When it comes right down to it, everyone runs from responsibility, discomfort, commitment, and pain.
Even the seemingly fearless who run towards challenges eventually find themselves crying “uncle.” Everyone arrives at “too much” if you push them far enough.
Your heroes aren’t that much bigger than you. They’ve struggled just like you. They’ve had to conquer themselves, wrestle their excuses to the ground, take risks when they felt more like turning, running, and hiding.
I say that as if it’s a permanent condition, but it’s not. It’s a daily struggle.
The only difference between you and them is that your heroes have been just a tad bolder, a tad more audacious, a tad more direct.
Where you’ve held back, they’ve been in action. And those actions might not be as massive as you’d expect. They simply asked where you failed to ask, made requests where you were stopped, had conversations where you were too uncomfortable to communicate. That’s it.
Pedestals are pointless. Your heroes are just like you. They have worries, fears, excuses, and concerns too. And some days, most days, they don’t live up to their own standards, let alone the high standards you hold them to. You just don’t hear about it.
You’re human. And so is everyone else.
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I don’t think we appreciate how faulty this concept truly is.
We take it for granted that truth is easily found on the internet, in a podcast, in a magazine, at church, or otherwise. And it’s to the point where we’ve started outsourcing truth. We don’t actively search for it, let alone think for ourselves anymore.
“Some scientist, pastor, or billionaire knows more than me. They know what I don’t. I should listen to them.”
It’s gotten worse than that. It’s to where we place our trust in a politician or faceless journalist we’ve never even met and don’t know from Adam.
Satisfied that they have all the facts, all the science, all the data, we shirk our own responsibility. We don’t confirm the facts for ourselves using our own senses.
We’ve grown so uncomfortable with anyone questioning the mainstream narrative that we call people who might have a slightly differing opinion – even if they are better qualified to speak on the topic – a conspiracy theorist.
But I don’t know a single scientist who doesn’t rigorously question and test the “science” presented by others. It’s what scientists do. They are slow to form conclusions.
I don’t know a single pastor that fully agrees with another pastor on the details of their spiritual text, even if they claim to believe in the same God.
And while billionaires have certain traits in common (such as the fact that they’ve made over a billion dollars), in every case, their lives took a different trajectory, and arrived at wealth through different means.
We were each blessed with the same faculties. No, we aren’t all gifted in mathematics, science, music, philosophy, investments, or otherwise. But we each have our own genius zones.
To outsource truth is to negate your own gifts and talents. And it’s to go through life as though life doesn’t matter. Someone else already has it figured out. There’s nothing for you to discover. It’s already been done.
I can promise you that, in telling and retelling what each of us might identify as “truth,” like a game of telephone, facts were changed, details were altered, statements and people were misrepresented.
This is fundamentally what it means to be human, and knowing just how faulty my own biases are, I trust no one else to deliver anything other than their own version of truth.
There are no fact-checkers infallible, no experts beyond reproach, no scientists without mistake. Each of them, if they were honest, would tell you that their faults and errors are what led to their greatest breakthroughs.
God, the universe, spirit, collective consciousness, or whatever you want to call it… only it, or him, or her, is “perfect,” at least in the best way we can understand perfection. Keeping in mind that each of us have our own visions of what “perfect” means to us.
Some would call this a problem. I just call it “being human.” Because that’s what it is. There are plenty of essays and papers on how our memories change over time, and we don’t even remember them correctly. And you’re going to sit there and tell me someone with the same faculties as I might have a better handle of objective reality? These are specialists. They spend most of their days in the narrow world of their defined areas of expertise.
We might be able to agree on events like the September 11 attacks, but we each attached our own meanings to those events. We can agree on the basic facts, but beyond that, it’s up for grabs. If you don’t believe me, ask a friend what the September 11 attacks meant to them. You’ll be shocked at what they made it mean.
The better you understand the human condition, the more your eyes will open to the fact that “objective reality” mostly lives in the thin margin best described as “consensus.” We agree on certain things. And we can build on that foundation. But building the rest of the building together would prove an uphill battle. Inevitably, a fight would break out, countless compromises would be made, or the project would be abandoned before it’s even completed.
People agree with you a lot less than you think they do. And that’s on them, to be fair, but knowing the human condition, calling anything “objective reality” is akin to mental illness.
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One of the biggest mistakes we make as human beings is assuming we’re right and justified in everything we say and do.
There’s a payoff, sure, but there is always an equal or greater impact as well.
And that impact may not be readily apparent, but it’s usually reflected in the quality of our relationship with others.
Fundamentally, no one is right or wrong about anything. This is not about moral relativism, but rather about what it means to be human.
Somehow, we’ve gotten away from the truth that no human is infallible. Truths are rare, and hard to come by, but this one still seems to hold up.
We gain little by being close minded. But when we are open minded, and inquisitive, and allow ourselves to step into the worlds of others, we can see new perspectives and vantage points that end up benefiting us.
Miracles can happen when we drop the need to be right. Conversations and relationships can improve. Personal growth can occur more rapidly. Ideas can flow.
That, in fact, is one of the greatest impacts of having to be right all the time – not just that we’re blind to the impact, but that we’re blind to the new possibilities just waiting to be tapped. Because our greatest breakthroughs always lie in what we don’t know that we don’t know.
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Addiction is something all creatives and creators can relate to, to lesser or greater degrees.
I have recently had some questions regarding addiction and felt it an important topic to address.
I have not mastered my addictions, and perhaps I never will. But I have learned some valuable things about what it means to be human and that has helped me greatly on this journey. That’s what I’d like to share with you here.
Disclaimer: I am not a psychologist, and what follows should not be taken as advice. Seek professional help if you are struggling with severe addiction.
What is Addiction?
Some of the most prevalent forms of addictions are smartphones, social media, shopping, video games, alcohol, drugs, porn, relationships, co-dependency, and so on.
Most people will try to put these on a sliding scale from bad to terrible, but the reality is most things are not inherently evil, and even have their place. It is human, however, to try to categorize and rank everything.
“I feel worse when I do abc versus xyz” is a subjective, emotional statement, not a universal sentiment, let alone fact.
Shopping is not an addiction until it becomes an uncontrollable, compulsive behavior that leads to your financial ruin. In like manner, most addictions are just temporary escapes until they begin ruining different aspects of your life – relational, physical, financial, or otherwise.
Note: Anything outside of what is morally and culturally accepted is in a category all its own, and not something I will specifically address here. That said, the mental models I share may still be of some value.
1. Reduce Importance
I believe the first and most important step to handling addiction is to reduce its importance.
There is some part of us that wants to believe that if we just do a better job of beating ourselves up, that next time, we won’t make the same mistake. So, we become professional bullies.
I know of a man who was caught watching porn by his wife, and he snapped his laptop in half out of anger.
However symbolic the action, however sincere the sentiment, in that moment, the importance of addiction increased in his life. I don’t know what happened next, but I would venture to guess that was not the last time he watched porn, because snapping his laptop did nothing to reduce its importance.
You cannot reduce the importance of addiction by giving it more emotionally-charged attention, becoming a professional bully, making yourself wrong, hurting yourself, hating yourself, or any of the “normal” behavior that seems to accompany self-loathing addicts.
You come to hate yourself because you hate bullies, plain and simple.
God or the universe does not seem to treat addiction with the level of urgency that we do. So, why do we?
I am not saying there is no consequence for addiction. There always is. But I do not know of anyone who went on a social media binge that instantly got struck down by lightning.
Beating up on yourself is what does the greatest psychological harm. It does more harm than the action or behavior you’re trying to stop in the first place. You beat yourself up and then try to convince yourself that it is God’s wrath raining down on you.
People try to shed their addictions by giving it more attention, and it ends up doing the complete opposite.
It has often been said that the best way to manage anxiety is to let go. Addiction is much the same. You can reduce its importance by letting go instead of trying to control and micromanage it.
2. Change Context
We all go through a traumatic moment in early childhood. Even if we don’t remember, even if we say it’s not a big deal, it has shaped us for the rest of our lives. And we have trouble accepting that.
The context we got in that moment was “something’s wrong here.”
Up until that moment in life, everything was fine. It wasn’t paradise, but there also wasn’t anything notably wrong.
Everything changed in that moment of trauma. And for the first time in our lives, we got that “something’s wrong here.”
Why is this important? Because you’ve been carrying that context with you from that day on. And if you haven’t been present to this, it’s also been running your life!
When you succumb to addiction, instead of simply acknowledging the action or behavior, you immediately turn to “there’s something wrong here.”
And that perpetuates a guilty conscience. Then we are back to the same cycle of doing things we don’t want to do, beating ourselves up for it, giving more attention to our addictions, rinse, repeat.
What if there was nothing wrong?
See, I can feel you protesting already. Because you won’t even allow yourself to go there. You must keep beating yourself up or you’re a bad person. Otherwise, God himself will deal with you. Am I right?
But in the generous present moment, there is nothing wrong. I doubt that you are getting chased by a dinosaur as you’re reading this. And you are missing that generous present moment by focusing on what’s wrong. You’re not cherishing the present you were given.
You’re too busy projecting into the future, thinking about the consequences of that debt, or that conversation you’re loathing to have, or the project you dropped the ball on.
The future hasn’t happened yet. Can you be present?
What if good and bad was just a meaning we assigned to everything? What if the universe itself doesn’t discriminate between events? What if, to the universe, all events were just events?
“Something’s wrong here” is a meaning we assign to everything if we are not present to it. But now that you are present, you can change the context.
3. Be with Your Emotions
Addiction can often manifest as an escape from some emotion we once did not feel able to deal with. So, it got bottled up.
As you can imagine, there can be a lot of internal buildup if you repeat the same patterns. The moment an intense emotional moment arises, you seek escape, so you turn to addictive behavior. Over time, a molehill can turn into a mountain.
Those with lingering addictions, often, are sensitive and empathetic. They feel deeply and are saddled with emotions whose origins are a little iffy, and can feel overwhelming.
Just for a moment, imagine that there are two of you – your adult self and your child self.
Consider that the emotions screaming out at you are coming from your child self and not your adult self.
And when you see it that way, it’s easy to let go of judgment. If your child were in pain, you would help them. It’s instinct.
What else would you do? Would you try to solve the problem? Perhaps.
But solving may not lead to the results you’re looking for. We spend most of our lives trying to survive and fix situations, and it’s apparent in our communication and how we live our lives.
What a loving parent would do is listen to their child. Acknowledge their pain. Let them know that they love them no matter what.
Is that the way you deal with yourself? If you’ve been beating yourself up for your addictions, then the answer is certainly “no.”
Simply sitting with your emotions and not trying to survive or fix them, not trying to do anything with them except love them, often leads to their dissolving.
It sounds like magic, but it isn’t. It’s just that you have never sat with those emotions long enough or given them the space they needed to find expression.
Next time you feel an intense emotion, close your eyes, and just sit with yourself. Meditate if you like. Listen to the frightened child screaming out, calling for your attention. Listen. Acknowledge the pain. Let it know that you love it no matter what.
The better you understand what it means to be human, the less power addiction holds over you.
Maybe your actions and behaviors don’t change overnight. But because you give addictions less attention, their significance diminishes in your life. And that has a way of shifting your actions and behaviors too.
Behavioral modification is treating the symptoms at best, and never gets to the root cause. Beating yourself up will only aggravate your conditions.
You need to listen, acknowledge, forgive, and love as you would a helpless child. That’s all you were ever tasked to do. Leave the rest in the capable hands of God or the universe.
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