Because I am more prone to incessant worry about future events than I am to anticipating good outcomes, or pleasant surprises, I continue to struggle with my pessimism bias. That is I tend to exaggerate the likelihood that negative things will happen in the future.
This morning, walking back from the gym, I had a thought drop in from the sky. A simple little question just popped into my head. The question I pondered. . .
I wonder, how good can it get?
or better said by Alan Cohen . . .
Here, a cheat sheet to the many cognitive biases that keep us stuck.
Featured image “Open mind” ceramic series by Johnson Tsang
I had so much, but felt so little. I think it was a deeper desire for more meaning and joy, for I had become numb, deadened and desensitized to my life. I wasn’t depressed, I was discontent. It wasn’t that my life was bad. I would have some nerve complaining about anything, considering those with real misfortunes. My life was just too predictable in an annoying way and I had way too many people leaning on me for support. To top it all, I was reliving the same problems over and over and over again, applying solutions that didn’t work.
I felt tired, disillusioned and quite unfulfilled. Everything was on replay. The things I collected, now collected dust and took up too much space – books, clothing, furniture – the clutter of “cherished” memories – did nothing but confuse me.
At the very same time, my parents, in their 70’s, living in a pretty remote part of Florida, were in need of some help. Their health was degrading. Actually, their lives were falling apart. The house in need of growing repair. It was May when I got the call. Mom developed stage four lung cancer and dad, tormented by anxiety and fear, slipped deeper and deeper into dementia. He was frustrated, angry and confused as well. They didn’t want anyone’s help, they didn’t want to see that they could no longer take care of themselves.
Every single day brought on a mini disaster as they continued to try to do the things they use to be able to do. Fires in the oven, crucial medication missed, terrible falls in the middle of the night and countless visits to the emergency room. I dreaded every flight I took to see them.
I witnessed first hand what people do when they hold on too tight, when they cling to the past, when they shut down, when they isolate themselves. They were terrified to the point of paranoia. They became delusional and just couldn’t and wouldn’t accept the inevitable – that everything eventually breaks down, fades away. Everything in life is impermanent. We die a little each moment, with each breath we exhale. This is a part of the process of life. It is also why we must hold life preciously in our hearts, while we have the time we do.
Time does not stand still for anyone and while I was extremely sad, I am grateful that I was able to comprehend the lesson and the wisdom in my parent’s painful decline. Clinging to what once was and wishing things were different does us no good and only has us suffocating and suffering more.
It was with this that I made the non-negotiable decision with myself, that I wanted more joyful moments in my life while my vision is not blurred with cataracts, my hands can still lift a pot to cook and my legs can carry me for long walks along the shore
We must be grateful for every second we have now and every gift of a moment we have from this second forward. We must learn, adapt and find new ways to stay relevant and useful. Purposeful while doing the best with what we have.
At the same time that I was keeping my head above the water with my parents in crisis and my freelance work, my husband, my darling, told me that he never took the lithium he very so needed to keep his bipolar illness at bay.
In and out of hospitals for much of our marriage, it was one roller coaster ride after the next.
The meds seemed to help keep him balanced, or so I thought. It was the last draw and he lied to me and that hurt very much. He began self-medicating with drugs and then alcohol and then God knows what. Anything to soothe his mania I guess. He was trying to help alleviate the heightened anxiety. All of this crazy behavior around me was pushing me further and further into disassociating from all of my emotions.
I did not want to accept the reality of all of this pain. He too, may have been on a path – while I was choosing to discard of anything that no longer served me well. He may have been seeking the same, using different tools, a different approach. Somewhere along the way there was a huge disconnect. That’s the trouble with chemical imbalances and mental illness, you never know what’s real or what’s just a troubled mind gone off on a really wild tangent.
So, the only question to answer: What do I do now?
Forgiveness first, self-care second. I’ve been exploring the wisdom of Buddhism, the secrets of the Kabbalah and enjoying the calm and mind-clearing benefits of meditation and yoga. I am doing more of what I enjoy doing. Swimming in the ocean, bicycling, Soul Cycle, exploring new places, reading, long walks, dancing and time with my daughters and friends.
So far, I have come to understand and respect, that by becoming more curious about myself and how I think and in turn expanding my awareness by building my propensity to be mindful, to forgive and to give with loving kindness. I feel healthier and more energized. By asking What am I to do now? What is the right thing to do next? I am guided by my heart and values that I hold dear.
With the current state of world affairs, I have been questioning just how sane we really are. Frankly, I am frightened of what’s to come and the media loves it that way.
My biggest concern is to have a strong enough mind that I don’t become brainwashed by all the bad news. I have always wondered how people followed someone like Hitler, let alone Trump. This truly concerns me. Reading books about the holocaust like Man’s Search for Meaning Viktor Frankl and watching movies like Schindler’s List and Life is Beautiful, I still ask myself, how do these atrocities happen? I have become so concerned that if the world completely fell apart, I want to make sure that I have a strong enough mind and spiritual base that I do not follow the herd.
This herd mentality is something I know I desperately need to avoid. I need to seek a more meaningful understanding of life, so that I can strengthen my mind and continue to think clearly. So that I can better understand the truth and the purpose of living and giving with intense gratitude each day. I know that clinging to fear of falling prey to stronger (albeit: unhealthy) minds. My mind should never be controlled by outside forces, including fear.
We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as impossible situations.
Rule #1 Stop doing things that don’t produce results.
My smiling days. It felt like my energy was pure & protected from the pains of the world.
I want to get that great big beautiful smile back. I want to FEEL the way I did when I didn’t know much.
How to Re-energize My Life & Produce Some Damn Good Vibes
Could it be that our modern life is not good for our mental health?
There is an alarming global epidemic of anxiety and depression on the rise. According to the World Health Organization, close to 800,000 people are committing suicide every year (incredibly, this is one person every 40 seconds) and many more are attempting suicide. Sure, life can be pretty damn difficult, but suicide? Wow. I hope you agree that this is some kind of world-wide cry for help, something must be done and this is an incredibly frightening sign that there is a real need for an awakening, a shift in our cosmic consciousness.
Mysterium tremendum et fascinans
Venezuelan/American, filmmaker Jason Silva, described by The Atlantic as a Timothy Leary of the viral video age begs the question, in an age of tremendous technological innovation and scientific advancements and with so many people moving away from traditional religious affiliations, how do we connect ourselves to a bigger meaning? How do we commune with something more real than the doldrums of every day reality? Something grand and awe-inspiring that fills our soul.
You see, as a child, I thought it was “church”, a place to at least attempt a holy communion with something bigger than myself. Now, as I am older, it is nature, meditation, dance and cherished moments with people I love. For some it is grandmother’s medicine, magic mushrooms and perhaps a heroic dose of LSD.
Perhaps all of those poor souls fed up with their human condition, need more numinous moments in their lives. Maybe they need more shots of awe.
To Render a Holy Moment with Me
I, personally, haven’t had that many moments of psilocybin-induced cosmic communion – glimpses of ecstatic illumination – but I do find myself feeling more & more connected after meditation and doing things like yoga. Jason Silva on the other hand takes the question one step further as ask just how might we turn our passing illuminations into abiding light, rendering ourselves holy. Whoa.
In his video “Beyond Anxiety & Depression” Jason believes that perhaps we, as a society, need a replacement to what religion once provided us. We need a cognitive reframing or possibly a psychic transformation. Oh to commune with the cosmos in order to impregnate our lives with meaning & signification.
To serve and savor the world.
I am fascinated with the idea of finding ways in which we can achieve those moments of awe-inspiring, mind-blowing moments of altered conscious states without drugs. A healthier way to reach new heights of clarity. Call them Eureka moments, a-ha moments, epiphanies, whatever — where everything seems to come together. When inspiration strikes and changes everything. The belief-
“If you can look at reality differently — shed your preconceptions and filters — you can change your life, you can invent something, you can make new observations, you can do things you were afraid or unable to do before. You have better access to the full spectrum of what exists.” Read more about Holotropic Breathwork here.
A More Painful Catalyst of Awakening
There are plenty of ways to wake up from the dreadful daze of an unfulfilled reality. Heartbreak can really shake you into a new more painful state of consciousness. On my quest to mend my broken heart, I’ve been reading a lot about love. All the different types of love and more specifically unconditional love.
Unconditional Love: How to Give It and How to Know When It’s Real
I may read back on this years from now and find I have a different point of view, but for the time being, I think this whole idea of unconditional love is nearly impossible for mortal beings. Even the grandest of caring mothers.
The truth is you can only love people as much as they are willing to be loved.
I really dig the way Teal Swan explains why unconditional love is so damn difficult. Her challenge, to try to give love for a day to something, anyone, a child, a pet, a plant for just one day is incredibly hard. A worthwhile listen right here . . .
I am re-reading When Things Fall Apart from Pema Chodron’s because I want to make sure it all sinks in deep. I need this wisdom.
The wonderful illustrations in this post from the talented Chiara B.
Have you ever thought back on some of the most important decisions you’ve made in your life and wondered “What was I thinking?” I certainly have. When we are reflecting on how we got here, perhaps we should be asking “What was I feeling?” What state-of-mind were we in, that led to the some of the poor decisions made?
You see, when we make decisions based on emotions from fear and anxiety, we create a recipe for disaster. Deciding to do something because you are afraid of doing something else or fear you will have no other choices or options at all, will get you absolutely nowhere.
Better decisions are made when you arrive at conclusions with a sense of strength and courage. The outcomes of those decisions will help you grow and evolve with increased clarity and self-improvement. The more thoughtful your decisions, the more quality you will have in your life. I promise.
You begin by becoming more emotionally intelligent – while understanding the role that your emotions play in everything you decide to do. Allowing any and all of your emotions to channel the way you move forward is not the best course of action. You don’t just listen to your gut. That is not enough. You must first think, feel, consider all options and then make a plan. A plan to deliberately move in the right direction.
When we make decisions, like where to work, who to marry, who to befriend based on deep-seated emotions of fear, insecurity, and anxiety, we never make the best choices.
And please don’t doubt this one bit. The more well-thought out decisions you make today WILL lead to an improved life tomorrow.
Bike riding around Greenpoint, Brooklyn yesterday, this quote, in the window of Word, the bookstore, really resonated with me.
Oh and these emotions and feelings we speak of, they are so complicated, aren’t they?
So how do we begin to understand our emotional triggers, the things that we feel that scare us, make us feel useless or violated, maybe even shameful and guilty?
Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is the ability to identify, use, understand, and manage emotions in an effective and positive way. A high EQ helps individuals to communicate better, reduce their anxiety and stress, defuse conflicts, improve relationships, empathize with others, and effectively overcome life’s challenges.
Our emotional intelligence affects the quality of our lives because it influences our behavior and relationships. EQ is synonymous with self-awareness because it enables us to live our lives with intention, purpose, and autonomy.
Why Running Away From Your Feelings Will Keep You Stuck in the Same Place
Running away from intense emotions of pain, anger, and resentment is what we do sometimes. We numb these feelings with a smoke of this and a sip of that. It’s such an easy way out, but only temporarily. Why do we stuff our sorrow and run from our feelings? I truly believe not many of us want to feel our suffering, but suffer on we must.
If we would just consider that inside each moment of suffering is a superb amount of life teaching. A whole world of emotional education to help us grow. It begins with learning the process and ability to express, dismantle and adjust as you strengthen your locus of control.
What you need to do is understand that what is actually happening is your world right now and how you feel about it are two DIFFERENT THINGS COMPLETELY.
You must urge yourself to develop the ability to differentiate your feelings from what is actually happening in any given situation.
Life is what it is, not what you think, feel or believe it is. That is just you painting the dark cloud of your emotions on top of the situation and changing it into your story. Your emotions are just a response to what is happening at any given moment, they are not what is actually happening. Whatever you are feeling about anything, whether it be good, bad, sad or pleased has absolutely nothing to do with what is going on at that moment or what the outcome will be.
It is up to you to understand what issues you have inside that are trigging your troubled (or pleasant) emotions.
This applies to everything. For example, your spouse may be drinking too much, getting sloppy and lashing out at you. That is what is happening. How you feel about this situation may be sad, angry, frustrated and deeply concerned, which in turn will have you creating a story in your mind. A story of victimization and loss. Those feelings may or may not drive you to do something, but they are not healthy for you. When you remove your emotional responses, you will realize you have options. You have an option to remove yourself from the pain your spouse is causing you.
A Better Way to Navigate Your Emotions
Sometimes it is a good idea to overcome your frightened emotions by meeting them head on in order to improve. This would include things like forcing yourself to speak in front of a group in order to get over the fear of public speaking. Yes, the obstacle can become the opportunity, but on a day-to-day basis, it is wise to do the following as you learn more about how you can manage your emotions.
Know What Triggers Your Emotions
Place yourself in favorable situations and avoid those that trigger heightened responses.
In other words, stay away from people that get your angry, places that make you feel uncomfortable and situations that somehow have the power to upset you. Become more aware of what makes you “fly off the handle”.
Make Things Easier for Yourself
Especially when you are learning something new in the beginning. For instance, if you are trying to learn how to draw, sing, act or run your own business. Look for ways to simplify the process. Make it easy to start.
Implement with Strong Intention & Attention
The key to any transformation (read: change) in your life, is to focus on your intention and attention on what you are trying to achieve. Keep your eye on the goal and don’t let your competitive nature get in the way. This will help manage things like jealousy and resentment as well as perceived obstacles in your way.
Inspired by 10 Things Emotionally Intelligent People Don’t Do 101 Essays That Will Change The Way You Think by @BriannaWiest