Emotions, Hall of Mirrors, Personal Growth

Thinkin’ Big Thoughts

Listening to someone speak quite passionately about how certain people are a waste of time, and one of the reasons cited was “intellectual bankruptcy.” Got me to thinking: What makes someone a “big thinker”, one of the cognitive elite? What makes someone a “petty thinker”, one of intellectually bankrupt?

Is it someone who cogitates upon Deep Thoughts, searching for the meaning of life, the universe and everything? (42, btw) Is it topic specific? Like philosophers or physicists are automatically Big Thinkers, while fashion gurus and hair dressers  are automatically Petty Thinkers?

In my experience, it’s not about the topic of thoughts per se but rather the purpose of the thinker. Is the intention of the philosopher to destroy those around him/her in an effort to feel big/important/smart? Then said philosopher is a Petty Thinker. Does the fashion guru empower those around them to find their confidence  through owning their personal style and thus express their best selves? This then is a Grand Thinker. Is it the spiritualist exploring ideas that will help free people from their personal demons and become more balanced individuals? Another Grand Thinker. Is it the makeup artist who uses their craft to belittle and demean with a smile on their face? And here, another Petty Thinker.

If you take the examples I cited, my view boils down to whether or not the thoughts pondered will Empower and Disempower those who are exposed to them. Hurting, scared people metaphorically seek to stand on the corpses of those around them in an effort to feel bigger, stronger, more in control, less scared, important. In other words, they actively work to disempower others and their thoughts are weapons. Empowering is just the opposite – working to make those around them bigger, stronger, more capable, more confident. It takes a strong person to give others a hand up, to genuinely enjoy watching a fellow human stand on their own. To me, petty thinkers seek to make others smaller (hence ‘petty’) and grand thinkers seek to make others bigger (hence ‘grand’).

When you find yourself expounding on your ideas of how the world works and why, do those words empower or disempower those who may be listening?

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Emotions, Hall of Mirrors, Personal Growth

Stop Shoulding All Over Yourself

I was at a Masonic conference when I heard one of the attendees tell this to someone. Of course, it was both funny and unexpected, so I burst out laughing with delight. What a wonderful saying! I therefore immediately stole it and now use it all the time.

See, I have learned that when my BRAIN thinks it wants something but the HEART is like “naaaah” that’s when SHOULD comes into the picture. It can be reverse too!

I SHOULD eat more veggies … but I don’t want to.
I SHOULD exercise more … but I’m not going to.
I SHOULD do this thing … meh.
I SHOULD not eat that cake … but I WANT IT!! GIVE ME THE DAMN CAKE!

Again, and again, I will espouse that we humans pay attention to both our brains and our emotions. Emotion without brain is a run-away car weaving all over the road and making a damn mess, if not being outright dangerous. Brain without emotion is either a dead car or a car inching along at best. So now when I find the word SHOULD popping up in my thoughts, I’ve trained myself to stop and consider the contradiction that this word inherently brings with it.

What attitude or ideal is my brain attempting to adopt? More importantly, WHY is it attempting to adopt this? Why is the brain saying “but … I should be more or less like this….” So far, I have found that it’s because of outside influences. Ex: I SHOULD wear makeup because some lady made a random comment that I found hurtful and want to ameliorate that hurt by conforming to external ideals. So again, ask 2 questions every time SHOULD comes into your thinking process:

(1) What attitude or ideal is my brain attempting to adopt?
(2) Why am I attempting to adopt this?

Ok. So that’s the head which has now been listened to. Now the heart gets its say. So I ask myself “why don’t I want to do this thing?” Then, again, listen to the answer. Ex: Because that exterior condition doesn’t align with my internal compass, and I refuse to betray my personal value system.

*blink*blink* Well. Ok then. See, listen to the heart and it gets to be this blunt with you. Aaah, good times. *snerk* So again, the next question to ask is:

(3) Why am I actually not interested in adopting this?

The final question is the “money shot” question. It takes strength to the get to the place where these shoulds do indeed get resolved, and it happens one should at a time.

(4) Now that I know my mind and heart, how am I going to release this should so that it stops coming back?

Once you’ve made emotions your allies by actively listening to and working with them, this “Shoulding all over yourself” will start to decrease dramatically. I’ve also found that once I started to align my brain with the interior values, that I became less interested in the shoulds overall. Almost as if I am becoming less confused about who I am and what I am about, what I am and am not willing to compromise on. On the other hand, there are plenty of times I’ve had the “should” conversation and realized, yeah, I really do need to adopt that change for my overall well-being. That’s when the conversation shifts to reframing the “should” into something the internal value system can embrace and run with.

I’m currently working with a friend who is chronically shoulding everywhere. OMG. Every. WHERE. Last time she did it, I stopped her and said “You know what my response will be to that statement?” *thinks* “I’m shoulding on myself again, aren’t I?” “Yes, dear, you are.” So yes. Use your WORDS. They will tell us all kinds of gloriously rich things if we just but pay attention.

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Personal Growth, sexuality

It’s more the idea than the reality that I like…

I just recently discovered a new blog I’m enjoying – The Pearl Diaries. It’s about one woman’s journey through her relationship with her sexuality and she’s pulling in a number of the books I have read – “Come As You Are” by Dr. Nagoski being the most obvious since she references the ideas in that one A LOT. In the post I read today, she had an interview with a porn star and that reminded me of a conversation with a friend.

Now me, I happen to love porn in general. Yes, I am female and I have a porn stash. My first husband came from a fundamental Baptist family, so when I bought us our first porn CD he was a bit shocked. We ended up with a decent little collection, which he took with him when we divorced. Bummer. As an example of differing attitudes, there was family drama one day where my brother-in-law’s wife kicked him out of the house and wanted an immediate divorce. I asked why and she said she came home to catch him watching *drops to scandalized whisper* porn.

I stared at her, waiting for the shocking bit. Nothing. “Was it child porn?” *horrified* NO! “Was it barnyard porn?” *aghast* NO! “Ok. Was it snuff porn?” *mouth gaping* OMG, NO! “Ok. Was it kinky – like consensual non-consent or bondage or flogging? I can see that being a problem for you.” *narrow eyed glare, no reply* “So it was just regular porn? Just plain old … sex. And so you threw out a solid wage-earning, good, kind, thoughtful, supportive, loving man, the father of your children, for THAT?!”

Needless to say, this was one of our last conversations.

Back to my friend. Her ex-husband would tell her that he watched porn because she wasn’t “enough”, and her newest beau had a porn ‘addiction’ which she interpreted through the lens of her ex’s attitude. I had to interrupt her, shocking her by openly admitting my own interest in the subject and telling her I would actively use porn as part of foreplay – to jump start the battery, if you will. Well, that was back when I actually HAD a sex life. *sigh*

I feel that turning interest in sexuality and fantasy into a shameful or humiliating or punishment-worthy subject alienates the sexual relationship of any pairing. My attempt was to introduce the seed idea that porn can be her ally, not her enemy. I even shared that many men view sex as the ultimate sign of acceptance, and when the woman he loves isn’t interested then he could be hearing a “you’re not enough to interest me” message. Though few are aware of this, men and women often have different styles of sex drive (note – STYLES, not levels) it’s easy for miscommunication and hurt feelings to be the result of that difference. “You aren’t attracted to me enough to just want to have sex with me.” “You aren’t attracted to me enough to want to inspire me to have sex with you.” O.o

Well, my friend has emotional baggage with porn and she’s not willing to let it go yet so I’m not going to push it, but at least I gave her another interpretation which puts the ball back into her court. She can choose to be hurt and punish him just as she feels punished or she can choose to take the opportunity to open a dialogue which curiously explores their individual and overlapping sexuality. Personally, I generally prefer the empowering route for almost everything but it takes self-awareness and courage to discuss such deeply sensitive topics. Few are actually up for the challenge.

And the world hurts as a result.

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Emotions, Hall of Mirrors, Personal Growth

Listen to the Words

I have a friend who is facing some serious personal relationship crises. She’s a great friend and an awesome person, but she does indeed have issues. Then again, who doesn’t?? By the time you get to adulthood, if you haven’t been kicked around a bit and thus have some baggage, you haven’t really been living. But I digress.

She had a recent breakup, which was the first relationship she had after getting divorced from an abusive asshole. This new guy was not abusive, but she was lamenting the situation and she made a statement that had me asking her “why do you say that?”

Essentially, by listening to the words that she was using to describe things, I was able to ask very specific questions that helped drill past all the “I’m such a mess” junk and start really digging into the core of the lifelong pattern that we ultimately discovered in the bedrock of every single relationship with men she ever had.

When that hidden core belief was finally given a voice, she was stunned. She kept saying “this is huge”, still trying to process it. In our case, this could be done because she trusts me enough to be honest not only with me but with herself when she’s with me. Trust is what allowed her reveal this truth to herself, so that she could see it and now, finally, she stands a chance of not repeating the same painful pattern yet again. I helped her find her Story Through The Mirror.

In the end, she said she needed someone else to point out the obvious to her. I said, no, that’s not true – but being able to do it for yourself is a long road of practice, work and reflection and it suuuuuucks but it’s worth it. I then shared my Hall of Mirrors self-training with her, in which step one is about taking back all of the projections. I could help her in this way because I’ve worked with myself enough to recognize that her crap is not my crap, and vice versa. I could actually say “that’s an interesting word you used here. Why did you choose that word? Let’s explore” and not be emotionally personally impacted by her situation.

So I’m going to add, not a new step, but a new tool to the Hall of Mirrors toolbox:

Listen to the Words being Used

If I’m trying to figure out why I went crazy in this situation, I talk to myself but writing it down works just fine too. From there, I pay attention to the words and any emotionally charged word or the pivotal word in the concept is the one I need to look at. In the case above, the word was “important”. It proved to be the pivotal word on which everything else hinged. “Important” took us down the rabbit hole.

What word or words take you down your personal rabbit hole? And if you don’t yet have the emotional strength to do this, that’s ok. Even recognizing that much is big! As I told my friend, emotions are our allies and they are always trying to protect us. That’s their JOB. If I don’t think they are doing that, then I need to start paying attention. Perhaps the guidance system that the emotions are using isn’t the one I consciously want them to use. But until I have the courage to ask these questions, I’ll always be unknowingly vulnerable – and we Westerners are TERRIFIED of being vulnerable. 😉

 

About the Featured Image: This image just cracked me up when I saw it on this post. My friend was texting me and I said something that made her bark out a laugh … in the audience of a school play. After she told me, I replied “the best place to laugh is inappropriately.” Turned out, it was a play set in a funeral parlor. How … appropo.

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Emotions, Personal Growth

Pondering Comfort Eating

I never understood the concept of comfort eating — even when I was doing it. I never understood it because I don’t particularly like food that much … so why does eating bring me comfort? Why use eating as a means to distract me from loneliness or heartache? Other than the search for food, but hunting down ice cream is hardly that challenging.

Then I heard Dr. Nina Savelle-Rocklin on Hilary Hendershott’s Profit Boss podcast talking about it. She described it thusly (paraphrasing): our first experiences in life as a baby are of being held as we were fed. On a primal, visceral level, eating brings with it this initial sense of connection to those who cared for us. Eating brings back, even temporarily, that feeling of being connected to others, of being loved, of feeling cared for, of being important.

Well shiiiii. Now I understand it! Absolutely. Plus, I can now see exactly why I was doing it myself. Holy moly! Interestingly, the very next day I’m standing in 7-11 with my Big Gulp refill mug, looking at the Dr. Pepper button and think “Ew, I don’t want that today.” This is my go-to drink for the morning jolt of caffeine and sugar. Even just the day before, this same trip was almost like an addict taking their first drag of the day. Now I’m suddenly emotionally like “nah, don’t want it”. *boggles* Did just being aware of why I am reaching for this comfort drink make that big a difference?? Well, heck, next time I’m thinking about stopping by DQ for a cone, I’m gonna call a friend instead. My wallet and my waist will thank me!

 

About the Featured Image: swiped from a Cooking on the Weekends blog post. Looks nummy, doesn’t it?

 

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Hall of Mirrors, Personal Growth

All (gender) are Stupid.

“Of course I can have deep, meaningful conversations with impact. Let’s talk about … my hair!”

I stumbled across a post written by a fellow with … well … hatred, distain and contempt for women in general. He espoused the same concepts that I see throughout history from the ancient Greeks on up to today. He had nothing new to add, just more vitriol and “proof” for his position. That position being that the female gender is entirely a vapid, unreasoning, narcissistic, short-sighted, small-minded creature who is incapable of bringing anything of value to the adult table.

*sigh*

In my journey through life, I have noticed that people, men AND women, tend to live up to what is expected of them. Culturally, women are indeed expected to be this shallow, self-centered, unreasonable, intellectually unchallenging creature just as described. I have been told repeatedly not to speak of anything with meaning or impact because men find it “unattractive” or “intimidating” or “threatening.” Indeed, the joke is “most women would rather have beauty than brains, because most men can see better than they can think.” I personally prefer brains – beauty fades, and because hair and shoes are perhaps the most eye-crossingly stupid conversation I can IMAGINE, and yet I know women who will discuss these things literally all night long. And yes, I’ve known plenty of women who are beyond unreasonable to the point of inanity and those women, I want to choke. They exist sure, but so do unreasonable men!! Holy mother, do they exist too. So I ask a better question in response:

Do women (people) merely live up to the “ideal” they are permitted/expected to adhere to or is this behavior truly native and therefore uninfluenced by culture? The flip side of this question would be: are men as they are because this is what was expected of them?

To further explore a bit, Are the male and female brain literally so radically different that it is only the exceptional female who is capable of thinking, as Stoker put it, “with a man’s mind?” I would posit that the answer is “no, they are not that different” and what one gender is capable of, so too is the other. I do recognize that the focus is often inherently different, so it’s easy to use a yard stick instead of a meter and not realize they are different systems of measure entirely. That requires perspective and curiosity to discover this one.

Suffice to say, I’ve known waaaaaay more stupid, vapid men who want to discuss nothing more impactful then their cars or sports than I’ve known men who ask any form of philosophically probing question. I married the guy who asked and continues to ask those questions! I would analogize cars and sports with fashion and makeup. Each gender stereotypically has their own niche for banal, mind-numbing, insignificant conversations. Neither gender has cornered the market on that particular aspect of what is means to be an average human being. Of course, I don’t generally hang out with unthinking, unreasoning people – male OR female – and so I have relatively few friends, mainly because MOST people simply don’t like to think. It’s sad to be told “You make my brain hurt”.

Back to the concept of “people living up to your expectations”. I have seen the exact same person have completely different responses to a situation based solely on who is present and what is expected of them in that situation. So if the people you come into contact with keep REAFFIRMING an idea you already have, perhaps this is not actually a reflection of them… but rather you looking into the Hall of Mirrors and failing to recognize the true reflection being seen.

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Emotions, Hall of Mirrors, Personal Growth

Evaluating The Source

My BA is in History. While there is a great deal that this degree taught me, one of the biggest ones was the ability to evaulate the source of the information. The first round of evaulation breaks the sources down into tiers of evidence, from most to least reliable. Notice, it’s “reliable” … not “accurate”.

Primary evidence is the most trustworthy because it means the information came from someone who truly knows first hand what the information is. They participated in the events described. A first-person account of a battle or even the genealogy written into the family Bible are considered primary sources. This doesn’t mean the evidence is fool proof or free from bias; that has to be assessed next but first-person accounts always have the most weight. Government records are typically considered primary because usually the information was supplied by the individual being recorded. Secondary sources are those written after the event but not by those who actually participated in the event. Memoirs written decades after a battle are still first-person and so primary, but “grandpa told me this is what happened” sorts of reports are secondary. Reported by a second person from first person accounts. Often, well done scholary books are secondary sources because they reference and interpret mostly primary sources. Tertiary sources are the least reliable. The “my friend’s friend told my sister’s cousin that her grandpa said this is what happened” type of situation. Tertiary sources should never be used for anything of merit, though sometimes they are quite colorful.

The second round of evaluation means assessing the information contained within the source. Do we know who wrote it? If so, does that person have an agenda they are pushing or are they educated enough to actually understand the tactics behind the events they lived through? If it’s a translation of a first-person account, how accurate is the translation? How far removed from the events was this recorded? Etc.

Understanding the logical fallacies is a helpful addition to this evaluation process, but it wasn’t part of my training and was an idea I came across years later. I still include them though.

Why am I bringing this up? I’m listening to a bunch of different podcasts by financial educators and I’m hearing some things which are pinging my “secondary source” or “agenda/bias” warnings. Then I started thinking of news events and commercials and personal interactions with people.

Is being able to evaluate the sources of information provided an important skill to cultivate? HELL YES.

Why? It’s so much easier to see through the manipulation of commercials if you can say “Red Herring fallacy” when you hear the ad. It’s easier to unveil the lies of politicians if you recognize “Strawman Argument”. It’s much harder for a manipulative person or news article to get their hooks into you if you can see the biases or agenda which drive them. If I’m listening to a Congressional hearing and their evidence is all tertiary, there’s some bullshittery going on. Etc.

Unfortunately, this type of thing falls into the Critical Thinking category. It seems Critical Thinking has tragically become anathema, right along side education and intellectual pursuits. I also think that common sense and critical thought go together – so it’s little wonder common sense is not particularly common.

In truth, it doesn’t matter where the information is coming from – there’s always personal bias and perspective at play. The job of the evaluator is to determine the level of reliability any information has. See if you can evaluate the next few commercials you hear, or new articles you read. Most ESPECIALLY, put on your evaluator hat when you hear one person bitching about another behind their back.

 

About the Featured Image: It’s the Simpsons, in the episode where Lisa is objecting to the meat being served in the cafeteria. The lunch lady pushes this button to alert authorities that a child is thinking critically and needs to be stopped.

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