The 10 Kinds of Healthy Love (5): HOW to Fall in Love with the Present

The take-home messages of posts 3 and 4 on the same topic are:

  • Falling in love with the moment enables the natural flow and unfolding of all 10 kinds of healthy love. &

  • In order to achieve this, we need to deal adequately with our emotions as they come and go.

BUT HOW DO WE DO THIS?

The pleasure-pain principle

Intuitively, we are predisposed to seek and try to prolong pleasure & avoid and try to terminate pain as soon as possible. It is counter-intuitive then to deal adequately with our emotions because, as we have seen in The 10 Kinds of Healthy Love (4): WHY to Fall in Love with the Present, "adequate" demands that we register & pass on the positive emotions & register & quarantine the negative emotions. It is counter-intuitive to not seek pleasure and to embrace pain, yet this is exactly what we need to do to be present in the moment (straighten up our relationship with time) and thus get to know love and wisdom, move on in life with dignity and without regret, fear, shame, and guilt.


The paradox of ideas (and emotions)

If I have 1 apple and you have 1 orange, when we exchange them, we are each left with 1 fruit, but if I have 1 idea and you have 1 idea after we exchange them, we are each left with 2 ideas. The exchange of all immaterial things works this way, emotions in that number. Because every emotion that is shared grows, we must be very selective as to which emotions we give a chance to grow.

The 1st principle of registering & passing on positive emotions demands that we regulate our behavior among people.

The 2nd principle of registering & quarantining negative emotions demands that we regulate our behavior when being alone.

It requires fortitude of character to control and resist the instinctive urge to hold on to pleasure past its expiration date and not to share all of your worries with the first person you meet that seems to be inclined to give a sympathetic ear, but this kind of control is the ultimate self-regulation.


BUT HOW DO WE DO THIS?

  • By directing the experiences of pleasure toward the experiences of flow and, ultimately - eudaimonia.

  • By directing the experiences of pain toward the experiences of (self-)reflection and, ultimately - forgiveness.

Pleasure, flow, eudaimonia


All 3 (pleasure, flow, and eudaimonia) feel good and make us happy. The difference is in how they do it, for how long it lasts, and where it starts and ends:

Sources of happiness

(= positive experiences)

pleasure

flow

eudaimonia

the kind of life it leads to

The pleasant life

The engaging life

The fulfilling life

the above kind of life gives away

our tastes &

sensitivity

our talents &

creativity

our virtues &

humanity

the kind of things that lead to it

Everything that feels good to you: Eating your favorite food, listening to your favorite music, looking at a nice view, smelling your favorite perfume, walking barefoot on the grass, enjoying nice weather, etc.​

Everything that is interesting to you and you love getting better at: playing games/ musical instruments, doing a task you enjoy, reading, writing, painting, exercising, etc.

Everything that you are good at that feels even better when you share it/ give it away: you use your talents to entertain, teach, heal, or support others.

satisfaction with the experience in time

wears off/ habituates

stays the same

grows

subjective perception about time when experiencing the above

time slows down

time stops

time ceases to exist

subjective perception about the surrounding environment/ space

The surrounding environment means everything.

The surrounding environment means something.

The surrounding environment means nothing.

How do we experience this kind of lifestyle?

with the sensory receptors (in the skin, eyes, tongue, ears)

with the mind

with the heart

What do the above organs facilitate?

aesthetic experiences (direct absorption of physical stimulants like sound, touch, smell, color/ light within space and time)

heartfelt emotions (getting to know the objects of contemplation, measurement, and organization inside out – getting in touch with the generator of life and existence in ourselves, which is the same as the one in any next person)

amplifiers of the above experiences

savoring, mindfulness ("reading" non-verbal languages: visual, sound, and body)

meditation, creation, interpretation

(reading and writing in non-verbal, verbal or technical languages)


​eye contact

amplifiers' substitutes or supplements (we turn to when we do not know how to or care to use the above "healthy" ones)

everything that is scarce, new, or simply different

drugs

alcohol

When does the experience end?

When there are no more pleasant sensations left to be sensed.

When there are no more new thoughts left to be thought of.

When there is no one left to share eye contact with and thus establish positive emotion on the basis of reciprocation.

What if we try to prolong the experience stubbornly beyond their natural end?

​nausea (a physical trigger that repeats ad nauseam like a beat on a loop)

headache (the same thoughts run around in circles)

heartache (the reciprocation of the emotion is no longer wanted/needed by the other)

Does it necessarily take direct contact with another human being for the experience to take place?

no

not always

yes

While the things that improve our chances for pleasant and engaging life do not require us to be in direct contact with anybody really, we could never have the satisfaction of the fulfilling life of human connection without that scary direct eye-to-eye contact! As Robbie Williams sings, "space is the place where the social is far from the safe and the known" - and that is scary indeed. So, while you may be able to figure out how to master savoring, mindfulness, and the languages more or less undisturbed by direct contact with fellow human beings, mastering your meaningful social engagement is disturbing, especially for aspies like me. But especially because it is so disturbing, it is also the major source of potential for self-actualization and eudaimonia. No matter how much we surround ourselves with the best aesthetic experiences (luxury items, refined music, exquisite art, and expensive holidays to destinations of paradise climate), no matter how much we dive ourselves into our most engaging pastimes and even our work to the point of workaholism, we will not be able to say we had all that is deemed worthy in life without the courageous feat of sharing our hearts with somebody as we use our talents to entertain, teach, heal, and support each other.


The price of hacking happiness (pleasure, flow, and eudaimonia) is pain.

Being an aspie myself, it takes me more than the average effort to look people in the eyes, open up emotionally and feel comfortable in their company, even when it is of the best of kinds. As a teenager, it caused me a lot of effort to enjoy parties, and I was too quick to decide that the alleviation of social anxiety was what alcohol was invented to help with. But then I soon realized that overcounting on it is not going to bring about a positive effect but quite the contrary. I stopped drinking any alcohol at the age of 18 as a precautionary severe but much-needed measure in my case. While I do not aim to convert anybody to the non-alcohol doctrine, it is worthwhile to mention the shocking findings of a study conducted in the UK on the harmfulness of drugs and alcohol published in The Economist in the November 2nd, 2010 issue. The score measures harmfulness to the individual user and to others considering the damage to health, drug dependency, economic costs, and the number of crime cases caused by the use of the substance.

When we have not or are not learning, practicing, developing, and mastering the healthy paths to pleasure, flow, and eudaimonia (aesthetic experiences, mental exercises, and heartfelt emotions), we start experiencing nausea, headache, and heartache among other symptoms. In short, we feel pain as a direct consequence. The irony is that the unbearable misery we may subjectively perceive often attracts us to the easy but costly way out rather than to the hard but sustainable one. By easy, I mean a green recipe from a doctor or the self-prescribed use of any of the substances in the chart on the left. By costly, I mean that the more we go for this short-term remedy, the more it makes us sick long-term. So what if we are in pain?

- If some specialist (with medicine or manipulation) can fix it without regrettable side effects to the treatment or the nasty boomerang comeback of yo-yo effects, we have all reasons to rejoice in the miracle of medical science. But if this is not the case, and the treatment makes us feel more dead than alive, an alternative could be the free-from-charge but radically effective "therapy" of reflection, self-reflection, and forgiveness.


Reflection - putting (emotional) pain into perspective


For as long as you feel emotional pain, stop focusing on the negative sensation (that would be self-absorption) and your own miserable existence in relation to the rest of the joyful human race but reflect on everything in your immediate environment you bump into that is tangibly outside of you: the furniture you are on, the room, the building, the street, the supermarket, the park, the people and the animals, the sky, and the Sun/Moon. Instead of allowing your pain to drag you towards itself and lock you inside as its hostage, try to open yourself to the world: focus on the external slowly and soberly with the curiosity of a child and the methodology of a scientist by repeating the following mantras:

  • My pain alone is powerless to shut down the Sun/Moon, regardless of how dark it feels to me.

  • My pain alone is powerless to change the color of the sky from blue/black to red, regardless of how bloody it feels to me.

  • My pain alone is powerless to stop the animals from enjoying the earth, regardless of how joyless it feels to me.

  • My pain alone is powerless to stop the people from caring for each other, regardless of how careless they seem to treat me. (It only shows how I treat myself.)

  • My pain alone is powerless to kill what's living in the park, although it feels so lifeless to me.

  • My pain alone is powerless to stop the economy of the world from feeding its people, regardless of how poor I feel right now.

  • My pain alone is powerless to crack the earth beneath and swallow me, regardless of how much I would wish it to.

  • My pain alone is powerless to make the building crumble over me, regardless of how much I would wish it to.

  • My pain alone is powerless to make the walls of this room smash me, regardless of how much I would wish them to.

  • My pain alone is powerless to set this furniture on fire, regardless of how much I would wish them to.

=> My pain alone is powerless to do the above, but I can cause some trouble and destruction to myself & others if I so choose to partner with it.

=> I let it win over me, possess me, and destroy me the moment I reduce myself to identify only with it as if I am made of nothing but pain. This cannot be true, for the absolute pain is the black hole of non-existence, and I still do exist. For as long as I exist and I am alive, I can choose to win over my pain.

Dum spero spiro, dum spero credo

[As long as I breathe, I hope; as long as I breathe, I believe]

that

IT IS ME, and not my pain, WHO HAS the POWER of CHOICE - the privilege and responsibility of freedom and free will that defines me as a human being. Therefore, I resolve to the below


RESOLUTION

My pain is as small a portion as the man/ woman I am out of the many who have walked, are walking, and will walk in my steps in the valley of tears. There is nothing powerful or special about my pain; it is as ordinary as it is common, and thus nobody cares about it, why would they, why do I? - It is stupid and cruel to myself and to others. The only glory about pain comes only after it has been gone and buried. I should care for myself by caring for others rather than for my life-sucking pain. I chose to win over what makes me small, ordinary, and common - I chose to win over my little pain. For what is it in comparison with the Sun, the sky, and the life on Earth but a laughable microscopic parasite that feeds on my own foolishness and cruelty by exposing me to them for as long as I let it? I choose to be bigger, more special, and extraordinary than my pain because I can and will be so. My foolishness will turn into wisdom, and my cruelty will turn into love in no time the moment I forgive myself and the world for my little pain. I chose to make peace with my pain in a friendly conversation. I am asking it now where it comes from, how long it traveled, what places it journeyed through, and what message it is dying to tell me. And when I finally pay attention to its message, it will be happy to die. I promise to let it rest in peace by always remembering the message, for the moment I forget it, it will come back as a ghost from the grave to haunt me. My peace depends on the peace of my pain. This same peace depends on my memory and how I use this memory in the problem-solving strategies I choose to apply in the future.


Self-reflection

is the maintaining of mental and emotional hygiene by keeping stock of our life's lessons, old and new. The best way I know to do self-reflection is by keeping a journal. (In this post, I share tips from my personal experience.) This practice comes naturally as a necessity to people with a growth mindset who have the habit of asking themselves (some of) the below questions resembling a medical check. However, such checks should be done regularly (every 6 months or yearly) but not more often, for self-absorption in our mental and emotional state is worse than hypochondria.

  1. Is my situation now different/ better than before, or am I running around in circles, making the same mistakes over and over as if I was born yesterday?

  2. Do I remember the message/ lesson of my latest/ biggest pain, or is my pain reappearing again? [If "the message" is causing you more pain, it is not The message. The real message/lesson learned feels nice - light, warm, inspiring, optimistic, simple, universal, genius, everlasting, and precious, among other positive things.]

  3. Can I use some old lessons as instruction for my behavior in the present situation, or is it a new lesson coming up for grasp? [This check is easy - old lessons for revision ache in a familiar way; new lesson's pain aches in a new and unfamiliar way.]

  4. Is there anything I regret, or does looking back to the past and into the future cause me no pain? [Your pain of regret holds the message of how to fix the past in the present for the future. Just be brave enough to ask and listen to your pain's answers.]

  5. Do I have enemies or am I on good terms with everyone in my life [The interpersonal dynamics are one of the major places where our life is invested, and this is how it should be if we aim for the fulfilling life of human connection so choose those dynamics wisely.]

  6. Do I feel guilty or am I having my consciousness clear as an innocent baby? [If you feel guilty, do not waste another minute but do something to correct your "crime" (if you can). If you cannot, forgive yourself, but in any way do not force yourself into forgetting what you have done - suppression of negative emotions turns them into the zombies of your unconscious or even subconscious that will not let you sleep at night nor see the light of day.]

  7. Do I feel shame or pride? [Unlike the sense of guilt, which may haunt us forever if the person we have caused wrong is dead and we cannot appropriate his forgiveness, the sense of shame is easier to correct as whoever we were in the past is much less important to the people in the present and us. Actually, the opposite may be true - If we have figured out a way to feel less ashamed of ourselves, we will be inspirational for the people who are there themselves and seek advice from survivor veterans of merit who has some tips to share. Mike Dooley is my favorite example of such an inspirational speaker who transformed from zero to hero in his own eyes.]

Forgiveness - putting pain's message to the test


Now that we have cracked the wisdom [insert your eureka here] out of the pain during 1) the process of reflection, and we have spotted a chance for the next application of the gathered wisdom during 2) the process of self-reflection, it is time to put our wisdom to 3) the test of forgiveness: If you are able to forgive everything and everyone who contributed in any way to the painful experience, mostly yourself, you pass the test because it means you have understood why everyone did what they did. This wisdom allows you to accept, forgive, and finally forget (the healthy way, not by using drugs or any Freudian defense mechanism). Being a strength of the group of the virtue of transcendence, the practice of forgiveness will make you lighter, freer, and open to the external world and its countless riches. Before you know it, you will be on the path to pleasure. But we will not grant (ourselves) the right to pleasure if we punish (ourselves) as the result of a lack of (self-)forgiveness. The pleasant life belongs to the lighthearted, who hold no grudges or desires for revenge towards anyone. The nursing grievance is not only a useless waste of time and energy, but it is also poisoning our sensors for the pleasant because they are oriented to seek the poisonous unpleasant as a potential weapon (that will destroy the enemy we cannot forgive) rather than the curing pleasant (that will save our own life). We may not outsmart the enemy, but we will surely waste ourselves in the attempt. Forgiveness prevents this deadly short-sightedness and restores the possibility of happiness.


So HOW to fall in love with the present, in short:

- Enjoy whatever feels good but do not overdo it, for you will go numb. (develop your taste)

- Practice whatever interests you but do not overdo it, for you will get lonely. (turn your taste into talent)

- Give away whatever your talents provide but do not overdo it, for you will be rejected. (turn your talent into virtue)


When you get down numb, lonely, and rejected, reflect on your pain and your path, accept it, forgive it, forget it and enjoy life (again). There is nothing scary in any of that, and you really do not need the external support of drugs, alcohol, war, and cheating to "survive" the present. You have every moment of your life to choose anew between a life that is a playground or a battlefield; you only need to remember that you always have a choice and that:

"The only evil is ignorance." - Socrates

*As this post is not an exhaustive handbook but rather a brief outline of the macro steps to a joyful present before all of us, I hope that your love of learning will get you to the micro steps somehow!

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