Dear reader: This book excerpt is from Elements of Poker. (Now available in audiobook)
129. The Path of Least Resistance
There’s good resistance and bad resistance. When we resist harming ourselves and others, that’s the good kind. When we resist reality, that’s the bad kind. What we want to do then is apply the good kind of resistance to the bad kind, and resist resistance.
What does it mean to resist reality? It means to wish things are different than they are. The sequence of events goes like this. First, we experience reality with our senses. We see, hear, touch, smell, and taste. Then, right away, our mind steps in with its thoughts about the sensory input. If there is something about reality that our thinking doesn’t like, then those thoughts themselves are the resistance. They are the push-back, they oppose, they reject, they resist what is. We wish things did not look, sound, feel, smell, or taste the way they do. And unhappiness is born. Here are some examples:
I feel. I feel rain on my skin. I feel the air because it is much colder than my skin and moving. It is cold and windy and raining and I am outside. I wish it was warm and sunny. I wish I was inside.
I taste. I am tasting food. Molecules of food touch the sensing molecules in my mouth which send nerve impulses to my brain which I then perceive as flavor, texture, and temperature. But what if my food is too salty? What if it is too chewy? Or too cold? What if I take a dislike to my food? When that happens, I have two options. I can either stop eating unhappily, or I can continue eating unhappily. If only I did not resist the way things actually are, I would just chew my food, and taste it, and swallow it. I might feel mindlessly indifferent about the food, or intensely satisfied, or plainly grateful, or anatomically fascinated, but never unhappy.
I hear. I am hearing Joe. I am hearing Joe say something I strongly disagree with. Joe said what he said. This is the reality. But I wish he had not said it. That is the resisting of reality. I resist reality practically every time I hear anything I disagree with about anything. And when I resist, I am unhappy. If only I did not resist other people’s ideas, I would just hear them and chew them up and swallow them.
I hear. It is 1985 and I am on the phone, hearing my sister. She is telling me that our mother has cancer and three months. This is the reality. But I so deeply wish it were not so. I did not know it then but I know it now: Extreme resistance is extreme pain. Slight resistance is slight pain. Resistance and pain are proportionate.
I see. I am seeing my opponent’s hole cards. I am seeing my opponent’s hole cards because we are at the showdown and he just turned them over. I see that his hand beats my hand. I do not like what I see. I wish the cards were different than they are. I resist. And it hurts. Resisting always hurts. Resisting is hurt.
And there we have the meaning and the consequences of resisting reality. At regular life, resistance is futile, and painful. At poker, resistance is not only futile and painful, but also expensive.
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