Friday, 11 July 2014

Take the Message!

Resolving the stress that is eating you alive.

It seems like everywhere I look lately, people seem to be consumed by stress and overpowering negative emotions. It's like we're all drowning in regrets and mistakes and hostility. And it makes things so much worse. This fixation with the negative derails any possible hope for a positive turn. We gum up the workings of our minds by festering in these restrictive feelings until we can't see a way out. It doesn't have to be that way.

So I'm going to help you deal with whatever these problems may be. I'm going to help you eliminate the stress that may be ruining your life, and I'm going to do it by constructing a psychological program in your mind, working through suggestion and placebo. Even though you KNOW it is working through placebo, it will work anyway, because the way it is structured is like planting a new idea in your mind. It can't NOT work, just like you can't NOT have the idea once you've had it. Thus, it will work because of the simplicity and sense of the premise, and because you want it to.

Begin by imagining the source of your stress. Exams, bills, relationships. Whatever. Just think about what it is that you're stressing over. Believe it or not - you're already most of the way there, just for having thought about this!

Why? Because even though it feels like all you ever do is think about these problems, what you're actually spending most of that time thinking about is how you feel about them. You're not thinking about the problem, you're thinking about the fact that it's a problem. Because of this, not only are you magnifying the emotions you're feeling about it by obsessing over them so much, but you're probably making the actual problem worse too. I mean, doesn't everything get worse if you're overheated with stress and frustration all the time?

For example, if you're always worried about deadlines, you're not using all that wasted brainpower on the task you need to complete by the deadline. It has even been documented that revising immediately prior to a test lowers your chances of doing well because the stress it makes you feel is actually blocking your ability to concentrate. A large part of what's probably making your problems worse is the FACT that you feel about them the way you do. That emotion, which should be a call to action, is becoming a roadblock.

So you've identified the SOURCE of your stress. What do you do now? Ask yourself why you feel the way you feel about it. What is this emotion, and why is it causing you so much stress? Because, and this is easily forgotten - stress is not, itself, an emotion. It's a state of being too pressured, too strained, too overwhelmed to function properly. You are stressed because something is distressing you. What you need to do is ask yourself what you feel. Is it fear? Is it frustration? Why do you feel that way? What I mean by that is, what is the emotion FOR? Why do you think you are feeling it?

Hypothesis. There are two types of emotion. Active, and passive. Passive emotions are experiential. Things which are a response to the stimuli you encounter. Pleasure from a tasty ice cream. Relief at the end of a jog. Satisfaction when you click one of those clicky pens over and over. Active emotions, however, are system alerts. They are emotions intended to convey a purpose, to make you take some sort of action. Message carriers that only exist to bring something to the animal's attention.

Pain, to warn of damage. Sadness, to warn that something isn't right. Fear, to warn of imminent danger. Active emotions exist to provoke a reaction, while passive emotions exist to provide feedback on behaviour the body experiences or requires, to indicate balance or normalcy, or to provide context on the assimilation of experiences. This doesn't mean all negative emotions are active and all positive ones are passive. It is not so simplistically black and white.

Love - passive. A response to a state of mutual affection. Loneliness - active. An alert informing of a need for companionship. Yet, at the same time... lust - also active. For the same reason. There are even emotions that blur the lines, for example disgust, which could be seen as both passive and active (mainly active). It is a response to stimuli, but also an alert indicating something to be avoided. This doesn't so much break my polarizing rule, as present a situation where both types are present at the same time, as an active emotion is also, in a way, a response to stimuli, but with the ADDED qualifier that it wants to provoke a reaction in you.

For simplicity's sake, however, we'll keep it straightforward by only referencing emotions that are either active or passive.

Hypothesis. An active emotion is like a pending message in your mind. If ignored - the message will be sent again and again, like an unanswered memo. This is why these emotions seem to drill into your thoughts. Why they seem to be screaming in the back of your mind all day and night. It's why, when something terrible happens, you can't sleep because you can't stop feeling the consequences of it. You can't make it silence, because whatever happened was terrible enough for your subconscious mind to demand you take some kind of action about it, and it won't stop harassing you until you do.

Your subconscious mind is like a child. It only understand things in very simplistic terms. It lacks a sense of nuance and complexity, at least in terms of comprehension. You're the comprehending part of the brain. The subconscious is like the satnav. It doesn't know or care why you're going where you're going, it just cares about making sure you get there. Thus, of course, also means the subconscious mind can be programmed. It can be given new instructions, a new destination. You just have to speak its language. And that's what we're doing right now.

You see, it wants you to get to your destination, but it doesn't know or understand if you can't, or if you want to go somewhere else, until you tell it. The stressful emotions you feel, hounding you day in day out, they can be overcome. Not by ignoring them. Not by pushing through them, or blocking them out... but by letting them in. Remember, these emotions are message carriers. They won't stop until they have been listened to. So what you need to do, is LISTEN to them. Just, make sure you don't fixate on the emotions themselves. They are not the problem, they are just the big arrow pointing to the problem.

If you think what I've been leading to with all this is some zen bullshit about ignoring the fear or the pain, pushing it out of your mind and emptying your thoughts of all doubt - you're wrong. And philosophies and martial arts and whatever else that try to teach people to do that are wrong too - that's why they all come from cultures that are built on war and violence. You can't suppress emotions, not forever. Eventually they sneak back in, and the harder you resisted them, the more insidiously they will invade your life.

I am not telling you to ignore the feelings - I am telling you to FEEL them. Take the message. Panic, if panicking is what it seems to want you to do. Be scared, be in pain, be confused  - embrace the doubt! Do what your subconscious mind is telling you to do - because that's what YOU are. The person reading this right now. You are the CONSCIOUS part of that being. The bit of the brain that figures things out. That analyses and solves problems. Your subconscious mind can't do that, it doesn't know how, so it's putting up a flag on the problem and asking YOU, the brain's software for figuring shit out, to figure it out.

So accept the emotion. LISTEN to it. Understand what it's telling you.And then forgive yourself for feeling it. There's no shame in a moment of panic, or a sudden rush of feeling overwhelmed. Emotions are not things that you DO, they are things that happen to you, so why get yourself worked up about it? The feeling was there to convey a message. Instead of resisting it, battling it, making yourself crazy about it, just take the damn message. Allow yourself that moment of weakness to feel the feeling being presented to you. Think about the problem it has brought to your attention. That's what it wants you to DO. Figure out the solution, and tell the emotion "thanks! I got the message. I'm working on it."

It sounds too easy. It sounds almost stupid. But I'm telling you, it's more true than you realise. Most of the time we don't just feel the emotion. We let it happen, and then we freeze ourselves in that state. Worry doubles back over worry. Anxiety becomes a monster controlling your life. We stop dealing with the problem and find ourselves dealing with the extra problems being caused by the unresolved emotions the first problem provoked.

Now, I can't guarantee that after you've taken the message, silenced the voice shouting in your ear and given yourself the needed opportunity to sit down and think about your problem, that you will FIND the solution you need. Though I would be willing to wager that people, being more resilient and resourceful than they ever imagine themselves to be, will eventually get through most problems even if it seems impossible to them, I can't deny that there are situations in which there simply is no right answer. So what use does this technique have in that sort of nightmare?

By not making it MORE of a nightmare. So many people spend half their lives dealing with insane problems and the other half fighting with themselves because of them. Back when we were animals sprinting startled from a disturbed twig, these things probably made a lot more sense and worked easier. Threat. WARNING. Panic. Run! Now we've constructed these elaborate societies full of rules and systems and a machine-like order we are expected to follow with the constant threat of punishment looming over us like a Damoclesean sword. We at once feel more vulnerable than our ancestors, who at least had the ingrained impulse to run away seem like it was always a viable option, and at the same time, so burdened with responsibility and power that we feel insignificantly unworthy, carrying worlds on our shoulders always about to break.

Life batters us into unnatural shapes, trying to make us fit into the machine, trying to burn those ancient instincts out of us, and jam us, kicking and screaming, into a mould fit only for the unrealistically generic. The raw energy of those "message" emotions has no outlet, no release. There ARE no forests to go running into. No predators to escape. It seems like we can't take the message anymore, and so those emotions become nothing but stress weighing us down. Energy, un-conducted into the responses being asked of us by our confused and complaining inner self, being left stagnant to burn a hole in our brain until it finds some kind of destructive release.

But we CAN take the message. Even if we can't do anything about it. You don't need to fight yourself, too. The emotion is there to inform you that something is wrong, and instead of saying "I know. I understand. Leave it with me", you claw and scream at it to go away and leave you alone. You hide under the blankets like it is the emotion that's out to get you, not the problem. You make it so the emotion and the problem are one and the same thing. But they AREN'T. I know that sounds impossible to understand, but I am honestly, really telling you, they aren't the same thing.

It doesn't feel horrible to lose thousands of dollars/pounds. It doesn't objectively "feel" like ANYTHING. You EXPERIENCE an emotion as a response to that situation. Why? Because you have been injured. Sure, in a strange and indefinable way. A way that your child-like subconscious self can't wrap its mind around. But it is an injury nontheless. All it knows is "something is wrong", so it screams at you to do something about it. Remember, it isn't necessary that you DO do something about it. To make the stress go away, all that is necessary is that you take a moment to stop, listen to the emotion, and acknowledge it. Take the message. Unsubscribe from the mailing list, and file it away under "nothing more I can do".

If you can look at yourself in the mirror, and say with total honesty that you are doing everything you CAN do. That you have taken the BEST courses of action you are physically able to take, you will be amazed by how much more at peace with yourself you become. We are too harsh a judge on ourselves. Seeing only our faults, our mistakes, our shortcomings. So we ask too much of ourselves. We demand of ourselves the impossible, to make it our own fault when we inevitably fail. Emotions, even passive ones, are complex, and all woven into this delicate, precariously stacked arrangement of protocols, responses and memory that we call a person. When we are so bombarded with these feelings of futility, it creates an environment within our own minds where hating ourselves for failure is the expected norm. This is also a kind of trauma.

But you can unlearn what the machine has beaten into you. You can look at yourself and say, knowing it to be the truth "I can't do anymore than I am doing." And you can forgive yourself for being only human. When you do that, the system has no need to keep alerting you to the problem. The stress of an unanswered message no longer needs to exist. "I'm doing my best" IS an answer, and it is an honest one.

Active emotions are there to beg you to solve a problem. They are not there to ENFORCE a solution to the problem. They are messengers, and the only thing they care about before they will stop pestering you is that you at least hear them out, and take the message. What happens next is on you. And for sure, you may well experience negative passive emotions about that situation. You may regret. You may forlorn. You may desire. But at least you won't have that nagging voice in the back of your head with that incessant voltaic plea for an immediate action driving you insane.

This technique will work, because it is the natural state of your being. The only reason it isn't already like this is because YOU haven't let it be. All I'm doing for you here is disentangling the threads of thought that have been holding you back. This will work because the source of your stress is not your problem - it is you. And I'm telling you, it's okay. It's okay to have that problem, and it's okay to feel bad about it.

NOT being okay with it is what's making it worse.


1. Two kinds of emotion, active and passive. One response, the other demands response.
2. Active emotions are like unanswered messages, and will continue to re-send until you acknowledge delivery.
3. Accept, don't fight the emotion. Don't be ashamed to feel. Those emotions are there for a good reason.
4. Listen to the message. Listen to what the emotion is trying to tell you.
5. Once acknowledging the problem, do what the emotion wanted you to do. Analyse it. Determine a solution, if a solution is possible. The stressful emotion will stop hounding you once your subconscious mind knows you're on the case. SUCCESS ISN'T NECESSARY, ONLY TRYING.

6. Forgive yourself for having felt it. Don't get hung up on over-analyzing everything you feel. Emotions happen TO you, not by your own choice. It's only your fault when you continue to make it happen by not letting them be resolved.