In addition to the basic human needs for air, light, water, food, sleep, strength and mobility, we also have social and emotional needs. As social animals, we have a need for social acceptance and we like to relate, be heard and be seen by our peers.
In our emotional needs, we simply like to feel good and be able to manage our own stress levels. In order to meet these needs in a quality way, I can create practices for improving social interaction, as well as long-term (not necessarily short-term) emotional health and effective stress management. Below follow a couple tools that convert the ideas in earlier parts of this book into do-able action strategies for practice.
Establish Healthy Personal Boundaries
In order to have a solid sense of I (or self), I must be able to establish and demarcate what includes the self and where that border stops. I must be able to draw a line where ‘me’ stops and where the ‘other’ begins. This idea doesn’t really apply to the physical world of knowing where my body begins and ends, but more to social concepts that I described in the third part of this book. For example, having the Self-schema filled out with external concepts is a asking for trouble as it bases my identity on things outside of me.
In this way, my boundary is expanded to something beyond me. As I pointed out, things that are external to me are more prone to change as they are not within my boundary of control. Therefore, it is wiser to base the Self-schema on internally based concepts that are within my boundaries of control. By basing my Self-schema on internally based concepts I can avoid the tension of cognitive dissonance and the uncertainty that ever-changing external conditions will bring.
For expressing emotions between me and another person, I do not accept negative bullshit thrown my way, plus I also do not aim my negative emotions at other people.
For positive emotions, I share them with the people I want to share them with and I’m open to positive feedback from others.
In trying to get what I want, I don’t get into covert contracts (Robert Glover, 2003); in the sense that I act nice to a person in the hopes they’ll be nice to me in return.
“Just ask, man.”
~ Fight Club ~
This is actually quite a strange phenomenon that human beings get into when they become a ‘good boy/girl’ that likes for ‘mommy and daddy society’ to take care of their needs.
I may try to be an obedient, nice citizen and then hope that I will be rewarded for all my ‘good’ behaviour. Asking for something wouldn’t be polite, as it would entail that I am taking a pro-active step in taking responsibility for getting my own needs met. That would certainly be out-of-line as I have delegated those responsibilities to the societal system.
Establishing healthy personal boundaries also includes keeping my own needs within my boundary, which is the equivalent of saying that I view my own needs as my own concern and responsibility. I don’t expect other people to meet my needs. I don’t necessarily expect another person to come in and solve my problems. I don’t expect someone else to make me happy in Life. It’s my own responsibility to make all those things happen for me.
This doesn’t mean I refuse other people’s assistance. In fact, asking for help when I need it is a pro-active behaviour. I can always ask, but I don’t expect anyone to say ‘Yes’ and get upset when they don’t. That’s their own choice, and leaving them free to say ‘No’ is a sign that I am not invested in their responses to me (my personal boundary has not included their behaviour as something to identify with). My happiness or unhappiness is not dependent on how someone reacts to me.
It is easy to see how this tendency to meet my emotional needs (to feel good) by external means is the core characteristic that underlies all addictions.
Practice: Diagnosing my addictions &
kicking them to the motherfucking curb
Addiction is a compulsive seeking out of an external object (be it a drug, substance, activity, behaviour, stimulant or person) that will make me feel better (mood alter) in the short-term. Like I listed in Part II, there is wide variety of addictions that differ in severity and in how the underlying addiction process expresses itself. The underlying patterns are always the same.
The goal is to mood alter; to feel better in the short-term. It is an emotionally driven craving to get out of pain. It involves overconsumption of the craved object of the addiction, which leads to a temporary elevated emotional state (mood). This elevated emotional state depletes neurotransmitter reserves and desensitizes neurotransmitter receptors over time. This makes the overall default baseline emotional state be even lower than before, which makes the craving for another hit (emotional high) even more intense. This is how I get hooked on an addictive substance or behaviour. It’s easy to see which people are most prone to addiction; it are those people with the lowest baseline emotional state. According to Gabor Mate (2009), these are the people that received very little love, attention and nurturing in childhood and have seen a lot of abuse/trauma.
However, he also suggests that almost all people have mild forms of addiction.
In my view, any person with unresolved hurts from the past and impaired emotional health will have some behaviour or substances they indulge in in order to short-term mood alter. Being honest in identifying these addictions and making a plan to ‘kick them to the motherfucking curb’ (technical term) can really improve long-term emotional health and also free up time to engage in more productive behaviour. Here are some practical action steps I can engage in to rid myself of any addictions that I may have:
- Read and understand the underlying addiction process that’s behind all addictions
- Ask the question: “What things do I do in the short-term to make me feel better, which have negative long-term consequences in my Life?
- Write out all of my addictions
- Quit doing the behaviours, one by one, putting them into practices for Self-Change Projects
- I lead with the rational (logical) part of my brain, not the emotional parts as it will want me to feel good and hence, short-term mood alter.
- Expect the emotional low, just sit thru it and know that it will get better in time.
The low is inevitable so I just accept it. I expect that my mind will try to trick me and persuade me into doing the addictive behaviour again, so I don’t act out everything my mind says I should do.
- I don’t beat myself up if I give in and relapse, but I just take it as feedback of how out of control I sometimes may be. I let it humble me and I just surrender to the fact I’m not always in control. Then I re-focus and re-commit to the practice once more.
- I look to the long-term progress, not the short-term.
I look at how far I’ve come and give myself props for that.
- Get creative: I will find any means possible that will help me to quit.
- Replace the old behaviour with a new productive one; it’s easier to not relapse when I’m busy working on something productive and beneficial to my Life.
There is a reason that I mood alter with addictions. It’s because I can’t stand the pain I’m in. I want some relief from the hurt, so I grab something external to me that will make me feel better in the short-term. The real thing that needs to be addressed is the unprocessed hurts and uncompleted past that is still living on in me. Very few people are willing to delve into this and do the real yoga of this stuff, although numbers are increasing.
It’s the kind of shit I hope no one would ever find out about me. It’s tough, confrontational and forces me to be brutally honest with myself and be with experiences of pain that my mind has worked so hard to repress.
“But it’s good to sweat. There are vaults in your
nervous system, where you store whatever
pain, stress and bad memories you have.
My theory is to fight fire with fire.
You have to dive back into that trauma, go back and
do the same tricks that hurt you, in the same place.
If you don’t process it out, those traumas will find
homes in your body, hold you back.”
~ Danny Way ~
It’s a good practice to get reacquainted with the full spectrum of my experience. If there is any lingering unresolved hurt inside of me, I can get back in touch with the experience of it and then follow it down into completion in whatever way I see fit as a way of processing it. I find this works best by sharing the experiences with another person that I can trust to not judge me for any of it. There isn’t a real concrete set of action steps in this as the process is different for each person and each experience. The most important thing is that I don’t turn the experience of pain into intellectual/conceptual ideas about how I’m a sad, little person, now permanently inflicted by the past abuse/trauma.
I don’t turn it into suffering by abstracting the experience I have. I stay with the experience and follow it down into completion. That’s as much as I can say about it, as any more conceptual talk of this would only serve to put the reader further into thinking about it with their mind. You can trust your intuition on this one.
Eliminating Lifestyle Stressors
In addition to the stressors I covered in the previous Practices (crap food, shallow breathing, poor quality sleep, improper exercise, haters, addictions and unresolved hurt), there may be other forms of stress in my Life that are robbing me of energy.
Maybe I spend too much time sitting, perhaps the air-conditioning in my house is poor, or it could be that my mind is talking too much bullshit to me. It’s a good practice to simply observe whenever things add to additional stress in my Life.
As all stress adds to the weight I’m carrying and influences the capacity for challenge that I have, it’s valuable to eliminate any unnecessary sources of stress in Life. By avoiding these stressors, I can take on more challenges in Life.
To turn this into a practice I simply have to take on the lens of looking thru the world in terms of stressors and whether or not certain stressors are beneficial or detrimental to the long-term quality of my Life. Not all stressors are negative; for instance, a solid high intensity work-out will help me get stronger (if I also provide the conditions of rest (recovery) and healthy nutrition). A traumatic experience can often be utilized into strength if processed and completed properly. As Napoleon Hill states:
“Every adversity brings with it the seed of an
equivalent advantage or greater benefit.”
It isn’t a black-and-white dichotomy of stress is bad and eliminating stressors is good.
The art is in creating a Life style in which I utilize challenging (stressing) myself so that I achieve my goals and get stronger and in which I avoid stressors that impair my health and make me weaker in the long-term.
The next book piece drops at Wednesday 22th and covers various Practices
concerning the Self-schema, values and goal-setting…
Subscribe to Identity is Dynamic if you would like to receive free updates on the online book series. Fill out your name and emailadress below to receive updates and new free articles in your mailbox: