This is an insult!

ImageToday, I was speaking to a friend about being offended by things people say. Particularly family.

Nobody likes getting insulted. And if you’re like me – extremely over-sensitive and prone to taking everything personally – you really don’t like it. It’s been quite some time since somebody has insulted me on purpose now, but it used to happen every single day for nine years while I was at school (I was an overweight child / teenager), and I guess that is what has left me with a quite reactive personality. But I have realised that getting insulted is actually a choice.

We all I know it is most hurtful to be told negative things by people close to you. I think it’s because we have a greater tendency to believe they’re true if the person saying them know you well. But a lot of the time people say things out of stress and annoyance, like I do, and remembering that helps.

What also helps a lot is bearing in mind that anything anyone tells you, you’re free do decide that it doesn’t apply, or that it does and it’s okay. If someone calls me, for an example, let’s say ‘lazy’, then that is by their standards, and their opinion. And I can either decide that they’re wrong, or that they’re right but it’s not really such a big deal. I’m easily annoyed and impatient (which peopled do tell me and which is true) I mean, yeah. That’s the case. I’m working on it, but other than that, there’s really no point in getting offended at somebody for stating fact.

So why would I, and most people I think, react so strongly to being told they’re lazy, if they indeed happen to be? Is it because they know it’s true but hoped nobody would notice? Or is it because in that statement is implied an opinion that you should change?

Maybe you want to change. Maybe you’ve tried to change. But when someone else tells you you ought to change, it’s suddenly a big deal? Because they’re telling you they don’t like you as you are? Or, rather, you choose to interpret it that way. When you think about it, any insult could really be placed into one of two categories.

1) Subjective opinion. “You’re ugly” – Says you. And I should care about your personal preferences why?

2) Truth. “You’re so impatient (you really ought to do something about that)”  – Yep. You’re right. And I am trying to do something about it, or else I’m coping fine like this. Or I should do something about it it, but I’m not going to right now because of reasons.

3) It’s not an insult. “You should / shouldn’t do x, y, z this way or that” – Many times people tend to take advice as criticism. But it doesn’t need to be. Maybe the person in question genuinely think you have not considered this approach and want to help. There’s nothing wrong with assuming a benevolent reason and save yourself getting insulted. (More on this in a later post)

Bearing these strategies in mind, technically it should be possible to become uninsultable. In theory…

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Big question – easy answer?

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There are some answers (or, let’s call them ‘solutions’ rather than answers, since there is no yet any absolute confirmation that this is indeed the truth, but the probability seems high enough to make it truly feel like an answer) to big questions, that when they present themselves you not only get a huge a-ha experience, but you also can’t believe you had to arrive at this conclusion by yourself. It seems so obvious that it ought to have been the first thing anyone told you when you asked as a child. Like what happens after death.

I remember being very freaked out at the thought of my own death when I was younger. I even remember one specific time when I got so worked up that I was shaking. And this was not in a crisis situation; this was just speaking about it over dinner.

It wasn’t so much the afterlife that worried me – my parents had always answered ‘probably nothing’ when asked what they thought happens after death – but it was the aspect of being dead forever that really scared me. Because my brain couldn’t handle the concept of forever; there was no way of picturing forever. Or ‘nothing’ for that matter. How do you imagine not existing? Being nothing? Forever? It was distressing.

The day I realised that death would not be anything new to me, the relief was palpable. I can’t remember how it came to me, but it was not from reading anything, seeing anything on TV, or somebody telling me. And that’s what I cannot understand. One simple sentence that seemed to make everything infinitely better: After death it will be just like before you were born. Of course! I’ve already done all this once! The nothingness and the forever – just that forever stretched in another direction – what’s the point in fearing something you’ve already experienced (or not experienced in this case) and have no bad memories of?

Why had nobody told me this? I was born in the 70s, maybe nowadays this is common knowledge amongst the kids, but back then, it wasn’t. And to think grown men have struggled with the concept of death all through history! Inventing heavens and hells and all manner of reincarnation rules and practices… it seems so unnecessary!

Now, if it was only as easy to find a solution to the problem of grief. Other people’s death seems a far scarier thing than my own. It’s the people left behind that have the problem, not the ones who are dead. But… I’m still working on that one.

‘ello ‘ello ‘ello, what’s all this, then?

Lately, I have been making some serious attempts at working on feeling better, emotionally. Positive thinking, acceptance, that whole Zen-bit. This is not stuff that comes naturally to an old cynic and chronic worrier like myself, but you know what they say; “If something is to hard to do, then it’s not worth doing”… no, that’s not right… “Nothing hard is ever easy”… no that’s not it either… Ah well. Something about good things being worth the effort.

In any case, this little project of mine has resulted in a lot of browsing of the Internet, using keywords like ‘how to be patient’, ‘how to not get angry’, ‘how to be happy’ and so-forth. Some of what I’ve found has been quite helpful and encouraging, but it has involved a trek through a veritable mine-field of clichés, platitudes and down-right fallacies, causing me to have to wonder: Is there really no way of developing an okay mindset that doesn’t require you to toss anything even remotely approaching critical thinking or rationality overboard?

Now, I’m a good Googler. I pride myself on being able to find what I’m looking for in the Internet. If the information is there, and freely available, I’ll dig it up. And sure, a lot of the results I’ve got in my search have looked very promising at first glance. They often describe exactly the feelings I’m facing and let me know that there are a lot of other people who share my problems. And I start to get hopeful – here’s someone who feels like me, saying there’s something to do about it, some method that have helped them! It feels like they understand me, and I can’t wait to get down to the actual advice section. But that’s where the enthusiasm usually grinds to an abrupt halt.

After the so promising start, there are a number of ways the article can, and does usually does, tank (for me personally; other people might find these things hugely helpful and inspiring) and here’s a quick run-down of the most commonly occurring reasons.

1) “God”. Everything is fine up until this point, but here’s where I click the x and shut that thing down. If I wanted a religious solution, I would have sought out an overtly religious site. There are lots and lots of these, and that is just fine. I know some people might use religion to great effect in feeling better about the world and their lives – but it’s the automatic assumption that this applies to everybody implied in bringing up ‘god’ in a context that for all intents and purposes looks to be aimed at the general public that gets my goat.

I guess what I would have liked is some sort of “this is a religious site” disclaimer at the start so I knew not to bother? And sure, some articles and sites I’ve read have had the decency to write ‘if you are religious, then…’ but all too often the ‘trust God’ solution is just dropped in there as if it was an option open to everyone. Well, I’m going to need something more personally workable, thank you. Something I actually can do in practice. What can I say? I’m a practical person.

2) Related to 1) but slightly vaguer and in many ways even worse “The / Your Higher Spirit”. Again – with no obvious ‘New Age’ flags previously in the text – just this sudden assumption that I subscribe to the idea that there is some kind of ‘higher spirit’ (whatever that even means). This mindset seems to be rife within the ‘self-help’ community.  But I feel like for me to even go on reading after this point (trusting your ‘higher spirit’), I would first have to sink an enormous amount of time and effort into researching exactly what they mean by ‘higher spirit’ to see if this is something I can find applicable to my own experience. But that’s a whole other post.

3) ‘Everything happens for a reason‘. Unless you mean this in the sense that yes, everything happens for a reason, and that reason is called ‘the cause’, this is yet another one of these wild assumption cases. The people who say this seem to mean that the events themselves (or non-events in the case of something NOT happening (for a reason) ) have some sort of intent and knowledge of what will to turn out to be most beneficial for me personally in the long run, and happen or not happen accordingly. Well, if that isn’t jumping straight down the greased up slope that leads to determinism and that whole shady area, I don’t know what is. What possible reason do we have to believe that everything happens for a reason? Other than Hollywood movies having pumped this idea into our culture for decades.

Each of these three assumptions also gives rise to another problem for me. If there was such a thing as a god, higher spirit, or everything was to happen for a reason – then there would be someone / something carrying the responsibility for all the bad things that happen. Some one / thing doing this shit on purpose! And that’s supposed to make me feel better? Yeah, I think this might be a whole other post as well.

4) ‘Be grateful for what you have / the good things in life’. Hmm. If you re-phrase that as ‘be happy for what you have…’ then I’m all on board. Remembering the good things and focusing on them does seem to help a lot. But ‘gratitude’ always felt like an activity directed towards someone who had given you something. Actually, just now I found a blog post about this here. And wow, this whole blog turned out to be a gold-mine of useful stuff! I fear that if I start reading through it all now, then this post will never be finished.

So, that’s pretty much what I want this blog to be; just a place to collect the things I do find useful; a sort of personal treasure box of thoughts, images, links, songs etc. that work for me; things I find comforting, or that cheers me up, or that just make a bad day a little easier to get through. Sometimes they might be profound, sometimes silly, sometimes perhaps much too personal for anyone else to get any use out of. Well, so be it. After all this is just another drop in the Internet ocean. And that’s a pretty comforting thought right there!

And I will not promise never to post rants about things that piss me off, too.