Saturday, March 23, 2013

Capitivating Loose Ends

Unfinished Granny Square by Durova of Wikipedia CommonsAs I mentioned in my last post, my new year's resolutions aren't actually that important; rather, answering some questions about certain nearly life-long maladies are, for they are problems that have haunted nearly every single endeavor I tried succeeding in. Answer the question effectively and apply the antidote, and I could set myself up for a far more smoother life, not held to the power of internal obstacles.

The next question: How does one best deal with loose ends?

While it's new terminology, I've come to believe that the mental consequences of "loose ends" may, in fact, be one of the most toxic thinking habits that a person could ever let befall him, and if it gains hold it could ruin years of your life, even encouraging one to waste the whole of it. More than once have I seen people get stuck in the trap of loose ends in old age and to perish with them lingering, having had the loose ends installed in youth.

Simply, a loose end is a particular area in one's life where business feels unfulfilled or unfinished, so the mind is tempted to dwell on that area to constantly remind oneself that concern exists there, or to, at worst, endlessly try to gain some satisfaction out of imaging desired outcomes that have not happened, may not happen, and may never happen. It's a "loose end" because it's a situation that hasn't been tied up to satisfaction, like one single untied rope amongst others holding down a tent, and the mind wants to go back to "tie" it up.

It's toxic in that, dependent upon the situation, the loose end may not be possible to tie up or at least in the ways one desires, so all that happens is that a person will think over and over again about the same thing, repeating the same thoughts endlessly, and he not only does little to nothing to address it in material reality, but also that this type of thinking leads to lots of deleterious behaviors, harming his life and giving him more loose ends to obsess about.

Noose by Chris 73 of Wikipedia Commons
This phenomenon in particular has damaged many years of my life in multiple periods of my growing up, and did everything from imposing internal anguish to making me idle, and ceasing to pursue values and even damage ones I had. Yet, the endlessly repetitious thinking went on, instilling powerful cravings that could never be satisfied, costing me more and more of my potential for happiness in life. The habit only gets stronger and more ingrained the more it's fed, so I'm not kidding when I say people have wasted entire lives caving into this affliction.

Some concrete examples. When I first dropped out of college to become an autodidact and figure out my own way in life there was a group of people who deeply disagreed with the decisions I made and interfered accordingly. At first it bounced off of me as I thought I could reason with them, or at least that they'd have the common sense to leave me to my own life, for whatever consequences I have to face are my own and not theirs.

However, for months and years their behavior did not actually let up. In my attempt to study for my own benefit, for instance, I would get frequent interruption that eventually and literally made it impossible for me to concentrate. Other people refused to leave me alone about the fact I refused to reinitiate what was a very unhealthy relationship with another person. Others, still, squeaked and squawked whenever I made decisions that didn't fit into their framework of what was popularly acceptable, such as my controversial Paleo diet. With overall sporadic consistency, the fundamental problems I had with these people never went away.

Eventually my being trapped in this situation really influenced my thinking habits. Instead of studying to improve my mind I was thinking about how to persuade my housemate to let me concentrate. On walks I'd hone arguments as to why I shouldn't associate with the toxic person everyone was begging me to. In imagining people criticize my dietary choices I thought about my evidence and resources. I was constantly trying to think of what kind of "silver bullet" argument would get these people to leave me alone, for their interference was deeply affecting my ability to live my own life happily and effectively, such as my inability to concentrate on my studies due to the frequent interruptions.  

Loose ends were being installed in my mind: I was unhappy about the unresolved state of these conflicts in my relationships, so my mind kept revisiting the topics.

Over the months this type of thinking took on a sordid form. Aside from my doing it constantly, my brain was actually adapting neurologically to make these thoughts easier to have, so very quickly it came to pass that these thoughts not only became easier to have . . . but also seemed to initiate themselves. Even worse, they're were able to keep themselves going in a circle for hours. For hours and hours and hours. Many days when the craving struck I told myself I'd be "safe" indulging in it for five minutes to satisfy it, and four hours later I still hadn't finished or felt satisfied with the repetitious thinking, and would even spend the rest of the day circling like that. The next day the exact same cycle would go around, wasting another day, and the next after that. The anguish was that the thought pattern became so powerful it was excruciatingly hard, if not impossible, to stop. Soon it came to pass that month after month was generally wasted.

Worst is the material impact. I was less friendly to people and neglected friends, even passing up dates. (Due to my problems I even turned down a date an attractive girl proposed to me.) Severe anxiety would make me mismanage my money. There were panic attacks and anger outbursts. I could not work effectively or efficiently, gave up on my autodidact studies since I couldn't concentrate, and overall slowed the pace of my life advancement very severely.

By constantly, constantly, constantly allowing myself to mentally attend to these loose ends I was sacrificing practical action in the real world and slowly becoming consumed in fantasies about what I was so immensely dissatisfied about.

In practical terms, the main issue of action is that my mind kept revisiting these topics in hopes of finding the solution to them, so that these people would stop interfering and I'd be able to get on with my life. However, it took an extremely long while for me to comprehend that it was literally impossible for me to resolve my problems with these particular people, all closed to reason (or at least civilized conversation), and that my only rational option was to abandon and cut them out so they'd have no power to interfere. I undertook a big project in this regard for about a year, and in the end I ended up in Texas.

However -- and this ought to demonstrate the danger of loose ends -- the repetitious thinking continued . . . with the exact same patterns.

Even though those people were out of my life and I was in basically my ideal case scenario, I still ran over the scenarios in my head over and over again. It was a habit, a super-strong habit, which allowed it to persist even though in reality it was absolutely irrelevant. I was no longer in the position of being unfortunately subjected to arguments from these people, and yet I continued preparing arguments as if I'd meet them right around the corner. The material consequences continued to, to my still put-off studies, depression, money mismanagement, and so on.

Loose ends damage in many ways. They make you do thinking you "feel" like you need to do even though it's not useful for practical reality, or even applicable. It sustains terrible emotions, such as anger and depression, particularly and especially as you provoke the emotions through your thoughts. It makes your life slow to a halt, to abandoned activities, neglected relationships, and ceased good habits.

Most damaging of all, they simply will not go away on their own. You'll always "feel" like you need to do a few minutes of that repetitious thinking to get it out of the way, and that the urge will peter itself out after that, but that's not what happens: That's the gateway to doing it for endless hours to experience the results of it all over again, to end the day miserable, and the next day you'll have the same feelings and temptations. Left alone, it can continue for literally your whole life, just so you can live in a past alive only in your head while your body moves forward in time.

I'm not sure if loose ends are the worst thinking habit imaginable, but they're certainly one of the worst, if not amongst a top five most poisonous. It scares and saddens me at times to think of that one person in my life, dead just before their sixties, laying in bed with their eyes dashing side to side, seeming to read some thoughts . . . perhaps thoughts about stuff that happened at age eighteen, which never, ever left the mind . . . The kind of distraught and self-inflicted horror this person wrought on themselves gives me a quick shock of reality. The consequences of a wasted life are just too horrible.

But loose ends are defeatable! In fact, you could defeat them in about a good two weeks or so, perhaps just under a month, so there are not unknowable remedies which would leave us to suffer in ignorance. Some discipline is required, though there is a sort of cheat I've constructed.

First off, before I outline my remedies, we mainly must understand how loose ends operate in tricking us into engaging them as if it were okay and the fallacies that keep them going.

For the most part, as explained above, a loose end style of thinking results when a person feels there's unfinished business, so the mind will go back to the loose end in order to finish that business. What "finishing" qualifies as is dependent on the loose end.

In my situation, by constantly thinking of arguments to present to these people I was looking for a solution to my problems, and it resulted in infinite repeating because no solution other than abandonment was possible, so it was nothing but an eternally impossible goose chase. But there was also an element of evolution after this type of thinking had been continued for a while.

Sometimes loose ends can also point out emotional needs within ourselves. If we cannot or have not fulfilled it in reality, then we may endlessly imagine ourselves in a state of having it satisfied or what it being satisfied would look like, as a way to indirectly fulfill the need by provoking the emotions through the imagination. In my case, I tried imagining what it would look and feel like to have my problems resolved with these people. The problem, for me, is that a solution was literally impossible for me to project: I couldn't even force myself to drop the context of the type of personalities I was dealing with, so I could not imagine a single scenario where one of these people actually agreed with an argument I made and backed down; they would always act in the ways I knew they would in the real-world. Secondly, imaging myself having abandoned them only gave off a tiny amount of positive emotion or none at all, so I was hardly able to even partially satisfy my needs through the mode of imagination either.

A loose end tricks you into feeling it's possible to meet your psychological needs this way. You'll feel it's possible to find a silver bullet solution if you think about it long enough, and you'll go on forever looking for something that isn't there. You'll feel that it's possible for you to satisfy your emotional needs through your imagination, so you'll endlessly go on trying to get tiny glimpses of what it'd feel like, forever failing or only getting tiny tastes.

If you want to end a loose end thinking pattern, then you have to be explicit with yourself that you have to choose to stop, that doing this type of thinking will never feed the urges you're experiencing. Ever. If there is no silver bullet solution, then stop looking for it. If you have an emotional need, meet it in reality, not imagination.

Though, I realize a lot of what you'll have to tell yourself is dependent upon what a loose end constitutes for you. You'll be able to figure it out.

If we want to move on and begin succeeding at life in ways that will make us happy, we've got to cut away loose ends. Loose ends make us stand in one place mentally like a moth fixated on a light. To move ahead and get ahead, we've got to keep our actions oriented on what's available in the present, to build for the future. The past does not exist except insofar as we keep it alive in our heads.

1.) First off, before you start at tackling a loose end you have to know why it is absolutely wrong to engage in that particular mode of thinking. You'll feel it's practical, but you'll have to tell yourself over and over again why it isn't practical, so that you can tune out its siren song. In my case, I understood I was looking for a silver bullet I would never find, was solving problems that didn't exist, and was attempting to fulfill needs that could not be fulfilled by thought alone.

2.) For the most part, and you're not going to be surprised, you need to train yourself to CONCENTRATE. As I mentioned in various other articles, your fundamental ability to concentrate is really your fundamental ability to control your mind. It's the capacity that enables you to have the thoughts you want to have and to shut out the distractions, enabling you to do what you should do.

A loose end is essentially a flaw in one's concentration. When it weakens to a certain point, loose end patterns gain strength because you don't have the power of concentration to shut the noise off, so the noise takes a life of its own. In this case, the noise dominates.

However, having good concentration doesn't mean you'll have the mental strength of Hercules to take down a tremendous craving, but rather that the noise of its own accord will dissipate. As I mentioned in another article, there's two kinds of concentration: Background concentration and focalized concentration. As you train your concentration to be strong, it'll eventually come to be that the temptations will fade on their own, and eventually you'll obtain what I call a "Still Water Mind," wherein there are no temptations to think in a particular direction -- meaning an utterly quiet mind -- and you'll have absolute control over your thinking patterns. Once you've got Still Water, you've got everything.

3.) Still yet, I've developed a shortcut. It may not work for everyone, but you should at least understand how the principle works: Whistling.

Randomly one day I discovered that it was actually impossible for me to think about anything while I whistled. I could play the tune in my head or imagine a few pictures, but otherwise the majority of my thinking habits would shut off when I whistled because I had to exert myself to do it. As such, I determined to whistle every time I had the temptation to do the obsessive thinking, and the urge would always quickly pass by when I did so, instead of remaining for endless hours as it usually did.

To my pleasure this actually, by and large, defeated my loose end thinking habits in about two weeks. The habit perished in being starved for attention. After reading The Brain That Changes Itself I've concluded that this is due to it being too neurologically challenging for my brain to balance both the obsessive pattern and whistling at the same time, so since whistling was so easy to exert my attention towards this became my "cheat" to shutting out negative habits, and, in the brain, the habits undo themselves neurologically since those networks aren't being stimulated.

One key point is to engage this technique at the moment of temptation, for that's when the most damage will be done to it. Ride it out all the way through the urge, and beyond too, however long it takes.

However, I understand some people may be able to think while whistling. If so, try whistling an unfamiliar or untried tune to challenge yourself so that you have to pay more attention to pull it off. If that doesn't work, then understand the trick to this technique is that it captures a great deal of your attention easily and quickly, and see if another technique fits that. For instance, if it's very easy for you to focus on video games, then play one for ten to twenty minutes -- however long needed -- to ride out those moments of temptation, though be sure to quit when it passes over so one bad habit doesn't replace another.

4.) Lastly, avoid triggers. A trigger is anything that persuades you to engage in these thinking patterns. For me, I've actually had to give up my years-long habit of going out on daily walks, for I found that's exactly where I felt encouraged to do my negative thinking.Given that this walking was a routine, it became a routine for me to do that negative thinking, so that routine had to go away. (I walk in moderation and on special occasions, however.)

Another problem I had was with other people. Sometimes people would provoke my negative patterns by engaging me in conversations brushing that topic, such as why I moved to Texas. I'd ask them not to do it, but they'd continue for a few sentences more, and lo and behold I'm doing the loose end thinking again. If people are a trigger for you then don't be afraid to point out what conversational topics are off-limits, and if they refuse to abide you will be entirely righteous to just up and walk away without saying another word; your mental health is far more important than their conversation.

* * * * *

Finally, I must forever emphasize that this type of thinking will never, ever go away of its own accord. If you feed it its strength will last forever and keep getting stronger by the day, so there just has to come that time when you say no and exert the discipline to do something about it. Don't be like that person who spends nearly a lifetime in bed depressed, frequently running over the same thoughts over the decades, never finding what he seeks and perishing without having lived.

On this issue I can feel confident in saying this is the total solution: You just need to find ways to strengthen your concentration and avoid having thoughts you don't want, and eventually you'll change to where you need to be.

Now with this major new year's resolution question solved, it shall never haunt or waste my life again.

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