Prescriptions and Psychedelics

1392 Relax and Succeed - We never know how much control we have

It is easy for people to be medicalized by definitions, and then pharmaceuticalized through treatments. For better and for worse, those definitions and choices can go on to shape how caregivers and health systems will interact with people for the rest of their lives.

There are undoubtedly cases where these interventions are wise and worthwhile. But unless cases and the effects are extreme, we are often better to start off with the internal interventions that are naturally built into our biological, chemical and physical systems.

We all have our own chemical factory in our minds, and science is also learning that our microbiome may play a major role, which can mean that even the chemistry of our diets can play a big part in how we feel emotionally.

Where possible, when tackling emotional issues, we are often best to start with diet, exercise and thought-based interventions before proceeding onto more externalized responses through drugs.

However, if those other routes do not allow people to maximize their potential, then no one should feel badly about taking whatever course of action leads them to their best health outcomes.

I have worked with people who took more control over their thinking and eventually went off their medications by choice and were fine. At the same time, no one is ‘failing’ if  a drug intervention is the only thing that gets them the relief and healthy life they seek.

Many of those interventions involve things like SSRI-classed prescription drugs, but brain science and behaviour labs are increasingly investigating newer, more experienced-based therapies based on formerly illegal drugs. Especially in extreme cases, many people are finding these methods can lead to life-changing epiphanies.

If you would like to know more, below are several links to a series of programs on new approaches to therapy that are gaining increasingly wider acceptance. What works for one person may not work for another, but if we’re looking at all potential directions to approach our health from, these may prove helpful where all else has failed.

CBC – Ideas – High Culture Part 1

CBC – Ideas – High Culture Part 2

CBC – Ideas – High Culture Part 3

ABC – Health Report – Anxiety, depression and the new science of psychedelics – Part 1

ABC – Health Report – Anxiety, depression and the new science of psychedelics – Part 2

CBC Radio Series – On Drugs

 

peace. s

The Interval

1391 Relax and Succeed - From the moment we are born
Life is precious. Spend it living deeply.

When any human being talks about ‘living their life’ we are talking about the interval between life and death; the short burst of time our soul spends being human. During that period our naturally expansive and connected souls narrow themselves down into a limited identity (our ego).

We create that limiting ego by using our thoughts to tell ourselves stories about how reality ‘really’ works and who we are within it. We then act like those thoughts are a shared reality when that’s impossible. Everyone sees things a little differently, that’s what it is to be an individual.

We all essentially ‘are’ the sum of the decisions made by the internal logic of the people we subconsciously became by telling ourselves stories innocently built around random experiences. But what else could we do?

Like waves go up and down, the human soul oscillates. Before life and after death, the soul is wide and connected. In living life we are shaped by limits. And where there are limits there is an interval, and within that interval are challenges, and where there are challenges there is life.

Being is important, but living is too. Even our struggles are a part of our story. This is why it is better to flow than to fight.

peace. s

Social Anxiety Disorder

In my previous post I discussed a form of intense anxiety that leads to a form of depression. In this case, the effects of anxiety are less acute and extreme, but the overall impact to someone’s life is still very serious.

 

1388 Relax and Succeed - Many people are now reaching adulthood without having

There is a new type of person that has inadvertently emerged in large part due to the advent of personal computing and video game culture. That personality type has only expanded thanks to the internet, cell phones and texting, food delivery services and, to some degree, ‘social’ media (it’s almost ironic to call it ‘social’).

Prior to those inventions there were shy people –even extremely shy people– but there was no effective way for anyone to hide from others without it being obvious, and often financially impossible. The closest thing to modern social anxiety were people who read an enormous amount, but even they were forced to mix more with other people just due to the in-person nature of society at the time.

Today it is possible for an adolescent to shy away from uncomfortable social contact almost completely. They can make friends through their computer or phone where most or all of their ‘friends’ are in other cities, and where they require some form of electronic connection to make contact.

This means a shy or awkward person can now literally ‘shut off’ anyone they find annoying or threatening, or even just those that make them feel even a bit uncomfortable. This is problematic because those are formative years when people would normally be making the sorts of embarrassing in-person social mistakes that ultimately lead to the development of healthy social skills.

The issue for these future adults is that they can now prevent themselves from having almost all of the experiences that would actually teach them how to relate to the rest of society. To a young person’s mind, being able to hide like that can feel like a comforting level of power. But it also has serious downsides.

In the adult world everyone’s jobs, relationships, and lives will demand that they spend time with people that they find difficult, or with people that don’t particularly like them. Avoiding the skill development we all need for those situations can soon evolve into what gets called ‘social anxiety disorder.’

The upside is that this is a very fixable situation. Just as a lack of exposure to others creates social awkwardness and fear, more exposure demonstrates that the downsides of social interactions are no where near as meaningful to us as the upsides. Humans were built to work in groups, so it is our nature to ultimately succeed at this process. But what stops most people today is fear.

For a previous generation that fear was largely overcome by parents that were viewed much differently. Next to no kids had input on dinner or holidays, there was no real ability to escape chores, and they were put into classes they disliked ‘because it was good for them.’ Even ‘talking back’ was often met with serious punishment.

Back then, the choice for an adolescent was to be kicked out to fend for oneself, or do as ones parents wanted. That culture had significant downsides too, but one of its most important upsides was that shy kids were effectively forced to interact.

A good example of this is Bill Gates, who by all appearances exhibits strong tendencies toward a socially awkward or even an Asperger-like nature. As I’ve noted previously, the recent three part documentary on him demonstrates, his sisters note that a lot of Bill’s success came as a result of his mother ‘forcing’ him to act as the social greeter at the family’s country club.

By being ‘forced’ to have that social contact, a very shy Bill Gates –who probably would have preferred to stay in his basement working on code with maybe one close friend– instead became the sort of person who could run one of the largest companies on Earth, and who has gone on to run one of the world’s largest charities.

Bill Gates still doesn’t appear to love social situations, but the point is that he can function in them. That ability is a key part of what he has been able to accomplish in his life. As his sisters suggest in the documentary, without his mother and that exposure, Bill could easily have been one of the first generation of people to be crippled by a form of social anxiety disorder.

1388 Relax and Succeed - Social Anxiety Disorder

The challenge for modern parents is, they are bringing up children in a much more complex world.

In the end, in many cases, the influence of a parent is limited when a child is carrying a powerful computer with them everywhere they go. Even if they are instructed to ‘go socialize,’ it is easy for them to still avoid interaction through their smartphone.

This new technical ability means too many people are now reaching adulthood without having developed the skills needed to be a successful adult.

Fortunately all is not lost. In fact, the biggest barrier to making meaningful changes is the initial resistance of the young adult who needs a healthier approach. Once they have accepted that –at least in the way I approach it– most people find the socialization discussions we have to be interesting, sensible and motivating.

By developing a better understanding of the nature of society, the nature of human personality, and the nature of how our thoughts can impact both, most people find that the training process makes them feel increasingly alive. The world gets bigger and more exciting –and more inviting.

Far from hiding from the world, socially comfortable people become more interested in both participating in it, and affecting it.

If someone feels increasingly trapped by their lifestyle and they can sense the impact that can or will have on everything from their career to their love life, then they should know that they are closer to making changes than they may realize.

There is nothing inherently wrong with a shy person, they simply need to work with someone who can help them to find their place in the world in comfortable, inviting way.

Of course no changes can happen until we take the first step, which is to seek the help and then move thorough a process. It may sound corny, but the saying ‘today is the first day of the rest of your life‘ is always true. So none of us should hide from the world.

If any of this sounds like you or your child, then please get in touch with me or someone else who can help you navigate this change. Any resistance will only be as ephemeral as thought. And I know for my part I would be happy to meet anyone, no matter how awkward they think they might be.

peace. s

(780) 439-0341
scottis@relaxandsucceed.com

Should We Be Normalized or Maximized?

1385 Relax and Succeed - Ratehr than normalize them

In response to my previous post I wanted to clarify some of the references I made about my childhood accident, and how the pattern-recognition quality that emerged from it impacts how I listen to people during a session.

While it started in very elementary terms and extremely consciously, the patterns I now largely subconscious perceive –particularly in human speech and behaviour– are not unlike the way everyone learns to talk.

With both word-meanings and grammar, it is by seeing patterns repeated that we form useful conclusions and we learn to communicate. Children in some places can learn several languages simultaneously. I just do that same thing but I do it hyper consciously, so it’s like I’m an amped-up version of any normal person, noticing many more elements.

By a very young age this lead me to notice that both through body language and word choice –and things like when they chose to speak versus when they opted to stay quiet– individuals started clearly falling into broad ‘types’ that I later learned others had loosely defined using systems like, for example, the Enneagram.

No one knows the real origin of the Enneagram, and there is no standard form. Each author who writes about it is free to alter it to suit their needs, but that need not be an issue.

Ultimately, I find it is rarely helpful to use predetermined boxes to define an individual, which is why I carefully listen to each person as a unique case, using my unique method. That said, we all know that there are some key personality types, so basic, broad definitions are also not entirely without value.

In practice, it has proven very helpful that I found these ‘types’ on my own, the way I did, without learning them from external sources. Rather than learning them like a person might in university, I don’t listen to classify people or their actions into groups, which in turn I would connect with associated responses.

People who learn these types the other way can’t help that, it’s an innocent form of Confirmation Bias. It’s like the difference between some kid who has spent his life on the ocean and knows how to sail. Someone else can learn about sailing in school and then get on a boat after university, but they will always have this word-based layer between them and what the childhood sailor knows as essential self-knowledge.

Because I was starting from five years old, I had no predetermined categories or opinions, so instead I began by gaining an appreciation for how each person had equally been formed by their own experiences and even their genetics.

As an example, we’re not only formed by having a demanding parent, but how that parent came to be that way is also at play. Also, being tall is also a perspective that presents unique qualities that are distinct from being shorter. Etc. etc.

I’ve been doing this for 50 years now. This means that I have an awareness of tens or hundreds of thousands of influences in real time, which often leads me to ask completely different questions than others will. I am very grateful for what this accident provided me.

While medical and psychological systems understandably need conformity between peers –and I agree this has value– I often see cases where presumed definitions of people fail to fully capture the individual I am working with. Rather than overlapping definitions, they are often more a bit of this and a bit of that with some extra thrown in.

There are currently about eight billion people in the world, and each is in many groups, but they are also all unique to themselves. Yet, many of the people I see feel that they have been mis-categorized by psychology, and yet once that definition is on their file they can have difficulty getting anyone to see them otherwise.

1385 Relax and Succeed - What really matters is

What really matters is does a person know how to successfully be whoever they currently are? Can they learn to see reality in a way where they won’t need me? Many people may choose to continue seeing me because they enjoy the process of going deeper in a philosophical sense, but if they need me for years to feel basically healthy, then I’m not really helping them be self-sustaining.

In the end, everyone has their own unique individual sense of their self.  And because they will change with each new experience and thought, over time, any definitions that would be applied would also need constant updating anyway. Those facts make the need for any firm definition somewhat dubious.

To use an example from the previous post, I’ve always taken great pleasure in working with non-neuro-typical people, including those with tendencies toward the Autism or Asperger’s spectrum.

In my experience, if we were to put people on a spectrum of 1-10, where overly open, emotional and intellectually insecure people were a ‘2,’ and logically-minded, precise, but quick-to-anger Aspergery people were a ‘9,’ that would make the centre of the bell curve known as ‘normal’ into a ‘5,’

The world –and psychology in general– has, with the best of intentions, spent most of its history invested its energy in trying to push everyone toward being a ‘5.’ In other words, it sought to help people be ‘normal.’ Yet Einstein, Beyoncé, Mozart, Maryam Mirzakhani, and most brilliant male or female scientists would not be seen as ‘normal.’

This push towards ‘normalism’ is not something that makes sense to me at all. Many truly great caregivers or artists could be closer to 2’s or 3’s, whereas bolder, more confident, and calculating scientists or business-people can be 7’s or 8’s.

This all being the case, people should not assume sessions with me are about them becoming more normalized. To the contrary, I focus more on helping people find effective ways to be the way they already are. These can translate to changes in their language or approach to life, and it can also translate to changes in how they structure their lives or relationships.

If you want to change to become more like other people, then you may fare better with a university-trained therapist of some kind. But if you would like to find ways to feel good about who you already are, and how to make that possibly ‘weird’ person more effective, then you may find that working with me may better suit your needs.

In the end I trust you. The people who find it productive to work with me can often figure that out quite quickly when we talk, and it’s not surprising that many have tried many other forms of therapy before coming to me to increase their awareness. Whoever is best for you, you are the best source of feedback on whether or not you are getting healthier. Trust yourself.

In closing, here’s a link to a BBC piece on Autism that also suggests that, rather than trying to normalize everyone, the world would often be better to simply maximize some people as they are.

peace. s

Logical to a Fault – Why You’re Struggling to Connect

1384 Relax and Succeed - Increased understanding is what exposes

One commonly and unfairly judged group are those who have personalities tilting toward the Autism or Asperger spectrum, while still being far short of the criteria for any medical diagnoses. My own appreciation for this group emerged thanks to an accident that provided me with an understanding of various patterns in human behaviour, when it rightfully should have left me dead.

Since there is no ‘cure’ for either state (and many people like this don’t want one either), what people really need are new and helpful ways to see themselves and their lives. Fortunately, increased understanding is often what exposes people’s unique routes to personal success and healthy relationships, despite whatever definitions or judgments the outside world may try to apply.

The people I see will often have trouble with co-workers, dating, marriage, and friends –all because they share a set of qualities. Yet many of life’s most successful and popular people are successful precisely because of those same qualities. Both Bill Gates and Steve Jobs exhibited these traits but, as the attached video hyperlinks demonstrate, one learned to cope with these traits while the other did not.

The simple fact is, male or female, if someone employs the right tools and learns how to communicate in effective ways, an Asperger-like personality need not hold them back from success in either life or love.

Yes, people of this personality type can be quicker to anger, but they are also much better at forgiveness. They are often bold and assertive about their views, but they can also change those views quite easily given good reason, (whereas most people will struggle to do so because their beliefs are too closely tied to their sense of identity).

Those shifts in position can happen because they are generally better than average at logic, and they’ll trust their results over their beliefs. (They also often love puzzles and strategy games.) Despite the advantages, these same qualities can lead them to struggle with making emotional accommodations for others that they themselves do not need.

There is no perfect way to be in life; every personality carries benefits and deficits for ourselves and for others. But no group is more commonly maligned, misunderstood, or told to be different than those who approach life with this Asperger-like mindset. If the world recognized personality-ism the same way we have with racism and sexism, this would be one of the most harshly judged groups.

Thanks to my near-death experience, I proudly count myself as one of them because, despite others’ judgments, these personalities have a great deal to offer. Yet none of us will ever be allowed to make those contributions if we cannot first teach others how to understand or deal with our behaviour.

1384 Relax and Succeed - There is no perfect way to be in life

Nobel Prize-winner, Richard Feynman demonstrated a personality of this type. He was both passionately admired and despised. He was known to be dismissive and brusque to a logically weak idea, be it in his professional or his personal life. Yet his correspondence with others –which forms the content of a book ‘about’ him– clearly demonstrates a man who loved openly and who cared about others a great deal.

There is also a radio interview which features a scientist and researcher named James Fallon, whose own research shockingly exposed that he was technically a ‘psychopath.’ Despite that definition fitting, he was a good husband and father and his research was all about helping others. Greater self-knowledge did improve his life and relationships but, even before that, he was not who people imagine when they hear the definitions ‘psychopath’ or ‘sociopath.’

Many engineers, lawyers, professors, scientists, accountants and programmers can be exasperating to their spouses without ever intending to be. Great artists are well-known for not caring what others think. They do what they do precisely they trust what they know and feel.

It’s important to note that the very qualities that lead to the interpersonal challenges are often the very same ones that make these people uniquely excellent at their jobs. Those same qualities also give them unusual courage when dealing with issues around ethics and character. These are not defects. This is a way of being.

These are rarely people who need ‘treatment’ for a condition or illness. They benefit from training on how to be themselves in effective ways that allow their relationships to be as good as they can be, whether at work or at home. I know this because I have helped a lot of people to find that balance, and to develop the interpersonal tools they needed to negotiate the individual intricacies of their lives.

Don’t beat yourself up over being alone. Don’t torture yourself by trying to reconcile the sincerity of your work with others’ distaste for your style. You don’t need to change, you need to learn how to shift your awareness to expose the new approaches that will smooth your relations and improve your life. I meet too many people who think they are failures at dating when in reality they are just part of this group.

If any of the above feels familiar to you, please contact me. One of my greatest pleasures is freeing people from the tyranny of others’ perceptions so that they can maximize who and how they are. Improving your life is not as hard as it seems when you’re working with someone who has studied these personalities in the unique and empathetic ways I have.

You can free yourself to live a better way. Don’t live inside some culturally-imposed prison of personality. Not when I can show you the way out.

peace. s

Realizing Confidence

1377 Relax and Succeed - Enlightenment is no some state we achieve

This is what it feels like when I meet most students: They arrive feeling somewhat insecure and they often lack confidence in their ability to live their lives as well as they might. I can agree with that assessment only in part because gaining consciousness does benefit us all.

What I cannot do is join others in feeling they are either broken or failing. Shrouded and lost maybe, but broken and failing? No.

To use one of the parables of Jesus as a reference, I only see people who are ‘hiding their light under a bushel.’ They are beautiful souls, executing the verb of creating problematic thinking that prevents them from realizing who they really are.

People’s thinking will generally be some form of comparative, problematic judgment that forms who they believe they are –hence their desire for change. By going through the experiences in the sessions, people begin to see thought for what it really is, and in doing so it loses its power.

We have to be someone, so our history helps form our thinking, and even the wisest spend their lives yinning and yanging back and forth between the thinking of their ego and the knowing of their soul. As I routinely say, we can’t have a path without having not-path.

This means enlightenment isn’t some state we achieve, it is the verb of ‘being without thinking.’ When we can see through our thinking we see it as nothing more than ill-informed, ephemeral theories about the world and ourselves.

Once people naturally realize that no one really knows anything for sure, judgment slips away and the natural confidence that all souls had as children emerges again.

We imagine that we feel better and gain confidence. In reality, we have always been fine. We are naturally buoyant in life, it is only our debilitating thoughts that appear to weigh us down. Confidence does not need to be acquired, it only needs to be uncovered. We can each do that by gaining a deeper understanding of how our thinking truly creates our reality.

peace. s

Intending Our Future

1376 Relax and Succeed - Consciously or not

It helps to motivate us if we have a sense of urgency. And we all like to think of our futures as brighter than today, right? Well then, we had better get as conscious as we can, as fast as we can.

We shouldn’t see the act of becoming more conscious as something daunting or difficult. Whether people do it alone or with someone like me, I’ve never seen anyone with a true guide who took longer than 10 hours before they started to see reality in a truly new way.

That said, we should not expect perfection. Mastering our view of reality takes a lifetime and more. After all, there can’t be a path without a not-path.

If we have trouble appreciating the value of such a change, we need only look back at how we responded or behaved in the past. Our previous actions and reactions were a reflection of our thinking at that time, and we can often find times where more clarity would have helped.

Equally so, our futures will be dictated by the thoughts we choose to think today. That fact immediately adds importance to the thoughts we’re having now.

How does a future happen? It flows forward. And which direction does it flow? It flows in the direction it intends to. And how is that direction determined? For a river it is through gravity, but for human beings it is our through our thinking. That is the principle all of our psychologies share.

If we are thinking negatively today, we greatly increase the odds of a negative day tomorrow. But if we choose to think the thoughts of someone who is strong, who is taking steps in some direction, then that is who we will become. The rest is just steps.

Along our way we must be on guard to avoid our thoughts from being diverted by fear or anger or desire. As compelling as each thing can be, rarely should they retain our focus.

By remaining centered on the present moment for our Self, and by not expecting perfection, we ensure that we are in as much control as the shores of reality will allow.

peace. s

Sharp Tempers and Social Challenges

1369 Relax and Succeed - You are not alone

You know who you are. And somehow, by reading these posts, you can sense that I can speak your language. This means that, over time and without really intending to, I have developed somewhat of a sub-specialty of working with very capable –often female– individuals who struggle with issues around friendship, work relationships, and their romantic lives.

Unattended, these effects tend to increase with age, and these issues all largely stem from people’s sense that they simply do not ‘fit in.’

How that plays out in daily life is that you will often have your mind focused on other things, which can lead you to mis-reading some social cue or other. You’ll also often be disliked simply for your preference for focused solitary work at the expense of many group activities. Many of you also talk about others being threatened by your temper, which often comes on suddenly, but fades remarkably fast.

A short list of some common traits that people that like this often –but don’t always– exhibit are things like:

  • You are always a pleasure to talk to because many of you share excellent verbal skills.
  • Your emotions can often feel disproportionate to the situation, and you can often have strong all-or-nothing feelings and those can often make friendships difficult to maintain.
  • Despite the fact that you will often endure hardship longer than most people, you will often reach points of frustration first but then be fine afterwards.
  • A version of your over-emoting is that you will often feel you have over-shared by misreading social cues.
  • Most of you, whether educated or not, are quite intelligent, with impressive natural, logical thinking skills. You are also often very good at tasks requiring long periods of focused work.
  • You will often be viewed as controlling youngsters, but as adults they you’ll often end up in leadership or organizational roles because you are good at tough decisions, (although your ability to focus and your iconoclastic style can also see you end up making your tough decisions as an artist).
  • Your sense of intellectual rigour means you see complexity in pretty much anything you look at, so you’ll often want to calculate all the angles. That same busy-minded quality will also often lead you to avoid crowds or general busy-ness.
  • You tend to naturally gravitate to things that require precision, like accounting, or engineering, or the law, and you’ll often enjoy the sciences in general. STEM subjects often are appealing, as are fields that involve difficult either-or decisions made by experts or administrators. For instance, very few teachers are like this, but the ones who feel they would make good principals often are.
  • Forgetfulness is common, you are often late and mix up times, and many of you pay with anxiety, stomach issues and clenching teeth.
  • Unless you know how to stop them, you can get caught up in obsessive, repetitive thought-loops.
  • Music, repetition or tactile sensations will often offer comfort to you.
  • You tend to be fashion, car, and even holiday iconoclasts, and you are often dismissive of many social norms.
  • Rather notably, you often have a favourable view of people who dislike you and you find it difficult maintaining any grudges.
  • Many of you have also had a childhood that required you to grow up quickly.
  • You are often viewed as self-centered, but other than a distaste for not being liked, you generally feel that you are neither important nor unimportant, and you have fairly healthy ego –except for the suffering associated with trying to explain everything on this list.

There is no question that some of those qualities are challenging in society. Others are significant advantages. And some can go either way. So as scary as that list might look if you’re on it and struggling, it’s really no worse than any other kind of person’s list –as long as you manage your life accordingly.

1369 Relax and Succeed - You don't have to be someone else

Like anyone, people like this just need to know how to maximize who they are and how to manage the prices associated with being this way (as opposed to the prices paid by people who are other ways). No one gets through life without some crosses to bear. But you can still be like this and be enlightened.

It makes sense if you feel alone. It makes sense that you find life frustrating because I know you all come so ready for answers, and you’ve all worked quite hard to understand your situation. But it’s one of those things that’s hard to see from the outside, and I’ve seen many people get all kinds of wild diagnoses that they could not relate to.

Particularly if people are young, their entire lives can end being defined by an early misdiagnosis that then follows them through life. Each new professional meets them by starting with a false premise that they rarely, if ever, let the ‘patient’ influence or change.

That approach and sense of reality on the part of doctors then means that any time the ‘patient’ resists their ‘definition’ or ‘diagnoses,’ their behaviour is viewed seen as resistance to the truth, rather than as evidence that the original diagnosis may have been wrong.

This leaves the otherwise healthy person in a weird loop where they know they need help to understand the way they are, but they don’t feel mentally ill in any way, shape or form.

At worst most feel misunderstood, which likely explains why they are often so comfortable with me. I generally admire them. To me, they all seem like the only thing ‘wrong’ is that they need to know how to manage the sort of person they are.

When I ask them if they would take a pill to be more like others –one where they could find socializing much easier and they would feel more understood– they all find that idea attractive. At the same time, they all say they would only want that for one day or one week, just to see what it’s like. But so far no one actually wants a pill that permanently steals what they have always perceived as a strength.

You are right. Those are strengths when managed well. In certain fields, these sorts of people are often seen as exemplary professionals, and in some professions that benefit from these people’s abilities, they can even outnumber ‘normal’ people. So do not feel like you cannot belong.

If that list feels even partially familiar to you, please do not hate yourself. The negative feedback you get does hurt, but it also makes a kind of sense. But you can feel better once you have a better understanding of why these things are happening, which in turn allows you to be able to see those reactions as being less personally meaningful.

By discovering who you really are you can free our own mind. By surrendering your need to ruminate on all of the why’s behind the reactions you get, you can instead focus on using your considerable abilities to take your life forward.

Keep the faith. You aren’t broken, but you are special. And that can be a very good thing if you’re living your life in accordance with who you really are.

peace, s

The Lesson in Envy

1358 Relax and Succeed - The most outrageous act is still

Envy. We can use that. It just goes to show that –if viewed in a productive way– anything in life can be helpful.

In life it does us little good to forget about the value of the tribe we all need around us, but at the same time we must be somewhat selfish about wanting a full and interesting life for ourselves. We just can’t expect that life to exist without prices being involved.

That choice to take a productive (read: healthily selfish) perspective is the key. And a healthy balance must be perpetually sought. This is why psycho-spiritual work is an ongoing practice and not simply an achievement.

We can start by remembering that everyone’s genetics and life experiences leads them to be a unique human being with all kinds of different skills or abilities or lacks thereof. But because there are only so many kinds of feelings we can have through our life  experiences, human beings end up falling into broad groups that people have tried to approximate by creating things like the enneagram, or the Myers–Briggs test.

We’re all largely aware of all of these categories just be living life, but just knowing those doesn’t make us healthy. But we can learn a great deal by paying enough daily, very present attention as to how the category we are in shapes the decisions we make and the subsequent challenges we face.

For example, in school, the subdued, innocuous ‘average’ students are saved from from both the pressure of top grades and the sort of popularity than can make a bad hair day legendary. At the same time, without a strong and obvious natural drive in any particular direction, they can often live more desperately and with less focus. This leaves them often envying other’s dreams, hard work or talent.

The average kids will still have actual talents, but if they’re not as cool or as good as those of the most excellent kids, then the average kids are less likely to have the bold confidence to still feel their skills are meaningful. If someone asks them to play their guitar, they’ll say they “…don’t really play.”

Meanwhile, the excellent or popular kids are envious of the average kids who must only bear average expectations, which are often much more generalized. Get along, work hard, do your best. Those things are all wonderfully non-specific, where as “be at the top of the class,” or “make the team,” instantly becomes an intense competition with however many classmates got told the very same thing.

Within each group there are meek and often uncertain and apologetic personalities, as well as those that naturally possess a bold sort of confidence that doesn’t cripple itself with too much over-thinking. But because of that same confident quality, they are also the ones most likely to overstep.

Regardless of whether it’s an overstep or not, if a bold person’s actions feel just justified to those watching, more timid kids will admire and envy it when they see someone stick up for themselves. They will rarely meaningfully note the price that other person will pay for that confidence.

1358 Relax and Succeed - The Velveteen Rabbit

Envy goes every direction. As the bold kids know, the nail that stands out gets pounded down. The grass only looks greener on the various sides of the fence. Everyone pays a price.

This means the bold kids often wish they were simple followers who can either live in the bliss of ignorance or simply not care. Otherwise their fate is to be in conflict a lot more than they’d like. At the same time those iconoclastic kids can often resent those who fail to stand up for important causes, and envy can lead them to sometimes mistreat really happy, positive people who genuinely seem to love life.

We can presume that being happy and loving life is the peaceful zenith of this heap of personalities but it’s not. Even too much chocolate cake starts to get unhealthy after a while.

The problem with being seen as positive is that people start to rely on us to be their source of positivity and they can unwittingly get weirdly demanding about it. Then, when it’s the happy life-loving people that are down, others are often left in uncomfortable territory, uncertain of what to do. This can leave the happy person worse off in crisis than those we perceive as less resilient.

There are countless more examples featuring any type we can think of, but can we see how this flows around? How everyone has their own weight to carry? What we as egos all share is that we want what we don’t have because we all notice the gains others make with those qualities. We don’t look for people making gains with personalities like ours. Everyone thinks they have the wrong personality.

How we get healthy is by feeling fine as we are. From there the natural compulsions that are ours to experience make themselves known and our lives unfold accordingly. The other us is just a narrative, which is why no matter what kind of problem I’m working on with someone, I’m always focusing on showing them how to put their thinking into the proper context.

If we give up all of our thinking about what ‘bike we’d rather have,’ we can just start riding the us that we are. We can go all still go wonderful places on our bicycles of personality. We can use them to sight-see, or to stay in shape, or for joy with others, or even to race it, risk it, or even to make money with it. Each bike has its own paths to ride.

No one should be ashamed of their personality. We all benefit when anyone realizes and activates more of who they are. So rather than wish we had a different bicycle, we should quietly get on board and ride our bike to somewhere meaningful to us –because that is the freedom of self-respect and we all deserve to feel that.

peace. s

Holding Hands With the Dying

 

1354 Relax and Succeed - Holding Hands with the DyingWhen I do it, it’s usually for a client. But not that long ago I helped a dear friend die. The way it happened we didn’t have a lot of time, but enough to have a couple really beautiful heart to hearts.

Like many sick people, he liked that I didn’t have a hyper cautious or maudlin way about me. Unlike many, he loved the world the way it was. He wasn’t interested in overextended expressions of sympathy. He was in a state of acceptance and he wanted connection.

Dying is new for each new ego. Having someone there to hold our hands in a particularly profound (even if not physical) sense can make that journey less daunting and more wondrous. Due to preparation, we didn’t have much ‘daunting’ stuff to deal with then, but we did talk about awe, which can feel similar.

I’d met this friend as a student of these classes, so our flow of language was very helpful. We had some terminology for some pretty nebulous things and at that time that really helped. He had always been eager and diligent and he made the most of everything I shared with him. Anyone who knew him considered him a lightning rod for energy and enthusiasm.

He was very kind and generous with his words and he was extremely forgiving as well. By the time he’d died he had the ability to extend all of those qualities to himself too. That too is a beautiful thing. With no history to slay or lost future to hope for, we stayed present and talked about the journey he was on.

Part of that included discussions about potentially embarrassing physical issues and hospital life, but almost all of it was about the wonder of a lifetime and the wonder of death as well.

1354 Relax and Succeed - Even through death

 

We discussed the fact that he didn’t have to worry about dying itself. Death had plenty of experience and it was in charge. Mostly we talked about how marvellous his life –ugliest warts and all– had been. And how exciting the next mysterious step was.

The joy he felt in looking at his life in that non-judgmental way was so incredibly beautiful to behold that it still stirs me deeply. Even his anxious excitement about death felt more like someone breathing deeply before stepping onto a stage for the first time.

It was difficult knowing that so many people in that building were facing a similar fate, and yet so many are often scared and alone –if not in the physical sense, at least in the spiritual sense.

Several times I’ve overheard the loving visitors of other patients struggle so hard with gigantic emotions that they would end up unwittingly saying things that felt as wrong to the speaker as they did to the listener. Presence must be practiced. It’s a form of psychological balance.

If it wasn’t such a personal moment between them I almost wish I could have comforted the dying person afterwards. There were ways to do that and help contextualize the visitor’s innocent mistake.

1354 Relax and Succeed - Everybody wants to go to heaven

Hearing those people struggle makes me look forward to the day when –instead of someone calling me for help with a family member’s death– every family will know how to handle it with grace. That will be a victory for the dying as well.

My friend had a great life and a great death. Although I will say, I think he made one mistake in his clarity. He forgot that the people he left behind don’t live with his enlightened perspective, so his lack of a funeral gave everyone no way to close this chapter of our lives with an event.

I presume he didn’t do that because he was concerned it might be a maudlin gathering he would be asking people to participate in, but in that case he underestimated himself. Because through his influence, I feel quite confident that everyone who knew him would have learned enough from him to forgo grieving his loss in favour of celebrating his existence.

Learn from my friend. Don’t be afraid to die. Live fully instead. And work towards profound and non-judgmental self-love. Because in every moment we achieve it, we are winning at life.

RIP Orest. I love you.

peace, s