31 December, 2011

Seeing the objective truth... so hard

I jump to conclusions. So often. And it's mood dependent. I get a thesis statement going in my head about what reality is, and then I start "seeing" all the data that supports my theory, and "not seeing" all the data that refutes it. That's a bit ironic for a researcher to take such an approach to life. I certainly hope that is not the way that I conduct my research.

And I am so convinced. So sure. I have tried to be more open than I used to be. I have tried to see all sides of a situation. Of course, I think I have always portrayed myself as someone who sees all sides of a situation. But I think that perception is probably distorted, because I continually come to the realization that I am not doing it.

It's just a forever continuing work in progress.

I have a hard time walking the line of recognizing that I lack the compassion and openness that is possible, without immediately devolving into the self-flagellation of what a bad person I am for lacking it. What it comes back to is the place where it all needs to start, which is compassion and openness with myself.

I started off talking about objective truth, and there's an interesting paradox of "objectivity" when talking about one's own inner states. Because you'd think that "about self" is fundamentally "subjectivity" but there's an objective truth about ourselves as well.

The other day, I was listening to someone give their sales pitch about the Landmark program. Of course, I am not a subscriber to cult philosophies, not so much because there's no value in them, but because I am very careful about assigning myself to any sort of community -- even my participation at my yoga studio is starting to feel a bit cultish, but that's another blog.

In his sales pitch, he talked about how there are "facts" and there are "interpretations" or something like that. In our day to day lives, there are things that occur that actually occur and then there is the layer upon layer of filtering or interpretation that we place on top of it. The result is that we often do not even see "the facts" because our brains have created this compelling story on top of it - and that story is based on what he referred to as our "point of view". These are self-limiting approaches. And to really see, we need to remove the interpretation layer.

Now, I don't need to join a cult or self-help program, or read a thousand books to heed that common sense. It is just common sense, right?

But I don't heed it.

And it's all mood dependent. In my best moments, I have the openness, and try my best to experience life as a series of moments. But in my darker moments, which are sometimes many, I spiral every "fact" into a web of worst-case scenarios. And that makes me feel worse.

Here's an example.

I send you a message. You reply immediately. I send you another message, asking you a question. You don't reply immediately.

This happens all the time, with everyone in my life. But the interpretation is mood-dependent. If I am in a good mood, I just wait for the reply. Or if it's urgent, I call. But if I am in a bad mood, then that lack of immediate response immediately becomes "they don't want to answer my question" or "i am not important to them" or "why are they avoiding communicating with me". Then, reality turns out to be any of a series of natural causes: driving, text took a long time to go through, got a phone call, was eating dinner, fell asleep, etc.

The sad part about this is that I rake myself over emotional coals running with the worst-case scenarios. And for some reason, my brain is particularly adept at spinning worst-case scenarios for even the smallest of scenarios. The paranoia kicks in, and everyone's motives are questionable.

I know this about myself, and it still happens. I also know that the first step toward self-improvement is self-awareness. But unfortunately, self-awareness is a little bit more uncomfortable that selfish oblivion, particularly in the short-term.