Love in Disguise

1320 Relax and Succeed - Love is often a discovery

There were exceptions of course, but life not that long ago was more about survival than prosperity or the pursuit of our ideals. Due to that, psychological management was not even considered; raising children was largely seen as an exercise in teaching them to survive by the time they no longer had a parent.

As I’ve noted in pieces I’ve written before, up until the 1960’s it was common for parents to be taught that open love or coddling would result in weakness, and that a parent’s job was to prepare children for the harsh realities that go with dealing with a society filled with humans, all learning how to be better people as they go.

If someone survived and improved the world rather than made it worse, a parent was seen to have succeeded. This didn’t mean people were cold or uncaring, but they were often more practical than emotionally supportive. If painful things happened, most kids were just told quite matter-of-factly that life included pain because that’s the truth.

On top of the generational zeitgeist that focused more on the practical than the emotional, my own father had a father who was apparently quite abusive and threatening. My Dad’s response was to want to be the opposite of his father –and he is.

But despite him being so awesome, he still was not raised with a language for love.  His love is expressed by giving others his full attention, which feels wonderful to experience. But turning his feelings into words is as weird for him as it would be for us to try to find words to describe the colour red to a person who had been blind all their life. But that doesn’t mean we haven’t found a way to communicate.

When I say “I love you” to my fantastic Dad, he answers “Good.” It took me a while before I realized that he had found a better exchange than I had intended.

I was assuming we were trading ‘I love you’s,’ but he answers ‘good’ because –if I love him– then that means he’s not like his Dad and his greatest fear was being like his own father. I got to be the one to tell him he wasn’t. I get to confirm that his most important goal in life was achieved. How lucky is that?

He might be 93, have dementia and be super challenging in various ways, but we still find numerous times a day where our love for each other is softly and beautiful displayed in ways that make a hard job still feel entirely worth it. Every time I get worn and let him down it makes me a better person, and spending the majority of my time making this great man feel safer in his most vulnerable years is a powerful privilege that I am honoured to fulfill.

Remember, no matter how things appear, there is always room in life for more love.

peace, s

Light The Darkness

1317 Relax and Succeed - Light the Darkness

The biggest challenge for society is also the biggest challenge for most individuals; to find a way to love our enemies. But this is not as hard a thing as one might imagine. What we need is not some new level of love, our natural love is plenty. What we need is, understanding.

Racists of all types are obviously sources of tremendous suffering to many. And people will say that hate doesn’t overcome hate, but just as quickly they will justify mean-spirited exchanges or even violence by talking about the need to ‘fight back’ against ugliness. The fighting back itself is a form of ugliness. That strategy has been tried for a long time. It’s simply not what works.

Irrational fears of other cultures are no different than irrational fears about water, or airplanes or germs. People aren’t evil for not understanding something. They’re not stupid just because they don’t have enough experience with something to understand it. Fear of the unfamiliar is built into us by nature. We all share that.

In cases of racism, let’s not turn it into actual people. It’s just some misinformation and an honest human survival mechanism triggering unnecessarily due to a lack of conditioning. Even what times we eat were established by conditioning, so we should all be able to relate to how ideas come alive within us feeling very much like our nature. That is why it doesn’t help to scream at a racist to change.

From a racist’s perspective they are simply being rational. What they are missing is more nuanced experience with their subject. So we have to kindly invite them to walk alongside us while we get them more familiar with some ideas that might at first seem very foreign and uncomfortable.

1317 Relax and Succeed - Make the world brighter

If anyone is going into foreign and uncomfortable territory, we’d all want someone friendly along. But we have to do the friend part first, but few of us want to go there. It takes spiritual courage.

If we attack people for attacking others we are only showing that we’ve lost sight of another person’s humanity when that is exactly what we must appeal to. But it must be their spirit that we speak to, not the framework of their ephemeral ideas.

We first must be trusted by their soul. Only then can we inform. With greater understanding, fear and anger naturally have no place and serve no purpose. The problem solves itself through understanding.

We don’t need to fight fire with fire. We don’t just want to strive toward justice in this world. We want to be forgiving, and even go so far as to extend compassion to those who oppose us. That is the emotional territory that truly leaves our ‘opponents’ off balance –it’s too rare a reaction.

If we’re looking for an advantage in life, then love is likely the answer. People see so little of it from those they disagree with, that it almost shocks them into a kind of spiritual submission.

Learning how to give love sincerely in difficult cases is a spiritual achievement in and of itself. So let us make forgiveness of those we disagree with our spiritual practice for the rest of this week. Let us see if we can find new ways of engaging with old challenges. Because when the world feels dark, the wise shine brighter.

peace, s

Trusting Love

 

1315 Relax and Succeed - Adults can choose where they goWhy do so many young women have a lack of faith in the love of their partners? There are many reasons for that, but almost all women do face at least one common enemy.

Due to many of the thought-shaping forces in society being quite blunt and broad, many of us end up impacted by the same social memes, advertising techniques, fashions, trends, tropes and clichés. We all share many constructs in society, and in fact society itself is a construct. But it would be good if it could be a helpful one.

Of course these forces all hit us slightly differently, but the ones that are designed as marketing and propaganda will have been built to capitalize on insecurities that many of us share. For this reason we can see patterns of behaviour in various marketing demographics, and one of the groups in which these effects are easiest to see, is in girls and young women aged 14-30.

Women overall take a beating in the marketing and advertising world. They are subjected to messages about being too fat, not curvy enough, their hair’s all wrong, their skin and breath are bad, they have a poor diet and they’re not sexy enough. Let’s see, what do we have there? A too, a not, a wrong, a bad, a poor, and a not enough. How’s a girl to survive?

The worst places an insecure self-view can take us is into unhealthy relationships where we are too focused on pleasing the other person and not enough on nurturing what’s healthy for us –which would hopefully include the behaviour of our romantic partners. That sort of inferior sense can cause people to stay in relationships they would be better to leave.

The worst places an insecure self-view can take us is into unhealthy relationships where we are too focused on pleasing the other person and not on nurturing what’s healthy for us —

Almost as bad, those same forces can mean that even people who find healthy relationships can have trouble accepting the idea that they truly deserve love. I have a former student who is a classic example of this.

She says she’s shy but really she’s just a little bit, and just when she meets someone. But then almost everyone is a little bit, they just hide it in different ways. She’s also very smart and she thinks thoughtfully about things, so she’s very interesting to talk to.

I can’t say if you’d think she was pretty or the ‘right’ weight, because those are subjective personal opinions. All I can say is that she seems pretty to me and her weight seems right in every way but one: she doesn’t like it.

If you saw her most people would find her thin, yet she’s noted she goes through phases of worrying about her weight. This absolutely breaks my heart. We are talking about an amazing person here. She could really go anywhere with her future, she’s trying to be as wise as a person can be about living.

She also has a mother that, like all mothers and daughters, she has struggles with sometimes. But that’s also the same mother that brought her to me a few years ago when she was worried about her, so clearly she cares, even if they have some trouble connecting at this stage in their lives. That is hardly uncommon.

In addition to the backstop of her own background and capability, she also has only praise for her boyfriend, and her descriptions of him are the sort that genuinely make me happy. He treats her well, and with respect.

She’s not a showpiece or a doormat. He admires her but he is confused by her insecurities. He doesn’t understand how she can be so smart and not calculate that she must be impressive just by looking at the evidence in her life. And he would have a point.

Obviously he’s dating her because he thinks out of all of the women he could pursue, she is the most amazing. Guys are not known for aiming for second best. We’ll either go for first or torture ourselves waiting for the courage to try. Bottom line, if he’s with her it’s because he wants to be.

1315 Relax and Succeed - Even if we find love will we accept

Now don’t get me wrong, even if she has some understandable insecurities, they still have a wonderful relationship. She’s stunningly helpful to him –I doubt he can know how fortunate he is having so little to compare to at his age.

If she’s extremely emotional and inclined to be unreasonable, she actually lets him know that she can’t discuss the issue until later because she knows she’ll be unreasonable. To many people, that’s a dream girl right there.

Of course, once she calms down, 90% of the time they have nothing to discuss, which might explain why the relationship is much more appreciation than drama. What I like most about it is they usually seem to either discuss interesting ideas or have fun. They are young and have much to learn like all of us, but it sounds like a really good match –if only she could accept that she deserves it.

So here we have a pretty, slim, smart, strong, wise young woman with support coming in different ways from both family and her boyfriend and circle of friends, plus she’s very mature about how she approaches both her career and her relationships, yet when she feels weak she feels all too, and not, and wrong, and bad, and poor, and lacking, and just not sexy enough.

She has every indication that she is incredible, leaving the only reason she feels that way is largely because of advertising and marketing campaigns that swirl around people’s heads and that get traded between young ladies like dark whirling Pig Pen-like tornadoes of thought. Their social media can be horrifying.

It was tiny little her against an army of highly paid psychologists and advertising specialists. It is that haze of external sales pitches that has brainwashed her to the point where it prevents her from seeing who I see, who her friends see, and who her boyfriend sees. A totally 100% acceptable person. Just like everyone reading this.

We did make a lot of headway in that she continues to be remarkably helpful to her relationship and she’s now found ways to finish school despite facing some bullying, and show now has at least part of her post-school life sorted out in a way that excites her.

Like everyone, she will still have life struggles, but by learning more about how she participates in her own creation of her reality she has already freed herself from constraints that many adults still strongly feel held back by.

All that said, her realizations won’t be complete until she reaches one key point. She currently cannot fully appreciate the reasons why her boyfriend loves her, or why her friends love her, or why I admire her as a person, and why her mother sees her as loaded with potential. There’s too many marketing ideas poisoning those facts.

It is a process, but one she has begun in earnest. If she didn’t, he would be forever trapped having to build her up when he would rather just enjoy his time with a woman that he already sees as complete.

Sure, finishing school, fostering a healthy relationship and finding a career path are no small things to accomplish. But it is important that she continue to watch for examples that help to prove to herself that she truly deserves the love she gets, and that her boyfriend really does think she’s perfect just the way she is.

It is a process, but one she has begun in earnest. If she didn’t, he would be forever trapped having to build her up when he would rather just enjoy his time with a woman that he already sees as complete. That would eventually wear him out, so she’s on the right path and so far it’s going well.

By the time we were officially done she actually already was where she wanted to be. She’s a great person who’s finished school, has a job she’s happy about, and she has a supportive and loving boyfriend. All she has to do now is make that final leap to believing that she’s really worthy of everyone’s love. That’s where everyone is waiting for her.

Of course, the same goes for everyone reading this. An amazing collection of natural forces needed to occur for each person to exist as an individual. The universe wanted us to be yet so many of us question our value.

We should waste no time questioning the universe. Instead, we should join my student in accepting ourselves so that we too can get on to the business of offering our courage, compassion and love to all those we share this world with.

Other people loving us does not have its full effect unless we feel worthy. Only thoughts keep us from that naturally receptive state. We do not need to build ourselves up to be good enough for the love we get, we simply must lower the thought barrier we have between us and our knowledge that we, along with everyone everywhere, is born  worthy of love we receive.

peace, s

 

Dominance in Relationships

1314 Relax and Succeed - Dominance in Relationships
People often want relationships to be equal, but they often work better when they are balanced. ‘Equal’ means that each person has half the responsibility for each thing. And doesn’t just include tasks, these are also approaches to life.

An example of the above would be a naturally unemotional parent is often urged to assume ultimately insincere, unnatural emotions towards their children, all in the name of good parenting equality. Yet many unemotional people, or people on the Autism spectrum, have made wonderful parents by being exactly the way they were. We need to learn to connect with those sorts of people too.

Contrary to ‘equal’ is ‘balanced.’ That means that the relationship is shared around the idea that each person gets to be who they naturally are, without being told to be someone else by their partner. That love is unconditional.

If that wasn’t a possible way to live and love, then people like Stephen Hawking couldn’t have fallen in love, because he certainly wasn’t helping around the house. Then again, because he was Stephen Hawking he was likely able to afford help, but it’s the marriage itself still demonstrates a passion to support another human being in a way that few people can relate to.

I have no doubt his marriages were sincere on both ends, but the fact that they did or could not include certain romantic relationship tropes points to the fact that clearly there are other forms of shared passion that both people find deep value in. What they give each other and the world is very different in the end, and it could be described as unequal, but what matters is if it worked for each of them.

Today we’ve begun to ignore when things aren’t working because our thoughts and ideas have become so predominant that we ignore how life feels. We want things done in the ‘right’ way, and by current standards of thought the ‘right’ way is things divided equally, even if the people involved don’t want it that way or if they don’t think that’s reasonable.

If people are equal then both people have to care which restaurant is chosen, and both have to care about how things are cooked at home etc. etc. But when two people both want to pick the restaurant that can lead to arguments, and the same thing can happen over how to cook in the kitchen.

1314 Relax and Succeed - It is a healthy thing to be ourselves

In an unequal but balanced relationship, a naturally more passive personality can be far more comfortable not deciding where to eat, and they may be far more interested in family happiness than the happiness they get from how a food is cooked. They may simply not care enough about this or that subject to argue over it.

Their passiveness is actually a form of letting-go that is a cooperative, helpful aspect of the relationship, not obsequiousness. Any demands that they be more assertive are stressful, unwelcome and unnatural for them. Can that go too far? Or course. But the approach itself is not an issue. Many couples walk that line to very long and happy marriages.

Just as some are more passive, others are more naturally comfortable leading. Who is who can change from subject to subject, but one person being active and another being passive is not necessarily a problem. That can very well be what is making things work really well.

The point in fairness is not equality, it is respect. It is not about dividing things 50/50. It’s dividing everything up in a way that demonstrates both respect and responsibility for and from each of us. No spouse who ever cared for their loved one with cancer or dementia was in a position where equal made any sense when it came to expressing love. People shouldn’t need a disease to be given that grace by the rest of us.

If some goth couple wants to move in next door, be awesome neighbours and swap traditional gender roles –or even have none at all– that’s great. They’re awesome neighbours. No one should feel the need to talk him out of letting her dominate.

Likewise, if some couple chooses super traditional male-female roles because that’s what they’re more comfortable with, they also shouldn’t be told to change to suit others because others deem that relationship unequal.

Further, if some transsexual or gender-less couple moves in across the street, that too is fine so long as it works for them. No one should pressure anyone to assume identities that don’t feel natural. Each of us knows ourselves better than even our closest friends. We know what works for us.

There is room enough in the world for everyone to be the versions of people they naturally are, including versions that we aren’t comfortable with. It’s not other people’s job to make us feel comfortable. Our discomfort lives between our ears.

Instead of talking to ourselves or others about our judgments about other’s lives, we should be pleased any time we see anyone find a partner (or a life without a partner), that supports them in being who they naturally are.

peace, s

Taught Thoughts

1309 Relax and Succeed - Taught Thoughts

An enlightened view of life is challenging because it requires a curious shift rather than the acquisition of new knowledge from outside of us. It’s why I’m a guide and not teacher. People need to experiment with their own experiences, not their intellectual understanding. I just prompt the experiences in a way tailored to them.

In an attempt to help point to this shift in perspective, imagine that you already sincerely have a way to love everyone without condition. You may not want to spend time with many, and you may disapprove of some of their actions, but below all of that there is a basis of love –of believing in that healthy part of the other person even when it’s not clearly evident. It is a belief in the human spirit.

Assuming that were true, can we then see that we don’t need to build bridges of love to others, we only need to remove the barriers in our thinking that are preventing us from accessing the love that is the basis of everyone’s shared existence.

Rather than finding out how to forgive or put up with someone, we need to ask ourselves what judgmental thoughts do we have that lead us to create feelings that we then attach to that other person –just as others do likewise to us?

Let’s take the example of someone that we don’t like, but someone that is liked by the people we do like. Imagine this person earnestly. We should imagine the qualities they have that cause the people we like, to like this other person. Then we can ask ourselves, what sort of sources a person’s history might provide explanations for the way they act?

We should ask ourselves if we truly believe the other person is being the way they are to irritate us, versus the idea that we struggle to stay mentally calm around certain types of entirely legitimate people who express nothing more than a normal human foible or even a quality we dislike.

Maybe we’re a woman who can’t stand another lady at work because she’s always sticking her nose into things and we don’t like it. She’s so nosy we can’t imagine how she has any of the friends she mentions. But those friends don’t have that barrier-thinking between her and their love like we do.

1309 Relax and Succeed - We don't need to reach out to love

They were the for –or learned about– her history. Maybe she was a fatherless 16 year old caring for her mother while she died of cancer and what tortured her most was that no one even offered any help. Her friends know that she thinks the greatest tragedy in the world is people suffering all alone. So they understand that she comes across as a busy-body, but they just see a loving person caring for others.

Meanwhile, imagine that we were raised to see privacy as very important and so those taught thoughts clash with her taught thoughts, so while others can make friends with her, we do not. But the barrier was and is only thoughts based on histories we had little control over.

Or in another example, maybe a guy comes across as overly macho and we’re another guy who finds that irritating. But what if he’s only that way because his Dad left when he was a kid? And he felt –and people told him– he had to man-up, and it’s a performance he started at 13 and now it’s his personality because that’s all a personality is –a repetition of certain words or behaviours.

If we’re detached from our natural love for a person we’ll focus on our selfish thoughts about how we want the person to be, so his friends will love him because they do not share our thought barrier. They were there and watched him defend his wounded mother from countless abusive suitors and he did it by acting more like a man than he deserved to for his age. They’re proud of him.

His friends get that he came by the personality honestly, due to being a good person under difficult circumstances. And he loves them for that. The entire series The Big Bang Theory is based on the idea of friends putting up with each other’s social mistakes because they recognize no one is doing anything on purpose to anyone else. They can feel the love underneath it all because they ultimately accept each other unconditionally.

We don’t need to reach out to love people. We need to relax our judgments about them, just as we wish them to be relaxed against us. Because in the end, the world works best if we all just relax into being ourselves, letting others be themselves. Only then can we all flow.

We’re all fine. Let’s enjoy our day. 😉

peace, s

Beautiful

1306 Relax and Succeed - The song Beautiful by Linda Perry

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to run into an excellent interview with Linda Perry, who I’m a huge fan of. That lead me to think about one of her biggest songs. In fact, in the interview, she notes how she was going to sing it before she heard it done another way. It’s very telling. And there’s a little secret in her interview about the start of the song.

Part of its magic is that the song carries the same message that this blog does. Whether they are yours or someone else’s, always remember: words can’t bring you down.

Everyday is so wonderful, then suddenly, its hard to breathe
Now and then I get insecure, from all the pain
I’m so ashamed

I am beautiful no matter what they say
Words can’t bring me down
I am beautiful in every single way
Yes words can’t bring me down
So don’t you bring me down today

To all your friends you’re delirious
So consumed in all your doom
Trying hard to fill the emptiness, the pieces gone
Left the puzzle undone, is that the way it is

You are beautiful no matter what they say
Words can’t bring you down
Cause you are beautiful in every single way
Yes words can’t bring you down
So don’t you bring me down today

No matter what we do
No matter what we say
Were the song inside the tune, full of beautiful mistakes
And everywhere we go, the sun will always shine
And tomorrow we might awake on the other side

Cause we are beautiful no matter what they say
Yes words won’t bring us down, no
We are beautiful in every single way
Yes words can’t bring us down
So don’t you bring me down today

You’re beautiful too. You really are. I promise.

peace, s

Real Princesses Have Real Problems

1302 Relax and Succeed - Princess Grace

Blinding expectation leads many of us to struggle with achieving our goals. Since everyone’s primary goal is belong, we tend to expect the love and acceptance we seek to come in a particular form, which causes us to miss when we’re actually getting offered what we need.

A good example of this innocent mistake can be seen in the film Grace of Monaco, starring Nicole Kidman as an extremely impressive version of the real princess (and Tim Roth doing an equally brilliant turn as her husband, Prince Rainier). It’s a stellar cast and script, but in today’s age of action heroes these sorts of profoundly human stories too often get ignored.

The fact that the writer managed to tell a profoundly human story about a princess was no easy feat. I’m not sure how accurate the film is (I do know a friend of Prince Albert’s –their son– and will try to find out), but for the purposes of this piece all that matters is that the writer a) used a very real event in history and, b) he accurately portrayed the princess making a common human mistake.

The backstory is that Grace Kelly grew up as the daughter of a wealthy American businessman. Grace constantly felt inferior to her sister and unloved and disrespected by her parents. Many people can relate to those feelings which is what makes a film about a princess, universal.

People short on love from the sources we’re told we ‘should’ get it from (like our parents), will often then seek that love in a much shallower, but broader sense from a much larger group of people simply because it’s safer. Who notices a few people not clapping in a room full of clapping people? Celebrity love is spread thinly enough to act as a form of fallibility insurance.

This is why many unloved people seek to be stars of various types. (It’s also why the disenfranchised in society join gangs and hate groups.) We all move towards people who care for us. That is where we are accepted and safe, and the highest form of love is love without conditions.

That is where we are accepted and safe, and the highest form of love is love without conditions.

Needing to feel cared for and admired, it’s no surprise that Grace the disappointing daughter had a decent likelihood of ending up in a job where she was loved regularly by people too distant to disappoint her. But despite her fame and success as an actress, she still did not feel accepted or respected by her family, and her mother refused to offer anything more than cold comfort.

As a demonstration of how important acceptance is to human beings, Grace’s response to not being respected and loved was to be swept off her feet into a fairy tale wedding with a Prince. Surely being Royalty would impress her family. Surely being a princess was romantic. But apparently not.

Grace’s problem in the film is that she wants to be loved so desperately. But her husband has a duty to the State and plays the sort of role that means he cannot be the husband she seeks. He is an able and trustworthy partner, but he was raised in too rigid a life to have developed the warm sensibilities she sought.

But remember what we said about expectation? Grace’s problem wasn’t that she couldn’t get love and respect, it’s that she kept trying to get it from people that couldn’t give it. For her parents it was pride and ego that were in the way; for her husband, duty and decorum.

1302 Relax and Succeed - The Meaning of Life

Critical to the story is that her marriage overlapped a crises for the Principality of Monaco. Having no taxes, France saw all of her businesses leaving the nation for Monaco. De Gaulle –the former French Resistance leader turned President of France– wanted Prince Rainier to force a tax on the Monaco’s citizens.

France had complete control of Monaco’s utilities, supply chains and harbours. They had little to bargain with. De Gaulle was threatening tanks in their streets.

The turning point in the story is when Grace realizes that her husband does love her, but must play his role. She also realizes that Monaco needs her, and that her own role actually means something.

Grace is media savvy, and so she knows that even Presidents are subject to public opinion. By surrendering her efforts to get love from a singular source like her parents, or her husband, Grace was free to become her own person by serving her people in the greatest role of her life –that of their Princess.

Grace didn’t need love as much as she needed to be valued.

I would like to think that the final scene captures the moment fairly honestly, because the very quiet and subtle film wraps up rather neatly and beautifully with the results of Grace’s growth.

In a metaphor of her own life, Princess Grace not only cleverly saves the nation (no spoiler for you there –it is still there after all), but in doing so she demonstrates that a person’s ability to value themselves does not depend on the fickle love of others.

Our self-worth is inherent. Once we become aware of that we have few needs, from there we need only find how to serve with the abundance that is us –not enacting what we have to offer is as painful as not knowing it’s there.

We are at our best when we feel secure about ourselves. Without the debilitating drag of our insecurities, were are automatically left with an abundance of love to share with others. So rather than expecting love to come to us in the form of affection, we need to maintain an awareness of the fact that some of love’s greatest forms are actually found in the sense of exaltation that can only be created by sincerely giving our all.

peace, s

Favourites

1291 Relax and Succeed - Favourites

Sometimes favourite children exist unconsciously, sometimes they are known but unspoken, and sometimes parents come right out and admit that they have favourites. The latter choice can seem cruel when our culture isn’t used to it, but it might be worth our time to revisit some cherished ideas.

Parents are people before they are our parents. When they were young some school acquaintances were attractive as friends, others were left only schoolmates. The same with dating. People don’t want to ask out everyone they meet in the bar. Some stand out for reasons we can’t really explain. Chemistry, we call it.

So it goes with favourite children. The parent doesn’t love them more. They’re just the ones the parent finds enjoyable as a friendship as well.

Is it really so odd that a single human might, in a group of three or four other humans, have a preference for time spent with one in particular? Or is that more what we’d all expect –in any other circumstance except parenting? Again, we’re talking about time and attention, not love.

Of course, in most cases these feelings go both ways. Most kids like one parent more than the other. Does that mean we’re rejecting the other parent? No. It just means we’re human and have preferences. If every kid baked a different kind of cake we’re not bad people because we’ve happened to like chocolate all our lives. That’s not to say it will always happen, but when it does it’s a natural reaction.

Thoughts that these attractions are unnatural can lead to crippling guilt when it shouldn’t. Society implanted the thought of it being ‘wrong’ to like one family member over another but society is nothing but a set of external lessons we all unconsciously agree to and then apply through our thinking. There’s nothing guaranteeing the rules we develop are all correct, or true, or that they will or should stay that way.  Each new generation sheds some.

1291 Relax and Succeed - There are enough people

If we took all the expectation of out it, ‘favouritism‘ is simply people being attracted to time with people that align well with them. If a child comprehends ‘favouritism’ in such a way that they see it as merely shared perspectives or interests –and that it’s simply a personal preference and not a value judgment– then it’s much easier for a child to accept it as normal when it happens.

It’s important that it feels normal to them because in life it will both happen to them, and they will ‘perpetrate’ that judgment on others. Kids also feel terrible guilt about having a favourite parent or sibling or friend, and they also often worry that they may not be other people’s favourite children, siblings or friends.

Put in the right context those preferences are presented as entirely normal, which is in a way, offering the child a form of future freedom to simply like what and who they like without feeling a need to feel guilty about their preferences. There are enough people and experiences to go around.

Since having a favourite is natural, hiding it is difficult. We have to ask ourselves, is it better for kids to have context for the behaviour than to witness evidence that may lead them to think they are unloved despite people’s words?

The subject feels pointy and awkward at the start, but over time we cannot help but notice that it comfortably explains a lot of what troubles many others. After all, none of us was ever built to satisfy everyone.

peace. s

Shifting Identities

1287 Relax and Succeed - Politeness is to human natureIf you don’t think you have different identities just try this: the next time you’re talking to someone you don’t like, imagine that someone you respect more than almost anyone is listening to the exchange.

If you do that earnestly you’ll find that you’ll choose more charitable and productive words and even friendlier body language with whoever you’re dealing with, even someone you don’t like.

But why would you be nicer? Or nice to someone you don’t like? Are you a brown-noser? A climber? A show off? Not really.

You would feel the urge to be nicer because, while you might possibly have been unusually nice to someone you don’t like anyway, what this thought experiment demonstrates is that we all subconsciously desire, more than anything, to belong.

This means that if someone we respected was watching us, we would naturally want to demonstrate our virtue to increase our value to them, and by extension their group. That doesn’t mean the virtue itself is entirely false. It simply means it was real virtue triggered by events.

Since a group of cooperating people will always out-compete a group of selfish people, we were built to be pack animals. This means that any action that ingratiates us to, or protects our status within, a group will be naturally appealing to a healthy human, even if only on a subconscious level. Sometimes it makes us feel good to help others and we do it for the joy we get, but it is also beneficial to be seen to be helping others, sincerely or otherwise. It builds community. Our impulse is natural.

But why would you be nicer? Or nice to someone you don’t like? Are you a brown-noser? A climber? A show off? Not really.

We have to keep in mind, chimps and bonobos are farther out on the evolutionary bush than we are, by millions of years. They are newer to evolution than we are. We are animals who are civilized, but still animals. We naturally feel safer in groups than alone, and that inclination in us explains everything from disenfranchised kids joining gangs, to why former team-sport athletes often struggle with depression after retirement. People need a tribe of some sort.

Having a place in a group is where we belong, and any feeling outside of that drives us toward belonging like thirst leads us to water. That’s why the world feels so harsh right now.

1287 Relax and Succeed - We shouldn’t build sharp tall fencesEveryone’s so judgmental that no one feels acceptable and that’s lead to insecurity that in turn leads to loneliness etc. etc. We shouldn’t use harsh judgments to build sharp, tall fences around ourselves when we are also stumbling through reality. We need each other, including each other’s forgiveness for our own inabilities.

There are two major ways to connect ourselves to others: the love we share that is comforting, and/or our value in terms of what we can contribute to their lives. Put another way, someone who protects us from dragons can get away with being grumpy; and being lovable is simply dragon-slaying love with a nicer role. But what binds us is a shared responsibility to each other. Denying that is painful, fulfilling it feels good, even if that involves fighting ‘dragons.’

Every role done well has value, and every tribe can carry a struggling member for a time. This is the value of community, and our ability to appreciate that value explains why we naturally become more aware of the value of kindness while we are in the presence of others.

Enjoy your days.

peace. s

The Act of Active Love

1277 Relax and Succeed - Appreciation was an actionMany people make beautiful connections with others, but too much proximity for too long can mean that we can slowly see those connections atrophy and harden into little more than terminology. Rather than listening to people, we only hear them. Rather than recognising people, we only see them. And rather than loving people actively, as a verb, we think about how we’re confident we love them without ever actually showing it. It’s not that we wouldn’t love them, it’s that we were too busy thinking to truly notice them.

Most people live like tomorrows are guaranteed long into the future when none of us truly knows if this is possibly our last week on Earth. We don’t have to sell everything and move to the beach in the assumption that it’s all meaningless, we can still live prepared for our tomorrows and still be fully awake and alive today.

Let’s look around our lives. What words do we use and is our life in actual alignment with those words or do we just know those things are true without any real evidence in daily life? And once we find those things (guaranteed, they’re there), will we care enough to act upon them? In the end, words are spoken thought. But thoughts turned into actions are what creation is made of.

I would strongly recommend watching this, because what I trust is your heart’s ability to interpret the undeniable beauty that lives inside each and every one of us.

Have a wonderful weekend loving everyone.

peace and love. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.