26 Jul Why Are We Our Own Worst Enemies?
As humans we’re all 99% alike- each of us have two chromosomes, we all experience consciousness, and all of us suffer to some degree.
I’m using the buddhist term for the term suffering, so even the tiniest bit of discomfort can be a form of suffering if it causes psychological discomfort.
Currently I’m sitting on a Greyhound bus going to Brooklyn to visit my friend from college for the weekend. I’m sitting in the window seat
and I really have to pee.
Update 10:30AM- Just peed. Feeling much better.
Because we have physical bodies, there’s always going to be uncomfortable sensations, liking have to pee but not being able to.
But, I’ve found my most uncomfortable feelings are generated from within- I’m my own worst critic. If someone said the things I say to myself on a daily basis (Like I’m stupid, worthless, pathetic, ___ fill in negative adjective____) I’d kick that person out of my life in a heartbeat.
If you get into the habit of attacking yourself with your mind, then your day-to-day mood and energy levels are going to take a huge hit. And because willpower and energy are finite resources, we can’t let our minds rob of us of them.
Ancient Hardware, Modern Times
Life-coaches, motivational speakers and law of attraction followers might try and tell you differently, but the fact is that humans have a negativity bias.
Over millions of years, we’ve evolved this habit of being more attune to our negative (uncomfortable) emotions and thoughts than the positive because of survival.
Think about it.
Fear could’ve meant a predator was stalking us. Self-consciousness was learned because humans used to live in small tribes and needed to be on the good side’s of others. Anxiety is around because humans relied on this hyper-vigilance to perceived threats for survival, and it was always better to be safe than sorry.vival. And it was always better
But modern times are different- it’s safer now than ever before in human history. That means a lot of the negative emotions we experience now are based on outdated criteria set thousands and thousands of years ago by the human mind.
There’s No Automatic Update
Our minds don’t know it’s the 21st century. For all they know, there’s a saber tooth tiger waiting around the corner like there used to be for our distant ancestors.
But, if you have the time to read this obscure blog, then you’re probably not in physical danger.
Living at home at age 25 isn’t ideal, but I’m grateful to live a life of relative luxury. I have a safe bed, electricity, indoor plumbing, healthy food, income from the internet, time to hang out with friends and meditate, a gym to exercise at, a car, and am starting college again in the fall. I make it a point to reflect on these positive things.
Because the default human mindset sways heavily towards negativity, anxiety, and anger, it’s important for the quality of our lives to learn how to manage and direct our minds to a more positive, nurturing place.
As humans, we’re unbelievably adaptable. By now you’ve probably heard the buzz word neuroplasticity. This is the brain’s ability to change it’s structure over time. And by learning how to use this idea on ourselves we can become more content and happier. One great way is through meditation.
Meditation has been clinically proven to change the brain in as little as 20 minutes a day, for 2 months. Over time, meditation shrinks our amygdala- the fear center of our brain shrinks. Also, our prefrontal cortex gets denser. This is the area that is responsible for upper level thinking and reasoning. This means when we’re stressed, instead of going directly to fear and anxiety, we can shift our focus by being more realistic in the scenario.
Learning to shape our psychology is important. Things like going to therapy, reading well researched self-help books written by experts, meditation, and other psychological work is great.
But we can’t neglect the lifestyle habits that are necessary to keep a healthy mind. Things like supplements, sunlight, sleep and exercise are important too.
I’ve dealt with with depression/ anxiety my whole life and exercise has been a huge lifesaver for me. I try and workout 5 to 6 days a week, and my day to day mood has never more stable.
I don’t know about you, but I want turn my mind into an ally. Life is hard enough, and I want to achieve a lot of things . This’ll be impossible to do if my mind is my own worst enemy.
Dare to Be
I love getting things done. But, I also want to be able to sit with myself quietly while doing nothing, and still be content.
A lot of my motivation comes from feelings of inadequacy- I want to be successful so I’ll feel better about myself.
But this is a double edge sword. Deep down, I know that no level of success will make me feel fulfilled. If I’m stuck in the habit of negative rumination, anxiety and self-loathing then no amount of money, fame or power will improve my life. We’ve all heard stories about billionaire hedge-fund managers killing themselves because the money didn’t fulfill them.
I’ve found that a quiet mind is a happy mind- when I feel good, I’m not constantly judging myself or others. I can just be there, where-ever I am, without asking myself ‘Is someone judging me?’ ‘Do I look cool?’ ‘Should I be having more fun?’
Human brains, by themselves, burn about 25% of our calories. By learning to be, I’ll free up a lot of psychological energy that can be used towards more productive things like writing, picking up an instrument, or learning another language.
Until Next Time,