One of the reasons I love Mickey Singer, among many, is that he’s funny. He takes this spiritual stuff ultra-seriously, but also lightens things up with some fun. I try to do the same.
Lately, I’ve heard him make references to Pepto Bismol. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, Pepto Bismol is an over-the-counter medicine used for indigestion and other ailments of the gastro-intestinal tract. It was my mom’s go-to remedy any time I had a stomach ache.
Here’s how Mickey uses Pepto Bismol to describe the plight of humanity:
Junk food bender
You eat a mountain of junk food — onion rings, two double cheeseburgers, large fries and a chocolate shake. Afterward, you feel awful, your stomach trying to make sense of the sewage you dumped into it.
You look around for the Pepto Bismol. Can’t find it.
Your friend comes over. Sees you’re struggling. Asks what’s wrong.
“I have a stomach ache.”
“Because I can’t find the Pepto Bismol.”
You don’t have a stomach ache because you can’t find the Pepto Bismol! You have a stomach ache because you ate a ton of crappy food.
What’s the life analogy? Here’s an example.
You were scrawny as a kid. Terrible athlete. Girls never gave you the time of day. But you were a smart cookie. Did great in school.
This led you to develop a crippling inferiority complex. It also ignited a fire inside you that burned 24/7.
Success at all costs
It was a fire that spurred you to stop at nothing to succeed. You went to Yale. Harvard Business School. Worked 100 hour weeks on Wall Street year after year.
All in pursuit of overcoming that painful, hurtful feeling of inferiority. But it never works.
Sure, when you got into Yale, Harvard and made that first million, then ten million, then fifty million, things felt great inside…
It never works
But that fleeting feeling of achievement inevitably passed…And you went right back to feeling like that awkward, pimply, eighty-pound, high school freshman again.
Working your ass off to make it big and show everybody that you are the real big man on campus is no different than taking Pepto Bismol to cure your stomach ailment. That’s just compensating for the underlying problem.
You need to let go
What you really need to do is go inside and do the work of letting go of those painful feelings you accumulated as a kid. That baggage is stuck in there and unless you do the work of letting it go, you will never achieve any sense of inner peace.
People who constantly feel the need to be in romantic relationships also suffer from the Pepto Bismol Syndrome. They look for their partners to cure their inner ailments.
Relationships as Pepto Bismol
Again, most of the time those relationships are just Pepto Bismol. What they really need to do is go inside and get to work on why they don’t feel okay in life.
It’s about, as the Buddhists say, working at the root. Reaching for the Pepto Bismol is akin to working at the leaves at the end of the branches.
The good news is that once we realize that our work is inside and not outside in the Pepto Bismol remedies of relationships, career success, Porsches and trophy wives half our age, we can make real progress.
We’re in charge of our inner work
Why? Because we are the captain of our ships. Yes, that work is hard, but we have the power to do it.
The Pepto Bismol solutions are mostly out of our control. Significant others come and go because they have their own problems to work out. Sometimes jobs work out, sometimes they don’t.
Ever had a boss who kept you back for absurd reasons having nothing to do with your work product? They resented you because you were a highfalutin city boy from Manhattan and they grew up on a farm in Minnesota. You’re tall, they’re short. Sounds crazy, but it happens all the time.
The point being that you have no control over any of this. But you do have ultimate control of working on your insides. And that’s a great thing.
My hope is that you’ll consider the bigger picture here. Stop looking out to the world to cure what ails you inside. Go inside to cure what ails you inside. It’s the only way that works.
Reach into the medicine cabinet and throw that figurative bottle of Pepto Bismol into the garbage can…