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 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 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.