I really care about my mind because I’ve seen how quickly stupidity can turn into disaster, which is why I’m so shocked I never saw that “happiness is not the absence of pain” coming. The real problem with demolishing mental barriers and self-imposed limitations is that once pain disappears it’s so damn easy to mistake that eerie sentiment of calm with happiness. It’s easy because there’s so much difference between life with pain and without pain, you can’t stop thinking about it. Really now, if you’re not sad, hurt, angry or raging but calm and full of tranquility it takes a whole lot of willpower to make you want to change the status-quo, especially if any change at all might have as a side-effect … pain. But in reality, in our own screwed up reality, there’s a big chance pain will come when you least expect it – because you’re not in control of your life, you have angry bosses, back-stabbing co-workers, tax-raising governments and plenty of morons, control-issue rageoholics and self-obsessed narcissists (yea, yea, shame on me for this) to interact with, all waiting for the chance to screw up your life. Murphy’s laws govern here. If something can go wrong, it probably will.
Physical pain is easy to defend against – you burn your finger and you’ll spend the next few years grabbing milk from the refrigerator wearing oven-gloves. You won’t do that poking the hot casserole thing quite so soon. There’s no wars in our back yards, there’s no gangs (well, mostly) waiting to mug us, western society is sort of safe even if there are a few exceptions. Physical violence is not really that common for the average individual in the “civilized world”. Mental pain, however, is rather common. We’re shamed, manipulated with guilt and peer pressure, we’re a society where conformity to social norms is enforced by mental pain, by stripping us of our identity and molded onto the frame of what we’re expected to be. It’s rather refreshing to make fun of capitalism haters who shout their arrogance from corporation made bull-horns, wearing brand clothes and organizing their protests using brand phones and tablets via corporate built social media platforms. I don’t think they even grasp the hilarity of their protests. It’s like Muslim getting a catholic bishop to perform the marriage ceremony according to catholic dogma, but declaring themselves followers of Islam. Or gay demanding the right of religious ceremony for marriage, even if that religion publicly declares their orientation a mortal sin. Or atheists trying to get jobs as priests. These situations may be purely hypothetical but peta killing lab-test animals or hipsters protesting capitalism while using capitalist products is rather common. Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity, you know. You can try, but if you keep at it long enough in the end nobody’s a virgin anymore.
The next item on the agenda is quite straight forward – where do we go from here? Well, since everybody’s looking out for their best interests, chances are many of their interests will clash with our own so there’s definitely going to be at least somebody losing the race. Failing isn’t something to be afraid of, per se, though we’re taught to fear failure like the plague from an early age. Safety, security, comfort and convenience are the keywords we’re looking for whenever shit hits the fan, with the added bonus of social pressure. Why? Because each and every one of us is basically insecure. We fear we’re less than others and we’re encouraged to believe that, because if we’re of equal knowledge we’d have a rough time finding somebody to lead us. Insecurity means an easy way of governing individuals, but also a very bad way to look for competence. Insecurity means fear of the consequences of our actions, means we know we can screw things up and therefore we’re less likely to challenge the dominant beliefs. Insecurity is a self-made belief and the only way to counter that is to control your beliefs.
Control. It’s such an undervalued thing it’s scary sometimes how much we avoid it. Controlling one’s beliefs means controlling one’s actions and reactions, the mastery over one’s brain. Control is the conscious way of identifying errors in judgement and fixing them. The only way to be better is to break through the habits learned in a lifetime and get a grip on our thoughts. Ye’see, behavior isn’t always influenced by our core beliefs, our beliefs are sometimes changed by adopting a certain behavior and this is the whole shebang right there. If I, for instance, decide I want to conquer some fears I have – the usual therapeutic approach is to actually face those fears, in controlled environments and in controlled intensity, starting from low and gradually increasing the intensity. If the fear is not reinforced somewhere else, the repetition of being exposed to what I fear makes the fear less intense, especially if I’m controlling it. Practice, practice, practice. And then more practice. That’s it.
I kept saying I chose pain in order to improve myself, the above is exactly what I have to do. For instance, it’s either the pain of challenging my mind to remember words, formulas, numbers and so on until my memory improves, day in and day out, or the pain of losing my job because my learning ability is declining with age and I’m losing ground to younger and more brainiac recruits. In the first case scenario, I can choose how much and how fast I’m pushing while in the second scenario I’m replaced by a younger recruit and I’m still having to rely on my brain to find another job. It’s an extreme case scenario, though it has happened to me twice before and let’s just say it very much sucks. But think of a marathon runner – without training, without daily repetition and daily effort, there’d be no prize. A couch potato like myself can’t run more than a few hundred meters without puking. So I’m basically trading small amounts of pain every day for the absence of huge amounts of pain later on in life.
We live in a world going faster and faster, changing in front of us in the blink of the eye, and we’re more connected than ever, which means we’re subjected daily to more and more pressure and doubt and more fear. Many experiences we have are of the bad sort and with those experiences come defense mechanisms and habits that do us more harm than good. If something feels negative then we shouldn’t think up ways to make it positive in our brains, we should actually fix it. If we’re manipulated into buying something we don’t need we shouldn’t rationalize our decision but learn from it and avoid making it in the future. We should accept the consequences of our actions and strive to never make the same mistake twice. This, however, requires losing habits we picked up along the way and controlling our behavior lest our behavior controls us and to do that, we have to choose and act, we have to accept that failure is part of the learning process and learning without effort is like pissing against the wind, bound to make your pants wet.
There’s another upside to it, though. Daily effort doing something important like learning new skills, languages and improving memory and behavior also makes me, in time, more valuable for those around me. I could get a better job, I could feel more confident talking in public or in other areas of expertise, I could be recognized as a de facto expert on various subjects, which means the quality of my life can improve considerably. This, I believe, is called being proactive. This could be the key of having a full life, one to feel proud of. This is what most people diagnosed with depression and anxiety don’t understand – they want to feel normal but normal individuals are also depressed and anxious. They are not alone, normal means average and average is bad. They ought to want to be better than normal and the way to do that is to act like they are every day even if it hurts like hell. Mental pain can never dissapear by itself, because there’s something more sinister lurking below the conscious mind we have no control over unless we actually control it – it’s all in the mind. Medicine helps counter the symptoms to give you a fighting chance, therapy helps understand how we think and what to improve in our thought patterns but all of those aren’t worth a damn if we’re not breaking out of our habits and changing them. You can’t hide from your mind. Confront your fears, control them and you take back your life. Never give up. There’s a chance you’ll be better but unless you break out of your apathy and start living new experiences you won’t ever be better. There’s not going to be a you in that body. Don’t fear the pain of changing your identity, of choosing who you want to be or of failing – fear the pain of having others decide your life. Anything worth having is worth the effort to get it. Challenge your mind, steel your resolve and choose. Fight. Decide. Pursue your happiness. If you don’t, others will pursue their happiness regardless of your pain. Make yourself valuable, for the more valuable you are to others, the less weak you’ll become.. The more effort you put in the less weak you’ll be so in this case, pain truly is weakness leaving the body.