Past Reconciled: Future Remedied

For a very long time I lived by the banal platitude that if you were depressed, you were living in the past; if you were anxious, you were living in the future; and if you were at peace, you were living in the present.

The mindfulness of conscious awareness and gratitude aside; I have learned: the past needs examining if you are to free yourself from it; if you want to forge a new dawn you must bring to light the unconscious myths and metaphors by which you blotted out the sun. The man who ignores his past risks being ruled by it and the man who loathes it, most surely is.

To quote Jung for the billionth and not final time: Until we make the unconscious conscious, it will direct our life and we will call it fate.

And where else does the unconscious lie but in the seeds of the past by which it was formed.

Through this alchemy of the past we turn suffering to freedom, and by the light emitted from unconscious wounds we see clearly and we become conscious.

I have used a lot of my time these past six months to reflect and look back on my past. And wisely was it spent, for I certainly would not have the clarity and peace I do had I used it otherwise.

Prior to the time spent in reflection, I looked inward, which, for all its inherent dangers, offers its own good: allowing you to search the dark for the God within.

I would compare this inward self-examination and exploration to a kind of diagnoses of one’s wounds, which, before being exposed, so long went ignored, only their symptoms surfacing. And so it is, the wound comes to light and it is ugly and painful.

And then, the wound being located and examined, we turn back to the past and after a personal archeology of its wrecks, we find there the evidence we so long ignored of the crimes we ourselves often committed against ourselves. Here, in the past, we slowly piece together how it all happened; we come to find out why we have done what we have done and why we felt the way we felt to make us do the things we did – the doing and the feeling connected and either through denial or self-deception made completely unconscious to us at the time. And finally, after putting it all together in the hours and months spent in silent rumination, we see ourselves not as victim, but culprit. Our guilt in the excuses, which – if we have been honest with ourselves – are no longer valid.

Thus, we heal in owning our bullshit and claiming our baggage; we take back the same raw material that once burdened us and it becomes the foundation for personal growth and the responsibility that entails. What once owned is now ours. Thus we begin anew, our relationship with ourselves made healthy by virtue of the newfound grace dug up from the graves of our past.

These proceeding ten paragraphs summing up the past six months in which I, in repair, set my heart right.

Today, June 27th, 2015, in my new relationship with myself, ghosts and all, I can now look to the future, a future I have been so diligently working toward, being cautious not to live in it before its time.

As I read in a book, which name I cannot recall, learn from the past, live in the present, and plan for the future.

[Edit: the book is called The Present]

By this maxim I have come to arrive at a time when the future of my design is soon arriving.

Twenty six days and I will again take up residence in LA, whole, as I never was before, with surety, security, confidence, and the Grace by whence it all came.

And so, being learned of my past, I go forward knowing I must think different; whereas in the past I would have exceeded my means and lived to impress others; I live now seeking to impress my soul before a G-d that has given me an opportunity to show Him, to show myself, that I am worthy of all I desire and capable of bearing the crown I aspire. It was under the Emperor Rome burned just as it was by my hand I fell, and by my hands I shall and do rise.

“What kind of life do you desire?”

The words of Alan Watts echo in my mind, their weight clear to me now, their meaning full. And in my own power as a Man, I can now answer this question with a straight face and an upright spine.

With great power comes great responsibility: this is the human condition; the power to build a legacy and the power to lay waste to one. For me the latter is done and the former resumes – but not where I left off, for the past now complete; the future is finally up to me.

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Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May

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Once, while on a certain psychedelic substance (Ambiguous writer is ambiguous), I laid back onto the chaise in my living room and something told me that: I was in the safety of my late twenties. I’m not sure whether it was a prescient notion or an intention; as John Mayer sings: “I am an architect of days that haven’t happened yet.”

Last night I felt something else in my bones: I felt a voice telling me that another love was coming. And in midst of the awe I felt in light of this foretelling, I felt the voice tell me that I had made it through the worst; that I had graduated and grown and that I was going to be okay, I was going to make it.

Then I went to bed and woke up like a thunderbolt at 3:12 am: How quickly a life passes; we are here and we are gone in the blink of an eye, the voice told me. Then suddenly I felt very sleepy again, but I knew I had to get up; I knew I had to ruminate on this, for I knew it was a significant moment in my life, a threshold through which there was no going back to the before.

How quickly a life passes; we are here and we are gone in the blink of an eye.

And yet, we think we can’t do certain things. Bullshit. We must! We have only so many days and just as I woke up thirty, I will wake up sixty. Just as my parents have. And one day, I will be dead; I will die, just as my parent’s parents have.

On a day not unlike any other, I will die. And if I don’t birth them, my dreams will go with me. But alas, while I am here, I have an opportunity to live a life. And this is it. This is life. Today. Tonight. From the cradle to the grave, we live every day of our lives. So what is someday, it’s never. It is now or never. What do you dream of being?

I dream of being a famous writer, famous for the impact I have on the hearts and minds of those who may benefit from the dreams I pursue. And one day – not someday – I will also be a professor. Lit Prof Black.

Lawrence Black, writer. A man of the word, and of his he was. 1985 – ?

So, I must use each day to go toward my goals. To live not like I am dying but to live knowing full well I will be as dead as the cow’s muscle tissue I ate last night between two pieces of toast. Burger meat. An odd metaphor if I’ve ever uttered one, but I am no less mortal than the cow and my death may well mean relatively little more to the world than her’s; my birth certainly wasn’t a great deal to many. And so it is, it’s what happens between birth and death that matters.

And this is where an individual’s personal philosophy comes into play, directing his life. It’s our myths we live, for all the world’s a stage.

“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.”

From Shakespeare’s, As You Like It, Act II Scene VII

Life: it’s ours, in-between our birth and our death. So carpe the fucking shit out of that diem and gather ye rosebuds while ye may.

To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today
To-morrow will be dying.
The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
The higher he’s a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he’s to setting.
That age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former.
Then be not coy, but use your time,
And, while ye may, go marry:
For having lost but once your prime,
You may forever tarry.

– Robbert Herrick, 17th century, dead.

Featured image: ‘Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May, 1909, by John William Waterhouse, 1849-1927

Second Birth of The Soul

At a certain point every idealist comes to a crossroads, a place where he realizes he must choose between two burdens; he can either suffer the opinions of the masses, or he can suffer the world’s resistance to his own. He must now decide if his suffering – and his life – is going to be worth something. This is when he begins to delineate what he stands for, and in doing so – he finds that he has not only given his life meaning, but he has given himself his purpose.

For he now knows that to rise above the mire of the world, he needs only to give life to his passions – passions that until this day had lay in rumination, stirring beneath the ancient, unbroken soil of his soul. In this way, every heartbreak had opened him up, and every experience had given him the kindling he would now use to fuel his dreams. Dreams that no longer would rest in precarious wait, on the brink of an eternal sleep; dreams that would awaken to give light to the dark – showing all of the world it’s soul through his.

Lawrence Black, Nov 25, 2014

Volcano Keeper, Melita Safran
Volcano Keeper, Melita Safran

Post Publish Edit: Upon publishing this, I came to realize it was my 222nd entry.

Serendipity lives here my dear reader.

Debbie Ford: On The Shadow and Reinventing Yourself in a Way You Never Thought Possible

“You, and all of us, and everybody, we have a right to love who we are. We have a right to be our true authentic self – beyond our secrets, beyond our pain, beyond our past – and shadow work is the work of the heart warrior, it promises to give you a life that was like mine, unimaginable to me” Debbie Ford

Introduction

The beautiful thing about having a spiritual identity is that you have a sense of serendipity. The things that you find and the things that find you have a divine purpose for your highest self.

Such is the case with the late Debbie Ford. I added her book, The Secret of The Shadow: The Power of Owning Your Whole Story to my shadow work reading list in my entry on On Suffering, Fear, And The Shadow, and tonight I started diving into her content on youtube. I am highly impressed with her message and feel fortunate to have come across her work at this point in my life. Sadly, she passed away from cancer in 2013; however, she is a wonderful example of someone who found their gift in life and then gave it to the world.

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee Makes a Compelling Case for Exploring The Shadow

In my previous entry touching on the subject of the Shadow, Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee made a compelling case for exploring our own Shadow as a path to transform ourselves by dissolving our inner fears and uncovering our divine light:

We are afraid of our shadows. We are afraid of the darkness inside of us so, and so we project it outside and we have to go and fight these monsters that we project it onto outside. We are afraid of the dark; we are like children, and again, part of the mystical journey is to face that darkness. Also you need the sword of your own aspiration to go into the darkness inside yourself and to face that darkness, and then you discover that it isn’t that dark after all – the fears that you had – things change, and then you begin to discover the light that is hidden in the darkness. This is one of the great alchemical secrets, this is one of the great secrets of human transformation – that you go into the darkness, and it is terrifying at first, and then you discover this light of your own divine nature that is hidden in the darkness. It is called the pearl of great price that is at the bottom of the ocean, it is in the depths of darkness, there is something so beautiful, but most people are afraid of it, because there is a price to pay to confront your own fears, your own anxieties, and to go deep within yourself. It is much easier to project it and to have enemies outside, people you dislike. Then you can project your problems and it is somebody else’s fault. For the mystic it is always us.

Robert Bly on How Shadow Develops 

Being that I want to access my full potential and claim the entirety of my being, I’m going down the path of discovering my Shadow. For a good explanation of how Shadow develops, let’s turn to Robert Bly from, The Little Book on The Human Shadow:

It’s as if we have a bag that we put our unacceptable parts in. We hide those parts of ourselves away so they won’t be seen. At first we put into the bag parts of ourselves that we might judge as bad. Maybe we put our laziness in the bag, our our anger. Or maybe we put our greed in the bag. Or maybe we hide and deny parts of our sexuality. We keep throwing who we don’t think we should be into this bag, until as you might guess – some of the most wonderful, golden parts get thrown into that bag too. Maybe we put playfulness in the bag because a parent or teacher didn’t like us to be messy. Or maybe we put our creativity into the bag because someone said we weren’t doing it right. Perhaps our ability to feel unrestrained joy goes into the bag because our life has been hard. Or maybe we hide away our loving connection of intimacy because we have been hurt too many times. As the years go by, we put more and more parts of ourselves into the bag until eventually it’s big and heavy and full with all the parts of ourselves that we have hidden away, and we drage this bag around with us and slows us down and keeps us from being who we really want to be. So, by shadow we mean anything that’s in the bag. Parts of ourselves we have denied, or repressed or have hidden away. If we are trying not to be a certain way, that part of us is in shadow. 

Debbie Ford on The Shadow

From an EXCELLENT interview with Lilou Mace.

The shadow is all the parts of ourselves that we hide, or that we deny or suppress. The great Swiss psychology Carl Jung said, “The shadow is the person that we’d rather not be”, and so it can be our worst nightmare, but it can also be all the parts of ourselves that we’ve given up – our brilliance, our creativity, our power, our voice, our uniqueness, our successful-self even, and so It’s something that’s innate to human beings, if you are human you have a shadow, and if you are willing to explore it instead of hate it or try to get rid of it, or try to transcend it, or eat over it, or drink over it, or spend over it, you can actually reinvent yourself in a way you never thought possible. 

A Must Watch: Debbie Ford Explains The Shadow

Must, must, must, must, must watch.


Debbie Ford with a Short and Wonderful Forgiveness Exercise

This is golden.


The Shadow and Spirituality: Bringing The Darkness to Light

“You can’t bring the light to darkness, you have to bring the darkness to light” – Marianne Williamson

The idea being that if we try to bring “love and light” to our shadow, we only repress it by trying not to embody it, and it simply gets buried with spirituality.  Obviously, I am not yet an expert on Shadow, and I will be reading Debbie Ford’s books, which I am very excited about, but I am exploring multiple perspectives, such as those of spiritual catalyst Teal Swan.

Additional Study (from Amazon):

The Dark Side of Light Chasers by Debbie Ford

Bonus: An Exercise for Bringing Shadow into Consciousness 

A casually filmed video with some wind-noise; however, VERY MUCH worth watching and practicing.

Jung7sat

 

 

On Choosing to Be Kind

Update: 10/31/2014

I wrote this entry while being emotionally riled, and while I feel I did an effective job of being constructive with my emotions and providing a great deal of substance to the reader, I do not feel I wrote all of this in the proper tone or from the optimal perspective.

As such, I was thankful to come across a good article this evening on the subject of good and evil, as the ancient Stoic philosopher Epictetus saw it.

While I feel this doesn’t negate what I have written, I think it contributes a vital perspective to my narrative.

To quote:

“When you see people, things, and circumstances during your day, Epictetus advises us to break away from of our habit of seeing them as good or bad. Their labels of good and bad can only be attached by our judgment, not from who or what they truly are. They are simply part of nature and the world we all work within.”

Even from one who reviles us?’
Why, what good does the athlete get from the man who wrestles with him? The greatest. So my reviler helps to train me for the contest: he trains me to be patient, dispassionate, gentle. You deny it? You admit that the man who grips my neck and gets my loins and shoulders into order does me good, and the trainer does well to bid me ‘lift the pestle with both hands’, and the more severe he is, the more good do I get: and are you going to tell me that he who trains me to be free from anger does me no good? That means that you do not know how to get any good from humankind.” – Epictetus.

“Here, Epictetus isn’t only saying problems aren’t bad but that they can be beneficial! If this still doesn’t make sense to you, then consider the weightlifting room at your local gym. Some people spend hours using those heavy weights in various positions and movements. In fact, they usually pay membership dues just for the privilege. They view these weights as a good. However, if someone has a job that requires he lifts boxes with similar weights as found in our gym example, would he think lifting those boxes is a good? Probably not. He certainly wouldn’t pay membership dues for the privilege. Instead, he expects to be compensated. So there you have two similar activities that are viewed by people as different because their interpretations are different, not the activities themselves.”

“Therefore, next time we run into someone angry or face a hopeless situation, we must remember what Epictetus has taught us today.”

This reinforces the themes of Stoicism and the value of adversity that were originally included initially within this entry, but I wanted to add this update as I think it places greater focus on these perspectives, which can greatly lighten the burden on our soul. All in all, not my favorite entry because of the emotionally fueled place it came from, but I’m happier with it after the addition of this update. For all intents and purposes I must remind myself that ‘this is a blog’, and as such I am allowed to make mistakes in conveying my ideas. – LB


I want to make this a short entry because it’s not worth many words, but it’s worth saying.

Edit: this is not a short entry, but it’s very much worth reading. Enjoy.

There are shitty people in the world.

As much as I have clung to the denial of this truth in my unconquerable lust for idealism, I can no longer deny this as a basic tenet of life – some people just fucking suck. And I don’t mean this in the way of people letting you down, sure that happens; however, what I’m talking about is the people who are well over the black and white line of decency on the spectrum of humanity.

I’m talking about people who physically threaten others, people who project their ugliness onto others where they inherently sense vulnerability, and people who just don’t give one iota of fucks about you and would probably enjoy whatever harm would come to you. People who in fact make a concerted effort to perpetuate whatever kind of harm or injury they might inflict on you – verbal, emotional, physical, or psychic.

If you read me you know that I’m a positive person. If you know me, you know this. But there’s no use in pretending these people don’t exist. We’ve all encountered them – within and beyond our circle of friends.

These are the bullies in life – male and female, straight and gay, of all races and classes. These are the people who wish others ill will – and whether they gain pleasure from it I cannot say, but they certainly aren’t averse to your suffering and at the very least they are indifferent to it.

And what of these less than great individuals – how do we go about living in a world where we have to share the same beautiful air with these absolute jerks?

I’ve never really asked myself this.

Up until now I suppose I’ve reacted as child might when confronted with someone who is just plain nasty; I’ve felt a mixture of equal parts hurt and shock. A kind of how on earth? feeling.

But I’m tired of it. I’m tired of being surprised by the ugly side of humanity, and in my twenty-nine years I’ve seen my fair share of it. As I once heard someone quip: “If you ever meet someone who tells you they haven’t been abused, then you are talking to a goddamned liar”. We’ve all been subject to abuse; we’ve all been treated far worse than we deserve -whether we know it or not, but it’s not difficult to single out instances in our lives where another has denied us our humanity, our dignity. This is a part of life. As is said in Rocky IV, life ain’t all sunshine and roses; the world is a very mean and nasty place.

Regardless of the inevitability of this, I’ve always done my best to meet incredulous persons with compassion. After all, we have all acted poorly; we’ve all been guilty of being shitty at one time or another and we all carry the scars of living. But at the same time, some of us don’t put our poison into others – instead, we use coping mechanisms and we integrate our experiences into our interpersonal behavioral schemas in a manner that is basically benevolent towards others.

So, what separates those who internalize their pain and transfigure it into something livable from the people who externalize it in a manner that makes life less livable?

I suppose compassion has a lot to do with it. But one of the little known things about compassion, and one of the things that makes compassion so interesting, is that compassion for the self is not relative to the amount of compassion we have for others. This is grounded in university research (Kristin Neff PHD).

The lack of correlation between compassion for the self and others is very counter-intuitive at a certain level – but once you examine this it makes perfect sense: some people possess ample compassion for others, yet have very little for themselves, yet others have ample compassion for themselves, yet they have very little compassion for others.

Frankly I’m slightly envious of those in the latter category. Not that I think it’s admirable to have less compassion for others than for yourself, but it’s certainly rational and pragmatic to a degree. I’ve lived my life with a deep degree of compassion and empathy for others. And as anyone in my shoes knows, there is a thin line between compassion for others and being an absolute doormat.

Being compassionate has caused me to remain attached to people long after I should have let go. Being compassionate has made me love people who could care less about what city I live in today. Being compassionate has made me very naive in many ways. It’s difficult to look back on this facet of myself and feel like this has been a strength of mine – but it’s been a virtue nonetheless. It’s made me a better person. It’s helped me stay connected to my innocence. It’s helped me stay optimistic and openhearted. It’s helped me be forgiving of others, but the downside is that I have always assumed I was due the same forgiveness I would give another.

And this is where life starts to feel unfair – when you feel like the world’s not nearly as kind to you as you are to it.

And so, at 29, here I am – and as I write this I am feeling like there are far too many rough edges and sharp corners in the world.

Continue reading “On Choosing to Be Kind”

And This is What Love is

One of the things that continually bolsters my spirituality is the way synchronicity and serendipity have a way of bringing the right signs, messages, people, and lessons into my life.

And what’s really shown me this is the fact that I went through a kind of dark night of the soul over the past couple years where these things simply did not happen, because I didn’t believe in anything except science; however, once the spiritual poles in my life reversed from zemblanity to serendipity – voila’ – the magic came back.

As I said to Bunny S via text tonight, I believe in God more than I believe in love – to which she replied, you used to be the opposite. And she is probably right.

Whichever the case my be, I maintain enough fluidity in my beliefs to account for other, often more mature perspectives. After all – perspective is just a filter, and it would be hubris to think that my outlook at 29 is the be all end all, and after all, I’m a long way from being the sage grandfather I am destined to be.

So tonight when I was at my local Whole Foods and I found myself in a chance conversation with a woman who was open and willing to share her perspective with me, I made sure to listen to what she had to say.

And she told me about how as you get older and the people you love start dying it changes you forever – how losing those you love – mom and dad included – changes you; how loss is a part of living and getting older, and how you don’t experience this when you are young, and in a sense your outlook on life is unspoiled by the loss you have yet to face in the passing of relationships and the passage of loved ones.

And in turn I told her about the Grant Study, and how after 75 years and twenty million dollars they concluded that happiness was love, full stop and that the other pillar of happiness [besides finding love] was finding a way of coping with life that does not push love away.

And that’s really difficult to do in the face of loss.

But she [the woman at whole foods] was right: loss is an inherent aspect of life – in every facet of nature, it’s simply the way things work.

As one of my favorite quotes from The Curious Case of Benjamin Button states: “You can be as mad as a mad dog at the way things went. You can swear and curse the fates, but when it comes to the end, you have to let go.”

And that’s just innately difficult [letting go]. We all live in denial of the inevitable. So – to look back on a relationship and think that the ending itself or the absence of someone you once loved from your life today is somehow unfair is simply childish. And this is what naivete is. It’s not naive to believe in love; it’s naive to believe that you will bask in it’s richness forever.

Love is a holiday. It’s Thanksgiving spent with your favorite people. It’s the safety of Christmas eve. But it’s also understanding that you can’t stop this train.

It’s not naive to believe in love; it’s naive to believe that you will bask in it’s richness forever. Love is a holiday. It’s Thanksgiving spent with your favorite people. It’s the safety of Christmas eve. But it’s also understanding that you can’t stop this train.

And as much as you want to get off and go home again, you can’t,

And this is really what love is. It’s holding on tightly to what you have to let go of. But it’s also knowing you will have to let go.

And it’s knowing that home is where the heart is, but it’s also knowing that your heart is the only home you can ever truly count on being able to return to – every other home is just a resting place for your heart, someone special to share to with.

And whomever you have to share it with now – friends, family, whoever is there in your life today – these are the people that matter. Hold them dear, for they will be gone tomorrow.

But of course, we all feel like ‘You don’t know how it feels to be me’. And this is what love is; because we don’t [know how it feels to be you] – but we all have to let go.

 P.S. I’m reminded of a philosophical exercise where a professor holds up a glass of water before his class and asks the students (a very bright bunch) what the glass of water weighs. Of course, the answers are rapid and forthcoming – “8 ounces!”, “10 ounces!” – but the professor elucidates: the weight of the glass of water is relative to how long you hold onto it; hold it for a minute and you will feel the weight of it (say 10 ounces), but try to hold it for hours or days and it will become unbearable. And this is why we have to let go of things – because their weight becomes unbearable in time.

 And this is why we have to let go of things – because their weight becomes unbearable in time.

Edit: I want to clarify that this outlook on love here is in no way meant to say that you can’t spend the rest of your life with someone you love. I’m 29, and as such, I understand that your twenties are often a very rich burial ground for relationships and first loves, but there is no one rule. And your exes are most likely exes for a reason. Just don’t give up on what you deserve, and hold tighter to what you find next knowing that you have to let go of it all regardless. But if you are lucky enough to find real love – someone who truly loves you and stays by your side through thick and thin – and there will be thick and thin – then hold onto that person, because that’s as good as it gets.

Journey to Self‑Mastery: From Self‑Control to Self‑Discipline

I posted a previous – albeit brief entry on the importance of self-control about a month ago, and today I want to talk about it again, but within a larger context.

I want to tell you about my journey to self-mastery, but first let me give you some of the key quotes from the video on self-control, which served as the centerpiece of the aforementioned entry.

On Self-Control (by Leo Gura of Actualized.org)

“When you master your own psychology it becomes easier to influence the world, otherwise the world is always influencing you. “

“Developing self-control, self-discipline is not easy and this is why most people do not do it and why most people’s lives are shit, because they do not take the proper steps to develop self-control and that’s because there is emotional labor involved – there is struggle involved with building self-control.”

“Self-control is difficult to develop and the way to develop it is through work. You’re looking for opportunities to improve yourself, to grow. And what happens is that you start to build these additional layers – and those build extra self-control into you. And you start to notice that you get more awareness, and more ability to control your feelings, more ability to control your emotions, more ability to control your behaviors, more ability to persist in spite of the fear, to have courage, more ability to learn, more ability to introspect, to be very honest with yourself – and this is a great thing, and it just kind of snowballs and you start to build more and more self-control. On the other hand – if you’re not being undisciplined, if you’re not observing the practices and you’re not doing the things that you need to be doing in life – then what happens is you kind of have the reverse process. Your brain turns to mush, your Prefrontal Cortex becomes weak and you are not able to execute on the things that your higher-self wants to execute on, and so what happens is that your lower-self takes control over your higher self – and that is a very bad place to be in, in life, because even though that lower-self got what it wants, it got comfort, it feels good – that higher-self is still there, it’s not dead, and it wants you to be living to your full potential, and when you’re not living to your full potential you feel guilty, you feel horrible – you feel like your soul has been drained. And that’s one of the worst feelings in life.”

So what are some of the things you can do to build self-control?

One – Disciplined Practice:

“Have disciplined practices. That means that you’re getting up at a certain time in the morning when you want to be getting up. That means if you the intention to brush and floss twice a day – do that. If you have intentions to meditate – do that. If you have intentions to journal – do that. If you have intentions to show up on time – do that. If you have intentions of eating healthy – do that.  If you have intentions of going to the gym – do that, and be very disciplined and consistent about it. That practice – with whatever area of your life you point it in – if you’re just disciplined and you’re executing consistently, that trains your brain. It requires the build up of Prefrontal Cortex just to do it. It’s like going to the gym and pumping your biceps, it builds them up – that’s what it does to your brain. So, have disciplined practices and stay on top of those. That’s the bottom-line, quickest way to build self-control. Follow through on your disciplined practices – set a few new ones every once in a while, and build those up into habits.”

Unhook from Media and Stimulation:

“You are overstimulated right now; most of you are overstimulated with television, radio, gossip from your friends, advertising, negative influences from family, from friends – all over the place. You’re overstimulated by it. You need to unhook yourself from it. Get back to your source. Spend some time by yourself in solitude; think about things. Be introspective. Raise your level of consciousness. When you do this you start to develop a level of self-control that’s just amazing. You cannot have self-control when you’re plugged in – when your plugged into the grid, because what happens is your mind becomes a lazy slug and it plugs into the grid and what you’re looking for is that cheap source of energy that you can just plug into. You just want to plug into that TV and let go. You just want to plug into that chocolate ice cream and just let go. You want to plug into that relationship – that comfortable relationship and just let go. And you want to plug into sitting there on the internet all day and browsing all day, and browsing Facebook, and chatting with your friends, and gossiping about the latest celebrity news. You’re just plugging in – you’re letting your brain to to mush. How can you have self-control when you do that – you can’t. You got to snip that stuff off – cut it all off – spend some time thinking, being alone, introspecting, coming up with goals,, coming up with visions, coming up with ideas for what you want to accomplish in your life. That is how you get your self-control back.”

Note: Definitely check out the videos from Leo at Actualized.org

My Personal Journey with Self-Control

In the past month, since publishing the initial entry on self-control, I have fully heeded the above wisdom. The effects of this have compounded upon the already significant changes I have made in my life this year.

Just in the last half of this year I have completely given up all:

  • Alcohol
  • Tobacco
  • Caffeine
  • Sweets and processed / junk food
  • Pornography and self-pleasure (a topic deserving of it’s own entry – and one that has nothing to do with morality).
  • All news websites
  • All entertainment websites and purposeless internet surfing
  • Negative / Unhealthy relationships

Each of these things has required a considerable measure of emotional labor, but I can proudly say that I have exercised complete and total self-control.

And what of these changes – how has my wellbeing been impacted as a result of exercising self-control in these areas of my life?

Well, I could write at length about this but I’ll save that for a future date as there’s yet a considerable amount of benefits to reap and still a great amount of change at work, but I’ll say the following:

Beyond looking better (My bodyfat is dropping to BAWSE levels) and feeling better (my confidence is at an all time high), the greatest thing is that my self-awareness is eons above what it once was. I’ve been able to go within my psyche and perform the kind of deep self-work that produces the rare type of quantum change available once – maybe twice within a lifetime. This has also opened the doors within my soul for a spiritual awakening, which I am massively grateful for. And my identity as a practicing Stoic has benefited immensely, and of course, my mindfulness, and meditation practices have blossomed through this as well.

But simply the increase in self-awareness alone is in itself reward enough to suffice as motivation for me to continue on this path indefinitely. It’s an amazing feeling to be deeply connected to your inner intuition and to experience the alignment of the heart and the mind that this brings. This deepening and awakening of my self-awareness has given me the gift of being able to live from my highest truth – spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally, socially, professionally, intellectually – I’ve given myself the gift of stepping into my highest self.

No More Palliatives

But why? How can self-control be this transformative? Well – the italicized notes in the beginning of this entry do an excellent job of shedding light onto this – but in addition to that, I have come to see that these things were my way of numbing myself to who I am and how I really felt. When you become aware of all the things you are plugging into, and you stop plugging into them, you start to see that they were merely a palliative.

palliative

Those palliatives we habituate ourselves to indulging in become automated responses to any disturbances in our mental equilibrium. So we become in a sense very amateur neuropharmacologists, doling out the brain chemicals we feel we need to feel okay. And as a result our mental and emotional awareness is never fully allowed to properly achieve a natural state of homeostasis.

I can’t tell you how many times over the past few years I simply wished I could cry – but I couldn’t; although, I intuitively knew I needed to. That’s no longer the case now that I am emotionally and mentally 100% organic. Music moves me more, I connect more deeply to others, I laugh more, I cry when I need to cry, I dance more, and I feel innocent – like a child.

And I’m centered and I’m grounded; my moods are linear and I am more resilient than I have ever been. And on the rare occasion I do get angry, I can sense just how much that anger has lowered my self-awareness, and it’s just gotten to the point that it’s not even worth it for me to get angry anymore. And I no longer get depressed. Period. Additionally my ADHD has pretty much disappeared. Perhaps my brain has learned that no amount of pain, suffering, discontent, or boredom will earn it the synthetic sources of Dopamine it once was addicted to, and so these things no longer serve a purpose in my life. It’s as if my emotions have gone from existential to experiential – meaning, I am no longer angry – I’m just experiencing anger.

Continue reading “Journey to Self‑Mastery: From Self‑Control to Self‑Discipline”

Real Life Inspiration: Prince Ea on The State of The World, Technological Disconnection, and Love

Note: I first want to preface this with the declaration that I do not subscribe to the cult of personality. Particularly, in a day and age where – as Prince Ea says: “Our role models today – sixty years ago would have been examples of what not to be”.

I simply do not believe in placing people on a pedestal (hero worship) because I believe that living things are inherently equal – and while that’s an entirely separate topic, the point I want to drive home to you is that you are as worthy of your love as your heroes are; you are as capable as they are. This is why I occasionally highlight some of my role models under the heading of Real Life Inspiration, because we should not worship people, nor compare ourselves to them, but rather – we should be inspired by their choices and their message, which should empower our own sense of choice and control over our lives. I’d like to think Prince Ea would cosign this message.


Hip-hop artist and poet Prince Ea grew up in St. Louis “I grew up in the worst part of the worst city in the world – statistically; the Eastside of St. Louis”. Having graduated with a degree in anthropology, Prince Ea said he combines anthropology with his music to provide social analysis. His messages are refreshing and they echo insights and truths that lie behind the facade of society – the deeper truths many people don’t see.

Where he is – his internal state and emotional resonance – that’s a beautiful place to be.

After gaining increased exposure with the following video on the state of the world, Prince Ea was recently featured on Glenn Beck, which can be viewed here (the video is completely non-political and focused on Prince Ea’s message of Love). The interview really showcases how grounded Prince Ea is. We can all learn from his messages. Below I’ve included three of Prince Ea’s best video’s to date. Pay attention to what he is saying.

Prince Ea on The State of The World

It’s easy to dismiss this kind of thing as another video designed to go viral, but there are so many things he says that are just completely true. One of my favorite lines might be pride is at an all time high, humility is at an all time low.


 

Prince Ea on Technological Disconnection

This youtube comment a viewer posted to the video says it all:

It makes me sick to my stomach. Try MeetUp instead. Get out and connect. Touch each other. Look each other in the eye, and pay attention to the other person’s soul. 

We are electric beings that were meant to connect–not connect through electric devices but to each other by touch and proximity.


 

Prince Ea on Love

The lessons Prince Ea offers on love are brilliant. Many people never discover these truths, or only do after years and years of pain.

See, the truth is, we have forgotten what love is. Our ideas about love come from storybooks, romantic comedies, popular songs, facebook memes – and they all show this fuzzy romantic type of love, and as you are aware, in your own life, these ideas have led to more anxiety and pain then true pleasure [fullfilment] and happiness… because these ideas themselves are flawed, they are based on ownership and selfishness “You are my bae, my boo, my sweetheart; I love you – but only if you’re with me”. That’s a possessive type of love, that’s a love with strings attached, that’s an impure type of love.

Ask yourself this question: who do you hate? It’s probably somebody you used to love right.

Thinking that somebody can fix you or that you can fix somebody else is just plain wrong. See, love is an inside job. In order to love others we must first love ourselves. We have to mature in a way that we can take care of our own emotional needs –  we can help ourselves – and that way, we accept the flaws in our partner because we have already accepted the flaws in ourselves.

There’s no more anger or controlling clinginess in this type of love, there’s a relaxed acceptance, there’s kindness, there’s tenderness, there’s vulnerability.

And when you are reflecting your true self, your true soul, you’re no longer reflecting anger, pain, your past failures, and your ego – that’s when love can blossom because the souls only expression is pure love.

And I think when two people, when two souls come to this understanding – that’s rare, that’s beautiful, and that’s something we should all strive for

So word to the wise, if you don’t know how to love, you will ultimately destroy it.

 

Sage, sage words. This is one of those instances where I get a strange sense of reassurance at the fact that someone else has independently arrived at the same conclusions I have. If you watched the Glenn Beck interview with Prince Ea, you’ll have seen Glen Beck ask Prince Ea, ‘Where is this coming from?’, to which Prince Ea answered:

It comes from inside, it comes from me looking inside of myself… It just comes from me sitting alone, and looking inward at what is the solution, what makes me happy, looking at the world, what makes me happy, and it’s love it’s peace it’s compassion, the most basic idea that permeate all religions – but not a lot of people seem to adopt; it came from me looking inside, from introspection. 

In my own relationship with inner peace and unconditional, abundant love, I too found this truth looking inward.


Be sure to follow Prince Ea on facebook and carry his message forward in your life. Be the love that you are – the love you wish to see in the world.

I’ll leave you with two more soundbites from Prince Ea (via Glenn Beck):

I’m an artist that wants to connect with people’s hearts because I think the individual is everything. If you want to change – if you’re in a movie theater and you don’t like the movie, you don’t go up to the movie and start beating up the projection on the screen – you go and change the film. So I believe that in order to have external peace, we have to have internal; peace in ourselves before any change is possible.

I honestly think that – that within everyone – that pure love, that pure consciousness is who we really are. I think that finding out who you really are is the key.

 

Humans, Listen to Your Raccoon King: Drop Out of The Cult of Self-Esteem in Favor of Your Rational Animal Confidence

This morning I came across an entry on a blog I follow that addressed the potential harm in the pursuit of self-esteem.

I’m glad I came across this because I thought about this very topic last night as I was working on mapping my values and virtues. In fact I opted not to list self-esteem as either a mental or an emotional virtue because I think the concept of self-esteem is garbage.

Let’s look into this further.

Famed psychologist Albert Ellis – like him or not – was a vocal opponent of self-esteem. I haven’t read (nor do I feel compelled to read) his book ‘The Myth of Self-Esteem‘ -one of about 80 books he published during his lifetime – but Ellis posited that the pursuit of self-esteem was self-defeating because it reduces our worth to the sum of our accomplishments.

Another book, House of Cards, written by Robin Dawes reflects a view of self-esteem similar to Ellis’.

From an LA Times review of House of Cards:

Belief: Self-esteem is the key ingredient in well-being and achievement; low self-esteem is the main cause of drug abuse, violence and teen-age pregnancy.

Fact: Literally thousands of studies have failed to support this belief, which guided the California Task Force on Self-Esteem. As Dawes observes, the task force performed an unintended public service; it demonstrated that “the Holy Grail of pop psychology”–the belief that high self-esteem is the ticket to happiness and low self-esteem is the cause of social problems–“is nothing more then a mirage.” What research does show is that children need a sense of competence and mastery at learning new skills. Self-esteem will follow.

My personal views support this. I feel self-esteem is a concept rooted in classic American egoism that has passed its pop psychology expiration date. If there is such a thing as self-esteem, then it is the product of self-sufficiency and competence, rather than the cause of. Further, I view the concept of self-esteem in a similar light to Ellis in that I feel it is too externally rooted in achievement and accomplishment, and therefore does not provide an individual with an accurate self-assessment of his or her actual potential to achieve what he or she wishes to accomplish.

As a result, an individual’s tendency to focus on self-esteem and ‘feeling good about oneself’ causes them to base their confidence in performing specific tasks on their overall perceived worth, rather than their self-efficacy in a given area.

So if not self-esteem, what then?

As previously noted – I excluded self-esteem from my own list of mental and emotional values and virtues; however, I did include self-compassion, self-confidence, rationality, as well as optimism and a positive mindset. (This was among many others listed according to my ideal of my actualized physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, professional, social, and intellectual self).

In focusing on the above concepts, I can apply this combination of self-compassion, self-confidence, rationality, and an optimistic and positive mindset, to examine a given area of my life in a manner that enables me to provide myself with a supportive and encouraging inner-voice. Without this, I would be limited to the biased and narrow-minded viewpoint that the cult of self-esteem has doomed so many of us to.

It’s troubling to me that the cult of self-esteem places self-image and self-worth on a pedestal – for the problem is not in building lasting overconfidence, but that this inflated sense of worth (a bubble if you will) inevitably bursts once an adult faces a world devoid of the teachers, parents, and suitors who for so long held their ego up in an unsustainable light.

This video illustrates this concept perfectly:

Maybe we all need a little tough love mixed with unconditional self-acceptance in order to shake off some of the vain baggage and insecurity that self-esteem has wrought so many of us with.

Fuck self-esteem. Ah, doesn’t that feel good to say. Seriously, the more you demistify the constructs of society that are designed to provide you with unsustainable and worthless pleasures, the more you can free yourself to pursue the kind of lasting fulfillment and self-worth that no one can ever deny you – least of all yourself.

I’m reminded of a zen proverb (ahem, sorry – ‘Ancient Toltec Wisdom’) from the book The Four Agreements, in which author Don Miguel Ruiz states that we should take nothing personally, in other words – someone should be able to tell us we are the best person in the world, or the worst, and either should mean nothing to us.

I’m not telling you to abandon the positive feeling of approval, but the conversation you have with yourself, is far more important than the conversation you have with others.

And as I read this morning in The Pythagorean Sentences of Demophilus, written over 2,400 years ago:

“Consider both the praise and reproach of every foolish person as ridiculous”

In short, do not derive your own worth from the appraisal of others.

Now, I task you with reading the Wikipedia entry on self-esteem and thinking for yourself as you read it – maintaining objectivity as you review the widely held notions on self-esteem, and the overwhelming societal and intellectual value of self-esteem as a whole.

It would seem to me that any rational human being with a healthy self-confidence should realize what an absurdly maladaptive practice it is to subscribe to the idea that positive self-esteem is something we should aspire to be able to posses.

It is your right – it is your duty – to feel good about who you are, to love yourself with compassion, to be rational, and to be optimistic and positive about your present and future potential.

I will leave you with the image of a raccoon. Do you think the raccoon denies himself the fulfillment of his nature, his raccoonness? Do you think the raccoon is thinking he is not worthy of being good at being a raccoon and having what he deserves and wants? Do you think the raccoon lets anyone else deny him of that? Hell no. So why the hell would you as a human do any of this? Oh that’s right, because you’re human and other humans told you that your value was dependent upon certain conditions, and that if you didn’t meet those conditions, then you weren’t good. Right now I want you to claim your value back; reclaim your innate worth that existing as a unique living being entitles you too. Don’t subscribe to the idea that someone else’s opinion of you has to become your reality. Because ultimately that’s what subscribing to the cult of self-esteem is signing you up for. If your reality doesn’t dictate the world, the world will dictate your reality – stop giving self-esteem that power over you. Internalize the rational animal confidence into your psyche, and stop following the cult of self-esteem that so many humans buy into.

Am I anti self-esteem? You betch’ur raccoon ass I am. I am rational, self-loving, confident, healthy, optimistic, and positive minded – and I would never let someone or something else decide what I am worthy of feeling, accomplishing, or possessing. That would be [thinking I need self-esteem to be worthy would be] madness for a raccoon king like me.

I'm a Raccoon King

Art credit.

 

A More Fluid Look at Life and Going Beyond Maslow’s Hierarchy

I tend to be the kind of person who seeks to understand why things work, particularly when I am interacting with a subject or discipline in a creative capacity. An example of this is seen in my User Experience Design work. I know the programming languages beneath modern front-end interfaces and thus am able to approach interaction design and research from a transparent and holistic perspective, which enables me to have more mastery than someone who only sees the pixels but not the technology and capabilities beneath them.

A complex example, but I think as humans we often mistakenly seek to believe that things are simple, when the nature of reality itself is complex.

It’s not just modern reality that’s inherently complex, (i.e., technology, politics, or careers) but all of reality. Consider for a moment our individual natures: from the Coping Strategies and Defence Mechanisms that drive our behaviors, to the early childhood attachment patterns that shape our internal working models for relationships; the opaqueness of our self-schemas is so complex that few people are even aware of the factors that lie underneath our individual bias and identity.

Note: I did not include biological influences in the preceding paragraph because, while I do believe the foundational basis for our mechanisms of development is rooted within our DNA, I hold the opinion that environmental factors exert a dominant influence on our development over innate factors*.

*I do not know how an intellectual disability would effect this assumption.

The truth is, most people don’t even know why they believe the things they do and even fewer know why they do the things they do. Being human is a complex process (There are 86 billion neurons in your brain.); however, regardless of modern understandings on the complexity of human life and the incredible progress science has achieved in understanding the human mind – many people are operating based on beliefs which go back to the dawn of man (note: Why did the Neanderthals bury their dead along with tools 50,000 years ago?). Yet, even independent from our religious theologies, most adults gain their individual beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors with an operational basis for learning that closely resembles adolescent cognitive development. The progression of their identity remains a static and linear process that accommodates and assimilates ideas, concepts, and beliefs based on personal experience. Well, isn’t that how you learn about life? Yes. That’s exactly how most people learn about themselves and life. And that’s the problem. We learn like sponges and we act like sheep. I recognize that those are cheap metaphors, but I find it a pity that so few outside of academia and medical sciences seek to study and apply the ideas, theories, and models born of some of the absolute brightest minds in human history.

On the first day of my first Psych class (Psych 90) I learned an extremely important lesson on life. The professor (Whom I ultimately disagreed with in many regards i.e., she believed that ‘perpetrators of vile crimes towards children could be fully rehabilitated’.) began the class by teaching us that one must be subjective and critical in learning; that we mustn’t merely absorb what we read or hear, but that we should examine and interpret it, forming our own opinions and beliefs, and decode for ourselves what was of value and what was not. That one lesson has allowed me to learn about life in a way that has enriched and expanded my learning far beyond what I previously knew was possible. As a result, I’ve asked questions that I would have never asked and I’ve formed original and informed opinions rather than forming an allegiance solely to the ideas of others. It was a gift of autonomy as a student that benefited me immensely as a human being.

Perhaps the greatest application of this gift has been in my journey to understand myself through self-study, writing, and introspective reflection. The benefits in each of these areas have not been solely in the practice of intelligently discounting particular ideas and concepts, but moreso in the power to discern the lessons, ideas, and thoughts that have have been the greatest propellants of my growth as a human being.

Without this single consciousness expanding lesson I might have been another inmate in the asylum of life – walking around believing my waking thoughts and the words and actions of others.

Instead, I am capable of bypassing the shallow, skeptical, and biased filter of the ego and processing the internal and external data of life (thoughts, ideas, input, experiences) in a manner that reconciles the outer ‘truths’ of reality with the innermost truths of my soul. This practice of objectively processing yet subjectively filtering the world is slowly allowing me to become more aware of my Cognitive Biases.

An additional, compounded benefit is that this practice / approach allows me to have more fluidity in my identity and beliefs, and a far more open mind than I otherwise would have had. The most recent example of this and the impetus for my writing tonight was in the comments left on my previous entry on Self-Actualization vs. Self-Actualizing. The first comment brought to my attention the inherent and unattainable nature of the achievements within Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs pyramid for those with scarce resources. As someone who experienced poverty growing up, and someone who still would not meet all of the requirements as traditionally defined by Maslow, a seed was definitely planted within me. I could look at the pyramid and feel my own shortcomings to a degree that instilled a sense of inadequacy in myself compared to my goals and the ideal self model I hold.

Then tonight, an additional comment contained this statement: Trick for you: Turn Maslow’s famous pyramid upside-down and leave the levels the same.  

Hmm… So I began doing some internet searches on ‘inverted Maslow’s Hierarchy’.

One of the better thoughts on this can be seen here. (worth a read – esp for creative people.) and I’ve excerpted a key takeaway below.

It all made sense. Maslow’s theory that one must satisfy a lower-level need before addressing an upper-level need is actually sound — it’s just that he got the order inverted for creatives. Self-Actualization is the fundamental need that drives all creatives. It is, in many ways, their most basic need. Of course, once they’ve satisfied their own creative mandates, creatives want others to know and appreciate what they’ve done. Esteem is thus something that can be sought only after a creative has satisfied himself. And though many creatives long for intimate relationships, they’re rarely able or willing to put the time and energy into making them work — love simply takes too much time away from the process of creating. Thus, establishing intimate and meaningful relationships is something many creatives can do only after achieving a certain measure of self-actualization and esteem. Finally, many creatives seem to view their own safety, security and physiological needs with a sort of “disdain” — as if the act of assuaging them (or the effort spent in trying) is so pedestrian, banal and trite that their fulfillment is tantamount to “selling out.” Only the most successful, respected and loved creatives ever seem to achieve the top echelon of the inverted Maslow Pyramid.

In reading this, I connected to the idea of self-actualization being a fundamental need based on my own experience and knowledge about myself. I have 100% repressed and stifled my lower level needs based on my need to self-actualize. To some degree, this has been an almost emerging theme in my life over the past few years. Why? Because it was more important to me.

And in this way, am I not able to hypothesize that Abraham Maslow’s own bias led him to develop a hierarchy based more on his bias, then the reality of all humans. Had Abraham Maslow not heard of the starving artist who self-actualized his potential and aptitude in his art, often at the expense of his lower needs?

In returning to the excerpt above, the writer also posits that: And though many creatives long for intimate relationships, they’re rarely able or willing to put the time and energy into making them work — love simply takes too much time away from the process of creating. Thus, establishing intimate and meaningful relationships is something many creatives can do only after achieving a certain measure of self-actualization and esteem. However, in this instance, I cannot agree. I’ve often put love above my desire to self-actualize personally and professionally, and even as I’ve failed to meet lower needs at times I’ve been able to experience incredibly intimate and meaningful romantic relationships. Perhaps only lately, as my priorities have shifted and life has changed, have I invested more in my self-actualization and less in my intimacy.

As a reference, here is a drawing of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (a full list can be seen at Wikipedia)

mah

In taking a fluid look at Maslow’s Hierarchy, I am not reinventing the wheel, but overlapping concepts seen first in Clayton Alderfer‘s 1969 revision of Maslow’s Hierarchy, known as ERG Theory (Existence, Relatedness, Growth), which is similar to Maslow’s Hierarchy, but differs mainly in the following: (source)

Alderfer’s ERG theory demonstrates that more than one need may motivate at the same time. A lower motivator need not be substantially satisfied before one can move onto higher motivators.

The ERG theory also accounts for differences in need preferences between cultures better than Maslow’s Need Hierarchy; the order of needs can be different for different people. This flexibility allows the ERG theory to account for a wider range of observed behaviors. For example, it can explain the “starving artist” who may place growth needs above existence ones.

The ERG theory acknowledges that if a higher-order need is frustrated, an individual may regress to increase the satisfaction of a lower-order need which appears easier to satisfy. This is known as the frustration-regression principle.

Another more fluid reinterpretation of Maslow’s Hierarchy was developed in 1991 by Chilean Economist Manfred Max-Neef, who created Human Needs and Human-scale Development to address the inadequacies of traditional models of human development in relation to Latin American Economic systems and Western ideas about poverty and it’s role as a barrier to fulfilling human needs.

In Max-Neef’s model for Fundamental Human needs there is no hierarchy beyond life sustaining needs, and multiple needs may be met simultaneously. Additionally, activities may be pursued that fulfill multiple needs. Another key contribution was that Max-Neef classified satisfiers (ways of meeting needs) under five different categories:

  1. Violators: claim to be satisfying needs, yet in fact make it more difficult to satisfy a need. E.g. drinking a soda advertised to quench your thirst, but the ingredients cause you to urinate more, leaving you less hydrated on net.
  2. Pseudo Satisfiers: claim to be satisfying a need, yet in fact have little to no effect on really meeting such a need. For example, status symbols may help identify one’s self initially, but there is always the potential to get absorbed in them and forget who you are without them.
  3. Inhibiting Satisfiers: those which over-satisfy a given need, which in turn seriously inhibits the possibility of satisfaction of other needs. Mostly originating in deep-rooted customs, habits and rituals. For example, an overprotective family stifles identity, freedom, understanding, and affection.
  4. Singular Satisfiers: satisfy one particular need only. These are neutral in regard to the satisfaction of other needs. They are usually institutionalized by voluntary, private sector, or government programs. For example, food/housing volunteer programs aid in satisfying subsistence for less fortunate people.
  5. Synergistic Satisfiers: satisfy a given need, while simultaneously contributing to the satisfaction of other needs. These are anti-authoritarian and represent a reversal of predominant values of competition and greed. For example, breast feeding gives a child subsistence, and aids in the development in protection, affection, and identity.

This satisfier classification makes an important distinction in that:

From the classification proposed it follows that, for instance, food and shelter must not be seen as needs, but as satisfiers of the fundamental need for Subsistence. In much the same way, education (either formal or informal), study, investigation, early stimulation and meditation are satisfiers of the need for Understanding.

I’m very excited to explore Max-Neef’s model more, and you can as well: Download Manfred Max-Neef Fundamental Human Needs

As the result of the thoughtful comments of two readers and the teachings of that Psych90 professor, I was able to examine my own inability to classify myself under the rigidity of Maslow’s Hierarchy, and recognize that there is no perfect model for every individual, but in studying the contributions to humanity from people like Abraham Maslow, Clayton Alderfer, and Manfred Max-Neef, I’m better learning about the things that motivate and drive me, and why the hell I do the things I do. We’re all just trying to get our needs met, aren’t we.

From here, I’m going to be looking at all three models, and introspectively discovering which elements of each apply to me and then creating a tailored model that reflects the integrity of each school of thought yet accounts for my own stark individuality.

I do truly believe that we can experience Self-Actualization and Freedom / Transcendence (as encompassed in Max-Neef’s model) along the entire journey of life because the potential exists in each of us. I also believe that the path to meeting the entire spectrum of our needs in healthy ways requires us to be willing to get to know ourselves at a level that’s far more complex than any understanding we’ve ever had of ourselves. The day I know what (the underlying psychology of) my real beliefs are and why I do the things I do might just be the day I understand who I am. Until then, I’m doing my best.

Self-Actualization is Possible

Let me tell you the destination in life, it’s a coffin, with no heart beating inside of you and a brain that is no longer alive.

One life to live isn’t just a show, it’s the script to your life.

That’s already written. Birth to death.

What happens in-between is your choice.

You can work a job you hate, have crappy relationships, feel unfulfilled, never discover your hidden potential, never follow your dreams, and never take risks. Basically, you can be normal.

Or you can be freed from the fear that pushes you to please others. You can choose to live by your own personal code instead of being enslaved by social norms and pressures and you can fulfill your deepest inner-needs while experiencing the pinnacle of psychological health and happiness. You can be more than you ever imagined.

Self-Actualization is possible.

Seriously. This is the guiding goal of my life.

To self-actualize is to discover and cultivate one’s own unique personal potential.

Physical, emotional, mental, spiritual. All the things that matter.

In all of those arena’s I am somewhere on the spectrum between reaching my full-potential, and failing myself.

Hey!, we’ve all failed ourselves at times. It’s okay, love yourself – dust yourself off, and write a new story. Failing yourself human. It’s alright.

But failing yourself is nonetheless a terrible pain and it’s also a shame because we can make our lives and the world a better place by discovering and pursuing our own potential as human beings.

Art, science, music, literature, love, romance, spirituality, equality – the whole of man’s accomplishments that have deepened and enriched the human experience have all arisen from the discovery and pursuit of the unique physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual potential that lies in all of us.

We all have the capability to enrich our own lives and the lives of others. And that’s what I want.

Self-actualizing is the desire to be more and more of what one is, rather than to be all that one can be – because it’s not about being your ideal-self, that is not self-actualizing.

Many people dedicate their lives to actualizing a concept of what they should be like, rather than actualizing themselves. This difference between self-actualization and self-image actualization is very important. Most people live only for their image.

– Bruce Lee

b_lee

To self-actualize is to manifest your latent potential. 

That is your potential that is not yet developed or actualized, and potential that often lies undiscovered. 

But don’t think of it as fulfilling your potential – but rather as discovering, developing, and achieving it – because the purpose of self-actualization is not a destination, but rather the happiness that comes from the pursuit of it and all the things that accompany self-actualization.

Actualized people actually possess distinct characteristics that are pretty fucking cool.

In a nutshell, they live in the moment and find the beauty in each experience. They are realistic about the world and themselves and don’t see it through their baggage.They are not fearful of the unknown, or change itself. They are motivated by their own personal code and they apply themselves to solve other common problems in the world. They are introspective when faced with setbacks. They have ‘peak experiences’ in their daily lives that transform them and strengthen them. They don’t try to conform to other people’s ideas of happiness or contentment. They have a friendly sense of humor and can laugh at themselves. They are open, spontaneous and unconventional; being able to follow social norms, but not feeling confined by them. They are aware of their socially conditioned beliefs. They can authentically relate and connect to others. They are compassionate and accepting. They are selective in their relationships, but their relationships are meaningful. They are accepting of their mistakes and even open to making mistakes – but careful not to repeat them. They are aware of their imperfections. They are content. They value their privacy and solitude and use it to discover and cultivate their potential.

I told you they were pretty cool characteristics.

You can read more detail about the characteristics of self-actualized people here.

And remember, those weren’t the steps they took to become self-actualized, but rather the by-products of self-actualization. The characteristics embodied by those who committed their lives to the discovery and the pursuit of their potential.

The Steve Jobs of the world are self-actualized. The Blake Mycoskies (Toms shoes) of the world. The Will Smiths. The Bruce Lees. The Bill Gates. The Elon Musks. The Warren Buffets.

While those may seem like far-fetched examples of people who embody unobtainable lives, the fact is that self-actualization is possible for everyone – it has nothing to do with fame or wealth, but it can often produce it when people discover and cultivate their unique potential to it’s maximum.

But often people aren’t actively actualizing because they are focused on survival, or getting their basic emotional needs met. In order to self-actualize, your lower needs must first me met – as per Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. 

I also posit that here are many people who have reached the self-actualized level of happiness but due to the private and selective nature of their friendships, remain unknown beyond their close friends and family.

A great example is Jason Everman, a guy who left the rock and roll world after playing with bands like Nirvana and Soundgarden, to join the US Special Forces and then studied philosophy at Columbia.

These are people who weren’t hindered by fear and didn’t let social norms dictate their lives, but rather, instead made the choice to live by their own personal code.

If you’re intrigued and want to know how to get started on your own personal journey of self-actualization, I suggest watching the excellent videos below for some great information on how to live a life that creates self-actualization.