HrOOO4 A Ray Gun for Stress
Huge pain exists. Life’s been getting worse and worse for decades. What can we do about it? Politics works only to the extent that people behave. And behaviors are affected by words.
Consider the city of Elis: 2300 Years ago. A Greek philosopher named Pyrrho came up with a plan influenced by very early Buddhism: end use of all definitive judgements as a way to end:
Distress of all kinds
Doing this, he said, would result in ataraxia, a Greek word suggesting an ongoing experience of ease amid the difficulties and even disasters of life. I tried his plan. It worked. You can do it too.
Famously, mid to late 20th Century psychology was built largely upon ancient Greek and Roman philosophies. Consider REBT and Cognitive Behavior Therapy for prime examples. In particular, Stoicism got leveraged by 20th—and now 21st—Century psychology. The core idea, in an English translation of the words of Epictetus: We’re not disturbed by events but by the views we take of them.
Buddhist philosophy includes the overarching thought: ideas of separation are faulty and lead to harm. Ideas of separation don’t adhere to how-our-universe-functions.
I took a step, though hardly revolutionary. I decided to test Buddhist, Hindu, and Mediterranean philosophies of liberation, by changing ideas and meanings that generated stress. That included the meanings of ordinary words and short phrases. (Partly, cognitive psychology already does this, so the general approach isn’t new and doesn’t need to be.) When a meaning—any meaning—clashed with ideas of impermanence or oneness, or resulted in hard and fast judgements of any kind, I’d change it…because it also induced stress!
I began with a short list inspired by my mom. She often felt plagued by ideas such as:
- I should have
- I need to
- I have to
- I shouldn’t
- I can’t
And of course, each of those shoulds, shoudn’ts, have-tos, need-tos, and can’ts felt real to my mom when she thought them. Only, they also resulted in tons of stress, worry, and even heartache. They distracted her from her life’s goals. Each seemed at the time definitive judgements, judgements marked by ideas of:
So I zapped my have-tos. I simply showed my mind that I didn’t need them. My have-tos are not practical. Very often, I had other choices and options. Or, there was a variation on what I ‘had-to’ do that worked better.
My have-tos were cognitive noise. They increased the noise of my thoughts making it hard to hear solutions (so to say). It was the same with other words and short judgey phrases.
I zapped need-tos and shoulds. I zapped can’ts. It felt sooooo good! It popped me out of so much personal yuck, it was amazing. Later, I even questioned the ‘need’ for ‘important’ and ‘true’. I found that I could think fine without them. Instead of use of judgey language—even against self or life—I could get practical, solving problems, improving life, gaining more energy. I have a ways to go with this process, but it’s been amazing.
Pyrrho sang a new song of life. We can do same.
December 11, 2021