Category — psychology
In my stumblings today, I wound up watching this Nova episode on Richard Feynman:
Now, this is partly notable because I'd been pretty sure there wasn't much on Feynman that I hadn't seen or read already. I'm a huge…well, not fan; I don't think there can be a Feynman "fan" since if you know anything about the man, you know he wouldn't have wanted them…but he's one of my favorite modern figures, and a person (or story of a person I guess, since I was just a child when he died) that I've always fervently, grinningly, intensely identified with.
"Why" is an interesting question — I think it's for the same reason that I gravitate towards the other people I do, as well — and why a great many of them are scientists. I would say that it's because they prove that "Interestedness" (a certain breed of Curiosity characterized by openness, acceptance, and enthusiasm for the process of discovery) is a type of reasoning, not at all incompatible with hard logical reasoning — it sits, I think, underneath it, and gives it a totally different character; like the difference between painting on canvas and paper and cloth. Painting logic on Interestedness is so, so different than painting it on, say, that closed-off, goal-oriented type of Curiosity (Industry, I guess we could call it). Feynman was a genius in the sense of hard logic, but it wasn't his skills with calculations or experimentation that made him famous or that make him such an enduring figure, in my opinion — it's the depth of his devotion to Interestedness.
Interestedness is a "yes" state; it's Curiosity focused on the Path. As Feynman says in the video, "You have to understand that every plot, even though there's a high chance of failure as far as the ultimate aim was concerned, would always turn out to be a big adventure…" Industry, in contrast, is seeking to learn things for a purpose — to make a drug, to start a company, to win a prize, or even to do something really beneficial like cure a disease; Industry isn't always *bad*, but it is always goal-focused and so, in my ever-so-humble opinion, can never achieve the astronomical results that thinking like Feynman's can.
Anyway. Enjoy the Feynman; it's lovely. <3
April 25, 2013 1 Comment
You know how I love me some big, fat, obvious truths-that-need-saying.
Well, here's another one, and it's about incidences of violence. For all that the individual cases (school shootings! another one! cop shootings! another one! rapes! murders! assaults! lookee, another one!) are talked about and reported on — usually when there's something crazy about them that sets them apart from the pattern – the pattern itself, the biggest, most obvious pattern in all cases of violence is rarely discussed.
If coins landed heads over 80% of the time, do you think that we, as a scientific society, would have anything to say about that? Or would we go on insisting that there was no correlation, nothing to see here?
Yet, the vast, vast majority of all violence is committed by humans who share one characteristic — one which, if the odds were random, they'd only be about 46% likely to have.
(And don't you, if you share that characteristic too, dare get defensive: To say–no, admit–that the vast majority of perpetrators of violence are male is NOT the same as to say that the majority of males perpetrate violence, which they certainly don't. We are saying "all squares are rectangles", NOT "all rectangles are squares", okay?? And to react as though what's been insinuated is that all or most men are violent is sloppy thinking and I will slap you with a fish for it.)
The article quoted a bit below has some great and useful information on that account, specifically regarding male violence against women — which is not all violence, or all male violence, but is a good way to highlight the statistical pattern going on here and the severity of it, and the effect that ignoring it as a pattern is having on our culture, and on almost all cultures really.
But that's a point that's been made well enough that I figured I'd make a different one.
I'm about to make myself real popular here, so get ready. I have a modest proposal for you:
1. Violence against women is a pattern, and a cultural problem.
2. Gun violence is a pattern, and a cultural problem.
3. Removing access to guns for free citizens is problematic for a few reasons, one of which is that it removes the ability of the weaker ones to defend themselves and each other from the perpetrators of violence and oppression; another is that it's difficult and expensive to determine who to allow and disallow from ownership.
4. Perpetrators of violence, using any weapon, against anyone, anywhere in the world, are WAY more likely to be men than women (see every fact ever).
Make it illegal for men — only men — to possess guns.
- Worried about "the government" taking over? Well, worry no more; almost half the population can legally be armed! And women are, while far less likely to be unnecessarily violent, historically badass about protesting and resisting government oppression.
- Worried about helpless kids in schools and elderly people on the street? Worry no more! Armed and trained nuns and schoolteachers and little old ladies make perfect defensive weaponry, with none of the risk that they'll make the problem worse.
- Unsure about enforcement, about "keeping guns out of the hands of criminals"? This will be a zillion times easier if the rule is simple*. Heck, I give science a decade before guns can "tell" if you're a woman and only work in female hands.
- Worried about using open gender-discrimination this way? Don't be! This is only the flipside of the already-existing open gender discrimination that violence as a phenomena already exhibits. When one goes away, the other can too — easy as pie!
- Concerned about the gun industry in general? Imagine the economic bump when it's legal and acceptable for every adult woman to own at least a handgun, and when every young girl needs training and access to a range for regular practice!
- What about hunting, you say? Easy! Women can hunt with guns if they want, and men, who are always on about needing to keep their sKills sharp, can use bows and spears and shit that actually poses a challenge. It'll be good for them!
- Also, not a fan of the systemic cultural violence against women? Well….how long do you think harassing women in bars or attacking them on streets, in busses, and in their homes will stay the popular activity it is, after they start capping motherfuckers for it? (Male allies are nice, and I'm glad they're starting to become A Thing, but personally when it comes to deterring rape, I can't argue that Smith & Wesson's disapproval of your violence against me is a leeeeetle more compelling than knowing our friend Bob would hate you if he ever found out. ;)
*I'm not addressing the issue of transgenderism in its various forms here, not because it wouldn't be an issue that would need fair addressing, but because I think it's out of scope for a simple initial presentation of a radical and half-tongue-in-cheek idea.
Now, some facts from an awesome article re-written recently; emphasis throughout is mine.
So many men murder their partners and former partners that we have well over 1,000 homicides of that kind a year – meaning that every three years the death toll tops 9/11's casualties, though no one declares a war on this particular terror (another way to put it: the more than 11,766 corpses from domestic-violence homicides since 9/11 exceed the number of deaths of victims on that day and all American soldiers killed in the "war on terror").
A woman is beaten every nine seconds in this country. Just to be clear: not nine minutes, but nine seconds. [Also to be clear: In the US, not any of the many countries where it's *legal*. --me] It's the number-one cause of injury to American women; of the two million injured annually, more than half a million of those injuries require medical attention while about 145,000 require overnight hospitalisations, according to the Centre for Disease Control, and you don't want to know about the dentistry needed afterwards. Spouses are also the leading cause of death for pregnant women in the US.
"Women worldwide ages 15 through 44 are more likely to die or be maimed because of male violence than because of cancer, malaria, war and traffic accidents combined," writes Nicholas D Kristof…
Unlike the last (male) head of the International Monetary Fund, the current (female) head is not going to assault an employee at a luxury hotel; top-ranking female officers in the US military, unlike their male counterparts, are not accused of any sexual assaults; and young female athletes, unlike those male football players in Steubenville, aren't likely to urinate on unconscious boys, let alone violate them and boast about it in YouTube videos and Twitter feeds. … No female bus riders in India have ganged up to sexually assault a man so badly he dies of his injuries, nor are marauding packs of women terrorising men in Cairo's Tahrir Square, and there's just no maternal equivalent to the 11 percent of rapes that are by fathers or stepfathers. … No major female pop star has blown the head off a young man she took home with her, as did Phil Spector ... No female action-movie star has been charged with domestic violence, because Angelina Jolie just isn't doing what Mel Gibson and Steve McQueen did, and there aren't any celebrated female movie directors who gave a 13-year-old drugs before sexually assaulting that child, while she kept saying "no", as did Roman Polanski.
February 11, 2013 3 Comments
How efficient would a computer be that ran non-stop for decades, with no cleanup of any sort? With almost every program it had ever started lingering in memory way longer than it was needed, and many of them never stopping at all, even if they were worse-than-useless, virus-infested, outdated crap you never wanted in the first place? What if it was rarely, if ever, powered down or rebooted, and when things crashed, you just had to wait for them to "fix themselves", if they ever did; or keep going with whatever functionality you had left?
Even the Windows box your Grandma runs isn't *that* badly-off, probably — but your human mind IS.
That fear-pattern from when you were four? Probably still running. Maybe you know full well when it goes active again, or maybe you don't — maybe its output over the years has gotten so garbled that it's no longer obvious why you're stressed or sick or angry or have nightmares — but it's there.
The bad habits you learned from unhealthy relationships or bad experiences in your long-gone past? Pretty darn likely to come right back out the next time you try to access the "relationships" or other relevant folder. They may be application-specific, but just because you don't see them every day doesn't mean they're gone.
The frustration from work last week? Still raising your blood-pressure whenever you think about it, or see that guy — and why? To what purpose exactly?
Humiliation from grade-school?
Self-esteem from that time someone close to you said you were fat or ugly?
Overindulging from a scarcity-message your hippocampus got ages ago?
Yup. These things might get covered up in the noise of other things — and you may be (like me) very, very good at finding ways to drown them out temporarily, by cranking the volume on other things, or seeking the external experiences that pull your attention in so fully that you can ignore the noise in your head — but unless you know how to turn them *off*, and have, they're still running.
This is what makes up what I call "a Psychology": A glut of old programming, never relevant to the moment you're in, playing like a whole roomful of screens running commercials and re-runs while you're trying to watch today's episode. Exactly that useful to your clarity and experience of this, now. And while even a Psychology made of all rainbows and unicorns would be useless and detrimental, most of ours aren't; many of those old programs are malicious, broken, or simply conflicting with each other in ways that are doing worse than hurting our efficiency: They're crippling us, with pain, with anxiety, with fear, depression, distraction, selfishness, and a terrible loneliness that never really stops for most people.
In contrast to the Psychology part of the brain, there's the Window: This is the stuff going on now; the code you actually want running. (I call it the Window partly because of its seeing-the-world function, and partly because of the analogy to the Window Manager aspect of an OS.) The Window sees, feels, listens, and processes all the data both inside and outside you right now.
Let's face it: Most of us have about 10% of our minds, if that, dedicated to the Window's operations at any given time. Fully 90% is taken up by old, irrelevant, and maybe broken shit.
A reboot is dead necessary, and I think everybody knows it — in fact I think almost all pleasure-seeking is misguided looking for a reboot.
Being able to power down the Psychology programs, even just once in a while, so that the Window could run unimpeded, would be wonderful.
And of course, what would be best, what would really be optimal, is to just leave the Psychology stuff off unless we needed it. Might I want to remember being four, or to call up my knowledge of what food scarcity feels like, or to remember that I was angry at Bob From Accounting last week? Sure I might. And those things being etched in my brain as they are, it's totally possible to run them — in fact, one could easily argue that with more available processor, it'd be a lot easier to find and run the relevant ones — but having all that shit on all the time is just silly.
Worse than silly. Bafflingly dumb.
The prevailing opinion seems very like Grandma's opinion about operating systems: Of course all that shit is running in the background from the first day I turned the thing on, whether or not I know what it is or need it or want it, because surely it would take some superhuman magician to know how to uninstall a thing!
And I think we all know what I might say in response to that. (And then I would apologize profusely for swearing at a Grandma. But I'd still say it.)
This is my 3D thing from the last post: I'm teaching myself to uninstall.
I'm getting used to using the Off switch, or at least looking for it (it's not intuitive to find from the position we usually occupy — rather like Grandma wanting to find the power-supply off-switch from her chair — but I know where to look, and I find it more easily every time).
I'm someone who, a while ago, started installing some monitoring widgets, and now I'm fed up with how much of my power is going to waste, and how crippled parts of my awesome system still are thanks to shit that I didn't download and didn't give permissions to and don't want.
MY mind. MY life. And FINITE — it's either control it now, or shuffle blindly towards the grave, a sick caricature of the zombies that we hilariously think are sick caricatures of us.
I have root here, dammit.
January 15, 2013 7 Comments
So, I thought I'd better update — that bad news was better than no news; I hate blogs that just fade out, and this one certainly isn't going to. In fact, viewed in a positive light, there's a ton going on that bears writing about, and content-wise things should get pretty exciting in the next few months! For instance:
- Ubersleep 2nd Edition is in the layout/design phase, and in a couple weeks there should be snippets and other cool information to geek on!
- However, if you'd wanted to write a testimonial and didn't yet, you still have about 1.5 weeks within which to do it, before I really, really have to finalize everything!!
- Posters are in the works for the UberSleepStudy and the actual application period is still slated to open up sometime in October!
- I've discovered UfYH — oh my gods. I can't really put it to much use yet (see below), but this is exciting stuff and I think ties in with the polyphasic lifestyle just wonderfully…lots more on that soon
- I also have a list of dietary changes and financial changes I'll be enacting soon, and since many fans of this blog are fans of lifehackery in general, I'll totally be keeping the world updated on those, and reviewing the systems I've chosen to try out
- I'm taking on another martial art this winter – finalizing plans to get into the classes this month – and of course I won't be able to shut up about that either
- And lastly-but-not-leastly, another major effort to fix my sleep schedule will be underway, and doubtless produce at least a little new information about something, readjustment maybe, or perhaps the new napping-conditions since I moved office-suites, etc.
"Wait," you may be thinking, "You're still working on getting your naps correctly? How long can it take, for an adjusted Ubersleeper of years and years to get back on easy-old E3?"
Well, in functional terms, not very long — typically it takes me about 2-3 days of trying, though if I've really borked things schedule-wise (not just sleep-wise), then it can be a little effort for a while until I re-internalize all the day-to-day changes.
But that's not this. In spite of all the positive stuff going on — the above plus quite a bit else (I am leaving out the exciting underwater-hockey stuff, my intensive freediving course, etc) — the seeing it in a positive light is precisely where I'm falling down lately.
[Mercy cut! Feel free to skip if this subject just does nothing for you -- and congratulations, by the way. ;)]
August 14, 2012 11 Comments
Inspired by others whose blogs I read, and whose honesty and bravery has meant a lot to me, it's time to get serious about A Topic.
That topic is Depression — capitalization intentional — which I am a bona fide expert on, much to my fist-shaking displeasure at the Universe sometimes. I've lived with the tendency to default to depression as an emotional state ("chronic major depression") since I was about ten years old; I've done medication and therapy and all of that, and I've both succeeded and failed at times, as people will do with big heavy challenges over the course of a couple decades.
Sometimes chronic depression, like any other physical or mental shit card you can get dealt, is just unpleasant and makes life difficult in places. But it can also be deadly, and I've been to the very edge of that more than once. That's why, like a diabetic who wound up in insulin shock and learned an important lesson from it, I'm super conscious of and careful about my emotional state.
"Having Depression" as a chronic condition means that the icky emotional states (and their physical consequences) may come and go for no reason. But it can also mean that icky emotional states that happen normally, for a reason, can become dangerously acute. (Again, for comparison, anybody can get sick on too much junk food, but a diabetic who encounters extra sugar really has to watch out when that happens.) Unfortunately, unlike sugary food, circumstances that cause depressed emotional conditions aren't always avoidable — sad things happen, and cause grief, and that sets off an emotional process that can take a long while to resolve. There's no insulin shot for it, either. Like anyone else, I have to go through that process — except that I get to do it while being super aware that it can get out of hand and kill me if I don't manage it.
Yeah, that's going on lately. In case there was some doubt? ;)
The "getting serious" I want to do, then, is to remind everyone, who either is or knows or has been a sufferer of Major Depressive Disorder — the mental glitch that manifests as a tendency to slide deeply into a depressive state, and sometimes have trouble exiting it, or stopping the symptoms from escalating — that keeping tabs on one's emotional state is just as dead-necessary, and as morally neutral, as keeping tabs on someone's blood sugar. If it's you, don't be ashamed or reluctant to ask for help when you realize you need it — and don't fight that realization, either. If you've seen how far it can go and how bad it can get, it might be easier to realize how smart it is to call someone — anyone, up to and including an ambulance — rather than try to hang in there when things have gotten too bad; but of course I hope you've never seen that edge of things, and that you'll just take my word for it, and not be ashamed to take extra measures to shore your mind up, or to ask for help. Living on constant watch, by yourself and others, is humiliating and difficult and sometimes makes it feel like things will never get better…but they will. They WILL — as long as you keep going. Rule number one.
And if it's a friend, or family-member, or just some person you know about that's having a rough time right now and that you suspect may have a history…keep your eyes open, and say something if you see a reason to be worried. Yes, you may inadvertently come across like a jerk, and maybe you'll embarrass yourself or someone else. Maybe you'll say something and they'll snark at you or yell at you or never want to speak to you again. But would you rather risk that, or risk losing someone to a preventable symptom of a disease? Right, me neither.
Caused depression, depression-with-a-reason, passes. It does. It takes a long time and it's hellish to slog through, but if you take care of yourself and keep going forward, you'll walk out of it, like a fog bank. I almost feel like I have a cheat code for life, knowing that, and knowing the difference between "normal", caused, depression; and the kind of depression that doesn't end on its own, that requires some major hack or massive dumb luck or something or else you'll just walk in circles inside it forever. Because I've been there, I know that I can beat being here, and that I'll be fine, given enough time.
Once you know that you'll be fine, that there is an end, that things will eventually get better, everything becomes a ton easier.
See if you can remind someone of that who needs it. It is, in my opinion, one of the great goods that people can do for each other…and who knows, maybe it's the beginning of a cure. ;)
July 11, 2012 1 Comment
You are the whole ocean, not just the surface. The surface may be stormy, full of foul-tasting spray, and if you hang out there too long, you'll be sick.
But if you sink, if you walk on the bottom, you can just float in the gentle currents and watch with fascinated detachment as all the things drift by.
But most people do not sink naturally.
In order to do this, you must wear weights.
Weights are things you focus on, that pull your feet down, that force your head under the waves even though you may initially struggle,
and that then let you walk, with slow godlike steps, deep in the bones of things.
There, you stand like a tree
There, you move like beautiful music, in perfect time with the currents.
There, you do not need to gasp and flail, and the longer you stay, the longer you learn to stay, and the calmer you can become.
Practice finding the bottom, even for a second at a time.
Find your weights.
Float in perfectly neutral buoyancy. Feel how you simultaneously weigh nothing, yet are solid as can be.
On the surface, a big wave would throw you, break you, drown you, and you'd only ever see or experience a tiny fraction of it. Here, on the bottom, you will feel and see every tiny bit of it — every particle and wave it affects will move against your skin, and every frond and fish that's moved by it will be apparent to you — but it will have no power to hurt you.
June 19, 2012 No Comments
When I get predictable to myself, I've learned, I become fiercely annoyed. I think I detest unintentional, unhealthy rut-behavior in anything, but in me, when I see it, it's so bright and clear and obvious that I just flail and scream — um, rather predictably I guess. ::flail:: AUGH!
Anyway, that's all probably just self-judgment I need to let go of, or some other smart-sounding BS; for now the point is how utterly predictable my hope that I could just fall back into my polyphasic schedule was, and how utterly predictable is my rage that I can't.
It's not the sleep; it's the Hard Writings. Stupid, stupid things.
When I wake up at four a.m., I may be a little groggy (especially if I haven't gotten my naps the day before), but I'm not exhausted; I don't need anything more than a few jumping jacks and I'd be totally fine. I counted six consecutive Everyman days, and I didn't get notably sleep-deprived at all. In fact, I feel much better physically whenever I'm successfully sleeping polyphasically — this isn't any less true now than it's been for the last seven-odd years.
But the emotional fatigue is slaying me. Often I can't stomach the idea of staying awake or getting out of bed just because being awake is painful, and if I have the option to kill some time in gentle unconsciousness, I'm going to. Also, if I'm successfully distracted and busy and naptime comes, I will often just skip it, straight up, because the recoil I have from the thought of slowing down and having time to think nearly gives me whiplash. Often when I DO lay down to nap, I can barely manage basic muscular relaxation, never mind sleep. And of course, these mistakes feed each other: When I don't take naps, it's easy to pass out early at night or sleep in the next morning; when I've slept in, it's harder to fall asleep for naps. I may not, if my suspicions and bits of evidence are correct, suffer from serious sleep-deprivation as a result of re-adapting to Everyman anymore; but like almost all sleepers of any type, I still need to stay on-schedule in order to not be tired!
…Grief, as I'm sure most of you know, SUCKS. And my (predictable) reaction to it is always to try and get rid of it as quickly as possible while giving it as little room to impact my life as possible — two goals that are rather impressively both self-defeating and at cross-purposes to each other. Go me.
I'm going to keep trying to take my naps and wake up on time in the morning, and probably my schedule will put itself back together…but I think I need to give it (and the rest of me) some time. Announcing, "OKAY, I'M HEALING NOW!" is a great idea, but it doesn't mean you wake up and everything is better again. It takes the time it takes, I'm afraid, and small steps are all we can really do about it…one day you wake up and you've put enough small rocks on the pile to tilt things back to healthy, I guess.
And I've been putting rocks on, I really have. My diet is under much better control now. I'm working out daily again; my house is clean and my paperwork and bills are caught up. I kind of went mentally AWOL for a few weeks in there, but that part is past — I hope for good. I can't wait for the part where I'm back to 100%…but that's not quite yet. I hope I don't have to wait too much longer before I can get my sleep schedule back, though, because WOW have I got a ton to do!
*title explanation: I have a pet, but it's a lizard, so Stumbles doesn't really work. And when I went to name this post, I thought of the word "stumbles" in relation to readaptation and grief both and knew that I wanted to use it…but the longer I thought about it, the more it sounded like some silly pet name. Which I find comforting right now for some reason. ;)
June 14, 2012 No Comments
This topic has been on my mind a lot lately for…various reasons, we'll say. For background, I myself am a smart person (we can define that later if you like, but if you care about definitions then you're probably smart enough to qualify ;), and I'm pretty sure I've had every single self-esteem problem in the book, or damn close. I've crawled my way out of bad relationships, bad habits (including outright self-harm), and bad situations all caused by my lack of self-love/esteem/confidence more times than I really care to admit. But you don't do things like that without learning something, and if it's ok with you, Internet, I'd love a chance to share what I've learned. I'm calling this Part One because I see a potential for a lot to talk about here, and depending on Life, the Universe and Everything I may or may not write it all [UPDATE: I did in fact write Part Two and Part Three], but I at least want to have said some of this stuff — Ideally, I'd like to talk with some people about it, too, so feel free to chime in if this speaks to you.
Obviously I'm not a psychologist — you can take that as a detriment if you like, but personally I'm proud of it; and anyway if this advice doesn't stand on its own, then you should ignore it. You're smart.
I. Recognize what Self-Esteem is and Why It's Important. Self-Esteem got a bad rap when people turned it into a bullet-point fix-all buzz-word bullshit answer to The Everything, but ignore all that and think about what it means: It means not hating yourself. Not experiencing your whole life through the filter of a constant buzz of negative thinking, the equivalent of having a whole roomful of people dissing and hating on you all day, every day, except that since it's you doing it to yourself, the dissing is amazingly pinpoint accurate and blisteringly hard to ignore by just gutsing your way through it. Bad self-esteem is a handicap, a mental problem that not only prevents you from making the most out of your life, but that steers you inexorably into self-destructive behaviors and situations, and impairs your ability to make the kind of decisions you actually want to make probably worse than anything short of PCP. (If that sounded overly dramatic, think about it again: Would you rather be drunk and trying to make a long-term series of life-decisions in a positive way, or face the same decisions while possessed by demons that could trick you into thinking that you wanted and deserved what was worst for you?)
If you're smart, you are self-aware and therefore have a strong interest in fixing your self-esteem. (Maybe you aren't convinced that you can fix it, but put that on hold for the moment; I'll prove it soon.) If you're not sure whether you have a self-esteem problem, do this simple test: Watch your thinking as closely as you can for a day, and note (with a mark on paper or something) how many times you think something negative about yourself, versus how many times you think something positive. Doing this exercise will probably cause you to think extra positive things about yourself for that day, but that can be instructive too: How hard is it? How weird does it feel? For me, for a long time even trying to honestly think something like, "because I'm awesome is why" was really, really hard, and I could tell I was faking it even while I did it. You may not be (hopefully aren't) that bad off, but if you're not sure it's really worth watching and keeping track for a day. This problem can be stealthy, since obviously it has a vested interest in hiding itself from your logical mind. (And that's not an anthropomorphization or dramatization either: It's a mental construct, and it's just as cagey as the rest of your mind can be. Are you smart enough to lie not to get caught? Then so is it.)
Self-esteem comes from two things: Having accomplished things that you yourself are proud of, and having your basic needs met. Think of this as the emotional side of the coin that "being physically fit" is the physical side of: To be physically fit, you have to a) meet your basic health needs, and b) successfully accomplish some kind of physical exercise. To have self-esteem, you have to a) meet your basic emotional needs, and b) successfully accomplish some kind of emotional growth.
I'm going to start with basic needs, because as with the physical version, this often gets overlooked, and it's flat fucking stupid to overlook it. You cannot be physically fit if you're fundamentally unhealthy: Even if you manage to fake it for a while, it'll fall apart on you, guaranteed. And being fit isn't about looking muscular; it's about strength, resiliency, and successfully being in the world in a positive way. Same thing with self-esteem: Faking it is not making it. The basics are utterly essential.
"OK," I can hear the DA in my head saying, "But it's a lot harder with emotional needs. First you have to know what they are, and that's different for everybody, and and and…" –But I argue in return that it's not all that different, nor that much (if any) harder. There are basic truths that apply in pretty much every case, and the process of finding out the specifics of what works for you is pretty much the same as it is with diet and exercise: Try things that make sense, watch yourself to learn the results, keep what you're doing or change it based on the evidence, rinse repeat.
However, we shouldn't overlook that we're talking about people doing this who already have bad self-esteem: How do you figure out and meet your basic emotional needs when a part, maybe a large part, of your mind insists that you don't deserve to have them? Well, you have some bad habits to get around in that case, but it's not impossible, and it's as worth doing as eating right and exercising is for the very physically unfit.
This is long already, but I'll keep going for a bit, to discuss the first basic step in overcoming poor self-esteem enough to learn what your basic emotional needs are and how to get them met:
II. First, recognize that your basic emotional needs are YOUR responsibility. That's advice that most people like myself will find both easy and hard: It's easy because it sounds unwhiny and self-reliant (or comfortingly self-punishing, depending on where you are on the scale of things); it's hard because it means that you have to admit that your own pain and suffering deserves your attention and effort to fix — and really fix, not just cover up well enough that you can function/behave for others.
Funnily enough though, this easy/hard impression that you get from admitting that your low self-esteem is a problem that's your responsibility to fix is actually somewhat backwards from reality — and that's precisely because of the filters that low self-esteem puts over things like this. In your mind, you're probably trying to "be tough" and "suck it up" and "not be dramatic" … but in reality, the effect of this is that you aren't getting your needs met, and this is causing you to lean on other people inappropriately, to "wait on" someone else to recognize what you need and make it a priority. In essence, by absconding responsibility for identifying and prioritizing your needs, you wind up unfairly putting that burden on others — because the assumption you're making, that it's ok to just let yourself be trampled since you don't deserve better anyway, is a fallacious one; letting your own needs go unmet *isn't an option*. You're a human being and you have needs, and your mind and body will seek to have them met even if you don't. (That's why they're NEEDS.)
It's easy to be ashamed of having needs, or to see them as weaknesses — I understand that urge, and I also don't think it comes from a bad place. We want to be strong and independent. But a strong person knows their limits and works with them: We don't admire people who go hiking in the mountains with no food, water or gear and get themselves killed. Some of your needs will turn out to be things you don't need all the time, or don't need very much of; and some of them will turn out to be like air. That's ok; as long as you know which is which, you can make decisions accordingly. And knowing that you need something and making decisions that respect that is a ton more responsible and "tough" than ignoring what you need and flailing all over the place because you're not able to breathe.
I won't lie: You won't be happy about some of the things you need. Especially if you have a life built, or partly built, already, you're likely to find that thanks to your lack of self-esteem, you didn't do a great job with some of the bits you built, and may have to make some uncomfortable decisions. But remember that simply not having your needs met isn't an option: Things you built that directly interfere with those basic needs will eventually fall apart anyway, so it's not like you're saving yourself any pain by not learning what you did wrong.
Like your physical needs, your emotional needs will change over the course of your life. Feeling bad about this is about as intelligent as apologizing because you no longer like to eat fistfuls of candy like you did when you were a kid.
So, let's recap:
1. Self-esteem is important as hell, no matter how sick of the term we've all gotten. It comes from the right kind of accomplishments, which we'll cover next time, and from having your basic emotional needs met, which we'll also talk about doing in more detail when my fingers uncramp. ;)
2. The first step towards getting your basic emotional needs met is to recognize that it's your responsibility to do so, and that if you don't do it, the problem won't simply go away. (Think about people who think that they can just eat unhealthy food and sit on the couch all the time, and get away with it. Same genius at work, there.) Your emotional needs are needs, and if you don't take responsibility for identifying and meeting them, you will unconsciously ruin your life and probably all your relationships too, trying to get them met in other ways.
Stay tuned for Part Two!
January 31, 2012 5 Comments
(No, that question wasn't meant to sound filthy, but bonus points to you if it did I guess. ;)
I've been thinking a lot about that "last inch" lately — the immediate reference in my mind is to V for Vendetta, but it goes farther than that – and yes, times are crazy, as tend to be those that spur such thinking. Here are some of those thoughts, and of course I'm interested in hearing yours, too.
- The last inch is maybe the first inch, in the sense that it's the first inch of power-cord after the place where you plug into the Source. It's where the power is the most pure, and also the one remaining piece you need to have in order to say you ex-ist (literally, protrude out into the world of form).
- The last inch is where your mandates for living come from: Think of Rainer Maria Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet (and read it if you haven't!), where he asks the young poet to dive down to the part of himself that is essentially, irrevocably alone, and ask it: Must I write? (Or "Must I [whatever]?") If the last inch says yes, then that's not an optional part of life for you; it's part of how your connection to Life (the force) is defined. In my mind this is similar to asking the coupling on a fiber connection, "Must it be pulses of light?" For someone else — a Cat5-person perhaps — the answer to that wouldn't be "yes, it must"; but if your interface demands it, it must.
- Expanding on that, you can't give away your last inch unless your intent is to give away life, the Universe and everything; and to do that is suicide, so you'd generally better not! …But if you don't recognize what your last inch is composed of, you may not recognize that you shouldn't offer it up, for someone else, or in exchange for something you really want. The last inch is dangerous if it's unknown I think.
- Back to "fiber people" and "copper people"…Rilke says that there's a place inside each of us where we're totally alone, and I agree with that — we all go there in the moments before death, at least — but I think for some of us it's our last inch, and for others it isn't. Some people are made to be bundled — most of them, actually. But while communication is an essential part of life for almost all of us — what good is a totally isolated interface? — for some of us, a certain amount of insulation is necessary. We are, perhaps, sensitive to interference, right in that most delicate of places; right where we plug in.
Your last inch can keep you alive, keep you going in the face of amazing adversity, if you know where it is. And if you don't know where it is and what it requires to function, you can accidentally damage it, which is the spiritual equivalent of damaging your lungs.
I have time to catch up on projects this weekend, and one that I'm spending a lot of time with is my last inch…when you next get the chance, I recommend this activity highly…while at the same time slapping an NC-17 on it, because good fracking oil-earthquakes is it scary! ;)
January 15, 2012 Comments Off
SO yesterday was a lot of semi-sensible-sounding sleep-and-diet, writing-and-practice stuff…but don't let that fool you; I still highly value the *other* kind of planning too, the kind that just lets it all explode out and let's see what sticks. Therefore, lest anyone think I’m not also doing good old-fashioned completely batshit planning in addition to the (for me) sane and well-considered planning of yesterday, I present…
JANUARY 2’s CONFESSIONS
The nice thing about a slow period — you've got to have them, and if I'm not careful I hate them, but — it IS nice that they give you lots of time to make crazy plans. To make ALL the planz, and then gear yourself up to hit the tarmac at 200 knots and see what you can do. When things are busy, you just grab the ropes as they swing by; it's when they're slow (like over a holiday) that you get to set things up and try to put some future ropes (mental or physical or financial) in the right places so you can make all those amazing leaps you're really hoping for.
January 2, 2012 2 Comments