BE FRIENDLIER WITH YOURSELF
PURSUIT OF CALM #39
Life is stressful and complicated, but you don’t
have to be distressed and confused.
Many of us hound ourselves incessantly with our perceived imperfections. We manage to conjure an anxious mindset that repeatedly tells us that there is something fundamentally wrong with us. This unsolicited and delusional state of mind (SoM) feeds our reactionary behaviours and provide us the perfect segue to our self-destructive habits.
Some react by being busy all the time, rushing around frantically, seemingly relishing the distraction as a faux sense of purpose, using it as both a reason & excuse to not look after ourselves, seek distraction and over-indulge.
Some resort by dulling the senses with alcohol, gaming, porn, excessive shopping, TV and device usage.
Some isolate themselves by becoming incredibly dour, angry, anxious, or by being passive aggressive and sarcastic.
These ‘methods’ are actions we default to to flee the dreadful feeling that we are somehow not ok, or not living up to the social standards that we believe we must to aspire to. This ‘self-curated unfriendly’ SoM, combined with the methods we use to comfort ourselves, keeps us ‘stuck’ and surrounded by an invisible enemy that continually feeds off our pettiness.
A helpful strategy worth practicing that will begin to dissolve the grip this SoM has on us is to learn to laugh at ourselves, and not take ourselves too seriously. With the gift of humour, we have an opportunity to access the patience and resilience required to face, and properly process, the steady stream of incriminating thoughts and feelings that we endlessly & effortlessly ruminate?
By ‘lightening up’ and taking ourselves less seriously we can then begin to practice viewing these unwelcome mental musings as something familiar. Because the reality is, they are familiar – they’ve been playing havoc with our psychology for years, possibly decades. Yet, and because it’s ‘easier’, we tend to avoid and ignore them. Ignorance to our thoughts coupled with our reliance on constant comfort see us unable to both recognise the familiarity of our thoughts, or (even want to) process the detrimental impact they’re having.
So, if we can identify these thoughts as something familiar then we’ve got an opportunity to decide how we can respond to them. By choosing how we respond, we can then begin to consciously recalibrate our internal-narrative and elevate the quality of our response.
And this is where I believe humour plays an important role in our efforts to achieve this.
Remember…You Are Not Alone
Being able to use humour and laugh at ourselves connects us with our humanness. Not only does this lighten our load, but importantly it helps us connect to other people, and exert – have the energy – to extend empathy, patience and compassion to them.
The more we understand others, the more we understand ourselves
By exercising these virtues we remind ourselves that we’re all f**** up, or put more eloquently, we realise we’re all fundamentally equal. However, because we can tend to be ‘busy’, distracted, fatigued, lazy and dull we can tend to overlook the humanness of humans, ultimately leaving us open to being overly & unnecessarily critical of other people.
People we don’t know
People who, like all of us, are suffering.
People that are more often than not mirroring our own short-comings…so if that’s the case, then who are we really being critical of?
It’s always the ones with dirty hands pointing the fingers.
We are all essentially ‘good people’, attempting to do the best we can, but we’re also all incredibly complicated because each of us has plenty of maddening and neurotic habits.
This, I believe is ‘the reality’ that we so often fail to recognise and keep front & centre…and that is, we’re all fundamentally gloriously weird & bonkers…and not the 24/7 perfect, infallible, faultless, enlightened individuals we think we ought to be.
I also think that a lot, if not all of the challenges each of us face when it comes to optimising our own health and wellbeing is that we focus our attention and energy at the later (a superficial & unsustainable band-aid approach), which often only causes us more conflict, rather than exerting our energy towards identifying, understanding and embracing the very thing that is the root cause of our ill-being…our neurotic habits.
We can use humour as an investigative tool to appreciate ourselves, and accept & embrace that we are all gorgeously fallible. If we can view ourselves with less judgement, and even gently laugh at our plethora of idiosyncrasies, then we have the capacity do the same for others. This alone lightens our load incredibly, and profoundly shifts the view we take on life.
Humour Prevents Life From Becoming a Drag.
Humour helps us create, and again I paraphrase ‘that’ Viktor Frankl quote, that space between stimulus and reaction. If we can fill that space more often with light heartedness & humour then we are in effect resourcing ourselves with the skill to respond for the better, rather than reacting for the worse.
For this reason and this reason alone humour is an indispensable virtue worth curating and having as a resource for when we need it.
“When our mind is coloured by the warmth of humour,
we are in touch with the best part of ourselves.”
– Pema Chödrön
Socrates said “the key to a good life, is an examined life”.
And to examine our life we need ‘energy’, lots and lots of energy. We save, glean and create energy by living a calmer, sober, satiated, stronger lifestyle – but in my opinion that’s only half of it – the ‘superficial half’. Yes it’s incredibly important, but we also need energy in the form of patience, kindness, self-control, passion, courage, compassion, empathy, response-ability, sensitivity and humour. Because without these tools, these resources, these virtues for living, we will find it challenging, if not impossible, to have the drive, confidence or will to examine who we truly are.