positive psychology

Choose Constructive Emotions (and don’t forget your greatest asset) (6)

“You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death. It is easy to say you believe a rope is strong as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But, suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice? Wouldn’t you then first discover how much you really trusted it?”

—  C.S. Lewis


Reading time: 8-10 mins

The Positive thinking, LOA and YCYOR triangle is the lynchpin of the new age or Human Potential Movement, often fused with left-liberal beliefs. What happens when these ways of viewing the world are placed in an overtly spiritual context?

A constant theme that runs through many of these essay series is the idea that one’s spiritual quest is fraught with potential dangers. It’s designed that way and is not for the faint-hearted. I am one of those who has learned the hard way that self-awareness and seeking truth requires an exacting sacrifice of personal, selfish desires.

If you decide to follow a genuine spiritual path without attending to fundamental emotional issues, you will find yourself on a very hard road indeed as the signal to grow receives a response. Such a response (depending on the degree of personality deformation present) sets in motion a process whereby the person is given the tools and circumstances by which soul influence can begin to grow. That cannot be anything other than painful since, like a drug addict, you are shedding outmoded and negative behaviours which you have taken on as normal. Cold turkey isn’t just for those coming off substance abuse, it can be as harrowing to divest yourself of childhood and cultural conditioning.

The cultural inculcation to support a psychopathic worldview is disguised as benevolence or empowerment. In the final analysis however, we always have a choice to change and to seek out what is really going on behind The Wizard Of Oz’s theatrical curtain on reality. Dealing with our emotions is the first step.

If we insist in wallowing in the influences of Official Culture, whilst immersing ourselves in the theory of spiritual transformation – it won’t work, at least not in the way we might think. Information becomes knowledge by applying and testing out what we have discovered. That means we cannot be in two realities at once which means a decision will need to be made, whether we like it or not. If you are perpetually on the fence then you at a standstill or worse, one centre of gravity within your personality will be inflated whilst another will atrophy.

Much of the illness of our western culture derives from the denial of what is, and the rejection of inner knowing in favour of security, self-satisfaction and a fragile peace. It’s ultimately a denial of the Universe/God which seeks consciousness, seeded in complex sentient life i.e. humans – to become self-aware, warts and all. Once we have made a contract with Life due to our self-evident existence, part of that decision is to willingly choose to access your greatest potential by serving others, thereby serving yourself. When we do so with conviction a new dimension of possibility opens up for us – literally. Walk long enough along that road without application of those discoveries then reality will become more and more insistent that you “walk the talk” away from theory and toward actualisation of faith and purpose.

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Choose Constructive Emotions (and don’t forget your greatest asset) (5)

pixabay / infrakshun

“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.”

— Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO)


Reading time: 20 mins

Mainstreaming Magick

It might seem a stretch to equate boiler basement magick with so much of the self-help, positive thinking cult but bear with me.

You’ve probably become accustomed to the gradual popularisation and  mainstreaming of various forms of ceremonial and sympathetic magick. There is a huge market in black magick and associated celebration of the demonic and supernatural mysteries. Wherever there is a natural curiosity about such things then you can be sure it can be milked by turning it into a commodity thereby serving a tripartite purpose of 1) Feeding the economic technosphere 2) entrainment of elite ideas 3) normalisation of their memes and concepts.

Positive thinking, much of new age philosophy, self-help coaching and business is now reaping the short-term, feel-good benefits of occult principles applied to daily life. Now, mainstreaming the Kabbalah, Hermeticism, Wicca and Witchcraft can be seen in Hollywood, television, art and entertainment in general. There is a huge information explosion purposely generated and carefully executed like a drip-feed of psychic driving.

Hey boys and girls! Werewolves or Vampires? Make your choice. Magickal formulas and invocations? Take your pick! (Just don’t think for yourselves…Conjure something that can do it for you).

If you know nothing of ritual magick, don’t worry. You’re better off. But it’s important to know that occult principles lie behind much of our institutional history and play a big part in Elite beliefs up to the present day. Which is why, in part, the marketing of magick in popular culture is so lucrative: it taps in to a human need to control in the face of uncertainty; to be part of a tribe that may have the inside scoop. It would also be foolish to say that there isn’t illuminating knowledge to be found in some forms of occult study of the dim and distant past. However, we’ll stick to the brief: how positive psychology and new age marketing is firmly selling black magick principles.

So, why is this dicing with the devil? When we attempt such magickal intrusions into the natural order with the dictum of “energy follows thought” as a purely ego-based desire for betterment, one is elevating personal fantasy over what IS. And in occult terms this becomes super-charged regardless of magickal theory suggesting otherwise. This wish to employ a framework of magickal formulas is enticing but tends to invite more chaos into one’s life, not less. Such a place may initially offer fleeting “success” much like the initial froth on a champagne glass or firework display that dies down as quickly as it begins, but it’s not a long-term solution.

If you want to align to a law that posits a type of attraction which benefits us, you have to first ask where does the focus lie? MATTER OR SPIRIT? Do I really know the difference? Ask yourself if you are channelling your desires to get something for nothing. Does it make it a short cut? And if so, are short-cuts generally useful?

There is nothing new under the sun. There are however, innumerable ways truth can be re-packaged and re-sold to humanity as innovation and relevation to keep us trapped in the same cycles of spiritual imprisonment which have remained unbroken for millennia.  If you have a hard time pondering that essential reality then you’re probably a perfect candidate for the above tripartite system of control. What the accumulated wisdom of the past has tried to tell us over and over is that the keynote of our times is deception, the likes of which traverse social, cultural, political and most certainly so-called “spiritual” precepts. Such modes of high level disinformation and distortion work in ways that can easily boggle the mind.

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Choose Constructive Emotions (and don’t forget your greatest asset) (4)

 © Photodynamx | Dreamstime.com

“The most revolutionary act is a clear view of the world as it really is.”

  —Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919)


Reading time: 15 minutes

Fantasy vs Creative Imagination

There is no question that we can choose positive emotions to improve our life. Yet, there are many things we must consider before pursuing that aim, not least of which is making sure we don’t foolishly believe that’s all we need to grow, in spite of a natural want to improve our lot. They are two separate things, however. The latter tends to accompany the former and not after some considerable hardship. This is the nature of awakening: it sends out a signal to a world opposed to such a path and its response is usually to send a few obstacles to put us back to sleep. Usually, they are seductive and go straight for our weakest spot, our Achilles heel.

We need to cultivate deep self-knowledge to check we are embracing the positive thinking train for the right reasons; healing trapped emotions so that we’re sure we’re not seeking escape; a balm for pain; searching for short-cuts or using such methods to attain power and dominance. More importantly, we are not feeding our tendency to fantasize about the future.

Fantasy fuels our needy emotions. Fantasizing may be a welcome break from drudgery, but you may unwittingly invite chaos into the present. The very act of supplying energy to fantasy means that effort in the real world commensurate with a proper evaluation of our abilities is being continually siphoned away from pragmatic action. Therefore, your future will make you feel worse, not better, ironically stemming from your over-identification to think positively, the anticipation of that new state and subsequent diluted effort that could have ignited the state of creative flow.

Effort demands deliberate, conscious practice and an open spirit of expectation that allows creative imagination to complement critical thinking. Fantasy is like a self-created whirlpool which keeps us trapped in the warm waters of our own self-conceit thus making sure we never actually manifest even the humblest of those possibilities.

What makes it worse is people routinely confuse fantasy with creative imagination. When people mention the positive aspect of fantasy they are talking about the creative imagination which is fantasy set to work. Intention defines whether or not fantasy becomes creative or just colourful noise. Psychotherapist Carl Jung highlighted the importance of “playing with fantasy” without which “no creative work has ever yet come to birth. The debt we owe to the play of imagination is incalculable.”

A bit of day-dreaming here and there is no bad thing. And the playing Jung talks about is really accessing imagination toward a general or specific quest. Children naturally access the creative imagination as means to derive meaning and emotional nourishment. Sensory input from play and day-dreaming are essential to future emotional stability. This is why so many kids have difficulties at school because our concepts of education are an assault on such creativity as it imposes dry, dead, tests and re-parents children along state-sanctioned directives. As we know, these are not based on a remotely coherent map of reality. Enforced learning along regimented lines divorced from emotional intelligence has the result of corralling kids into a body-mind matrix of unhealthy fantasy and an eternal longing for meaning by the time they are young adults. When the critical faculties and independence appear they are a pale reflection of what they should have been, sheared of the correct neural maps from the absence of joyful learning and proper emotional content. They are still locked into the unfulfilled and impoverished state that comes from an education that indoctrinates and programs children into a consensus trance.

When fantasy and wishful-thinking is sold as a “lifestyle design” then it becomes yet another way to keep us docile, disappointed and resentful. When combined with happiness as the primary goal and where spiritual aims are no different to material acquisition, then we are on a path to entropy, not creativity. When we are encouraged to make unrealistic and ill-thought out escapism into an overall aim, it just becomes self-indulgence.

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Choose Constructive Emotions (And don’t forget your greatest asset) (3)

Approaching Shadow, 1954 by Chinese photographer Fan-Ho born in Shanghai, in 1931.

“Don’t be so negative! Think positive!”

— positive thinking evangelist


Reading time: 15-18 mins

How many times have you heard the above smiley command from people who have joined the positive psychology bandwagon? Apart from being a tad self-righteous the proclamation might also mask the person’s inability to process the negative realities of this world.

This “pursuit of happiness” tightly bound with numerous affirmations and fixated beliefs intent on to forcing happiness into being doesn’t deliver. If we do not achieve those heights of impossible joy then we sow the seeds of re-occurring resentment.

As we have explored, positive thinking is an important part of self-betterment, but it is literally only half the equation. There’s a huge caveat that goes unnoticed in the drive to cultivate a better outlook and a happier life. Deny the vital role of negative emotions in this process and and we court serious trouble.

In fact, this blind spot is probably one of the primary reasons for many of our global woes and needs to be fully understood before we immerse ourselves in the positive thinking belief system.

Success in cultivating positive emotions lies in the nature of the methods we use to attain them as much as it does the reasons we embark on such a discipline. If the methods and reasons are faulty, then success may be fleeting and come at a cost.

But “the optimism of the action is better than the pessimism of the thought” right?

No. Not always. In fact hardly ever.  If the pessimism of the thought is grounded in the reality of what is, then you can guarantee that the “optimism” and good intentions of the “action” will inevitably create more chaos than order.

As Barbara Ehrenreich described in characteristically blunt terms:

Americans have long prided themselves on being positive and optimistic — traits that reached a manic zenith in the early years of this millennium. Iraq would be a cakewalk! The Dow would reach 36,000! Housing prices could never decline! Optimism was not only patriotic but was also a Christian virtue, or so we learned from the proliferating preachers of the “prosperity gospel,” whose God wants to “prosper” you. In 2006, the runaway bestseller “The Secret” promised that you could have anything you wanted, anything at all, simply by using your mental powers to “attract” it. The poor listened to upbeat preachers like Joel Osteen and took out subprime mortgages. The rich paid for seminars led by motivational speakers like Tony Robbins and repackaged those mortgages into securities sold around the world. [1]

This distinctly American obsession with positive thinking tied to a delusional neo-liberal brand of capitalism means “to get what you want” in as little time as possible and with minimum effort; a lifestyle which has permeated virtually every social and cultural domain.

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Choose constructive emotions (and don’t forget your greatest asset) (2)

 

“Everything can be taken from a man but …The last of human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.”

— Viktor Frankel


Reading time: 10 mins

What is it you can tell yourself and that will ensure that every time you get in a negative loop you have constructive thoughts and actions which bypass that habit? Think of it as building new houses of emotion imbued with positive feelings in every wall and every beam. Make sure that you are not in an environment, relationship or work situation that continually places you in that loop. And if you are, ask yourself how much of those negative triggers are under your control to diminish? You’ll not be able change everything externally in your life but you can change how you react to these pressures and head off the kind of habitually negative thinking that harms you. Then you are laying the foundation for your life to change naturally. (Yes, really, you are). That requires faith and not a little persistence. But if you are able to cultivate feelings and emotions that work for you that’s when reality begins to change, even if it seems like a pipe dream.

I struggled with many things in my youth and beyond but passive aggression and an overly critical attitude were high up on the scale. This was due to intermittent depression rooted in a poor sense of self. It was only when I found constructive channels for release which took me away from my inner stress was I slowly able to heal. I could indeed choose positive emotions instead of wallowing in resentment and projected angst. In fact, we are choosing all the time, even if unconsciously.

Remember the two sets of thinking systems: system1 (instinctive and emotional) and system 2 thinking (logical; deliberative) and what Daniel Goleman called the “high and low roads” of emotional intelligence. We are literally a complex, tangled mass of biases and mechanical processes which make a mockery of free-will and independent thought. But we can get closer to those ideals. Our job is to ease into the marriage of the two and make them work for us. And to do that we need to be both internally considerate of our own experiences, pains and fears whilst affording the same external considerations to those with whom we live and work.

Learning to exert proper control over the wild horse emotions and chaotic feelings isn’t a bundle of fun but like unruly animals they can be gently tamed so that they begin to love their master rather than follow the bad parent of the ego who let’s them do anything at all for the next tasty treat.

A concurrent theme that appears throughout this whole blog is that we need a good social network present to keep us nourished. For example, snaps shots of positive social memories is an effective way to bring you back from the negative maelstrom. In combination with breathing this can help to re-connect with the biochemical component of that remembered reality. [1] 

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6. Choose constructive emotions (and don’t forget your greatest asset) (1)

By M.K. Styllinski

“The benefits of positive emotions don’t stop after a few minutes of good feelings subside. In fact, the biggest benefit that positive emotions provide is an enhanced ability to build skills and develop resources for use later in life.”

— Barbara Fredrickson
.

Reading time: 15 mins

Our emotions flow through everything we do and every personality type on show: from the “coldest” intellectual academic to the athlete striving to be the best. How we emote, whether we express negative or positive emotion depends how well we know ourselves and if we are prepared to find the balance between too much positivity (yes, it’s possible) and the more well-known excess of negativity.

There is no question that we can choose to have more constructive emotions whilst understanding that negative emotions are not “bad” just in need of balance so that the positive/negative polarities work as a team. It’s the distortion of our emotions which wreaks the havoc. There is nothing instrinsically wrong with us other than allowing our feelings to run wild, often to the point of pathology.

This is especially true of those suffering from trauma and/or the effects of childhood adversity as both tend to make emotions supercharged to threats via a hypersensitive parasympathetic nervous system. Pain, unconsciously expressed becomes the primary interface between reality and the self. We become a walking “pain body” geared to survival and the multitude of triggers from any real or perceived threat to our armour of “protection.” Regardless of whether we have unresolved pain and trauma to cultivate conscious awareness over our emotional mind is the key to regulating our life toward a happier and more constructive state of affairs.

I used “constructive” in the title instead of “positive” for this reason. The latter is frequently promoted whilst ignoring the benefits of regulated negative emotion. Like the word “spiritual,” positive thinking has become a loaded phrase for a number of reasons which we’ll get into later on. Suffice to say, understanding our own particular make-up of feelings and emotions and how they are channelled into every day life is crucial. Without a more harmonious interaction with situations and people with whom we interact (or more probably inter-react) imbalance can only get worse or we remain paralysed in an uncomfortable stasis.

Our emotions determine how we perceive the world, what biases and preferences are operating and what decisions and choices we make. Emotions are what make us human; they are an essential part of our nature without which we would be a robot or the iconic Vulcan Mr. Spock from the Star Trek series. But even he had cracks in his hyper-logic because he was half-human, half-Vulcan. As it stands, Mr. Spock did pretty well in navigating through the problems he and his crew encountered. He was efficient, incisive and highly adept at solving those obstacles. But he found human sensitivities beyond the rational perplexing, since overreaction and over-identification was literally alien to him. He wasn’t exactly the life and soul of a party as a result. Nonetheless, we need Mr.Spock’s laser-like logic to sit comfortably alongside a sense of humour, compassion and intuition if we are to achieve a steady balance in the face of the unknown.

So, what are emotions as opposed to feelings? Is there a difference? It would seem so.

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