Spirituality / Esoterica

Practice Self-Control (2)

“Instant gratification takes too long.”

– Carrie Fisher

Reading time: 15 mins

Delaying gratification

The late Hollywood star Carrie Fisher certainly knew about instant gratification. Known for her biting wit and satirical bent the above quote was a comment on her own weaknesses but also described the nature of culture in the 21st Century. Gratification, in all its guises has proven to be the primary channel through which the human family escape reality and the darkness within.

That drive for the instant “hit” gets ever stronger the moment it is satiated. This leads to the following statistics:

    • Obesity: About 36 percent of American adults are obese — more than 1 in 3. And, globally, more than 1 in 10 humans are obese.
    • General substance abuse: Nearly 21 million Americans ages 12 and older had a substance use problem in 2015.
    • Alcohol: Excessive alcohol consumption is responsible for an average of 88,000 deaths each year.
    • Sex: The National Council on Sexual Addiction Compulsivity estimated that 6%-8% of Americans are sex addicts, which is 18 million – 24 million people.
    • Pornography: More than 80% of women who have porn addiction take it offline. Women, far more than men, are likely to act out their behaviors in real life, such as having multiple partners, casual sex, or affairs.
    • Gambling: Over 80 percent of American adults gamble on a yearly basis. [1]

The above are extremes. But for every addiction that becomes full-blown there’s another one germinating in the wings. We don’t have to be a gambler or substance abuser to know that we have a problem with controlling our desires and impulses. Often it’s a very fine line between addiction and what is considered “normal.” Equally we can be addicted to all kinds of covert negative behaviours which cry out for limitations and order. “Think before you speak” might be the most obvious and applicable to most of us. Practicing self-control means that you’re able to delay ego-gratification without going into an emotional tailspin. Do this often enough and it becomes an asset, thereby improving the quality of your life.

Stanford professor Mischel has spent his life exploring this very topic and provided some very interesting data that proves self-control is a key component of individual mastery. His psychological studies date back to the 1960s and involved children with an average age of 4 – 5 years old. Mischel and his research team published their findings in 1972 as Cognitive and Attentional Mechanisms in delay of gratification and it remains the most influential experiment on self-control available. These experiments were refined and improved over the decades, but the basic format remained the same. Popularly known as “The Marshmallow Test” from the book of the same name, Mischel’s discoveries and conclusions make fascinating reading, so we’ll return to some of suggestions on building self-control later on. Meantime, let’s look at what this ground-breaking experiment was about.

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3. Practice Self-Control (1)

By M.K. Styllinski

“No man is free who is not master of himself.”

— Epictetus


Reading time: 10-12 minutes

Let’s get the definition out of the way so we can get to the meat of the issue:

“Self-control [is] the ability to inhibit competing urges, impulses, behaviors, or desires and delay gratification in order to pursue future goals”

Self-control is probably the bane of everyone’s life to some degree of another – how to exert self-control and the faith that such a discipline can increase one’s quality of life in the long-term. There is the kind of self-control that most of us have in order to get through the day and exist as a functioning member of society. Without it, we’d end up in a psych ward or closely resembling many of our esteemed leaders…Many of the most repellent movers and shakers of our world are masters at giving the illusion of self-control in public, but allow all kinds of masks to fall once no prying eyes are around. Indeed, as they ascend the corporate, political elevator they don’t have to worry about controlling themselves, they live for the power to control others.

While many of us ordinary folk may not lust for power, we have are own mini-power differentials taking place everyday as we struggle to balance what we want with what we need, if not for our highest good then for a more peaceful life. We know that reciprocating the insistent charms of a sexy guy or girl at the office might be great for one’s sex instinct and appeals to our sense of adventure but not so good if you’re wife or husband trusts you implicitly. Our love for that person, our conscience and sense of responsibility will generally drown out that biological response – if it’s strong enough. If pre-disposed to alcohol as means to self-medicate, having that last drink will always end up being a binge session if we don’t listen to that memory and impose order as a protection against certain chaos (and a hellish hangover).  Allowing another family member to push our buttons for one thousandth time so that we react in kind is similarly about adopting limitation and internal order in the face of emotional heat that would otherwise taint the whole household. Once the trigger point or hot button has been pressed with a background of stress and tension, other issues tend to come bubbling up and it’s next to impossible to put that fiery genie back in its bottle. Sure, you’ll make up and apologise (if you’re lucky) but such reactions over time tend to wear down the will to try.

The problems come when a sufficient amount of intrapsychic storms have been allowed to build up and begin to uproot what was once stable. A battle with a past addiction or the waiting shadows in a family with a history of repressed emotions can be released, seemingly from nowhere. Psychic carnage is just one step away should we relinquish that self-restraint. But that’s what usually happens because we haven’t been taught any preventive measures, nor had our parents. And our education system only manages to increase the level of ignorance when it comes to self-knowledge and mastering ourselves at the most basic level. Schools and their overdevelopment of intellectual rigour replaces emotional intelligence and social awareness. Since the process of thinking and expressing a thought is riven with emotion it’s hardly surprising that we end up in a boiling vat of reaction when under pressure from every quarter.

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Respect Yourself (2)

The archetype of the Hero slaying the dragon of inner and outer chaos
St George on Horseback, 1505, engraving, Albrecht Durer


Reading time: 15 mins

The four instinct / survival archetypes

       C.G. Jung’s mandala from The Red Book

The idea of archetypes is very useful as a metaphorical tool in relation to healing and clawing back some self-respect – indeed to understand all of the 31 suggestions we’ll eventually explore. This might be a long way round the block to arrive at self-respect, but bear with me, you’ll see how it all comes back to this quality by the end.

Firstly, what are archetypes?

The concept of archetypes goes back to Plato who called them “forms” which he believed were reflected in the material world. But the basic concept is probably as old as human evolution itself. This theory was further advanced to a considerable degree by the swiss psychologist Carl Jung who called the source of these accumulated blueprints archetypes which fuelled the little “I”s or “psychic complexes” within the human mind.

Archetypal images, iconography and literary themes are sourced from universal patterns or motifs which in turn, are accessed from what is known as the collective unconscious, and closely connected (if not the same) as the akashic records mentioned in theosophical and anthroposophical literature. Think of it like a psycho-spiritual reservoir of ancestral experience, containing both the darkness and light of collective wisdom spanning possibly hundreds of thousands of years of human interaction with social groups and the environment.

This accumulated energy has a direct connection to personal unconscious and has defined the content of mythologies, legends and fairy tales of global cultures. It is the soul’s software, if you will, and a source of great teaching. Archetypes are psychic blueprints of emotion and instinct that lie in the triune system of the brain (reptilian, limbic and neo-cortex) as a psychic and structural template to primordial nature. They have a positive and negative aspect, the latter known as “The Shadow” which has been discussed frequently throughout this blog. The idea is that through confronting and then integrating these dark elements which have been denied and locked away we can dissolve the negative impact which would otherwise surely have occurred.

They are dualistic in nature and operate according to the nature of the unconscious which economises and conserves energy whilst also remaining highly adaptable. New personal narratives containing these archetypes appeal to the its adaptive processses and lay down new neural pathways from intense learning carried out in the present and overlaying the now defunct patterns of the past. The personal reservoir of the unconscious has a creative, tailor-made version of archetypes which are a unique product of your own stored life experiences. Along side this personal source is the collective or universal unconscious. Our intention is like an upload to that resources which responds in kind offering an automatic download which we access through our dreams. The images, motifs and mythical themes are identical for all.

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2. Respect Yourself (1)

By M.K. Styllinski

“Above all things, one should maintain his self-respect, and there is
but one way to do that, and that is to live in accordance with
your highest ideal.”

— Robert G. Ingersoll


Reading time: 15 -18 mins

“He doesn’t respect himself much if he can carry on like that.”

Did you see her last night? She’s got no self-respect.”

Have some respect for yourself for God’s sake!

Such judgements and admonishments are unlikely to install the kind of respect those persons are looking for. The very notion of self-respect is highly subjective. One man’s accusation of poor hygiene, grungy dreadlocks and disrespect for authority is another man’s expression of a “free spirit”. What matters however, is whether you have the kind of respect for yourself that makes your life worthwhile and makes you a pleasure to be around.

It reminds me of my time as a bewildered twenty-something who gave an air of self-control and ease but was struggling to make sense of life. The recurring theme of that period was a battle between dissociation and reality, creativity and sexuality, perfectionism and surrender. When one has the feeling of persecution and guilt embedded in one’s very being it means that making a mistake is the end of the world whereby great horror, ridicule and even annihilation awaits should you err in the slightest way. Way over the top of course, and a form of compensatory narcissism that makes you retreat into a smaller and smaller bubble that you deem navigable, where everything is micro-managed to shield oneself from anymore pressure. Ironically, that only makes such a bubble more prone to bursting, since embracing objective reality becomes a threat to that congealed mass of ego-masks built to protect, yet a barrier to growth. Bloody conflict ensues between one’s fears and the promise of change. Thankfully, I did break that conflict, but not without cost, which is as it should be.

Self-respect never arrives when we shield ourselves from life and do everything we can to avoid failure. The latter is how we learn and there is no other way to build success – be it in business, relationships or the growth of self-awareness. You will err, you will fail and that’s okay. The information that led you to failure offers knowledge for next time. And provided you don’t give up, then such bad experiences become useful for the future you wish to create – they are needed grist for the mill.

Without self-respect it is hard to achieve what we desire. It is even harder to sustain any success should we manage to block out that doubting voice which is intimately linked to self-sabotage and victimhood. “Better to scuttle one’s ship now and face an even bigger disaster” says that voice, Better to protect myself from that kind of pain and suffering.” Yet, it is precisely this fixation with future “disaster” and the debilitating voice of unreason that is asking to be analysed and thereby integrated. (see no. 1 Heal Your Past).

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Heal Your Past (3)

“Wisdom is nothing more than healed pain.”

— Robert Gary Lee


Reading time: 20 mins

Before any kind of deeper transformation can take place we have to address the past and any “blockages” to growth which may be holding us back. Those of us who have trauma or childhood adversity does not mean we haven’t been successful in life or made our mark in the world. We all cope in a multitude of different ways. But our personal life is often entirely separate to our business interests. We might be a corporate leviathan where success serves to hide our shadow selves and the hidden trauma that rises to the surface in relationships and family life. Or conversely, family and relationships take precedent and we have been unable to manifest success in our careers or vocations.

Whatever the variables, the only measure of value and thus our contribution to our community and purpose in life, is how well we have been able to transmute our hidden shadows; that which has been adapted to the demands of daily life and often purposely buried or “forgotten.” Yet, anyone who sincerely wishes to grow their conscience and be of use to the Universe as an emblem of its creative energy cannot leave the past unknown. It has a direct relationship to how well we cope with the uncertainty and unpredictability that hails from the future. By releasing our past demons we are able to fully inhabit the present which then allows us to the face second-by-second future that unfolds from that new presence with joy and acceptance.

Healing means the incremental release of new energy that was previously used to service a false self which existed through a normalised habit of shoring up cracks which kept appearing. That’s the nature of a self built from a survival mechanism. It’s not the real self thus has no authentic foundations. And as anyone who has done any refurbishment on a house without having the right knowledge – you can go through money like water down a drain until you are forced to take out a huge loan from people and situations who have that requisite money (energy). It’s much like being held hostage by a debt we could never repay without conscious attention to the roots of that pain. As each year goes by the interest on that debt increases until we will be forced to address it anyway. You become bankrupt and homeless.

Healing Developmental Trauma

One of the most effective methods of restoring a healthy mind-body connection away from trauma and childhood adversity is the NeuroAffective Relational Model ™ (NARM) a new form of somatically-sourced, multidisciplinary psychotherapy that synthesizes the latest peer-reviewed research and practice in the fields of mind and body healing.  While placing importance on the clear understanding of past events it’s focus is on how best we can attune to the present moment and facilitate our capacity to connect to that which naturally heals. This brings us back from feedback loop of disregulation to a process of conscious self-regulation. The latter means listening to our mind and body so that we can have healthy stress instead of stress that harms us. (Again, healthy stress isn’t the issue, it’s our reaction to it. And when we are overloaded with stress that crystallizes into trauma revisited over years, then this is obviously something far different. Habitual reaction to pain can completely deform the mind/body connection leading to chronic disregulation.

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Heal Your Past (2)

“Not every story has a happy ending, … but the discoveries of science, the teachings of the heart, and the revelations of the soul all assure us that no human being is ever beyond redemption. The possibility of renewal exists so long as life exists. How to support that possibility in others and in ourselves is the ultimate question.”

Gabor Maté, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction


Reading time: 15 mins

The Body as Barometer of Psychological states

If you are one of those who wish to reduce the amount of baggage your are carrying around then we have to address the feelings which have been locked away for so long. You had your reasons no doubt. We all have to function in life: get through college/university; work nights; support our partner, and/or children and innumerable pressures and responsibilities. Eventually suppressed memories, if allowed to languish in the unconscious, cause all kinds of havoc over time. The only route to expression these shadows are permitted is through a slow titration of toxic influence which affects the mind causing psychological problems such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or dissociative disorders. However, it is the body which accumulates this psychic toxicity over many years and which manifests as specific auto-immune diseases. This is logical and common sense.

As physician and author Dr. Gabor Maté tells us: “If emotional patterns are a response to the psychological and social environment, disease in an individual always tells us about the multigenerational family of origin and the broader culture in which that person’s life unfolds.” Which is why it is so important to discover not only your possible genetic heritage but what bio-psychosocial predispositions have been passed down the line prior to your own childhood. How have the psychic echos from your ancestors and your own suppressed negative emotions melded to form who you are today?

“The effects of trauma become multigenerational through repeated psychological dysfunctions. The new science of epigenetics is identifying the mechanisms that even affect gene functioning. The children of Holocaust survivors, for example, have altered genetic mechanisms leading to abnormal stress hormone levels. Animal studies are showing that the physiological effects of trauma can be passed on even to the third generation.” [1]

Maté explains further:

“The pathway from stressful emotions, often unconscious, to physical disease was often driven home to me as a family physician and palliative care practitioner, although nothing in my medical education even remotely hinted at such links. People I saw with chronic disease of all kinds—from malignancies or autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or ulcerative colitis to persistent skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis, and neurological disorders like Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS), multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, and even dementia—were characterized by certain unmistakable emotional life patterns. Among these was the chronic repression of so-called negative emotions, especially of healthy anger, … an overriding sense of duty, role, and responsibility; an undue concern for the emotional needs of others while ignoring one’s own; and, finally, a core belief—again, often unconscious—that one is responsible for how other people feel and that one must never disappoint others. The expression “the good die young” has—sadly—more validity than we sometimes appreciate.” [2]

Since the brain is directly connected to the immune system it makes logical sense to posit that there is an intimate relationship to the correct functioning of both. And since negative thoughts and emotions represent a different energetic frequency than more positive ones, they can naturally begin to affect whatever area of the body – such toxic memories stored. Repressed emotions over the long-term have a deleterious effect on the body’s organs, hormonal apparatus and nervous and immune systems. Deep-seated anger, shame, fear and the constant flood of stress chemicals can literally cause chronic or acute illness as a result of the immune system breaking down. This is when emotional shadows break free and express their toxicity in the body, rather than being safely exorcised through therapy. This is particularly true for all manner of addictions, which helps to calm the horrible truth in the short-term but makes things much worse as denied emotions are replaced with self-medication through substance abuse or toxic relationships.

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1. Heal Your Past (1)

By M.K. Styllinski

“I’ve always thought that we are what we remember, and the less we
remember, the less we are.”

— Carlos Ruiz Zafon, author

—————-

“The paradox of trauma is that it has both the power to destroy and the
power to transform and resurrect.”

— author and creator of somatic experiencing, Peter A. Levine


Reading time: 18-20 mins

The above photo illustrates well the relationship to healing and the mind-body complex. We often place useless band-aids over the wall we have erected within ourselves and the promise of a more fulfilling life. Trauma, hurt and an array of psychic wounds are bricked up and plastered over so that we might pretend all is well and struggle on regardless. After all, it can be frightening to address deep-seated issues we know are holding us back. It can be even more disruptive to acknowledge we need help or that we need to go beyond just surviving. (Assuming that is, that such a wall hasn’t blocked out any awareness that there is a problem).

The triumph of the spirit over adversity resonates to everyone because we admire and relate to the person who has faced seemingly insurmountable odds and returned from the Dark Night Of the Soul to offer healing redemption for all. They become beacons of guidance that lights the way on our own path so that we may learn from and thereby transcend the trials and tribulations which emerge in our own lives. When someone is not only victorious but shows how we can be the same, they become an example.

One of the very first things we must do to obtain a more fulfilling and meaningful life is to heal the past. Without understanding this we cannot move ahead. Without seeing challenges as opportunities to grow and develop a creative complexity that enriches life. We must simplify our lives so that greater complexity can eventually arrive when we have the character to handle it. The “bliss” of chosen ignorance numbs the pain but stagnates potential.

The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE)

Fully remembering our personal history can be a painful process – almost unbearable for some. But it must be done to bring us back to ourselves. As that wise old bird Hippocrates noted: “Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity.” Depending on the level of repression/suppression of emotions, time may heal. But trauma and adversity may just “freeze” the system in complex ways. As co-director of the The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACE) Vincent Felitti MD notes: “Contrary to conventional belief, time does not heal all wounds, since humans convert traumatic emotional experiences in childhood into organic disease later in life.” [1]

Donna Jackson Nakazawa’s book Childhood Disrupted: How Your Biography Becomes Your Biology, and How You Can Heal is an excellent place to start in discovering how to evaluate ACE and to implement the solutions provided. The studies and their questionnaire scaling shows, with surprising accuracy, that the number of Adverse Childhood Experiences an individual had, predicted the amount of medical care that person would require as an adult:

  • Individuals who had faced 4 or more categories of ACEs were twice as likely to be diagnosed with cancer as individuals who hadn’t experienced childhood adversity.
  • For each ACE Score a woman had, her risk of being hospitalized with an autoimmune disease rose by 20 percent.
  • Someone with an ACE Score of 4 was 460 percent more likely to suffer from depression than someone with an ACE Score of 0.
  • An ACE Score greater than or equal to 6 shortened an individual’s lifespan by almost 20 years. [2]

So, why such dramatic results?

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31 Ways To Grow Your Life

By M.K. Styllinski


Courtesy of Zahir Zag | http://www.rep.appscase.com/


Reading time: 8-10 mins

After this series on why a sense of meaning, purpose and happiness is absent for so many of our younger (and older) generations, we come to some practical solutions to this malaise. The following 31 suggestions are from my experience and intimately tied to various stages of my life. That is not to say I’ve mastered them all. Not by a long way. Let’s call it work in progress. I’m therefore not seeking to set myself up as anyone other than a fellow climber struggling toward that mountain peak.

As you’ll no doubt see, these principles and qualities of character are as old as the hills. They will not magically lead us to a Holy Grail of happiness, but if we persist we might be led to a state of being that transcends the interminable duality of “like, not like”, “happiness, unhappiness” etc. The simple truth is that we human beings have a psychology that is fundamentally no different to how we were thousands of years ago: we are still looking for that elusive Grail in the material world and through the nature of our genetic biology that pushes us to act on impulse and instinct, offering gratification and fleeting relief. That’s normal of course, our evolutionary nature is powerful and our consumerist culture equally so. But we can strive to regulate and overcome those sometimes addictive drives and desires. This is where applied knowledge comes in. With discipline, persistence and constancy, you can change your life for the better. Without practical application however, knowledge is merely words floating in the ether or ideas on paper that offer only food for the hungry intellect.

That said, we all have different experiences and there is no “one-size-fits-all”. All we can do is sift the wheat from the chaff and cast a discerning eye over the historical and experiential consensus. Maybe there are some definitive nuggets of psycho-spiritual gold out there which offer a means to walk a coherent and ordered path. If we can tread carefully, step by step, we might create a higher form of happiness not bound by material acquisition or emotional possession.

There are recurring themes and principles which haven’t changed much, be they sourced from the Bible or the Koran, the Chinese I Ching, The Tibetan Book of the Dead or the writings of Marcus Aurelius. Over and over we see the same guiding beacons teaching us about the nature of the human condition and how to live a more harmonious life. Now, in this synthetic age and despite a deluge of mediocrity, the internet has allowed the sharing of ancient and modern wisdom to reach millions of people, possibly in a way that’s never happened before. So, there is much promise and potential in the free-flow variations of perennial wisdom.

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Why Young Lives Are Losing Meaning and Purpose VII: Getting the Ball Rolling

By M.K. Styllinski

Logan Zillmer | www.loganzillmerphoto.com

“What a curious phenomenon it is that you can get men to die for the liberty of the world who will not make the little sacrifice that is needed to free themselves from their own individual bondage.” 

— Bruce Barton


Reading time: 8-10 mins

The idea that we can be happy in a world that seems to veer from one chaotic clusterfuck to the next appears to be a tall order. How on earth can we be happy when there is so much suffering out there? Easy. Just pretend it isn’t there – something the majority of us do most of the time. Hence the reason we are where we are – in the proverbial pig sty.  Seeing things realistically and refusing to bounce through life in a “happy” bubble has consequences, but they are far less damaging spiritually than if we deny, deny deny.  The latter effectively accepts the lies we are fed on a daily basis and covets willful blindess and its sham of normalcy.

Conversely, we’d short circuit if we took the pain of the world onto our shoulders. Feeling guilt and pushing the altruistic envelope in a bid to save the planet isn’t the answer either. This is most disasterous when thwarted desires are funnelled through ideology and a slave to group consciousness as we are seeing. It’s always about finding the fulcrum, mediating between the extremes and digging for the gold of one’s true individuality.

The truth is, if we want to see reality and ourselves as objectively as possible, warts and all, the inner tension and friction created from such a choice may offer an opportunity to embody an entirely different order of happiness, borne of honouring reality as it is. This is transcending the happiness seesaw and building a strong centre within, capable of withstanding any storm at any port. In effect, rather than seeking to increase our happiness quota by insulating ourselves from reality and blocking attempts to go deeper into our own programming, we can attempt the high road to a happiness that’s a byproduct of what is essentially, a spiritual practice.

Of course, if you think there is nothing more to life other than what you can see in front of your own nose, then that’s fine. You can still obtain stability and some contentment, though the dimensions of inspiration and support may be more limited. Nonetheless, to achieve a different order of happiness and peace is to live in truth – despite and due to the darkness, that is also part of light. And to live in truth means to live as you really are.

What else is there?

Things may get even more existential here, so bear with me…

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Why Young Lives Are Losing Meaning and Purpose VI: The Universe Doesn’t Negotiate Or “Welcome to the Matrix”

By M.K. Styllinski

Kazuakai Tanahashi | brushmind.com

“‘Soul-making’ needs to be re-imagined and reintegrated into our societies. We need not go back to animism or alchemy to find soul-making. We can find it here, in the everyday Now. …The interior life should be recognized as an inherent human need, and it should be socially acceptable and encouraged to direct part of our gaze in its direction. After all, if the outer sun rises but the inner sun does not, then nothing has been gained.”

~ Kingley L. Dennis


Reading time: 20 mins

This exploration of happiness seems to have morphed into that which underlies the seeking, namely what it really means to change ourselves and if there is something deeper to access. Change is about leaping into the unknown and battling with the dark recesses of our unconscious mind which have so far evaded detection yet continue to sabotage the promise of a life of meaning and purpose. Even if we have attained a semblance of peace and success in this world, depression and inner dissatisfaction continue to arise. This suggests something much deeper is going on and that exhortations to find happiness will only paper over the ever-widening cracks in our psyches.

Regardless of your beliefs discovering meaning and purpose is a spiritual quest. By “spiritual” I mean the will to obtain balance and creative flow with life, living in the Tao, or honouring the Divine in our thoughts and actions. The eventual result is more harmonious relationships and a constructive daily life. We create something unique in that exchange because we have made the effort to achieve it – it is our contribution borne from an accumulation of experience; a struggle that eventually bears fruit and from which everyone can be nourished. Happiness results, as a byproduct of observable results, namely, the effects we have on others. When that begins to occur, our state of Being radiates and effects whatever social unit we find ourselves embedded. But we have to cultivate resilience from a centre of calm within to let such dividends arrive. This process comes from simple understandings and life lessons which haven’t really changed much for thousands of years.

If you are skeptical that one person can change the world then we’d be in agreement. But one person who changes their inner world positively must logically cause ripples of change in the outer reality. We are wired to cooperate and to adapt to tumultuous circumstances. If your intent and consequent effort remains consistent you’ll connect with others doing the same. Being alone in daily life is not a good survival tactic as our ancient ancestors realised. This is the nature of real-life social networks: a contagion for good or for ill can spread in a non-linear bursts of transference, given enough key connectors. So, there is no reason we can’t transform ourselves, and by extension, our family life, the neighbourhood and local community, if we form or tap into the right kind of networks. As discussed throughout this series, applied knowledge/spirituality should be useful – useful to our own aims and to those of others, otherwise, what’s the point? As author Kurt Vonnegut, reminded us: “Find a way to be useful; if you aren’t useful you are useless.”

That doesn’t mean we seek global transformation because that very desire tends to run up against hubris and the consequent road blocks of ideology. Reality simply isn’t designed to be second guessed in that way. But we can start small and build seed-visions of quality that have tangible results in our lives. These seeds of change determine the quality of all that follows and sends a signal to the information field that we choose to join and augment the creative dynamics of reality, rather than enforcing our visions onto people and situations which, though well-intentioned, often add to the chaos commensurate with the law of unintended consequences. (Good intentions divorced from self-awareness and critical thinking – but satisfying for the emotions – always makes things worse).

The will to change from what is clearly not working to other more harmonious possibilities may not lead to spectacular revolutionary fireworks but then, constructive change seldom manifests this way. Usually, in terms of inner work, it’s just hard drudgery and a battle we must do alone even when surrounded by intense social interaction. (No one knows our weaknesses quite like we do). In the beginning, depending on the level of transformation you seek, sticking with it will eventually cause minor to major changes to your environment and the people with whom you associate some way down the line. In the short-term, you might have little to show for it, but when you keep going, step by step, day after day, month after month with incremental victories you suddenly realise that you are positively different and your life signals that change.

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Why Young Lives Lives Are Losing Meaning and Purpose V: Faking it to Fit in

By M.K. Styllinski

The Wallflower or Attention Seeker?

“The fraudulence paradox was that the more time and effort you put into trying to appear impressive or attractive to other people, the less impressive or attractive you felt inside — you were a fraud. And the more of a fraud you felt like, the harder you tried to convey an impressive or likable image of yourself so that other people wouldn’t find out what a hollow, fraudulent person you really were.”

— David Foster Wallace


Reading time: 10-12 mins

Another aspect to consider in this overview of happiness is the introvert/extrovert poles and the mix of both, classed as ambivert. This is a useful starting point from which to guage how imbalance can manifest and impressions start to depart from who we really are, to become camouflage rather an expression of our essential nature. The trick is to become internal auditors of our self-awareness – an introspective quest of self-observation. With the help of others, we begin to employ an objective analysis as best we can, which is where Eurich’s “imaginary therapist” comes in.  Equally important is an extrospective quest or external auditors to increase our self-awareness with other people and to discover how they really see us. Once we have both introspective and extrospective quests covered then we are in a good position to start the climb toward greater awareness and a bigger vista from which to make further progress.

Of course, you can excel at one and not the other. That means introverts may be better at seeing what many of us miss, but suffer when it comes to externalising and applying those discoveries. For instance, they might have a harder time establishing that supportive circle of true friendships that can house the creativity for community, although they harbour a greater understanding of the covert psychological strategies at play, mostly due to their bid to remain under the radar and away from the spotlight. Generally, extroverts will have more difficulty with sufficient introspection since they are often more comfortable with an external focus. Such people usually have no problem creating social circles but they will a) likely have friendships that enjoy their charisma and entertainment value but seldom have friends that get close enough to access their real nature outside of that “larger than life” persona, b) the large amount of friends they may have is due to the possibility that these contacts can only stand them in small doses c) imbalanced extroverts tend to suck the energy out of a group or gathering in their bid to be the centre of attention which ultimately leads to friendship fatigue and/or accumulated tension, jealousy and conflict. (Unless of course, their behaviour is due to the Dark Triad which is a whole different ball-game).

For the imbalanced introverts who are immersed in a culture that unfairly values extroversion, such people often feel lonely, anxious and depressed. The imbalanced introvert will likely believe she does not have the courage or the likeability to engage sufficiently with others and will think that people would probably misunderstand her anyway, especially if her social skills have atrophied. Acute shyness seldom recedes if these fears aren’t addressed. Many introverts who are concerned about their personality type (whether such an expesssion is natural or artificial) place too much importance on what others might think of them and are locked into erroneous fears about the impressions they might engender should they have the courage to properly exchange. Social exchange is harder for those naturally preferring solitude, peace and one-to-one relationships but the sensitivity and perspicacity that often goes with introversion is much needed in our culture. Imbalanced introversion can lead to the kind of self-pity which produces the Damsel-in-Distress or Little Boy Lost Syndromes which seeks to ellict attention in manipulative way. Neither ploys evoke long lasting relationships.

The imbalanced extrovert doesn’t place enough importance on the art of exchange and may place great stock in his own perceived value – or at least, his need to operate in such a way that delivers what he needs i.e. required energy through attention – which may or not be in synch with others’ needs. His or her self-concept can be limitless and they can thrive in situations of pressure, risk and responsibility. They can be the life and soul of the party or a heavy jack-boot on true exchange, hogging the conversation and dominating all those in his presence whether at a board meeting or the pub. God help us if he isn’t entertaining and charismatic. Behind all that bravado however, they can be as insecure as the timid introvert, preferring to use a different mechanism to fill up the emotional tank of the ego. Obnoxious behaviour with minimal social skills will gradually deliver the extrovert to the same place as the introvert who is busy wallowing in her own shadow. The only difference is that the imbalanced extrovert will refuse to believe it and attempt to “entertain” amid uncomfortable smiles and polite excuses to catch the last taxi home.

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Why Young Lives Are Losing Meaning And Purpose IV: Impression Management

By M.K. Styllinski

“The only way to find true happiness is to risk being completely cut open.”

Chuck Palahniuk, Invisible Monsters


Reading time: (10 mins)

Studies published on life satisfaction in 2016 by economist Hannes Schwandt were based not on future situations, but on how young people felt about where they would be in five years. The gap between the optimism of the early years and the disappointment at the end of those five years was extremely clear in the graphical data. As a result, by their thirties realism had kicked in and expectations had levelled off and conformed to the well-documented U-shape trajectory of happiness for their fifties. So, there is reason to be hopeful. Meantime, the curve downwards in twenties and thirties appears to be getting steeper and the parameters and focus by which happiness is defined appears very narrow. i.e. equated with material possessions and employment. As discussed before, while the latter is important, they are not reliable indicators of happiness, the very concept of which is highly ephemeral and quite different to core, creative joy. Jonathan Rauch wrote in The Happiness Curve (2015) about the nature of a natural, U-shaped curve, a mid-life transition rather than a dead-end crisis: “This transition has a direction: something you could even call a purpose…The upslope of the happiness curve has an emotional direction, which is toward positivity. But it also has a relational direction, which is toward community….This is a social story, although we rarely experience it that way.” [1]  Why is that? Perhaps because we are programmed to fabricate our own personal islands on a sea of perceived separation from our fellow humans. After all, it’s a dark world out there and society is designed to actively limit pragmatic and constructive cooperation outside the State.

In truth, the myth of the middle age crisis is just part of an overall crisis of meaning that reaches pressure points throughout our lives. Such crises appear to exist outside time and space. It may well be an archetypal/mythical narrative that demands to be heard and acted out so that creative energy can be released. If we don’t consciously address what is lacking then the adaptive unconscious will do it for us to survive. We might see this recognition as a form of recapitulation as described by Carlos Castaneda, whereby we go over our lives with a fine tooth-comb, remembering all we have met, places we have visited and situations we have experienced in order to glean insights and realisations. This focus may create a form of resonance and feedback from the past to aid us in the future. Personal responsibility in this regard and to social interaction in general, could determine how we handle the happiness-unhappiness seesaw and if we can transcend it; whether we become masters of our ship and gain satisfaction from the simplicity of life as much as the dramatic flourishes of success, as defined by our culture. This would explain the common period of discontent at various stages in later life from the late thirties and forties. Rather than a mid-life crisis of lost opportunities perhaps it is a realisation that all that creative energy is not being used as it should?

The emotional and relational drive toward meaning and purpose is intimately tied up with our natural social intelligence that can guide us to connect for the good of the whole and the health of the individual. The desperate ambition and self-oriented focus of youth, a natural egocentricity which has been inflated by our cultures can, through the crises that happen, become a redemptive process when tied to community initiatives. Abstractions and conceptualisations have the potential to become concrete and specific, grounded in real-world solutions and tailored toward our own local needs. Trying to save oneself is transposed to “saving” others. Trying to save the world is transposed to “saving” the community. These efforts outwards, reflect the work taken place inwards, and paradoxically away from self-absorption. This can foster greater authenticity and the slow shedding of the narcissistic traits that we have allowed culture to create for us.

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Why Young Lives are Losing Meaning and Purpose II: The Big Three and 11 Factors

Photo by Dmitry Ratushny | unsplash.com


“Community connectedness is not just about warm fuzzy tales of civic triumph. In measurable and well-documented ways, social capital makes an enormous difference in our lives…Social capital makes us smarter, healthier, safer, richer, and better able to govern a just and stable democracy.”

~ Robert D. Putnam

Reading time: 20-25 mins

In the last post I looked at the decrease in meaning and purpose parallel to the increase in loneliness and isolation for today’s millennial and Z generations.  Sociologists, economists and psychologists generally all agree that the key to developing and holding on to meaning, purpose and well-being is sufficient social interaction with a core group of friends and family that define one’s support. This is not the same as an extended family that usually arises from enforced socio-economic factors, but one that naturally evolves based around shared vision of support and nourishment because it is both practical and sustainable, offering real world benefits.

John F. Helliwell, a prominent expert in the economics of happiness believes the quality of our relationships determines the quality of our lives at the deepest levels. And the quality of those relationships is reflected in how well we have activated our response-ability and activities that offer a form of service to the community – whatever form that might be. This is what creates and deepens ties with others: constructive actions alongside key initiatory ideas. Helliwell draws his work from very large data sets called the World Values Survey which has accrued answers from people in over 150 countries about life satisfaction along with other socio-economic information. When Helliwell crunched the data he and other researchers found that there were six reliable and consistent factors which accounted for well-being:

  1. Social support
  2. generosity
  3. trust
  4. freedom
  5. income per capita
  6. healthy life expectancy [1]

Four from the list are connected with social interaction within a community. The other factors are relational and occur as a response to, or as a natural property of social support.  So a stratum of support covering all aspects of human aspiration is a really big deal, the lack of which will play a large part in the development of our social ills.

The Big Three

It seems to me, the development of meaning and purpose is rooted in three foundational products of social interaction which, if healthy, underpin a successful society, the constituents of which all operate symbiotically and grow parallel to each other. Thus, the creation of an individual emerges and is informed by:

  1. Parents
  2. Family
  3. Community

Obvious perhaps, but in crisis nonetheless. These three make up the strata in the soil of society/culture which is dependent on the level of access to community (should it even exist) a solid connection to nature and the quality of the environment upon which all three rest. [2]  Similarly, the healthy functioning of the three will have within them poor psycho-spiritual “nutrients”, or a rich, fertile ground that is self-sustaining and therefore community-sustaining. The presence of Helliwell’s six factors will be informed by the quality of the Big Three.

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Why Young Lives are Losing Meaning and Purpose I

By M.K. Styllinski

“Young adults are facing more stressful conditions than older generations, such as an increasingly competitive labor market, rising costs of housing, an increase in higher education costs, and issues of self-identity and confidence driven by more widespread use of social media.”

— Morag Henderson, sociologist at University College London


Reading time: (25-30 mins)

The crisis of meaning and purpose is something many of us are grappling with today. Girls and boys and young adults in particular are not succeeding in this battle. The path which defines our lives up to middle and retirement age is for the majority, mostly a constellation of conditioned responses encouraged by Official Culture. It replaces true meaning with a role that serves the technosphere as opposed to our true calling. Not always, but all too frequently. Then we are back to that existential crisis of youth where something deep inside knows that to find true creative balance takes a life time of struggle against forces that oppose any kind of spiritual liberation. Unless that is, we have the support to explore the transformation that comes knocking at the door of consciousness at various stages of our lives. To even have the awareness to heed that call requires a very different society than we have now.

Life is extremely complicated for young people these days, whether they are in Western, Asian, African or Middle Eastern societies. The predisposition of tyranny from our hierarchical institutions and social systems means that such a danger will always be there, even when there is momentum toward autopoietic * social innovations. The imbalance inherent within state authority and the unceasing drive of so many to live outside it’s influence is growing. This is a welcome reaction against the finite and unsustainable nature of cartel capitalism and rampant state-sponsored crimes against humanity. But we haven’t yet found that crucial tension, that balance that provides a psychological inoculation against psychopathic infiltration which so often turns civilisations into crucibles of centralised control.

The corruption of hierarchical power always weakens the structure to the point of catastrophic failure. And there are always young folks who act as literal and symbolic precursors to that descent, usually by embodying those ills and thereby showing us what long term or immediate future lies ahead. Each epoch manifests that see-saw between managed chaos and mass creativity which eventually bursts forth in destructive ways, sweeping away everything that went before.  Children and young adults are the tuning fork of future generations in this regard. Nonetheless, there is has been a very wide historical berth when it comes to defining how our youth interact with the world. The older generations have a distinct challenge to make sure our younger generations are correctly tuned to that which offers hope, spiritual strength and resilience to face what is certain to be an unpredictable and challenging future.

But let’s rewind for a moment…

Take Medieval England for example. During that time the majority of medieval people were young with far fewer older people with around thirty-five to forty percent under fifteen years old. There was a distinct and recognised period where the early formative years were largely employed for utilitarian ends. If there were not distinct roles then the family didn’t survive. As a result, the Church law and common law regarded children as equal to adults in many ways. Parenting was just as important and often imbued with strict moral and community-based values inspired by the Church and folklore. Though play was a vital part of growing up and of far greater importance than today, if a child was unprepared for the realities of what was a rather brutal world, it meant that the longevity of the family would be weakened as would the life of the child. Conscientiousness in one’s work had to be learned early on as it was quite often a life and death situation. [1]

The ubiquity of young folks meant there were major social differences in every community and sphere of activity. A feudal hierarchy of industry meant clearly defined roles with a narrow band of what could constitute freedom from our perspective today. It also meant that on average, there was seventeen years’ less experience of life to draw on and very few elders and betters that children had to go to for advice. This high proportion of young people experienced a violent, feudal world which saw hand-to-hand combat; brutality passing for entertainment; state sanctioned slavery and appalling daily health hazards – including periodic visitations of the plague – as the backdrop to their lives. Medieval boys for example, had what amounts to a man’s job from the age of seven and could have his wee hand chopped off if he decided to pinch some fruit from a market stall. If he graduated to a more audacious deed like stealing a hairpin or a Lord’s hat, he could be hanged by his doubtless scrawny neck. Boys could legally marry at aged fourteen and were considered ready to fight in the King’s army. Those born into the nobleman’s life or royalty had material comforts but a different level of responsibility. For example, Prince Edward, at just sixteen years old was in command of whole battalion.

Not a lot of leeway for a “safe space” in that milieu.

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Rabbit in Your Headlights: The Road to Breaking Free

UNKLE – Rabbit in Your Headlights from Onur Akdeniz on Vimeo.


2016 was an incredible year of change and revelation. So, dramatic has it been that I noticed many friends and acquaintances suffering from Rabbit in the Headlights syndrome, where fake news by the MSM, the blatant lying and propaganda of our governments and the often painful malaise in the ability to think critically by so many has allowed others to wake up to this programming.  But there are dangers in this late stage perspicacity. One sees patterns of truth and underlying meaning but the intensity of that “light” causes a mix of cognitive dissonance and paralysing fear. As a result, it seems a few folks prefer to deny what they’ve seen and embrace the sophistry of “ignorance is bliss.”  In that sense, Knowledge becomes a threat to the established routine of  mechanical action and thought causing a shutting down of awareness and a return to comfortable beliefs with more tenacity than ever before, even though those beliefs bear no relation to reality. And it can certainly be disruptive and unnerving to see behind the dark curtain of mind control to which we have been subjected. But the moral imperative is always there should we choose to follow it.

Whilst Knowledge is undoubtedly power, it is the courage to accumulate and apply knowledge as close to an objective truth as we can that encourages the growth of conscience and thus the desire to serve others. I think this is where true creative power lies. By doing so, we serve ourselves as a feedback loop of nourishment, where everyone is taken care of as a result of the correct re-alignment of human relations.  Otherwise, knowledge for power’s sake is merely “Satanic” i.e. exclusive service to self.

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