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The Tinkered Mind
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July 9th, 2020
The landscape of emotion that we move through is not one we generally navigate in a straightforward way. We develop a faulty patchwork of hacks and tricks, some work, while others even undermine our aims. Nowhere is this attempt to self-manipulate more clear than with the artificial hardships we fling ourselves at.
We put ourselves through artificial hardship all the time. Whether it be a course for school, or a training routine at the gym. Many of these hardships, perhaps nearly a majority in modern times aren’t strictly necessary. And yet we endure, ideally willingly, these artificial hardships in order to achieve some sort of delayed gain. The process for most of this is first and foremost an emotional puzzle. We attempt to set ourselves up with levels of obligation to ensure we’ll actually follow through. We take out the loan, and pay for the course, we buy a year membership at the gym, and then we moan and groan every time we need to get up for school or the gym.
We try to trick ourselves in this way, never really addressing the issue at core: how to navigate and influence the shape of emotion in the moment.
Do you know how to turn anger into peace,
embarrassment into joy,
sadness into gratitude?
Every day gives us a near constant stream of opportunities to meet these emotions with new strategies. Be it a lack of motivation, anger, sadness, sudden disappointment or embarrassment. It is possible to meet these colors of existence with an equanimity that deflates their power and makes room for a mindful choice, an emotional pivot that changes the terrain by successfully navigating it.
We often just stumble forward through these landscapes, instead of pausing, assessing the obstacle and then deciding whether to scale it or find some alternate route around.
The skill starts by clearly recognizing what that landscape looks like in the moment. We need only notice, and when we fail to notice the emotion, we often get drunk with it and move on blindly as though blindfolded, stumbling into obstacle after obstacle.
Navigation starts not with movement, but with pause, by assessing the surroundings and the entire landscape. It’s only with a lay of the land in mind that it becomes possible to move in meaningful directions.