The Star Trek Problem

1266 Relax and Succeed - Star Trek Star Trek was an attemptAlex was just trying to watch Star Trek but he had trouble focusing because he was very upset about what was happening at work. The owner of the company had set up a test to see who should get a promotion. Alex and a co-worker had both worked hard at that test and not only did the co-worker stab him in the back at the last moment, but later he learned that his competition had a secret deal with the boss! It was infuriating. It had been bothering Alex for weeks and tonight he was particularly upset.

“You know, sometimes you don’t act like you care when I’m telling you this stuff.”

“Oh, sorry. I didn’t mean to give you that impression. I just don’t want to engage in conversation about it because every time it comes up you end up really upset, and I care about you so I figured you’d rather watch Star Trek and get your mind off it than to be upset. I didn’t mean for you to feel unsupported.”

“Well I’d like a little more empathy over here. Going through all of that really hurt.”

“I’m sorry Alex. I know you’re hurt. It’s why I came over even though I had plans tonight. When we have an expectation of how things are going to go, it’s a very painful thing when we find out we’ve been working under false pretenses. I know you’re hurt, it’s why I didn’t go to the game tonight and came over instead. But if I care about you I have to do it the way I do it because I don’t know any other way.”

“Well it’s not helpful and I’d prefer if you’d at least consider doing it my way. And how can this crap not upset you? You believe things should be fair, right?”

“Okay, first off, we’re watching Star Trek, so this feels a little Borg-y.”

“Borgy?”

“Sorry. Aren’t they they race that needs you to assimilate to their perspective because they can’t tolerate individuality?”

1266 Relax and Succeed - Star Trek Picard“I’m not asking you to give up your individuality I just want some support for this crap that happened at work! I am not Borging you dude.”

“Okay, I’m sorry. I care about you, and it sucks that you got hurt. I don’t like any part of that. But I don’t look at the world the way you do so it’s hard for me to do what you want.”

“What’s so hard about giving me support?”

“But that’s not what it feels like to me. To me it feels like I’m engaging in co-dependency.”

“Co-dependency? I’m not addicted to getting screwed over at work dude.”

“Are you sure you’re not maybe a little addicted?”

“How do you figure I’m addicted to pain because I got ripped off and lied to at work–all so some idiots could rip me off based on a bunch of lies?”

“I don’t mean you’re some crazy addict, but look; here’s how I see this stuff: You’re upset because you thought for sure you had the inside track on the project that was going to win over your boss . Then you found out that the goof you work with had lied to you about what the boss wanted. So you were mislead and it hurts. That part I totally get because that is super crappy. But you love Star Trek. To me, what the guy did at work isn’t so much a problem; it’s just a Kardashian being a Kardashian.”

“They’re Carda–ss–ians, not celebrities with big butts. And what, you mean he’s just a greedy scummy liar who’s trying to get power for himself?”

“Pretty much, yeah. And you’re half-Klingon, so now you’re all revenge-y because to you, your word means something.”

“How’s that help me?”

1266 Relax and Succeed - Star Trek Cardassian“But if he’s one of the girls with the big butts, isn’t scummy part of the deal? Isn’t that the difference between the crew and the captains on these shows? The crew gets caught up wanting the character to be who they want them to be, and the captains always take them as they are and they manage that instead? So I was just saying, be like a captain. Don’t take what he did personally. He would have done it to whoever he was up against. He’s a… Carda-ssss-ian.”

That did make Alex feel a little better. The guy at work had always been pretty consistent, so it was helpful seeing him as a Cardassian and not as the jerk he was personally. “Yeah, but that still doesn’t explain my boss being a prick.”

“Doesn’t it? To me that makes sense too. Your boss just does what greed does. He’s 100% greedy Ferengi. The Cardassian offered not to ever go after the Ferengi’s job if he got the promotion. He’s lying and you know it, but the Ferengi would happily support the Cardassian being promoted if he felt like it would keep him in charge of the rest of you.”

Alex did have to concede that his boss was pretty Ferengi. “So, what…? You’re saying rather than being personally pissed off about this I should just see it as my Klingon honour being offended by a Cardassian political move that was supported by a greedy Ferengi?”

“Pretty much, yeah.”

Strangely, Alex had to admit; that made it all seem more sensible, and he liked the idea that he got to assume the role of Captain in the deal. “So this is how you deal with stuff like this?”

“I’m half Vulcan half human. I use logic for stuff like your work thing, but I’m still human enough to care that my buddy got hurt.”

“Why did you say I was only half-Klingon?”

“This stuff all happened a few weeks ago. I got that it offended the Klingon part of you, but the fact that you’re still thinking about it now makes me think that maybe your Klingon Dad slept with a Trill, because I think you’re holding onto this memory for longer than it’s worth.”

Alex gave that a think and conceded that it was reasonable. “At least Trills are hot.”

“You do still have that going for you.”

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.

Relationship Rules

1001-relax-and-succeed-in-obedience-there-is-always-fearJealous people didn’t just randomly pick up jealousy as a habit–it got taught to them. In general they’ll have witnessed it or had some very bad experiences relating to the damage that can be caused by cheating. These are painful experiences and they are worthy of our respect, but respecting a jealous person’s experience isn’t the same as living inside of it. No one owns a relationship, we share them.

It doesn’t matter how many rings we exchange, how many contracts from the government we sign nor how many people were present in a pointy building when we made our promises, the fact remains that real relationships are always, 100% of the time, voluntary. You cannot police a relationship into being secure; that is the opposite of respecting the person’s ability to make their own choices. We can lock a person in a room and never let anyone else see them and we still can’t force them to love us if that’s not what we’ve been nurturing with our behaviour.

A person dealing with someone scarred by jealousy is like being a dog that’s been beaten by its owner. Without the trust the relationship quickly deteriorates as the dog’s anticipation of a positive experience is replaced by fears of a negative one. The owner’s rules for the dog can be entirely logical; they can be about safety and responsibility and good behaviour, but if the price for failing is a verbal or physical beating then the dog will cower and the relationship will begin to fail.

1001-relax-and-succeed-love-is-always-bestowedFailure isn’t imminent. Just as a dog can be beaten and left for dead, and as many rescue dogs have proven, consistent love, care and respect can return them to their naturally loving state, but if the behaviour of the owner is inconsistent between love and threat then the dog is still left uncertain, unsafe and disconnected. Even if the treatment is good 95% of the time, how’s the person or dog know when the other 5% is? They have to be on guard all the time. It’s exhausting. We can’t threaten anyone into good behaviour we can only encourage it with our own good behaviour.

Whether it’s done overtly or in a manipulative manner, the rules jealous partners try to exert are doomed to fail simply because they are imposed rather than chosen. We can’t make anyone feel anything they’re not prepared to feel, not with logic, not with begging and not with the force of threat. We can feel sympathy for the jealous person’s plight; we all have our crosses to bear, but our early life is only where we start. As mature people our job is to look honestly upon the world and ask ourselves which lessons we took from life that are fruitful and which are poisonous.

Jealous relationships always end, whether the person stays or goes. The only way to save them is to remove the jealousy, it cannot be managed with rules or promises or absolutes. We either show our respect for someone by trusting them or we show them disrespect by not trusting them. Obviously disrespect, however understandably motivated, is never going to generate increased love in a relationship. Instead it will strangle it.

1001-relax-and-succeed-however-the-tea-is-preparedIn this quote the Dalai Lama expresses that the rituals of religion are pointless without a foundation of compassion. Likewise, direct or implied rules in a relationship are effectively meaningless. What’s needed is compassion and connection. You can either be a person the dog is happy to see or someone they’re afraid to see and that won’t depend on words or promises, it’ll depend on behaviour.

I normally use the word “human” rather than “owner,” but I wanted to make a point. Rules are like a rope. They might keep the dog in the yard but that’s not the same as the dog wanting to be in the yard because it’s so great to be there. In one case if the dog gets loose it happily stays, in the other it just keeps running.

A relationship must be nurtured to stay alive. People just don’t fall in love and then love solves all their issues. Relationships aren’t cars that we fix when they’re broken, they’re things we cultivate and maintain. You can mistreat a car for years and then spend a lot of money and you can get it running like new, mistreat your dog and it might take a lifetime for them to trust anyone again.

peace. s

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

Insecure Relationships

Winner: 2016’s Blog of the Year #3

900 Relax and Succeed - Being possessive about a personWhen I was a teenager I had the same girlfriend for five years. For four and half of those years–as amazing as it sounds–we quite literally didn’t have a single argument. I had this clarity that everyone else thought was weirdness and she had a humility that made her look like the sanest person on Earth to me. That was a long time ago and we’re still best friends today.

I said four and a half of five years because the last six months of that I went through a growth spurt that made my legs ache horribly every night, I got little sleep, and because I didn’t know about testosterone at the time I would seemingly get mad at nothing. I’d never had it happen before. I could track where my emotions came from, but here were some that were simply part of being human. I had to ride them like a cowboy in a rodeo and it taught me to feel sympathetic about the hormone cycles women experience every month.

This all lead to about a year of feeling very suspicious and angry. For the first time in my life I was jealous. I could meditate on my anger and disassemble it after the fact, but I had very little control when it came to my immediate reaction. I did not like it at all. Fortunately the best friend was smart enough to leave and I worked hard to better myself and eventually that cloak of frustrated energy naturally lifted and we reconnected. It was a big relief. Jealousy or insecurity in a relationship is one of the most damaging forces you can encounter.

900 Relax and Succeed - Marriage won't stop a cheaterThere is no way for the other person to win with a suspicious mind. The suspicious mind will have reasoning behind it how it feels. Maybe they saw one parent cheat on the other and they blame that for the ruin of the other parent, so they’re watching closely to ensure it doesn’t happen to them. They idea is that they will be able to self-validate the reasoning, but that doesn’t mean a lack of trust is helpful to any relationship.

If you don’t have trust that can be for good reasons or less productive ones. But even if you have good reasons, no trust is essentially no relationship. Unhealthy people are held together by obligations and even threats, whereas the healthy kind of human relationship is one that’s naturally attractive, magnetic and safe.

We’re not complicated creatures. We go where we thrive. If we don’t go where we thrive, we wilt. A relationship is not something you can protect, it is only something you can reinforce with love and positive feelings. They aren’t about keeping other people out, they’re near-constant invitations to be in.

900 Relax and Succeed - If you love a flowerLook at your life. Do people do things for you because they love you or because they feel they have to? Because if you’re laying down “rules” for another human being then you’re misunderstanding deep relationships. They have no rules. No one is supposed to be anything except happy. That’s how unconditional love works.

You can have all the commitment in the world and still fight all the time. Commitment is like a rope tying something down. Love is like the sun. It doesn’t hold anyone in place it just promotes growth in the direction of its warmth by making sure the other person is showered in enough light to ensure they have all they need to help them fully realise themselves. Relationships are not about what you need, they’re about what you give.

peace. s

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

Leaving a Cheater

They had moved their lives and their family halfway around the world together. They were a team. They had been married for 15 years. Most people thought they had a great marriage and he did too. And then he found out his wife had been lying to him. There was a boyfriend. Heather didn’t mean for him to find out but it came out in something she said. She didn’t notice that she had accidentally given something away. And Nigel didn’t say anything for the first while. He used that time to gather information.

777 Relax and Succeed - Sometimes good things fall apartAnd gather it he did. Once he started looking he noticed that the clues were all over the place. Unfortunately, as jealous people prove–you can develop quite a list of clues that turn out to be false if you’re looking for them. So even 90% of his clues weren’t actually clues at all, but he did find a half-dozen actual things.

So Nigel would think about those six real things plus the 5o or so he imagined and he could tell himself story after painful story–which he did. Over and over, and he was more and more hurt, and that made him angrier and angrier. And while his anger was masked it still came out pretty clearly if you weren’t Nigel. Heather certainly noticed. He was eating away at her. He was criticising her body. He wanted her to feel insecure. If she was going to be naked with someone else he wanted her to waste it being worried.

He thought about moving back to Britain but he couldn’t do that to the kids. As angry as he was he wasn’t crazy–this was about his relationship with her, not hers and the kids. That was a separate issue and he knew full well he wanted her guidance and influence in the kids lives and that they loved her. But this hurt and hurt people hurt people. So they both suffered.

777 Relax and Succeed - Love is what we are born withHe never did define what he was waiting for, but eventually those silent resentments built up and Nigel exploded in a totally uncharacteristic way. He stormed around, threw things, called a rental company and was loading a truck all in the same day. It was extremely dramatic. And when he was gone he was totally gone.

The kids were obviously completely broken up about the breakup and it made perfect sense that at their age and the way they would be able to understand things–it would almost inevitably lead to them blaming their mother, which in turn meant them choosing to live with their father. In another city.

So there he is. Away from someone that up until a short time ago he loved. She was also his main support even though he’d barely noticed that part. Not that she had noticed that he was doing likewise for her either. Now it’s two years later, the kids have mostly forgiven their mom and they’re better for it. And he’s realized he had been somewhat inattentive to his wife prior to her affair which ended anyway. Now she’s single and he’s still alone too–too scared to get hurt like that again. And he’s still trying to find a way to forgive her so he can do what he calls moving on. That’s how he described it to the ancient Chinese guy who taught his Tai Chi class.

777 Relax and Succeed - Forgiveness is not something we do for other people“I am sorry. I do not understand.” The accent was Chinese but this guy went to a British-style English upper class school in Hong Kong. The serenity about him was undeniable. “What do you mean by overcoming? And moving on?”

“You know, that moment where how you feel about something–about someone–changes…? Then you can forgive the person because you see what happened differently so you can move on.”

The Tai Chi teacher seemed confused and it was obvious. “I see.”

“I just have to wait until I can see this–thing–in this certain way and then I can get back to living my life.”

The old man laughed. “1980. John Lennon. Double Fantasy. Beautiful Boy. The song is four minutes twelve seconds. ‘Life is just what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

777 Relax and Succeed - Too many people go through life“That’s my problem, I can’t make any plans until I put this behind me.”

“Then you have plans to put that behind you, and until you succeed at your plan you refuse to move forward.”

“Not refuse. Can’t.”

“Mr. Nigel. You are a very good student. You learn Tai Chi well but you are very mechanical. Your motions are individual. You must learn to flow.”

“I’m not sure I….” 

The old man just looked at him for a good long while. “I’ve have been alive a very long time Mr. Nigel. My own life does not include the moment you have told me about. And I know if I never needed such a moment, and most of the people I know never needed one, then neither do you.”

“But then what do I do?”

777 Relax and Succeed - We are not held back“If there is nothing left to do with your past then you are free to make a plan and begin taking the steps of your future.”

Nigel slumped. He felt weak. The old man put his hand on Nigel’s back. “But how do I get over what happened and feel better?”

“You leave it in the past. You don’t bring old opponents into today’s battles. You fill your mind with other things. I remember when I met you you told me about an old car you wanted to restore?”

“I haven’t felt good enough to do it.”

“You have not felt good because you’ve been thinking about the worst events of your life. May I suggest you may have been happier working on the car. Our life is our own responsibility Mr. Nigel. No one gives us a good life. We each must fight our own opponents and win our own battles. But between the battles is the time for living.”

777 Relax and Succeed - Life is too shortAnd Nigel got it. He really did. He’d misunderstood. He was waiting for a lightning bolt of insight. A stroke of wisdom that allowed him to understand. Understand what happened. But the stroke of insight wasn’t about the events from years ago. Of course that would always be what it was. The insight was that he misunderstood literally how to live. He was trying to figure out how to have it always be okay and instead he realized he was just supposed to respond wisely to it not being okay.

And from that day forward Nigel responded to feeling badly by doing more of the things he enjoyed. He was not only a lot happier, but it resulted in more women finding him attractive and him eventually finding a new partner that easily kept his mind off his problems–and on top of that, on weekends they got to drive around Nigel’s sunflower yellow 1948 Ford Coupe.

Now go build your life’s a hot rod. 😉

peace. s

Scott McPherson is a writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.

Rekindling Love

I often write about how there’s pretty much both a new physical and a new psychological You ever 8 years or so. This means every married couple essentially has to get spiritually remarried each time one of them goes through these phases. You have to re-choose your renewed partner. And because people often marry people close to their own age that also means that both people are going through their tumultuous times at roughly the same time. That can make essentially good things look pretty bad.

768 Relax and Succeed - We do not see things as they areAdding to this mix is the fact that these questions usually start getting asked during a crisis, like when someone has let their partner down in a very significant way by cheating, lying, stealing or generally undermining their long term confidence. Then it’s possible for one or the other people to actually feel they have fallen out of love. Fortunately this isn’t actually possible in the spiritual sense so there’s no need to panic but you do need to proceed with wisdom. Divorcing isn’t just ending your marriage. It’s changing your entire financial life, it’ll change all of your friendships and it will make you a completely different person.

If you truly stand for entirely different things–if people aren’t happy together in the most fundamental ways then they should split. But if they’re just experiencing the inevitable bumps and challenges that go with debt and aging and family and career and decision-making and the general angst that naturally goes with each age, then that’s just the stuff you covered in your wedding vows. Remember? You were supposed to endure some hard parts too. Otherwise a lot of people end up regretting that they left something only to find themselves right back in a similar situation eight years later, often with a person who is less dedicated than the one we left. The trick is, how do you know which situation is which?

It’s actually not that hard. You just have to be in the right state of mind to make the decision. If your mind is full of thoughts then you’re lost in ego and you will make an egos decision. That includes pro and con lists, fantasies of possible futures etc. etc. If you choose what you want, or if you choose based on what you don’t like, then those thoughts will dictate your life. Buf if you’re aware of the love that exists between all people then you’re in a healthy state and there’s no egocentric repulsion or revulsion or repellant. You can see each person beautifully and clearly. If you decide to go elsewhere from that state of mind then go. But if you decide before you re-establish that loving connection then you are making your decision from an egocentric perspective and it is more likely to lead to a lesson than a reward.

768 Relax and Succeed - Let's not forgetDepending on who you ask the Greeks had six types of love. If you can establish even one of them with your partner you will be able to see them clearly. From that state you can make a quality decision. So what are your options in terms of how to feel about the person you’re considering reconnecting with?

Unless the situation is unusual you probably won’t use Storge, which is familial love. And you’re trying to reconnect to Eros–romantic or intimate love–so you won’t use that either. But you can experience Philia, which is akin to open and loving friendship (among other things). Or even better would be Agape, which is that impersonal love we feel for our fellow man–the love the religious describe as God’s love. Each is without judgment. Once we can see our partner without any judgment then we are left with a better sense of what form our connection should take in the outside world.

These can feel like terrifying times. But like Ukemi in judo, if we remain very aware then we can end up better off for having fallen or failed. Once we are not afraid of what is happening our resisting thoughts leave us in peace. We make friends with the present moment and in doing so we gain access to the sort of wisdom that will lead us to answers we can feel are the right ones for the person we are in this moment.

If you’re seeking wisdom, be in love. Look at the world with clear vision. And then choose your path. Either way you’ll find joy and heartache. You can do no wrong. Be at peace.

Much love, s

Scott McPherson is a writer, mindfulness instructor, coach and communications facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.