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Some Confusing Effects of Discouragement

It seems that distress recordings from defeats we suffered when we were very young have left most of us feeling (and acting) discouraged, powerless, and passive.

It’s quite easy to see where these recordings hold us back from taking on new challenges. But they also have other more confusing effects:

(I will use the word discouragement to mean undischarged recordings of early defeats.)

  • Discouragement can make it hard for us to carry out projects that require time or sustained effort. We can become “addicted” to immediate results or to only doing things we already know how to succeed at. We can fill our time with things that are “successful” but are not what is needed to move the current situation forward.
  • To be truly successful, some projects require that we build resource in a structured way—that we complete one step before using that step as the foundation for the next. Discouragement can have us try to “leap over” the slower and more difficult but necessary steps. This can lead to failure, and more discouragement.
  • In the face of heavy discouragement, many of us have had to do something in our minds to get out of bed and into school or work in the mornings. This “false motivation” is not the same as the delight in being alive and interacting with the world that we in RC propose is natural to humans.
  • If we use this false motivation as the drive behind a project, we can make mistakes that, because they are active in appearance, don’t appear to be rooted in discouragement. Also, because we’ve constructed the false motivation to rigidly drive us forward, when something we’re driven to do isn’t working, we can rigidly continue with the mistake.
  • Discouragement probably comes from our experiences of trying and failing to get something we wanted. In the absence of discharge, one way to deal with a sustained sense of failure is to give up on wanting, or to reduce what we want to something attainable within the limitations set by the current society.
  • One response to discouragement about a situation is to hold out a hopeless picture. Another is to hold out an inaccurately “hopeful” picture that avoids addressing the real challenges. The latter presents a cheerful face but makes it impossible to take accurate enough actions to move the situation forward.

Karl Lam

Cambridge, England

Reprinted from the RC e-mail discussion list for leaders in the care of the environment

(Present Time 187, April 2017)

Last modified: 2020-07-17 20:50:52+00