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What’s in Your Bag of Shit?

I was listening to Neil Strauss the other day on Tom Bilyeu’s youtube interview series called “Inside Quest” and something he said really stuck out to me. He said that we all carry around a “bag of shit” or in other words- some story we’ve made up about our unworthiness or how we’re unlovable.  Then we operate and interact with the outside world looking for evidence to add to our “bag of shit” and to support our dis-empowering story we have made up about ourselves.  We will even fabricate and alter certain events through our own skewed perceptive filter just to support our story and give us a sense of certainty that we are right. We then often times use this “bag of shit” we carry around with us to motivate us to achieve more, acquire more or to hunt for the perfect spouse or partner.  We really believe that if we get that prized possession or relationship- then we will finally be enough, lovable or feel good about ourselves. Some people spend their whole life seeking the very thing they believe will help them let go of and forget about their “bag of shit”.  The irony is that as long as you are holding onto the bag of shit and keep your inferiority saga in the recesses of your mind, nothing and no one will ever give you the feelings of being enough or being lovable. 

 

The only way to free yourself from this trap is to let go of your bag of shit and to become aware of the narrative that is running your life. The old story is driven by fear, lack and scarcity. If you don’t believe you are enough right now, no amount of money, fame, relationships, or anything outside of you will ever be able to give you the feelings of security, significance and love you are seeking. Those external rewards only magnify the relationship you have internally with yourself. If you love yourself, feel worthy and have a loving and compassionate relationship with yourself- then you will have healthy and loving relationships with others, money, possessions, etc. 

 

What is largely running people in our world is an error in self definition. A major error. A colossal mistake in perception and judgement. People use money, relationships, power, status, jobs, religious affiliation and much more to define themselves. They create a fictional game about how their person-hood and self worth is tied to their success or effectiveness in one or more of these areas. The issue with this approach to defining yourself is these external things are largely, if not completely outside of our control. One of my favorite authors, Robert Greene says that we only have control over 5-6% of what happens in our world and experience on this earth. ONLY 5-6%. He also affirmed that the way to best impact our world is to only focus and exert our energy in that small window (5-6%) of where we actually have control. Therefore if we maximize our focus, attention and energy to improve and affect only what we can control, then we will be able to change our circumstances and impact the world. Where most people go wrong is they spend the majority of their time, attention and energy on the 94-95% of things that are 100% outside of their control. This leaves them powerless and victims of their circumstances.  Therefore if you are going to define yourself and base your identity on your job, relationship, status or any external thing, you are due to be a slave to circumstances, others and the world. As Joe Donnelly says, 

 

“You can either be the CEO of your own life or you can be life’s employee”. 

 

I am not proposing that you say “hell with it” to creating a business, forming relationships, making money or seeking things externally. I am just warning you of the trap of being attached to those external things. And more importantly the emotional death you will experience if you tie your identity to them and sell your soul for them.  I have been in relationships where I put my girlfriend up on a pedestal and derived my sense of self from being her boyfriend. At first it was an exhilarating rush of oxytocin, but it soon became pure slavery. Obligations, ownership, and expectations within the relationship crippled my ability to do anything else in the world and to feel like I was living my true purpose. 

 

What I am proposing is balance. Like the Samurai warriors of ancient Japan, they embodied balance probably better than anyone. On one hand they were very masculine, tough, hard-driving and resilient. They were some of the toughest and most skilled warriors in the history of the world and they protected their villages by killing and eliminating the enemy. Yes this was their rigid and strong masculine side. However they did not live 100% of the time on this side of their nervous system. They also had a feminine side, which was more flowing, compassionate and flexible. They would write poetry, dance, play the flute and make love to their wives. They intuitively understood that they needed to balance their lives and their nervous systems in order to be the most fulfilled, the happiest and healthiest they could be. 

 

If they lived 100% of the time in their masculine warrior motif, they would have died much younger. The cortisol would have be firing at all times and this inevitably would have decreased their lifespan and diminished their overall level of life satisfaction. Conversely they innately knew that operating in the feminine side of their nervous system was going to give them fulfillment and rejuvenate their soul and spirit. 

 

All too often today we see individuals lack balance. They are all Type A power, strength and aggression. Sure they might achieve some pretty great success, but at what price? At the price of their enjoyment and fulfillment on this earth?  Then we see others who operate on the other side of the dialectic. They are accepting, flowing and peaceful. Yet they have no drive and contribute very little to the world. Finding the middle of the paradox is a way to strike a balance and achieve both the science of success and the art of fulfillment. 

 

Life is the most hilarious and ironic teacher around. We set a goal and we invest everything into that goal, only to find out that once we actually attain the goal, that the very goal/prize itself is not what we really wanted after all. Here are some higher values that I believe are the things we are really after:

 

1. Flow– a level of presence, creativity and mindfulness of enjoying an activity/interaction just for the sake of engaging in it. 

 

2. Contribution– the secret to living is giving. PERIOD. Nothing lights up and energizes the human spirit like giving and serving a fellow man.  Depression, anxiety and all forms of mental health impairments vanish when one looks to give and contribute.

 

3. Growth– I don’t care how many friends you have, how successful you have been- if you are experiencing progress in your life- you are dying. What does the Bible say? “Where there is no vision, the people perish”

 

4. Who we become. It is not the accolades, money, possessions that truly fulfills us at the end of the day, but it is rather the person we have to become in order to solve those problems and achieve those goals. The ultimate satisfaction in life is complete 100% CONGRUENCE. Living in alignment with your values is the ultimate fulfillment. 

 

 

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The Absolute Worst Thing You Can Do When You Feel Down or Depressed

Over the course of the past 5 years I have read a lot of books on emotions, depression, peak performance, anxiety and overall cognitive functioning. Through my aikido, meditation and several other practices have begun to understand these things on an experiential level. I have been to the lowest of lows (a deep depression) and the highest of highs. And after enough time spent in both places, I have come to some level of observation and self awareness with what goes on during each of those experiences. Today, I want to present to you a simple strategy for dealing with a down moment or a bout of depression that takes you under and engulfs you. 

I am speaking from my own experience in a depressed state as well as several other people who report a similar experience. In an emotional state of depression, everything looks bleak. I feel lonely, disconnected from society, helpless and hopeless. I see absolutely zero potential for anything positive to happen in my future whether it be in terms of relationships, money, experiences, work- whatever. I literally feel like a “shit-magnet”. Bad shit seems to stick to me. Everyone I encounter is a selfish jerk. The best way I can describe depression is a complete and overwhelming tunnel vision for everything negative. And as Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania has affirmed, the bleak perception of our reality feels permanent (like it’s going to last forever), pervasive (like every aspect of our life is fucked) and highly personal (like we as a person are majorly defective). 

 I have noticed that when I have been depressed, I will freeze frame my current “shitty” reality and conceptualize it in my mind that it is going to be this way forever. It makes me not even want to live anymore. I feel like giving up. I then begin to ask myself questions like, “what is wrong with me?” and “what’s the point anyway?”. I try to go up in my head and think my way out of the problem.  If there is one thing to take away from the lesson today it is this:

Intellectualizing and trying to rationally think your way out of a troubling emotional state is the worst thing you can possibly be doing to feel better. Your trying to solve a problem from a impaired level of thinking. It makes no sense, however we as humans love to see ourselves as smart creatures who can think our way out of shit. 

Einstein nailed it right on the head when he said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them”. And this quote is quite applicable to depression.  When we are in a low level of consciousness, it is impossible to get ourselves out of it by thinking more. 

Instead what needs to be understood is that our feelings are a signal. And this powerful signal of “I feel like death” is telling us that our thinking is off!  Way off. Therefore, the only thing you have to do when you start feeling like absolute crap is begin to not believe in the thoughts that are creeping into your mind. I just read Garrett Kramer’s peak performance books Stillpower and The Path of No Resistance and I really love his paradigm regarding this. He asserts that you should “feel what you feel, but don’t believe what you think”. Our terrible feelings are a powerful signal- to disregard and be disbelieving of our thoughts- not to cling to them and try to rationally joust with them. 

The more you can begin to simply sit with your feelings and not try to create a story around them about why you’re feeling the way you’re feeling- this is when you will escape the grips of your depression. What keeps the depression in place is the constant thinking that ‘this event’ or ‘that person’ is to blame for my depression. This type of thinking is not going to get you out of your depression, it is only going to ensure that you stay in that state of mind longer. If you just sit still and begin to quietly retreat to the silent confines of your mind- you will start to notice that your depression will begin to subside and eventually drift away. Our brains and bodies have the natural tendency to self-correct. There is a built auto-pilot mechanism built into our nervous system if we simply let go of needing to control every process along the way. 

When we try to think our way of our depression- we are trying to “will” it and control every step in the process. This absolutely shuts off our self-corrective mechanism in our brain that is the skeleton key to our emotional regulation. The less energy and power you give your depressing thoughts- the sooner you will start to see your emotional state rise. And then pretty soon thereafter your perception will begin to broaden. You will start to see things in brighter color, see the hopeful (and realistic) future and get out the blame-game you’ve been playing with yourself. 

This process takes a keen level of self awareness. Most people get into a depressed state and they try to fight it- but that just gives it more energy. Think about depression like your little brother or that neighbor of yours who is a shit-grinning twerp. The more you engage with your little brother, the more he is going to try to annoy you and rattle you. However when you laugh at him and not let what he is doing bother you- he goes away because it is no fun for him anymore. Depression is the same way. Begin to watch your hopeless thoughts come into your awareness. Don’t let them hook you, just watch them and be accepting of them. Sit there through the painful experience and become an outstanding observer of your own mind. This is the secret to mastering your inner world- becoming a master observer of your own mind and it’s default patterns and tendencies. 

Once you begin to observe and not absorb or attach to these negative thoughts- your consciousness will begin to rise and the heavy feelings will start to lighten drastically. It will feel like a exhilarating experience. The more you can practice this, the better you will get. As Garrett Kramer loves to say, it’s all about STAYING IN THE GAME. If you hang around long enough and don’t fight the negative thoughts and bleak perspective- it will all turn around. It always does. But the minute you begin to try to understand why you are feeling like crap and begin to create some narrative about your depression- you have lost the game. 

We all have a unique inner life force. I believe it is God within us, others call it a whole lot of different things. However, this force is the very thing that guides us intuitively and if given the freedom to work for us- can produce miracles. I know relinquishing control and not engaging with the depressing thoughts is a major challenge that most will probably fail at their first few times. Yet, all it takes is one breakthrough and it will change your life forever. One experience of letting your inner guide take over and guide you out of your depression will allow you to never be a hostage to this crippling condition ever again. It’s amazing. 

So you have 2 choices. You can either be a victim and continue to fight with your annoying shit-grinning little brother (depressive thoughts) and continue to feel agitated (depression). Or you can begin to observe and allow your annoying little brother to “try” to bother you, but never actually bite the hook (depressive thoughts)- therefore making him disinterested and leaving you alone so that you can be in peace (free of depression).

 If you tend to fall down the “rabbit hole” of depression, I suggest hanging two signs around your place as a reminder. One is from Kramer’s book:

“STAY IN THE GAME”

And the other is from the Navy Seal movie Lone Survivor:

“No matter how much it hurts, how dark it gets or no matter how far you fall, you are never out of the fight.”

The second quote is what gave me the hope to carry on in the darkest of my depression a couple years ago. Though I really had no where to turn and felt almost entirely hopeless- I kept looking at that quote and it kept me looking for another way- another answer. I’d read another book, I’d watch another youtube video, I just kept going. Until pretty soon, I was guided to meet my mentor. And that was the moment that changed everything. So I suggest you adopt this belief. If you believe there is always a way- you will find a way. People, when their either going to die or succeed- they tend to succeed. Hunger is your greatest asset. Plain and simple. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conquering the Greatest Fear of All

Many would think that people’s greatest fear in their lives is the fear of death. It should be, however our egos have very sneaky ways of deleting the fact that we’re all going to die someday. It would actually be very healthy for society if the fear of death was number 1 on the list- this would like be a sign of a higher level of consciousness at the societal level and definitely an overall diminished ego. However studies continually report that public speaking is man’s greatest fear. It’s not the speaking their afraid of, so let’s cut to the core of what fear drives the masses. It’s the fear or rejection- plain and simple. The fear of rejection is the reason for public speaking being #1 on the list. At a evolutionary level, the fear of rejection makes sense. Those cavemen and primitive homo sapiens who were rejected and ostracized from the tribe died. The group was a safe space that provided our ancient ancestors with the resources for survival, therefore rejection resulted in the ultimate pain of death.  However in our society today, rejection is not a matter of survival. Perhaps this fear of rejection is still wired into our nervous system and our genes from thousands of years ago- I don’t know, that’s one theory. What I do know is that we as humans have 5 basic needs (survival, love/connection, significance, fun and freedom) and two of these are directly related to our overdeveloped fear of rejection.  In particular, our needs for love/connection and significance/competence are linked to this fear of rejection. Humans do crazy things to ensure that they feel connected to others. They join gangs, they do drugs, they join cults. They also do crazy things to feel a sense of significance. People get tattoos and earrings all over their body just so they can feel special and unique. These needs for connection/love and significance are so visceral that if they are not met, humans will experience anxiety and massive amounts of fear. Additionally, people will settle for avenues to meet these needs on such a short term basis that they inevitably sacrifice their long term fulfillment and happiness. For example, people will marry the wrong person because they fear not getting these needs met if they were to break up with them tomorrow and God forbid have to be single for a little while. The fear of rejection is the outward manifestation of the scarce belief of human beings that their needs of connection and significance are not going to be met.

 Another reason people so desperately fear being rejected by a potential mate, friend, group or client because they falsely attribute this as a sign that they are not worthy, lovable or a significant human being.  They have erroneous beliefs that if they get rejected by that one person, then they are all of the sudden unlovable or insignificant and that they will not be able to be loved ever again. It’s hilarious if you take a step back and look at this silly dynamic.  

 You now understand what is behind this fear of rejection, but what keeps it in place? What keeps it so firmly rooted that it continues to run our society? There are factors in our society and our family systems that really lock it in, so it keeps its frightening effect. Our families and school systems have implicit rules that if you behave and act like you’re supposed to- you will be a part of our group- you will fit in and therefore be accepted. Most don’t even see that this is going on in their own family. They have been playing the same role for the last 20-30 years that they think all is fine and dandy. However, a person will see this dynamic the minute they stop playing their ascribed role and begin to either play something different or don’t follow the underlying family rules. It is in this moment when the feeling of being ostracized, or no longer part of group begins to sting. Whether it be in a group or a family, this disconnect feels like death. One minute you felt love, connection and significant because of all the closeness and support of those around you. Then the next moment you feel like it all got taken away from you. A great sense of loss sweeps over you. The feelings can mimic that of death. You feel like someone just stole all your oxygen and now you have nothing to breathe. You lose your entire sense of certainty and begin to wonder, “who the hell am I?”. You identified for so many years with your family, group or clique that now you feel naked and unworthy. You feel like you must go back to playing that old role you had been conforming to for so many years just to get the love and approval back that you feel like has been lost. 

 Many people have no idea what I am talking about. They are still the fish in the water. They don’t yet have the awareness to get outside of their limited perception of what keeps the family, group or system in homeostasis. They don’t understand the rules, the roles and the rituals that keep the dysfunction at bay.  However, if you are at this point or have experienced this, this is not a tragedy. This is the greatest opportunity of your life. That feeling of loss of love and significance is an ILLUSION OF LOSS!  What this whole shit show of a scenario has revealed to you is that you have been basing your whole self worth and sense of self on other people’s opinions and behavior. In the words of Leslie Cameron Bandler, you have become an emotional hostage to other people. You have unconsciously learned that in order to feel good, feel loved, feel worthy and feel significant- someone else has to do something for you- they have to give it to you. This is a major opportunity for personal growth and massive breakthrough. You were living life under the assumption that everyone else had the oxygen and you had to do something or be someone for them in order to get it so that you could breathe. This is not the case, there is an unlimited amount of oxygen and you can get it yourself without having to rely on someone acting some certain way toward you. This faulty belief that people outside of you were the source of your happiness and self worth is the biggest lie and the handcuffs to your happiness and potential. Self actualization is about harnessing your inner power and living life on your own terms- not an emotional hostage to other people. 

 This level of awareness is the first step out of victimhood. Our society is saturated with codependent relationships and emotional hostage taking that it has almost become the norm. People are unaware of it- they see no problem. We have been brainwashed from a young age through Hollywood, the media , politicians and advertisers to get our sense of significance and love from others. This unconscious decision on our part to become dependent on other people is exactly the mechanism that keeps them in power. I am not telling you that you should say “fuck off” to all other human beings. What I am suggesting is that you begin to wake up and escape the cultural hypnosis that something outside yourself is going to be the mechanism for your peace, happiness and self worth. 

 In order to be free from the fear of rejection you must adopt the belief that you are in control of your emotional state and the way you feel. Nothing and no one can change the way you feel. I know this is a tall task, but this belief is the underlying belief that will free you from your fear of rejection and your victimhood. I will discuss practical tactics to allow you to free yourself from the chains of this fear of rejection, people pleasing and approval seeking in posts down the road. This is merely a discussion to raise awareness of the issue. 

 

The greatest irony of all is that once you can conquer your fear of rejection- you actually will receive even more love/connection and a greater sense of significance. No longer can anyone take anything away from you. There is no illusion of loss anymore. You are supplying your energy, your life force and your feelings of significance. People will actually flock to you because you are offering them a unique proposition. You are inherently offering them the opportunity at a real relationship with no emotional hostage taking or victimhood. It is the ultimate freedom for both parties. Both people can show up to the relationship and be exactly as they are. There are no expectations, obligations or invisible rules that dictate that people should be different or act different than they currently are. 

 I believe this topic is the crux of personal development that gets ignored and is rarely spoken about.  It is time to pull the curtain back and reveal what is running people’s lives in our culture in this day and age. It’s the fear of rejection- PERIOD.  It is behind the look in every office workers eyes when they look up from their cubicle to see their coworker leaving to pursue their dream- start their own business or move to their dream spot on the globe. The fear of rejection keeps people planted where they are, living lives of quiet desperation. Kill the monster when it’s small, because when the fear gets too big, it feels nearly impossible to overtake. 

Change Your Questions, Change Your Life

Once you’ve read a number of self help books you’ve probably adopted the understanding that the world is quite subjective.  The media, politicians, advertisers and pretty much any ruling entity convey to the world that there is an objective reality. A lot of people buy into this objective reality that is being fed to them, and consequently, their lives tend to be filled with fear, suffering and hardship.  With an understanding of our subjective experience as humans being, the world in which we interact with typically takes the form of the beliefs we hold about it. Generally speaking, our experience in the world is a result of our beliefs about the external world, beliefs about ourselves and beliefs about other people.  The vast majority of these beliefs we are not aware of. They are unconscious beliefs.  A very wealthy person has certain beliefs about himself, the world and others that allows him to become very wealthy. The same goes for a happy person, a depressed person, a peaceful person, a spiritual person- you get my point. The world in which we live in is a direct result of the beliefs we have about that world, ourselves and others. Think of our beliefs as the glasses in which we view the world through. The lens of our glasses determine the world in which we perceive and therefore experience. If we see a bright, colorful, exciting world- that’s exactly what we’ll get. If we see a gloomy, dark and depressing world- that’s what we’ll get.

Our beliefs about the world and other people can be referred to as our ‘model of the world’ or ‘world view’. A person who thinks that humans are generally evil and always looking to take advantage of other humans will live in a world he believes to be challenging, and he will ultimately engage in fear driven behavior in order to protect himself.  On the other hand, an individual who believes that money is easily accessible and that money-making opportunities are like buses will inevitably become very wealthy and find such opportunities to grow his wealth. 

Our beliefs about ourselves is often times referred to as our ‘self image’ or our ‘identity’. Our identity is the bag which holds our individual beliefs about ourselves. If you believe yourself to be one of the fittest human beings on earth, you will likely have very specific rituals in which you are dedicated to that will enhance your physical condition. If you believe yourself to be a worthless slob, you will probably not be very sociable and could possible not take care of your hygiene. 

In order to change one’s life they must change either their model of the world and their identity. However, changing these things seem to be quite difficult- because how many people do you know who have been effective at changing their life?  The number is likely very small and possible zero. The reason for this is because those who have failed to make tangible changes in their life don’t understand the power of identity, beliefs and their model of the world. Understanding the implications of these factors is the first step towards creating change. Once these are understood, then the questions of “how do you change your identity? How do you change your model of the world? How do you change your beliefs?” can be asked.

One expedient means to shifting your beliefs (both your identity and your model of the world) is through questions. Our minds utilizes questions as the mechanism in which beliefs are transformed into action. In other words, questions are the active form of beliefs. The questions we ask ourselves- both consciously and unconsciously- demonstrates our beliefs (both our identity and our model of the world). You might be saying to yourself, “Well, I don’t ask myself questions”. Yea- you aren’t consciously asking questions, however at an unconscious level- questions are always being asked. That is how our mind processes the external stimuli and information it is receiving from the outside environment. Our brain is constantly asking these two questions:

1. “What does this mean?” 

2. “What should I do?”. 

However in addition to these two questions, our minds also likes to link another question to question 1 in the form of a presupposition. The question “what does this mean” is very vague- it is missing an important part of information. It is absent of a recipient. So our brain rather asks the question “what does this mean about ______? The blank space is for whatever is pertinent in the person’s life. The blank space is typically related to one of our 5 primary needs as a human being. For someone it might be related to their survival needs (food, shelter, protection against violence, etc). For others it might be about whether they will receive love or approval. For a third person, it may be about their level of competency or significance. But typically, our unconscious questions are centered on ensuring that at least one of our 5 basic needs are being met in that particular moment. For a quick review, here are the 5 basic needs that William Glasser outlined in what he called Choice Theory (formerly Control Theory):

1. Survival

2. Love/Connection

3. Competence/Significance/Power

4. Freedom

5. Fun

We tend to live in a variety of questions- depending on the context. If Dave goes on a date with a girl, he may be unconsciously asking the question, “How can I have fun tonight?” (FUN). or “How can I get laid (Fun or Significance or love or it could be all three needs- depending on his belief system). Or he may be asking the question “How can I make sure I don’t embarrass myself?” (which is coming from survival or competence. The question that Dave asks himself going into the date will have a drastic impact on what likely occurs during his date. Our questions determine our reality. This scenario is an example of contextual questions. You will probably ask different questions in different contexts and situations.  It is probably likely that you’ll ask different questions if you are going to a party or if you are going to church. The contextual questions you ask yourself (unconsciously) are important to become aware of and begin to ask them consciously. These contextual questions have the power (if asked with enough repetition and focus) to change your experience in any given context.

Contextual questions are powerful, however we as humans tend to live in 1 or 2 global questions that colors our entire experience in every context. One person’s global question might be, “What do I have to do to feel significant?”, while another person’s question might be “Who do I have to be for everyone to like me?”.  Identifying your global question comes down to identifying the unconscious story you are living in. We are all operating out of some story that is related to our past. The typical structure of a person’s story is this:

A. Something bad or limiting occurred in their past

B. They devise some plan to make up for that past transgression in their life.

C. They pursue this goal or set of circumstances with the belief that once they get the goal or life circumstances they will finally “have made it” and be okay.

D. They never actually feel okay with themselves (even if they do get the thing they’ve been chasing)- because that feeling of being okay is an internal state that can’t be met by anything or anyone outside of them self. 

E. They either select something else to chase or they give up and begin to feel hopeless or helpless about life (depending on whether they were able to reach their contrived goal/picture perfect life). 

If you can identify the unconscious story you have been living in, you’ve made a huge step. Most people never gain the self awareness to be able to see past their narrow and tilted view of reality. Once you know your story, it is time to find out what unconscious global question you’ve been living in. It should be pretty easy once you understand the story you have been telling yourself. Unless you are poverty stricken and struggle meeting your basic survival needs, our global questions (and subsequent stories) tend to revolve around our need for love/connection and/or our need for competence/significance/power. Once you uncover the global question that has been directing your life, you now have the power to change the question consciously and begin to rehearse over and over. Awareness and then rehearsal of this new question is one approach to changing your beliefs- which take the form as your model of the world and your identity.  Many people chase money, relationships, possessions, titles, prestige thinking that it is going to finally deliver on and make up for their greatest insecurity- when in reality all they are ever after is an internal feeling, an emotion or a perception- which can only be given to them from their own doing.