Psychology

Conquering Fears, freedom, Psychology, Self development

What Human Beings Can Be, They Must BE


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“How long are you going to wait before you demand the best for yourself and in no instance bypass the discriminations of reason? You have been given the principles that you ought to endorse, and you have endorsed them. What kind of teacher, then, are you still waiting for in order to refer your self-improvement to him? You are no longer a boy, but a full-grown man. If you are careless and lazy now and keep putting things off and always deferring the day after which you will attend to yourself, you will not notice that you are making no progress, but you will live and die as someone quite ordinary.
From now on, then, resolve to live as a grown-up who is making progress, and make whatever you think best a law that you never set aside. And whenever you encounter anything that is difficult or pleasurable, or highly or lowly regarded, remember that the contest is now: you are at the Olympic Games, you cannot wait any longer, and that your progress is wrecked or preserved by a single day and a single event. That is how Socrates fulfilled himself by attending to nothing except reason in everything he encountered. And you, although you are not yet a Socrates, should live as someone who at least wants to be a Socrates.” 
Epictetus

“What human beings can be, they must be” Abraham Maslow

Question. Have you ever given a thought to how much of your potential are you really using? 15% 20%? Can you honestly say that you are at your 100%? If not, why not? What’s holding you back?

It’s funny how it seems like the focus of psychology today is to prevent everyone from killing themselves and the apparent solution is pills, pills, and more pills. The terms related to the word psychology and mental health are anxiety, depression and, disorders. Although Freud left us with immense and eye-opening psychological insight, it’s fair to say that his research was extremely one-sided towards sickness and coping with life.

But what about thriving? What about winning? What about psychologically flourishing?

These were the questions early 20th-century psychologist Abraham Maslow asked himself. He thought that the goal of psychology should be focused not only on psychological sickness but on ultimate psychological health as well.

“It is as if Freud supplied us with the sick half of psychology, and now we must fill it out with the healthy half”- Abraham Maslow

The core difference between the psychologically flourishing and the sick and mediocre is the ability to self-actualize.

Ok, where to start?

The famous Hierarchy of Needs, of course.

You might already be familiar with it, anyway, let’s revise it again as it is fundamental.

In order for you to become a self-actualizer (as it is a never-ending process), you need to solve your basic needs first so that you can then focus on the more complex ones, you need to climb up the hierarchy.

Right now, as you are reading this, you’re probably not thinking about where you are going to sleep tonight, fortunately. Neither you’re worried about your safety. You would simply not be reading this at all, as you’d have greater, more basic concerns to attend to, like keeping yourself alive. This is a good thing, as you’ve already satisfied the most basic necessities and in reading this, you are actively looking for higher, more complex needs.

When you are honestly hungry, or really, really tired, nothing inhabits your consciousness other than thoughts of sleep and food. Nothing would make you happier than a delicious hamburger or a comfy bed. When you are hungry enough, everything seems to be delicious. I’m sure you’ve experimented this before, if not try hiking for an entire day without eating anything, I can assure you that you’ll eat anything they put in front of you. 

Once these needs are satisfied, magically, your focus shifts towards something else, such as that girl or boy you’ve been texting to lately or maybe having a couple of drinks with your friends. You ascend on the hierarchy. As you can see in the pyramid, you cannot begin to self-actualize until you’ve satisfied your more basic needs, so there is always work to be done. Once you’ve ascended enough in the hierarchy you’ll be ready to become everything you are able to become, to self actualize.

“Musicians must make music, artists must paint, poets must write if they are to be ultimately at peace with themselves. What human beings can be, they must be. They must be true to their own nature. This need we may call self-actualization… It refers to man’s desire for self-fulfillment, namely to the tendency for him to become actually in what he is potentially — Abraham Maslow, Motivation and Personality

It’s almost as if you have to make a decision. 

The decision

“How long are you going to wait before you demand the best for yourself and in no instance bypass the discriminations of reason? You have been given the principles that you ought to endorse, and you have endorsed them. What kind of teacher, then, are you still waiting for in order to refer your self-improvement to him? Epictetus

Decide to commit to developing yourself to the fullest. Once that decision is made, the mastery of self becomes your way of life. The psyche is an extremely complex and interesting place, curiosity, here, will function as a torch that lights your way as you submerge into the inner realm of potential inside your psyche. You will begin to see your psyche as a vast unexplored terrain, motivated to acquire greater knowledge of your inner depths.

Is there anything in the world more interesting than finding out what’s there? To see discover how far you can go in whichever field you choose? It’s like being a kid in an amusement park once you think about it. Bear this in mind, doing this, is entirely under your control, right now. Rather than being driven by wealth or status, things outside your control, you can instead choose to commit to your self-mastery and self-created life missions. and in the process develop the necessary energies to master the skills needed to complete your goals and in the process actualize your latent potentials. 

“Self actualizing people have the wonderful capacity to appreciate again and again, freshly and naively, the basic goods of life, with awe, pleasure, wonder and even ecstasy, however stale these experiences may have become to others” — Abraham Maslow

Just like getting down from a rollercoaster ride, throwing yourself from an airplane or asking a someone you don’t know out. You will feel alive, you will feel motivated and renewed. The self-actualizer will often feel this, as there is seldom anything more rewarding than discovering new realms of potential inside yourself, these experiences will transform you in the process. 

Become Self-Defined 

If you are no longer feeling compelled to define yourself in terms of wealth or status, but instead see those things as byproducts of realizing your self-mastery, you will find that your sense of self-worth will be defined, as it must be, by yourself. Knowing this, we can logically imply that you will no longer seek approval in social standards or authority that try to determine how you should live, instead, you will actively be creating your own formula. The self-actualizer is free from the limiting need for social acceptance and the obsession of social comparison, rather, he takes care of that job for himself as Montaigne succinctly puts it. 

“I have my own laws and my own court to judge me and I refer to this rather than elsewhere”. Michael Montaigne, Essays

And further Maslow

“Self-actualizers have become strong enough to be independent of the good opinion of other people or even their affection. The honors, the status, the rewards, the popularity, the pretige and the love they can bestow must have become less important than self-development and inner growth.” Abraham Maslow, Motivation and Personality

The Fight For Potential

If fulfilling our potentials were easy, everyone would do it, but it is no secret that almost no one is operating at their highest. Why?

“We must understand that the dark forces are as normal as the growth forces” Abraham Maslow

Everyone wishes to be the best they could be. But, as much as we desire that, we are also attracted to safety and comfort, also attracted to avoid challenges. The comfort zone is no myth, and it is there where dreams go to die. As the very challenges and fears, we avoid, are the ones which will lead to personal growth and also make it possible for us to become self-actualized. 

The price you pay for succumbing to comfort and a life without challenge is high, as it is paid with anxiety and shame, it is paid with internal torture. 

It’s important to note though, that those feelings do not mean that all is lost, but rather, they are symptoms that cry for the latent growth forces inside of you. It’s never too late to follow your own self.

To become one of those rare individuals that become self actualized.

“He who belies his talent, the born painter who sells stockings instead, the intelligent man who lives a stupid life, the man who sees the truth and keeps his mouth shut, the coward who gives up his manliness, all these people perceive in a deep way that they have done wrong to themselves and despise themselves for it. Out of this self-punishment may come only neurosis, but there may equally come renewed courage, rightous indignation, increased self-respect, because of thereafter doing the right thing, in a word, growth and improvement can come through pain and conflict. Abraham Maslow, Towards Psychology of being

a  great complement to this read: The Mad Lust For Wins Is Getting In Your Way

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Conquering Fears, Psychology

Of Progress


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Now, if virtue promises happiness, prosperity, and peace, then progress in virtue is certainly progress in each of these. For to whatever point the perfection of anything absolutely brings us, progress is always an approach towards it.  Epictetus

No matter how much you read Stoic Answers or The Daily Stoic or Brain Pickings, you will never, ever have true progress unless you actually put what you read into practice. Regarding this point, Epictetus says: As if I should say to a wrestler, Show me your muscle; and he should answer me, ” See my dumb-bells.” Your dumb-bells are your own affair; I desire to see the effect of them.

What are all your books and reading good for, if you cannot see nor harvest the effect of them (happiness, peace, prosperity)?

Well, it is just so obvious isn’t it? And yet, do you really believe that you are advancing in virtue? Do you feel more happy, more at peace and more prosperous each day that passes? If so, then you don’t need my congratulations, you are on your way, you’ve won, but if not, I believe there is something in your life that is lacking in order to actually make progress and that is simply, focus.

It is no secret that the capacity to sustain attention, to focus, is at an all-time low in our society, or rather, misdirected, almost as if it is not under our control. At this point in your reading, I have to ask, have you only been reading or have you checked your phone already?

In order to get better at something, you need to pay attention to what you want to get better at, there is no other way around. With virtue, it gets a little tricky, as virtue is not something you can set a Pomodoro timer to practice for 25 minutes and get better once you are done with it, no, virtue requires you to practice 24/7 as virtue is the practice of living well and you are living all the time. There is no rest when it comes to living a virtuous life.

I’m going to let Epictetus remind us what a virtuous life is.

“There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power or our will. ” 
― Epictetus

To live a virtuous life, a happy, simple, and free life, you have to disregard, or, better said, be unaffected by that which is not under your control and at the same time regain your power to control that ,which, do is under your control.

Distraction

It is simple, but we are, however, extremely distracted. And most of the things that distract us are constantly trying to remind us about all of our desires, desires that are not needed or even wanted sometimes. We are being constantly bombarded with advertisement either from business or from our friends that show a never ending stream of food, sex or the joys of traveling, open Instagram and see for yourself.

While we are busy desiring all of these spoils that we really don’t need and really cannot control, just influence, we are deprive ourselves of the capacity to focus on what we can actually control right at the moment. Which is basically being content with what we do have in each moment and finding enjoyment in what we are doing right now. Not living in a fantasy world that has not yet come to pass.

Besides, if you want a great body or you want to go to the Great Wall of China and take a picture there, isn’t it better to focus on working or developing a plan to actually get there yourself? On top of that, what will happen if you finally get to the place which you thought was going to provide you with happiness and you suddenly realize that you cannot really enjoy it, for you did not wanted to see the place in itself but just yourself portrayed in a picture you can show of?

That is a scary thought isn’t it? The difference between enjoying The Great wall and enjoying the picture you take yourself in it is that you are free to enjoy whichever place you want, you are free to admire it and wonder in it, no matter where you are. Whereas taking a picture for validation restrains you of the enjoyment you could’ve supplied for yourself and willingly transfers it to the judgement of other people that I’m quite sure, doesn’t even care that much.

Remember this be careful to give your power away to the desires that lure you into a cycle of want that will never end, for as soon as we get something, we will want something else, and then something else, and so on.

Consuming information and being entertained is not inherently bad, of course. Enjoying a movie or watching a funny video on YouTube from time to time is not as said before, inherently wrong. What is bad is that everything that distracts you from practicing virtue, and being in control is going to affect your life experience directly, and not in a good way.

Knowing this, it is important to control our focus. As psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihaly puts it: “Control of consciousness determines the quality of life.”

Your focus is, undoubtedly, your most important asset, this is why everyone wants it, and millions of dollars are being paid every single day for it. Wherever your focus goes, you will grow in that specific area, be it for good or for bad. If your focus is placed for the most time in the modern spoils like the ones just mentioned, then your capacity to restrict desire and focus on the positive things that are available to you will be severely restricted.

What To Do About It Then?

Well, knowing this, it is important for you to ask yourself:

  • Where is my focus most of the time?
  • What am I thinking most of the time?
  • Where do I spend most of my free time

Taking a walk or watching Instagram? Scrolling endlessly on YouTube or on a Netflix marathon? Or maybe doing some kind of sport, a good run? Even having a glass of wine or coffee with someone?

The difference between doing something easy in comparison with doing something a bit more complicated is that you need to enforce and actively practice your focus, you need to force yourself to use your attention.

This is how progress is made, by actually putting it into practice.

“First say to yourself what you would be;
and then do what you have to do.”
― Epictetus

Meditation

There is a good reason why Marcus Aurelius’s book is called Meditations. To meditate is to actively practice or reflect on something. It is basically focusing attention on something that you consciously want to be improved. In mindful meditation, for example, you force yourself to focus on your breathing. This practice might not be stoic in essence, but it lets everyone that practice it, experience first hand what focus truly is and how little we possess of it.

Sit down for 5 minutes and try to sustain your focus only on your breath. You will soon realize that thoughts come and go in your head like clouds passing through the sky. It’s hard to concentrate on your breathing entirely for more than even a few seconds. This is why meditation can greatly enhance your capacity to focus at will. If there is an actual practice to gain more control over your head, this is it.

Conscious Experience Direction

Another great way to gain control is the ability to practice values such as courage or gratitude at will.

Although you might think that gratitude is a something external, in reality it is something that can be experienced entirely at will as the only thing you need is to direct your focus towards gratefulness or courage. You can be at any moment more courageous. This tends to change perspective in funny ways. When you are living, day to day, normal life, the default mode of your thoughts will almost always inevitably tend to spiral towards the negative. It really does take effort to direct your focus on what is more useful as for example gratitude.

What happens when you are grateful? Your focus is directed towards the things that you feel happy about having in your life, maybe the very fact that you are alive wondering about your life is a reason to be grateful. In consequence, you become motivated by them and you actively search for more life instead of shunning it.

Wouldn’t you want more of that? Moment to moment, you can cultivate gratefulness as you can cultivate courage or temperance, and the Stoic values in general.

Better from worse

Lastly. It is hard to always know what you need to do or where you need to direct your attention. One quick fix that you can use as a North Star is to ask yourself: Is this better, or worse?

This question is not hard to respond to, and you will generally know what is better from worse and from that point, act accordingly.

I would like to leave you with a quote from Epictetus so you can cement in your head what’s just been said.

“How long are you going to wait before you demand the best for yourself and in no instance bypass the discriminations of reason? You have been given the principles that you ought to endorse, and you have endorsed them. What kind of teacher, then, are you still waiting for in order to refer your self-improvement to him? You are no longer a boy, but a full-grown man. If you are careless and lazy now and keep putting things off and always deferring the day after which you will attend to yourself, you will not notice that you are making no progress, but you will live and die as someone quite ordinary.
From now on, then, resolve to live as a grown-up who is making progress, and make whatever you think best a law that you never set aside. And whenever you encounter anything that is difficult or pleasurable, or highly or lowly regarded, remember that the contest is now: you are at the Olympic Games, you cannot wait any longer, and that your progress is wrecked or preserved by a single day and a single event. That is how Socrates fulfilled himself by attending to nothing except reason in everything he encountered. And you, although you are not yet a Socrates, should live as someone who at least wants to be a Socrates.” 
― Epictetus

A great complement to this read: Where Are You Putting Your Attention?

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