Dealing with Loss

Something Worth Considering

Much grief and despair that humans experience is due to some loss in our lives. We lose someone or something and we feel pain because of this. We become attached to certain relationships and possessions. When we lose what we are attached to, immense pain occurs. Pain is a natural part of life and there is no way to eliminate completely from our lives. However, I think that it’s worth considering that when it comes to loss, it would serve us well to remember that we don’t actually own anything in this life except our own body and mind, and even those can be taken from us. Therefore, becoming too attached to people and things is actually a cause for pain that can be reduced when we realize that everything we perceive that we have in life is actually on loan to us. Circumstances outside our control can take these things away at any time without warning. Indeed our very lives are just on loan to us by nature, the universe, God, whatever term you prefer. Like a car at the end of the lease, we will have to turn ourselves back in to the dealership.

Should we walk around dwelling on the fact that we truly own nothing in this life? I don’t believe that is the best way to live. Instead, I think that quietly recognizing the fact that we don’t really have control over anything except our own mind and actions can help us actually reduce the pain we feel when we lose something or someone. The Stoics referred to this practice as negative visualization—by contemplating the reality that we will eventually lose everything and everyone in our lives, we can prepare ourselves and reduce the sting of the loss when it occurs. The practice can also lead to a greater appreciation for the people and things in our lives. Because nothing lasts forever, we can learn to take nothing for granted and appreciate all we have just a little more. The pain of loss can also be lessened just by remembering that we were lucky to have been blessed with certain people and things in the first place. Eventually, we will lose everything, including our own existence, so we should actually learn to enjoy what we have a little more.

Again, nothing can ever stop the feelings of pain, nor the grief associated with loss. But we can learn to reduce that pain by practicing negative visualization. The real key to satisfaction is wanting and enjoying what you already have, not in yearning for something else. Remembering that everything is temporary, we can learn to enjoy our time living. Life is beautiful exactly because it is temporary. So treat people a little better, appreciate your relationships a little more, and enjoy material things without becoming too attached to any of them. Attachment leads to unnecessary pain because loss is inevitable. Enjoyment without attachment, that’s the simple formula for fulfillment. Just remember this, what is simple is not always easy!

In health,

Sean

Is Pain Controlling Your Life?

The Real Problem With Pain

This blog began as a way for me to discuss how to find freedom and happiness despite having adversity and struggles in life. My thought was that even though everyone encounters pain in their life, not everyone realizes that others share in similar experiences. We are all on the same journey in life because we have been programmed genetically as humans to seek out pleasure and avoid pain. Of course, no one can completely avoid pain and often times we mistake discomfort for pain and addiction for pleasure. Therein lies the real problem with both pleasure and pain- it blinds us to reality in the moment.

Pain is especially insidious in its ability to distort clear thinking. When we experience pain, depending on the severity, we will look for and do almost anything to stop the pain. That’s not the problem. The problem is that pain itself is a symptom of something else and it’s often the case that while experiencing pain, we cannot correctly identify the source of the pain. You may have a chronic shoulder or hip pain and blame it on a past injury or the fact that you have been sitting too long during your workdays. However, the real problem underlying the pain could be that your movement patterns during physical exercise are causing stress on the joints and therefore muscular imbalances. Again, it’s exceedingly difficult to diagnose the cause of pain unless the pain has subsided to the point where we can engage in clear thinking again. Then, once the pain is gone, we often forget to research the cause of the pain, or we just get distracted by our daily lives the the endless cycle of pain continues.

Another common experience among people in pain is they find that their ability to be patient and empathetic towards others declines rapidly. We forget that pain is not unique to our human experience, but something shared by all. The worst is when people have arguments over who has more pain! Have you ever seen this? It’s like a competition for who has the most ailments and who has the most difficult life. It’s as if the need for significance compels us to bring up everything wrong in our lives with others.

It’s important to remember that nothing lasts forever, especially pain. No one should believe that because they are in pain, they will always be. Moreover, the pain you are experiencing may or may not have been caused by something you have done. It’s impossible to know for sure because the pain is keeping your from thinking accurately. Trying to diagnose the correct cause of the pain during the suffering of the pain is not the best course of action. Neither is it wise to engage in important conversations (especially with loved ones), business transactions or making important life decisions. Take it from someone with chronic pain, nearly every argument, blow up in temper, terrible decision or major mistake I have made is because my thinking has been obfuscated by physical or emotional pain. It would have done me well to acknowledge that I was in pain and was not thinking clearly before I took any action.

As human beings we can never escape our biological impulses to avoid pain and seek pleasure. However, we can as humans employ our ability to use reason in spite of the pain. All of us should acknowledge and accept that when we are in pain we are not thinking clearly. How do you know if you are thinking clearly? See( https://libertyandpain.com/2016/04/21/thinking-clearly/.) If we are not mindful that we are in pain, we will do something that leads to regret later on. I know, I know…. EASIER SAID THAN DONE, RIGHT? Nothing worth doing is easy. It’s worth at least reminding ourselves that we need to do the hard work when it comes to thinking clearly and acknowledge when we are being controlled by our pain.

 

In Health,

Sean

Finding Your Truth

I’ve written previously about how so many people focus on the minor things in life and allow little, insignificant details bog them down and derail their plans. It’s true and will always be true that humans suffer unnecessarily from the false stories we tell ourselves. Most of the problems we have persist in the mind because we assign poor meanings to the events of our lives. In other words, we tell ourselves stories that have no basis in fact (something that can be measured objectively) but rather, our need to assign meaning to all the events in life causes us to offer up a narrative based on prior beliefs, events and values. The bottom line is that we are always telling ourselves a story. We decide what things and events mean to us with these stories. So, why not tell yourself a better story? Answer: because our brains cannot simply be rewritten like computer code. It’s much more difficult to simply delete the stories in our minds.

This is where the phrase “your truth” comes from. This is not to suggest you deliberately lie to yourself or refuse to accept actual factual events. Instead, the phrase is merely an observation that most of what is going on in your head are a bunch of stories that help you to create meaning of what is going on in your life. These stories are “your truth” because you become the story you tell yourself over and over again. If “life constantly beats you down and you have bad luck,” that story will become your truth because you’ll create meaning based around those beliefs. Moreover, you’ll look for, and give extra importance to, the negative events that occur that will reaffirm the story you tell yourself about having bad luck. See, humans are meaning-making creatures. It’s one of the most important distinguishing features between us and the rest of the animal kingdom. So, if it’s in our power to create the meaning about the events in our lives, the answer to living a less anxiety ridden life is to attempt to repeat stories that serve you rather than hinder you in your endeavors.

You. Version 2.0

While rewriting the code in your brain is not as simple or easy as installing the new Mac iOS update on your device, there are ways you can permanently change the type of stories that your brain produces. The first tool that can be employed is to develop a set of rituals every single day. I prefer to start out the day by reading or listening to something that reminds me that I’m in control of my body and the thoughts I produce and choose to listen to. I usually do this alone early in the morning before the day starts. Often, I will do this while doing morning cardio. I find that the easiest way to get out of your head is to embrace your body, and movement is the key. Emotion comes from motion and by radically changing your physiology through exercise, you may quickly find that a flood of new stories pour into your mind.

With any ritual, however, it must be performed often and with concentration for it to have an effect. Therefore, the second tool is really repetition–if you tell yourself something over and over again, you’ll find it’s like accessing a file. The more you do it, the faster it loads because your processor (the brain) becomes faster at retrieving it. The body runs on neurological pathways and the more you use these pathways, the stronger they become and the faster the electrical signals can fire. The more often you tell yourself an empowering story, the faster and more available that story becomes for you to determine what something means. It’s all just a story anyway, so repeat one that will get you where you want to go, rather than stuck in a fixed position. Another great ritual is to journal every morning or evening. What this does is allows you to take your thoughts and get them out of your head and onto paper where you begin to detach yourself from them. It’s important to remember that you are not your thoughts, but rather the one producing them. By writing down your thoughts, it helps you to remember this very important truth.

The last tool is to permanently delete or damage any old stories that you used to tell yourself. Again, this is difficult but absolutely doable. In fact, you can do anything you set your mind to do. The key to successfully removing old stories is to associate so much pain or embarrassment with them that it causes a physical response in your body. This is like taking a knife and scratching a CD or record so that it will never play properly in your machine again. Instead, it will cause discomfort even attempting to play it. An example may be useful here, so I’ll share a story that I used to tell myself. It was simply that “people can’t be trusted and I have to do everything myself.” To rid myself of this story forever, I began to associate all the pain and loneliness I had in my life due to “going it alone.” I realized very quickly that everything great in my life was due to other people–my wife, my family, my kids, and my friends. All the great memories I have are with other people. All of the money I have made has come from other people. All the roads, airplanes, elevators, I have used were built by others. All of the products I’ve used were created by other people, or at a least the raw materials were gathered by others. All of the books I’ve read were written by others. All of the joy in my life, everything that was good was because of other people. Did I have pain caused by others? Yes, but only because I was choosing to play a story in my head about how they hurt me. I could just as easily tell myself a story about how “my haters” helped me grow into the man I am now. So I did. I began to associate intense pain with being “a loner” and intense joy with building relationships with others. Now, whenever a story pops in my head about how people suck, I think about what my life would be like with no house, phones, electricity, food, books, cars, roads or music. This helps to get me thinking clearly again about how much I value relationships with other people, although I admit I am guarded about who I let into my life. But being careful and being scared or cynical are very different things. Being careful is smart. Being jaded is dangerous.

Takeaway

The takeaway here is that you can and should begin to examine what stories you tell yourself that limit you. They can be about money, life, other people, government, your own abilities–the list goes on. Then, after the limiting stories have been identified, begin to destroy the story by associating so much pain and embarrassment with the story that a new story, one that is more empowering, can be played on the device known as your brain. You do get to choose the meaning behind events. You do this by choosing what to story to tell yourself about what you’re focusing on. So give yourself some new stories that will allow you to get up and take massive action towards your goals and desires. (I prefer the word desire over goal because I think it has more power behind it. Most people give up on their goals, but those same people may give into their desires. By swapping out one word with another, or one story with another, the change in your life can be profound.) So when something happens, remember to ask yourself, “What does this mean or what story am I going to tell myself about this?” Then ask, “What am I going to do about it?” Make sure your story leads to take action in a positive way for you and others.

In health,

Sean’s

Life and Death

These are troubling times. Not that there haven’t always been troubling times, it’s just that more of humanity is aware of problems in various parts of the world thanks to technology. Unfortunately, there will be more troublesome events to come. It is unlikely bad things will stop happening. However, it’s important to remember that you choose where you get to live emotionally. You can live in despair and fear. You can live in gratitude and abundance. The choice is yours. Do you want change in the world? Change yourself first. Specifically, there are two things that must change for positive transformations. The first is having a productive philosophy towards life. The second is to live in harmony. If you have these two characteristics, you will thrive. These are the traits needed to maintain life. If you lack these, you will begin to break down and devolve. Life needs harmony and clear thinking. Death does not. Death must be staved off–the death of the business, the relationship, the organism. It is the natural consequence of not having a philosophy of productivity and being in harmony with those around you. Growth or death—it is all very simple.

Those who develop and maintain a positive, productive philosophy will always do well because they take responsibility for everything in their life and control their emotions and responses to the world. These people will also have a natural tendency towards harmony with others. Those who have a productive and positive philosophy understand that harmony is essential for life. Your body must work in perfect harmony to sustain energy and life. If not, it begins to decay and the damage may be irreversible. The same is true with a business culture. A relationship is perhaps the clearest example of why philosophy and harmony are necessary to life. Both people in a relationship must give 100% effort for it to work. They must each have a philosophy of love, responsibility, and compassion. Each must strive to be in harmony with the other. Yet, half of all marriages end in divorce. It’s so simple to see why. It’s the lack of harmony and maintaining a philosophy of positivity. The same goes for the violence so prevalent amongst mankind. All of it can be traced back to the lack of the fundamental characteristics needed to grow and maintain life.

I urge all of my employees to strive for harmony with each other. Most workplaces are toxic and a majority of polls taken of employees show that most have significant issues with their coworkers and managers. This is all due to a lack of harmony. There must exist a desire to be in harmony with all those in your workplace (and in your life) to realize an incredible workplace. Without that desire for harmony, the natural tendency towards problem and decay will occur. If this continues in a business, it becomes part of the workplace culture. Once it’s a part of the culture, it’s nearly impossible to stop without replacing every individual. Often, even the great employees cannot free themselves of the damage done to them by a toxic environment. It warps their philosophy to see the worst in others and seek out problems. If people only knew it was within their own power to change this. An incredible workplace, an incredible relationship—an incredible world begins with each person acting incredible and developing an incredible philosophy. Be mindful of your own personal philosophy. Is it geared towards harmony and growth? Or are you letting your mind erode with the problems of life? Are you thinking clearly—thoughts leading to positive consequences for those around you and your loved ones? If not, change it. Be the change you want to see in the world.

Addicted to Our Problems

We live in a therapy culture. We are taught to talk about our problems so we may find a way to resolve them. Problems, problems, problems. We have become addicted to our problems. People feed off of them. They talk about them to friends, family, and coworkers. Problems are talked about so much it would be safe to assume that people are becoming much healthier emotionally compared to our ancestors. Is this the case? I don’t think it is.

I disagree with the “professionals” that say talking about your problems is healthy. I don’t want you to think that I am a proponent of hiding issues or living in denial. I do think that acknowledging problems is important, but not as important as being focused on your desired outcome. Energy flows to where focus goes. If your focus is your problems rather than your outcome, your problems run your life. Spending too much energy on problems is not healthy—it is toxic.

I don’t talk about my problems much. I readily acknowledge that I have various health issues including spondylitis and asthma. However, I don’t focus on it or talk about it much. My problems are not a part of my identity. I do not let them control me, or the emotional states I live in. Yes, they do exist. No, I am not better talking about them to everyone. Nor is anyone else better off having heard what ails me. I do not direct my energy to what I do not want.

I believe the ancient stoic and Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius gave us sound advice for dealing with problems, “If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.” The Stoics school believed in maintaining tranquility throughout life. They did not believe this was possible if your thoughts and actions were focused on problems instead of your desired outcome. Stoicism is a philosophy worth looking into. I believe reading Seneca or Marcus Aurelius, two men of great wisdom and power, can help you navigate the road of life with a little more perspective.

BREXIT =LIBERTY

BREXIT =LIBERTY

Whatever else the Brexit vote may be, it is at its core an emphasis of the belief of self-governance and self-determination. There is really only one right that all humans have-the right to property. This right stems from the fact that you own your own body and therefore have the right to your property and self-governance. This is a fundamental right. No one owns you. You have the right to self-determination. Older Brits, the largest group in support of leaving the European Union understood this.Younger ones have been brainwashed into believing that a global government is better for all. The opposite is true in regards to freedom.  Brexit was not about racism or xenophobia as many would have you believe. It was about a country getting the short end of the stick and deciding to take ownership of the right to self-determination.

The breakup of large empires is a recurring theme through history. Eventually, localities with a different culture, language and needs resent having a central government in a far off land deciding what they can and cannot do. Older Brits, the one making up the largest tax base understand that their taxes are being forced towards policies they don’t approve of. The concept is so simple that the truly shocking part about it, is that the elites don’t get it. The ones who benefit from taxation, loose money and central banking are the ones who are really concerned because their grip on the globe is failing. The central planners and progressives have gripped so tight for so long, the countries they desire to control are slipping though their fingers. When they see countries stand up and refuse a central currency and laws in favor of their own, elites freak out.

So that is why so much has been made about the “tragedy” of the British exit of the EU. Nothing could be further from the truth. If individuals and countries do not have the right to self-governance, there is no liberty. Brexit is not a tragedy, it’s a triumph. Anytime people realize they own themselves and take responsibility for their own destiny, it’s a triumph. The consolidation of power-through treaties, taxation and global currency is the real tragedy.

Be One With Another

Personal connection with another is perhaps the greatest, most fulfilling state we can achieve as humans. The overwhelming desire to share experiences, build empathy, trust and connection with a partner, family and friends is what drives humanity forwards. While most media push stories of violence and conflict via reality TV shows, news programs and dystopian movies, the fact remains that humans are inherently wired to connect with each other, not hate and avoid them. Connection is a human need—a biological imperative.

Many people who have divorced or faced significant struggle with another may argue the importance of connection, but studies show that married couples report a significantly higher level of happiness and fulfillment as opposed to singles. Further studies report that the higher number of strong personal connections you have with others, the happier you are in your life. Humans are social creatures. We need each other to survive. We need each other to make the free market thrive and promote overall prosperity. All humans need to contribute and give beyond themselves to achieve fulfillment. So while it may be that others can diminish our tranquility through conflict, our desire for connection overrides.

Personally, I can say without a doubt that my connection with my wife is truly what gives me the highest level of fulfillment and happiness. I am focused more on her at any given time than I am myself. Everything I do, I do with her and my children in mind. I want to see them happy. I want to see them thrive. I want to share everything with my wife (except illness). My trust and love for her gives me such an overwhelming feeling of gratitude and well-being, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is the state that people are supposed to be in the majority of their lives. So while it’s easy to look at the history of humanity and see war, conflict, hatred, prejudice and ignorance—that is nowhere near the whole story. The real story is that humans have connected and conspired with others to create something beyond themselves. Connection is creation.

We all must strive to make a personal connection with others. To share our life experiences and stories so they may live on beyond our own lives is the real story of humanity. Yes, you must take care of yourself. In fact you owe it to yourself and others to be the best you can be, but that is not what creates happiness. Being a better you is important solely for sharing with and helping others. Working on yourself is fine, but it’s only useful if you can give.

So go out and connect. Give beyond yourself. Create an unshakable bond with someone. This doesn’t mean being naive. People can and certainly will harm you in life. You must protect yourself and be guarded when necessary. Be prepared for pain. However, do not obsess about the dark qualities of interaction with others. And don’t worry if all your connections or friendships don’t work out. Not all of them will. Just focus on the future connections you will make. Focus on the love you give and others have given you. Remember above all, whatever you focus on, you find. Focus on being closer to others. It’s the only thing that will bring you true happiness.

In Health,

Sean