...it may seem that we back off from excellence because it is hard to achieve and because it is a a hard taskmaster once it is reached. But excellence and ease can coexist; in fact they exist together far more readily than do excellence and effort. It is easier to be excellent by being naturally expressive than it is by making the enormous effort required to hold back

Joseph Heller Bodywise

 

Trying

Alexander Lowen referred to "the neurotic attitude of trying."  Trying is more than intending, it is engaging the voluntary and will system to try to force a result. Trying makes sense if there are steps toward a result that have not yet been put into use, and trying means taking effective steps that have not been taken up to that point.

But when all straight-forward steps have been taken, trying harder usually just results in contraction of the body and of the mind. The result in the body is disco-ordination, tense muscles, and sympathetic over-arousal, and eventually depletion of the adrenal system. Lowen writes:*

The suppression of feeling is done by muscular contraction which places the body in a state of tension. While the tension creates the drive, it also reduces the body's energy through its restriction of respiration. The result is that persons who drive themselves are headed for a breakdown. This analysis suggests only one way to avoid illness, and that is by reversing the pattern of this culture. The drive or push to succeed must be reduced, and the life of the body expressed through feeling must be increased. We must realize that the drive for success is an attempt to compensate for an inner sense of failure as a man or a woman. It is an effort to convince our parents and the world that we are worth being loved despite the fact that we don't feel lovable. But no matter how much we try nor how successful we become we never arrive at feeling loving or lovable and we succumb to the despair we refuse to acknowledge.

Trying works against new learning because, when it comes to the body and movement, trying to do something different ironically reinforces what already exists. In acting, there is a maxim that if one wants to play a drunk scene, one should concentrate on being sober. That is, a drunken person trying to be sober actually reinforces the drunkenness Similarly, a sober actor trying to act sober actually pushes him or herself away from 'sober'. Said another way, a sober actor would reinforce sobriety by trying to pretend to be drunk, because conscious effort stifles change, even if the change can be imagined.

One adaptation to an early intrusive, invalidating or critical environment is to trust or identify with effort, but distrust success or anything effortless. Effort is one thing that is almost never criticized. Even an extremely critical parent is very unlikely to criticize an effort to please the parent.

Trying is very compatible with, and in fact, often associated with 'underachievement.' Trying to feel better, ironically, is often an impediment to feeling better. It is only useful to put oneself 'at risk' of feeling better by engaging in pleasureable activities without trying to force a result.

Trying in relationships also leads to an insensitivity to others. Most people have had the experience of someone who 'tries too hard' to please or to be needed and functions as a nuisance as a result. What most people want at bottom is love and acceptance, and no amount of trying will obtain either.

Trying is also associated with fighting reality, since what one is trying to do is change reality, but sometimes unrealistically. This generates stress where it need not be. Ceasing to try all the time, does not lead to doing nothing, or to acting completely randomly. On the contrary, taking a 'vacation' from trying allows feeling and creativity to operate.

Trying makes everything into an 'attempt.' That is what is undertaken to make is laden with suspense and tension about results, and this leads to a burst of unsustainable activity and then abandonment. Most healthy practices take months and years to show any difference in adults. The likeliest way to succeed in becoming healthier is to start a judiciously recommended practice, and just consider it 'what one does'

*Stress and Illness: A Bioenergetic View (1980)