Concepts shifting my world view
We can alter our perceptions to move through life differently.
Welcome to Conflict Confidential, a newsletter about people and problems, human (dis)connection, and conflict transformation.
“Attention is the most valuable currency in the universe,” says Christian Schwartz, a mycologist. He invests his attention on studying mushrooms. What do the rest of us spend our attention on? (And is it as least as cool as fungi?)
I’m paying attention to how I think. I’m trying to understand the why behind it too. Been doing some learning. Opening myself up to new ideas. Here is what’s influencing me these days.
Our smart brains are actually kinda dumb.
Our thoughts aren’t our own, everything we know we learned from our society. We got our language and ideas from other human beings.
You might think you're thinking your own thoughts. You're not. You're thinking your culture's thoughts. -Jiddu Krishnamurti
Our minds trick us into thinking we’re seeing things accurately. But we’re often functioning through uniquely distorted thought lenses. Most of our thoughts are repetitive, like over 90%. We think we’re being original. We’re not.1 Add rereading texts and emails, or replaying conflict in our heads, we’re just ever-looping dumdums. Kinda comforting, being aware of this totally natural default.
We don’t have to think in binaries.
There are more than two options. Things aren’t categorically black and white, good or bad. Often there is nuance. It’s freeing to break out of binary thinking, and a little scary. The brain scans for an answer- well if it’s not this and it’s not that THEN WHAT IS IT? The beauty is in becoming comfortable with the shoulder-shrug and settling into the inquiry. Be the one to define choice with an asterisk.
“Both can be true.” a good friend wrote me, responding to my frantic email. I was having a hard time grasping reality (circa Winter 2021 - 2022.) Life was simultaneously demanding and depriving a bit too hard. I wanted all the contradictory complications of life to make sense. Instead, I was reminded to embrace the mess.
It’s totally okay and normal and accurate to live in contradiction. We all do. There is no perfect. No single ideal exists. Stop trying to compare ourselves, it’s futile.
Life is full of endless possibilities. It’s not just Option A or Option B- there’s actually a whole alphabet of choice. Try C. Maybe don’t choose a letter at all and explore beyond the obvious options. Option A or B will probably still be there if we need ‘em.
Relationships require reciprocity, otherwise it is an obligation.
No one feels fulfilled in obligation.
Change is constant, nothing stays the same.
This moment is the real moment. Now this is. No, this one. We’re moving onward, never can we return to a moment passed. We can feel stagnant, patterns may repeat. But the truth is change is always happening. We grow. Cells regenerate. Culture evolves. Families reconfigure. Realities suddenly reset. Change is the only constant. How we respond to change is the only thing we can control. Resisting change creates unwinnable tension. Instead, times of stress can be signals for growth. Flowing with change and adapting as we go... this is the human way.
We are shaped by our social contexts.
Our bodies are shaped by layers of influence. Think of our bodies as onions. Each layer is a site of shaping.
At the center is our self, who we are at our core. It’s the source of the voice in our head. It is our compass. The next layer is our first families, the intimate world we grew up in where we learn interpersonal dynamics, for better or worse. Then there are our communities and all the expectations and rules we are taught there. Enwrapping all that is our institutions, the systems in place by dominant culture. Depending on where we’re situated these systems may benefit or oppress us, which influences how we see ourselves in the world. Think of how we experience(d) education, jobs, religious institutions, living in the infrastructure of our local government. The next layer is social norms and historical forces - what’s been inherited as normal, what messages have we received? Finally, landscape. What it looks like where we are and the spirit of how it feels to live on this planet. Is it vast? Crowded? Damp? Lush? Our environments shape us too.
The cool thing is even though we’re shaped, we can change if we want to. We can choose to transform into who we want to be in this world.* But first we have to notice who we are.
*While also working on transforming the world.
Let’s Treat Our Toxic Habits Like Our Hair Is On Fire.
Why are we distrustful, or jealous? When we feel slighted do we have the urge to be vindictive? Do we wanna ruin someone else’s day? Do we use silent treatment to prove a point? Or get loud to force being heard? Are we escalating conflict? Are we feeling insecure, silently shittalking to ourselves about our choices?
All this toxic thinking is unhelpful. Truly. These tendencies are evidence of our suffering. Defense mechanisms, deflections. We should learn from what these impulses are trying to tell us about ourselves, and do something about it. Instead of acting out, we can stop. Like hair on fire, extinguish immediately.
Empowerment is a vibe.
Empowerment is holding a sweet secret which fuels courage. The deep I can do this living inside us. How we harness this feeling, or encourage it in others, takes practice. We have to be willing to try new ways of being and take conscious steps into evolving. To do this, though, we gotta vibe with ourselves. Move with the shifts. Get in there. Go deeper. Root around. C’mon c’mon.2 Feel through it all. Know thyself.
Sebene Selassie on Hurry Slowly talks about our thought patterns and how we can learn to unravel our inner critic.