“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven…” – John Milton, Paradise Lost
Have you ever met someone who, objectively speaking, has it all, yet they are miserable, depressed, anxious? Have you ever met someone who is constantly seeking out problems, creating issues where they don’t exist, overreacting, overthinking, and spending most of their time trying to identify what exactly is wrong with their lives?
Have you ever met someone who could be happy and fulfilled if only they’d give up on a bad habit or addiction? Yet, even though they ask for help and always talk about changing their ways, they never do so.
Known Hells > Unknown Heavens
I’ve long believed that hell isn’t somewhere you get sent to after a life of treachery, malice, and deceit. No. Hell is something you carry around with you. It is a state of mind. It is the consequences of your actions. It is the way the world reacts to your thoughts.
And I believe that there are an awful lot of people living in hell right now. And even if offered the chance to escape, they’d decline it.
The gambler who somehow gets a chance to start anew, debt free, always manages to screw up. The ex-smoker who counts the days until he’ll start again. The person who could go to the police and get out of that abusive relationship, but never does because they are hoping the other person will change.
Hell is, most often than not, something of our own making. And we prefer known hells to unknown heavens.
We fear change so much that we are willing to suffer until the day we die just so we don’t step outside of our comfort zones.
Such a pity.
“Pressure can burst a pipe, or pressure can make a diamond.” – Robert Horry
I was born rather fragile. Or so my parents thought. They tried to shield me from anything that could potentially harm me. They made sure that almost everything could harm me as I grew up.
After all, the mind requires stimulation in the form of adversity. A hell of your own choosing. Doing what is hard now ensures an easy life later.
If you go throw life wishing for comfort, your brain will compensate by creating a problem to overcome. One that doesn’t make much sense, because it’s just your brain rebelling against itself.
Our obsession with chasing happiness and this fear of being punched in the face actually weakens us mentally.
Shielding the mind from any adversity makes us more vulnerable to anxiety, panic and chaos.
I have written about my own battle with depression.
The more I wanted things to be easy, simple, predictable, comfortable, the more discomfort I got. It was ridiculous, in a way. And most of it was of my own doing, yes.
Stagnation made it so that I couldn’t even think of ways to solve even the most simple of problems. I’d postpone them over and over again until they became the kind of problems that I couldn’t solve them anymore.
The truth is… no one told me. I had the wrong map and it was leading me in the wrong direction.
By accident I stumbled upon the benefits of doing the hard thing. The grind. The battle royal between your desire for comfort and your need for discomfort. I developed grit by going to the gym on a daily basis. I am not made for something like this. My skeletal muscles are weak, so I am in pain on a daily basis. Or used to be. For a long time.
After a few years of this, I started to purposefully look for things that were difficult. To see every challenge as an opportunity, every obstacle as a way to an improved me.
It’s funny: now I welcome adversity. The soreness I feel upon awakening, knowing that it is the aftermath of spending two hours in the gym every single morning. The “battle wounds” I have from my boxing training…
Think about it this way: how do you stop a guy who enjoys being punched in the face? Who enjoys the struggle? Who expects things to be tough? How do you beat someone who doesn’t give up?
Adversity actually makes you more creative. Smarter. Literally. It activates a part of you that is often latent. Choosing to exit your comfort zone not only stops your brain from trying to eat itself, but it grows it.
We as human beings need resistance, adversity, and pain to break and transform. We are both the marble and the sculptor. We must either focus all our energy on growth against adversity now, or suffer the consequences of stagnation later.
Heaven is the state of mind that having to walk through hell is inevitable. A hell of your own choosing. A hell that you come to understand, that you even appreciate because only by walking through hell do you deem yourself worthy of seeing heaven.
“No tree, it is said, can grow to heaven unless its roots reach down to hell.” – Carl G. Jung