Truly Loving

Are you ready to truly love someone? It’s not for the faint of heart. People tell themselves they can do this because they know the feeling of getting swept up in someone else. But that’s more a storm of neuro-chemicals you give yourself via your own thinking, it’s not really because of the other person. It’s due to your thoughts about them. And it is a great feeling. But the peaks are easy. Everyone loves the peaks. It’s how you handle the valleys that counts. That’s where you prove your love. Where it’s hard.

554 Relax and Succeed - The truth is that the more imtimately you know someoneEvery person you know will have a huge variety of days in their lives. Even if you died at 30, that’s almost 11,000 days. And to experience happiness you need something to compare to, so you need days that suck so that you can recognize the ones that are great. Let’s say we voluntarily surrender 4%—a pretty small amount of your time—to you experiencing things you don’t enjoy. That’s about 450 days for every 30 years. That’s more than a year for each stage of life. So if you want to know how good your relationship is, you’ll find out during those days.

When people are scared they’ll be aggressive because they feel unusually weak. But if you love someone you have faith in their core, and so behaviour outside of their normal patterns doesn’t look bad to you—it looks like a sign that something is wrong. They don’t need scolding. They need help. They don’t need to be deserted. They need to be hugged.

554 Relax and Succeed -A physician once saidWe all fluctuate in our psychological state. To say someone is mentally or emotionally healthy is to say that they exhibit a general kind of equanimity. They maintain a rare—though not constant—state of gracefulness in their interactions with the world. Again, even those individuals can slip into weaker, self-critical thought-streams. And as long as they think those insecure thoughts they will feel those insecure feelings.

Your relationship is not failing if one or the other of you is facing an enormous struggle. Maybe one of you drinks too much. Maybe one of you has a secret lover. Maybe you’re not proud of yourself and your self-hatred is bleeding out into your treatment of other people. Maybe your lack of power over cancer is causing you to over-exert power at work and now your job’s in danger and that’s causing relationship strife. There are a lot of ways to struggle both minor and major but they are all worthy of our respect. It is during these times that people prove whether or not they love someone. The real questions is, will you stick with them when it’s hard instead of easy?

Look at the person you’re dating’s worst days. Imagine 4% of your life being spent that way. If they’re still worth it, then you’re fine. Because after all, they’ll have to be just as forgiving to you. 😉

peace. s

Sad Dad

I sacrificed a lot raising my oldest daughter. Let’s just say she wasn’t exactly the sweetest teenager. She’s doing okay now except I’m not and do you think that kid has even an ounce of sympathy in her? My wife left me for a younger man just over 10 years ago and the whole thing pushed me into a deep depression. But my daughter’s too young to understand. She says it’s all in the past so she doesn’t respect the fact that I don’t want to go out and I’m not interested in seeing anybody. She’s always bringing over funny movies and I can tell it’s all a big thing about trying to cheer me up. How can I get this kid to understand that depression is a serious thing and that it’s perfectly fine for me to avoid people? I know she reads your blog. I need your help. No matter how many times I tell her she keeps showing up with comedies.

signed,
Sad Dad

Dear Dad,

I can tell you don’t have a history of reading my blog. I like that. A new reader. Welcome. And what an awesome daughter you’ve raised. You’re a lucky guy. As misguided as you might feel she is, it’s marvellous that your daughter would find your happiness so important in her own life. That says such nice things about her character. Congratulations. I know she received that 403 Relax and Succeed - Life is better when you're laughingfrom the people that raised her. And I can empathize with why you would feel offended by her constant attempts to cheer you up. I mean—what a crazy idea….

You wrote “I need your help.” I agree. Okay, the way for me to help is for me to focus on you. Because you’re the one that asked for help, not her. You can’t change other people but that’s okay. We all have plenty of our own stuff. So let’s get to you: would a healthy person write the phrase, “No matter how many times I tell her she keeps showing up with comedies?” I know you’re depressed but remember—that was you defining a moral crime. You actually state that she’s wrong to want to cheer you up. That’s clearly crazy. It’s loving is what it is. She’s wanting you to have better days. That’s something to be grateful for.

Of course you would like your own life more if you were enjoying it instead of hiding. I get that you feel really depressed. You’re still upset about something that happened over a decade ago! Good God man, you grow a new body every 7-11 years pretty much. The you that was present for that experience doesn’t even exist anymore so why tell yourself stories about his life during its worst parts? By doing that you’re dosing yourself heavily with chemistry that is not good for the fundamental building blocks of your physical existence. So I’m sure you really are very, very sad and if you’ve been that sad for that long then it makes sense that you would easily tire and would generally lack energy. You’ve been this way for so long it’s hard to imagine yourself as anything else. But I do have good news. This sadness is useful. You’re just not interpreting it correctly.

You’re reading the sadness backwards. You’re not supposed to avoid going out with your friends or watching funny movies because you’re sad. You’re sad because you’re not doing things like hanging out with friends or watching funny movies. Those things lead you toward being happy. So not doing those things is precisely why it feels bad. The feeling isn’t saying “oh stay in and cry and tell yourself a series of your own narratives about how terrible life is.” That 403 Relax and Succeed - That was Zenfeeling is ugly because it’s a signal that you’re misusing your consciousness, and it’s a call to shift your thinking from want into appreciation. If you wanted to feel better then go appreciate the joy you get from a game of Frisbee. Done.

If your knee hurts you know that’s your body signalling you not to use your knee. Likewise, if your emotions hurt then your higher self will use the pain to guide you to shifting from wanting to appreciating. So your literal addiction to the chemistry associated with sadness is what colours your view to the point where you can see a loved one trying to cheer you up as something bad. That is clearly nothing bad. But your perspective is. Your daughter is trying to coax you out. And most counsellors don’t want to say this stuff because they’re worried they’ll get fired. I get fired all the time and then re-hired three weeks later because they just needed time to cool down and accept the idea. But dude, I love you but it was ten years ago. She’s right: stop thinking about it and go out.

There’s no end to that cycle of thinking except you stopping it. I know there will be strong reminders or maybe even legal things you have to deal with that cause you to have to think about her, and I know it takes effort. But it takes less effort than what you’re doing because you stop the negative stories. And after 10 years of that it’s like you’ve been living on the Sahara. The world will feel vivid and amazing to you. You just have to go through the awkward transition part of getting used to dressing up and going out and making conversation etc. But there will be huge perks—like more laughing. Maybe even romance. Who knows? It doesn’t matter what you feel it’ll feel better than what you have been processing through your mind.

403 Relax and Succeed - Welcome to todayIf you incessantly think sad thoughts then please don’t tell me you’re going to hand over the rest of your life to some “disease” called Depression. Because you should at least do the thought-shifting thing first. Because there are tons and tons and tons of people who’ve said they were clinically depressed and that they couldn’t be helped, but they earnestly considered the things I am sharing here and they get happy. Because they understand the reality of their experience. So they understand why they were depressed, and they understand how they can be happy instead.

Everyone who’s done it knows it works for everyone because mechanistically it’s so simple. And once they’ve used it a million times they are super sure about how it works. And you will be too. I encourage you: don’t trust me. Try it for two months. As much as you can, interrupt your thought patterns. Intentionally go to new places that are enjoyable. Welcome your daughter and really watch the movie. Get into it. Laugh. It’s super healthy for you. It’s a great way to face depression.

It’s a dark place where you are. I respect that. And it’s possible to look at it with jaded eyes, half-try and choose 10 more years of sadness. But that’s a choice my friend. Change your thinking and you will change your life. We’re a hyper-thinking culture. It’s the disease. Literally dis-ease. To not be at ease. And why aren’t we at ease? Because of our past? And what is our past to us today? It is only thoughts—memories we choose to replay in today’s time-frame. So the real question is, why choose such sad ones?

All the best. Big hug.

peace. s

Complaint Compliant

My mother is always complaining that I don’t spend more time with her but when I do all she does is complain anyway. It’s not that I don’t love her because I really do. And I get that she’s had some hard stuff to deal with in life. But I think sometimes she forgets that the violent husband she had was also me and my sister’s violent dad. I know my mom won’t live forever so I do want to spend time with her but what’s the point if she’s just always going on about a marriage from 10 years ago? Is there anything me and my sister could do that would help her not waste the last part of her life?

signed,
Worried Daughter

Dear Daughter,

One of the most challenging aspects to being healthy is watching our loved ones choose to be miserable. Of course they don’t see it as a choice. When you don’t want to listen to her complain your mother thinks you’re not being supportive. She thinks commiseration is connection 361 Relax and Succeed - Whatever you believe about yourselfwhen really it’s the empathy that creates the connection. Empathy is where we understand the experience of another, commiseration is about pity. In empathy we’re equals in understanding but in commiseration one person is describing suffering and so they are in a state of suffering, while the other person is not describing suffering and so they are not experiencing it. In commiseration there is separation.

Because you don’t view your mother as a beaten and defeated person it is uncomfortable for you to be in the presence of her when that is what she is manifesting. Your discord comes from the differences in the frequencies of your thinking. Keep in mind, your mother can be thinking about a marriage 10 or 20 years in her past or she can be thinking about something that happened earlier this year, this week or even a few hours ago. The principle is the same: if you think it you re-live it and if you re-live the thoughts you will re-live the chemistry and the chemistry creates the emotional experiences that you then translate into the narrative that you habitually use to define “your life.” So it is not only possible to continue to live Then in this Now, in fact that’s what the vast majority of people do. Almost no one lives Now.

Everyone is always time traveling by using their ability to tell themselves stories about themselves. As an example, even you took time you could have spent enjoying and instead you spent it creating your email to me—an experience which required you to re-live your mother’s unpleasant behaviour on previous occasions. Now I understand that you had an objective of increasing your future enjoyment of life so I’m not suggesting you did anything wrong. My point isn’t that you have to choose to live only thinking about the present moment or even that you would always choose pleasant memories. My point is that you will experience whatever you think. The issue isn’t so much about control as it is about understanding. Once we truly understand then we also immediately gain control. Your mother doesn’t need to get happier, she needs to understand.

361 Relax and Succeed - Some people create their own stormsYour mother’s challenge is that she thinks the collection of narrative stories she tells herself and other people is her history. She thinks that she’s locked-in and that she can’t change her past, and because it was bad that means now has to be bad too. Well that’s incorrect and silly and a waste of your mother’s existence. Every human being will have tragedy in their lives. We can’t see this in most cases. It’s not visible. Half the people your mom is complaining to probably have much harder lives than hers. But she doesn’t ask about that because she’s too busy being in pain. She doesn’t see the pain as being what she’s doing, she believes the pain is somehow connected to her past. But if you ask her how it’s connected, the only thing she’ll be able to do is tell you the narrative of her life again. She’ll think that’s an actual thing but it isn’t. It only lives in her thoughts and her thoughts are malleable and changeable and fleeting and forgetful, so we shouldn’t take them too seriously. Besides, as Alan Watts used to say, “Just as the wake does not move the ship, nor does the past move the present.”

I too hope your mother wakes up before she passes. You’re right that she is surrendering her time on the stage to sit backstage asking for rewrites of scenes already performed. But you can’t awaken for her. About the only thing you can do is model healthy behaviour. When she starts to talk about the past don’t engage with it by trying to talk her out of talking about the past because that’s just another way of talking about the past. Instead change the subject. And when you can’t do that anymore then leave and let her know you’re going to do something enjoyable. Don’t ask questions that lead her towards negative thoughts. Don’t talk about negative things or she’ll draw parallels to her own life. Don’t even discuss yourselves or your lives. Talk about ideas or places or activities but try not to talk about people or make judgments. The rest is up to your mother.

It’s important to remember that learning comes in many forms. Your mother may be precisely what prompts you to read my blog. She might be at the heart of most of your spiritual and psychological growth. I’ve never even been tempted to smoke because my mother was a lifelong smoker who used to trap us in hot cars in the summer and it really got me to hate smoking as a kid. As an adult I realize that those lessons are precisely why I now don’t smoke. Likewise, are you familiar with the idea that your enemies are361 Relax and Succeed - I cannot learn other people's lessons your teachers? The Dalai Lama talks about how vexatious people are your instructors. By living in the past and creating a negative psychological environment your mother has helped make you aware of your own freedoms in that regard. By grinding against her negativity you are learning more and more about positivity. It’s why I always say, we’re always either benefiting by joy or benefiting by growth.

I didn’t realize those hot sessions in the car were going to pay off big-time so they seemed much worse then than they do now. Hopefully you can come to that realization sooner than I did, and then you can live with gratitude for your mother’s negativity. For like the irritating grain of sand that is the basis of every pearl, her negativity is likely to be the very basis of your own psychological strengths. And such is the Yin and Yang of life.

peace. s