Posts Tagged 'insecurity'

Happiness, Part xx6, The Chemistry

Parts xx1, xx2, xx3, xx4, xx5. Part xx6 will unfold over a series of related posts.

We’re animals with bodies wired to respond to stimuli in ways that increase our chances of survival. While we have certain physical vulnerabilities, we overcome them by having been graced with a complex array of genetic tools that make us adept at learning and cooperation. We’re social. We work well in groups, and need them. We respond to what we call feelings, which help to facilitate this cooperative, social behavior. Our feelings have chemical underpinnings. There are two primary kinds: Selfless and Selfish. The selfish ones produce good feelings when we accomplish things for ourselves, while the selfless ones are oriented more toward the feelings we get in cooperation with others.

The primary selfish ones are:

Endorphins – Associated with the runner’s high. Their job is to mask physical pain. To help give us the will to push through when we’re tired or injured. But they serve other purposes as well. When we laugh they are released, which can mitigate anxiety. An example might be a comedic moment in a horror movie. We feel better even after the laughing stops.

Dopamine – Responsible for the feeling of satisfaction we get when accomplishing something. The bigger the accomplishment the more dopamine we get. We even get a little along the way to start us up and keep us going. It’s a part of what makes us goal oriented. Eating food produces dopamine, which is one reason why we like to eat (too much). In fact, dopamine is a major factor any many different types of addictions. This includes not only food or drugs, but things like checking e-mail or Facebook. That little bit of intrigue when there is something new releases dopamine. We like it. We want more. We can’t put our phones down for want of it.

There are some others in this category that are a little less important for feelings, though more important for action, such as Noradrenaline and Adrenaline.

The primary selfless ones are:

SeratoninSerotonin – Our warm feelings when others support and approve of us, or we support others, are linked to serotonin. Getting likes on Facebook or feeling like you have followers or loyal friends triggers the release of this chemical. The feeling of respect from others triggers it, and so it helps us to organize around being a good team member or leader. Because of this chemical we feel the weight of responsibility toward others – not just results (that would be dopamine), but the people, especially when they are counting on us in some way. It helps make us want to do right by people, or to make them proud.

Oxytocin – Known as the love chemical, oxytocin helps to produce a feeling of closeness or intimacy with others. It is often, but not necessarily triggered by physical contact. It helps to reinforce a bond between people, whether friends, siblings, or parent and child. It’s why others showing support of our endeavors makes us feel better about them, and why we feel better about ourselves and them when we offer that support. It triggers feelings of empathy and the strongest bonds of trust and friendship. Unlike dopamine, which is fast and temporary, oxytocin lasts and strengthens relationships over time. It produces a feeling of warmth and security that allows us to reveal our vulnerabilities.

Try to find ways to laugh or seek other enjoyment to trigger endorphins, especially when times are tough. Easier said than done. Try to find healthy (as in not too frivolous) measures of accomplishment to achieve. Dopamine will help you once you set up some clearly defined goals. Show up (or come through) and do something to help someone else or make them feel good for a little boost of serotonin. And for oxytocin, reveal your vulnerability and show yourself. Strive to get close.

In other words, fake it ’til you make it. It’s not easy, but your body will respond by chemically helping you…if you can just find a way to get started. Each day.

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Winning

cross walk Jesus

Sometimes the battles you’re fighting are not as they appear, or will not lead to a result you really want. Observe how you define winning and think through what it really is. Some players at the poker table will never show you what cards they had after they beat you. It makes sense. If you show people what cards you beat them with they can start unwinding your game. I knew a player who would always flash you his hand, or tell you later over a drink, how he beat you. He cared more about your feeling in defeat than his victory in the next hand. He cared about the connection. What battles are you waging, and why? What do you really want?

Crumbs

Ghosts

The leftover scraps that aren’t used. Not always actively discarded, just not cared for or even noticed in many cases. Think of projects started, but not finished. Photos taken, but not looked at more than (maybe) once. Ideas (poems, songs, papers, letters, thoughts) written down, but not revisited. Slowly turning to dust in an attic or on a shelf somewhere. Pieces of our history and makeup casually brushed aside in favor of the urgent and riveting moments of now. Like film frames on the cutting room floor these annals of our lives succumb to entropy and become trivia, or are completely forgotten. What story would they tell about us?

And what of the people along the way? Some, perhaps important at one time, now relegated to mere acquaintances, or lost to time altogether. Or truly gone. Even the unimportant ones had a story. We could have connected.

And we must know that even though we’re each our own little sphere of awareness in the world, we hold a place of unimportance for others, with the relatively few notable exceptions. Of course, many times it is unnoticed because the process/status is mutual. But sometimes we do see it. There’s that moment where we begin to realize that we’re the scraps of someone else’s life. Our existence may be acknowledged, and maybe we even get a smattering of quality time, but it becomes obvious we don’t really have a place. Even though we may want to, it is not our choice to make. We are discarded. Not in a mean or callous way. Just a thoughtless one. Just like crumbs, we disappear under other footsteps into the pile of the carpet of life and will not be noticed. Quite a hollow feeling when we care enough to recognize it.

So many stories unexplored, like ghosts passing through one another without feeling. We’re too selfish or afraid. What could our lives be if those connections had been made or maintained?

Nurture.

Sweet Spot

blankcanvassGood is the enemy of great.

Perfect is the source of paralysis by analysis.

How good is good enough? It depends on your passion. Some strive for perfection as comfort against insecurity. The only way to comfort for them is if the work is unimpeachable. Others rationalize that it’s “good enough” as a means to tranquilize themselves and avoid the burden of reaching for great. Lazy perhaps, or sometimes viewed as practical.

How often do you find that you are compelled or inspired by someone or something that is good enough? Good enough has a place in this world, but doesn’t really advance anything. Perfection is a noble goal, but in as much as it only can exist in the mind it doesn’t really accomplish anything. Too much expectation yields immobilization. Nothing actually happens.

Go for perfect. Settle for great. Great work stands out as great often because someone tried for perfect, but was determined to DO something even if perfection couldn’t be obtained.

The perfectionist has to suffer. Suffer to produce the truly great work. And suffer knowing it isn’t perfect. Knowing that she is vulnerable. She puts herSelf on the line, knowing it still might not be good enough.

Behind every beautiful thing, there is some kind of pain.  — Bob Dylan

People Pleaser

Like to do things for others? Do you put their concerns and wishes ahead of your own even when it causes you grief? Even when it harms you?

You might be a people pleaser. But make no mistake, you don’t do most of it for them. You do it for yourself. Maybe it’s an insecurity that reflects a need to be liked/loved. Maybe it’s to avoid the discomfort of confrontational situations. Maybe it’s satisfying some part of you that, for whatever reason, needs to feel like you’ve made a sacrifice or done something heroic. Maybe it’s that you want to feel like people owe you. Maybe you like the power you feel when you are the reason why someone else is better off. Maybe you need it to reinforce your feeling that you’re a good person. Maybe you’ve adopted a tendency to feel guilty that you’re trying to avoid. Maybe you like playing the martyr.

The science of behavior holds that we will continue doing those things that get recognized, revered, and rewarded…even if it’s just you recognizing yourself.

Once you truly accept that it’s largely selfish on your part it ought to become easier to go ahead and BE selfish by acting more on your own behalf.


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