Friday, September 30, 2011

"Unexpressed Emotions Will Come Forth Later In Uglier Ways."

        Now I may not agree with Freud about everything, but he was spot on about that one. I am sure you have experience with feeling an emotion of some kind that you didn't want to be feeling or felt like you shouldn't be feeling, repressing it, repeating that process a few times, and then finally blowing up or bursting into tears.
First of all, there is no such thing as things you "shouldn't" be feeling. The things you feel are the things you feel and the best way to deal with them is to accept them at face value, rather than pretend they don't exist. Next time you catch yourself beating yourself up for holding an opinion or emotion, ask yourself whose standards you are judging yourself by. Chances are, you won't be able to think of any. We live in a society where strong emotions tend to be frowned upon, so people end up acting as if things don't bother them. This is not the only option you have for dealing with an emotion. No, I'm not saying whenever someone pisses you off you should yell at them, or that your road rage has always been justified. I'm saying you should confront your emotions instead of letting them control you(whether directly, or indirectly.)

Here are some alternatives to blowing up or bottling up:
  •  Write in a journal about it. You'll be amazed at how well this works.
  •  Take a walk, or run if that's your thing. Stretching helps too.
  •  Talk to a friend or significant other... but be conscious of the way you do this. No one wants to listen to someone bitch to them and then turn down every suggestion they give them to try to improve the situation. Ask yourself, do you want to fix your issue, or just complain? If I find that I'm just looking to complain, that's when I choose to reason through it alone or write it out rather than verbalize it to another.

On that note, try not to vent your complaints all over a public internet space. I know that posting a negative status update and letting everyone know how pissed you are feels like you're letting some of your stress out, but in actuality you're just spreading bullshit all over anyone who happens to be your friend on that site.
      Websites like Facebook, Twitter, or yes, Blogger, are a responsibility. You are writing things that will be seen my multiple pairs of eyes. What kind of message do you want to send to the world? Whatever I spend my time online doing, I end up spending at least some time later on in the day thinking about the things I saw or read. This includes everyone's little one sentence status updates on Facebook, and the last thing I want invading my conscious mind is how angry you are you broke your phone, or that so and so talked shit about you to so and so. Even the smallest interaction (or status update, tweet, or blog) has a ripple effect on those around you; be conscious of this.

Here's another great tip: When it doubt, WAIT! Curious about whether you should buy that new expensive item but unsure about whether it's the right choice? Wait. Want to send an e-mail expressing discontent over someone wronging you? Wait. Wanna flip off the car behind you? Wait. If it's that important, it can wait a couple minutes. Take some breaths. Yeah, that's cliche advice but it's cliche for a reason; it works.

They say that stress is a sign that something needs to be dealt with. In my experience, this is nearly always true. This could refer to either a concrete situation or your mental disposition about the situation. The trouble that a lot of people(myself included) have is that they stress over things regardless of whether they can be changed or not. This is not practical and is yet another thing that can only be fixed by staying conscious and aware of what goes on inside your head.

To use a metaphor, thoughts are seeds that will harvest a tree bearing fruit the flavor of the seeds you plant. Chopping down a tree that bears sour or rotten fruit will take much more time and energy than simply planting productive seeds in the first place.
When in stressful situations it really helps to think about how short your life is. I am 22 and though that is young, a third (or fourth) of my life is already over! When I reach middle age, what sort of youth do I want to be able to reflect back on? One spent yelling at cars in traffic, spreading negativity all over the internet, and talking down to myself? Definitely not.

"Fill your head with what's important and forget the rest."

Monday, September 26, 2011

Some ways to be an awesome individual.

Be your best. The best girl/boyfriend, employee, cook, reader, artist, thinker, student of the universe. Any doubt of your ability to follow through with these things will only seal the exact face you wish to avoid.

-Don't take things personal! Most of what people say has nothing to do with you, even if it seems to be directly about you. When you're feeling good, do you feel the need to say negative things to people? Hurting people hurt people. Have compassion rather than responding in anger to critical or judgmental people.

-Don't over analyze things. People are so good at torturing themselves. Buddha was right when he said that "Your worst enemy can not harm you as much as your own unguarded thoughts." You have to live in your mind all day, and you're the only one who can choose the decor. Is your living space enjoyable or painful?

-Be present and aware, respond to your environment rather than reacting to it. Be slower to respond to things, catch yourself each time you feel yourself wanting to label or define everything you see or hear. This is a reflex of a know-it-all and we've all been guilty of it. You don't know everything and neither do I! Practice being okay with not knowing.

-Drink a lot of water; this helps physical energy and mental clarity. It makes your skin look better and your system feel cleaner. Yeah, you might be taking a lot of trips to the bathroom but this is just a little extra exercise.

If you're feeling disenchanted with life, look at it as though you're seeing it for the first time. As though you've just been given a body as a vehicle to explore your surroundings in. None of this is yours, really. It all came from the universe and to the universe it will return. The world will not accommodate those who resist the natural order of things. You'll be left dependent, lost, or disappointed.

Expect nothing, and gain everything... most of all, insight.
Know that no matter how any situation ends up, you gave it your best. This way you can never have regrets.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Black and White.

I don't believe there are many objective truths out there. Lots of people would disagree with me on that, and have a list ready to prove me wrong with. To use a common example that I think a lot of people would agree with, I'll say:
"Murder is wrong."

This belief seems reasonable enough, I mean you do go to prison for doing such a thing, but let's question it for a moment. If someone would have murdered Hitler to save millions of lives, would murder have been wrong? Even the most obvious truths are really not that obvious. It's easy to dismiss things as true or false when you're just looking at them topically.
The more you know, the less you know, because the more you see that nearly every situation differs... especially situations involving human beings. I believe a whole lot of the world's problems as well as individual issues could be solved with this simple fact kept in mind at all times. To think that everything is a certain way, or if not that way, then this way(or "black and white") is to deny personal growth. We have a lot of silly metaphors that end up confining us. What if nothing is black or white? What if it's all gray? Red? Hell, what if it's a rainbow? What if color doesn't even exist?

You are basically throwing in the maturity towel as a human being by assuming that you know absolutely everything, or even everything about a certain subject, person(including yourself), or group of people. You may want to resist this truth with all of your might but you cannot, no matter who you are, deny that you have been proven wrong more than once in your life time. How much resistance did you present in the face of that situation? How agonizing and grueling was it to have to re-design your belief system in the face of defeat?
Why is that? Why do people hate to be proven wrong so much? It's as if they are saying, in so many words, that they despise learning new things.

All great inventors or thinkers of our generation and the ones before it had one thing in common. They questioned what they knew and what they were told. Nothing innovative would ever happen if everyone took what they were told at face value.

If everyone, collectively, decided they were done learning, and that truth as they knew it was truth, plain and simple, where would we be? Where would we go? I'm guessing nowhere fast.
What possibilities are you closing yourself off to by clinging to this metaphor? I ask you to question your personal truths, however seemingly obvious, and see what happens.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Creating your universe.

What is it that makes up you? Take a moment to really let this question sink in.

Is it your personality traits, your outward appearance, your job, your university, your bank account?

What are you? Who are you?

If you answered with personality traits, let me ask you this. Are you the same as you were 5 years ago?
If you answered with your outward appearance, do you look the same as you did when you were 10?
If you answered with your job, how long have you had that position?
None of these things are concrete or unchanging enough to base who you are off of them. They are all circumstantial. Just as your height and personality traits and interests have changed over the years, so has your conception of yourself. We often say that we are "not the same person" as we used to be, and we are absolutely correct. If you think about it, you're not the same person you were yesterday, or an hour ago, or even one minute ago. Each new thought or piece of information you absorb changes you. We, as the saying goes, "learn something new every day". In learning new things or hearing new things we adopt new beliefs and shed old ones, thus consistently existing in a state of change.
Considering all of this information makes the question of what makes you up even more complex.
I asked myself these questions and realized that walking around each day and thinking led me to a conclusion that a "me" existed in objective reality. I never stopped to question it, I just knew it. If someone would have asked me this question I would have said something like, "I can see myself in a mirror and move things around me so of COURSE I exist." But when you stop to ask this question a little more specifically, things start to get  foggier. Circumstances change all the time and people change all the time, so is a consistent self ever really existing? If you still answer yes to this question, can you answer the question of where this "self" exists? You might think your "self" is your body, but if that's the case, how can people experience head trauma only to become completely different people? Is your self your brain? If so, would your personality still exist if your brain was floating in a vat of fluid? All of these questions simply proved to me that the more I pursued or pondered them, the less I realized I knew. Therefore, I concluded that I cannot reasonably assume that a "me" even exists at all.

I came to this realization and my reality was shattered. It was terrifying and liberating at the same time. Once I glimpsed this startling truth I knew I'd never be able to think or live the same way again. It's a little scary to have nothing to identify with, but also freeing to know that you never have to hold yourself to ANY standard again. For example, I've been a smoker for quite some time. Always trying to quit and always failing. Therefore, whenever I'd start another one of my righteous quitting stints, I'd have in the back of my mind that I've done this so many times and failed each time, I just have such limited self control, etc, etc... and in "knowing" these things about myself, I was helpless because of them. I failed every time before that so it was only a matter of time before I failed again.
Another example would be the social anxiety I tend to have. "Knowing" that I am a shy person only causes me to act like one. What if I instead decide to experiment and tell myself I'm not shy? I have tried this and it works. With no conception of a set personality that I subconsciously honor and live up to, I am free to be absolutely anything.

It never crossed my mind to wonder if I was causing these attributes by "knowing" they exist, until very recently. If you really take a second to think of the hugeness of the universe and the pathetically tiny portion of it we understand, and how much of what we understand could be hugely mistaken due to literally everything being perception, it really is absurd to assume we "know" much of anything. Could we then reasonably assume that all this time, we have been wrong about ourselves? Holding ourselves back by holding ourselves to standards of what we did or didn't do in the past? We've all heard the quote that "the best indicator of the future is the past" and you know what? I say fuck that quote. I say that quote is the denier of change, which is inevitable. The only thing permanent is impermanence and the sooner we all realize that, the better off we will be. Try to think of just one example that proves that statement wrong.
The best way to be happy and live to your fullest potential is to approach each day with a blank slate. No day is ever the same so no day deserves to be categorized the same as any other day. Likewise, you are not the same today as you were yesterday, so why hold yourself to the standard of how you were yesterday?

Be open to any and everything that crosses your path. Smell your morning coffee as if for the first time, feel the warm water of your shower as if you never have before, enjoy your meals! We all rush through our daily events or obligations as if we're hurrying to get to something else, only to rush through that when it arrives. What are you rushing towards? What are you preparing for? Your life is NOW. Your life is all these mundane tasks you rush through each day. You are in complete control over the way you're going to perceive yourself and the events around you. It is scientifically proven that the mood you are in affects how much you notice. If you're in a bad mood, you literally have tunnel vision. In a foul mindset, everything that happens to you throughout the day is going to prove to you that your foul mindset is justified... So why not try living without judgement and see what happens? You create your reality.

"To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts." -Henry David Thoreau

Racism? Bigotry?

    If you are like me, you despise bigotry. It is so easy to hate those who engage in these ideas. They are mindless and intolerant. They got 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust, they crucified Jesus, they assassinated Gandhi and JFK. They are everything that is wrong with the world, society, human nature. How can they think the way they do? How can they just devalue an entire group of people for looking or believing a certain way, like placing those sticky little garage sale price tags on items to determine their worth? People aren't tea kettles! Don't they realize that human beings are complicated, each one is different, and the color of your skin does not always correlate with certain behavior?

If you identify with any or all of what was said above, I ask you to adhere by your own standards when considering bigoted people. They, as easy as it is to devalue them for their intolerance, are also individuals, trying to make sense of this messy world in any way they can by categorizing human beings, as you do when you think of them in that sort of light.
Lots of reasonable people think racists would benefit by having a taste of their own medicine.
Let me ask you this, for I am sure you are good intentioned in your hatred of hatred... Are you helping or hurting your cause? Is refusing to view people with refusing views as people that much better than labeling an entire race or religion ignorant or petty or lazy or any other blanket term?

Labeling an entire group of complex individuals is pure laziness, plain and simple. Any time you want to call all ____ people this way, or all racists assholes, you are over simplifying human nature. You are devaluing that individual for obvious reasons, that group for saying they are all some undesirable term or another, and you're devaluing yourself for holding yourself to a mindset of tunnel vision. You may get kicked in the ass somewhere down the line and be proven wrong, but would that happen sooner or later with you being set in a certain belief that discourages new perspectives?
None of us are destined to be a certain way, however strongly we may lean toward accepting the contrary. A lot of good would come from people not holding themselves or other groups to a set standard and being appalled when they don't adhere to it. Imagine the habits you could  break, the insecurity that would cease to exist, the oppression of minorities that could no longer take place.

Are you the same as you were last year? Would you appreciate someone you haven't seen since high school coming up to you and talking to you as if you are still your 15 year old self? No. Treating a racist with intolerance is only perpetuating that which you claim to be so against. They are just people, and although people who hold or have held similar beliefs have played a hand in a lot of misery, more segregation (whether literal or mental) is not going to help. Your first reaction may be to respond with aggression, or interrogate someone who comes out as a racist person. Do you think this will cause this individual to thoughtfully consider your words, stop and think "Wow, you know, I think you're right Bob. I really see the error in my ways. I'm going to stop this." Or do you think this person will go on the ultra defensive and become even more polarized and vehement in his hatred, feeling the need to protect and nurture a belief he holds that he considers part of his identity? Think about it.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Importance of Being Aware.

Take a look at your life right now. What emotions are evoked when thinking about the day ahead of or behind you? How do you feel when you think about waking up tomorrow? Are you excited to jump out of bed or do you groan when reviewing your obligations for the day?
As human beings (or working cogs in the great machine that is America) we all, to some degree, accept obligations we'd rather not do as inevitable. For example, I bet you've met some people who were less than excited to get their wisdom teeth removed, or for the proverbial blues-inducing Monday.
Do I believe the time we spend drudging through activities we hate should be limited? Yes... but how do we make those obligations we tried to escape and saw no way out of more manageable?

What makes these obligations groan or not groan worthy is our attitude about them. Yes, I'm stating the obvious here, but hear me out. Where do attitudes start? Certainly not the moment they enter your consciousness. They go much deeper than that. Your brain makes thousands of associations a day, many of them subconscious. These may come from friends giving you opinions, the way your parents raised you, a television program you follow, the music you listen to, etc, etc, you get the idea. Every attitude you currently hold is due to a previous association. Are you one of the many who find themselves in a slump and wonder how they got there, feeling powerless to get out of it? Do you get lost in thoughts and seem to "wake up" from them, realizing that you just spent the last 35 minutes entertaining self reinforcing and circular thoughts? Perhaps you find yourself going on autopilot, or "zombie mode" when completing monotonous tasks. You are not alone and this is normal... For people who are not mindful.

To rid yourself of painful associations, to cure bad moods, to kick a habit you've been wrestling, you name it, you must start with identifying your thought patterns. No exceptions! Changing something about yourself that you don't like is so much easier than it is made out to be. Awareness does wonders. Simply acknowledging your thoughts(without judging yourself, this is key) consistently will make the less than beneficial ones disappear.
The reason why you have associations or attitudes that you feel are hardwired into your being is because you've spent so much time being unmindful and have no idea how those attitudes came to be. You just attribute them to your personality, or in other words, accept them as inevitable. In staying mindful and aware of your thoughts, you never have to demolish a building of negativity surrounding a core idea you hold because you'll stop the seed of the idea from being covered in soil and nourished unwittingly. In being unaware of each thought you have, you are unknowingly serving thoughts that you have no control over.

"A wise man will be the master of his mind, a fool will be its slave."

In truly acknowledging each thought as it crosses your mind rather than having a knee jerk reaction to it, you can decide which ones are worth covering with soil and watering. You will have many thoughts a day that are not worth nourishing. That's okay. In a world of constant external stimuli, you're bound to soak up some of the rays every now and again... but don't rent space in your head to just any idea! Make it a good one. Encourage empowering ideas and question ones that try to steal your joy or confidence. Question the less than satisfactory ones until they show themselves for what they are, flimsy, no-good notions that don't deserve any more of your head space than necessary.
We have all had thoughts that rob us of our personal power, and I probably wouldn't be venturing too far to say that we've all attempted to suppress those thoughts. It makes enough sense, right? Bad thought, don't want thought, terminate thought. Wrong. The trick is, that trying to squash or resist or combat a foe of a notion is only going to reinforce it. You must accept the craving, the jealous pang, the insecure emotion, for what it is, and deal with it from there. Telling yourself it doesn't exist isn't going to get you anywhere(not for long at least).
Get to the root of why these thoughts come up so much. How did this habit form? Trace it back to it's logical starting point and tackle it from there. Each idea has equal merit at it's presentation. It is what you do with these ideas that counts, for those ideas will soon be you.

 "Fill your head with what's important, and forget the rest."