compassion and not hating people

Humans have a habit of seeing things as cause and effect. You drop a dish, it will shatter. You close your eyes and wake up at a different time, you were asleep. You say something rude to person A and they are angry.

Emotions are wild entities because while they usually have some manner of correlation between cause and effect, the proportions don’t always fit like we want them too. When a person is under an incredible amount of stress, sometimes something as small as a sad puppy picture can make them cry. Furthermore, even when we know it’s selfish and unrealistic, we can find ourselves angry or frustrated that things don’t work out the way we want.

No human is the center of the universe, and yet getting that into our skulls is another matter entirely. We want things to go well, even when we realize that the bumps and swerves and mountains in the road are necessary to feel that things are going well.  It’s a dangerous habit to claim a thing is part of human nature, but it is easy to feel that we all want the best for ourselves, in some form.

I feel like the more I learn about humans, mistakes, crime, and every other bad thing we go through, the more I feel that we largely have a cooperation and interaction problem. Many, yet not all, diseases come from our inability to care for ourselves and others. Both psychological and physical problems we face are often the result of not having the necessary social support, whether that be financial, emotional, etc.

People lash out because they are hurt. It doesn’t mean they should have lashed out, it just explains why they did so.

When it comes to cause and effect, we can simplify the situation down too much. We can point to A, B, and C, but we might miss the emotional reality of a person altogether. It’s not so simple. Events and actions add up over time. Experiences can remind someone of another experience.

When we look at ourselves, we know how it feels to be in our own shoes. However, being compassionate toward others is important. Communication and balancing out complex interactions is a tightrope walk with the whole circus making a ruckus around you, and it’s a tightrope for everyone.

There are so many things we don’t know. Being loving towards both ourselves and others begins with realizing that. Everyone is doing the best they can, as messed up as they may end up. The only way any of us gets to something approximating normal is by depending on others and letting others depend on us.

What does your face look like?

We only see the mirror view of ourselves. Others get to see all angles of our faces, but we are limited in seeing how we really look on a daily basis. That’s why seeing a video of yourself is such a peculiar event; you are suddenly the onlooker of your own actions. But what is it like for a stranger? What parts of you are most salient? What aspect of your face do people focus on?  It’s important to think about because perspective because we get really caught up in our own heads sometimes.

The fact is, we dwell on certain things. We get bored and start thinking about tasks that aren’t necessary for survival like the humans we are. However it also means that when anything occurs, we are looking through a subjective lens. The faults we see may not be obvious to other people. The beautiful parts we see might also be hidden. We are used to our own standard of features, people, places, emotions, and we compare everything to it,  but it remains an unquantifiable bar. 

All of this is just to say that it’s easy to forget that not everyone has had the same experiences. Not everyone sees what you see. To some people, our noses might be the first thing they think about. To others it might be our forehead or chin. When frustrations arise, try to look on as an outsider. Try to bend your mind. You don’t have to agree, just get out of your own head for a little bit and you’ll find that it shows the other person a great deal of respect.

“I want to die. lol.”

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The most beautiful part of any day is the fact that it exists. Particularly among the younger generations who’ve grown up alongside social media and computer technology, there’s a generally negative culture. Posting something means you are motivated emotionally to do so, and in most instances, we tend to feel more motivated by negative emotions than positive ones. That means what’s going onto our walls and blogs reflects those same emotions. There are jokes about the void, nihilism, and the ‘sweet embrace of death’ because we deal with these heavy feelings through humor. Linguistically, we’ve developed a form of hyperbolic speech contrasted with minor events and appropriated entire concepts into slang like “same”. However, we can get easily overwhelmed by this constant stream and begin to cultivate unhealthy thought processes.

Just take a moment to pause yourself and think about what you see everyday. We like to think of ourselves as unaffected by propaganda compared to the normal population (It’s called the third-person effect) but the truth is that, statistically speaking, you are affected by the media. There’s a whole slew of phenomenon and theories about it, but spending hours on social media has an impact on your psychological health. I am not immune, you are not immune, your friends aren’t immune; it’s just a result of living. It’s not always a bad thing either, but it is always good to be aware of what we are reading.

When you read these jokes and are surrounded with an atmosphere that mocks existence, it can be easy to feel purposeless. However, the existence of existence is important. Some claim that it would be better to not have been born at all. If you weren’t born, after all, then you would’t feel all the pain of living. You also wouldn’t even be able to appreciate nonexistence. Because we are, because we exist, we can feel every emotion. We can feel the positive feelings as well as the negative ones. We can laugh at stupid jokes and feel idiotic for not seeing something obvious. Existence and nonexistence aren’t comparable. Existence means being able to do something and grow past the difficulties. Existence means that you have the opportunity to both screw up your life, and also to fix it.

 

 

Davison, W. (1983). “The third-person effect in communication”. Public Opinion Quarterly. 47 (1): 1–15. doi:10.1086/268763

 

Asking questions 

What does it mean to be human? Are we a sum of memories? Is there some sort of innate seed of a soul we can’t ever get rid of? Are we simply a brain? Scientists, philosophers, and anyone else who has ever taken a really long shower have debated this with themselves. It’s good to ask these questions, it helps us define what we believe and who we are. However it can be a toil to really try and figure that sort of thing out; a trouble we don’t really want to deal with all the time. Some people do everything in their power to avoid thinking about existence, others spend all their time doing it. Overthinking can get you into a dark spiral, but ignoring the big questions can make it hard to find meaning. The real question is how do we find the balance between the two? Where is the perfect level of cognition?

The first time I had chocolate soymilk I was disgusted. The second time I thought it was alright. The third time was pretty good, and today it was absolutely delicious.  We might never get a clear answer when it comes to philosophical questions because even the small things like our opinions about a drink can be impacted by time, location, mood, etc. However by asking them, we force oursleves to take a hard look at the world we perceive, and surprisingly at the world within oursleves. It would be handy to have some sort of meter that guided you to the “perfect” level of cognition, or some sort of algorithm for life. Yet it is the nature of this ambiguity that gives us meaning and maybe a clue as to what makes us human. 

Life is more trial and error than a systematic procedure. We operate on general concepts and broad ideas. We can be cruel or kind but we exist. So exist! Overthink, underthink, make mistakes, feel terrible, feel terrific! Ask the big questions and do your best to answer them. Then watch some mindless TV because it’s fun. If you don’t know what you’re doing, try and figure it out! The greatest mistake we can make is tricking ourselves into thinking we don’t have a choice and stagnating. You can do this. 

What we think we thought when that thing occurred isn’t necessarily what we thought when that thing occurred

Every time we ‘remember’ something, we recreate the situation in our mind. In fact, we can recreate and be influenced after the fact so much that we even create false memories. That’s why eyewitness testimonies aren’t as reliable as we think they are; by the time they get to court, they’ve talked to so many people, reimagined the events so many different ways. The way someone questions you can alter your memory so subtly and yet it makes all the difference. We see the past how we want to see it at the time. Mean people become kind, kind people become cruel. Memory is always faulty to some degree, but we can’t operate without it.

That’s why living in the past is so dangerous. Everyone knows people who are bitter. You say one thing and they can’t seem to let it go. Every inconvenience seems to be some large conspiracy against them. Bitter people usually get to that point because they’ve gone over their memories so much, they’ve recreated their entire past to always lead to the present moment of pain. Either everyone else is wrong and forced them into their current state, or they loathe themselves for every action they committed, or some combination of the two.

It’s not wrong to think about the past. You can learn things from history, can take valuable lessons away from events. It also can be a pleasant activity, remembering happier circumstances.  I’m not saying we should doubt every memory and try to live like a blank slate; it’s just not healthy to dwell on the past too much. Things change. Our feelings affect what we think happened. If there’s some knot you keep going over in your mind, don’t hate yourself for picking up the rope, get help trying to untie it.

From where you’re at 

Intelligence is actually incredibly hard to pin down with a solid definition. Academic success depends on the class, past knowledge, family situations, even who you sit by. IQ can only predict success to a certain degree, and it judges only how good people are at finding new patterns and solving problems. Some argue only looking at academic intelligence cuts out creative or practical intelligence. Emotional intelligence is a term for how well people know and understand their own and other’s emotions; it’s been shown to strongly predict interpersonal success. Even from culture to culture, intelligence can be seen as something focused around how you deal with people, or how you deal with information. It is multifaceted and the line between intelligence and talent is slimmer than most people realize. 

However, we are obbsessed with intelligence. We want to believe it’s something you are naturally born with, that you can’t escape, but that’s not necessarily true. A person can actually raise their IQ to a certain degree, more effort can increase one’s grade and success in the workplace, and happiness isn’t even correlated with IQ! Pyschologists have been trying to pin it down for forever because it’s not as simple as “If you are intelligent, you will succeed in life.” 

I have my own little theory about intelligence, and it is this: intelligence is how well a person can adapt and solve problems, while wisdom is how well a person can apply things they’ve learned to the “real world” ane real relationships. There’s overlap between the two. People have different amounts of each. It’s hard to judge something as complex as intelligence in something as small as a single number. When you go out and about your day, just remember that you can improve from wherever you’re at. 

The nature of courage

Being able to learn is a gift. One of your common phrases of conventional wisdom is that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result. The idea someone would purposely do the same thing over and over again is absurd because who would ever want to live that way? Stagnant? A common horror trope is having someone live the same day over and over again. Even if it’s a wonderful day, over time it becomes a miserable prison. The real question, however, is why we let ourselves remain stagnant when we’re not even caught in such a loop. 

I’d argue that we are mostly held back by our fear. It’s easier to fear the unknown, so we tell ourselves its okay to live without ever really moving forward, even if we’re miserable there. It’s not that you don’t want to be an artist, it’s that you fear being able to support yourself. It’s not that you don’t want to write a book, it’s that you fear no one will like it. It’s not that you hate strangers, it’s that you fear they will hate you. The core destroyer of dreams isn’t some parent or teacher or reality even, but the fact that we are afraid of what we don’t know. 

And yet! We long to grow. It’s the most satisfying part of every narrative. We are humans who love to learn, we’ve developed entire fields based on a simple question: “Why?” Maybe you feel 100% content with your life, but if you do, you are in a very small number. Everyone can improve themselves, everyone can learn to be better than who they were yesterday. Fear is always there. Courage, however, is being able to scream and crawl your way past it so you just get it done. Be courageous, learn and grow, even when you want to play things on repeat. 

Hey you’re pretty skilled!

Everyone has different gifts. Some people naturally are caring or wise, others can really work hard and persevere. There are such a wide variety of people, all with different talents, and it’s honestly amazing. Even That Jerk you know, from work or around your neighborhood, has a few qualities that could be really amazing if they used it right. 

We all have things we can do well, but those things can also be our weaknesses. People who are in tune with emotions recieve the full brunt of them and there’s no dial to turn it down. People who are honest and ambitious tend to hurt those they care about because others’ opinions genuinely didn’t occur to them. People who work hard can be taken advantage of and treated like they are less just because they do have to work to get where they want to go. 

We do all have talents though. Books with segmented groups based on personality are fun because the reader wants to find out where they would fit into the world if they were in it; it’s why Hogwarts houses, what Divergent group, and Percy Jackson’s Olympian houses grab our attention. If we know how others see us, we can play a role and be accepted by the community we’re in. The problem originates in the fact that no one fits a stereotype perfectly. There’s no one perfect ‘Slytherin’ or ‘Child of Hermes’. We expect our full spectrum world to fit into distinct categories because it’s helpful; the hueristics makes things easier to understand and deal with. 

Honestly, maybe you don’t fill into a label solidly. Maybe you’re on the fringe between two categories. Maybe you think your talents don’t even exist. Life can be hard, and it’s easy to think that your own individual skills are worth nothing in the whole scheme of things. However, little actions build up, working with people to join your little skills together can make something sincerely awesome. Just because it isn’t clear to you what things you’re skilled at doesn’t mean you aren’t skilled in some manner. 

where we focus our aim

Habituation is when a stimulus in your environment is so constant, your mind ends up filtering it out; think about white noise, the feeling in crossed legs, a chair that’s always there. Our minds get used to the information coming in, so the neurons stop firing so much. The ‘cure’ is focusing on it, or moving. When it comes to life, we filter all these little things out a lot. It makes sense to do so, and so our brains are designed to work like that. However, it’s important to remember that we do filter things out because we have to choose what we focus on; we can’t take in everything.

We have a bad habit in America of wanting to achieve 3,000+ things and then ignoring when the stress messes up our health. No matter how talented, experienced, or clever a person is, they can’t be amazing at everything. We each go through periods of our lives where we focus on a a particular goal, where we have to be selfish and get our careers figured out, or where we have to be  selfless and figure our relationships out. There are different stages of life, and we learn how to deal with our problems as we grow through them. 

It’s okay to be habituated to white noise! It’s okay to give yourself a break on one things and focus on another. Today is a good day because you’re figuring it out, even if it seems like some massive knot of a problem. Just focus on improving a little bit, and then the little bits will add up. 

Action and Caring

The thing about kindness is that you don’t have to really ‘mean’ it. If you are a human that exists, you have affected other people, thousands of people, even if only in some minuscule way. Each action says something about you, whether you want it to or not. While it would be amazing to able to care about everyone all the time, we can’t psychologically handle that. People across the world tend to be too abstract for us to care about. That’s why we have things like religion, belief systems, and morals in place: You don’t have to be emotionally involved to show kindness. If you work at a soup kitchen, being supportive and bubbly is awesome, but even being there grudgingly helps out too. We have this strange idea that if we can’t put 100% into something, we shouldn’t do it at all. However, we get excited by the things we do. If you never do something, you’re never going to be excited for that thing in the first place.

Our thoughts become our behaviors, we know this. If you expect the party to be horrible, you’re going to act more anti-social and won’t enjoy yourself as much. It’s a self fulfilling prophecy to some extent. However, it works the other way around as well. Our behaviors influence our thoughts. Sometimes you have to be at the homeless shelter to actually care about the homeless. Perhaps the greatest gift our humanity has given us is the motivation to do things we don’t want to do initially, things that don’t directly benefit us.

How many times do you turn on the news and witness horrible events? Now, think about how many times you’ve genuinely cared about that, how many times you’ve donated your time and money to help. Churches and temples and synagogues and other places of worship usually involve some amount of charity because it takes higher forces to convince us that giving our time and money to others is worth it. In Puerto Rice right now, they don’t have power. In many areas, there’s not enough water resources for thirst or basic hygiene. This isn’t some minor hurricane that the island is used to, there are 3.4 million US citizens who are struggling to survive and no one seems to be trying to help.

The basic fact is this: you probably don’t care. This doesn’t have an obvious affect on you in all likelihood. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t help. You don’t have to care, you just have to do something. The act of putting in your limited resources is a show of strength of character. We can afford at least some small act of charity, some small thing that will bolster our own self-esteem. Donating for selfish reasons is better than not donating at all, don’t wait for your ‘heart’ to be in it, just help. The action will affect your thoughts, and your thoughts will affect your future actions; no small act of kindness is ever wasted.