Fears

1032-relax-and-succeed-dont-place-your-mistakesI’ve got a rare situation that’s given me an equally rare state of mind to write from. This makes it an ideal time for me to write about how I’ll face this emotional challenge, because the nicest thing about living in the present moment is that you trust that you learn from experience so you feel authentically bad about unfortunate things, but then you can move on.

You feel hits to your ego but you don’t hold grudges nor do you worry about what might happen and maybe most importantly you don’t beat yourself up. You accept that everyone learns and everyone makes mistakes, you grab the lesson with humility and then move on as soon as you’re sure the lesson’s been learned. There’s no extra time wasted in ruminating on should’a could’a would’as. But today I crossed that line we all have within us; the mistake that bothers us the most because it betrays some fundamental aspect of ourselves that we place great faith in.

1032-relax-and-succeed-courage-is-the-decision-to-favour-actionI had figured out by nine years old that the human mind could not really be trusted despite people’s best intentions. This lead me to develop a series of thought-tests that I would put my own ideas and other people’s ideas through to ensure they were solid. Today I did the thing that bothers me the most: I didn’t make use of a mental tool that I knew I had built for a reason when I know full well I only build those tools when it’s important.

What a lot of my students start off doing is they start telling themselves stories about what they should have done. Then another part of the brain will calculate the damage, and then it’ll be angry that it happened at all, and then fear of what will happen, then the consideration of an alternate future where you made the opposite decision, and finally self-criticism for making the same mistake yet again despite the fact that making the same mistake actually makes a lot of psychological sense.

1032-relax-and-succeed-if-all-else-failsI will feel strongly compelled to react in all of the ways noted above. I suspect I will bounce into actually doing those things for bursts of time. But I spend so much time peaceful that I will notice when I’m tortured, so that’ll be a good cue. From there I’ll pursue strategies to take my mind off the painful useless subject and place it on better things.

This means that the idea becomes like a ball of pain on a ping pong table, where my natural reaction to the approaching pain is to swat it away. I think of those words and narratives as little balls of pain and when I run into one in my head I hit it away but shifting my attention to something more productive and peaceful.

I will wage this little battle for as long as it takes before my mind finally accepts the situation fully, and meanwhile I’ll have been able to take immediate action to mitigate any additional damage. That’s as good as you can do after a mistake, and dreaming like it was possible to never make one was something I surrendered many thousands of surrenders ago.

Bad feelings feel bad for a reason. Just by their sensation they urge you not to think them. So when you feel in pain, don’t turn inside yourself and self-discuss that pain. Recognise that as coming from your thinking and then shift it. That power is always in your hands and the more you use it the stronger you’ll be.

Have a wonderful day everyone.

peace. s

PS. Funny side-note, it turns out I hadn’t made the mistake I thought I had. Good thing I didn’t engage in a bunch of painful, useless thinking about something that was ultimately just a false belief.

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.

Hosting Problems

It’s always a challenge trying to explain what I do to people before they learn it. As I’ve said before, I’m like some strange three-dimensional guy talking to a bunch of two-dimensional beings about the idea of over. Until you can see it it really isn’t there to be seen, so rather than going over the challenge you want it gone altogether. Instead of navigating life you get stuck arguing over the shape of the landscape because it doesn’t match your expectations of how you expected the two-dimensional map in your head to feel.

Thanks to the confusion described above, people end up coming to me because they want their problems fixed. That makes sense, except for the fact that there’s obviously no care provider who can fix all of your problems. There are however a few that know how to shift your perspective so that you can be in a headspace where there is no such thing as a problem, and strangely that’s even better than solving a problem. In fact, that makes you almost not want to solve it, but rather surf it.

So what’s the difference between me and you? Nothing; it’s what we’re doing, not who we are. I don’t have capabilities you don’t have, but it’s true I’m functioning on a more flexible plane where I have greater freedom and that would largely go for any of my students who earnestly complete the process. Even now, it’s pretty easy for me to point to the un-reality of what you believe now.

You have problems and we don’t, so what’s the difference? You see us from the outside and it looks like we hit rough times too, so why are they so different from this other perspective? Resistance.

What you call a “problem” is really just resistance, and resistance is just a conversation you have in your head with yourself about wishes. But I don’t so much get people to stop all of the words their ego uses to assemble their problems, those words just become more ephemeral and less meaningful, almost like a plane moving through clouds. From the ground they block the view upward, but the plane gets up there and proves it’s not the sky that’s gone dark; the sky’s still waiting on the other side of all of the what-if cloud-making we do.

Once you have a different understanding of reality it makes no sense to push against it with resistant words. It’s like a kid screaming for something the parent knows is impossible, like retrieving a helium balloon that’s floated away. The parent’s not crying because the whole thing makes sense to them. They know they’re not in a helium is heavier than air universe so they’re not telling themselves a story where they bother imagining that they could recover the balloon. The parent isn’t stopping words; the idea just makes no sense.

So this is why this blog can point but it cannot guide because there is no route to this understanding. You don’t find your way there; you realise you already are there, and that is a leap that happens within your mind. It can happen without someone pointing, it’s just a lot easier when someone actually knows where you’re going. This isn’t something you can learn in school, you must be lead toward the personal internal experiences that will show you this truth.

It’s not hard. It’s very accessible. But you won’t do it if you currently trade socially with your suffering, and you won’t do it by reading someone else’s notes on it. The only way to do this is to study your own internal processes. Only you can walk this mileage. The only question is, how long will you resist before you start trading useless talking and self-talking about what you want, for the act of diving into yourself with the expectation that there already peace and understanding within you?

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.

Other Perspectives #83

771 OP Relax and Succeed - Accept what you cannot changeOuch. This one seems downright painful. If you read me regularly then you’ll be confident that I’ll support the idea of accepting what you cannot change. And I even like the idea of people working toward change that hasn’t happened yet. But the idea that we will be able to change everything we don’t accept is simply impossible. Sooner rather than later the world will teach you that are certain fates from which there is no “escape.” But this in and of itself is not a problem. The need to change the unchangeable will lead to distress in all personal relationships, business relationships and even within ourselves. Not being attached to an outcome and acceptance of our situation is essential to our spirit. As the Dalai Lama says, “If a problem is fixable there is no need to worry. If it’s not fixable then there is no benefit in worrying whatsoever.”

peace. s

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

Distracting Thoughts

Every moment is new. You choose to repeat a lot of your choices but you are nevertheless born anew every moment. You are always free to make any choice you like. But most of you are frozen in place, having the same challenges in the same ways and it’s all getting you 667 Relax and Succeed - You can conquer almost any fearnowhere.

It’s like you’re mountain climbing but you’re too crippled by the snow. The snow is like your thoughts. I’m your guide and I’m telling you the snow is irrelevant. It’s just fluff in the face of your reality. The reality is the rock. Reality is what you’re choosing to actually bring into being with your determined thinking. That is what you’re climbing. The present moment.

Thoughts may fall from above but that is not the future. Those are thoughts about a potential, imagined future and you are looking ahead and those thoughts are hitting your consciousness in the Now. And looking down and seeing thoughts fall away toward your past is just as ephemeral. None of this matters. The snow below you is meaningless to what you are doing in this moment. The only thing that is solid is Now. That is where you live and it is the only place in which you can take action to impact your life. You cannot climb on the rock you were on, nor can you climb on the one you will be on. You are where you are and anything else is just a veil of snow created by your thinking. The worst it can do is distract you from moving forward.

Stop fantasizing and work from where you are. Forward is always forward anyway. It isn’t a direction, it’s a motion in and of itself. You’re not supposed to go somewhere, you’re supposed to just go. To sit and think is to not-live. That is to be in an egoic state. To enact the verb of any direction is what it is to truly be alive. It is very easy to get up every day and drive and walk places and eat and sleep and yet not be alive. It is possible to do all of that without an 667 Relax and Succeed - Hope is you imagining a futureinspirational motivation for the real you. The best you could do is imitate others, but if you do that you forgo the act of actually being yourself.

All you need to do is regularly reassert your direction. You can change that direction any time you like. You were never supposed to get anywhere anyway. But to move forward you must shift from where you are to a brand new moment. Do not ruminate. Do not let something as small as falling snow stop you from climbing the majestic mountain of life. The climb itself is a profoundly rewarding experience and to have it stopped by something as insignificant as our own pointless, repetitious thoughts is silly. Our thoughts don’t control us, we control our thoughts. You just blow the snow out of your face and you grab the next bit of rock.

Be present on the rock you’re on. Forget about the ones before, forget about the ones to come. Live now. It’s very calm there and there is very little to do. You need only take the step that you are on. Take that simple action and you will be surprised by the incredible heights your life will take you to.

May your day be filled with mindful motion.

peace. s

Parenting in the Digital Age

I do not envy the people struggling to pull off raising a child in the new millennium. There are challenges today that have never existed before, and many routes through life that most parents have never even considered as a part of their parenting options. But if we want healthy children then we must consciously give them an environment that promotes both their physical and mental health as well as the ongoing maintenance of both.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn creating this post I came to learn that it is best presented as a four-parter that includes last week’s Friday Dose (which includes a set of links to relevant documentaries etc.), and yesterday’s Other Perspectives. In this posting I will cover the culture of fear and the value of freedom, mistakes and the nature of growth. In the next I’ll cover advertising, ego, insecurity and inter-personal connection.

First off, let’s remember how different it is for kids now that just a short time ago, because these are the biggest changes that the human brain has had to face since the construct of abstract language. This is big. Really big.

Let’s talk about children’s media environment rather than just the internet. When I was a kid you were too focused on playing outside to really find TV all that inviting. Yeah you had your big shows you watched, but we only had three channels so even until the invention of video tape there was no way to even see a re-run. The three channels shut off at 1am and turned back on at 6am and that was it. That meant we used to be influenced primarily by our family’s values and the values of their friends and the immediate culture you lived in. Today you’re influenced by your friends and peers even at home—via social media—but more importantly you 607 Relax and Succeed - If you don't fit inare influenced by two additional groups, and those groups do not have the same agenda for your life that you have at all.

Politics and advertising create most of the current zeitgeist. Countries used to be much more unique, and while they still are to some degree, the spreading of media has homogenized the whole world. People are dressing more alike, listening to the same music, and eating the same foods. What’s important is that the homogenization was designed by people who had a motive. Your motive is to raise your kids to be happy, successful, good-quality citizens who can contribute to their culture in a meaningful way all while building a life they find to be largely secure, rewarding and enjoyable. Politicians want you and your kids to vote for them, and advertisers want you to to get you and your kid’s money. How this shapes your brain is no small issue.

A key political strategy almost everywhere is to create an us by creating a them. The them is generally another society you can compare yourself against—so when your own country is in political turmoil politicians create an enemy. Maybe that’s a war with another country, or maybe it’s stoking fears at home about who among us might be untrustworthy or dangerous. It’s very easy to ask people to support your politics if you want to stop crime or violence. Who doesn’t want to do that? But there’s tons of research: jails don’t stop crime and there’s no indication laws do either. The one thing that science has proven over and over is that the easiest, cheapest way to stop crime is to make a solid investment in early childhood development. Norway did that and ended up having to close a large number of their jails.

607 Relax and Succeed - My friends love is better than anger
At this writing there’s an upcoming Canadian election. This man was a politician but I’m not attempting to influence anyone politically. My use of it is strictly for the quote.

Now the fact is that, no matter where you are, there have never been fewer criminals and there’s never been less violent crime. Never. Anywhere. And yet in survey after survey people are worried about what might happen. The biggest fear I hear about is abduction, and yet this is remarkably unlikely. Yes, agencies that get their funding for children’s protection will give you statistics that don’t mention they include stats on every divorced spouse who was turned in for having their own kids back to their vengeful spouse one hour late. Think about how seldom you hear an Amber Alert. Hardly ever. And when you do, you almost always learn it’s one of the parents or a grandparent that has taken the kids away from a situation they (rightly or wrongly) feel is bad for the kid. That’s not the sort of abduction that they do fear-laden TV shows about.

Cases where it isn’t someone known to the kid are so rare they make international news. Remember the British girl who went missing in Spain? That was 2007. Or the little girl who was kidnapped and murdered in Toronto? That was 2009. Just try to think of them and you realize there’s hardly any and there’s billions of people who’s children can make the news. If you were in poorest parts of Asia or Africa or South America I can see being concerned about your kids being grabbed because there’s an easy profit motive there—mostly so they can sell them to rich white people. But for the average North American, European, or even most Asians, Africans or South Americans, there is no rational reason to worry about your kids every day.

The number one place by far for a child to die is in a car with their parents. So why are parents so casual about driving around, and yet people are getting complaints from schools and parents, or their kids are even being taken by police or child services because parents let them walk to school??? So we don’t worry at all about the still-very-unlikely but much much much more likely 607 Relax and Succeed - Miracles start to happenstuff? Instead we’re going to freak out our kids by worrying about things as likely as lightening strikes? If you’re doing this you need to realize that you’ve been living in a culture of fear and it is adversely affecting your children.

Children learn from experience but adults can get like insurance mathematicians who are busy calculating the extreme potential downsides to every single thing that the child even might do. A woman in an interview said that she wouldn’t let a 10 year old and a six year old walk home alone because if something happened she didn’t think the 10 year old would know what to do. When the reporter asked what sort of things might happen outside of the aformentioned highly unlikely worst case scenarios, the best the woman could come up with was that the six year old might fall. Fall? From the height of a six year old? Oh yeah, you need maturity and a medical degree to deal with that, don’t you?

Let’s not be ridiculous. Can something happen? Of course, the aforementioned girl in Toronto was walking with her brother but he regretfully left her to walk another kid home. But it’s important to place that in the appropriate context, which is that hundreds of millions of young people made it to school just fine that day and hundreds of other days entirely safely. So why would anyone presume to load their kid with the entirely unrealistic fear that they have to limit the child’s life in the hopes of lengthening it? To avoid something incredibly unlikely? Generations of kids walked to school. I never ever remember hearing of a kid falling on the way to school and getting hurt. And even if they did, we’re going to limit the hundreds of millions of kids lives to try to potentially save one all while we’re losing thousands in cars?! It doesn’t even make sense.

We are teaching children to be afraid. Youngish parents write to me as though it’s the generation behind them that’s afraid, but my generation can easily see that there was a change, and for those paying close attention, it showed up when TV and later the internet took off. Kids didn’t used to read the paper. But they could overhear the news. And as more stations were created there was more competition for advertisers and so the news got increasingly sensationalized in the fight to get people to advertise to. News stations then went to 24 hours, so they had to find and even create news. As I’m writing this Fox news was just noted world wide for having had to apologize four times in a single day for reporting fear-mongering things that they later admitted were based on absolutely nothing. So why did those alarming stories get reported if they were made up? OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABecause they would attract viewers. That’s great for shareholders but very bad for your kid.

We’re also teaching children to be weaker. There are studies going on regarding why kids increasingly have no sense of direction. What they know so far is that modern brain scans show we all have neurons that keep track of where the sun is as you walk, and with experience it helps your brain understand where things are in relation to each other. So there’s no such thing as a bad sense of direction, there are just unpracticed and undeveloped senses of direction. But if a kid gets driven everywhere, how are those brain structures going to get built? They can’t. And so the kid becomes smaller than the parent when the idea is that the parent helps the kid be bigger than they themselves ever could have been.

You only have two jobs as a parent: to teach your kids what they need to know to live without you, and to love them. Of course they need to know they are loved, but they also need to know how the world actually works. Insulating them from that is literally constructing an incapable 607 Relax and Succeed - A child does not have to be motivatedkid and it’s why we’re increasingly seeing parents showing up to conduct their kids job interviews. My instructions to the companies I advise is to never hire these individuals because their parents are very obviously proving that they have built a child that is actually entirely unprepared for the workplace, or likely even society in general.

Sitting in a jungle four degrees off the equator and most of the way up a 4,200 meter (14,000 foot) mountain I asked an anthropologist what she had learned from the tribes she had studied for 23 years. She told me it was that she had unwittingly but grossly underestimated her children. We saw children as young as five walking across tree trunks to cross very high gorges and they would do so without an adult nearby. They were trusted and they responded to that trust by simply watching the people around them, all of whom walked confidently across the makeshift bridge. And then the kids did what every kid does—and they mimicked it.

So you can teach your child to mimic fear. Or you can teach them to act confidently. Because in 23 years that anthropologist never, ever heard of one of those kids falling. And even if one did, that wouldn’t change those parents. Because they’re not busy worrying. They’re not guided by fears about jaguars or snakes. They’re busy living a good life and in doing so they’re showing their kids how to do the very same thing. And every kid needs parenting like that. So who’s teaching your kids to avoid fear and enjoy life?

peace. s

Note: Tomorrow we’ll talk about how advertising and social media are changing how children’s brains are structured and what that means for them/you as adults.

Being Human

More comment than question: I find it interesting that even if the question has no relationship to my life I still always learn something important in every one of your answers. It always seems like there’s at least one or two sentences where I think, ‘wow I never thought of seeing it that way.’ I just wanted to say thanks.

signed,
Grateful Reader

Dear Reader,

Thank you so much! What writer wouldn’t like a compliment like that? And if you don’t mind, I would like to use your comment-not-question as a jumping off point for a discussion about something important. Something you referred to when you noted that every blog—regardless of the relevance of the question—seems to be helpful to you. I hear that all the time. And it speaks to how much the same we all are.

422 Relax and Succeed - Your emotions shouldn't be dictatingPsychological understanding is based on the fact that each psyche will be logical. What’s different are its available routes of thought, which are dictated by experience, and included in that will be how bold or timid someone might be, how informed about relevant information, how well they might reason, and what they might value. But they will all process their information in the same way everyone else will. They will feel whatever they think and they will mistake their beliefs for universal truths just like the rest of us do when we’re in a state of ego. Despite our differences, we are all the same in how we create our egos.

The range of human feeling that we refer to as emotions are fabricated from language. Fear is primal—it keeps us alive. It is a feeling. Anger is fear turned aggressive and this is used to attack for defensive purposes and possibly for acquiring food. Love is what breeds compassion and care which leads to survival which leads to continuing this adventure which is, deep down, the point. But we share all of our feelings with most of the rest of the world, animals included. Emotions are distinctly human and they emerge from the complexities of language.

The very thing that we proudly display as what separates us from animals, is the same thing that makes the animals healthier than us. Because worrying that there might be a bear near where you’re hunting is one thing. But being afraid that your boss will yell at you because you were late because your daughter threw up on you just before you left for work—well that’s something entirely different. One is about literally not existing and the other is about clashing in imaginary psychological space. And yet language causes us to use the same neuro-chemicals for 422 Relax and Succeed - I am in charge of how I feelboth. One can kill us, the other is just something we imagine, and yet we walk around treating them equally simply because our biology hasn’t caught up to our ability to invent things like words, abstract concepts and languages.

We have to stop seeing ourselves and others as the individual thought patterns we were trained to be by experience. Yes, this sets your initial course. But as soon as you are actively conscious you can choose your direction. You can shape your personality. To surrender that idea as though it is impossible is to be like the guy who throws his frozen computer out the window, as though the hardware is the problem rather than the software. We can always introduce patches to the software. But we should look at other people as processors of information with filters made of belief systems, and because we ourselves are looking through a similar distorting lens, we find are left completely unable to find a fixed place to judge from, and so once we have that realization we can relax into simply being. There’s nothing wrong anymore. There is no way to judge. Things just are. It’s stunningly healthy.

I appreciate you sending in the generous compliment. But I also appreciate that it fed nicely into something I’ve been looking for a question on, because I think it’s an important principle worthy of everyone’s consideration: emotions confuse and misguide life, being guided by feeling leads to an authentic life. It’s worth being able to tell the difference.

Thanks again for the kind words.  Have yourself a wonderful day, week, month and year.

peace and love, s

Exam Anxiety

University took ten years off my life this term I was so stressed. Every exam I was so panicked I’m sure I did worse than I deserve to. I need a way to calm down before I die of a heart attack before I’m 25. How can I use your stuff to not freak out like that?

signed,
Panicked Tester

Dear Panicked,

I agree that there is no benefit to the worrying. It does hinder you when you need to have access to all of your faculties and regardless it is entirely ineffectual. There is literally no point to worrying—it does not add to your grades in any way. But you do want your wits about you and for that you need to just do things methodically and either you know or you don’t know.

406 Relax and Succeed - Don't fill your headThis information is all stored in your brain in relational ways. So there’s connections between the idea of thread and needle, and ones between roses and expressions of love. Everything gets tied to anything it relates to within you. So you want to heat up the parts of your brain where the information from that class is. So start by just going through the exam and finding the questions where you are certain that you know the answer easily. That will begin the heating up process. You will be putting electricity through the parts of your brain where this information is stored.

At the end of the exam go back to the beginning and read them again and look for ones you feel confident you can figure out and then go about the process of using your formulas which you should know not by memory, but because they make sense. That way you can recreate the formulas if you ever forget them. Keep doing that back to front process through the exam until you’re at the few remaining tougher questions. And by tougher I mean you remember these less readily than the others. So study the questions very closely. Look for little murmurs in your thoughts—little tugs. Follow those to a path to a memory of something useful. That is the best way to use your brain.

Using your brain to worry is the exact opposite of that. Worry debilitates our cognitive functions, it makes us less creative and energetic and it burns insane amounts of life-energy. We’re far better to quiet those conversations repeatedly until it becomes a natural habit. Because without all of the worry we will have many more resources to apply to the issue.

406 Relax and Succeed - Worrying is using your imaginationPay attention to how you feel during your worrying. Where does it end? And backtrack to the first inkling you have that it’s coming on. Study yourself seriously as a spiritual practice. And learn how you get your ego riled. Learn it and derail that train of thought early in the process by expanding your awareness to actually watch for that shift in temperament.

You basically have total control over how you feel. Do not use your mind unconsciously. Starting today begin to become increasingly aware of what you are thinking. Look at the direction of the thought, the intensity, the path, the meaning. Study yourself. That is what Buddhism is. Not the study of Buddhism—it’s the study of yourself. So do that and you will see that you are spinning your ego in useless circles every time you worry. Better to take that energy and put it into a rejuvenating experience. It’ll be wiser and healthier.

Be kind to yourself. Do not beat yourself up with harsh brain chemistry out of some blind habit. Raise your awareness and take control over your thinking and thereby take control over your daily experience. It’s a fantastic way to live. So stop trying to control the river. Just steer your kayak according to the conditions and all will be well as you go with the flow. No more investing time and energy in worrisome thought. Shift. Yes, you’ll have to shift every minute for the first while. But if you’re earnest you’ll learn quickly. And this is a life-changing skill. After that the process is simple. Shift your thought-energy away from creating fearful narratives about failure and invest that same brainpower on solving the actual problem. It really is that easy.

Learn to change your mind. Use it in your favour. That is all.

peace. s

The Frequently Fearful Flyer

There’s been lots of plane crashes in the news over the last little while. I have to fly a lot for my work and I am already a very nervous flyer and these types of stories are only making it worse for me. Can the stuff you teach help with something like that? Is it possible to hire you to show me how to help me overcome these kinds of fears?

signed,
Frequently Fearful Flyer

Dear Flyer,

It’s possible to hire me to help you with this but if you’re willing to put in just a bit of earnestness I can probably fix it for you with this blog post. It’s just a matter of how dedicated you’ll be without a coach keeping you on psychological track. But either way I guarantee it can be done.

353 Relax and Succeed - Nothing in life is to be fearedFears are useful things in life. It’s what keeps all animals from toppling off cliffs or getting eaten by predators etc. etc. But as useful as they are, you don’t want a life filled with them. Yes, they truly are valuable, meaningful and essential experiences and yes, used properly fears can wisely guide us through difficult times. But employed unconsciously those same useful tools can be used to undermine us, as this fear does in this case.

When I write “this fear” I don’t mean to give it a life of its own. It’s not like the fear is running around attacking us like a ghost—it’s not separate from us, it is us. It’s a collection of thoughts in our head. Natural Fear happens before language and it’s smart and strong and effective. Psychological Fear on the other hand is manufactured in our consciousness by our own personal thinking. We tell ourselves a story and we feel the result. Tell ourselves something horrifying and we’ll feel horrified. Tell ourselves something funny and we’ll laugh. We’re very obedient to ourselves when you get right down to it.

Whereas Natural Fear reacts holistically, Psychological Fear is history-based. When an animal bares its fangs and lunges at your throat you don’t need some kind of narrative to play out before you run. You make an instantaneous calculation that is entirely natural and then you act on it. But in the case of Psychological Fear, if a woman looked a certain way and then she broke your heart and robbed you blind then you would be inclined toward having some 353 Relax and Succeed - Please do not feed the fearslevel of Psychological Fear towards women who looked like her. If you got bit by a dog when you were running down an alley when you were a kid then you will be inclined toward being afraid of dogs. And if you watched your favourite aunt worry out loud before getting on a flight, or if you saw a character like her on TV, or if you were somehow exposed to the horrors of an air tragedy early in life, then it makes sense that you would be inclined to be fearful about planes. You would have a scary story to tell yourself. But that’s okay because we can fall in love again, we can learn to love dogs, and you can learn how to get onto an aircraft without debilitating yourself with fear.

Since the Psychological Fear is the issue, and since we know that fear is weaved out of narrative thoughts, you don’t need to stop the fear you need to stop the thoughts. Without you being aware of it, at some point prior to your flight you begin a narrative. It probably won’t be hard to find some parts of it but other parts of the story might be quite subtle and hard to detect. Which is why it’s important, as much as possible, to maintain a conscious awareness of what you’re thinking.

Even the simple observation of the thought will have a powerfully positive affect. Because if you’re observing your thinking you’re not being your thinking. An ego doesn’t notice itself. It’s running along reading itself a story unaware there is a reader. But if you’re watching that process, then you have created a separation between the larger You and your ego. One is watching the other. And that alone will steal much of the power from the ego’s story. Because as you observe it, that act of observation takes psychological energy away from the ego’s story.

353 Relax and Succeed - I do not fix problemsOf course these stories will ramp up because—uncheckedthey feed into themselves. As you tell yourself a story you release the chemistry for various stresses then that chemistry in turn also amplifies and self-reinforces the stories you’re telling yourself. Nevertheless, even in the midst of an intense flurry of fearful thinking you’re still always only one thought away from being fine. You just have to set that story down and not identify with it. It is very literally something you were at some point taught to do.

It makes sense that you would be feeling uncomfortable because the news stories stir up your internal stories even though you’re not going anywhere. But they’re still just stories and they’re still your stories. So as much as possible, stop telling yourself those. Focus on something to be grateful for instead. Use the time to think of your kids, or favourably about your spouse. These can easily become productive enjoyable times for you. All it requires is the dedication to keep putting yourself back on track until that track feels more natural than the rut you’re stuck in now.

Believe you can be free of this fear because you can. Change your narrative, change your life. It’s time to take flight.

peace. s

Other Perspectives #6

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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.

Who Taught You To Be Afraid?

89 Relax and Succeed - You must not lose faithIf you actually watch the world closely you’ll see that it’s a much more cooperative place than it’s made out to be. The reason we think it’s worse than it is is because we process our world via various media. And all media are the same in that they need money to operate, so somewhere along they line they’re beholden to someone.

Those someone’s are almost always advertisers and advertising is an extremely clever business. They spend a lot of time and money on getting human beings to think the thoughts they want them to, so they’re worth paying attention to. And it’s not just the advertisers. It’s also the medium itself. Because, to a TV network, the show is the filler and the advertisement is the point. The show exists to get you to the ad. And that’s why the world looks so bad.

Human beings will give the most attention to things that makes them frightened, angry, sad, horny or happy. And advertisers and media folks know that. That’s why on the evening news, there will always be that one story near the end where they show you something either sweet or something sexual. But the rest of the show will be about fear and things that make you upset. That’s their product. Because that’s what gets you sitting through the filler to get to the point: where they sell you their customer’s soap.

89a Relax and Succeed - When I was a boySo despite what you’re told, the news is not the information you need to see and/or hear as a citizen. The news is a vehicle to advertise products and so it follows that you will see and/or hear whatever they believe will keep you focused until the ad comes on. And if they can they’ll make the show the ad itself–much like game shows, cooking shows, home decorating and even talk shows. All are excellent excuses for putting the advertising as content. That’s not to say there’s no value in the news or in cooking or decorating shows. There obviously is value there. But you shouldn’t lose sight of what their real intention is. Because it’s what shapes your world. Their motivation isn’t to make you a better cook. The motivation is to get you to buy more food and cooking utensils.

Likewise, the news tells you about every scary story it can in the hopes that you’ll help them sell ads for security companies and sleep aids. At every event they attend they will intentionally look for the most shocking people they can find—not because those people are representative of what’s really going on but–because those people will keep you watching until the shampoo ad comes on. The unfortunate byproduct of selling all of that shampoo is that you’ve gotten the idea that the world is an ugly place filled with scary people (with dirty hair) and that’s simply not accurate.

89 Relax and Succeed - I believe our true natureEvery day a huge number of friendships are made. For everyone hurt in a tragedy there are hundreds of people who respond with compassionate action. People work hard every day keeping others safe or healthy or fed or happy. Soldier’s go into danger to protect people they will never meet. People dedicate time to charities and to look after stray dogs and cats. People help out their neighbours and they hold their friends while they cry.

People are awesome. They’re beautiful and kind and wise. But they’re also scared. Scared to be in the world because of the news, and scared to be themselves because of the ads. We have to get back into the world and out of our fearful mindsets. Because the world is a beautiful place, and our participation in it will only serve to make it more beautiful.

So who is with me? Who’s prepared to get to know a co-worker you haven’t spoken to before? Who’s prepared to strike up a friendly, complimentary conversation at the grocery store? Who’s simply prepared to walk down the street and look people in the eye and smile?

The world is a great place. Yes rose bushes have thorns. But they have roses too. So focus on the flowers. If you do you won’t believe the size of the garden of wonderfulness that you will begin to live within.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is a writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations in Edmonton and around the world.

PS Check out these fine examples of goodness:

A Test Of Honesty

The Good News Network

The Great News Network