“The Benefit Finder”- 19 November 2017

I remember the quote by Henry David Thoreau, (the philosopher and author of Walden), that “the fault-finder will find faults even in Paradise!”

We all know and have experienced the ‘fault finders’. They find fault in everything ordinary or sublime. The woman had a good family, a home, riches and two good kids. She was still an unhappy person as she continued to complain of what was ‘lacking’ in her life. She would rarely see the good side of her life as she focused on ‘what others had and what she did not’.  Money is never enough for anybody I thought – everyone seems to want more and more of it without enjoying whatever is already there. I also realised that there is no definition of ‘enough’ as far as money is concerned. It is always less for most people who are fault finders.

I was enjoying the hospitality of the host as she was a warm and friendly person. She had done her best by spending the entire day in trying to prepare a good meal for her friends and lo! Two women were fussing over the food and how it could be better and how she would have done a better job of the same dish! Instead of savouring the dishes made with love and sweat and instead of thanking her for her sincere efforts they were on their own ego trip. It was a self-congratulatory criticism of the other and it delighted them obviously. It was their deep-rooted habit of finding fault with others work and their supreme confidence in doing things right if done by them.

The lady could not adjust to her new surroundings after her marriage and would find fault with each system. That she could not adjust to the changed environment was due to her own inherent nature and weaknesses but she would do was to express her inability by criticising the system and finding number of faults with it. She could solve the problem by addressing her own strengths and weaknesses and working on it but that seemed out of her sense of perception and realisation.

The intelligent boy did not work hard for his entrance examinations and hence was admitted to an ordinary college with not-so-good quality standards. He kept cursing the college, the professors and the ‘dumb’ students as he called them. He found nothing good about the institute or the campus or the teaching- he could appreciate nothing. His mental block refused to allow him to see the ‘reality’ in a different way that would allow him to make the best possible use of his situation that was created by his own negligence.

All this speaks of a great deal of negativity in the process of thinking and a ‘blind spot’ in the perceptions of the truth. It is a strange case when people cannot ‘see’ the truth even when it is so stark. Reality is ‘half seen’ only from one side and that too the negative side.

A positive mind would go the opposite way. They would look for the positive side of things. The brighter side of life is more appealing and energising to such people. They are quick to see the ‘benefits’ that the situation offers. When I was thrown out of my job for no fault of mine except that I was doing exceptionally well, I was shaken up with the suddenness of it all. My father was calm as always and said, ‘now you are free to do what you like’! He was envisaging a benefit which was eluding me completely. I could only cry and criticise and wonder what happened. My mother was equally assuring as she is a deeply religious and pious lady as she stated repeatedly, ‘something good will come out of it’. ‘Don’t worry and be patient’.

The ‘benefit finder’ in contrast to the ‘fault finder’ has the capacity to perceive life in a broader perspective and to be calm even during adverse situations. They have a sense of resilience, a capacity to bounce back from unfavourable happenings and get back to normalcy with a positive energy. During my initial days of starting my private practice in psychology, which was unheard of in India then, there would be ‘empty’ days with no clients walking in and seeing my dismal face at the end of the day, my father would just say, ‘read your books’. Truly that was a great advice for now I miss reading books and research journals when time is scarce. The benefit finder would find a positive side to a negative situation and keep scanning for the goodness of the situation. Positive psychologists are researching on the ‘benefit finder’, an attitude of the mind that seems to come naturally to some and eludes many.

We remember what Henry David Thoreau said in a simple yet powerful way- “Love your life, poor as it is. You may perhaps have some pleasant, thrilling, glorious hours, even in a poor-house. The setting sun is reflected from the windows of the alms-house as brightly as from the rich man’s abode; the snow melts before its door as early in the spring. I do not see but a quiet mind may live as contentedly there, and have as cheering thoughts, as in a palace.”


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