Sunday, October 19, 2008

stuck in the mud

Last night I learnt a new game from my 6 year old daughter and her friends. It is called ‘Stuck in the Mud.

There is a Mr. or Ms Mud who is supposed to say the word mud and as soon as he or she says mud, the other children have to run and scatter. Mr. or Ms Mud has to try and catch the children and tag them. The one who gets tagged stays stuck in the mud till one of the other children crawls under the legs or arms of the stuck child to free him or her. Once freed, he or she can run and try and save others. You play till everyone is caught and then change the (“it” in kids parlance i.e. MUD).

It was a bit complicated for me, as my brain is a bit slower than 6-9 year olds!!! Somehow, I did manage to play with them although I got shouted at a few times.

But I learnt something. When we get stuck in the mud…we need the help of another to get unstuck. If I don’t ask for help, I may be stuck for a very long time. I have to attract attention and ask for help and be ready to run when help arrives.

Viola I found the secret to my survival.

It reminded me of the time when I was stuck in my emotional mud and some lovely friends came forward to help. I did have my moments when I rejected the advice and chose to stay stuck, but eventually better sense prevailed and I decided to get unstuck. It wasn’t that easy to let go of the emotional mud that I had gotten so used to, but when I did it felt great.

As young children we are comfortable and eager to ask for help, but as we grow older our ego prevents us from showing our vulnerability and we choose to keep a facade of normalcy even in times of distress.

Seneca a Stoic Roman philosopher says that nature has given us mirrors so that we may know ourselves (ut homo ipse se nosset). Our friends are our mirrors. Ultimately, however, coming to know oneself is a matter of reflective self-examination and philosophical study. But during times of distress our cognitive capabilities are put to test. We may not be able to see the big picture and choose to stay stuck. A bit like the “pig in shit”. This is the time when we need to ask for help. It does not make us vulnerable, it makes us strong. We might even be doing a favor when we ask for help.

Humans are a social bunch and the fulfillment derived out of meaningful relationships and work is what motivates us .

Seneca devotes an entire treatise to the question of how one should benefit others, and how one should receive benefits (On Favors; lat. De beneficiis). He analyses reciprocal relationships of giving and receiving favors, which characterize social practices in ancient societies.

The fact that societies thrived and continue to do so today is because the intention to benefit is closely followed by an intention to repay the favor.

So asking for help is in a way doing another a favor by motivating him or her to be of value. And value and meaning is what we look for in life.

In the process of growing up, we humans acquire rationality, ego, and self reliance. Asking for help is construed as weakness and therefore frowned upon.

As I was thinking about this, I realized that women are kinder to themselves; we ask for help, and we don’t mind asking for directions on the road. We talk to our friends and friends of friends when the need arises, but men prefer to find their own path.
Their subconscious forbids them from asking for directions!!!!! Ooh that would be just so unmanly!!!

But if we really think about it, ours is a symbiotic existence. The circle of life ensures the continuation of law of reciprocity. There are no free lunches. If someone does something for you, rest assured you will have the opportunity to do something for them.

So get asking for help and do every one a favor. Staying stuck in the mud just means the game has one less player and the game is not fun anymore.

To quote Seneca again “It’s not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that things are difficult.

So the next time you feel stuck …. Shout, scream, do the drum roll…do whatever it takes to attract attention and get free.