Surfing as Metaphor

People get upset or happy about stuff that happens to them or around them. And then their level of distress or pleasure drops or goes away. Most people return to their emotional set point after oscillating up or down.

Say your dog dies after nine years together. It’s sad and you feel really bad. But you do get over it and move on, the memories of your time together is still there to reflect on; but your pet is still gone.

What are the two things that are different after you’ve gotten over your pet’s death? I think they are your outlook and the passing of time. And which one can you change? The only one you can influence is your outlook. Time going by helps too, but what’s happening as the time goes by? Your outlook morphs into acceptance. Even though your outlook changes, your pet is still gone; the upsetting stimulus hasn’t changed at all.

The only thing that changed and the only thing that you can change is your outlook on what happens as life happens around you.

It the same thing with pleasure. If you buy a new car you’re usually really excited when you drive it off the dealer’s lot. Three months later though, you’re “just driving a car to work.” The car is still basically new and your friends even keep referring to it as “your new car.” Your outlook has changed, and you’re now regarding it as just “your car.”

There are lots of ways to change your outlook – from the ideas of cognitive therapy to calming your mind through meditation techniques, and  their various offshoots. But, it’s better to have some practice with these things before something upsetting or thrilling happens. You’ll be able to deal with life’s ups and downs if you’re prepared.

To put it another way, you can’t stop the waves; but you can learn to surf.