Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Vegeta Mistake: People *Still* Don't Care

Ah, sometimes I feel like I need my own personal lexicon to help other people (and myself) keep track of all the vocabulary I create. It'd be something to pass down to my children and grandchildren at least.

Anyhow, if you remember, a while ago I detailed something I call The Vegeta Mistake, a very self-destructive behavioral mode wherein not only will someone act on emotional temptation, but also do so with the implicit belief that it'll get them what they want, such as yelling out of rage to gain more control over people. It leads to a life more out of control since people do not you experience your emotions as you do inside your own head.

Anyhow, it's been striking me again lately just how severely impractical it is to commit this error. Recently I've gained an associate in my life, who I do consider a friend, who commits The Vegeta Mistake on a regular and almost daily basis. Despite my value of him as a friend, I cannot believe just . . . how little I care about the negatives he complains about.

For instance, when some people may be placing demands on him that inconvenience him -- no matter how reasonable, just as a delegated task at work -- when he tosses a complaint about it my first response is not to sympathize and cheer him up, but to shut him out and ignore him. Whenever he complains about the hardships of his life, even when they are actual undeserved injustices forced on him, again my instinctual response is to shut it out and hardly respond. Other people in our work environment respond almost exactly the same way: Any complaint he tosses out, especially when he emphasizes his negative emotions about it, is greeted by silence and not addressed at all in the action realm.

I don't care. They don't care. We don't care about this guy's suffering. It may seem ironic since I'm on friendly terms with him, but why does his committing The Vegeta Mistake leave me so indifferent? Indifferent of a friend's troubles?

Because in copping such a negative attitude about it he is, at that point in time, infusing negatives -- negative "vibes" -- into our associations, and intuitively I recognize that any attempt to alleviate his frustrations isn't actually going to elevate us to a more positive level, so my logical desire is to ignore it and move into a neutral topic or get away from him, the only "positive" available.

Furthermore, with my knowledge of The Vegeta Mistake I also know that his attitude is evidence of a habitual perspective he takes, so even if I gave him want he wanted he probably wouldn't be satisfied or would hardly respond to it at all; an insidious consequence of the Mistake is that it ingrains the negative in our emotions and makes us unable to appreciate the good, even if we get what we've been wanting.

(For example, when I first moved to Texas after my years-long disputes in Michigan, I wasn't actually happy about it. The negativity was so programmed into my thinking habits and emotional responses that my major accomplishment registered emotionally null.)

Witnessing this friend's behavior has been a poignant reminder of just how screamingly impractical acting on a negative attitude is, even if in mere conversation. It really holds a person back from obtaining their major goals in life. It repels immensely, it breaks down relationships and social networks, it tempts you into impractical and unproductive behaviors, and so on. At the worst extreme it can render you totally stuck on all the injustices that have occurred to you, with those responsible unpunished, and all the withheld rewards that ought to be yours, and in spite of your painful craving for a better situation your reality will be totally the opposite, and getting worse by the day.

It is certainly, definitely, conclusively tough and super-difficult to get in control of strong emotions at times to take control over your reality, but we must or otherwise we act in incredibly irrational ways that our loud emotions spur us into doing, even if it's against our rational beliefs. Acting against those emotions can, at times, be like pushing against the shredding spray of a fire hose.

It amazes me on a regular basis just how widespread The Vegeta Mistake is and how many people are trapped in it. Bosses who rage around the environment to dominate quality control while control slips through their fingers. Great sufferers in life looking for sympathy and unpaid rewards, being abandoned by contacts and never seeing those payments. It goes endlessly on.

When your emotions encourage you to take a positive and practical action you intellectually know is positive, then go for it: The emotion in this context actually helps you out. But if you're feeling a powerful negative emotion that's tempting you to some practice in the implicit belief that it's practical: Always be suspicious and doubtful, and go with the conclusions in your head rather than what images your emotions may be sending you.

Some tips for doing so:

Concentrate: I know I'm being a broken record these days about concentration, but it just too vitally important in so many areas. A big reason why The Vegeta Mistake can gain such a significant impact on our habitual perspective -- the way we reflexively respond to things on an emotional level -- is because we may have habitual thinking patterns that we resort to immediately when something occurs. When something happens we resort to the framework we've set up in our minds to draw the conclusions. Better concentration means our habits have a lesser influence on our workings, meaning we're less and less likely to act on some powerful habit.

Whistle: This was only a passing mention in my mental health article, but as a sort of side method to concentration I've found whistling to be indispensably helpful in changing my thinking habits. Contrary to what you might expect, it's not that whistling a cheery tune makes me cheer up, but rather that it dominates my neural networks.

To explain, through my reading of The Brain That Changes Itself I learned that when we subject our brain to repeated stimulus it will adapt accordingly. In my context, by frequently doing negative thinking on a particular subject my brain adapted to make it neurologically easier to have those thoughts, and to my great dismay it got to the point that those painful thoughts seem to initiate themselves and repeat all of their own volition, leaving me powerless to control my mental processes. It felt automatic, as if I literally could not control my brain. In reality, it's just that I've had those thoughts so often my brain made itself more efficient to have them, so of my own choice I made the thoughts easier to have and sustain, which hurt me when I didn't actually want to have them.

But it was excruciatingly hard to control it. If I were mopping a room at work, for instance, I could not stop the thinking no matter how hard I tried, which left me to suffer for hours and to be in visible distraught. Having this habit hurt years of my life.

Without even looking for it I discovered whistling was the solution. I found that when I whistle I simply wasn't able to balance any other thought except some images, as I have to focus so strongly on the whistling mechanisms it became literally impossible for me to do any other thinking. As such, whenever that negative temptation came up I resorted to whistling to shoo it away, as regardless of how efficient my brain was at having those thoughts it couldn't balance it at the same time as whistling, so I managed to dislodge the habit by habituating whistling instead.

Within two weeks my bad thinking habit was so deprived of practice it was nearly dead, lessening and lessening the need to whistle.

It's the best mental health "shortcut" I've ever discovered, but if it doesn't work for you if you try it, try whistling something very complicated that requires much of your attention to pull off, or, in judging other methods, know that the essential element is that the task should absorb your attention easily and as completely as possible.

Communicate (or Don't): One basic effect of The Vegeta Mistake is that it's going to alter how we'll want to communicate with someone. For instance, if we get angry with another person's behavior, we may be very tempted to give him the silent treatment, which is very impractical since the person may not be able to derive what you're angry about, won't be able to reach a resolution with you, or will feel he has the moral high ground since you're resorting to such a lowly tactic, nullifying his concern with his missteps. Always do your best to objectively communicate your concerns.

Or not. If you think you may say or do something you might regret in that particular state, then it may actually be best to clam up. It's what I usually do, as my best stress-relievers involve private methods, such as journal writing or rubberducking, and do my best to keep quiet in bad moods.

Repeat What Gets Rewarded: The biggest antidote to The Vegeta Mistake is to know -- and drill into yourself -- what exactly causes people to get rewarded in this world: The values you contribute to others. 

In my examples above, it's blatantly clear that a sour attitude about life, even if great and actual injustices have been committed towards you, does not cause your friends and associates to rush in to fill up the gaps or to give you what you deserve; it pushes them away, and the rewards too.

On a very, very, very basic level, the value you have to contribute to another person is a good character, personality, and attitude. Those human attributes add a LOT to other people's lives, so much so in this day in age that they'll be willing to do a LOT to reward it to keep it sustained. If people really, really like you, then they're going to want to protect that value that you add to their life, which can manifest into sincere sympathy and affection during your hardships, rewards such as raises at work for doing a good job, and so on.

People will care much more strongly about your well-being if they can see you quietly struggling with your difficulties, rather than actively complaining, because you won't be deluging them with your negativity. With the quiet suffering, all they'll see is the positives you add, and will want to stop those negatives from threatening the positive, which is their value. 

A sour attitude, in contrast, adds negatives to people's lives, something they want to get away from or rid of. They won't sympathize with your hardships (or else fake it), they won't want to give you affection, they won't want to hang out with you, they won't want to give you raises or promotions. They simply won't want you, no matter how competent or good a person you actually are.

No matter how painful the fire hose of emotions get, you need to push through it.

- - - - -

I'll probably have lots more, if not endlessly more to say about The Vegeta Mistake in the future, as not only is it one of the most self-destructive habits to get into, but also one of the easiest -- something you'll see endlessly around you if you look for it. So many countless people in our society are stuck in that mode today -- and will stay stuck it in until they choose otherwise. 

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