Thursday, January 17, 2013

Your Pain, and The Vegeta Mistake

There's a saying that goes around to the tune of "Learn from other people's mistakes so you don't have to commit them." Well, my mouth is sore from the bitter medicine shoved in, so let me relay to you some personal lessons harshly learned, which a shocking amount of people commit in today's world, as you'll soon see.

First, my harsh truth: Very few people, almost nobody, cares about your pain. Few care about your emotional difficulties, the ailments in your body, or the hardships in your life. They don't care about your struggles in life, or how much injustice has been committed against you. Most people will simply not pay mind to the pain, and many will go so far as to outright blot it out.

Though -- stick with me -- I'm not trying to paint the landscape of human nature black, but rather convey a truth I've learned about human nature and behavior, and what fosters authentically healthy relationships full of happiness, shared values, camaraderie, and so forth.

And that truth is that people only care about the positive things in you. Not what you have to give them in material -- that's the domain of petty and shallow people -- but rather what your personality adds to their life, how you uplift and make cheerful their lives, and how you generally contribute a positive thing in their social networks, even if just a smile and good conversation. People care about that and will want you in their lives for that.

The prior point about pain? Well, what I mean is that if you focalize on your pain, discomforts, struggles, and injustices -- like it is unfortunate of people to be prone to -- it can affect your behavior ways that seeps into your personality and turns you into a negative in other people's lives, and even though you may be acting out of pain, wanting people to help you and alleviate it, give you justice for all your injustices, in the end it'll just cause people to push and phase you out.

I speak, of course, of those people who get so tangled up in the pain they feel inside that they let it spoil their personality and the way they interact with other people -- though I'm guilty too, as I shall soon tell -- so that they may be acting out on the whims in an irrational attempt to satisfy the pain, get people to pay attention to it, or to get people to try and alleviate it. The problem, however, is that acting in such a foolish fashion in regards to this pain makes the person so unpleasant to deal with that he actually suffers more through the consequences of his own actions, such as losing friendships, jobs, money, and more, and adding to his pain through the way he distorts what's going on. A couple concrete examples:

In a past job, I once worked with a person who happened to have an illegitimate child, who he was taking effort to father and support despite his mind being really against it. There's evidence that he may also be upset with how he's grown up, as he displayed huge bouts of envy towards other people's successes and rewards, condescending in speech towards them but turning around to express his desire for their life. He was obviously involved in a huge internal struggle with himself, as he withdrew from his group of friends, was frequently stressed beyond belief, and displayed much anger.

All this emotion inside of him spurred lots of whims, which he irrationally acted on. One time he didn't like a music station a coworker was playing and tried smashing the radio on the ground, and another time he tossed someone's personal CD like a frisbee and disassembled the radio so it wouldn't function. Another time he volunteered to take out all the trash, but it was just an action of spite as he hid it in the parking lot so he coworkers wouldn't find it until after he left, making us all finish the job afterward. One time he even repeatedly took canisters of non-stick spray out of the garbage, irate that coworkers were putting it in (since it wasn't sanitary), and spouted off to a manager with his finger in their face. In all of these incidents he acting out of some kind of immense internal frustration, and taking it out on the things before him, his coworkers, as a way to punish the "world" and get justice for his ordeals. He wants all his discomfort to go away, so he's mindlessly attempting to either satisfy it by acting on its whims or to get other people to "recognize" what it is they need to do and give him justice for his suffering. He's mad about his life and wants just compensation!

Yet, in acting in such anger-driven ways he makes his life worse and worse. His unlikable personality drives all his friends away and makes him one of the most disliked people in the workplace despite his seeking sympathy and attention. His hours get cut, reducing his wages, despite seeking more just pay for his past services. While he may be looking better treatment in his job, higher pay, and attention for his pains, he gets the exact opposite and makes his life worse and worse, actually adding to his suffering. The whims get him nowhere except backwards.

I have my own term for this kind of behavior: The Vegeta Mistake. 

Vegeta is one of the main characters of the Japanese anime/manga (i.e. comic book) called Dragon Ball Z. In it, the world is awfully different metaphysically, as, without magical means, people can learn how to fly, shoot beams of energy out of their hands, and psychokinectically teleport. It's just the way their world "works."

Anyhow, Vegeta happens to be an extremely angry character, and whenever he's in a fight or gets aggressive his indulgence in his anger will result in external effects, such as electricity emitting from his body, hurricane-force winds stirring, and even earthquakes. In battle, indulging in his anger like this is actually semi-practical, as it does boost his strength, make him more intimidating, and make him more effective in battle. In that world, it's actually practical for him to indulge in his temper like that since it results in desirable external effects.

In a different sense I think this applies to the minds of people who experience strong or uncomfortable emotions which urge them to certain actions, but don't consider how they're perceived by others. In feeling a strong emotion they may feel like taking a certain course of action, such as yelling from anger, and in being mindless they'll "feel" like indulging this whim will get them what they want externally, just like how Vegeta can boost his battle effectiveness by indulging his temper. For example, inherent in a sense of anger or outright rage is a sense of injustice having been committed against oneself and feeling of moral righteousness in it, and a particularly irrational, emotionally indulgent person may feel urged to yell or shout about it, "feeling" that engaging in this will get people to shrink to the moral low-ground, automatically know the injustice, and strive to remedy or make up for it. In the case of the coworker pulling non-stick spray out of the trash, he feels that something has been done "wrong" to him by his coworkers rejecting his means and throwing the spray can away, twice after he had already pulled it out once. He believes that this is "wrong" for it to be done to him, and his whim is to show them up by pulling the can out and trying to do prep with it, to "remedy" the wrong. He also raises his voice at the kitchen manager with a moralistic finger in his face to get his to give in to his moral righteousness and accept that an injustice has been done to him, and to have the injustice corrected by having the prep work done with the can pulled from the trash.

Acting upon his emotions this coworker feels entirely "right" and feels that his modes of action are right and proper and should be accepted by others, but the key word here is feel, not think. Just because he feels it's so, doesn't mean it IS so. In reality, he's doing something unacceptable since the canister is unsanitary after having been in the trash; it's unhealthy and illegal to do prep with it. The coworkers repeatedly putting it in the trash never once tried to make an issue of it with him -- they just quietly did it and moved on, and it was the angry coworker staring off at a distance who barged into other people's business with his distorted sense of injustice. When the canister was thrown away a second time it was again done with little to no attention drawn to it, intercepted by the red eyes of that one man. When he berated the kitchen manager the boss didn't back into a feeling of inferiority, but rather chuckled at this person's obscene emotional indulgence, and knew totally that it was he who has the moral high ground, the other worker acting on twisted premises. At the end, this angry coworker didn't get want he wanted -- the canister got thrown away and the equipment washed -- and the big boss yelled at him for his improprieties. In seeking to correct an "injustice" in a whim-driven fashion reality had punished him for his own doled out injustices.

The Vegeta Mistake extend much further than this. In principle, it entails whenever a person acts upon the whims of his emotions, unthinkingly believing that it'll give him the external effects that he wants.

As another example: Depression. I have met MANY depressed people stuck in very intense emotions of distress, and the particular whim that urges them on is to be visibly bitter, to frown and cop despairing facial expressions, to pout and complain, and withdraw from human contact. Knowing from my own days of depression I know that they "feel" that acting on these whims will somehow emit a magnetic force at people, drawing them in to cheer them up, correct the facets of life they're dissatisfied with, and to essentially get rid of that depression, and they feel that the proper means to this external effect is to put their misery on display as much as possible -- and again the key word is feel, not think.

In the overwhelming majority of the depressed people I've known, however, this type of behavior just gives them more and more reason to be miserable. People hate the depressing mannerisms since it stresses them out too, so once-sympathetic associates and friends alike are pushed away, sometimes even terminating contact. Next to nobody tries to address the parts of life they're dissatisfied about; they just don't care. Worse yet, staying instilled in this emotional state prevents these people from being even an iota satisfied when they do get what they say they wanted, as the indulged depression keeps them from being able to feel happy. Many a time have I seen a depressed person get EXACTLY what they said they wanted . . . and not experience an ounce of satisfaction in it. The sadness they wallow in nullifies it, and they even exert to find more and other things to complain about, with drives more people away, their attempted solutions wasted or thrown in their face.

As you can see, these people acted on their whims feeling that it would gain them a certain external benefit, but, without exercising thought and freewill, they only add to their pain by making their situation worse and worse. The angry coworker gets more and more punishments from reality the more he tries to punish reality. The depressed person adds and adds to their misery the more they wallow in it, and even give themselves reasons to be miserable as the misery creates tons of self-fulfilling prophecies. All of these are variants of The Vegeta Mistake.

I myself have committed both examples in one way or another. At a past job I used to be very harassed and taken advantage of, and sometimes it pushed me to have quite a temper and shout. I felt that the guilty parties would feel ashamed at themselves for pushing me so far, but instead it made people laugh at me, feel indignant, and spur them on to make the situation worse. At other times I wallowed in depression from my career frustrations and hoped people would come to help me out or express sympathy, and it pushed them away, made me more alone, and deteriorated my friendships. In fact, indulging the Vegeta Mistake even cost me my job once, as I hoped a particular action would call attention to some problems I was experiencing in the workplace, but it ended up barring me from coming back in. (I walked out on a shift, which was job abandonment.)

If you access your range of contacts, you may see that a wide variety of people indulge in the Vegeta Mistake. I've engaged in COUNTLESS people like that. My mother wallowed in her depression and anger so severely it destroyed all her meaningful relationships, made her go bankrupt, and have an unfulfilling life; in fact, in being so mindless she engaged the Vegeta Mistake her entire lifetime and wasted it. My old landlord used to complain at great length about all her financial troubles, and in imposing her frustrations in such a stressful manner to her tenants she drives person after person away, and even makes people ditch their lease since she's so stressful. One time, as a park ranger, I confronted a lady who was pulling up grass, and in politely informing her of the rules she then spouted off in rage for several minutes, which didn't make me feel small: It made me question her mental health. All variants of the Vegeta Mistake in someway; all attempts to get a desired external effect by indulging in whims; all of them lead to them not getting what they want and continuing to be miserable.

The root of the Vegeta Mistake is unobjective thinking and, in part, the refusal to think. I think the inherent problem is that these people -- including myself -- frame their perceptions based on past experiences, calculate false trends, and consequently when they have further experiences they frame it in reference to what they have experienced and make themselves believe it's a continuation of trends.

For instance, the angry coworker -- and I'm also combining my own experiences, childhood, and behavior with intense anger to draw these conclusions -- probably experienced a lot of grief in life, such as irresponsible and unhealthy parents, and perhaps bad peers or siblings too. In childhood he could have been very saturated and steeped in this unhealthy mode, and it affects his thinking to the tune of, "This is what the world is like, collectively. These are the trends affecting my life." In short, he combines the actions of a few distinct people, calculates them into a kind of emotional arithmetic to conclude this is what the world is like -- ignoring the individual freewill of other people -- and then also concludes that the particular trends that affected him in his youth, such as bullying, are somehow apparent in his life, following him around like some sort of evil karma that can jump from body to body.

As such, when he frames his thinking like this he experiences intense anger when he sees something that follows what he has observed in appearance. In substance the situation may be extremely different and totally different to his previous experiences, but because it appears to be just like what he's suffered in prior years he experiences intense anger in accordance as if it were a continuation of trends, that evil karma following him around, and lashed out and mindlessly hoped that this evil karma will shout "Okay! Okay! I'm sorry for making you suffer all these years! I'll stop and make your life better from now on!" Consequently, with all this lack of thinking and only partial-thinking he indulges in the Vegeta Mistake he believes he can stop these "trends" and justly punish "the world," even though in reality these trends are imaginary -- in substance they are NOT the same as he underwent before -- and "the world" he's lashing out at are totally innocent people unrelated to his previous problems, also totally clueless as to what's driving him to this behavior. (Another facet is that he believes "the world" will "know" what it did, since it's just this one evil karma following him around in life.)

Why yes, that's positively absurd! Yet, humans are capable of integrating absurdities into their subconscious thinking if they don't think explicitly about it. I once feared roller coasters because I thought I was in great danger of getting decapitated or having limbs severed, but when I verbalized that belief to myself the fear vanished instantly, and I've never been afraid of fun park rides since this. This inherent fear on those terms only existed because I didn't make them explicit to myself, so feel the fear I did. Thus, it's possible to believe in such weird things as "evil karma" if a person doesn't shine a light on his subconscious.

Consequently, by framing his thinking this way he falls into the traps of the Vegeta Mistake, and in suffering punishments from reality for his behavior he continues to reframe the situations as more and more injustices being committed against him, and keeps himself in a hopeless loop of lashing out at the world and being punished for his irrationalities, to continue on until he recognizes the true nature of what's going on.

Such framing is what happened to me when I lost my job. In walking out I continued the learned motions of my life, that indulging in depression will cast a magnetic force for sympathy and treatments, and was caused by me framing the situation as a continuation of evil karma, all my previous injustices at previous jobs with bad employers. The nature of the situation was different, I didn't try hard enough to acknowledge that, and reality doled out just deserts by making me lose my job. (Since then, I've found another.)

This continues for all variants of people who commit the Vegeta Mistake: People frame their thinking based on past experiences, interpret and keep track of trends, and model their behavior around it. Seeing these trends follow them around when it isn't is the classic mistake of seeing something everywhere when it isn't there, because the act of looking for it can bias one's perception if not careful.

The examples of the Vegeta Mistake are infinite. Associates who put on a show of their misery to attract attention. Loose cannon bosses who shout to command respect. And so on. They all foolishly believe their emotions will get them what they want, but it won't. It never will.

Now then, what should one do to counter temptations to commit the Vegeta Mistake? At certain periods emotions can be so intense that acting on the whims might feel inevitable, and it's ultra tough to figure out practical modes of actions at those times. But you can't cave in, otherwise it'll be the end of you!

First off, I would strongly recommend the reading of the book Mind Over Mood, which is hands down the best thing I have ever read in my life about introspection and emotions. No one book has done a better job explaining the connection between thinking and emotions, how your ideas generate your feelings, and how to think about the nature of your subconscious and draw accurate conclusions about it. This will cover just about every possible aspect of the Vegeta Mistake and make clear why certain emotions drive people to certain actions, how to identify it in your subconscious, and how to effectively treat it. It's awesome.

Secondly -- and my own knowledge and thinking is based off the above book -- exert yourself hard to think about what's objectively going on in the situation before you react and set your thinking straight, so that you don't get caught into seeing "trends" or believing that evil karma thing, eternally following you around. Don't guess at people thoughts; instead, try to understand other people's behavior, and recognize that everyone has their own freewill and personality, and that they are not mystically connected in nature to your parents, previous bullies, unjust employers, and so forth. Everyone is their own human-being and deserves to be judged accordingly. For me, that would have meant recognizing that the employers I walked out on were simply tied behind the back for my promotion, as they had absolutely no labor to effectively replace me, but I irrationally framed the situation as alike the actually unjust employers I suffered before, and acted accordingly. I grouped my employers' freewill with those of others' it shouldn't have been compared to. Additionally, repeat and repeat and repeat your intellectual judgement about your situation in your head and on paper, as it's going to take awhile for it to actually sink it and make a change.

(Also try skimming some of Daniel Amen's books for some physical boosters. Smelling essential oils really helped my own anger problems. He's a bit of a determinist and theist, which I disagree with philosophically, but nonetheless there's practical advice to be had.)

Thirdly and the most difficult -- and the most necessary -- is to make yourself act in accordance to your best judgement, to act against your most powerful, most negative emotions. This is very hard, like trying to smile gracefully and quietly while a fire hose pushed you against a wall, hurting and stinging your skin, but it's the healthiest thing for your relationships. You can't let your whims factor in your behavior, or else the Vegeta Mistake will damage your life just as illustrated above. That means speaking calmly when you want to yell, smiling politely and warmly no matter how depressed you are, keeping your composure when you relay an interpreted injustice, and so on. Essentially, acting entirely reasonably even when your emotions feel as unreasonable as possible. It's hard, but it's possible, and I've pulled it off by simply repeating ad infinitum my intellectual conclusions and proper mode of behavior, shouting "No!" to my whims.

In trying to get ahead in life and having healthy relationships, the key thing to remember here -- to bring back my introductory paragraphs -- is that people are only going to bond with you, reward you, and appreciate you for the positive things you add to their life, and in terms of personality that means valuable conversation, pleasing mannerisms, a good attitude, and more. What I mean by people not caring about your pain is that when you indulge in your negative emotions and allow it to drive your actions that adds negatives to people's lives: They don't like being yelled at, they don't like being lashed out at things they couldn't predict beforehand, they don't like being dragged down into depression by somebody else's depression. This all subtracts from their life, and if their attempted remedies at making you feel better don't work, if they even bother to try, then they're going to push you out of their life or edge away, as nobody likes being made unhappy. This can mean losing hours, getting fired, or having someone never return a phone call again. This is what I mean by "nobody cares about your pain"; in THIS fashion.

Another thing to remember is that indulging in one's emotions, as stated, can damage one's capacity to enjoy getting what's wanted. Even if the angry person gets the other one to cave, he'll be too angry to enjoy it, and the anger will continue on. Same for the depressed person who gets what he's been crying about.

Even if you visibly battle with your emotions your relationships will still be healthier, for people innately respect the person who visibly exerts to control himself even when it's visible he can't keep it totally under wraps. People respect the effort and then will come to help you on in your troubles, but only because they value you. Their help is them trying to protect their value, you. When a person is dominated by his whims people edge away since that person is a anti-value in contrast; they're not going to protect or aid that which makes them unhappy.

Also know that self-control is a lifelong endeavor. Practice will make for some very strong habits, but strong emotions can always be tricky to deal with no matter how strong the person's self-control prior, so self-awareness will always have to be a factor in life, for no matter how strong a habit is it will never become absolutely automatic; a person is always going to have to act on their judgement against an unhelpful emotion at some time or another.

Finally, understand that this is something that requires a triumph of the mind. There's rarely, if ever, going to be a time in which a person will so strongly crave a solution to his ailments that he'll be driven to them, and easily keep them up. Anger, depression, and other powerful emotions always sing out dangerous siren songs that can draw a person in again and again, and make a person feel like it's "okay" to indulge in them for "a little bit," only it's not okay and it's never "a little bit." It's do or do not.

The biggest barrier in life to success, really, is hardly a matter of external forces, but rather how a person allows himself to respond internally. Allow the external forces again and again to push their impressions on you, and all the barriers set up within you can be entirely of your own making, such perceived obstacles caused by emotions. It doesn't have to be that way. One can triumph over bad moods. One can triumph over bad thinking habits. One can triumph over bad history, and in triumph one can set up the best of all habits, now pushing and pushing towards success, rather than dragging away. It takes an effort, but it's worth it for a priceless payoff: A good life.

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