There’s a great scene in Osmosis Jones, a semi-animated flick about the insides of zookeeper Frank Detomello’s (Bill Murray) body, when a serious virus hits “City of Frank.” Instead of going to see a doctor, he pops a flu pill saying, “Sick? I’m not getting sick! I have far too much planned.” Meanwhile, down in the ailing metropolis of Frank, the mayor (without due process) throws the Override Switch.
It’s remarkable how many times in a single day we do the same. If we aren’t ignoring the messages from our bodies, we are behaving oppositely to our feelings, doing what’s expected, staying in the canoe when we’d rather bail, acting kindly when we’re mad as hell, or putting on a happy face to mask the miserable.
Now, at first glance, overriding may not seem problematic.After all, we have to behave in civilized society. We can’t just throw tantrums in the grocery aisles when we feel tired and fed up.But when you consider the cumulative effect of a society of overriders, the results are staggering.
To understand what override looks like at the collective level, consider the sheer volume of people taking antidepressants (prescriptions for SSRIs in Canada increased from 3.2 to 14.5 million between 1981 and 2000), and then wonder why depression is still on the rise.Or ask why such a high number of sexual predators are associated with the religious and moral right. You might even begin to wonder what lives under our tendency to violence in this society.
“To make war is an inability with grief,” says poet and shaman Martín Prechtel, “Shame and depression are an inability with grief. Grief is the source of art. The only source of art. Violence is an inability with grief.”
You can feel how infinitely more relaxing this story is from the one we’re normally taught.As I overheard a mother instructing her distraught toddler in Override 101 the other day, “Superman doesn’t cry!” The creative individual, Prechtel teaches, reaches into his grief and discomforts for poetry. Now while you may not consider yourself an artist, what is life but a sculpture of one’s choices?
Eckhart Tolle, author of The Power of Now, talks about override in slightly different terms. He says that most of our difficulties come from resisting the present moment. Resistances are normal, but instead of affirming whatever is coming up, we resist our resistance, placing another “no” on top of the first “no,” telling ourselves we shouldn’t feel that way, we don’t want that pain, we should be more evolved, less emotional, stronger, etc.
The first step to dropping resistance is listening to it.Until we can do that, it will keep coming up and we’ll find ourselves on the Override Loop, “Argh.I hate this situation!But I should be more patient.Argh.I hate this situation!”
Yessing the dilemma does not mean staying in it.But you can only take action to rectify your predicament once you’ve admitted you’re in one.From there, you can begin to drop that which is draining or embittering you and redirect your energy towards that which you love.
“You love what you love more than you love your hate,” Prechtel teaches. “If what you love is the divine, story, culture, children, then instead of blowing a whistle, you’ll strive to keep the seeds alive.”