Have you ever noticed that it’s easier to hate than love. It’s easier to moan than appreciate. There’s all these people teaching about the ‘gratitude attitude’ and appreciation and so on. Why is it that this is not natural for us?
Why do we play such complicated romantic games?
Why do people make such an effort to pretend that they don’t care about others when they really do?
The problem is that Society places so much pressure on us to conform. So we become afraid to look foolish or vulnerable. This predisposes us to waste huge amounts of effort, just so that we can pretend that we do not feel as we really do. Then as a result of such a disconnection to our true nature, we feel bad. And eventually we lose all our bearings and sense of individuality. So we end up not even knowing who we are.
It’s much easier to get ground down by life than it is to feel good. To feel good takes a concerted effort. This is because from birth we have been socialised out of following our true instincts and into trying to find the right code or way and follow that.
Yet we have not been born or designed to be a planet of robots. We are living breathing, evolving organisms. And so like all living organisms we must each grow towards the light. As we see this light differently, it determines the unique expression of life that we become.
Now let’s get into the nitty gritty of how this emotional gravity works.
We think, as one neuron fires off a neurotransmitter to jump and connect to another neuron and then onto another and so on. This then causes a neural pathway, a thought pattern. As we grow and develop through our mental activity and through our experiences, we develop a neural network.
You can think of this as being like a city’s road network. It begins with one road probably to the marketplace and then onto the next town. And then expanded out to cover the most popular routes.
And just as roads cover most of the city, so too does our neural network give us a broad strokes map of the world. However it isn’t perfectly accurate. There are many more aspects that we would see by walking and exploring, but the map doesn’t mention. And just as when we travel we get frustrated by the inaccuracy of the map (or Sat Nav), so too does our journey in life frustrate us as we come into situations that do not match our mental model of the world.
For the sake of clarity, let’s use some solid examples.
Maybe you have been married to someone who was everything you dreamed of. But one day you realise that you were blinded by love and actually they aren’t the person you thought they were.
Or perhaps you have had your heart set on making Partner level in your firm. And for years you have strived for this position, believing it was key to your being happy, but you are thwarted in your aim. Or you do reach it and find it’s nothing but trouble.
Your individual situation could be any one of a million cases, but the common thread is that life continually demonstrates to you that life doesn’t match up to your mental model of how you think it should be. This mismatch creates a cognitive dissonance between the way our experiences have told us that the world is and the way we think the world is. This dissonance creates negative emotion that motivates us to bring our perceptions and our beliefs back into alignment.
This then gives us the basic choice in life;
In other words we can adjust what we believe to be true, to change our mental model of the world or we can try to change the world to fit to our mental model. Let me give you a ridiculous example that might bring it home more vividly to you.
I can believe that I look like George Clooney. Then one day I might catch sight of myself in a mirror and see that actually I don’t. So now I feel unhappy and need to adjust the attachments that I have to being handsome to come to terms with the shocking news. Or I can try to tell myself that the mirror is wrong and paste a picture on it, that shows me I actually do look like Mr Clooney when I look in the mirror next.
It sounds ludicrous, but actually the second choice is what most people do in most of their choices in life. Every time an Individual, an Organisation or a Nation attempts to manipulate, force or trick their way to an outcome, it is what they are doing. When we are upset with what someone else has said or done and we demonise them as being wrong, unfair or stupid, we are trying to negate information that demonstrates that our perception of the way the world works is insufficient.
People want to believe that they learned right and wrong in their childhood or from the bible or some other source and they want to not have to ever take the time to change that view. And so, as they see loophole after loophole prove it cannot work like that, they look for an explanation to save them from having to change. And so they call others evil. They create explanations for evil forces and so they can justify an increasingly entrenched view because they ‘must defend the truth’, when actually they are fighting it.
The problem is that we cannot operate in this world by paying full attention to every detail. We have to take snapshots or we’d be overwhelmed before leaving our door. Psychologists call this way of operating, ‘Cognitive Economy’. In short it means we deal with what matters and sacrifice precision for practicality. So we are continually bumping into situations and events that prove to us that what we think is true, isn’t. This is the stuff that crops up to upset our apple cart in various ways.
Typically people think that it is the absence of these incidents that makes for a happy life, but hopefully you can see now that these are inevitable. What determines how stressed we feel, is how attached we are to our model of what is true.
Those people who choose to be happy, have a fluid aproach to life. They easily adapt their beliefs to information that the world shows them to be true. And so they grow their model of the world with each incident into a version closer to the truth.
Life is a series of simple choices. Each choice to be happy leads to a truer model of the world and so to living more harmoniously and happier.
Advanced Stress Management Guide Contents
What Is Stress?
What Are The Costs of Stress?
What Are The Effects of Stress?
What Are The Causes of Stress?
How Do People Generally Cope With Stress?
The Mindset Shift: It’s Ok To Be Stressed, But Get Over It Quickly
The Secret To Emotional Stress Management
Reduce Stress And Avoid The Stress Tax
How To Deal With Stress
The Way To Relieve Stress
The Law Of Fairness
Pyrrhic Victory And The Value Of Losing