About toxic parenting and control

About toxic parenting and control.jpg
(18 July 2019)

The idea of family has always been a central part of humanity. Over time, it took many forms and, even today, it continues to evolve. One of the main factors of this evolution is the perception we have of the relationship between parents and children. We, both as individuals and as a society, are becoming more aware of the different aspects of such a relationship and we are able to make a distinction between what is healthy and what is not, what creates abundance and what destroys it.

When we realize this distinction, we usually find ourselves in one of the two sides, either as parents or as children. Most often, it is the latter. In all cases, we have to face both the good and the bad aspects of the relationship, while being unable to choose between them. Unless the awareness of both sides reach a similar altitude, a proper communication cannot be established. Our best and probably only option is to bring into discussion this distinction between healthy and toxic interactions and help the other side become aware of it.

By looking deeper into the nature of what we perceive as negative behaviors, such as emotional blackmail, unfair judgement or victimization, we realize that all of them are actually emotional strategies that have been used effectively over the course of our history. We could even consider them to be emotional technologies. And as with any technology, once a new one is invented, the old one becomes obsolete. Today, we are in the process of replacing the old emotional technology, which we consider toxic, with a next-generation one, which we consider healthy. This change is not easy, especially for those who have lived their entire life based on tradition.

Apart from that, there seems to be another factor at play that drives this toxic relationship between parents and children. In the past, one of the few sources of self-esteem has been our family, especially our children. We learned to define ourselves in terms of them. This aspect is changing rapidly, since more sources of self-esteem are now available, such as work, friends, life experiences and more. Unfortunately, some of us are having problems transforming ourselves.

When our self-image depends mainly on our children, we are forced to ensure control over them, in order to avoid the fear of losing our self-esteem. This seems to be one of the biggest causes of the toxic relationships we are facing. To overcome this problem, we need to learn how to reimagine ourselves in today’s world, for the sake of our well-being and that of our children.

 

What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.

— Abraham Maslow

 

About living with uncertainty

About living with uncertainty
(16 July 2019)

At some point in our lives, we find ourselves in periods of uncertainty, in which we do not know which actions to take or which direction to choose. We are unable to continue our life as before. Uncertainty can come in many forms. It could be financial uncertainty, lacking an income, or it could be medical uncertainty, dealing with a disease or simply old age. Or it could be related to unstable relationships. Whatever the nature of uncertainty, in such situations, we fear that we might lose our life as we know it. It is both painful and scary.

In such situations, our emotional state is dominated by confusion. We do not know which actions to take in order to escape from the bad outcomes that we anticipate. Sometimes it feels easier to be in a desperate situation, than in an uncertain one, since there are fewer options to choose from. Having to make a decision can cause greater stress than just accepting a bad outcome.

When we look deeply at the cause of fear and stress that comes from uncertainty, we discover the same mechanism that is part of our daily life: the ability to imagine and predict the future. Moreover, we realize that, in such situations, this idea of prevention, a strategy that normally protects us from harm, can backfire on us. This ability that we have as human beings can be both a blessing and a curse, depending on circumstances. The more we try to avoid certain future outcomes, the more stress and confusion we create to ourselves. This can sometimes become a downward spiral from which we cannot escape.

It seems that our only solution is to temporarily give up our commitment to the future, whichever that is, and simply focus on the present. We can decide to not imagine anything and just observe what we already have in the present moment, without judging or even wanting to change it. We can decide to not use our imagination when it doesn’t help us, while causing us stress, fear and pain. We can decide to not prevent any future outcome and just accept whatever happens to us. When we do this, we discover that our mind becomes clear and quiet, and with that comes new energy and freedom to act.

If we really want to learn how to cope with uncertainty, then we must include it into our own lifestyle. We must not only consider uncertainty, but actually build our entire way of living based on it. Moreover, if we want to really succeed in this direction, we must look at death itself, in all its forms, from the death of our body, to the death of our dreams and desires. If we want to be capable of living with uncertainty, then we must make death an integral part of our life.

 

The power for creating a better future is contained in the present moment: You create a good future by creating a good present.

— Eckhart Tolle

About teamwork and duties

About teamwork and duties.jpg
(15 July 2019)

Teamwork and social interactions have always been part of our evolution as human beings. From survival to well-being, we depend on each other, as we are deeply interconnected. Today, this is more obvious than ever. Not only that, but our interactions, as well as our lives, are increasing in complexity. Our work environment is a reflection of this change.

It seems that our cooperation methods and skills are lagging behind. Our projects and duties are rapidly becoming more and more complex, while the ways in which we relate as humans are changing slowly. We logically understand the roles of our team, but we seem to lack the ability to connect with our team members in ways that enhance our creativity and results. When this happens, we end up judging and blaming each other for not accomplishing our duties.

If we pay close attention to our work environments, we see that most of them are designed in an old and simplistic way, such that they do not reflect the complexity of our current life. We tend to focus on just a few indicators to measure our work, while ignoring the real context in which those indicators are used, which is our entire life. In such conditions, it’s no wonder that our work becomes a cause of stress and our colleagues sometimes become our opponents.

If we want to solve this problem, we must first realize that forcing ourselves to be strong and deal with the situation is not a real solution, but just a way of hiding our pain. Once we are aware of this, we can start looking for solutions that address the main issue: our superficial approach towards our work environment. We need to start looking at our team as being made of not just roles, but humans with roles. Once we start integrating more and more aspects of ourselves, our teamwork will take new forms, which will reflect the true complexity of our lives.

Such a process of transformation can only start with individuals. We need to reimagine our team dynamics and get involved in reshaping them. The process can be slow and tedious, and full of mistakes, but it will be worthwhile. It will require courage and effort, as well as patience. Whether we find ourselves in a managerial position or any other role, it matters less. Our challenge is to increase our awareness of which aspects of life are involved in our work and then imagine solutions to capture and integrate them. The results can be exciting.

 

If the structures of the human mind remain unchanged, we will always end up re-creating the same world, the same evils, the same dysfunction.

— Eckhart Tolle

About awareness and communication

About awareness and communication.jpg
(9 July 2019)

We live in a world that is becoming more and more interconnected thanks to our advancements in technology. Now, we are able to observe and interact with large numbers of people. This gives us a greater awareness over our entire life, like never before. It allows us not only to include a greater variety of perspectives, but also to observe their interplay from a deeper level. We are able to create new interpretations of the world and find new ways in which we can improve it.

One aspect that becomes clear is the way we interact as human beings. We realize that many problems that arise in our lives are due to our faulty communication and our attachment to the identity we have created, both as individuals and collectives. Our emotions and thoughts seem to betray us, they keep us captive in a loop of bad habits. When we become aware of this, we desire to change not only ourselves, but also those around us. We desire a better world.

As our awareness increases, we become aware of the problems that our egos create, we become aware of how they work deep inside ourselves. Sometimes, we are able to find solutions that transform ourselves and our lives. We then desire to share these solutions with everyone around us. When they work, we become confident. When they fail, we become frustrated.
First, we need to acknowledge the complexity of the situations we want to address. Then, we need to avoid getting attached to our solutions. Failing to do so will only enhance our frustration.

So, what are we supposed to do ? What can we do ? What should we do ?
We could look for new and better solutions. We can definitely do that. At the same time, we need to realize that we are part of this world and that every aspect of ourselves comes from the world and goes back into the world. We need to see that we, as a whole, are a continuous flux of life, which includes our faulty situation, our awareness of it and our desire to change. From the situation arises our awareness of it and from that awareness arises our desire. And all this becomes our new situation. Our frustration is part of this flux of life, but is it of good use ?

If we are to select a direction in which we should move together, we must also realize that such a direction arises from what we already are. Sometimes, that direction might not correspond with our desire. We can choose frustration or we can choose tranquility. The more awareness we bring into this flux of life, the more it changes. In the end, our awareness will choose tranquility.

 

Participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world. We cannot cure the world of sorrows, but we can choose to live in joy.

— Joseph Campbell

About desires and relationships

About desires and relationships.jpg
(7 July 2019)

We live in a world in which the social interactions receive enormous importance. Our entire life and identity depends on the people with whom we communicate, live and form relationships. With so many aspects of ourselves at stake, we should not be surprised if we find ourselves wanting to have close connections with resourceful people, to ensure both our security and prosperity. Nowadays, being resourceful can mean various things: being wealthy, being popular, being powerful, being intelligent, being sexually attractive, being wise etc.

Our current society seems to promote the idea that we should follow our desires and create the best life for ourselves. This will inevitably include creating or acquiring relationships that serve us. We seem to invest a lot of attention into love relationships, probably because they give us the strongest emotions and sense of importance. That makes us react more strongly to any event or story that happens around us and that involves a love relationship. We try to learn from them and decide our actions based on the experience of other people.

Sometimes, we come to the conclusion that it is better to remain alone or just postpone. Other times, we conclude that we must to do whatever it takes to achieve the relationship we desire. Whatever our decision is, once we believe it, our thought process changes in order to justify it. We take into consideration only or mostly the aspects that serve our purpose. Most often, we don’t even realize we are doing this. We use our emotions to guide us towards that purpose.

If we look inside ourselves, we can see that, whatever we do, we must be able to justify our actions and feel good about ourselves. We must feel that we have the right to be the way we are, regardless of how other people might perceive us. Sometimes, we have to build laborious stories about what happens to us and why we make specific decisions. We must believe our stories, even when the situation seems crazy. We must feel that our stories are justified. How we feel depends on how well our inner stories match the outer reality.

We observe the experience of other people, we judge them and we learn from them. This process of learning is a process in which we create or update our own stories, not just about other people, but also about ourselves. The more clearly we are able to understand this, the more accurate our stories will become. And that will bring us a peace of mind.

 

Every human is an artist. And this is the main art that we have: the creation of our story.

— Don Miguel Ruiz

About helping street beggars

About helping street beggars
(6 July 2019)

Most of us live in a society with an abundance of social roles and situations, as well as an abundance of economic levels, from very poor to very rich. Most of us see ourselves as normal people with limited time and resources. If we happen to consider ourselves middle class, we are probably frustrated with those who are rich and we pity those who are poor. If we have such feelings, how are we supposed to act ?

Most of the time, we don’t do anything, unless we are directly involved with either of such people. Street beggars are probably the most representative symbol that we have in mind when we think of those living in poverty. At the same time they are also considered a symbol of lying and deceiving. If we encounter them, we are faced with an emotional dilemma: to follow our desire to help or our fear of being fooled. Most of the time, the fear is stronger.

There are at least two questions we need to ask: what to do as individuals and what to do as a society ? Do we want to help those people integrate in the bigger group or just ignore them ?
If we are to choose the first option, we must acknowledge that such a goal can rarely be accomplished by simple individuals. Instead, we need to build organizations to manage this issue. If we really want to help those people, then we need to become more active in supporting such organizations, in any way we can. This requires more effort than just offering a few coins.

We have to ask ourselves: what do we want to accomplish ? Do we really want to make a significant change for a person or do we just want to feel a temporary human connection ?
Most of the time, the first option seems too complicated for us, so we become content with a simple and temporary act of charity. Such acts maintain the image of good people we have about ourselves.

Is this all we want ? We must be truly sincere with ourselves. We might realize that we don’t really want to be involved in anything more than that, which is perfectly ok. We might also realize that we want to make a significant change for those people, in which case we can look for better solutions. Whichever desire we have, we must understand that the choice is ours and we must take full responsibility for it.

 

True compassion means not only feeling another’s pain but also being moved to help relieve it.

— Daniel Goleman

About emotional sensibility

About emotional sensibility
(6 July 2019)

Our ability to feel emotions can be seen as a way in which we receive feedback from the interaction with the world around us. This ability is best seen as a spectrum, going from completely numbness to extremely intense emotions. Most of us find ourselves somewhere in the middle of this spectrum, enjoying our experiences without being overwhelmed by them.

Sometimes we happen to find ourselves closer to one of the edges of the spectrum. Sometimes we realize that we lack any reaction to certain experiences, and we feel like robots. Sometimes we hate ourselves for reacting too much to what seems minor situations. We should first acknowledge the way we are and stop fighting against ourselves. Then, as we explore the complexity of our world, we realize that, whichever position we have on this spectrum of emotional sensibility, there are aspects of our lives that are destroyed by this and others that are greatly enhanced. We should not see our emotional sensibility, or lack of it, as a disability that prevents us from being part of the world. It is better to see it as a direction that is recommended for our lives. It becomes our duty to learn how to follow this direction.

In time, as we discover how to use our uniqueness in useful and beautiful ways, we start to enjoy ourselves more and more. Naturally, as we keep growing, we become more balanced and our position on the spectrum changes, we get closer to the middle. But that should not be our only goal. We should try to learn as much as possible about the advantages and shortcomings of our uniqueness and how to make good use of it. We should not avoid certain situations that make us uncomfortable, but instead, we should seek them intentionally in order to discover more about ourselves. In fact, this might be the only way in which we can grow.

It is very important to not judge ourselves or other people for the mistakes that are due to our uniqueness. Our lives can be harsh enough before we learn to use our ability or find the right environment that allows us to use it. This is especially true for children. Unfortunately, our current society does not give us much flexibility in this regard. Sometimes, if we cannot find the right environment for ourselves, we might need to create one ourselves. This can be both scary and exciting. If we succeed, we will feel it was worth the effort. If we fail, we will discover more about ourselves and our uniqueness. We should learn how to talk more openly about our emotional sensibility, or lack of it. The more we hide from it, the more we hide from ourselves.

 

Opportunities to find deeper powers within ourselves come when life seems most challenging.

— Joseph Campbell

About choosing a life partner

About choosing a life partner.jpg
(5 July 2019)

It seems that nowadays we have an abundance of options in all areas of life. And with all these options comes a lot of choices that we have to make. It seems that we have an abundance of options, but we lack a point of reference from which to make the right choices. In some areas it’s even harder when the social recommended choice is obsolete and does not satisfy our needs. Today, this seems to be the case for love relationships or life partners.

It is hard to choose the right life partners when our lives change so often and sometimes quite drastically. Our life partners would have to change with us if they are to remain in our lives at the same level of connection. It is not easy to find someone who will change in the same way as we do, especially when we don’t know how we ourselves are going to change.

Nowadays, we can find many resources online about how to find the perfect partner for ourselves based on preferences, personalities, life goals and so on. But as always, just knowing the theory is not enough when we actually try this in practice. It seems that what is required is to use the same trial and error approach to relationships that we use in other areas of life. This becomes very difficult if our society does not encourage this approach due to a lack of understanding of life’s complexity. Our first choice needs to be to find a person who has the same trial and error approach, so that our expectations are realistic.

What can we do if we already have a partner, but our expectations are not matching ? Should we end our relationship or try to fix it ? The solution to such an issue has to come from both parts. To truly have a love relationship, we must first have the same definition of what our relationship actually is. If our definitions and expectations conflict with each other, our love is questionable. It is important that we acknowledge that breaking the relationship is not always the best solution. It depends very much on our circumstances. Our decisions have to take into consideration all aspects of our lives and not just our present feeling.

In the end, we need to remember or realize that our control over our situation is limited. We cannot separate ourselves from our environment. Our lives is a continuous interaction between our choices and all the other choices that happen around us. And we should not judge ourselves for making choices that seem wrong sometimes. Never before have our lives been this complex in the matter of options we have and choices we must make.

 

I learnt to stop fantasising about the perfect job or the perfect relationship because that can actually be an excuse for not living.

— Alain de Botton

About relationships and life struggles

About relationships and life struggles
(4 July 2019)

We live in a world full of both beautiful things and awful ones and our lives seem to collect experiences from both sides. For some of us, the beautiful things are more abundant, while for others is the opposite. More often than not, our lives seem to intersect with other lives that have a different collection of experiences. And sometimes those intersections become strong relationships, of many kinds.

If we happen to experience happiness but our partner experiences sadness, we experience sadness as well. Most often, we stop experiencing happiness at that point. It seems that the experience of sadness gets priority. If we care about our partner, then we feel it is our duty to offer help, material or emotional. That feeling of duty symbolizes our relationship. And we expect our partner to feel grateful for our help.

Sometimes, our experiences are beyond our control. Sometimes, they take control of us and we feel unable to change them. And sometimes we are just watching the experience of our partner, unable to do anything. We have to acknowledge that all these options are possible and one day we might find ourselves in any of the situations. We might not be able to change a sad experience, but we should not blame ourselves and create even more sad experiences. We should try to navigate our lives in a way that minimizes the sadness created to our partners or to ourselves.

Prevention is the desired solution. But once we find ourselves in a sad situation, we should acknowledge that whatever action we take, it might not be a happy one. And that is ok.
More than preventing or avoiding the sad experiences, we should avoid becoming obsessed with controlling our lives in the first place. Once we acknowledge that our control is limited, we can then focus our energy on what we can do to improve our lives or the lives of our partners, while keeping in mind that we are doing it out of love, not out of duty or shame.

We can see our relationships as a symbol of love instead of a symbol of duty. We can also acknowledge the limitation of the love and the support we can offer. Once we do that, we have more time and energy to find more satisfying ways of expressing love according to who we are.

 

We deem those happy who from the experience of life have learnt to bear its ills without being overcome by them.

— Carl Jung

About family as social construct

About family as social construct
(28 June 2019)

Throughout time, humans have tried to organize themselves in various ways in order to survive and prosper. One of those ways, and probably the most important one, has been the family.
The idea of family serves several purposes:
– it creates a safe place in which children can grow;
– it acts as an organized structure in which emotions can be expressed freely;
– it makes surviving and living easier for individuals;
– it acts as a center of gravity for people’s desires and hopes;
and more.

In order to accomplish its benefits, the family, as a social construct, must impose certain limitations, such as:
– a problem that arises inside must first be addressed inside (only when no solution was found, external help is accepted);
– there has to be a certain degree of similarity between its members (expressed in many forms);
– internal aspects must receive greater importance and urgency than external aspects;
and more.

The benefits and limitations of the family interact with each other in various and complex ways. Sometimes it leads to great pleasure and satisfaction, while sometimes it creates intense traumas or emotional pain. We need to consider both scenarios when talking about this topic, both are as important. Sometimes it can be hard to see both aspects, especially when we didn’t experience one of them directly ourselves. But I think all of us have been, at one point or another, on both sides of a family, inside and outside, and we were able to at least observe this social construct from both points of view. I think all of us have seen both some positive and some negative aspects of it, either from inside or from outside.

So the question becomes: what should we do about this ?
We, as a society, should start by asking this exact question: what should we do about this ?
Are we satisfied with the current state of the family, this social construct ? If not, in which ways should we change it ?
This question needs to be asked not by individuals, but by the whole society. The individual can only start the discussion. If we are to make any significant change to this social construct, we must have this discussion, as a whole.

 

There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.

— Nelson Mandela