His death wish backfires:
Masatake Morita was a very bright, extremely sensitive but sickly youth prone to insomnia and gastro enteric disturbances. He was studying psychiatry at the university and was accustomed to receiving a regular allowance for tuition, medical, and living expenses from his father. At one point the regular checks stopped arriving. His father had come upon financial difficulties and was forced to cut off his subsidy. Morita was extremely upset and felt betrayed by his family.
He decided to get back at his father for this treatment. To show off his "miserable state" he would cut off all medication (since he now couldn't afford it) and overexert himself. Or, as the story goes, he decided to "study himself to death." This would surely teach his parents the error of their ways in abandoning him financially.
But instead of dying the young Morita thrived. In fact, his physical symptoms all but disappeared as he applied himself to study full time. Not only did he appear to "get well" but his efforts produced spectacular academic marks! His own effort had inadvertently led to the relief of his suffering and the discovery of what he would come to describe as "the healing power of work." It laid the foundation for Morita's understanding of the relation of effort to mental health and became the basis of Morita Psychotherapy.
(The three paragraphs above are from an essay called "Reality's Work" by Patricia Ryan-Madson featured in Mindfulness And Meaningful Work edited by Claude Whitmyer and available from Parallax Press, P.O. Box 7355, Berkeley, California, 94707)
BUSY HANDS ARE HAPPY HANDS
When my book 17 Lies got reissued into paperback format, I re-wrote the last chapter because I wanted to remember my own grandmother (Dannie Lee Chandler) and her influence on my life, and her favorite saying, "Busy hands are happy hands."
I wrote that book after my first few years of coaching people and helping them discover the lies they were telling themselves about how powerless they were in the face of circumstance and other people. I found 17 of these lies that kept coming up....but the beauty of all that was that it was just flat out FUN to reveal the lies, and my clients and I would laugh so hard to find out that life's scariest stuff wasn't even true.
So I'll say it again like I did at the end of the paperback because, really....what people in this world want to know, more than anything, is how to stop all this deception.
How do we stop all this lying? All this story about being helpless and confused? How do we live in truth and enjoy the beauty of being alive? The answer is simpler than it looks. You don't need a brain transplant, or a new injection of character or a change of DNA. You might not even need five years of therapy.
A clue to the answer is found inside the purpose of the lies. As we observe these lies, we can see that they are all (each one of them!) designed to keep us out of action. They are all "call in sick" cards on the great game board of life. They make it easy to fall victim to our feelings (especially the negative ones). The lies give us cover for following those feelings (even though following a negative feeling usually leads to an even more negative one.)
Therefore, if each of these lies leads to passivity, then the truth must be found in activity. It is as simple as the saying your grandmother used to repeat to you whenever you helped her with a chore, "Busy hands are happy hands."
Our bodies and minds were designed for movement. They were not designed for an agonized, depressing paralysis. Yet our current culture and society urges us further and further into the soft, lewd arms of comfort. Dark and clammy passivity beckons, and the world becomes obese with self-nurturing. Listen long enough to the lies and we won't move at all. We will just become shimmering mounds of glistening gel, wobbling discreetly in reaction to the latest electronic thrill, the shift of the cushions on the couch or the blast of the super-sized drink we slurp to wash down another sweet and spicy artificial food. We will shimmer. And we will grow sad. And we will tell ourselves more lies.
Your own way out of this cycle will show up for you once you base your life on constructive action. What needs to be done? That's the question. Not, "How do I feel about doing this?" Every time you ask yourself, "How do I feel about doing this?" or, "Am I comfortable doing this?" or, "Do I have the self-confidence to do this?" or, "How do I remove my fear of doing this?" you are robbing your soul of its greatest gift, the human spirit. You are placing emotion above motion. A near-fatal misjudgment. Emotion is meant to be carried low, and motion high. Lift yourself up, please! The human spirit is expressed in uplifting motion. A bird must move before it can fly. And so must we. Take these broken wings and learn again.
The late and great American philosopher William James said, "Effort is the measure of a man." And Japanese psychologist Shoma Morita said, "Effort is good fortune."
Today there were many people who did not go out running. Why? Because they didn't feel like it. But even the most devout daily runners, the ones you saw out running this morning on your way to work, didn't feel like it. Not until they started running. Then, about 15 minutes into the run, they felt like it. In our society we have everything backwards. We are all sitting around passively waiting until we feel like doing what we know needs to be done. We have now elevated feelings to the highest possible level. We've put them above everything else, and in so doing, we have paralyzed our lives. We have frozen perfectly good lives that could have been constructive and full of joyful accomplishments.
If we would learn to honor movement over passivity, we would have the answer.
The truth is, we are powerful. But we can only know the truth of our power by using it. We can't just know it conceptually, because that does us no good. We can't really know anything by just sitting there trying to figure out what we feel like doing. (We knew we were powerful when we were children, because we spent the day running, skipping, jumping, painting, laughing, singing and soaring through space. Our young minds moved, too: Creating, inventing, improvising and making stuff up all day long.)
As adults we have talked ourselves into a conspiracy of frozen living. The lies we tell justify the deep freeze we are in, the paralyzed existence. The lies justify and explain why we are always so stuck.
Busy hands. That's the answer, and always has been the answer. You'll find your truth, not by believing, but by experiencing that your grandmother was right. Busy hands are happy hands.