People with fibromyalgia face many obstacles.
We live with fatigue, brain fog, chronic pain and other symptoms. We work to find ways to manage this syndrome. We seek coping mechanisms. Many fibro patients have overlook the importance of who and what we surround ourselves with.
- This can have a dramatic affect on how we cope.
Conserving energy is an important part to coping with “Fibro Fatigue”. It takes far more energy to deal with negative people. Energy when you don’t have any left to expend.
Let’s look at who we surround ourselves with and the effects on our lives.
People You Should Remove from Your Life
- You have to cut the “downers” the negative people
- You have to cut out the “distractors”
- You have to get rid of “people who play the victim”
- You have to stay away from “know-it-alls”
- You have to dump the “drama queens/kings”
Good and Bad Behavior Is Contagious
One study found that emotions circulate through interpersonal relationships just like the flu virus.
These patterns can actually be tracked statistically just like the flu virus.
- Each positive person you surround yourself with increases your chances of being positive by eleven percent.
- Each negative person you let into your life more than doubles your chances of being negative.
Understanding Why This Happens
A mirror neuron is a cell in your brain that fires both when you act and when you observe another person acting. Interacting with other people engages your mirror neuron system.
This brain mechanism causes you to copy other people whether you want to or not. If you spend enough time with anyone, no matter who it is, you will start to mimic their behavior.
This means you need to start cutting negative people out of your life right now.
Here is a short 2 minute video
explaining mirror neurons
Here are five types of people
to start avoiding now!
# 1 The “Downer”
Some people can walk into a room and light it up. Other people walk into a room and kill it.
- Downers Are Those That Kill Positive Energy
They are those people who seem to have a dark cloud following them wherever they go. These people are unlucky, negative and always depressed.
Don’t feel bad for these people. Odds are:
They like being miserable
They like the attention it gives them
You must drop unhappy people from your life. Why?
Because your happiness and your physical health depends on it. Research shows that being exposed to negative people pulls away neurons in your hippocampus. This is the part of your brain that is responsible for problem solving. This means that negative people literally rot your brain
Stop hanging out with people who suck away your energy
#2 Avoid Distracting People
Distractors come in a variety of flavors
- There are those annoying people who drive you nuts.
- People who make you focus on them instead of focusing on yourself and your mission.
Distractors are also those people that are truly amazing or really hot or incredibly brilliant.]
- Those people who catch your eye for one reason or another.
- Distractors make you forget about your goals and everything that you’ve set out to do in life.
A lot of promising futures
have been sacrificed to these distractors.
Some people drop out of school or quit a job they love, just to be closer to a distracting person. This allows them stay in that distracting relationship.
Others get hooked on celebrity gossip or get rich quick schemes
- Everything that glitters is not always gold.
- Most shiny things are just distractions and this can include people.
Don’t let any person make you forget that you are amazing – and that you have something amazing to offer the world.
#3 Stay Away from People Who Play the Victim
Don’t know how to identify a victim?
Here’s what you look for:
- Look for people who preach self-sacrifice
- Look for people who try to make you feel guilty for your strengths
- Look for people who try to make you feel guilty for your accomplishments
- Look for people who try to make you feel bad just because they are feeling bad
- Masters of positioning themselves on the moral high ground
- Using obligation to manipulate you into doing what they want you to do.
- People who like to make you feel responsible for their happiness.
No one is responsible for someone else’s happiness
#4 Stay away from know-it-alls
Know-it-alls are those people who will never let you live down past mistakes. They bring you down by using the psychological phenomenons of “Imposter Syndrome” and “Negativity Bias.”
Imposter Syndrome is describe as the inability to internalize your own accomplishments. It’s that voice in your head that creeps up every now and then telling you that you’re a phony and it’s only a matter of time until people find out.
Negativity Bias on the other hand refers to your brains preference for negative information over positive information.
- Never allow anyone to make you feel bad about yourself.
- Don’t let some” Know-it-All” use these techniques against you.
- Focus on where you are now. Not on your past mistakes.
#5 Refuse to be around drama queens.
Drama queens/kings are those people who love conflict. They are addicted to drama and to winning arguments no matter the cost. Even if there’s nothing to be won. Drama queens love drama for the sake of drama.
- They don’t want to win or find a solution they just want the drama.
- Their minds are simple and their lives are boring.
- The only way they can fill a sense of purpose in life is by creating drama.
- Don’t let these people suck you into their drama.
Any time you spend trying to correct or even understand a drama queen is a waste of time. You are better off ignoring these people period.
CITB focuses on chronic illness. I have personally experienced and live with the chronic illness of substance abuse. This is a guest post by Caleb Anderson of RecoveryHope.org. RecoveryHope.org was started by Caleb and Molly Anderson after Caleb received treatment for opiate addiction. Molly has made it her mission to learn how to help Caleb fight his battles and support him in his recovery. Together they now help others by providing research and resources about the many challenges of overcoming drug and alcohol addictions.
We thank Caleb and Molly for their contribution to CITB. We know you will enjoy their insights. Please visit their website RecoveryHope.org for more information on substance abuse and recovery.
There are plenty of ways relationships can become strained. It’s possible to have a strong, healthy relationship, but it’s not easy. It takes work.
When you add an addiction to the relationship, things get much harder. Substance abuse can challenge even the strongest relationship, and many couples break up over it. Thankfully, there are actions you can take to both help your partner and save your relationship. But before you can help, you need to know whether your partner has a problem.
Substance Abuse Leads To Unhealthy Relationships
How do you know if your partner is struggling with addiction? Medical News Today lists a number of signs and symptoms of addiction to watch for, including: bouts of moodiness, bad temper, poor focus, a feeling of being depressed and empty, frustration, anger, bitterness, obsession, denial, etc.
The Mayo Clinic has an exhaustive list of signs related to specific addictions, including marijuana, opiates, and cocaine.
Having a relationship with an addict can lead to pain and stress. It can also lead to heartbreak because addiction can lead to infidelity. Swift River explains this is due to several factors, including a higher chance of risky behavior such as sex with others. Some even use sex as payment for whatever they need.
How You Might Be Enabling
Whether it’s secrecy, anger, or infidelity, the addict is responsible for their own behavior. However, there are ways you might be enabling your partner’s addiction. Enabling is when you help your partner to continue abusing substances even if you don’t realize it. Here are a few ways you might be contributing to the addiction:
- Ignoring evidence that they have a substance abuse problem.
- Helping them avoid the consequences of addiction.
- Buying or using the same drugs and alcohol along with them.
- Failing to hold them responsible when you’ve set boundaries or rules that are not met.
Even if you mean well, you can enable addiction because your partner has no reason to change. Addicts often need to get treatment or hit “rock bottom” before they realize how bad things have become due to their addiction. Protecting your partner makes it harder for them to get help.
Helping Your Loved One
Then how can you help your partner get better? Many people think about staging an intervention, but as Psychology Today notes, these should be last-ditch efforts as there’s no evidence they help an addict in the long-run. Instead, you need to politely and gently convince your partner to go to a doctor or therapist. Focus on how it’s hurting the relationship and ask, not tell, if they would consider getting help.
Once they have entered addiction recovery treatment, you need to be loving and accepting of your partner. Work with your loved one to find healthy habits and activities. This can mean social activities with friends who don’t use as well as healthy ones like yoga, exercising, or just taking a nice walk. Not only will this help your partner get better, but it can heal the relationship as well.
Don’t Let Addiction Ruin Your Relationship
The worst thing you can do when facing your partner’s addiction is to ignore it. This actually enables substance abuse. Instead, understand how addiction impacts your relationship. Then you can focus on getting your loved one the help they need to get sober. By helping your partner, you are also helping your relationship.
Please visit RecoveryHope.org for more information on substance abuse and recovery
The term “Journey of Self-discovery” refers to a series of events whereby a person attempts to determine how they feel about spiritual issues or priorities, rather than following the opinions of family, friends or peer pressure.
Self-discovery is the capacity of humans to exercise introspection,
The willingness to learn more about their fundamental
nature and purpose.
If the only emotion concepts you recognize are “I feel good” and “I feel bad” you’re not going to be very emotionally healthy. But, if you’re able to distinguish the more specific “I feel alone” from merely “I feel bad” you’re able to deal with the problem.
Examining your life under a microscope can be uncomfortable and gruesome.
You will be grateful for starting the process of self discovery, because rewards unfold when you know more about yourself. Understand how you make improvements to your behavior, thoughts and emotions. Uncovering answers will help peel off layer-by-layer the negative thoughts that have imprinted in your mind. These negative thoughts and beliefs are your obstacles to inner growth.
You’ve probably never thought about learning words as a path to greater emotional health.
Words Seed Your Concepts
Concepts Drive Your Predictions
Predictions Regulate Your Body
Your Body Determines How You Feel.
The greater your vocabulary
the more precisely your brain can calibrate your body’s needs.
People who exhibit higher emotional expression
- Go to the doctor less frequently
- Use medication less frequently
- Spend fewer days hospitalized for illness
[Tweet “The greater your vocabulary, the more precisely your brain can calibrate your body’s needs”]
This insight is directly connected to your relationship with others. Most importantly it’s also connected to our relationship with the Universe (God). What we believe about the Universe (God) and it’s expectations for us is vital to what we believe about ourselves.
Self discovery is not an a one day or a one week affair.
It can take a lifetime of building a relationship with yourself. Note that your inner self is not going to stay constant either. You are evolving all the time. Based on your self discovery at any point in time, you make conscious decisions for changes. Additionally, as you mature, you gain insights that make up the new you.
Self-discovery is about being mindful of who you really are, instead of what culture says you should be.
It is important to ask yourself what you want out of life and work towards it. Aligning with your soul’s’ purpose brings about fulfilment. Without a purpose and direction, you are going to feel like a ship which is going nowhere. I can assure you that if you don’t go through this process of evaluation on what your purpose is, you are going to experience regret while on your deathbed.
You need to confront your emotional issues and weaknesses
because they reveal the separation from the real you.
The real you is authentic, loving and nurturing. The process of self discovery is not just about unearthing nasty stuff about yourself. It is about honoring your strengths and abilities. As you become more aware of what you are good at, you lessen the list on weaknesses.
Learn to forgive yourself.
Negative beliefs tend to invade every aspect of your life. If you have feelings of low self worth, then you are likely to carry them in the relationships you have at home, in the office, with your friends, relatives and loved ones.
You, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection. When your outer self is aligned with your inner being, you will feel happy and free!
I have lived with major depression, PTSD, ADD, Fibromyalgia throughout my life. I’ve walked the dark streets when I had no home. The darkness of loneliness competing with the darkness of the night. Many times I failed, I was rejected and I got hurt physical and emotional. I have accepted my role in my personal failures caused by these conditions.
Now this is what I did:
I pressed the pause button to my life, refreshed my memory and made a clear passionate decision to change myself. I follow 7 rules to change my life…
I follow the advice of my inner self:
I have passion and empathy. I always love to learn new things. I have the interest and commitment to do what I love. There will be no regret because I am responsible for my decisions and actions.
We always fixate on physical strength. Mental strength makes our life focused, planned and loved.
Meditation recharges me:
I meditate every day to make life laser sharp and free from distraction. I fight every obstacle in my life. I have failed hundreds of times. But, I get back up. Meditation gives me the courage and determination to work against the current.
[Tweet “I meditate every day to make life laser sharp and free from distraction.”]
Mental strength is key:
We always fixate on physical strength. Mental strength makes our life focused, planned and loved. What makes a bigger impact than talent or intelligence? Mental strength.
Research is starting to reveal that your mental strength plays a more important role than anything else for achieving your goals. That’s good news because you can do a lot to develop mental strength.
Less virtual life, More real life:
I am limiting my online activities. I now key in on my real life rather than a virtual life. I spend too much time on the computer. I am changing that habit. I spend less time on the internet. I have started to gain courage, experience new things, face my fears, socialize with authentic interest, and talk with strangers every day.
[Tweet “Less virtual life, More real life:”]
Imagine just before – the moment of your death:
All the materialistic thinking, fear, desire, frustration, failure will look meaningless moments before your death. Make the right decision for your life, never wait for others approval. One right decision can change your life. Whenever I am in a trouble, I try to think that way. Then everything seems clear to me. I make the right choice.
I withdraw from rat race:
I have officially withdrawn myself from the rat race of life. It does not mean that I have lost against the difficulties of life. I don’t compete with other people. My competition is only with myself. Every day, I try to top my previous day’s performance. I am chasing my passion. I am determined to reach my goal.
[Tweet “I have officially withdrawn myself from the rat race of life.”]
Anonymous help and gifts:
I love to help anonymously. It gives me pleasure. I love to donate money to poor families anonymously despite having my own financial limitations. Helping people is the best part of life. I feel happy to see the smiling faces of those people.
Write a gratitude list every day:
I am grateful to the universe for whatever I get from life. I write a gratitude list in my journal every day. I am alive, having sound health, food to eat in the fridge, a place to live, the unconditional love of my service dog, time and tools to write, lead an independent life, get blessings from unknown people…
[Tweet “I am grateful to the universe for whatever I get from life.”]
A year ago I would have never guessed life would be the way it is now.
Mindfulness teaches us that the same idea can apply to our minds as well. If we’re in some kind of emotional funk, or if the solution to a problem eludes us, we can learn how to unplug our mind—even for just a minute—and watch how many issues have disappeared when we plug back in…
5 Steps to Unplug Your Mind
- Stop. The first step to unplugging your mind is to stop everything you’re doing. This begins by stopping your body, and giving yourself permission to do nothing for at least a minute or so. You might try saying to yourself, “Just for this one minute, I don’t have to accomplish or change anything.”
- Let the mind wind down. Now imagine that each of your five senses is like a door that lets information into your mind. Close each of these doors and offer yourself the gift of quiet. Your mind takes in so many sights, sounds, etc., all day long. For just a minute or so, let it rest. Close your eyes, turn off anything you were listening to, stop distracting yourself in any way. Then, see if you can quiet your thoughts by telling your mind, “You can rest now. Nowhere to go, and nothing to do.”
- Come home. Now that you’ve stopped and quieted your senses, come home to yourself in the present moment. Pay attention to your breathing and the sensations in your body without trying to do or change anything. Say to yourself, “The present moment is my true home, and I have arrived.”
- Practice self-compassion. See if you can direct love and compassion toward yourself in this moment. Having let go of all busyness, try saying to yourself, “May you be well. May you be safe. May you be loved.”
- This is it. Finally, you recognize that everything you need to be happy is already present in this moment. You are alive, and the gift of life in infinitely precious. You can feel that your mind is completely at rest. Now you can return to whatever you were doing, and see how different it feels after having unplugged for just a little while.
Read The Full Story Here:
A Meditation to Recharge Your Mind – Mindful
If you value your own progress, you need to learn how to criticize yourself. We are often eager to criticize others, but when it comes to criticizing ourselves we are strangely reluctant.
The art of self criticism is essential to learning from mistakes and gaining an improved perspective on life.
Consider Your Motives
We maybe able to fool other people, but we should never try to fool ourselves. It is important to be aware of our motivation for doing something. For example, are we being kind to someone with selfless motives, or is it being undertaken with an ulterior motive? At times we like to fool ourselves into thinking we are being altruistic, when actually we are acting from the basis of our ego. This is when we need to be self critical because otherwise our mind can trick us into feeling we are a very good person, when actually we are just being selfish. By being aware of this, we can try to reduce the power of the ego in our lives.
Be Honest with Yourself
Self criticism means we have to be honest with our-self. There is no benefit from trying to justify our bad actions. If we can learn to be honest with ourselves our conscience will prevent us from undertaking regrettable actions. Many bad people, will try and find a way of justifying their actions to themselves; this is the danger of not being honest with yourself.
Avoid Excessive Guilt
Self criticism is not easy, but it is a valuable aspect of our self improvement. However, when we criticise our bad actions, it is unhelpful to retain a powerful sense of guilt. Guilt does not help us to improve, it can just make us feel miserable. When we have become aware of wrong thoughts, make a resolution to avoid doing it and then focus on doing the right thing. This is much better than becoming debilitated from guilt.
Often we see a defect in our own behaviour, and we quite rightly want to improve upon it. However, the problem is that, in our eagerness, we can gain an evangelical fervour and seek to proselytise to other people. We want to improve ourself, but, also start to feel others should be making the same change. Stick to self criticism; other people will go at a different pace, and we are not responsible for what others do.
Self Improvement not Self Contempt.
Self criticism does not mean self contempt. We have to draw a careful balance between working at our self improvement and feeling useless and worthless. Remember we are only criticising a certain action and not our self. If we make mistakes no harm; mistakes are an essential part of learning and developing. The important thing is that we are able to learn from our actions. Self criticism should be looked upon as a positive thing, and not a tool for beating ourselves up.
It is our pride that dislikes being criticised. Our ego likes to believe we are always right and therefore it becomes difficult to examine our inner motives. However, to continue doing the wrong thing from a sense of pride only serves to magnify the existing mistake. If we are reluctant to make some changes because of a false faith in our ego, we will feel a permanent tension. If we can learn to let go of pride, we will gain joy from our own self-improvement.
It is important to criticise ourselves for the right things. Work out what matters in life. For example, if you fail to meet the expectations of your boss in working overtime, this is not necessarily a thing to be self-critical about. However, if you are letting down your friends by being thoughtless and unkind, this is far more significant; be self-critical about the things that matter.
Invite Suggestions From Others
Quite often we cannot see our faults, even though they maybe glaring to others. In these circumstances, it can be very beneficial to invite criticism from a close friend. This can help us to see faults, that we are just unable or unwilling to be aware of. If you do invite criticism from others, don’t respond by being defensive and aggrieved. Be calm and detached; and see it as an opportunity to learn from the mistakes.
Self Criticism is a Path to Happiness
I feel self criticism is synonymous with self improvement. Self improvement doesn’t mean we just maintain a cheerful disposition; we also have to be able to be reflective and honest about ourselves. It is only when we can impartially judge our motives and actions that we can overcome obstacles and weaknesses. It is in overcoming these weaknesses that we pave the way for long term happiness.
A classroom full of 10-year-old students is asked to solve a problem with children crossing the street on the way to school. The children come up with ideas that have been used successfully in other places: traffic calming devices, overpasses, fluorescent jackets and speed limits. All these ideas are conventional, exactly what the teacher wants to hear.
Except for one. A student recommends that the school board sell the property and move the classroom online. This is not what the teacher was expecting.
This idea may not be practical, popular, or even possible, but when it’s ridiculed by the class it might be the last independent thought that the student dares to express — the death of another independent thinker.
Independent thought is not popular — it is absolutely rare. Nothing you read about in the papers or see on the television is independent. Whatever we take in from the popular media is regurgitated conventional knowledge. There is nothing independent about most of the world.
This is a tragedy — independent thought is essential for progress. Conventional thinking moves us forward gradually at best (at worst it pushes us backwards). Independent thinking is required to achieve any substantial jump in performance.
Logically, when we think like everyone else is thinking, the best we can expect is to achieve what they’re already achieving. If our aim is to over-achieve, we need to avoid the same banal influences and think impossibly. We need to become independent from conventional wisdom.
Fortunately, you don’t have to be particularly intelligent or well educated to think independently. Consider small children. Conventional wisdom says that shoes are for wearing and bananas are for eating. Independent thinking allows children try eating the shoes and wearing the bananas on their feet. Their lack of conventional wisdom and utter disregard for how others view their decisions allows children to experiment without anxiety. In this case they may be wrong, but in other cases they can be shockingly right.
Using these 5 strategies you can develop your independent thinking ability.
1. Disconnect from sources of conventional thinking
Instead of plugging into your TV, PC, or library for answers, think for yourself first. Without cutting yourself off from the world, you can increase your capacity for independent thought by limiting the conventional opinion you absorb. This means reducing the media you consume and the level of devotion you give to it. Independent thinkers aren’t necessarily contrarian, but they don’t agree with the status quo by default. They devise new criteria for perceiving the world rather than seeing everything through the screen of their computer.
2. Immerse yourself in experiences that conflict with your current perspective
Instead of substituting a new conventional thought for the old one, deliberately seek out experiences that challenge your views. These experiences may exist in foreign cultures, unusual subcultures, or between the pages of a book you disagree with. The point is not to adopt a new train of thought, but to disrupt the conventional railroad.
3. Watch the process from a distance
Leaving your normal life behind can give you the freedom to see issues from another perspective. Watching the world instead of eating it up gives you the peace of mind to think for yourself. Standing still from time to time gives you the opportunity to ridicule your own beliefs and explore new angles.
4. Randomize your sensory inputs
Instead of visiting the same places, eating the same foods, and talking to the same people, you can actively pursue new experiences. Many people cling to the familiar to simplify decisions and create a sense of security. If you truly want to think independently, you need to get outside your comfort zone.
5. Practice disbelief
Without becoming a cynic, you can develop the habit of instinctively distrusting thoughts that rely on conventional wisdom. Instead of assuming that these “truths” are self evident, suspend judgement until you’ve have confirmed that there is reality behind the logic.
If all of this sounds too difficult, consider what can be gained from independent thought. Even microscopic steps towards thinking independently will increase your contribution to the world. You will see opportunities and solutions that others overlook. You will obtain a competitive advantage over less creative thinkers. Most importantly, your thoughts will be your own and not just recycled media.
Think independently and you create a world of limitless opportunity. But don’t take my word for it…find out for yourself.
What is the most important thing about you? What is the most important thing about your life, your relationships, and the next thing you do?
If you can answer these questions with conviction, purpose, and passion, and if your behavior is consistent with your answers, then your life, no doubt, feels completely genuine. You are one of the fortunate few who continually grow, learn, produce, create, and care. You never question your own value or anyone else’s. You routinely regulate negative emotions by investing interest and creating value in the world around you.
Those less fortunate have to think long and hard to answer the most crucial questions of their lives and often become appalled at how little their behavior reflects what they deeply believe to be important. The negative emotions that we blame on stress, bad days, excess weight, society, coworkers, neighbors, and family come largely from ignoring or violating what is most important to us.
For instance, when the most important thing about driving is to get to a destination as quickly as possible, people tend to drive aggressively. They devalue their own emotional well being, not to mention their safety and that of every person – every child – in every car they pass. They ignore both the general warning of their emotional discomfort – to value more – and the specific message – develop solutions to any problems that being late might cause. If they blame their discomfort on other drivers, the design of the highway, the boss, getting up late, or their “own stupidity,” their discomfort gets worse. Their emotions can no longer guide their behavior to conform to what is most important to them. Instead, they seem to be vehicles of punishment, unfairly controlled by situations or other people. The result is a sense of powerlessness that impairs thinking, performance, interest, and concentration. They will work less efficiently, become exhausted more easily, and be less than sweet to their kids when they get home.
Small and Important
When it comes to staying true to the most important things to and about you, it’s the small emotions that matter. The great passions of life, which seem to have the most significance, never spring from flat emotional landscapes. They rise and fall like waves on a continuous stream of small, unconscious emotions.
The primary function of the stream of emotions is the same in humans as in all mammals, to motivate and energize behavior on the most fundamental level of “approach, avoid, attack.” By habit and default, this unconscious stream of small, everyday emotions greatly influences what you will see, think, feel, and do next. If it flows from what is most important to and about you, your life will get better. If not, it will get worse.
The unconscious motivation of behavior is usually different from goals and intentions. For instance, Rick had a “communication problem” with his teenage daughter. He described a terrible altercation that began with his “harsh but right” reproach: “This is the third time I’ve asked you to clean your room!” His goal in this interaction, of course, was to get her to clean her room. His intention was to let her know that he was upset because she hadn’t. But the motivation that energized his behavior was attack, i.e., make her feel bad for not cleaning her room. Her emotional response, of course, was defensive. After some mutual name-calling (hers under her breath), she cleaned her room, in submission and humiliation, which she numbed with resentment. In fact, this is why she “forgot” to clean it in the first place.
Rick had begun to misinterpret the normal distractedness of a young teenager as a personal affront to him. Feeling disrespected, he attacked. After only a couple repetitions of this dance, his daughter associated cleaning her room with submission and humiliation. It turns out that the human brain will do almost anything to avoid thinking about submissive and humiliating behavior. Rick’s daughter naturally sought more interesting things to occupy her mind, which made her more likely to “forget” to clean her room. The more often she forgot, the more he attacked, and the more he fooled himself with the “rightness” of his goals and intentions.
Motivations are basic, simple, and straightforward. Goals and intentions are always complicated and often self-deceptive. In any given interaction, people respond emotionally to basic approach, avoid, attack motivations, not to goals and intentions.
Rick’s problem with his daughter was about importance, not “communication.” The most important thing, he later decided, was to teach her cooperation and respect. Attack motivations can evoke submission and fear, along with the resentment that goes with them, but never cooperation and respect.
Rick thought that his new “insight” of what was most important would change everything between him and his daughter. As it turned out, he did behave differently toward her, when he was conscious enough to remember his “insight,” usually after an episode of frustrated attacks. Conscious insight rarely influences, much less changes, the unconscious stream of small, everyday emotions. Whatever change you make is likely to last only as long as your attention lasts. Once routine sets in, the flow of the stream of returns to automatic pilot.
Most of what we do bypasses conscious thought and feelings. Only waves of larger emotions, like fear, anger, joy, or sadness bulge into awareness. Otherwise, the stream of unconscious small emotions makes a powerful force of habit that easily overrides the best of goals and intentions.
Lasting change usually requires emotional reconditioning, i.e., changing habits. For most of us, that is the only way to ensure that our streams of unconscious, everyday emotions flow from the most important things to and about us.
Religion is one of the two taboo subjects that many of us have been told, often at a young age, not to discuss if we wish to avoid offending anyone (the other is politics), yet sooner or later it often comes up in discussions. Many people feel a need to belong to some form of religion. I am not going to say that it is right or wrong to be part of any religion — indeed, that varies among individuals. Some people seem to be quite happy in their religion, and receive a great deal of comfort from their beliefs. Others seem to have no need for religion at all. Still others join a religion because they perceive it will bring some sort of benefit to them, be it financial, physical, or spiritual.
The main reason that religion is a “hot potato” subject is because some people feel it is their right, or their duty, to impose their religious beliefs on others. They believe that their beliefs are the correct ones, and that those who don’t believe as they do are wrong, or even evil. It’s actually not too dissimilar from the way a member of one political party might see it as their right or duty to convince others that their party is right, and the other party is evil. Those who don’t share those views generally don’t appreciate being told they are wrong!
At the heart of it, most traditional religion is based in part on fear. On a spiritual level, the fear is that you will not measure up to the expectations of deity, or some “higher power”. On a more pragmatic level, the fear is often that if you can’t force others to adopt your beliefs, they might impose their beliefs on you. Wars have been fought because of the underlying fear that we have to kill them before they kill us. It’s only in relatively recent times that a majority of people have started to understand that it’s possible for people of varying beliefs to coexist peacefully, and unfortunately there are still many people that don’t seem to understand this.
People who’ve had near-death experiences (NDE’s) have stated that if they asked about religion during their NDE, they were told that the best religion is the one that brings you closest to God. Of course, a person that felt no need for religion probably wouldn’t ask that question in the first place. But there are no reports of anyone having a NDE and being told that they should belong to a specific religion or denomination!
If you don’t belong to any religion now, my advice to you would be to think long and hard, and do some research on the Internet, before you join. Very often, when people are trying to get you to join their religion, they will seem to love you to death and truly care about you, perhaps even more than anyone else in your life has ever cared for you. The problem is that such “love” is almost always both time-limited and conditional. Once you have joined their religion, they will move on to some other hot prospect that they are trying to get to join, and suddenly you’ll no longer feel like the center of their attention. But worse yet, their love may well be conditional on you believing the things they teach you (no matter how absurd, ridiculous, or even hateful), and behaving the way they want you to. If you should start to question any of their teachings, you become a “problem” to them, and you will find yourself talked to the way a disapproving parent might talk to a stepchild — or maybe even invited to leave.
If you are already involved in a religion, and you feel that you receive comfort and joy from it, and it encourages you to love others and help them when you can, then maybe the only real reason to consider leaving them is if they try to get you to do things that would hurt others. That could be anything from attempting to impose your beliefs on other people, to hating them because they are not part of your group, or don’t meet up with some standard of morality that your religion attempts to uphold. Those are the very things that have been responsible for starting bloody conflicts in past and recent times. Also, please be aware that some religions are all about power and money — specifically, how much of those they can take from their followers for the benefit of the leaders. If the leaders of the religion are constantly telling people to give money to their organization, while they are living the high life (with nice houses, fancy cars, luxurious vacations, and even air-conditioned doghouses for their pets), then they are using deception to steal from their followers. In a few high profile cases they have gotten in trouble and even spent time in prison for this, but that’s the exception rather than the rule — more often than not, the leaders get away with it and are never brought to justice.
However, even if that’s not the case, it might be a good idea to reflect upon why you belong to that religion from time to time. Think about what caused you to join in the first place. Were your parents members, and they forced you to attend, and it just became habit? Did you join because someone convinced you that you might go to some bad place when you die if you didn’t? Or did you perhaps join because you thought you had found a group of people that truly cared about you? Think about the reasons you joined, and then ask yourself, “If I had known then what I know now, would I still have joined?” And also, “Did I have any expectations of what would happen that have not yet been fulfilled?” In short, does your religion truly bring you closer to God, or your “higher power”, or the Universe, or whatever you consider to be the highest and most loving force in all of creation?
If not, perhaps it’s time to find a spiritual path that more completely resonates with you. People on the “wrong” path (which is to say, in the “wrong” religion) often feel quite unhappy and unfulfilled, and often live in fear that somehow they’ll be subjected to some form of eternal punishment (though they may be quite unwilling to admit such thoughts, even to themselves). They may not enjoy participating in their religion’s rituals, or attending the designated place of worship. They may find prayer or meditation boring, or even infuriating, because they don’t ever see any results (but the religion will say it’s their fault). While these things can happen even to people who haven’t strayed from their path, those who are on the “wrong” path often come to a point where they just can’t continue in their present religion. If they then find the right path for them, they often feel as if a huge weight has been lifted off their shoulders, and that all the fear and dread that they experienced previously fades away.
For some people, the “right” path for this lifetime may be to not be part of any organized religion. That doesn’t mean that they cannot engage in some form of spiritual practice, such as meditation or prayer. It only means that they do not feel any need to attend, or receive any benefit from attending, formal meetings or going to a designated place of worship. Everyone is different, and what one person may see as an absolute requirement to be true to their beliefs, another person may see as irrelevant or even nonsense. If you try to convert such a person to your beliefs, you’ll just anger them and frustrate yourself — or worse yet, you’ll convince them to join and then regret doing so, because they will be constantly annoying you whenever the religion doesn’t meet their expectations (after all, you got them into this, so you should be the one to hear their complaints!). Even the religions that encourage proselytizing (that is, attempting to induce someone to convert to one’s faith, according to Merriam-Webster) usually recognize that there are people who just cannot be converted, even if they portray such people in an unfavorable light.
I personally think we’d all get along a lot better if we could all “live and let live” when it comes to our religious beliefs. That doesn’t mean we have to condone hate, or abuse, or attempts to control others, but when those things are not an issue, it’s probably best to let people find their own path. Of course, if someone starts asking questions about your faith or beliefs, then perhaps that means that they are destined to share your path for at least part of their journey through this lifetime, and in that case you can certainly answer their questions and share your beliefs. But if it makes you uncomfortable to talk about what you believe, that may be another indication that you’re not on the right path, or that you’re not being true to yourself and what you really believe. Taking time to reflect on what you believe and why you believe it encourages spiritual growth, and shouldn’t be avoided.