Too Much of a Good Thing?

NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 09:  Sesame Street co-foun...
Image by Getty Images via @daylife

Do you remember the theme from Sesame Street? “Sunny day, keepin’ the clouds away. . .” This vision of idyllic playtime has taken an ugly turn recently. Our current weather pattern illustrates the truth behind the saying, “too much of a good thing.”

Was it Mae West who said, “You can never be too thin, or too rich”? I guess it all depends on your perspective, and whether you are coming or going. Too thin — ask the parents of an anorexic child. Too rich? As Robin Williams famously said, “Cocaine is God’s way of telling you that you make too much money.” We embrace the message of contemporary gurus who preach “life without limits.” And yet, without limits, life becomes very difficult.

Too many sunny days with no clouds, no rain in sight, and temperatures in a dangerous range is more than an inconvenience — it has turned deadly. Rain will be most welcome in these parts, when it does come, and it will.  Most of us would probably embrace a real “gully-washer.”  But one needs only remember the images of disastrous hurricanes and flooding to see the effects of “too much of a good thing,” from the opposite end of the spectrum.

It’s not so much that we must be careful what we wish for.  In our own personal experience, we are not doomed to repeating the same actions, and hoping for different results.  We can learn, adapt, and change our approach so that the good things don’t turn into bad things.

In my Feldenkrais practice, many people come in as a result of having done “too much of a good thing.”  Their HABIT, when encountering a difficulty or discomfort,  is to do even more of what it was that got them into trouble in the first place. At some point, they disconnect from their immediate experience (“That really hurts.  Maybe I should stop?”) in service of an abstract idea (No!  I won’t be a quitter. I can do a little bit more, and then I’ll have _____”). These admirable and good goals — “fitness,” “strength,” “flexibility,” “sexiness,” “success” — are not static and universal in their manifestiations. They are uniquely expressed in each individual.  Moshe Feldenkrais described his work as helping people “to realize their vowed and unavowed dreams.”  We are frequently unaware of our own dreams, substituting those of our culture, society, peer group, or family system instead — and further unaware that we have done so.  Personal awareness is a cornerstone of the Feldenkrais Method.

Learning to do a little bit less is a first step away from a potentially destructive pattern.  Choosing to do a bit less can help us find just the right amount of “doing.”  Then, we can enjoy the good things that life has to offer.

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