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.

Angry Words

You’ll see how quickly people are ready to believe bad versus good: someone can date someone for months, they can meet their parents, get to know their friends–but then there’s that day when you see the angry for the first time. The person snaps. Sharp words come out loudly.

818 Relax and Succeed - We build too many wallsThe fears and insecurities drive the brain chemistry that in turn drives everything from the volume of the speaker to the choice of words. And yet despite the fact that the anger is an indication that there is fear, people will tend to say phrases like, I finally saw the real him/her, or when she/he was angry I saw their true personality come out. True personality?

First off, personalities are something we perform, not something we are. So there is no real or hidden us–we are simply one thing for a while and then another thing for another while. You’re this person in this context and this person in another context and that’s what people know as you. But none of those is us. They are things we do and say.

So why then do worried souls concern themselves with waiting until the secret’s out when the same behaviour could easily be seen as she’s usually really nice, I’m not what sure what’s going on right now. In the latter we’re just noting a new or rare behaviour. But how do we make the leap to it’s a secret identity?

Why would we see someone function for maybe 6 months, over 4300 hours, and yet out of those 4300 we see 2 that are unpleasant and we conclude we’ve discovered the person’s secret identity? No. You haven’t found a secret. You’ve just seen how they get mad.

818 Relax and Succeed - The enemy is fearEveryone’s mad looks different. Some people scare you with their look or silence. Others scream and protest. Some hurt themselves and some hurt others. But the vast majority of people just act mean and say terrible things because they feel the need to equalize.

If two people’s vibrations as beings are too far apart then will naturally want to harmonize. This is connected to the reason that women who live together will start seeing the biological alignment of their cycles. It’s why if you see people laughing you’ll eventually laugh, and if you see people concerned you also feel concerned.

The trick comes when one person is vibrating at a healthy rate and the other person has been removed from a context that feels comfortable, and so they are vibrating in a scattered and uneven way. To get the two people into alignment, the scared, angry person will deliberately cause damage not because their secret’s out, but because they will feel safer with that alignment.

Obviously if someone is hitting you or verbally abusing you on a regular basis then that is not healthy for either party and you should make careful plans to escape. But if you just saw your 6 month relationship lose it and you think you’ve exposed some secret personality then you’re paranoid, not keeping yourself safe. Because everyone does this. This only question is how.

Do not see other people’s anger and frustrations as being about you. They are admittedly ugly, aggressive and even scary requests for love. But they are not windows into how the person really is. They’re just really scared. Act accordingly. You’ll both be much better off if you both seek peace rather than trying to calculate whose behaviour was better.

peace, s

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

Scott’s Favourite Questions of 2014 #3

717 SFQ14 Relax and Succeed - You have no idea

The top posts of each year are selected by my readers and they’re posted in December. My selections for my favourites were traditionally posted then but I’ve realized it makes more sense to use my summer break to expose what I feel are some of the most useful pieces I’ve written. Because I took half of 2014 to answer direct questions from readers, I’ll do a week of Top 3 Questions and then next week I’ll do the Top 3 Posts. Today for question number three we deal with anger, tempers and how our family can influence us in extreme states of mind:


Scott’s Top
Questions of 2014 #3

peace. s

Other Perspectives #50

596 Relax and Succeed Rebuttal - Never give up

It’s important to note that this message of empowerment also blindly encourages fighting, as though no circumstances warrant voluntary surrender. This is likely because the context that it was created in was a case where some uncharacteristic effort might have made a big and positive difference in someone’s life. And sometimes the hard work of life is what gets us where we’re going. But far more things were achieved by people trying to love their way closer rather than fighting to maintain or achieve something. There’s people who’ve fought for years to save their marriages and it didn’t work out. That doesn’t make it wasted time, but it shows that a fight is not always the best answer. There’s no fight required if relationships are based on both people being earnestly invested in each others overall well-being. You should be like praying hands. Whether one person’s weak and your hands are to the left, or the other person’s weak and your hands are to the right, either way the hands are still pushing towards each other. Fighting in the context of a relationship is often more like trying to bind two people together with a good argument rather than having them naturally moving toward each other by choice. Good relationships are easy to have because both people want to be in them. So make sure your fights aren’t just selfish arguments for getting your own way. True love wants everyone to feel exalted.

peace. s

Note: Everyone who posts or shares a quote does so with the very best of intentions. That said, I have created the series of Other Perspectives blog posts in an effort to prevent some of these ideas from entering into people’s consciousness unchallenged. These quotes range from silly to dangerous and—while I intend no offense to their creators—I do use these rebuttals to help define and delineate the larger message I’m attempting to convey in my own work. I do hope you find them helpful in your pursuit of both psychological and spiritual health.

Fight or Flight?

I don’t have a dad but my mom says you’re the smartest man and she would marry you for sure. [name removed] is picking on me at school but she said I should ignore him but
I can’t cause he waits for me. Should I learn MMA?

Potential Fighter

PS My mom is single

Dear Potential,

Thank you for coming up with your own sign-off name. I hope that you don’t mind that I changed it. Mostly those are my inventions and I pick them according to that day’s theme. And also, thank you for passing on the very nice compliment your mom gave me. It’s important to remember she’s speaking figuratively not literally. Literally means Actually, and I’m not actually the smartest man. Figuratively means Symbolically. So there is no such thing as a “smartest person” but your mom’s using colourful language to say that she finds that a lot of the things I write are valuable to her. I’m happy to be of comfort and use to her and I’ll do my best to help you too.

First off, I’m sorry that you have to deal with this boy. If it’s very serious and the violence is dangerous then you have to discuss this with your school principal. If it’s scary but not super-dangerous then it is unfortunately an example of how this world can sometimes be. But handled well, these can be valuable lessons in how to lead an enjoyable, successful life.

295 Relax and Succeed - If you want to have friendsFirst off I want to ensure you understand that you have my empathy. I too had a childhood bully who for a very random reason chose me as his victim for a few years. It doesn’t feel good to be ganged up on, especially by people who’ve said they were your friends. And I can understand how that frustration can end up being channelled into anger that wants to realize itself physically. That’s an entirely natural reaction that any animal would have and it’s a healthy thing to stay in touch with the fact that we never stop being animals just because we’re also people.

So it makes sense that you feel cornered, and I’m not surprised to see you having a very naturally defensive reaction. And learning a martial art may in fact be a very disciplined and physically strenuous way to manifest the energy you’re feeling. The very best instructors will prepare you for a fight all while teaching you how to never have one. The very best fighter is always the one who disarms his opponent before the battle even begins. So in short: if you feel a strong urge to use this bully as a motivator to develop a healthy disciplined physical routine then that’s perfectly fine as long as you’re not going to use what you learn to just become like the bully. Because if you just want to beat someone up then learning any sort of fighting style will be dishonourable to the art and it will undermine your character.

Anger has a lot of energy behind it so you want to avoid it when you can. Its speed and intensity can cause you to make decisions that aren’t in your best interests so, whenever possible, make your decisions when you’re calm. This will be hard sometimes because there are periods in your life where you will naturally be getting heavy doses of certain body chemistry just as a natural part of ageing and maturing. This goes for your Mom too, so if her moods seem out of character sometimes then give her some space just like you want some when the pains of a growth spurt make you highly agitated.

295 Relax and Succeed - When we seek to discoverNow to deal with any situation it’s important to understand as much of what is going on as possible. Statistically and logically your bully almost certainly gets bullied himself, most likely at home. Just because a kid has a dad doesn’t mean that he’s happy about that. So as a general rule, you want to avoid violence because as you can appreciate, then the boy is getting beat up at home, and then he would come to school all defensive and get beat up again. That clearly won’t make his life one that he can enjoy and if he’s always scared then he will stay violent his whole life. So if you can avoid fighting you’ve helped to make his life better and you’ve made the world a better place. If everyone just did that as much as possible the world would look amazingly different. So I’m glad to have you join me in trying to change things for the better.

Now even if you avoid violence you still have your bully issue. But you seem like a bright fellow so you likely have an advantage. And it might actually even be fun to see how you might outsmart your bully. Right now your fear has you paralysed. You’re mostly imagining what will happen if he finds you and catches you. Those are unproductive thoughts. You need to shift to figuring out how he’s finding you, and then use a new, more focuses strategy about how to move around your school or neighbourhood. Most people’s strengths come from them facing some adversity so this bully is like your first Sensei. He is your first Martial Arts Instructor and he is teaching you to think clearly and cleverly.

The most important part of your strategy will be your offence. Most people would attack him head on, where he can see it coming. So they would get their own gang, or they would hide or escalate the fight to one with weapons. But those aren’t wise ideas because they can easily escalate and you can’t predict where that will end. You’re better to attack from so far behind him that he doesn’t even recognize it as an attack. You have to support him.

295 Relax and Succeed - Respect is not a commodityI know, it might seem weird at first. But it’ll help. If he’s got a scary home life and his insecurity there plays out as bullying at school, then your best bet is to make him your friend. Friends don’t wait for friends and beat them up. And he’s already teaching you how to make friends with him. He doesn’t feel safe. His life lacks security. He probably doesn’t think too much of himself, so rescuing him from other people’s taunts or teasing would he helpful. Not saying anything nasty yourself will help. If he’s got a weakness in a subject or something that you’re good at, consider helping him. People are fundamentally decent and almost no one will attack people who are consistently nice to them. It’s simply not our nature because we’ve historically needed to work in groups.

So get rid of your enemy by making him your friend. It might take some time and it might not even work. But it’s the route that has the best chance to lead to the best outcome for the most people and that’s always a good place to start. I wish you good fortune with it. Drop me a line and let me know how it all works out.

peace. s