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.

 

 

 

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.

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.

A Little Longer

 

What is time if it’s purpose is to keep you waiting for the next moment? Is there a such thing as time in the way we view it in actuality, or is it a figment of our own creation; our imagination; how we want to see the world?

See, we go through life wandering from moment to moment as if we’re on cruise control and there’s an alert set out solely to  notify us of moments to come, as each moment passes. Why is it so hard to be fully present in each moment? To feel each emotion, to really delve into what the moment has to offer, rather than bracing and hoping for the next one? Why does being alone have to be terrifying, even if only for an instance? We find ourselves uncomfortable by our own presence, and look to fill the void with something; anything. But if time is just but a figure of the imagination, what’s the sense in wondering and worrying about anything in the now or later? Learning to let go of the what ifs and the nay sayers to accept each step for what it is; a step. There is no right or wrong, only what you choose and what chooses you.

Highs and Lows

Question of the day: What makes a high a high, and a low a low? How do we differentiate the two from one another in the grand scope of life? What makes a high a high and not a low, and how can we know if we’ve gotten it wrong?

This goes into the realm of what’s right and real versus what’s wrong and possibly fabricated and. . . not grounded in reality. But is it necessary to be constantly grounded in reality? Let’s chat, shall we?