The Box

An explanation, a definition, an accurate description – whatever you want to call it, putting a boundary around something so that it can fit within a framework in your mind. It’s good and bad. No, scratch that – it’s amazing and it’s terrible.

Why?

Because that particular tool can be used to make your life far better, or to trap you and kill you. It all depends on where you are in relation to The Box.

I’ll give you an example. Malfunctions within the human brain are nothing new, but giving discrete malfunctions names, causes, definitions, etc. – that’s relatively new, all things considered. So maybe a few generations ago a kid would just be hyper or active or “a handful,” and now that kid has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. That’s drawing some clear, bright lines around something that may not have had those lines before. Putting a box around it.

But now, this can go one of two ways. A great one and a terrible one.

The great one: “Wow, now that we understand some of the causes and likely effects of this particular configuration of neurons, we can encourage where we need to as parents, we can adjust our discipline and communication so that the worst of the resulting traits are mitigated and our child flourishes.”

The terrible one: “Everything our kid does is excused and will not be improved in any way, because the ADHD diagnosis serves as an excuse for all behavior.”

People do both. Have you received a diagnosis of depression? That’s The Box. If you say “Now that I have a name and a definition, I can use that to understand my pain, to improve, to get better, to defeat it,” then you’re using The Box as a cage for your enemy, and that’s good. But if you say, “Well, the reason I don’t work towards the things I want to achieve is because I have this diagnosis,” then you’ve put yourself in The Box. You’re the one who’s trapped.

When we, as humans, feel like there’s some giant but vague shadow over us, preventing our successes, it can come as a relief to get a name for it. “Thank goodness,” we think. “I’m not fundamentally broken as a person, there’s just some very specific malfunction, and it’s real and it’s valid and maybe even other people have it, and so it’s not my fault.” That is the first step on the road to the death of every dream and aspiration you’ve ever held.

Think of going to the doctor because you feel generally ill. Fatigue, aches and pains, all that. But you don’t know the cause. After several tests, the doctor returns to tell you that you have a malignant tumor, and that’s the cause of all your ills. Imagine then saying “Oh, thank goodness! My illness wasn’t imagined; it was valid and real and justified, and now no one can judge me for feeling sluggish or weak.” That would seem a strange reaction. The point of looking for a root cause wasn’t to justify your sensation of illness – it was so that you could find the cause and then destroy it.

Remove that tumor! Defining a root cause for anything about yourself that you’re unhappy with is only the very first step. The acquiring of a target, if you will. The next step is to exorcise it from yourself! Put it in The Box, while you yourself escape from it.

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