On Accepting The Good Things in Your Life

I’m struggled with whether or not I should of titled this “On Accepting Privilege” ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Privilege_(social_inequality) ) But I want to make a distinction between the good things happening in your life which while they may of been influenced by the privilege the groups or classification you belong to are more individually centered. You can read more about the social privileges on the wikipedia link and I hope to have a blog post about it later on.

There have been a lot of good things happening in my life recently. For one I’m content / happy and have been for several weeks in a row now. This may seem like a small thing but for someone who struggles with depression and anxiety this is actually the most important things. Sometimes I catch myself just smiling and being at peace and I wonder if this is how people always feel like. Smiling, because life.

I’ve got a new job, which althought I’ve just started and have tinges of the Imposter syndrome ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imposter_syndrome ) at times ( From what I’ve able to deduce, the type of employee that is targetted, the humble-ish, hard working always striving to be better, never content with the status quo is prone to this type of thinking) I really love. I have been so lucky to meet some wonderful co-workers in San Fransisco this week as well. I’m really excited to start working on team VIP. I really feel like from what I hear the hi-pressure big clients hi-stakes work will be for me. Most people who know me know how much I thrive under the big pressure deadlines and how I love to be the calm in the middle of the storm. (Which often then boggles people when I tell then I have generalized anxiety, they don’t understand how I can do high pressure so well [but that’s for another post])

There are so many good things happening in my life, I have a great stable well paying job.  Something which has not always been the case (I’ve lived with income at or just below the poverty line for a few years). My anxiety and depression is in check. My migraines are more or less in check. And yet when I talked to my Doc, I talked about how I didn’t feel I deserved all this good things, I had trouble accepting them. I had trouble accepting that I shouldn’T have more hardship because if not then life overall wouldn’t be fair. There is so much inequality in the world. I have so many great things going on. Often when I get in a bad place I’ll start talking about how I have running water and that’s not fair. I’ve never really done anything incredibly special to deserve running water anymore than the ~1 billion who still don’t have clean water.

The problem with that type of thinking is that It’s not going to help others get access to clean water or it’s not going to help fix any of the current inequalities by just going around thinking about how much I don’t deserve things and keep obsessing about it. I’m incredibly lucky / blessed and with this should come a responsability not to feel guilty about it all the time but to use everything I’m lucky to have to help. Either those around me such as helping youth with mental health or helping those who try to bring clean water to the 1 billion who don’t have it.

Accepting reality always helps us make better decisions about what to do with it. Struggling against it just wastes time that could be used increasing the happiness in the world. Either in others or in ourselves.

Know Thyself

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” – Aristotle

We always seem to be under the impression that our perception of self is better than the perception others have about ourselves or our current situation. I’ve found that for people who’ve known us for a few years, this is rarely the case.

Not only do we have a distorted perception of self, we refuse to acknowledge it. We believe we have “extra” information about us that they do not. Not realizing that they have extra information about us that we do not.

I have a friend who is incredibly smart. She has multiple bachelors degrees now and is almost done a Law degree. She has great interpersonal skill and during her Law degree is now self teaching herself the basics of web development. (She says basics but from looking at some of the things she’s done, it’s clear it’s a bit more than the basics that she’s working on)

I told her about a great position that she could potentially apply for in a few months when she’s done her degree and has brushed up on her skills some more. I am more than certain that she would be great at the job. Her perception of self is incredibly distorted that she can’t perceive how she could possibly get accepted.

“Know thy self, know thy enemy. A thousand battles, a thousand victories.” – Sun Tzu

Personally I’ve come to the realization that I can’t trust myself. Especially not my current self. I can usually trust the amalgamation of my selves over a certain period of time. But I can’t trust what I think in the moment.

In the general “counter-culture”, much is put on individualism, and making your own decisions. But The opinion of others, those who’s values are similar to yours and have your best interest at heart should be taken into consideration far more than they currently are.

I have a small circle of 3 friends who’s advice I count on. The strange paradox is that they rarely give it directly or try to change any of my decisions. I often know what’s on their mind by the questions they ask. And often it’s things I don’t want to admit or truths I try to hide from myself.

Whenever all 3 are in agreement on something and I’m of an opposing viewpoint. I’m always wrong. Or to be more precise, I’m always “long term” wrong. I am often afraid of doing something that will require changing the status quo. That will require short term pain for long term gain.

It’s always easier to have that perspective from the outside. A system from the inside looking in at itself has trouble seeing a global view of itself. Seeing how the disruption of the current system could lead to a better overall system in the long run is difficult since it encompasses accepting the potential destruction of parts of itself.

I remained vague with my language in the previous paragraph for a reason. I don’t think this only applies to individuals. I think it can apply to organizations, business, countries etc.

Back to the individual level, how if the ability for a system to know itself is limited can we truly “Know Thyself”. Are we perhaps like quantum physics? And that part of knowing ourselves means accepting that we cannot fully know ourselves?

On “6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You a Better Person”

This is about this article: http://www.cracked.com/blog/6-harsh-truths-that-will-make-you-better-person/

More specifically this statement: “The World Only Cares About What It Can Get from You”

This type of utilitarian thinking seems to be more and more prevelant. In this case the author argues that since we need things, the only reason others exist is for us to get things from them.  

It can be tempting to say that we work in a deterministic fashion like such. It would in a sense simplify human behaviour. It would make the understanding of human behaviour relatively simple, you could always look and have a clear answer to why someone did something. But let’s assume like this article does that we are in a Western society where most of the time the basic needs are met. I believe the article takes this for granted, because what he goes on to describe that what we are really looking for is happiness and for him, we will receive this from others via love or admiration via our accomplishments (mostly our career).

But I think research has shown that this isn’t true. A General theory of Love is a very good book on the subject that helped me accept that we all needed others and that we couldn’t live as independent individuals, but needed others to “love” and not just in the traditional sense of romantic love but in the friendship sense of love. This as opposed to needing others in the purely utilitarian sense, such as to fix my car.

You can find it here: http://www.amazon.ca/General-Theory-Love-Thomas-Lewis/dp/0375709223

It talks a lot about the 3 sections of the brain. Here is a primer:

The reptilian brain, the oldest of the three, controls the body’s vital functions such as heart rate, breathing, body temperature and balance. Our reptilian brain includes the main structures found in a reptile’s brain: the brainstem and the cerebellum. The reptilian brain is reliable but tends to be somewhat rigid and compulsive. The limbic brain emerged in the first mammals. It can record memories of behaviours that produced agreeable and disagreeable experiences, so it is responsible for what are called emotions in human beings. The main structures of the limbic brain are the hippocampus, the amygdala, and the hypothalamus. The limbic brain is the seat of the value judgments that we make, often unconsciously, that exert such a strong influence on our behaviour. The neocortex first assumed importance in primates and culminated in the human brain with its two large cerebral hemispheres that play such a dominant role. These hemispheres have been responsible for the development of human language, abstract thought, imagination, and consciousness. The neocortex is flexible and has almost infinite learning abilities. The neocortex is also what has enabled human cultures to develop.

And here are a few key quotes:

“Our society’s love affair with mechanical devices that respond at a button-touch ill prepares us to deal with the unruly organic mind that dwells within. Anything that does not comply must be broken or poorly designed, people now suppose, including their hearts.”

“A person cannot direct his emotional life in the way he bids his motor system to reach for a cup. He cannot will himself to want the right thing or to love the right person or to be happy after a disappointment, or even to be happy in happy times. People lack this capacity not through a deficiency of discipline but because the jurisdiction of will is limited to the latest brain and to those functions within its purview. Emotional life can be influenced, but it cannot be commanded.” 

“Even after a peak parenting experience, children never transition to a fully self-tuning physiology. Adults remain social animals: they continue to require a source of stabilization outside themselves. That open-loop design means that in some important ways, people cannot be stable on their own – not should or shouldn’t be, but can’t be. This prospect is disconcerting to many, especially in a society that prizes individuality as ours does. Total self-sufficiency turns out to be a daydream whose bubble is burst by the sharp edge of the limbic brain. Stability means finding people who regulate you well and staying near them.”

Now let’s add another thing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHv6vTKD6lg

In this video, people who expressed gratitude to others, who thanked them for all the wonderful things they did for them, became happier themselves.

Now at this point some readers may ask “What is the difference between using people for your own means to sell real estate to derive your happiness versus using them to limbically stabilize you or to show gratitude onto them. Are you not still in some way using them?”

I Would argue that the overall level of happiness in the world is better in one of those scenarios. I don’t think we can equate things such as Alex Baldwin’s speech about how he needs you to sell real estate to sharing a moment cuddling with a friend where you are both just relaxed and at peace with the world. Those things aren’t the same.

Some of the other points in the article are worth while especially things inside #1. But I think the article doesn’t take into account the complex symbiotic relationships we have with each other. We do not just want things, we also want to be wanted. The world doesn’t only care about what it can get from you. It also cares what it can give to you.