A concept that spans a wide array of disciplines is the path of least resistance. With people, we regularly want to do what requires the least amount of effort. That’s a key origin of how habits form, particularly habits we don’t necessarily want to have or continue. It’s what we slip into when auto-pilot – the things we fill our time with when we’re not even thinking. An in its own funny way, it took a lot of time or repetition to turn those things into muscle memory and habit, even if we didn’t realize it in the moment.
That easy, default response in our action is similar in the reaction our mind produces when it may process an experience negatively. On episode #1228 of JRE, Neil Brennan and Joe Rogan discuss the mentalities that may be representative of cancel culture and of careers that require you to put the boring, repetitive work in to succeed – namely comedy and cooking. Particularly, they mention the initial negative responses we all experience – the example given was Rogan early in his career seeing successful standups and feeling anger and envy because he wanted to be on their level. They’re quick to point out how that is an immature mindset and Neil comments in particular that those negative, defensive responses are simply the easy reaction. What is actually going on there and underneath that which can be productive or show you why you feel that way?
As someone who can look back over the past 10+ years of my life and honestly realize how differently I process things, I can attest to the importance that distinction and choice can play in someone’s life. I still get all the same negative thoughts and dangerous calls the dark corner of my mind we all experience at one time or another, but with conscience effort it has less control. It doesn’t necessarily go away, but it can get quieter and weaker.
My appreciation in what Neil is saying in calling it the easy reaction, is that is a simple and effective way to categorize that. The darker emotions are intoxicating – anger, envy, hate – these are fundamentally human and can be perversely addicting to experience. They fabricate power, accomplishment, and control. A trend all too apparent in the digital age – the ability to click a button and launch a virtual missile into someone else’s reality under fake pretense of justice or equality.
We all have these impulses – the experience of those emotions – but we don’t have to engage them. In my experience, they have almost always been fear based defense mechanisms. My brain trying to protect feelings of inadequacy, creating situations where I could attack others so I’d be comparatively better, or to sulk in envy convincing myself that person is just different so I shouldn’t try (a protection from failure). I can’t say what you’ve experienced, but I know these emotions or reasons aren’t unique in any way.
The easy reaction can be attractive when it has us under its spell. We don’t have to do anything to be a part of it. It just happens and we let it wash over us. Being right, angry, envious – unchecked, this is chaotic energy. But a layer deeper? These can be great motivators. Understanding the origin, the root – they can shed light on your true goals or desires, your fears, and even create inspiration. How can you be the next great stand-up you’re watching if you can’t write jokes at that level? Better get home and write, and understand what you found so captivating by that performance.
The easy reaction is garbage. It’s an illusion veiled in righteousness and safety. And even worse, it wastes time and energy and yields nothing. It only prepares for the next easy reaction. Go a layer deeper. Choose the hard reaction. Or at least the harder one. At least then you’re making a choice and not letting your impulses boss you around. How often are those things even right anyway?
See you tomorrow.