(This series will be way better read from beginning to end, rather than end to beginning.)
A little context: I’m not mindlessly arguing for relentless, hurried personal change for everyone. That sounds awful. This is a naggy but loving pep talk for people feeling very stuck.
Life is Trouble
Life is a constant struggle between us and any random shit, little or big, that crops up. Some of these struggles are life choices though they don’t seem weighty at that moment. Moments and small choices can be deceptively deep. A metaphorical Sphinx is checking in with you like: “Love or No Love? Past or Future? Fear or Hope?” hundreds of times a day.
The results are navigational data points along your personal trajectory. The important question isn’t what you chose but why you chose it. Does it point up, down, back, or forward? If you win a fight to stay the same, you learn nothing new and win nothing except a temporary extension of the status quo. But the status quo will inexorably roll forward into change like an unmoored parade float. The change will come but guided by who? With what goal? Maybe we’re just taking our hands off the steering wheel.
In the context of your life struggle, rationalizing standing still is a choice to remain in the shitty room temperature shallows of life where it’s comfortable enough. This is the inertia of the weary, defensive human heart and we know perfectly well that our cover story for this kind of choice is masking something like “I’m rudderless and utterly flat inside”.
Everything better seems too high UP to reach from here. As enthusiastic as we may sound talking about a life choice, we’re often staging an official personal PR release simply to cover the truth: “I’m afraid and this was the least scary option”. Rationalizing downward is choosing to become a slightly worse and smaller version of yourself, moving forward. Slightly worse because you stopped hoping, slightly less because you’ve given up trying. You without hope or determination is you on a slippery slope.
We downward rationalize every day. Sometimes it’s healthy: Holding steady and keeping things together or maybe NOT accepting some exciting risk because it’s dumb and dangerous. More often it means incrementally settling for less and offering less. It gradually lets the air out of the bouncy castles of human hope. If you lack hope you may well conclude that this, this right here, this stupid mess, is as good as it gets, at least for you, then sigh and return to polishing the turd at the center of the problem.
Your life isn’t yet bad enough to get better
Spiritual growth is self-paced and unpredictable. It isn’t hiking up steep cliffs towards perfection. We aren’t machines or angels, we are flawed animals with deep, messy, spiritual lives. Growth is organic, earthy and uneven. It is on its own schedule and has many ups and downs. There are times to do nothing and times for us to explode. Whatever our pathway, we should always be listening to our intuition and emotions for messages from the hidden deep. These soulful messages have a way of getting through the filters that protect our self-story. Doing business with your soul is weird because you realize it isn’t identical to every-day you. A strange, independent thing, it chooses its own path and its own time. It is not directly connected to your agenda.
There is a powerful spiritual harbinger of change waxing and waning inside us like a supernatural Lava Lamp. It is Discontent.
Discontent is the pressure gauge of growth and change. It doesn’t come from merely negative, frustrating or boring experiences. Discontent is the count down to change. Discontent is the soul’s measure of how wrong this situation is for you. It is the lit fuse of your marriage, the sagging support timber of your work life. Our self-story about any particular discontent may be a defense of the status quo or a desperate bid to escape it. Whatever our opinion, discontent is like water filling the room, an independent objective fact. It comes with a unique breaking point, followed by the collapse of the unstable structure called your life.
Discontent arises from an insult to the soul’s purpose. It doesn’t always end with a bang, there are far worse things than bang. It might be the lights going out forever in your hope or the last increment of resignation rolling into place within you like a zero on the odometer while your spouse is complaining.
We can easily “fall asleep” within a relationship dynamic. Maybe some challenge we take on is really wrong for us but done in service to some higher good, so we suppress our struggle and find a homeostatic balance point for our discontent. Then we live with it like a dying whale gasping in the background. The frustrating problem is maintained at the “not yet awful enough to change” level. The insidious danger here is that we are so damn good at getting used to things that suck. Long after we gave up on that “higher good” goal we may still be maintaining the balance of our discontent by lowering our hopes and standards. Situations of holding on or staying strong can morph easily into mental slavery to a mere robotic pattern or a codependent story loop. Every time you just resignedly accept this pattern as your life, that’s your flat, dead robotic story kicking your real-life ass. You just got owned by a dull story.
There is only one expert authority on what is right or wrong for your soul. Unfortunately, it’s you: The person with the worst track record on this.
Our maintenance of a failed, ill-conceived, cursed mechanism holding a relationship together is sometimes heroic, even selfless. There may be numerous people quietly relying on you to keep this broken crappy thing working, blissfully ignorant of the fact that you are about to lose your shit for real. Maybe these people are your social circle or your family, maybe their approval matters. These people may look at you with shock and hostility on the day you stop pedaling the bike or turning the crank that powers this fucking mistake. They may judge you viciously. Later, though, some may even thank you, codependency can be all victims and no real bad guys like a human glue trap. From inside, co-dependency seems like a titanic battle of wills between two unique individuals, starkly silhouetted against an angry sunset. From the outside it’s just a couple of numbskulls trapped in a machine and too stupid to leave. It’s the Three Stooges slapping each other on an infinite loop.
Here’s what you need to know: Those who are furious at you abandoning your role in the pattern are defending something about their ego, convenience or comfort, something small. You are defending the meaning of your life. They are mad that you stopped sacrificing your life for these shallow, trivial causes. Fuck them. Those are the values of slave-holders. They see you as a means to an end, not as an end in yourself.
Loyalty to our people and guilt at the idea of letting them down can make saving your own soul feel disloyal. But finding a vantage point that reveals your life from a new perspective may even validate the worth of what you’ve been doing. If so you can resume your role with a joy and confidence you never could have had without the new perspective.
If the alternative is true, that you’ve been stuck too long, only this new perspective can truly release you. Imagine that you are Neo and your shitty relationship is The Matrix. Once you truly understand your freedom, the unbeatable Agents Smith, et al have no power. This is the moment that you have sufficiently doubted your own story. Your collective impossibles are revealed as nothing but a cage where you’ve been keeping yourself.
This is the time to celebrate, go wild but stay awake.
If you can be vulnerable, accept love, give love, and remain awake you’re golden. Why not be golden?
(This series will be way better read from beginning to end, rather than end to beginning.)
Last time on Naked: Lizard boy began his quest to find love without fixing his broken heart first.
Because I didn’t know I needed to work, I didn’t do the work that needed to be done. And so I passed through the lives of many wonderful women: confusing, annoying and confounding them as I walked confidently in two different directions.
Popular Ways to Not Love
What Problem? If a sunny woman wanted me, I would let her approach and have sexual intimacy, which I have never been afraid of, but not true emotional intimacy. I’m good at having very deep and soulful talks while keeping most of my own personal dumpster fire private. If she was wonderful and came closer, loving me too much and too sweetly, I would fucking panic and begin pushing her away. My reaction to my black radioactive moon problem was to keep things a bit light and distant so we could stay together. This, of course, means creating and accepting a relatively shallow and safe love that doesn’t remind you of the real problem. Or it only does in introspective moments when you wonder if this can really be all there is to it. A lot of decent marriages coast here for years.
This is the Forbidden Forrest problem. A secret broken heart hidden in dark woods breeds monsters and they…wander.
Arms Length. I might become suddenly difficult and spiky in a distancing way. Or maybe I’d cheat and be at a safe and cool distance from two women at once because triangulation guarantees an underlying lack of intimacy. Even if triangulation isn’t cheating but instead a profound commitment to something else in your life, good or bad, it guarantees this emotional distance from the beloved. Doing this doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, it just means you are choosing to keep your distance. Perhaps it’s reasonable? Perhaps you should hold it up to the light?
Personal breathing room isn’t toxic, and the required amount is individually set. A secret need for more breathing room means a dishonest foundation. It’s breathing room to express something forbidden.
The Two Way One Way Street. In a later phase, I went for women who had acid scars on their psyche just like mine. Brilliant, wounded, complicated women. I picked those who didn’t dare to love so that I could love them without the fear of true reciprocity. This was unconscious by the way, I had no idea that I was choosing badly on purpose. I thought I had a type, but I had a pattern. Here I could love passionately, without restraint. It was joyous to love deeply but ultimately sad and empty standing under Juliet’s balcony all alone. The partner’s corresponding pattern is to receive love in a passionless, flat way. They are judgemental and critical.
This is mutually unrequited love as a couple’s lifestyle. Two people who aren’t allowed love build a love machine.
You Probably Don’t Even Know Your Own Truth
A question: Why can’t those people see what they’re doing, and just fucking do something else?
Because they are terrified to be vulnerable and learn what’s really inside them. What’s inside them is a fucked-up child who wasn’t loved right and now compels them to live a life plan crafted and set in stone by that FUCKED UP CHILD.
A question: What the fuck did I think I was doing during my version of all this nonsense?
If you answered “I honestly can’t imagine”, you are correct. We would also have accepted “Wasting everyone’s time for nothing”. I might as well have been a moth dry humping a light bulb. I was a whirlwind of impassioned actions without a map or a plan. I was that dumb fly that never gives up on banging into the window to get outside. For way too long, I learned nothing and persevered. I looked within…but the monkey in the mirror just looked back like “What?”.
Most people who avoid and destroy intimacy in these stupid ways aren’t awful, mostly they are trying and failing. For every narcissist there a thousand inept, self-sabotaging, frightened seekers.
This behavioral mess is just what it looks like when people seek joy but neither believe in joy nor experience it. It’s Sisyphus going up the hill with candy and flowers.
Being certain that you don’t deserve love in no way diminishes your need for love. You will pursue it anyway, or dry up in your room like a mummy. Considering the weight we place on finding love you’d think breakthrough eureka moments of self-knowledge would be as common-place as dandelions but something obscures our vision.
The patterns of these self-canceling behaviors are the darkness surrounding us until something reveals our real problems and we address them. In this darkness, we play with hammers and guns, we throw bombs and drive dangerously. All the people we love are with us in that darkness too, because we have no light for them. True love provides light.
Albert Einstein is widely credited with saying, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” We have a self-help market valued at over $10 Billion dollars annually. That’s a fuck-ton of insane people not noticing some critical flaw in their sweet moves.
Not deserving love is generally an unconscious belief that shapes behavior like a mountain shapes a walking path. You simply walk the available route around it. But there are other people who don’t have a mountain in the way and they move directly in a way that you can’t. Your brain requires an explanation for this that you can live with.
There is a mental function that generates and preserves excuses explaining these “built to fail” patterns. Let’s call it the Auto-Rationalizer Function. As a social primate, you need a story for every piece of human business and this machine in your head will make you one. Whatever you do, it tells you why it was OK. It rationalizes, justifies and forgives you your trespasses with lightning speed. Half defense attorney. and half PR flack, it auto weaves stories of you as a moral giant or an innocent victim and eventually, these begin to seem like the inescapable, rock bottom truth. Excuses become our stories, stories become memories, memories become ourselves and create a map of our possible (and not possible) futures. Even our stories come to protect us from vulnerability and growth. Not surprising since we write them.
Your story is a box whose walls reach the sky and horizons. When you fail, your story puts an arm around your shoulder and says: “See? Didn’t I tell you?”
Your story is the one you don’t know how to doubt.
If you yearn for something better, you will have to learn how to doubt your story. Hard.
(This series will be way better read from beginning to end, rather than end to beginning.)
Long ago, my love was smugly avoidant and entitled. I was an arrogant little sexual aristocrat totally certain of my hotness. I wanted “love” but I only understood it as desire, satiation, and friendship. I was unaware of any lack of perception in myself and felt that mostly, I was always right about everything. Getting whatever I wanted seemed like the universe functioning correctly. I was as contentedly self-involved and selfish as a cat and almost as innocent and guileless about it. I didn’t lie about who I was or sneak around, I legitimately believed I was a special exemption. For a certain period of time, the world seemed to agree.
All the men in my family are on the ADHD/ASD axis and we all begin life with an emotional astigmatism about the meaning and value of other people’s feelings. We aren’t narcissists who don’t care, we are shortsighted moles who don’t notice it. We lack emotional depth perception. It has to be shaken into us.
I asked relatively little of love and received far more than that in return. At this superficial level, I was loveable and did deserve it because I was handsome, sexy, smart and funny. I was of high value in a low-value economy. Love at this level is better written as “love” and better understood as a consumable experience like cocaine or a carnival ride. If it was a planet, the gravity would be low and bouncy. We would only have first names.
When my first marriage (11 years of the “selfish innocent” phase) failed, the concept of deeper and truer love formed in me and my soul walked in that direction as if it smelled food cooking. I entered a different economy of love where the person I really am was small change. I could be high value again if all I wanted was a thrill, but down here everything cost more and demanded more true value, more purity of essence. This was the only coin accepted for anything worthwhile. True value meant possessing the ability to love with natural reciprocity, belief in a bright future, alone or together, and honest faithfulness.
I need to explain that. a digression
Faithfulness isn’t a promise to never change, or silently bear some misery to the end of time. It is recognizing the heart of your person as deserving of respect, truth, and kindness above your need to play any other game. If you decide to play the game anyway, you disclose the truth before you begin and allow them to leave you to your play without being made into fools for your convenience.
Sneaking and lying to have an affair is exhilarating fun, sometimes tortured and desperate, sure, but it’s a thrill. It’s a goddamn suspense movie…with lots of fucking! You experience hair’s breadth escapes, clever gambits, desire and tension, tension, tension. It’s emotionally cinematic and a natural choice when your life feels flat as roadkill.
Faithfulness in its smallest, most basic expression means not choosing that exciting game over the dignity of your person’s heart. The minimum standard means not dragging them behind you in a gaslit fogbank while you see if you prefer being with someone else. Two directions are one more than you can walk and hiding your betrayal till all the details are comfortably settled is way, way colder than merely deciding you have to leave.
Hellscape, a Place for Learning
In place of that coin of true value in me, there was scorched earth unworthiness. My capital was counterfeit. In my center was a shadow of self-loathing. It may have formed in me during the early childhood bouts of severe depression that tortured my little boy soul with the acid of self-hatred. Maybe it was a function of the neurology I inherited. Certain quick-fire, critical thinking mental styles lean toward self-hatred. Either way, I was a perfect storm of these traits as a child, beginning at age 7. I had no defense against full-on hate-yourself depression. I was one with it. That blistering radiation did things to me I can’t fully comprehend even today. I did not have the kind of traumatic or abusive childhood typically assumed for that kind of depression. I had defensive pride and self-value but deep internal damage shaped the path of my waking life from down in the unconscious darkness.
There was a massive, solid black, radioactive moon inside me. It was so overwhelming that my conscious mind refused to know anything about it.
Following that path now I had objectively failed at love with someone who adored me and who I had loved with every bit of what depth I did have. I broke her heart and ruined everything by being my honest self. I had had endless confidence in my selfish vision and pursued it all the way to the ground. There, my grief was a firey, smoking, bomb crater.
I was shocked into awareness of the depth and value of love for literally the first time. I became aware of my personal guilt in a disaster that murdered love. You know those dreams where you’ve killed someone or committed a terrible crime and the dawning horror and shame at the weight of your crime build to a scream like a factory whistle? That was my inner life in the aftermath, an inner emotional Chernobyl, month after month.
And that is how I finally learned a thing I needed to know, that is what it took.
The truly intransigent, and the super naive, must observe the nuclear immolation of their conceits to recognize their errors.
I now had a conception of what things cost, and how terribly much there was to lose but I didn’t grasp why this had happened. Surely next time I could just behave differently. From here I left to seek out true love and happiness while carrying this unworthiness inside. I carried the inevitable defeat of my dearest hope with me everywhere.
I didn’t understand that being loved can’t fix the belief that you don’t deserve love. It just makes you uncomfortable.
If you meet your ideal love and you can’t accept what they are offering, that’s a tragedy, not a dream come true. Find the antidote, heal the wound, then seek love.
If you don’t heal yourself, you’ll merely be bringing your true love a pretty basket of thorns. Worse yet, you’ll be convinced they are beautiful flowers and that she was selfish or mean not to take them.
So why didn’t I do the right thing? Because I had no clue what the real problem was. If someone had mentioned it to me I would have said: “No, that’s not it…” The problem is that we assume we know enough. We glance around inside our hearts and minds like lazy night watchmen and don’t see anything to worry about.
“We are so convinced that past evils must repeat themselves that we make them repeat themselves. We dare not risk a new life in which the evils of the past are totally forgotten; a new life seems to imply new evils, and we would rather face evils that are already familiar… Hence we cling to the evil that has already become ours, and renew it from day-to-day, until we become identified with it and change is no longer thinkable.”
–Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation
This is the first of a short series about happiness, freedom, and love that I feel the need to share, having recently heard about them for the first time. If any of this ever seems like a gloomy confession for the sake of confessing, it isn’t. I’ve had crazy wonderful breakthroughs since ~April of 2019. I’m happy and hopeful in a way that isn’t much like previous me. I’m cheery, for god’s sake.
What allowed me to become so much happier, was persevering in the worst godawful codependent bs relationship ever…with such intensity…that I broke through to something I find rather hard to explain. The over the top pain and longing of it tore open a membrane between me and a completely new level of spiritual perception and energy. Since then, it has quietly and consistently transformed my life.
This new perspective isn’t wisdom gleaned forensically from the crash site of that bad relationship. I’m not “Sadder but wiser” and I haven’t gathered a basket of bitterness and resentment but rather trapped them between a cup and some cardboard and then released them into the yard.
This unexpected introduction to spirit was like elevator doors opening on a floor with a number you’ve never heard of and it’s so nice here that you are a better person for even knowing about it. There’s a mysterious sweetness to be followed, and you follow it. There’s no dogma or cliches attached, it is fresh original territory. This is what it is like: Perhaps somehow you have believed in NO your whole life. Suddenly, irrefutably, YES.
How to change
Truth can be shallow or deep. The shallow truth is obvious, we find it in plain sight. It is at “eye-level” and we know it without effort. Even when the deep truth is fairly obvious, it still requires a purposeful moment of effort to know it, like learning the weight of a heavy stone by lifting it.
The truth can also be Shallow and Deep. These two truths are independent of each other. If you know the deep truth, you also know the shallow. We can sit intimately talking together, one of us knowing only the shallow truth, and the other knowing both. It is unlikely that the one with both will be able to convince the other of the deep truth because it requires that moment of heavy lifting and that moment cannot be forced. It must be a conscious, freely chosen decision.
Oftentimes knowing the deep truth isn’t merely a choice…it becomes a need, born of a crisis.
Some deep truth is also deeply hidden and finding it requires a personal quest with parallels to the stages of “The Hero’s Journey”1. There is a call to the adventure that makes you leave your ordinary life; a descent into the abyss, facing your deepest fears, a precious gift gained there by your courage and finally transformation as you return to your world bearing this precious gift.
Everything we do that sabotages our deepest, dearest wishes for our lives has a shallow reason and a deep one. The shallow reason is the one you would post on Facebook or tell a friend in conversation. The shallow reason is why heartbreak continues and we don’t change our lives. The shallow reason is sometimes the only one we can find even in our deepest introspection.
The deep truths driving these behaviors, the deep reasons, operate freely, and openly but in darkness, unseen. The deep reasons hold the long, long poles with the shallow reasons nailed to the top. To challenge the power of these forces requires a quest, courage, and tenacity.
If you’ve ever been caught in a co-dependent style “broken relationship machine” you know how desperate, reactive, impulsive and compulsive you can be in this trap. Every action you take feels almost physically in reaction to something else. Your response feels inevitable and compulsory. Somehow, it’s beyond your strength to choose differently. You are saturated with emotion to the point of exhaustion.
The cause of all this hell is self-evident to you:
- Because Janice is a fucking Bitch!
- Because Ritchie doesn’t care how much I give and give and give.
- Because I always pick the wrong men.
You are a puppet of your own weakness. It makes sense that your weakness is the area where something stronger pushes you around, right? What is this weakness? Usually, its fear mixed with a fragile ego, and pessimism. The fragile ego is probably from terrible emotional wounds you tried to walk off but you couldn’t, so you stopped acknowledging them consciously. That didn’t stop these wounds from talking to you though, and they have an opinion on everything. They are now full voting members of your board of directors and largely responsible for the saddest things you’ve ever done. Right now, you barely even know how to know about them. Making emotional pain unconscious is cauterizing the wound; it seals it off from your conscious thoughts because you literally couldn’t bear it any longer. Once sealed off like this though, that wound never heals: It becomes a background fact of your inner world coloring everything you perceive for the rest of your life.
You are seeking joy and love according to the terms and conditions shaped by these cauterized, unhealed wounds and the fear, fragile ego, and pessimism that they spray-painted over the lenses of your soul. This is your truth and if someone questions it, you know to a certainty that you are right and they are wrong.
To fix this mess we need two things: Insight to reveal the deep truth and Strength to do something about it. These powers become available when we are in crisis, knocked off-kilter and reeling with pain. These moments that we would do almost anything to escape having, can offer the chance of actual escape. When the truth about your failures is undeniable, success is possible because you can see how the path to it breaks off from the one you’re on. For a short time, you can see the things you hide from yourself.
I’m being transparent here about my many failures because you can only recognize something you’re acquainted with. The only way to tell this truth is naked and the only way to understand it is naked. The only way to use this truth is without shame and without defensive denials. When you fight it, it loses the power to free you. That’s why I’m being transparent here, to provide a “no fucks given” example.
If the word Spiritual feels like something I’m trying to push… like some undercover multi-level marketing scheme, I promise you, no it isn’t.
It’s a vantage point higher than the one you occupy as a hand-puppet. Spirit rises from your optimism and self-respect rejecting the unworthy self-story you’ve accepted thus far. The experience of spirit is of deeper personal agency, more choices, and better ones.
You open communications with it once you’re naked.
When longing is unbearable it becomes a prayer. When that prayer is intense enough, help arrives.
I don’t believe Chakras are the literal mystical energy centers believed in by new age people. I also don’t believe they are the nonsensical-fantasy-things-that-don’t-really-exist, as believed by nearly everyone else.
Chakras are symbolic foci for real aspects of our selves, our sub-selves, the parts of your overall whole being. They are defined as 7 modular aspects of self that come on-line by stages as we grow and experience life. They absolutely can be blocked and out of balance, under or overactive. Below is the traditional list though it can vary a bit, they work upward from the bottom of the spine to the top of the head and each is associated with specific areas of our lives, feelings, and personalities. They are distinct color-coded points on the spectrum. But ultimately their functions blend into a healthy, unified self.
- Root – Base of the spine; red; governs survival instincts, grounding.
- Sacral — Lower abdomen; orange; governs sexuality, intuition, self-worth/-esteem.
- Solar Plexus — Upper abdomen; yellow; governs impulse control, ego.
- Heart — Center of the chest; green; governs compassion, spirituality.
- Throat — Throat; blue; governs communication, emotion.
- Third Eye — Between the eyes; purple; governs rationality, wisdom, imagination.
- Crown — Top of the head; indigo; governs connection with the Divine
The Chakras rather neatly mirror Abraham Maslow’s almost universally accepted hierarchy of needs. Notice how the artist used defining colors for different levels.
- Physiological needs
- Safety needs
- Social belonging
(There are somewhat alternative versions as well.) If a sub-self is broken at the physical safety level, of the self-confidence level, for example, self-actualization is blocked. The person experiences various psychological symptoms expressing the fears and frustrations of lack and instability in those areas of life. The chakras and the H of N chop up the human pieces a little differently and each one tilts a bit toward the surrounding belief system that hatched it. Still, it is the same invention, spontaneously cropping up to fill the same need for vastly different communities.
The invention is a simple map of the human soul and what it needs to thrive. It describes the places we can break down and suggests a course of treatment.
The Chakras and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs also dovetail nicely with Carl Jung’s Individuation, the challenging synthesis of becoming a complete, integrated person.
I’ll be writing here soon about some original and creative ways I’ve recently found to work with this material but I think this overall idea is interesting enough to consider on its own.
in European countries per 100.000 inhabitants (2016). (Phone users the info-graphic is at the bottom, in case it’s hard to see on your phone, the male numbers are to the left and females on the right.) I knew male suicide rates were higher but I had no idea the difference was this stark. The male suicide rate is at least double and often triple the female rate. In Russia, it’s 6X higher! We live in an absurd time where every opinion that could POSSIBLY have a political ax to grind is assumed to have one.
I want to turn that assumption around and ask questions:
- Why do I feel vaguely self-conscious and a need to clarify my motives when posting this? Is showing concern specifically for men seen as rejecting concerns about women? Has a discussion of male-female issues grow to resemble the charged atmosphere surrounding discussion of Israel? I refer to the fear of being called anti-semitic that comes with any criticism of Israeli policy or show of concern for Palestinians. If so, how have relations between the sexes sunk low enough to mirror the most vicious and entrenched argument in the world?
- In general, why isn’t the cause of this situation (male suicide numbers) a bigger, more pressing public health question? If the numbers were reversed do you think would there be a higher level of concern and more discussion about what is happening to girls and women?
But outside of politics or any kind of moralizing, just pondering the composition of the human race, I think one of the most revealing questions we could ask to understand our species is simply:
Why is this so?
I’m discussing the idea of control. For example, controlling ourselves, our social scene, romantic life, work issues and money.
There are several common variations of what we call Control. They differ sharply in meaning though each is intended for the same use. When we use the word Control about our lives it resembles one of these descriptions:
Dynamic or Responsive Control: The healthiest and happiest, also the least like the conventional meaning of control. This is a person who responds to life’s problems like a good tennis player responds to the match: Her moves are alert, timely, and proportional. She handles each problem as well as she can and doesn’t get distracted by grief over missing one or waste energy chasing a ball she could never catch. This person has confidence in themselves and knows that spontaneously handling everything as it comes to you is the only way to win. This style accepts incoming serves without protest as the core of the game, in other words as a basic truth about life.
The negative alternative is Anxious Control: There are several substyles to the spectrum of Anxious Control:
- Tense-Jumpy-Irritable Anxious Control – This style is stressed out just under the surface at all times. Problems scare them into hypervigilance and this generates “false positive” problems. Sadly this means they experience way more problems than people who aren’t on such high alert. Their moves are nervously alert, premature, and disproportionate on the “too big” side. They lack confidence in themselves and each problem costs them deeper emotional stress than necessary. Their response to incoming serves is bitter/resentful. “I knew it!” Oddly, they don’t put much focus on improving life in ways would generate fewer problems.
- Big Picture Prudence Anxious Control – The main difference between this one and the previous is time and space. BPP takes the long and global view of potential trouble. It embraces systems of avoiding and minimizing problems. None of that is pathological in itself, it shows good sense if it is in balance. The negative imbalance appears when fear and dread are the motivators and try to control EVERYTHING. Their moves are suspiciously alert, their timing is preemptive, and they are disproportionately risk-averse. There is a fundamentally negative world view with a dislike/distrust of anything that they cannot control. At the extreme end, this style avoids love, growth, and change. Their response to incoming serves is to manage them remotely or avoid them entirely.
- Helpless, Fatalistic Anxious Control – Utterly lacking confidence in themselves this style expects failure and allows it to happen through passivity and by telling themselves it doesn’t matter anyway. They grieve over their weakness but can’t find any way to address it. They avoid many problems by not trying or risking. They don’t bet on themselves. This approach can be global or limited/specialized to areas like love or work. Some, for example, might be highly accomplished in their career and helpless/fatalistic toward ever being loved. Their approach to incoming serves is wistful and sad as they passively let them go by. More rarely they take a feeble swing fully expecting failure.
There is a behavior within a distinct subset of Seattle drivers that causes a range of negative results from small nuisances to life-threatening. I’m referring to politeness. Actually, that isn’t right. Politeness is simple, lovely, correct. Politeness is the Tao of social interaction.
The problem behavior is Meta-Politeness, a self-conscious attempt to be witnessed personifying politeness. I believe it may be normal politeness tainted by the social media status update. We now include little unnecessary flourishes with our politeness in hopes of getting a “like”.
The tiny nuisance level is usually something like a driver expressing their profound open-mindedness that perhaps, evidence to the contrary, it isn’t their turn at the 4-way stop.
“Are you sure? It’s ok? Really?”
If this was as bad as it got, I would scarcely even notice, let alone ruminate over it…let even more alone write about it!
Here’s the real problem situation:
I’ve directly experienced this many times. Continue reading