Why is it we don’t realize that misery is optional? On Netflix I have been watching a series entitled “Intervention” which addresses addictions. Addictions can be to substances but also to lifestyles and thinking, although thinking often gives birth to the lifestyle. Watching this series has brought back to the surface my own participation in an intervention approximately 11 years ago with someone central to my life, to my monasticism, and to my spiritual growth.
I am basically a very strong person but that intervention was the most difficult thing that I have done in my life! For the full 45 minutes tears streamed unimpeded down my face. The pain of the moment was seeing in their eyes that I now knew “the Emperor had no clothes.” Those of us who participated did so in order to save our loved one from becoming lost within an increasing self-delusion. That intervention was Tough Love personified and everyone who participated in it paid a life-altering price. But it was what love and respect for the individual required of us. It was the proof of having learned the spiritual lessons taught even when that meant coming to terms with the teacher’s own demons.
So no matter how smart we might be, no matter how gifted, no matter how revered, it is still possible for us to not see ourselves well enough. That is why having relationships with others is so important. Others not only tell us about ourselves but they can also save us from ourselves. Misery is optional. If we are willing to hear what reality and others have to tell us about ourselves, the secret misery that we cradle within our hearts can be banished, can even be healed. In some weird way though, we sometimes think we need to guard our misery from others, not realizing that they already know. Sometimes we are the last to know about ourselves.
The outcome from our intervention was that they went into residence where structured help was possible, stayed there for 6 months and came back out still believing that the Emperor was clothed. So was the intervention a failure? Not for those of us who participated! Our lives were changed for the better and we were all launched into a more serious and more dedicated living out of spiritual life. Spiritual life is serious business and has nothing to do with feeling good. It has to do with doing what is right.