Monday, April 22, 2013

Restless Towards Happiness, or Seething Towards Ruin?

Ah yes, I'm still working on establishing that restlessness in me, in which one habituates one's emotions towards being engaged in purposeful activities, which sets you up in a position to always want to be engaged in activities that contribute to your long-term goals, instead of living for time off or weekends.

It's an intriguing and amazing thing that you can change yourself so that discipline practically becomes totally unnecessary in your life. Trying to cut down on confectionery? Engage in the right eating habits for long enough, then it'll actually be hard to indulge in it. Trying to make reading a habit? Work at it long enough and you'll find yourself working harder to make time for internet surfing than to open a book. And so on. If you can set up a positive self-reinforcing cycle in as many areas of your life as possible, then you're practically destined for success. Those that view good practices such as teaching yourself to be too hard, tiring, and disciplined simply haven't tried hard and long enough for their emotions to change and push them towards it.

At the same time, I've come to realize that we're really almost always caught in a self-reinforcing cycle of some kind in life. There's always something we're doing a lot of, some kind of routine we're emotionally attached to that draws us to do it over and over again, continually hardening the cycle through repetition. While it's ideal to set up those cycles in activities and routines that contribute the most to life, such as exercising or work, it's possible (and true for everyone) that those cycles can exist in less than ideal prospects, routines that cause us to stagnate or worse.

Which brings us to the darker side of the equation, which we must be careful to shed light upon let we get caught for years (or a lifetime) in its emotional trappings. The worst cycle is the vicious cycle.

For some reason it's been popping up in my mind as of late those people who intentionally make their trucks and motorcycles outrageously loud, loud enough to vibrate the floor as they drive by. It's not uncommon in my neighborhood for them to drive by late at night. That can't possibly be an accident; they're absolutely doing this on purpose to agitate other people, a kind of "F you!" mentality.

This also reminds me of other people with similar minds. A coworker in a restaurant I used to work with would sing loudly and at length for hours, much to everyone's disapproval and annoyance, and yet still complain about the injustices committed against him. A different guy in that same workplace used to go to distances to bully me and then act infuriated whenever I informed management of his misdoings. These and other people share that common trait where they make a habit out of lashing out at and aggravating people for their own internal frustrations, and yet at the same time they focus only on their own sense of pain and injustice.

These people are caught up in a vicious cycle where their thinking habits are set to focus on painful events and themes that have happened to them in their lifetime, and left unchecked they're frequently in a state of frustration, regularly in temptation to lash out at others to relieve themselves. The relief never comes in any specific action, and all they do is invite endless more frustration upon themselves, for in refusing to recognize they're attacking innocent individuals they always invite the hand of justice upon them. The coworker who sings loudly is perpetually indignant at how little people care about his feelings or income level. The workplace bully is forever seething at people for retaliating against him and never apologizing for imaginary slights.

While these people may seem like a different category of people -- those unintelligent thugs that damage their own lives, and then blame others -- they pose a warning of a risk to all of us. When we're dealing with personal pain it can tempt us to very unhealthy thinking and desired modes of action, and not being aware of the pitfalls can get us stuck in a cycle of self-reinforcing pain, where we give into the temptations out of frustration only to find more and more painful consequences because of it.

Looking at the picture from a different angle, consider the position of a self-destructive family member. A person I know about has lived their life with extreme irrationality, leaving them rife with emotional problems, and yet in the effort to satisfy their emotional cravings from the angle of what the cravings tempt them to, things only get worse. They panic about money issues, which has become an issue due to frequently taking time off from work due to "distraught." They wail about how their adult children won't pay much attention to them, even though they're constantly ignoring their needs and demanding them to comfort them for their own irrational behavior, which has harmed them. They push yet more and more people away by blowing up insignificant issues into conflicts, refusing to communicate rationally, and, most importantly, always caving into their emotions. They're very probably going to die unhappy since they're known for giving in to the temptation to dig the hole deeper (while panicking about how deep the hole is).

The great danger is that emotions can really tie us up here. Our mind may recognize that we shouldn't be doing what we're doing, but our moods and emotions, especially at their extremes, may persuade us into "feeling" a behavior is "practical" and we commit it, only to stir up worse emotions once we witness the consequences or else distort how other people respond to us.

It "feels" practical to sing loudly to show how much we don't care about other people's perceptions, and it's an injustice for other people to get upset, to which we ought to do more singing towards. (Behavior > consequence that upsets them > more of that behavior that caused the consequence to begin with.) It "feels" practical to sabotage and physically threaten that person that has been "unjust," and if he doesn't accept the dealt punishment he deserves more. These people are emotionally inclined to behaviors that worsen their emotional pains, leading them down a bottomless spiral that won't end until they're mentally destroyed, dead, or wake up and get out of it.

It is shockingly amazing how people can lack self-awareness. Yet, it can exist to that extreme. Instead of setting themselves up for happiness they've set themselves up for a life of endless disappointment, ruined relationships, unachieved goals, anger, "injustice." Worse yet, they set themselves up emotionally to crave the behavior that brings about that destruction.

I'm sure there's a middle-ground cycle in which one neither excels nor goes downhill, but I'm not sure how to identify it as anything other than a sense of perpetual discomfort, knowing you're not doing the best and at the same time you have uncomfortable vices, leading to a shaky mode of switching between virtue and vice to strike a balance. But overall, we want this cycle to go to the extremes, to the positive direction.

So what to do if we may face the consequence of being extreme in the other direction, of constantly desiring to do things that are harmful to us? Well, that's too multifaceted for one article. Generalized, it's about controlling the causes of your emotions and controlling your behavior as a corollary in the best way possible. To that, all I can say is examine my article in all the books I recommend for mental health and see which ones suit you best.

Realize, regardless, that combating the sordid extreme will take effort no matter what, that no matter which practices you adopt to make it as easy as possible there's always going to be an element of difficulty in it. Don't do endless researching in hopes for that one method that will make it as easy as possible; uncomfortable exertion is required no matter what.

Also, the first step is always to understand how our behaviors and thinking bring about the end results of our lives, and that external circumstances actually play a minuscule role: It's more important how we react to outside circumstances. The people stuck in extremes such as that singer and bully ignore the fact they're acting out against people ignorant of and uninvolved in their problems, so they're continuously attacking people with these feelings that they're somehow a part of this painful theme of their lives, which does nothing but make for a self-fulfilling prophecy for them to continue staying angry about.

It's always hard to move from vice to having a life filled with success-making habits and attitudes, but once you get to that spot, become a puritan about potential pitfalls, and know how to navigate the obstacles (such as other people), and you could be set for life.

Before then, however, forming habits requires much conscious efforts, and the willingness to fight the urges of those already existing.   

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