|Grace Abaho Sr|
We cannot live lives of other people but we can be authentically ourselves by the lives that give us a definition of hope, a look beyond the abyss we might be into, a way through our messy lives and a path to the bright side of life. Often the unfortunate part, we are blinded into the thoughts of repetitively thinking that somewhat, rock bottom is our place to stay, that as long as nobody lifts us up, we are never going to make it through: that is a lie, rock bottom is not a conclusion, it is a foundation. Yes, you may need someone but the first person you need for self-liberation is you. At times your help, even the one you expect so much, so soon, may take so long to come through, or even never. Once you pick your stead, tell your story, this is what this article is about— that a Paradox is also a way of being that’s key to wholeness, which does not mean perfection: it means embracing brokenness as an integral part of life. The ancient Greek philosopher Epicurus once said, “Of all the things which wisdom provides to make life entirely happy, much the greatest is the possession of friendship,” let me be your friend herein.
There are so many times when I reflect on what I longed to be as a child and who I am today, where I am, honestly; sometimes, it is frail but one profound truth remains: I found myself and I can give a part of me that is good, at any rate. There is no god-send picture of myself that I will present, or have ever presented; it is a message straight out of my heart: the explanation is creativity embedded in artistry. Yes, the common traits that people across all creative fields seem to have in common are an openness to one’s inner life; a preference for complexity and ambiguity; an unusually high tolerance for disorder and disarray; the ability to extract order from chaos; independence; unconventionality; and a willingness to take risks.
“…I stand among you as one who offers a small message of hope, that first, there are always people who dare to seek on the margin of society, who are not dependent on social acceptance, not dependent on social routine, and prefer a kind of free-floating existence under a state of risk. And among these people, if they are faithful to their own calling, to their own vocation, and to their own message from God, communication on the deepest level is possible. And the deepest level of communication is not communication, but communion. It is wordless. It is beyond words, and it is beyond speech and beyond concept.”— The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton
Healthy reminder is: things do not always work out so well, of course. History is full of tragically failed visions of possibility, and the more profound the vision, the more likely we are to fall short of achieving it. But even here, Merton has a word of hope for us, a paradoxical word, of course:
“…do not depend on the hope of results. …you may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself.”
In broaching the possibility of being, in some way, against self-criticism, we have to imagine a world in which celebration is less suspect than criticism; in which the alternatives of celebration and criticism are seen as a determined narrowing of the repertoire; and in which we praise whatever we can.
Our masochistic impulse for self-criticism, he argues, arises from the fact that ambivalence is the basic condition of our lives. In a passage that builds on his memorable prior reflections on the paradox of why frustration is necessary for satisfaction in romance, Phillips considers Freud’s ideological legacy:
In Freud’s vision of things we are, above all, ambivalent animals: wherever we hate, we love; wherever we love, we hate. If someone can satisfy us, they can also frustrate us; and if someone can frustrate us, we always believe that they can satisfy us. We criticize when we are frustrated — or when we are trying to describe our frustration, however obliquely — and praise when we are more satisfied, and vice versa. Ambivalence does not, in the Freudian story, mean mixed feelings, it means opposing feelings.
Love and hate — a too simple, or too familiar, vocabulary, and so never quite the right names for what we might want to say — are the common source, the elemental feelings with which we apprehend the world; and they are interdependent in the sense that you can’t have one without the other, and that they mutually inform each other. The way we hate people depends on the way we love them, and vice versa. And given that these contradictory feelings are our ‘common source’ they enter into everything we do. They are the medium in which we do everything. We are ambivalent, in Freud’s view, about anything and everything that matters to us; indeed, ambivalence is the way we recognize that someone or something has become significant to us… Where there is devotion there is always protest… where there is trust there is suspicion.
We may not be able to imagine a life in which we don’t spend a large amount of our time criticizing ourselves and others; but we should keep in mind the self-love that is always in play.If we give in to fears that come with lowest of the lows, it is so often very easy to assume that those who “have it all” are okay but beware of excessive choice: choice overload can make you question the decisions you make before you even make them, it can set you up for unrealistically high expectations, and it can make you blame yourself for any and all failures. In the long run, this can lead to decision-making paralysis, anxiety, and perpetual stress. And, in a culture that tells us that there is no excuse for falling short of perfection when your options are limitless, too much choice can lead to clinical depression.
In The Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz explains at what point choice—the hallmark of individual freedom and self-determination that we so cherish—becomes detrimental to our psychological and emotional well-being. In accessible, engaging, and anecdotal prose, Schwartz shows how the dramatic explosion in choice—from the mundane to the profound challenges of balancing career, family, and individual needs—has paradoxically become a problem instead of a solution. Schwartz also shows how our obsession with choice encourages us to seek that which makes us feel worse.
“In the course of studying learned helplessness in humans, Seligman found that it tends to be associated with certain ways of thinking about events that form what he termed a person’s "explanatory style." The three major components of explanatory style associated with learned helplessness are permanence, pervasiveness, and personalization.
Permanence refers to the belief that negative events and/or their causes are permanent, even when evidence, logic, and past experience indicate that they are probably temporary ("Amy hates me and will never be my friend again" vs. "Amy is angry with me today"; "I’ll never be good at math").
Pervasiveness refers to the tendency to generalize so that negative features of one situation are thought to extend to others as well ("I’m stupid" vs. "I failed a math test" or "nobody likes me" vs. "Janet didn’t invite me to her party").
Personalization, the third component of explanatory style, refers to whether one tends to attribute negative events to one’s own flaws or to outside circumstances or other people. While it is important to take responsibility for one’s mistakes, persons suffering from learned helplessness tend to blame themselves for everything, a tendency associated with low self-esteem and depression. The other elements of explanatory style–permanence and pervasiveness–can be used as gauges to assess whether the degree of self-blame over a particular event or situation is realistic and appropriate.
The last word: Expressing emotion when you’ve gone through extreme pain is not weakness. It is humanity. For every man that willfully shares a story, or an insight, be thankful—even if it makes you mad in the heat of the moment, just think about it, hopefully you will something—always.