What kind of universe do you enjoy?
WillSpirit, my personal blog that started me writing online, sometimes becomes a forum for fielding my spiritual views. The readership is small enough that nothing I write risks causing a ruckus, but it is large enough that I still get a few comments to help me stay on track. I am fortunate to have a venue to work out a spiritual philosophy that helps me thrive. But a blog is not the only or best way to flesh out a worldview. Meditation, conversation, study, art, and many other activities can accomplish the same end.
If one suffers from mood disorders, anxiety, or other psychiatric distress, the importance of clarifying one’s spiritual beliefs can hardly be overstated. Mainstream mental health professionals freely advise that people pursue a spiritual path as an aide to their recovery. Why should it matter?
Is there any part of the human psyche without value? No question, unchecked emotions like rage or hatred can cause catastrophic destruction. But if reigned in, do they contribute in positive ways?
Hatred of a person is seldom productive, but hatred of intolerance, or injustice, or environmental exploitation, can spur concrete productive action. Rage directed toward another individual is always wrong, but if employed as an internal motivator it becomes a wellspring of energy that can be used to correct the many glaring problems that surround us.
The point is, so-called negative emotions are great motivators, but their unfiltered expression often hurts other people. They need to be channeled using both compassion and rational thought.
Darkness happens. To many who read blogs on this site, bleak and anxious spirits may strike often and hard. Episodes can last hours, days, months, or years. When emotional turmoil becomes chronic there are well described, though imperfect, treatments. But what about the shorter storms? How does one weather a crisis that is powerful but not yet fixed in place?
For obscure reasons, probably related to poor sleep, hormonal cycles, and the like, despair can well up without warning. Many people are overly sensitive, and small setbacks or unthinking comments can lead to violent emotional reactions. High reactivity to stress is another source of transient emotional meltdowns. Often reactivity and sensitivity have their roots in abusive upbringings, but some people seem to simply be wired with exceptional touchiness, and have no obvious childhood reason for it.
Recent post have more or less trashed both over-reliance on thinking and unexamined emotions. The third major pillar of mental life is often termed spiritual; it also warrants examination.
Those with strong atheistic beliefs will likely roll their eyes at this point. Having been raised with solid materialist and reductionist attitudes, I am sympathetic to such philosophies even though they are no longer my own. But there is a way to discuss the same part of the human mind without drawing on mystical concepts.
In much of my writing I give the thinking mind a hard time. I aim to highlight the ways our modern world grants linear thought excessive respect and power. No doubt logical thinking has advantages, and can accomplish much in material spheres; the advanced state of our technology speaks to logic’s abilities. Even so, linear thinking creates problems when used to the exclusion of other mental skills, especially during social interactions. Our culture devalues vital brain functions that might help us negotiate the many complex societal problems we face as a species.
In usual parlance the word intelligence refers only to linear, left brain activity. Many commentators have worked to counteract this bias by describing emotional intelligence, and it is important to remember that some people who don’t excel on standard IQ tests have their own exceptional abilities. Furthermore, these latter skills are often underdeveloped in those with the sort of brain that performs well on conventional tests. I applaud efforts to give emotional sensibility its due.
Can you orgasm just by thinking? I can’t, and not for lack of trying. Not many people have the ability to climax without physical stimulation. So why do they say the brain is the most important erogenous zone?
It could be because the mind needs to be lured into letting go of thought. So many interesting things to contemplate! So many anxieties to nurture, so many regrets to keep alive. Why would the rational mind let go of its complicated problems to do something as simple, as mindless, as engage in sex?
Fear is a guardian of life, but in the modern world it can become life’s destroyer.
We live today because every single one of our ancestors avoided death long enough to reproduce. That implies considerable luck, but also caution. No doubt those early hominids who tended toward recklessness, and felt little fear, soon became meals for carnivores. We have millions of years of breeding behind us, and hair-trigger fright served our ancestors well.
The problem is that despite a high level of essential safety (most of us stand little risk of being torn apart bodily, even if we might get shredded financially), we continue to live on high alert.