The Strongest Hunter

saveMe

A few nights ago, I had the pleasure of watching a documentary by Tom Shadyac (of Ace Ventura fame) named “I Am”, which examined the world role of human beings, and the connection we all have, whether we realize it or not, to each other, animals, the planet, and, the universe. I wanted to re-iterate a story which moved me and related to a previous post we have on Famine and Affluence.

There was a time when tribes believed that material possession was the biggest evil one could participate in. They traveled the lands, never owning property, in tune with the world around them, shared amongst their peoples, and had a deep respect for the animals that provided them with nutrition and life. They understood that there was a deep energy between all things.

This is the story of the fall of one such tribe.

There was a tribe who consisted of great hunters. Every week, the hunters would leave their brothers and sisters and go into the woods to hunt for all. They worked together in harmony and respected the animals that they killed. They never hunted the small deer or the females that had fawns.  Instead hunting old Bucks whom had fathered many offspring, and whose life on earth had been useful and long lived. They would hunt these older animals, thanking them for giving themselves for the survival of the men and their tribe.

Screenshot from “I AM”

The great hunters would return to their peoples and share the meat with all: young, old, strong, weak, man and woman. They shared equally with all, and were respected for their courage and love of their brothers and sisters.

One day, the strongest hunter of the tribe was visited by a daemon disguised as a young beautiful woman. She seduced him with her words, and speaking to his ego, told him he deserved more than the others. He wrestled with these thoughts but soon gave in.

At the next hunt, he hunted well and aggressively, breaking the rules the tribe had set for themselves – hunting doe and fawn, as well as the bucks. His brothers were shocked and did not agree with what he had done. When the hunters returned, the strongest hunter said to his tribe: “I am the strongest and hunt the best. Look at the deer I have brought back! It is not fair that I must share equally with all of you who do not hunt. I will keep most of the meat for myself and you can trade with me if you want any.”

Naturally, there was less meat to go around and some were still hungry. The strongest hunter would trade meat and started to amass things he desired for himself, the vision of the daemon woman encouraging him to collet more and more. Soon, he had the most things of all the people in the village, and the others around him grew restless and sad.

As time went on, the other hunters grew jealous of the wealth of the hunter. They also started keeping their meat for themselves. They went against the pleadings of the elders and took up the same strange ideals that the strongest hunter had developed.

With time, the weak and the elderly had no food. The women with no men went hungry. The tribespeople started stealing from each other in order to trade for meat. The women started competing for men, while the hunters took what they wanted. The hunters thrived on the weakness of others, and their society changed to one of wants and dominance.  The strongest ruled, even to the point of unfairness and mistreatment of others.  What was once a society of brotherhood and peace had become poisoned and tired.

Societal Pyramid

Screenshot from “I AM”

When and where did this tribe exist? The surprise is:  It is the tribe of humans. And it is happening now.

We have become a people that value and worship the ones that have much and feel that competition for material gain is just. Many of us seem to have forgotten the link we have to all other human beings, placing our gain above the health and welfare of others.  We have become so accustomed to this way of being that we turn a blind eye to those one the street, and do not seem to remember that there are millions around the world that cannot even eat in one day what some of us eat for breakfast.

I too, am guilty of this blind eye. As I write this post, I am using a laptop which was undoubtedly assembled overseas, in an assembly line where most of us in Western culture would cringe to work. My career offers me advantages that many do not have, simply because they were never given the chance of education or a safe place to live and thrive. The current economic and political system offers those with advantages the chance to rule, to the point of taking away from those they rule over. Is the system as it is fair? Is there an alternative? Are there any lessons to be learned which we can implement in our lives?

This is not meant to preach or tell anyone to change their ways. It is simply meant to remind us (yes, myself included, as I often forget) to be grateful for the opportunities we have and to show compassion for those that do not.

Believe me, I know it is difficult to always show love and compassion for strangers. I frequently forget to listen to others. I forget to see the world from someone else’s viewpoint. I forget that I live in a heated house, protected from the elements, while some others around the world live in garbage piles and search endlessly, day to day, just for something to eat. I forget that my laptop was made by people that have no alternative but to work 16 hour days, 7 days a week, in substandard factories. I forget that the bicycle I use is made of metals that were mined overseas in unsafe working conditions. I forget that, every day, political, military, and economic systems leave the western world taking advantage of the rest of the world in order to maintain status quo. I forget to make connections with strangers.

I too, am guilty.

So what can we do? What can I do? Well, I can try. I can meditate every day and continue to develop myself. Happiness and world peace starts with myself. I remember the good things in my life: my friends, my family, my cat, surfing, martial arts, my health and beautiful women. After this compassion for myself, I develop compassion for others. I make an effort to remember that others may not have the opportunities I have. I try to look at others with no judgement. Even if it is difficult or uncomfortable, I ask, with genuine desire to know, how strangers are.  And not that surface level “How are you?”, but a genuine desire to connect and understand how someone is.  I make jokes and laugh with people I do not necessarily see eye to eye with. I try to remember that even thieves and murderers are doing the best that they can with the life they have. We’re all in this experience together. To think we’re not connected is a fallacy of the society we have developed.

It reminds me of a quote we recently posted on our Facebook page:

When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world.

I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation.

When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn’t change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family.

Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world.”

That’s all I have to say. I will remember, however, the role I play in the world. I will remember to have compassion for myself, as it will make it easy to move through challenges. I will remember to have compassion for others, for it will make my day, and others’, easier and more lovely. I will remember that I have opportunities for peace and happiness that many others do not, as it will help me remember that the issues I believe I have, day to day, are small in comparison to the problems of others in the world.

What will you remember to do?

6 Things to Help Create Calm and Focus

Too often in our lives today, we aren’t in tune with the environment around us; the air, the earth, the people, or even, ourselves.  We forget to take time and focus, remain calm.  We forget the important things in life: life itself.  We begin to live by other people’s rules and ideals.  We forget what makes US tick.  We end up with a wide variety of people, all in different levels of connection with the environment around them.

Some are like the familiar co-worker – Let’s call him John.  John is there every day when you arrive to work.  He’s been there since daybreak, skipped breakfast, is drinking coffee, and has a diet consisting of, on a good day, pizza, soft drinks, and cookies.   He often complains that there is not enough time in the day, he is scattered, unfocused, never giving his all to an item, and tends to stay later than everyone else.

Then, there others… the weird ones that seem to always have life under control, and exude a calmness around them we can’t quite figure out.

Let’s call the fella that embodies this Jeff.  Jeff values work, but not more than his health.  He realizes that in order to be effective at work, he needs to be healthy, both physically and emotionally.  He has always eaten a good breakfast after a calming night of sleep.  He is calm and collected, giving his full attention to any item or conversation he is involved with.  When necessary, he stays late at work, but does not make it an expected, regular occurrence.  He is supportive of others, and seems to always have a
thoughtful, alternative point of view.

Of course, these are 2 different sides, and there is everything in between.  Which one are you like?  Take a moment and think about this.  Seriously.  Do not read any further until you have thought about your day, your energy level, your ability to focus, and calmness under pressure.

Once you have thought about where you are, continue and take a look at some simple things that could create more calmness and focus in your day.

1. Drink a glass of water immediately after waking up.  You lose moisture while you sleep, so you’re less hydrated in the morning. It’s kind of like working an 8 hour shift without any drink! A glass of water helps to restore this balance within yourself, feels good, and starts your system up for the day.

2. Take a minute to be calm, assess yourself, and your day.  If you jump straight out of bed, and rush to get to work, there’s  very good chance you rush through many things without thinking or being mindful of where you are at or want to go.  Take a minute after your glass of water to sit there, look out the window, think about the day you have, and what you want to accomplish.  If it takes getting up 5 minutes earlier, do it.  Do not hit snooze on your alarm.  Do not force yourself into rushing.

3. Eat a healthy breakfast.  Breakfast sets the energy in your body for the day.  Skip it, and you will rely on coffee and quick snacks to keep going, only to crash in the afternoon.  Aim to have a high amount of proteins and some fruit for breakfast.  This will help minimize the carbohydrate sugar hit and crash that can happen.  Have a smoothie. Eat some eggs.  Black beans with salsa.  SKIP CEREAL.  Cereal is usually starch and high amounts of sugar, with little to no protein, and leaves you hungry shortly later.  For some more ideas and a breakfast I stick to that helps my energy levels, check out Tim Ferris’s blog about breakfasts here.

4. Schedule your work tasks as best as possible, and take breaks.  Upon arriving at work, go over the important tasks you need to accomplish today, and focus on getting them done!  Then work in 50 minute increments, making significant progress on tasks during those 50 minutes, then take 10 minutes to stretch, go to the washroom, drink some water, and go over the tasks for the rest of the day.  By setting what you want to accomplish in advance of the work, and giving yourself permission to have a few minutes break every hour, you allow your mind to stay calm, more focused, and , in turn, accomplish more.

5. Do one thing that makes you smile, every day.  This is key.  Every day, we give ourselves and our energy to work, people, and thoughts. By taking the time to do something you enjoy, you give yourself some energy back.  This could be exercise, writing, playing frisbee, calling friends, walking your dog, painting, carving, playing music. Anything that you truly enjoy and smile from!  Even if only for 5 minutes, take the time to allow yourself to play.

6. Meditate, and consider the day you had.  If you meditate, have a session before bed.  Allow your self to be calm, and bring your day to completion.  If you have never meditated, check out our simple Square Breath meditation here.  If you do not want to meditate, then just take a couple of minutes and think about the day you had, bringing it to a wrap.  Breathe for a minute, then pour yourself a glass of water for tomorrow morning.

Repeat daily.  Read this post first thing every morning to help you remember.

What did you learn in 2012, what will you do this year?

Vancouver shot on a summer early morning rendez-vouz on the beach

As we move into 2013, it can help for us to take a moment, breathe, see how far we have come, where we are, and what we would like to see happen moving forward.  This awareness of self helps to keep things in perspective, allow you to give thanks for what you have created and received, and form a roadmap of intention.

Though not necessarily a Buddhist practice or philosophy, I have found that asking some key questions at this time of year have helped me reach the point where I am now.  I recommend taking the time to do this, as it is amazing what you will see in your life, and more importantly, where you want to go.  Not all who wander are lost, but a path and map can certainly bring clarity and focus.

Following are thoughts from Aiden and Jean-Michel. Post your learnings in the comments!

What did I learn in 2012?

We use this question to look back, and analyze situations that, at the time may have been emotional, but now, we can clearly see the lessons they provided.  Some key things we learned are:

Aiden

  • The most important thing in life is having motivation and the energy to act. Both come in various forms, so experiment, observe and pursue each ferociously.
  • Love isn’t an emotion, an ideal or an act. It’s a willingness to be 100% independent and to allow the one you love to be the same. Anything else in a relationship is attachment.
  • The world will open its windows to you and everything will be different than expected.
  • Keystone behaviours exist: simple acts that have wide reaching effects on diverse areas of your life. Meditation is one of mine.
  • A single idea can change your life.  It’s near impossible to know which idea will change your life. It’s important to record, express and cultivate each idea that is genuine to your desires.
  • You will achieve your goals. It’s important to recognize when this happens, acknowledge your progress and reframe your goal structures to achieve higher levels of success and personal growth.

Jean-Michel

  • I have the ability to help and contribute to others and society.  Despite it not being a career or a central focus in life, try on that by giving back to society, it will shift the focus of life from you and your problems, to kindness and contribution.
  • I can excel in my career.  So can you.  I love my career, and I love the interactions I have the opportunity to engage in.  I arrived in this place by never settling for something that I knew was not what I wanted.  Don’t give up on your dreams, they’re closer than you might think.
  • My friends and family care for and love me.  Often, it is easy to forget that others are there for you, especially when you are lost in your day to day challenges.  Touch base, call someone you care about.  They’ll be happy to hear from you.
  • Love and Connection with others is created; it does not exist on its own.  This is a topic on which I could write several posts.  Just remember that taking others for granted, and not putting effort into a relationship or friendship, and holding onto negative events and emotions is thought of the easy thing to do, but ultimately, it is much harder on your life.  Put the effort in to connect with people, and love them for who they are.
  • If not vigilant, I can be ruled by my emotions.  Mindfulness and meditation are the cornerstone to my vigilance.
  • I have much to learn in terms of intimate relationships with women.  I am always humbled and often, frustrated, in my intimate relationships.  Every time I think I have things figured out, I realize, I don’t!  Remember that relationships take 2 people, and that loving and caring for someone else means being happy for them, no matter what they decide to do or say.  Love is independence, “need”, as in when we say “i need you to be happy” is attachment, one of the roots of suffering.  Love someone and be ahoy for them, even if they don’t wish to be with you.

What is my new purpose and passion, going forward?

I routinely ask myself this question.  It gives me an underlying drive to the things that I do, and a statement that I can refer to when I feel that I am getting ruled by emotions.  If you align your actions and goals to your passion and purpose, you will be happy.

Aiden

To contribute value to the world every day. To delve deeper into the human psyche and help people understand who they are, why they are and how they can become more of the person they want to be.

Jean-Michel

My purpose in life is to create peace and freedom wherever I can.  I do this be being a clearing, listening to what is important to others, and making a difference wherever I am.

What do I want to move forward in for 2013?

This guiding question helps set the tone for things I wish to accomplish, and helps me eliminate the things that may be a waste of time.  Be vigilant in your salvation!  Be vigilant in your life’s pursuits, as no one else shall pursue them for you.

Aiden

  • Create an inspiring environment around me that cultivates value and creativity.
  • Allow myself to relax and truly enjoy a portion of each day.
  • Focus on big wins for my career: self publish my first book, publish my research on brain networks in renown science journals and collaborate with international research labs.

Jean-Michel

  • Bring a new standard of excellence to my new career (I received a promotion)
  • Write daily, and complete 75% of Aiden and I’s book.
  • Meditate daily, and attend weekly group dharma talks and meditation sessions.
  • Bring a higher level of health and fitness to my physical body.
  • Contribute to a cause I believe in by using the technical and organizational skills I have.  To start, I am donating a surfboard I shaped to an environmental cause.
Now that you have read about us; tell us about you!  Or, if unwilling to share on such a public forum, take a 1/2 hour and write them for yourself.  Share with someone you love, even share with a stranger!  Bring these ideas into the world and help others to create their lives and see that they can make a difference for themselves.

Thank you, and best of luck in 2013!

Vancouver shot on a summer early morning rendez-vouz on the beach

What is the bigger purpose?

PeopleSilhouettes

 

This is a small piece of a larger question, and I share it tonight because it hit me about an hour ago

There is this old tale of a monk, who is traveling the lands when he comes across a rock quarry.  A tired, frustrated man is chipping away at a large boulder with less than no enthusiasm, all the while cursing the lot he has been given.

Curious, the monk approaches him and asks him what he is sculpting.

Annoyed, and staring in disbelief at the audacity of someone asking him such a silly question, the man snaps “what does it look like? A boulder!”. He stares coldly at the monk, then continues his stone chipping.

The monk turns and continues to walk, slowly realizing he is in a rock quarry, and that there are many more stone workers like the first, all around him.  They too, are cursing their lots, looking tired and irritated, all chipping away at boulders.

As the monk slowly walks through the quarry, he sees the large rocks at various stages of completion.  It seems that they are being shaped into large cylinders.  But for what?  Every time the monk asks a sculptor what they’re for, he gets a snappy remark, or ignored altogether.  No one seems happy with their work.  No one is satisfied.

It is on his way out of the quarry that the monk notices someone a little different.  This man is sculpting the rock, same as all the others; but there is something different about his manner.  He is smiling, and humming to himself.  He is playing with his chisel, and, focused yet easy, striking with purpose.  He seems light.

The monk approaches this scupltor, and again asks him what he is doing

“Me, well I am building a temple! It will be the most beautiful work of art you have ever seen!”

What’s the point? I thought of this tonight, while I was slowly scratching some adhesive off of a surfboard I am finishing. (note, do not use cheap tape!)

After 2 hours of slowly scratching the tape off, and taking care not to damage the top deck, I had become so largely annoyed with the detail and tediousness of this task, that I had forgotten the goal of the task: that I was building something custom, one of a kind, and beautiful.  It was then that I remembered the story of the monk, and concurrently realized that it is too easy to get lost in the details of our lives and our self importance.  We often forget that we are here for the great good of making a difference for other people in our lives, and shut ourselves off from the joy and the passion of the greater world we are contributing to.

Take a moment to step back, and think about the difference you have made to someone’s life, through a smile, contribution, or kind comment.  Even how your job, as tedious and fruitless as it may sometimes seem, is contributing to a larger cathedral in the world, which brings opportunities and prosperity to those associated with it.

The Happiest Man in the World

Buddha

Matthieu Ricard isn’t your ordinary person. An ex-geneticist who earned his PhD at the Institut Pasteur in Paris in 1972, he renounced the academic life and spent more than three decades training his mind so that we can better understand how to cultivate happiness.

And the results from the latest study of Ricard’s brain are staggering.

Looking at the intrinsic brain activity while meditating on compassion, scientists at the University of Wisconsin have observed the highest levels of gamma waves ever recorded in the neuroscience literature from Ricard’s brain. The study also looked at brain activity of over 100 advanced meditators, many of whom had more than 50,000 rounds of meditation experience. But none were able to reach the level produced by Ricard.

Gamma waves play a vital role in cognitive functioning. Their propagation through the brain acts as a type of neuronal synchronizer, binding together distributed networks and focusing them towards an object of attention. Scientist have proposed that gamma waves are able to resolve the ‘binding problem’ of neuroscience – how sensory information processed in sensory-specific areas of the brain are unified into a single conscious experience. Their role in consciousness is so critical, that if gamma waves stop emitting from an area of the brain called the thalamus, conscious awareness is lost and the person slips into a deep coma.

For Ricard, this implies that he is able to focus and coordinate the endogenous signals of his brain towards a single concept, percept or conscious experience. Whether concentrating on compassion or happiness, it is hard to imagine that in such a state anything but the object of focus is able to enter Ricard’s awareness.

The study also found an extreme asymmetry between brain activity originating from his left prefrontal cortex compared to his right. This asymmetry has been shown to correlate with positive emotions, while it’s counterpart – stronger activity in the right prefrontal cortex – is related to negative emotions. Putting this finding together with the high levels of gamma waves, it suggests that Ricard is able to generate such a focused state of compassion that his brain responds by producing an extreme level of positive emotions.

Despite these results, Ricard says that he is not unique. He teaches that similar levels of compassion can be obtained by anyone willing to take the time and effort. Ricard attributes his incredible abilities to neuroplasticity due to meditation training and is working with scientists around the globe to show how the brain changes its structure and function in response to meditation.

While Ricard’s place as the world’s happiest man is fascinating, the bigger take away from the University of Wisconsin study is that long-term experience with meditation is not necessary to induce neuroplasticity. The scientists found that as little as twenty minutes a day for three weeks can start to reshape the patterns of the brain and increase levels of positive emotions.

The question is – what are you going to do with the next twenty minutes of your day?

Combinatorial Knowledge and Reading in Spheres

Girl reading

Knowledge expresses itself as a fusion of pre-existing ideas. Much like a 26 character alphabet allows us to write the sonnets of Shakespeare or the lyrics to Stupid Hoe (thanks Nicki Minaj…), our own thinking involves permutations of basic elements into fascinating combinations.

We are experts in synthesizing our exposure and experiences in the world into new forms of expression – true artists realize this and embrace it as part of the creative process. Picasso said ‘good artists borrow, great artists steal’. This wasn’t a proclamation of intellectual theft, but rather an acknowledgement that ideas develop through collisions with one another.

This is the essence of our remix culture and a trending motif behind art and science as we enter the 21st century.

Once acknowledged, how can we capitalize on this feature of our mind in order to facilitate growth?

A strategy that I’ve developed recently (and recommend here) is to outline tiered reading structures that embrace the synthetic nature of our thoughts to streamline creative insight.

This reading structure involves defining key spheres of knowledge that you’re interested in. Then, you devote a portion of your reading time each day to exposing yourself to something in each sphere. This allows your mind to blend the ideas and words together, and give new perspectives to your life and the world around you.

For me as a cognitive neuroscientist working on spatial cognition, I’ve identified the following three areas –

The specialized sphere. This is where I list readings that are specific to my work. It mainly involves peer-reviewed articles covering novel research experiments in spatial cognition and neuro-imaging. Anything that deals with methodology and the operationalization of spatial concepts in cognitive psychology.

The adjacent sphere. This is where I list any readings that are not directly related to my topic of interest, but that are related ideas or meta-structures for my thinking. Books on network theory, general systems philosophy, embodied cognition all find home here. The point of this sphere is to give some adjacent context to my specialized readings, allowing the ideas within to find new synthetic frames to develop. Steven Johnson in his book Where Ideas Come From has an excellent discussion on the necessity of adjacency in the emergence of ideas.

The remote (but interesting) sphere. This is my bucket list of books. Novels, ideas, anything that I want to be exposed to before I die. Currently, it’s filled with books on sci-fi civilizations, the secrets of happiness, stock market & investing and novels about parallel universes. The key here is to follow your interests, acknowledging that highly importance and influential ideas often emerge by following hunches, interests and everything that you love.

The amazing thing about this reading strategy isn’t that creativity is accelerated (although it is), but that you start to see just how connected and networked every idea is in our world.

Eudaemonia and the Happiness of Reasons

For much of history, the idea of happiness was construed as a thing to be obtained – a platonic ideal to be sought through a life in accordance with various philosophical views.

Happiness was to be pursued, rather than experienced.

This view reached is pinnacle in western culture, when Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill argued that happiness (for them, hedonism) could be understood quantitatively through a Hedonic Calculus that maximized the hedonism obtained from actions. People could derive the experiences that are likely to lead to happiness and engineer their lives towards seeking them.

Pause for a second and think about this. How good are you at predicting happiness?

For most of us, we are startlingly unable to accurately predict what will make us happy. This has led Daniel Gilbert, a renown Harvard psychologist, to propose that happiness shouldn’t be pursued. Rather, it should be stumbled upon.

Sure, we may be able to approximate the likelihood of us experiencing an event in a happy state, but this is little more than a post-hoc attempt to predict the future based on past experiences. This goes again the role of novelty in happiness: the idea that we are biologically wired to seek growth and new experiences in our world.
So perhaps a better question to ask is: how can you engineer your life to increase the likelihood of stumbling on happiness?

The answer comes in almost direct opposition to Bentham’s and Mill’s Hedonic Calculus. It’s called eudaemonic well-being and is one of the most important concepts in modern psychology.

The core tenant of eudaemonic well-being is summarized nicely in Neitzsche’s aphorism He who has a why can survive any how.

Through structuring your life around meaningful goals, purpose and personal desire, we are able to reframe almost any experience into a positive interpretation – experiences are seen as being necessary to achieve our goal. While Neitzsche structured his aphorism to emphasize how purpose can help people persist in the face of adversity, it has the corresponding effect of generating experiences that lead to greater happiness.

Each moment of our life is seem as being a progression, a necessary stepping stone to further growth and self actualization.

Research in positive psychology has supported this view, showing that people who organize their life around developing eudaemonic well-being (that is, have both long and short term life goals) are more autonomous, healthy and perhaps most important, happy.

Positive Disintegration: How loss leads to growth and nothing is really negative

Imagine for a moment what life must have been like in Poland after World War II.

Cities destroyed by war.

Culture and government fractured by the initial invasion of 1939 that opened the European theatre and spawned the war.

The psychological landscape in ruins, composed against a backdrop of the horrors and atrocities that people had witnessed each other commit. Chaos – at its most extreme – leaving nothing but rubble in need of rebuilding.
Coming from this context was a man named Kazimierz Dabrowski who had a simple idea: that nothing is ever really negative.

While most of us will (fortunately) never have to experience such an extreme, we do experience our own personal devastations – crises or stresses that seem too much to handle, too devastating that they obscure the path forward. These states can emerge for a myriad of reasons, yet they all share a common element: there is a dissonance between what our present moment is and what we would like it to be.

Buddhism teaches us that we should learn to accept the flow of life, to detach and strive for compassion in the face of suffering. While this approach has its utility, taken at its extreme it neglects the opportunity that personal strife can afford.

Dabrowski called his idea the theory of Positive Disintegration. At its core, it says that loss, sadness and unease are essential for personal development. It isn’t that loss and sadness are intrinsically negative, rather that we have been socialized to believe that certain situations should elicit certain reactions and that we are to interpret our emotional reactions as being either positive or negative.

In the view of positive disintegration, emotions are contextual. There is no inherent goodness or badness to them – there is no innate suffering – only a psychological reaction to them. As such, when we contextualize the state of loss or sadness in personal life as being vital to development and growth, we can view them from a positive light and as states that are to be experienced and explored rather than remedied.

Dabrowski recognized that people start life in a state of primary integration. They behave and think in accordance with their inner impulses and what society teaches as the correct way of life. Through states of personal dissonance, where there is a discord between what you experience and what you believe, a person has a chance to enter into the process of positive disintegration. They are able to recognize that their inner values and beliefs no longer effectively correspond to the world around them. They are able to disintegrate previous belief structures, world perspectives and behavioural patterns in order to reconstruct them to be more in line with a developing set of personal values that are independent of impulses and socialization.

States of unease and tension become the motivation – the energy and catalyst for change – that are necessary to dissolve and reconstruct a person into a more complex and unique individual. Without them we would remain in a state of primary integration, aligning our thoughts and behaviours with little effort to actualize our full potential.

So remember the next time things seem blue, when loss or sadness feels too much, this is your mind’s way of telling you that there is more inside yourself to develop, that there are new opportunities for you to explore and grow through.