Every person you encounter is an archetype. In other words, a model of how to act, present oneself, and live. That means every blue-haired, tattoo-ridden barista you see is an archetype of what it means to be a woman, a barista, a cool chick, or whatever other angle a person might take. Even if you are not aware of it, you are receiving messages from each person you observe and many you do not think you are observing.
It is hard to grasp this idea until you become a father of a son or a mother of a daughter. But as a parent, you notice eventually that you are always being watched. You are under continual surveillance, even when you think you’re not. So, when you walk around in flip-flops or unshaven- unless you live without any human contact or cultural intake- you are modeling a style, a set of values, and a way of living. Think about that.
To children, particularly young children, a parent is a God-like figure. When you rage about traffic or the many little annoyances of daily life in front of your children, you are presenting a negative, angry way to look at the world. And one that you may well transmit to your children. When you wield such enormous power over children’s lives, it is critical that you not be a tyrannical or abusive God. In fact, it is your job to build strong, confident, competent people to better the world around them. So, notice who is around you and how each person influences everyone else even just a tiny little bit. Even you.
We live at by far the greatest time in human history. Those of us in the advanced world can listen to ANY SONG we want to at anytime. The same with most books and many movies. A city-dweller can order food, alcohol, cannabis, sex, candy, just about anything you can think of at pretty much any time of day. This is a tremendous danger to people who lack discipline.
Thankfully my own indiscipline largely extends to eating junk food, not exercising, and wasting time on Twitter. For many, the indiscipline starts with how you look at the world and what you expect to come from it. It’s better to expect nothing and seek to create that which you desire.
In this era of instant gratification, a lack of discipline can ruin your life. Whether it is poor habits of self-care or not adequately maintaining order around you. Indiscipline makes every problem worse.
Anger is generally viewed as harmful, damaging, and destructive. But I’d like to take another perspective- anger is motivating, energizing, and your mind telling you to take action because things are not right.
I’ve struggled with managing anger my entire life. At times it has gotten me in some fairly serious trouble. However, it has also helped me tackle problems, get stuff done, and stick up for myself and others when needed.
Self-mastery is the key. It is difficult to master your emotions, especially one like anger that at times feels like a train rolling downhill. By applying mindfulness and the principle of detachment, there is an opportunity to redirect that anger towards useful purposes.
It’s not easy and it won’t happen overnight, but slowing down and recognizing the source of that anger may help you channel it towards something positive. Something like hitting the gym or signing up for a boxing class.
Either way, don’t beat yourself up for being angry. There is plenty to be angry about. Just don’t let it cause you self-destruction.
The inability to focus plagues a person with ADHD. In fact, I find that if something I’m reading doesn’t grab my interest within about 15 seconds, it is going to be a struggle to stay with it. That or I’ll have to reread it several times.
Mindfulness is not exactly a cure for ADHD, but a tool to help manage it. It can help you metaphorically stop and smell the roses and focus on the moment. By slowing life down and working to tame the blizzard of thoughts inside your head, mindfulness will help you stop and notice what you are feeling and thinking. It will help you focus on what is happening around you.
So how does it work? In short, by consciously slowing life down and orienting your mind towards appreciating or at least accepting the moment. This doesn’t mean you have to sit in silence for 30 minutes in a perfectly balanced position (though that helps). It simply means observing what is happening in and around you in a nonjudgmental way.
It’s helped me see firsthand the many ways I make my life harder by letting my thoughts run amok. Gain control of your mind and you will attain true freedom.
Atheism is bad for your health. How, you say? Well, it forces you to fill up your time and worldview with something other than religion and that is usually something pretty incoherent. Let’s be honest. Religion is imperfect, but it gives a person some structure.
For another, atheism enables the flourishing of anxiety and depression. In a religious tradition you are supposed to put God first, never yourself. So the endless ruminating and dwelling in one’s own mind and about one’s own problems yields unnecessarily self-destructive thoughts.
Then there is the absence of moral guidance. For years I argued with my conservative religious friends about who was more “moral.” I was a liberal and I was wrong. In my travels I learned that without a religion humans are deeply confused about right and wrong. Not the big things. All but the sociopaths get the big things, but we are confused about the smaller ways that we choose good and evil, right and wrong, leaving us vulnerable in the modern world.
Growing up, my parents were always late. Late for every family gathering. Every Thanksgiving dinner. Every show or movie or event that was occurring. It was maddening and embarrassing. But I had no choice, I couldn’t drive myself to these gatherings.
As adults we often model our parents’ worst and best behaviors- smoking, committing suicide, being religious, being kind to our spouses, etc. So, for much of my adult life I was late to everything. Everything. It drove people crazy, put me in some serious binds, and made my life a lot more difficult and stressful. In my 40s, I’ve finally realized, I DON’T HAVE TO LIVE THIS WAY ANYMORE.
So I started radically simplifying my life- focusing on faith, family, and self-improvement- and started arriving a little bit early to appointments and dinners and meetings. And I couldn’t believe how great it felt to do so. I could sit there, take a few breaths, and be free to focus on other things.
Plan ahead and plan well. Makes life a lot easier.
Most people suffer from depression at some point in their lives or know someone who has. Here are seven things a depressed person can do to make life better almost immediately:
Establish a morning routine. Do you wake up at your girlfriend’s one morning, on your couch the next, and occasionally in your own bed?That needs to stop. A morning routine is critical to healthy functioning and when you start the day in disarray it usually only gets worse from there. So, wake up at roughly the same time every day, drink a glass of water, and do what you need to do to have a productive day.
Exercise. If you hate it, find a way to make it fun. It doesn’t have to be running marathons. Try rowing or swimming or bicycling or playing hoops. Again, just do something. And if you have a REALLY hard time doing it, then do it FIRST THING IN THE MORNING!
Build a spiritual practice. Buddhism, Catholicism, Quakerism, whatever. You might even be able to persuade me of the benefits of being a Wiccan. Regardless, though, JUST DO SOMETHING. Create a practice that helps you stay centered every day AND serves as a beginning or end point for every week. I know, I know, we all hate going to church. So add some fun to it like brunch or a giant latte or donuts. It’s important for many reasons. Foremost, it connects you with other humans. As a society we are facing an epidemic of loneliness. We need connection to other people. Try church, synagogue, meeting house, AA, whatever. Just something.
Make time for gratitude. You know when you’re sitting in Chick-fil-a on a road trip and you look over and the family next to you is praying before eating their meal? Yes, it’s awkward and a little embarrassing, but if you were to take 30 seconds 3 times a day to REMIND YOURSELF HOW FORTUNATE YOU ARE it might improve your outlook.
Figure out the patterns. We all have patterns of behavior that we repeat in our lives. Take some time to figure out which ones are holding you back. Are you overly focused on the superficial? Are you living up to your values? Do you keep dating the same types of people? It never hurts to work with a therapist, a coach, or even an app to help you figure things out.
Make a change. Maybe it’s time to get a new job or end a relationship or get a pet or move to a new city. Sometimes a dramatic change can shake you out of a rut. Now, don’t do anything that will hurt you in the long run- run it by a few people first- but explore the possibility of changing your situation, even if only for a period of time. Another simple idea- plan a vacation. Having something fun to plan and look forward to is half the fun!
Forgive yourself and others. Forgiving yourself is never easy and forgiving others isn’t always smart, but generally speaking, going down the path of forgiveness will only yield benefits for you. Explore readings and writing on forgiveness that might help you work through some of your thoughts and if nothing else works, try medicine.
I was discussing this concept with a friend recently. She is a Catholic who holds a vast number of views that do not conform with Catholic teaching. I asked her, respectfully, why is it that she thinks she knows better than a church that is 2,000 years old? Then we started talking about something else.
Anyway, my theory is that atheism is a kind of cultural-level depression. It’s a statement of cynicism, a kind of “screw that b.s. I’m doing things my way” attitude. It may not seem like it, but it is an act of putting oneself first. Claiming you and your worldview are THE WORLDVIEW that everyone should have.