Rebel with a probable cause

I’ve had a huge resistance to social conditioning for all my life but it was deeply subconscious. Consciously I did want to please, I did want to conform but in my own way. And when I tried to force myself to follow the external mandates, my “genius” would shut down. Nothing was getting in or out. I’d be stonewalled by my own psyche. I just clocked why that is…

I learn through observation, inspiration, and imagination. It’s highly spontaneous and divergent, and unconventional to say the least. But the way I’ve been pushed to learn has been the polar opposite to this ; I’ve had to read, not out of organic interest but in order to have my knowledge acknowledged, and I’ve had to compartmentalize and zero in on things mentally. There was no animated dynamic, no connection between parts, no fluidity in that process at all. And me being absolutely unable to do that created an inferiority complex in me where I thought there was something wrong with me for not being “arsed” to read things. The light and life would go out in me when I was faced with a mental march uphill. I felt suffocated and mentally enslaved. It was a strictly top down process and my only allowed input was to show I could follow instructions.

I berated myself for this for the longest time and in self-punishment I wouldn’t engage my own interests. I reached an internal stalemate of resistance which resulted in serious identity crisis and absolutely zero self-esteem. I couldn’t understand what was wrong with me, why I felt like such an alien, why I couldn’t do what clearly isn’t difficult for me to do. Why was I lazy? Why can’t I just be like everyone else who don’t seem to have those issues? This created anxiety in me. Severe anxiety. So much so that I came to avoid all and any expectations and goal oriented tasks. I essentially became a hermit, a social recluse. Developed severe agoraphobia. Lost will to live. It was clear that the world had absolutely no interest in me outside my ability to conform. It had no interest or use for my originality, creativity and critical thinking.

Heck, I couldn’t understand why my mind would drift where it would, why I’d hyperfocus so hard that I’d be lost for days at a time. I certainly didn’t value it. Until it saved me. When I was locked in an existential depression and immersed in suicidal ideations, my divergent thinking took me out of that suffocating box. Freed me.

wipe the slate clean

I’m a companion of my soul. I let it lead me blindly, on pure trust. I’m not afraid of drowning, of getting lost, of disintegrating, of losing control. Because I’ve gone to the edge of each of those fears, and the only thing that got lost was my fear. The only thing that drowned was my burden that I thought I couldn’t survive without. The only loss of control happened to my intellect which really, was a realization that I never had control to begin with. I was like Maggie Simpson with the steering wheel attached to her car seat, pretending she’s the one driving the car.

And maybe destruction lies ahead. Maybe this has all been a fluke. But even so, I’d rather go out with a bang than endure a slow death. I’ll drink that potion. And just because I know that my anxiety is unfounded doesn’t make it any less potent. It’s not something I can ever stifle or ‘fix’; I’ll just accept it as a price to pay for living fully.


“In actuality, no one ever sank so deep that he could not sink deeper, and there may be one or many who sank deeper. But he who sank in possibility — his eye became dizzy, his eye became confused… Whoever is educated by possibility is exposed to danger, not that of getting into bad company and going astray in various ways as are those educated by the finite, but in danger of a fall, namely, suicide. If at the beginning of education he misunderstands the anxiety, so that it does not lead him to faith but away from faith, then he is lost.
On the other hand, whoever is educated [by possibility] remains with anxiety; he does not permit himself to be deceived by its countless falsification and accurately remembers the past.
Then the assaults of anxiety, even though they be terrifying, will not be such that he flees from them. For him, anxiety becomes a serving spirit that against its will leads him where he wishes to go.”

– Søren Kierkegaard, The Concept of Anxiety


“We can understand Kierkegaard’s ideas on the relation between guilt

and anxiety only by emphasizing that he is always speaking of anxiety in its relation to creativity.

Because it is possible to create — creating one’s self, willing to be one’s self, as well as creating in all the innumerable daily activities (and these are two phases of the same process) — one has anxiety. One would have no anxiety if there were no possibility whatever.
Now creating, actualizing one’s possibilities, always involves negative as well as positive aspects. It always involves destroying the status quo, destroying old patterns within oneself, progressively destroying what one has clung to from childhood on, and creating new and original forms and ways of living.
If one does not do this, one is refusing to grow, refusing to avail himself of his possibilities; one is shirking his responsibility to himself. Hence refusal to actualize one’s possibilities brings guilt toward one’s self.
But creating also means destroying the status quo of one’s environment, breaking the old forms; it means producing something new and original in human relations as well as in cultural forms (e.g., the creativity of the artist).
Thus every experience of creativity has its potentiality of aggression or denial toward other persons in one’s environment or established patterns within one’s self.

To put the matter figuratively, in every experience of creativity something in the past is killed that something new in the present may be born.”

– Rollo May, The Meaning of Anxiety

the divine jackpot

​One of the chief barriers to accepting God’s generosity is our limited notion of what we are in fact able to accomplish. We may tune in to the voice of the creator within, hear a message—and then discount it as crazy or impossible. On the one hand, we take ourselves very seriously and don’t want to look like idiots pursuing some patently grandiose scheme. On the other hand, we don’t take ourselves—or God—seriously enough and so we define as grandiose many schemes that, with God’s help, may fall well within our grasp.
Remembering that God is my source, we are in the spiritual position of having an unlimited bank account. Most of us never consider how powerful the creator really is. Instead, we draw very limited amounts of the power available to us. We decide how powerful God is for us. We unconsciously set a limit on how much God can give us or help us. We are stingy with ourselves. And if we receive a gift beyond our imagining, we often send it back.
[…] One reason we are miserly with ourselves is scarcity thinking. We don’t want our luck to run out. We don’t want to overspend our spiritual abundance. Again, we are limiting our flow by anthropomorphizing God into a capricious parent figure.

Remembering that God is our source, an energy flow that likes to extend itself, we become more able to tap our creative power effectively.
God has lots of money. God has lots of movie ideas, novel ideas, poems, songs, paintings, acting jobs. God has a supply of loves, friends, houses that are all available to us. By listening to the creator within, we are led to our right path. On that path, we find friends, lovers, money, and meaningful work. Very often, when we cannot seem to find an adequate supply, it is because we are insisting on a particular human source of supply. We must learn to let the flow manifest itself where it will— not where we will it.
[…] It is as though we want to believe God can create the subatomic structure but is clueless when faced with how to aid or fix our painting, sculpture, writing, film.
[…] creativity is a spiritual issue. Any progress is made by leaps of faith, some small and some large. At first, we may want faith to take the first dance class, the first step toward learning a new medium. Later, we may want the  faith and the funds for further classes, seminars, a larger work space, a year’s sabbatical. Later still, we may conceive an idea for a book, an artists’ collective gallery space. As each idea comes to us, we must in good faith clear away our inner barriers to acting on it and then, on an outer level, take the concrete steps necessary to trigger our synchronous good.

Julia Cameron ( The Artist’s Way: a spiritual path to a higher creativity)

Mourning in the morning

For 3 weeks, I’ve been in the grips of unimaginable pain. The kind that tears a hole in my soul and sends its tentacles of terror into every iota of my being. It feels like climbing a mountain made of quicksand with concrete blocks for shoes and a heavy backpack. It feels like having a tornado set loose in my mind but my feet are too hesitant, my eyes too tired, my heart too heavy to run away, and so I have to keep very still whilst the tornado passes through me, because I don’t want people to see me in pain.
It’s ironic that the more pain I am in, the harder I try to appear painless.

Anxiety alternates between moments of ebb and tides; it subsides when I come upon a new chapter in discovering life, and once I’ve amassed enough experiences and life lessons, the old and the new in me battle it out until I shed my old soul. It’s a period of letting go of old mindsets, attachments, false beliefs, and it’s the most difficult and painful process of enlightenment. And worst thing is it happens a few times every year.
The process of letting seems to be outside the realm of space-time continuum; it’s almost like being in a grave, in the Barzakh, where it’s dark and you can’t do anything but wait, but for how long? It’s very dark, and all the positivity and inspiration that you thought you knew before then, is no longer. You feel stuck and that this dark patch is going to stretch over a lifetime. You don’t know what to do, and you want to reach out to people but what do you say? How do you explain it to them? And what can they do? And so you keep mum about it because it’s less painful if you don’t try.

This phase included me writing a lot. Like a couple of thousand words a day. I needed to drop the heavy weight of words in my mind. I’m an intensely reticent person, and that means that I carry around stories. Stories that have wings and need to be let out. Untold stories can be the heaviest coffin to bear.

I’m ready to bury my pain.

Muse

The poet György Faludy usually does not start writing until a “voice” tells him, often in the middle of the night, “György, it’s time to start writing.” He adds ruefully: “That voice has my number, but I don’t have his.”

Excerpt From: “Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

self-improvement=perfectionism?

My main drive behind self-improvement used to be shame-eradication, but not in the way you might think. I felt that I was inherently flawed and awkward and I had to replace that with something less cringe-worthy. Having been bullied as a child, I’d often recall those horrible years as embarrassing, because apparently, in my head, I was bullied because I was weak and flawed. I’d often revisit the memories wondering how things would be different had I been less flawed. The thing about thoughts and mindsets is that once they take root, they become a part of you and you wouldn’t notice them unless you knew what to look for. So whenever I’d read something that unearthed a certain mindset, I’d be embarrassed and disgusted with myself for having espoused such thought patterns. I reflected on the amount of pain and hurt I became worthy of as a result of being so feeble-minded. Yes, it sounds horrid, spelling it out like this. But deep down in the world of thoughts and fears, horrible things often seem perfectly logical. Self-improvement became synonymous with self-destruction.

Essentially, what I was doing was aiming for perfectionism under the guise of improvement. You see, once you hide stuff under different labels, it gets very tricky to ferret them out. That is, unless you accept yourself with all your flaws and so-called cringe-worthy traits and realize that self-improvement has nothing to do with ;

(a) Changing the way people perceive you
(b) Changing who you are deep down
(c) Getting rid of shame by altering shame-inducing aspects of yourself

Using self-improvement as a tool for perfectionism sends one down an entirely different path than that of genuine self-acceptance. One operates under the assumption that the shame and fear that permeates one’s self-worth is accurate; and the other, that of self-acceptance, operates under the truth that one is enough.

But here comes a twist; if  I’m  enough, then why the self-improvement? And if perfectionism is aimed at improving myself, why is it denounced and made out to be something negative?

In fact, this gross misunderstanding has sent me down the wrong path one too many times and prevented me from reaching my true aim. I suspect I got it from the pop-psychology books I used to read as a teen; books that ubiquitously line the self-help sections in book stores, but are far from helpful. The authors might be different, but they all revolve around the belief of you’re not enough, you’re flawed and that’s unacceptable, here’s how you can change that.

Up until as recently as two weeks ago, my understanding of this was horribly skewed. I’d constantly look down on myself and berate myself for holding certain beliefs. I was constantly entrenched in shame and never for once felt ...ok. Until recent events made me revise my understanding of growth and improvement, that is.

I realized this; my task wasn’t to fix my broken self or rounding my jagged edges; it was to embrace the irregular parts of me that I had rejected because they didn’t fit in anywhere. It was, it is to accept myself and love myself regardless of how I feel or look. It’s to give myself the unconditional love that I missed out on all my life. All this time, I had perpetuated the damaging message of my bullies, within myself, thinking I was doing well.

My biggest fear has been, and still is, to integrate all my different sides within myself and dare look at my entire being without flinching with disgust over my imperfections.

I think Brene Brown’s work on embracing imperfections and wholehearted living is phenomenal and groundbreaking, at least for me. I ordered her book ‘The Gifts of Imperfection’ last week, and hope to receive it shortly.

ten guideposts for wholehearted living

Wits can be deceiving

I recently reconnected with an old classmate whom I haven’t seen or spoken with in ten years. In the course of our conversation, we reminisced on random memories and mutual classmates. I took the opportunity to tell her the positive things I thought about her then but never shared, and the qualities I admired in her. She responded with a remark that had me baffled for a couple of hours. She said she always respect my intelligence and quick-wittedness. That I somehow always had the answers to everything the teacher asked and it boggled her how my mind conjured it, even after it’d be explained to her. I interjected with the fact that intelligence per se won’t take you very far and that I suffered more from it than benefitted. She insisted, and with that I saw myself from the observer’s point of view; the way my parents, my teachers, my friends saw me. It now made sense why all throughout my life people emphasised my intelligence as if it were some novelty to mankind. To me, I didn’t see what people were pointing out because it was apart of me. It was like a short person pointing out the height of a tall person ; ok, then what? It was clear that people thought that intelligence was churning out right answers and sounding sophisticated. That it was an asset only a few lucky enjoyed.

But that is not how it is. It’s a liability. Seeing the world in 7000 different colours can make one blind. Hearing the tears stuck in a friend’s throat and being an emotional satellite for all the suffering in the world is a slow death. It’s not a choice. It’s a constant barrage of information and detection of far-fetched correlations that requires a steady mind to withstand it. It’s not a secret that creative people are tormented by mental daemons  , and it was this point I was trying to tell my friend; every gift is a liability, and everyone has a gift. Everyone. No one gift is superior to another. Every person has unique set of characters, inclinations, and innate talents that enables them to fulfill a certain purpose on this earth… Not everyone can be Einstein, Mandela, Muhammad ( ص), Nightingale, or van Gogh because the world only needs one of each of its’ inhabitants, but so many are buried with their potential within them, unused.

Regardless of what cards one has been dealt with, I found one common goal we all can aspire to ; resilience. The ability to bounce back after hardships is what makes a life worth living. Whether you are a single mother of 5 or you were recently diagnosed with MS, you still matter and your battle is this; to match the external gruelling events with internal grit. Never give up. Always get up. Persevere and you’ll find your natural talents. That’s a gift that everyone has.

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