Do You Know Why You're Suffering?

That’s a fun question, right? You’re upset so while you’re upset, think about why. That’s usually not high on the list of Things to Do.

It probably should be.

It sounds crazy, but knowing why something is bothersome I think is paramount to understanding it fully. I’ve found myself employing this tactic a lot over the last year.

Why am I angry? Why do I think this person will do that thing? Why do I hate mushrooms?

That last one I already know–they’re disgusting, flavorless, spongey, sprouting dirt turds… but hey, I didn’t always have such a wonderful answer. 🙂

Mark Manson covers this in The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. He tells the story of Hiroo Onoda, a Japanese soldier that spent almost 30 years in the Philipenes, fighting a war that had ended. He led a pretty terrible life in the jungle but had a clear purpose for it. It was his mission. He was suffering for what he believed was a good cause.

When we think about why we’re feeling a way about something or why we’re choosing to live in a poor moment, it’s not necessarily a bad thing for it to be a less-than-ieal situation. The key is being alright with it. Onoda accepted the situation he was in so you, too, can accept that Christmas with your in-laws is garbage but you love your wife and she really enjoys spending time with your family. That’s actually two reasons!

Special Snowflakes

This is a topic I never thought I’d actually touch. We hear about how people think they’re so special, typically using the words special snowflake and typically from the older generations (read: 50+). Typically these low slung insults have the right idea, though the angle at which these statements are being lobbed is all wrong.

I’m talking about Chapter 3 in Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of not Giving a F*ck. In particular, there’s a couple passages that I want to highlight before I take the anti-special-snowflake generation to task.

…beginning in…the 1970s, self-esteem practices began to be taught to parents, emphasized by therapists, politicians, and teachers… Kids were given inanne homework assignments, like writing down all the reasons why they thought they were special…seminars [told us everyone] can be exceptional and massively successful.

That sounds oddly familiar, doesn’t it?

Today, we have a group of individuals, thought not technically wrong, chanting about how kids are being taught participation trophy this and safe space that. No one seems to have stopped and thought where all this came from…

It came from the generation of people complaining about it right now, and the generation before them. When the shoe is on the other foot, it’s amazing how much the narrative changes.

On the flipside:

…a generation later and the data is in: we’re not all exceptional. It turns out that merely feeling good about yourself doesn’t really mean anything unless you have a good reason to feel good about yourself.

Hmm. Mark’s taking the side of the grumps, as the millenials would probably call those of us trying to spoil the fun (I suppose, I have no idea; saying things in jest is what makes the Internet great, right?).

The difference here is how this information is shared. Right now we’re faced with old people telling young people you’re wrong and you should feel bad which as history clearly shows, works absolutely zero percent of the time. You’d think the old people in the scenario would know better, given they were young once. Oh well.

In order for this information to sink it, it needs to be discovered by those needing it the most… once they’re adults. The huge caveat to all this is: trying to teach a child that life sucks and to grow a pair always turns out wonderfully (not). Having grandpa tell your six-year-old about how his life was such shit that said six-year-old should nut up and stop feeling bad about not winning something somewhere is a fantastic idea (not).

There’s a threshold after which an individual can understand this concept. As a child, said individual is not at or past such a point.

So what do we do? We raise our kids to be kids and as they get older, enstill them with the tools they need to discover life on their own and at their own pace. If we raise our children to be entitled, then we’ll have entitled adults. If we raise our childen to be walking satirical assholes and finding the doom and gloom and life is hard, suck it up comes out of their depressive face holes every moment of the day (cough, nihilism), then we’ll have a new generation of nihilistic sad sacks that end up bitter in their old age.

There’s a balance in the middle, but I don’t believe it’s found to be valuable by any other means but through experience. The short version of all this is: life is hard but don’t be an ass in teaching children that. Let them figure it out and guide them.

Perhaps one day we’ll no longer have a generation of sad sacks complaining about snowflakes.

Emotional Decisions

Picking up where I left off a few days ago, I wanted to continue my stream on consciousness on emotions.

On the scale of what I find important in life, understanding emotions and how they play a part in what path your life takes is high up there. Don’t get me wrong, I act on emotion as much as the next person. I’d like to think I at least know what I’m getting myself into.

Finishing up chapter two of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, a particular passage stood out to me. Before I mention it, I’d like to make it known that it’s not always the deepest or most powerful passages that stick with me for a long time. Sometimes it’s the simpler ones. The ones that invoke laughter or even just a simple head shake because it’s cheesy.

> But then there are those people who over identify with their emotions. Everything is justified for another other reason than they *felt* it. … Decision-making based on emotional intuition, without the aid of reason to keep it in line, pretty much always sucks. You know who bases their entire lives on their emotions? Three-year-old kids. And dogs. You know what else three-year-olds and dogs do? Shit on the carpet.
Ain’t that the truth. Again, I’m not saying making decisions void of emotion is the right way to go. You’re not a robot, so don’t start acting like one. What differentiates alright emotion-based decisions and crazy decisions is *the aid of reason*.

Example A: Johnny wants to rob a bank because he’s angry that they took $2 for an ATM withdrawal fee. That’ll sure show those capitalist clowns.

That sounds like a highly emotional decision not based on any kind of reason.

Example B: Johnny met a girl. He likes her, a lot. He wants to impress her with his hobbies but showing her his rope and garbage bag collection seems like a bad idea. They stick to birdwatching, instead.

Much better.

Now that I’ve explained it to you like you’re five, let’s fire around some personal stories. I mention this being something that hits close to home. I’ve been the subject of more emotion-only-based decisions that I care to admit, and one thing I’ve learned from all this is not that they’re bad, but finding someway to stay grounded is of the utmost importance.

If you let your grounding slip away, your ability to keep your choices in check, so to speak, will slip away, too. There’s a very fine line between the best and the right decision, and usually one of those involves tossing reason out the window.

I don’t have any regrets, though. Sure it wasn’t the best decision at the time, but I also want to keep on the positive side.

I’m looking forward to Chapter 3 where we talk about how we’re not special… sounds like a doozy!

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