Negative Self-Talk can be crippling at times. Just last night I spent hours running over negative thoughts in a repetitive pattern, and felt almost helpless as my various demons chewed over my mind. One thing I avoided was making a judgment based on these thoughts though. I withheld judgment of myself, or of others throughout it. A snap judgment may have given me a slightly easier ride that night, but then I would have paid for that rigid judgment over the coming days when a reality presented itself to me that my inflexible judgment was unable to digest.
It is a very difficult thing to withhold judgment, but I guess this is the idea of just being aware of your thoughts. At times it can be quite simple, you may just have one or two slightly off thoughts that you need to deal with. But sometimes it can be much more difficult, you can find yourself bowled over with a torrent of negative thoughts. Trying to knock you off center. The thoughts that had me preoccupied last night revolved around an assumption on my part that had no place in reality. An assumption of a worst-case scenario that led me to go through in detail all the consequences of that scenario if true. Imagination can be a great thing, but at times like this, some of us do seem to have imaginations that really go into overkill.
Well, I survived the episode at least, and can move forward again now. Confident that I have some ability to handle these challenges. An important point I think that many of us miss in the modern world is belief in something beyond ourselves. And I think such a belief can help you to get through these kind of difficulties. If your belief is focused on some steady point, beyond your own ego, then there is a steady frame of reference to help you keep things in context. If all you have is belief in your self, and in your own personal goals, and in your own physical body, then what resource do you have to get through difficult mental challenges like this? I think for many they rely instead on “fake” fixes, like distractions, drugs, etc. But much better and easier is to have a belief beyond your own mind and body, to give you a steady reference point. Then you can focus on this till the turbulent waters have settled again. This way you gain from the experience, and can grow as a human being.
Slithering through the moments
heart beats to the drum of my torments.
Savoring the feelings as they pass over me,
like waves crashing down on the shore of the sea.
Deflecting, side stepping, like water through fingers
the feelings pass me by, only my Self ever lingers.
This Self as ever will always reliably emerge,
the original source of it all, the Demiurge.
So I am delving further into the book Mind Power by James Borg, trying to glean some insights from it to take in my own life. Firstly I want to say what a good book it is in the sense that it promotes these ideas in a very no-nonsense, straightforward manner. It is not like the usual self help stuff that tends to fall into one of two categories: 1) Spiritual and tied up with moral pronouncements regarding altruism, generic humanity and such like. Concepts that I find irksome in recent years. 2) Business like and geared towards success and making money and “progress”. An approach that far from motivating me just brings up thoughts in my mind of what a selfish, conceited world we live in, where if this is what we are pursuing then forget it I would rather not pursue it. Thankfully, this book Mind Power avoids both those categories. It portrays the concepts for you, and leaves it to yourself what values and use you want to make of those concepts.
Today, reading through chapter 2 on Distorted thinking I did come to some insight on some of my tendencies to engage in one of these thinking styles, namely catastrophising. So something happens, and you straight away rush to catastrophic consequences. For example, some girl rejects my advances. I catastrophise, no girl will ever be interested in me, the whole world is against me, making it impossible for me to meet a girl, etc.. Such a thought chain for me lately led me to even contemplate suicide as may have come out in some of my poems. Its hard to imagine now that I am somewhat free of these thoughts, but such can be the power of distorted thinking.
The problem I think comes down to my inability to handle rejection, as I tend to see it as a rejection of everything I am and ever was, and of my very existence. I don’t just see it as a rejection there and then of me as an immediately viable candidate for a partner. I see it as a once and for all rejection of everything I have ever lived and fought for in my life. No wonder I then catastrophise about it! But clearly I am seeing it wrong, and not seeing it for what it is. I am doing a disservice to my reality and to myself, and to the reality of all those around me by thinking in this way.
This is tied up with another kind of distorted thinking I engage in, which is to criticise not my mistakes themselves, but myself for making those mistakes. You can change a mistake if you identify it, but you cannot change yourself, so if you start thinking you are the problem in some generic way, you give yourself little room for change and improvement in the future. I have here a clear pattern to work on in the future, namely not to catastrophise when rejected, but to practice shrugging it off and moving forward. Not internalising it, but leaving it there where it happens and moving on. Maybe I need to make a thousand mistakes approaching a girl, before I get it right. And so be it, the lessons learned from a thousand different mistakes is infinitely more than the lessons learned from the same mistake a thousand times.
I just need to always find ways to focus on criticising the mistake itself, in its context, and not myself for making the mistake, that way you ensure yourself against making the same mistakes over and over.
Yes, it really is time we stopped being drawn into these ineffectual, empty labels: Post Modernism, etc. They denote a lack of something positive to say about our era, they indicate our era’s dependence on a previous era, that all it can to do distinguish itself is say Post-____. As if that magically, by negating a previous era in one label, distinguishes you from that era. This is not how social reality works. This is not how history works. The whole purpose of these labels is to promote lazy, relativistic thinking in colleges and universities throughout the world.
Culture and community changes on a continuum. There are not abrupt points for post-thinking to come in. They are just an excuse to ignore the intricate complications of that continuum of change in our modern era. They are an excuse to lose touch with reality, to negate any attempt at placing yourself in a culture or community. A futile, failed effort, it may be added. For culture and community will just hit back harder and on a more irrational level if you refuse to address it on a rational level. This could be what we have seen the past year with certain election results.
When someone says we live in a postmodern era, he is merely professing his ignorance of recent social changes, and declaring, we have changed somehow, he just doesn’t know how. We are different he declares, and arbitrarily so, and negatively so, from the modern era. We have lost truth, lost various values, lost religion, lost philosophy, lost belief. What have we gained? You will then get given vague abstractions such as technological progress, commodities. Basically all the things that have turned us into powerless consumers. So the postmodern is really about promoting our impotence and powerlessness within society. By abstracting us from a context from which we could draw something empowering that we could identify with.
I would almost go so far as to say that it is a conspiracy theory of the new economic and intellectual elite, to manipulate us all and herd us around to whatever belief they want us to hold. We are more flexible, more mobile etc etc, all these things mean we are more easily moulded by the brainwashing techniques of an elite with too much spare time on their hands. We are non-plus about values and morality and truth in the post modern chimera. Great, says the prospective brainwashers, all the more easy to manouever people around to believe whatever we want them to. All the less will we face resistance from their values and own sense of reason and critical judgment.
Please don’t fall for this crap, don’t be a sucker. The more we think lazily, the more we lose our freedom and dignity as a species and as a civilization. Just think about the kind of world you may be leaving for your children, before you rush to turn them into lazy commodity consumers. Don’t rely on school and education to provide mental discipline for your kids. These institutions are much more concerned with indoctrinating them with empty Post-_____ relativistic thinking. It’s simple, easy, and puts them on a nice conveyor belt into adulthood as obedient passive consumers, with petty resentments against caricature elites and wealthy people, but with no tools for addressing those resentments as they are simply too out of touch with social reality, lost in a fog of fuzzy post-______ thinking.
As valuable as the emotional release of writing poetry can be, often it is better to express some thoughts in more of a prose style. For poetic thinking can be quite a compulsive outpouring at times. While something I want to focus on right now, is to stop and think more about my thoughts. To assess them, mull over them, and not rush to emotional chain reactions of thoughts. For this obsessive, compulsive style of thinking has been a real problem for me the past few months, and has effected my health in many ways. Yes, it has brought out some creative poetry from me, and some valuable insights and inspirations, but it has also unleashed a lot of negativity and demons in my thoughts about others that often can go into a downward spiral of negative thoughts feeding negative feelings, that inspires more negative thoughts, and so on in a vicious circle.
A book I started reading lately, alongside speaking to some people has helped me to gradually come to this realisation. The book is called mind power. And the realisation is quite a simple one. In fact it is one that my official philosophy should mean I would have known about already, but somewhere it seems I lost track of the practical implications of my theoretical views regarding the mind-body connection, and all of that stuff. Basically the point is that we are not slaves to the thoughts that come through our minds. Yes, we cannot avoid the content of our thoughts, at times this comes on us at a whim out of our control, but what we can control is how we assess those thoughts, and we can control whether we choose to follow that thought into a deadly physiological spiral of bad thought, bad feeling, more bad thoughts, more bad feelings, etc..
These chain reactions can be avoided, and it is our own choice to do so. We cannot blame anyone else, no one else can help us here, we have to choose to help ourselves. The hope is that once I do this I can avoid some of my usual self sabotaging thoughts, where I am too hard on myself in my assessment of my thoughts, and give in to a self defeatist chain reaction. Having said all this, there is another aspect to it, a more practical side, which is that in our lives we need to give ourselves some space by asserting our rights and standing our ground against unhealthy intrusions. If you let others in too much, and do not assert your own basic rights, you will never have the peace of mind to begin pursuing these techniques for controlling your assessment of your own thoughts.
The converse side is that positive thoughts can also create a chain reaction, of positive feelings, more positive thoughts etc, so this is something to focus on and work on. The best way I have found up to now to do this, which has worked on a few occasions is simply smiling, rather than arbitrarily trying to construct positive thoughts, as out of a vacuum this can feel fake and contrived, you smile and start thinking the positive thoughts at the same time, this way you get the positive feel also, as looking in the mirror, or someone else smiling back is reassuring and adds to the positivity. This interplay between mind and physiology is crucial. Many, including myself, may say, but surely this is a fake process. But then, what is more fake: an actual smile, or a thought in your head? Surely a smile has more reality than some thought running through your head? So detach a bit from that thought, don’t let it dictate your reality. Maybe my philosophical idealism here causes some problems for me, as I tend to take thoughts and mind as the primary reality. The truth could be much more like the physical subject of Merleau-Ponty. There is an interplay between mind and body, and each provides a context and meaning for the other.
Does this mean my ontology is wrong? Maybe I will need to reassess some of my priorities in this area, as the last month or two has shown me that my thoughts have been ineffectual in reality, other than when they are positive, and they are effective when positive because they are connected up with positive chemicals and feelings in my body and physiology that promote me to pursue those things more, build my confidence and most importantly build others confidence and assurance in me. Thoughts do not exist in a vacuum, though they may come out of nowhere often, when we have them they are channeled through our body and our senses and influence our emotions as to what thoughts to have next. And so the thought is not the causal agency, just as we may get dazzled by a bright light, a powerful thought can at times seem to be a causal agency all of its own, the reality is that there is some other source of that light, and then there is ourselves who can choose how we react to the stimulus. This sort of puts me back towards some sort of dualism in mind/body, when I have long been an idealist, which is interesting in itself, and something I will need to think on more at a future time.
Once more entering the catatonic state
emotional numbness from head to toe
trying not to provoke or exacerbate
my childhoods many traumatic blows.
It’s not the greatest of places to be,
still it is better than where I had been.
Of my body I am now somewhat free
though my mind remains murky and unclean.
Moving away from this physical form.
Watching on from a safe and distanced height,
inside me there may be a brewing storm,
but looking down it’s a pitiful sight.
A sad maelstrom of conflicting feelings.
A lost and lonely boy without a home,
refusing help that could be his healing,
preferring to ever wander and roam.
No more apologies, no more second chances,
just mad soliloquies and suspicious glances.
Distanced ever further I find some peace,
fleetingly nice, buts its just a disease.
The desperate, dying, delusional wish,
of the condemned mans last hot, tasty dish.