Enjoy the Art of Being In Touch With the World

mystical forest

Human organisms are motivated by psychological drives. A psychological drive is “an innate, biologically determined urge to attain a goal or satisfy a need” (Oxford). If you are hungry, for example, wanting to eliminate or reduce the unpleasant state of hunger is what drives you.

The psychiatrist Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) theorized that we have two drives: a drive toward life—includes instinctual impulses to have sex, eat, drink and need for fun (see: Pleasure Principle)—and a drive toward death—includes anti-social behaviour, anger, aggression, hate and violence (good times).

I hate everyone

From these drives Freud theorized that personality is a system of three interconnected parts: Id (instinctual part: “Give me now”), Ego (realistic part: “No, I don’t think so”) and Superego (moral conscience part: “You should be ashamed!”).

Id, Ego and Superego are a translation of Es (it), Ich (I) and Ueber-Ich (Over-I). Id is like a horse. Ego is the rider and Superego lambastes Ego for trespassing. As your “ideal” self, Superego conforms to society and prohibits unethical behaviour (Simply Psychology).

id ego super ego

Freud saw ego as a good thing. Ego negotiates between human impulses and social standards. There are, however, other ways to look at it.

Cue music: Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, “Man On Fire”.

As a ‘me’ ‘mine’ and ‘for myself,’ we consider ourselves distinct from the world, but if you look closely, you realize: it isn’t true.

If you want inner peace, break free of what Freud says.

Garry Shandling
Garry in high school. “It’s not the hair on your head that matters. It’s the kind of hair you have inside.”

Garry Shandling (1949-2016)—a comedian who made loneliness and self-hate funny before turning it into love for the world—said before he died (obviously):

All my journey is to be authentically who I am. Not trying to be somebody else under all circumstances. The whole world is confused because they’re trying to be somebody else. To be your true self it takes enormous work…. Ego drives the world. Ego drives the problems. So you have to work in an ego-less way. Egolessness, which, is the key to being authentic, is a battle” (The Green Room).

In spiritual circles ego is seen as an enemy and a synonym for “selfishness.”

Psychological drives operate on a feedback control system similar to a thermostat. When a need is satisfied, the drive is reduced. We relax. Eliminate a drive completely and a state of mental balance or psychological equilibrium is obtained

tragic humouros 2

When we’re calm and comfortable, that’s room temperature. When our emotional temperature changes, we feel tension and an instinctive response to potential conflict.

Some people perpetuate unpleasant states for purposes of enjoyment. They eat when not hungry, drink when not thirsty and enjoy death defying activities like skydiving and the thrill of almost dying (source).

Some people have a drive for lots of money, power, fame or whatever. Such people will experience an unpleasant state of dissatisfaction when they realize that externals don’t matter.

hungry-ghost-gaki-zoshi-arthistory

This is hungry ghost territory. This is, as Gabor Maté, M.D., said, “where we seek something outside ourselves to curb an insatiable yearning for relief or fulfillment. The aching emptiness is perpetual because the substances, objects or pursuits we hope will soothe it are not what we really need. We don’t know what we need, and so long as we stay in the hungry ghost mode, we’ll never know. We haunt our lives without being fully present” (Hungry Ghosts).

But, don’t worry. It’s normal.

As one seeks to survive in a culture of consumption and comparison in the midst of mass advertising, it’s only natural to want more than is possible. If you get hungry ghost-liketake a deep breath and ask yourself: “Do I have what I need?”

The psychiatrist Shoma Morita (1874-1938) proposed two other drives: a drive to live fully and a drive for comfort and security. Sometimes these drives are at odds.

drive

With eyes on a need yet achieved, there is anxiety and self-doubt. Such feelings cannot be avoided.  Emotions are messages.

Avoid or suppress feelings and you disrupt your ability to function. For example, if you are anxious in social situations, the inclination is to avoid them, but avoidance perpetuates a lack of confidence and the very anxiety one is trying to escape. Self-confidence comes with experience. Understand a feeling and take action if need be (source).

Some of us have drives that are difficult to satisfy. Sometimes a drive takes over and we are driven.

The question is: Where are we going?

charlie brown where are we going

Many humans—many, many humans probably (in fact)—experience a constant dissatisfaction with life. Their minds have made a judgment: Life is not the way it should be.

But why?

It could be that we experience dissatisfaction with life “as it is” because in comparison to life imagined, the life we live falls short of expectations. We try to make life match our ideal by noticing what’s wrong and making changes, but when we achieve what we want, we imagine how life could be even better. We think that once we fix what’s wrong, we’ll be satisfied, but when the “future” arrives, it’s just another dissatisfying moment.

al franken just remember you are good enough

It’s rare for people to feel a deep satisfaction with the way things are. We live as if the present moment is a barrier to the life we’d rather be living. The future we dream of never arrives and herein is the human conundrum.

Most of us live in a world of make-believe—even though we know life isn’t a fairy story. Most of us live a mundane existence in stark contrast to our make-believe world, but take heed: Reality does exist and it’s better than make-believe.

Reality is a world of opportunity, happiness and peace of mind. You might be content within a comfort zone of normal life—happy to take out the garbage, do laundry or whatever (all good stuff)—but there are degrees of happiness.

You could be only scratching the surface. Pay attention to what it feels like or sounds like to be here and now. Do this and you are taken from make-believe to a direct experience of reality. You start seeing, feeling, hearing, smelling and tasting the present in a way that you haven’t done since you were a kid.

Like Boston (the band, not the city) said, “People livin’ in competition. All I want is to have my peace of mind, yeah, whoa” (“Peace of Mind“).

Yeah. Whoa. That’s it precisely.

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Enjoy Happiness from the Periphery

happiness

One day, in searching for “happiness” on Google (as many people do), happiness appeared as a man and woman in hip medieval clothing.

Is that how you picture happiness?

Is happiness a warm puppy like Charles Schultz said in 1962? Is happiness that simple? Is it a moment of satisfaction with whatever your “warm puppy” is?

happiness is a warm puppy

Or is happiness a warm gun as the Beatles sang it in 1968? Said John Lennon, “I thought it was a fantastic, insane thing to say” (Beatles Bible).

Project Happiness” (where the science of happiness meets the art of living) says that 10% of happiness is due to circumstance, 50% comes from genes, and 40% comes from activities like forgiveness and gratitude. With practice, they say, you can make yourself happy. But what if, instead of making yourself happy, you make someone happy?

What then?

self-deceptionIt’s strange. We feel so alone. Talk to someone and there’s a gulf between. We’re a universe apart. We don’t see how the consciousness looking back at us is the same as our own. The profound is hidden in the ordinary.

To look into another’s eyes and see love and mercy reflected there is a rare happiness. We grow up forming a healthy self-image but gain wisdom by letting it go (Jung).

A self-image is developed through what we say and think about ourselves and what others say of us. If that self-image is overly negative, inaccurate, or inflated, it creates problems.

fake smile2It’s hard to see a self-image (Latin ego “I”). It hides behind opinions believed true, but if you follow the trail of emotions it leaves behind (like anger at a slight, jealousy, a need to win and so on) there you find ego. It’s a condemning voice inside your head that’s critical and blaming.

But, “Smile!” says the research. “It’s good for your brain.” (Who cares if you look insane?)

The thinking is that if you’re not happy, there’s something wrong with you. Maybe that explains why antidepressant use went up 400% in the US between 2005–2008 (Harvard Medical School).

cartoon4Too bad they don’t work – at least, according to the New England Journal of Medicine (Huffington Post, 2011).

Kirsch (2014) said, “Instead of curing depression, popular antidepressants may induce a biological vulnerability making people more likely to become depressed in the future” (Antidepressants and the Placebo Effect).

So, “What are you gonna do?” (language warning)

First, we listen to Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass play “Tijuana Taxi.” If your self-image sees you as a dancer, you will dance.

Then we search images for what “happiness” looks like.

images of happiness
“Happiness” image search results.

Happiness appears as beaches, beautiful skies, people with arms open wide at sunrise and jumping at sunset, we see ladies with balloons and a parasol soaking up sunshine and summer fields. The word “freedom” comes to mind.

Freedom: Old English freo meaning, “not in bondage, acting of one’s own will, noble, joyful” (Online Etymology Dictionary). Does freedom look like happiness?

freedom
“Freedom” image search results.

Yes it does. Again we see sunshine, that same woman with a parasol and people with arms open wide as if to fly. (Sinatra was onto something when he sang, “Fly Me To The Moon.”) The word “spirit” (as in: “happy spirits” and “free-spirited”) comes to mind.

spirit-of-love-3262Spirit: Latin “spiritus” meaning, “breathing” (life!).  Like “moo” or “BANG” such words mean their sound. Spirit is like that. It is an imitation of breathing (Online Etymology Dictionary).

An image search of spirit showed a Disney movie. Undeterred, we enter” “spiritual.”

spiritual.jpg
“Spiritual” image search results.

Again we see beautiful skies, sunshine, beaches and arms open wide. (Enya was onto something when she sang “Only Time.”

What-ifWhat if, instead of categorizing things into two opposites (either-or, self-other, good-bad, life-death, happy-sad…) we consider opposites as one process like a game of ping pong.

ping pong with willWithout ping there is no pong. Happiness (ping) goes with sadness (pong). Life (ping) goes with death (pong).

Happiness might not be about getting what you want and having a good time all the time. Happiness could be a love of life in all its aspects – pleasant and unpleasant.

kermit's discovery

A self-image is like putting on eye-glasses. As Clark Kent, the world looks different. How we think colours everything we see. Should you take off your glasses of personality, you might enjoy reality (even if it is fuzzy). Maybe that’s what a higher consciousness experience is: It’s a union with reality. You see everyone and everything as interconnected. You see beauty.

superman

When you focus on breathing, you are aware of it (in-out, in-out, repeat), but when you stop focusing, breathing continues. We are breathed in the same way that grass grows and produces the oxygen we need. It’s all a relationship. It’s all connection.

spiritual cartoon3Life is a doing. It’s happening (see the Supreme’s sing “The Happening,” 1967). We might feel isolated, but that isn’t how it is.

A feeling of happiness doesn’t depend on what you know or do. You can’t make progress in it. You can’t do anything or not do anything to get it.

Happiness comes when you are so adapted to pleasure and pain that you say, “I love it!” No matter what happens. Like the Bad Finger song, “Knock down the old grey wall. Be a part of it all. Nothing to say, nothing to see, nothing to do,” you get it because you got it (see: Bad Finger “No Matter What”).

zen cartoon.jpgLet go your eggo (aka ego) and go out there and let the universe happen as you.

Enjoy.

eggo-homestyle-waffles1.jpg

References

  1. Happiness (14th century) (Wikipedia)
  2. Beatles Bible
  3. Project Happiness
  4. How Smiling Changes Your Brain
  5. 5 Ways to Make Yourself Happier in the Next 5 Minutes (Psychology Today, 2014)
  6. Harvard Medical School
  7. Huffington Post (2011)
  8. Antidepressants and the Placebo Effect (2014)
  9. Online Etymology Dictionary.
  10. Science of Happiness