Nobody Deserves Anything

The concept of doing something before, and getting something in return after, is one of the fundamental pillars our society was build upon. I work, I learn, and I listen, where after I will get something in return. As things go, we believe that when things are not constructed this way, people would just do whatever they want. Therefore, the concept of deserving something is deeply wired within our behavior. It often dictates expectations, emotions and decisions.

What Is Deserving?

Therefore, it looks like that something needs to happen before I can get ahead in life. Regardless if it is the work I do, if I treat someone kindly or if I was unfortunately born in to a poor family. Supposedly only then, I have the right on something in return.  The case is however, I do not have the right to anything, nor do I deserve anything. The fiction that is the idea of deserving, is a mere creation of us humans. There is no lion in the world that thinks, after following a gazelle for ten kilometers, I deserve to eat it now. Expecting hereafter, that nature will provide the animal ready to be eaten.

To believe this fiction for reality, is like playing roulette with my freedom of choice and emotions. Firstly, I only have the right on a reward, after I do something. Therefore, I start basing what I do on what I will get in return. Secondly, because I have unconsciously connected emotions with this process. Since it is up to someone else to give me what I deserve, I ultimately give away control over my emotions. Not until I realize however, that this concept is a mental creation, nothing more than a Fata Morgana, I can deal with it’s consequences appropriately. Do I agree with that I need to work for what I deserve? Do I want to let my feelings depend on the kind of reward I am getting for what I did?

The Deserve Delusion

I believe the delusion provoked by an idea so common within our society is stunning. It is a significant part of many bad feelings, friction within relationships, and often at the core of dysfunctional behavior. Nature, and our body as a part of it, do not function according to the idea of deserving something. The trees do not drop their leaves because they think they deserve new ones, our stomach does not think after two plates of salad it deserves a hamburger, nor does my body stop healing a cut in my arm just because it thinks it should have a break after three days.

Every single person is subject to the laws of nature, it is up to us though, how we handle them. Do I want to confuse me and my emotions by subscribing to an idea that is nothing more than the creation of a human brain, or do I realize that I can take and get whatever I want from what the universe has to offer. I do not need to wait for anybody to give me a reward, least of all myself. Engaging in what I like, what I perceive as important and what ultimately makes me happy is not something I deserve. It is mine already.

Advertisements

Behavioral Change Step 1: Increasing Awareness

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.

University or Universe-ity?

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.

The Thing About Pain

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.

Time: A Different Perspective

Starting of the blog and the new year, it seemed like a good idea to talk about a different perspective on time. Progressing to the next year always creates a special feeling, for some it is full of anticipation and for others it is filled with hope. Another chance to do things better, leave bad habits behind, and finally start eating right. Regardless of what happens though, we always keep counting our years as they pass by.

Linear Time

Our calendar and idea of time progress linearly. Day after day, month after month, year after year, always counting on. This invention of ours “helps” us determine where we are in space related to our idea of time. We can tell when somebody is late for work, when the sun comes up, when somebody should know enough mathematics to progress to 4th grade, and when you can expect to retire. All makes perfect sense, right?

Artificial Life, Artificial Time

Until you realize we are natural beings living in nature. Yes, we still live in nature even though we stacked it with roads, bridges, and cities. Just another concept to support those other inventions of ours, such as: money, time, distance, and borders. All these inventions reinforce each other in order to sustain society.

In effect, this creates a bubble where everything seems fixed but never really is. Because, borders are being fought over, there is always too little time to do everything you want, it is too far to walk to the supermarket and there is too little money to buy that new car. This all distracts us really from who or what we are, which diminishes our true needs: social contact, real food, exercise, and a sense of purpose in life.

To me, however, more and more it starts to make sense to drop this idea of time progressing along this artificial line of ours. Feeding the idea of that we are all different and “individual” (un-dividable). I am older than you, I have more experience than you because I work here longer, I am better than you because I play the guitar longer, and I have the right to retire because I am 65 years old. This way there will never be a person like you, everybody will always be ahead or behind you. Ever more creating a feeling of disconnection from the world around us.

Cyclical Time

However, in nature there are obvious cycles taking place. The sun goes up and returns, the moon shows itself in cycles, the earth moves in cycles, the seasons progress cyclically, women have their menstrual cycle and even men seem to experience cycles.

On a macro level there are times when the earth heats up or cools down depending on what happens elsewhere in our galaxy. Even our own inventions are subject to cycles, our economy, for example, needs to crash now and then in order to prosper again.

Keeping faith in this idea of time can make things really confusing. Our artificial creation keeps you thinking that this time is important. However, our bodies are subject to other inputs as well, including the cycles found within nature and our own lives, which influence our appetite, sleep, fitness, and ultimately our mood.


Once you become aware of this, you might recognize similarities with the people around you. Whereas cycles in nature seem to be dynamic returning phenomena, like the seasons starting around the same time each year, human cycles are initiated by the way you grow up, but also through changes in (social) environment and other life changing events. Thus, a 23-year-old experiencing a break up might experience the same feelings as a 65-year-old quitting his job.

Personally, during my work as a Physical Therapist I saw clients ranging from 10 to over 90 years old. It really surprised me how much I would have in common with somebody who was 90 years of age.

Leaving the linear way of perceiving time for what it is, a useful tool for navigating space, allows for seeing that everybody is living through similar cycles in different ways. Sometimes we return to similar situations, but at another point in our life. Understanding time cyclically this starts to make sense. If you stick to the idea of linear time progression it seems you have set a step back – ridiculous.

Adopting a cyclical view will allow you to realize how you are influenced by the world around you and vice versa. This will facilitate a sense of connection with the people around you, wherafter the world automatically becomes a more meaningful place.

Time to See Things Differently

Upon finishing this blog post, I challenge you to let 2018 be the year where you start seeing connections rather than disconnections. Possibilities rather than impossibilities and perceiving a familiar life situation as another opportunity to learn instead of seeing it as a setback. This will energize you along the road to find your own authentic way of life. In the meantime it will open your eyes to see that everything around you might actually be a bit more connected to you than it was.