si dawson

experiments in self-improvement

Month: November, 2009

The Moments That Define Us

Now, from a title like that, you may be thinking I’m talking about those lifetime events that mark our place in history – ala Bill Gates selling DOS to IBM, or Lawn Chair Larry.

No, I’m talking about the moments that define our character, and as a result, ultimately us as human beings.

It breaks down like this. Anyone can be magnanimous, compassionate or loving in good times. What truly defines us is how we behave when things go wrong.

That’s right, when something or someone pisses us off. The neighbour runs over our dog, our girlfriend runs off with a leper or someone just doesn’t quite behave the way we want them to (which is really a control issue on our part, but I digress).


I once heard the definition of maturity as “The difference in time between our emotional & rational responses to a situation.”

That’s succinct, but I don’t necessarily believe that what’s rational is always what’s best.

Is it rational to be unconditionally loving towards someone that is treating you like shit? No, but it sure as hell is the fastest way to defuse the situation. See also: Gandhi. It worked out pretty well for him, except for, you know, right at the end.

A less succinct but more accurate definition might be “The difference in time between our fear & love based responses to a situation.”

As we get more mature, our love based responses get closer & closer to the surface, and that time delay between fear & love gets ever shorter until it disappears altogether.

For example, I know when I was younger, kids screaming or leaving mess everywhere used to drive me mad. I mean, really crazy. Growing up as the oldest of eight might have done that to me. Heh. These days though, I watch myself, & my first reaction is just “Is it happy screaming? Ok, that’s cool.” As for mess, well, they’re kids. You gently guide & provide a consistent example over a period of years, & eventually they’ll sort it out, but there’s no rush, they’ve got a ton of other learning to do too.


This is where those minor daily upsets are actually a good thing. They provide feedback in two ways:

  1. Are we still instinctively reacting badly?
  2. How long is it taking us to calm down afterwards?

The first tells us whether we still have more healing/growing to do in this area, while the second is a quantifiable measure of the progress that we’re making.

This doesn’t mean I think you should welcome bad/upsetting events into your life, but given that these sorts of things tend to happen anyway, why not take advantage of them?

Ultimately, it’s this ongoing collection of upsetting or unexpected situations & our reactions to them. That’s what defines us as people.

As we grow & improve, these things bother us less & less.. & we become better people.

I guarantee you one thing. If you can remain positive & loving when everything is falling apart around you, you’re going to be incredible when times are good.


    Healing the Subconscious

    One of the toughest things about healing is this. Half the time we know something is wrong, but can’t put our finger on exactly what the hell is going on.


    Because our mind/ego has a delightful trait of trying to protect us by hiding things from our consciousness.

    This is why people get selective amnesia (in extreme cases of trauma), or just forget things (day to day stuff).

    This doesn’t stop the hidden issue from royally screwing us over, of course.

    So, what the hell to do about it?

    Well, I found something cool.

    I was reading Noah St John’s afformations when it hit me.

    Now, before you go on, I highly recommend signing up for his book excerpt. Whether you buy it or not is up to you, but the three chapters you get by throwing him your email address are very worth reading.

    Ok, so his basic premise is this: Affirmations don’t work because our mind rebutts it. “I’m wealthy I’m wealthy” & our mind goes “Uh huh, no you’re not.” So, it all falls apart. Noah’s revelation was that if we phrase affirmations as an open ended question “Why am I so wealthy?” or “How am I so wealthy?” then our mind works for us instead of against us. It starts finding ways to answer the question.

    Damn neat idea.

    pic by guslight

    I got thinking about this in context of healing – of removing those blocks we have, self-sabotages, resistances etc to our success (however you want to define that).

    Now, with tapping (EFT), the usual approach is – first we tap out the problem, then we tap in the solution. Negative first, then positive.

    Where this falls apart is if we can’t see what the hell is going on.. & where open ended questions come to the rescue.

    So, rather than tapping, say, “I hate my life” (which isn’t great, since it’s so general anyway), you tap on Why do I hate my life?” or What do I hate about my life?”

    Several things happen. First, a lot of times your mind will answer the question – so you then tap on whatever comes up. Just go round a bit until it doesn’t really feel like a problem any more. Secondly (& this is far more interesting), stuff will clear out without you ever having any idea what the hell it was that left.

    But then, who cares, right? If it’s gone, that’s all that matters.

    I’ve used this approach a lot over the last few weeks, & I’ve gotta say, it kicks righteous ass.

    So – start with negative questions.. then have a go with the word “still” in there – that’ll help clear up any leftovers – eg “Why do I still hate my life?”. Then tap in the positive, which in this case would be “Why do I love my life?” or “What do I love about my life?”

    I tell yah, works a goddamn treat.


      Anger is Stupid

      Two interesting things happened to me this week.

      The first, let’s call “Event X”, was that someone made me very, very angry. There’s no value in getting into the specifics, but I’ve wracked my brain & been unable to come up with a worse thing that anyone has ever done to me. There probably is, I just can’t remember it, so let’s put it in the top three.

      The second, let’s call “Event Y”, was that I made someone else very, very angry. Again, little value in the specifics – except to say that it was very definitely not intentional on my part (but of course I’d say that! I’m the one telling this story!)

      So, Event X. How did I react? Well, firstly, I don’t get angry very often. Not really angry. Maybe once every few years. I can distinctly remember the last time it happened, & that was February 2002. I get aggrieved, frustrated, annoyed, miffed.. but not real, cold anger. All these things are happening less & less these days (thankfully), but I’m still human.

      To start with, I was in shock. Plain, simple shock that such a terrible thing could be done to me. I then transitioned into serious, hardcore anger. I had a very brief flirt with thoughts of revenge – for less than a second – but where’s the value? Then you just have two upset people. As Ghandhi put so eloquently put it “An eye for an eye leaves everyone blind.”

      Then followed about 5 or 10 minutes of loud swearing (I was home alone), some surprise, disappointment, disbelief, & then, as I let more & more of it go, peace. And action, lots of action, to sort it all out.

      pic by urline

      So, not ideal, yet. But, over it in a day or so tops. Over the worst of it in about half an hour. For me, that’s a huge step forward. I’m happy with it. I’ll keep working on it. It will improve.

      Ok, let’s leave that for the moment & move on to Event Y. Me making someone else angry.

      I can’t explain how the other person felt, except that they were still bitter & spewing unrequested vitriol in my direction several hours later.

      Here’s the funny thing though. This wasn’t even anyone I know. I’d never met them before. Yes, a completely random internet stranger. Now, if I was going to be completely fair about it, I’d say I might have been a bit pushy. They might have been a bit careless – not paying as much attention as they could have been. Basically a very minor misunderstanding led to me doing something that they deemed utterly abhorrent. In my value system, it qualifies as “uhh, *shrug* so what?” but ok, everyone gets upset by different things.

      Anyway, I could see that this person was in pain. They were screaming furious (sound familiar?) All over what to me was a simple misunderstanding, fixed with one click of a button. Them being upset didn’t bother me particularly, I just thought, well, they should have paid more attention, & besides, it’s such a minor thing, really, who cares?

      But of course, different value systems – you can see where the misunderstanding might creep in.

      The practical upshot was this – that person poured a ton of negative energy (bile, acid, stress) into their body for an extended period of time. Net effect on me? Basically zero.

      Ok, so back to Event X.

      Here’s what I realised today.

      This person had been threatening to do what they actually ended up doing for weeks. I just figured they wouldn’t go through with it, so of course it was a huge shock when they did. However, if I’d actually listened to them, and taken action much earlier, I wouldn’t even have noticed what they’d done. The effect on me would have been absolutely nothing. Less than nothing. Actually the outcome has been very positive.


      So, hang on, I got that angry, for what? Not paying attention? Not acting on what I’d already been told. Basically, I got angry because they did what they said they would do. Because they were as good as their word.

      Uh, what?!?

      I know I got stressed. Probably shortened my lifespan in the process.

      What a complete & utter waste of energy.

      Carrie Fisher had a great quote about resentment – but the exact same thing applies to anger, so I’ll paraphrase (Thanks Carrie, love your work!):

      “Anger is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die”

      So true. So very, VERY true.