Love based on (commitment of) staying with someone forever is really only based on fear of losing the other. Truer love honors the others growth and development and leaves room for changes including leaving. Commitment/contract is just a way to get society to impose this fear and/or apply guilt to the other based on their goodness/kindness to control them to impose this fear.
There has been so much written about Stress Management over the past 3 decades, with excellent approaches and techniques for dealing with stress. I have tried many of them with varying results. However, none seem to me to ever adequately address the concept of stress in a complete and truly effective manner. They all feel like band aids. Below I will discuss 2 approaches, then share a new approach I am taking, which seems to be working very well! I welcome your feedback!
Approach 1: Change your Expectations
One of the approaches I tried, which worked quite well for a while, was to define stress as the difference between my expectations and my reality. The action steps were to investigate, define, and revise my expectations, so as to minimize the gap between them and the reality life threw at me. The core belief is that reality is something that happens to you, and your ability to deal with it is the key. I think of sayings like “Go with it!” and “Just deal with it” (From the one-season CBS show Kid Nation – who remembers Taylor?). Again, to a large extent, this is correct.
I believe too many of us really don’t accept anything life gives us and want to change and control everything, because we feel out of control. If you’re there now, then this approach is probably an excellent first step. Practicing it will give you a form of acceptance, which can bring that much needed peace you desire. In fact, only by going with those things that come at you, can you affect them in any way Fighting them repeatedly separates you even further from the place where you can have an effect. But eventually, after spending years of becoming one with your life’s events, you lose yourself and even the most trained master will eventually feel resentment.
This occurs because this approach denies a very human part of us that allows and even insists that we create our own reality. Certainly there are limitations, but to accept that reality just happens (“Stuff Happens”) is to voluntarily put on your own shackles of slavery to the randomness of existence. Yes, there are random events and forces in our lives and more is random than we want to believe (See Black Swan). However, it is not all random. This is the reason this approach fails eventually. Every one of us knows that we will not ever be truly ourselves by only changing our expectations and allowing everyone and everything external to us to simple “take us for a ride.”
Approach 2: Change your Interpretation
Another approach I tried, which worked very well also, for some time, was to redefine my interpretation of stress as either negative (dis-stress) or positive (eu-stress). This gave me the ability to differentiate and analyze the effect/result of stressful situations. It taught me clearly that most stressful situations result in positive ends, or at the very least neutral, and that much time and emotion is wasted on the anxiety of what may become a distressful situation, but usually doesn’t.
The lesson in this approach is that we have the power in our mind to interpret things as we choose. We are not victims of reality, but indeed can choose to see something in a certain light. One of the hidden benefits here is that by choosing to see the initial stages of a potentially negative situation, as positive, we are often actually changing the situation into a positive one, since we attract to us what we dwell upon in our minds.
However, this approach, while more respectful of the self and certainly educational, is still limiting because it does not take into account the individual’s essential self. It teaches the individual to use their mind positively and has great benefits, but still the essential core of who the person actually is, and always has been, is denied. You can only go against your true nature for so long before your-self pays the price, physically, mentally, or spiritually, or in a combination of these.
Approach 3: Change your feelings
Another approach I tried, with varying degrees of success, was to attempt to change my feelings, through reading books and therapy. Again, this approach had varying levels of success, sometimes appearing to have made monumental breakthroughs.
I felt enlightened many times, as my mind grew. I felt relieved as I accepted my past. I felt supported, that someone else had experienced what I had and that I could get through it, too. If felt accepted, part of humanity, who were all suffering together and trying to improve. I felt unshackled, as lingering, damaging memories were uncovered and disarmed in my mind so stresses didn’t affect me as much or at all.
However, this approach always seemed to come against some sort of wall, as if the destination was in the next book or the next therapy session, like one of these days I’ll graduate from my lowly struggle with stress and be able to handle anything that comes my way with calmness, ease, grace, and effectiveness. And, I did – many times.
But in many cases, I continued to spend time addressing stresses which came my way, which I, deep inside, knew were not benefiting me. Even when I got skilled at handling them, managing stresses became a sort of job for me, which I longed to retire from. My-self was was still longing to be acknowledged, because it was stuck dealing with things it really didn’t care to deal with, received no benefit from, and, frankly, was wasting its life away doing so.
My New Approach: Self Respect
None of the previous approaches are incorrect or were wrong for me. In fact, I received terrific benefit from all of them. However, it appears that perhaps experiencing them was a path leading me to this new approach. I have no idea if skipping them and just adopting this approach would be beneficial to the same degree, or at all, even, as having been through them as I did.
To entirely honor, allow, and respect yourself, it is essential that you, the essential person you are, be acknowledged, supported, cared for, loved, and respected. I believe my essential self is my natural soul, my heavenly spirit, and my north star, and is inherent in who I am.
This is not a non-existent part of myself, to be denied by changing my rational expectations, as in the first approach. This is not a purely logical part of myself, to be managed through constructive expectation adjustment, as in the second approach. This is not my feelings, which can could be controlled, to some extent, as in the third approach.
This my true SELF. The innermost person I have always been and always will be. Our current society truly degrades this part of us, through well-meaning traditional education systems, social and entertainment media, and even religious structures, all of which mean no harm, but through repetition, deny even the existence of the true inner self.
But by listening very, very carefully, you will hear whispers of this self. It will call you to choose certain directions, avoid others, and respond with peace when your life is in accordance with its true nature.
Of course, you can chose to go against it, but you will suffer. Your body knows this true self, and will bear the friction of denying it for some time, but eventually will begin failing in small, then larger areas. Your mind will ache, for no apparent reason, you will wake up tired, you will crave anything to sooth yourself, including typical addictive items. Eventually, the human system will rebel, then, if no change is made to accept the inner essential self, the human system will succumb to deep sickness, eventually leading to its death.
I have found that the best stress relieve I now know is to entirely accept my essential self. This does NOT mean I go with every feeling, whim, or desire – quite the opposite. I listen very closely for the inner discernment that exists with every situation.
I may have arrived at this place through the previous approaches, years of martial arts training, recent cranial fluid vibration balancing work, deeper studying and understanding of essential human truths, as practiced in Gangetic religions (such as Jainism and Buddhism), or perhaps just from having been sick and tired of not living an optimum life, which I knew, deep inside, was available to me, but I couldn’t find it.
Learning to listen to yourself is essential. Anyone or anything who advocates denial of the self for another (or a group) will inherently rob you of your-self and shackle you to bondage of society. Imagine literally everyone in the world denied their own essential selves for everyone else. There would be nobody with any essential self left! (Except, perhaps, for the few who already knew this and got everyone else to deny themselves for the few’s benefit – but that is another blog entry, someday).
So, I have no advice for you, in how to practice this approach, yet. I have found that my stress levels have gone to nearly zero by adopting this approach, so my evidence is merely individual and empirical, but it makes sense to me, feels correct, and intuitively (spiritually) seems to be an essential approach.
I would love to know if anyone else has arrived at the same place or felt the same subtle inadequacy with other stress management/relief approaches. Please consider all I have said above and if you feel some resonance with it, please comment here and let me and others know.
I was just working on replacing a power supply on my office computer and crawling around under the desk reminded me of this idea: I used to be somebody!
I remembered buying this fancy desk for my office. I hardly allowed myself to spend $2000 on a desk but it was my big splurge, 14 years ago. I had a fancy office which I spent $100,000s building out. I was the CEO of a multi-million dollar corporation, which I had founded and built from scratch.
Now the business is still doing ok, but so much has changed. I moved into a more practical warehouse office, as that is what the businesses needed for our Ecommerce ventures. All the employees on my team back then are gone and I have an entirely new team. I still work hard, but mostly remotely and am only in the office once or twice a month. I let things go, now, that would have been the end of the world for me before. I spend most of my time helping children who come from difficult families and environments.
So, as I was crawling around under my desk, all my past hit me and I concluded that I used to be somebody!
Am I any less now?? No, actually the person I am now is more than before. But I FEEL like I am nobody now, when I see my fancy desk, which came with me through all the years. It is beautiful.. Metal inside with wood exterior and a glass top. It even has lights in the credenza part. I feel like nobody because I remembered those days year after year when I FELT like I was someone.
But now, I see that I was lying to myself back then. Trapped in the accolades and outward signs of success. I used to wear a fancy suit and tie everyday. Now I just wear jeans and something comfortable.
So I thought about this I am so much richer now because I have myself. Before I had sold myself to the world.. Whoever would give me the ‘atta-boy’ or $300/hr engineering rate I charged.
Now I have myself! And I don’t pimp myself out to anyone. I do what I choose on my terms for my reasons, and nobody has a claim to my life except me! I do what I value based on my rational decisions.
My mentor once told me that all we have in this life is ourselves and that if something goes wrong we only have ourselves to blame.
This is true. By accepting it, I am actually freer than ever before.
So, while I FELT like I was nobody for a moment while crawling under my desk, I now KNOW that I am myself. And that’s the greatest I can ever be!
Tonight, I asked a group of students why they respected our school’s founder, Grandmaster Moo Yong Lee (my Taekwondo teacher since 1985 and father-like mentor). Their answers varied, from “I simply respect him because he is my elder” to “I respect him because he respects us” to “I respect him for all he teaches us”to “he is easy to respect because he is so humble.”
As I expected, none of the answers were indicating that the respect the students had for our grandmaster was because he expected them to respect him. Knowing how humble he is, I knew everyone respected him out of their own desire to respect him. He would have been mortified if anyone respected him because they thought he expected them to respect him.
As I was explaining that respect can never be something that is commanded, but instead only earned, I decided to ask them what they would do if they didn’t have respect for him. Universally their answers were that they would not be his students. In that moment, I realized, yet again, the wisdom of our grandmaster.
To the extent that he was able to cultivate our respect for him, he was able to teach us. And teaching us was his objectives. So, our respect for him had very little to do with him, it was actually for our benefit. I’m certain he knew that our respect for him would help us learn from him. This insight only came to me as I was teaching, this evening.
This perspective is so different than the typical western perspective of respect. Most people want to get respect, or be respected. People are very concerned if they are “dis”respected. Respect seems to be something to be acquired or attained. The idea of respect being something given, and given freely, seems foreign to most people’s minds.
But in martial arts, specifically taekwondo, respect is a big thing. Only tonight, did I get a much clearer understanding of the benefit of respecting another. It always seems like the right thing to do, and it was just the way we do things. It kept everything running orderly, insured rank order was maintained, and provide a framework in which we could learn.
But I see now, but the true purpose of respect is so the individual can open their mind and heart to the teacher. Perhaps this is where the old saying “the teacher appears when the student is ready” comes from. Maybe the teacher simply knows that it takes time for the student to learn to respect him.
I will teach my students and do my very best to cultivate and earn respect from them. I will create an environment in which they can benefit from being respectful. I will always give them more than they expect from me, as a primary method of earning their respect. I will always tell them the truth, and always, always show them respect first, especially when they have not earned it or maybe even think they don’t deserve it. I will remain humble, knowing that my teaching is only that: my teaching. I will always give my best to them, and my intention will always remain pure.
Only this way can I help them develop respect for me, for their benefit!
I came across this poem/prayer by Mother Teresa recently and believe I needed to hear it. I have always pressed on during difficult times. But the past 6 months have been the most difficult, ever, in my life. This has helped me considerably.
Found written on the wall in Mother Teresa’s home for children in Calcutta:
People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.
Alternatively, it is between you and yourself. Only you know everything you have done. Only you know your true intention. Only you can ever possibly forgive yourself unconditionally! You can come up with 100 reasons not to. But forget those reasons and Do It Anyway!