The Problem With Geographic Solutions

Dr. Hurd, there are house hunting TV shows that feature people buying houses outside the US. They’re interesting, but something I hear frequently from the buyers puzzles me and I thought you might want to comment. The buyers frequently comment about how they want to “get away from the rush and move to where the pace is slower.” Why is one’s pace of life something that seems to require leaving the country to achieve?

Great question; but the question almost answers itself.

The freer and more plentiful the country, the more you’re able to set the pace you want to set for your life. A person who talks this way reveals an inner contradiction. Perhaps such people like the benefits of a faster-paced society, but they resent doing what it takes to maintain those benefits for themselves.

Let’s say that in America (for now) it’s still easier to buy more things than in other countries. It’s still the most plentiful place on earth. Yet with all that opportunity comes a requirement to purchase and maintain those things you want. Some people find that it’s not worth the effort, so they fantasize about finding a place where there are fewer “demands” on them to keep up these purchases.

But the demands are all inside of you. You might feel like they’re external, but they’re actually internal: in the form of assumptions, beliefs, value judgments, fundamental (often silent) premises.

Let’s say that everyone in your social circle or neighborhood/community owns a certain expense level of car. You can afford that type of car, and you enjoy having it, but it’s not worth the extra hours you put in at your job. Maybe you dislike your boss, or other aspects of your job, and you’d like to have the option to replace that job, perhaps for less money. Perhaps you pine to open your own business, or at least give it a try, which will require a period of income reduction. The peace of mind is more worthwhile to you than that brand of car.

If you’re an individualist, psychologically speaking, then you’ll simply conclude, “I don’t need that type of car. I’ll take the new job without the crazy boss, I’ll drive a perfectly fine car although a less expensive one. I’ll get to work on that novel (or painting), once and for all. And life will be good.”

The problem is that many people are not psychological individualists. It’s unthinkable to them that they won’t be part of the pack. They constantly relate everything they do — whether it’s the kind of car they drive, or anything else — to other people. The ever-driving pressure within them says (via their emotions), “If I do something that people normally don’t do…what will others think of me?”

This is the rush, or craziness, from which most people are trying to flee. The enemy here is oneself, not others, not “society” or not “the fast-paced life” of insanity imposing itself on you.

As a result, they end up feeling pressured and resentful. Most people just stew in their resentment for the course of their lives, and take it out on those around them, or perhaps internalize it and develop ulcers, anxiety disorder or depression.

A few people say, “Enough already! I’m moving to a new type of society where there isn’t so much pressure.”

But the pressure was all inside. All you had to do was check your premises, or your underlying assumptions. Once you do, you’ll realize, “I’m the one putting pressure on myself by believing I have to keep up with the Jones’. That’s my belief. It’s not necessarily true.”

I’m certainly not suggesting that everyone who moves to a different place, even a different country, has this kind of attitude. There can be perfectly valid, specific and objective/personal reasons for preferring one location over another.

But whenever you hear something like that on those international house hunting TV shows, that’s most likely the problem. It’s a widespread problem, because there are a lot of discontented people out there — discontented for no reason.

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