Wednesday, January 15, 2014

How To Heal Paralysis

Have you ever felt paralyzed by a wealth of choices, unable to decide? Have you ever felt paralyzed by the fear that something might not go your way? Afraid you might mess something up forever?

That was/is me.

My parents once asked me what I wanted for dinner as a little kid, and I remember breaking into an all-out bawl. Why are you making me pick?? Why are you saddling me with all this responsibility??? Waaaaaaaaaahhhhh, waaaaaaaaahhhhhh, etc.

I couldn't explain my distress in words at the time, so I just broke into tears.

Another example is when I took tae kwon do lessons after school. I saw my brother doing it, and it looked like fun to me at the time, so I begged my mom to sign me up. She did.

After a while, I realized I was pretty terrible at tae kwon do and wasn't having much fun at all. Far too late, however, did I realize I should try to quit. By the time I did try to quit, my mom discouraged me, told me I should stick it out instead. Ughhhh misery.

I would quietly weep in the backseat of the van on the way to tae kwon do. I hated it so much, and I felt really stuck. I couldn't solve this problem. It was just something I had to struggle through.

My mom probably didn't realize how much I hated it. I wasn't really the kind of person to share those feelings with other people. I'd been sort of trained to hold it all in, to never openly complain (when it mattered), and to view all of life as a treadmill with no way to stop.

So, I suffered in silence.

I eventually did manage to quit, but I had wasted so much time and effort on something I didn't enjoy!

After realizing this aspect of my personality, I finally understood how to deal with this paralyzing passivity in practical ways. (Whoa alliteration!)

Here are the problems I identified:

1) I lacked self-confidence. Put in a better way, I lacked evidence that I was in control of my own destiny. We all want control over our own destiny, but if we find that things aren't going our way often enough, we take that as a sign that we are, in fact, helpless and/or useless.

This can lead to fear of trying new things, as we dread the pattern repeating itself.

// Aside: This, to me, ties in to why many oppressed peoples lack self-confidence and the ability to break through society's barriers. All their life, they experience a piling up of evidence that they are not in direct control of their destiny—that there are these external factors that are keeping them from self-actualization. When a person of privilege looks down and asks, "Why don't you just do X?", the lack of empathy they exhibit is because they DO feel in control of their own destiny. They think to themselves, "Why are they complaining? Can't they do what I did?" //

2) I didn't understand I was being too passive. For some reason, I was comfortable with my strategy, and it seemed reasonable. However, you really want to ride the line between "too active" and "too passive." I was slightly too far in one direction.

Being too passive means you aren't taking enough risks. You want to take some chances in life, after all. Sometimes those risks are worth it. You just have to properly evaluate when it's right to take them on.

Being too active means taking too many risks. You're gambling away your resources for little gain.

You gotta ride the line! Follow that path right down the middle. Think of it as playing a really good game of poker. Don't make bets carelessly. Think them through, and pick your battles.

3) I lacked factual information. Having more accurate and relevant information—about yourself and the world around you—is crucial for optimal decision-making.

Think about it as a gamer—since you're reading this, I assume you are one. Without information about your resources, what the rules are, what the objective is, how do you plan on even making the first move?

If you're in a fog of war scenario, one of the first things you ought to do is scout your surroundings.

Scouting is a ton of work. It may take you a long, long time to do it. But it is worth it. You'll want to do it in primarily three ways:

1) Self-reflection. Just sit and think about who you are as a person: your tendencies, your faults, your desires, your strengths.

2) Research. Read, watch, ask questions, and absorb anything that seems relevant to your interests. Try to cultivate a knowledge base that is significant to yourself and what you want to do in life.

3) Testing your hypothesis. Go out there and experiment! Don't wait for other people to tell you what to do, and don't make assumptions based on solely your past experiences. You must hunt for answers through trial and error.

Now, go and decide what's for dinner.