Passages: Man’s Search For Meaning, Viktor Frankl

Time and time again I read what I need to read, when I need to read it. I had read Man’s Search For Meaning before; although, as I get older, I find that my own increased experience adds additional dimension to things. Such was the case here. The words of Viktor Frankl, published in 1946, are profoundly significant. I think you will find them of value as well.

As part of my Passages series, I have transcribed my favorite passages below.

Note: Man’s Search For Meaning chronicles Victor Frankl’s time in multiple Nazi concentration camps – as well as the premise of his school of therapy, known as Logotherapy – and while the book clocks in at just over 150 pages, many of the passages I have selected are related more to the psychological value of the book than its historical content. Nonetheless, I highly recommend you purchase a copy of the book for yourself. It’s easily one of my favorite books, as evidenced by its inclusion in my Passages series. 


“The attempt to develop a sense of humor and to see things in a humorous light is some kind of trick learned while mastering the art of living. Yet it is possible to practice the art of living even in a concentration camp, although suffering is omnipresent. To draw an analogy: a man’s suffering is similar to the behavior of gas. If a certain quantity of gas is pumped into an empty chamber, it will fill the chamber completely and evenly, no matter how big the chamber. Thus suffering completely fills the human soul and the conscious mind, no matter whether the suffering is great or little. Therefore the “size” of human suffering is absolutely relative.”

– p. 44

“‘Listen, Otto, if I don’t get back home to my wife, and if you should see her again, tell her that I talked of her daily, hourly. You remember. Secondly, I have loved her more than anyone. Thirdly, the short time I have been married to her outweighs everything, even all we have gone through here.'”

– p. 55

“Even though conditions such as lack of sleep, insufficient food and various mental stresses may suggest that the inmates were bound to react in certain ways, in the final analysis it becomes clear that the sort of person a prisoner became was the result of an inner decision, and not the result of camp influences alone. Fundamentally, therefore, any man can, even under such circumstances, decide what shall become of him, mentally and spiritually. He may retain his human dignity even in a concentration camp.”

– p. 66

“The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity – even under the most difficult circumstances – to add a deeper meaning to his life.”

– p. 67

“This young woman knew that she would die in the next few days. But when I talked to her she was cheerful in spite of this knowledge. “I am grateful that fate has hit me so hard,” she told me. “In my former life I was spoiled and did not take spiritual accomplishments seriously.” Pointing through the window of the hut, she said, “This tree here is the only friend I have in my loneliness.” Through the window she could see just one branch of a chestnut tree, and on the branch were two blossoms. “I often talk to this tree,” she said to me. I was startled and didn’t quite know how to take her words. Was she delirious? Did she have occasional hallucinations? Anxiously I asked her if the tree replied. “Yes.” What did it say to her? She answered, “It said to me, ‘I am here – I am here – I am life, eternal life.'””

– p. 69

“The Latin word finis has two meanings: the end or the finish, and a goal to reach. A man who could not see the end of his ‘provisional existence’ was not able to aim at an ultimate goal in life. He ceased living for the future, in contrast to a man in a normal life. Therefore, the whole structure of his inner life changed; signs of decay set in which we know from other areas of life. The unemployed worker, for example, is in a similar position. His existence has become provisional and in a certain sense he cannot live for the future or aim at a goal.”

– p. 70

“A man who let himself decline because he could not see any future goal found himself preoccupied with retrospective thoughts. In a different connection, we have already spoken of the tendency there was to look into the past, to help make the present, with all its horrors, less real. But in robbing the present of its reality there lay a certain danger. It became easy to overlook the opportunities to make something positive of camp life, opportunities which really did exist. Regarding our ‘provisional existence’ as unreal was in itself an important factor in causing the prisoners to lose their hold on life; everything in a way became pointless. Such people forgot that often it is just such an exceptionally difficult external situation which gives man the opportunity to grow spiritually beyond himself. Instead of taking the camp’s difficulties as a test of their inner strength, they did not take life seriously and despised it as something of no consequence. They preferred to close their eyes and to live in the past. Life for such people became meaningless.”

– pp. 71-72

“Any attempt at fighting the camp’s psychopathological influence on the prisoner by psychotherapeutic or psychohygeinic methods had to aim at giving him inner strength by pointing out to him a future goal to which he could look forward. Instinctively some of the prisoners attempted to find one on their own. It is a peculiarity of man that he can only live by looking to the future – sub specie aeternitatis. And this is his salvation in the most difficult moments of his existence, although he sometimes has to force his mind to the task.”

– pp. 72-73

“I remember a personal experience. Almost in tears from pain (I had terrible sores on my feet from wearing torn shoes), I limped a few kilometers with our long column of men from the camp to the work site. Very cold, bitter winds struck us. I kept thinking of the endless little problems of our miserable life. What should there be to eat tonight? If a piece of sausage came as a ration, should I exchange it for a piece of bread? Should I trade my last cigarette, which was left from a bonus I received a fortnight ago, for a bowl of soup? How could I get a piece of wire to replace a fragment which served as one of my shoelaces?

….

I became disgusted with the state of affairs which compelled me, daily and hourly, to think only of such trivial things. I forced my thoughts to turn to another subject. Suddenly, I saw myself standing on the platform of a well-lit, warm and pleasant lecture room. In front of me sat an attentive audience on comfortable upholstered seats. I was giving a lecture on the psychology of the concentration camp! All that oppressed me at that moment became objective, seen and described from the remote viewpoint of science. By this method I succeeded in rising above the situation, above the sufferings of the moment, and I observed them if they were already in the past. Both I and my troubles became the subject of an interesting psychoscientific study undertaken by myself. What does Spinoza say in his Ethics? – “Affectus, qui passio est, desinit esse passio simulatque eius claram et distinctam formamus ideam.” Emotion, which is suffering, ceases to be suffering as soon as we form a clear and precise picture of it.”

– pp. 73-74

“The prisoner who had lost faith in the future – his future – was doomed. With his loss of belief in the future, he also lost his spiritual hold; he let himself decline and became subject to mental and physical decay.”

– p. 74

“As we said before, any attempt to restore a man’s inner strength in the camp had first to succeed in showing him some future goal. Nietzsche’s words, “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how,” could be the guiding motto for all psychotherapeutic and psychohygeinic efforts regarding prisoners. Whenever there was an opportunity for it, one had to give them a why- an aim – for their lives, in order to strengthen them to bear the terrible how of their existence. Woe to him who saw no more sense in his life, no aim, no purpose, and therefore no point in carrying on. He was soon lost.”

– p. 76

“We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life – daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual.

These tasks, and therefore the meaning of life, differ from man to man, and from moment to moment, Thus it is impossible to define the meaning of life in a general way. Questions about the meaning of life can never be answered by sweeping statements. “Life” does not mean something vague, but something very real and concrete, just as life’s tasks are very real and concrete. They form man’s destiny, which is different and unique for each individual. No man and no destiny can be compared with any other man or any other destiny.”

– p. 77

“The uniqueness and singleness which distinguishes each individual and gives a meaning to his existence has a bearing on creative work as much as it does on human love. When the impossibility of replacing a person is realized, it allows the responsibility which a man has for his existence and its continuance to appear in all its magnitude. A man who becomes conscious of the responsibility he bears toward a human being who affectionately waits for him, or to an unfinished work, will never be able to throw away his life. He knows the ‘why’ for his existence, and will be able to bear almost any ‘how’.

– p. 80

“Let me explain why I have employed the term “logotherapy”” as the name for my theory. Logos is a Greek word which denotes ‘meaning’. Logotherapy.. focuses on the meaning of human existence as well as on man’s search for such a meaning. According to logotherapy, this striving to find a meaning in one’s life is the primary motivational force in man. This is why I speak of a will to meaning in contrast to the pleasure principle.”

– pp. 98-99

“Man’s search for meaning is the primary motivation in his life and not a “secondary rationalization” of instinctual drives. This meaning is unique and specific in that it must be fulfilled by him alone; only then does it achieve a significance which can satisfy his own will to meaning. There are some authors who contend that meanings and values are “nothing but defense mechanisms, reaction formations and sublimations.” But as for myself, I would not be willing to live merely for the sake of my “defense mechanisms,” nor would I be ready to die merely for the sake of my “reaction formations.” Man, however, is able to live and even to die for the sake of his ideals and values!”

– p. 99

“Thus it can be seen that mental health is based on a certain degree of tension between what one has already achieved and what one still ought to accomplish, or the gap between what one is and what one should become. Such a tension is inherent in the human being and therefore is indispensable to mental well-being. We should not, then, be hesitant about challenging a man with a potential meaning for him to fulfill. It is only thus that we evoke his will to meaning from its state of latency. I consider it a dangerous misconception of mental hygiene to assume that what man needs in the first place is equilibrium or, as it is called in biology, ‘homeostasis,’ i,e., a tensionless state. What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the struggling and striving for a worthwhile goal, a freely chosen task. What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him.”

– pp. 104-105

“One should not search for an abstract meaning of life. Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life to carry out a concrete assignment which demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced nor can his life be repeated. Thus, everyone’s task is as unique as is his opportunity to implement it.

As each situation in life represents a challenge to man and presents a problem for him to solve, the question of the meaning of life may actually be reversed. Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he  can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by becoming responsible. Thus, logotherapy sees in responsibleness the very essence of human existence.

– pp. 108-109

“The emphasis on responsibleness is reflected in the categorical imperative of logotherapy, which is: “Live as if you were living already for the second time and as if you had acted as wrongly the first time as you are about to act now!” It seems to me that there is nothing which would stimulate a man’s sense of responsibleness more than this maxim, which invites him to imagine first that the present is past and, second, that the past may yet be changed and amended. Such a precept confronts him with life’s finiteness as well as the finality of what he makes out of both life and himself.

Logotherapy tries to makes the patient fully aware of his own responsibleness; therefore, it must leave to him the option for what, to what, or to whom he understands himself to be responsible.”

– pp. 109-110

“Love is the only way to grasp another human being in the innermost core of his personality. No one can become filly aware of the very essence of another human being unless he loves him. By his love he is enabled to see the essential traits and features in the beloved person; and even more, he sees that which is potential in him, which is not yet actualized but yet ought to be actualized. Furthermore, by his love, the loving person enables the beloved person to actualize these potentialities. By making him aware of what he can be and what he should become, he makes these potentialities come true.”

– pp. 111-112

“It is one of the basic tenets of logotherapy that man’s main concern is not to gain pleasure or to avoid pain but rather to see a meaning in his life. That is why man is even ready to suffer, on the condition, to be sure, that his suffering has meaning.

But let me make it perfectly clear that in no way is suffering necessary to find meaning. I only insist that meaning is possible even in spite of suffering – provided, certainly, that the suffering is unavoidable. If it were avoidable, however, the meaningful thing to do would be to remove its cause, be is psychological, biological or political. To suffer unnecessarily is masochistic rather than heroic.”

– p. 113

“Logotherapy, keeping in mind the essential transitoriness of human existence, is not pessimistic but rather activistic. To express this point figuratively we might say: The pessimist resembles a man who observes with fear and sadness that his wall calendar, from which he daily tears a sheet, grows thinner with each passing day. On the other hand, the person who attacks the problems of life actively is like a man who removes each successive leaf from his calendar and files it neatly and carefully away with its predecessors, after having first jotted down a few diary notes on the back. He can reflect with pride and joy on all the richness set down in these notes, on the life he has already lived to the fullest. What will it matter to him if he notices he is growing old? Has he any reason to envy the young people whom he sees, or wax nostalgic over his own lost youth? What reasons has he to envy a young person? For the possibilities the young person has in store for him? “No, thank you,” he will think.

“Instead of possibilities, I have realities in my past, not only the reality of work done and love loved, but of sufferings bravely suffered. These sufferings are even the things of which I am most proud, though these are things which cannot inspire envy.”

– pp. 121-122

p.s. The exclusive use of the male pronoun is not so much a defect of the book as a sign of the times in which it was written; however, for being a 73 year old book, its wisdom holds up incredibly well. A treasure, no doubt, for any human’s search for meaning.

Courting Your Fate

I have to write a bit; this is where I program myself, where I reflect back what I am.

And I’m moving into the life I believe I deserve.

I recently took a quantum leap and faced my deepest fears. Up and to dying. And that was the one I accepted. And it made all the difference.

No more fear, no more stress.

A song I have liked, by FC Kahuna, came on tonight – it is a song I used to enjoy listening to during a long, comforting bath.

But as I listened to the lyrics tonight, I was no longer soothed by the song:

“Don’t think about everything you fear,
Just be glad to be here.”

And tonight, I thought, well, there’s nothing I fear any longer – and were there, I would want to face it: immediately. See through whatever it was in my mind. And overcome it, knowing I am strong enough – for whatever.

Stress and fear are the same.

They are simply beliefs that we don’t possess the requisite inner resources to handle an outer situation. And that becomes an inner situation. Stress and fear are terrible masters.

And both can be faced with the same omnipotent inner courage: knowing.

And if you believe you can handle it, you can. Simple as that.

You need no complex truths. Just self-knowledge of inner strength, worth, and abundant inner resources. You are enough.

And if you can gain this oneupmanship over your mind, you’re free. Trust me. I am liberated.

And if you’re reading this, you’re probably close to liberation too. Consciousness is a breath we all draw. And I am the first to be mentally and emotionally free in generations. Evolution. We are all part of a personal, social, familial pattern called culture. And if a writer in your generation, me, is free – in light of the wild matrix that is the collective – well, chances are you can, will be free to.

It’s a choice we have.

To spend our lives in fear and stress, or to know we will die – so much so that there is nothing to fear.

Shakespeare wrote about it:

“Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard.
It seems to me most strange that men should fear;
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.”

– Shakespeare, Julius Cesar

(Act II, Scene II, Line 32)

My friends. Fear not. This is all temporary. One long movie, with a beginning, middle, and end.

Reading all this. Knowing this. You’ll overcome the fear and the stress. The truth always sets us free.

And when you are free from fear, you are no longer controllable. Not by the past, not by the future, not by the present, not by self-esteem, not by who you worship, or who you have worshipped, or who has hurt you, or how you have hurt yourself. You’re free.

Then you’re left with the next important choice:

What do I want to do while I Am here?

And once you decide what you truly want – at your deepest and most authentic level – once you start writing the movie of your life, designing your experience, consciously choosing your path, deciding your reality, then you have to believe in it.

Another leap of faith. But it’s the same as getting over fear. It’s simply knowing that you are capable. And beyond that, knowing you are worthy of the feelings, of the things you desire.

Own it. Whatever it is you want in your life, own it. Don’t just pass the time. Don’t just survive. Don’t just accept what is. Admit to yourself exactly what you want. And know, you’ll never give up on it. And don’t let go of that vision. Sharpen it. Focus it. Keep it in the front of your mind. See it before your eyes.

Because that is the key. Knowing you have it. Everyone will tell you this. You have to visualize it. You have to see it. And most importantly, you have to feel it.

No doubts. Utter confidence. The feelings that give you the courage to jump in.

You have to have the nerve. And you have to know it is always yours. You are what you seek: what you seek seeks you.

This is the law of vibration. Believe in it or not – but it is the choice of believing in your mind or not. Your mind creates your reality. Trust me, happy people think good thoughts. People full of love are loving. Warm people are warm. Be what you want to be and accept nothing less.

Raise the quality of your thoughts to meet you. Don’t wait until you feel better or you never will. Decide to feel better. And feel better. And if you do not, face whatever barriers are within you. You can overcome all of them. There is always someone who has overcome more than you.

I am rewriting my story.

I have not known hard. Ever. I have only made it hard on myself. I have only not known any better. I have only not known there was someone within me as strong as anyone who has ever lived. I have only ever doubted myself. I have only ever been afraid. I have only ever been scared. I have only ever pushed people away. I have only ever pitied myself. I have only ever self-destructed on my own volition.

But now I know. All the failures were signposts. And it has all only ever served me – even if only today, only if in hindsight. And my failures in life are the most powerful, invaluable proofs of the power of my thoughts, my feelings.

And I haven’t been an Alpha in a long time.

But today, I believe in myself. I am above my fears and worries. They are melting away. As they arise. As I face them. And this is a great power.

Now I see the pearl that I am. And I wonder. What is the dirt, what is the shame, what are the wounds that pearl has formed around?

Because now I want to know myself. My inner child. My inner feminine. I have found my way back to me. Back home, to a place I will never depart from. And I understand that I was apart from myself for a long time. I let another own my worth, and when I fell in their estimation, I fell in my own, and when I fell in my own estimation, I only fell further in theirs.

I used to let my thoughts sink all the way to the bottom. And I did. I have a full, rich life behind me. One full of beautiful things loved and lost. Things I took for granted. Myself most of all.

Didn’t know my worth. My worth (Not what someone else thinks). So I was ashamed and afraid. Hid my faults from myself in denial and inner conflict. Had no means to know the value of my mistakes. Had no art, no perspective to appreciate all my pain, to love my wounds.

And now, life is further opening up.

And I get to use everything for my art. Every vice and virtue. And all of my gratitude, love, and humility.

It is not only okay to be different, it is beneficial. What makes you different is what the world needs. What makes you different are your gifts. Don’t conform in ways that bury who you are.

If you want to live the life uncommon, you have to be uncommon, you have to lead an uncommon life. And you have to walk an unconventional path. But it’s your’s. Let it be familiar. Love it. Honor it. Nurture it.

And just hold the vision of what you want as a belief – as if it were already done.

Consciousness is very telling.

If you think you need advice, you do. If you think you need some grand ego death and awakening, and some psychedelic trip to give you the answer that’s going to make it all click, then you do.

And if you think you have all the answers to your inner questions, then you’ll have them.

My point is, stop looking outside of yourself. You’ll search forever that way.

Trust your inner self. Trust your inner child. Trust your inner wise old man. Trust your truths. Trust that you can be honest with yourself about how you feel. And trust that you can know yourself.

Be with yourself. Put the phone / tv / etc distractions down and listen to yourself. Dialogue with yourself. Ask yourself how you are. And let yourself answer. You’ll probably find things about your needs that you are repressing for whatever reason. And then you can learn to be there for yourself. Because you need you.

And you no longer fear. And you believe in what you want. And you envision it and feel it. And you face what arises in conflict with it. And you declare yourself to be what you are, wholly committed to becoming it.

And you stay focused and take small actions daily. And you check in with yourself. And you are honest with yourself. And patient. Because you can’t wait to have it to feel good. In fact, you know that the better you feel, the more you will have. So you cultivate habits that support your feeling good. Because you know it is all about self-love, self-care, and self-respect. Living true to yourself, within your vision. Never without it. Enter it. Penetrate it. Pierce it. Touch it. Become one with it. Let your vision be your beloved. Know it. Love it. Court it.

Be the suitor of your fate until it is here. Until then: know it is yours.

Some Reddit Gold (Motivational, Life Advice)

What follows is something I came across on Reddit. Per one of the comments, I am taking the liberty to republish it here. It will only take you a few minutes to read and I’m positive everyone can glean something of value from it. Of particular interest to me are the ideas about Dopamine and it’s role in motivation, and how we can influence it and positively manage it. Also, Flow Activities. And lastly, what the author write about getting on a healthy sleep schedule is correct: wake and eat early, stay up, repeat. So much good stuff here. Without further ado, enjoy:

[METHOD] How I went from rock bottom to disciplined in 6 months.

Hi, I wish to share my journey of getting disciplined. I hope you will take something away from this :). I would like to mention that I’m not a native English speaker, so forgive me for any grammar and/or spelling mistakes.

TLDR; Build positive habits on a foundation of willpower, not motivation.

Start reading non-fiction and apply it in your life. Work on your physiology, it should be the foundation for productivity and discipline.

Lessen the amount of superstimuli in your life to get more dopamine (motivation).

Flow activities should be the goal in life, not mind numbing pleasure.

Start a bullet journal where you color code all activities you do each day positive or negative.

It all started when I realized I had hit rock bottom. I was getting up at 3pm everyday. Only ate junkfood, lay in bed watching YouTube and smoking a lot of weed. My room was always a complete mess. I completely disregarded my study while I was living of a study loan. Every night I would hang out with a friend who would do the same and we’d smoke weed and watch screens until about 5 am. It really was rock bottom. This went on for a long time until I saw I had to change my life.

HABIT BUILDING

I read a book called The Slight Edge. The idea of the book was that with consistent, incremental improvement, anyone could reach anything. It also debunked the idea of a ‘quantum leap’, which at first I believed in. I liked the idea and started implementing it to form positive habits in my life. I started with nofap, meditation, reading, cleaning and some more. I made a lot of mistakes when I first started out. So some advice on habit building I have accumulated is this:

DON’T TRUST MOTIVATION. Motivation is good if it’s there but it shouldn’t be the foundation of the habits you create. Why? because motivation isn’t always there, and when it’s gone you also lose the habits that you build on top of it. I experienced this a lot of times. I would have a streak of 100+ days meditation, miss 3 days and completely give up until I had the motivation again to start over.

So how can I build habits then? Do it based on willpower. The big difference is not to say to yourself “I’m gonna read 20 pages every day because I’m so motivated to gain knowledge.” But that you say “I’m going force myself to start reading everyday because I will have enough willpower to always do that.”

The key is that if you make the requirement so small that you can always do it, you will never fail. So doing for example 1 pushup everyday. You will never fail that requirement. But if you have very little motivation one day and think about doing 20 pushups, it just seems intimidating and you don’t do it.

Some people might say “only starting to read or doing 1 push up will never get me anywhere.” And I agree, but the thing is that you can do more. And you will usually do more. Once you forced yourself, with willpower, to get into push up position and do 1 push up, you’ll probably think “I can do one more, and one more” and so on. Same for reading, once you’ve forced yourself to sit in a chair with a book and started reading, you wont stop after just 1 word. You will do a lot more than the initial requirement more times then not. It will also give you a sense of “I did this”. Especially if your requirement is, say, 1 push up, and you do 10. You will have done 9 extra. As opposed to when you require yourself to do 20 and do 10. You will have done 10 too little.

Try it right now, force yourself on the ground to do one push up. I’m sure you have the willpower to do that.

The key is to make the requirement so small you will never fail it. Build the habit on a foundation of willpower, if motivation comes along, that’s great.

READING

The one habit that has done the most for my life is to read non-fiction. I bought an e-reader and started to read daily. I recommend buying an e-reader a lot. Here are some of the benefits:

– Very portable, whenever I’m in public transport I pull it out and read some pages.

– Buying books is instant and you can read anything you’d like

– If you have little money there are a lot of places where you can download ebooks for free

– It has a backlight, so you can read in your bed, lying on your side, in the dark. Most come with blue light filters as well.

Some of the benefits of reading non-fiction

– You can learn directly from great people

– There are books on anything that you find interesting (for me it’s psychology)

– There are a lot of self-help books on the market that will give you advice that you can practically apply in your life.

I’m sure there are a lot more, but for the sake of not writing a book as a post this will do.

I think the most important thing as a prerequisite for discipline is good physiology. If you aren’t feeling good it’s hard to do things that would count as disciplined behavior. So that’s why I would recommend reading some books about physiology.

Books that have had a profound impact on my life are; Mini habits, Meet Your Happy Chemicals, The HeartMath Solution, The Willpower Instinct, Cupid’s Poisoned Arrow, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience and Awareness Through Movement.

If your read all these books you will learn; how to create healthy habits in your life without making it hard; how your brain chemicals work; how to instantly lower stress and deal with negative thought and emotion, how willpower works, why it matters and how to get more of it; how orgasm induces neurochemical brain changes for 2 weeks and how it’s evolutionary designed to break romantic relationships; what a flow experience is, and why it should be the goal for all activities in life to turn into one; that everyone stops progressing in the most basic things like breathing, posture etc. because only the minimal in life is needed to get on, it also provides lessons on how to improve these parts of life.

Gaining knowledge in this field will give you the ability to make the changes in your life that will benefit your overall feeling. Feeling good overall, in your body and mind, is required for doing productive things.

DOPAMINE

I’m a psychology student so when I got into self help I was naturally interested in the brain’s place in self improvement.

Dopamine is the key player here. Most people think dopamine is responsible for ‘pleasure’. This is a big misunderstanding. Dopamine is actually responsible for ‘wanting’ and motivation.

When the dopamine part of the brain was first discovered, it was discovered in rats. The researchers hooked up a lever to the rats’ dopamine circuit to shock the dopamine circuit (mimicking dopamine release) whenever the rats would pull the lever. The rats soon ignored anything else and only pulled the lever until they died of starvation and fatigue. Next the researchers (this one is a bit cruel) would have 2 levers on the opposite sides of a cage that would produce a ‘dopamine hit’ if pressed after the other. To make it interesting they put an electrically charged grid in between that would give the rats a painful shock if they walked over it. So now the rats would have to cross the grid every time they wanted another ‘dopamine hit’. Shockingly (lol) the rats would run across it until they burned of their legs and couldn’t walk anymore. The researchers concluded from these experiments that this dopamine circuit was responsible for creating pleasure. Nowadays this is proved to be wrong and the actual function of the dopamine circuit is believed to be wanting and motivation.

Most things people like to do give a lot of dopamine (much more than anything would have given in nature). Things like watching TV (or netflix), internet, drugs, processed foods, porn, gambling and videogames. Things that give us a lot of dopamine tend to be addicting. No wonder I was only smoking, watching screens and lying in bed when I hit rock bottom.

Now, why should you care? The reason is very simple. Exposure to high dopamine for longer periods of time REDUCES DOPAMINE RECEPTORS. Lower dopamine receptors give you lower motivation, lower concentration and less mental sharpness. With there being a lot of supernaturally high dopamine giving activities and substances available to us we should all be aware in what amount we should consume them. This is the reason why there are more college and university dropouts more than ever before. Why so many people are unhappy at work. And why there are more cases of depression than ever before (depression is linked to lower dopamine).

Big companies know about this and use it to sell us as much as possible and keep them on their platforms for longer. They put the exact amount of sugar in all foods so that we like it the most, they design their platforms so you stay on them a lot (Facebook and Instagram), they implement gambling into games so that we play them more (Fortnite).

So what to take away from all this? Lessen the amount of activities you do each day that give you a lot of dopamine and don’t add anything to your life. This will give you a natural amount of dopamine receptors again and will make it a lot easier to stay concentrated while reading or learning an instrument for example.

FLOW ACTIVITIES

1 book that has made a profound impact on my life is the book Flow, The Psychology of Optimal Experience. The idea of the book is that there are certain activities that for which your brain needs 100% of it’s power to be focused on the activity. This is when you reach a ‘Flow state’. In this state you lose the idea of the self, you lose track of time and are only focused on the task at hand. For example when you drive somewhere and you get there and don’t remember how you got there.

Flow occurs when your skill matches the challenge of the activity. When your skill is too high, you will be bored, when the challenge is too high you will be anxious.

The key idea from this book, for me, was the difference between pleasure and enjoyment. Pleasure activities are ones that give the high amount of dopamine. Whereas enjoyable activities also give dopamine, but also make you better at the task and will often produce a state of Flow. Enjoyment produces growth, pleasure does not.

I think that any activity in life that is not a pure pleasure activity can be made into a flow activity. It’s one of my goals in life to fill my day with enjoyable activities. It made me realize I wanted to fill my day with making music and reading, not with smoking and watching TV.

JOURNALING

One of the best habits I have build is journaling. More specifically bullet journaling. I’m not sure if this is the official way to do it but this is what I do and what works for me.

People pay coaches a lot of money to do something they can do themselves as well; give feedback. All a coach does is tell you what you’ve done, and where you can improve. This is something you can do yourself easily by bullet journaling.

My method: I have a simple notebook where I use the left and right page for 1 day. In the morning I write down some things I want to do that day on the left page. If there are things I wanted to do yesterday I write them down for today. I also write a bit about how I feel. Recently I’ve been doing some affirmations as well on that page. You can skip this entire left page, I personally like it, but I can understand how it’s a bit much for some people. You could also experiment with it and change it up how you like it.

The real magic (and the reason I made the coach analogy) is on the right page. Here is where I write down every influential activity I do. I won’t write down things like ‘have breakfast’ or ‘short chat with roommate’. I write down everything that has a positive or a negative meaning (some things are neutral like doing groceries). Then at the end of the day I will use a marker to color code every activity either green (positive) or red (negative). So for example:

(green) get up at 6am

(green) take a cold shower

(green) meditate

(red) smoke a joint

(red) waste an hour on Netflix

(green) go to school

(red) hangout with X toxic friend and drink beer

I hope you see what I meant with the coach analogy now. You will get a lot of feedback on what you do each day. When I first started doing this I was shocked by how much red activities I had and made it a mission to get more green activities in there. It was slow progress but steadily it got better.

If you don’t like the left part of the journaling (which is how most people recommend it), I would advice you to try the right page. If you’re gonna do one, it should be the right page. See it as a free life coach.

SLEEP SCHEDULE

When I was at rock bottom my schedule was the furthest away from perfect that it could possibly be. One of the first things I changed that lasted was my sleeping schedule. I was done waking when it’s almost dark already and still being tired. Also I noticed that everything I did in the late evening wasn’t productive (or even counterproductive) like watching screens and doing drugs

There are good reasons to wake up early (5-6-7 AM). The best sleep you can get is the sleep between 10 and 12. If you’re still awake at 00:00 you will produce cortisol and adrenaline to keep you awake. This isn’t healthy. Good sleep improves cognitive function, vitality and motivation by a lot. There are many more benefits to a good sleeping schedule, and I think it’s well known that it’s a lot better. However most people think it’s hard to change their schedule.

It’s not. This is how you do it;

– Set your alarm at your goal wake up time (EG 6 am)

– When it goes, get out of bed, immediately eat breakfast

– Don’t sleep the rest of the day

– Make sure you stop all screens by 9:30 and are in bed before 10:00

– Set the alarm again, you will most likely wake up before it goes.

It’s as easy as this, now all you have to do is to stick with it. Start enjoying the vast amount if time you have available in the morning.

This post has gotten a lot longer than I anticipated. I really appreciate you reading it all the way through. If you have any questions feel free to post a comment or shoot me a message. I hope some of this has been helpful and I hope you will find success and happiness in life! Peace!

 

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Avatar Master

There are two main pieces of me:
The boy, a child-god, who lives on the inside
And the man, an animal, who lives on the outside;
The boy, omnipotent yet a god, imaginary…
The man, capable yet a man, flesh…
The age old question:
How to reconcile these opposites (The magical and the rational), which often pull us apart, unhealthily, for years,
Lifetimes…
I think it starts with consciously integrating these archetypes into our self – as our poles:
The Anakin and the Obi Wan,
The puer (or puella) and the senex:
The eternal boy and the wise old man (or woman) –
The two opposing modes of self, which, if left unconscious, inevitably live at odds,
And are then felt only in the quiet pain of unspoken misery…
These two sets of energies express (In opposite directions or as a split within us) whether we are aware of their existence and influence or not…
To bring them into consciousness, to open the possibility for a truly symbiotic, regenerative dynamic of self,
This is the begenning of something mystical, healing
Like the power-filled magical interplay of male and female selves made conscious…
Puer and senex are not mere metaphors to understand but deep-seated truths [realities] to be lived,
Powers to be used,
Life forces to be loved, felt, expressed, and cared for, in the sum we call “I” – But united, whole, and undividedly honest;
For the boy deserves a real life and the man deserves outer security,
And so they must exist consciously with one another,
In the service of the living one,
Who, slave no more,
Becomes their diety,
Avatar and master.

TBD

A person asks who they are,
Who might they become…
And years are lost this way,
Spent in abstact thought rather than concrete action

To declare ourselves
As hero and author of our story,
In deed rather than word,
Is to know we are not who we think we are
But what we are, as we have made ourselves.

Data Dump: The Time is Now

I come here to do ‘word-processing’, to let my thoughts congeal into coherence – whereafter, I will feel I have achieved something important (For I will have); where I once journaled in lengthy prose, my notebooks these days are filled with jottings – mostly single ideas of varying yet significant importance. That said, the important stuff always goes here – and it’s not that I come here, to this space, with pre-formed ideas: I come here with a bug, an itch to write; for without writing, a mind like mine would go to waste: I need to dump the data somewhere.

Shall we?

I haven’t written prose style, like this, in awhile. But, in my experience, the longer it has been, the more personally significant my writing seems to be.

A lot has transpired; however, the details are not important – the exterior things were mere events; borrowing the stoic maxim, we can be reminded that, it is not things, but our opinion of them that matters.

I understand I possess a big future: I know this from my dreams and plans – what I call my ‘sense of destiny’.

So, here I am to claim it, to follow the dictates of a clean, bright soul, and in doing so, to release myself from the animalistic darkside I’ve so long been owned by.

As the former-slave philosopher Epictetus reminds us, “No man is free who is not master of himself.”

Only, my previous attempts at self-mastery were too small-minded – I didn’t possess the requisite conception of myself needed to level-up; frankly, I lacked an endgame big enough for me to get the balls rolling.

Now I know what I am, what I am to be. And it’s nothing shallow – it’s a real valid purpose for a valid life.

Those smaller end-games I played before were never meant to be won: they were just data, experiences I needed to live in order to aggregate understanding. As is said, when the student is ready, the teacher appears.

My teachers are those who show me how to care for myself, how to live in ways I never learned, how to love myself and others. And it’s working.

Before getting this far in life, I was closed – my brain, my emotions, my attitudes and judgements were all automatic: unconscious.

Through my recent experiences and interactions, I’ve gained the ability to truly look ahead – and not just three or five years, but fifteen and twenty.

But this is not as simple as just re-writing my instagram (@wolfwaldoblack) bio; as I have learned (and forgotten), the journey must be lived.

But what does it mean to “live the journey”?

Your mind, your heart, must be open. Trust you must (Yoda voice).

As Gary Vaynerchuck once said, “People are the people who are going to help you.”

It’s taken me thirty-two plus years to trust people – to not be blindly naive. For we must learn to be wise as serpents and innocent [harmless] as doves. This means listening to the heart’s intuitive intelligence (Thank you HeartMath Institute).

However, in order for us to be aligned within and without, we need to follow some guidelines:

  • We must trust ourselves abidingly: Listen to your inner voice, no matter how faint it is.
  • We must listen to our instincts about others – no matter how much we would like to believe otherwise. People, like life, are complex – don’t reduce them to simplicities.
  • We must maintain health: without proper sleep, diet, self-care, and exercise / activity, we are not fully alive. These things connect us to ourselves as much as their absence disconnects us from ourselves. Live well to be well. Drink lots of water, eat real food, and get plenty of sun. Health is the greatest single investment you can make.
  • We must live the journey: understanding is not something unlocked all at once and then laid to rest forever; it is our curiosities we must follow, trusting we have what it takes to get to the next level. Trust the journey, trust the process.
  • We mustn’t let our fears impede or direct us – fear is often just the unknown; however, life is change. In the words of Heraclitus, “No man steps in the same river twice.” Be comfortable with change – nothing to fear in growth (Movement towards freedom).
  • We mustn’t lose the plot – the story we have built around who we are. Know your worth, believe in yourself.
  • We must surround ourselves with persons we would like to be like – not with those whom we break our own sacred trust in ourselves to be with. Get cliqued up. Build your team, no matter how slowly. Surround yourselves with those you can trust.
  • We must be secure in ourselves – insecurity is a type of madness in which the human being is no longer on their own side. Feel good about who you are, and the life you are living.
  • Appearances matter – do not be insecure but don’t be the Big Lebowski. Take care your appearance, take pride in your image – it’s the thing people who don’t know you will judge you on first.
  • Have a routine: as much as you loathe this idea (Based on past “routines” – see Navy), you need to establish a routine in order to build habits. Habits are what are going to take you to the top. Design a routine around your goals.
  • Set goals, from as near as today, through as far as you can envision. Your goals today should be taking you toward your goals for someday.
  • Set your own limits. The system creates small minded thinkers, and most families unknowingly raise their children to be small minded. It’s a cycle you can break. Be determined to set your ow limits.
  • Do not be an island. Do not isolate from the world. If you need help, get it. Count on those in whom your heart trusts to help you.
  • Don’t accept bullshit. People will throw all kinds of shit your way, but only what you can take – the bullshit stops with healthy boundaries.
  • Know your goodness. You were not born in sin, you were born a baby, then you were a child. Do not forget the goodness in your childlike heart – it’s still there.
  • Be self-sufficient. It’s good to have a network, but do not expect other people to do your work for you – or even to show you how. You are capable. Do not ask of another what is yours to do. Be self-reliant.
  • Be aware of what you feed your brain. There’s a reason it’s called television “programming”. Also, don’t watch the news – as Peter Diamandis taught me, the news is designed to activate the fear center of the brain – the amygdala – creating an addiction. Instead, follow the people / organizations that resonate with you. Or just live and don’t follow anything at all.
  • Chill out / cut back on social media. Social media is the new collective consciousness. It worships shallow, vapid people, and it feeds into the cycle of insecurity so many people live in. Want fame on social media? Do shit. Write the books. As the ancient maxim goes, to be rather than to seem.
  • Be there for your family. They need you and you need them more than you know.
  • Be resilient: don’t let a long day or being tired drag you down into a funk.
  • Be patient. Patience will get you there. Patience is like a wise oracle – it trusts what only the mind can see, for now.
  • Have fun – this is maybe the most important one. In the words of Bob Marley, “Lively up yourself and don’t be no dread.” Never underestimate the power of positive emotions.
  • And, lastly, follow your heart. Explore what you are called to. For me it was / is books. Everything else came from there.

This list is by no means exhaustive – but it’s what I need right now. I now rejoin life with a heart that’s a bit more free and pure. And with that increased freedom, my imagination will soar – and with it, myself.

Because the time is now. #ontrack

The Tao of Anxiety: Changing my Relationship to Life with Rollo May

I don’t write for artistic purposes, nor do I write for pleasure, or even to be a writer: I write to live.

It’s not that I’d go insane without writing – my life would just fall apart

I must write to understand myself, my life. The two of which I find more and more entangled as I grow older.

As I’m fond of saying lately, “Your life is a reflection of how you feel about yourself.” 

Life is, indeed, one-hundred-percent psychological. 

In a sense, I am here to re-program myself. My brain is the hardware and the software, and – amazingly – the one rewrites the other (In the form of new neural synapses or connections [synaptogenesis and synaptoplasticity]). 

Neuroplasticity – the ability for our brains to physically change – presents, to me, the strongest argument for free-will; I am only as hard wired as I choose to remain. 

The overreaching goal of my life is the actualization or fullfiment of my potential. My younger, more naive goals of happiness and inner peace simply cannot exist without my own growth, fulfillment, and development. 

Happiness and inner peace are products: reaching my potential is the process by which those objectives are achieved; however, happiness and inner peace are not goals in themselves, but are, instead, the feelings you experience when you achieve your authentic goals – aka, becoming yourself. 

In the words of existential psychologist and humanist Rollo May:

“Joy, rather than happiness, is the goal of life, for joy is the emotion which accompanies our fulfilling our natures as human beings. It is based on the experience of one’s identity as a being of worth and dignity.”

That said, irrespective of motive, goals are not as simple as plan, do, profit. There are a myriad of factors at play from self-esteem and health (physical and mental), to self-handicapping and motivational theories (Not to mention environmental and social factors, i.e., opportunity) – all of which can make our break our potentials. 

As any adult short of the current first family knows – nothing comes easy. But, still, we want what we want and we aren’t going to give up, so we have to discover a way

What excites me right now, as far as my own way, are the discoveries I am making in relation to my own mind. In short, I’m coming to discover that my anxieties are an integral part of my journey, my path. These [anxieties] are what push me to want better for myself; although, I have not always held this viewpoint. 

For most all my life, anxiety has been the same crippling, uncomfortable, destructive, and unpleasant force it can be for anyone. 

My perspective began to shift, however, when a friend said this to me: 

“I don’t believe we would do well if we weren’t hard on ourselves. We need those selfish insecurities to feel like there’s more we could accomplish.”

This clicked for me (Anxiety can be healthy too!) and sent me further down the rabbit hole, arriving at these words from Rollo May: 

“Anxiety is an even better teacher than reality, for one can temporarily evade reality by avoiding the distasteful situation; but anxiety is a source of education always present because one carries it within.” 

Rollo May’s work deals largely with anxiety, May himself stating that, “The constructive way of dealing with anxiety in this sense consists of learning to live with it, accepting it as a ‘teacher,’ to borrow Kirkegaard’s phrase, to school us in confronting our human destiny.”

Further, from May, “..conscious anxiety is more painful but it is available also to use in the service of integration of the self.”

And:

“But attempts to evade anxiety are not only doomed to failure. In running from anxiety you lose your most precious opportunities for the emergence of yourself, and for your education as a human being.”

In a sense, May presents anxiety as an invaluable ally rather than the inescapable foe it is for many, if not most. 

Pause and read that again. 

The paradigm of anxiety as teacher is nothing short of a game changer. That’s why I’m writing this. 

I’m all about flipping the script in my head. But it’s not enough to merely understand – as with any valuable paradigm – it must be lived (e.g., optimism); i,e., in order to view anxiety as a teacher, I need to be able to let it guide me. 

To do this, I have come up with an intuitive concept for integrating anxiety into my directing consciousness, which is the true purpose of my writing tonight. Allow me to arrive there. 

Heretofore, my relationship with anxiety has been a largely unconscious one. 

I suspect that, like most people, anxiety has pressed down upon me like a weight, or, rather, it has risen up from my unconscious mind, my conscious mind treating it like an unwelcome guest, an interloper to my happiness, much in the same way I might view fatigue or irritability – an annoyance at best and crippling at worst. 

I’ve spent days in bed, countless nights up – entire seasons of my life hiding from myself – the world – all in the name of running from anxiety. Let’s not forget the self-destruction that naturally arises from turning away from life so neurotically. 

As Rollo May writes on the consequences of a life without growth, in Man’s Search For Himself (1953):

“The human being cannot live in a condition of emptiness for very long: if he is not growing toward something, he does not merely stagnate; the pent-up potentialities turn into morbidity and despair, and eventually into destructive activities.”

Of course, in order to grow toward something – in order to turn away from the destructive despair of stagnation – we must turn towards the obstacles and face the anxiety naturally present in such growth. 

This is the exact awareness I am coming to: the fact that my anxiety is exactly what I need to feel – and that I’ll find the courage to grow in facing it, directly, head on. 

My previous theory on anxiety was essentially that the amygdala – the fear center of the brain – was largely responsible for it, and that part of the brain [the amygdala] being so primitive, so archaic, so reptilian, meant that the anxiety was merely an unfortunate feeling I, as a human, was destined to endure; although, I decided that I could – through sheer power of will – avoid the destructive activities, and – I could – with enough healthy sex and top shelf cannabis – counter the anxiety. 

Not an entirely unhappy or unlivable life – nor likely a unique strategy among my generation – but by no means an entirely secure, calm, grounded, and growth-oriented way to live, which is precisely what I want at thirty-two. 

I want to fall asleep with the softest of pillows, which is a clean conscience – and I want to awake with the same peace, renewed from the past day’s toil and excited about the day ahead, and in order to do that, I need to be free from what has prevented that: anxiety: fear. These are antithetical to the freedom I seek. 

Freedom, as May suggests in the following passage, from an essay of the same title, requires objective consciousness of oneself:

Freedom is man’s capacity to take a hand in his own development. It is our capacity to mold ourselves. Freedom is the other side of consciousness of self; if we were not able to be aware of ourselves, we would be pushed along by instinct or the automatic march of history, like bees or mastodons. But by our power to be conscious of ourselves, we can call to mind how we acted yesterday or last month, and by learning from these actions we can influence, even if ever so little, how we act today. And we can picture in imagination some situation tomorrow – say a dinner date, or an appointment for a job, or a Board of Directors meeting – and by turning over in fantasy different alternatives for acting, we can pick the one which will do best for us.

Consciousness of self gives us the power to stand outside the rigid chain of stimulus and response, to pause, and by this pause to throw some weight on either side, to cast some decision about what the response will be.

That consciousness of self and freedom go together is shown in the fact that the less self-awareness a person has, the more he is unfree. That is to say, the more he is controlled by inhibitions, repressions, childhood conditionings which he has consciously “forgotten” but which still drive him unconsciously, the more he is pushed by forces over which he has no control. When persons first come for psychotherapeutic help, for example, they generally complain that they are “driven” in any number of ways; they have sudden anxieties or fears or are blocked in studying or working without any appropriate reason, They are unfree – that is, bound and pushed by unconscious patterns.

As the person gains more consciousness of self, his range of choices and his freedom proportionately increase. Freedom is cumulative; one choice made with an element of freedom makes greater freedom possible for the next choice. Each exercise of freedom enlarges the circumference of the circle of one’s self.

Further, in the same essay:

Freedom does not come automatically; it is achieved. And it is not gained at a single bound; it must be achieved each day. As Goethe forcefully expresses the ultimate lesson learned by Faust:

“Yes! to this thought I hold with firm persistence;
The last result of wisdom stamps it true:
He only earns his freedom and existence
Who daily conquers them anew.”

And it is this daily conquering my freedom and existence that requires me to face my anxieties with courage rather than avoidance.

On courage and freedom, May writes:

“Courage is the capacity to meet the anxiety which arises as one achieves freedom. It is the willingness to differentiate, to move from the protecting realms of parental dependence to new levels of freedom and integration.”

“Many people feel they are powerless to do anything effective with their lives. It takes courage to break out of the settled mold, but most find conformity more comfortable. This is why the opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice, it’s conformity.”

Of course, I already know what it is to conform – at least, to as great of an extent as I ever will; what I am concerned with today is being my own man, my own person. 

In the words of Rollo May:

“One of the few blessings of living in an age of anxiety is that we are forced to become aware of ourselves.”

To become aware of myself – to become myself – I have to meet my anxiety rather than run from it. Acting upon rather than against it; welcoming it rather than dreading it. 

I have to bring my anxieties directly to my prefrontal cortex, from the unconscious to the conscious acting part of myself, where I make decisions and where I can choose who I am and what my values are [footnote 1].

To do this, I’m making a list tomorrow of all my anxieties. From this list I’ll be creating goals designed to specially address them. 

This is the third revolution of my model for goal planning and prioritiztion. The first was attempting to set goals based on my values, which I began doing at twenty-four. The second model for my goal planning and prioritization was interesting and valuable, but perhaps not entirely well-suited for an artist, who probably experiences more anxiety than anyone (save the neurotic), on acccount of their being so poor suited for any life but their own. 

I’ve come to learn recently that anxiety is perhaps the most valuable aspect of our intuitive voice, telling us exactly what we are uncomfortable with and where we need to act. The problem with anxiety is when we let it control us. I’m reminded of the sage quote, the mind is an excellent servant but a terrible master. Perhaps so too is anxiety. The challenge is for us to distinguish the rational anxiety from the irrational. Be rational and logical in your anxiety. Healthy anxiety is rational. But anxiety is a part of life. What I’m attempting to do is to work with mine to my advantage. Heaven knows its crushed me for long enough. 

Because in the end, anxiety drives us all regardless – it’s just a matter of whether that force [anxiety] is constructive or destructive: the choice is ours, only, most of us never learn that, but – if we did – if we knew the true value in learning from and facing anxiety, I think many of us would live differently. 

The obstacle is the way – I finally understand it: I have to turn toward my anxieties – my fears. And they won’t go away until – and unless – I slay them: these are my dragons. 

And Joseph Campbell’s words have never rang truer:

The treasure you seek lies in the cave you fear to enter. 

##

p.s. Having written this – having read this – I am so happy because I know I am going to face life, face fear, in a whole new way. And I’m ready for it. I made it here for this.

p.p.s I finally understand a John Mayer lyric from The Heart of Life, which I have always loved:

“Fear is a friend whose misunderstood.”

p.p.p.s Another thing I really appreciate about Rollo May (Aside from his insights into anxiety and his contributions to existential psychology.) are his humanist views. 

From a 1978 interview with Paychology Today, originally published on cassette:

One final question Dr May. Lets prognosticate if we may about the future. As we approach the end of the 20th century, what do you see happening. Will anxiety continue to escalate, will there be greater and greater numbers of people who face anxiety daily or will we learn to deal with our anxiety and manage it more constructively?

Well I think the latter. Certainly I think we’re in for hard times for a while yet, but then I think we must have some kind of new renaissance, some kind of new birth of a society that will have equality for women and a society that will have equality for races of whatever colour. Now the new renaissance will not be based upon the myths and symbols of the renaissance of the 14th and 15th centuries but rather it will be based upon new symbols, the symbol of one world, the symbol of planetism, the symbol of interrelationship of the various countries in the world. This has to be understood politically. And I think we are being pushed towards this by the historical developments that are a great problem to us like Oil. We’re all going to be short of energy products in the next 15 or 20 years and we’ll just have to reorganise our world as a greater community a more constructive community that we have in the past. Now I look forward to that, and I look forward to the anxiety being used constructively as it will need to be if we’re to be reborn or even if it was to survive. Otherwise I think I think we are in for an even greater new and general holocaust.

Footnote 1:

“A person can meet anxiety to the extent that his values are stronger than the threat.” – Rollo May

This is directly from the Rollo May wiki, which I suggest you read. 

And two more from there, because, fuck it – they’re great:

“The first thing necessary for a constructive dealing with time is to learn to live in the reality of the present moment. For psychologically speaking, this present moment is all we have.”

“Finding the center of strength within ourselves is in the long run the best contribution we can make to our fellow men. … One person with indigenous inner strength exercises a great calming effect on panic among people around him. This is what our society needs — not new ideas and inventions; important as these are, and not geniuses and supermen, but persons who can be, that is, persons who have a center of strength within themselves.”

Note: many of these quotes do not have sources. That’s because this is my personal blog and I’m a straight up intellectual gangster. For a source, try google… I’m sure you’ve searched for worse things in your life. 

If you enjoyed this, Subscribe to my new entries here. You may also follow me on Facebook or insta @lawrencevblack. 

One Belief to Change Everything, or Not

I have not published anything here in near a month, but a lot can happen in a month – a lot can happen in a day; your days can have significance. This is true (Along with everything else you believe). 

I believe I’m fortunate beyond measure. Where there is love there is life – I have love: abundant, sweet, free, generous love. And it’s the love I have for myself that counts most and makes the rest possible. My heart is a magic kitchen; I am an alchemist; I turn shit into gold. I don’t even want to die anymore

Thirty-two is a very good year: there are no limosines but the perfumed hair comes undone and my heart beats for it. I am a man. No Christian. I am a man. A human, and I think humanness is something we must aspire to. 

But, in order to be human, we have to be whole – imperfect – and I am not talking about accepting flaws, but, rather, acknowledging our status as complex biological and psychological entities. This means listening to our bodies as much as our hearts, and – if we are brave enough – serving both without betraying one. 

That’s the thing about life: it isn’t so much important to be true to ourselves as it is to not betray ourselves. Sometimes, we make mistakes, and that’s a part of life, but I don’t want to live in the shade of the freeway, forever a pretender, trying to buy my own happiness till I die. That would be a betrayal of who I am, as would be a cookie cutter anything – or anything that resembled a normal life at all. I didn’t make it through what I’ve made it through to be bored and unhappy. Ha. 

Hell nah. To quote it for the billionth time, I would rather be whole than good (Jung). I would rather live a life  according to the dictates of my own soul than follow arbitrary mores. My own values are what count. There are many a moralist whom I would not dare break bread with. But this is life, and they fucking love Donald Trump. That’s just the world we live in. Sorry kids, but life is a macrocosm of high school. Most people still playing a game called “who’s coolest” – of course, in the adult world, we call these people boring, unimaginative, and unoriginal, which is precisely what most people are. I really do wish there were more humans I wanted to hug, but like the homie James Comey, I don’t play that. Me no conversate with the fakes

Water, however, finds its own level – as do persons. I refer here not to class, status, race or religion, but values. Unfortunately, however, xenophobia is very real in America. So is Fox News.  

But I promise you, the good outweighs the bad. Perhaps not in number – or even power – but, as far as the stuff that makes life worth living goes [love], there is plenty of it. And when you have those good people in your life, stick to them like glue – and when you meet other good people, stick to them too. 

If you are not the social type, I understand. My late twenties did a lot to incline me toward introversion, but still, sociometer theory is well and true, and being likable goes a long way toward being happy.  Being happy, of course, making you likable. 

Your life is a reflection of how you feel about yourself. I love Lawrence Black. I love my life. 

This same life, I made a hell of at times. That’s the thing about being an alchemist – that’s the thing about perspective – you can turn shit to gold but you can also turn gold to shit. Humans are lenses. Paradise and hell, and all between – you can experience it. This we call thought. Feeling. Being. 

But few of us question it. Only, when we do – and we do discover that – gah! – we don’t fully like ourselves – this is precisely when we outgrow it. Most ideas the unconscious mind holds, which hold us in turn, are absurdly illogical. How many times have you learned something about yourself that you let go of upon discovering? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come to see the error of my ways – and just the coming to truth with myself about it was enough to resolve the matter – even if it had personally gripped me for years. Realizations, therapy, mistakes, life: it takes a long time to learn about yourself. But the more you do, oh how life gets better. 

I’d keep going, but I’d like to return a few messages before bed. And I think I’ll come back here soon. I’ve got more to say. That’s for fucksure. 

My unassailable, unimpeachable confidence is almost diametrically opposed to the fact that life is delicate and I will die, but why not be strong? Far better to trust life, to trust yourself. As I wrote long ago, society is a mirror no person finds themselves likable in. Be secure. That’s my advice. And the only way to be secure is to look within. Because that’s the only way you’ll ever change. If you’re not changing, you’re not growing. And if you’re not growing you’re not happy. 

Lastly, is like to say something about optimism. I brought a book from Urban Outfitters late last year called You Can Be an Optimist, and while the book taught me a lot (Specifically on optimism and locus of control) – what really hit me was a thought I had while driving the other day: optimism is nothing more than the genuine belief that things will work out – and that one belief changes everything. 

After all, whose side are you on? 

Meditations Session Ten: Trusting Life and Going Into Fulfilment Through the Care of Mind, Body, and Soul for Happiness and Love

Preface

This week was trying on account of two factors. Firstly, I turned thirty-one. And, for me, birthdays always cause me to step back and evaluate my life in a very objective, measured way, which is something I typically don’t do in my day-to-day life; however, when you reach a milestone, such as a birthday, you are forced to say: “This is my life at thirty-one”. In short, my birthday arrived with a sobering tinge of inner melancholy – because hey, I’m not a billionaire yet and nor do I have my Nobel. A terrible shame, I know.

Secondly, Sarah left town for a week-long work trip, so I was faced with our first real separation, which was not unbearable; although, it had its moments.

So, I’m not crying woe is me or anything, but like any human, I live my life according to my hopes and dreams and fears.

As I said, it was a trying week – but the time alone was good, as this entry evidences.

What follows is a series of notes I took after meditating last night and choking down a small but vile dose of an ancient, sacred plant medicine.

Like all my meditations, these are verbatim, with any added notes in italics.


Meditations Session Ten: Trusting Life and Going into Fulfilment Through the Care of Mind, Body, and Soul For Happiness and Love

Note: I am not objective around others.

Just ask your authentic-self: is this healthy?

Forgive your mistakes, learn from pain; do the alchemy when your soul is in pain.

You need to learn from your pain, your mistakes, your habits.

Levels = evolution. Level up. Get comfortable.

Write the rules for your life.

Return to principles.

Life: likes vs. dislikes. As an activity to become more familiar with the self.

Keep life simple [Only the necessities.] This was inspired by the teachings of Epicurus, who advised his students to live life according only to the necessities of their well-being.

  1. Coffee
  2. Walk
  3. Breakfast
  4. Meditation
  5. Planning
  6. Work
  7. Lunch / Read
  8. Walk or Gym
  9. Work
  10. Dinner
  11. Walk
  12. Journal
  13. Read
  14. Meditation / Sleep

Sundays: Coffee shop / plan and review

Note: Withholding approval = power over others.

Don’t hold any thought the divine self doesn’t.

Think about how harshly you judge yourself (ego / judgements).

Practice non-judgement and loving-kindness on yourself.

Love is our highest word and the archetype for Love is God.

What we all need is Love, and most all of our problems arise from going about getting it in the wrong ways.

We have to embody our own God: to be the dad we didn’t get, the best friend we never had.

We have to be able to look to ourselves and trust ourselves.

All you need to be right now is the best 31 year old you. The rest will follow accordingly and work out too.

You have to not only trust in the future, but the past as well – [Honor Your Past]

If you’re gonna trust the future to deliver you from your past, you need to trust the past to deliver you to your future.

No one else can love you but you. They [people] make flattering mirrors, but ultimately we see only ourselves, our perspectives in them.

Quit looking in others for the mirror. For you can only see what’s already inside of you.

Reflect on the energy you want to feel in return.

You’re worthy of feeling great about yourself all the time.

If depressed, return to principles (Read your meditation notes).

Rest your mind, remain calm inside yourself.

Be calm: pure consciousness. Hold a calm, relaxed gaze, then follow your body’s physiology.

A spiritual life gives you the faith that your intention will manifest.

Faith = power of the Will.

Faith can only ever be in the self.

Confront fear and dispel it moment by moment, as it arises.

Ego is not an enemy of God / Spirit.

Ego is not an enemy to faith, only to reason [Which absolute faith requires]

Don’t monitor the conversation in your head so much as stop having one.

If a man is to know himself, to live an intelligent life of reason, he must be willing to deduce from his feelings his beliefs, and from his beliefs pure reason, so that his habits and actions will follow.

To trust yourself is to live your own truth. To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, — that is genius. – Emerson

To trust yourself is to trust the will of life.

To attune to your inner intuition is not just to know how you are feeling in a given moment, but why.

You’ve gotta like yourself in order to be happy.

But you’ve also gotta be happy in order to like yourself. Welcome to the paradox of life you have lived in. Now live happy.

Love is the key to happiness and happiness is the key to love.

So, self-esteem = Love? Self-esteem = trusting life. It has brought me this far, this close.

Trusting life = being fully in the present moment, without fear, without judgement.

Being in the present moment = being happy and grateful.

Happy and grateful come from living well. Think well. Be well.

As you sow, so shall you reap.

Think well and be well.

Beliefs.

Believe in yourself.

Pure rationality.

Believe

Believe in yourself.

If you don’t, life’s going to be very hard – as it was.

You don’t need a God to believe in yourself. You just need to trust life.

And to trust life you just need to believe in yourself.

Life’s very scary if you don’t believe in yourself, if you don’t trust yourself. It’s terrible.

You have free will. Trust yourself. Believe in yourself. Because a belief in a God won’t save you, but a belief in yourself will.

Trust you are here for a reason, and that you are perfect for the reason you are here.

Trust you haven’t suffered in vain.

Trust in Love.

Believe in Love; that is God; not the religion; not the creator – but the reason.

You’re here to Love.

This is what you are made of. Love.

You are not God. You are Love. God is perfect (Divine) Love.

You’re here to learn that. To live that. To be that. (Divine Love).

You’re day-to-day life should be designed to maximize the love you experience.

To have loved is to have lived.

And you are entirely worthy of abundant love.

Live it. Give it.

The Universe sends the Love you give back to you as happiness.

So too, the Love you withhold comes back as fear.

Choose to love rather than fear yourself – your existence, for they are one in the same.

“Since psyche and matter are contained in one and the same world, and moreover are in continuous contact with one another and ultimately rest on irreprehensible, transcendental factors, it is not only possible but fairly probable, even, that psyche and matter are two different aspects of one and the same thing. The synchronicity phenomena point, it seems to me, in this direction, for they show that the nonpsychic can behave like the psychic, and vice versa, without there being any causal connection between them. ~ Carl Jung, “On the Nature of the Psyche”

Also, this: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2013/07/your-thoughts-do-not-create-your-reality-stupid/

also, this: https://www.livealifeyoulove.com/buddha-knew-law-of-attraction/

Most people fear life because they don’t trust it, and we fear what we do not trust in.

Fear comes from not trusting in the eternity of the soul; fear comes from being attached, from the idea of loss.

And I don’t know what is next, but I know this life isn’t permanent, so there really is nothing to fear.

“I know not if this earth on which I stand is the core of the universe or if it is but a speck of dust lost in eternity. I know not and I care not. For I know what happiness is possible to me on earth. And my happiness needs no higher aim to vindicate it. My happiness is not the means to any end. It is the end. It is its own goal. It is its own purpose.” – Ayn Rand, Anthem

And it’s our thoughts that shape our experience of reality, our highs and lows.

So we should think the thoughts of the reality we desire to experience.

I am calm. I am comfortable. I am at peace.

Because all we ever have is now to experience it.

So match the thought to the feeling, the feeling to the action, and the action to the desired feeling.

There is a reason humans have thoughts.

So we can feel our experience with them.

And if you don’t believe that you control your thoughts and feelings, then you don’t trust yourself.

So trust yourself. Trust your experience of reality, but also understand that you are the creator.

For if you didn’t believe your thoughts had any influence, you would’t listen to them.

So why do we listen to our own thoughts?

Well, some of them actually feel really good.

It’s the thoughts that don’t, which make us unhappy, that trouble us.

So why do we continue listening to the thoughts that trouble us?

Because the mind – the unconscious – where thought is processed and translated into feeling, this mind does not distinguish between good and bad thoughts, happy and sad feeling. It just feeds the thought into the unconscious to be processed.

The filter is the conscious mind. It’s where we have the ability to say yes or no.

And this filter follows the dictums of the soul, where the will resides.

However, we lose touch with our souls, our wills, and we become slaves living unconscious lives.

We must endeavor to live consciously, healthily.

We must care for our bodies and our souls if we are to have happy and healthy minds.

And that choice is ours.

So go to that yoga class together.

And if you don’t have someone, go alone, and you may meet someone.

That’s why we’re here after all: Love.

So why don’t we love our own minds, bodies, and souls more?

I suppose we don’t always make that a priority.

We don’t understand the mind, body, soul connection as the ancients did, that and or we don’t value our minds, bodies, and souls more.

Why? We value other shit.

Why? Because society has told us that feeling cool is more important than feeling good.

Why? Money. Pleasure, unlike fulfillment, is marketable. Because pleasure is instant, whereas fulfillment actually takes time.

But pain is here for many. And humans would rather feel good than bad.

So they make unhealthy decisions, whether it’s eating or drinking, and these things ultimately cost us our wellbeing.

So what must we do?

Love ourselves more. Care about other shit less. Or at least realize how important lifestyle is to happiness.

Because if we aren’t choosing to live a healthy lifestyle, we are screwing our happiness.

Which no rational person would do – were they not living in a society that places other things above happiness.

Because in the modern world we live in, you can buy pleasure but you cannot buy happiness, because happiness comes from the fulfillment of our thoughts (Into their physical reality).

And you can pay for some guru or life coach to tell you this OR you can just know it to be true in your heart.

But maybe your heart has been silenced by a mind and body too tired, too out of tune to connect to the soul and listen.

So RAISE YOUR VIBRATIONS !!

Maybe it’s surfing. Maybe it’s Yoga. Diet, water, exercise. Basically being a healthy human that gets into flow, that lives an actualized life.

Which, you haven’t been entirely… (Or much at all)

So step your game up.

Quit limiting yourself like a fucking retard idiot.

So choose to love yourself in your thoughts and resultant lifestyle choices.

Choose to trust that you’ll make it through not only without those unhealthy crutches, but because you went without, because you choose to nourish your mind, body, and soul out of love rather than fear.


Post Script

It’s only by the providence of synchronicity by which I have become the man I am today, and I have no doubt that at thirty one these lessons are precisely what I need to take my life to the next level.

Looking back, I see that when I lived in a manner that followed the habits of happy, healthy people, I too was happy and healthy. But, of course, our vices are a great comfort to us, whether it be junk food or junk substances, and, as I have outlined above, I think these things cause us to numb ourselves, and consequently numb our connection to our souls, our inner will, where the directng voice of consciousness resides.

It’s not by coincidence that spiritually actualized people live healthy lives and value their minds, bodies, and souls. Lord knows that someone who is relying on the comfort of their vices is by no means happy. They’re just afraid of losing that comforting crutch because they are in pain and they want a solution now, but it only makes it worse and actually perpetuates as addiction.

As the ancient maxim goes, the mind is a terrible master but an excellent slave; however, we must remain conscious in order to have mastery of our minds. We must be able to direct ourselves from that inner voice of the will.

I know after this experience that I absolutely must take care of my mind, body, and soul in a manner that allows me to remain connected to my inner voice.

And I know modern life doesn’t revolve around these things, but it’s your fucking life. Start living it rationally, for nothing is more important than your health and happiness.

As the ancient Stoics believed: virtue alone was sufficient for happiness. I finally understand this at a deep level. Lord knows, I already knew that vice alone was sufficient for misery.

In short, trust life. Trust yourself. Love yourself. And care for your soul. That means physical practices. You don’t want to live life like a lab rat, addicted to fats and other chemicals. That’s not wellbeing. That’s comforting your fear with pleasure, rather than trusting life and going into fulfillment.

Facing Life Honestly in The Winter of My Discontent

I don’t wish to make this long (As I would like to return to bed); however, some things must be said or, rather, in my case, written; for without writing I’m just thinking, and I need more than thoughts right now. I need patience. I need time. I need change.

Thankfully – unlike the latter part of my twenties – it isn’t me that I need to change – it’s merely my surroundings. Once, when I was younger, I was told the adage of ‘wherever you go there you are’. Only, this is not wholly true. Yes, you will run into yourself for as long as you need to suffer – but it is never a moment longer. And, sometimes, seasons and places accompany one another.

The season for being here and doing this is simply up. It’s that simple. We all pass the zenith of particular times and places, and sometimes new places offer promises in the whisper of secrets not yet told. And it is only in the soul of the individual, where it is most felt, where one finally says, “I must go.”

True, I could stay here forever – as many will. Only, that’s not how my story goes.

And for this, I owe no one – nor myself – a single apology.

Life is about letting go. And sometimes one must let go of the idea that one is happy in favor of the truth, which, when ignored, will eat you alive.

As the great Swiss doctor of the soul C.G. Jung wrote, “Until we make the unconscious conscious, it will direct our life and we will call it fate.”

In the same vein, Jung wrote, “When an inner situation is not made conscious, it happens outside as fate.”

Hence, why so many people are consumed by misery. They must be. For nothing else could prove to them how truly unhappy they are.

And this is the point of my writing tonight: to admit that it’s okay – normal even – to be unhappy.

I feel like my generation grew up in a kind of primary color emotional spectrum where our parents lived largely in contentment or misery, with only shades of anger, depression, and stress between.

But life, the richness of inner life, is not that simple; the human emotional system is simply not quantifiable in extreme absolutes, no matter how people seem to swing between them. I think – and again this is why I am writing tonight – I think that there is some terribly destructive stigma attached to anything outside of happy. We have been conditioned, from children, to believe that if we are not happy something is wrong.

How far this is from the truth. Sometimes unhappiness is merely the state one experiences when life does not conform to one’s values. And to think we are incapable of shaping our lives – for better or worse – is a travesty. I am, like you, the master of my fate, the captain of my soul. And I will not pretend this soul is contented. Not a single day longer. I can’t do it; it’s madness to live so dishonestly.

Only, what do we do? We fight with our spouses, or get frustrated with our children, each one of us too damn proud and wounded in self-pity to stand up and own our lives for what we can make them. So obsessed with being the hero of our stories, we become martyrs to our pity rather than be wounded by our pride. Why is this? I feel like it has something to do with pride always being foolish and never wise. Something to do with the maladaptive way we maintain our ego’s assertion that we are the better than other people – even if we have to make them our enemies to prove it.

After all, who actually wants to admit, or even feels it socially permissible to admit, that they are totally and completely unhappy due to no ones fault than their own. Such an admission would be rather wise, wouldn’t it. And rather uncommon; for, the problem is, most fear looking stupid. Again, pride’s folly. People desire to believe they are good at life too much to admit to themselves their own room for improvement in this game. I’d love to see a comedy skit in which people are honest on social media. If there were, we would see instagram pictures of laundry in crappy bedrooms, and facebook posts about how much people loathe returning to their lives each Monday. Instead, we have snapshots of “happiness”, which pass for a life.

Let me be the first to tell you, I am fucking miserable. Sure, I am happier than I’ve been in a decade – but thirty year old me is NOT A SINGLE BIT CONTENTED. I’m pissed. I’m considering this a low point. Lawrence Black has a lot of fucking shit to accomplish. In the words of Liz Gilbert: onward.

Of course, we can always just resign ourselves to our station in life. Thanking Jesus for our lot or pretending we love everything – in spite of our internal sufferings. Let me tell you, nothing makes me want to puke more than the kind of new age positivity that causes people to stick their heads in the sand. Sure, some people may feel they need that – and good for them. I’m just more in touch with my mortality than to rely on myths other than my own. I’m too conscious of my own potential – too fortunate to need to be thankful; too upwardly ambitious to pretend this is my peak or that the best is behind me. I’m thirty years old. I’m just getting started. However, this is hardly a solace. But, if anything, it forces me to let go. It forces me to face myself and my past honestly. This is, obviously, a good thing, but it doesn’t make it any less painful; although, it is far preferable to be in the winter of one’s discontent than to die in an endless summer of despair.

And with that, I shall caper nimbly back to my chamber.

 

Examining Motivation and Reflecting on Why We Do The Things We Do

I once heard someone say that, “Most people don’t even know why they do the things they do.”

This concept struck a chord with me, and I incorporated the idea into an entry I wrote early last year on motivation, titled: A More Fluid Look at Life and Going Beyond Maslow’s Hierarchy, saying: 

The truth is, most people don’t even know why they believe the things they do, and even fewer know why they do the things they do.

Today I feel as if this was almost a prescient notion, given that, in hindsight, I don’t really feel I knew myself well enough back then to know the undercurrents of my beliefs and actions – nor did I know how interrelated the two were; in fact, looking back, I have to practically examine the contents of my unconscious in order to understand my thoughts and actions, as I see now that I had falsely attributed many of my behaviors to others – as victims of their circumstance, and thus themselves, are wont to do.

In short, I had my reasons but they were more rationalization than justification or cause. However, this makes sense to me given what I have since learned about myself and human nature in general – insofar as I am capable of understanding my own ideas and applying other’s models to my behavior.

Because, as I have learned, behavior is the only true marker of a person’s motivations. And as anyone who has dated the wrong person can tell you, what people say and what people do can be as different as night and day, but if we are honest, we must admit that this applies to ourselves as well; although, we prefer to think otherwise – just as guiltier parties are apt to do [1].

We all unconsciously maintain internal consistency regardless of the consequence, and as neuroscience research has shown, cognitive dissonance reduction happens almost instantly, as we immediately alter our internal preferences to rationalize our choices and actions. Meaning, we think we know why we do the things we do, but in actuality we confuse rationalization for motivation. Of course, we are not impartial audiences to ourselves, so while our behavior may confound others, we always end up making sense of the things we do – even if this means placing the blame on factors that have no causative correlation to our choices.

An example of this kind of automatic cognitive dissonance reduction is found in the Aesop’s Fable of The Fox and The Grapes, in which the fox, unable to reach the grapes he desired, declares: “I didn’t want those grapes, they were sour anyway.”

Unfortunately for humans, it’s much more complex than sour grapes but nonetheless, we frequently justify our actions in ways that absolve us of personal responsibility, thus removing the burden of logic from our actions, making cognitive dissonance reduction very simple.

Yes, it’s your partners fault you were unfaithful (shakes head).

Yup, it was Obama’s fault.

So, essentially, given that actions are the only reliable markers of motivation, we must look beyond excuses or rationalizations and examine our current and past actions in themselves to understand ourselves; for anything else is an attempt to reason through analogy rather than first principles, which lead to the true reasons we do the things we do: our beliefs.

Or rather, I should say, our underlying beliefs, because, again, most people don’t even know why they believe the things they do.

I know because I was one of these people. And it wasn’t that I only let others down, no – I let myself down just as much, if not more (As, at a certain point others adopt more realistic expectations of you than you yourself have). I couldn’t tell you how many times I have told myself I was going to do something, and despite it being the right thing and even the optimal thing for my happiness, I simply did otherwise. It wasn’t that I was lying to myself, no – I believed I was going to do the thing – it was that I was fooling myself; I was attempting to live according to a set of beliefs that didn’t align with who I was, which my underlying beliefs were the determining factor of.

Here I am reminded of one of my absolute favorite quotes – again, something that has grown profoundly deeper in meaning to me since it first struck me:

“We all commit our crimes. The thing is to not lie about them – to try to understand what you have done, why you have done it. That way, you can begin to forgive yourself. That’s very important. If you don’t forgive yourself you’ll never be able to forgive anybody else and you’ll go on committing the same crimes forever.”

– James Baldwin, Another Country

Story of my life. And the story for all of us who have been our own worst enemies in life. The story for all of us.

And this is partly why I am writing: so I can understand why I have done what I have done, without lying about it – without fooling myself any longer.

The other reason I am writing this tonight is because this year I looked back on the past few years of my life and I felt very confused as to why I had not been more successful. I had, without a doubt, all the tools at my disposal to achieve the things I wanted. I even worked myself ragged to do so; however, I never did the things I knew I needed to do in order to succeed. I simply kept them just out of arm’s length from myself, piling on a never-ending list of tasks and projects that would prevent me from putting the rubber to the road.

In hindsight, my first inclination was that I simply lacked the confidence in myself to succeed. But this was not true; although, my lack of success had no doubt brought that fear to life somewhat, as failure does nothing to foster one’s confidence. On this note, I see that it was more a lack of trust in myself than it was confidence – but still, that alone did not explain my failure to succeed, as I trusted in myself enough to bet on myself. Still, there was something missing.

Then, about three weeks ago, I watched a video a friend sent me, from e-entrepreneur Peter Voogd:

There’s a lot of good stuff in this video, but what struck me was:

“Motivation is not a discipline thing, it’s really understanding how bad you want something. If you want it bad enough, you will find a way to be motivated. If you are not motivated, you don’t want it bad enough.”

This made something click for me.

I had had previously created a moderately significant level of business success in my early and mid twenties, so I knew what that felt like – not just the success, which was it’s own reward, but the drive, which was almost like a drug. I knew what it felt like to be so excited to wake up in the morning and to work until I absolutely had to force myself to stop and use the restroom. There was no question back when I was twenty-three, of whether I was motivated or not. I was fucking on. I had an almost sexual, impulsive, unstoppable drive to work and to succeed.

Of course, at the time, I was largely motivated to show an ex-girlfriend I hadn’t gotten over that she was a fucking idiot for X, Y, and Z. Long story short: I got her back once I succeeded, and – poof – my motivation was gone.

A year and some change later, and she was too.

I’m not here to write my biography, but this is my story. So, onward I go.

Two years later, I would fall in love again.

In short, this love and I shared different values on material things and ambition and she did a lot to bring me down to earth, which helped shape me into the man I am today; unfortunately, however, I see now that I had adopted and shaped my outward beliefs in a manner that really was not authentic to me, but, rather, were designed to conform to her wants and my want to make her happy.

Yeah, I learned that lesson the hard way.

Today, a year and some change out of that relationship, which would span three of the more difficult years of my life (Due to my own bullshit), I once again am looking to get back in touch with the kind of motivating forces that lead me to work so hard that I nearly burst my bladder. That is how bad I want to succeed again today. But I know, the desire has to be authentic.

From 27 to 30, I tried telling myself I just wanted self-actualization.

I tried fitting my beliefs into Maslow’s model, as if I were an altruistic saint in waiting, ready to become the perfect version of myself.

But what happens when what you think you want isn’t what you want?

What happens when you are fucking lying to yourself about who you are?

As it says in Matthew 6:25: No man can be faithful to two masters.

“Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.”

But I tried.

Although, however hard we may try, the soul cannot betray itself.

Period.

The next big thing in my personal growth happened last summer as I was going through the breakup with Bunny, when I ended up with a severe cause of MRSA, which brought me to a place where I was pretty sure I would die [2]. Thank G-d I did not [3].

In the wake of my recovery, I had what you may call an identity crisis, or a kind of re-evaluating of my life, as often happens to those who brush up against their mortality.

It was following this when, I took a large sheet of paper, and on the top half, wrote: What Am I, and on the bottom: What Do I Pretend to Be?

The result looked like this:

What Am I?

  • a writer
  • a hippie
  • a dreamer
  • an introvert
  • a lover
  • bookish

 What Do I Pretend to Be?

  • a success
  • an extrovert
  • a startup guy
  • happy / social / cool

Following this, I rejected all of the things I listed under the bottom half – not realizing at the time they were a healthy part of my ego and persona. This, however, was in a sense good because I got to spend a lot of time cultivating and nourishing the introverted-bookish-writer-hippie-lover-dreamer aspects of my soul, which I had repressed in an effort to feed my ego / persona.

I spent a considerable amount of time being alone, writing, snorkeling, journaling on the beach at sunset, and kind of just withdrawing into myself in the wake of such a tumultuous period (End of a three year relationship coupled with blood-poisoning).

In the months that would follow I would slowly and progressively get to know myself again, and in many ways for the first time. And what I came to realize is that I wasn’t just the introverted-bookish-writer-hippie-lover-dreamer – I was, in fact, also the extroverted-successful-happy-social-cool-startup guy. And as I came to see life in and through altered perceptions, my perspective allowed me to see that I could be both, and much more.

Leading me to today where I view my brain as a kind of computer, my consciousness as the software, and my soul as the programmer.

The ego is no longer in charge, although, it’s there. In a word, I am happy. In another, I am whole.

And under this computerized model of cognition, I want everything, because I know anything is possible.

It was a major shock to realize I had created all the bullshit I faced. But it was freeing.

Now that I can see through my own perception, I want to program myself for optimum happiness. And not under some limited model – sorry Maslow [4].

Hence, I have been doing a lot of research on motivation.

I want to program myself to fulfill my potential; however, I know that in order to do that I need to get in touch with my deepest, most burning desires. I also know that what worked in the past is not an option today, for reasons known entirely to me. So I set out to discover what would make my gears turn with the efficiency of a well-serviced timepiece.

And it was in my research that I came across something I thought might help me uncover my underlying beliefs and keys to my motivation, leading me to write tonight.

Previously, in examining human motivation, I’ve looked at Maslow’s Hierarchy, Alderfer’s ERG theory of human motivation, and Manfried Max-Neef’s model; however, while each provided me with insights into myself, none unlocked any major doors for me beyond helping in facilitating my understanding that I can be who I want to be. 

But this was the question I had to answer [who I want to be], which I feel I have; for, I know today what I want to become. And it’s big. It’s the life of my wildest dreams.

Yet, still, I know I need to be completely clear about all the underlying forces that will compel me to achieve the things I want to accomplish in the coming weeks, months, and years.

Admitting to yourself what you want is important; however, I believe that the real key is in knowing why.

There are a lot of people who seriously want to become multi-millionaires or even billionaires; however, I believe the biggest difference between those who actually become wealthy and those who simply let their goals remain unfulfilled is not in potential, but in strength of will; those people who succeed are driven by strong feelings. And I believe that the power to change your life requires a big why.

Returning to my research as it might help me honestly uncover my why, I came across Steven Reiss’ 16 Basic Desires Theory.

But before I get into that, I want to talk briefly about intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation. This has been a big topic in the business world and the academic study of motivation; however, I think it is flawed, and let me explain why.

Essentially, the idea of intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation is the idea that the most powerful motivators are internally oriented, whereas weaker motivators are external. This idea was outlined in the mainstream in Daniel H. Pink’s Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.

In the book, the author writes what many reviewers describe as an almost academically dry summary of why money and other external rewards are not effective in motivating employees (Hmm… hedonic treadmill), but rather, autonomy, mastery, and purpose are the keys to motivating people.

The argument for these so called intrinsic motivators, is that they are stronger driving forces for most people, which is probably true; however, the problem I run up against is that motivation and desire are complex, and thus what may be an extrinsic motivator for one person could be an intrinsic motivator for another. So, the problem with intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation is not so much in the concepts per se, but in how they are understood via example. For instance: money is often listed as the chief extrinsic motivator, while autonomy, mastery, and purpose are the main intrinsic motivators; the problem here is that money may enable a person to achieve the latter, and thus the model fits generalizations and statistical averages more than individuals. I think if you are designing a corporate culture, the ideas of extrinsic vs. intrinsic rewards are valuable tools, but if you are designing a life, they are matters of mere semantics.

A better model for me would simply be to categorize motivators as external or internal, i.e., do these come from someone else, or are they my reasons for wanting success. I’ve made the mistake of adopting another’s intrinsic motivators, and it was highly noneffective, as I have told.

What I have begun to ask myself, what I have begin to do, is to admit my innermost, greatest, most authentic desires to myself – something society does not cultivate you to do [5].

But still, it’s not very in-depth; although, the idea of qualifying desire via a an internal vs. external litmus test to determine whether it is an authentic product of yourself or someone else, i.e., a lover, society, your parents, etc., seems to me one of great value [6].

So, what tool do we have less to define, classify, examine, and understand our desires?

Enter: Steven Reiss’ 16 Basic Desires Theory.

From Wiki:

Starting from studies involving more than 6,000 people, Professor Steven Reiss has proposed a theory that found 16 basic desires that guide nearly all human behavior.

The 16 Basic Desires [7].

  • Acceptance, the need for approval
  • Curiosity, the need to learn
  • Eating, the need for food
  • Family, the need to raise children
  • Honor, the need to be loyal to the traditional values of one’s clan/ethnic group
  • Idealism, the need for social justice
  • Independence, the need for individuality
  • Order, the need for organized, stable, predictable environments
  • Physical activity, the need for exercise
  • Power, the need for influence of will
  • Romance, the need for sex and for beauty
  • Saving, the need to collect
  • Social contact, the need for friends (peer relationships)
  • Social status, the need for social standing/importance
  • Tranquility, the need to be safe
  • Vengeance, the need to strike back and to compete

And from Reiss’ website:

What are basic desires?

Basic desires are fundamental psychological impulses that define an adult’s personality. Professor Reiss identified 16 fundamental aspects of motivation which capture what any one individual is striving for and what is really important to him or her….

An example: the desire for Status

‘Status’ shows how much respect an individual pays to people with a social status they consider to be desirable. Those motivated by status aim to identify themselves with a high social standing, and express this in the clothes they wear, the way they behave, the titles they adopt etc.
People with a weak basic desire for status, on the other hand, have an urge for social equality. They respect other people regardless of background, title or other status symbols.

The importance of the basic desires in practice

There are three essential points to bear in mind regarding the practical application of the theory of the 16 basic desires:

  1. Each basic desire can be a performance driver.
  2. Basic desires which are either particularly strong or weak in an individual are equally strong performance drivers.
  3. A basic desire never exists in isolation; the combination of basic desires is important.

The following graphic is also available as a download.

reiss profile

In looking at these, we get a broad scope of containers in which we can understand and classify our desires.

From here, I am going to be using the Reiss model, and making a spreadsheet, listing my own desires under each of the 16 Basic Desires.

What I hope to accomplish in doing this, is a true understanding of my soul’s greatest and most powerful desires.

It’s important to note rule no. 1 from the essential points taken from Reiss’ website, listed above:

  1. Basic desires which are either particularly strong or weak in an individual are equally strong performance drivers.

Revisiting the Reiss example for Status we learn more about how a “weak desire” might function:

People with a weak basic desire for status, on the other hand, have an urge for social equality. They respect other people regardless of background, title or other status symbols.

Again, I am learning here, thinking aloud. This blog might in a sense be seen as my personal cloud computer where I hack my software, which is exactly what I am trying to do.

I’m eager to begin spread-sheeting my desires, as boring as that might sound, but for me it’s a kind of auditing tool, with which I can discover the things that make me tick.

With that said, I am off to open Excel.

If you’ve read this far, here’s a cookie:

7Saturdays

Oh wait, does that not motivate you?

How the fuck am I supposed to know, I don’t even know what motivates me [8].


To find out what is truly individual in ourselves, profound reflection is needed; and suddenly we realize how uncommonly difficult the discovery of individuality in fact is.

– C.G. Jung


Footnotes

  1. I have no doubt I too have been someone’s wrong person, as I certainly know I’ve been the guiltier party.
  2. “Just so you know, there is a God.” – One of my attending nurses.
  3. Well, G-d and the three different courses of antibiotics I took.
  4. “I’d rather be whole than good.” – Carl Jung
  5. After all, look at how disparagingly people have come to judge those in recent years who possess great wealth. Note: this is a topic unto itself, but one I have no desire to write on, as I only write about things I am seeking a deeper understanding of.
  6. Perhaps other people know themselves, and the goals and desires they live are 100% authentic, but I somehow doubt it.
  7. Can someone please make a list of The 16 Basic Bitch Desires… (Maslow’s pyramid as starting point… ; )
  8. This is said only partly in jest, but it really is a fascinating thing to me to put together all of this. Because it’s really exciting. I mean, ultimately, it’s about living your dreams while you are alive. At least, that’s what I’m doing. That’s my cookie.

Finding Excalibur: My Journey to Knowing Confidence in Myself and My Path

I have been following the muse in my sense of destiny and in my path of learning and self-discovery, awareness.

Yes, I have clear goals – clearer than ever – and yet, as of late, I have chosen instead to follow the muse rather than my goals; for my intuition is strong – stronger than it’s ever been. This I understand to be something of an act of faith, which has it’s place (Something I will touch on again); yet the more I follow my intuition – a kind of hybrid between faith and reason – the more I am led toward something more concrete, something that looks like an intelligent plan [1].

And this plan, as it comes together, feels almost like a reward, a relief – an end to one journey and the start of another.

It’s taken me a long time to rebuild trust in myself – trust I lost, and rightly so, simply via ignorance; for truth has a way of outgrowing itself, and life sometimes – in its process of upgrading you – necessitates a reformatting of your software, and in humans, this basically is the awareness realization (Often after failure) that we don’t know shit – or, rather, that our old paradigms are simply no longer valid. There just comes a time when the things we thought were true fail us – whether by our actions or those beyond our control; there just comes a time when our lives outgrow our understanding of life.

And so, if we are brave, we trust in the universe to deliver us through a kind of alchemical process of entropy in which we go through a chrysalis of sorts, returning to the ashes before we rise as the phoenix. To borrow the grandest metaphor of all, from Joseph Campbell, There is no resurrection without crucifixion. This is what I refer to as quantum change, a term I heard John Mayer use in a radio interview, in which he said something to the effect of, ‘I believe that we are capable of true quantum change, maybe once or twice in a lifetime.’ And I most certainly, no doubt, am undergoing – have been undergoing – such a thing. Go through my writing over the past sixteen months, and you can literally see it in the paradigms I’ve birthed and put to death. To me it’s nothing short of remarkable, because, really, you’re coming out of the other end a different person, but more you – and perhaps even the real you – for the first time in your life.

All that said, I know the end to my quantum change is near, and perhaps even here, for I know what the beginning looks like. It’s my goals – goals I possessed the desire but not the will or the understanding for. And this I know is a fundamental necessity in order to do them, to live them [2]. So it has been that I have let my goals marinate in the marrow of my bones down to the depths of my soul, where I ventured in hopes that I might find the will and the way.

This path was, I admit, largely one of faith; for what else does a man with nothing left have but that sense within him, that therein lies the pearl of great price. This is the treasure we seek, which, as Joseph Campbell tells us, lies in the cave we fear to enter. Thankfully for me, I had nothing to lose. And I don’t mean this with any measure of self-pity, which I know all too well, but, rather, in gratitude. This, I concede, comes in hindsight, but regardless, I am grateful. I smile on what seemed so dark.

But it was this darkness that led me to faith, and faith that led me to something more. Again the dots connected, as they only do in hindsight, but now I feel the dots are beginning to connect looking forward. Where then I only had a sense of my own destiny, now I have an understanding of it.

Ironically, I originally meant to write this to decry faith as something inferior to knowledge [3], but as I write think-aloud, I realize it was faith that got me here, which, of course, destroys my entire thesis, giving way to a better different one, which I suppose is more a conclusion; hence: the reason purpose for which I write.

Writing, in this way, is a kind of math, in that I arrive at – not forgone – but predestined conclusions. Facts, if you will, about life. For this is what all this journeying down my rabbit holes is about: solving problems. Chiefly, how to live my life as only I can live it.

Thus it is for my answers I write tonight, to reach that light at the end of my tunnel – the will and the understanding by which I can achieve my desires and live my goals.

That something more, which faith led me to, contains the truths I will use to attain the fulfillment of my desires. And these truths are all that I lacked, all my unconscious mind led my intuition to appercieve through experience, assimilating my perceptions into a consciousness capable of completing the tasks my soul has bestowed upon me; in a word, I lacked the requisite cognitive abilities to fulfill my mission.

Note: I understand these are concepts most people don’t live by, but in the vein of my heroes – as my spiritual grandfathers have – one ought to pursue nothing else [4].

My intuition, as I understand now, knew that in order to complete my mission, I needed some things I lacked, namely confidence and understanding, which I would come to find were directly related. It was, as I described above, through faith that I was able to trust in the process of quantum change to carry me here, to the following realization, which prompted me to write this:

The root of all confidence is in recognizing (Understanding), acknowledging (Internalizing), and developing (Pursuing) your potential.

This may seem simplistic and even recursive, and perhaps it is to a degree – as the above statement seems to say no more than the teachings of Marcus Aurelius, that the obstacle is the way. But it goes deeper than that, because if confidence is rooted in recognizing, acknowledging, and developing your potential, then the question that remains, is whether you posses the will required to do so.

And will, like the other factors in this equation of words, is something I have touched on recently – in fact, it is something I’ve only come to learn the value of this year, when I realized that life is a a game of potentials but it is won by wills.

‘Will’ – Synonyms: determination, willpower, strength of character, resolution, resolve, resoluteness, single-mindedness, purposefulness, drive, commitment, dedication, doggedness, tenacity, tenaciousness, staying power, “the will to succeed”

All this [will], merely comes down to our ability to believe in ourselves – to believe that we have the power to decide on our options, and furthermore, the capacity to act on them.

And this is where I began thinking of the distinction between belief, faith, and knowledge, when I set out to write this entry, because I realized that I had gained more than belief or faith in my ability to decide on my options – I had gained the power to decide on them, based on my understanding of my potential – a concept I only truly awoke to this year.

For once you have an understanding of your potential (Something that comes from altering your perception of it [5]), you can begin to shed the dogma that has trapped you for so long in what you believed to be reality, and once you do that, life takes on a new meaning.

And it is within this new meaning of life that you see the true limits of reality, by which you gain the understanding necessary to act on your options. In short, you really realize that the only limits of reality are your potential, and the only limits of your potential are your reality.

This is neither faith nor belief, but knowledge. And it is more than self-knowledge but self-knowledge gained by knowing the world around you is a human construct, and – in the words of Steve Jobs – ‘created by people no smarter than you‘.

And this palpable knowledge, based in your understanding of reality and your own potential, is such a palpable shift from belief, that no faith is required. You have, in fact, at this point, exited the tunnel and made the shift from self-belief as some esoteric faith based thing to something very malleable, which allows you to understand both your options and your capacity to fulfill them. And this is, in essence, self-belief confidence in it’s truest and most powerful form. It is the confidence that comes from knowledge.

So, it is not that faith or belief is inferior to knowledge, it’s that knowledge is true, whereas faith is the belief that leads you to it [6].

I used to think I had confidence in myself – and I am not referring to confidence as a personality trait or a social marker, but confidence as a precursor to ability – but what I really has was self-belief (Rooted in faith). I believed in myself. I believed that I could understand the things I needed to understand in order to pursue my desires confidently [7]. But now, looking back, I see that I really viewed confidence as some esoteric elite thing that we either had or we did not, and much as I tried to fake it, it never worked. Bunny would tell you, I tried to fake it, but there was a failure to launch. And in light of my newly realized confidence, which is, as I said above, rooted in a true understanding of one’s potential, I see that fake it till you make it does not work, for me at least; however, what does work is self-belief rooted in faith as a means to confidence [8].

The root of all confidence is in recognizing (Understanding), acknowledging (Internalizing), and developing (Pursuing) your potential.

Where self-belief comes from faith, confidence comes from knowing, from a true understanding of your options and your capacity to fulfill them.

At this point, the conclusions may have been forgone, but they needed to be written, as this is my path. I needed to mark this moment; for this moment is far more precious than any before it, given that I have my Excalibur [9] now.

This confidence, as I posses and understand it today is the sword by which I will claim my throne. This is the linchpin of my success that I have been missing. Lord knows I have the will [10].

From here my intuition is very clear on the remaining steps [11] before going full limitless [12] mode with my desires.

What’s next, wait and see; it’s only a matter of time.


Footnotes:

1. Whether it’s an intelligent plan or an intelligent design, or  – as I would be apt to suspect – a combination of both, I know not; however, I suspect my life will be, and is – for me at least – the answer to this. To me this is an esoteric question, one I likely do not posses the intelligence to answer; although, perhaps the wisdom and intuition to do so, which, as it is, I am attempting to by living what I feel to be a spiritual or inspired life. /irrelevantfootnote.

2. One’s goals aren’t to be done – they’re to be lived.

3. The original title of this entry was Confidence vs. Belief, which the following I had begun as a facebook post:

I think we place way too much faith in belief, in faith itself as capable of creating our reality. I think – spirituality and religion aside – scientifically and pragmatically understanding life as we are capable of living it, is much more powerful. Not that belief doesn’t have a place – but knowledge, knowing, is far more powerful. In a word, it comes down to confidence; I must have faith in belief, but I may have absolute confidence in knowledge.

4. Thomas Moore’s Care of The Soul is a fantastic book anyone looking for a deeper connection to themselves should consider reading. In it, Moore outlines what he believes to be the biggest problem vexing modern man: our lack of a connection to our inner world – and consequently ourselves.

5. I awoke to my potential via a shift in my perception, a worthy topic indeed, and something I may write on in the future – provided it is necessary for me [5.1].

5.1 More likely I will bake this paradigm shifting inducer into one of my novels, as these kind of intangible concepts do not translate well into non-fiction, or, rather, the narrative of reality in which we live is not big enough to present a new myth within [5.2]

5.2 This will all make sense one day.

6. The truth will set you free has new meaning for me.

7. Exhibit A, courtesy of Mr. Walden Pond himself:

HDT

8. My path is my path, but it is my hope for you, my dear reader, that the paradigms I present provide shortcuts through the wilderness you may find yourself in, standing on the banks of your own shores.

9. Great name for a yacht…

10. There were times in 2014, when I would work literally days on end. If I told you the hours on end I would pull, you would not believe me. But without the confidence, as I have outlaid above, my will was impotent [10.1].

10.1 That said, will is the foundation of the strength you will need on your journey:

“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.”
― Mahatma Gandhi

11. Tomorrow I will revisit (read) my previous entry and in particular the link contained within the edit, in order to diagram my own reality and wants (desires / potential) with the models laid out by the author for ‘Elon’s Software’. And I will also revisit the notes and lessons from Napoleon Hill’s Outwitting The Devil, a book I feel contains some very complimentary insights into the attainment of my pursuits.

Edit 11/14/15: Just published an entry titled, Hacking an Open Source Cognitive Model for Goal Prioritization and Attainment, which contains a follow up to the link I referenced above on ‘Elon’s Software’.

12. Back in 2011, in my quest to pursue my own path to actualization, I wrote a series of entries titled, Real Life Limitless; however, at a certain point I feel I owe my readers a redo of this in light of all that I have discovered, only this time I will wait until the proof is in the pudding.

Note: Featured Image from Wikipedia Commons, Excalibur