Wednesday, July 20, 2016

And not a single mountain was ever climbed......

There is an idiom most often used to describe people as pessimists or optimists.  

And it's commonly "glass is half full" or "glass is half empty".

I try not to use absolutes in my life now.  By that I mean, the words and phrases "never" "always" "all the time", etc.  Because for the most part, they are rarely true (see, I had to be careful right there not to say they are "never" true).  

The reason why is because using absolutes distorts our perception about how true a situation really is, or isn't.  

And most people are not always half-full or half-empty types "all the time".  We tend to see the liquid in the glass quite differently based on different situations in our life.  

When we are in a glass-is-half-empty state, we tend to over analyze every word, action, and reaction involved in whatever situation is plaguing us.  We do this, I believe, because we often find ourselves at a crossroad in our life that requires us to make a decision that we feel like will be life impacting.  That once we take that step off the proverbial cliff, we accept that we are in a free fall and have no idea what our landing is going to be like.  It would be nice to know well ahead of time that a mountain of cotton is at the bottom, just waiting to cushion our fall.  But we can't know that.  And depending on where our mindset is at in the time of that free fall, we either envision said mountain of cotton (glass is half full), or envision razor sharp rocks (half empty) that are going to slice us into bits and disembowel us.  Even worse is that we don't die from it.  We just get split wide open and lie there bleeding eternally in a lake of our own blood and pain, metaphorically speaking, and think "this is going to be my life."  Pain, misery, anguish, and suffering.....eternally.  

Now that's a rosy ass picture I just painted, let me tell you.

But that is rarely the case.  If ever.  Yeah, I used an absolute there (sort of, I did add the "if") because I think I'm ok in saying that at some point, the misery does end.  At least for a while before life presents us with a new set of circumstances that will require us to make a choice to have faith in yet another free fall.

Most of the time, life gives us a bit of both, however.  The razors and the cotton.  

Generally speaking, taking big risks and big decisions usually means getting split wide open for a while until we find ourselves in emotional comfort.  Or we get comfortable being uncomfortable.  And there's good and bad in that as well.  Sometimes we aren't aware of how unbearable the discomfort is until something awakens us to it.  

I heard a story about a woman a few years ago who, by all accounts had a fairly good life.  That is, until her husband died.  Now I know what you're thinking at this point.  It all went into the shitter for her at that point.  But actually, it was the opposite.  Once she was unshackled from the chains of the discomfort she had grown so used to in that marriage, her life blossomed and she began doing all the things she had ever wanted to do in her life, but was never free to explore.  The person who was closest to her said of it all "it was a bizarre duality of joy and complete sadness.  Joy, to see her with the ability to feel free to explore who she wanted to be, and what she wanted out of life without limits, without reservations, without oppression.  And sad at the same time, that she let so many years get washed away by not finding the strength to actually make the choice to free herself from that emotional slavery."  

People can and do willingly chain themselves to life draining situations for sometimes illogical and inexplicable reasons.  Or let me rephrase, illogical to everyone else from the outside looking in.

I can't read minds, and I do my best not to speak for others, but in the time I've spent on this Earth, and in my own experience in life, most of us end up in those prisons because we are paralyzed by the fear of change.  

Exceptionally cliche thing to write, I'm aware.  But cliches exist for a reason.  They exist because most of us live some sort of the same situations throughout life, just painted with slightly different colors and patterns.  One person's mauve is another person's thistle. 

The paralyzing effect in people's life isn't just fear, but habit.  

The FBI's database shows that about 8% of people who are taken hostage end up developing Stockholm syndrome.

If you don't know what that is, I can enlighten you.......

Stockholm syndrome, or capture-bonding, is a psychological phenomenon described in 1973 in which hostages express empathy and sympathy and have positive feelings toward their captors, sometimes to the point of defending and identifying with the captors. These feelings are generally considered irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims, who essentially mistake a lack of abuse from their captors for an act of kindness.

Essentially, there is a sort of illogical bonding that happens in spite of the fact that the person being held hostage is in fact being abused by their captors.  Symptoms include but are not limited to.....

  • Positive feelings by the prisoner toward the captor.
  • Negative feelings by the prisoner toward his or her family, friends or authorities attempting any rescue.
  • Support for the captor's reasons and behaviors.
The most common thought behind the development of these irrational and illogical thoughts come back to one of the two things that we as humans, are designed for, physiologically.

1.  To procreate.
2.  To survive. 

It's #2 that psychologists agree on (for the most part) that causes this phenomenon.  In essence, self preservation.  

Once the hostage is in the clutches of the abductor, they are isolated from the outside world.  Everything now, in regards to survival, is dependent on that relationship.  The longer the abduction goes on, the more reliant the hostage becomes.  Their life depends on it.  So there is a shift in their mental and emotional state that creates a coping mechanism.  Most of us do in fact develop coping mechanisms for physical, emotional, and mental stress in our life.

Hell, let's go ahead and break the rules here and use an absolute (shit I'm breaking that rule all over the place in this article).  We ALL develop coping mechanisms for the hostage situations we have in our life.  Whatever they may be, we will find a way to cope.  It may be healthy, or unhealthy, but it will happen.  

Unfortunately, as I've seen all too often, people that become aware of such issues and find themselves lying on a therapist's couch, end up trying to fix all the coping mechanisms, rather than addressing what's actually causing them.  This should make sense, if you understand how the world of therapy and therapists can and is often filled with people who don't desire you to get off that couch.

I read an article a while back, which I cannot seem to find now so I will have to paraphrase, where the author (who is a therapist) was railing on the entire field of therapy because people should not find themselves in therapy for weeks, months, or years.  I'm not talking about things like drug addiction or such, I'm talking about getting through normal, yet difficult life situations.

Her stance?  Make a fucking choice.  

That's it.  That's all.  

And her problem with most of the people working in the field of therapy was that it wasn't their desire to help these people make a choice.  Her pet peeve was the common question asked by therapists to their patients.

"Well how does that make you feel?"

Her retort was basically, "this is fucking stupid.  I already know how it makes them feel because they told me.  So my question back to them was "and what are you going to do about it?""

Her success rate was pretty high.  Her style of counseling was to essentially force people to recognize the root of the problem, rather than worrying about the coping mechanisms, then make a choice to change the actual problem.  To get them to actually say what they needed to change, then actually act on it.  To understand what their control in life was, and to seize it, and make it work for them.  To stop waiting for things to "magically change".  To stop trying to put band-aids on the problem by addressing the coping mechanisms and to actually kill those off, by making a choice to change what was causing them.

Her average number of therapy sessions per client? 


In other words, "shit or get off the fucking pot."  Amazing that she was smart enough to go to school all those years and arrive at a saying most of us already knew, but have trouble applying.

The problem is, most people really do already know the answer, but don't have the courage to break away from their metaphorical or real life in-person captors.

People stay shackled to jobs, marriages, friendships, and all sorts of shit in life because of fear, habit, and the development of an ideology that their self preservation is dependent upon these things existing.  In other words, they can't imagine their life without those things in place.  No matter how bad or horrible or shitty they may be.  No different than the hostage.

How many people have you ever known that were in a life sucking relationship but would not get out of it?  

The most common answer as to why, that I've ever heard is "well I love them."  To those people, I don't think they understand the concept of what that word means.  And it can mean a lot of things.  But I don't often associate love with destruction or the tearing down of someone in a way that lessens them.  I mean wiki told me this.......

Love is a variety of different feelings, states, and attitudes that ranges from interpersonal affection ("I love my mother") to pleasure ("I loved that meal"). It can refer to an emotion of a strong attraction and personal attachment.  It can also be a virtue representing human kindness, compassion, and affection—"the unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another". It may also describe compassionate and affectionate actions towards other humans, one's self or animals.

I mean just borrow from that..........

"I loved that meal".

Pretty sure no one has ever said that while gagging on a food their taste buds rejected like your intestines rejects Chipotle (and while you may love Chipotle, your intestines usually do not).

This isn't to say that you don't love that person.  But it shouldn't be reason, the sole reason, you keep arriving at to stay in that state of Stockholm syndrome with them.  There's been enough articles written about toxic relationships on the net that you could have found a few and come to the conclusion if you happened to be in one or not, and found the courage to get out of it.  Why on Earth would you waste another minute of your life in something that consistently takes more than it gives back?  

Wait.  That's how Casinos stay in business.  But I digress.  Even then, people end up in therapy for gambling because they watch their life crumble due to their "love" of gambling.  Everyday that you stay in a relationship with someone you "love" that causes you to empty out your emotional bank account, the closer you get to being broke(en).  And once that happens, just like in gambling, you will have to take a long hard look at your own self worth.  

Ugh.  This article is really uplifting isn't it?

I've worked with people who bitched daily about the jobs we were in.

"I hate this fucking job so much."

"Well go get another one."

"Well rabble rabble mumble mumble....stuff, things, you know."

I get it.  Change is fucking hard.  We like routine.  We like habits.  We wouldn't have habits if they weren't habits!   Get your mind around that for a while.  But routine and habits that cause us to be hostages is no way to go through life.  I mean that's really deep (sarcasm) and should be on a Pinterest meme somewhere with a chick walking on the beach in the background, but at the core of it, the message still rings true.

And it's not until that moment, that epiphany, that paradigm shift that happens that causes our eyes to be wide open to it all, and creates pause long enough to let fear sink in that maybe, possibly, probably....we need to make a change.  We need to step a step off that ledge, and embrace that free fall.  That whatever comes with that decision, fuck it, we will deal with it.  Cotton or razors, cut open or cushy, I'm making a choice to change things.  

No one ever climbed a single mountain by just looking at it.  Not one person.  Ever.  Yes, I used a few absolutes there because that is an undeniable truth.  

You will never ever climb a single mountain just by standing at the foot of it.   And life can't improved by living in self imposed victimhood.  Choosing to change things to accept happiness is not selfish.  And a lot of people in your life that you may have to remove to find happiness, may tell you that you're being selfish.  Most of the time, those are your captors.  The ones you've been so reliant on.  The ones who have shackled you and imprisoned you and made you believe that your self preservation depends on them.  

It doesn't.  

Empowerment is something people can find if they are willing to embrace change.  If they are willing to embrace that fall.  If they are willing to go through the myriad of pains life will bring with change.

But the journey up that mountain has to start with the first step.  The free fall has to start with that first step.  

Every major change starts with that one first step.  That one usually proves to be the hardest.  And if you're ever to find  yourself in a place where you carved out the life you really wanted, you'll look back and realize that step was indeed the hardest, but absolutely the most important one.

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  1. Hey Paul, what do you think about Russia getting banned from the Olympics for state-sponsored doping? The modern Olympics being a joke not withstanding, I think it's silly to disqualify an entire country for something that pretty much every athlete is doing. If the general public thinks that the Olympics are now drug-free just because Russia is banned then they're idiots...

    1. Ridiculous. I personally think we need reform in regards to "doping". People are going to use whatever they can in order to gain an advantage in competition. Especially when it means their lively hood. In this case, it means that tons of athletes were punished that didn't even test positive. Something needs to change.

  2. Paul, this is a great post! Thank you.

  3. Awesome blog post as always Paul! I have been following your blog since I was a junior in high school ( I'm now going into my senior year of college). Posts like this and others have helped me through some dark periods in my life and for that I can't thank you enough.

    This blog post really resonated with me because I have been in relationships where I felt trapped and I was too scared to leave. This is especially true when it is a close family member and you feel as if you have no choice but to keep them in your life. Once I came to the realization that I needed to cut out toxic people in my life, things drastically improved.