Cutting off bad experiences, or somehow integrating them into your life

Sometimes people get in a bad state. They become homeless or go to prison or something. There are two ways that a non-homeless non-incarcerated doing-pretty-ok person can respond to this.

1. The “separation” approach. Just say “well, that’s not me”, and do all you can to avoid that becoming you. Cut those parts off from your world.
2. The “integration” approach. Try to include those parts in your world. Which means, you try to make those situations not so bad, and you try to behave with as much compassion as possible towards those people.

I think integration is better.

(I’m trying not to make this so obvious, though in 2019 America this is obvious, because an individual has so little control over whether they end up in these situations. Especially if you’re black or brown or poor or whatever. But let’s imagine a more ideal world, a just world where only people who do a crime get thrown in jail, and you’ve got some control over whether you become poor, etc. I want to argue that the “integrative” vision is better for everyone in it, even in this more ideal world.)

I’ve got more feelings than logic about why integration is better, and those feelings are based on comparing the world to your body.

Sometimes your body gets in a bad state: you get sick. There will be times you’re in the hospital - or at least, sick in bed. And at some point you’ll die! You can take the days that that’s happening and cordon them off, and say, “well, I’m healthy, not gonna think about that now.” Then when you get there, you grit your teeth and you get through it. (Or you don’t, and you die - that’ll happen once! Either way, it eventually ends.) This “solution”… feels bad? Sure, being sick always feels bad, but being sick and unprepared, knowing that you’re in the place you’ve tried to pretend doesn’t exist, makes the sickness feel worse.

I glossed over “unprepared”, because I’m not sure what it means. Obviously taking care of your body helps - if you’re usually pretty healthy, your illness might not be as bad. And sure, if you’re a meditation master, for example, you’ll be able to see each moment coming and going, and knowing the impermanence of it all makes it sting less, and hell maybe you can jhana out sometimes and get some relief. But I’m wondering, positing, guessing that maybe there’s an emotional component to this “preparedness” too; that you might be better able to deal with the “sick” parts if you’re more emotionally open to them. (I don’t know what this means, or how you become emotionally open to them, but it feels true.)

I’m guessing, if you’ve done this preparation more, then even the times when you’re feeling well will be better, because you’ll have less fear of the sick states.

So, likewise, imagining “well, I’m never going to be in prison, so who cares” - it’s unstable because what if you mess up, but it also just allows your mind to have unspeakable horrors in it, which invariably leads to worries even during the good times. Alternately: it’s better, say, to have one yacht but no possibility of going to hell-prison, than 10 yachts *with* that possibility.

(I wonder if this is universally held! I’m sure there are some people who would say “nah, f ‘em, I got mine!” I guess I’d just assume that those people are a little bit emotionally underdeveloped, or they’ve got other issues?)

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