Posts Tagged ‘Anxiety’

video: Embracing gratitude & releasing perfectionism

December 11, 2015

Embracing gratitude & releasing perfectionism (anxiety, grief, grievances, & avoidance)


Someone recommended that I tell a story to set up my main points.​ I will… after a few introductory points.



Option 1) ​​doing a thing because it fits

– attentive, open to adaption, open to altering pace or stopping, no need for passionate justifications or hysterical denials

Option 2) Doing a thing “because it is right, because people should”

– that is operating with attention to socially- conditioned ideals (to be loyal / faithful / perfect relative to those ideals)… In other words, fear or paranoia about criticism / condemnation / punishment

(So lots of things get interpreted as personal criticism)
​Generally, if you take anything here as a personal criticism of you, but without me ​specifically referencing you, then that could be a sign, right? I am presenting a set of contrasts and I will be talking about how each of the behavioral patterns have some specific or limited functionality. They all fit.


What is relevant for someone who frequently presumes that others are criticizing them? Increase awareness of possible discomfort, tension, or stress, manage pace of all interactions, select to interact most with people who seem the most attentive, perceptive, and respectful, or target an overall withdrawal from concentrated social activity (as in interact with a greater variety of people, but none of them very much).

Start the example-
​​Young boys of a certain age like to be physically active, including wrestling. They wrestle with each other, with pets, with adults. I attempted to chase my dog, but got frustrated. Also, attempt to climb most any tree. Wrestled with dad.
​​”Do not encourage him. One of you could get hurt!”

mom scolding dad (in front of child). Why is mom upset? She says I might get hurt, but dad was very safe. I actually got seriously injured (sent to hospital) At a martial arts tournament opposed with someone slightly older (but perhaps much bigger, stronger).

How concerned was mom with safety? How concerned was she with being criticized​ by others for neglect​? ​​With maintaining a persona that ​​suppresses ​certain ​emotion​s​?

(Could share in the delight / fun… But not if it triggered grief for her/ envy / shame)

Concentrated pride (can be burden on child of “must be perfect/ must never embarrass”)​

​warning to prospective parents- if you raise children for a few decades, they might occasionally embarrass​ you.


a small child naturally creates fun and expresses their fun

Why do they learn to avoid ​having “too much fun?

“Seen but not heard” :loud (distracting, embarrassing), jealousy of one parent for another/ competition for social approval

the child gets intimidated or pressured in to minimizing fun (at schools, at home… At certain times, generally in public)

“Calm down, youngster. Settle down right now!”

​​”Do not encourage him. One of you could get hurt!”

there can also be a general suppression of all loud emotional expression… Crying, laughing

Note that these physiological processes can promote a rebalancing of physical tension and a correcting of misalignment in the spine or skull.

when gratitude is buried, how can it surface?

Grief- when I am more grateful for something lost than I am scared to display it

was grateful, but the fear of displaying the gratitude interrupted it. Maybe I did not even recognize it. Maybe I “went numb.”

Grievances- if there is repressed gratitude (from terror) and no trigger for expressing it…

Seek out justifications for resentment and rage

vilification of others to weave narratives of victimhood

why? To attract attention (effectively)

to startle others, to attract pity, to cover embarrassment, to attract support / protectiveness

avoidance: “rebellion” to cause others grief

​State willingness​ to do something (or make promises to do it), but always have an excuse:
“not really interested”
“not enough time”
“too complicated”
“too stressful”

but what is more stressful: frequently imagining the activity but never actually experimenting with it… or experimenting?

The key issue here is if someone is terrified of expressing disappointment or discomfort, then they will compulsively avoid the unfamiliar. They will fear the unfamiliar as a potential trigger of repressed emotion, of shameful disappointment, of shameful anger, of shameful fear, etc…. They organize their life around shame… or, specifically, around avoiding shame… which is still organizing life relative to the possibility of shame.


What is relevant for someone who frequently presumes that others are criticizing them? Increase awareness of possible discomfort, tension, or stress, manage pace of all interactions, select to interact most with people who seem the most attentive, perceptive, and respectful, or target an overall withdrawal from concentrated social activity (as in interact with a greater variety of people, but none of them very much).

Make this your new “best decision ever.”

December 6, 2015

When you think of some of the best decisions that you’ve ever made, do they have anything in common? Why do those decisions stand out as the best?

One factor can be that the actual results were much better than the expected results. Maybe you produced results that were much better than what you expected. Maybe you produced results that were exactly what you expected, but much better than what certain other people expected. Maybe the decision​ was something that many other people doubted would work (and were reluctant to try), but you trusted yourself and did it anyway​… and you were pleased by your results and proud of your courage.

Another part of what can really make a decision stand out in our memory is the social context of that decision. One example of a social context is when there was an option that I was hesitant to take, but lots of people around me encouraged me and expressed their confidence in me. Sometimes that can go very well and sometimes very poorly, but when it goes well, I can get a very favorable result and have a lot of emotional satisfaction about that result. I can feel a distinct pride and fulfillment about what I have done and how I have done it. I can also feel the support and pride of the people who have encouraged me (whether that is just one person or many people).

Most likely, the decisions that you can look back on as the best decisions that you’ve ever made include a variety of social contexts. Some choices, you made simply by instinct and without regard for any social validation or criticism. Other experiments, you did primarily as a direct result of social encouragement (or even pressure). If there was a lot of socializing about your choice (and your results), then that can certainly strengthen your memory of the decision.


Satisfaction with results, surpassing expectations, and social reinforcement
However, I do not think that the biggest issue is an unusual social context or better results than expected. The simplest detail that connects my own “best decisions ever” is my own satisfaction with the results.

I was effective at producing results that I eventually recognized as very valuable. Maybe that recognition was instant and maybe it took years of “hindsight” for me to fully appreciate the long-term significance of my choice.

For you, in some cases, maybe you simply declined to do something that other people encouraged you to do. Maybe you were conservative and cautious and then later you saw their results and looked back at your own caution as extremely valuable (and even courageous). Or, maybe you boldly did something very effective without any social encouragement (or even intense discouragement). But if something is on your list of your “best decisions ever,” then that probably means that you were unusually happy with the outcome of the decision, right?

Organize your life around how to make high-quality decisions

What if you organized your life around making new “best decisions ever?” What if you significantly increased the value that you get from your future decisions… and even from your past decisions?

Some of these ideas may seem curious or strange. However, if these words were just repeating things that you were already thinking, that would not be very distinctive, would it?

Have you ever heard someone say “I regret that I made that decision?” What they generally mean is that they regret the results that were produced and they have learned from those results. In other words, the decision itself produced learning. The decision was not a bad decision. The decision might not have produced much else besides a hard lesson, but sometimes hard lessons might be a great way to learn, right?

So, consider that anyone who says “I regret that decision” might be operating in a way that produces lasting guilt (or even shame). What if I simply recognize that I value some results more than others (and some methods more than others)? From that perspective, every choice results in learning… no matter what!

My interest right now is not to condemn certain decisions as violations of perfectionism. If I relax any anxiety about being loyal to some particular ideal of perfectionism, then I can focus on what results I produce and what methods produce the best results. I can relate to all decisions as informative. I can stop relating to my past decisions as nothing more than methods to avoid criticism or compete for approval.

Regret disappointing results without condemning the method

Have I ever made any bad decisions? For a while, I would have denied that and been insulted at anything approaching an accusation that I had made a bad decision. Later, I would have listed several decisions as bad (based on what happened later, like the experiences produced for me and for other people by that decision). Now, I have withdrawn all condemnation of my own decisions or the decisions of anyone else. This is actually a massive relief.

Why is it a relief? Condemnation is certainly a valid option. However, condemnation can take a lot of energy and attention away from measuring results and tracking which methods produce which results.

You can learn from the mistakes of other people (like mine)

Condemnation is a great method for socially displaying my loyalty to a particular form of perfectionism. Sometimes, I can directly condemn a particular method to influence someone and prevent them from learning something “the hard way.” Maybe I interrupt them and offer to help them to learn from someone else’s mistake (including my own mistakes). Maybe they resist learning from anything but their own mistakes, although, if I care about their results, then I can continue to influence their methods.

I have made many mistakes. However, I now assert that I have never made a bad decisions. I have just made enough decisions that some produced better results than others. Making mistakes is part of learning.
To maximize learning, expect to notice lots of small mistakes.

Avoiding mistakes is refusing to learn. Also, avoiding mistakes can lead to massive mistakes. In fact, it is not that I can actually avoid making mistakes, but that I can avoid recognizing them as mistakes (for seconds or for years).

I frequently take actions that I later consider a mistake. Lots of small mistakes are much more favorable than a few massive ones.

Accept mistakes. Plan to make lots of them. Notice them as quickly as possible.

Avoid pretending that it is really possible to completely avoid mistakes. We can avoid admitting mistakes. We can even attempt to distract ourselves from the results we produce. That might even be favorable occasionally (or else why would anyone ever do that)?

Now, instead of being anxious about mistakes, just be interested in results and effectiveness. How can you organize your life around making lots of new “best decisions ever?” Make some new decisions and be very attentive to the results that they produce. Then, once the results of the first decisions are clear, make some other new decisions.

Organize your life around how to produce the results you value most

If it would give you a massive increase in satisfaction, would you be willing to reduce or discontinue some of your familiar habits? If there were methods that you could use to get much better results faster and with less effort or risk, would you be open to that (or would you be so anxious about avoiding criticism for mistakes that you compulsively avoid learning any new methods at the risk of producing new results)?


Why exactly did I ever try to avoid mistakes? As noted, the first layer is that I simply tried to avoid being aware of the results I was producing. I tried to avoid recognizing which actions were mistakes and which ones were effective. Maybe I distracted myself (and perhaps a few others) by being very easily offended and condemning lots of people and ridiculing lots of behaviors.

But the background issue there was that I was competing for social validation. I threw around invalidating comments regularly. I even made occasional dramatic apologies about a few very isolated mistakes that I was unable to perpetually deny.

I avoided quickly identifying my mistakes as mistakes because I was terrified of being targeted with social condemnation. I was not a perfectionist because of something fundamental about me. I adopted the habit or practice of perfectionism as a coping mechanism for overwhelming social pressure. Maybe I complained that I “should have been better protected” or that “those people should not have bullied me or betrayed me.”

Lately, I have lost interest in those complaints. How? I simply withdrew from certain sources of social pressure (people and interactions that were stressful, uncomfortable, anxiety-producing). Did I have lots of sincere justifications and complex explanations for why I withdrew? If I did, that does not matter much to me now either way.


The problem with habitual perfectionism as a response to social pressure

So, if the only reason that I have avoided admitting mistakes (and learning from them) is because of stress about avoiding social criticism for those mistakes, that is good news to me. I will abruptly withdraw from the most vicious critics and bullies.

I am willing to completely release any old habits of appeasing them. Those habits helped me survive, which is great. Now, I would rather avoid the most hysterical critics and silence those who are easily silenced.


How can you get high-quality, constructive criticism?

But the most radical new practice is to seek out constructive criticism. I want to learn, even from my own past mistakes (especially from them). However, I am absolutely firm that I value certain kinds of criticism more than others. I demand high-quality criticism. I seek it out.

How do I know which criticism is best? I assess it by it’s results. Does a particular dynamic of criticism improve my results? Does a particular critic or group of critics provide the most respectful, refreshing, and relevant criticism? Does their criticism enrich my life and even consistently produce relaxation and relief from stress?

Do I notice that I am attracted to certain people that gently provide precise and productive criticism? Do I appreciate it even more if they resort to less gently methods if gentle methods are not working?


Cultivating a culture that promotes high-quality results
I value a culture (a social context) that promotes high-quality decisions. That means a willingness to try new things, to precisely assess the results of the new experiments, and to quickly admit any mistakes as mistakes. High-quality decisions are decisions that produce EITHER relevant learning OR effective results OR BOTH.

If I have ever isolated some particular past decision as “the very best one ever,” I relax that emphasis. I plan to make my best decision ever within the next 24 hours (not avoid making a better decision than my old favorite “best one ever”). 48 hours from now, I plan to have made a few new decisions that are the best I have ever made.

One of my new “best decisions ever” might involve inventing a bold claim and then publicizing it. We’ll focus on that subject next….

The motivational value of emotions (and why emotions get suppressed)

November 14, 2015

My notes (on which the video lecture is based):

When do people have an issue with certain emotions that they label as negative? For a person who has been trained to inhibit the social display of certain emotions (out of terror of social punishment), then there will be an anxiety about showing certain emotions.

Instead of relating to fear as a motivating force to use caution and assess risk and then avoid any actual dangers, some people relate to fear as socially shameful. They don’t want other people to know when they are afraid and so they don’t want people around them to display fear (because that might resonate with them and trigger a surfacing of their own suppressed insecurity). They fear a social recognition of their fear. They are paranoid and anxious, but attempt to hide it.

Instead of relating to disappointment as a motivating force to assess the purpose of one’s own actions and then to assess the effectiveness of one’s own methods and producing those results and then perhaps updating one’s methods, some people also relate to disappointment as shameful. They don’t want other people to know when they are disappointed and they don’t want people around them to be disappointed, so they attempt to protect them from disappointment.

Why? They do not want to be punished for disappointing others and, once again, they don’t want displays of disappointment in their midst because that could resonate with their own buried disappointment, causing their own disappointment to surge to the surface. They fear a social recognition of their disappointment. They are paranoid and anxious, but attempt to hide it.

Instead of relating to anger as a motivating force to recognize one’s own interests and boundaries, finally, people may relate to anger as shameful or negative or disruptive. Anger, just like fear and disappointment, can certainly be disruptive. That is what it is for, right? When someone is ashamed of anger, they do not want to draw attention to themselves and become targets of social bullies who seek to discourage anger with punishment, through guilt trips and ridicule and harassment and of course the organized violence of armed soldiers, as in gangsters, police, armies, and other operations for governing humans through coercion.

Systems for social conditioning conduct rituals to promote shame and compliance in their targeted population of potential human resources (and to minimize or eliminate disruption to the rituals of social programming). In other words, they want to operate their systems for governing humans with the maximum amount of efficiency.
considering the military capacity of various systems that govern humans through coercion, we can respect the intelligence and appropriateness of the ability to inhibit the display of socially targeted emotions such as fear, disappointment, and anger.

We can also respect the rare case of people who seem to us to be safe as witnesses of our full range of emotions. Because of their demonstrations of discretion and perceptiveness and gentleness and communication with others, we made confide in them with comfort and an open trust. For many people, the distress of their paranoia and anxiety will result in them experiencing increased repulsion in regard to communicating with those that they see as unsafe or immature. In contrast, the magnetic appeal of those who demonstrate maturity and trustworthiness maybe, at least temporarily, so disruptive to their normal patterns of inhibiting their own emotions that they recognize their own internal instability and then have a new challenge of finding an appropriate pace for their interactions with the person or people that they find distinctively mature and trustworthy in regard to revealing their own tangles of emotion.

They may wish to drop everything to devote themselves to interacting with that person or those people. They may resist the magnetic attraction that they experience (like resisting by distracting themselves with old familiar habits of socializing and internal dialogue to generate justifications for any emotions that they experience as frighteningly disruptive). They may make their own practices of paranoia and anxiety all the more simple, ironic, and obvious (which serves to help them see it for themselves for what it is, similar to a snake gradually shedding a layer of skin).

​Courage: what is it and how is it valuable?

June 24, 2015

​Courage: what is it?

Courage is related to fear, right? It’s not ignoring fear though.

Ignoring fear is foolishness, no matter how popular or common that is. If you are driving and other people start honking their horns, they are promoting extra alertness or caution. Wouldn’t it be foolish to dismiss a bunch of honking because “those people are probably just afraid, which is never wise?”

Fear (or fright) is a sudden shift of attention to a possible risk. In other words, the purpose of fright is to produce caution. Lack of caution (carelessness, negligence, complacence) is certainly not courage.

People who reactively condemn the display of fear or distress are reacting in distress. People only condemn what disturbs them (what terrifies them).

People who are hysterically terrified of social criticism can attempt to pretend not to experience fear, but it is fear that leads them to withdraw in to exclusive clusters (like an anti-fear church). I respect the potential value of withdrawing in fear and shame. It is wise to quickly withdraw from potential distractions and complications out of fear (out of commitment to other priorities). It is certainly valuable to precisely assess possible threats. It is also understandable to lean toward caution or conservatism.

I also respect that, in deep shame, some people may attempt to confuse courage with withdrawing in shame to an exclusive cluster of like-minded people (“safe” people who are also paranoid about displaying fear, so the whole group can all repress the display of fear). When the display of fear is socially shamed, such as in certain churches, then even simply displaying fear can inquire a surge of courage (and even going outside of one’s familiar social circles). By avoiding fear, many people who call themselves “spiritually-advanced” are also avoiding courage (and caution, too).

Courage is also not just taking action after precisely measuring danger. Just because someone measures risk, that does not suddenly guarantee that any action taken after the measuring of risk is automatically courage.

So what is courage? It could involve doing something that is rarely done, like something that gets no social rewards or approval (or even something that can lead to loss of privileges or punishment).

Is it rare to condemn others who disagree with you? To me, that is extremely common. What could be rare is to respect those who have other perceptions.

Courage involves a respect for perceptiveness in general. In particular, courage is about precisely perceiving risk and opportunity.

It is foolish to act without awareness of risk and opportunity. It is even more foolish to know better opportunities and lower risks, yet act anyway in spite of that knowledge. That is self-sabotage (self-destruction).

However, because of social anxiety, it is quite common to act in disregard of risk and opportunity. People may want to avoid the experience of being perceived as unusual. An extreme paranoia about risking social criticism can lead to people taking actions simply because they are popular or familiar, in contrast to taking actions because the actions have been assessed as reliably producing relevant results.

Since I called the paranoia “extreme,” one might presume that I mean rare extremes of paranoia. However, I consider extreme paranoia quite common.

The courage to recognize common paranoias as paranoid

How does extreme paranoia get to be so common? I think that public schools are a primary contributor to extremes of social paranoia.

Imagine that a child goes in to a classroom with lots of other kids and the teacher says “I am going to present some ideas to you and you will memorize them so you can be rewarded for repeating them just as I presented them to you.” Then the teacher may say “what is important to you is to stop your body from making any substances that poison all of you, such as this one:”


How many students ask about why the teacher is saying that  “C24H40O5 poisons all of you?” They are all busy trying to memorize answers for their upcoming test. If they think that they may be tested on how many atoms of hydrogen are in that molecule, then they will focus on the number of hydrogen atoms.

They are memorizing the teacher’s assertions about science. They are not learning science (at least not by memorizing something that would be trivia to them if not for the bait of being rewarded if they do well on a test).
Since children are naturally competitive, they seek the teacher’s attention (especially approval). What happens when the teacher asks “what is the chemical formula of the substance that every liver on the planet makes to poison the organism that makes it?”Just as they have all been trained, the students raise their hands eagerly, hoping to attract the attention and approval of the authority figure. Then one gets called on by the teacher and promptly says “C24H40O5!” The teacher says “yes, very good.” Several other students seem disappointed that the other one got the teacher’s approval and mumble “I knew that, too!”

Again, what just happened is not the teaching of science. Science (as I understand the term) is not the practice of memorizing unexamined assertions.

Of course, students are being programmed with reflexive hysteria about a particular substance, but even that detail is secondary to the general pattern of unquestioning acceptance of the assertions of the authority. The authority makes a claim. The students (usually) focus on memorizing the claim (without considering for even one moment the accuracy or precision of the claim). Then, there is a social validation of the students who most effectively repeat on a test a bunch of the claims in the curriculum. The general pattern is social anxiety in competition for the approval of the authority (which is scarce / conditional).

But what about students who do not show sufficient enthusiasm for blindly repeating the teacher’s claims? What about students who question the relevance of the lessons? What about students who even question the accuracy of the claims made by the teacher?

Of students who fail to be enthusiastic about blindly repeating the teacher’s claims, there are a few types. All of them can be disciplinary issues for the smooth managing of a classroom.

The students who are perhaps too smart to be caught up in the drama can be put in to gifted programs (or can skip a grade) so that they can be amongst students and content that is more challenging for them. Students who are just too wild (anxious) for the typical classroom can be drugged (subdued pharmaceutically). Students who are too slow to compete with their peers can be put in to special classes with a different levels of competitiveness.

Students who respond relatively well to the common levels of test anxiety promoted in their classroom can stay in that classroom. Their natural curiosity can be diverted by the curriculum and they can be taught that science is blindly repeating unexamined assertions (among other trivia).

The ones who do quite well (in terms of excelling at blindly repeating memorized claims) can go on to be Teachers, Professors, CPAs, or Medical Doctors. Their social anxiety might be even more extreme than for most people. Why? Because their incomes (careers) rely on the idea that their skill at memorizing and blindly repeating claims is generally equivalent to merit.Of course, if a governing institution hires people based on certain factors, then those factors are relevant to getting hired. However, for any other purpose being getting hired by a government, those same factors may be quite irrelevant.

Governments thrive on compliance, especially to tax laws and other methods of redistribution from the masses to the government elite. So, governments measure compliance and reward it.

When there is a social context of rewarding compliance, that can lead to shaming anyone’s lack of enthusiasm for mastering the art of compliance. That can lead to a vilification of non-compliance (as in a vilification of courage).

However, non-compliance with tax laws, for instance, may be foolish rather than courageous. Courage is not acting in spite of risk.

Courage is first about recognizing opportunities that the masses are too distracted (by their extreme paranoia) to notice. Many will even dismiss an unfamiliar opportunity just because it is embarassingly unfamiliar to them. In fact, if the opportunity involves a method that is contrary to a method they have been using, they may be terrified of the idea that they may have been naive in their blind compliance with popular practices (typically, those marketed to them through mainstream media and schools).

If some MD has been prescribing statin medication for a few decades with the sincere presumption that the statin drugs are beneficial, it can be quite shocking to read the actual medical research on the subject. The idea with statin drugs is that they attack the functioning of the liver, which impairs production by the liver of certain substances which are presumed poisonous. What if those demonized “poisons” are not actually poisonous? Wouldn’t that be a challenging emotional experience for that person to even consider? Why not just react with dismissive, antagonistic hysteria? In other words, why not come up with an excuse to flee from the subject of the scientific accuracy of their sacred presumptions?

It would take courage to admit to prior errors (especially prior naivete). It could take courage to question the scientific credibility of any of the sacred presumptions of “mainstream science” (even just to question it in private).

Note that by “mainstream science” here, I do not mean what scientists do. I mean what teachers and the media program the masses to believe about what scientists do.

Note that the above references to C24H40O were intentionally misleading. That was cholic acid. Pictured directly above is cholesterol (C27H46O) which many scientists claim is a substance made by every healthy liver on the planet as part of a healthy organism. Also, these “so-called scientists” claim that they have observed that when tissue deteriorates, cholesterol is sent to the area to promote repair of tissue. So, they have measured that cholesterol levels are correlated to certain states of poor health. However, the claim that cholesterol ever causes tissue damage is a completely distinct idea. Even if it ever causes damage, does it always?

The value of courage

So, first it is valuable to recognize opportunities that the masses may be too distracted or paranoid to consider. Further, there is a similar issue with risk. The masses may be driven by mainstream programming in to such enthusiastic manias that they believe things to be safe simply because the government did not call them dangerous.

What if some people relied on science itself rather than government claims about science? What if people assessed what is relevant to them independently of mainstream programming?What if people assessed risks directly (rather than just repeating mainstream slogans about risk)? Some things that people may have been programmed to consider risky (such as “poisons” made by their liver) may not be as risky as they presumed (because they were rewarded for providing that answer on a test in school). Further, some things that people may have been programmed to consider safe may actually be risky.

What if people assessed relevance, risk, and opportunity directly (such as using their own logic applied to their own observations and measurements)? Many things that they were programmed to relate to as great opportunities might not be. Some things that they were programmed to relate to as risky could be safe and reliable and beneficial. Other things that were never referenced in mainstream curriculum could be the most relevant opportunities of all.

What is the value of courage? One value is to intelligently assess the actual relevance of anything that mainstream programming presents as relevant, plus be responsible for what one identifies as relevant (as a priority). Another value is to assess the risks of mainstream complacency (in general and in particular cases) and then minimize or avoid those risks. One more value is to assess opportunities precisely (whether the mainstream ignores or adores those topics).

Briefly, courage allows us to develop precision in our assessments of opportunity and risk, then reduce or eliminate risks and maximize opportunities. Even more briefly, courage allows us to let go of the crippling chains of social paranoia that we have been trained to cling to hysterically.Knowledge alone does not set anyone free. Note that many may people flee from knowledge in shame.

Courage is relevant. Courage exercises freedom and develops it.

If you were open to experiencing a new level of courage, what would you do? If you were willing to experience a huge and sudden relief from social anxiety, how willing could you be?

Boredom and beyond (to getting what you value most)

June 18, 2015

Boredom: it is a state of mild discontent. Let’s explore what boredom means. Are you curious?

There can be an element of frustration when bored, right? What if there is frustration and an interest in a lasting diversion from the frustration, but no engaging diversion?

What if there are unmet needed and unfulfilled interests, plus a sense of being suppressed? If someone just has unmet needs, then they explore meeting them. They would not remain bored.

When someone complains of boredom, they may have some unmet need (or curiosity) plus a sense of being socially inhibited (prohibited from pursuing their interests or even talking about their interests). The complaint is an initiative for a new social interaction. “Entertain me! Show interest in me!”

When people want relief from boredom, they want relief from a mild state of distress or anxiety. Boredom is not the same as being relaxed and content and alert and open to new things. Boredom is even a type of mild grief or fear.

Does someone experience a social context of safety to explore their interests? Is there encouragement? Is it general to any interest or specific only to certain interests (with other interests being ignored or condemned)?
Are others curious about their interests or interested in suppressing their interests? Are people encouraged to identify all of their interests or are certain interests (and certain methods for promoting their interests) emphasized?

It is natural in childhood to encounter a variety of social dynamics. Some people share your interests (such as your favorite TV show etc). Some people are trying to mold your interests (parents, teachers, advertisers). Some people have interests that conflict with yours (like siblings who want a parent’s attention or opponents in a card game or a sport).

When we complain of boredom, are we testing someone’s interest in us? How important is it who we  complain to?

If I am bored, then I can pursue new social interactions. I can look for opportunities to meet new people. I can initiate new conversations.

I can begin by saying “Hi, I am not aware of any interests of mine that I am comfortable directly stating.” I could even say, “I have some interests but I am not comfortable directly stating them, so I am about to say something that interests me in the hope that you will respond favorably to that test subject. I call it a test subject because it is actually not a primary interest of mine. In fact, as for the whole idea that I am interested in interacting with anyone in general or you in particular, I plan to deny that emphatically if accused.”

“I am looking to start a conversation but without openly saying why. Maybe I am clear on some of my interests and maybe I am so anxious that I deny having an interests. Maybe I so crave social collaboration that I present myself as someone who does not have self-interests. Maybe I am so interested in social interaction and partnership that I say self-interests are problems and what we all need is to be more focused on certain social issues. However, of course those social issues are important to me because I perceive that they fit with my self-interests.”

I want to initiate. I want to assess the response of one or more people. How open are they to interacting right now in general? How open are they to whatever subject(s) I raise?

Maybe I want to create opportunities to vent repressed emotions like rage or grief or fear or delight (attraction). Maybe I have been attracted to outcomes that I have been trained to keep secret or deny or ignore. Maybe I have been trained to be socially anxious (timid, shy, ashamed).

Maybe I want to explore human interaction itself. Maybe I value conversations and communication in general. Should I pretend that I don’t? Should I pretend that I am totally independent and self-reliant and satisfied?

Should I protect other people from my own displays of disappointment? Should I suppress disappointment out of social anxiety for the possible consequences?

Boredom is an indication of unfulfilled interests- even a sense of fear about directly stating the interests and the lack of fulfillment. How open am I to developing clarity about my interests and identifying fitting methods for fulfilling those interests?

Being occasionally bored is common. If I am in a boring interaction, can I say so? Do I have the sense  of security to voice boredom (unsatisfaction)? If not, then what can I do to promote my security as a first priority and then also promote whatever other interests are unfulfilled.

If I am jealous, can I appreciate my attraction to something that I do not have? Can I recognize boredom as having an aspect of repulsion to something that is present? Can I respect that others may be insecure and wish to suppress certain interests of mine?

Maybe I can help them get their needs met so they are not threatened by mine. Maybe I can pursue my interests
in a way that does not disturb them (that avoids attracting their attention in a way that distracts me from identifying what I value most and getting it).

Accessing core interests: Why do people say “I’m afraid of disappointing you?”

June 12, 2015

I’ll start with a casual example, then we will get to the subject of core interests as well as secondary interests like a fear of disappointing others. Note that “fear of disappointing others” is never a core interest, but could be a shield or protective layer to preserve a core interest without exposing it to social scrutiny.

Here is the example about what is really going on with disappointment. If 3 people go bowling, who will have the best time? Will a higher score produce a better time?

At the end of the first game, the one with the top score can be disappointed that they did not do better (and may be anxious and frustrated almost the whole time, except for occasional relief and elation). The one with the worst score can be pleased with their results and delighted every moment of the way. So, depending on underlying motivations, the measured results may or may not produce interest or satisfaction or fulfillment. We can keep score without being anxious about the score, right?

If you were the 3rd person bowling with the other two, who would you prefer to give more attention? Unless you were a professional bowling coach (of a professional bowler), you might choose to generally ignore the grumpy jerk and just focus on the person that is more fun. Or, maybe you care so much about the grumpy jerk that you “give them a time out” and respond to what simply may be calls for high-quality attention.

They may start talking about their score and how important they know that bowling is to you. You might interrupt them. You might even say that you know that their whole commentary about disappointing you with a low bowling score is NOT a test of your response to them. You might play along and say that you care VERY deeply about their bowling score (and that you KNOW that they do, too). Then, you might give them an awkwardly long hug and apologize (VERY deeply) for being so desperately ineffective as a sarcastic brat.

So back to the 3 bowlers and their scores, we know that disappointment is not just about results. It is about our interests and motivations. If I prefer to clown around and even intentionally get a low score in a bowling game so that someone else can celebrate their victory over me with me, then that is a very different motivation than obsession about being competitive as a bowler. Unless I am seriously pursuing a career in professional bowling, the ultimate difference between scoring 300 or 200 or 100 in a game of bowling is not 100 or 200… but zero.

In fact, it is even possible to go bowling with someone just for the social aspect of the experience. Maybe we do not even keep score.

So that was my quick example. What did you learn so far from it? Next, here is some background analysis to learn even more.

First, how open am I to experiencing grief (mine or someone else’s)? How open am I to displays of grievances (as in other people’s anger toward me or mine toward them)?

Grief and anger are signals that an important interest is not satisfied. The method that is not working is probably of no importance. Forget what clearly did not work, at least for a moment. What is the underlying interest (behind the unsatisfying method) and what would work to fulfill that guiding interest?

If someone says they are afraid about disappointing me with a low bowling score, they might really be afraid of disappointing me. Maybe they are using bowling to introduce the subject of them disappointing me. They might even directly say “I am requesting that we communicate more about expectations and motivations.” That is quite direct and healthy, isn’t it?

Back to various signals of an unmet interest, a primary procedural issue is whether the power of the emotional display (such as crying or sending a dramatic text message) actually brings social attention as desired. People do not communicate except to draw social attention and guide it, right?

When experiencing “negative” outcomes (like anger, frustration, disappointment, and exhaustion), it may be clear to the person experiencing the outcome what interest is not fulfilled. However, especially with “surprising frustrations,” there may be layers of avoidance mechanisms to untangle before the core interest is clear to them (or anyone else).

So, let’s dive in to the process of accessing the core interest. If some method (or set of methods) is not working for me (to produce the results I need), then there are two primary ways that things can go. In short, either way I will experience grief (disappointment), whether that is sooner… or later.

First, the more open that I am to experiencing grief, the more likely I am to just complain about the results I have been producing. I lay no blame (or not for long). I just display my lack of satisfaction. I may even make jokes about my clear lack of satisfaction.

So, as I display my experience openly, I notice my dissatisfaction and then I stop what is not working (and perhaps soon explore new methods). If I had expected a particular method to work and it does not, then I am not only unsatisfied but my hopes were disappointed. The hopes were too high (as in naive).  I did not know until I knew.

All that is quite common. The more open that I am to noticing dissatisfaction and disappointment, the better I can perceive those signals to adapt. Note that dissatisfaction and disappointment are simply signals to adapt.

However, sometimes I may be less open to those signals. At least occasionally, many people for whatever reasons may be unable to recognize grief quickly and then adjust. They may be “too busy” to slow down and pursue improved effectiveness. As a result of their current methods, they may be “too stressed” or “too anxious” or “too exhausted” or “too overwhelmed.” They may even be avoiding a primary interest by sabotaging their energy (draining it on familiar distractions).

Think about the logical consistency of saying that they are too exhausted to slow down and find better methods. They do not have time to find better methods of managing time (or energy, etc). If they just had more time, then they would love to explore time management, which they admit that they need, and maybe they will eventually. If they are only temporarily exhausted, it certainly is possible for circumstances in life to “settle down” and in mild cases (not severe), then it is reasonable to wait for a possible “accidental” source of relief.

But even if relief comes (“a break”), what then? How important do we make time management (and an underlying issues like staying clear on our core motivations)?

What can be expected if someone persists in methods that exhaust them? They may experience frustration, blame, contempt, and then perhaps a big enough crisis that they panic. However, the innovations that people choose in a panic may be much less favorable than when they slow down, catch their breath, and calmly review alternatives (and predictable results).

So, why would I ever say to someone that I am afraid of disappointing them? That can be a signal of perceived dependency or desperation. If I perceive that I desperately need their approval and collaboration (as distinct from the approval or collaboration of someone else), then it makes sense to anxiously avoid disappointing them. Note that the “fear of disappointing someone” is also known as anxiety or paranoia.

If I depend on them, then I do not want to display my own disappointments to them either. I do not want them to flee or explore alternatives. Plus, I may anxiously attempt to avoid displaying my concerns or fears.

But if I notice my disappointment and display it openly, then I am doing so because of my interests and motivations. If I hide my disappointments, then I hide my interests and motivations.

Why would someone be afraid of their interests and motivations? Because to recognize them exposes us to our own disappointment (as distinct from saying things like “well, that is just boring” or “oh sure no everything is just fine”). Why is that relevant? Showing disappointment could get us in trouble socially. So, anxiety and paranoia are the habitual outcomes that we produce.

How do we learn that showing disappointment could get us in trouble? A short answer might feature the words “during childhood.” If we ever were punished for displaying disappointment (like “I will give you a reason to cry”), then the trauma of that can result in chronic physical tensions to block the display of the emotion of fear.

Note that disappointment is a form of fear. We are never really disappointed about the past. We are disappointed about what a particular past event means to us about our future.

If 3 people go bowling, the one with the top score can be disappointed that they did not do better (and may be anxious and frustrated the whole time with occasional relief and elation). The one with the worst score can be pleased with their results and delighted at the experience.

Disappointment is not just about results. It is about our interests and motivations. If those interests and motivations continue in to the future, then there are two possible outcomes from an unsatisfying result: disappointment (which is fear about the future) or acceptance.

Disappointment is not the same as acceptance. With disappointment, I remain anxious about the future because I have a background of exhaustion plus an interest that I have no idea how to meet (or know of no method that appeals to me).

So, there is a low-intensity panic. I may feel the energy in my solar plexus sink (like “having the wind knocked out”). I may even feel nausea and vomit.

When I have been anxiously hiding fear about the future, and then my pretenses are exposed, that is disappointment. When my desperate hopes are crushed, the underlying desperation remains and is exposed.

My method for hiding my desperation and exhaustion has failed. So, my fear is out in the open. I may be ashamed. I may withdraw. I may even lash out in blame and displays of resentment (which are signals to others that I have unresolved or unexamined issues like a lack of strong social bonds that I do not “own”).

When disappointment is visible, then the old fear (of not meeting a particular need) is still there and that underlying fear is now subject to exploration and observation. I have two basic ways to proceed: I can remain open with others while my fear is present (which involves courage and humility and trust, plus certain kinds of interaction from them) or I can keep them from noticing my fear.

To hide it from them, I could hide (flee) or I could remain with them but hide the fear. I could fake or freeze or distract or deny. I could even distract from the root of the fear by saying “oh it is just that I am afraid of _____.” I may admit to small fears (or even claim to fear things that I do not really fear) as a way to distract from the real interests in the background.

Many people could say “it is always best to display the fear bravely.” However, if that is always best, then why do the other options exist?

Is it wrong to be desperate while pretending not to be? It is just one way to operate.

Part of the terror about disappointing others is the idea that others may recognize elements of pretense. If others recognize patterns 0f possible pretense in me (not just error or confusion but intentional deception), then I might expect criticism or punishment. I might expect to crumble under the pressure and break down in grief and admitting to exhaustion.

Why is admitting exhaustion such a concern? If I value certain aspects of what is familiar, then I might habitually preserve the familiar rather than risk losing any of it.

When there is a background of barely-suppressed distress, I may want to avoid the social vulnerability of displaying it. After all, I suppress displaying it because I am pretending to have less social vulnerability / anxiety than I actually experience.

That is THE core pretense / core issue in the background. Social anxiety goes with a lack of satisfying social bonds. But if I display any lack of satisfaction with current social bonds, people could withdraw. So, there is the familiar trap / tangle. I am not satisfied with my current reality, including my social momentums, but the only people that I already know to share the dissatisfaction with are people I already know… and what if they are also compulsively hiding their own dissatisfaction?

Will they condemn my expression of dissatisfaction? Will they betray me or abandon me? If I perceive that I currently lack strong social bonds, then the possibility of abandonment (or even condemnation) will likely be a big concern for me. People who perceive that they have strong social bonds are not paranoid about expressing their own dissatisfaction (or about hearing about the dissatisfaction of others, even disappointment relating to them personally).

I pretend that I am not anxious. I am anxious because I am not as satisfied and as well-adjusted as I would like to be. To maintain the pretense, I either do not pursue fulfillment or only very privately.

If I am not confident, then hiding my lack of confidence is the only option that avoids openly recognizing a lack of confidence (which then opens me to opportunities for developing confidence). What if people share my experience and my interests and then even suggest simple opportunities for greater satisfaction?

Showing interest in increased effectiveness implies current dissatisfaction. So, I pretend not to be interested in effectiveness (and in the confidence that comes from repeated effectiveness).

High-quality communication allows for me to safely recognize specific habits of avoidance and pretense. High-quality communication allows for me to form and nourish strong social bonds. Effective communication is like watering the seeds of healthy relationships.

Without high-quality communication, social bonds may be “thin” (needing constant physical presence and signals of validation, like hugs). For very young children, social bonds are still growing (thickening), so they naturally start thin. Without learning to speak and then to effectively communicate, the social bonds may endure, but will never “blossom.” For someone to be able to form new social bonds throughout life in to adulthood, the skillful use of language is extremely useful.

So, a lack of social confidence may involve a relatively low level of competence in the use of language. Lack of social confidence is a social issue, but can also have medical factors. Is there a demon that possesses someone and results in weak habits of social bonding? There is no such demon (even if a licensed high priest insists that there is). However, there are neurological factors in the use of language, including stress hormones in particular and emotions in general.

How effective am I at forming strong social bonds? One factor is my social circumstance (where I live, how much prosperity I control, plus access to existing contacts, etc). At least in extreme cases, another obvious factor is neurological development and neurochemistry (including things like being alert or well-rested).  Those two (social circumstances and neurology) may be rather obvious.

What about this other issue though? Is it also obvious that how well I use language is also a factor in my own satisfaction with the social bonds that I experience? Do I blame others obsessively? Do I withdraw and then fixate on “that one new social bond that can solve everything?”

As I develop more competence at high-quality conversations (including with adults), then I am more likely to be relaxed about forming new bonds. I can form one new bond. I can form several.

I am not avoiding the disappointments, unmet needs, and shames of prior social bonds. I am not pretending to be constantly satisfied (as in “content” or “happy”). If I am not currently satisfied, I know it. I may not display it in the same way to everyone, but at least I am aware of how satisfied or well-adjusted  I am (as signaled by my own emotions).

In particular, I am not avoiding my needs or interests. I am open to my motivations. I am not terrified of them. I am not anxious to bury them. However, I may respect that they can be powerful and intense and complex, so I am attentive to the pace of any exploration I make in to accessing my core motivations and unleashing them.

I “own” that I have motivations and that they may not all be met (or even clear to me). Maybe I value disappointment as a signal of an unmet need. However, maybe I have been terrified of disappointment.

If I was terrified of other people displaying disappointment (like some men who are actually repulsed by movies with crying), then I would have withdrawn from situations in which I perceived someone else to be willing to openly display their motivations and their level of satisfaction. If I perceive my own social bonds to be desperately weak, then I will be anxious about other people getting angry at me. I was terrified that I might be abandoned. I was desperate.

In a case like that, I would have been open to remaining in situations that did not work exceptionally well for me, but that did seem to work better than whatever alternatives I perceived. I may have intently explored alternatives (perhaps discretely or even in total secrecy). If my social bonds are not clearly satisfactory, then I may even trigger “little outrages” in others to assess their level of devotion (tolerance) and also to attempt to distract them from issues that could trigger outcomes that I consider “potentially catastrophic.”

I would lack confidence. I would be shy. I would not be secure and assertive. I would not develop more assertiveness (or only rather slowly).

I would avoid the issue of unsatisfied needs. I would avoid displays of dissatisfaction. I would be uncomfortable around open displays of unsatisfied needs.

Contrast all of that with a healthy mode. If others are angry with me (disturbed by me), I want to know. With priority relationships, I seek to identify the source of anger and get unmet needs met. With low-priority relationships, I am interested in outbursts of contempt (even not directed at me) as signals for me to withdraw.

In a healthy mode, I value the disappointment of others and myself. I naturally ignore the disappointment of anyone who does not interest me. Otherwise, disappointment can signal to slow down, clarify focus, and refine methods. There is an underlying fear of an unmet interest and I value meeting it reliably.

When latent disappointments build up, there may also be frustration to resolve and exhaustion to remedy. Note that the ultimate solution to exhaustion is not to suppress motivations or fears. As always, identify what outcome is a priority, then establish relevant methods, then prioritize and proceed.

Exhaustion is a signal that something currently being done needs to be delegated or discontinued. Efficiency (as in time management) will be highly valued.

Or, if the label of exhaustion is just being used as an excuse to hide something else, then the social assertion of exhaustion could work as an avoidance mechanism. People may even respect the signal’s message without raising the issue of the signal’s “precision.”

Imprecision is part of communication. For instance, I may say “I value time management.” That statement is a “social display” and may or may not be precise. Why would I say it? To whom? Do I actually invest time in my own introspection and planning or not?

We may want to know if specific other people are suppressing frustration, disappointment, or motivation. We might assess that by displaying specific “dramas” (probably quite sincerely / unconsciously) and then noticing their response (if any).

Of course, we would only be interested in knowing about others if we were in some way interested in them for our own motivations. Do we consider someone a possible ally in regard to a secondary motivation? That is one level of interest. Do we value someone as a prospective partner in regard to a core motivation? That is a greater level of interest.

Do we look to someone for high-quality conversations? Then we might also be interested in noticing how they interact with others.

Are we committed to healthy social bonding? If so, then we must be willing to loosen or sever social bonds that are notably unhealthy (as in draining or even exhausting).

Do we complain of discomfort around someone? If so, what do we do about it besides complain? Once the pattern of repulsion is clear, do we respect the signals of our own emotional responses? Is the respect sudden and decisive (like a total cessation of interaction) or do we temporarily compromise the urge to pull away (or push away) so as to withdraw slowly? Maybe other core interests are served by a slower withdrawal, right?

Every pattern of behavior has relevance. That is why each of them manifest.

Want to know what is going on for someone? Observe them. The functions of their behavior (the underlying motivations) can be recognized in time.

If someone is threatened by observation, that is not unusual (and signals a sense of social vulnerability). Observation can be withdrawn, done secretly, or “owned.”

My attention to other people can be thought of as a gift that some people will recognize as a gift and then greatly treasure, others will not notice at all, and some will flee from in terror. It is good to notice how different people respond to attention and how their responses can change.

Why do I look? I look to see. There is no other reason to look.

J.R. Hunn
480 265 5522

Vanity as a form of anxiety

May 14, 2015

Let’s explore what vanity is and how it is important. Vanity is a label for an anxious pre-occupation with social validation. In simplest terms, vanity is a form of anxiety (distress).

As background, I consider anxiety to be a label for the inevitable biochemical effects of a deficiency of carbon dioxide in the bloodstream, resulting in reduced supply of oxygen to the brain cells (“hypoxia”), further resulting in the behavioral / experiential effects called anxiety. In other words, anxiety “attacks” are when the brain is suffocating from chronic hyperventilation.

The remedy is breathing calmly (slowly). In severe acute hyperventilation, it is common for people to breath in and out of a paper bag in order to dramatically raise CO2 levels in the bloodstream and thus prevent the brain tissue from suffocating. Most people know about acute hyperventilation (sudden onset) but do not know how common and severe the effects are of chronic (slow onset) hyperventilation.


Most people know about  O2 coming in through the lung tissue and then Hemoglobin (red blood cells) bonds with the O2 (as shown above). What they do not know is the mechanism of how the O2 gets released. Let’s review that quickly.


Here is an image of what happens during calm breathing. As we already referenced, O2 (in blue at top right) comes in through the lung tissue and then Hemoglobin (red blood cells) bond with the O2. That is in the center of the above image (shown as HbO2). What happens next is totally uncontroversial and well-established, but not widely known or used.

So, we just breathed in and then we have lots of HbO2 (oxygen-rich red blood cells). Those oxygenated blood cells are flowing around with lots of H2O (water), right? When the oxygen-rich blood reaches a part of the body that has been doing some work (which produces CO2), then there will be a higher concentration of CO2 in that “active” part of the bloodstream and the O2 will be released there near the activity.

Why? Exactly what happens in the presence of CO2 that produces the release of the O2?


What is happening is that where there has been cellular activity (such as physical exertion), there will be raised levels of CO2. Next, all of that CO2 in the bloodstream will electromagnetically “rip apart” water (H2O in the bottom center) in to a hydroxyl ion (OH-) and a free proton (which chemists call a positively charged molecule of hydrogen: H+). Each freed proton (AKA “positive hydrogen ion”) slightly alters the electromagnetic charge (as in the voltage or pH) of the blood in that area of cellular activity.

Because of the local cellular activity has raised local CO2 levels, that rips apart some of the water molecules in the blood, thus making HCO3- (“bicarbonate” at left center of image below) and releasing free protons (“positive hydrogen ions” / H+). Those free protons alter the electromagnetic charge of the water / the blood in that area. That electromagnetic charge is  extremely important for the release of the O2 from the red blood cells.

When the charge of the blood is in the ideal range (not too low or too high), then an efficient transfer of O2 in to the surrounding cells can happen. The free proton (H+) electromagnetically rips the O2 from the HbO2 (the oxygen-rich red blood cell in the center above) and then the released O2 (in the top left in blue) can finally enter the surrounding tissue. This sequence was documented in 1904 by a researcher named Christian Bohr, so it is called the Bohr Effect.

Basically, more CO2 in a certain area of the bloodstream results in more H+ (protons) which is measurable as a lower pH which further results in O2 getting released (electromagnetically ripped) from the red blood cells. After CO2 has lowered the local pH of the blood, then the hemoglobin has less saturation or “affinity” for oxygen (as the chart below shows).

It is a good thing for the O2 to be released. It is a VERY bad thing for no O2 to be released.

So, keep in mind that we breathe “through” the internal waters of the bloodstream. Like a liquid cell in a car battery, we obviously must have water in the cell so that all of these water-soluble biochemical reactions can take place, plus we must have an appropriate electromagnetic charge (pH) to produce the red blood cell’s release of O2 across the medium of water (H20).

How is pH regulated? By CO2 levels. If CO2 levels are wrong, then pH is wrong, so oxygen does not get from the red blood cells to the tissues. That starves the brain tissue and causes effects known as attacks of anxiety and panic and asthma. That is bad.

When CO2 levels are high enough, that lowers blood pH, allowing for the proper release of O2 from the blood in to surrounding tissues. That is good.

What causes anxiety attacks, panic attacks, and asthma attacks? Insufficient oxygenation of tissues (“hypoxia”), such as due to bad pH levels (which typically is due to bad CO2 levels from excessive exhalation). Again, that is bad. In the case of extreme sleep apnea, the suffocation caused by hyperventilation is so bad that the brain must create a nightmare to wake up the body and prevent brain damage or death.

By the way, suffocation is bad for you. Hyperventilation eventually WILL produce suffocation. Anxiety is simply an effect of suffocation. So, slow down your breathing!

Vanity is a type of anxiety. Chronic vanity is not as bad as a severe apnea attack, but it is still “bad for you.”

So, when we have chronic physical tensions (or physical injuries) that inhibit proper breathing, the natural result is an increase in the rate and depth of inhalations and exhalations. The result on the blood chemistry is that rapid exhalations deplete the blood of CO2, preventing the CO2 from breaking water in to HO- and H+, thus preventing the local altering of the pH of the blood, finally preventing the release of the O2 from the red blood cell in to the surrounding tissue. In short, by exhaling too much, all tissues (including brain cells) are slowly suffocated. Again, “anxiety” is the natural result (including the specific form of anxiety that I call vanity).

Most modern adults breathe about twice as much (by volume) than is healthy. As babies and young children, most of us breathe much more calmly most of the time (before the maturing organism develops the typical chronic physical tensions of mainstream socialization / conditioning / traumatization).

What is the nature of the chronic physical tensions? They are to repress the display of normal human emotions such as fear, anger, distress, and shame.

Many cultures (or social institutions such as programming schools) target those emotions as “evil” and reward children for suppressing them and “being good” (being quiet / still / compliant). In some cases, children may be drugged to be promote behavioral “normalcy.”

In order to adapt to all that social pressure to identify certain behaviors and emotions as evil and then suppress them, all children typically develop chronic physical tensions to maintain their social persona of “being good” (never displaying the punished emotions of fear, anger, and shame). Those chronic physical tensions inhibit the normal healthy breathing process, resulting in open-mouthed over-breathing. In other words, they dull their brains and emotional responsiveness by starving their brains of oxygen (by slowly suffocating / exhausting themselves).

Now, what exactly is vanity? Fundamentally, it corresponds to an interpretation of “I am not safe.” In particular, vanity is an organism’s normal healthy coping mechanism for the presence of social threats and especially institutions of intimidation. To compensate for the lack of safety and the presence of perceived social threats (such as potential critics / antagonists / assailants), a persona is formed to compensate for the perceived lack of safety.

In other words, the persona is a behavioral coping mechanism to increase safety. The personality (patterns of behavior) will settle in to whatever patterns promote survival and safety within the life circumstances and social setting of the organism. In situations of sufficient social stress, personality breakdowns (like PTSD or schizophrenia) may predictably rise in frequency.

So, what exactly is the behavior pattern of vanity? It is a pre-occupation with social approval / disapproval (validation/ invalidation). It corresponds to dilemmas and paranoid agonizing about “how can I best preserve my favorite social preferences?”

In religious terms, vanity is the worship of social validation and the neglecting of attention to God (and the activities of God). The ancient Hebrew prophet Isaiah warned about it and Jesus quoted Isaiah directly on the subject, such as in Mark, chapter 7, verses 6-8 (see below).

In vanity, people “corrupt” traditions by conforming blindly (and hysterically) to their familiar traditions. With absolutely no respect for the actual function of the tradition and total pre-occupation with perfectionist vanity (social validation), many people copy traditions with their tongues and their lips, but completely miss the spirit of the traditions. Here is what Isaiah and Jesus are recorded to have taught:

From Isaiah chapter 29:

10For the LORD has poured out upon you

a spirit of deep sleep—

he has closed your eyes, you [so-called] prophets,

he has covered your [ears], you [so-called] seers!”

11“And this entire vision has become for you like the words of a sealed book. When people give it to someone who can read, and say, ‘Read this, please,’ he answers, ‘I cannot, because it is sealed.’ 12 Or when they give the book to someone who cannot read, and say, ‘Read this, please,’ he answers, ‘I don’t know how to read.’”

13 Then the LORD [?Isaiah, whose title within the community of Hebrews would be Massioch or Messiah or Annointed Lord] said:

“Because these people draw near with their mouths

and honor me with their lips,

but their hearts are far from me,

worship of men has become

merely like rules taught by human beings.

14 Therefore, watch out!”

Jesus as recorded in Mark, Chapter 7:

5 So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders….?”

6 He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:

“ ‘These people honor me with their lips,

but their hearts are far from me.

7 They worship me in vain;

their teachings are merely human rules.’

8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”

9 And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!


13 you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”

In a related chapter (Matthew 15), Jesus added these famous lines:

14 “Leave them [stop concerning yourself with the teachings of hysterical leaders like the Pharisees]; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”


What is the nature of vanity? It involves craving for a set of ideals to worship in hysterical perfectionism.

Mere concern for social reputation or perceptions is not vanity. Vanity is a chronic, hysterical over-emphasis on social validation.  Drawing attention to one’s self is generally not vanity. Vanity is actually about distracting attention away from the “evil” aspects of one’s self.

“I will reject the voice of God within me and look outside of me for the way that I should be and should not be. Based on familiar social traditions, I will identify certain aspects of God’s creation to condemn as mistakes that God would not have been so dumb to make if I had just been consulted with the appropriate amount of humility on God’s part. Maybe I can discover my intuition simply by frequently listening to the sounds of the words of an ancient oral tradition (probably while rigidly resisting the meaning of the lessons therein). I already am an expert on everything important so I do not need all of the trouble of constant alertness and occasional introspection, for instead what I do need is some external authority (and social rituals) to provide me a constant source of validation (to compensate for my lack of inner clarity and confidence). Perhaps I can even achieve intuitive clarity by memorizing the words of the ancient oral tradition that was later written down and then however poorly translated and then printed with very fancy lettering. Let me cling to the familiar in terror and reject all that is unfamiliar, or confusing, or might be contrary to the presumptions that I blindly worship as idols while desperately pretending to have spiritual maturity. Of course, I will gather with others who cushion me from recognizing my idiocy by encouraging me in it.”

Vanity is hiding from humiliation in shame (in terrified anxiety). It is a hysterical paranoia about criticism. Some vain people will even condemn all criticism (even rebukes and calm corrections).

How do they condemn criticism? With intense antagonism and criticism, they rage in their terrified contempt for any possible threat to their pretenses of confidence and competence.

They are delirious. They are hysterical. Their brain cells are suffocating from a lack of calm breathing.

As Isaiah said, they are as if in a deep sleep. They have ears, but do not see hear with discernment. They have eyes, but they do not see with understanding. They trumpet so-called understanding in order to attempt to distract from their lack of understanding. We can also call this vanity arrogance or self-righteousness.

What are the solutions to vanity? I think of only two. First is the least common but the best: breathing calmly while “turning away” from triggers of distress and trivial controversies.

The second is humiliation. Humiliation reliably leads to humility, which is the interruption of habits of vanity. Again, humility can also be cultivated through breathing calmly and other practices. Or, humility can be delivered even more suddenly through intense social humiliation.

There are also moderate (even relaxing) doses of humility called humor. The root of the words humility and humor are the same as the root of the word humus (for dirt or earth). Humility means being grounded, as in “grounded in reality” as well as grounded socially (with an interruption to privileged luxuries that can spoil a child’s respect for their elders and for themselves).

courage and the four fears: fight, flight, freeze, and fake

August 30, 2012

demon (Photo credit: sarsifa)

Courage may seem very rare as in distinctive. Many people may pretend to have courage, but what if that is merely faking courage? However, even to fake courage may involve a certain amount of courage, right?

Before we focus directly on courage and how it relates to clarity and faith, we can contrast courage with fear. I assert that fear has four main forms: fight, flight, freeze, and fake. Of all possible activities, none may involve so much courage as the direct exploring of the four fears.

Fight or flight?

Fight or flight? (Photo credit: Daniele Nicolucci photography)

Fight or Flight:

The fight reflex: aggression (physical attacks or threats, as well as frustration, blame, anger, resentment, contempt, argumentativeness and even filing lawsuits).

The flight reflex: withdrawal (physical retreat or at least caution, as well as abruptly changing the subject in a conversation, panicking, aloofness, non-compliance, introspection, anxiety, agonizing, pre-occupation, obsession, addiction, paranoia, hysteria, schizophrenic delusions, mania, etc).

Those are the two most-recognized responses to fear. The next two can be considered variations of the flight response: fleeing without actually moving (like freeze as in “playing dead”) and faking (again, as in playing dead), which serves the function of fleeing without actually fleeing.

Note that I do not recall ever reading or hearing someone describe faking as a form of fear, though the reality seems rather obvious. Perhaps pretending not to be pretending is such a core value within certain cultures or cults that faking simply would not ever be publicly referenced as a form of fear.

The fake reflex: camouflage (changing of appearances and manipulating of perceptions, such as to blend in with surroundings, like to alter skin tone – common among certain reptiles like chameleons and also common among females in certain cultures to display youthful vitality and the indicators of sexual arousal, such as bright red lip coloring and pink rouge for cheek coloring, plus wigs and hair coloring and masks and hats, plus physical decorations of all sorts including all clothing, all jewelry, and all tattoos, as well as lying, distracting, and anxiously compulsive or deceptive presenting of “positivity,” cheerfulness, hope, the celebration of naivete, public displays of altruism and patriotism and other ideals, and even daydreaming, myth-making, and propaganda to cover up, mislead, and redirect attention, interpretation, perception and behavior)

The freeze reflex: shutting down (fainting, paralysis, weeping, sobbing, grief, depression, helplessness, confusion, guilt, shame, self-sabotage, excessive sleeping, silence, stillness, numbness, “shock”)

The Fear (The Twilight Zone)

The Fear (The Twilight Zone) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, of the four fears, we can subcategorize two forms as relatively active and two forms as relatively passive. Which of these two are the most active: fighting, fleeing, freezing, and faking?

Fighting and fleeing are active or overt reactions. They are quite simple. They tend to be easily recognized as obvious. We can classify those two fears as the more masculine forms of fear.

In contrast, freezing and faking are passive or covert reactions (relative to fighting or fleeing). Freezing and faking are actually specifically designed to minimize attention (or even totally avoid detection). Faking can be especially complex. Freezing and faking tend to be most common among women, as well as children, the elderly, and anyone who is relatively feminine or physically ineffective at fighting or fleeing. Thus, we could call freezing and faking the more “feminine” forms of fear. When the simple methods of fighting or fleeing seem inadequate, then more “advanced” or “refined” forms of fear may be explored for relevance.

Dangerous Risk Adrenaline Suicide by Fear of F...

Dangerous Risk Adrenaline Suicide by Fear of Falling (Photo credit:

So, what is courage? Courage involves accepting the reality of life, including the reality of fear, perhaps without fearing fear. Fearing fear can involve paranoia, anxiety, and even hysteria.

Obviously, fearing fear is fearing. In other words, fearing fear is fear.

To stop fearing fear and actually feel fear is courage. Courage allows for clarity.

Pre-occupation and self-deception (denial) are forms of fearing fear. Courage can involve the cessation of pre-occupations, excuses, rationalizations, and self-deception. Introspection can also involve tremendous courage, for those who have adapted to life by learning to fake well are risking the direct recognition that they have been pretending that they have not been pretending. Introspecting can reveal how terrified one has been, how traumatized, how socially conditioned, how idealistic (unrealistic).

Shaming is a form of fear (aggression). Self-shaming (guilt) is also a form of paralyzing fear.


Lady Demon

Lady Demon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Oddly enough, all of the forms of fear can be extremely functional. The idealistic rejection of fear as inherently unfavorable or immature or “ungodly” or “evil” could be a state of compulsive naivete or mental illness, but yet still an appropriate transitional developmental stage. Until one is ripe to directly confront fear, one may be exposed to small, brief encounters with fear as one gets more familiar with fear, as small experiences of fear and distress lead to maturing and the capacity to appropriately respond to fear.

Moments of fright or terror or fear function to promote physical survival. Even traumatic amnesia may serve to promote survival. The compulsive, reactive rejecting of fear is of course also functional (because all fear is functional) and rejecting fear can actually function to sustain fear, hiding it, pretending fear is not present when fear is present.

Fearing fear is not the absence of fear. Fearing fear is the absence of courage. Courage is the accepting of fear as fear.
I mentioned earlier that courage is related to clarity and faith. Fear can lead to a lack of clarity as in the avoiding of certain perceptions or subjects or circumstances and even the obsessing over a few subjects- or even just one. Courage can lead to recognizing all of those patterns as just patterns.

One who lacks faith tends to rely on presumption, belief and hope. Without faith, one may be reactively or hysterically afraid of alternate possibilities, of other people’s opinions or perceptions, and of any evidence, for any actual evidence MIGHT contradict one’s most sacred idealisms or idolatry.

In other words, a faithless, compulsive, hysterical belief or hope can be a form of agonizing, anxious paranoid mania. Perceived “threats” to one’s most terrified paranoias can result in intense reactions of antagonism, criticism, and aggression.

Demon Mask I

Demon Mask I (Photo credit: callocx)

Again, all of this may be quite functional. There is a function or purpose to all patterns: a time for fear and a time for hope, mania, hysteria, paranoia, aggression, pretenses of faith which are entirely faithless and are in fact compulsive and anxious states of naive belief.

By the fruits of a tree, the type of tree can be easily recognized. If one has faith, then one can admit fear, admit the possibility of being wrong, admit the possible relevance or functionality of other patterns, other models, other language. Faith is open to learning.

While Hebrews and Arabs and Romans and Hindus may all use slightly different words for a particular concept, such as “God,” how many among them will fight or even die over “which word is the best?” Naturally (as in nearly uniformly), they may all presume to assert that their own language, which is most familiar to them personally, is the best language.

They may all be so naively arrogant as to fight over which word in which language is “the very best word of all.” Such fighting of course is a form of hysterical fear and functions to develop clarity as to the reality of what fighting is. The best way to know what fighting is, after all, may be by fighting.

The best way to know the four forms of fear may be… to fear them. Fearing fear certainly can lead to a clarifying of the pattern of fear.

So, what is the best word? The best word is “best.”

Translated in to other languages, the same principle applies. In fact, the ideal word is ideal and the perfect word is perfect.

Saying these things with faith may be a bit like saying them with a sense of humor- as in a profound clarity about what language is. The fear of recognizing the simplicity of what language is may be perceived as the single most terrifying threat to a culture of pretense, as in hysterically pretending that fearing fear is not fear itself. Of course, fearing fear is fear itself.

However, fearing fear is not fear itself. Fearing fear is the most courageous thing that anyone could ever do.

demon inside

demon inside (Photo credit: Melinda Taber)

Why would someone say that? Perhaps because I have faith that those who have the ears to hear will recognize that words are in fact merely words (though perhaps not actually words at all and in fact only linguistic paradoxes). In other words, I have faith that some may get the joke, recognize the pretense as being merely pretense, and be clear internally (without any hysterical reliance on external authors or authorities) about the nature of fear and the nature of courage and the nature of faith and the nature of language.

Some may find value and function and clarity in these words. Some may come to faith through this “good news.” Some may experience the clarity of faith immediately or gradually or not at all or only quite suddenly now… but wait no please not yet.

the common roots of anguish, angst, anxiety, anger, and arrogance

May 8, 2012
An anxious person

An anxious person (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“I am an expert on both bitterness and arrogance. My extensive first-hand experience with those patterns of experience makes me an authority on those subjects… and, by the way, I am not just being arrogant when I claim this distinction.”

In fact, I have had at least a few people repeatedly tell me that I was arrogant. Without being told, I already knew when I was bitter, but arrogance is one of those things that people may be hesitant about claiming for themselves. People who are being arrogant may prefer other terms such as “justified” or “right” or “righteous,” which reminds me of the term “self-righteous,” which reminds me of the terms “antagonistic” and “arrogant” and “rude” and “jerk.” (As for those who are thinking of the term “righteous” as in spiritual purity, note that I prefer the term “spiritual purity.”)

Notice how rare it is that someone would say,” Of course I am being a jerk, but it is entirely justified!” People tend to just skip the middle part and focus on “I AM…JUSTIFIED!”

When I have been arrogant, I always had excellent rationalizations for being arrogant. “I am only being an arrogant, self-righteous jerk because of the following excellent justifications. I’d like to tell you about them now and I’d like to be very loud as I do so. Are you ready? No? Well, that is your problem, not mine. Here I go….”

Once a Jerk, Always a Jerk

Once a Jerk, Always a Jerk (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Being arrogant can be an interesting way to invite attention to one’s self. It is an advertisement of a dominant concern with being the deliverer of some particular communication, typically a criticism that includes a condemnation.

By the way, criticism does not require condemnation. Criticism can simply identify anything that might be missing as well as anything that might be excessive or less than the best possible, according to whatever perspective or interpretative system.

So, when I am being arrogant, I want someone to listen to me. I want someone to understand me. I want sympathy. I want someone to help me deal with an underlying issue or anxiety or fear. I am testing to identify someone who can assist me in  handling my distress, for arrogance (AKA “righteousness“) is fundamentally an indicator signaling distress.

I recently wrote to someone these words: “You are not just bitter. You have also been arrogant.”

“When I was arrogant, you have even been bitter that I was arrogant, rather than just noticing the arrogance. Are you offended when a frightened idiot displays arrogance, or do you just notice it?”

“Arrogance is a lot of fear covered with a brief [sudden] surfacing of anger… whenever the fear is recognized. When the arrogant anger subsides, the basic anxiety and paranoia is still present- the fear of fear itself.”

Notice that the words “anguish, anxiety, angst, and anger” all have many letters in common.


1175–1225; Middle English anguisse  < Old French  < Latin angustia tight place, equivalent to angust ( us ) narrow + -ia -ia; compare anxious;  akin to anger


early 13c., “acute bodily or mental suffering,” from O.Fr.anguisse, angoisse “choking sensation, distress, anxiety, rage,”from L. angustia “tightness, distress,” from ang(u)ere “to throttle, torment” (see anger).
[C13: from Old French angoisse  a strangling, from Latin angustia narrowness, from angustus  narrow]


1520s, from L. anxietatem (nom. anxietas), noun of quality fromanxius (see anxious).


1620s, from L. anxius “solicitous, uneasy, troubled in mind,” fromang(u)ere “choke, cause distress” (see anger). The same image isin Serbo-Croatian tjeskoba “anxiety,” lit. “tightness, narrowness.”
[C17: from Latin anxius;  related to Latin angere  to torment; see anger , anguish ]
1840–50;  < German Angst  fear, anxiety, Old High German angust (cognate with Middle Low German angest, Middle Dutch anxt ),equivalent to ang-  (akin to eng  narrow, constricted) + -st (suffix)


1944, from Ger. Angst “neurotic fear, anxiety, guilt, remorse” fromO.H.G. angust, from the root of anger (q.v.). George Eliot used it(in Ger.) in 1849, and it was popularized in Eng. by translation of Freud’s work, but as a foreign word until 1940s.
1150–1200; Middle English  < Scandinavian;  compare Old Norseangr  sorrow, grief, akin to Old High German angust  ( German Angst fear), Latin angor  anguish
[C12: from Old Norse angr  grief; related to Old English enge,  OldHigh German engi  narrow, Latin angere  to strangle]


c.1200, from O.N. angra “to grieve, vex;” the noun is mid-13c.,from O.N. angr “distress, grief, affliction,” from P.Gmc. *angus (cf. O.E. enge “narrow, painful,” M.Du. enghe, Goth. aggwus”narrow”), from PIE base *angh- “stretch round, tight, painfully constricted, painful” (cf. Skt. amhu- “narrow,” amhah “anguish;” Armenian anjuk “narrow;” Lith. ankstas”narrow;” Gk. ankhein “to squeeze,” ankhone “a strangling;” L.angere “to throttle, torment;” O.Ir. cum-ang “straitness, want”).

Anxiety (Photo credit: Rima Xaros)

All of those words are related to exasperation, like being out of breath or having trouble breathing, being exhausted, desperation, despair, and terror. Rage is like being squeezed tight. The tension can be… suffocating, similar to a panic attack of asthma.
Here is what Jesus said about anger and the raging fires of the hell of rage:

20For I say to you, that unless your goodness will exceed that of the Scribes and the Pharisees, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. 21You have heard that it was said to the ancients, “Do not murder, and whoever murders is condemned to judgment.” 22But I am saying to you, that everyone who will be angry against his brother without cause is condemned before the judge, and everyone who will say to his brother, ‘I spit on you’, is condemned before the assembly, and whoever will say ‘You fool.’ is condemned to the Gehenna of fire.

Note that I think that a better translation might be “contempt.” The issue is not just the natural spontaneous anger that is normal for any child, but the danger of blame, animosity, resentment, contempt, rage, and hatred.
James 3:6 “The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” (From a letter written by one of the disciples of Jesus).

Anxiety (Photo credit: Alaina Abplanalp Photography)

Arrogance has a function. So does anxiety. It may not be most functional to “avoid” them (as in totally repress or deny them).
The old Biblical saying “turn away from evil” implies to withdraw from what is terrifying or disturbing, but not to condemn it or judge against it, but to complete the disturbance and experience peace and even courage and appreciation.
Avoiding arrogance and anxiety could keep you stuck in them. Until you get firmly planted in admitting your own arrogance, you cannot step beyond it.
It is like being in Oregon and trying to cross the border in to Colorado. There is a problem with that idea. Oregon does not border Colorado. One can go through Idaho and Utah to get from Oregon to Colorado, though.
So, when you step in to arrogance fully (and humbly!), then you will have the opportunity to experience anxiety directly and learn its value. Until then, anxiety may remain something for you to avoid and deny.
There may also be a sense that other people should never be anxious, like even children: “why are they so anxious sometimes!?!?!” That is an instance of arrogance.
You cannot have a sense of humor about anxiety until you can admit arrogance without needing to fall back in to bitterness, which is a wonderful thing to experience until you are ready to openly enter anxiety. If you ever master anxiety, then your experience of living may dramatically shift, like stepping out of hell in to heaven- which allegedly is similar to stepping out of Utah in to Oregon, but not quite the same.
Remember that the one who enjoys life the most loses the game of hell. Beware of enjoying hell or it may turn out to be  a dream from which no one can escape without sacrificing bitterness, arrogance, and even anxiety, angst, anguish, and anger.
Robert Plutchik's Wheel of Emotions

Robert Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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