Set historically, people brought up in Russia are unable on a physiological (not to mention, on a psychological level) to make life choices freely and pursue them without remorse or reproach from their family.
Therefore, the first of Labkovsky’s Six Rules — “Do only what you want to”— causes numerous questions, doubts and even indignation. I face misunderstanding and resentment of this rule on a daily basis. I hear that living the way you want is impossible, dangerous, harmful, and selfish and that it contradicts all possible rules of peaceful coexistence. But this view is fundamentally wrong.
We all know people of this type: you seat them and they stay seated; you stand them up, and they keep standing; you lay them down and there they lie. Their name is legion for they are many. Actually, they are the majority, especially amongst people over 40. They aren’t aware of their own desires or even don’t have any — they are either masked or suppressed. They don’t seem to live — they just solve one problem after another, year after year. If they run out of problems, they invent new ones – for them, life with problems is more comfortable and familiar.
The main sense in their life is the sense of duty. The ruling word is MUST. The biggest fear is that something bad might happen.
And all this is done with a poker face.
Their parents imbedded in their heads that if they live the way they want to, they will have to pay for it one day. (Let’s not blame their parents as they had their own historical, social and hereditary reasons to do so. But this is not about them now.) As a result, just when people see happiness on the horizon, they begin to fear that it will soon come to an end and life will become worse than it was before.
So when they have to make a choice, they choose safe, neutral nothingness. They apply to a university that is easy to get into and closer to home. They choose a job that isn’t very demanding. They marry not the girl they are madly in love with, but the one who is guaranteed not to run away with someone else. (Women marry a reliable man, but not the one they are in love with.) And they live a boring, one-dimensional life following the scenario given to them by society and their parents. They study, work, raise kids, go for hikes in the summer and to the theater in the winter. Not because they want to, but because in their heads this is what ‘normal’ life should look like.
One of the medical consequences of a lack of desires is asthenic syndrome – lack of energy, and apathy. The extreme form of this condition is depression — when a person either doesn’t want anything or just wants to lie down and die (suicidal depression). Some people spend most of their life this way. Every day is a struggle and a battle. They think that this is the only way to shoulder their earthly burdens.
Most people don’t get any pleasure from life at all and I consider it the biggest tragedy. An entire country — millions of people — lives without having any idea that there’s another way: without drama, without forcing yourself, without a self-consuming sense of guilt and shame.
In most people, the internal ‘must’ dominates everything else — the ‘I want to’, the ‘I dream of’, and the ‘I can’ — to such an extent that when they are doing what they want, they feel worse than when they are doing what they have to. These deeply neurotic people live with an overwhelming worry in their hearts. They suppress not just desires, but any emotions they might have.
The reason for all of this is cold and insensitive parents who ignored, didn’t respect, and didn’t take into account their children’s desires. This is the source of Russians’ traditional willingness to obey, grovel, put up with, and endure hardship. It is why they are so certain that their genuine opinion is meaningless and irrelevant. There is nothing new here – we all went through it in our childhood. And so did our parents before us…
We are a society of unfree people, for whom unhappiness and misery are the norm. In Russia we are worried when things go well. There is a nationwide idea that you have to pay a price for it. The anxiety over having to pay that price really soon is a nationwide emotion. Everybody is really keen on overthinking their orgasms! We need to break this vicious circle, to cast off the chains forged from the lack of love and freedom that bind us from the womb. It’s never too late. And it’s about time too.
In any case, if you also have problems with desires, try training yourself. Start with something small. Sit down at the table but don’t eat anything until you decide exactly what you want, to the smallest detail. Take your time. Think about your favourite colour, your favourite film or book. Mini or maxi? Tea or coffee? Soft or hard-boiled egg? Remember that desires are not connected with the rational mind, with logic, and ‘the right choice’. Your choice cannot be wrong.
Learn anew how to listen to and hear yourself instead of following somebody else’s wants. Develop your skills and talents. Bring to life your little ideas, dreams and goals. Don’t be afraid of looking bad in society’s eyes — this is your life! People around you don’t really care much about it — they have their own …
We all envy people who can walk into a store, take an item off the hanger and head straight over to the check-out counter — and then put it on, right by the cash register. We admire people like this and want them to father/bear our children, as this confidence spreads into every aspect of their life – their profession, their job, their home, their life partner and even their choice of car…
How did they grow up this way? It’s just that from early childhood they were given the right to speak up and make a choice. And from an early age they knew that their desires were valuable to others and to the world around them, that their wishes were normal and could come true. Treat your children this way. Trust them and they will get a chance in life.
The other side of the problem is when you have too many desires and just can’t settle on one of them. You can only deal with your ambivalence by setting the goal of seeing through every single one of your desires (to the point of absurdity). When you make up your mind — stick to it. Have you decided to go to the 8 p.m. movie with your girlfriend? What, your friends called and asked you out for a drink? No, you are already going to the cinema and no ‘new options’ will make you change your plans.
If you follow this strategy for a while, you’ll stop dithering and will start making better decisions that will not be hard to keep to. The result depends on how much you have suffered from your own ‘impulsiveness and contradictions’, how sick you are of dithering and the amount of clothes in the closet that you bought for no apparent reason and have never even worn.
You can listen to lectures, read clever books and posts on Facebook, but there are things that you simply have to start doing. You need to DO WHAT YOU WANT TO, and whatever will be, will be.