Like most revelations in my life, this one came to me on the kitchen floor. As I crouched down scrubbing the built up food spilt down the side of my stove, I was overwhelmed by the sheer revulsion that comes with cleaning an appliance shared by three university-aged men.
Then I had an interesting, and rather unique thought, “Why do I find what I am doing so gross? Why is my brain having such a negative response to this, making it so much more unpleasant than, say, vacuuming?”
I tried to conceptualize what I was doing. The stains were obviously physically unappealing, but I rationalized to myself that they were nothing more than an accumulation of food that likely was once appealing to me. I didn’t know enough science to recognize what the mold was specifically, so I went with a bacterial culture, that really couldn’t do any harm to me.
Suddenly, the task didn’t seem so bad. What at first was almost an instinctually disgusting task, was now much more bearable. Now I don’t claim that this method of thinking is revolutionary, or even that it will work for everyone (anyone?), but I can assure you that it worked for me.
I started applying this way of perceiving the world to all aspects of my life, and I truly believe that it has made me a better person. I recently went through a breakup with a girlfriend that was a huge part of my life at University, and it felt natural to be a mixture of sad, loathsome, and lethargic for the next few days.
I then thought to myself, why am I feeling this way? What about this failed love has made me feel so crushed? I rationalized to myself the majority of my sadness was coming from the implicit loss of friendship that comes with a break-up, as my ex and I would text or talk almost constantly over the course of our relationship.
I believed that I could remedy this loss of friendship/companionship by being more sociable amongst my friends. I would randomly text my buddies asking to hang out or just to catch up. I was doing my best to satisfy my base desires for friendship, affection, and love that are rewards for being in a relationship. Two months later, I feel happier and more loved than I did while I was in a relationship.
Was that last sentence as cheesy to read as it was to write? I swear its true though. Please read on.
I don’t believe that one shouldn’t be sad after a break-up, as I still believe that emotions are an important part of your perception of life, but I’ve found that there are more efficient ways to manage my emotions.
All of the base emotions that you feel, happiness, sadness, and anger are your brain’s response to something that has happened in your life. The biggest change in my life has come from trying to rationalize these emotions by asking myself, “Why am I feeling this way?”
Having the composure to pause and understand why am I feeling sad or angry has helped me manage my emotions, and has helped me realize that my emotional response to most things is usually an overreaction. I encourage you to give it a try.
I should say that it’s completely natural to feel anger when someone has personally wronged you. However, this method of thinking has prevented me from completely losing my temper and going into a screaming rage.
A screaming rage is actually a good example: why do people yell when they’re mad? What about being very angry causes the human brain to respond with a raised voice? It’s actually kind of funny when you think about it, because volume is almost never the issue in an argument. It’s just a weird emotional response to a situation.
Thanks to my innovative and infallible new perspective on life (sarcasm), I believe that I’m a much more self-aware human being. I’m happier and more at peace with myself than I’ve ever been. Additionally, I’ve been able to successfully follow a strict diet over the last three weeks, a huge accomplish for someone whose friends have referred to as the “Pizza Dog”.
Another perk is that I believe that I’m now a better friend to those important to me.
No two people are alike, but our brains will usually respond to certain things in similar ways. Being able to understand why my friends are feeling happy, sad or angry has helped me become a more compassionate and caring person, something that the world definitely needs more of.
I encourage you to give this way of thinking a try, if it doesn’t work you can shoot me a message and we can talk about it. I promise I won’t yell at you. By the way, I invented a name for this method: “Mind Over Matter”. It has a nice ring to it, I’m actually surprised no one has thought of it before.
- Dan Tyler