I take a closer look at the systems upon which healthcare and politics function. When taking a more profound look at both them it quickly becomes clear how there is no reason for it’s players to resolve issues right its’ source. From my perspective there is too much to be gained from short term decisions in terms of money and power. However more importantly, it is that we humans are incredibly bad at dealing with pain and discomfort. This inability is being capitalized upon in a variety of ways. Read this extensive blog on the topic to learn more about my view.
I set a variety of intentions before taking off to travel, very few came true. Hitchhiking is one of them though. Upon leaving Europe, I had hitchhiked no more than 1000 kilometers. However, having hitchhiked most of my travels in South America, I can now add roughly 5000 kilometers to my curriculum. This does not necessarily make me an expert, nevertheless I hope that by sharing my experience I can make the step, to get you engaged in this awesome way of traveling, a little smaller. This blog will be the first in a series on hitchhiking. In the first two parts I will explain what hitchhiking is, provide background information and show how to get started.
Catching a ride, hacer dedo, autostop, liften, pegar carona and hitchhiking all mean the same thing (in different languages); trying to catch a ride while standing by the road holding up your thumb. The idea is that you get a ride from someone without paying for it. The entire concept is entirely based on “giving”, pure philanthropy.
The motivation to hitchhike often originates from the necessity to travel, but not having the money or the means of transport for it. The first is pretty straight up, but the second is not something you encounter in Europe often. In Argentina however, there are a lot of places where there is no public transport. The solution therefore: hitchhiking. For others, like me, the adventure and the unexpected experiences awaiting any hitchhiker are what might move one in this direction. Nevertheless, the fact that it is a transaction without money always plays a big role in the equation.
An Opportunity To Meet People
To give a ride on the other hand is also something that requires motivation, not everybody will stop for a stranger standing by the road. Even in countries where hitchhiking is very common there will be plenty of people driving by. Even though, most of the people that pick you up either believe in the art of giving, or see, like me, the added value of meeting a stranger. It is not just that you get a ride, it is an opportunity to meet somebody new, learn new things and most of all have some company. The last, is often a motivation for truckers to stop for a hitchhiker. Spending days on the road in a truck all by themselves, having somebody new next to them allows for a nice change of pace. On top of this, for you as a hitchhiker, this is great as well because trucks often travel long distances.
Furthermore, the beautiful thing is that there are no set rules. Yes it helps to be polite, and there are certain things that will definitely make it easier, (more on that in the second part of this introduction) but otherwise it is all up to you how you define your hitchhike. I used it as a means of transport but it could also be a day out. Definitely in Europe this is easily done. Meet up with a friend on Saturday morning, get to your starting spot by 07:00 and see how far you get until whatever time. Here after, you can spend the night somewhere or go back with public transport. In the meantime you will have experienced a million things you were not aware of before. Above all, having the best stories to tell when you get back.
An Opportunity To Learn
I believe the ultimate thing to gain from the experience, is the fact that it is all up to oneself. There are plenty of people that hitchhike together or with more people, but dealing with the whole process by myself has taught me a lot. First of all, I had to figure out where to go, where to start and how to get there in the first place. This forced me to talk to people, to ask them where there is more traffic, where there is less traffic and if there are any rules or situations I should be aware of. This not only helped me with my hitchhiking but automatically taught me a lot about the places I was.
Second, the fact that I am all by myself makes me totally responsible for anything that happens. I can curse all the people driving by me for not picking me up (trust me, I have done this), but ultimately I am responsible for how I live this experience. Over time I have become more confident and relaxed standing by the road. Allowing me to make quicker and better decisions and to stay in a better mood all throughout. Nevertheless, the unique thing that hitchhiking did to my emotions is that I sometimes literally went on a roller coaster from feeling depressed to super awesome after catching a ride and back down again. Over time however, experience helped me to make this roller coaster ride a little calmer.
Finally, to have the opportunity to meet random people I would otherwise never meet was of great value to me. It allowed me to learn and practice two new languages (Spanish and Portuguese) and I got insights into how life really was in the places I was traveling through. I have had great conversations ranging from the troubles in somebodies personal life, to discussing local politics and the way certain agriculture works. I have had quiet rides and I have made friends on the go.
The Flip Side
Just as much as hitchhiking can be amazing and liberating, it can be frustrating and severely depressing too. However, there are plenty of ways to increase the chance of an enjoyable experience throughout. A lot of the difficulties are easily diminished by teaming up with somebody. Next, hitchhiking in a familiar environment, like your own country or the region you live in is another way to reduce it’s strain. Last, hitchhiking in countries with better roads, more trustworthy weather forecast and newer cars all increase the chance of making it an enjoyable adventure, rather than a 12-hour grind leaving you dehydrated and hungry looking for a place to spend the night.
Nevertheless, I learned so many things that apply to every time hitchhiked, regardless of where I was. I summed up as many as I could remember.
To consider before hitchhiking:
- Bring sufficient water.
- How much time do you have? There is nothing more stressful than hitchhiking with a lack of time.
- Try to get as much information as possible from locals, before you start your hitchhike. Ask them for information on where, how and what to be aware of. Information from locals is more valuable than anything! If a local tells you something entirely different than what you figured out after hours of research online. Trust the local. The moments I didn’t do this, it always meant at least more discomfort up until hitchhiking in the wrong direction.
- Do not hitchhike at night. Your chances are heavily reduced because the people can’t see you well, and you can’t see them either. Also, depending on where you are, the security situation might change.
- What day? Weekdays are usually better because of work traffic.
- What time? Early is usually better and in rush hour. Also depends on the distance you are traveling.
- How far? Shorter distances are always easier and are definitely preferred if you have the time.
- The weather. I try to be prepared, depending on where I am and want to go. I always carry rain clothes, sun glasses, sun screen, and a cap.
- Try to be aware of anything special happening during the days I hitchhike. Things that influence the amount of traffic; like holidays, strikes, demonstrations or parties.
- Write the name of the place I am going on a carton. I prefer to do this if I am no more than 150-200 kilometers away. If there is more distance to my destination, I prefer to go without. A direction like north or south can also help in some cases.
To consider during hitchhiking:
- I look for spots where traffic is slow and can stop easily, think of highway entrees, crossings, traffic lights and gas stations.
- If you are unsure about anything ask locals, they know where traffic is slow or where there might be a gas station.
- Try to position yourself so that oncoming traffic can see you well, colorful clothes or an attention-grabbing hand movement can help a lot.
- If you do not feel well, because you feel unsafe, need to go to the bathroom, are hungry or whatever, take care of that first. Your (unconscious) presentation by the road is everything. You are all by yourself/together and you never know how long your trip will last.
- If it is sunny look for a place in the shadow. Even the shadow of a lantern or traffic light might work if your position yourself well. This sounds funny, but it saved me a couple of times when I was out on midday, with just the sun in the sky and temperatures reaching 35 degrees Celsius.
Finally, the following is something very simple but has increased my experience often in times when it was not that great; I try to say hello to anybody walking by, show thankful hand gestures when people communicate from their car things like “we do not have space”, “we are going in another direction” or are giving you the thumbs up telling you you are awesome but they are too lame to pick you up. Whatever reason, I try to smile and thank them.
I challenge you to redefine hitchhiking according to your terms to make your next couple, or thousand kilometers of travelling even more exciting.
If you make it to the side of the road, give me a heads up. I would love to hear from you. If you have any questions please let me know.
This post was originally posted in two parts on questforauthenticity.org.
Over the previous year I have met quite the amount of people. Ranging from young to old, poor to rich and everything along the line from very extrovert to very introverted. Regardless of personality type, I have had great conversations with all of them. Previously, having felt uncomfortable with “small talk”, I have become quite good at it now. The continuous exposure to conversation through being part of open cultures has helped me a lot. As a result, I come to the conclusion that small talk does not necessarily mean there is no purpose or content to what I am talking about. I know now, that the distinction between small talk, and otherwise meaningful conversation does not make sense to me anymore.
More Than Small Talk
From my point of view, to make this distinction, also means diminishing the fun and value of having a conversation. Just standing next to someone, there are so many more things happening than just the exchange of words. The biggest amount of our communication is non-verbal anyway. This is something I have become very aware of after meeting all these people. There are little words needed to figure out how comfortable I am going to be with somebody new.
I perceive that the expectations I have entering a conversation play a big role in this process. However, I have interacted so often now, that it has become easier to be at ease during a first encounter. Nevertheless, there are still situations I wish I would be able to be more open. On the other hand though, I have been in situations where I was purposefully antisocial. As things go, the truth is, that there are people I prefer not to talk to.
In the beginning, I was genuinely wondering if I was being impolite or closing down. Now I recognize though, that I have met so many people that I can say quite quickly if I want to invest energy in a connection. Being honest about what I like and do not like, together with my current outlook at life give me a compass in these situations. At the same time, ever since I stopped worrying about this, it has become easier to start a conversation with somebody new. Regardless if I am more, or less interested in that person. When I know beforehand that I am interested in nothing more than talking for a bit now, I will be more likely to engage in this conversation than when I am denying myself this truth. As things go, nothing is more uncomfortable and energy consuming than talking to somebody I do not want to talk to, at the same time worrying how to not talk to this person again.
On a deeper level I know, this all comes down to what is called self love. I cannot invest all my energy without having the time to recharge. Meeting people is awesome, but there are moments I do not have the energy for it. Just like with helping somebody else, either through my work or in my private life. If I do not take care of myself first, the situation I am creating will be unsustainable. Eventually, making me the person that would need help, even though I am trying to help somebody else.
The following I always conceive as a great metaphor to explain what I am getting at. Everybody that has been on an airplane, is familiar with the safety instructions before take-off. When the instruction gets to the point of the oxygen masks, they always tell you to put yours on first, before you help others. This practical form of “self love” is the same as being purposefully antisocial. When I do not take a breather every now and then, by not connecting with somebody or just straight up walking away from conversation, I will be unable to keep connecting with people long-term.
Talking Less Results In The Opposite
The interesting thing is, that since I started becoming more conscious about when, how, and under what terms I want to connect to somebody, I have actually found it easier to start talking to another person. I am not wasting energy on internal conflict, which would otherwise be something that inhibits my capacity to connect. To stay true to my own motivation and willingness to exchange, seems to be the ultimate tool to keep building authentic relationships.
Less is more, something I have to remind myself quite often. I like to eat a lot, I move a lot and I tend to be obsessive, before balancing out. Regardless, if this is in school or with traveling. However, the more I go through the motions, I realize that the less I do, more seems to happen. There have been multiple occasions that I have trusted this mechanism. Nevertheless, as soon as life moves just a little back to the fast lane, this conviction tends to lose it’s presence.
Church of Progression
It seems that during my everyday life there is no place for this idea. As things go, the most visited church in the west, the church of progression, tries to make us believe that there is only one way to do things. This being, the necessity to engage in any working activity to earn and spend afterwards. Bigger car, bigger house, new clothes and fancier food. However, except for more materialistic well being and a sense of physical comfort, how does this serve me really?
The Value of Leaning Back
To optimally function as a human being, it is important to take a break at least as much as it is to do something. What I am made to believe nevertheless, is that if I want to achieve something, I need to do something. Even though, both the idea that only by doing something I can achieve, and the idea of what “achievement” is, are another two inventions of us humans. To let our body get better at what we do, we need to give it a rest, just like we need to give our brain a break to let it process.
Though, this way of tending to our mind and body seems to be subject to effort. If I do not engage in anything, I am lazy. However, those awesome ideas popping up in my head, that creative perspective or that life-changing realization usually do not enter my mind when I am staring away at a computer screen, or working purposeless on a project for some big corporation. When I manage to reduce the things I do though, let my brain do it’s thing, it will present me with plenty of useful information that I can apply in my life after.
The same goes for engaging in an activity. Being it cooking, a project at work or commenting on somebody littering in the street. If I do not “interfere” in any of these, does not mean there will not be the outcome that I desire. Apart from that being a matter of perspective, a negative experience might just be what I need to get me “ahead”. Regardless, if I notice this in the moment or not.
When I manage to reduce active engagement in my everyday life and decrease the amount of thoughts I interact with, there is time to notice in what direction the energy of my life is flowing. As soon as I notice, I can hop on this train and ride the flow, rather than pulling it all by myself.
No Need To Finish
This might mean that I could start something new, being it work, a project around the house or a friendship. Where after, I decide in the middle to leave it as it is. The fact that I leave something for what it is, and continue my life in another direction does not mean I leave things unfinished. Rather, I trust that what I am leaving it for, is what is right for me now. That I do not know if I get back to the initial thing I started, does not mean I will not. I believe this emotional agility allows me to learn on a wider spectrum. Eventually, this allows me to see that leaving something, actually means starting something new. Ending and beginning are mere concepts, and actually dissolve as soon as I adopt a cyclical view of life.
I know there is a time for everything. A wider perspective on the meaning of things happening to me, allow for easier acceptance of it’s presence. Also, allowing for better integration and sustenance in my life. Finally, mingling less with life’s direction and trying not to be afraid to follow gut, head, and heart when everybody around me thinks differently, help me to keep levitating on the cloud of life.
I am frequently reflecting on how I have in the past months come to certain realizations and perspective changes. In the first two blog posts on this subject I wrote about how I first try to cultivate and increase my awareness, where after I reach a point where I consciously aim to integrate the newly gained perspective in to my life. In this third and last blog on the subject I will explain how I try to cultivate a change of perspective.
First off, I think it is important to consider that any change I make is part of a bigger process. This is important to me because what on one day might seem like a life altering outlook can be normal the week after. If I want to optimally profit from the alternations I go through, seeing things for what they are will allow me to take appropriate steps to keep continuing the road I am on without getting lost in the moment.
Being conscious will also allow me to put setbacks in to perspective. If I am solely focusing on the present, disregarding the bigger process, a setback might really feel as a setback. Whereas, if I look at the bigger picture, a setback usually is an opportunity to learn.
Nevertheless, it is impossible to integrate anything learned directly in to all parts of my life. There were so many times I had to reinforce certain decisions after being caught by the novelty of a situation. When other parameters in my life differ from the regular, I find it hard at times to reproduce a satisfying decision based on my values. For example, going out to eat in a different country, with a different language and food culture, there might be signals that might normally make me say I do not want to eat that. Whereas, in this case there is so much new that I perceive these signals differently. The same goes for responding in a preset manner to friends or family just because there was a time specific interactions were bothering me. Having set the intention to put these interactions in to a different light does not mean I solved the issue forever. This is definitely the case with patterns within a family. Having lived together for so long, there was a lot of time for patterns to get intertwined in a lot more ways than we tend to be aware of.
On a more material level, to make any changes last, I believe it best to literally start living them. If I talk about them in my social environment they are already more real than if I would keep them to myself. Asking for support to help me maintain a certain direction can be as simple as telling me when I am off, but also conversations about obstructions can be a great way to redirect intentions.
Taking this one step further, I believe that a set of values will make life inevitably lighter to manage. It is easier to make decisions in relation to a certain context than when I am simply drifting from stimulus to stimulus. However, by this I do not advocate blindly subscribing to a religion or becoming a full blown radical left-wing supporter, nor does it need to be a fixed set of values. Rather, if I figure out what is important to me and my happiness, I can relate my decisions to that.
From my own experience I have noticed that if I stick to my values this generally gets accepted by the environment I am in. Even when the values of my environment are entirely different. I have been in a lot of situations where I deliberately had to emphasize that I do not eat any animal products, nor can you make me happy with a glass of Coca Cola. When I communicated these intentions clearly, I never had the idea people thought me unthankful, something a lot of people worry about in this regard. Nevertheless, if I would be in a less confident state of mind my intentions were bound to be received with more apprehension.
The take home message for me here is, that if I live my change, my mindset and my values, I believe people will realize that that is who I am. The form of feedback originating from this makes the cultivation of this same change more sustainable. Ultimately, strengthening the fundament any authentic life can flourish upon.
I am frequently reflecting on how I have in the past months come to certain realizations and perspective changes. Last week, in the first blog on this subject, I broke down how I execute the first step in this process. I try to increase my awareness by maintaining a questioning attitude in the present, at the same time using passed experiences to better direct the already achieved mindset.
So, once I am aware of something that requires change, like the way I eat, the way I feel when somebody talks to me, or how I perceive the relationship with my friends, this is easily kept at the front of my mind. However, to actually do something with this newly acquired perspective, asks for a different plan of action.
Before I can use any of the newly acquired outlooks, I believe it is necessary to accept this new information. As things go, we have a tendency to resist change. Both our minds and bodies thrive on structure, rhythm and safety. A change of perspective however, puts all of our habits under pressure. Therefore, our first line of defense is often any form of denial.
Where it might be hard to actually keep questioning to increase awareness and change perspective, it often is not that hard to come up with alternative views just to keep our current state of mind in place. I know that next to accepting a newly perceived view I also have to accept any forms of denial that follow. Just like I try to not let fear dictate my decisions by accepting the sensation when it occurs, I know that dealing with denial is best done the same way.
The way I follow up on a change of perspective, is to consciously revalue a certain mindset. One time an increase in importance of a certain idea might be needed, whereas in another moment it’s importance should be decreased. I remember one time where I did this with a lot of purpose. There was a time when I was feeling guilty for my “laziness” (I also wrote about this in an Instagram post). I had the feeling I was not being productive and therefore should actively pursue a goal to change this. Until I realized, that this idea and the feelings resulting from it were nothing of my own creation. Instead I worked out that it was rather the way the society I grew up and worked in were making me think along these lines.
When I arrived at this point I literally had a f*ck that! moment with so much presence that it never returned. Here I succeeded in revaluing this feeling and therefore changing the way it affected me. After that, I never felt lazy again. In the beginning there were some moments where I had to reinforce this outlook, but apart from that, it stuck.
In this case the life I was living was fully supportive of the ability to change. There were no stimuli from my environment confusing my thoughts and there was sufficient support around to talk about these subjects. Before I started traveling though, this was not the case. Work, sports and day to day sucked up a lot of my energy. Even though, I was being aware that I disagreed with the reigning work ethic, I did not have any headspace, nor energy left to get to the bottom of this feeling.
The optimal state to use newly acquired awareness, seems to be one of tranquility and ease. In my last blog I actually concluded that a similar state is also where an increase of awareness is achieved. However, when we are living our everyday life this state of mind rarely occurs when we not actively seek it.
The idea that we are only doing something when we physically move or are working towards a goal is something deeply wired in our society. Not only does it discredit the value of doing “nothing”, it also seems that when we live as expected there is hardly any space to form ourselves along a trajectory that we want. Fitting in is more important than personal authentic growth.
I know that it is up to every person for themselves to ascribe the value that they think any idea is worth. What for the one person is a life altering perspective change might for the other be just another day in the life. I believe it important though, that the values should be of my own creation. Not from my parents, nor society, nor my friends.
Regardless of the value I end up giving to any idea, there is no good or bad. Also, it does not need to be forever. I am free to change my mindset any time.
I am frequently reflecting on how I have in the past months come to certain realizations and perspective changes. When I notice that something does not fit or feel right, the first step is, to become aware of it’s origin. After, there is the challenge of fully realizing this new knowledge in to an alternative mindset.
I thought it would be interesting to break down this process, that I myself have gone through so many times already. From becoming aware to integrating new views, hopefully inspiring you to do the same when you think it necessary.
In this first part I will explain how I try to increase my own awareness to make me see things I would like to view, do, or feel differently about. For me this is the first step to adjusting perspective. Without awareness I would just keep living a misty reality where everything seems devised and uncontrollable.
I believe that awareness comes with regular discomfort. Accepting that I know nothing, even when I think I do, enables me to learn new outlooks. When I go out of my way to talk to different people, trying things I never did before and saying yes to the unknown all provoke this widening of my view.
Also, I try to keep questioning the world around me. Even when things seem totally obvious it is all the more important to do so. As things go, that is the moment I get comfortable in my current reality. Even though, I recreate my reality every second. This means that when I start believing in something to be the way it is, it inhibits my capacity to adjust. I start living an irrelevant version of a past me that has nothing to do with my current state of affairs.
Where it can be hard to actively practice awareness, there are often experiences that we can use to grow up on. They can be as simple as becoming aware that it is hard to cut with the backside of a knife, or the moment that our partner is angry with us. Both of these experiences can induce a contemplative state that might change our outlook to how we use a knife or what kind of person we are in relation to somebody else.
Furthermore, reading books, travelling, changing jobs, and trying a new sport, amongst other things, might all induce a similar reflective state. I think that everything we do is actually changing our perspective continuously. However, we tend to be so stuck in our habits that we need a relatively strong stimulus to let go of our past selves. Still, if I stay present in everything I do, it is easier to realize it’s meaning.
In my own case, travelling really helped me with shifting perspective. I was definitely aware of how certain things were not making me happy or limiting my feelings and outlook. At that time though, I did not have the capacity to fully realize the cause. Upon entering a different environment there was a reduction of stimuli pulling me in different directions. This freed up space to do something with the thoughts already floating around. This calm presence with my thoughts turned out to be the missing link.
Where I summed up a couple of things that might induce a change of outlook before. There are also certain things that you can do to stay more present. I believe for me the easiest and at the same time the most underestimated one, is to literally do nothing. When there is nothing but me and my mind present, stuff already starts sorting itself out. To increase the power of these moments I sometimes use breathing exercises or meditation to calm my mind and become even more present with my thoughts.
To sum this all up I think that to increase my awareness, a questioning and accepting attitude is a prerequisite. Where it always starts with one question, usually there are a lot to follow. In the meantime there remains the challenge to not get lost in the maze that is our material life. Rather, developing awareness time and time again to get to a more fundamental level.
During my travels in the inside and the outside world, my thoughts often go in a variety of directions. As things go, I stay little in one place, and usually in unfamiliar environments. As a result the things that make the clock tick at home do not matter anymore. The things I used to identify with, both negative and positive, turn out to be of little importance now. As a consequence there seem to be no limits to the amount of opportunities in my life.
Nevertheless, there are moments when I am thinking that I, for example, would like to study again. I love learning and a study environment can be very motivating. The thing that used to bother me though, is that there are always parts of an education that do not interest me. However, usually we tend to nullify this with the thought of what we get after. An extra couple of letters in front of our name, or at least a paper that would give another opportunity to earn more money.
Recently I realized though, why this thought keeps returning irregularly. On the contrary to learning by doing, travelling, talking to people, and experiencing the unexperienced, with a school education you know what you will get by the end. This is easy to visualize and gives a sense of security for the future. Moreover, because you are doing what is silently expected, the road is all the more paved and ready to be followed.
Even though, it all might seem obvious and safe, it does not mean that the options more obscure are of lesser value. We measure welfare with the amount of money that is being earned, the health of an economy by how likely people will spend their money, and intelligence with the amount of people acquiring bachelor, master, and phd degrees. However, what about all the things we can not express in numbers? What about the ability to love, the ability to change perspective, the capacity to self-reflect, and what about how easily you make friends and maintain relationships?
It is impossible to express this in numbers, but to me these qualities seem way more important than the next title I could study for. Whereas, the latter might result in that increased paycheck, the former is happiness. What is a title worth when you have no ability to self-reflect or maintain a healthy relationship? The end-result is an empty life with relationships that only exist because you believe in the same fiction. Titles, money and status are all man-made inventions leading us astray from what is really important. Sounds familiar?
This mindset I realized, I also see meeting other travellers. Currently, I have been staying more than usual in places with people from Europe. The subjects of any conversation happening, usually revolve around the places visited, where to go next, how much it cost and what you like most. Mostly supported with amazing photos. However, this is exactly where this mindset of looking for the expected comes back around. Before I would visit any of the recommended places I know what it is going to be like. The views will be amazing, it will be more expensive than a non-touristic place nearby and the local people will be aiming for my wallet.
Just like studying, travelling from one to the next touristic hot-spot will exactly be as expected. Until it is not as expected. And that is precisely where the real value of travelling or studying starts. When things do not go as we thought, we start to learn the things that are really important. The aforementioned self-reflection, changing of perspective and the ability to adept to unexpected situations are all provoked in moments like these.
So I ask myself, why the hell would I visit the next best tourist spot, or study for a master degree, when all the things that really matter are not directly learned in these places. They might be learned as a consequence, but just as well I might be looking for these situations all the time. In the meantime experiencing all the unmeasurable beauty the world and the people in it have to offer. Amazing friendships are waiting in all corners of the world, just like uncomfortable situations, making us a stronger and more confident person. Aiding us in everything we will engage in after.
True, it is hard to make a photo of all of this or to express this in any statistical form. However, the gain is literally of unmeasurable value. Where a master degree might cost 20.000 euros and tell you beforehand what you get, all the other things in life do not. They are also free. Any real experience does not cost money, nor does any real relationship.
I am using my traveling to get to certain perspective changes, to meet new people and to experience the unexperienced. Though, I believe all of this can be done right at home as well. I know that getting to these places for me was more about my travel philosophy than the traveling itself. This means that when I would apply the same ideas at home the result might be similar result might be similar. Engaging in new conversations, saying yes to the unknown and building new relationships can be done anywhere.
In the previous two blog posts I wrote about living a “Fear-based life” (click here for part 1, and here for part 2). There, I spoke about how fear corrupts and undermines our life and the decisions we make in non-lifethreatening situations. Our natural response is to steer clear of these fear inducing situations. We tend to respond likewise when we experience pain. In general, we do not want to experience pain, and we tend to stay away from positions, situations and relationships that provoke such feelings.
Pain on a physical level is usually a sign of tissue damage. However, it still is a subjective experience, subject to what we believe, what our environment believes and what the consequence of the pain might mean to our current life. Nevertheless, pain does not necessarily need to be provoked by something physical. Also, non-physical traumas might provoke pain. Divorce, the death of a closed one or the memory of a car accident all might provoke pain. This experience both of physical and non-physical origin, can be experienced alike. Whereas, the origin of the pain might be different, the remedy is usually the same. This means, to get away as far as possible by either blocking it out or by using medication.
Personally, I have been in a variety of situations where I would be around people, both familiar and unfamiliar to me, when I was in pain. Often, the first response I would get after saying that “I am hurting” is; do you want pain medication? Hereafter, I usually gape like a high donkey for a couple of seconds. And I wonder, how did these two things get connected so well together? Does feeling pain mean I need to take pain medication? I am not experiencing pain in the first place, because I forgot to take my pain medication, right?
From my point of view, we have stigmatized pain so much, that the majority of people try to avoid it as soon as they feel it. Nowadays, there is a whole industry capitalizing on this idea. The pharmaceutical industry earns billions, just because we do not want and get to see the value of pain. Instead, we are made to believe that we need pain medication to solve this.
However, in reality pain is a beacon to let us know where action is required. Therefore, it is actually one of the most valuable guides to aid in recovery, both after physical and non-physical traumas. After a physical trauma, it tells you exactly when you are doing too much or maybe too little to recover your body. When the origin is non-physical, it informs you of the importance of this traumatic experience. Take the death of a closed one for example. The experience of pain and loss is natural and will usually be experienced by everybody. Still, there are a lot of people that do not want to experience these feelings, just because they are considered as not nice. Thereafter, we are trying to push the pain out of our life instead of processing this loss.
Accepting that we are feeling pain though, might be the best pain medication. Signals coming from our body and mind that we ignore, tend to become stronger. Apparently the message was not clear enough to make us behave accordingly. At the same time, avoiding it we give the sense of pain such a high value of dislike, that afterwards we have to deal with this sensation as well. In the meantime, we end up behaving tense and nervous because we made part of our human experience off limits.
However, when we are able to revalue the pain experience we directly let go of the tense behavior as well. After, we can look for a way to solve the origin of the pain. After a physical trauma, this means making the right decisions to enhance tissue repair. After a non-physical trauma though this means dealing with the origin of the trauma head-on. Feeling the pain, talking about it and trying to give it the right value. This way the memory attached to the trauma can be accessed without fear, and experienced without destabilizing us later on.
Also, by accepting the pain experience I noticed that it becomes a lot more bearable. It still can be an intense feeling but after seeing it for what it is, a message, the whole thought process of dislike and the energy spend on it, is gone. Where in the beginning, the pain might also create a feeling of being overwhelmed, overtime you notice that this goes away. By listening to your pain it’s intensity can be reduced and a healing process can take place. The nice thing is, that without taking pain medication you can trust that when the pain declines, you are doing the right thing. However, when you took pain medication, it is impossible to know if what you are feeling is reality.
In conclusion, from my perspective the stigmatization of pain is not serving us in any way. Rather, it is holding us back from dealing with its origin head-on. As soon as we accept the feeling of pain, we can revalue it and act accordingly. Instead of being traumatized by the feeling, we actually solved the trauma and can continue our life with another valuable experience in our pocket.
This is the second post in a two part series on a how fear influences your everyday life. In the first post on fear, last week, I tried to dissect how fear is wired in to our current lives without a valid reason. In this second part, I will explore how society is actually stimulating this fear-based lifestyle at the same time offering us a solution in materialistic form instead of supporting us to deal with it internally.
Where our society has developed faster than anybody could have imagined, our bodies like plants, take a little longer. Our society requires us to behave and learn in a certain way to keep it’s materialistic parts in place. Leaving little space to actually learn to interact with ourselves. Where society stimulates us to externalize our problems, the real solution always lies within ourselves. In Buddhism for example, it is being tought that the origin and solution of our problems can be found within ourselves. This is also the case with fear-based behavior.
Nevertheless, we have created material constructs to give a sense of security to reduce our fears. We have insurances for health, cars, houses, belongings or even parts of our body, so that we do not have to be afraid before something happens. Still, we end up being afraid when something happens, because it might just be that the insurance will not cover the incident.
I remember sitting in a public hospital waiting room in Buenos Aires. I could barely walk, I could not stretch my left knee and I was hurting like hell. The day before I had twisted my knee provoking a sensation unfamiliar to me. The first thing my Physical Therapist brain told me, is that I injured my meniscus. This would mean long recovery and possible surgery. I wondered if my insurance would cover this, and I realized that to resolve this injury I might need to fly to Europe to do surgery.
Anyway, after waiting for three hours the doctor showed up. He assessed my knee doing two tests, and told me I might be lucky and that I probably sprained my medial colletaral ligament. Even though, the doctor did two assessments that I know to be very unreliable, my perspective changed and my fear subsided. All of a sudden everything seemed managable again. Even though, nothing about my situation had changed.
With a calm mind I realized that the doctor’s diagnosis was probably right. Nevertheless, during the 24 hours before, fear had kept me in a tunnel. Only worrying about one possible outcome even though there were more. In this process I was in touch with my travel insurance agency. They told me that I would have to pay the first 900 euros of whatever treatment would be done.
Where everybody usually takes a travel insurance, if they can, it does not prevent any accident from happening. It shows here that my organized materialistic protection did not aid me in resolving my fears after suffering my injury. It was just a monetary protection generating a false sense of security.
Furthermore, worries like: will I have enough money for next month? Will I be able to participate in the next exam? Am I strong enough to win this contest? And, can I stick to my diet change?, might provoke feelings of fear and a sense of insecurity. If we do not become conscious of the limiting effects of these feelings, we might make such feelings a foundation to decide upon. Fear seems to force our attention towards it’s origin. Therefore, it does not go well with balanced thoughts, planning capabilities and weighed decision taking.
However, a large part of our society keeps thriving on this primal emotion. A new alarm at home will make sure the thieves do not get in to the house and a new smoke alarm will prevent the house from burning down. Both of these alarms are there to protect our possessions. Interestingly, the idea that something is “ours” after we have acquired it is a human invention. Where after, a fear for losing these possessions might arise. To take this fear of losing away, we created insurances and alarms.
The Flip Side of Possession
Possession and dependence are among the most freedom undermining concepts. Where in reality we are free to begin with, these posessions actually take away our freedom after we generate the idea that we depend on them.
However, if we manage to detach from everything we have, we also lose the sensation of fear and dependence connected to it. I personally experienced this during my travels. At home, I was thinking about everything I was not taking with me in my backpack, and how this would limit me. Once I was away though, I ended up using half of what I was carrying. When I realized what this meant, a greater sense of freedom dawned on me.
Fear provokers, like possession, dependance and fear of loss are a product of society rather, than they are of me. When I realized this, it became easier to deal with them. Part of them not provoking feelings of fear anymore. Where in other situations, fear might still be present. In these situations though, I try to value it differently. In anyway, fear can and is allowed to always be a part of an emotion. It is up to us though, how we respond.