Archive for June, 2010
In my post last week called a loving and loved life I spoke about the two emotionally crucial feelings that kept me happy, pretty much unconditionally: doing what I love as often as possible, and being aware of the love my husband has for me. These are the things that keep me feeling, emotionally, healthy.
I realized today that at the next level, the intellectual level, there are other things which keep me thinking healthfully. The three most crucial thoughts that come to mind are (which you’ve probably heard many times before):
1. Humans have certain generally shared needs, for them to be healthy on all levels. (And, yes, those needs can be described in a very general way as whole food, clean water, fresh air, warmth, light, and the freedom to express themselves in some effective way, and to be in an environment where others are also getting their needs sufficiently met.) Before I started specifically researching human needs, I was very confused, and thought that our needs were too complex and individual to ever really understand, and I ended up reading and watching and listening hundreds if not thousands of all manner of experts and regular folks in my quest for someone somewhere to tell me what we’re “supposed to” be doing in life so that we can end up with that ever coveted good life. And now that I’ve found myself being the one to tell me this new, more practical, thought that the needs can be simplified rather nicely using just the input and output of solids, liquids, gases, and energy, most of my other thoughts are so much more enjoyable!
2. All living things always have the inborn motivation to do things that increase the health of themselves and anyone they feel a connection to (connections are formed when individuals share something, materially, emotionally, or ideologically). Often, though, getting one need fulfilled seems to conflict with the fulfillment of another need, and that is where “conflict” arises and makes it look like someone’s motives are not purely healthy, but when I give myself enough time to look at things at a deep enough level, I can always find the positive, healing motive in everything you do. And being able to analyze people’s actions this way, now, makes me really, really love my thoughts!
3. Finally, the last thought, which logically follows from the first two, is that the best solution to any personal or social problem (conflict) is to increase the ability of all involved to get more of what they need to be healthy, so that there is less conflict in them, and so that they can be the best, most whole, person they possibly can be, and be connected to (and thus be motivated to take care of) the widest possible diversity of life. I may not always think of this universal solution right away, but when I do, my thoughts are exceptionally wonderful and fulfilling.
I’ve regularly mentioned the practical fact that when you want something to change, it’s nearly always easier to change yourself than to change others. Demanding other people do things is not only exhausting, but it also rarely works, at least not for very long. People are the way they are because that’s the way the universe made them – through nature and nurture. And fighting against nature and nurture is, as you can imagine, a guaranteed losing battle, unless you happen to be some kind of supernatural force (which I won’t entirely rule out, just to be on the safe side here. :-)
So, instead, when you want change, you might want to try changing your own beliefs about things. Strategies such as Buddhism and Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) use this strategy. I use it a whole lot as well. I look for underlying roots to people’s behaviors. I twist words around to see if there is another possible understanding of what people say. And I test out reflections of ideas to see if their opposite is also true or truer.
But even easier than all those approaches, even easier than flipping ideas around to test out all the permutations of a theory, and way easier than fighting against nature and nurture, is simply allowing my body to move in whatever way it wants – working directly with my own nature and nurture.
The physical self is governed by the most ancient area of the brain, sometimes called the lizard brain, and thus it’s design has many millions of years of experience making change happen. The prefrontal cortex, on the other hand, is just a tiny baby in the grand history of “doing stuff”, and it’s still quite wobbly when it comes to doing things without falling over a hell of a lot.
Next time you are frustrated with the world, and find yourself inclined to demand that someone else “do something!” because you don’t like the status quo, consider letting the power of just moving your body, and letting your instincts take over (as long as you are in a reasonably safe environment where you’re not going to do much damage to anyone, unless, of course, they are looking to get some aggression out as well and volunteer to play with you!). And you can trust your body to do what it needs to do, because your body was born knowing how to problem solve and heal.
(Now, moving your body only works well to make positive change when you have an abundance of energy, not when you are deficient. In the case of being deficient, just lay low for a while and maybe let people know what you need, so that they can have a chance to get it for you, if they are able to. To know which situation you’re in, listen closely to your body’s messages.)
So yeah, if you really want change, right now, try it the easy way, allow yourself to move forward, backward, or spin around, and see what changes.
The difference between an obstacle and everything else…
Once you are looking at an obstacle from the other side, it becomes simply another interesting or uninteresting part of the universe.
Using the pattern of growth, and the awareness that it can be seen as waves of increasingly calming peaks and valleys of taking in and expressing out matter and energy, I understand that the types of emotions that you experienced as a baby and toddler (up to about 45 months old) are the types of emotions that you will always have as your basic emotional make up, while the intensity of those emotions will continue to decrease as you age. It’s like the way the ripples in a pond stay the same shape and ratio as they both grow outward and recede.
So if you experienced a wide range of different emotional states as a child, due to your environment and situations, then you will have a wide range of different emotional states as an adult. And if you experienced a narrow range of emotional states as a young child, you will always only have that narrow range. And either way, the emotions that you experience will continue to mellow as time moves forward for you, so that as you age, you become more balanced and calm, while still experiencing the same kinds of emotions you were exposed to as a tiny person.
Some people who know my personal situation and my relationship, housing, and employment history might find it surprising, but I honestly and deeply love my life the vast majority of the time.
I think that there are two internal reasons for this:
1. I do what I love as often as I possibly can, even if it seems silly, “bad”, or if others don’t understand why it’s important. (With the crucial caveat that everyone around me is free to ignore me or leave my presence so that they can be personally responsible for taking care of their own needs at the time.)
2. I am aware of evidence that the man I married and love so passionately and deeply most likely still very much loves me and values me and thinks I’m a good person and does in fact want me to he healthy and happy, and wishes to be with me passionately, too, even if he isn’t always able to express that. (And, at a somewhat lower level of importance, but still probably significant, the perceived love and respect and support of my parents is part of this overall sense of being a person who is indeed better off alive than dead.)
So this vision of being free to be the most loving person I possibly can be while also feeling that I am a very much loved person is what makes me very happy to be alive most of the time these days.
Which leads me to ask: What if we had as a goal for every individual human (and eventually every other individual social animal) to feel loved and loving most of the time? What if that was incorporated into public and private policy? What kind of world can you imagine if this was normal?
The factor that makes all the difference between someone being “sick” and one being healthfully different is, from what I can tell, literally describing an individual as one other the other and then treating them as such.
It’s not just the “magic of words”, but that’s part of it. The other part is the magic of action, which, as we know, speaks even louder than words.
So, how are you speaking and acting when it comes to those around you? Are you aware enough of the value of their different approach to life – physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually – and their general tendency to choose the most healthful solution from the options that they see as being available to them, to be able to express how they are healthfully different in word and deed?
I certainly haven’t done this a whole lot, due to training and habits for doing other things instead, but I continue to pay attention to the idea of seeing the value in everything, and that intentional practice has indeed improved my performance in this skill. And I will continue to remind myself to look for how others are different and healthy as I go though life interacting with so many incredibly diverse individuals who all contribute something important to the health and growth of life itself, whether I am consciously aware of it or not. Perhaps this is what makes me healthfully different from you. Or, perhaps this is what makes me similarly healthy to you, depending on which sorts of ways you are healthy.
Also, if anyone can come up with a more poetic way of saying “healthfully different” I’d love to hear it! I’m always happy to encourage my memes to evolve into more resilient and beautiful creatures!
It’s been said that we humans are incredibly complex. And clearly we are. Heck, we’re not really even just one species. Instead our internal make-up contains something like ten thousand different species, (mostly microbes). And we’ve got something like trillions of trillions of cells in our body, including all those other species that are the individual human “us”.
And that’s just one single individual human being.
So yes, life is indeed complex. At least when you look at it from a microscope, or it’s literary equivalent.
But from a different perspective, one much broader and more inclusive, life is also simple.
Individuals want things that help us grow. Individuals want to avoid things that prevent us from growing. And individuals have the ability to get information about the things we individuals encounter in our environment.
So when people do something, you have the option to look at their behavior from this comfortably simple perspective of them wanting to grow, wanting to avoid obstacles to growth, and/or trying to get more information about the world.
And when you look at people’s behavior that way, it really makes people look far more beautiful and positive. Which is nice, for a change, isn’t it? :-)