Top 10 Signs You May be a Feverish Selfish Little Clod


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“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.” – George Bernard Shaw

I came across the following post on another blog while Googling for the above quote.  I liked the post so much that I am reblogging it here.  Here is the blog post in its entirity. 

Enjoy!
John

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Top 10 Signs You May be a Feverish Selfish Little Clod

http://brendanmcphillips.com/2007/10/27/top-10-signs-you-may-be-a-feverish-selfish-little-clod/

Posted on October 27th
 
As a follow-up to my last article about the True Joy in Life, here are the top 10 signs that you may be a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world is not devoting itself to making you happy:
  1. You mostly talk about yourself self. Somehow every conversation you’re in becomes focused on you and the events of your life. Now of course you can talk about yourself but you should also make a point to express a sincere interest in others.
  2. You litter. The self-centered arrogance of a clod who litters, even those who throw a small cigarette butt out their car window, is saying that the world is their trash can and that someone else will take care of it.
  3. You don’t consider the impact of your actions on others or, if you do, you don’t care. These people are so into their world that they have no idea of their rudeness. Examples include people who talk loud on their cellphone in public, who put bags on the seat next them on the train or bus, who drive too aggressively without following the rules of the road and who talk loud in their office cubicle.
  4. You see the world through “you-colored” glasses. You only relate to how any local, nation or world event effects you personally. If your town wants to raise money for more public space, you only focus only on what it will cost you rather than how it will benefit the community. You insist that the government help the “little guy” only so that the “little guy” isn’t so impoverished that he has to mug you when you go downtown.
  5. You have an entitlement mentality and expect to reap without sowing. Without getting too political, this is the general mentality of the how-can-the-government-fix-this crowd. If you are somehow inconvenienced, your first thought is how you can sue and win money. This story about a bride who is suing her florist epitomizes this and Elana Glatt (nee Elbogan), David Glatt and Tobi Glatt seem to be feverish selfish little clods.
  6. You don’t fulfill the responsibilities or commitments that you’ve made either consciously or unconsciously. You agreed to take a job to help a company or organization fulfill it’s purpose and it has either stated or implied time and duties and you slack off. You agreed to marry and have children with all the responsibilities implied in both and you don’t live up to them.
  7. You only see extremes in every idea, person or organization. For example you believe either that republicans are totalitarian dictators who will destroy the US with their arrogance or that democrats are wimpy losers who will destroy the US with their impotence.
  8. Your understanding and perspective of life are limited. You think that anything that causes discomfort is bad and therefore you’re entitled to complain, worry and bitch. With a broader perspective you would realize that what you thought was “bad” turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to you.
  9. You think that people who are different from you are the problem with the world. You have established a “bad guy”, either a race, religion, political persuasion, people in power or who are rich. This holds true from the black man who thinks that the white man is holding him down to the groups like Al Qaeda who think that the United States is the cause of all the world’s problems. Osama Bin Laden is the epitome of the feverish selfish little clod.
  10. You give only when you expect to get. Your immediate reaction when you are asked to give for some reason is how it will impact you. You look for either a direct benefit or an implied benefit such as an increased social status everyone knows that you gave and how much.

The antidote to this is to maturity, compassion, tolerance and wisdom. Children are allowed be be somewhat self-centered but we’re meant to grow up and realize that we need to be sensitive to our actions on others. Also we need to remember that all our desires are not meant to be fulfilled. Most of our desires are base and we’re here to rise and shine!

Cheers,
Brendan

What is “Peace”?


Dr. Wayne W. Dyer via Hay House Daily Affirmations
Affirm: I attract only peace into my life. I say this silently to myself as an absolute truth with unbending intent on my part, and it works for me all the time.

Likes 4,702  · Shares 164 · Comments 1,183 · posted 19 hours ago ·

What is peace?

Is it the absence of conflict?

Is it a tension-free state of imperturbable external comfort and ease?

Or is it a state of nearly unflappable inner comfort?

Is it the ability to stay comfortable and centered and balanced in any situation, especially tense situations?

Is it the ability to deal with any difficulty with equanimity, inner evenness of mood and emotion, and not be run off the road by fear or derailed by stress?

What is peace?

Whitman wrote:

“There are those who teach only
the sweet lessons of peace and safety;
But I teach lessons of war and death to those I love,
That they readily meet invasions, when they come.”

 

And Dr. Wayne W. Dyer (via Hay House Daily Affirmations) wrote:

“Affirm: I attract only peace into my life. I remind myself of this affirmation many times on a given day, particularly with my children and other more distant relatives. I also practice this in grocery stores, when greeting flight attendants, when visiting the post office, and while driving my automobile. I say this silently to myself as an absolute truth with unbending intent on my part, and it works for me all the time.”

Not only does Dr. Dyer’s take on “peace” puzzle me, so does what motivated it.

Think about it.

What would motivate Dr. Dyer to need this sort of affirmation—what’s he really telling us?

Dr. Dyer projects, sells, and markets this aura of new agey grandfatherly bliss and radiant peace to a generally fairly affluent crowd. He peddles his wares in Hawaii, London, Vancouver, San Jose, on 10-day Mediterranean Cruises with rooms running from $2,650 to in excess of $10,000.

So I’m trying to understand what would motivate this jet-set guru to be in need of this sort of affirmation out of all possible affirmations.

I could understand a “Lord do not let this go to my head” affirmation, or a “do not let me lose touch with the little people around me” affirmation, or even a good ol’ fashioned “life is suffering affirmation” or “there but for the grace of God go I” affirmation.

But this “attract peace only into my life” affirmation is puzzling. It seems a little, well, indulgent to me, even decadent—

Affirm: I attract only peace into my life. I remind myself of this affirmation many times on a given day, particularly with my children and other more distant relatives. I also practice this in grocery stores, when greeting flight attendants, when visiting the post office, and while driving my automobile. I say this silently to myself as an absolute truth with unbending intent on my part, and it works for me all the time.”

Not I want to sow peace into my life and the lives of those I interact with, but I attract only peace.  The “Law of Attraction” running amuck, making the ego even more self-absorbed.  What’s in it for me? et cetera. . . .

I just don’t see this as something the Dalai Lama would come up with, or the Buddha, or Pema Chodron, or Thomas Merton. I can see these spiritual biggies coming up with something along the lines of “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace” or “Make me an instrument of inner peace.”

But not this.

So is Dr. Dyer secretly on the brink of war with all mankind—or at the very least with his children, distant relatives, flight attendants, and those unfortunates who dare to be in the grocery store or post office when he’s there? Is he about to go postal? Is Dr. Dyer telling us that beneath his carefully manicured exterior there secretly lurks the cold dead heart of a misanthrope? . . .

What’s really going on in Dr. Dyer’s mind that he needs this sort of affirmation to get himself through the day?

I know that when I go to a grocery store or visit the post office, I generally have it together well enough that I am either in a decent (happy) mood or at the very least a neutral mood. I may be in a bit of a hurry and I may not want a to chitchat and mingle much with my fellow humans, but I am not in danger of going off on them—I am not going into a grocery store or post office with a chip on my shoulder, looking to pick a fight or vent my foul mood, waiting (hoping) for someone to tick me off or annoy me so I can let ‘em have it.

So I’m wondering if there is not some sort of rage that lies beneath the surface of Dyer’s carefully constructed smile and that has brought his life to this—to having to remind himself—MANY TIMES, no less, on any given day—to attract only peace into his life—and especially in regards to his children and flight attendants! (Yes, I know what you mean, flight attendants piss me off too! lol)  Is he hot tempered? Cannot he not handle not getting his way or not being the center of attention or having to wait in line like the rest of us common folk? Baaaaaah. Does he secretly just want to punch chirpy flight attendants when he sees them happy and smiling at him? Can he not stand their manufactured cheerfulness because it reminds him unconsciously of his own façade?

I know if I were to pray for peace, I would be praying for inner peace and for more inner capacity to better deal with the very few and far between difficult people in my life.

Or I would be praying for peace for myself as well as those I interact with.

So I have to wonder if perhaps Dr. Dyer might not be tapping into something else?

So many people seem to crave a very facile and escapist version of peace. They crave the simple absence of conflict and stress. They’re not interested in developing the ability to deal with stress and difficulty with grace and without being thrown off balance or knocked out of their center; they’re just seeking the absence of anything external that will stress them too greatly and send them over the edge or into a mommy or daddy meltdown.

And so perhaps Dr. Dyer is capitalizing on this. Perhaps this is a case of A-B-C, baby—Always Be Closing, always be making a sale and pushing product. Get busy selling or get busy dying. If his latest book is selling 2 mill he’s just trying to move 3.

Meaning that maybe Dr. Dyer actually doesn’t say his “peace” affirmation many times daily. Maybe he says it rarely. But—but—he knows that other people need it, that they need to be told 50 or more times a day to take a chill pill, relax, not sweat the small stuff, not seethe under their breath at people in front of them in line or not angrily storm out of a movie theater because someone 20 rows away was chewing popcorn with his mouth open!

And so perhaps Dr. Dyer is a genius. He knows that the vast majority of human beings hate being advised what to do (you know—human ego and all, no one likes anyone who remotely seems to have it all together or to be overbearing, et cetera), but if he (Dr. Dyer) pretends to be subject to the same lack of perspective and occasional idiocy and tantrum as his minions, and that this “peace” affirmation works “every time” for him, then by extension his readers and followers will be more likely to also want to do the same thing as he—this clearly great man—is doing and will want to see if it works its magic for them as well.

He is trying to lead by example—share what works for him—what works for him “many times” a day. The problem is he probably doesn’t even need this stuff. He knows that his readers and followers do. but he has to work around their egos, and so he has chosen to do so by this little “here’s what works every time for me” ruse.

But the bigger problem is that what he seems to be offering is little more than a superficial Band-Aid.

I’m assuming what he’s trying to counter is the tendency for others to explode into rage, be rude, discourteous, vent on others, be impolite, if not downright hostile, mean, et cetera. And so what Dr. Dyer would like to help create is a more kind and gentle world where people interact nicely with each other and play well together. And that is admirable. There’s nothing wrong with that. The Dalai Lama is trying to do the same.

But Dr. Dyer didn’t pray that he be more lovingly-kind to others, or more forbearing, or more compassionate and understanding. He affirmed that he wanted was peace. As in the world revolves around him. If daddy’s not happy, then nobody’s happy. Spread the misery and pain around. Dr. Dyer didn’t pray or affirm that he be peaceful necessarily to others, just that he attract only peace—that wherever he goes, that peaceable interactions only ensue for him. No conflict, no disagreement, no hostility, nobody pissing him off or pushing his buttons, just peace only. That is what Dr. Dyer wants for himself and expects out of us—or at least out of those who dare cross his path everyday or visit the post office on the same day that he does: that others be as peaceful to him as he leads on that he is in general.

But what is peace? What does Dr. Dyer mean by “peace”?

If I were to write an affirmation for all mankind and Facebook that sucker, I don’t know if I would be able to shorthand it down to “peace.” I would certainly want some measure of peace—some measure of inner composure and self-control. Maybe a lot of that. And I wouldn’t want it just for myself, I would wish it for everyone (even though I can only control me).

But I don’t know if I would want a lot of tension-freelessness. I don’t know if I would want a lot of strife-freeness, a lot of comfort and ease.

I think—know—I would want more than that—more that that sort of facile peace.

Yet is this not the very type of peace that most people want and that most people seem to mean when they invoke the word “peace”—the absence of conflict? Smooth sailing?

To my mind, to equate peace with this sort of lack of conflict and with the presence of less external stressors is to wish for death. Not death of the ego, but actual physical death. It’s to wish to live as though one is dead. Life is dynamic, life is tension, life is friction, life is full of challenges and difficulties and immensities. (“Life isn’t pleasure, it’s constant struggle driven on by relentless tension.” – Richard Rose). Life is about learning how to swim and survive amidst churning roiling waters—even amidst the occasional class 5 and 6 rapids. That’s the type of peace I would pray for or affirm—and what I would wish for everyone—the type of peace and confidence and composure and grace and courage and equanimity that comes from having learned how to swim well in choppy swollen seas with 30 to 40-foot waves occasionally crashing all around and over us.

Because true peace will never come from sitting on the beach in life, avoiding the water, avoiding challenges and difficulties.

Such a peace will always be a fragile and tenuous peace. We will always be secretly fearing the next wave, the next hit, the next difficulty. And that fear will wear on us, make us small, make us weak—

What we choose to fight is so tiny!
What fights us is so great!
If only we would let ourselves be dominated
as things do by some immense storm,
we would become strong too, and not need names.

When we win it’s with small things,
and the triumph itself makes us small.
What is extraordinary and eternal
does not want to be bent by us.
I mean the Angel who appeared
to the wrestlers of the Old Testament:
when the wrestler’s sinews
grew long like metal strings,
he felt them under his fingers
like chords of deep music.

Whoever was beaten by this Angel
(who often simply declined the fight)
went away proud and strengthened
and great from that harsh hand,
that kneaded him as if to change his shape.
Winning does not tempt that man.
This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively,
by constantly greater beings.

– Rilke, “The Man Watching”

Yet what so many people seem to want is to immure themselves in a safe small secure life of little victories and little comforts and pleasures. So many people say “peace” and what they are really saying is “avoidance” and “comfort”—they’re pleading for an easier less stressful life.

And they do seek this easier life without ever really considering whether what they need most is not less stress but better ways of dealing with stress and better ways of managing themselves and their emotions and fears and anxieties.

To me, this is what “peace” is shorthand for—the desire to rise to the occasion and become a better and more skillful mariner, it’s not a prayer for smoother and easier seas.

“The wise man in the storm prays to God, not for safety from danger, but deliverance from fear.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men. Do not pray for lighter loads, but for a stronger back. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for powers equal to your tasks. Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle, but you shall be the miracle.” – Phillips Brooks

Don’t wish things were easier; wish you were better. Don’t wish for less problems; wish for more skills. Don’t wish for less challenges; wish for more wisdom. For things to change, you have to change. For things to get better, you have to be better.” – Jim Rohn

Real peace is not the absence of conflict; it is the ability to deal with conflict maturely and squarely and without being knocked out of our center. This is the essence of differentiation.

If we attract only peace (as in the absence of conflict) daily into our lives, soon we will atrophy and soften into a puddle. We don’t gain physical strength or future strengths by attracting only peace or ease or comfort into our lives but by taking on difficulties and by finding a proper balance between pushing and exerting ourselves and resting and recovering.

Attracting peace, in the sense of comfort and ease, sometimes, and as part of a balanced spiritual diet makes sense. But attracting peace nonstop 24/7 in the way that Dr. Dyer seems to be using the word, amounts to spiritual escapism. It’s the psychological and spiritual equivalent of wanting to munch on Twinkies 24/7.

And that does not a skillful sailor or spiritual warrior make.

Dedication to Truth versus Dedication to Comfort and Emotional Reasoning


Again and again, the question is asked of us by life, what is more important to us:

Our own comfort? or truth?

Our own emotional comfort and equilibrium? or truth?

Not being overwhelmed–or feeling overwhelmed–by guilt and shame and mountains of emotional pain we’ve buried and buffered ourselves from? or truth? 

If we are not genuinely dedicated to truth, then our inner life is apt to be a free for all–a veritable minefield of lies, deception, denial, lies about our lying, et cetera.  If truth is not our guiding and organizing principle, then anything goes, anything is permitted and can be rationalized, explained away, spun, blamed, et cetera.  If truth is not our priority, then by default comfort will be–comfort, meaning not being shown anything unpleasant, difficult, unsettling, unnerving, terrifying, about life and ourselves.  We won’t want the light of truth, which is often harsh; instead we’ll plead for the soft light of pseudo-truth, and that will leave the door open for self-deception, lies, falsehood, denial, blame.

Being dedicated to truth means that what’s best in us–our conscience–runs the show, and not our want of comfort, ease, the path of least resistance.

When we are dedicated to truth, our reasoning honest and objective, we are self-examining, self-awarem and willing to self-confront, and thus our reasoning is more likely to be true, and if it is off, then it’s more likely to be corrected, because we ourselves are open to being corrected, to criticism, to learning, to revising.  Why?  Because the truth is more important to us than our own ego or pride or comfort.

But when truth is not our primary concern, but rather comfort is, then our reasoning is apt to not be very reasonable and grounded in truth and reality, but much more likely to be emotional and thus much more prone to being false and much more impervious to correction or reality checks or feedback. . . .

“Welcome to the Land of Emotional Reasoning”

By Dr. Tara J. Palmatier

http://www.shrink4men.com/2011/08/29/welcome-to-the-land-of-emotional-reasoning-id-turn-back-if-i-were-you/

Welcome to the Land of Emotional Reasoning. To the north, you’ll find Never-Never Take Responsibility Land and just to the south you’ll find the Land Where It’s Always Somebody Else’s Fault.

Wikipedia defines emotional reasoning as “a cognitive error that occurs when a person believes that what [s]he is feeling is true regardless of the evidence.” On a personal note, as a Thinking type, emotional reasoning is frequently the bane of my existence or rather one of my “banes.”

Emotional reasoners are prone to confusing their feelings with facts. Feelings are subjective internal states. Oftentimes, feelings arise because of an external event.

For example, a loved one dies and we experience grief and sadness. In this instance, an individual’s feelings and external reality are congruent.

Alternately, sometimes we misinterpret an external event and feelings arise that are incongruent with the precipitating event.

For example, you see a friend across the street and call out to her. She doesn’t acknowledge you and continues walking. As a result, you become angry and hurt because you assume that your friend rudely ignored you. In reality, your friend had her iPod on and didn’t hear you calling to her. * This is where reality testing comes in handy, but we’ll get to that later.

Sometimes feelings arise from an internal event. Many emotional reasoners are prone to manufacturing dramas in their minds without much input from the external world. They live in the permanent present of whatever their immediate feeling state is — regardless of whether or not there’s a basis for it in reality.

The basic assumption is, “If I’m feeling this way, there must be a reason for it.” There may be a reason for the feeling, but it might not have anything to do with reality, but with unresolved fears, hurts and, quite possibly, pathologies.

Emotional reasoning, or rather, social-emotional intelligence isn’t all bad. It can be quite helpful actually. Empathy, compassion, knowing how to read others, picking up on the needs of others and being sensitive to the feelings of others are just as important as critical thinking and reasoning skills.

Research shows that the best managers and strategic reasoners utilize both IQ and social-emotional reasoning.

Critical thinking occurs in the brain. Emotional reasoning takes place in the heart, gut or some other part of our anatomy — this goes for men and women. Emotional reasoners make choices based on what feels “good” or “right.” Critical thinkers make decisions based on facts and what is just or sensible.

Why is understanding emotional reasoning important for the Shrink4Men community?

If you’re married to, dating or divorcing an abusive and possibly unstable ex, odds are she’s an emotional reasoner and emotional reasoners are also often persuasive blamers and persuasive blamers are often at the root of many a high-conflict divorce/high-conflict custody case, false allegations, smear campaigns and a host of other Kafka-esque behaviors, tactics and sometimes criminal offenses.

An abusive emotional reasoner will verbally eviscerate you, call you a shitty father or mother in front of your kids, hit you and then tell you that their behavior was all your fault because you did . . . whatever they feel you did and insist that their behavior wasn’t really hurtful or abusive. They really love you and how could you accuse them of being so mean, selfish, abusive, etc., etc.?

These individuals can weave a web of distortions, half-truths, confabulations (lies told by liars who believe their own lies), blame, shame and guilt around you until you’re lost in a pink haze of their alternate emotionally-based “reality.” You may even start to believe the emotional reasoner’s “logic” even when you know better.

By the way, if you can fall prey to this, so can judges, attorneys, psychologists, court evaluators, friends, colleagues and family members.

Emotional reasoning can be seductive — even for those of us who are predominantly critical thinkers. The emotional reasoner is so persuasive, so convincing. You start to think, “Maybe it wasn’t that bad. Maybe I really did deserve to be called names. Maybe I really deserved to get hit. Maybe I really am a shitty dad . . .”

Stop yourself. Stop yourself right there. This is when emotional reasoning becomes a contagious trap.

Reality test. If your mind is too clouded from the pink haze to do this on your own, call a friend. Call a family member. Call a shrink. Call someone whose judgment you trust and reality test.

Emotional reasoning is usually easier than critical thinking. Critical thinking based on facts, evidence and logic takes effort and work. Emotional reasoning — not so much.

Don’t remember what really happened because your emotions were too out of control? Make something up.

Embarrassed by something you did or said? Deny it ever happened and blame whomever it is that’s making you feel bad about yourself. Like Jason Alexander’s character George Costanza once reasoned on Seinfeld, “Jerry, just remember, it’s not a lie if you believe it.”

Want to get your way at the expense of someone else? You deserve it. You’re entitled. The person standing in your way hates you/is trying to control you/doesn’t understand you/doesn’t care about you/isn’t making you feel heard/isn’t making you feel loved/isn’t making you feel special. Tell everyone what a monster he or she is and maybe even have them arrested. After all, they deserve it. Who are they to tell you no or get in your way?

Hey, if it makes you feeel better who cares about anyone else’s needs or feelings or pesky little minor details like the truth?

It’s not just individuals who are prone to emotional reasoning. Our society is becoming increasingly governed (I don’t mean politically, although, one could make an argument for this) by emotional reasoning.

You see evidence of it in the news everyday. Injustice results when we combine our proclivity for emotional reasoning and the rampant gender bias of “women = victim; man = villain.”

For example, in the Land of Emotional Reasoning and gender bias, “Susie” murders her children in cold blood during a bitter custody battle. Susie then claims her husband abused her and she was afraid he would molest their children. All of a sudden, Susie is magically transformed from heartless, murdering psycho to poor, abused, downtrodden, confused woman who killed her own children as a desperate cry for help.

Heck, more often than not Susie doesn’t even have to claim her husband abused her. We do it for her because if a woman commits a violent crime, there must be a good reason for it and, of course, that reason must be some man.

It’s much easier to believe Susie is a poor, stigmatized, misunderstood woman than face the fact that there are monsters among us and about half of them are women. This is why many of us continue to fall prey to emotional reasoning and make excuses for this kind of horror show, even when we’re otherwise critical thinkers.

Social-emotional intelligence is just as valuable as critical thinking and IQ. For your own well-being and safety and the well-being and safety of your children, it is imperative that you don’t get lost in the emotional reasoning of your unstable and abusive partner or ex (or your partner’s ex). Reality testing is your life preserver, which is one of the reasons abusive types try to isolate you. They want to control your reality.

Please take my advice and don’t let them.

What Does it Mean to Be “Asleep” in Life?


What does it mean to be “asleep” in life?

Simply put, being “asleep” means being blind to ourselves, being blind to who we are, why we are the way we are, and what it’s like to be on the opposite end of an interaction with us.  It means being ignorant of or unconcerned with all of this and why we do what we do. 

Why do we—or some of us, or the vast majority of people—do this?—sleepwalk through life?  Why do we—so many of us—live like this?  Why are so many of us content to live like this?

What’s the payoff? 

A supposedly easier life?  A supposedly less painful and stressful and anxious life?

Aside from the obvious answer that “everyone else” is doing it and living the same way (asleep), maybe it’s because we’re too full of pride to be willing to look at ourselves honestly (especially if our life is not something shiny and lustrous to behold).  Or maybe it’s because we’re too ignorant and unintelligent and so we lack the cognitive capacities to look at ourselves (which is not likely for most people, especially “educated” people).  Or maybe it’s because we’re uncourageous because we suspect that we might be too weak to stomach emotionally looking at ourselves and our mess squarely, and so because we intuitively sense/imagine how stressful and painful doing so will (likely) be, we protect ourselves (self-protect) and refuse to face ourselves in an objective and fair and honest way.   We remain cloudy and asleep rather than clear and awake and piercingly honest.

When we’re asleep in life we’re not self-aware, we’re not self-conscious.  Thus we’re certainly not metacognizing—thinking about our own thinking or examining our own programming and paradigm and looking at our own behaviors.  And it’s highly likely that our conscience isn’t very active either—honesty likely isn’t a big concern, nor is doing our best or being our best or growing toward (in the direction of) becoming our best or constantly learning and improving and maturing as a person throughout life. 

In short, being asleep means leading an unexamined life.  A life where we’re ignorant of our own biases and double standards and hypocrisies and conditioning and underlying psychodramas. 

If the unexamined life truly is not worth living, then every moment spent dishonestly or deceptively with ourselves, or ignorant and unaware of our own real motivations and deeper needs and potentials, is life wasted.  And conversely every moment where we are contemplatively aware of ourselves or where we are correcting our biases, hypocrisies, self-deception and self-deceit is a moment of life worth living.

When we’re asleep, we’re on auto-pilot and living in ego-mode, we’re lost in our projections and transferences and daydreams and biases and double standards, we’re lost and asleep living a me first “looking out for number one” life where others aren’t “real” and where we’re running around constantly empty and unhappy and lost and trying reactively to get our wants and needs (love, validation, safety, security) met and inner-emptiness filled, trying to feel good, living impulsively, and taking the path of least resistant as often as possible, which means as much immediate gratification (damn the future consequences) as possible.

When we’re asleep we’re certainly not engaged in a 24/7 process of constant and never-ending self-surveillancing of ourselves and our own thoughts and behaviors and the underlying reasons for doing what we do and saying what we say.

Blissful  ignorance is the goal when we’re asleep.  Not knowing is the goal.  Not being disturbed or perturbed or awakened is the goal.  Undisturbed and uninterrupted sleep and self-numbing is the goal.  Living for the moment, living for fun, living for the next satisfaction or good feeling or psychological high or thrill is the goal.

But not constant self-surveillance.  Not truth.  Not looking at ourselves, examining ourselves, examining our own thinking, really scrutinizing it, really asking why, really being as honest and courageous and straightforward as possible.  These are not the goal.

Why? 

Probably because they’re painful and disquieting and uncomfortable and not “fun.”  They’re not gratifying.  They don’t relieve or lessen tension—at least not in the short-term!  In fact, if anything, they cause/create more tension, more unease, more anxiety, more depression, more distress, more stress, more confusion.  Truth doesn’t make us feel good.  Seeing ourselves as we are, with no softeners or buffers, doesn’t make us feel good, especially if we’re a bit of a hot mess or if we’ve made a hot mess of our lives.  So why do it?  Why look at honestly at ourselves?  Why force ourselves to take such bitter nasty-tasting medicine?

Most of us are still very simple creatures—seek pleasure, avoid pain; seek comfort and security, avoid danger and duress.  We run on very simple programming: what tastes or feels good must be good for us, what tastes or feels bad must be bad for us.  Many people, many of us, live in many areas of our life on the autopilot of these sorts of basic, unconscious (unaware) assumptions and patterns.

But waking up means waking up from the sleep that such a way of life engenders.  It means waking up from the sleep of avoiding pain and seeking only pleasure, automatically avoiding challenge and difficulty and adversity and seeking comfort and security and familiarity.  It means waking up from the sleep of living and reacting automatically. 

Waking up means asking why.  Waking up means examining ourselves constantly morning noon and night, and starting to spot our discrepencies and inconsistencies and underlying patterns and notice these.  It means learning to ask, in relation to what we do, what we say, what we like, what we prefer, what we avoid, the question “why,” and to do so almost constantly—why am I doing this?—what do I really want from this?—why do I really want this?—what will the long-term effect of doing this or getting this or eating this be for myself? et cetera. . . .

Waking up also means ceasing to be hypocritical—ceasing to ask others to do for us what we’re not willing to do for them, making them do the dirty jobs or go first instead of us.  Waking up means putting an end to our me-first I’m-the-center-of-the-world looking-out-for-number-one narcissistic ways.  It means, instead, putting ourselves on the same level as everyone else—“Love means learning to look at yourself the way one looks at distant things, for you are only one thing among many.  And whoever sees that way heals his heart, without knowing it, from various ills” (Czeslaw Milosz)—i.e. various ills such as narcissism, antisocial tendencies, borderline tendencies, depression, a myriad of anxieties, et cetera.

When we’re asleep we can’t see the wisdom in these words of Emerson—“ Character teaches above our wills. Men imagine that they communicate their virtue or vice only by overt actions, and do not see that virtue or vice emit a breath every moment” (“Self-Reliance”).  When we’re asleep, we (mistakenly) think that what we’re trying to teach—what we intend to teach—is what we actually teach.  But as we awaken, we begin realize—the horror, the horror!—that this is not the case—that instead what we are teaches far more than what we say or what we intend or will or pretend to be but not yet are.  And so as we awaken we get to work on our character—our level of being, our level of differentiation, our conscience, our capacity for virtue, our work ethic, our level of true psychological and spiritual health and courage, our capacity to love and be loved, and the forces of entropy and laziness and fear that keep us stuck and small—because this is the part of us that we carry around with us everywhere and that we cannot escape or avoid or outrun or disown—“For only as we ourselves, as adults, actually move and have our being in the state of love, can we be appropriate models and guides for our children. What we are teaches the child far more than what we say, so we must be what we want our children to become” (Joseph Chilton Pearce).

The clock is ticking.  At every moment, we’re either awake or asleep, and either waking more up or going more to sleep, and so we’re either unconsciously communicating (teaching) wakefulness or sleep to those around us as well as ourselves. 

At every moment we’re either communicating wakefulness or sleep, virtue or pathology. —The opposite of virtue isn’t vice, it’s pathology, sickness.  Vice is a symptom or expression of pathology.  And evil is the most pathological form of pathology.  Truly healthy people are virtuous people.  The vast majority of people (us) because they (we) are asleep, unaware, unconscious are neither healthy or unhealthy but are a mixed bag—a somewhat disorderly random amalgamation of virtue and vice, areas of relative integration and coherence and areas of mental unwellness, compartmentalization, distortions, projection, unreality, bias, hypocrisy, denial, avoidance, cowardice, pathology.  And the less healthy a person is, the less virtuous and the more full of bad habits, vice, dis-intigration, self-deception, avoidance, emotional reactiveness, the person will be.  

So why try and wake up from our slumber?  Why burden ourselves with seeing ourselves (and what neurosis and psychopathology and dysfunction there is in us) as we are?  Why look clearly and honestly at ourselves?  Why force ourselves to take such bitter and nasty-tasting medicine?

Because, in all likelihood, it’s the only way out, it’s the only way to truly grow up and mature as a person and become what was intended.  If we’re not willing to have the difficult conversations with ourselves, if we’re not willing to look honestly and starkly at ourselves and start putting ourselves under 24/7 around the clock surveillance and really start scrutinizing ourselves and putting ourselves and our actions under the microscope, if we’re not willing to start seeing ourselves for what we are and start calling ourselves out on our own bullshite, then we’re just marking time, wasting our lives, and we really don’t want to wake up.  Because, bottom line, waking up means intimacy—being raw and open and heroically real and honest with ourselves—and doing so constantly—and then doing so with others and owning our psychopathology and neuroticism and weak parts and getting to work on overcoming and outgrowing them.  This is the stuff—the day in and day out frontline grunt work—of the “examined life.”  And without doing this, our lives are just a blind decent into the grass, a useless march into oblivion.

(This is a slightly edited and updated version of an essay I posted on another of my blogshttp://fullcatastropheliving.wordpress.com/2011/10/09/what-does-it-mean-to-be-%e2%80%9casleep%e2%80%9d-in-life/)

Reflections on Courage and Truth: Are you mentally healthy or one sick little puppy?


Reflections on Courage and Truth: Are you mentally healthy or one sick little puppy?

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all . . . ”

(Compare the following excerpt with Pascal’s thoughts on “Flattery, Truth, and the Ego.” This is how most of us develop and maintain our sense of self and borrow our emotional pseudo-stability. And it’s really quite sad. Because if we stopped to look at what we’re doing to ourselves and if we really thought about it, is this really what we would want for ourselves? Or for our children?—is this what we would want to raise them to do and how to be?)

“Most people must look at themselves only from a distance—and only through the false and distorted reflection of others—in order to find themselves at all tolerable or attractive to behold. Self-knowledge is strictly off limits for them. Thus people such as these (which is to say the vast majority of us) are very well defended against their own spying and sieges, against their own attempts at self-knowledge. Their self-attempts at self-knowledge are futile—they are rarely able to make out any more of themselves than their outer fortifications. The actual stronghold is inaccessible to them, even invisible—unless—unless friends and enemies turn traitor and lead them there.”

– Nietzsche, from “Human All Too Human” # 49, and “The Gay Science,” # 15

– – – – – – – – – – –

Metal health will drive you crazy, metal health will cure you sane” (or something like that)

(From “The Road Less Traveled,” by M. Scott Peck, pp. 50-63.)

Mental health is an ongoing process of dedication to reality at all costs.

What does a life of total dedication to truth (reality) mean?

First of all, it means a life of continuous and never-ending stringent self-examination.

We know the world only through our relationship to it. Therefore, to know the world, we most not only examine it, but we must simultaneously examine the examiner.

Examination of the world without is never as personally painful and unsettling as examination of the world within, and it is because of the pain involved in a life of genuine self-examination that the vast majority of people steer away from it, distracting and anesthetizing themselves to it through various means (drinking, shopping, television, movies, bar-hopping, superficial relationships and interactions, “having a good time,” dissipating ourselves in thousands of ways).

Yet when one is dedicated to the truth the pain inherent in it seems relatively unimportant—and less and less important (and therefore less and less painful)—the farther one proceeds down the path of self-examination.

Truth or reality is avoided when it is painful. To overcome this pain we must be totally dedicated to truth. That is to say, we must always hold truth, as best as we can determine it, to be more important, more vital to our self-interest, than our own comfort. Conversely, we must always consider our personal discomfort relatively unimportant and, indeed, even welcome it in the service of the search for truth.

Thus a life of total dedication to the truth also means a life of total honesty. It means a continuous and never-ending process of self-monitoring to assure that our words and deeds match and that our communications invariably reflect as accurately as possible the truth or reality as we know it.

Such honesty does not come easily or painlessly. The reason people lie or shade the truth is to avoid the pain of challenge and it consequences.

Insofar as the nature of a challenge is legitimate—and it usually is much more often than not—lying is an attempt to circumvent legitimate suffering and hence is productive of mental illness.

Most people are resistant to challenge. They talk volubly enough about this or that, but they leave out crucial details. They are wasting time in their effort to avoid challenge, and usually they are indulging in a subtle form of lying.

Thus a life of total dedication to the truth also means a life of willingness to be personally challenged.

The only way to revise our understanding of reality is to expose our map to the criticism and challenge of other map-makers. Otherwise we live in a closed-system—within a bell jar, to use Sylvia Plath’s analogy—rebreathing our own fetid air, and more and more subject to delusions.

Yet because of the pain inherent in the process of revising our map of reality, we almost always seek reflexively to avoid or ward off any challenges to its validity.

Leading a life of total dedication to truth and of openness to challenge may seem like a never-ending burden, an extraordinary task, a “real drag.” And indeed it is difficult; it is a never-ending burden of self-discipline and calling ourselves out on our self-deceptive and avoidant tendencies. Which is why most people opt for a life of very limited openness and honesty and relative closedness and self-deceit, hiding themselves and their maps from the world and others.*

It’s easier that way.

Yet the rewards of the difficult life of honesty and dedication to the truth are more than commensurate with the demands. By virtue of the fact that their maps are continually being challenged, open people are continually growing people and strengthening as human beings. Through their courage and openness, they can establish and maintain intimate relationships far more effectively and more deeply than closed people can. And because they are dedicated to being impeccable with their word and not speaking falsely, they know that they have done nothing to contribute to the confusion and darkness in the world. They don’t have to slink around in the shadows, construct new lies to hide and maintain old ones, and waste time and effort covering their tracks and maintaining their disguises (their false selves).

Ultimately open and growing people find that the energy required for the self-discipline of honesty and dedication to truth is far less than the energy required for secretiveness, deception and avoidance. The more honest and transparent one is, the easier it is to continue being honest and transparent, just as the more lies one has told, the more necessary it is to lie again and more frequently.

By their openness, people dedicated to truth live in the open, and through the exercise of their courage to live in the open, they become more and more free from fear.

The healing of the spirit has not been completed until openness to challenge and a fierce dedication to truth become a way of life.

(*Peck is talking about the “emotional cutoff” here. He is talking about the tendency that the vast majority of us have to act out on what’s worst and weakest in ourselves and to emotionally cut off or banish those who do not flatter us and who do not reflect back to us ourselves in a way we wish to be seen. Those around us who see us too accurately, or whose gaze is too perceptive and unsettling, so much so that it makes us uncomfortable, we avoid them, emotionally cut them off and cut them out of our life, banish and excise them. We’d rather live in a hall of mirrors life in a funhouse, being surrounded by those who are so weak and unloving and who care so little about us that they reflect back to us our distorted and malignant sense of self while we provide the same disservice to them. [a mutual admiration and distortion society].).

– – – – – – – – – – – –

Rilke on “Acting Just Once with Beauty & Courage” (from “Letters to a Young Poet”; letter no. eight)

We must accept our reality as vastly as we possibly can; everything, even the unprecedented, must be possible within it.

This is in the end the only kind of courage that is required of us: the courage to face the strangest, most unusual, most inexplicable experiences that can meet us.

If we imagine the being of our person as a larger or smaller room, it is obvious that most people come to know only one corner of their room, one spot near the window, one narrow strip on which they keep walking back and forth. And in this way they have a certain security. Yet how much more human is the dangerous insecurity that drives those prisoners in Poe’s stories to feel out the shapes of their horrible dungeons and not be strangers to the unspeakable terror of their cells? We, however, are not prisoners.

If our world has terrors, they are likely our terrors; if it has abysses, these abysses belong to us; if there are dangers, we must try to love them. If only we would arrange our life in accordance with the principle which tells us that we must always trust in the difficult, then that which now appears to us as most alien will become our most intimate and trusted experience.

How could we forget those ancient myths that stand at the beginning of all races, the myths about dragons that at the last moment are transformed into princesses? Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage.

Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.

And this fear of the inexplicable has not only impoverished the reality of the individual; it has also narrowed the relationship between one human being and another, which has, as it were, been lifted out of the riverbed of infinite possibilities and set down in a fallow place on the bank where nothing new can occur. For it is not inertia and indolence alone that causes human relationships to be repeated from case to case with such unspeakable monotony and boredom; it is timidity before any new and inconceivable experience with which we feel ourselves ill-equipped to cope. But only someone who is ready for everything, who doesn’t exclude any experience, even the most incomprehensible, will live the relationship with another human being as something alive and will himself sound and draw on the depths of his own being.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

“Get busy living or get busy dying,” or “If you’re not growing, you’re dying . . . “

(From “The Way of Transformation,” by Karlfried Graf Durchheim, pp. 107-108.)

[T]he aim of a genuine spiritual practice is not to develop an attitude which allows a person to acquire a state of harmony and peace wherein nothing can ever trouble him. On the contrary, a person’s spiritual practice should teach him to let himself be assaulted, perturbed, moved, insulted, broken and battered—that is to say, it should enable him to dare to let his futile hankering after harmony, surcease from pain, and a comfortable life go in order that he may discover, in doing battle with the forces that oppose him, that which awaits him beyond the world of opposites.

The first necessity is that we should have the courage to face life in all its intensity, and to encounter all that is most perilous in the world.

When this is possible, meditation itself becomes the means by which we accept and welcome the fears and anxieties and demons which arise from the unconscious—a process very different from the practice of concentration on some object as a protection against such forces.

Only if we venture repeatedly through zones of discomfort and annihilation can our contact with what is Divine, and with what is beyond annihilation, become firm and stable. The more we learn wholeheartedly to confront the world and a patterned way of living and reacting that threatens us each with isolation, the more the depths of our own being will be revealed and the more the possibilities of new life and inner transformation will be opened to us.

The Vicious Cycle – Abuse in Childhood, and Limited or Impaired Self Capacities & Affect Regulation Skills and Avoidant Behaviors in Adulthood


This Be The Verse – Philip Larkin

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another’s throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.

The Vicious Cycle – Abuse in Childhood, and Limited or Impaired Self Capacities & Affect Regulation Skills and Avoidant Behaviors in Adulthood

Beyond its obvious initial negative effects, early and severe and frequent child abuse and or neglect interrupts normal child development, conditions negative affect to abuse-related stimuli, and interferes with the usual acquisition of self capacities—perhaps most especially the development of affect regulation skills.

This reduced capacity for affect regulation places the individual at risk for being more easily overwhelmed by emotional distress associated with memories of the abuse/trauma, thereby motivating the use of dissociation and other methods of avoidance in adulthood.

In this way, impaired self capacities lead to reliance on avoidance strategies, which, in turn, further preclude the development of self capacities.

This negative cycle is exacerbated by the concomitant need of the traumatized individual to process conditioned emotional responses and distorted cognitive schema by repetitively re-experiencing cognitive-emotional memories of the original traumatic events that are triggered either by actual memories of the original event or, what is more likely, cognitive-emotional memories elicited by only slightly related current stimuli or situations (conditioned emotional responses caused by distorted or hypersensitive cognitive schema)—a process that further overwhelms the person’s limited self-capacities and produces distress.

If the individual is sufficiently dissociated or otherwise avoidant, the intrusion-desensitization process will not include enough direct exposure to upsetting material to significantly reduce the survivor’s underlying conditioned emotional distress.

As a result, the individual will continue to have flashbacks and other intrusive symptoms indefinitely, and will continue to rely on avoidance responses such as dissociation, tension reduction, or substance abuse to deal with the negative emotions arising from such re-experiencing.

This process may lead the abuse survivor in therapy to present as chronically dissociated, besieged by overwhelming yet unending intrusive symptomatology, and as having “characterologic” difficulties associated with identity, relational, and affect regulation difficulties.

Many adult survivors of severe childhood abuse expend considerable energy addressing trauma-related distress and insufficient self capacities with avoidance mechanisms.

In other words, the survivor whose re-experienced conditioned emotional responses (CERs) to traumatic memories generally exceeds his or her internal affect regulation capacities is forced to continually invoke dissociation, impulsivity, substance abuse, thought suppression, flight, explosive anger, and other avoidance responses to maintain internal equilibrium.

These avoidance strategies are used at several levels: (a) to reduce awareness of (and therefore susceptibility and sensitivity to) potential environmental triggers, (b) to lessen awareness of memories once they are triggered, and (c) to reduce cognitive and emotional activation once CERs to these memories are evoked.

In the absence of such protective mechanisms, the individual is likely to become overwhelmed by anxiety and stress other negative affects on a regular basis—especially when exposed to triggers of traumatic memory in the environment.

As a result, avoidance defenses are viewed as necessary survival responses by many survivors,

Overshooting occurs when interventions or interaction or even therapy provide too much exposure intensity or focus on material or information that requires additional work before it can be safely addressed (i.e. family history diagram).

Interventions that are too fast-paced may overshoot the therapeutic or healing window because they do not allow the client to adequately accommodate and otherwise process previously activated material before adding new stressful stimuli.

When therapy consistently overshoots the window, the survivor must engage in ineffective and counterproductive avoidance maneuvers (i.e. projection, dissociation, suppression, lashing out, splitting, numbing, impulsivity, relocation) in order to keep from being overwhelmed by the therapy process.

Most often, the client will increase his or her level of dissociation during and after the session or will interrupt the focus or pace of therapy through arguments, “not getting” obvious therapeutic points, changing the subject to something less threatening, or missing or being late to appointments.

Although these behaviors may be seen as “resistance” by the therapist, they are often appropriate protective responses to, among other things, therapist process errors given the abused individual’s limited self capacities (especially limited affect regulation skills) and distorted cognitive schema.

Unfortunately, the client’s need for such avoidance strategies can easily impede therapy by decreasing her or his exposure to effective treatment components.

In the worst situation, therapeutic interventions that consistently exceed the window can harm the survivor. This occurs when the process errors are too numerous and severe to be balanced or neutralized by client avoidance, or when the client is so impaired in the self domain or intimidated by the therapist that he or she cannot adequately utilize self-protective defenses.

In such instances, the survivor may become flooded with intrusive stimuli, may “fragment” to the point that his or her thinking is disorganized and incoherent, or may become sufficiently overwhelmed that more extreme dissociative behaviors emerge.

Further, in an attempt to restore a self-trauma equilibrium, she or he may have to engage in avoidance activities such as self-mutilation or substance abuse after an over-stimulating session.

If one considers posttraumatic stress to consist, in part, of intrusive feelings, thoughts, and memories that are triggered by some sort of reminiscent stimulus, often followed by attempts by the affected individual to avoid such triggers or their emotional effects, then a close cousin of PTSD may be borderline personality disorder. In addition to problems with identity and self-other boundaries, those diagnosed as borderline are often characterized as prone to sudden emotional outbursts, self-defeating cognitions, feelings of emptiness and intense dysphoria, and impulsive, tension-reducing behavior that are triggered by perceptions of having been abandoned, rejected, or maltreated by another person (American Psychiatric Association, 1994). The “borderline” person is often viewed as having problems in impulse control, such that he or she is seen as emotionally over-reactive or hypersensitive to perceived losses or maltreatment, responding with angry affect and sudden, dramatic, and ill-considered behavior.

As with PTSD, many severely abused people have a number of “borderline traits” (some fail to meet all the diagnostic criteria for the disorder, meeting less than 5 of the 9 diagnostic criteria, while others, however, do meet more than 5 of the diagnostic criteria).

And, as per PTSD, the self-trauma model holds that a fair portion of what is considered borderline behavior and symptomatology can be seen, instead, as triggered implicit memories, schemas, and feelings associated with early (in this instance relational) traumas (e.g., abuse, abandonment, rejection, or lack of parental responsiveness/attunement) that the individual, in turn, tries to avoid via “dysfunctional” activities such as substance abuse, inappropriate proximity-seeking, or involvement in distracting, tension-reducing behaviors (e.g., dramatic actions, sexual behaviors, impulsive spending, lying, aggression).

In this way, the “impulsive,” “acting-out” behavior of “borderline” individuals parallels the experience of the PTSD individual, except that in “borderline” individuals the triggers for re-experiencing are usually within some sort of relationship, the activated memories are often implicit, preverbal, and imbedded in attachment disturbance, and the reactions to the activated memories are often more relational and seemingly more primitive since they involve the reliving of unprocessed childhood-era events (see Jacobs & Nadel, 1985, re the “infantile” effects of some activated early childhood memories).

A comparative example. A Vietnam veteran with PTSD might have intrusive sensory re-experiences of a combat scenario after being triggered by the sound of an automobile backfire, and, upon experiencing the Vietnam-era fear associated with the combat memory, engage in attempts to find safety.

An individual with borderline personality disorder, after being triggered by a perceived slight in an intimate relationship, on the other hand, might experience sudden, intrusive thoughts and feelings of abandonment and betrayal associated with childhood maltreatment, and re-experience abuse-era desperation and anger associated with that memory. The individual might then engage in dramatic negative tension-reducing or proximity-seeking or distancing behavior in the context of that relationship.

Both are having posttraumatic reactions that involve reliving a previously traumatic event, although the relational components of the latter are often seen, instead, as evidence of a personality disorder.

Thus, beyond its initial negative effects, early and severe child maltreatment interrupts normal child development, conditions negative affect to abuse-related stimuli, and interferes with the usual acquisition of self capacities—perhaps most especially the development of affect regulation skills.

This reduced affect regulation places the individual at risk for being more easily overwhelmed by the normal stresses inherent in daily life and intimate relationships as well as the emotional distress associated with memories of the abuse/trauma, thereby motivating and activating the automatic (unconscious and reactive) use of dissociation and other methods of avoidance in adulthood.

In this way, impaired and limited self capacities lead to reliance (dependence) on avoidance strategies, which, in turn, further preclude the development of self capacities.

This negative cycle is exacerbated by the concomitant need of the traumatized individual to process conditioned emotional responses and distorted cognitions as well as having to repetitively re-experiencing cognitive-emotional memories of the original traumatic event—all of which represent occasions/situations that can further overwhelm the individual’s impaired/limited self-capacities and produce even more stress and distress.

(Abridged and adapted from “Treating adult survivors of severe childhood abuse and neglect: Further development of an integrative model,” by John Briere, Ph.D. http://www.johnbriere.com/STM.pdf)