Thursday, December 8, 2016

The pain of psychological problems

Illnesses are never easy regardless physical or mental - let's set that straight.

What people don't know is that psychological problems could be as bad or even worse than physical ones. It's hard for people to understand psychological problems because we often only understand as real what we are able to perceive.

With physical illnesses, we can see the virus, the disease, the pain, the wound, the threat. We empathize because what we perceive is equivalent to what they perceive. We understand and are therefore more inclined to lend compassion and sympathy for those with physical illnesses. We tend not to blame them because we see it as the virus' fault, the wound that is hurting or the genetics they were given.

When it comes to psychological issues, we tend to approach it very differently. We don't offer sympathy because we don't see any physical threat. It is more often approached with hostility instead of compassion. Instead of empathizing with them, we hold them responsible for whatever they're in. We think it is purely self-created since this time we see it as the mind's fault. Because everything is physically fine in their lives, we have stripped them of the right to have problems.

What people fail to understand is that beyond existential reality, it is perception that shapes our reality. Regardless of what is or what is not, in the eyes and minds of those suffering psychologically, the threats and suffering are as real as they are immense.

It is worse because they are not seen as sick, they are seen as weak. They have to walk around in their everyday lives as if everything is fine. They could be talking, smiling, and have everything going for them in the physical realm, yet behind that skull, their world is crashing and burning. And no one will ever know, because no one will understand. This is what makes psychological problems a silent but deadly killer. This is what makes it so scary.
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Friday, November 25, 2016

Should You Do Well In School?

I've always had a great deal of resentment for school. Now I say this fully aware that everyone (or almost) does not like school. So when I say I've had a great deal of resentment, I'm mean I really did, even comparatively.

My resentment was never with waking up early or doing homework. Sure, I don't like them and they probably added to my resentment. My resentment was however with the pressures and moralization of doing well. I looked (and still look) at everyone around me working so hard towards getting good grades and all I saw (and see even more so now) is an abundance of neurosis. It didn't help that everyone looked at me not as this boy who has his own opinion on life but instead as a lazy immature child. Put it simply, I saw others as neurotic while they saw me as lazy. The difference is I never imposed my will on others but the world was very enthusiastic about imposing theirs on me. Of course now I recognize all of the good intentions but as a child who was greatly misunderstood to be lazy while actually thinking everyone else is doing something very wrong, I couldn't help but feel an intense frustration with the entire system.

PSLE grades were recently released and I'm in the midst of (enjoying) my finals, making these observations ever so glaring. Seeing how this society is founded on academics, more specifically grades, I can't help but feel something is very wrong. Perhaps my greatest frustration is not over the importance grades have in society but instead society's moralizing and imposing of its importance.

By imposing the need for good grades and moralizing hard work, we have taught children to work hard not because they are going after something they want but because it is the "right" thing to do and bad things will happen if they don't. We have taught kids how to ignore their own human nature emotions and desires, and instead do things they would rather not. We have taught kids to move from a place of fear and not a place of strength. We have taught kids how to be neurotic. We have taught kids how to be unhappy.

Have you ever thought about it? We all know we get unhappier as we get older and we always accept it as a fact of growing up and "maturing". Yet if we were born as happy beings and it is clearly our natural state as illustrated by children, something must have caused this change, isn't it? We don't just become unhappy because we have existed longer on this Earth. Things happen to us. Things like the moralizing and imposing of hard work and good grades. The continuous teachings and pedestalizing of success and hard work. We have taught the next generation how to join us in chronic unhappiness.

Perhaps the learning should be inverted. We ought to learn from children. They know the secrets to being happy without the need for stimulus from the environment.

Today I look around and getting a B grade have most students of all levels feeling a lack of success, a level of unhappiness and sometimes even a failure. I see these students and I ask myself "Why are they so unhappy? They just scored a B!(which equates to 60-70% in most cases) they are 70% well versed in the subject, isn't that beautiful?!" Now certainly there are bell curves in certain cases so a B could mean anything but it usually indicates a decent level of proficiency in the subject. Why aren't students happy about it? Worse still, why are they unhappy about it? The answer is society. Society has taught us that this is a competition and you better not lose. Society has taught us to compare and base our worth on those around us. Certainly it is a competition, if you decide to compete. It's never about how you do but how the rest of society is doing that will eventually determine your future isn't it? This mentality is self-fulfilling. It is because you think this way that it becomes true. Sure, if you don't do well now, you may never get into the next level of education. But why did you want to get there in the first place? To do the same thing so you can again move to the next until eventually get a well paying job. Oh you think it ends there? No, you will apply the same mentality to climb the ranks. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy because it is true you cut off your options but you only feel you needed it in the first place because of this mentality. And in this regard, it is a competition, because you got your goals all wrong. Your goals are all wrong because of the moralizing and imposing of hard work and good grades.

So should you do well in school? Should children do well in school? The answer is simple: whatever makes them happy. Perhaps the only education they need is awareness, not moralizing. That is to be aware of the benefits working hard can bring, presented in an unbiased manner and at the same time, the negative impacts hard work can bring, again in an unbiased manner. Instead of the moralizing our society takes part in - pressuring students who are fairing not as well to study harder, referring to them as weaker students, criticizing "lazy" students, punishing those who do not do their assignments and of course just straight out preaching. These are all examples of the moralizing society and the educational system has done.

At the end of the day, we must ask ourselves what do we really want? Why do we do what we do and why do we want what we want? It is there that you proceed from.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Are we running towards something or away from something?

I believe human nature, no matter how neurotic one becomes, remains unchanged. Everything comes down to basic math. Whatever it is we do now, we believe that the opposite is worse. That is to say, we will only put ourselves through something if we believe we will be worse off if we do not do so.

If we put ourselves through happy, joyful and blissful activities that make us happy, it is because we believe that if we didn't do it, we won't be as happy - very logical. So too is the same when we choose to put ourselves through discomfort. We believe that if we did not suffer this discomfort, we will have to suffer an even greater discomfort.

This is where the concept of delayed gratification becomes exploited in everyone's life. Masked as something good instead of bad, it is rationalized as suffering today for a better tomorrow - the social mark for a mature individual. Yet what it really is, is the running away from a perceived worse-off tomorrow instead of a perceived better tomorrow.

I use the word perceive because we act based off what we think and not what is. Sometimes, these two are in line but sometimes, they're not. Because they are not in this case, people become neurotic. They are running, some even sprinting, away from something they perceive to be but does not exist. It's like trying to run away from ghosts. It doesn't exist but you constantly think its only an inch behind you so not only will you have to keep running, you better accelerate. Yet in reality, there is nothing behind you. (I'm working with the assumption ghost don't exist....)

This fear of a worse-off tomorrow if we don't work hard today, it is of no basis. Its legitimacy lies in a few key areas: everyone is doing it, you learnt it from young, you learnt it from people you trust or respect(parents, teachers, etc) but they are also neurotic, it is reinforced by authoritative/powerful figures (governments, capitalist, etc) because it serves their purpose. (ok really been learning too much sociology)

Yet, it is of no basis. Really. Now all the arguments otherwise can be convincing. In fact, this race that everyone is running have led to so many individuals accumulating a wealth of knowledge in language, debating and what not that many could easily whoop my ass in a debate.

So instead of debating with me, try this: today, you act as if this fear did not exist. So you will continue to behave in way that you believe if you did not do so, you will be worse off. Except now that might mean doing things you like or just doing nothing. I guarantee you enjoyed today better than your last few days. The only possible reason you did not is the neurotic mind of yours is eating up at you with anxiety, thinking you will be worse-off for not suffering now so you cannot actually enjoy you day. But lets pretend that's not a problem. Now you do this everyday and you stop only when you realize that your fear-of-no-basis comes true. That is to say you finally are really worse-off right now than if you were neurotically sprinting away from ghosts everyday. If you think about it, that day never really comes.

Now don't get me twisted. I am not a radical. I am simply seeing things for what they are. I'm not anti hard work or anti work. I'm not saying your life will be so amazing just by doing this. This is just simple logic. And if we follow the logic, all I am saying is much of our fear is imaginary - it has no basis. Now, certainly some fears are legitimate. The fear that if you don't do anything you will die, yes that's true. You need to eat and drink water and to do that a certain level of work is required. Then again, why fear death? But let's not go too far shall we.

Perhaps all I am suggesting is before we blindly run, we be conscious of why is it we are running. That maybe it'll serve us better if we walked and enjoy the view, take a nap if we're tired. Running from ghosts can be quite exhausting.


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The bearded experience

Growing a beard has a lot more to it than it seems. It is a journey and an experience. You'll get to see how people you know react to you differently (or who are the ones able to pretend there's nothing different at all) in both negative and positive lights. You'll also get to see how meeting new people is different than when you didn't have a beard.

So most east Asian can't really grow beards; Chinese especially. I can say I can just barely grow a goatee(that sadly does not connect). Maybe it'll change with time but that's me now. I've grown out my beard for 4 months and the journey is more than I've bargained for.

One of the most common questions I get is why I decided to grow it out. As with so many questions in life the answer is never that simple. The biggest reason that got me to do it was watching some video on YouTube (I don't remember what vid) and someone said "if you can grow a beard, you owe it to yourself to grow it out at least once in your life time". The really resonated in me and I thought why not now.

I didn't just grow it out because someone on some video said I should though. That was more of a push. In many ways it felt like something I had to do for myself. In a form of self discovery and soul searching kind of aspect, I just had to grow out my beard and see another side of me.

It also was a symbol of patience and persistence for me that I wanted to experience. I'll tell you first hand that the resistance a 21 year old Chinese Singaporean will face when growing a beard will be strong. Also, it takes time for a beard to grow out and in that time will be what many call "awkward phases" where your beard just looks awkward hence the name. And there will be many days you doubt your beard will ever not look awkward and that's when most guys end up shaving. So it definitely takes patience and persistence.
The current beard 

Here are some other interesting experiences/observations when growing out a beard:

Socializing - Does a beard aid or hurt me in socializing? From what I have experience it just makes things more extreme. That is to say, when faced with people I've never met before, the ones prone to socializing will find it even easier to socialize with me because the beard is a great topic. While those who are as it is not a big fan of socializing, perhaps the beard comes off as a further deterrent of socializing.

Maintenance - As far as maintenance goes, it really depends on individuals. You can buy the most premium beard oil and beard balm and beard wax and beard trimmer and beard combs and mustache wax etc or you can do nothing. Personally I'm closer to the nothing scale. In fact I wanted to not touch the beard at all but I end up doing so with minimal trimming after about 2 months just to clean it up. I apply oils every once in awhile. Combing is on the daily.

Eating - So it has been said that napkins are a beardsmen best friend and it is true. My beard isn't even that long but it has made me more conscious of it as I eat. Depending on what I'm eating sometimes I wipe my mouth after every bite I take.

Stroking - Yes one of the best things about having a beard is being able to stroke it. Either for fun or maybe I just wanna look wise af when I'm in class. Either way stroking one's beard is just awesome.

Comments - All day everyday I get all kinds of comments and questions.

Looks - So I kinda always looked older than I am as it were in the past. Before growing my beard, the common guess was 24-26 years old. After growing my beard it is 28-30s (damnnnnnn). I even had an elective class where seniors thought I was not only older than them but a graduate student going for my masters or phd. Yeah, that old.

Self-love/ A test of confidence - Perhaps one of the very positive experience is learning to love yourself and being confident in whatever you have. Every beard is going to be different and it is common for guys to set goals when growing out a beard. However most beards never turn out the way we want/expect them to and for some, not even nice at all. But learning to love whatever you got going and not giving in to that little voice in your head and shaving it the very second you feel its not as good as you want it to be is a form of growing stronger.

So how long will does beard stay? Only time will tell!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Reality Distortion: Self Agenda

I did bring up reality distortion and perception in previous posts. This is another look at it from another angle(non-conflicting angles).

Reality is distorted in so many ways and this false perception we create for ourselves is the root of most or if not all problems we seem to have. Today let's just talk about how it is distorted through self-agenda.

We have 2 kinds of self-agenda: The kind you're conscious of like when you decide to take part in an event to expand your social network and the kind you're not conscious of. This is the tricky one because we are so blind to it, we fail to see that we are the cause of things we wouldn't want in our lives. This is what we are focusing on here.

Let me demonstrate how self-agenda distorts reality. Imagine you are holding up an apple you just bought from the supermarket in your hand and looking at it. What most people see is a distortion of reality. People would see more than just an apple, they see food. They see more than just food, they see big/small apple. They see vitamins and health benefits. They may even see "good" or "bad" apple.

Keep in mind there are many factors that distorts reality and that we are looking only at self-agenda. Our self-agenda has distorted reality because the reality is what lays in our hand is just an apple. It is the bearing of a tree that is round and red in colour. Its purpose was not to serve us as food or to give us any vitamins. It's just an apple but our hunger and desire for sustenance has let us to rubricize objects into many different categories based on our own self agenda which distorts reality. We start to see an apple for what it means to us rather than what it really is.

This may seem harmless on an apple but when we translate this to our lives, it makes a difference. Take for example when someone says something that disagrees with/disproves something you believe in. The only reality that is available to us is what he has said. In fact to be more precise, it's the sound and noises his body is producing and we are distorting reality by making sense of these noises but that's beyond self-agenda distortion so let's not go there.

So reality is this person has spoken. Now because it challenges our ego of thinking we are smart and we perhaps have based much of our lives on what we believe, we have the agenda to preserve this image we have of ourselves and protect what we believe because we don't want to have put in so much work based on something that isn't true so we distort reality by turning hostile and seeing this person as "stupid" or "arrogant" or so many other characteristics that would either downplay him as a person to devalue what he has said or downplay him as a person just to feel better about ourselves in general thus accomplishing our agenda of preserving our ego. Yet all this happens so subtly we see none of it. All we see is what our agenda has let us to see causing us to go about creating conflicts, fights and problems for ourselves.

Negative self-agenda is usually brought by having an underlying issue. For example, a person with low self-esteem would often distort reality to either reconfirm what he thinks of himself or to again protect the ego and this leads to negative emotions and/or situations. Regardless, there is always self-agenda whether good, bad or neutral. It pays to be aware of all of them to develop self-awareness which goes a long way towards self-development. Mindfulness as I have talked about in my previous post is critical towards realizing our own self-agendas.





Reality Distortion: Self Agenda

I did bring up reality distortion and perception in previous posts. This is another look at it from another angle(non-conflicting angles).

Reality is distorted in so many ways and this false perception we create for ourselves is the root of most or if not all problems we seem to have. Today let's just talk about how it is distorted through self-agenda.

We have 2 kinds of self-agenda: The kind you're conscious of like when you decide to take part in an event to expand your social network and the kind you're not conscious of. This is the tricky one because we are so blind to it, we fail to see that we are the cause of things we wouldn't want in our lives. This is what we are focusing on here.

Let me demonstrate how self-agenda distorts reality. Imagine you are holding up an apple you just bought from the supermarket in your hand and looking at it. What most people see is a distortion of reality. People would see more than just an apple, they see food. They see more than just food, they see big/small apple. They see vitamins and health benefits. They may even see "good" or "bad" apple.

Keep in mind there are many factors that distorts reality and that we are looking only at self-agenda. Our self-agenda has distorted reality because the reality is what lays in our hand is just an apple. It is the bearing of a tree that is round and red in colour. Its purpose was not to serve us as food or to give us any vitamins. It's just an apple but our hunger and desire for sustenance has let us to rubricize objects into many different categories based on our own self agenda which distorts reality. We start to see an apple for what it means to us rather than what it really is.

This may seem harmless on an apple but when we translate this to our lives, it makes a difference. Take for example when someone says something that disagrees with/disproves something you believe in. The only reality that is available to us is what he has said. In fact to be more precise, it's the sound and noises his body is producing and we are distorting reality by making sense of these noises but that's beyond self-agenda distortion so let's not go there.

So reality is this person has spoken. Now because it challenges our ego of thinking we are smart and our agenda to preserve this image we have of ourselves, we distort reality by turning hostile and seeing this person as "stupid" or "arrogant" or so many other characteristics that would either downplay him as a person to devalue what he has said or downplay him as a person just to feel better about ourselves in general thus accomplishing our agenda of preserving our ego. Yet all this happens so subtly we see none of it. All we see is what our agenda has let us to see causing us to go about creating conflicts, fights and problems for ourselves.

Negative self-agenda is usually brought by having an underlying issue. For example, a person with low self-esteem would often distort reality to either reconfirm what he thinks of himself or to again protect the ego and this leads to negative emotions and/or situations. Regardless, there is always self-agenda whether good, bad or neutral. It pays to be aware of all of them to develop self-awareness which goes a long way towards self-development. Mindfulness as I have talked about in my previous post is critical towards realizing our own self-agendas.





Thursday, July 21, 2016

Dealing with negative emotions and events with mindfulness

Why is mindfulness important? It can help you from making all the wrong decisions in life that you will later on regret. It can help you feel better instantly if you're experiencing negative emotions. It can help you better understand your inner self for you to do inner work and self-development and become a better person.

My biggest take-away from my journey of self-development thus far is not only learning about mindfulness but being able to practice it when it is most useful.

Mindfulness is being aware about everything that happens, especially internally in your psyche and your emotions, as they are happening to you, while remaining neutral and non-judgmental. It is a higher state of consciousness where you learn to be in control instead of simply reacting to everything that happens as your body presents you with emotions and thoughts.

Mindfulness is much like taking a step out of yourself at any given moment, bringing nothing with you - no emotion, no thought, no past, no future. From there you will observe yourself being and remaining non-judgmental as a neutral third party. You will be able to see how your emotions are affecting you, acknowledging that any negative feelings are just emotions - they will pass - and so too will the positive ones. You will be able to observe how all your thoughts, opinions and perceptions on everything in life are all affected by your emotions and ego thus are not true and vice versa.

First let us recognize that there are different levels of consciousness. At the lowest level, we are only conscious of our physicality. We operate using only our 5 senses. Thankfully, humans do not operate at this level or we would be zombies. We all operate at least a level above where we live in our thoughts and emotions. In fact, most people believe they are their thoughts - that voice in their own heads. Which isn't true but that's for another topic.

There is a higher level of consciousness above that and mindfulness is the tool and act of achieving it. Your thoughts and emotions are not reality. Reality would be the highest state of consciousness one can achieve. You see, reality is what is happening out there. Your perception of reality is never reality - it processed through many layers before being interpreted.

What are the layers? There is a whole list of them and that would bring us too far off this topic. To help you understand this topic, here are some examples: The constraints of your(and the human race's) knowledge. That is to say we have not yet acquired everything there is to know about the universe and thus we interpret everything based on what we know but who knows how much is left out or misinterpreted. Then we have your ego that I spoke about in one of my previous posts. It acts as a filter and write its own script for you. Beyond that we have emotions, they interfere with our thoughts and how we perceive reality depending on our emotional status. Your thoughts are filters as well, a new thought will be affected by an old thought you might have. Your past experiences and yadayada. There's a whole list of filters that distorts reality but let's try to stay on track..

Mindfulness is when we rise above all of these layers. When we practice mindfulness, we are not removing the layers. Instead it becomes a choice after you have gain awareness over them, if you wish to change/remove any layer. Filters, like your emotions and thoughts, are still present when you practice mindfulness. You simply become aware of them without being judgmental.

For example: You were scolded by your boss at work today and on your way home you were caught in a terrible traffic jam. You go home and a family member is talking too much and you feel like exploding at him/her. Mindfulness is being aware that your agitation is not a reality and is not even justifiable based on the current situation. Instead, it is your emotions you went home with that is causing you to be easily agitated and makes you believe he/she is talking "too much" but in reality, they are just talking. You recognize it without judging yourself, and give yourself the opportunity to make an informed decision on how you wish to react instead of simply exploding and regretting later on.

It is almost like a buffer between emotional surge and reaction. Mindfulness can also be used to deal with negative emotions itself rather than just the reaction. First let us understand how negative emotions work. Usually we have a trigger - it could be anything, from a thought to a sight, a smell, or anything we dislike. This trigger will cause a negative response in our emotional system. This negative emotion now feeds into our thoughts and distorts reality as mentioned before. Thus making us perceive reality negatively and start having negative thoughts that feed back into our emotional system and its a vicious cycle and a downward spiral to feeling like shit.

With mindfulness, we would be able to recognize our negative emotion and through consciousness, put a stop to the destructive pattern we have found ourselves in before it escalates and we find ourselves in our shit hole.

Knowing what mindfulness is can be very helpful but sometimes, when the negative event/emotion comes, all these concepts go flying out the window. The only way to become a master of mindfulness is to cultivate it.

Firstly, understand it fully. I hope I have done a good job describing it but find out more on it. I have read multiple books and hours and hours of videos on mindfulness I don't believe I could have just summarized everything in one short post. Next, practice it. Don't wait till you need it then wished it was there when it's too late. Mindfulness can be practiced at any given moment(and you should too, it opens your eyes to a new world of understanding yourself). Practice it when you're happy, when you're watching a movie, when you're having a conversation you enjoy and dislike, etc. And finally, meditation.