-Self Reflection, Our Shadow Self, Compassion, and the Web of Life-

“Be the change you wish to see in the world” – Mahatma Gandhi.

There is an eastern idea of a collective consciousness; The Web of Life. An interconnection in which our thoughts, intentions and behaviors influence not just ourselves the rest of humanity in its entirety. Carl Jung spoke of this as well. Wars, he claimed, were just a larger manifestation of our own distressed psyche. Pointing our fingers at others, criticizing, designating an “enemy” is just a way of scapegoating (projecting ones own faults and negative attributes onto another, which often leads one to solely blame another for problems that every single human being played a role in creating including ourselves. Jung said, “Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”)
((When an “enemy” is created, a false reality of “Us” – the 100% moral and just- vs. “Them” – the 100% debased and wrongdoing is created.))
In reality, the potential for every possible good or evil action resides within our own minds. Every individual is capable of the doing the most humane, good deed or committing the most horrendous crime (depending on external influences and internal emotions and/or rationalizations).
((Often when the wretched “THEY” are defeated and annihilated in a war, things don’t necessarily improve because the moral “WE” are still left to deal with the immorality and internal darkness which we had attributed solely to the unjust “THEM,” but the potential propensity for immorality actually resides within us ALL. Similarly, the potential for good resides within the scapegoated “THEM” as well. This is true whether between warring nations or arguing co-workers))
The hardest thing to do is turn the mirror on oneself and recognize our own faults, hypocrisies, and negative attributes. But, not just to examine oneself critically, but also >>compassionately<<. That is the key. The world needs not more self-loathing. Self-loathing doesn’t lead to change it leads to depression, anxiety, isolation, and neuroticism. Examining oneself ( and others) compassionately is the key to change. To examine oneself mindfully, compassionately, and free from intense emotions, allows us to view our good and bad characteristics in a level-headed and realistic manner. This also helps us understand that it is OK to have faults. (Having faults is a part of being human and is unavoidable.) Being levelheaded (emotionally) can allow us to take steps to improve ourselves and to be less judgmental about others who are engaged in a similar struggle with their own psyche.
((It is important to note, that while striving for self-improvement, perfection is impossible. But, by being brave enough to journey into the darker, murkier aspects of our mind and personality and confront the true nature of our psyche in its TOTALITY, only than may positive change begin to occur. This means examining what is (reality, shadow) and not what one feels ought to be (Idealism, fiction). On idealism vs. reality Jung stated, “One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”))
We all are tempted by lust, envy, gluttony, greed, addiction, excessive pride, laziness and anger, we all judge and stereotype, and need control ((Yin, darkness)), and we all feel love, compassion, appreciation, hope, selflessness, and can be motivated and goal-oriented ((Yang, light). Humanity experiences all of these characteristics to varying degrees on a continuum. Which negative attributes one struggles with the most and which positive attributes one excels in, is going to differ from person to person, and from day to day. Because of this, I believe we have more in common than we realize. ((The difference between a venerated saint and a ruthless, murderous tyrant, may just be circumstantial.))
If we would only focus more on our similarities (and less on our differences) and on improving our own behaviors and emotions, I believe the world would be a vastly better place.
When one allows these negative characteristics to manifest themselves they may pull the entire “web of life” in an ever so slightly negative direction. It’s possible, that when most of humanity is pulling this web in a negative direction wars, dictators, and other atrocities are the cumulative result. Conversely, when we behave in a positive manner, we shift the “web of life” in a more positive direction, which improves and advances humanity as well. This is why the key to changing the world lies in changing yourself first, and oneself is often the hardest person to change because ones own faults are often the hardest to recognize.
We delight in gossiping and exposing the faults, follies and hypocrisies of others (scapegoating). It takes a great deal of meditation, introspection, honesty, and courage to be vulnerable enough to discover ones own faults, follies, and hypocrisies (examining one’s “shadow”). It’s even harder yet to undergo the life-long task of self-improvement, compassionately and with discipline. The result may not only be the fulfillment of one’s own spiritual, psychological and social potential, but you just might change the world and elevate our “collective consciousness” in a small, immeasurable, but positive manner. So again, the key to changing the world is to change yourself.

“Be the change you wish to see in the world” – Mahatma Gandhi.

“If you imagine someone who is brave enough to withdraw all his projections, then you get an individual who is conscious of a pretty thick shadow. Such a man has saddled himself with new problems and conflicts. He has become a serious problem to himself, as he is now unable to say that they do this or that, they are wrong, and they must be fought against… Such a man knows that whatever is wrong in the world is in himself, and if he only learns to deal with his own shadow he has done something real for the world. He has succeeded in shouldering at least an infinitesimal part of the gigantic, unsolved social problems of our day.” – Carl Jung

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-Self Reflection, Our Shadow Self, Compassion, and the Web of Life-

Happiness must be Cultivated (in an age of massive Toxicity, Propaganda, and Addiction)

Today, we live in a commercialized, militarized, Walmart of a society, and in such, good health and happiness must be sought after, fought for, and cultivated with special attention to your mental states (monitoring negative thoughts, habits etc.). For optimum (mental) health you must detoxify artificial chemicals and metals, eat optimally, purify your water, reduce pollutants, exercise, have life goals, practicing mindful meditation, friendships,connections to things bigger than yourself.
We are a generation in a giant social experiment being that we have been marketed to our entire lives. We have grown up alongside of Ronald McDonald, Tony the Tiger, and those of us old enough remember the Marlboro man. Are you a Toys R Us Kid?

((David Foster Wallace spoke of Our Consumer Culture instilling in us the false notion that the ultimate goal in life is the fulfillment of our own desires and appeasement of our drive to be constantly entertainment. That through consumerism we could be spiritually fulfilled as human beings. That enlightenment could be achieved with the purchase of an iPad, car, article of clothing etc. ))
We’ve grown accustom to television using manipulation to fool us into “needing” materialistic things. Once you get them you are never satisfied and “need” the next wondrous trinket, fast food, sparkly object, hip clothing. We are told we are inadequate without these “needed” acquiesences. This amongst other things, can create a permanent state of inadequacy. Greed is an unquenchable appetite, so one material purchase and possession is not going to satisfy you and marketers take advantage of that (prey) by constantly coming out with the “all new,” “new and improved” model, toy etc. This society leaves a gaping spiritual hole in your life, and PR exploit that need, they hijack that emptiness with vacuous promises of spiritual fulfillment through consumerism. A constant state of needing this or that thing to be happy. A constant anxiety. It seems to me each new generation is worse than the previous as these marketing and public relations improve over time and become more pervasive as technology advances.

Most of the things in our society are some combination of highly addictive and highly toxic. The Food… Internet… movies and music… mixed messages. As mentioned earlier, things that are addictive create an anxiousness when not in the presence or possession of these things, they create a binging when given the opportunity. This can have a detrimental impact when everything around us is addictive. A hyper-distracted, anxious state of highs and lows can develop. Constant distraction and ADHD-like behavior can occur because when there are ten addictive modes of entertainment in your vicinity which one do you chose?

Facebook is an excellent example of addiction, entertainment and  propaganda being infused. It’s like a never-ending slot machine with “news” clips, entertainment, spiritual enlightenment, health and educational information all streaming down the page constantly. It’s hard to distinguish between those genres which is bad when it’s informing and molding many peoples world views. There will be cute cats playing piano – right above a gruesome story about a horrible, bloody genocide – next to spiritual enlightenment – next to how to win over that guy – next to a street musician – next to Donald Trump/Hillary Clinton are Hitler – next to top ten diet foods – next to how to spot a narcissist – – next to is your child racist – next to 5 foods that cause cancer etc.  It’s a mess, an addictive mess. And who knows what is true or where the information even really comes from?

We have a media constantly propagandizing to us in almost every way imaginable. War.. products… politics… ideologies…

Hollywood movies lie to us. They create a false sense that we are the “good” guy and that fame, fortune, and success lie a couple steps in front of us. They offer a delusional vicarious fantasy to constantly escape too, where we are superheroes, basketball stars, rock stars, porn stars, we’re the underdog winning the world championship, we’re struggling artist who just signed the $20 million contract, we’re the champion of the world, of the galaxy, of the universe… only we’re not. We’re some fat, pimply-faced kid sitting in front of a television screen. Meanwhile, the worlds rotting away and we’re just growing older and more deluded. Plus, the odds are overwhelming that you will not become famous and gradually the reality of the boring, menial, meaningless 9-5 job and equally meaningless culture dawn upon you. We are also distracted from more important things such as ending war, cleaning up the environment, becoming decent human beings. It’s hard to become a caring individual when you are stuck in the pursuit of narcissistic fame.

The promotion of drugs while simultaneously criminalizing them.

The prescription drugs are often worse than street drugs.

Happiness must be Cultivated (in an age of massive Toxicity, Propaganda, and Addiction)

False Dichotomies

(this is a response to one of the posts I read, plus a generalized notion and lesson on propaganda and critical thinking that can be applied to many aspects of life.)
I’m going to just start calling out propaganda as I see it. People, wake up! You’re asleep at the wheel and headed into oncoming traffic. Read about All-or-nothing, black-and-white, either-or, (dichotomous) propaganda. It’s ubiquitous. The media herd everyone into these two opposing groups: You either love and worship at the altar of Hillary and despise Trump, or vice verse. There is no possible gray area here (or so many of us think). You’re either a tree-hugging, PC, feminazi, vegan liberal or you’re a redneck, Klansman, racist, white, fundamentalist, shotgun-wielding ,male Trump supporter.
 
And the issues: You either wholeheartedly support the affordable care act ( which means your a socialist I guess) or you want to tear it to shreds (which you’re only doing out of spite because you are racist and hate Obama.) There’s no discussion: “hey I like this about the affordable care act, I don’t like this, we could improve A, B, and C.” And there are many alternatives and possible outcomes if Trump replaces it: It could be 1. A lot better 2. A little bit improved. 3. about the same 4. a little bit worse 5. a lot worse… and everything in between. Or, as the article says, he may not repeal it which means he lied, which sucks and doesn’t deserve a laugh or smile. “My candidate didn’t win so now I want all of America to suffer.” I want to read that he’s either going to try to amend and improve The affordable care act, or he’ll replace it with something better because I care about the fate and health of *ALL* of the people in this country and not to one-up the “other” in this ludicrous game of false dichotomies.
 
Trump and Hillary are not perfect saints nor are they manifestations of abominable, evil incarnate. But when you fall into the trap of All-or-nothing thinking, you subconsciously view them and their voters that way. THat’s the way propaganda works. It works below the conscious threshold, and then trickles up. It’s a psychological trick The brain has many evolved shortcomings. All or nothing thinking is one of them. Very intelligent people fall for this because it operates on emotion and cognitive distortions. It bypasses logic. This is one of the ways the Right-wing media fuels so much hate against Muslims, minorities and liberals, and the left-wing media fuels animosity against Caucasians, men, and republicans. It’s just a game. A sick game. We’re all human beings. They lead you into opposing groups (whether it’s Republican vs. Democrat, men vs. women, Protestant vs. Catholic, Sports team A vs. Sports team B, citizen of country A vs. country B) and they stereotype and dehumanize each side and it works. And as far as I’m concerned, the enemies and zealots on warring, opposing, ideological sides

have more in common with each other than they do everyone in-between: that is they are both being blindly sucked into a divisive, group-think, ideology that stereotypes and demonizes the opposing ideology and it’s supposed unyielding adherents.
 
It’s divide and conquer by the ruling class. If you’re busy hating your poor or middle-class neighbor or militantly mixed up in the anti/pro-life, or anti/pro-gun/ or caucasian/minority, or male (patriarchy)/female (feminism) battle etc. you’re not paying attention to the fat cat selling your job overseas, raising your taxes while paying none themselves, getting subsidies and loopholes to the tune of over a trillion dollars, spending over 10 trillion dollars bombing 20 other countries while they can’t afford to fix your kid’s school ( or fix the black neighborhoods in Detroit or give some of the poor whites in the Appalachian mountains heat and clean drinking water), polluting the environment, committing white-collar crimes…
All-Or-Nothing thinking (false dichotomy) is why you think your life is over when you get rejected by a girl in high school, it’s why (for example) Chinese students kill themselves when they get B’s in a competitive academic environment (catastrophization), it’s how you drag a hesitant country into war (google propaganda posters from WWI, WWII, and Iraq), and it’s how FB and the corporate media turn Trump and Hillary supporters into hysterical, insult-wielding, hate-filled bigots. Always step back and apply logic and critical thinking to your ideological views. Look at things from multiple perspectives.
EVERYONE, stop clicking *share* on these corporate, AstroTurf memes from the likes of Buzzfeed. (I looked into Buzzfeed and they received almost 800 million dollars in funding (investment and capital) to put out celebrity nonsense, hip millennial crap, and **divisive propaganda**)…
 
WRITE YOUR OWN MEME. Put thought into it. Revise it. Googling images for your writing is fun as well. Everyone, WRITE YOUR OWN MEMES! Don’t let these internet companies think for you because they have an agenda, THINK FOR YOURSELVES!!
False Dichotomies

What Does it all Mean

When I was young, I kind of half-ass believed in God. As I grew older, and my depressive symptoms grew with me, that belief, which was seeded by indoctrination, began to fade, as the cruelty and randomness (as opposed to life unfolding according to a divine plan or destiny) of the world became apparent to me. I subconsciously became an Atheist and my atheism was later awakened, strengthened and reinforced by YouTube videos and books by Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and the like. As I grew wise to the PC agenda, their psychological and social manipulation, and the power elite’s Huxlean goal of the dissolution of the family and community,  I began to distance myself from that movement. Plus, the evangelical zeal of the PC/atheist movement resembled that of the fundamentalist religiosity that they so vehemently opposed. It has now dawned on me that the totalitarian aim of founders of the movement is very effective and being propagated by the MSM , the education system, and Hollywood. All of the mediums and systems the power elite have a large influence on.

Then, because of pain from the wonderful, fucking pharmaceutical industry, I began to have terrible calf, chess, and back pain from my medications. I discovered Eastern medicine, and acupuncture, which was very effective with pain reduction. I then discovered the Eastern philosophy of a universal life force (chi.) Harmonizing Chi is theorized to be the reason all of their medicinal, meditative, and calisthenic approaches to life, health, and spirituality work. I’m glad I discovered it, because it gives me hope that there may be a spiritual realm, something behind the shitty, mundane, capitalist world of everyday life, from dull, monotonous, workplace repetition, to the nihilism and banality of our entertainment, spirituality, and family life.

So now I’m stuck with the ever-present thought, “What does it all mean?” All of those childhood moments: family vacation at the beach, visiting my relatives in New York, exploring Manhattan with my family, your first kiss, your first romance, sitting watching Headbanger’s Ball with my friend Miles in 8th grade etc. “What does it all mean, was it all for nothing?” Is there no meaning behind it? Does it really mean absolutely nothing? Was it just character building? It’s just hard to accept that, and that really can cause a lot of apathy and nihilism. 100 years from now would it matter if I lived a great and fulfilling life or jumped off of a bridge at a young age? Does it fucking matter? Speaking of old friends, think of two buddies who drank whiskey, listened to piano music, and talked about girls in an old western saloon one hundred and fifty years ago. They had a great time, but does it fucking matter? If not than why even live this life? Life is mainly suffering. Why suffer if it doesn’t matter? Why don’t we just go and commit mass suicide? If there’s no higher, spiritual meaning, than really why not? This question is captured by Poe’s famous poem beautifully:

Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow-
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand-
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep- while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?

Eastern philosophy gives me hope that there is something else, but even the Eastern practitioners don’t know what. I’m dying for some sort of spiritual experience, but I’m not holding my breath.

What Does it all Mean

Cognitive Distortions and their importance

Cognitive distortions and Their Importance

Cognitive distortions are flawed (or distorted) ways in which depressed individuals (and nearly everyone to certain degrees) interpret reality. They are (most likely) an evolved group of irrational thinking patterns. Why are they so important? One of the reasons is they are so prevalent and pervasive.  Nearly everyone views the world through the lens of one cognitive distortion or another, at times (not always, I’m not suggesting mankind is never capable of quick, accurate and logical thinking). Another reason for their importance, is that they cause immeasurable misery to the depressed. A depressed person almost always interpret situations in the most negative manner possible which causes constant, unnecessary psychological suffering. Even in situations where they are interpreting reality correctly, mental suffering can still be minimized by understanding psychological distortions, and finding a more reasonable and compassionate response than the negative, judgmental conclusion you arrive at guided by your distorted processing. The old proverb man can make a heaven out of hell or a hell out of heaven, rings true with depressed individuals and being blindly guided by your cognitive distortions will assure you that you will make a hell out of nearly every situation if you don’t recognize them and learn how to better interpret everyday phenomenon.

Link: 15 of the most common cognitive distortions in depressed individuals

15 common cognitive distortion

Wikipedia link

Cognitive distortion – Wikipedia

The Downside: The of the Exploitation of Cognitive Distortions – Propaganda

Another reason they are important, which I will touch upon later in greater detail, is that propagandists exploit our (evolutionary psychological baggage) tendency to view the world through this process of information simplification and distortion to the advantage of advertisers, politicians, and anyone else using propaganda to influence opinion. An example of this is all or nothing thinking also known as black and white thinking. Depressed individuals tend to quickly interpret themselves as either winners or complete failures in life with little in-between. There are always shades of gray, but depressed individuals rarely see them. You get an A and everything’s wonderful, you get a B and your life is over forever with no chance of redemption.

Unfortunately, we all have evolved the process to quickly turn nuanced issues into two simplified categories for the expediency of problem solving. Propagandists play upon this peculiarity of the mind, by making the world seem dichotomous, which it isn’t (you’re either a Democrat or a Republican, as if there isn’t an infinite amount of other political viewpoints you could hold.) Remember Iraq: According to George W. Bush you were either with the US or with the terrorists period. Total propaganda. There are probably hundreds of reasonable stances to take on 911 and terrorism not just the two proposed by the Bush administration. If you fall for that, than of course you don’t want to be seen as a supporter of the terrorists, so you will go along with whatever the Bush administration says is right for the US: which of course is war, war, and more war. You support the US having the largest military budget in the world, countless drone strikes, torture, and incessant warfare, right? After all, you’re not ‘with the terrorists,’ are you? You don’t ‘hate the troops,’ do you?

Cognitive Distortions: The Bigger Picture

Finally, probably the biggest reason they’re important, is that our viewpoint of reality, our interpretation of everything that occurs in life on a daily basis, may be shaped and effected by cognitive distortions. That’s scary. To think, politicians, CEO’s, and most importantly you, could be making very important decisions heavily influenced by cognitive distortions and other biases, is indeed an unpleasant thought. That is why I recommend that everyone, not just depressed people, make note cards of the most prominent cognitive distortions and memorize them, so you can easily recognize when you are being influenced by them. Not only will this help you deal with depression, but will help you make better decisions in life, and help you figure out when you are interpreting reality in a productive manner and when you are not.

Evolutionary basis for Cognitive Distortions

It’s strange to think that somethings as seemingly unhelpful as Cognitive Distortions could have ever served some purpose deep in our ancestral past, but some evolutionary psychologists conjecture they may have. Seeing every situation as a possible horrific disaster may be counter productive today, but for our ancestors, interpreting every situation as a life or death encounter may have aided in survival, because, then many situations were just that – life or death situations. You can imagine living in a hunter-gatherer tribe with no laws or police force, no modern medicine, nor any of our modern technological advances such as heating and refrigeration. In such an environment, everyday decisions could have dire consequences. Cognitive distortions provide a shortcut to deal with phenomenon, quickly and efficiently (At least efficient in regards to survival in our ancestral environment, NOT TODAY!). By viewing everything as a potentially profound tragedy would lead to greater survival in the past (unfortunately not greater happiness and peace of mind)

Also, psychological distortions help you simplify complex and nuanced issues, which help you solve problems and reach conclusions quickly. Again, today that is not so helpful, particularly since these shortcuts involve distorted and often illogical reasoning, but back on the Savannas of Africa, problem-solving shortcuts would have been a beneficial adaptive trait.

 

Your Thoughts – the Mind-Body Connection

The body and mind are one. The interaction between your mind and your body are mutual, and constant. If you think about a beautiful women or a handsome man, your body will start to produce hormones, which will change your behavior, and cause sexual arousal. If you think you won the lottery, even if you didn’t, your body will produce such a euphoric reaction, you will experience a happiness you’ve not had in quite some time. Similarly, with your thoughts, if you imagine the most embarrassing moment in your life, you experience an anxiety as dreadful as if you were being chased by a saber tooth tiger on the Savanna. If you remember your wedding day, you can get lost in a moment of pure joy. Most people don’t realize how powerful their thoughts can be, but virtually every thought you have triggers some type of bodily reaction. That is why it is important, when you’re feeling down, to identify corresponding thoughts you are having or had. Changing your thoughts is paramount and can vastly improve your quality of life.

Link: Cognitive restruturing

Link COGNITIVE BEHAVIORAL THERAPY (CBT) WORKSHEETS, HANDOUTS, AND SELF-HELP RESOURCES:

Great CBT Tools

 

Cognitive Distortions and their importance