Dynamic Interactive AdaptabilityYour guide to promoting growth, resilience, and wellness in turbulent times

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Noble truth and neuroticism

Supporting the systems theory assertions that stress is a vital component in the development and survival of a system, Scott Peck (1978) introduced to Western audiences the first noble truth of Buddhism as an initial step toward psychological wellness. Peck asserted that once people accept that life is difficult, they can stop whining about obstacles and start recognizing—and creating—growth opportunities. However, the more people complain about how life should be different to accommodate their sensibilities, the more difficult life can become. Complaining about, rather than dealing with, reality increases anxiety to the point of neurosis—which Jung (1973) called "a substitute for legitimate suffering."

In fairness, when individuals experience stress, the focus of physical and mental processes causes myopia that absorbs the individual into the immediate trial. Current and historical wars, holocausts, coercive dictatorships, disability, abuse, poverty, being part of the food chain… legitimate suffering seems to be blocked from the mind during neurotic struggles with everyday stressors. Many Americans who travel to other countries, visit blighted areas of their own country, or who serve on the battlefield will witness legitimate suffering. The unfortunate who live through abuse, war, poverty, concentration camps, and other heinous events experience legitimate suffering. However, in assessing the typical “suffering” in American society, Bertalanffy seemed to join Peck, Maslow, and Jung in passing a diagnosis of "neurotic."

Some caveats. First, this mental dysfunction is not unique to American society; it is a common affliction of affluent cultures. Also, many affluent people successfully maintain wellness and raise functional children in affluent environments. However, rising affluence does seem to correlate directly with decreasing resilience for many; what should be a stepping-stone seems to be a crutch for some people and societies.

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