Life is not meant to be easy.
There are seemingly infinite constraints (e.g., genetic and environmental) stopping you from being and living as you wish.
However, the primary obstacles stopping you from being and living how you want are:
- The lack of trust you have from yourself and others
- Your emotional intelligence — specifically, your ability to understand and manage your emotions, what psychologists call emotional regulation
Until you can be trusted, first by yourself, and then by others, you’ll never be who you want to be. You’ll always be living a lie. Inside, you’ll never feel clarity, congruence, or conviction. Said Mahatma Gandhi,
“To believe in something, and not to live it, is dishonest.”
Additionally, until you can understand and manage your emotions, you’ll always be a slave to them.
Safety is overrated.
Sadly, most people are living a lie. They don’t keep commitments even to themselves. They don’t accomplish their goals and dreams. They are bound by fears and other emotions they so desperately want to avoid.
Nevertheless, if you’re willing to do the hard interior work of living a life of trust and emotional freedom, there are absolutely no limits to your growth and potential.
Part 1: Trust
“Trust is like the air we breathe. When it’s present, nobody really notices. But when it’s absent, everybody notices.”
— Warren Buffett
Mergers and acquisitions are high cost and high risk endeavors. Generally, doing background checks and examining every detail of a company takes substantial time and money.
However, when Warren Buffet acquired McLane Distributions from Walmart, the whole thing took a matter of hours and no due diligence at all.
How is this so?
From Buffett’s perspective, Walmart had high credibility as seen in the integrity of the leadership and the track-record of the company. Furthermore, Buffett’s own reputation and influence were high — no one wants to publicly do him wrong. The result of this high level of shared-trust was a win-win acquisition that was both fast and cost-effective.
In his book, The 5 Dysfunctions of Team, Patrick Lencioni has said,
“If we don’t trust one another, then we aren’t going to engage in open, constructive, ideological conflict.”
If you’re not willing to be honest and vulnerable, your relationships — including the one with yourself — will be shallow. In such relationships, each party is too concerned about their own feelings to confront the reality of the situation. As a result, the relationship doesn’t progress and evolve, but remains stuck.
But what about your relationship with yourself?
Developing a Relationship of Trust with Yourself
Dr. Stephen R. Covey tells the story of being over-seas and being in a men’s clothing store. He was interested in buying a nice suit jacket. Stephen asked the salesman about the price, knowing it would include an additional fee when he crossed the border.
The salesman said, “Just wear it when you leave the country. Then you won’t have to pay the additional fee. They’ll never know.”
Covey responded, “But I have to fill out a ticket of everything I purchased while in this country.”
The salesman answered, “Just don’t mention it.”
Covey replied, “Sir, I’m not concerned about paying the extra cost. However, I am concerned about what you’re teaching the young man you’re training.” The salesman happened to be on-spot training a new employee.
As you might guess, Covey didn’t purchase the jacket.
This story has enormous implications.
The following list of questions come from the book, The Speed of Trust, by Stephen M. R. Covey.
Before answering the questions, note that people have a hard time answering questions about themselves honestly — an apparent lack of self-trust. We generally judge ourselves based on our intentions while judging others based on their behaviors.
Do you cut corners or alter the truth to get desired results?
Are you honest in your interactions with others?
Is there a mismatch between what you think and what you say, or between your values and your actions?
How clear are you on your values?
Do you stand up for something when others disagree?
Is it hard for you to acknowledge when someone else is right?
How open are you to changing your mind?
How consistent are you at setting and achieving personal goals?
How well are you at keeping commitments to yourself and others?
How much do you really care about the concerns of other people?
How often do you think about why you do what you do?
How often do you do the deep interior work of improving your motives?
In your dealings with others, do you primarily focus on getting what you want? Or do you actively seek solutions that are a win for everyone involved?
Based on your behavior, do other people think you have their best interests in mind?
Have you identified your strengths and focused your work around them? Or are you unclear on your strengths and spend time focused on your weaknesses?
Have you gained the knowledge and mastered the skills to thrive in your work?
How much time do you spend improving your knowledge and skills to improve your work and life?
How often do you finish what you start?
Trust can be broken down into two things:
- Character — your integrity and intentions
- Competency — your skills and results
If you don’t have both character and competency, trust will be low. For example, you may have all the right skills, but lack integrity. Or, you may have high integrity, but lack the needed skills for a specific task.
This is why confidence must be earned. A price must be paid to have confidence in yourself and others. The price is trust.
You can’t be confident if you’re not competent. If you lack the knowledge and skills, you won’t believe you can achieve your goal. If you lack the integrity to stick to your plans and keep your commitments, you won’t believe you will achieve your goal.
How often do you tell yourself you’re going to do something, and not do it?
If you’re like most people, the answer is several times per day.
Did you hit the snooze button on your alarm clock? Loss of personal trust.
Did you sit on social media longer than you wanted to? Loss of personal trust.
Anytime you live beneath your personal standards or fail to keep your personal commitments, you lose trust in yourself. To repeat Mahatma Gandhi,
“To believe in something, and not to live it, is dishonest.”
Isn’t it strange that the person we lie the most to is ourselves?
The fastest way to gain trust is to start doing what you say you’re going to do. Start with little wins. If you tell yourself you’re going to get up in the morning to go to the gym, do it. If you say you’re going to eat clean for a week, do it. If you want to be nicer at work, do it.
Very few things are as psychologically damaging as consistently lying to yourself.
Dysergy of Goals
“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”
— Mahatma Gandhi
Although you already know what you should do, like most people, you often don’t do it.
You eat foods you know aren’t good for you.
You pursue goals that are externally — not internally — motivated.
You settle because you don’t trust yourself to be who you really want to be.
We all do.
According to control theory, having dysergy, or conflict, between your goals creates emotional distress.
Dysergy is the opposite of synergy.
It happens when the pursuit of one goal impedes you from achieving your other goals. For example, you really want a happy family but can’t pull yourself away from your work. So your family suffers. And ultimately, so do you.
Or, you have the goal of waking up early in the morning, but you also want to please other people. Your habit of late-night drinking with your friends is at the expense of your desired morning routine.
Your lower-order goals, like being social, pull you away from your higher-order goals, like fulfilling your life’s work.
Research has found that dysergy of goals leads to:
- Frequent negative emotions and rare positive emotions
- Low satisfaction with life in general
- Long periods of unhealthy rumination, less goal directed activity over time, more somatic symptoms and more frequent physician visits
Human beings are holistic — when you change a part of any system you simultaneously change the whole. You can’t change a part without fundamentally changing everything. When one area of your life is out of alignment, every area of your life suffers. You can’t compartmentalize a working system.
Consequently, your goals should all synergistically support and propel each other forward. Success in one area of your life should simultaneously facilitate greater success in all other areas of your life.
Eventually, you’ll have to give up the things you’re only pretending to want to please society or your peers. You won’t be able to do this until you trust yourself.
Look at your current goals. Are any of them in conflict? Are you awkwardly trying to fit together things which simply don’t fit together?
Is there any form of justification in your various pursuits?
Are any areas of your life pulling you away from what you really want?
Are you over-committed?
What non-essential pursuits or stuff could you remove?
Approach Vs. Avoid Goals
All goals fall into one of two categories:
- You’re attempting to pursue/approach something (e.g., “I want to get a raise”)
- You’re attempting to prevent/avoid something (e.g., “I don’t want to get fired”)
When your goals are framed as “performance-avoid,” you’re walking on egg-shells. You’re on the defensive. You’re trying to maintain your position as opposed to moving forward.
Conversely, when your goals are framed as “performance-approach,” you’re on the offensive. You’re exposing yourself, confronting risks, and willing to fail. Your seeking to advance your position.
One study found that students who framed their goals as performance-approach had a higher self-concept and confidence than students who framed their goals as performance-avoid.
Another studied examined the relationship between personality types and goal motivations. The study found that extroversion, positive emotions, and behavioral activation were related to performance-approach motivations. Conversely, neuroticism, negative emotions, and behavior inhibition were related to performance-avoidance motivations.
Do you act, or inhibit action?
Do you initiate, or wait?
For a long time, many of my goals were framed as performance-avoid. As a non-conventional doctoral student, I simply didn’t want to “rock the boat” too much. As a result, I inhibited a lot of actions I wanted to take. Rather than being proactive, I was often reactive. This filled me with negative emotions.
Looking back, I realize I had an enormous distrust in myself and others. I didn’t think people would understand me and my differing viewpoints. In many ways, my paradigms are starkly different from the majority of my colleagues. I was too afraid to express my views and be myself.
However, after having developed a higher sense of trust in myself, I’ve been more authentic about my viewpoints and objectives. To my surprise, many of my colleagues appreciate and even respect my views and my approach to work.
This could have never happened if I always remained on the defensive. You can’t avoid problems your whole life and expect to get anywhere. Yes, trust requires vulnerability — both with yourself and others. Is that scary? Absolutely. But is it necessary and worth it? Without question.
You cannot have a true connection with yourself and others without trust.
Furthermore, you cannot tackle big challenges without trusting yourself and trusting others. Avoiding failure and inhibiting action can’t move you forward.
Congruence of Goals and Confidence in Achieving Them
In order to have confidence and emotional well-being, you need four things related to your goals:
- Your goals need to be intrinsically meaningful to you
- You need to have trust in your knowledge and abilities to achieve your goals
- You need to be moving toward your goals at a speed you are happy with
- You need to consistently attain/achieve your goals
The Need for Intrinsically Motivating Goals
Social approval is one of the biggest conflicts to intrinsic goals. Some social circles are, frankly, less accepting than others. If you find yourself surrounded by people you can’t be your “authentic” self around, you may need to change your environment. Your environment — including the people you surround yourself with — should synergistically facilitate your goals, not dysergistically conflict with them.
Synergy of goals doesn’t reflect a lack of “tension” between you and your environment. Tension, or difficulty, is often what leads to the greatest mental breakthroughs and most beautiful art. For example, the challenges I face striving to be a young foster parent actually help me in the development of my career.
A life of ease is not the goal. But synergy and clarity absolutely should be the goal. Thus, being a foster father synergistically facilitates my goals as a writer, and vise-versa. Both are ultimately leading me to the live I’m striving to create.
Are your goals synergistic?
Does your environment facilitate or conflict with your goals?
You Need Effective Means at Achieving Your Goals
An enormous obstacle to achieving your goals is having ineffective means at achieving them. For example, you may want to become financially successful but you don’t know how to. This is why people seek therapy or coaching — to learn better ways of getting where they want to go.
The how matters.
How you do something is often as important as why you’re doing it. Said Barry Schwartz,
“Ninety percent of adults spend their working lives doing things they would rather not be doing at places they would rather not be.”
The question is, why?
For the most part, these are intelligent people. The problem is, they have not yet found an effective means for achieving their desired ends. In other words, they are working jobs they hate because they don’t know how to create a life doing what they love.
I have a consulting client who fits this model. Currently, he’s on the 9–5 schedule and prepared to work a job he’s not passionate about until age 60 (at which point he can finally do what he wants).
The first question is: What does he want?
The second question is: Is his current means effective at getting what he wants?
He already knows his current “path” toward his goals is ineffective. It keeps him working long hours when he wants more flexibility and freedom.
But there are costs to changing his life. Some of these costs he’s not sure he’s willing to make — like moving into a cheaper home or away from family.
You can’t have it all.
Are you willing to give up what you currently have for what you truly want?
Are you settling even when you know the path you’re on is ineffective?
Are the fears and anxieties involved in changing your life and relationships too much to deal with?
What’s crazy is, the life my client wants and is willing to wait until age 60 for is completely available right now! Yes, he’d have to confront some scary emotions, have some hard conversations, and make some adjustments to his lifestyle. Indeed, there would be “costs” involved. But what he wants is completely available, right now.
You Must Actually Be Achieving Your Goals, Consistently and Frequently
The only true way to experience congruence and confidence in yourself is to consistently achieve your goals. The process is simple, but difficult:
- Remove dysergistic goals, which primarily come from a lack of personal honesty or seeking social approval
- Pursue goals that are intrinsically motivating (giving you a strong why)
- Develop an approach — rather than avoid — orientation in order to activate positive emotions and behaviors
- Find effective ways at achieving your goals fast
Simple, but not easy.
Completely possible though.
And when your life is in alignment, nothing can stop you. Everything in your life becomes a virtuous cycle. You’ll develop the ability to achieve bigger and bigger goals at faster and faster speeds. When all your goals support and sustain each other, effectiveness is the natural outcome.
You Get What You Ask from Life, No More and No Less
Tony Robbins tells the story of being confronted by a homeless person on the street. The man asked Tony if he had a quarter.
Tony thought for a moment and responded, “Is that all you really want? A quarter?”
The man responded, “Yes sir! Absolutely! That’s all I need.”
Tony shrugged as he dug his hand into his pocket. He pulled out a quarter and held it in front of the man’s face. “You get what you ask from life, no more and no less,” Tony said to the man.
Puzzled, the man took the quarter, stared at it for a while, looked back at Tony, and slowly walked away.
Hence, Tony’s mantra: “Remember: we all get what we tolerate.”
Your life is a reflection of what you’re willing to tolerate. If you have dysfunction relationships, that’s because you’ve tolerated dysfunctional relationships.
If you struggle with money, that’s because you tolerate not being financially free.
Your life reflects your personal standards, or the standards of society which you bought-into.
The beautiful thing is, you don’t have to settle any longer. You can hold yourself and those around you to a higher standard. But it must start with you. If you want more love in your life, you must give more love. People, and life in general, is a mirror pointing back exactly what you put out.
Part 2: Emotions
Every aspect of your life is emotion-driven — from the food you eat to the people you surround yourself with to the belief systems you subscribe to. The driver of every thought you think and decision you make are your emotions.
Most likely, you approach your life hedonistically, where the primary objective is to maximize pleasure and avoid pain.
Have you designed your life around avoiding unpleasant emotions?
Unfortunately, both ancient wisdom and recent research in positive psychology do not support a hedonistic approach to life.
To borrow the adage: If it’s popular, it’s wrong. Common wisdom is not common practice.
Rather than acting on intuitive judgement, most people have conditioned themselves to act on impulse. Most people’s lives are not consciously designed, but rather, are the response to external conditions.
A Brief History of Positive Psychology
A branch of psychology known as Positive Psychology was born around the year 1998. At that time, there were only 300 research papers on the subject of happiness
Before that point, most psychologists were interested in psychological illness. In 2016, there are now over 8,000 research papers on the subject of happiness.
Although this shift in focus from exclusively studying pathology to studying personal growth has been extremely beneficial, many psychologists are frustrated with the scope on positive psychology research. These researchers believe the majority of research has been overly-simplistic and ignored important aspects of the human condition.
According to Dr. Wong, a renowned positive psychologist, the premise of positive psychological research has been that good emotions lead to good outcomes and negative emotions lead to negative outcomes. As a result, the research being done — which heavily influences modern culture — has taught people to seek after positive emotions and to avoid negative ones.
Essentially, the bulk of research in positive psychology has been rooted in a hedonistic perspective of life.
Maximize pleasure, avoid pain.
Many psychologists believe this hedonistic approach to research has mostly been driven by marketing and money-making. And why wouldn’t it be? It’s a sexy and appealing message.
Do only that which makes you feel good.
Unfortunately, the majority of research in the realm of positive psychology has remained oblivious to ancient wisdom and practical human experience.
Thankfully, there is a movement occurring known as the Second Wave of Positive Psychology. The researchers involved in this new research movement are seeking to focus more accurately on what actually produces positive psychological outcomes.
Rather than being based on a hedonistic view of happiness which allows no space for negative emotions, the second wave of positive psychology is based on a eudaimonic view of happiness. This perspective embraces positive and negative emotions of life, seeing both as essential to optimal outcomes for individuals and societies.
These feelings aren’t necessarily enjoyable in the moment. However, unpleasant and even horrific emotional experiences often produce the most beautiful human outcomes. Most notably, in his book Man’s Search for Meaning, author and psychologist Viktor Frankl, shows that even in a Nazi concentration camp, people — albeit rarely — can transcend their environment to find freedom, meaning, happiness, and virtue.
Being completely starved of food, many victims would gladly and graciously give their small portion of bread to those in need, being motivated by a purpose greater than themselves and by people other than themselves. A eudaemonic approach to life is not based on indulgence and ease, but on having a deep sense of meaning and virtue in your life.
Unfortunately, most people and society at large continues to embrace a hedonistic approach to life. The results aren’t pretty. Self-obsession, a lack of conscious, and a lack of purpose. The pursuit of happiness and success end up getting in the way of those things.
You’ve Built Your Entire Life to Avoid Fear
If you’re like most people, your life reflects your fears more than your dreams. Most people avoid their fears, and thus, are like a dog with an invisible shock collar. The moment you reach the boundaries of your comfort zone, you feel the “shock” of pain, and you’ve been conditioned to retreat the moment you feel that shock.
These suppressed emotions are controlling your whole life. The only way past them is to experience them, acknowledge and label them, and then to modify them — a process psychologists call emotional regulation. Avoiding unpleasant or painful emotions only compounds and perpetuates the problem.
When you’re willing to deal with the temporary shock, you are free to go in-and-out as you please. With enough exposure, the shock-factor of reaching the boundaries of your invisible cage diminishes.
Humans are extremely adaptable. We become desensitized and develop tolerances quickly. Many people have developed tolerances for stimulants and other drugs. You can develop a tolerance for being around toxic people.
You can develop a tolerance and adapt to anything, even your fears. Purposefully doing this is what psychologists call systematic desensitization. You can systematically desensitize yourself from feeling shock or fear related to your goals by continually exposing yourself to that fear. Eventually, that fear will become an apathy.
Viktor Frankl discusses this concept in Man’s Search for Meaning, when he tells of sleeping comfortably on small beds next to nine other people in the concentration camps. Said Frankl, “Yes, a man can get used to anything, but do not ask us how.” According to Frankl, the shock and horror of the concentration camps quickly became an apathy. The apathy eventually became humor and ridiculousness.
Sadly, rather than confronting and diminishing their fears in order to live their values and dreams, most people diminish their values and dreams — becoming apathetic to mediocrity.
In the book, Spartan Up!, Joe De Sena explains that, “Happiness equals [what you have now] subtract [what you had before].” Unfortunately, people constantly seek more, more, more! They continuously raise their expectations of what “need.” Thus, happiness becomes an increasingly taller order for them to fulfill. If things aren’t AMAZING, life sucks.
In order to combat this, De Sena constantly resets or “re-calibrates” his frame of reference. He does this by running 100-mile ultra marathons, doing Iron Man triathlons, and fasting.
After running for 10 hours straight, lying on the cement is as soft as lying on your bed.
After fasting from food for 24 hours, natural and wholesome foods taste delicious.
When you’re used to waking up at 4:30AM to focus on a side-project, sleeping in util 6 feels like you’ve wasted half your day.
It’s all about resetting your expectations. You can adapt to and develop tolerances to absolutely anything.
What would you like to become your new “normal”?
What would you like to adapt to?
Who would you like to become?
You Are Not Your Emotions
According to sociological theory, our reality is, for the most part “socially constructed.” In other words, we make things real through our interaction with them. For example, we may believe money is a real thing, when really it is just paper and metal. The paper and metal aren’t inherently money. The money is a shared meaning or value we give the paper and metal.
Similarly, your identity is socially constructed by your interactions with other people and your reactions to the expectations of society.
If you take these things too seriously — like your socioeconomic status or how physically attractive you are — you are living in “The Matrix.” These things are social constructs — invisible walls — and when you see them for what they are, you can be free from them. Once liberated from that caged existence, you’ll enter a world of far greater possibilities.
Of this, Michael Singer in his book, The Untethered Soul, has said, “When you go into the world of infinite space, you’ll look back at the small house and wonder why you spent so much time in there.”
Oddly, most people prefer the safety of their cage, and will even “fight to defend it.”
Most People Live in ‘The Matrix’
Most people live in The Matrix — a state of being completely absorbed in their thoughts and feelings.
The Matrix is the box you’ve built around yourself to avoid reality. The walls protecting you are your thoughts and feelings — social constructions.
The only way out of the Matrix is to confront reality. You can only do this by exposing yourself directly to your fears and emotional problems. Until you do this, you are living an illusion. Until you do this, you’ll construct a pseudo-life to protect yourself from yourself.
Spirituality begins outside your comfort zone. The essence of living — of being truly alive — is to directly expose yourself to what you fear. Said Jack Canfield,
“Everything you want is on the opposite side of fear.”
The only way to truly live is out in the world, not in your head.
Your Emotions Determine Your Physiology
“Pain and other chronic symptoms are physical manifestations of unresolved internal conflict. Symptoms surface as the instinctual mechanism for self-survival. They are messages from the inner self wanting to be heard, but ego takes center-stage, and hides the truth within the shadows of the unconscious mind: which is the body.”
— Stephen Ozanich
Illness and continued pain, like back pain, is often bottled internal tension. It’s an emotional problem that has become a physical problem. The roots are purely emotional. Fix the emotions and the body will heal itself.
The body is a powerful machine. It’s very nature is to rapidly heal itself. But your emotional inner-drama won’t let it heal.
Consider this. One study tested people’s responses to a virtual and placebo low-velocity car-accident. Interestingly, 20 percent of the participants in the study reported feeling physical symptoms related to the placebo car-accident, even though no biomechanical potential for injury existed. These symptoms lasted weeks.
These individuals all scored significantly higher on on the psychological scale of psychosomatic disorders, measured before the placebo rear-end collision. Dr. Sarno M.D., renowned Professor of Rehabilitation Medicine, attributes this physical pain to these people’s high stress levels. In other words, the emotional tension in these people used a placebo to create a physical problem. The people with normal levels of stress had a normal response to the placebo, nothing.
In his book, Healing Back Pain: The Mind Body Connection, Dr. Sarno M.D. argues that most medical practice is misplaced. According to Sarno, the individual has been completely removed from the equation. Now, doctors just look at and treat the body, with no respect to the emotional state of the patient.
Sarno believes medications, massages, chiropractic, and even surgery are all placebos. For a moment, the body is temporarily “fixed.” But the underlying beliefs and emotions quickly return the body to it’s unhealthy state.
The only way to a permanently pain-free life is to acknowledge that physical pain is primarily emotional. In most cases, the body has long-since healed. But the brain loops the trauma.
My aunt Jane fits this description. 20 years ago, she was in a skiing accident. Ever since, she hasn’t been able to run. However, she recently acknowledged her body had been healed for nearly 2 decades, and that her beliefs about her leg created an emotional block. Becoming aware of and believing her leg was healed, and that she was perpetuating an emotional problem led to an immediate healing of her leg. She can now run again pain-free.
What You Put in Your Body Matters
“When a man makes his thoughts pure, he no longer desires impure food.”
— James Allen
Your thoughts and emotions have a direct impact on your genetic expression. However, what you do with your physical body also directly impacts your thoughts and emotions.
The relationship is cyclical.
Everything is connected.
In her book, Presence, Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy explains that even your body’s posture — like how you’re sitting right now while reading this article — in large measure, determines your confidence.
The root of everything is how you feel about what you’re doing. It’s hard to feel powerful while slouching in a chair. It’s also hard to feel healthy and sexy while eating junk food. According to Dr. Hawkins M.D. in his book Letting Go, your feelings about the food you eat have a more dramatic effect on how your body responds than the actual food you eat.
One reason for this is emotional stress. When you’re subconsciously stressed-out due to making incongruent decisions, your body goes into a survival mode.
Because everything is connected, when you begin making good decisions in one area, you can create a “virtuous cycle.” When you feel good about the foods you’re putting in your body, you’ll feel better about yourself. You’ll begin to believe you can have the body and energy levels you want. This belief will translate into other areas of your life.
In their book, It Starts With Food, Dallas and Melissa Hartwig state that
“The food you eat either makes you more healthy or less healthy. Those are your options.”
The foods the Hartwig’s recommend, based on loads of empirical data are as follows:
- Meat, seafood, and eggs
- Lots of vegetables and fruits
- Lots of healthy fats
The foods the Hartwig’s advise against (except on an intentional occasion), are as follows:
- Alcohol, sugar, and sweeteners
- Seed oils
- Grains and legumes
For most people, these foods are inflammatory. However, no two bodies are the same. Which is why they recommend avoiding these foods for 30 days straight, then re-integrating one at a time. You will quickly see which foods are toxic for your particular body.
You Shouldn’t Have to Obsess Over Your Emotional Well-Being
Human-beings have an embedded fight-or-flight reaction to threat. For most of human history, we were exposed to physical threats constantly. However, now that our physical environment is quite safe, our threats have shifted from external to internal.
Now, rather than worrying about being killed by a tiger, you’re worried about your self-esteem. You’re worried about what people think about you. You’re worried about not being good enough. You’re worried about offending other people. You’re worried about failing.
When your body is healthy, you don’t think about it much. It just is, functioning properly. Healthy emotions should reflect a healthy body — you shouldn’t have to think much about them. When a problem arises, rather than burying it deeper, you mend it. You get over it.
In modern culture, people have radically unhealthy emotional lives. Most people can’t take their attention off their emotions. They have a fixation with constantly feeling “okay.” This extreme emotional sensitivity is what has created the entire notion of political correctness.
People can no longer speak openly without giving offense. Even in close relationships, we need to be careful what we say. We may accidently touch someone’s suppressed emotions. In our comfortable and medicated world, most of us have lost complete touch with reality. We live in a bubble. Rarely are we aware of the fact that we are on a planet rotating around the sun in the middle of infinite empty space.
Due to our narrow-mindedness, our emotions get thrown all-out-of-whack by cosmically insignificant things like a scratch on our car, or by someone saying something negative about us.
When your emotions are healthy, little things don’t throw you off anymore. You keep things in perspective. You’re aware of your emotions, not enslaved by them.
People Shouldn’t Be the Means of Fulfilling Your Emotional Needs, But Be Ends in Themselves
Because most people have unhealthy suppressed emotions, they do everything they can to avoid those emotions.
For example, you may avoid feeling lonely. As a result, you get into relationships so the feelings of loneliness go away. Rather than being in relationships with people because you genuinely love them, you get into relationships to fulfill emotional needs or keep certain emotions at bay.
When you’re willing to confront some of these bottled emotions, you’ll realize your motivations for being in certain relationships aren’t stellar.
Coming to recent realizations about myself, I’ve had to ask myself, “Why did I decide to become a foster parent?” My true answer is because my wife wanted to do it. Thus, the kids became a means to fulfilling my emotional need to please my wife.
Not exactly the best motivation. But it was the honest motivation. With this realization, I asked my wife, “Why did you decide you wanted to become a foster parent?” Her honest response was that she wanted to be a mom. Of course, there were also other social pressures.
Does this mean we don’t love our kids? Absolutely not. But have our motivations been the highest and healthiest motivations we could have toward our kids? Not really.
My wife and I are learning to intrinsically love our kids and each other as ends in and of themselves. The only way to do this is to get past our own emotional baggage. To stop building our lives around avoiding various suppressed emotions.
Getting to the why is essential for understanding the emotional needs you’re striving to fulfill.
Most people are in relationships for hedonistic purposes. They want to maximize their own pleasure and avoid their own pain. Most people are, for the most part, self-interested in their decision-making and relationships.
Seeking self-gratification through your relationships will never get you the happiness you’re looking for. Happiness cannot be directly pursued, it must ensue as the unintended consequence of genuinely loving someone else.
Love Is the Only Way to Self-Actualization
“True meaning in life is to be discovered in the world rather than within man or his own psyche. I have termed this constitutive characteristic ‘the self-transcendence of human existence.’ The more one forgets himself — by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love — the more human he is and the more he actualizes himself. What is called self-actualization is not an attainable aim at all, for the simple reason that the more one would strive for it, the more he would miss it. In other words, self-actualization is possible only as a side-effect of self-transcendence.”
―Viktor E. Frankl
Self-actualization means to fulfill your highest potential — to fully become what you can become. It’s a sexy topic. And due to pervasive hedonism, people are in a mad rush to fulfill their own potential.
The problem is: the harder they try to make themselves happy, the further they get from achieving it.
Self-actualization can only occur by giving yourself completely to someone or something outside of yourself. Most people will never get beyond their own self-obsession. They’re locked within the walls of their suppressed emotions and socially constructed reality.
What happens when people truly do become financially, relationally, physically, and spiritually free? They dedicate their lives to serving humanity. Their greatest desire is to help as many people as they can.
I’ve seen this first hand. I know many people who are millionaires and even some billionaires. These people invest first in themselves for the soul-purpose of helping other people. They want to be as healthy as they can so they can have optimal energy and mental clarity for solving human problems.
It’s not about them anymore.
And it doesn’t have to be about you.
Your whole life doesn’t have to be built around your own happiness. You can dedicate your life to something bigger. And in the process, you’ll find and become your actualized self.
Said, Friedrich Nietzsche, “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.”
Human motivations generally fall into four camps:
- Avoiding pain or punishment
- Pursuing pleasure or gaining a reward
- A sense of duty
Love is, by far, the highest and grandest of all human motivations. When motivated by love, you have moved beyond worry for your own needs. Your aim is to bring as much joy to each individual as you possibly can.
Your love transcends yourself, but also transcends human reasoning. It drives you to do things most would consider crazy. You no longer live by conventional rules or wisdom. You are directed by the highest and purest power in existence.