Steel your mind.
Disassociate. Observe your emotions instead of living them.
It doesn’t sound like living, does it? It did not to me. I avoided it like a four year-old confronted with a bath. For a very long time.
The concept of using my noggin in an entirely different manner was not something I could conceive of on my own. And it did seem strange, but strange in a very strange way – natural.
I remember the first few times I was able to actually observe those emotions instead of being controlled by them. I’m blessed to have brilliant friends who are incredible thinkers. Many “do-ers” – incredibly strong-minded people who come with strong personalities.
We often clash. In fact, when I stepped back and looked, it become clear that my conversations with these people had primarily been thinking through hypotheticals, debating the finer points of everything from consciousness to curling.
It was quite enjoyable. Fun. Stimulating. The “witty repartee” we all enjoy.
It was also referred to as “mental masturbation” by another buddy, whose drive in life is to help others gain fulfillment as a life coach.
That sorta popped my ballon.
The dynamic of many relationships changed immediately. I realized it had been a crutch – a way to feel like I was doing something useful – daily trips down rabbit holes from astral projection to the Killdozer – to avoid bettering myself in real ways.
I won’t deny the benefits – all those “fun facts” are enjoyable to share – but putting that effort toward learning and doing things that can actually change the outcome of my days has proven more rewarding.
Not only did I find myself with more time to work on my own projects – like a blog, an album, and my mental, physical, and spiritual health – but my relationships improved. We were no longer being consenting to brain-slapping each other in place of putting in hard work, and found something interesting just a layer or two deeper.
Humanity. Integrity. The joy of sharing silence, of being in the same place as someone whose company you enjoy so much that reading separate books in separate chairs is a treat.
And here’s the cherry on top: Guess who genuinely feels more emotions AFTER learning to dissociate?
This guy. Wanna know how I measure?
I see beautiful birds when I run or walk. That’s new. Not me running or walking, but seeing beautiful birds.
Not just birds – cloud formations that look like a dolphin riding a Mexican bull, or terribly pretentious vanity planes like “GYRLFUN” and thinking of different seed phrases for them, like “Gang Yellow Random Laser Fungal Uncle Narrows”.
In short – life grew more rich in all regards, Each emotion seemed to carve out a sign that would flash to say “you’re experiencing this – how can you do it best?”.
Instead of riding a roller coaster, it’s sluicing water over the moss pads, controlling the flow to gently reveal the gold..
Open the control gate too much and it washes away all the goodies.
Too little, and you never get enough movement to get a return.
I still have those emotional battles, where my physiology is literally affected by the thoughts in my head.
But that’s on a run. Lifting weights. Playing guitar. Doing yoga. When that little fella in the back of my brain speaks up, thinking he’s protecting me by saying “we should quit and go hammer a dozen donuts.”
It’s at the intersection of my skill and the challenge I’m up against, but it’s always in new territory, so it feels too far.
The barbell starts to move and feels impossible to bring back up. I think I’m running too fast and start breathing hard. Learning a new chord and my fingers feel like petulant chopsticks.
The voice becomes very clear in those situations, and it does NOT shut up.
It’s scared, tired, hurting, frustrated, hungry, thirsty, sad, mad, bloated, shy, gassy, pissy, whiny…everything under the sun.
And there it begins. Like someone beating at the door. All the self-limiting thoughts firing volleys of despair, and on the other side I’m trudging along, firing back at what Goggins call “your inner bitch” with a steady “nah, I’m good.”
Take the “there’s children starving in Africa” approach” with the self-talk.
“STOP BEING A BITCH…I’m sorry, that was aggressive! But seriously – we good. People walk on their knees for days to see a church, you can do a 5k in Nike’s”.
Btw, that self-talk? It’s pretty satisfying and enjoyable, way more so than going back and forth with a friend.
There’s always an immediate answer. Don’t have to worry about reception, offending the other person, and if you can learn to argue both sides of that argument (the one where you want to quit something you know is good for you) then you’re set to jet, baby.
So shut off everything, as much as you can, and focus on this:
What am I feeling right now?
Then ask “Why?” about four more times to get to the nature of it, because the first few won’t go deep enough.
And the next time you find yourself being drawn into one of those enticing but utterly useless conversations, here’s a quick run-down of questions to ask:
1. Does this need to be said?
2. Does this need to be said by me?
3. Does this need to be said by me now?
You might have to re-define “need”, but you’ll get there. And if you get three “no’s”, the best follow-up to ask yourself is “what could I be doing now to get better?”
Don’t let yourself be intimidated by self-improvement. It’s rarely painful. Often, it’s watching a sunset, taking a walk, sitting quietly in a room by yourself, or going to bed early.
It makes ya feel good!
You are a wonderfully complex person, and you can learn so much about yourself just by listening.
Enjoy making a new friend of yourself!