One of the issues I want to discuss in depth is that of spontaneity in relationship to health and disease.
Your very physical existence itself is dependent upon the smooth functioning of many spontaneous processes. Your thinking, breathing, and motion are all guided by activities that are largely unconscious – at least from the standpoint of what you think of as the conscious mind.
Your body repairs itself constantly, and your mind thinks – all without your normally conscious attention. The same applies to all of those inner processes that make life possible. Your thoughts are conscious, but the process of thinking itself is not. Spontaneity is particularly important in the actions of children, and in the natural rhythmic motion of their limbs. Feelings also seem to come and go in a spontaneous fashion.
It is indeed as if some inner spontaneous part of the personality is far more knowledgeable than the conscious portion of which we are so rightfully proud.
Many people, however, fear spontaneity: it evokes extravagance, excesses, and dangerous freedoms. Even people who are not so fervently opposed to spontaneity often feel that it is somehow suspect, distasteful, perhaps leading to humiliating actions. Spontaneity, however, represents the spirit of life itself, and it is the basis for the will to live, and for those impulses that stimulate action, motion, and discovery.
In the truest regard, your life is provided for you by these spontaneous processes. As I’ve mentioned in past books, at one time the human personality was “more at one with itself”. It accommodated unconscious and conscious experience more equitably. Man was more aware of his dreams and so-called unconscious activity.
It is only because civilized man has somewhat overspecialized in the use of one kind of knowledge over another that people fear the unconscious, spontaneous portions of the self. The fear alone causes them to block out still more and more unconscious knowledge. Since the spontaneous portions are so related to bodily activity, they are very important in facilitating good health, and when people feel divorced from their spontaneous selves, they also feel divorced to the same extent from their own bodies.
Such individuals become frightened of freedom itself, of choices and of changes. They try desperately to control themselves and their environment against what seems to be a raging, spontaneous mass of primitive impulses from within, and against a mindless, chaotic, ancient force of nature. In the physical world, such behavior often leads to compulsive action – stereotyped mental and physical motion and other situations with a strong repressive coloration. Here any expression becomes almost taboo. The conscious mind must be in control of all actions as much as possible, for such a person feels that only rigid, logical thought is strong enough to hold back such strong impulsive force.
These attitudes may be reflected in rather simple compulsive actions: the woman who cleans the house endlessly, whether it needs it or not: the man who will follow certain precise, defined routes of activity – driving down certain streets only to work; washing his hands more frequently than other people; the person who constantly buttons and unbuttons a sweater or vest. Many such simple actions show a stereotyped kind of behavior that results from a desperate need to gain control over oneself and the environment.
Any excessive behavior may enter in, including oversmoking, overeating, and overdrinking.
It will be difficult for some people to believe that spontaneity is to be trusted, for they may be only aware of feeling destructive or violent impulses. The idea of expressing impulses spontaneously will be most frightening under those conditions.
Actually the people involved are repressing not violent impulses but natural loving ones. They are afraid that expressions of love, or the need for dependence will only bring them scorn or punishment. Therefore, they hide those yearnings, and the destructive impulses actually serve to protect them from the expression of love that they have somehow learned to fear.
Science itself, for all of its preciseness in some areas, often equates instinctive, impulsive, chaotic, destructive activity one and the same.
Nature and the inner nature of man are both seen to contain savage, destructive forces against which civilization and the reasoning mind must firmly stand guard.
Science itself often displays compulsive and ritualistic behavior, to the point of programming its own paths of reasoning, so that they cover safe ground, and steadfastly ignore the great inner forces of spontaneity that make science – or any discipline – possible. As I have said before, spontaneity knows its own order. Nothing is more highly organized than the physical body that spontaneously grows all of its own parts.
As your life is provided for you, so to speak, by these spontaneous processes, the life of the universe is provided in the same fashion. You see the physical stars, and your instruments probe the distances of space – but the inner processes that make the universe possible are those same processes that propel your own thinking. It is erroneous, therefore, to believe that spontaneity and discipline are mere opposites. Instead, true discipline is the result of true spontaneity.
Value fulfillment of each and every element in life relies upon those spontaneous processes, and at their source is the basic affirmative love and acceptance of the self, the universe, and life’s conditions.