The Road to Hell | Brian MacKenzie

Issue #26

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Proverb


Every part of us is constantly striving for homeostasis or balance. Stress is the response of an organism to factors that actually or symbolically endanger its homeostatic integrity. When we do not get what we believe we need, the dynamic moves from an actual threat to a symbolic (felt) one, and we are out of balance. The twist is that we can experience a real danger that can be felt and curate actual physiological responses that we symbolically generate or have generated for years, decades, and even lifetimes that satisfy our feelings. 

From the earliest times in our lives, we seek many things centered around affection, safety, stimulation, food, rest, etc., to maintain our homeostatic integrity. This search can and does follow most of us through life by attaching ourselves to certain forms of affection, ways of feeling safe and stimulated, eating particular foods or not, developing specific sleeping patterns, etc. 

I remember vividly feeling like I discovered what I wanted to do 25 years ago. I wanted to help others through physical performance. But, I didn’t understand that much of the help I was offering was a little misguided. 

We often jump into situations trying to save the world without uncovering our feelings of what we desire, value, and believe we need, and a shadowy inadequacy that lurks in the background, making us feel better by ignoring all this. In contrast, we go out of our way to show others the same path. Just chipping away at all the best intentions and attempting to show everyone how much happier we are by serving others. In a chameleon-like way, we jump from one role to the next without ever taking the time to understand what is occurring inside us and how insidious the fear might be. 

Alan Watts described what he did when he heard people talking about love and being goody-goodies by buying a gun and barricading his door. Knowing these people were full of shit and that none of us is doing this well all the time. 

Often we do enough surface-level work to recognize this darkness and talk about our self-diagnosed identity as though we have a handle. This can be incredibly frustrating for professionals, as many of us jump to this self-diagnosis and believe we’ve solved our issues. Or, we diagnose those around us and live under the guise of simple fixes and explanations of, “If you/I just stop doing this, your/my life would change for the better.” And from the outside, it does. The good news is there is nothing wrong with you or me. However, there may be a deeper side to this that most of us are unwilling to go into—understandable. Pain works like that. 

Fortune, fame, and power come with one standard principle; responsibility. Yet, all too often, we avoid this or protect ourselves from this truth (principle) like the plague. So, why am I using the word truth, and what do money, popularity, and power have to do with this?

It can feel terrific to make more money, and you deserve it. It can feel terrific to make more friends, and you deserve them. But it can also feel terrific to feel like we influence people and things; in many cases, that’s the trick. While helping the world see that this new way of life will make you happy, wealthy, or famous, we’ve yet to learn of the truth inside and how we just showed these folks a magic trick without explaining the truth (principle) about magic. Replacing one behavior with another is shape-shifting without growth. I’m smiling while I am dying inside. This entire charade creates a very effective response in hormones, neurotransmitters, and ultimately down to proteins and genetic transcriptions, satisfying sensitivities and encoding old behavior patterns with the same old feelings that got us into this mess in the first place. It’s a cycle. So, yeah, there’s that. 

Just work your ass off and hustle; it’ll all work out as the influencers decree!

Excitement is a potent drug that can be far more powerful than the drugs currently on the market. 

The most common thing I see in my work is the one I encountered with myself—the pursuit of feeling better by helping others. Sorry, the pursuit of feeling better by helping others, by not looking at why I was trying to feel better.

There is real love in sacrifice for the greater good and in caring for others, and I am not implying we should not be doing that. However, while we have good in our hearts, many of us hide our insecurities and do not deal with what is killing us by just going out of our way to help others do the same We also aren’t addressing many of the issues in relationships and work that had we have been open to this paradigm there is a damn good chance we’d be making much healthier decisions. Unfortunately, this is the mask we wear through Goodwill, and we cover it up by sticking a hand out to help while our insides crumble or we deny the pain altogether.  

One of the darkest realities of this problem is that this do-good but hide-my-pain behavior passes on to the next generation of people in pain. So often passed to our children; however, it has no limits. We all are susceptible. It’s like real-life cooties. These behaviors usually show up in working more, making more, gaining or being around more friends (now followers), or trying to control more. Then, the chameleon takes on the identity of the new role with a smile on his face getting the chemical fill that changes the feeling of fear and hollowness. 

At the foundation of all addiction – not just the guy under the bridge drinking a bottle or snorting lines in the bathroom, the one that has each of us grabbing for phones and likes – is an attempt to regulate a sensation of discomfort that transcends our nervous systems and biochemistry. We can fill voids at the speed of physiological reaction with the excitement of money, people, and false control, and the more we get, the harder it can get to want to grow any further.

Fortune, fame, and power were and have always been there! They are exposed when we are comfortable inside our skin. Financial freedom has nothing to do with how much we make, and that doesn’t mean we can’t make millions. Likewise, fame has nothing to do with how many people know who I am; it is more about knowing myself and who I really want to know. And power is and has always been about what I really have control over because when we lose that, we will try and control the things we never had control over or pretend someone else or something has the power to make us happy. 

Rupert Spira said it beautifully in a talk on our natural state being happiness. I’m paraphrasing, “Nothing makes you happy. If you believe something makes you happy, you have just guaranteed that thing will make you miserable.” 

Be careful of excitement, my friends, but please don’t take that to mean not to experience exciting things. Unfortunately, the road to hell is usually paved with good intentions reinforcing a symbolic pain as old as we are.