This is an extended response to livelyskeptic’s question…
Let us say I have a way of dealing with pain that works. However, I only had the “opportunity” to try it on small stuff. How do I know if it will work on the large stuff?
Short answer: it doesn’t matter.
The rest of this post explains the short answer.
Happiness is largely a function of the small stuff. Studies show that 50% of happiness is genetic, 10% circumstances, and 40% intentional choices like meditation, gratitude, helping others and so on. These findings are bolstered by studies of lottery winners and people who recently became paraplegics. In both cases, the groups returned to their previous levels of happiness within a year after their changes. Sure, these events hurt but the pain was temporary as they adapted.
My experiences bear this out. When I think of my life, it’s many little things rather than a few big ones that make it happy or sad. I also have adapted to much. A lot has changed in my life, yet it has become background. In fact, the worst time in my life occurred with no changes to my circumstance. So while I cannot quantify the breakdown, I agree with the gist of the study.
So if I worry about big stuff, I am doubting a path that addresses 40% of my happiness because I’m unsure of how it’ll handle the other 10%! In the process I diminish my happiness with worry. I put 40% at risk by worrying about 10% and I don’t even know if the 10% will be a problem. Does that make sense?
Additionally, worrying about this can actually reduce my chances of coping with it. If I am on a path that is about letting go and abandoning the self, then I undermine my work/beliefs every time I worry.
By worrying, I am clinging to this event. Since my ability to deal with this event depends partly on my skill in letting go, I am doing something that will increase my pain should this event happen. I also suffer now.
When I worry about my reaction to something, I am asserting the existence of a stable self because my fear is based on a projection of how I am now into the future. After all, the problem with the event is a function of my reaction, which is a function of my mental state, which is a function if my experiences, but these may be dramatically different in the future. In short, I am assuming I will be mostly unchanged when this event happens. But really, for all I know, I may not even care by then! In the meanwhile, I am undermining a belief that can help me meet this.
An event may never happen, but worrying about it guarantees that it will hurt me even if it never happens.
In short, it doesn’t matter if the path doesn’t scale up. If it is working now, that is good enough, so abandon this question as unimportant.
On a related note, Alan Watts wrote a book called “The Wisdom of Insecurity” in which he argued that our very search for security was the cause if our insecurity.