You Are Better Than You Think

1366 Relax and Succeed - You are not as bad as you think

Due to my sensitivity to patterns I’ve been noting one over the last year that I have been researching in various ways. It can involve physical, emotional or intellectual issues, but in many fields there is an increasing ratio of people who will plan to go through forms of training or treatment, but then quit before even starting.

Of course, this doesn’t apply to the people that have always needed to cancel with a doctor or personal trainer or counselor. Very reasonable reasons include; them having resolved their issue before sessions began, their job or financial situation changed, their schedule changed, or some unfortunate cases they take seriously ill. But this new rise in cases does not appear to be coming from those sources.

This has impacted everyone from personal trainers in physical health to psychologists to people like me. Despite care or fitness being more socially acceptable than ever, I have learned that people are often now prevented from attending not because of stigma –but rather due to a fear that the process might confirm their darkest fears.

This is unfortunate, because in almost every case, the result would be the exact opposite of that –the process of getting healthy shines a positive light on what we perceive are our ‘darkest corners.’

My concern surrounds the fact that many appear to back out out of a fear of facing the reality of their situations. This appears most prominent for those who dealing with the stresses relating to their transition from life as a student to the workforce, or from shifting from an early job, to a full career and more full-on ‘adulting,’ with all of its attendant complications. At that stage some people feel that looking closely at themselves will only make a bad story worse.

That is a tragedy of the spirit.

Too often, people start care for themselves or their relationships with the idea that they arrive ‘wrong’ or ‘broken.’ They weigh too much, exercise too little, have bad diets, or they self-hate their personalities every time they can’t offer just the right combination of human skills required for every single situation. But none of that is really failing, that is merely life itself.

1366 Relax and Succeed - I think the reward for conformity

We gain wisdom by facing hardship, yes. But we also gain it by insight. At the gym there is no getting around lifting the weights. Yes, they are obviously heavy. But as we grow stronger and feel better about ourselves, it shifts from feeling less like us lifting weight and more like an affirmation of our self-respect. What hurt can then feel good. The same should apply for psychological care or training.

Learning to be happier is rarely the sad and depressing experience that many people recall from old-fashioned psychological care. That was entirely focused on people’s problems as though they were real and needed to be overcome, rather than on discussing that they were impressions that could be reshaped with greater understanding. Even today a lot of psychology talks the wisdom talk without really walking the wisdom walk.

No matter what sort of care or training you require, be it medical, physical, mental or spiritual, these are not signs of failing any more than going to university to be a nurse means we need to learn how to care.

No training ever adds anything to anyone, it merely exposes, nurtures and strengthens our sense of our actual Selves in the world, whether that self is young and pondering a marriage proposal or older and facing cancer. There are healthy ways for every person to approach every thing. An approach obviously can’t guarantee external success, but a healthy one can ensure that even in failure, we leave the test with a sense of self-respect.

If you’re looking at doing any form of physical or psychological work with me or anyone else who would earnestly care about your outcome, that should not be seen a visit to some corrective force in your life. You are not broken or failed, you are just temporarily lost or confused. There is a massive difference.

Caring for ourselves through seeking care or guidance should feel like an embrace. We should feel safe and confident that no matter which versions of our Selves we are manifesting at any given moment, we will still always seen as being the strong and capable people we all truly are when we are not debilitated by weak and unconstructive thinking.

Wherever you are and however you get it, do not deny yourself the value and meaning of being around those who nurture your soul, be they friends or professionals. For there is no better sign of our overall health than when we can care about ourselves. And when we can’t, reaching out and asking for help isn’t weakness, it’s wisdom.

peace. s

Overwhelmed with Overthinking

1364 Relax and Succeed - We can learn to passively witness our thoughts

At their healthiest, second thoughts are like quality control. It is wise for us to question what preconceptions or mistakes might make our plans impossible before we even start. But like anything in life, a good idea taken too far is a bad idea.

Doing pro and con lists, running things by friends or giving an evening or two to really consider a big decision is reasonable and healthy. That is using our mind as a tool. It is our servant. But today many people are driven to bouts of extreme anxiety from their habit of over-analyzing their decisions. That is making our mind our master.

Anxiety is hard on the body. That’s a lot of cortisol we request when stress over decisions. Half the time the ‘bad’ decisions might end up costing us less than the worrying over which ones are the ‘good’ ones.

Billions of details come to us all day long. There is no way of seeing all of the angles all of the time, that’s like having God-consciousness. That is not something our little minds could even hope to comprehend because even ‘God’ would need the entire universe to do it.

There are simply things we cannot know, and life will include us making choices we may later think to regret. There is nothing wrong with learning from a mistake, but we need not ruminate obsessively on it.

Our egos are like bad bosses. They make demands that exist outside of the bounds of our personal reality, as though that doesn’t matter. The boss –our ego– shoots criticism at us when we feel overwhelmed, and yet the criticism itself is half of what’s overwhelming us.

Doing that is like an ego stirring itself into a frenzy. We’ve must slow that brain-whirl down. That’s most of what I do with students. Their wisdom exists –they just can’t reach it for all the swirling thinking.

Many people are familiar with the scene made famous by the brilliant comedienne Lucille Ball, wherein she attempts to keep up her role as a wrapper at a candy company. As you can see, the hilarity comes from watching her and Vivian being tortured by the fact that the assembly line is just too fast.

Our thoughts are like Lucy’s candies, and our egos are like her boss. If we don’t manage the expectations of our egos we will logically be overwhelmed. That state of mind isn’t a failure, it’s a product of our previous choices. If we try to deal with everything our ego says we will be overwhelmed. It’s the request that’s sick, not us.

As with our thoughts, in life we just need to let some chocolates fly on by. It takes some time before the ‘bossy one’ figures out there’s not much point in sending more, but that doesn’t matter if we know how to watch the others go by and only grab only the ones that nourish our lives.

peace. s

Switch Day

1240 Relax and Succeed - Feelings are just visitors

Don’t make the mistake of assuming the externalities of your life improve if you come to greater awareness. They often will, but that’s a byproduct and it’s missing the point. The point is that living with greater awareness about how you function means that you can be okay in any situation, not that you can turn any bad situation into a good one. This isn’t about changing the world, it’s about changing you to better suit the world.

One of the weird downsides to your own health is that the more people live in ego, the sicker you’ll appear. Egos adjust to society, but society is a construct. A healthy person moves through the world moved by their internal motivations, not by external rules. They’re not good or decent or compassionate because it’s legal or the right thing to do, they’re those things because they see innocence in everyone because they know they used to be that person too; someone often lost in thought. And so compassion feels like it’s in order.

This means you’ll defy convention, you won’t feel motivated to accept invitations you don’t want, you’ll say ‘no’ more often, you’ll spend your time with the world rather than talking about the world in unaccepting ways, and you won’t engage with people in the often hurtful gossip that egos can build whole ‘friendships’ around. But maybe the weirdest thing you do will be to make an emotional switch that others presume is impossible.

1240 Relax and Succeed - Your mind is an attention-pointing deviceA good example is an argument. Even in the heat of the moment, we can maintain our sense that we are not our thoughts. This third-person observer-view provides us an escape route, but it doesn’t mean the other person will take it with us. I have angrily said to people, I know I love you so I know something is off because I’m yelling! But I cannot get to that love right now, so I just want to stop! Their reaction is generally to look at you like you’re nuts. That is not a change they’re likely to have witnessed before.

Calming down and engaging in a normal conversation then makes that worse. Because a healthy person lives in the moment, so they don’t worry about the past because they cannot act to change it. Healthy people focus on where they can make a difference, which is why they rarely if ever complain about weather. So they let it go and just want to reconnect.

Meanwhile, the other person is still engaged in ego, talking to themselves about you instead of talking to you. To them you must still be angry too so now your positive change seems suspicious or even unhealthy. Funny isn’t it; that we can get so sick that having someone calm themselves and treat us better leads to us thinking something’s wrong?

1240 Relax and Succeed - A mood isn't weatherBottom line, the switch is the healthiest version of being responsible. It is a move from a fearful and painful emotion to a centered and loving feeling. But to be able to do it in a situation like intense anger, you need to practice it on smaller emotions. So today find one. Find just one situation where you’re in the midst of feeling strongly and negatively, and then make your own switch. Acknowledge where you are, accept that the move you’re making is challenging, and then stumble through it as best you can. Do that enough times and you can get really good at it, just like you learned to walk by falling.

Do it today. Find your example of feeling betrayed, or sad, or frustrated, or angry, or depressed, or fearful, and note that those sensations are created by your brain chemistry which in turn is incited by your thinking. Remember that the feelings aren’t you, that they are what you are doing, and then do something else more likely to generate better feelings. Use the video in yesterday’s blog post if you need to.

Prove to yourself you can make this change and then practice it. Because if everyone can do it, then calming down suddenly will look normal, rather than strange. And prolonged anger will look less healthy, and that in turn will motivate people to avoid it. In this way, individual by individual, society will shift to healthier behaviours. You absolutely can do it. But to do it you must choose to do so. Start making that choice today.

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.