Lexicon of Common Illusions
There are many ideas and beliefs about how to approach life. Many of which are fads from the last few decades. Unfortunately, the conceptual descriptions of these elusive and mysterious pursuits are ambiguous articulations at best, and often create suffering in practice. Many of these paths or psychological recipes for the happy and successful life are unattainable by following or pursuing them directly. This phenomenon is epidemic in religious pursuits, but there are too many of those to cover here.
Positive Thinking - really isn't positive
Many people have opinions on what is good and a 'positive' life and decide to focus on that. As the strategy unfolds, things that are judged to be negative are repressed, avoided or even denied. Our teachers, parents and others have told us of this positive path and their is great truth in it. The problem is that life just is, not 'positive' or 'negative', which are just our ideas. To objectively and intelligently engage in life, we need to include all of it. I have worked with many positive thinkers for years who could never get out of their ruts or tell you how they really felt, because the refused to truly integrate and absorb the intelligence provided by the 'negative' experiences. I don't trust positive thinking or thinkers, it is too disintegrated. For many years my judgements about what is 'positive' and 'negative' blocked me from gaining wisdom about issues. It takes courage to acknowledge, own or confront 'negative' or inappropriate behaviors. So next time you have a 'negative' experience, you might paradoxically find that those may become the a source of joy in your life. Be happy that you are alive to feel life, and besides there would be no 'positive' without the 'negative'.
is an oxymoron
For years I pursued the almighty 'Self-Esteem' like an ingredient for a healthy psyche. Everyone loves the feeling of worthiness and self-confidence, and, being human, I am no exception. Self-esteem approached directly is the process thinking well of your self. So there is this process of measuring-up to your fellow humans and taking stock of your status. If you are on the low end, you consumed by shame. If you are on the high-end, you must maintain the image at any cost. Throw in our minds, which naturally look for agreement, and you have a cult-follower or an insecure and dangerous ego-maniac. For me, the endless comparisons and feeling of competition about everything was draining and depressing. Fixating on this concept and/or trying to change one's self image directly is a very dangerous and fruitless short-cut to happiness.
Objectivism is based on the idea of the correct and rational ideas are the key ingredient to a successful life. It is like a religion that workshops reason to the exclusion of anything that can't be neatly explained or logically assimilated. Like any system of thoughts or beliefs, it is very selective about what is real and what is fiction, even if it exposes virtue of the open mind. The nature of human being is subjective in many ways and to ignore that scientific fact, is to invite suffering.
I spent many years living and associating with Students of Objectivism (Even 'Objectivists' had to admit to the difficulty of this pursuit.). This practice of trying to assimilate everything rationally and logically, is similar to trying to be a Vulcan (Star-Trek). This disregard of emotional intelligence and emotional integration have had devastating results for many Students of Objectivism. The common symptoms include - inability to access feelings, depression, passive-aggressive behaviors, inappropriate sexual relationships, shame, psuedo-self-esteem, depression and even suicide. Even though the Objectivists like to think that they are oriented toward life, the high suicide rate among practitioners ranks it as a decentralized cult. In my opinion, if the Objectivists learn how to integrate their emotional intelligence, they might be able to come out of the closet. The whole Objectivist theme reminds me of the failure of communists to achieve community by institutionalizing it directly. After all, if life for humans was so logical, we would have figured it all out long ago and we would not be having this discussion now. I am gratefule for the all that my Objectivism studies taught me about thinking. However, after years of trying to fit the my experience of the world into a purely logical order, I am relieved that the brain cramp is over.
An Open Mind - is an oxymoron
The mind is our cerebral cortex that likes to think that it is us. It is the main tool that we use to conceptualize and think about our existence. The mind is trained from the time of birth to look for and respond to different stimuli. Those items that are significant are given attention and those that don't seem to matter are ignored - naturally.
Over the years I have been admonished, like may, to have an open mind. Everything that fit into what I knew was more evidence of how the world worked and those that didn't were usually quickly forgotten or discounted. After years of trying to have an open mind and being intelligent, I had the fortunate opportunities to really see how selective my mental input had been. This process made me rigid, numb and insulated to the joys and wonders of the world. I observed this pattern over and over again of my mind being naturally selective. Any mind/self that has any strong ideas, beliefs or dogmas will be very selective and really closed. Our biggest enslavement is usually to our own prison of ideas/bigotry about the truth.
The Right Reasons?
Reasoning, or, in my opinion, rationalizing, is probably one of the greatest enablers of abuse available in our personal arsenal. The scientific method and reason has been undeniably the grandest intellectual achievement of this past millenia. Amazingly, religious evanglists attempt to use to justify their beliefs! Even the Scientific Method states that if you don't have a Theory and Proof, then it's not a Law of Nature. That doesn't seem to stop most people from using reason to further their agendas. Most people use it to justify everything they do, usually after the fact, especially their abusive or inappropriate behaviors. What most call reasons, are just loose logical relationships to things that they are familar with and consider self-evident to their belief systems. Most are so blinded by their beliefs, that they can't distinguish themselves from their ideas that keep them separate from most others around them.
And then there are some of us, who spent years chasing the ideal that the right logically proven ideas/reasons would bring our life out of chaos. Then when we were sexually attracted to the wrong person at the wrong time and place, etc, we were dismayed. Time for analysis paralysis. Eventually, we do things to live anyway and then have reasons about them. Time for a new model of intelligence - self-awareness!
Addictions are obessions or activities that otherwise rob us of our full experience of life. Many behaviors are considered acceptable and honored in this culture - Work, Internet, T.V., Music, News, Eating, etc. I have noticed that if I am exeperiencing an unpleasant emotion/feeling, I may choose to distract of drown-out that feeling with an activity, etc. It takes courage to be present and aware, because reality can be ugly, especially when I have been repressing or denying it for a while.