Selfish

Selfishness is a shield that says
"no one else is going to save me"
the self-defense strategy of
a skeptical, isolated ego 

The sad perspective of the heart
that feels too unsafe to center
itself on anyone else because
"then who will take care of me?"
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Humanity is Hopeless

I haven’t had any faith in humanity for a very long time now. Yet somehow I continue to be surprised by just how loathsome and selfish the human race actually is. I really am at a loss as to what to do with myself at this point. Not only do I not believe it’s possible to save our species from the consequences of our actions, but I don’t even believe we deserve to be saved. At the very least, I’d like to believe that there is some form of greater justice in the universe that isn’t going to let us get away with all of the atrocities we have and continue to commit every day.

I am at a loss for words after the interview my coworker and I just completed this morning. After quarantining myself all weekend for what turned out to be nothing, I come into work to find the CPS worker on the case strolling into our office, maskless, sniffling and coughing. She proceeds, without any apology or shame, to talk about how she and her husband have been deathly ill for days on end. She had the nerve to laugh as she tells us about the body aches which she felt all the way down to her toenails. She might as well have wore a shirt that said fuck everyone who isn’t me and spit directly into our mouths. Despite my discomfort and embarrassment at having to do so, I handed her a mask and asked if she would please wear it. She consented thankfully, but what kind of world are we living in where I have to feel embarrassed and guilty to ask someone else to please do the absolute bare minimum to not risk the lives of others?! It’s sickening.

Not only were her actions completely reprehensible and inconsiderate to my coworkers and I, but the guardian for the child we spoke to today was a 62 year old woman. She literally might have killed that poor woman today. I suppose only time will tell. It’s people and situations like these that really make me want to just throw my hands up in the air and revoke my membership as a part of the human race. I’m truly ashamed to be a human being. I want to lie at the feet of all the other creatures of this planet and apologize until my last breath.

I’ve always wanted to make a difference in this world for the better. Even this blog was originally created with the intention of helping people find veganism and maybe contribute to some sliver of progress. I still think about ways I could use my time and energy to do something meaningful, but my hope and motivation disintegrate with the thought that always follows, “What’s the point?” It feels pretty futile to spend your time digging yourself out of a hole in the ground when you KNOW you’ll never make it, when you know your time could be just as well spent playing solitaire at the bottom of the pit instead. Why should I spend time making vegan resources or writing scholarly articles to inform people when the majority of the population can’t even seem to understand we breathe out of both our noses and our mouths? That a mask covering only your mouth is completely pointless?

I just can’t find the strength or the hope to continue on anymore. It is a bleak existence to have no future to look forward to, not only for myself personally, but for the entire globe. Why should I bother doing anything? This hopeless outlook is compounded by the baffling gaslighting I receive at every turn. It’s one thing to be gaslit by a spouse, friend, or family member, it’s quite another to be gaslit by the whole world. Maybe that’s the wrong term though. I think a gaslighter knows what they’re saying is bullshit. I really think people are too stupid or blind or afraid to admit the fate that soon awaits us all. And I get it, it’s too much for anyone to bear. Still, it would be nice to not have to bear it alone anymore.

Is the pandemic making people more generous — or more selfish? - Vox

The Pressure of Proximity

Why is it that we always feel so much more obligated to become involved with an issue when it is right in front of us? Even when we know the same scenario could be happening anywhere at any given time, when it is in our vicinity, there is an added sense of duty to intervene. I believe this is even something that philosophers throughout history have pondered without there ever being a clear or concise explanation.

On my way to work this morning, once again, I was forced to observe for the third time, these pro-fetal lifers as I passed through an intersection. I have seen them standing there three times now. The first time I was so shocked, I didn’t really get a chance to be angry. The second time, my blood was boiling as I saw the original man had enlisted the help of some woman. This third (and I pray final) time, after my initial spike in blood pressure, I was able to calm myself down enough to consider why it was that this demonstration always makes me so violently angry. I still haven’t really been able to come up with a satisfying reason for why that is the case.

I know that there are anti-abortion people all over this god forsaken country. But for the majority of my life, I don’t pay much attention to them. Even hearing about the new abortion restrictions in Texas, while saddening and disturbing, didn’t give me the same visceral reaction. There is some type of strange mental disassociation when viewing an issue from a distance rather than in our own backyards.

Another example would be animal neglect. I know that there are millions of animals in terrible conditions right now, a lot of which are probably not more than walking distance from where I am now. Yet I don’t really think about it or feel compelled to go out and save them (even though I wish I could.) However, when my sister and I stumbled upon a starving, half-dead kitten on the side of the road a few years ago, we immediately rushed it to the vet and spent $50 only to have it put to sleep when the veterinarian told us they couldn’t save it.

I am guessing this distinction has something to do with the fact that in the past, we really wouldn’t have had any knowledge or ability to intervene in situations that were far away from us. Yet with the rapid advancements we’ve made in technology, I could make a significant difference for people and animals that are suffering across the world if I really tried. And I’m not really sure which way is the best when it comes to this strange phenomenon of personal responsibility.

Part of me wants to use this inconsistency to remind myself that just because I see an affront to decency and humanity in my home town, doesn’t make me any more responsible to change it than I am responsible to fight for civil rights in other countries. Then on the other hand, I wonder if proximity to a problem does hold more weight when it comes to personal duty. To a certain extent, I do believe that everything happens for a reason. Maybe the universe has presented these problems to me as a sign that I am supposed to do something. Another part of me questions whether what I’m supposed “to do” is practice surrender and letting go. Maybe it’s just an opportunity to exercise my anger management.

Yet another problem is wondering what there really is to do that would make a positive impact. Perhaps it would be more effective for us to act only on problems we have some distance from. At least then we may be more capable of responding with a level head. I’m sure doing a fundraiser for the Planned Parenthoods struggling in Texas would be more helpful than pulling over and arguing with those nut jobs I’ve seen on the corner.

Ultimately, while I’m grateful for all of the activists working hard to push society in the right direction, I don’t feel much like participating anymore. At only 28 years old, I am already so tired and jaded. It feels selfish, but I just don’t know if it’s worth it to keep fighting at this point. In the past my attempts at activism seemed to do more harm then good. I may or may not have positively impacted the causes I fought for, but I certainly negatively impacted my own mental health. Perhaps it’s a greater service to society for me to just take care of myself and be an example of what I’d like to see in the world.

Whatever you decide to do, just make sure it’s out of your own personal desire to do so rather than simply your proximity to the issue. I used to feel the weight of this self-imposed duty around my neck like heavy chains. I would often ruin my own day by getting into fights with people on Facebook about politics, religion, or animal rights just because I saw someone say something ignorant and felt I had to respond. I have always been a firm believer in the idea that “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.” While I still believe it is noble and righteous to stand up for what you believe in, there must be somewhere we draw the line in order to protect our own personal well being.

As far as I’m concerned at this point in my life, the world is crumbling around us. There are so many issues I am passionate about. I have such little influence and such an easily overwhelmed nature. This is the one and only life that I am going to get. Though it may sound selfish or insensitive toward all of the other beings who are suffering right now, I just want to enjoy the small portion of existence that is mine without inflicting a constant state of anger and strife onto myself. Especially when I genuinely believe the changes I want to fight for will take longer to accomplish than we have left as a species on this dying planet. For the time being, I am choosing personal peace over the pressure of proximity.

How To Accept Responsibility For Your Life (7 No-Nonsense Tips)

Default Mode Network

NeuroScience

If you haven’t heard the term default mode network (DMN) before, you’re not alone. Yesterday was the first time I did. Although I still am new to this concept, I wanted to talk about it today. I just wanted to get that disclaimer out first thing. I’m certainly not an expert on this. I hardly know anything about it. What I do know, however, is already enough to enthrall me and make me eager to learn more. So don’t take my words here as gospel. Go read about it for yourself.

I first heard about this term while continuing to read How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan. If you’ve read my other posts referencing this book, you already know where this is going. That’s right, psychedelics. Scientists have discovered a very fascinating phenomenon in the brains of people tripping on LSD or psilocybin. These psychedelic substances inhibit or turn off the default mode network in our brain.

So what is the default mode network? From what I’ve gathered, the default mode network includes many different parts of the brain that are active when we are “in our own heads” so to speak. These are the pathways we are using when we are ruminating, daydreaming, planning, remembering the past, contemplating the future, etc. Basically this is the network that is active when we are lost in thought, rather than focusing our attention on something in the outside world. In the book, it also specifies that this DMN kicks on when we are thinking about ourselves.

This aspect of self-awareness encompassed in the DMN is one of the reasons why we are able to experience “ego death” while using psychedelics, which switch off this network. It doesn’t appear to be a coincidence that ego death and transcendent experiences are both known to occur while tripping. The DMN, while useful, is also being linked to depression and other mental illnesses. People that spend a lot of time in the DMN are often less happy overall than people that spend less time in this brain state.

I find this very fascinating because it seems to reflect a lot of the advice you hear given to people that are unhappy. “Try to focus on someone else for awhile.” “Rather than ruminating, use that energy to help someone you love.” “Become a more active part of the community.” All of these shifts in focus are actually helpful, but now it seems science is getting a better idea exactly why that’s the case. And I don’t know about you, but I find it more easy to follow through on advice if I know the facts back it up.

Another thing I found interesting is the idea that social media tends to strengthen the DMN. When we are scrolling through Instagram or checking how many likes we got on our last Facebook post, our brains are in the default mode network. Apart from all the other reasons there are to disengage from social media, this one is quite compelling. No wonder I feel happier and less anxious now that I don’t use those apps!

If you’re looking for a way to experience the bliss of brain states outside of the DMN, but don’t want to take a drug to do so, you can try meditation instead. Surprisingly fMRI scans of experienced meditators and those of brains on psychedelics are remarkably similar. Training our minds through meditation can give us the power to focus. That focused attention in itself is another way to get ourselves out of the DMN. I believe that is why the “flow” state we experience when we loose track of time while working on a task that completely absorbs our attention is so pleasant. It’s a great feeling to “lose ourselves” in our work.

I have yet to see any research related to this, but I’m interested to know how the DMN functions in adolescence. I hypothesize that it may play a role in the unhappiness a lot of us experienced during this time in our lives. It also appears to be a time in life when we tend to be the most selfish. We’re learning who we are and what we want, finding our own identities. While this is an important and necessary part of growing up, it also requires a lot of self-centered thinking, which as we now know, can lead to a greater sense of dissatisfaction and unhappiness. As we get older and start to think more about others, the emotional turmoil of youth also seems to subside somewhat.

As this term was only coined in 2001, there is still a lot that science doesn’t understand about this brain state. A lot more research needs to be done. I’m excited to see what else neuroscience will discover about our brains and how exactly they work in the future. But as I said earlier, I am not at all a voice of authority on this subject. I just couldn’t resist sharing the concept and the things I’ve learned that have got me so excited about it. I highly recommend doing your own research and reading more about the default mode network for yourself. Feel free to correct me if I have misinterpreted, misunderstood, or misrepresented any of the things I’ve shared about this network. Also Let me know in the comments if you find out anything interesting that I didn’t mention.

Priorities

Photo by Peter Olexa on Pexels.com

I feel I may have revealed a bit too much of myself to my coworkers this morning. When I get nervous, or in this case, excited, talking to people I’ll often say things without thinking. I went to college with someone we used to work with, although neither of us ever really acknowledged it. I mentioned that I thought this other woman probably disliked me because she was an overachiever in college, going to fundraisers, very active in all of our psychology clubs, etc. I, on the other hand, was somewhat of a slacker. I did the bear minimum that was required of me. I was a member of Psi Chi, but basically only so I could put it on my resume, I never went to meetings or anything. I didn’t even go to my own induction ceremony. I blame that one on social anxiety though.

Everyone seemed to get a kick out of hearing about my college memories, but I immediately began to regret being so honest. I’m often afraid that my coworkers will get irritated with me for being lazy or a slacker. Now I feel like I’ve given them even more proof of my poor character, more proof that they’re right to think that. I don’t really picture myself as lazy though. I guess I’d describe it more as selfish. Maybe that’s even worse, now that I think about it.

The thing is, I get a lot done everyday. I have dozens of tasks that I diligently complete day in and day out. The problem is that none of these things really matter to anyone but me. The rest of the world could care less if I study Spanish or workout and do yoga for hours or read. These are all personal endeavors. Ideally they are things that are about self-improvement. But in what ways am I really trying to improve myself? To who’s benefit? It’s probably time for me to reevaluate my priorities.

Since I entered the working world, my mindset has always been me against them. The working poor, against the corporate machine. Even though I must partake in this system to survive, to play the game, it always felt like an act of rebellion to do as little as I could get away with doing. If I was going to be paid nothing, I was going to do as close to nothing as possible. Spiteful, yes, but in my mind it only felt fair. If I didn’t matter to the place I worked, then they didn’t matter to me. This is a mantra that for so many years I burned into my heart and mind. Always playing the part of the petulant child.

I never expected to find myself working for a place that I do genuinely care about. A place that also seems to genuinely care about me. I work with such incredible people. I don’t want to let them down. I love my job. I love what I do. I believe in what we do. I want to be helpful. I want to prove that I am worthy of having a place here. But no matter how many times I resolve to do better, I always find myself falling back into old patterns. Shirking my responsibilities just because I can, because it’s even easier to do here where no one is breathing down my neck, micromanaging my every step. Everything in me, everything about who I’ve been, keeps tempting me to take advantage of that. It’s nearly irresistible.

I am tired of feeling guilty. I am tired of feeling like I am letting everyone down. I am tired of feeling like I am taking advantage of an organization that is truly a benefit to this world. I really want to go above and beyond what is asked of me here. I have a lot of ideas too. I know I am smart. I know I could really make a positive impact for this organization, for the kids we see here everyday. I could really help them. I’ve just always been afraid of showing my full potential. Any other job would take advantage of that. I’ve seen it happen to my mother and my sister. I’m also afraid that I won’t be able to live up to the standard I set for myself. I’m afraid I’ll crack under the pressure of always doing my best. When no one expects anything of you, there is no pressure, it’s easy to impress when/if you need to.

After working here for a year and a half though, I think I finally feel safe enough to show my true colors, to really contribute as much as I can. Self-improvement may once have looked like only inner work, but now I think it looks like giving back, sharing my intelligence and creativity with those that will be able to benefit from it, to be an asset to my friends and coworkers, to finally utilize this freedom and agency at work to be all I can be. I know I can do this. I want to do this. I’m going to enjoy doing this.

Photo by fauxels on Pexels.com

With Love

My intention for today (and hopefully for many days to come) is to move and act from a place of love. There is so much joy to be had in each moment if we can just manage to stay centered in our hearts. I’ve noticed that a lot of my anxiety comes from being too focused on myself. I am so worried about how I’ll look, what I should say, what other people will think of me, etc. Sometimes the best way to get past those fears is for me to shift my focus to others.

At times I’ve felt guilty about how often I am thinking about myself as compared to others. I’ve even wondered if I could be a narcissist. However, once I considered that I may actually be autistic, this self absorption made a little more sense. Even though it is quite difficult for me to put myself in someone else’s shoes or make their thoughts and feelings the priority, it still helps when I try.

For work today I was accompanying a client’s mother to testify for grand jury. She was very nervous about it and wanted someone there to support her. I am the victim advocate, so naturally that is my job. Yet I always feel hesitant about it. How on earth could I be a comfort to someone? I feel terribly inadequate to be honest. I’ve never been very good at comforting people. Especially people I don’t know well. It is also hard for me to wrap my head around the idea that anyone would want someone like me to be there. The things that seem to bring others a sense of security and comfort are the exact same things that make me anxious.

As I was driving to the courthouse this morning, I was very nervous. What should I say to her? Will I remember what she looks like? How long will we have to wait together? What if she cries? I was mainly worrying about myself. I didn’t want to look or feel awkward. I didn’t want to seem incompetent. But then I remembered that none of this was about me. It was about this poor mother. She was feeling scared and I had been entrusted to help her. This morning was about doing everything that I could to make her more comfortable and to be there for her.

I stopped thinking about myself. I stopped worrying if I would make a fool out of myself. Instead I began to imagine how this mother must be feeling this morning. I imagined her as a close friend. I felt such tender, protective, loving emotions well up inside of me. This allowed me to walk into the courthouse with confidence. I had a mission and it wasn’t to save face. It was to be a friendly face for this woman.

Moving from a place of love, compassion, and consideration for others evaporates fear, anger, even sadness. For some people this comes more naturally than others. And it seems to me that for the people that do this instinctively, they seem to be much happier people in general. It is those of us that become fixated on ourselves that suffer unnecessarily.

So from now on I am going to try my best to learn from the example of those generous, open-hearted people around me. No matter what I am doing, I am going to try to do it with love in my heart. With love as my guide and my inspiration.

Photo by Trung Nguyen on Pexels.com

The Responsibility of Being Human

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It seems to be agreed upon by the vast majority of the world, than humans are different, superior, to the other animals that inhabit this earth. I would agree except, instead, I would say that human beings have the potential to be great. However, as things stand right now, we are merely more pompous and self-righteous.

You see, as humans we have been blessed and cursed with a large capacity for intellect and understanding. We can conceive of the future, for ourselves and for things beyond us, we recognize death, and we comprehend the intricate relationship between our actions, individually and as a species, on each other and our world.

Up until this point in our progression as a species, we have been selfish, as would be expected. We, like any other animal, strive to secure our place in this world and ensure our survival and comfort. However, we have long since achieved these goals. With the technology we have created and the availability of information and resources that we have accumulated, there is no longer any excuse for us to continue existing is such a short-sighted and selfish manner.

It is time that we set aside our childish pleasures that we know to harm the earth and even ourselves. We must do what is best for all of the world and its inhabitants. We have the power to do so. Human beings are capable of so much more. It is time for us to realize what is important and stop behaving like we have no control over our fates and the fate of our world. Together we could create a utopia. We could live with nature instead of against it, if only greed was not so many people’s driving force.

Open your hearts. Use your heads. We do not have much time left to us. We owe it to ourselves and to the world to utilize our sublime ability to reason and understand and act. Let us help each other to reach enlightenment. Don’t live your life in comfortable ignorance. Do your part to spread intelligence and joy and tolerance. We say that we are more than animals. Let’s start showing it.

Stay peaceful, fellows. ❤