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.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Unlocking Happiness: Philosophy or Psychology?

The aim of this post is to open you to the idea that you could actually be so unaware of your own motivation system that it forces you to build consciousness and awareness over it, thus enabling you to work on it and be happy!

So let us imagine computers. Let's say you own a computer for the sole purpose of editing videos. You're using Windows operating system and running software X to help you edit videos. Today I come up to tell you "I see you're having problems with editing your videos using software X, why not go for software Y?"

Let us assume these are the only 2 software available. Now software Y runs on a Mac operating system. Clearly the underlying interpretation of switching to software Y includes switching to a Mac. Why? Because we are conscious and aware of the different operating systems. What if we're not? What if we are speaking to a computer dummy?(I'm hoping you're not)

Then your response will pretty much be "Software Y doesn't work. I tried installing it, it doesn't work. Sure, on paper it sounds good but in reality, all its features mean nothing because I can't install it."

Well, that's as close as a metaphor I can give to illustrate my experience when speaking to people with regards to philosophy on happiness. Except it's even more complex when it comes to philosophy and psychology.

In this case the operating system is like you, your psychology. The software is your philosophy on happiness. And editing videos? That's happiness.

Except when we talk about happiness it goes even deeper. Your psychology is structured based on your philosophy of happiness. How you interpret and understand happiness determines how you operate on the very subconscious level. It leaves its mark on your beliefs, your motivations, your desires, everything that you are conscious and unconscious of.

Think about it: everything you do is for happiness. We established that in the previous post. Everything you do. That clearly shows how much your philosophy on happiness is going to be written all over your psychology. Imagine today your salary is $10k, you've been working your whole life to save up to $1m. Tomorrow money has no value. The world operates on commodities. Get it? The meaning of money changes and suddenly your whole life is incompatible.

Which brings us back to our key and door lock problem. I'm not a locksmith so I don't know, but let's assume the key is cut based on the shape of the lock. Obviously that key isn't going to work on other locks. It was designed specifically for your lock. It's exactly the same thing with philosophy and psychology.

If you are unaware and unconscious to the fact that your motivation/belief system is simply a system that you designed subconsciously over years and you try forming opinions on a different philosophy on happiness, obviously it's incompatible. It's like trying to use your car keys to open your house door. But if you aren't aware of the existence of the keys and you only ever see the doors, you would think only one door in this world works, except in the case of unhappy individuals, it doesn't either.

Well, people only ever see the doors(philosophy on happiness) and not the keys(your psychology). That's the key to happiness. (Mega pun intended)

Monday, July 18, 2016

HOW TO BE HAPPY IN LIFE

No matter what I do, it always seem to come back to this one topic - Happiness.

As I have been on my journey of self-development I have broadened my perspective on this matter. It was really nice to know that everything new I've discovered sorts of ties in with what I already understood and feels as though I always felt this way but never knew how to put in into words.

Now let us just look at this from the very basic.. Everything we do, our end goal is happiness. You want that new deadlift PR because you believe that means you are stronger which you believe will make you happy. You want that job promotion because you believe that means your salary will increase which will enable you to pay off your debts which you believe will ease your stress which you believe will make you happy. You want success(monetary/status) because you think that will make you happy. You want new clothes because you think that you'll look good and believe that will make you happy. You want to donate to charity because you believe either a) Someone in need will benefit and/or b) to feel better about yourself/what you're doing/what you've done because you believe that will make you happy.

For most your motivation comes from conditional happiness. In other words, if you were to be unconditionally happy, you will have absolutely no motivation to do anything. Why is this important? This illustrates that your psychological wiring from the very core is designed based on a concept of happiness that isn't actually helping you to be happy. What is this concept? I'll get to that later. Now, some people are going to get this and some people are not. What I've found extremely difficult in sharing this perspective with others is because most people are focused on the philosophy of happiness, which granted is involved here BUT another huge area is your own psychology. You see, if you comprehend this philosophy of happiness with your current psychology(which is what most people do) their response will always be the same. That is it all sounds nice to the ears BUT "what about abc? What about xyz?".

So do realise that the journey towards being happy isn't just understanding happiness and having the best philosophy about it. It's also about understanding your own psychology, realise what your motivations are and realise that if you hold your psychology constant, fixed and unaware of it while attempting to see a new light towards happiness, chances are it wouldn't work. Because it's like trying to buy a new key to your door lock after you lost yours. It wouldn't fit. You've to change both. This has been the number one hurdle I have faced in all my years of trying to explain this to others(well finally I THINK I managed to explain how to understand what I'm about to explain) (Fuck this complexity).

Before I get to the crux of the content let's get one last thing out of the way. Relating to what I've mentioned above... IF at any point in time while reading you feel these sentiments: "So you're saying I should just do nothing, sleep all day and never work to be happy? Then who's going to look after me? What about my family?" - Stop reading, and start challenging your psychology. This is philosophy and psychology we are discussing here. In no discussion of philosophy and psychology will you ever find specific instructions on what to do, or not even general ones for that matter. It all comes back down to your interpretation. So if you feel like based on the philosophy, you would be doing absolutely nothing then ask yourself why that is so. Look to your own psychology and motivation/beliefs systems for answers.

Okok... NOW let's begin..

So like many years ago.. like thousands of years ago the greek and roman philosophers were talking about happiness and they came up with a really neat way of understanding the different types of happiness.

We have hedonic happiness which is better referred to as pleasure. This form of happiness is very shallow and lasts for a short period of time. Things that bring about hedonic happiness are things like sex, gossiping, vacation, alcohol, drugs, money, success, acing an exam, hitting a new PR in the gym, shopping, etc. Usually things that excites us and appeal to our physical senses(though not always).

Then we have at the other end of the spectrum, eudaemonic happiness. In contrast, it is longer lasting, a lot deeper and it usually comes from things like living up to your values(which some don't even have), living honestly(by that I mean to yourself as well), living up to your potential, being virtuous, having a higher level of consciousness, having a purpose greater than the self.

Of course there are the in between where you will find things like working hard at your passion(not to satisfy the ego or that would be hedonic happiness), being healthy, those kind of things.

Needless to say most people go after hedonic happiness because it offers the most immediate sense of happiness that we believe to be the only kind of happiness. Unfortunately, this form of happiness cannot be sustained forever or even predominantly. Most of them are probably triggered by a release in hormones anyway, and by that logic, simply cannot be sustained. Eudaemonic happiness on the other hand is a lot more subtle but a lot deeper and doesn't disappear after awhile.

Do you believe you can be happy unconditionally? Do you believe you can happy even after you've been robbed? Do you believe you can be happy after you lost your job? Do you believe you can be happy despite *inserts whatever makes you unhappy*?

You probably don't. And the reason for that is because your whole psychological wiring and motivation/belief system is based off hedonic happiness. You constantly seek happiness that can only last for a short period of time. While the majority of the time you spend chasing and the moment something doesn't go your way(which let's be practical, it probably always doesn't), you are really unhappy. Whilst someone whose motivation is based off eudaemonic happiness, despite negative events, are still experiencing the same happiness. Now of course these are extreme examples and there will probably be some sense of displeasure but you get the point. The happiness is still underlying despite momentary displeasures(which will probably last a lot shorter too) while chasing after hedonic happiness is quite the opposite - underlying dissatisfaction despite momentary pleasures. Does this sound like yourself?

If you link this philosophy to Maslow's hierarchy of needs, you will find that it is very much in coherent with each other. Maslow and the ancient greeks and romans, whoever they were, both agreed that there was a need for a higher sense of happiness.

Now that we've touched on the concept of happiness, let's move on to focus on psychology. Now you might say "but I have a higher purpose. I want to be successful so that I don't burden my parents" or "I want to be successful so that my family will be well off".

Firstly, be honest. Not to me, to yourself. And I mean really honest. Is this the truth? I'm not saying it's not but be honest. Ask yourself: Is this really the reason I do what I do? Or do I do what I do and find myself a worthy reason to justify my hard work and sacrifices(both to me and those around me)? Think about the way you perceive money, salary, job title/rank/position. For most, those statements were probably BS. If it's true, well, good but maybe not, we move on.

"I must have _________ then I CAN be happy". Whatever that is, fill it in. Conditional happiness.  Yes, back to this but from a different perspective. But now we look at your belief system. First of all, that is what you believe to be true. When you get _______, will you really be happy? If your psychology remains the same, probably not. Think about it. Person A says, I need a million dollars in my bank then I'll be happy. Yeah, he'll be happy when it reaches a million but that's hedonic happiness. Do you really think he's set to happy for life? Where's the sense of fulfillment going to come from for the rest of his life? Spending that million? It'll last for awhile too(shopping aka hedonic happiness) but the thrill will wear off and even if it doesn't, the money will.

What about supporting/having your family? Sure, that sounds more noble. And I'm not saying don't. This could very well be a goal of yours. But there's a difference between "I MUST then I CAN" and "It's a goal I'm working towards". Conditional happiness is when you think result abc MUST happen before you can/will be happy(hedonic) whereas unconditional happiness is when you're already happy(eudaemonic) and result abc is a goal that gives you a higher sense of purpose in what you do that brings along a sense of eudaemonic happiness. It's important to differentiate the happiness and it's source here. One comes from achieving the goal and is hedonic and the other comes from having the goal and is eudaemonic.

This ties in with living in the present moment as I have spoken about before in the rat race. We always do something we dislike now for what we think will make us happy in the future. This usually leaves us very unhappy - it's a no brainer, you will forever be doing unhappy things now for the future that never actually comes. And we can go into the whole topic as there's no such thing as the future, it's a concept, blahblah but well, if you have read this far I assume you're able grasp this concept already.

People always think I'm telling them to not do anything when I tell them to live in the present moment. Yet I never ever recalled telling anyone to do such a thing(or there lack off)! Why? I crafted out a philosophy and a psychology. They interpret the philosophy neglecting the psychology thus bringing us to the key and door lock metaphor. Based on my philosophy and their motivation/belief system, ie motivated by hedonic happiness and conditional happiness, living in the present moment would be disastrous! They will literally hope from drugs and alcohol to shopping then some sex, sleep and repeat! Which is unsustainable, duh.

You see most people are motivated by hedonic happiness and conditional happiness. Hedonic happiness well I don't think I need to explain why that motivates people. It's addictive because it is pleasure and sometimes people just don't know there's the existence of a deeper sense of happiness. As for conditional happiness, it is really the fear of unhappiness rather than happiness that is motivating people. If I don't achieve ______, I'll be unhappy. That's really what's going on deep inside. The problem with this is people will be willing to do ANYTHING to achieve ______, even if it makes them unhappy because they believe that they're already unhappy until they achieve it. And the bigger problem with this is it's a mentality, a motivation system. So no matter how noble ______ may be, it's not the goal that's flawed, its the psychology. And if you just picture this, you'll see how clear it becomes that its a flawed system. There is no win here. It's almost a self-fulfilling prophecy: it is because you think you won't be happy until you achieve ________, therefore you do things that make you unhappy to achieve ________ which does really does make you unhappy now. And when you do achieve _________? You start over again with something else, because that's how your motivation system works. As proven by people thinking living in the present moment means doing nothing.

So how to be happy? Hedonic happiness isn't necessarily bad, but keep it to a minimal. Adopt a different philosophy towards happiness(like the one above) while addressing your psychology/motivation system by doing a lot of inner work and reflection. Live in the present moment.