Friday, October 28, 2011

Why pain and joy are 2 sides of the same coin.

     Here's something I'm starting to realize and want to pass along... It's okay to be sensitive. I am just now derailing my long held subconscious belief that emotion = weakness. The ones able to feel deeply are the luckiest ones, for though they may suffer more pains in the heart than their fellow humans, they will also feel the deepest awe and appreciation. They will see magic in every day occurrences that leave others saying "what's so special about that?" I still marvel at the beauty of the moon each and every time I see it, and I hope that never changes.

I've seen more than one person cry in front of me and then apologize for it. They may as well say "Sorry for being human." It's simply nonsensical. When I see someone cry, I feel it. This means I, like many others, am gifted with empathy. This is what connects us and makes us alive. No one is made of steel and no one should pretend to be and then feel bad for failing.

A smart person I know said this yesterday:
"Any experience is better than no experience. Only the body-mind qualifies some experiences as bad and others as good. So enjoy your suffering cause it means you EXIST, you lucky bastard!"

So let's stop automatically placing certain emotions in the "bad" category while classifying others as good. I'm glad to feel sadness because it makes my happiness that much sweeter. I am glad to feel joy because there was a time when I did not:
I used to be hooked on Oxycontin and was a literal zombie. Having the drug was a prerequisite for (false)happiness. I have a memory of Christmas over at my ex's mom's house and getting off work to go over there, and being so pissed and feeling so hopeless that he had not found a way to get some. I had to fake the happiness I displayed over there. I needed OC to do anything, even go open presents that my boyfriend's mom bought me. I remember barely being able to eat any of the amazing meals they had over there for Thanksgiving or Christmas because I ate so rarely and my stomach couldn't handle more than a few bites. It was bittersweet because some of it was almost enjoyable, would have been had I not been so far from normal, yet my mind was hijacked by this craving and angst present due to the absence of being high.
My life was nothing but angst. It was such an odd feeling being around normal people who didn't need drugs or even alcohol, hearing them banter good-naturedly and being unable to have a genuine smile in response. I did not feel anything but craving. I could never fully relate to them because I was in such a different universe, constantly. I tried and probably often failed to look normal rather than empty. It's rather uncomfortable to recall these things but I would not trade any of those experiences because I appreciate things so deeply now. This is an extremely personal experience that I'm externalizing because though I would have been ashamed of it once, I am not now. I felt what it was like to feel like a walking dead person and now bask in simply being alive! So don't apologize for your emotions, embrace them!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Do you suffer from anxiety?

Stop over thinking things!

Ever have one of those days where you wake up feeling fine and before you know it you're a tense-shouldered ball of stress? This may feel like the result of a phone call, rear ending someone, a comment from a friend or enemy, or some other various external force, but in reality is the result of your reaction to said external force, which no one but you can claim responsibility for. I believe things like this can be traced back to one thought... often times a "What if...?" As a recovering chronic over-thinker, let me tell you that there is hope for those of you suffering this inconvenient and mentally debilitating ailment.

First of all, every thought is a choice, a window of opportunity if you will. Most people simply have a thought, that leads to another thought, that leads to another thought, and so on. They end up somewhere down the negativity river, drowning in stress, either wondering how this happened or automatically attributing their problems to "who they are". What a lot of people overlook or never bother to realize is that our ways of thinking are there because we've spent so much time ingraining them habitually without even realizing it. They end up getting stuck on a negative thought and seeing everything through a lens of self hate or irritability. Often times this has little to do with "who we are" at our core, since we are all in a constant state of change at any given moment, and more to do with habit. The beauty of this is that we can undo these harmful mind-habits and form new ones. Your mind has been trained a certain way. If this way is unsatisfactory, re-train it! Blaming something you don't like about yourself on "the way you are" is a cop out. It's pure laziness.

The trick to worrying less or becoming a less angry person or what have you, is not contingent upon getting rid of those thoughts, but learning to have them, acknowledge them, and decide not to let the thoughts consume you. The first time you do this will be extremely empowering, and you'll see how much of your stress has been completely pointless and preventable. Compare your obnoxious, negative thought (be it a craving, a self depreciating mantra, judgment, etc) to a kid throwing a temper tantrum when he doesn't get his way. Do you bend to the will of the child every time? Do you get angry and snap at the child every time? No. But you also can't pretend he isn't there. What you want to do is acknowledge the child's concern and watch him.

Maybe whatever situation you're stressing over at the moment feels worthy of stress to you. You may be thinking to yourself, "I have a valid reason to feel this way! Why should I stop?"
Maybe you do have a valid reason to feel the way you do, but unfortunately, that is completely irrelevant unless you plan to testify about your situation in a court of law. This isn't about whether or not you feel justified in your concerns, this is about deciding to deal with them in a healthy way, while hurting yourself as little as possible.

Maybe you need to figure something out and it's weighing on your mind heavily until you do. That's all well and good, but many of us seem to have a tough time finding the cut off point for "figuring something out". We either make a split decision, and spend a lot of time worrying over whether it was the correct one, or we're slow to decide but agonize over the variety of choices.

I find that if I'm doubtful about which choice to go with, I select the one that can be reversed most easily. That way, I have a chance to test the waters and can amend my decision if necessary. Some people look down on those who change their minds often, as if being mature enough to admit you made a mistake is a bad thing.  Think about it, would you rather be consistent regardless of new information you acquire proving your previous theory wrong, or advance along with your knowledge, and know you're making the right choices for yourself? Don't let those proverbial and arbitrary "rules" get you down. YOU decide what you think and do.

It's hard not to over think the variety of options we're sometimes faced with, and though it's very difficult, one of the best guidelines I have discovered is that stepping away and coming back later will give you a fresh perspective, and more often than not, a gut feeling to work with. Our intuition is correct a lot of the time, but nothing squashes that killer insight faster than being overly analytic. The best secret I've discovered to getting rid of anxiety is simply choosing to realize that most things don't need to be analyzed, and if I choose to analyze them anyway, I'm only torturing myself.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Keeping a Journal.

      No matter how much you progress as a person, chances are you usually feel as though you still have a long way to go and a lot to improve. You are, after all, your own worst critic. There's nothing inherently wrong with wanting to improve yourself, but it's easy to forget how much we accomplish with new goals constantly popping up all the time.

The best way that I've found to keep track of progress or personal evolution is keeping a journal. Though I always have things about myself that I want to work on, reading over entries from a few months ago give me no choice but to accept that I have moved forward from where I was and deserve some credit. Also, it's a great way to organize thoughts or find out how you feel about something. You may feel like you know what you think about everything, but a lot of times without some type of structure our thoughts turn on themselves, start to be cyclic, or wither and die. A lot of times I find my opinion along the way when I'm writing. Something that may seem like a mundane thought at the time(and would've otherwise been forgotten) can be a spark of inspiration when we look back on it a few weeks later. You find patterns in your thinking, consistencies are realized, dots get connected.

Writing shows you that you've got some interesting stuff up there if you just organize it. I learn something each and every time I write, without fail. I have journals dating back to age 10. I've never kept one consistently(until now), but on and off. It is always interesting to review them and see how much I've changed.

Oddly enough, a lot of times you don't realize how many changes you go through until you have a record to put it in perspective. An example of this would be watching a movie you used to love that now seems ridiculous. I read about the things I spent time fretting over at age 14 and laugh aloud. Those entries can be funny, but it's also good to know that had I not written down my experiences at the time, the memories would be gone. I can read pages from 10 years ago and be transported back to that age, day, and mindset. Reading over these pieces of the past give me a holistic view of where I came from.

A good chunk of the writing I've done throughout my life has been when I'm upset about something. It always helps me slow down and get my nerves under control. Writing is very therapeutic. If you're stressed but can't pinpoint why, sitting down to a notebook and getting your pen moving can bring your troubles into plain sight. So start a journal already. You don't have to be a good writer, this is for no one but yourself. And it doesn't matter if you have no clue where to start. I guarantee if you sit down and force some words out you'll find your direction.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

"I don't know."

     Why do we feel the 
need to know everything, or at least appear like we do? Everyone must be aware of the sheer impossibility of this... So why are we so uncomfortable with saying we don't know? I can't tell you how many times I've thought something about myself would never change; I'd always hate kids, I'd always love cigarettes, most recently that I would never like onions. 

Needless to say I use them almost every time I cook now. I just have to cook them so they aren't as crunchy and I love the flavor. In fact, it feels like something is missing if I go without them now. I like to use concrete examples, such as me disliking onions and coming to find out I just had to tweak them a bit to suit my taste, as metaphors that apply to life. 
Think about what your onions, that you could appreciate only if you treated them differently, might be. I know this is a cheesy example, but bear with me. ;)

I hear people use absolutes all the time; "Always", "Never", "Destined", etc. But is anything really absolute? Even the most obvious examples you can conjure off the top of your head (e.g. "The sun will always be hot") is up for debate. We once thought the world was flat. Einstein's Theory of Relativity was recently challenged. There is even evidence that The Sahara used to be a rain forest. Newsflash: We don't know anything!

    What illusions might you be carrying around that you could benefit from banishing or maybe just questioning?

     So back to the original question, why do we do this? It's because of something that nearly (see me dodge that absolute there?) has; Ego. In my own words, the ego is our own idea of what we are like.
Upon the attainment of some self awareness you'll discover how often you feel the need to defend your sense of self, or ego. This happens when you want to correct someone, or "put them in their place", or when you're afraid to say you don't know the answer to something. This happens when you are afraid what someone will think of you, when you try to impress somebody, or when you say things to come across as a certain way. As ever changing beings, clinging to this notion of "self" is bound to bring torment. And I found that once I started asking questions, such as "Who am I trying to impress here?", "Why do I want myself to seem this way?", "What am I afraid of?" the weak foundations of my ego came crashing down. This may sound like a frightening concept, losing your sense of self. But it is exactly the opposite.

     Once you embrace the notion that you shouldn't cling to a self since you're always changing, you realize you're free to be whatever you want. No more torturing yourself for failing to keep up with the personality you thought you had, or changing your mind about something. Yeah, we all want to be in control of our own lives, but as tightly as we grip this desire, does it ever happen without fail? Absolutely not. You can meticulously plan your life, day, or personality and the only things you can reasonably count on without fail is that you and/or your circumstances are going to change. You'll decide you like or don't like someone after all, or the proverbial rain on the day of your planned picnic will happen. So are you helping or hindering yourself by giving yourself the illusion of being in control? Would it not make more sense to surrender to the fact that you are not? If this sounds a bit radical, try it out for a day or two and see what you think. Every time you hear the voice in your head try to define or judge something, try replacing the assumption with a question. Embrace the power of "I don't know"!

"Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death."

"To attain knowledge, add things every day. To attain wisdom, remove things every day."