Winning Arguments

991-relax-and-succeed-im-not-arguingThe problem with arguments is that to have one you need to have a position and at least one other person needs to have a position that isn’t yours. You need a specific perspective and you need to be attached to yours just as they need to be attached to theirs. That attachment creates your grip on the argument. Then, you each try to move the other from where they are now to where you want them to be, but the truth is you just can’t be happy with your life with all of that wanting and attachment.

It’s difficult for me to describe why a band of early Native North Americans would not have had any arguments. Individual people could sit and talk in an igloo but back then they still didn’t see each other as separate individuals. They had no genders or other identities that were separate from others. Their existence was always in relation to the larger whole. You were like that too when you were a baby, but you had us keep poking at your unbroken reality of oneness until we convinced you that there are separate entities with separate names doing separate things and only one can be called “right.” This is when you bit the apple of knowledge.

991-relax-and-succeed-im-sorry-for-passing-judgmentMeanwhile, back with the native band, no one decided anything and announced it to the group and no Chief vetted it all. Any discussion would be a conversation with one entity with many voices. It might be best to metaphorise it into the idea of your body. Your mind might want you to stay out later and get drunk but your liver would prefer that you didn’t. They’re both made of your cells and the parts have different names but in the end it’s all you. So it is with a tribe of people who do not have thoughts of a separate self.

So how can this help you every day in your life? It can make you realise that arguments are ego-creations and they are created for their own sake. You’ve won lots of arguments you shouldn’t have. We’ve all found out as we’ve grown up that we were wrong about all kinds of things, but if that can happen pretty much throughout our lives, one wonders why we allow ourselves to get so sure and so attached to an idea?

Winning an argument is like a lottery ticket. Odds are strongly that we’d be unhappy even if we we won, but because the idea of a lottery includes ideas like winning and money and rich, we tell ourselves we’ve won even when we’ve placed ourselves in the group that’s statistically likely to be unhappy. That’s how important ideas can get.

991-relax-and-succeed-there-is-no-key-to-happinessWe argue for our own demise all the time. That’s how half the marriages end. Today someone will argue themselves out of their marriage. Weird eh? You could win every single argument and the net result would be you’d break up the most important relationship in your life. So what is this winning stuff anyway?

Winning requires those positions to be taken and those attachments to be made. Winning also requires a loser. So the question is, do you really want to take your most important relationships and then lower their quality in pursuit of a victory over a loved one? You want to make your spouse or child or parent feel like a loser? Intentionally? Because that’s what an argument really is. It’s not you holding on the correct position, it’s you trying to move someone from where they are to where you are. No one can be right because neither of you knows the future or if you might find out if you’re wrong.

You cannot win an argument. To do so is to create discord. You might win an argument that you should move to the family to Boston but even if everyone ended up happier there, they wouldn’t be happy because you were right, you would have still needed their full cooperation with finding enjoyable lives in the new city because a bad attitude can easily turn an otherwise good experience into a bad one. If they don’t cooperate however–and they’re less likely to if they’re upset–then you can find yourself in the same situation as many people who won arguments they later wish they’d never started.

991-relax-and-succeed-its-okay-for-you-to-believeYou have to start seeing the struggle of an argument as the pain associated with pushing yourself apart from another. There are only two motions in the universe, recognising oneness and believing in separateness. Recognising oneness is when we seek peace and ego is when we insist on our separateness and argue for its dimensions. Seeking peace is a much different feeling than arguing for separateness.

This is critical: you have to begin steering your life with feelings rather than ideas. Ideas are abstract ego-possessions that can be argued over whereas feelings are experiences and no one can tell you what your experience of something is, they can only respect your expression of it. If steering by ideas helped then the individuals in this world would be in a lot better shape than they we are. Instead, as we’ve gotten more and more ideas we just create more and more opportunities for more and more arguments.

Put down all of the words. Seek peace. Actually pause to ask yourself what winning an argument will really get you when it’s all tolled. Because when the monk Thomas Aquinas took a vow of silence, he both ensured he would never win nor ever lose another argument. And that can be a very nice way to live.

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.

The Friday Dose #122: Shaming Mothers

Winner: 2016’s Friday Dose of the Year

It’s not like women don’t have enough issues to deal with already and now, in a remarkably ironic twist, the biggest media outlet in the world has made it very clear through both words and actions that it feels women should feel good about having thin young bodies but they should feel ashamed and embarrassed about their body as a mother.

978 FD Relax and Succeed - Facebook's rejected postYesterday I wrote a piece about stretch marks and how women shouldn’t feel badly about having them just because some other younger person judged them as unattractive. I explained that the lack of acceptance was a form of innocent ignorance being displayed by otherwise good people who simply don’t yet have the capacity to be able to appreciate those signs of pregnancy as being attractive.

Whenever I get an indication that a blog is particularly meaningful or worthwhile to readers I will spend some money to boost it to ensure people who don’t subscribe to Relax and Succeed can still benefit from the content. When I tried to do that with this post I was quickly told (likely by a “female” robot), that facebook’s position is that “Ads like this are not allowed since they make viewers feel bad about themselves.”

We’ve all seen plenty of sexual content on facebook. I have no shortage of photos and videos in my newsfeed that depict scantily clad extremely slim young women doing everything from holidaying on Spring Break to playing beach volleyball at the Olympics. If one of the largest media outlets in the world is saying yes to young and sexy and scantily clad while simultaneously arguing that women should feel bad about themselves for having stretch marks what does that communicate to young women and future mothers?

978 FD Relax and Succeed - Facebook's rejectionThis a clear demonstration of how egotistical and judgmental the world has become. I won’t choose to let many things upset me but, on a day where the biggest thing on the internet was a one hour video of a naked Donald Trump statue, this just flew in the face of the freedoms my own father joined the war effort in WWII to protect. That being the case I appealed facebook’s rejection and then received the response depicted–written by purportedly a woman no less!

One of the main reasons women write to me is because of body image issues. Just the day before there was a comment on the Relax and Succeed facebook page that noted, “Needed this here in the fun and sun, where shorts, tanks, bikinis and long legged younger women surround me, LOL. Where a reminder is needed that stretch marks, cellulite, and grey hair and wrinkles are beautiful as well.” Indeed.

Everyone who liked or loved the post was female, but facebook doesn’t think anyone should see it because it’s “…extremely undesirable.” Facebook suggested I find a product to advertise instead but since I don’t sell products that would be impossible. I’m a writer who doesn’t even have any ads running on my page and if I ever did I would do all I could to ensure that they didn’t ever make anyone feel ashamed of themselves and the way nature made them.

978 FD Relax and Succeed - Response to FacebookThis is of course precisely what feminists are fighting against and now we know clearly in writing how facebook feels on a policy basis. Facebook has an idea of what you’re supposed to look like and anything outside of their definition is unattractive and therefore should not be seen. They’ll take money for an ad for unhealthy food but they won’t permit people to pay to promote a non-commercial post featuring a genuine women’s issue. This is remarkable considering Mark Zuckerberg has a daughter and his wife is obviously a mother.

I tried to use the word “media” to trigger the algorithm to go get me a real person but, having likely failed in that, all I did was get pretty angry at a robot, which is silly. She definitely won’t have an issue with stretch marks. But this is where the energy behind outrage can be helpful if it’s focused in a healthy way.

I do feel strongly that if we want a more just society that permits everyone to feel good about themselves then we must each take definitive action to change the sexualized judgments that advertising has historically used to guilt women into buying beauty products. If I was on facebook advertising a cream to hide stretch marks I would have no problem, but if I want to promote women feeling good about their natural bodies that is not allowed.

Facebook will obviously try to hide it from you but if at all possible I would obviously like to see this blog post shared more than any other I have ever written. If you’re mature enough to feel like I do–that mother’s have every reason to feel proud of their post-pregnancy bodies– then please help spread this message on all forms of social media so that appropriate social pressure can be placed on facebook to revisit their sexist standards.

This is clearly not in the interests of women or men and I would appreciate anything you could do to help ensure that women are also exposed to positive natural body images and words. To all you mother’s with stretch marks–I know you are beautiful and I want you to be confident in that too. On behalf of a male-dominated world I apologise on its behalf for having ever made you feel badly about maturing into the most important job on Earth: motherhood.

 

Respectfully, 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.

Conscious Communication

966 Relax and Succeed - Don't promise when you're happyThis quote offers good advice for whenever you are conscious and can prevent these things from happening. But that’s only half of it. If you don’t do these things in each and every moment that doesn’t doom you. It just helps if take how you’re feeling into account when you look at the world. The glasses you wear will colour everything.

A useful counterpoint to this quote is the idea that the rest of us should all stay aware of the fact that not everyone will be able to do this all the time. Even the wisest people will spend some time in ego. A friend recently noted that staying balanced can be likened to walking. As we step forward in life our left foot ego might stray a bit into the past, and our right foot ego might stray a bit into the future, but your aim is try to keep your head pretty much centred on the path.

Do take your feelings into account when you’re presenting something, but also take the other person’s feelings into account when you’re listening to them. People often don’t mean what they say but their words will still usually capture how they feel about something. It’s best not to take that personally because they’re reacting to how they see things, not how you see them. No one owes you pleasant emotional responses, you can only encourage them or discourage them.

966 Relax and Succeed - I don't forgive people because I'm weakHappy people will tend to underestimate the challenges that might be associated with a task. Don’t be surprised. Angry people who’ve been deserted in the past will often push others away as a test. Again, no surprise. If someone’s profoundly sad then their assessment of their situation may not recognise all of their opportunities. And why would they at that time? These are all examples of ways where our state of mind colours our perspective and they can all happen in normal, healthy people. If anything, everyone’s expectations are way too high.

Do your best to take your own feelings into account when you speak but, since there’s one of you and lots of everyone else, it helps a lot more if you can also listen to everyone else speak and take their state of mind into account too. Then their words seem less personal and about you. Rather than managing what they say you’re responding to how they said it. You stop seeing the words as just about the literal content and you start seeing the conversation as a shared experience that both you and the other person are independently having. This is where men and women often really get stuck because men are inclined to see conversation as data whereas women often see it as an emotional exchange.

If you can live with this awareness you can create a safe environment for your fellow human beings to feel their natural feelings. My best friend can be mad at her mother, she’ll call me and she can literally ask me if I’ll stand in for her mom and get some hell; or maybe she’ll ask me to join her in being angry about her Mom; or sometimes she just wants to be grumpy for a while. Whatever it is; no problem. I love her. She does the same from me. So her and I literally state it to each other if necessary: Here’s how you can help me. This emotion won’t last. Please be with me or share it with me until it passes.

966 Relax and Succeed - What is loveAs soon as someone gives you permission or the right or even better–the freedom to feel your human feelings, you feel safe. And if the feelings are negative you don’t feel as much of an urge to continue pedalling them with your thoughts. In effect the other person has already said, “if your behaviour can’t be good right now I’m okay with that for a while because I care about you. I can last through some angry language if that’s what will help you feel better.” It’s hard to stay in a dark place when someone is that openly loving.

My friend and I can never stay in a negative state for very long. We just lose all our negative energy. You can have this happen in your home too. Stop focusing on everyone living up to their word and being precise about their commitments and instead use communication to manage the energy in the room. If someone’s pinging then everyone else absorb. If someone’s in distress be fully present. There’s always a helpful response even if it’s concerned silence. The question is, in real time, will you ignore the words so that you can actually hear the meaning?

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.

peace. s