One of my favorite movies is the Truman Show¸ in which a man has unknowingly been born and raised on a massive TV set on which the entire world watches his life unfold. Eventually, Truman begins to discover that the life he has been living is contrived, and he attempts to escape the tiny world in which he is trapped. But the producer of the show cleverly throws up obstacles to make Truman turn back.
An interviewer asks the TV show’s producer Christof, “Is there any way that Truman might escape?” Christof answers, “Truman can get out any time he wants. The truth is, he prefers his world.”
A greater teaching has never been spoken. While many of us complain about situations in which we feel entrapped, on some level we are choosing them.
What Motivates Our Choices?
The reasons for our choices prevail at a level below our conscious mind. The spiritual teacher Bashar (bashar.org) calls this dynamic “the motivational mechanism.” Every living thing does what it believes will bring it the greatest reward. The rub, in human terms, is that quite often the reward we perceive is not in our best interest.
Working into the night and weekends may push us up the corporate ladder, but ultimately such a drive damages our health and relationships. Fighting with our ex- may punish him or her or keep us feeling “right,” but meanwhile our soul gets tattered and our inner peace is reduced to nil. Grabbing a drink or joint may take the edge off of our current discomfort, but the issues that trouble us remain until we face and handle them.
A woman phoned in to my radio program (hayhouseradio.com) and reported that since her divorce a few years earlier, she had gained a great deal of weight and now she wanted to lose it. Considering the principle of the motivational mechanism, I asked her, “Is there any way you might believe that your weight is serving you?”
After some moments of consideration, she explained, “The end of my marriage and my divorce were horrendous and I feel terrified to get involved in another relationship. I believe that if I were thinner, men would find me more attractive and I would have to deal with having another man in my life. I’m just not ready for that.”
This was a huge aha! for this woman. We talked about the possibility of her simply choosing to not be in a relationship, if she was truly not ready for one, and not needing to use the weight as a buffer against potential emotional pain. She liked that idea and decided to explore that pathway.
A Perceived Payoff vs. a Real Payoff
If you are not reaching a goal you say you want, ask yourself, “What greater reward do I perceive in not having this? How do I believe my current situation serves me more than getting what I say I want?” You must be extremely honest in your introspection. If you are, you will unveil the perceived payoff. Looking squarely at the perceived payoff will likely reveal that it is not a real payoff, and the payoff of achieving your goal would ultimately be greater.
We might also state the key question of the motivational mechanism in this way:
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Why would you continue to engage in a behavior or pattern you say you do not prefer?
We step into tremendous empowerment when we realize that everyone is always acting out of choice. The reasons for many choices may be insane, but choices they are.
Shedding Light on Hidden Rewards
People get all kinds of hidden rewards through fighting, complaining, worrying, being sick, and engaging in dramas. To truly help yourself or others, you must hold the hidden reasons up to the light.
Richer rewards are available than the ones the ego delivers. Spending rewarding time with our family and friends yields more pleasure than working to death. Harmonizing with our ex- brings far more peace than keeping the fight up. Facing and mastering our self-doubts or fears gets us far more mileage than a drink or joint. What we ask for is not outrageous. What we settle for is.
The truth is, we prefer our world. Yet there is a greater world we would far more prefer. For Truman to escape, he had to discover the true man. So it is for all of us.
There is one within us that truly recognizes what would bring us happiness. When we heed the call of our vision, the lights on the movie set go out and we find ourselves standing in broad daylight in a world we have chosen for ourselves rather than one that others have chosen for us.
*subtitles by InnerSelf
Book by this Author:
I Had It All the Time: When Self-Improvement Gives Way to Ecstasy
by Alan Cohen.
About The Author
Alan Cohen is the author of the bestselling A Course in Miracles Made Easy and his newly-released inspirational book, Soul and Destiny. Join Alan and musician Karen Drucker for a transformational in-person ACIM-based retreat in California, Into the Light, December 6-10, 2021. For information on this program and Alan’s other books, recordings, and trainings, visit AlanCohen.com
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