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Who Am I

By: Aaron

Do you ever look at yourself? Sure, you see yourself in the mirror a handful of times a day when you go to the bathroom to take a leak and all that, but usually I find that when I look into the mirror I’m looking at all of the things that aren’t me. “Is there something on my face?”. Lately, however, I don’t really know why, but I have been making a concentrated effort to look myself in the eyes when I find myself facing a mirror. Sometimes I can hold a gaze longer than others.

In mid to late August of 2009 I shipped off to Ft. Leonard Wood Missouri to go to basic training for the Army. Most soldiers in the Army have a 10-week basic training and move on to train for the job that they signed up for in dorm-room style barracks with relative freedom, at least as far as nights and weekends were concerned. However, because of the fact that I chose Military Police as my job, and we were held to a higher standard, I was to live under the strict rules of a basic training during MP school as well, a cumulative total of 6 months. I can remember being driven to the recruiting station in Warwick, Rhode Island by the father of my best friend who I joined with. It was like 4 in the morning that day in August when we met up with the recruiter who was going to bring us to Boston and send us on our way to Missouri. I knew I didn’t want to be in the Army, and 10 days before I left, my roommates best friend who lived in the downstairs apartment had committed suicide. As it turns out, suicide is an often talked about subject in the Army.

I guess it wasn’t long before you learn what your options are to try and somehow get sent home from basic training. Not everyone partook in fantasizing about tearing their ACL at the obstacle course so that they could go back on the contract they signed and go back to their normal life. It really wasn’t uncommon to hear that kind of talk at all, but who wanted to have to suffer the pain of an injury like that? As it turns out, the easiest way to get kicked out of the Army is to say you feel suicidal. It was faster than a medical discharge, but as soon as you said you felt suicidal, the drill sergeants would take away your belt, your shoelaces, your sheets, blankets, blunt objects, shaving razors, and the like, for reasons that I’m sure you can figure out. Furthermore, the private on suicide watch would then have to be watched by 2 recruits at all times, including pulling watch on them overnight. Over the course of the first 5 months, a few individuals went through the process of cutting themselves up a bit so they could go to the drill sergeant and say they were suicidal, and within 2 weeks or so they’d usually be back on a plane to the comfort of their old lives.

It was in the last month before graduation that my company was called into the classroom in the barracks to be spoken to by the drill sergeants. A few months earlier they had told all of the active duty soldiers where they would be stationed after graduation, but that fateful day in January, at least a third of the active-duty soldiers were reassigned to all go to the same duty station. In a moment of honesty, one of the drill sergeants addressed the reason behind these changes.

“Privates, if you just had your duty station changed, that mean you should plan on having your boots in the sand within 3 months of graduating here. You’ll be going to Afghanistan”.

This must have freaked out some of them. Over the course of the next month, I’d say we probably had about 8 privates who were a part of the reassigned group give threats of suicide so they to could be sent home. Here is something that I bet you didn’t know; if your unit’s training period overlaps with Christmas, you now get sent home to be with your family, because there were too many recruits ACTUALLY committing suicide on Christmas day when they were stuck in the barracks instead of being with their families. There are already fireguard shifts to wake up for when you’re living the barracks life, but for every private on suicide watch, 2 privates still in training to wake up per hour for a shift. When we had 8 or so privates on suicide watch, they all slept on their sheet-less and blanket-less mattresses in the downstairs classroom. Each mattress with 2 chairs next to it, where the people in charge of watching them could sit and make sure they don’t do anything crazy.

Roughly 40 privates would have to wake up an hour to take a shift of either fireguard or suicide watch. Sleep became scarce to come by because instead of us only having to pull one shift a night, we’d each have to wake up for an hour at a time 2-3 times every night for those last couple weeks. It wasn’t long before me and my battle buddy would sit for our suicide watch shifts, with our flashlight pointed towards the eyes of who we were in charge of watching while kicking the side of their mattress. My boot would hit first, then my buddy’s. Boom-boom. In the cadence of a heartbeat. We’d say, “if we don’t get to sleep, let’s make sure they don’t either”. I know we’d say some really mean stuff too, while we kicked away.

By the time I was just about a complete zombie from lack of consistent sleep, struggling and resentful from the fact that I couldn’t be there more for my roommate after what had happened in the summer prior, and I was tired of hearing the word “suicide” in training, we had another private threaten suicide. I remember being on the detail to watch and restrain him, one that took 5 people at first because he kept going through fits of wanting to fight us and throw elbows. After over an hour of struggling, he was finally calm without restraint and was sitting against the wall in front of our companies HQ office. The drill sergeant walked out of the, looked at us 5 privates who were on watch, and said, “Privates, I need to go upstairs to make copies, if anyone gets any bruises where I can’t see them, then as far as I’m concerned they aren’t there”. Once the drill sergeant walked off, one of us looked at the rest of the group and said, “does that mean what I think it means?”.

I spill this story out of my guts because it’s the memory that made me realize how powerful the mind is. You see, I blocked that memory out of my head for years. Totally deleted it. Then it crept up on me one day back in 2013, 4 years later. It hit me like a ton of bricks. “Who the hell was that person?” I asked myself, “I don’t know him, that’s not the version of me that I think of myself as. What a monster. Am I even who I think I am”.

I know from the sources that those people didn’t want to kill themselves. They were just 18-year-olds who were in over their heads when they signed their lives aways for 4 years. They just wanted to go home, just like I did. I shouldn’t have punished them for that. I learned about myself. That I’m not solely in control. That my mind is a strong force, and that it can manipulate my perception in the interest of trading truth for comfort. By learning how nasty I could be, I learned how to never have to be like that again. To be able to fight is to be able to hurt. And to be able to hurt is to have the capacity for evil. However it is he who is tough who has to fight the least, so even though I know my capacities, I’m somewhat happy to have them so that I hopefully never have to exercise them again.

My Weaknesses are Strong

By: Aaron

A couple days ago I wrote a piece that was titled Anxiety: A Nervous System. There were some people on twitter who seemed to have some things to say, but due to the fact that I found their criticism to be nothing more than senseless chatter from the lets-be-offended brigade, I found it hard to hear myself think. But since they seemed to have so much to say I would like to go ahead and address their criticisms.

I’ll preface with a couple definitions that I think will help with the continuity of this post. To clarify the difference between “anxiety” as an emotion versus the classification of illnesses classified as “anxiety disorders”, and to do that I will start by qualifying my statement of claiming anxiety exist as more of an emotion than an illness.

Emotion: The part of the consciousness that involves feeling.

            I know that when I get anxiety, it certainly comes with a whole gambit of feelings, ones which are difficult for me to articulate when I’m feeling them. It’s the collective agreement of the unspeakable nature of these feeling that we classify with the umbrella term, “anxiety”.

Anxiety: A state of uneasiness and apprehension, as about future uncertainties.

            I don’t think it necessary for me to have a degree in psychiatry to understand that when I’m in a state of uneasiness or apprehension, that it’s a fleeting moment. While sometimes it stays longer than other times, anxiety as it stands by itself is in no way a permanent state of being or an illness. Furthermore, I think that it only makes sense to be uneasy about future uncertainties, because the last thing that is going to happen to you is death. If I wasn’t uneasy about that at least every once in a while I would have to question my ability to pay any attention to what it means to be a part of this human experience. If you think you aren’t scared of death, try telling the hypothalamic part of your brain that when a bear starts chasing you, and I bet that if you end up getting away, you will be the exact definition of “scared”.

Anxiety Disorders: are a group of mental disorders characterized by feelings of anxiety and fear.

            Sometimes anxiety is a symptom for other types of illnesses. That in no way means having anxiety means you have an anxiety disorder. Another helpful thing to know about the process of psychiatric diagnosis, is that IT IS IN NO WAY BASED ON SCIENCE. It has aspects of scientific thought, yes, but because science requires an objective point of view (objective meaning of or having to do with a material object that’s uninfluenced by emotions or personal prejudices), and since “anxiety” isn’t a material, it can’t be a scientific truth. Instead, a psychiatric diagnosis is made off of groupings of generalizations of people who are suffering from the same symptoms. That is to say, for example, someone diagnosing a mental disorder would take a grouping of 10 generalized symptoms of intangible “feelings” you might have, and if the textbook says that it only takes 5 out of 10 of those symptoms to go through with a diagnosis, they will diagnose. That means you could have 2 people, where one exhibits the first 5 symptoms, the second exhibits the second 5 symptoms, and they would walk out with the same diagnosis. That’s not science.

This whole twitter storm I took on for my piece started a couple of nights ago, when I noticed 2 tweets of similar nature criticizing my post. These two folks I shall deem as “Autumn” and “Charlie”. So here’s how it went down:

 

“Autumn” tweets: “innaccurate scientific explanation for a serious mental illness. Fight/flight response defence mechanism”.

And “Charlie” tweets: “Utter nonsense! Not only is this unhelpful it is Harmful to those of us living with a serious mental illness”.

I opened this post the way I did so I could address Autumn and Charlie’s comments more clearly. First, “Autumn”, my BLOG POST was not a SCIENTIFIC EXPLANATION. If you read all blog posts as science, you may need to re-evaluate what you believe as facts. Now as far as the both of them referring to my post as something that has anything to do with a “mental illness”, I’m confused as to why they’d think that. My post was about anxiety as a feeling or emotion, not about anxiety disorders.

Later, “Autumn” says: “I am an absolute warrior. You are misinforming the public that anxiety is not a mental illness. DSM 5 is fact not fiction.”

Again, I would like to point out that anxiety can and is sometimes marked as a diagnostic symptom to a broader illness, but to be anxious by itself, as it was written about in the post that apparently offended these people, is in no way a sickness, and I’d say her ideas are more harmful than mine, because she’s endorsing the idea that you’re too darn helpless to help yourself. I happen to think you can help yourself.

Regarding DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-5th edition), the text being referenced also clearly states anxiety by itself as a symptom to a class of “anxiety disorders”. But the release of DSM-5 (2013) did not get released without yielding A TON of controversy. It’s been accused of having connections and agendas driven by the pharmaceutical industry, having diagnostic matrices that are poorly defined and lack empirical evidence, and that much of the information either contradicts itself, or is just unclear and poorly written. One group of psychologists mustered up more than 15,000 signatures in opposition to DSM-5 (https://www.ipetitions.com/petition/dsm5/), and you can read about the efforts to reform DSM-5 by a group of over 50 mental health organizations here, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/allen-frances/dsm-5-petition_b_1610569.html

There was some talk in there about genetics being the reason for anxiety, and for that I will quickly point out 2 things. First is that, once again, anxiety as an emotion and anxiety as a symptom for some kind of “anxiety disorder”, as a classification are not the same things. the second point I’ll make will simply be a quote that I pulled from The American /society of Human Genetics’ website; “Although our genetic makeup is constant throughout life, our genes alone do not DETERMINE our future. All genes work in context of environment, such as diet, exercise, exposure to toxic agents, or medication can all influence our genes and traits

The USA is 3% of the worlds population yet we consume 85% worth of the world’s pharmaceutical drugs. So if anxiety disorders are genetic, it’s probably in context with all those pills we’re being given to medicate our existence.

I could go on and individually tear apart the individual tweets so I can exhibit how when you let people like “Autumn” and “Charlie” talk long enough, they’ll show you exactly why they don’t know very much, including how to have a productive conversation. Every point I made, and every word I wrote was twisted by them and a couple others and warped into a rebuttal that I can only classify as incoherent babble.

I’ll end this post right here, I’m getting “anxious” to tweet it out to “Autumn” and “Charlie”. Thanks for all the attention you two, the Curious Conversation website has seen a lot of traffic due to your manufactured outrage. Way dope.

 

 

 

Anxiety: A Nervous System

By: Aaron

If you read our post about avoidance and pragmatism, then you’ll what I’m saying when I say that I’m going to put on my pragmatists thinking cap to write this next post. If you haven’t read it yet, it might not hurt to start with that one here: https://thecuriousconvos.com/2017/03/03/avoidance-and-pragmatism/.

You’ll know from having read that article that the general viewpoint of a pragmatist can be generalized in one way as classifying the world as something that is not made out of “matter” and atoms and stuff, but it’s instead comprised of what matters.

Your nervous system transmits messages from your spinal cord and brain to everywhere else throughout your body, and it tells you exactly how to act. “Scream”, “reach your arm out and grasp”, and “turn around” That kind of stuff. The most primitive aspects of your nervous system will find their origins 550-600 million years ago in worms.

Obviously this means that our nervous system, which is the system that actually think it contains all the knowledge we claim to know about it, is 600 million years old, and although we may think we are much more intelligent than it, we must consider the possibility that it might be more wise as a separate entity than we are using it as a faculty to our existence. After all, this reactionary part of us all is exactly the faculty that has allowed our ancestors to keep alive and avoid being eaten by things like snakes, wolves or bears over the entirety of our evolutionary period.

Your nervous system doesn’t even actually look at a snake or a wolf, and think “snake” or “wolf”, especially not during times before civilization. Your nervous system and looks at them and thinks, “something I run from”, or, “something that eats me”. Your nervous system then extracts those meanings out and tell your body how it should thusly act. The better and better species gets at adjusting it’s perceived meaning of things to match the actions you act out as a result of those meanings, the more likely it is that the species is going to be able to be most successful at propagating through time. Anything that you might perceive as a threat, is going to activate the same parts of the reactionary brain that would have been activated during times when being eaten by snakes and wolves might have been a more realistic danger.

            Perhaps a problem with the strictly objective or scientific viewpoint of humanity today, is that our nervous system does not know how to act out “snake” or “wolf”, at least not as a reflex. It simply is not consistent with how our genealogy has evolved. Evolution of the nervous system has been going on for 600 million years, humanity has existed in it’s current form (with varying estimation) for roughly 150,000 to 200,000 years, written language has existed for roughly 10,000 years, science for 500 years, and Iphones have existed for 8 years. Our past as a primitive being is much longer and more full of examples of the reality of human nature and that’s why they say “history repeats itself”. To know why people do the things they do, you must first study why and how we have evolved as we are.

Take for example, the amount that atheistic views have grown over the course of the last 3 decades or more. An atheist might associate with the idea that life has no meaning, and that people are mere coincidences of Darwinism and aren’t divine. I was an atheist in my teenage years through early 20’s, or I at least would have identified as one. At that time I would have told you that I don’t believe in anything, and that’s the reason I was an atheist. So you can imagine the shock I felt years later when I realized that as an atheist, I BELIEVED that nothing was going to happen to me when I died.

“But I thought you didn’t believe in anything,” I said to myself.

“Apparently you’re a hypocrite,” I responded back.

This realization forced me to strip myself all of my beliefs and start over. I studied a lot of the oldest stories, myths, and religious texts looking for what it is that I might believe. What was revealed to me as I read, listened to lectures, and read, I concluded that I do not believe any religion to be true by itself, rather I more believe that they all have intrinsic, transcendent, and universal truths among them, and that the oldest religious text should most effectively be viewed as if they are tools which contain the morals and ethics of which you should use to guide your life. Furthermore it is within those texts that I have hypothesized that the main lesson that carries across all religions is that the most sacred and “holy” of all values is to always tell the truth.

Given how much more our ancestors were connected to nature, considering how they lived in it, I’d say it’s fair to assume they were also clued in to the workings and needs of their own bodies, more than we are, and definitely more than we probably give the, credit for. Maybe these stories, the oldest that have ever been carried through all of time, are a gift from our wiser ancestors telling us that the most important human trait is to always tell the truth. I think it’s possible that they knew the effect that lies and contradictions have on one’s nervous system, and I think that these effects carry severe consequences than we currently think, as far as individual physiological health. It’s debatable that we’re the most “advanced” country on the earth yet we use 85% of all the world’s manufactured prescription drugs, and that’s no coincidence.

For example, one self-hypocrisy I discovered while looking into my religious affiliation contradiction, was one that had prior been a sub-conscious hypocrisy. Actually as it turns out, most of them are sub-conscious. I realized that even though I didn’t believe in divinity because of my beliefs in atheism, yet I simultaneously act out the beliefs of our government’s legal system, which clearly associates with the belief that everybody does have divinity within them. Otherwise if you committed a crime we’d just assume that you are evil and that evil is the only thing that you are. We wouldn’t bother in believing in second chances. You can find similar contradictions in the environmentalist who drives a truck and owns an Iphone and a house with electricity, in the feminist who’s never stood up for the right for women in Saudi Arabia to enjoy the same opportunities to protest that women in the west enjoy, or in any of the groups and organization that claim to detest hate speech, while being a hateful response to an opposing hateful movement. Hate plus hate only equals more hate.

I say all of that to conclude with this; one truth that carries across all people is that we all have unconscious contradictions, hypocrisy, and bias. That’s okay, but we must be able to have a dialogue about it, so we can all get smarter. When one stakes their beliefs in one thing, but act out their life in a manner that is contradictory in meaning to those beliefs, I hypothesize that it throws your nervous system out of whack, and since that is the system that tells very other part of you how to act, it might not be a bad idea that we collectively figure out how to keep it in check. These self-deception literally wind you up, and are the roots of all of your anxiety.

Not all of these monkey wrench’s of contradiction that are being thrown at your nervous system are the fault of your own. You nest your self-identity within larger group identities. Things like gender, sexual orientation, political and religious affiliation, where you’re from, and the like, are all larger structures of identity that carry with them their own beliefs, some of which you adopt consciously, some sub-consciously. If you want to slowly rid yourself of your anxieties it will help you to realize your contradictions, address them, and get rid of them, one by one. The road to ridding our anxious mind, starts from looking within, and working your way outwards, so until you’ve gotten to know your inner self, it’s best to not project your insecurities. Peace and love and you are beautiful xoxo

 

The Anxiety Show

By: Taylor

Anxiety is something that’s a part of everyone’s lives. It’s a makeup of the human condition; a part of the gig no one necessarily wants; yet it exists regardless. It can be predominantly present or hiding under the bed, but that in no way means it’s non-existent in your life. Just because you don’t feel it now doesn’t mean you never have or never will. The thing about anxiety is that people (very much so) experience it differently. The kid on the bus silently reading a book could be stressing hard over x, y, and z; you’d never know he’s on the verge. Or there are people like myself, Taylor, who have let anxiety take over some pretty awesome moments due to what can only be described as a crippling sensation of a bomb aftermath.

 

And . . . fun times were had by all . . . No, not really, but this anxiety that we all experience, it’s seldom spoken about; seldom understood in a comprehensive way. If we asked, “What is anxiety?”—Would your answer start with, “The feeling when…”? Look, we aren’t claiming to be the anxiety experts over here, either. We just have taken the education and thought on anxiety to a different level for you; for any and everyone.

 

There’s already so much misconception around what anxiety is, and we’d like to clear that up and shake that down a bit. Here, we’ve defined anxiety in our own words, and that goes as follows:

 

“To be fearful of the future and lacking a sense of security about an uncertain situation that is under consideration.”

 

that may be a lot to process, but bare with us, here. When you feel anxious, it’s generally about an unknown; work, relationships, or health—you name it. Why are you fearful about it? Because you don’t have a solid, clear end result in mind, and that’s a scary thing. Why’s it under consideration? You obviously want it, but there’s a clear layer of fear surrounding it because you want it. But with that want, there’s the whole “unknown” thing. That’s the part that shakes you to your core. It’s the risk of a, b, c, or d that comes with any road you may or may not take. The thing is . . .you can’t sit in an indecisive zone for very long without repercussions. You have to make decisions; that’s another part of the human condition. Whether you’re feeling ready or not is beside the point because truly—you’ll never “feel” 100% ready, ever, about anything. New parents don’t have a guide telling them how to be a parent, they just do. So maybe, just maybe, it’s about saying screw it and diving in, wherever you are.

 

If there’s any constant in life, it’s the existence of uncertainty in your everyday. There will always be things you don’t have answers to, situations you can’t possibly plan for, and events you simply don’t have control over. The key to life isn’t having the answers; it’s knowing that it’s OK to not have the answers. Say you have a big presentation coming up at work in front of a group of peers that you seldom work with. You’re going to be nervous, and you’re going to have anxiety. That’s natural. That’s normal. That’s expected. Why wouldn’t you be nervous about it? It means something to you, and no one wants to enter a room only to leave it feeling like a complete moron.

 

That’s the anxiety talking, though. Chances are you’re not a moron, and you’re just being outrageously hard on yourself. For whatever reason, we’re all usually much harder on ourselves than we would be to literally any other human being. So what would happen if we were to start speaking to ourselves the way we’d talk to a dear friend? Would that anxiety begin to melt away? The answer is yes and no. Obviously one small shift isn’t going to instantaneously move mountains, but it’s crucial to identify that it will, in fact, make a change. Even if it’s a small one, change is still change, and when it comes to anxiety, even the smallest steps should be look at through the most victorious eyes. As we’ve discussed before, this is part of a shift in perspective, which is no easy task. If you’re the person who doesn’t believe a shift in perspective could genuinely, meaningfully and positively impact your life, yet you suffer from anxiety, well . . . you’re walking a thin line between reality and delusion; between accuracy and avoidance, and it might be time to take the blinders off.

 

This isn’t saying we minimize whatever it may be that you’re going through. We know anxiety is real, and we are right there with everyone who experiences these feelings every day. We also know how beneficial a shift in ones perspective can be, and we want to guide others to the same realizations. Generalized anxiety can be crippling—take it from those who are first-hand battlers of said anxiety. But here’s the thing . . .you can’t sit around your whole life being the victim of your circumstances. We’ve all been down; we’ve all fallen victim to this way of life; to the poor-me mindset. Some of us (or one of us…OK it’s me) felt that way merely 5 minutes ago. But guess what? To get off the floor, you can’t just sit there, twiddling your thumbs. You have to actively try to get the hell up.

 

Sure, it’s easier to cry in the midst of your anxiety overload and let it run you, but where’s that going to get you? We’ll tell you—nowhere. It gets you stuck in the mouse wheel of life, going nowhere fast (and in an anxious way, at that). If this isn’t what you saw for your life, then change it. Decide that now, and 5 minutes from now, and 3 hours from now, and tomorrow, and next month . . . that you won’t let this bullshit run your life. That you won’t let it run you. Your mind is powerful, and when you use it for the better as opposed to it using you . . . beautiful things will unfold. You’ve got to hold onto the strength you’ve been given and use It for good, for the bettering of yourself; not for the crippling of your mind.

 

Avoidance and Pragmatism

By: Aaron and Taylor

When it comes to avoidance, you probably already know what we’re talking about, but just to clarify let’s go ahead and check out the dictionary definition: Avoidance- the action of keeping away from, or not doing something.

Okay, that seems like a simple enough of a definition and you’re probably thinking of the grand scheme. But what happens when you zoom in? Like… Really zoom in?

Most the time it’s not so obvious what it is you’re avoiding. This makes sense to a degree, you’re avoiding them for a reason, and the more distance you keep fro something, the less harm it will seem to be doing, especially over the course of time. Things associated with avoidance are uncomfortable. They’re inconvenient. You may deem something as unimportant because of your ability to avoid the problem or occurrence. When you’re practicing avoidance, which essentially means just that; you’re practicing it and likely getting better at avoiding current things and at avoiding more now, too… Your avoidances are making you willfully blind, and it is the act of being willfully blind that is the biggest threat to both yourself as well as those who are closest to you.

It is most useful to look at the things you are avoiding with a pragmatists point of view, which is to say that instead of being someone who looks at the world as if it is made up of physical matter like atoms and molecules, you’d say that the world is made out of what matters; or meaning.

This actually makes a lot of sense when dealing with something such as avoidances. After all, avoidances aren’t tangible things that are made out of matter, rather they are truths in which you act out based on the structure of their underlying meanings.

Having now pulled our pragmatists thinking cap from out of our closet and put it on our heads, we’ve so far made two conclusions. The first being that the world is not simply made out of physical matter, but is also shaped just as much by “what matters”. Second, we’ve concluded that avoidances are abstract in nature and are made out of meaning. We illustrate these two conclusions to lead you to the third pragmatic conclusion that might be hypothesized after the first two, and that is that meaning is derived from the mind-body connection that lie in our memories. We know this connection to exist because of the automatic responses you have when certain events or patterns repeat themselves. If you’re scared of snakes, you draw on that fear from your memories (mind), and use it to dictate your living out that fear through your actions (body).

It also make sense for us to talk for one paragraph about it means when we say we’re thinking like a pragmatist. You might be thinking, “in comparison to what”. I certainly didn’t learn what it meant to exercise different modes of thinking from the public school that I went to. So, when we hear someone speaking of something as if it were definitive fact, we would say they are speaking “objectively”; whereas if they were speaking of it as if it were a belief, in terms of it not being able to be definitively proven, we would say they are speaking “subjectively”. Objective thought would be grouped with science and facts and subjective thought would be grouped with philosophy and belief. The method of viewing the world as a pragmatist is best described by Charles Sanders Peirce, when he summed up the process of pragmatic thought by saying to

 

“consider the practical effects of the objects of your conception. Then, your conception of those effects is the whole of your conception of the object”.

 

You actually practice thinking pragmatically all of the time. Think for a second what it wouls mean to you if I told you to think about “a building”. Okay, now imagine if I asked you to compare what’s in your head right now with what pops into your head when I say “a school”.

What we’re trying to do here is help reveal to yourself what we mean when we say that pragmatic thought has an element of mind-body connectedness. When you consider “a school”, and you extract the embodied element of what you mean when you say that, that embodied element would be no different than the embodied element that would be represented if you referred to the school as “a building instead. This is obviously the body aspect to the mind-body connection we’re illustrating. The mind aspect is derived from the implied meaning you apply to anything within the category of “a school”. Without your preconceived notions of what it means to be a school you’d see no difference between “a building” and “a school”, but since you instinctively act those differences out, you could make a case that the pragmatic truths derived from meaning are as real as anything else.

So, now that we’ve hopefully sold you on the idea that the world is made out of meaning, it’s time to talk about how to use that mode of thought to find the meaning behind the roots of your avoidances. The reason we mentioned memory earlier is because all avoidances stem from a memory of one kind or another, and the key to analyzing your avoidances is to figure out the memory or memories that is the cause of your avoidance. It’s not always as obvious as you think.

Some of your avoidances ARE memories themselves. The reason you’d avoid a particular memory is probably going to be because it makes you uncomfortable. Why would thinking about something make you uncomfortable? It’s probably because you haven’t come to an understanding with the underlying meaning of it yet!

How do you find the underlying meaning of a memory than makes you uncomfortable. It starts by facing the memory head on, in it’s entirety, and stop avoiding it. It’s also helpful to know why things tend to be meaningful. Meaningful things that manifest through the memories that stem your avoidances are generally consequences of you living out a series of actions, and the outside world not responding to your actions in the way you expected. It is in knowing that allows you to then analyze the series of actions you acted out both alone and in relation to the actions the rest of the world lived out, and use your analysis to figure out you did not end up with the expected end results. If you determine you didn’t get the responses you expected because of external forces, you’ll be able to drop the negativity that harbors your tendencies of avoidance. If you realize the reception of your actions was a direct result of the way your actions were perceived, it would help you to know that too, so that you could correct your behavior in order to bring about the responses you want and expect from the world.

If you can’t determine the reason for your avoidances by deriving meaning from the memories of those avoidances, don’t get discouraged. Avoidances are the materials, memories are the tools, and the meanings are the pieces of architecture we are building with our bounty of materials and tools; and when you can’t seem to put your finger on what the “meaning” of something is, it’s probably because you either need more “tools”, or more “material” to work with.

The Mastering of Perspective

By: Taylor and Aaron

 

Perspective is a thing that’s not easily mastered, yet it is so necessary in life. You hear it all too often: change your perspective, change your life. But is it really that easy? Can you just decide to have a different outlook at any given moment, regardless of your emotions? Logic and reason differ slightly here in that one says no while the other says yes- one says stop, one says go. Okay, enough of the cheese-ball rhymes. We get it, it’s more complex than that. If you have a really bad day, the last thing you want to hear is “cheer up” to get an attitude adjustment or a perspective shift. To take it as a message from the universe to shift your perspective on the experience and/or the outcome and you’ll automatically become a ray of sunshine. Well, guess what? Perspectives don’t change overnight and it’s a skill that takes lots of practice, and it is something that must be consciously noticed and articulated, just like anything else.

Work diligently at it, and perspective shifting is a skill that you too can have, but you must be willing to work for it. If you’re inclined to use you pessimistic perspective as some kind of justification to mope around and cry victim-hood to your adversity. Listen, we’re no better than anybody else at shifting perspective, so we won’t preach in a way as if we’re not as flawed as any other human, but we have some insight on the subject. We have moments where we can’t shake the negativity that’s surrounding us, where we know that if we could take a simple shift in perspective everything would be different- but it’s hard. This isn’t something easily perfected overnight. That’s not to say that you can’t make leaps and bounds of progress in one sitting of a perspective shift, and you might actually be surprised by how drastically you can change your mindset, but to do so, you must first acknowledge that it needs to be shifted.

The first perspective shift after this acknowledgement is possibly the most difficult to wrap your head around, but it is the groundwork from which the rest of your positive perspective changes will grow from. The first thing you must do to become a master of your own perspective is to change your perspective on how easy it is to change your perspective.

This is the first and hardest step on your journey to perspective mastery is the hardest one for a reason, and one reason only; because you have to TRULY believe that changing your perspective is something you can do by merely making the decision to do so.

So, to do this let’s walk through a real life example that we think everybody will be able to relate to. Think back to a time where you were about to leave the house to go to work, or a party, or an otherwise social situation, and think of an instance where right before you left the house to go where you were headed, something made you really, really angry. Anyways, you’re upset.

Now let’s say you leave the house, you’re heading to work and boom! You hit traffic. “Just great”, you mutter, “some asshole must not know how to drive”.

Congratulations! You’ve just added to the snowball of anger that’s been rolling down the slopes of your brain ever since you left the house.

Now you get to work and what do you find? There’s barely any parking left and it looks like you’re gonna have to walk nearly a half a mile just to get to the office from your parking spot. The snowball rolls on.

To top it off, the guy in the spot next to you parked like a jerk and you can barely squeeze yourself out of your car. The snowball knocks against your skull as it grows. “What a prick”, you mumble.

By now you are irate. It’s written in your face and in your posture. By the the time you’re in the office you’re slamming things down, talking to yourself, and aggressively eyeballing anyone who can muster up the courage to attempt to witness your spectacle.

A co-worker is considering coming over to see if you’re okay, when you realize your phone died and you forgot your charger. You open your desk drawer and throw your phone inside of it. Your co-worker decides to leave you alone instead, once he or she notices the snow falling out of your ears by now.

Welp, you’re being negative, and what is worse is that you are force feeding that negativity to everyone else in the room to. That’s what happens when you leave a trail of snow everywhere you walk.

Can you relate to this? Wouldn’t a change in perspective that permits these occurrences less often be nice. Here are a couple practical examples of opportunities from within that scenario where changing your perspective could have laid out a better environment for you. This only makes sense for you to want to do because the more often you are in a better environment, the better life you are likely going to have. So let’s work backwards through the scenario and stop at each main event that grew the anger snowball.

 

1.Phone’s dead, and you have no charger:

Current Perspective: Extremely upset. “What am I going to do without my phone all day”.

Potential Shift: Be optimistic. Say, “I bet someone here has a charger I can borrow”. Or “Maybe I can go grab mine while I’m on my lunch break”

           

2. Traffic, bad parking spot, and a bad parker:

Current Perspective: Quite Angry. “Why is this happening to me”.

Potential Perspective: Be passive. “All of this would have happened regardless of me, and there’s nothing I could have done to change it”.

 *Note: If things you hate happen to you often and you can’t change it, find a way to make it enjoyable. Are you always in traffic? Become a fan of a podcast or listening to audio books so that getting caught in traffic only turns into an excuse to do something else that you like.

3.Whatever made you mad when you left the house:

 Current Perspective: Angry. “Why did that have to happen right before I left to work”.

 Potential Perspective: Be relieved. “That was annoying, but luckily I’ll have some time out of the house to think about it at work”.

          When practicing your perspective changes it’s advisable to start small, allow yourself to fail, and notice your successes. You, and everyone around you will appreciate your effort. This state of being once achieved for the first time, will become easier and easier to attain every time after that. Once you see the literal and figurative results from what you’ve been working towards- a greater perspective full of happiness- you’ll attract more positive energies, giving you a different ground to stand on. You’ll find that this is not only helpful in your own life, but also for the lives of those you surround yourself with. This new, evolved perspective that you will gain, it’ll aid you in understanding not only yourself, but those around you as well.

It doesn’t have to be a direct thing either. The way you feel someone’s negative energy, but you can also feel their positive energies too. Be the type of person who is providing positive energy, you’ll find yourself living a life more full of meaning. To live means you have to die, so you need to take responsibility for the time that you get to spend here. Carrying around negative energy and a “why me” attitude is toxic, and can do much more harm than you’d expect, both physiologically as well as in your relationships. Shift your perspective. Change your life. The power is in your hands, so use it for good. Use it for the positivity and happiness that you know you’re capable of and deserve.

The So-Called Victims of Trump (SCVTs)

By: Aaron

This is a letter to address the amount of people I see claiming they’re somehow a victim because of a trump presidency. I think the victim claimers are wrong, and have something to say to them.

It’s amazing to me, the effect a nicely placed web or news banner, a well worded timed headline, a properly cut video clip, and an easily outraged social environment can have on public ability to formulate rational analysis on an individual, a group, an idea, or an event. I believe that is what we are seeing play out in the social environment in front of us, in regards to all things political, all things “politically correct”, and especially in regards to Donald Trump.

Before the days of internet on our smart-phones, incessant social media use, and the newly formed, trend-setting, nation sweeping hobby of being outraged that has come about as a direct result of this sudden access to widespread, instant communication, you, and none of your friends would have had such a public arena to voice your opinions, and without it, you would have had to voice that opinion in a public place, looking at the faces of real life people. This meant a couple of things, first is that you wouldn’t have the luxuries of a laptop in front of your face where you can just go look up someone else’s opinion and then reform the words to fit onto your own page, you actually would have to have an opinion this isn’t just some fair-weather opinion, it has to committed to your memory.

If you wouldn’t take your opinion out for public debate with a complete stranger, keep it off your social media page, or you risk looking foolish. That’s just my opinion. The second consequence of sole public debate, is that when you were in a heated debate, if you decided to sling out any type of insults that you can see across the social media feeds today, you had to be ready to take a punch right after, because some of us are getting really vicious out there, and that’s no way to talk to people. Anyone with a smart phone, tablet, or laptop, can upload to YouTube within minutes, or post to Facebook within seconds, and it seems like everyone wants to cry out that they’re a victim because of a Trump presidency. But when all of a sudden everyone is crying out about how and why they’re a victim, it then diminishes the value of those who might be speaking up and voicing actual concerns.

Psychologically there’s no difference between receiving glory and receiving pity in regards to the kick of dopamine one gets from receiving glory or pity, and it pains me to say that most of the victim claiming I see looks more like a cry for some of that free dopamine filled pity that’s being dished out. Most of the concerns do not preach concern about outcomes that are in any way rooted in facts, sensibility, or reality. That is why I felt I had something to say, like I could carve out a little corner of fact seeking, and hopefully build some kind of dialogue.

Okay, on to the next order of business, again directed to those I deem as “The So-Called Victim’s of Trump”. Do you really think you have all that much to complain about? The next few ideas I’ll voice roughly similar as I’ve heard them said by Dr Jordan Peterson, someone who also has clearly inspired the formatting of this video and the way it’s being presented. The problem with even the not so heavy portion of left-side ideology, is that it’s orienting the faults of our society and culture towards that of one which is Utopian. While this is noble and with good intention it unfortunately is ill advised. Any one who believes in the idea that history repeats itself should do a brief history recap on what happened to societies past who’ve legislated with a Utopian mindset and one will see that in every single instance it led to mass chaos, mass detainment, and a massive amount of casualties. Maybe we should get rid of the idea that it makes sense to consider legislation based on a Utopian society that’s never existed, and consider that it would make much more sense to base our legislative decisions on moving simply in a direction that is BETTER and not one that is again, based on a Utopian society that’s never existed. One idea one might have for anyone who preaches political correctness is to use ideas that come from types of societies that HAVE existed instead of ideas from a Utopian ideal that’s never been manifested.

If you live in North America you represent roughly 5% of the World’s population. Not very many people move away from North America for a reason. It turns out that it’s a pretty sweet gig to live here, and as far as I’m concerned, I played the lottery and won because I had absolutely no role in my ending up here. My parents just banged and then I was in San Diego Hospital. I think this something that should not be taken for granted. So if we wanted to start the argument where it starts, I would say, hey, you live better than probably 95% of the entire world. Do you really think you’re a victim?

The next thing I’d like to attempt to make about to The SCVT’s is that you can not be taken seriously when you subscribe to this awful journalism that you’re often associated with. One headline that I’ve just seen today read something like “A Guide to Trump’s Many Immigration Policy Mistakes”. I’m sorry but anyone who subscribes and supports a headline of this nature is a dimwit as far as I’m concerned because they are doing 2 things with a headline like this (which is most headlines now, by the way). The first is they aren’t reporting here, they are telling you how to think about something. You’re smart enough to figure out how to think for yourself, aren’t you? Secondly, they’re completely neglecting the fact that almost never in history has policy gone into place and been immediately effective. That’s literally never how it works. News sources like these have been trying to warp the way you view Trump since day one.

On many, it appears as if this tactic has worked. I’m not saying the man is perfect or that the legislation is flawless, but I am saying it’s being poorly represented. To clarify, this letter is not in defense to Trump, this letter is in defense to the truth. His words have been twisted and before I end this first rendition of me speaking in front of a camera, I’d like to iron out one giant misconception in regards to the president and one of the things he’s supposedly said, and in my next video I’ll more in depth tackle the specific legislative moves vs misconceptions that Trump has taken since that seems to be the current topic of the week, day and hour.

I’ve been wanting to get this off of my chest for a while because it’s been bothering me since day one of Trump’s campaign. You’ll probably immediately recognize what I’m talking about so I will just address it directly. To all of you who keep standing by the claim that Donald Trump “called all Mexican’s rapists”, you are directly a part of the problem. If you can’t listen to what people are actually saying, you should hold off on your warped opinion forming about that person. He clearly stated that a portion of those who immigrated from Mexico to the United States illegally are sometimes rapists.

Well, we actually happen to know of that fact as true, so I don’t see why it blew up, but also, if you’d actually listen to the guy talk for more than a couple sentences at a time, you would have heard him clarify that it’s not JUST Mexicans who are immigrating here illegally from Mexico, but it’s also people from all over South America, and possibly the Middle East as well. So he wasn’t even just talking about Mexicans. We need to get better at listening to each other speak.
I close this letter with something that will also act as a precursor to the next one. A quote, from a world leader;

“We have seen peace-loving Muslims brutalized, victimized, murdered, and oppressed by ISIS killers. We have seen threats of extermination against Jewish people. We have seen a campaign of ISIS and genocide against Christians, where they cut off heads. Not since the middle ages, have we seen that. They drown people in steel cages. We have not ever seen this, (before). For many, many years all nations have a moral obligation to speak out against such violence. All nations have a duty to work together to confront it, and to confront it viciously if we have to. So I want to express clearly today to the American people that my administration will do everything in it’s power to defend and protect religious liberty in our land. America must forever remain a tolerant society where all faiths are respected, and where all of our citizens can feel safe and secure. We have to feel safe and secure. In recent days we have begun to take necessary action to achieve that goal. Our nation has the most generous immigration system in the world, but these are those, and there are those, that would exploit that generosity to undermine the values that we hold so dear. We need security. There are those who would seek to enter our country for the purpose of spreading violence or oppressing people based on faith, or there lifestyle. Not right. We will not allow a beachhead of intolerance to spread in our nation. You look all over the world and you see what’s happening. So in the coming days we will develop a system to help ensure that those admitted into our country fully embrace our values of religious and personal liberty, and that they reject any form of oppression and discrimination. We want people to come into our nation, but we want people to love us, and to love our values, not to hate us and to hate our values.”

Can you guess who said it? Thanks for hearing me out.

The Human Condition

By: Taylor

Every day is a new day, and every day we’re faced with new challenges. With those challenges comes alternative measures of resolution. Anxiety comes and goes, emphasis on the go part. Why? Because you need it, but in moderation. Walking around with the heaviness of total and full anxiety is exhausting and unnecessary.

 

I’m not talking to you as someone from an outside perspective; rather someone who’s walked a mile—or 10—in those shoes, and has come out of, and gone back into, the flames of anxiety.

 

It’s an eerie place to be; to not have answers, thus letting the idea of fear creep into your mind. I know because it’s been like clockwork to me. Ridding myself of anxiety only for it to manifest, disappear, or translate itself into a different life form in my world.

 

Where does anxiety even come from?

 

There’s no one place, and that’s part of the stigma around it. Anxiety is everywhere, and everyone’s experienced it in one way or another. So maybe you don’t have full-fledged panic attacks, but does that mean you’re not entitled to your anxiety? Of course not. The first step to resolving your anxiety is noticing it’s presence, and not being afraid that it exists.

 

Because if you think you’re alone in the world, trying to fight the good fight single-handedly, you’ll feel isolated. Isolation has its positive moments; it’s good to have time to reflect on yourself and your goals. But to feel jaded? Ain’t nobody got time for that. You’re not jaded; you’re simply lost in translation with the rest of us.

 

Life’s tough whether you’re going at it in solidarity or with support of some sorts. Regardless of your current disposition, we’ve all had our highs as we try and minimize our lows. The thing is . . . we shouldn’t minimize those lows. The lows are what make us human. They’re a part of the human condition that we all experience around the world. Yeah, there’s a sense of solitude in going at it alone, but there’s also solidarity and strength in knowing that you don’t have to. There are others thinking the same thoughts, with the same struggles, facing the same uphill battle. It’s about recognizing the faults in the human condition, in ourselves, and in others. That’s the solidarity we truly need.

 

It’s All By Design

By: Taylor

While we’re keeping you on the edge of your seats about all things existence-related, we thought we’d share something that’s inspiring us today.

If you’ve ever found yourself in a personal of professional rut, it can seem like the easiest thing to do is fight or flight, and your internal instincts may or may not get the best of you. In 2016, we started hearing more and more about design thinking in many terms, even being incorporated into mainstream corporations values.

What we didn’t see coming was using design thinking to get out of a rut.
But then again, why wouldn’t we?
After stumbling upon this article thanks to google keywords, we felt it best to share with the rest of the world, as well (Bueller. . . Bueller . . .).

Read the story from Forbes here.

Existence is______

By: Taylor

What does it mean to not only exist, but co-exist? Must we co-exist to say we exist on our own? Do others shape our reality more than we’re consciously aware of, and does our sub-conscious hold the keys to the intelligence we pound our heads and crack open books page after page in an attempt to find it?

These are the topics we’re interested in this week. This is what’s making us curious. If you’re curious about them, too, shoot us an E-mail. We’d love to chat with you.

Patience, friends; Podcast to come soon 🙂