Yesterday I had a panic attack after discovering a succesful website that attracts thousands of followers. The guy behind this blog crafts well-written, insightful articles. Everybody loves what he does and he does it much better than me, that’s for sure.
While I was browsing his statistics I kept comparing the size of my blog versus his (sounds pathetic?).
I was simply curious at first, then increasingly jealous. As it turns out, the bottom line of my investigation was pretty straightforward: “his audience is huge, and mine very small”.
No guy wants to come to that kind of conclusion, in any context… I’m sure my male readers will understand that feeling, (others might be appalled by my lack of maturity, that’s OK).
My self-esteem is easily damaged, it still collapses for no reason. Here, seeing that someone else’s job was better than mine was enough to contemplate an early retirement from blogging.
But I’m getting old and I no longer have the desire to beat myself up, every form of depression and masochism loses its appeal after a certain age, so I decided to shift perspective.
In the end, here’s how I chose to approach the situation: “Yes, his blog is better than mine, but isn’t it an opportunity to learn from him?”. Sure, I could have remained in the self-hatred mode, but I picked a more positive outlook since it opened doors to creativity, instead of shutting them down.
Since 10 years, I’ve been busy cutting down on stress, Anger, Jealousy and self-criticism. That mental decluttering process or Emotional Minimalism liberated lots of energy in my life, some of the surplus goes into this blog, actually.
If you’re curious to try emotional minimalism and give yourself some vacation here’s a brief overview on how I do it:
Dropping the ball
The Buddha counted 84000 different negative emotions present in the mind. That’s a lot considering that most of them are garbage:
With these mere three, you already have quite a big load of trash, let alone the 83997 others.
But we’re not aware of it, and we spend most of our time carrying all that junk around us unknowingly.
There’s an explanation for our blindness, emotions often trick us into thinking they’re a source of energy: take anger for instance, doesn’t it feel like an adrenaline rush in your system? Don’t you feel more vibrant and alive when you’re arguing on the phone? Yes it comes with a limitation: anger gives you a boost only to do what she wants you to do, whether it’s punching your neighbor in the throat or invading Poland. Anger sells you crappy energy at an exorbitant rate, borrowing money to the Russian mafia would probably be a better option.
The same goes for jealousy, pride and the entire collection mentioned by the Buddha, in reality, emotions make you a slave to their agenda, and for anyone with freedom at heart, that’s not so promising.
I don’t know about you but I decided to stop being a servant to emotions quite a while ago. Since then I’ve been gradually regaining control over my life.
The decluttering job is not done yet, FAR from it, but I can tell that it’s the right direction because I feel much more sane. And stable.
If I were to summarize how to drop the ball of emotions I would wrap it up in three steps:
- Be aware of them
- Acknowledge how painful and useless they are
- Decide to stop following their delusional logic
Applying these three requires considerable persistence. But everybody can do it. If I do it, so can you.
Your chances of success will increase tenfold if you use Vipassana or Mindfulness meditation and if you combine that with any psychological approach that works for you.
There’s really no need to be loyal to your emotions, they’ve been feeding you lies, you can afford to break up with them on a texto. Try and drop the balls, not all at once, but one by one. Chances are you’ll feel lighter. And happier.
I’m wondering what would be my first thought If I woke up in a dungeon, with my feet and hands tied to a sweating wall, contemplating a hip of corpses soaking in their decomposition fluids.
“I’m screwed”, would be my main focus, I guess.
Yet, there’s been reports of vietnam vets captured in the very same conditions, and at least one of them became famous for not giving in to ultimate depression. Locked in a 10 sq/ft cell for seven years his main focus was : “How can I use this situation?”
The guy’s said to have not only survived, but grown through this approach by recalling every single days of his life, analyzing how he screwed up and how he could improve next time.
In his tiny cell, he developed the capacity to use his mind as a survival kit. Most of his cellmates went nuts BTW.
Some extermination camp survivors came back with the same testimonials: (Viktor E Frankl was one of them)
Now at this point, you’re free to call BS on all those stories. I have no problem with that. But I personally believe them as they comply with my own experience. I’ve successfully shifted my mindset from total anxiety to enjoyment many times just by asking myself the right questions, and I did that in situations that I don’t wish to anyone.
“I’ve been fired, how can I grow from that?”
“My application has been turned down, what can I learn from that?”
“She says I’m useless in bed, OK, but what can I make out of that?”
Emotions feed on thoughts, thoughts are initiated by questions. That’s why asking the right questions is so crucial, it determines the thought-path your mind uses.
Needless to say this technique is mega-super-useful to dump emotional overload: it allows you to skip the unnecessary rumination that normally arise after a failure.
I Practice that everyday, it’s worth it, you should try.
One of my Buddhist teachers kept saying that our experiences don’t matter as much as what we make of them. I’m convinced he was right, what we experience is the product of our thinking more than anything else.
You were probably well on your way to Emotional Minimalism before you started reading this article and I’m not really sure I brought you anything, but if it’s the case, and if you’d like to add your own recipes, please drop a comment below :)
BTW: the cool blog I mentioned above is: http://www.raptitude.com
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