stop making emotions your enemy

When someone moves on the floor above me, it sounds strangely like water. Sloshing. Although I seriously doubt any individuals are shoving large bins of water around. However, I can still imagine that scenario if I desire because I can choose to see things in a different light.

We can’t change our beliefs. We don’t choose what we believe or what we feel. Our experiences give us information and we translate that information in a way we want to. Our emotions take us over whether we realize it or no, always lurking and influencing our decisions, no matter how rational we desire to be. Even our desire to be rational is still fueled by emotion, like pride or a sense of honor.

Yet the word “lurking”, isn’t fitting. Emotions aren’t evil. Emotions aren’t some sort of enemy we have to conquer and keep down.

Nor is rationality evil, or leading us to an unhappy life. People who advocate for getting rid of all emotions or all rationality are both irrational and likely spurred by emotion.

We need moments in our lives where we do the irrational thing. We need those moments where we act silly because the alternative is to be miserable. There comes a line between carrying out one’s responsibilities and also not dying a dull bore.

When we villainize our emotions, we begin to make ourselves into the enemy. We begin to shame ourselves when we don’t feel the ‘right’ thing. It feels good when someone we don’t like embarrasses themselves. It feels good to hate annoying people. It feels good to be vicious from time to time. Feeling that inclination doesn’t mean you are evil, it means you’re human. To some, that might be one and the same.

But that’s not the point. The point is that we shouldn’t shame ourselves for something we cannot control, but rather focus on what we can control. Why are you feeling good when your peer fails? Ask yourself about the feeling. Track down where it’s coming from.

Many times when we feel hatred, we feel it because we are afraid. Hatred is an outlet for our insecurities. It feels good to hate because it gives us a sense of power, and that power stabilizes us for a time. It doesn’t solve the core problem, however. It doesn’t solve the core insecurity and ignoring it will only make the problem grow worse.

Our emotions are not foreign entities, they are us, and we should embrace them as we gently guide them. We can choose to see things in a different light. We can’t change our immediate perceptions, but we can change how we interpret what they mean.

not just a work bod

There is so much more to life than work. There is so much more to life than looking a certain way and achieving some ideal you aren’t actually happy with. There is so much more, and yet we still get stuck on these basic things of loving ourselves and being content with where we are.

We fundamentally feel empty when we reach grand milestones without the backing of social support. If we aren’t making a difference, if we aren’t paying attention to the people around us, it’s just hard to have any motivation at all. We can strive after money, freedom, success, all of that, but we are nothing if we are alone.

Granted, money, freedom, and success are all nice. But we feel like we are using our money wisely when we can support ourselves and those around us. We feel free when our bonds to others are healthy instead of constricting. We feel successful when we are able to feel secure financially and are connected to others. Sitting alone in a pile of gold has a similar feel to sitting on a pile of rocks alone.

We struggle with motivation at times because we’re often going about it the wrong way. We try to use fear, but fear wears away. We try to use logic, but logic isn’t very inspiring. We try to use self-discipline but that’s something we need to build up over time and for the right reasons.

It’s true, we need money to survive. This shouldn’t be a spot of shame on us. We might not love what we do– that’s okay. If we are miserable, over time we can work to see if there is a better path. It’s easy to fear getting stuck. Midlife crises are unfortunately common. There’s that terrifying idea that we will blink and our life will have passed us by. But if that is your fear, then act. Take charge of your decisions. Whatever you chose in life, chose it willingly. Chose it without regrets. We are forced into all sorts of situations, but we take responsibility for who we are, we are empowered.

Life will be difficult in some way, no matter what. There will always be boring situations. The key to being okay with that is realizing that even the boring moments are moments of our lives. There is a beauty in everywhere if we look for it. There is always something interesting, and when we open our minds to it in the little moments, we can begin to trust oursleves that we’ll find it in the important moments.

thinking about positive affirmations

Here are some positive affirmations I found:

I am a diamond. It is time for me to shine.

My opinion matters.

I am a magnet for love.

Self-love is a natural state of being.

I am loved and I am wanted.

The site I got them off of has a massive list of all sorts of positive affirmations, these are some of the self-love ones. I guess half of me was curious about the process of positive affirmation and the other half was frustrated with myself for procrastinating. However, as I was reading some of these, I began to feel uncomfortable.
“I am a diamond. It is time for me to shine,” doesn’t that sound self-centered? I realized it was aimed at self-love, but it put me off balance. Growing up, I was taught that the highest form of good a human can do is to serve others. Focusing on yourself was a risky path down to the way of being selfish.
Even “I am a magnet for love”, and “I am loved and wanted”, these two involve other people. It’s like game theory, you can’t map everything out on your own because there are other player’s strategies you need to keep in mind. And deep inside of me, it felt wrong.
Not all affirmations make me uncomfortable or angry, but these particular ones did to a certain degree, and I was trying to figure out why. The answer is relatively straight forward: maybe I don’t love myself enough.
But the question goes deeper, because what does it mean to love yourself? Why do simple phrases get under our skin?
When we compliment other people, we say similar sorts of things without thinking, “Oh my goodness, you’re a Queen”, or “You have so much potential, don’t sell yourself short!”. In those situations, it’s usually clear: this individual being someone of worth is independent of everyone else’s worth. Person A is absolutely lovely, kind, intelligent, funny, and they are all of this without making Person B less kind, intelligent, etc. They are two separate people, and we recognize that everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses.
Something like, “I am a diamond” insinuates that your own life should be valued more than others. But also: does it?
A lot of the value of a diamond comes from the people who value it, who wear it. It’s a symbol of a bond typically. As living human beings, we exist in networks. There are people who value us, who like us near them. Our personalities in some way are the result of the bonds we have with other people.
As for “I am loved”, and “I am wanted”, these things are easy to doubt. By definition, you aren’t the other people around you. How can we ever be sure we are loved and wanted? Most people assume there aren’t psychic connections or body swapping magics we can turn to.
But this also has caveats we overlook. If you love yourself, if you want yourself, then you are loved and wanted. We need other people, but we don’t need the same exact people every day of our lives.
Sure, we have issues. We can be frustrated and wish we were physically different, mentally stronger, more adept, etc. But this doesn’t mean we can’t love ourselves through that. When we love someone, that doesn’t mean we are okay with what the other person does 100% of the time. Sometimes we can really dislike someone, but we fundamentally love them. The same can be true with yourself.
Self-love is more about being comfortable with the decisions you’ve made. It’s about having hope that tomorrow you’ll be better. It’s like any other relationship, you spend special time, you get gifts, you listen, you communicate (via introspection), and so forth. It’s being committed to making the life you live the best it can be.
Saying you are worthy of love doesn’t suddenly make you unworthy of love. Instead, it actually makes us more likely to love others. If you don’t need to spend all of your energy worrying about your image, about feeling shame over your choices, then you can live a better life for both you and those around you. Self-love isn’t being self-centered, it’s about being comfortable enough in your own skin that you can focus on others in the first place.

 

So yes, it feels weird at first, but say positive affirmations about yourself. Understand why you’re feeling uncomfortable, and why you’re saying it in the first place.

the thickets in the thick of it

Here’s a short poem about hope

 

I’ve been going the wild side on the thicket near the edge of town

when I go to the grocery store up the ways, and the lights go down

quickly when you walk with the speed of a lazy cat, intrigued by three

noises tickling the tacky tackle of sharp chirping chickweed near me:

Past, future, present fumbling all at my feet, and still just walking longer

and longer as the pitch raises its void into the sky, as a fear-monger

to scaredy-cat hearts like mine.

 

I’m no linen-shirt tipping up my hat to pool my hands in my finds

I’m no gold-laden lad lying in fabulously good turns of binds

I have a thickness resting in my chest that’s mine to fight

to stumble over with the clumsiness of my own feet at night

Maybe I’ll fall down a black hole and keep falling forever

but that will make a story and folks will think me clever

Maybe there’s even no one, no one at all besides me

but just to breathe is a power that confounds the sea,

let relativity blur the line,

and bask in the knowing unknowing that unfolds quietly around us

don’t feel bad about feeling bad

Chet Baker singing “I Fall In Love Too Easily” is one of the smoothest, purest, and delightful experiences I have ever had in my life. Good music is just something that makes me happy, and I think it’s a fair assumption to say other people typically feel the same. There’s just something beautiful about when a song hits you “right in the feels”.

But as magical as songs can be, real life seems to match it with ugly construction sounds. There are moments when we are socially suave, where we fit, and there are also moments that are painfully awkward. We realize things are a balance of the good and bad, but it doesn’t make the bad feel less horrid.

Here’s a fun little challenge: don’t feel bad about feeling bad. When we start pathologizing our own emotions, it can lead us down tricky roads. Maybe your mental state is unhealthy and should be treated, but even if you think you can diagnose something on your own, don’t treat it on your own.

It often comes down to, if you need help, get help. If you are unsure, ask. Even the rarest conditions, the ones where truly no one feels and experiences the same thing as you, have some semblance to something else.

This applies broadly to mental health, of course, but also to the little things, and for the people who think there’s completely fine. If you feel something, you feel it for a reason. It may be irrational, it may be nonsensical, but it’s how you feel. Emotions change and will change, but often the hard part is allowing yourself to feel the way you do, and subsequently forgiving yourself. Feelings do not equal actions. They are related, but they are still separable.

Your actions are your own. If you know something is wrong, if you know that you’re in a tempting place, physically get yourself out of the situation. Take a walk. Listen to some good music.

When we feel emotions, they can take us over. We can feel so engrossed in our own experiences that we forget we’ve felt other things. But we have, and we will.

you know that thing you aren’t doing right now?

We all come face to face with a seemingly insurmountable dread, the sort that feels like a well fed elephant roosting on your chest. Work. Responsibilities. General tasks that you feel obligated to accomplish but you just really don’t want to do it. But part of that difficulty is that we work in an ineffective way. Our idea of work is typically, ” I will put in effort for so many hours in a row, and be super productive”. However, that’s unrealistic for most people. If you don’t want to do this task in the first place, most of those hours are going to be spent pretending like you’re working when you’re really not. While opening the book or tab is a good start, making it seem like you’re working when you’re not doesn’t make the task complete. You’re not fooling your brain because you are your brain, and you know exactly what you aren’t doing.

Furthermore, we can’t focus for that long. Forcing yourself to push through, only to create miserable output is draining on you and usually has little benefit for the work itself. Instead, work for 15 minutes to 30 minutes at a time, and then take a walk or a nap. Just do some sort of activity, preferably using a different part of your brain. Work doesn’t have to be jam packed into one long session, but rather spread out. It makes you not only more productive, but also isn’t as emotionally and mentally exhausting!

Ignoring your work will only make the dread of it grow even fatter. It’s easy to be miserable, but by definition, it’s also a miserable state to be in. Part of the dread comes from the fact that we don’t want to do it, that it’s only an obligation and not a desire. Sometimes that can’t be helped. But why is it an obligation in the first place? Ask yourself why it matters, reconnect to the purpose behind it. Make it something you care about, and the motivation will come easier.

You can do such amazing things! Who you were yesterday is not who you have to be today. Maladaptive procrastination is a habit, but that habit is not unbeatable. It seems to be completely out of our reach at times to build ourselves up to a point where we can behave like we want to. However, it’s not. It’s often a matter of mind, and saying to yourself, “Listen pal, I know you don’t want to do this. It’s boring, it’s dull, it feels like it’s sucking the life out of me. But there’s this goal I’ve been working towards, and that does mean something to me. That goal that I have, it means enough to me that I get this done.” And you do it. Little by little, you work on it in pieces, in parts. You don’t have to be a superhero and do things absolutely perfectly, you just need to get started. You don’t need to do massive amount of work, just pace yourself and do it as it comes. It may not feel like you can do this, but feelings are fleeting. What matters most is what you do.

worth and the human’s work

We live in a society where oftentimes our worth is associated with our productivity. Yet in the broad spectrum of life, productivity for each individual means something different. If someone has to work extra hard to do task A, and another barely has to lift a finger to do both A and B, who is more productive? Externally, we’d day the second person, who did two tasks. However, the first person is more productive in that they’ve put in more effort. The question becomes, what kind of focus should we have, praising those who put in the effort, or praising those who get things done?

Theoretically, those we admire the most are those who work hard and get a lot done. However, psychologically, if we focus too much on the ends, we can end up with some very unhealthy situations. If someone doesn’t need to work hard, they won’t know how to work when the true obstacles come. If someone does things only to get them done, quality can go down. Yet, if only effort matters, what’s the motivation to actually bring things to a conclusion? Besides, wasteful effort isn’t helpful for anyone. The answer is that both effort and accomplishment are important parts of productivity, which makes judgement that only reflects accomplishment lopsided in perspective.

Yet, should we even be comparing worth to productivity in the first place? It’s certainly effective for businesses and schools. Still, is this the whole of life, what our education and career says of us? No! Productivity is a single measure of success, meaning there are other measurements and factors to it. Working hard is important for our well being! But let’s remember that productivity is one part of ourselves, and that even that isn’t so clear cut. Putting in effort counts for something.

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.”

Screen Shot 2017-10-25 at 1.14.04 PM

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

 

A kind of battle cry

Today is a good day. Sometimes that doesn’t even have to be true, but you have to say it, and furthermore, you have to believe it. There’s this kind of advice: even if you feel bad, don’t look bad. Its this idea that if you feel aboslutely horrible, if you take the time to put effort into what you wear, you’ll feel better. It’s a battle cry of effort, I will not be defeated by my exhaustion! Even if it doesn’t come out through physical apperance it’s important to care about living your life, especially when it’s hard. 

One of my favorite songs is Nat King Cole’s “Smile”, and one of the lines is this, “when there are clouds in the sky, you’ll get by”. As to say, sure. Life isn’t perfect. There are so many people who are hurting and struggling. However, if we give up when the going gets hard, we’re letting our true potential slip by. Our ability is not determined by talent alone. Honestly, at the end of the day, talent means very little. What you can change is the part that makes the most difference: your effort. 

You can’t live at 100% all the time, but we can usually give at least 5% more. And if we decide to not put in that effort, we find ourselves in a cycle of stagnancy. If it’s difficult, you’re getting somewhere, so keep fighting. Today is a good day.