Sunday, August 27, 2017

Spartan Thinking

I have really been working hard to change the way I think and feel. In fact, I have begun to examine much more closely what the purpose of thoughts and feelings are. Rene Descartes is famous for saying,” je pense, donc je suis” For those of you that do not speak French (or are too lazy to make use of Google Translate) that translates to,” I think therefore I am.” That saying is perfectly vague, deep sounding, and ephemeral. What really does it mean? More importantly, if Descartes is defining existence by self-awareness, what purpose do emotions serve?
I do think that thought and awareness define the existence of a being. I also know that a stone or a branch exists independent of the ability to think and feel. I would say to Descartes,” Je suis, donc, je suis,” or, ” I am therefore I am.” Still, feelings and thoughts serve some purpose or we would not have them.
In the reading that I have done, emotions have been explained as an evolutionary imperative to mate, rear our young properly, and keep a safe place to live while doing the aforementioned activities. Even as a Creationist I believe that our bodies, souls, thoughts, and feelings operate on a set of rules- the Physics of our Physicality. Why would an intelligent creator set things up any other way? It is as if She is saying,” Go, learn how you work. There are rules and logic inside you. Discover them.” Yes, I feel like God is a woman.
My belief in feelings is simple. I think that our emotions are there to prevent us from succumbing to our baser nature. Humans are two creatures in one. Our bodies are animal. The animal part of us is all about instinct and necessity. When the animal is hungry it hunts to feed. When it is hurt it hides to heal. The animal part of our human self is all about need and survival.
The rest of us resides in a complicated connection between our brains and our souls. I think of this amalgamation as the ID. It is the transcendent part of us that can overcome the animal. The animal hungers or lusts. The ID soothes the animal and controls those urges. The scariest thought to me is that not all ID is created equal. I even believe that there are human animals that are bereft of any ID. These are truly scary thinking animals without conscience.
This means that the job of the animal is to survive, procreate, and protect the next generation to continue the species. The job of the ID is to check the behaviors of the predator and to provide higher purpose. The ID creates art, poetry, blog posts, novels, and those really cute little wool hats. The ID makes you cry at a touching scene in a book or movie. It helps you feel empathy and sympathy for other people.
I feel far too much empathy and sympathy. It makes me vulnerable and gullible. It also lets me care for people even when they are long past reasonable redemption. Because of this, I am often sad, lonely, and depressed. The biggest problem with this is I have an excellent memory and a past filled with far too many heartbreaks. It is tough carrying around almost 40 years’ worth of feelings. I cannot imagine how I will feel if I make it to 90 years old. I suspect I will feel very, very tired.
To change the flow and pattern of my thoughts I had to figure out how to make my thoughts and feelings more effectively. I wanted to keep the power of my thoughts which I need to function. I also wanted to keep the depth and weight of my emotions which I need to write (which to me is as necessary as breathing). The trick was going to be doing away with anything that isn’t intrinsically of value. Luckily, I have been working on doing that in other parts of my life.
In 2014 my life took a series of twists and turns. Part of those changes was imposed upon me by others. Some of those changes I brought upon myself through poor decision making and pure blind stupidity. The fallout and pain that resulted have chased me around like a debt collector ever since then.
The problem with that statement is that it implies a lack of ability on my part to deal with and evolve past it. My feelings on the subject have come up enough that it is absolutely clear I feel some kind of way about it. Feelings though have no more ability to control us than we allow. I recently posted a Facebook status that said,” No one can drive you crazy unless you allow them in the driver’s seat,” or words to that effect.
The same can be said of emotional baggage. No one can make me feel anything unless I allow it. Emotions are not a choice. The power you give a feeling over you is absolutely a choice. By accepting that the emotions that come up are NOT a choice was the first step to liberating myself from emotional slavery. The next step was simple. I started cutting things out of my head that didn’t make any sense to allow to weigh me down.
Prayer and meditation really help with this. I prayed for a lot of ability to forgive. I reflected on my own role in hurts. I realized that my brain, just like everyone’s on the planet, likes to edit memories to my own favor. This doesn’t mean that I suddenly accepted guilt that wasn’t mine to own. I just started letting go of things that were nonsensical.
Why miss people that make no effort to be in my life?
Why allow me to continue thinking or feeling anything about relationships that have ended?
Why hold any grudge against anyone not currently causing me upset? (I struggle with this one.)
Why continue to search for answers to questions that only exist in the hearts and minds of others?
Jealousy
Anger
Hatred
Hurt over rejection
Welsmertz
Schadenfreude
Why allow me to respond to feeling any of it? I simply acknowledged to myself that those emotions exist. I accepted that it is acceptable to have felt those things situationally. Now I just needed to lay those feelings to rest and spend my precious mental and emotional energy on things worth the investment.
Doing this took this huge weight off my shoulders. My heart and mind felt less cluttered and chaotic. To be gross, I felt like a took a giant emotional shit. Moreover, I felt as if I could handle things I had been avoiding for a long time.
Since this little emotional awakening, I am a lot more difficult to frustrate. I am able to deal with something difficult in an almost offhand way. Losing a friend for some needlessly stupid thing would normally have put me into a week or month long funk. Now I can feel it, accept what I feel, process the loss practically, and then move on to something that actually matters.
This uncluttered mental attitude is getting more and more reflected in how I operate. I have been getting rid of my physical clutter. I think of this as Spartan Thinking because it is a very functional and basic mindset. Does this bag full of Paracord have a practical use in my house currently? No, toss it. Does the loss of the aforementioned friend have any practical value to my psyche? No, the person wasn’t your friend in the first place or you wouldn’t be dealing with this. Toss it.
I actually have started doing this from the top down in my life. It really started with mapping out my finances. Spending about 40 hours plotting and categorizing every dime and dollar I have spent this year so far was a bit of effort. God bless Microsoft Excel. Seeing that I spend an average of $400 a month in January and February on comic books (I have zero problems with this number.) and nearly twice that on fast food made me rethink habits.  In August I am under $50 in Fast food. (Sometimes convenience does win the day)
Numbers are amazing. Thinking about how I spent my money in that much detail (21 % of my income this year has been spent on my cars. That is more than FOOD. This doesn’t include the 8% on fuel) got me thinking about how I actually spend my time. While that is much harder to quantify I have been able to be really brutally honest with myself. I idle away far too much of my free time on frivolous emotional nonsense. Why should I spend ANY time thinking about people who have dumped or abandoned me along the way? A smart man would take that time and spend it wisely with the people who treat me well. The fact this blog isn’t being neglected and I am actively developing work I intend to publish for PAY is a good sign.
The shift in mental attitude and discipline is helping my physical health too. Stress can kill you. It is a slow unpleasant death. Suddenly, I can process stress like any other emotion. Oh, look, David, you are feeling stressed out about something. That is valid. Now, what do we do to solve the underlying problem? By doing this, the stress itself isn’t a problem. (Please see The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck for an explanation of the feedback loop from hell.)
Spartan thinking has done some nice practical things. My dishes stay clean. I only keep down a plate and a bowl. Instead of dirtying everything and then cleaning up a pile I act as if I only have the two dishes. I don’t always wash these until I need them again. I do, after all, still not enjoy doing dishes.
I also find myself putting down “neat” things I find online and in the store. Do I want to build another Raspberry Pi to work as a virtual media center that I can access from ANY device with a web browser? Of course. Do I need that? No. My phone plays games, video, and music. What is more, I rarely have time to do any of those things when I am not home. That thought saved me at least $40.
That isn’t to say that my Spartan thinking doesn’t include fun or frivolity. Relaxation and mental stimulation are VERY necessary to my life. I just think them through a little more. I did invest in a Bluetooth keyboard and a case for the 8” Kindle I won at work. I am actually writing this post in Word on said Kindle. It is fun and practical. Note to you Amazon, I want a 10 or 12 inch Kindle Fire in the near future, please. If you make this happen I will buy one and pass my 8 inch along to someone else (Giggity).
Keeping up with The Arkham Horror Living Card game and playing it with my friends has immense value. Reading my comics to have something I enjoy both alone and in discussion with my friends is almost priceless. This does NOT mean it is ok to knowingly rip me off. I will be dealing with that soon. That will happen with as little emotion and as much practicality as I can muster. Anger is still one of those emotions I can acknowledge and accept all day long, but it wants me to feed into it.
Thinking like a Spartan has made me feel much more in control. I like the feeling and it keeps spreading in my life in better ways. Things keep getting better. Why wouldn’t I keep focusing on it?
That is the other side of this post. Perhaps the most important part of Spartan thinking is giving sway to good feelings and thoughts. I spend more time on feeling love, appreciation, contentment, accomplishment, and happiness.
Why shouldn’t I be proud that I have fought my way back from crippling debt without filing bankruptcy?
Why shouldn’t I be happy that I made a career move that increased both the amount of money I make and the time I am available to my family and friends?
Why shouldn’t I thank God for this new clear, clean outlook on life?
Why shouldn’t I be happy driving my old beat up Ford back and forth to work while my title rests in my safe at the house? Who doesn’t love not having car payments?
Why shouldn’t I feel accomplishment that I can crank out several thousand words of writing while working and actually living my life?
Why shouldn’t I feel absolutely blessed to have a fantastic family and a great group of friends all who love and accept me for who I am?
I should. I should feel those things. I should focus on them and never waste a single moment on the other garbage that I have allowed to drag me down in the past. I also feel hope. I hope that this post reaches the audience that needs to read it. I hope it helps. I also hope that if it does that the people pass along as much good as they get.
No matter what, thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings.

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