How to Self-Sabotage

It’s fascinating to me that the better my life is going, the harder it is to analyze the thoughts and notions within my mind.

Yet when I’m sad or anxious, self-analysis and philosophical inquiry is a breeze!

Maybe it’s simple laziness.

Perhaps I can’t be bothered to dig into difficult questions unless I really have to; unless my very existence seems contingent upon approaching answers to those questions.

When you are getting what you want, there is no survival pressure to question or examine whats going on. Why examine pleasure, and risk tarnishing it?

One does not consider the mechanics of walking until confronted with unstable, hazardous ground.

There is one comforting conclusion I can take from my thoughtless, lazy condition; that self-examination and philosophical analysis are the results, and not the causes of my negative states.

Self-sabotage hides in waiting for those who feel uncomfortable with their own success and resultant satisfaction. If you are identified with the chase of positive emotions and high social status, you will knock yourself down again and again in order to maintain the identity of the chaser.

Unable to stand naked without the lack you think of as the essential driving force behind your personality, you will destroy all gifts you are given, and fill in all the ditches you’ve dug.

You will pursue the zero state as fiercely as you did the dreams you thought you wanted.

The zero state is not difficult to attain. It is life’s default. If you are not careful, you’ll be back there in the blink of an eye.

 

 

 

Understanding Failure

Failure shows us what to avoid.

Success tells us what we must repeat.

The success-starved are lost because they do not trust their own judgments. They have no verification that their own judgments are credible. Like a disoriented man in the water, they have lost their sense of up, and are immobile because they fear swimming only deeper down towards the abyss.

A gulp of air, a flash of light, however brief would tell them “Yes, this is the way!” and lead them towards the surface.

So many of us have lost sight of the surface, and are either slowly suffocating or else swimming away from the air we so desperately need.

Today, I caught a glimpse of light and realized I’ve been swimming in the right direction for some time. It came just as I was beginning to doubt myself. Right at the point where I was going to change my aim, reality rewarded me.

Thanks, reality.

It is hard to overstate the importance of monitoring the world’s reactions to your desires and actions. Often we confuse intuition and passion with our rational faculty for calibrating to the external world.

Passion can guide you but rarely does it course correct.

Passion is the engine and rational analysis of the world is what steers the vehicle. You must have both if you are to reach your desired end. Otherwise, you will stall out, or crash head-on into one of the many obstacles arranged on the track.

 

 

Moral Radar

Though it is not knowable, every one of us has a hypothetical ideal self: an entity that acts out the best possible set of behaviors in any given circumstance.

We cannot know for sure what this ideal would do, but we can, by examining our past, determine what is fundamentally opposed to the morals and sensibilities of this higher version of ourselves. In the realms of science and moral development, failures are among our most useful data points.

head-3001166_640“Nowadays most people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover when it is too late that the only things one never regrets are one’s mistakes.” 

-Oscar Wilde

But as useful as such reflections can be, they are not sufficient for the attainment of what is greatest within us. We must not only identify what is contemptible and worst within us, but also what is most noble and excellent not through speculation, but experience.

Philosophies and belief systems, like any scientific hypothesis, must be falsifiable. There are none so lost and undeveloped as those great intellects who do not throw their ideas against the walls of the world and watch for the reaction.

An untested idea, belief, or behavior is a blind spot, and the more we cling to such an idea, the blind we become. By focusing on a blind spot, we see nothing at all.

By acting out our beliefs, and facing success or failure, we move towards perfection. However distant and impossible perfection may be, it can be moved toward. 

Until we have attained a life congruent to our highest ideals, until we have embodied those traits that would allow us to move through the world with grace and courage, it is best not to lapse into comfortable patterns of action.

We must continue to test ideas, not just without our minds, but out in the world, where they can be confirmed or destroyed. Only then can we receive course correction data, and direct ourselves towards the highest good, in accordance with our own limitations and the demands of objective reality.

 

 

 

The Other War of Art

Creative work is what is left on the battlefield after the fight between the rational mind…and the other thing.

Call it the soul, the unconscious mind, the muse; call it whatever you want because whatever you call it, you are referring to the same thing: that within your mind which you can’t by force of will access or control. 

If you’ve ever put a too-small fitted sheet on a too-large mattress you have some idea what it’s like trying to get “the other thing” to do what you want. She doesn’t listen. She hardly cares about deadlines. She doesn’t like your rational mind too much, though she needs him in order to exist as anything but a brief series of synapses.

It’s a cat and mouse game, and you only win if your rational mind forgets to chase, so that your muse no longer has to run and hide. When that happens, it’s easy to create.

That’s the thing about really hard things: when you do them really well, they stop being hard.

Creativity is indeed warfare, but the muse will only allow your rational mind a victory if there is no violence involved. Both sides must raise the white flag, come out from the trenches, and settle all the disputes peaceably.

War becomes a conversation, the conversation leads to agreement, and that agreement is expressed as an internally consistent artistic expression. Get tactical. Get clever. But if you start resenting one side, and favoring the other, peaceable terms will never be met, and you will never raise a monument in commemoration of the conflict.

 

 

 

Enough is Enough

“Enough is enough,” says the alcoholic, teetering on the brink of death and tired of it.

“Enough is enough,” says the abused partner, refusing to let themselves be wounded once more.

“Enough is enough,” says the depressed person,  sick of the sound of his own thoughts.

Is there a more powerful phrase in the English language?

Only “No more” comes close.

When someone says “Enough is enough” and means it, they mark a new era in their life.

The words are generally preceded by events so terrible that we are thankful that they happened, only because they forced us to do what we long put off.

I uttered those words today, and I meant them.

How did I come to that point?

A man walking through the desert with a heavy pack will eventually be faced with a choice: either drop the pack or collapse.

I dropped the pack just before I fell to the ground, and though I’m still on my feet, the Desert remains. I am searching for water.

Probably I will look down and see this Desert is a sheet of ice, and all the water I could need is just inches below my feet. I will see that the years of difficulty were merely the result of an illusion, one that I myself created and so am responsible for destroying.

I look forward to that day of realization. A sure sign of a happy man is one who can laugh at the mistakes of his past.

 

Today I said, “Enough is enough.”

Tomorrow I will say, “Time to begin again.”

The Pit and the Ladder

Everyone has a deep, dark pit that is particular to them.

No one’s pit looks the same, and no one arrives at their pit in the exact same way as someone else.

Some get there by getting lost in the dark and wandering too far from the light they worked so hard to kindle.

Others charge in full speed ahead because they forget what their pit looks like, even if they’ve crawled out in the past and sworn never to return.

Still more people throw down a rope and descend with a smile because they so enjoy the feeling of needing to be saved, of hoping to be saved.

Being in a pit is a good excuse for not doing other things.

Being in a pit keeps us safe from the dangers of the normal world, just as it keeps us isolated from the thrill of challenge and pleasure of triumph.

We forget what those things are when we’re in the pit. We wonder if they were just a delusion. We think to ourselves:

“Is there even a world up there?”

There is a world, even if your pit is so deep that the world’s light doesn’t reach. The proof is the ladder. Just as everyone has a pit, everyone has a ladder.

If there wasn’t a world up there, why would there be a way up?

Finding the ladder means fumbling around in the dark.

As you fumble, you may encounter things you wish you hadn’t. Ugly things, terrifying to touch. You threw them in the pit for a reason, but by doing so you only made it a more terrible place to fall down into.

But no matter how terrible they are, they cannot keep you from the ladder.

The ladder is always there.

 

Heroes are Victims

Us human beings tend to organize and curate our memories and beliefs so as to either elevate ourselves to positions of power or degrade ourselves into sad wretches deserving of pity.

In either case, we elect ourselves as the supreme moral authority and evaluate the merit of others according to the degree to which they conform to our conception of the ‘reasonable man’.

Moments of extreme emotional pain and tension are caused by events that challenge that authority, and we either expend energy in ignoring or distorting the natural conclusions those events would lead us to draw, or allow our most basic assumptions about the world to die and be reborn in a form capable of assimilating those conclusions.

The latter process of change can be regarded as humanity’s primary and self-directed form of Darwinian adaption.

The former is stagnation, and it happens to everyone at varying moments, and eventually, the energy spent on ignoring the truth reduces one to exhaustion and anger.

For if we are the supreme moral authority, and yet failed to achieve our vision of success, we must necessarily conclude that the Universe is fundamentally cruel and aligned in opposition to human achievement.

If we are to succeed we must learn, and if we are to learn, we must humble ourselves before those natural laws that are displayed before us in every passing moment. Without so doing, there can be no destiny for ourselves or our species.

So ask yourself:

Is this Universe populated by heroes or victims?