Search This Blog

Friday, October 18, 2019

Being True To Yourself

Recently at my place of employment we were required to do some 'legal compliance' training.   One of the subjects was diversity training and more specifically recognizing implicit bias. That is to say bias about groups you don't necessarily recognize in yourself.  Project Implicit was the name tied to a number of different tests about implicit bias including ones related to:
  • Age
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Disability
  • Creed
I took one of the tests having a fairly good idea what my bias was already in that direction.  Sure, enough, the test confirmed what I suspected to be the case about my bias.  Ironically, my last blog was about Confirmation Bias and how I suspect many people have it, but it is directed towards how they view themselves.  Anyway, some people expressed a little surprise about an implicit or 'hidden' bias they had, but I wasn't one of them.  I pretty well knew where my biases lay.  To me an 'implicit bias' is usually one that you know on some level you have, but are unwilling to accept.  To me trying to deny a bias is a foolish endeavor.  Like many other aspects of our personality and self, I feel that we can work to be our better selves by recognizing and accepting our biases.  Only then can we determine if we should work on them and if so, how we can.   Like an addict who denies his or her addictive tenancies, a person who is unwilling to face their biases isn't giving themselves the chance to be their best self.

If I am an alcoholic but am not willing to recognize that, there is no way I can possibly recognize and accept the harm it is doing to my heath and/or my personal relationships.  Similarly, if I don't accept the biases that on some level that I know that I have, I can't be more open-minded in dealing with individuals (who fit the profile of my bias). 

But why do we deny our biases?

  • Societal shame - If enough people look down on you for a bias, you may not want to accept the bias as to do so might invite accepting the societal shame of the bias.
  • Personal shame - I believe most people like to think of themselves as logical, fair-minded, reasonable and just, even-handed followers of the gold rule.   To accept that we may be ruled by anything other than that, can indicate to ourselves a deep personality flaw.  No one wants to admit what they see as major personality flaws.
  • Moral high ground (virtue signaling) - It's kind of hard to hold the moral high ground when you are exposed as being biased, especially if it is a bias that society strongly condemns.  So, what do you do?  You pretend that the bias doesn't exist of course.

I believe no matter how much we try to hide or deny our biases, they do eventually come out.  You can only 'be' someone who you aren't for so long before you grow weary of it, emotionally and spiritually.  As the concept of 'implicit bias' indicates, biases may seep out in very subtle ways, but they do seep out.

Before, I close this blog post out, I do want to 'defend' biases.  Some biases are really not a big deal and some biases are useful for protecting yourself.
  • For example, you are biased toward buying fudge cookies as you expect that they will always taste better, in the big scheme of things it's probably not a big deal (unless you and your spouse are fighting over it). 😀 
  • For example, if you are a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, especially at the hands of a man, it is probably very reasonable that you'd be biased against males.  It's not that you believe all males are predators, but until you get to know them better, it could be seen as safe to keep your kids away from a 1-1 interaction with a grown male until you know him better.
If digging deep down in your soul, you realize and recognize harmful biases.  I don't believe you have to announce your biases to the world.  However, I think it is important, to acknowledge them to yourself so you can do any work you need to such that you are a logical, fair-minded, reasonable and just, even-handed follower of the gold rule.

Just some thoughts,
Rich

* Full disclosure.  I was molested as a child by two males.  Unfortunately, that pushed my trust factor of adult males way down.  But, as I realized long before I took the implicit bias test, pushed me towards a bias towards those of a sex-sex orientation, especially males.  Instead of denying it, I have taken a proactive stance.  Namely, I am very deliberate in my interactions with those I suspect of having a same-sex orientation.  I remind myself that there are bad people in the world of all orientation who would take advantage of others and that they didn't harm me.  I remind myself, they are just like everyone else trying to get by and trying to live.  In other words, if I feel a bias bubbling up, I work diligently combat it.  In some ways, I would like to think this could make me a better friend.  I am mindful of discrimination others face, I double-check my motives and I strive to be as fair as I can and I always, always seek to understand the individual not the group.

Anyway, that's all for now.



Sunday, September 22, 2019

Confirmation bias: When self-confirming becomes self-righteousness or self-loathing.

I previously wrote a post that touched upon what I refer to as negative narcissism (Positive narcissist vs. negative narcissist vs. balanced view).  Anyway, the upshot of it was that what people see as narcissism is someone who believes his or herself as beyond real criticism.  They are so focused on presenting a positive image of themselves to themselves and others that they cannot engage in legitimate self-reflection.   The idea of a 'negative narcissist' is someone who is so stuck on the idea that they are a bad person or devoid of positive value that they cannot or will not be able to legitimately be able to self-reflect either.

I decided to take this a step further based on another concept: confirmation bias.   I understand that to be taking events or circumstances and using them to further or confirm your point of view, even if it is not an accurate reflection.   Most of the time, I think it is used to confirm our thoughts on others.   That is, we have an opinion or take on someone(s) and something happens surrounding or involving them and that just confirms what we already 'know'.  For example, say we had a conversation with a friend that doesn't end on a good note (or at least that's what our perception is).   Say we don't hear from the friend for a few days, we might take the lack of communication as our friend being mad at us.  The reality might be a little different.  The friend might have just been venting and had to get off the phone abruptly.   In the meantime, he or she might legitimately be overwhelmed with work or family.

However, I thought about it the other day and realized we confirm our biases about ourselves too.   If we are a classical narcissist we notice an investment of ours is doing well.  We might already think of ourselves as very smart and savvy, warranted or otherwise.   Our observation that our investment is doing well is just a further confirmation to us how brilliant we are.   The reality might be that it is an up market and most everyone is doing well, but why bother us with the pesky facts.   Effectively we would be using confirmation bias to support our self-righteousness or self-praise.  Likewise, with a 'negative narcissist', a person thinks so little of his or herself and isn't inclined to entertain any positive feedback or point of view about themselves, that her or she will use circumstances or situations to 'confirm' how awful or irredeemable they are.  For example, we may be involved in an accident and the evidence points to the other driver being largely at fault, but we may have such a negative view of ourselves that we may decide independent of the evidence if we had just left earlier when we 'should have', the accident would have never happened.  In a way, we are blaming ourselves for the accident.   Effectively we are using confirmation bias to support our self-loathing.

My takeaways are the following:
  • Confirmation bias is not always directed outward, though most of the time I believe people think of it as such
  • Confirmation bias, whether directed inward or outward, is never a good substitute for proper reflection on circumstances.
Just my thoughts.  As always, if someone or someone(s) can get something from my posts, I feel like I've accomplished my role.

- Rich


Saturday, September 7, 2019

Evil has always existed

I have long been fascinated by the subject and history of WWII and the rise and fall of the Third Reich. Since I am far removed from the time period involved and especially since I did not have any direct connections in my family tree that I know of offhand, it is easy for me to study it in a detached way. This doesn't quite capture it, but consider when we drive by accident scene, we can't help but look, stare and gawk for a moment in morbid curiosity and try to discern what happened. If we figure out how it--the accident--happened. it may help to reinforce to us how not to drive. In any case, what makes Germany of post WWI to end of WWII intriguing is how a 'modern' society in human history allows itself to be the instrument of evil to the extent it did. While I believe that it is possible for evil to fully overtake a society in short order, I believe it is typically a gradual process.


The reason I named this blog as I did is that I believe evil has always existed in all of humankind or the potential or tendency to drift towards it as a society given the right circumstance. Think about it;
  • We see a small wad of cash on the ground, say maybe $100, $200 or more.  Even if we are honest, I believe that most people think for a moment about what they would do with it.  We may even do the honest thing and turn it in to the police or customer service.  But, I believe most people will hope that no one comes by to claim it and they get it to keep it.  I guess the point here is we fight the desire to have what we know is not ours.
  • We see a conflict off in the distance and it is clear someone is being beaten or otherwise wronged in a bad way.  Do we get involved to defend the target of it, do we reach out to the police or some other governing authority or do we just walk or drive away from it?  In question here is our willingness to put ourselves at risk or at least have to deal with the inconvenience of a situation which doesn't immediately involve us.
  • We ignore a law or rule because we think it is silly or isn't that big a deal.  Heck I speed everyday so there's that.
  • As a child we've gotten into or done something that we shouldn't have.  We know if we tell the truth to our parent or caregiver, there will be negative consequences for us.  But, we also know that if we are dishonest about it, there may be a chance that we are able to avoid any consequences especially if they believe our dishonesty.  
In these cases and many others there is the most proper way to act or be and there are less noble ways to act or be.  Think about it, even in an 'upright society' which strongly suggest golden rule values, people fight the right vs. wrong fight every day.  Now consider if a society has leadership whose priorities are out of whack.  As individuals, we face a challenge to exercise our better nature, with some more successful than other in that regard.   We sometimes face the challenge too of recognizing our better nature. Meaning, not just thinking we are doing right, but also recognizing what is right.  Imagine if you have leadership with very corrupt, if not downright evil priorities.  Imagine too that the leadership is good at masking their intentions too at least until it is too late to effective combat it (as in Nazi Germany).


Anyway, given our split nature.  The right vs. wrong and in a more extreme view, good vs. evil, why don't we just serve our 'wrong' nature more when it often seems to be more beneficial.  In other words, what keeps our 'wrong' or 'evil' behavior at bay?  Some of  the things I believe that keep us in check are as follows:
  • Laws/rules that strictly lay out what is poor behavior and likely punishment for it.  In other words, in the short term, poor behavior may seem benefit us, but with rules and laws that are enforced, we realize that poor behavior may not pay.
  • Faith that gives us a code of proper behavior and that indicates that we will be rewarded or punished for good or bad behavior in this life (or sometime beyond).  In other words, a spiritual ledger.
  • People's desire for approval and a society with leaders/influencers approve the good behavior. I believe people are social creatures and as such seek to approval from others.   If those who influence or lead us reward us with approval or acceptance for upright behavior, we are more likely to engage in such.  Inversely, if they seem to approve poor behavior, members of society will likely engage in poor behavior.

In Nazi Germany, over a period each of these 'obstacles' was overcome.  Hitler participated in a putsch designed start an insurrection.  It failed miserably and he was arrested.   After appealing to the patriotism and resentments of those who judge him, he was able to get a light sentence.  Instead of recognizing Hitler for the threat he was or could become, they convinced themselves it was okay to bend the rules and limit the punishment.   Instead of punishing poor behavior, they effectively rewarded it by giving him a light sentence for his crime.  When he rose to power, Hitler continued a pattern of rewarding poor behavior that he approved of, instead of punishing it.   Hitler, through effective propaganda wash able overcome the spiritual ledger by co-opting elements of existing religious structure in Germany and by creating a sort of quasi-religion of his own.  In Hitler's Germany, his leadership sought the approval of the Fuhrer and as such they engaged in behavior which they felt that he would approve us.  Unfortunately, for all involved instead of rewarding morally good behavior, Hitler tended to reward evil behavior.   Similarly, in part fearful and impart wanting to gain approval, citizens would ignore or even justify the poor behavior of leadership in Nazi Germany or even in some cases condoned if not participate in it themselves.

People look back on Nazi Germany and think evil like that couldn't happen in a modern society these days.  But, with our individual battles to always do the right thing, to resentments or prejudices many have, to our desire to gain approval which can be flipped and our desire to the do morally right thing which also if we are not careful can be flipped as well, I do believe great evil is a risk even in our more modern society.   Jim Jones, David Koresh and many others have shown that even 'good' people can be corrupted, all the while they think they are doing right thing.

I believe we always need to be on guard individual, as groups and as a society and examine:
  • Are we willing to or honest enough to properly recognize upright behavior?  If so, are we willing to reward it when it occurs--recognizing good deeds and honesty?  
  • Are we willing to or honest enough to properly recognize poor behavior?  If so, do we have the stomach to punish poor behavior appropriately or do we ignore it because punishing it might have a cost? 
  • Are we tailoring our beliefs of what is upright behavior to fit our lives OR are we willing to admit when we fall short and not change the definition of what is upright behavior to rationalizing our falling short?  In other words, are we adjusting our 'faith' to fit the circumstances?
  •  Are we putting the need for approval over the need to always do the right thing?
  •  Our motivations for our  decisions, choices and our behavior.

I believe evil has existed since the dawn of man and will exist as long as humankind, as it is, exists but we don't have to give into it.   However, we must be mindful of the tendency for good and bad in all.  We must also be determined to self-examine and be willing to do the right thing or behave in way that we know in our heart is the right way.

Just my thoughts. I don't claim to have anywhere near all the answers, but I enjoy being part of the conversation and hope my posts spur others to think about the things which I write on.   Take what you need and leave the rest.

- Rich

Monday, August 19, 2019

Certain about Certainty...

I had a relatively certain life for the first decade of the 2000s.   I had my first house for most of the decade, I had steady employment for whole decade, all of my immediate family was still alive and I would regularly hang out with the same set of friends and my credit was good, and when I had my daughter in 2007, I saw her every day.

One by one, each of the dominoes fell, first my company announced they were closing down the local office, the my first marriage was disintegrating before my eyes, then my brother took his life,  my marriage for all intent and purposes ended shortly thereafter leading to the loss of seeing my daughter daily, the loss of my house, eventual bankruptcy and the passing of my father and mother as the 2010s got well under way.   Suffice to say, my sense of certainty had been shattered.   I've had other periods of uncertainty in my life which I can draw upon as well, but I digress...

I've heard from, observed and read about others about certainty and uncertainty in their lives and I've come to realize not everyone responds in the same way to certainty.  Likewise, not everyone responds the same way to uncertainty.
  • If your life has been riddled with uncertainty.
    • You may long for certainty and become comfortable with it and finally at ease when you feel it.  Some people just long for the 'day' in which they can feel stability.
    • You may be very uncomfortable with certainty and struggle with accepting or believing it is authentic.  In other words, adapting to it may prove difficult.  
      • The ironic thing is often the ones who longs for certainty may be the same people that don't believe or recognize it when they start to experience it. 
      • It is almost as if they've faced uncertainty for so long that they are just waiting for the other show to drop.
      • In some cases they can sabotage the positive certainty they have so that they are left with the the 'certainty of uncertain' or negative certainty that they are used to.
    • It may feel like the 'normal pace of life'.  We can be comfortable with what we know even if it is far from perfect--like a well worn shoe.   See the third point about sabotage.
    • It may feel like a positive driving force.  Uncertainty can be a motivator. 
  • If you have always had certainty
    • A lack of it at points may be scary or threatening.
    • It can lead to feelings of  monotony, boredom or purposelessness.  That is it may feel same ole, same ole and/or stale.  
    • It may feel like you've never really taken a chance or risk.
      • You might be too afraid of upsetting what you know to take a chance.   Another way of saying this is you might become too complacent.
      • You might feel the need to take a chance before the opportunity slips away.
    • Spontaneity or uncertainty may feel like an exciting change of pace.  
      • It may make you feel like you are truly alive as opposed to just living.
      • It may feel like 'stepping outside the lines' or moving the boundaries rather than just 'coloring within the lines'.
  • If you've had a life-changing events which shattered your certainty.
    • It could either push you harder to seek or keep certainty in other areas.
      • In my life, my daughter saw less of me due to a divorce.  When she was around me, she stayed close for a while rarely straying too far from me.  She had terrible separation anxiety when I dropped her off at child care.
    • Situations that previously would have appeared to have certainty, you would tend to question their certainty (or relative permanence).
      • You have a loved one unexpectedly die, the other things you took for granted as 'permanent' such as living somewhere, you may expect that will change as well.

Ultimately, I believe at some point we all realize life is full of uncertainty.  Even when we think we have it figured out, we eventually will get thrown a curveball which will give lie to the myth of certainty in our lives.  As a Christian, I believe we have hope for ultimate certainty if we accept God's will, way, and grace in our lives.  We may not have the certainty we wish for in this life, but I believe that in the next we can have that.  But, in the meantime, we have to learn to accept and perhaps live with the uncertainties in this life.   Of this, I am certain.



- Rich

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Has It All Been Done?

Recently I went to a concert where Barenaked Ladies opened up for Hootie and the Blowfish. After the concert, while waiting for traffic to file out of the parking lot, I put them on rotation on my iPod touch. One song of theirs caught my attention. It was called It's All Been Done. In the song, the lead singer sang about the different stages of a relationship. It was memorable because he absurdly put it in a history of the world context. He met this lady during the fall of Rome, he next runs into her 'Before the West Was Won" and ultimately he expects to see her again (at least on TV) on the 30th Century "Price Is Right".  He wonders how he'll react as she runs down the aisle--will he cry or smile? I have found that memorable stories often has a bit of dramatic flair, absurdity or exaggeration to it. It tends to make the story more engaging and memorable. Anyway, in his musical/lyrical way, he did bring up a good point. How do you know when a friendship or relationship has been played out?

Sometimes it is as clear as the ocean water on a sunny day. I remember one time ago, I was in one of my first serious long-term relationships and I hear the song, "Breakfast At Tiffany's" by Deep Blue Something. I had dated before that, but I hadn't really had what I call a long-term relationship. Anyway, I remember being overcome with sadness and a few tears. The song had crystallized what my heart and soul had been slowly putting together. The relationship I was in had pretty much run its course. Interestingly enough after I saw her with someone else, I cried for a moment. But, a funny thing happened after that: I slept on it and woke up and my heart and soul felt lighter. Sometimes I hear the song and it might bring me a little sadness. But, I realize the sadness is not a pining for a 'lost love' so much as remembering the general pain of that moment years ago. Hindsight had long ago brought me to the conclusion that she was definitely not matched up well for me and that I was as more in love with the idea of being 'in love' than I was actually in love with her. I'm sure anyone who is remotely romantic and has had any experiences with relationships can relate. Interestingly enough, she moved to Texas, but before she did she had a baby with her new guy. She called out of the blue and let me know and invited me to see her child at the hospital. I could have cared less at that point, but you know, it's one of those things. At that moment, I wasn't busy, I wasn't dating anyone, and she seemed to want to share the news with 'friends'. She didn't seem like she had many friends, so I thought what the hell. Anyway, that's the last time I saw all three of them. It was cordial enough, but one thing I remember thinking is this: I wonder what the boyfriend thought about her inviting me? She still thought of me as a friend apparently, though I had long ago moved on past even that. In any case, I felt like I did my good deed for the day and moved on.  Back to the song, it had been clear when I heard it that we were over and that all that was left was one of us saying, "let's be friends" which to me usually means I am being too polite to say, "I really don't want to see you much if ever again".

 Back to the main point at hand? When do you know a friendship or a relationship has played out? I guess for me, here are some tells, IMHO.
  • When you struggle to find things to talk about.  
    • I realize that relationships aren't about constant conversation, but it is not about awkward silence either.   Though the ability to hang out together comfortably, talking or not is most important, conversation is important an necessary. 
    • I felt that way one time with someone I had dated.  I felt like when we talked on the phone, I had to carry the whole conversation.  In other words, if I was quiet, there was more often than not an awkward silence.  Unfortunately, this was a reflection at large of the relationship.
  • When there is never a happy middle ground.
    • Always fighting can get in the way of reaching it.
      • Aggressively advocating for your POV isn't a bad thing and if it is called fighting, that's not necessarily a bad thing.  I mean fighting without downtime or just fighting because you don't want to concede to the other person.
    • One party completely checks out and doesn't ever get their way.
      • One party feels defeated and doesn't fight for his or her position.   
      • This may at first appear to be a 'victory' to the other party, but it eventually shows up as a disconnected relationship.
    • Both parties check out and neither really get their way.
      • At this point it is more of a peaceful coexistence, not a partnership.
      • This situation if left unchecked will lead to a complete drift and eventual breakup.
  • When the goals of the relationship are too different or there is an unwillingness to at work with or engage.
    • In the song, he wondered if "she'd be bored if he played the same three cords".  This spoke to me that there was a contentment on his part for status quo, whereas he felt that his partner might get bored with the status quo.  In other words, each person wanted something completely different out of the relationship at that point.
    • People can have different relationship goals, like but if there is an inability or unwillingness to engage at least some of the other person's interests or goals, then they really are pursuing their own separate lives.
    • In other words, they have different expectations of what they want out of the relationship and they are pretty well disengaged in the other person's life too.
I'm sure others can come up with signs that a relationship has been played out, but those are three signs that come to mind for me.   In keeping with this, I don't think that necessarily being 'too different' can kill a relationship, it is an unwillingness to find common ground, meet your partner somewhere in the middle or engage what is important to them that would ultimately make a relationship be played out.



Sunday, July 14, 2019

It's Hard to Say I'm Sorry


I realized something about my dad and I think this is something that many people have problems with, including me to some extent me: Difficulty in saying I'm sorry.  By that I don't mean difficult in feeling contrite or an inability to understand when they've negatively affected or caused pain or problems for another. What I mean is difficulty in acknowledging contrition, regret or sorrow to another.

A little backstory. My dad had a difficult childhood growing up. I don't know much because he didn't talk about it. But from what I know from my dad was that his dad was a deadbeat dad and he was taken from his mom and at early age. He was shuffled around in foster until he finally found a 'permanent' foster family during the 2nd half of his childhood. He was raised by an old school, old German heritage dad. By that I mean, was very demanding, very domineering, very much into making sure a boy was toughened up.  In other words, his foster dad was not particularly nice and very sparing with approval. In any case, my dad learned at an early age not to rely on others, that he had to be a tough guy, and apparently to have an unhealthy outlet for his angst. I surmised based on a conversation I had with him near the end of his life that he was sexually abused as a child too. Anyway, my dad was domineering, prone to deal using alcohol and other outlets, and had an angry streak that all of us and especially my mom had to face. I got the sense in his later life that he regretted some of his behavior, especially where my mom was impacted. My dad would ask how my mom was doing later in his life, so clearly he still cared about her. Anyway, my dad had a hard time opening up and I think he didn't really 'know' how to say I'm sorry. Maybe it was facing up to the impact his actions, maybe it was shame? In any case, it occurred to me why he had a difficult time talking about and acknowledging where he had harmed others.

The two biggest culprits from what I see are
  • Fear of appearing/being weak or diminished.
  • Shame

Fear of appearing/being weak or diminished
  • When you are in a position of authority it can be very difficult to acknowledge harm to others for fear of your authority being undercut.
    • A person in authority is 'not supposed' to make mistakes, especially ones that hurt others.  They are supposed to be above human frailties.  Much of their authority is thought to come from their wisdom and strength, including strength of character.   To acknowledge mistakes that harm others, can be to some effectively admitting they are no better than the average person.  When their position in the family or society 'demands' that they are to be held to a higher standard, to acknowledge mistakes is to effectively to say that aren't fit for their position of authority.  So, by ignoring the need to acknowledge their mistakes (even if they are the worst kept secret)-- imagine Harvey Weinstein--they are effectively trying to artificially hold on to a level of authority.
    • The irony of it is that sometimes by admitting mistakes a person in authority can actually improve their authority.  Good leaders lead by example, both in the good and bad circumstances.   A good leader for example shows grace, shows kindness, shows toughness, but a person can be a good leader by leading the way in showing contrition to another.  Open contrition when you've harmed another can be difficult.  If you see others you look up have the strength to show contrition publicly even at the risk of their authority, it can make it easier for the average person.  After all, if my 'heroes' aren't too big to admit they are wrong, why should I be?
  • When you admit to others you have harmed that you have harmed them (and show contrition), it can change the dynamic of the relationship. 
    • The power dynamic can flip.  For example, no longer are you the safe, strong parent/friend/sibling/spouse to listen to, but someone who can cause them harm.  In other words, "why should I listen to you, you are not safe?".
    • In fact, one who acknowledges harm can be the 'jerk' who is striving to be accepted again.
    • You may have had some legitimate issues,complaints or concerns with another, but acknowledging harm to them can undercut your ability to advocate for yourself.   If you have proven to be hurtful to another, they might be like why should I care if I've harmed you?

Shame
  • If you already don't feel worthy or worthwhile, then the shame of acknowledging harm to another can be hard on an already damaged/fragile esteem. 
  • Sometimes the embarrassment or humiliation of owning up to your harm can be hard to swallow.  I believe this is especially true when you are acknowledging harm to someone you perceive as hard to gain approval of, difficult and/or unforgiving.
    • To me personally, as a child, I faced the humiliation associated with a deeply dysfunctional house.  So, I was trained early on the avoid situations that could cause me humiliation.  In some case, that included acknowledging mistakes or being hurtful.

I believe in the case of my dad, I don't think it was that he was unaware of the affect of his alcoholism and mistreatment of family members including my mom had on the family.  I don't think it was that he didn't feel regret or remorse.   I frankly don't think that he was ever equipped with the tools to effectively deal with the emotions and psychological issues that fully acknowledging mistakes he made and harm he'd done to others would have forced upon him.  I believe not only wasn't he equipped, but in some ways it was reinforced to him that showing emotions was not what a man does.

I've been hurt and I've hurt people in my life.  In some ways, I guess in varying degrees that is the story of most people's lives.  While we see on crime shows, people who appear remorseless, I believe most people feel regret, remorse or contrition at some point in their lives.  Ultimately the question is can you acknowledge "your side of the street" as they say in AA?


Thursday, July 4, 2019

Chasing the Elusive Cup

Anyone who is familiar with sports in general and hockey in particular realizes that the Stanley Cup is the possibly the hardest championship hardware in sports to win.  Literally some teams have gone decades without winning the Cup.  My team, the St. Louis Blues, just ended the longest Stanley Cup drought in the NHL by winning this year (2019) and it wasn't for lack of trying over the years.  Anyway, it has been a few weeks since they closed out the series and hoisted the Cup and I have been jazzed up about it since.  If I am having a bad day or just sad, I just go to clips from game 7, read one of the personal interest stories or watch a little of the parade and that's like a bit of an adrenaline shot into my arm.  The mood lifts for a bit.  So, it occurred to me, the elation of their victory and everything associated with it, IS my current drug of choice.  As I've been a huge fan of the Blues for decades, I have devoted countless fan hours, fan passion, fan intensity and in many cases fan cash into the team.  While fans love their team, let's face it, we all seek to see them win a championship.  We devote more time, energy, intensity and money into our team when they are winning.  We do it for love, but we also do it for the ultimate high of reveling in our team's championship run and victory.  For the most part, this is a healthy 'drug'.  But, it got me to thinking...  Are we chasing the elusive Cup and all it promises?  Have we got a taste of the Cup in our lives and are we seeking it at a high cost?

It's very simple from what I see...

Chasing the Cup
  • We are chasing the ultimate high, the ultimate lift, the ultimate diversion, the ultimate medication.  We are chasing a dream and all its promises.  Sometimes it lives up to the promises, but sometimes it doesn't.
  • We spend countless hours in pursuit.   With our favorite hockey team, we attend games, we listen to/watch broadcasts,  we follow the team, we read the stories, and we just generally think about how we'd love to see them win it all.   In other words, we sacrifice monetarily, timewise, emotionally and in other ways while we ride our team's journey in hopes of getting the ultimate high, the Stanley Cup.  If drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex, shopping, obsessive eating or something similar is our "Stanley Cup", we will pursue our Cup usually sacrificing much (or in some cases all) in hopes of 'capturing the elusive Cup' high.  
  • The first Cup, like the first buzz for an alcoholic, like the first high for the drug addict, like their first love for a love addict, can be the ultimate high.

Trying to recapture the Cup
  • Once we've had a taste of the 'Cup' and we've receded from the high back to the stresses, the worries, and the daily grind of our lives, we wish to taste the Cup again.   We wish to live it again.  We wish to have the good feelings, the good vibes, the thrill and ecstasy of victory.  In short, we wish to replace the feelings we have with the high.
  • The Cup gave us an illusion of what it could always be IF only...   In our mind, we know we can't live the Cup.  We know there is no shortcut to happiness/contentment except living the life we are supposed to.   In other words, we can't seek the feeling of the Cup in our lives with shortcuts like drugs, alcohol, etc.   We have to accept that life is work and there are some nice points.  We have to enjoy the nice points, but we can't live in them, demand them or just seek them the wrong way.
  • We can't throw everything else aside in our pursuit of the Cup.  It is a noble goal to pursue the Cup in our daily lives, but we can't sacrifice everything else in hopes of capturing that elusive feeling, that fleeting high.  It doesn't mean we can't pursue the high points, but we've got to enjoy the journey along the way and make sure we aren't sacrificing too much in the process.   
  • It's nice to have those good feelings--the first/teenage type love, the unexpected good night playing the slots, the vacation in paradise, celebrating with a night on the town.  But we have to keep things in perspective.  Some experiences in life come only once, come rarely and/or randomly, or are costly/unhealthy to grasp for.   If we celebrate a little too hard the Stanley Cup and we feel really good in the process, we need to accept that we can't live the celebration.  If we win at the casino, we have to enjoy our good fortune and not come to expect that it will happen readily.  If we enjoy our trip to Cancun, we have to realize that is something we can't just try to seek yearly.  If we remember our first love and how good that felt then, we can't seek to duplicate it, when the responsibilities of adulthood, family and relationships become work.
    • That doesn't mean we can't have the good feelings again.
    • We just have to have perspective and the bigger picture.
    • We have to realize that some things cannot be repeated no matter how much you want to.
    • We have to realize that some good feelings, experiences will happen again, it just may not come in the time, form or certainty that is hoped for.

Now before I wrap it up, I don't want to leave with the impression that we need to kiss all happiness, good times, experiences, or certainty to the curb.  We can still go to our favorite restaurants or watch our favorite movies from time to time, for example.  We can still have the joy that the certainty of repeating pleasant experiences will bring us.   It is more an understanding that of cost...
  • Which experiences are healthy to seek repeatedly?
  • Which experiences can we 'afford' to seek repeatedly?  (cost is not always just money)
  • Will we be willing to accept when it is time to switch it up and not try to hang on for dear life to the known?

Just some thoughts.   It is good to seek the Cup and if you get your Cup, much of the time it is okay to seek it again.  But, don't be blind to everything else in pursuit of it.