Monday, November 11, 2013

15 Ways to Stop Being Human

I find the "if you just do THIS... then you will be happy"  aspect of self-help culture truly enraging.  "Happy" is a relative concept and most certainly a First World concern. I doubt that the woman dragging herself for twelve miles across sub-Saharan Africa to a field hospital with a baby's head hanging out of her vagina is wondering if she's happy. People are surviving in most places, barely getting by minute by minute, and here we are wondering why we aren't happy enough. Boo fucking hoo.

There is one particularly irritating website, Purpose Fairy,  that continues to make its way into my life via social media. It promises solutions to our chronic psychological malaise, fifteen of them to be exact.

Let's just say that, for the most part,  I beg to differ:

"Here is a list of 15 things which, if you give up on them, will make your life a lot easier and much, much happier. We hold on to so many things that cause us a great deal of pain, stress and suffering – and instead of letting them all go, instead of allowing ourselves to be stress free and happy – we cling on to them. Not anymore. Starting today we will give up on all those things that no longer serve us, and we will embrace change. Ready?"

First of all, being happy isn't a right. Yes,  the Constitution of the United States  promises that we all get to pursue it, but there are no guarantees. Happiness is a moment or two here and there and the rest of it is just being alive. If you do find yourself continuously happy, be very afraid and seek medical attention- you may have been dosed or are experiencing a prolonged manic episode. Why do we think we all need to be happy all the time? How could we be "stress free and happy" all of the time, considering the state of things and what we all encounter on a given day? But this author says that giving up on these 15 things, "will make your life a lot easier and much, much happier". Okie dokie... 

1. Give up your need to always be right-

"There are so many of us who can’t stand the idea of being wrong – wanting to always be right – even at the risk of ending great relationships or causing a great deal of stress and pain, for us and for others. It’s just not worth it. Whenever you feel the ‘urgent’ need to jump into a fight over who is right and who is wrong, ask yourself this question:
“Would I rather be right, or would I rather be kind?”-Wayne Dyer. 
What difference will that make? Is your ego really that big?"

Okay, first, it's actually possible to be right AND be kind, and still be god damned right. Being right is AWESOME, and anyone who says otherwise is full of shit or wrong a large percentage of the time. It has nothing do to with ego, it's about our need for  justice and fairness. To deny the person that is actually right the validation they deserve in openly admitting that they are right is VERY unkind. 
Now, if you are always arguing with your significant other about being right, maybe you married the wrong person. Try marriage counseling, move on, do what you have to do, but remember that differences of opinion are why we live in the "free world". Giving up to "keep the peace" smacks of the Submission Movement, which is really just Stepford Revisited, in my opinion, because I'm not seeing a lot of self help books encouraging men to submit to their wives. 
I can be wrong, and often am, but I refuse to stand down when it comes to common sense or someone else's laziness. It's insulting to all parties involved to concede unless it's really just not that important. Agreeing to disagree is a much better solution that giving up. And just in case you were were buying into this right or kind nonsense, know this: Wayne Dyer- the author of the new age tinged quote used to shame you into giving up your need to be right- has fathered seven kids in the span of three marriages. I'm not terribly traditional and no judgement and all,  but in addition to the fact that most of his quotes are things you'd find crocheted on a pillow, I generally don't place much value on advice from people whose lives are more fucked up than mine.

2. Give up your need for control-

"Be willing to give up your need to always control everything that happens to you and around you – situations, events, people, etc. Whether they are loved ones, coworkers, or just strangers you meet on the street – just allow them to be. Allow everything and everyone to be just as they are and you will see how much better will that make you feel."
“By letting it go it all gets done. The world is won by those who let it go. But when you try and try. The world is beyond winning.” Lao Tzu 

Yeah, clearly this author is not a parent- I pity her future children. Control is kind of the name of the game when you have mini-insane asylum inmates running around. Homework doesn't do itself, broccoli doesn't eat itself, shoes don't walk themselves from the middle of the floor to the expertly planned shoe cubby, and bedtime doesn't just happen spontaneously. If I just allowed my kids  to "be", they'd watch SpongeBob Squarepants all day long and live on Z Bars and microwave popcorn. Someone has to drive the boat here, folks, and it looks like it's going to be us, the parents. And again, the quote is super spiritual and all that, but in our 2013 world, the Father of Taoism, Lao Tzu, is just wrong. "Letting go" means it all piles up, badly, crippling everything, so really nobody wins. He also lived in the 6 century BC where he probably had a single water bag made from a goat carcass to worry about and multiple slaves managing the world he supposedly won by "letting it go".

3. Give up on blame-

Give up on your need to blame others for what you have or don’t have, for what you feel or don’t feel. Stop giving your powers away and start taking responsibility for your life.
(There's no quote that accompanies this gem).

Okay, this has wee kernels of truth. I am a big believer in Personal Responsibility, like watch your own children, pick up your own dog shit, get rid of your own lice, immunize your own kids. However, as far as blame goes, I'm on the fence. Most of the shit that goes wrong in my life is usually someone else's fault. I blame the Post Office for losing my thank you letters and glossy eco-unfriendly magazines. I blame the slow, dangerously moronic drivers for making me late. I blame my kids for waking me up every fucking night and generally sucking the life out of me on a daily basis. Legally, I can't "give up" on them, or lock them in a closet with a sock stuffed in their mouth so I can sleep, so I DO blame them because I FEEL like SHIT in the morning. I hardly call that "giving my powers away". It's just my life happening to me. And I wouldn't trade it for anything.

4. Give up your self-defeating self-talk-

Oh my. How many people are hurting themselves because of their negative, polluted and repetitive self-defeating mindset? Don’t believe everything that your mind is telling you – especially if it’s negative and self-defeating. You are better than that.
“The mind is a superb instrument if used rightly. Used wrongly, however, it becomes very destructive.” Eckhart Tolle

Let's be honest,  self deprecation is the root of most evolved humor. Watch ANY good comedy from Mel Brooks to Albert Brooks, to Carol Burnett to Lucille Ball to Kristen Wiig to my personal favorite, Louis C.K. Funny equals making fun of something or someone, and often one's self. Perhaps the author refers to people who truly hate themselves, in which case, they need to get a fucking sense of humor or join an improv class or hang out with people on the brink of death- get out of your own head for a spell. The quote kills me. The man who said it is so fucking adorable-like woodland creature cute-that I wonder if that is why Oprah peed her one hundred percent organic cotton drawstring pants upon meeting him. According to his website "At the age of 29, a profound inner transformation radically changed the course of his life. The next few years were devoted to understanding, integrating and deepening that transformation, which marked the beginning of an intense inward journey." 
Hmmm, so one day he felt worthless and wished to die, then, when he woke up the next morning, “everything was miraculous, deeply peaceful. Even the traffic." He spent the better part of two years sitting on park benches and sleeping outside appreciating the traffic. He might be a spiritual flame for millions, but how is his bizarre, highly unusual experience (cough..cough...psychotic break) actually helpful to others? 

5. Give up your limiting beliefs-
about what you can or cannot do, about what is possible or impossible. From now on, you are no longer going to allow your limiting beliefs to keep you stuck in the wrong place. Spread your wings and fly!
“A belief is not an idea held by the mind, it is an idea that holds the mind” Elly Roselle

I suppose this has some veracity, but it lacks substance. I actually might be okay with it if the whole limiting belief thing were selective- like certain ubiquitous multi-careered celebrities. Could see a lot less of them and what they think they can do and be totally fine. This paragraph is very vague, implying that everyone knows exactly where they would fly if their wings would just open. The quote is kind of Yoda-ish, so much so that I'm not sure it even makes any sense. Elly Roselle became famous for turning around a lifelong battle with anorexia/bulimia into positive thinking gold, which is pretty amazing. Well fucking done and all, but she's in the "more fucked up than I am " category and I'm not sure her mind blowingly impressive sheer force of will is applicable to anyone else but her.

6. Give up complaining-

Give up your constant need to complain about those many, many, maaany things – people, situations, events that make you unhappy, sad and depressed. Nobody can make you unhappy, no situation can make you sad or miserable unless you allow it to. It’s not the situation that triggers those feelings in you, but how you choose to look at it. Never underestimate the power of positive thinking.

Come ON. In combination with all the other things I've already given up at this point, I'd be a beatific mute, like Jim Caveziel in that Terrence Malick movie on the island. Complaining is a basic First World Right, the right to bitch and moan about how sucky our lives are while billions are actually experiencing sucky lives. Just going outside makes me unhappy, sad and depressed because the world is a very  strange and sometimes wonderful place that I react to because I am human. To blame me because my reaction isn't always filled with boundless joy is UNKIND and UNREALISTIC. It is impossible (there goes that self defeating talk again) to let it ALL roll of my back.  Sometimes complaining is the only way that people know that you are unhappy. Sometimes complaining is how people realize that they are not alone. NOT complaining builds resentment and gives people cancer. NOT complaining creates the Fifties where everyone hid behind a manicured facade, slowly dying as they pretended, high diving into their martinis.

7. Give up the luxury of criticism-

Give up your need to criticize things, events or people that are different than you. We are all different, yet we are all the same. We all want to be happy, we all want to love and be loved and we all want to be understood. We all want something, and something is wished by us all.

No, my soft headed friend, we are NOT all the same. Many of us are, but some of us are ASSHOLES and need to be pointed out. Warlords are not just waiting for a hug. Mothers and wives are programmed to criticize. I call it a perk that comes with a VERY HARD JOB. And that last sentence of hers makes me want to discharge a firearm...

8. Give up your need to impress others-

Stop trying so hard to be something that you’re not just to make others like you. It doesn’t work this way. The moment you stop trying so hard to be something that you’re not, the moment you take off all your masks, the moment you accept and embrace the real you, you will find people will be drawn to you, effortlessly.

Impressing others is human nature. It's basic social psychology that we try to impress other people with how great we are. It's why we procreate, live in cities, don't murder each other too often.  I imagine if we all decided to be the "real us" it would get post-Apocalyptic pretty fast. Pretty sure that zero people will effortlessly be drawn to the "real me"- hairy, smelly, lazy, rage filled. 

9. Give up your resistance to change-

Change is good. Change will help you move from A to B. Change will help you make improvements in your life and also the lives of those around you. Follow your bliss, embrace change – don’t resist it.
“Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls” Joseph Campbell

FINALLY, I agree. I rarely practice it, but she picked an excellent person to quote.

10. Give up labels-

Stop labeling those things, people or events that you don’t understand as being weird or different and try opening your mind, little by little. Minds only work when open. “The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don’t know anything about.” -Wayne Dyer

This guy again. I certainly have a few labels I can think of for him.  Not sure his quote really warrants quotation marks, it's a common sense sort of thing.  He's very Jack Handey from SNL, which makes me miss Phil Hartman.  I personally think a higher form of ignorance is assuming your imitation pearls of wisdom apply to everyone equally,  but it's all semantics anyway. My brain hurts.

11. Give up on your fears-

Fear is just an illusion, it doesn’t exist – you created it. It’s all in your mind. Correct the inside and the outside will fall into place.
“The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself.” Franklin D. Roosevelt-

The above quote, while excellent,  did NOT mean what the author is saying it means when it was said. Yes, it sounds good in the context of self helpery, but it is downright cruel to insist that we create our own fear. Fear DOES so exist. It is a natural instinct that serves us well a lot of the time, so if it is unmanageable, try meditation or deep breathing or singing your favorite song or calling a friend.Telling me it's all in my mind is bullshit and wrong and not very fucking kind.

Here is the context in which the world first heard this quote:

*"FDR had been elected president and was taking office in January of 1933. This phrase was part of his inaugural address. The nation was in the fourth year of a terrible economic depression, and he wanted the American people to know that they should not allow fear to hinder the government's attempts to find solutions to end the depression. Roosevelt said this for any number of reasons. Here are a few:

(1) To calm and reassure the American people,

2) To humiliate--in advance--those who planned to hinder his upcoming economic programs by indirectly calling them cowards for doing so (a stroke of genius in my opinion),

(3) To let the nation know that an active and intelligent administration has replaced the do-nothing and incompetent Hoover administration.

Here's the quote in context:
I am certain that my fellow Americans expect that on my induction into the Presidency I will address them with a candor and a decision which the present situation of our people impel. This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.


12. Give up your excuses-

Send them packing and tell them they’re fired. You no longer need them. A lot of times we limit ourselves because of the many excuses we use. Instead of growing and working on improving ourselves and our lives, we get stuck, lying to ourselves, using all kind of excuses – excuses that 99.9% of the time are not even real.

I think many of the excuses that people have are very real- lack of resources, no support from family, disability, illness, chronic depression- there are a million reasons why everyone can't be their best self.

If the author actually offered a single technique for how to apply what she is espousing, I might not find this one so annoying. Sort of like saying "just lose weight" to the morbidly obese. Yeah, thanks for the tip.

13. Give up the past- I know, I know. It’s hard. Especially when the past looks so much better than the present and the future looks so frightening, but you have to take into consideration the fact that the present moment is all you have and all you will ever have. The past you are now longing for – the past that you are now dreaming about – was ignored by you when it was present. Stop deluding yourself. Be present in everything you do and enjoy life. After all life is a journey not a destination. Have a clear vision for the future, prepare yourself, but always be present in the now.

"Give up the past?" Isn't that the one thing that we learn from the most? Isn't that how we see our own mistakes and try not to repeat them?  Yes, living in the past may not be terribly productive, but it's how we arrived at the present, so I'm hanging on to it for reference, thank you very much. Being present all the time is pretty unrealistic, but not a bad goal. She just doesn't really explain how to do that.  

14. Give up attachment-

This is a concept that, for most of us is so hard to grasp and I have to tell you that it was for me too, (it still is) but it’s not something impossible. You get better and better at with time and practice. The moment you detach yourself from all things, (and that doesn’t mean you give up your love for them – because love and attachment have nothing to do with one another, attachment comes from a place of fear, while love… well, real love is pure, kind, and self less, where there is love there can’t be fear, and because of that, attachment and love cannot coexist) you become so peaceful, so tolerant, so kind, and so serene. You will get to a place where you will be able to understand all things without even trying. A state beyond words.

"Attachment and love cannot coexist"? What is she talking about? Attachment makes people feel safe. Attachment breeds security in our kids so that later they feel like they have something to push away from. Yes, of course she's peaceful, tolerant, kind, serene- SHE'S COMPLETELY CHECKED OUT. Seriously, who in the world has this luxury to just detach themselves from all things? Who is she talking to?  "A state beyond words", indeed. Sounds more like a lithium haze to me.

15. Give up living your life to other people’s expectations-

Way too many people are living a life that is not theirs to live. They live their lives according to what others think is best for them, they live their lives according to what their parents think is best for them, to what their friends, their enemies and their teachers, their government and the media think is best for them. They ignore their inner voice, that inner calling. They are so busy with pleasing everybody, with living up to other people’s expectations, that they lose control over their lives. They forget what makes them happy, what they want, what they need….and eventually they forget about themselves. You have one life – this one right now – you must live it, own it, and especially don’t let other people’s opinions distract you from your path.

Despite the weird wording (she seems to be describing people who have stolen the lives of others), she isn't entirely wrong about this. Yes, people do feel compelled to live up to the expectations of others, but in my current experience as a parent, that's just what it is to be part of a family unit. It's is ALL about expectation 24 hours a day. As a mother, you become the World's Mother, and it is just the way it is unless you seriously place limits or pay someone else to do it so you can have some other life that you think you should be living. The inner calling is something that not everyone gets- many people never feel driven to do anything but watch reality TV and text with their friends. If I listened to my inner calling,  I might have dragged my kids to India to live off the land or opened my home to the wheel chair bound homeless guy at the bus stop near the Vista Theater. Inner voices are very valuable, but not always the best road map unless you are obligated only to yourself. As for the "opinions of others"- she is also right about that with regard to parenting.They are lobbed like burning sacks of doggie doo from the moment you conceive.They come on fast and furious from family, medical professionals, strangers and keep coming until you die, and possibly after that. I'm not sure it makes us lose control of our lives, but it sure is exhausting. Most of us are not on a path, but in the trenches, so perhaps her underlying advice is to stick your head up and look around from time to time? 

Well, that's it- fifteen steps to happiness, folks. All you have to do is get a lobotomy and have your brain and heart replaced with robot parts and you, too can be in a perpetual state of bliss.  It seems that very few of these directives are realistically applicable to the average person's life. Most of it just adds to that old familiar feeling that we aren't who we are "supposed to be".
It kills me that there are people out there making millions off of natural human conditions by branding them as deficiencies and writing books that claim to solve all these "problems". Nobody has "the answer". I'm not convinced there actually is an "answer", although millions swear that it can be found in religion. But that's a whole other subject.
Accept yourself, do your best and don't take advice from people whose lives are more fucked up than yours.

1 comment:

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