Tuesday, June 24, 2014

I Couldn't Sleep, and Then...

I couldn't sleep, and then out of nowhere, completely devoid of context, like a hot knife through butter, a simple statement emerged from my mouth:

"Forgive yourself."

All the angry, restless, relentlessly obsessive thoughts crashed to a halt.

"Forgive yourself," the voice repeated.

"Forgive yourself."

I fell asleep.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Revisiting NGAF

Be forewarned: if you dislike strong language (cursing), don't read this post.

It's a bad habit of mine to amplify and obsess on self-centered negative feelings such as guilt. Often, I take these feelings and blow them way out of proportion until I'm a miserable and less-than-stellar version of myself. Given that it's an emotional sore spot -- or Achilles' Heel, if you will -- I keep an eye on it.

Despite these efforts, I had been feeling in a bit of a rut recently, such that my self-directed negativity had grown in strength, automation, and persistence. That, and it was compelling; I indulged it with my attention. Not fun.

Fortunately, experience has taught me that there are a bevy of resources available to help one out of such a rut. One must often make multiple attempts with different resources before one finds the right fit -- a process I usually describe as "throwing macaroni at the wall and seeing what sticks." In my case, the macaroni that stuck recently was revisiting the Honey Badger Philosophy, i.e., How to Not Give a Fuck.

Let's break it down.

The objects of obsessive guilt (and resulting self-loathing) are usually rooted in the past, i.e., on things one has done. Given that, it's important to ask and answer a fundamental and grounding question of oneself:

Q: Is it possible to travel back in time and re-do that moment?
A: No.

Okay, then. That is a fact. That is the truth.

Here's where it gets tricky.

I would argue that it's "good" to feel guilty if you've, say, hurt someone. Guilt draws upon empathy and consideration of other people -- both of which are "good" things in and of themselves. After all, guilt is a feedback system that tells us, "I messed up when I did that. I'm going to do it differently next time. I'm going to apologize and try to make amends."

Notice, however, that nowhere in that bit of dialogue are the statements, "The fact that I did that thing means that I am completely worthless. I deserve nothing but scorn and disdain for the rest of my days. I hate myself."

Unfortunately, many of us "go" into that self-loathing inner dialogue when an emotional sore spot, such as guilt, is triggered.

{Enter NGAF Philosophy}

Not Giving a Fuck isn't license to suddenly stop feeling guilty -- no way. What it is (in this case), rather, is a reminder to "stay in" Guilty Gully and refrain from indulging the next step into Self Loathing Landing.


Not Giving a Fuck reminds me that I am mostly a good person. NGAF reminds me that I am a flawed human being, and bound to make mistakes; and that when I do make mistakes, even big ones, I am allowed to continue to love and respect myself even as I feel righteously guilty and seek to make amends with the ones I've hurt.

NGAF can be applied to so many situations. I recommend taking it out for a spin.

Thanks for reading.