Are You Playing the Absurd Hero? Check Yourself

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Chasing endless desires and battling problems makes life feel futile and absurd, like Sisyphus pushing the same boulder up the mountain over and over. Is this happening to you? Check your family life first since the cycle often starts there.

We fight a losing battle in a world of finite resources, time, energy, and health. And eventually, we die trying, yet unfulfilled. The good news is there is a point to this struggle, but you just have to get the point! Let me help.

This letter from a friend shows how the cycle of the absurd hero begins:

“…our problems began when my wife’s mother was diagnosed with cancer. With enormous help from my wife her mother beat the cancer, so it was a shock that the happy outcome didn’t prevent the darkness that flooded our home and drowned my wife’s taste for life. Although she was surrounded by family — a husband and five children — a sensation of unremitting emptiness overwhelmed her. On the heels of her hopelessness, a frustrated anger burst into flames that isolated her and threatened our whole family.

Her frustration fueled blame that was directed at me and all those closest to her. Distancing herself more and more from the warm relations that might have pulled her out of her black pit of despair, she had other ideas about how to feel better.

It started out with a complete makeover, a new diet and workout regime, a new wardrobe, a family holiday, one shopping excursion after another — for a luxury leather recliner, a purple sofa, new kitchen countertops, a holiday abroad… In short, her solution was to replace her old life with a new and better one in every area and detail.

I tried my best to be the good husband. I took a second job and a third to pay for her desperate efforts to feel better. I gave up sleep to squeeze in more holiday time, more family time. Still, one new desire after another popped up for my wife to run after. Within a year, it was obvious that nothing would pay off. Instead, we are drowning in debts while each attempt for happiness turned out to the taste like ash in the end for her…”

My friend had become the absurd hero pushing that boulder uphill time after time in search of lasting fulfillment. Chances are that you chase pleasures on the same worn trail; we all do. Only the forms of the pleasures we seek differ. The bad news is the chase is endless because every sweet fulfillment is fleeting. Old desires are replaced by new ones that grow increasingly larger and harder to fulfill.

Our biggest obstacle to eternal fulfillment is that we can’t get a perspective on what’s actually taking place; we fail to see the cycle we’re caught in. Sooner or later, an accumulation of bitter disappointments and crushing blows will bring each of us to the tipping point of personal crisis when we ask, “What’s the point of it all?” This is called learning the hard way.

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There is an easy way too. When we learn to relate to our desires in a whole new way, lasting fulfillment is possible. None of your desires are bad or wrong and they don’t need changing. What does need to change is the way you process and respond to them. About the processing: each dissatisfaction exactly pinpoints for you where you need a new approach to life. They are a kind of map to happiness, but you need to learn how to read the map before you can exit the cycle of disappointment.

We need to change our focus from how to fill our desires, to how to feel them more authentically. All our desires mask an intense yearning for deep human connection. If we use them in their full intensity to fill a kind of savings account for lasting happiness based on positive relationship instead of focusing on how to fill them, we are able to stop wasting our effort in life.

This is true because the satisfaction felt in creating positive connection does not evaporate upon fulfillment. Experiences of connection actually accumulate and create an ever-growing environment of support. The best way to open and fill your social support account is with a tool called the Dialogue Circle.

You can learn to harness the intensity of your desires and use that force to push you toward connection in the Dialogue Circle. It doesn’t matter what challenges are brought to the circle, whether similar or entirely different. In the Dialogue Circle, your yearnings interweave with those of others and together they explode in the center of the circle into a deeply satisfying sensation of unity and understanding.

The strength held within this bonding is exponentially greater than the sum of the desires brought into the circle. This is how an emotional force accumulates into a savings account of support that allows you to respond differently to life’s challenges. You will make improved decisions, and gain confidence and resilience.

I suggest that couples and families hold one Dialogue Circle per week to establish a stockpile of support that will accompany them throughout life and never run low. Investment in relationship pays eternal dividends because love is above time and space. The accumulating powers from this inner environment of connection both protects and reflects strength to everyone in the environment.

Like my friend and his desperate wife did, you can learn how to use all the situations that life delivers in a positive way, to acquire more and more stores of happiness and love. Then when the big challenges come, your account will be full of support that comes from rich human relationship. If you invest your efforts in building family connection instead of wasting strength chasing endless desires, you will give up playing the absurd hero and step into a true happily-ever-after.

Creator of CIRCULAR DIALOGUE METHOD for optimal social intelligence in any life setting or social issue. Research Program Manager & Chief Editor, ARI Institute.

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