Archive for September 2008

Don’t accept your false self

September 15, 2008

I’ve noticed that I feel bad every time I think I might like someone (whether as a friend or potential mate), and don’t pursue a deeper interaction with them.  I have guilt for not expressing and exposing myself to them, regardless of what their response might be.  But often, I feel so locked up that it’s like I’m hitting a wall which blocks me from being genuine and open (“being myself”).  Sometimes this wall is so effective that I don’t even realize what happened until later.  Even if I do realize what’s taking place, I usually have no idea what to do about it. 

So I feel trapped inside myself by my fears and inhibitions, which not only frustrate me by blocking me from what I want, or think I want, but which also seem to create guilt for each opportunity (potential relationship) I let pass me by.  Maybe nothing would’ve come of it, but maybe we could have shared a wonderful relationship.   

On the other hand, as bad as I feel, I can’t force myself to open up more to people.  I could memorize certain phrases, things to say, or things to do, but it is too logical.  No matter what I might memorize, it cannot remove the emotional barriers.  Such efforts would only result in a superficial modification of behavior.  This basically involves learning to act a role, and hoping that someone (or better yet, everyone) will buy it.  If they do, then maybe we can have a pretend relationship, but not a real one.

And just knowing that I can’t force myself, logically or otherwise, to open up, helps relieve some stress.  We can’t consciously control our emotions, except to suppress them.  No matter how much we believe that it’s wrong to feel this way or that way, and that we really ought to feel some other way, our only choices are to either pretend to be what we think we should be (by inhibiting ourselves), or to accept how we feel, and try to understand why.  Nothing is wrong, as long as we try to understand why, why, why.

So if my emotions don’t want to open up, then of course I get frustrated when I expect (demand) it of myself.  On the other hand, to just “accept what you are” and do nothing about it is even worse, because this creates guilt for giving up.  Someone might say, “there’s nothing wrong with being shy around certain people.  It’s normal, and I’m not hurting anyone.  I accept myself for who I am, and so should you.”  But in every interaction that a person has emotional barriers, those barriers represent that person suppressing their self (whether consciously or not).  Furthermore, for a person to “accept” their inhibitions, is to accept an unreal self, thus rejecting their real self.

So there should be a balance between knowing/accepting one’s limits, and yet still struggling to do better and better.   Any real change always comes gradually, and ultimately, we have to learn to fulfill ourselves, rather than looking to others for fulfillment 


Suffering is Good

September 15, 2008

Life is a continuous stream of decisions, and I hate having to make decisions.Especially when I have no idea what to do. Furthermore, you often won’t know if you did the right thing until after it’s done. So, what makes a decision right or wrong, good or bad? It’s not always black and white, but the right decision is one that offers a real solution for us. One that leaves us feeling *genuinely* good. There may even be several good solutions. The wrong decision, however, may be an attempt at some solution, but it is unreal. For example, one of my favorite “solutions” is avoidance. It is so unreal that it doesn’t even pretend to be a solution (except to hope that things will “resolve themselves”). There are a countless number of unreal solutions to any problem. In contrast, there will be only one, or perhaps a small range, of genuinely good, or “real” solutions.

So, how do we know if something is real? This may seem a bit too simple, but we have to “feel how we feel.” Feelings are a simple and natural way to navigate the extremely complex world we live in. Basically, anything positive is real, and anything negative is unreal. It is extremely simple, yet for most of my life I couldn’t believe such a thing. I used to think that feelings and emotions were unreal, that they confused people and distracted them from reality. My sense at the time was that reality was some sort of detached impersonal unchanging truth, nothing to do with the ever‑changing fickle whims and fancies of people’s feelings.

It was clear to me then, and I still believe it now, that the greatest mistakes made by people occur when they get led astray by their feelings (usually in the form of needs and insecurities). However, I overreacted and became a victim of what I feared (getting led astray by my feelings). Thus, I failed to see the other side; that the only real and genuine good from people comes from their emotions as well.

So I’ve always distrusted my feelings, as well as those of others. No wonder though; society is very off-putting, like the hypocrites of the church. People act one way, even though it’s not really how they feel. Who would want to be a part of a world of emotions if it required becoming fake and superficial like everyone else? Of course, I was throwing the baby out with the bath water.

And I know I was going in the wrong direction because my life was steadily getting worse. I was becoming more and more confused and frustrated. Instead of becoming more stable, focused and clear minded (as I envisioned) by doubting and suppressing my feelings, the exact opposite was happening. I was completely lost and felt like I was going insane. Of course I was. I was rejecting my self. And feeling bad, as I said before, is how you know that you’re going the wrong direction.

For so many years I’ve conditioned myself to distrust my feelings, that I now have to constantly struggle against that tendency. This is the work of awareness. Being able to see and accept where you’re at, and slowly digging oneself out of your life’s worth of garbage. It’s tempting to wish that I had better parents (conditioning) from the start, so I didn’t have to go through this pain. But without suffering, how could anyone appreciate the depth and importance of these lessons? I can’t think of anything else that could motivate me enough to actually change.

Furthermore, how can anyone help others who are lost, confused and suffering, without first experiencing and conquering struggles of their own? Would you rather be a benign blob that lived out a monotone existence (with minimal experience of suffering)? Or would you rather experience the full range of lows and highs that life has to offer, becoming more and more able to relate to and genuinely help others?

The Comfort Zone

September 15, 2008

When most people are young, they are bright and more clear minded (having much fewer emotional barriers and inhibitions to confuse them).  But as we get older, we accumulate garbage in our psyche.  Each time we do something that creates guilt we’re adding to the garbage (assuming we don’t clean it up).  Then, after many years, the garbage starts to overflow.  This is when we can’t ignore it anymore and we’re compelled to do “something”.  Many people just pursue their escapes that much more zealously (work, alcohol, drugs, religion, aggressions, passiveness, and basically anything out of moderation).  They don’t want to open the “pandoras box” of garbage in their psyches. 

A few, however, will try to understand what is really going on.  We (the few) are searching for a real solution.  Ironically, when we were younger and more clear, and the challenges less severe, it was too easy to ignore and avoid stress, guilt and other garbage.  But now… now we have the motivation to *really* understand ourselves and work with ourselves, but at the cost of so many years of negative conditioning, with so much accumulated garbage to clean up.  The only thing to do is to kick yourself in the butt and clean up whatever it is that is getting you down right now. 

But, here’s where most people will clean up the bare minimum, get some relief, and stop… until next time; again cleaning up the bare minimum, and so on.  This is getting stuck in the “comfort zone”.  It actually ends up being an emotional roller-coaster that goes absolutely nowhere.  Instead of coasting after each success (back down into misery), the boost we get from cleaning up our garbage should be used to seek out and clean up more garbage.  It’s a matter of self-awareness;  of being aware of any negative feeling we have in order to understand why, and to resolve it.  And the more we resolve, the greater the challenges we will become aware of.  It’s always something we don’t want to do.  Something we may think we can’t face.  But that is precisely what makes it so exciting and vital.

Emotions and Neutrality

September 8, 2008

In a recent conversation somebody asked a lady how she would feel if a stranger came up, called her a bad name and walked away.  Would it make her feel good or bad?  She said “neither”, and that she would not feel hurt because that person “obviously doesn’t know what they’re talking about”.  But is it really possible to not have some kind of feeling in this situation?  And what kind of situation(s), if any, are genuinely neutral?

I believe that to be alive is to have emotions.  Some of us are more barriered from our emotions than others, but I believe that we all have emotions, no matter how hidden.  Furthermore, I would like to experiment with the idea that this element of human existence is not something we can turn on and off.  We can block our feelings from being expressed outwardly, and can even block them from ourselves, but we cannot remove them or shut them off.  They are there.  Also, whether we block them (from ourselves) or experience them is not within our conscious control.  When we are ready to consciously experience an emotion, we will feel it.  It will come up.

Is it possible for any emotion to be neutral?  That is, can an emotion be both ‘not positive’ (not even slightly) and ‘not negative’ (not even slightly)?  It doesn’t seem possible by definition.  Is it?  Is there anything about which you can say “I feel strongly neutral”?

The other possibility is that certain things stimulate our emotions, and certain things don’t.  Anything that doesn’t stimulate our emotions is neutral to us.  In this case the question is, can we experience something without even the slightest emotional affect?   That is, are emotions just one part of our mind that doesn’t always get involved?  Or, are emotions more fundamental to our mind, ever present, and always ‘touched’, like the surface of a pond, by our experiences?