tranquilityseekers: ecstasy (trancendence)
Every once in a while, I find an article somewhere that just nails something I've been thinking or feeling for a long time, and I feel compelled to share it and write about it. The most recent example of that is here:

The article begins and ends with the example of a psychiatrist/neurologist, Victor Frankl, who was imprisoned in the Nazi camps back in WW2, and what he noticed of those who were suicidal or gave up and died, and those who managed to survive despite the deprivation and horror. He counseled people while interred, and learned much about the deeper meaning of the human condition and the will to survive. Later, he wrote a very influential book, Man's Search For Meaning.

Article quotes:

"As he saw in the camps, those who found meaning even in the most horrendous circumstances were far more resilient to suffering than those who did not. "Everything can be taken from a man but one thing," Frankl wrote in Man's Search for Meaning, "the last of the human freedoms -- to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way." "

The choice to forge ahead through unbearable circumstances is possible, but you have to have a reason to do it. A purpose to make it all worthwhile.

"In 1991, the Library of Congress and Book-of-the-Month Club listed Man's Search for Meaning as one of the 10 most influential books in the United States. It has sold millions of copies worldwide. Now, over twenty years later, the book's ethos -- its emphasis on meaning, the value of suffering, and responsibility to something greater than the self -- seems to be at odds with our culture, which is more interested in the pursuit of individual happiness than in the search for meaning. "To the European," Frankl wrote, "it is a characteristic of the American culture that, again and again, one is commanded and ordered to 'be happy.' But happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue. One must have a reason to 'be happy.'" "

This is one of those aspects of modern life as an American that makes me feel at odds and out of touch with most of those around me. It drives me absolutely bananas that there is an expectation, a societal pressure, to be happy-- or, if not, to at least fake it! To not do so marks one as somehow flawed. No, worse-- as intrinsically defective in some way. It is as if even reminding others of anything besides the one acceptable mind-state is a criticism of our very existence as humans.

That unhappiness may be stemming from entirely justified circumstances is overlooked completely. Why reach out and help the underlying cause of depression when its so much easier and cheaper (not to mention profitable) to just throw drugs at the issue? "Shut up and stop bothering us!" is the message I've always received when I dared to be less than content. I am absolutely convinced that this reflexive selfishness is a sickness that is being encouraged to our collective detriment, leaving countless individuals damaged, or at the very least, feeling empty.

"Research has shown that having purpose and meaning in life increases overall well-being and life satisfaction, improves mental and physical health, enhances resiliency, enhances self-esteem, and decreases the chances of depression. On top of that, the single-minded pursuit of happiness is ironically leaving people less happy, according to recent research. "It is the very pursuit of happiness," Frankl knew, "that thwarts happiness." "

And why should this be..? Seems counter-intuitive. You want happiness, you go for it, you end up more miserable? Explain please.

"Leading a happy life, the psychologists found, is associated with being a "taker" while leading a meaningful life corresponds with being a "giver." 

"Happiness without meaning characterizes a relatively shallow, self-absorbed or even selfish life, in which things go well, needs and desire are easily satisfied, and difficult or taxing entanglements are avoided," the authors write."

Huh. Why am I not surprised? =^/

"How do the happy life and the meaningful life differ? Happiness, they found, is about feeling good. Specifically, the researchers found that people who are happy tend to think that life is easy, they are in good physical health, and they are able to buy the things that they need and want. While not having enough money decreases how happy and meaningful you consider your life to be, it has a much greater impact on happiness. The happy life is also defined by a lack of stress or worry.

Most importantly from a social perspective, the pursuit of happiness is associated with selfish behavior -- being, as mentioned, a "taker" rather than a "giver." The psychologists give an evolutionary explanation for this: happiness is about drive reduction. If you have a need or a desire -- like hunger -- you satisfy it, and that makes you happy. People become happy, in other words, when they get what they want.

Socially, we've been conditioned to believe that the whole point of existence is this very thing. Before we die, we must consume and find happiness in consuming. On a finite planet with limited resources, raping it to the point of damaging our future survival is okay according to this mindset, because we're all going to die anyway. We're machines without souls (so goes the paradigm) so nothing else matters but drive reduction. There IS NO MEANING is what we are told in countless ways by those who seek to SELL us something. And it works. Most have bought this dark philosophy hook, line, and sinker.

"...meaning transcends the self while happiness is all about giving the self what it wants. People who have high meaning in their lives are more likely to help others in need. "If anything, pure happiness is linked to not helping others in need,""

Every religion the world over seems to have this basic idea behind the rituals, rites, and rules: help others and don't make it all about you all the time. Could it be that the fundamental wisdom of helping others and thereby finding meaning is almost universal with humans?

" the meaningful life "you use your highest strengths and talents to belong to and serve something you believe is larger than the self."  ...People whose lives have high levels of meaning often actively seek meaning out even when they know it will come at the expense of happiness. Because they have invested themselves in something bigger than themselves, they also worry more and have higher levels of stress and anxiety in their lives than happy people."

You have more stress and anxiety because you give a shit! Big shock. The older I get the more convinced I am that the meaning of life is to CARE. And then act upon those things you care about. Care with empathy and do something to express that, to alleviate the pain and assist in the many challenges of life in this world. When you do, the trials and tribulations that bring you down fail to touch you with the same power as before.

"Meaning is not only about transcending the self, but also about transcending the present moment -- which is perhaps the most important finding of the study, according to the researchers. While happiness is an emotion felt in the here and now, it ultimately fades away, just as all emotions do; positive affect and feelings of pleasure are fleeting. The amount of time people report feeling good or bad correlates with happiness but not at all with meaning. 

Meaning, on the other hand, is enduring. It connects the past to the present to the future. "Thinking beyond the present moment, into the past or future, was a sign of the relatively meaningful but unhappy life," the researchers write. "Happiness is not generally found in contemplating the past or future." That is, people who thought more about the present were happier, but people who spent more time thinking about the future or about past struggles and sufferings felt more meaning in their lives, though they were less happy."

I feel as if this is validation and vindication of something I've felt most of my life. Since my teens at least! When I was facing so many hardships and craziness, ultimately what helped me to pull through and continue pushing forth my will into the world was the need to make a difference somehow. I didn't want my brief life on Earth to be for nothing. I wanted to contribute something unique from me to anyone who could possibly use whatever I had to offer. Just as my own spirit was buoyed and inspired by others before me.

That's one reason I find fault with the constant pursuit of a mentality fully concentrated "in the now." I know that keeping your attention on the present keeps stress at bay and improves your focus, and its good to be able to do that. But one must also set aside time to compare, contrast, contemplate, and put it all together. You look back on the past to learn from past mistakes, to understand what you failed to understand before as a younger, more naive, you-- and create a narrative about your own life. And only by realizing what patterns may lead to in the future can you prevent repeating mistakes or causing avoidable damage. Looking ahead means finding a path as you continue your own personal quest of meaning.

On a less high-minded note, I have noticed how often those I've known who only cared about pleasure, ease, and avoiding anything negative end up being users, players, and untrustworthy companions-- because taking the easiest path often led them to betray and cause pain at a moment's notice.

Its true highly thoughtful people may not always be jolly, but the kindest examples of humanity I knew were unafraid to weep for others and to offer comfort and practical help in some way. And it is their example, rather than the relentless messages of our current culture, that I grasped to my heart and reached for in spirit.
tranquilityseekers: (blessing)
Feeling off-kilter and odd today...

Its that peculiar restlessness that comes over me periodically. Don't know why and can't seem to find much otherworldly significance to it (believe me, I've been recording these moods for a while.) I think its more about a process of subconsciously generating something that will soon rise to my consciousness. A new story to write. A new project to launch. Something. Its funny how often I don't set out to create something, and instead find it manifesting almost whole cloth out of the ether. Maybe that's what going on.

Under the surface, all these shake ups and shadows and shouts and songs and sighs are moving things around in my mind-- but I can't quite see where the redecorating committee decided to place my mental furniture! Not right now. The curtains are drawn and I can see nothing within myself, but I can hear scrapes on the floor and the mumbling of the movers. I know something's up, but until the curtains are open at some point in the future, on some level I remain, temporarily, a mystery to myself.

One thing about middle age that I can very much appreciate is that I've learned a lot about my own psychological processes. I know I have periods of mourning, of creating, of releasing... no longer am I leery of these songs of the spirit-- even if they turn out to be dirges. I take in, digest, and -- well, I don't want to say 'excrete'-- although that is an apt metaphor for some end-result emotional products! LOL!

Life's experiences and lessons have a way of moving through our minds, often in convoluted and plodding ways... Though we can feel overwhelmed at times, I sometimes think the bigger problem in our society is that we no longer have patience for processing pain. Despite our reflexive avoidance, pain can lead to unexpectedly healthy insights and changes in our lives-- or to new creations that would not have manifested without the impetus that often only darkness can provide.

Yet I would be lying if I denied that it can be difficult to wait and see what comes next each step of the way. I think one of the hardest lessons to learn is that we have within us a source of essential spiritual wisdom that leads us through our journey if we but trust it. For some, that would be God or a Universal Collective Mind of some sort. For others, a Higher Self. Regardless, if we but let ourselves find some silence to let this wisdom through from time to time, I think we would would all lead happier, more fulfilling lives.

I swear I'm trying!
tranquilityseekers: blue angel staff (education)
I have been steadily doing self-therapy through quality psychological books and workbooks since the age of 17, and maybe longer. Right now, I'm going through the Emotional Resilience book by David Viscott, M.D.-- a psychiatrist. After reading the intro I was a little disappointed, because it seemed that his solution for over-sensitivity was simply to tell people the truth. I took a bit of umbrage to that, because I'm already pretty well-versed in expressing myself honestly, and I quite often get very badly burned in retaliation.

I finally picked it up and continued after skimming more through the pages a bit. Dr. Viscott does explain how speaking your mind can go wrong and what to do to avoid that more and so forth.


Anyways, the point of chapter one was the process that occurs when we don't express our feelings at the time something happens and instead hold them in. Over time, your memory and the self-talk about the situation gets exaggerated and distorted, creating a situation ripe for "toxic nostalgia"-- which sets you up perfectly to seek repeating situations where you try to resolve the original issue OR you find yourself over-reacting and out-of-control when things finally do get blurted out later. Which makes everything worse, then you get rejected and angry at yourself-- so you hold it in next time until you can't anymore and the cycle starts again.

He also discussed how not being honest with yourself and others makes it easier to play victim and blame others for your own mistakes. Also, that often when people are unhappy they distract themselves with incidental trivialities to avoid dealing with what's really bothering them. People are so afraid of being rejected for expressing their true feelings that they cause themselves real pain, through guilt, anxiety, and repressed rage--.

I can totally see what he means with all that, and have studied such things in self-help work before, so none of this comes as a surprise. I've been trying to work out that "express and get rejected" thing in particular. I've learned to be honest, but gently honest-- most of the time. And for the most part it works out pretty well for everyday misunderstandings and grievances. But the sticking point seems to be power issues. For most people, if I get rejected, my life isn't thrown into disarray. But for dealing with issues with, say, my husband-- there is always this THREAT hanging over me that his moody reaction will lead to worse problems. He has his frustrations too, of course, and that doesn't help.

I'm pretty good at owning my own shit, though-- so that's a good thing! NOT, mind you, that I get much credit for it from others! In fact, one of the down sides of having insight is that you get to be very aware when other people are projecting their shit at you and playing victim (Mira, for example) and using any fault you admit to as ammunition and permission to just go on some relentless attack.

My issue now is that I have deep feelings of sadness and distrust towards others when it comes to deeper relationships. I can work on my own side of things, but I can't make other people do the same, and its reached a point where I don't expect anyone to even want to... which means I don't have the power to help the situation beyond a certain point. And I expect that point to be reached in almost every relationship, and thence to be rejected unfairly.

Yet the only advice for this situation from experts is "forgive and move on." Or, in extreme cases, dismiss and move on as I say! The part where I have been losing hope comes from the perception I've come to have that I will be be eventually letting go and moving on in every relationship prematurely due to irreconcilable differences. It doesn't seem as if there is such a thing as life-long relationships anymore. And that BOTHERS ME, dammit!

My expectations lower more and more over time the more psychological work I do on myself. That may sound the opposite of what you'd expect, but its true. The more I realize what goes on in people's minds and how to counteract it to be a healthier person, the more I realize the gulf that lays between those of us who make an effort and everyone else wallowing in their delusions and distortions. Since I have no power over anyone but myself, all I can do is try to explain things but be prepared to bear witness to other people's assholery!

I must confess a stark truth: I have no RECIPROCAL deep and meaningful relationships in my life.

I have deep attachments. I have great love for a few other people. I have respect and appreciation for everyone I associate with on every level. I do my best to be real and truthful and caring and playful with others. But I have nearly zero expectation of emotional reciprocation, beyond basic respect and affinity. (I know my husband, for instance, is trying-- which is why I'm not giving up there and why we're still friends and family to one another, despite ongoing issues.)

You might well ask me, "What does 'deep and meaningful' mean to you?" I think its pretty simple: a relationship where there is mutual respect and trust, leading to spontaneous expression, sharing of thoughts, and ongoing curiosity and concern for one another's personal sphere, and a willingness to engage on a level deeper than the everyday trivialities and distractions of life.

We're all time-crunched and limited with what we can offer others, but everyone needs at least a few people, maybe 2 or 3, in their lives that invest that much into growing with us as a friend and/or lover. I don't seek nor expect every relationship to be at that level of depth and investment. Of course not! There is room in every life for many different kinds of relationships. I'm dissatisfied, however, because I don't have even ONE that I feel meets that basic desire. Not one. I don't think its asking too much, but I begin to despair that its ever going to happen.

I put all this work into myself to be a better person and have a higher quality of life, but then I find I am pretty much alone for it and can't use it for much of anything except expressing myself in blogs where a few people peep in, read, and sometimes even comment. I would LOVE for there to be a 'real life' person near by who would simply listen to me about the sorts of things I write about here! Just that would transform my life. But there is no one in my 'real life' who cares to hear it. I haven't given up attempting to share these types of things with others. But having your thoughts and feelings met with polite indifference most of the time just fucking hurts and I get tired of it.

I would accuse myself of being too demanding, except that I'm not asking for anything I'm not offering. The result, I'm coming to witness over time, is that I'm ending up being something of a rescuer-- one with few material resources, some kind words and insight, but stretched to the limit with how much time and energy I have to dole out. I don't mind having some connections or relationships like this-- people have hard lives, face crisis, need emotional support and new ideas and I'm happy to offer what I can.

However-! I need a mutually supportive relationship. Where giving and taking is more equally shared or traded back and forth as we meander our way through life. Apparently, I'm not appealing enough, attractive enough, interesting enough or SOMETHING enough to persuade anyone else that the investment would be worth it. At least that's how it appears to me at this time.

My dilemma is how to handle the deep sadness that results from this. Do I continue to struggle and strive for better someday with someone? Or do I just accept this as my fate and settle into an existence of unmet longings? I go back and forth-- but over time, I'm giving up.

I just don't know how to give up without the sadness hanging on. I either need to learn to accept and not be sad about it, or make a friend who is more at my level of personal development. Until one or the other happens, I'm just going to be in a funk, apparently-- a years long funk.
tranquilityseekers: stone head (strength)
Every now and again, I'll be listening to music, just flowing with it and not thinking about anything in particular-- when a sudden epiphany will come to me whole cloth and I just suddenly have a wider understanding of something.

I've been doing a lot of thinking about trauma and its effects upon people's lives. I've come to know so many people, mostly women, who lead devastated lives because of abuse from their past. For most, there is an uphill battle that requires too much strength to overcome alone. So their lives remain isolated, contracted, diminished from the great splendor of what they could otherwise create, produce, experience, etc.

I've been there, and I'm still working on my own issues of this nature. Although I've come a long way-- to the point of being a very different person-- I still have some distance to go and the memories of my own diminished life are very close to me. When I meet and come to know others undergoing the same struggle, I can't help but feel as if I am a "Sister Unarmed." I say that rather than "sister in arms" because what we have in common is a lack of fighting ability.

People who have had their self-esteem devastated by unrelenting criticism, physical and/or sexual abuse, long term neglect, and more seem to get trained to surrender rather than fight. Fighting back wasn't allowed in situations where someone else had control and enforced it with impunity. What's left are the ruined promises for a life, and a soul stuck in a perpetual state of surrender.

And THERE is the rub: How does one combat that which requires a fighting spirit-- when it is that very thing which has been systematically expunged from one's psychological repertoire? 

Healthy, self-defensive RAGE is needed to survive so many difficult circumstances, and many of us have had most of that suppressed and repressed into a state of near oblivion. Now to summon it seems next to impossible. Even when we try-- it feels so scary to "allow" into our behavior. We so fear becoming that which we hate and fear ourselves. We dread the consequences of something so justifiable as standing up for ourselves in even the most extreme of circumstances.

I want to change that. For myself, and for the others I know who have this issue. We need to learn to summon, control, and USE our anger for our own benefit. To demand others treat us fairly. To command respect. To take what is rightfully ours. And to prevent further abuse, denigration, or disrespect from anyone who has more than a momentary effect upon our lives.

May it be so!


tranquilityseekers: meditation girl (Default)

December 2015



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