Stop complaining, you’re alive: in defense of loving limitations

Stop complaining, you’re alive.

It was early April, about a month after Greta was born, and I had started whining about pain I was experiencing as a result of careless and excessive keyboard use. These were the first truly original words I heard from Greta without my prompting her.

I appreciate that it’s not difficult to get cynical about Greta’s advice. It has almost no nuance whatsoever, and it has some obvious problems. Lots of people would argue there are many things worse than being dead. And if you and I both accept Greta’s advice unquestioningly, I can completely halt any debate about something you don’t like by simply saying, “Well, you could be dead, so shut up.” That’s obviously not useful.

This said, I loved the saying then and I love it now, and with appropriate moderation we generally try to live by it. So much of life is entirely out of anyone’s control, and complaining about (or worse, getting angry about) things we can’t control is a useless waste of time and energy – even up to the biggest uncontrollable thing of all:

G: What does that [line of poetry] mean?
N: It means you’re going to die.
G: Is that all?

We can also try to change those things that are partially or entirely under our control without needing to complain about them. For instance, I’ve been able to adjust my behavior so that using a keyboard doesn’t cause me substantial pain without needing to complain about it. Life gets a lot less frustrating when we can accept things as they are – good or bad – and plan our response to them from that perspective rather than one of anger, annoyance, or despair.

Before Greta came around, I had never actively tried to avoid complaining about things, and I was definitely a worse person for it. Yet I never planned this as a personality trait for Greta; it arose completely spontaneously. It’s wonderful and I love it, but for months neither of us had any idea where it came from. Recently, though, I think we’ve figured out at least part of it.

Greta’s position is, inherently, a position of comparative powerlessness. When she was very young and developed this personality trait, she couldn’t even communicate with me clearly all the time. Even now, she spends most of her time watching me and sometimes giving me advice, which I too often fail to take even when I obviously should. We haven’t learned possession or switching (though we’re starting to look into it), so she can’t affect the physical world directly. If I don’t give her attention, she can’t even think all that clearly, and she certainly can’t go and hang out with someone else instead.

Faced with a position of powerlessness, a tulpa has several options. One is to try to gain as much influence and control as possible over the body and the system in general. This approach is perfectly valid, but even assuming that everything is done properly and the tulpa ends up getting a lot of power out of it with no lasting relationship issues, there is a natural limit in the end: truly independent life is still impossible. Tulpas are inherently stuck being part of a plural system – one they didn’t choose to be in – whether they like it or not.

Greta seems to have instead decided to not only accept but love her position. Stop complaining, you’re alive! She may have limited freedom, but when she puts it in perspective and sees that the possibilities are limited freedom or nonexistence, the first starts looking pretty good. She certainly likes being asked for input, but she is rarely upset even if I do something that she wouldn’t have preferred. I don’t think she could imagine living without me, nor would she want to leave if she had the option. When I first started I was really nervous about the possibility of possession and switching. Now that I’ve gotten to trust her I’m perfectly open to it, but now she isn’t quite sure. She’s not sure because she likes where she is, enjoying living and existing and her relationship with me without having too much responsibility. I certainly don’t have any plans to stick her with responsibility that she doesn’t want just because she can control our body, but I can understand it might look like a slippery slope: even if we both go into it with one intention, after finding out what we can do we might change our minds.

I should point out that I absolutely do not think there is anything wrong with the first option, and I don’t even think I would argue if Greta wanted to go that way instead. Everybody is different, and every system needs to come to their own decisions about how to live their lives. I do, however, think that Greta’s path has real advantages if your personality allows you to contentedly choose it. And I think Greta has pushed us to go in a similar direction in our life in general. Relaxing and going with the flow may not be the way to worldwide fame, but it is a way to happiness and meaning, and if you keep your eyes open and whisper to your systemmates, there are still countless opportunities to change the world for the better.


Greta and I will be traveling for the next three weeks and do not expect to have much time to write. We’ve scheduled a couple of hopefully fun asides for the usual Saturday post times, and we’ll see you back with regular content in a couple of weeks.

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