The paint on the wall of my living room is cracked and peeling. There are major gashes in the wall under some of the peeling paint - those of you with children will understand. The room must be repainted. I have purchased a can of paint, a roller, and a brush. I apply the paint with roller and brush directly over the old cracked peeling paint and gashes. I am crazy - yes? Or I get a scraper, some solvent, sandpaper, and patching materials and a can of paint, a roller, and a brush. I strip away the old cracked paint. I patch all holes and other damage. I sand and smooth the surface. Then I apply the paint. I am sane - no? It is absurd to think that you could just slap a coat of paint on top of cracked and peeling paint, and presume that the result would have any long-term value.
Unfortunately, we also apply that kind of quick-fix mentality to the emotional issues in our lives. We have become a nation of quick-fix artists, hoping against hope that “five easy steps” or “seven simple strategies” can repair the damage caused when a death or a divorce gashes a huge hole in our hearts or when a lifetime of neglect accumulates and limits the energy available to participate fully and happily in life. And if those simplistic steps and strategies fail, we can resort to the ultimate cover-up, the magical pill that will change our lives.
It’s almost impossible to have missed the ads - TV and magazine in particular - that start by suggesting that if clouds are hiding your days then these pills can bring sunshine back into your life. Seems as insane as painting over the cracks, but if we’ve been taught to believe, “eat a pill, fix your life,” then we will continue to believe that relief is so easily obtained. Where does this come from? Simple - little children who express sad feelings to the adults around them hear this in response, “Don’t feel bad, here, have a cookie, you’ll feel better.” What a perfect breeding ground for the eventual use of illegal drugs or psycho-pharmaceuticals to attempt to deal with a range of naturally occurring human emotions, especially the sad ones. Most of us have known people who keep covering up the painful feelings caused by the losses in their lives. We have seen and heard them tell the same sad stories over and over. What we have watched is the emotional equivalent of spreading another coat of paint on top of a badly damaged surface. People try one quick fix after another, with the same ineffective results. And yet, even when presented with more effective choices, will always choose what seems to be the softer and easierway. But like the man said, “You get what you pay for.”