on large ships. Trimtabs are tiny rudders attached to the back of larger rudders that steer these large steel giants of the sea. He understood that in order for such a large vessel to change direction, the sheer force alone would put too much pressure on the rudder, and due to the ships size plus the exertion on the rudder, it would cause it to snap.
Bucky devised a solution whereby that pressure was eliminated through the aid of trimtabs, whereby “just moving the little trimtab builds a low pressure that pulls that rudder around, takes almost no effort at all. So you can just put your foot out and the whole big ship is going to go”.
The point being that Everyday life is a series of decisions, small changes that add up to great change.
1. Do you believe you can really get unstuck?
What is the biggest area in which you feel stuck?
2. List actions you have taken in the past that have brought you farther or closer to whatever change you’re trying to create.
3. Think of small actions you can take tomorrow to start leading you towards great change.