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

Thank you!

1281 Relax and Succeed - Are you curious as to what people lined up onI would like to begin by thanking you all for the very warm welcome back. You caught me a bit off guard; I had been so focused on what I had to do that failed to consider external reactions along the way.

I’d also like to thank you for your impressions, ideas, needs and hopes. In one way or another I will attempt to give each person who commented some form of answer in the blogs in whatever form they ultimately take. What I really appreciated was that you all described your perspectives quite well and your requests were very interesting.
Are you curious as to what people lined up on?

I was floating the idea of the assignments because those had been extremely popular in the past, but I was also aware of one thing: the world has changed a huge amount in a short period of time. Everyone today feels overloaded.

Work is filled with constant upgrade courses, getting customer service on anything takes forever, everyone’s stressed polarized and more inclined to be rude, and the gig economy has people working all hours for too little insecure income, and life in general is seen as simply far too busy.

Phones are now largely seen as quite unpleasant things by anyone with a serious and responsible full time job. It’s more like a leash, or a cattle prod. Or a procrastination drug. So who wants some assignments on top of all of that? A few people, but most would like something more open. And more positive.

Negativity and argument were big themes. People are exhausted through simple exposure to such rampant negativity. The reading of the blog itself can act as relief to a small degree, but people were looking for non-assignment-based ideas about how they can practically impact their lives to generate a more positive –and dare I say– fun environment. I can relate to that desire, so that definitely helps the writing.

So it appears that rather than a plotted plan like an assignment structure, we will end up with something more free-flowing and open to evolution, but it’s thrust will be positivity and practicality. That works perfectly, because this is not only my blog, it’s also me working out parts of an upcoming book and those are the themes. The reason we likely lined up on what we feel pulled toward is that many of us are all experiencing the same sensations.

No matter what ‘sides’ they are on, people are tired of watching society render itself into individual pieces. Rather than just wallowing in negativity most of us want something more active and positive to rally ourselves and others around. We all want direction on how to make an effective, long term positive difference in our lives lives and the lives around us. That’s it in a nutshell.

1281 Relax and Succeed - People want direction on how to makeSo now that we know what it’s about, I want to discuss its frequency. I really have no idea how easy it could ultimately be on each weekday as before, but even under current conditions that might be doable if the pieces are a bit shorter. It depends on a lot of unrelated things. At the same time, I may find I only have time for one piece a week on a general theme and one on caregiving and what can be learned about ourselves from that. Even non-caregivers can learn about life from the latter.

We’ll have to wait and see what we end up with, but I enjoy bringing value to your lives so I’ll do the best I can.

Finally, if you’re a man reading this, I think it’s worthwhile noting that a very large percentage of the communication I had on the issue of how to focus the blog, surrounded the problem of very negative husbands who made home-life a constant angry discourse on what is wrong with the world.

We all feel that way sometimes so I’m sure the spouses can relate. But when almost every woman writes with the same issue, regardless of what part of the world they live in, then we as guys simply have to accept that it’s possible that the ways our brains are naturally wired is not leading us to meet today’s world in a healthy manner and we need to get conscious and change course or we’ll start having more concrete reasons to feel like things are going wrong.

This applies to virtually any of us who’ve been overly negative –which is likely all of us. I know I’ve had my own little flurries on days where I’ve had to figure out the sort of stuff no one wants to ever have to figure out, especially for people you love. So the world also needs tolerance for when people are in pain and lash out, but at the same time we all want 2019 to be a more positive year.

How about we end this blog with a simple reminder that by watching for positive things we tend to find them, and that if we truly love the people we’re around, we shouldn’t be trying to get what we want, we should be trying to build a positive environment for ourselves and others. Because it feels really good to make a difference.

Thanks again everyone. It feels good to be back.

peace. s

Optimistic Nihilism

1272 Relax and Succeed - What is reality to youA lot of my students come to me with an issue or a problem. In most cases, their attraction to solving that issue will cause them to see most of the lessons through that lens. But every now and then I get a more philosophical student, who comes with a problem but quickly finds themselves, like me, fascinating by these very ideas themselves.

I recently worked with a gentleman who was having challenges activating his own life due to an honest sense of nihilism. The simple fact was, he had legitimately noticed a fact about reality but he didn’t see how it was possible to do much with that discovery and so it had trapped him rather than freed him. I recently ran into the video below and thought it was quite a good technical explanation of most of the process he did before he came to me, and it also includes a lot of what we focused on after we were working together.

It’s not all here of course, or I’d have just shown him this video, and even having done it personally, that doesn’t mean all of his problems are solved of course. It simply means that he no longer things they’re a problem to be fixed, but rather that they form the landscape he’s negotiating as he lives his life. In the end, it’s going to rain. The only question is; will that keep you from living your life, or are you prepared to get wet sometimes in your pursuit of meaningful experiences?

Are you prepared to be responsible for your own life? If you are, you are freed to have

peace. 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.