Thursday, December 8, 2016

Simplify The Way We Think By Thinking Simply

The more that I write about mental health, the more reflection I do.  I find myself digging a little deeper each day within myself looking for new thoughts to process.  My overthinking mind has reasoned out many of the conflicts I had and has been searching for new and interesting things to think about for a change.

The last time I went through a transition like this in my life I learned many things about finding true inner peace.  I started to explore thoughts that I enjoyed processing rather than being overwhelmed by thoughts that I could not control.  Each time I wrote and wrote until my overthinking slowed and came to a halt.

This is when I get to feel a little excitement while writing rather than simply trying to force the information out.  I remind myself at this point that I also taught myself something very important in the past that I had forgotten again, simplify the way we think by thinking simply.

An odd statement I know, but it will make sense quickly enough.  Consider the world we live in right now and the abundance of laws that we all must follow each day.  There are millions of words providing the rules in which we are allowed to live within, but nobody ever could truly understand and follow them completely.  Yet if we step outside of the lines of the law, ignorance is no excuse.

What a ridiculous system that has been set up!  This is one of the big reasons why people enjoy following sports so much.  There are set rules and guidelines that all participants must follow providing a fair arena for good competition.  It sure would be nice if life were that simple!

My thought is that life should be that simple.  If we begin to consider our own personal values and morals, we can start to identify the source of who we are.  If we don't get to live our lives according to our own values and morals because we have to follow external laws and rules, this will cause a lot of internal conflict when the rules, especially when the rules don't match.

For my own purpose, I will be sharing opinions are a variety of societal concerns over the next few weeks, in an attempt to move forward in my own thinking.  I have shared much of whatever wisdom I have about mental health over the past few weeks and now I would like to search for more solutions.

So when I say 'simplify the way we think by thinking simply', I came to my first conclusion today.  I have spent most of my life being nice to people.  It is in my nature to be friendly and nice to others just about everywhere I go, but living in a world where others take advantage of nice people much too often, I need to change the way think.

During meditation today I came to a conclusion at the root of one my personal values.  I need to change that one simple value.  I decided that I need to stop being 'nice' all of the time and change the representation of this root behavior.  I have changed that value to being kind instead.

Kindness quite often includes being nice , but it does not always mean that I have to be friendly and accommodating.  Being kind means doing the right thing in my thinking.  Doing the right thing is like being parent, we don't always have to be nice to our kids, but we should always use kindness when dealing with them.

This one major change in my simple value system has offered me a completely new outlook at life today, and my ego is not happy about it.. The ego wants control of our minds, and when we make changes like this, it loses some control.  The more we recognize our ego for what it is, the more it fades away, and negative thinking disappears.

We spend all of our lives conditioning our behaviors based on what we learn and experience, but sometimes we need to re-condition things we got wrong in the first place.  If you are looking to improve your own mental health, try looking to your root values and ethics, and simplify and confusion that is there.

If there are things you don't like about yourself, change them.  If you do nothing, nothing will change. I will continue with this train of thought tomorrow and identify some of the root values you may want to look at.  Most religions give a list of rules that they feel are the best root values a civilized person can have, and can be a good place to begin.  Once we have confidence in our values, we become who we truly want to be.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Stop Taking Things Personally-Part 2

After writing an article this morning, (Click here for previous article) about not taking things personally, it got me to thinking once again.  Most of us take things personally and can not simply stop, so what can we do in the mean time while we are practicing this skill?

I was driving my daughter to school and as we were pulling up to the front someone walked by looking in the window with a seemingly angry look on his face.  She said "what is he looking at?" and this reminded me of a lesson in perception.  If we take the look personally, then we will be wondering why he is mad at us or what his problem is with us.   If we take the look for what is actually is, the person was likely having some negative thoughts and happened to look at us at the same time.

In my younger years I was somewhat confrontational and likely would have asked him what his problem was, because I would have taken the look personally.  In my older and wiser years I actually looked over at my daughter and said with a smile "maybe he finds us interesting or simply thinks you are cute".

My point is that we can choose how to view any situation no matter what our ego tries to make us feel in that instant.  If we are going to continue to take things personally, then why not try to create a positive analysis of the situation.

By viewing that one instance in a from a positive lens I created no negative feelings towards it.  I did not take the angry look personally, but if I did then at least I walked away with a positive feeling about it.

Try not to take things personally, but if you find that you are always taking things personally, find ways to put a more positive spin on the situations you are viewing.   The more positively you start to view things in your world, the easier you will find it is when interacting with others.  You will see the world in a whole new light.

Be well and have a peaceful evening.

Stop Taking Things Personally!

This may seem easier said than done, but don't take anything personally!  Most of us spend our days letting our ego be in charge of our reactions, and our ego loves to take things personally.  Our ego likes to create illusions of reality and enjoys putting us right in the middle of that reality.  If we could stop taking things that others say personally, we would be much happier people.

Don't take things personally is one of the Four Agreements from the ancient Toltec philosophies.  I also see this often in Buddhist quotes as well.  It is excellent advice and helps to put us on the right track to be more content in our lives.  The problem is that in this day and age, people take everything personally, and look where it has gotten us!

Racism, stereotypes, discrimination and so many other concepts are steeped in taking things personally.  Here is the kicker, most of the time things said to us have absolutely nothing to do with us, but our ego want to take everything personally.  If your boss says nasty things to you, or your spouse is frustrated and lashes out, it is because of them and how their day is going, but we will certainly take the negative words to heart.

Our egos like to absorb sensory information, and use our knowledge and memories to create an understanding in our minds.  These stories that are created are completely based in illusion of reality, yet we believe the stories created to be true.  This is where stereotyping and racism begin.  Since we take things personally, anything that has been taught to us or that we have experienced in the past will become a factor.

If we have been wronged by a person of a certain color or race in the past, our ego will bring that information up when we are faced with a similar person.  This does not make us a racist, but the thoughts we have may be considered to be.  We took something personally in the past and now it is manifesting itself in our ego, and our perceptions will be based upon that.

If we stop taking things personally, we begin to realize that people act the way they do because of them, not because of us.  Even when a nasty comment is directed our way, it could be because of something we have done, but the comment is based in the wielder's view and not from ours.

We stop taking things personally as our empathy and understanding of others grows.  We learn that each person has their own struggles which cause their behaviors, and almost all of the time their behavior comes from within them, and has nothing do with us whatsoever.

If you have never read the Four Agreements, it is just over a hundred pages and definitely worth reading, especially if you are looking for self-improvement.  The four agreements are posted at the top of this article, and they simply make sense.

When you are out in public try practicing as much as possible to not take others actions personally.  The more you work at this, the easier it becomes.  I guarantee that when you stop taking things personally, you will be less stressed and a happier person.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Tradition or Truth: Is Santa Claus Real?

As Christmas fast approaches here in the Western world, it moves me to ponder tradition once again, and how traditions can affect our mental health.  In particular, I was brought to thinking about Santa Claus.  I realize there are other names for him around the world, but the premise remains the same for the most part.  The question I ask myself is how does it affect children once they find out that their embedded tradition is all based on a lie?

Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed Christmas as a child and felt the excitement waiting for Santa Claus to come down the chimney.  I can also recall the devastated feelings of finding out that he is not real and that it was all some sort of fairy tale  I would have to consider that there is a small amount of trauma that comes with the new realization.  Should we be lying to our children as well?

Although we carried on the tradition as parents, but I always felt apprehension because in all essence, we were lying to our kids.  We believed that it was the right thing to do because everyone else was doing it as well.  We are all conformists at one time or another.

I was talking to a friend a little while ago and she has chosen to tell her kids the truth about Santa early in their lives.  This is a difficult thing to do, but I believe it is the right thing.  Unfortunately the children still go to public school and likely feel somewhat alienated at Christmas time when all their friends are feeling the excitement of the coming holiday.

Either way, she has chosen to be truthful to her children and I don't see anything wrong with that.  So is there any difference between children that learned the truth early and those who believed it for many years of their childhood?  There is no general answer I can provide because everybody's reaction will differ.

I am glad that I have the memories of 'believing' and I certainly enjoyed Christmas much more when I did believe in Santa Claus.  I think that when I learned the truth I became much more cynical unfortunately.  I started to ask more questions and tried to learn where the tradition came from in the first place.

I ended up learning a lot about Christianity at this point in my life since I wanted to learn the true meaning of what Christmas was all about.  I gained some excellent information that helped me to better guide my own life, and to find purpose.

Learning the truth did not traumatize me, but it does not mean that it does not have traumatic effects on others.  Does the good of the tradition outweigh the dishonesty of it?  I can't say for sure, yet I do know that children need inspiration to grow, and fairy tales help them dream and use their imaginations.

Once the business world got a hold of Christmas, the tradition began to die.  It has become completely commercialized and the reason and meaning for the tradition is no longer important.  Maybe it is time for a new tradition to be started, one that brings us back to the original values on which it began.

Should we continue to lie to the younger generation in regards to Santa Claus?  I would love to open this question up to discussion because I only have my one-sided answer to that question.  I don't believe that lying is ever the right thing to do, especially when it comes to our children, but I also would not want to take something as special as the Christmas holiday away either.

I think it is time to get back to the deeper meanings of our traditions and use them as the positive tools they were designed to be in the first place.  Teach the lessons and underlying meanings of the tradition to our young people while allowing them a sense of wonder and hope.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones...

I heard this old saying today and it got me to thinking about mental health once again.  If sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me, then why does name calling hurt people so much.  This is a saying that I heard quite often as a child, so was it true 30 or 40 years ago, or was it always wrong?

We can break bones and they will heal if properly repaired and tended to.   Are we able to repair our ego or self-esteem as easily if someone calls us a derogatory name?  It would seem not!  When we are subject to physical harm, there are steps we can take to repair damage and heal ourselves.  We should be able to do the same thing with our mental well-being.  Likely there are steps we can take to heal ourselves but we simply have not figured them out yet.

With a physical injury we need to tend to it until heals, and we cannot simply suppress it and hope that it goes away, yet this is exactly what we do with mental wounds.  We take them and hide them deep within ourselves and hope that if we forget about them, that they will eventually heal and disappear.  We would not do this with our physical health, so we need to start looking at our mental health in a different way.

Sticks and stones will may break my bones, but words will always hurt me!  This seems to be a much truer statement in this day and age.  Many of us are afraid to say things nowadays in the fear that we will offend someone else.  Words are constantly changing, with new slang ones  being created all of the time.   At one point in history the word 'gay' meant something totally different than it does now.

So was the saying wrong decades ago, or have we just weakened as a society.  I believe that name calling has always hurt others, so the statement itself was always wrong.  It just sounded like an inspiring thing to say to young people when they were subject to mean things being said to them.

I also believe that we have weakened in this way though.  Too many people take too much offense for honest and well-intended comments that were never meant to hurt anyone.

Was our mental health stronger years ago and therefore we were able to take name calling better?  I don't think this is the case, but there is some merit to the question.  We all had much less information to process and understand each day before the internet came around, so we had less things to think and worry about.

Maybe our mental health has not adapted to the excessive speed of the world yet and is simply trying to catch up.  It could be why so many people are suffering from intense fatigue these days.  All that name calling over the years may be still weighing us all down, and is now manifesting itself in overthinking, depression and anxiety.

Either way, don't call people names, it doesn't do anyone any good.  If someone else calls you a name, it is likely because of some deficiency that they have, so try not take it personally.  Name-calling can do a number on someone's self-esteem, so remember that words can always hurt, so be careful how you wield them!

Dispelling Negative Thinking

The one thing that comes with all invisible illnesses and mental health issues is negative thinking.  How do we dispel negative thinking?  It is the largest factor holding us in the pit.  The 'ego' looks for suffering and feeds off of it.  The more negativity we hold onto physically and mentally, the worse shape our minds will be in.

Although I spend most of my time with a positive attitude, negative thoughts plague me just like anyone else when life is not ideal.  I am not complaining because I am fortunate to have all of the essentials of life, but then again I don't ask for much.  My physical self does not always cooperate and has a way of pulling me down no matter how good my state of mind is.

When reading self-help style books I find a lot of suggestions to force positive thinking and to change my negative thinking through positive reinforcement.  Although this can be helpful on a temporary basis, I take issue with this method.  Negative thinking is not dispelled by simply forcing positive thoughts into their place.

We want to be able to think positive from the inside out, not the other way around!

Negative thinking is the result of something else, and until we identify and accept it, it will continue to come back over and over again.  Even when we are in a good mood the negative thoughts will try to find their way back to the surface.  We can not simply hide and suppress the thoughts and feelings and hope that they will eventually go away.

Negative thinking is often based in past events that have remained unresolved.  It can also come from worry about the future which manifests itself in anxiety.  Either way, the thoughts come from inner conflicts and we need to take a look at those thoughts so that we can problem solve.

Don't simply try to force positive thoughts in place of the negative ones.  Deal with the negative thoughts as they surface.  For me, I have difficult removing memories of psychological abuse because I am left without closure.  If you have ever dealt with someone who has a Narcissistic Personality Disorder(NPD) for a long period of time, you will understand the inner ramifications they can cause.

The deceit and manipulation is designed to take the self-confidence and self-esteem from their victim. I don't play the victim well but the effects were overwhelming for quite a long while.  A person with NPD, once they have turned on you, will do everything they can to ostracize the victim and make others believe that you are the person with something wrong,  Even to the point that they will have everyone else around turn on you as well.

I say 'shame on those people' for siding against the victim!

So how do I dispel this negative thinking when it is still affecting me on a regular basis? I need to accept it before I can move on.  Take some time and truly sit with the negative thoughts for a while and ask as many questions as possible.  Why is it bothering us?  What is the real source of the negative feelings?  Can I do anything about it?

Once we have asked the questions, we need to determine if there is a satisfactory answer.  Can we change our thinking or feelings towards the negativity?  If we can, then do something about it, don't wait and let the negative thoughts control your life.  If we can't do anything about it, then let it go.

I will never get an apology so I need to let things go, because it is only hurting me at this point.  If we don't let the anger and negative thoughts go then it remains as a poison within us.  We can't consume poison or toxins and hope that the other person will get sick, so we need to let go of the poison.

So what did I do this past weekend?  I worked at the thoughts until I had no more questions to ask, and now my mind is no longer plagued with the negative thoughts.  I let them go so that I can move on. My mind is clear because I have resolved the conflicts to a satisfactory outcome.

These negative thoughts get stuck in our minds because there are still questions to be asked, and answers are still needed.  Take some time for yourself and start asking yourself questions.  This process is not always easy since our egos love to remind us constantly of the unanswered questions we have.

Find the present moment and learn to observe your ego.  The more we watch our ego, the more control we take over our thinking.  The ego keeps our mind confused and fuzzy while trying to interact with the material world.  Find the present moment and be mindful of your own thoughts.  The questions are always right there, we just need to listen to them and find some answers.

For those who have treated us poorly and caused us inner turmoil, forget about them.  Those people do not matter.  Unfortunately we will have to deal with lots of evil people in the world, but how we let them affect us is our job.  Evil people have more inner conflict than the rest of us but they just can't see it.  It poisons them each and every day, and they will eventually be overwhelmed by their own issues

Karma is all the revenge you will ever need.  'What goes around comes around' is an old saying that should offer a little relief when we are trying to let things go.  When we have been wronged it is easy to feel angry and vengeful, but let nature take care of things for us.  We all answers for our actions at some point so all we need to do is continue to be good people, and to do good things.