Distracting Versus Relaxing

There’s a really big difference between distracting yourself with something versus genuinely relaxing.

Let’s look at it as if it’s physical.

With distraction, it’s like using one of your hands to push against something that’s trying to come at you; and using the other hand to try and grab onto something that’s somewhat difficult to grab onto.

That’s two different directions of effort.

With relaxation, there’s zero effort from either hand.

Relaxation rejuvinates. Distraction drains in two different directions.

If it feels like you’re distracting yourself, you’re so much better off going directly at the thing that’s trying to get to you (the stressor). Then you’re unifying your energy, putting effort into ONE direction, and hopefully knocking it out so that genuine (effortless) relaxation can occur.


Arrogance and Stubbornness. (from fear)

Arrogance and stubbornness look neat if we look at them through fear.

Stubbornness can be defined as a fear of change/loss.

Arrogance can be defined as a fear of vulnerability.

Change ALWAYS has fear built-in. Change is connected to loss which is connected to death.

If anyone tells you “I don’t fear change,” they’re lying to themselves (denial / lack of insight) or they’re lying to you.

And “loss” has a double meaning: not only losing something, like losing time towards death, but also loss as opposed to winning. Competition. So stubbornness can also be a fear of losing TO someone or something.

Then there’s a fear of one’s soft spots being seen; a fear of vulnerability.  A person over-produces strengths and attempts to look down on people in order to hide.

Fear is a profound motivator.  Even arrogance and stubbornness look pretty neat if we view them through the lens of fear.

Sorry for cheating on you, but…

… now I have an instagram.

I cheated on you with Talkspace.

I was mostly curious about whether I’d feel effective if the therapy were limited to only written words; not even hand written! And not even real-time typed! (It was like email.)

I was also hoping it would help us here, possibly providing some opportunities to type up something thought-out to target an exact problem and then copy and pasting it into the blog (with the client’s details removed/changed, obviously).

It was fun while it was novel.  But after a few months I got drained, stopped liking it, and discontinued.  The blog has suffered because (1) there was never a good opportunity to transfer anything here and (2) the thought of typing up more things felt sour for a while.

The next few months were aimed in an opposite direction.  I was careful not to over-work.  My to-do-list and morning routine have a very different structure now.  I even put out an ad for an assistant.

There’s a nice equilibrium now.  And I’m thrilled that thoughts are moving in the direction of the blog again.  Very happy to be back.

Somewhere in there, I started an Instagram.  (Overdose on words.  Need pictures.)

So I don’t know what kind of shape the Instagram is going to take but here’s what I’m imagining at the moment:

(1) Physical suggestions.  Putting up images of what positions you can put your body in to make yourself feel better.

(2) Mantra (repeated self-talk) suggestions.  Doing deep breathing while repeating a phrase to yourself can be weirdly powerful.  There are so many amazing mantras but they’re generally only one sentence.  Neither the blog nor the twitter feed seemed like the right place for them.  So I think the Instagram might be a perfect fit.

(3) Whenever the weight-lifting facility is completely set up, the Instagram can also be a way of communicating to you guys in between lifting sessions.  Active recovery, form and technique, maybe even some nutrition stuff.

So we’ll see what happens with the Instagram.  In the meantime, I’m happy to be back in the blog world.

As always, please let me know if you have ideas of what you’d like to see on either of them.

(I wonder if any of you expected to see a post about the word: “but”.

Here ya go:

The word “but” creates a hierarchy of importance.  Whatever is before “but” is less important than what is after “but.”   It doesn’t necessarily fully cancel out what’s before, but it jumps above it.   “I love you but empty the dishwasher.”  It’s clear the dishwasher is more important than the love in that moment.

When it’s a two person dialogue and Person A says a statement and then Person B starts with “But…” Person A is likely going to feel dismissed.  When Person B leads with “but,” it puts Person B’s point above/superior.

Most of you knew this, so I’m just dropping a couple paragraphs about it since I kind of click-baited the title.

I plan to be back here very soon!  Thrilled to be back!  Keep me posted on what you like….)




What is the function of emotion?

This is for you Structured peeps. This section fits perfectly with a couple of recent conversations we’ve had. It’s in Volume One, page 116:

“So long as you are awake you are aware of something, and that something always carries an emotional tone of some sort. Anything which is a matter of complete indifference, lacking in concern for you – that is, devoid of emotion – simply does not set the figure/ground process in operation to an extent sufficient to enter into awareness.

It is all-important that you become aware of the continuity of your emotional experience. Once emotion is understood to be not a threat to rational control of your life but a guide which furnishes the only basis on which human existence can be ordered rationally, then the way is open to cultivation of continuous awareness of its wise promptings.

To suppose that this would take extra time and attention is not correct. The analogy is crude, but consider the case of the skilled driver of an automobile. For him to be continuously aware that his motor is running smoothly is no burden, for this is not the focus of attention. That the sound of the motor is part of the dynamic figure/ground of his driving, however, and that it is something with which he is concerned, is indicated by the speed with which it becomes figure and claims more attention if it develops some slight, but significant, irregularity. Another driver – perhaps one who does not want to be bothered – will not hear the anomalous sound, or, if he does, will not recognize its meaning and will drive on for as long as he can, oblivious to the damage that may be occurring. To be continuously aware of emotion is possible only when you are willing to be aware of whatever is of genuine concern in your life.”

How Boundaries Can Be Harmful (if you’re doing it wrong)

The word “boundaries” can be kind of dangerous because people hear the advice that they should implement boundaries so they try it with great intentions, but since they don’t fully understand the concept as a whole, it can sometimes backfire and be counterproductive.

It’s a lot like when folks try to start eating healthy and they buy things that say “healthy” on the label. Most health/nutrition experts will tell you to steer clear of something that says “healthy” on it. (Zero calorie soda or gluten free pretzels probably aren’t doing you any health favors.)

So let’s take a look at boundaries so that you’re not trying to improve things but accidentally creating a counter-pressure.

Starting at the heart of the word, a boundary simply means a line between two different things… a delineation… the availability of contrast.

What does this mean for human functioning?

The truest, purest definition of boundaries for our purposes is the line where one person ends and another person begins. So if there’s Person A and Person B, a boundary is what separates the one person from the other. Let’s call this an “I / Thou” boundary. The boundary is the “/”.

Think of it like territory. If you’re driving and someone cuts over into your lane, your boundary has been violated. If you’re at home and someone (uninvitedly) comes onto your property, your boundary has been violated.

Psychologically, boundaries also imply territory. Your territory is your “I.” If someone crosses into your “I,” your boundary has been violated.

Therefore, in this sense, a boundary violation is psychological violence. Not good!

So here’s how people get tripped up:

Sometimes people think of a boundary as a “yes / no” boundary rather than a “Person A / Person B” or “I / Thou” boundary. They think of it as a line between yes and no instead of a line between person and person. If you do this, you’re running the risk of actually violating boundaries and being violent while thinking you’re implementing good boundaries. Aahh!

For example, “yes, I will allow you to do something,” or “no, I will not allow you to do something,” is grossly incorrect. That’s not boundaries. That’s violence and tyranny. That will hurt all of your relationships.

It could still work to think of a boundary as a “yes / no” boundary as long as you’re holding true to the more general and pure definition of “I / thou.” For example, “yes, I will do this.” Or, “no, I will not do that.” Even though it’s a yes / no boundary, it’s still healthy (and effective) because you’ve stayed on your side of the I / thou boundary. You are moving your own “I.”

I hope that’s helpful. It’s a bummer when people try and do healthy things but it accidentally moves things backwards and creates a counter-pressure only because the understanding isn’t complete.

What the heck is a “Self-Concept?”

This post took me forever.  I’d go off on tangents and then do another draft to remove the tangent.  I’d also get dangerously close to “what is a self” which gets controversial and speculative very quickly.   Here’s a draft that contains a small dose of tangents and a small dose of self-theory.

Although a “self-concept” is a very abstract idea, it’s really simple to describe what it is and how to access it.

If you take any element of your life – whether it’s an event, your hair color, your job, your family, your sleep patterns, your car, your age, your dreams, your pets, your sexual practices, your posture – truly ANY aspect of your life – and you stamp the question, “what does that say about me?” on top of it, then you’ve moved into the self-concept territory.

It’s as simple as that.

When you ask yourself “what does that say about me?” it immediately brings answers of “I am [such and such]” which is the self’s concept of self; i.e., self-concept.

But things start to get really tricky really fast.  Already, we’re talking about the “self’s concept of self.”  Wait, what? An entity possessing a concept of its… own self.  What??  The self-concept is a crucial layer to examine but it can also get pretty tangled.  Let’s dissect why.

If our vehicle for getting into the territory is the stamp [what does it say about me?] and we examine the vehicle, we notice how the word “say” (send) implies there must be a contrasting energy of “listen” (receive).

So the self is saying something to the self who’s also listening.  Hmm.  We can see why this gets tricky.  It’s like trying to see your own eyeballs.  You can’t… unless you recruit a mirror.  And, even then, it’s subject to how good your vision is and how clean the mirror is.  There can be a lot of error.

So let’s examine some polar frustrations that can happen from self-concept.  On the one pole, we could use the label: “self-conscious.” Here we find the frustrations of using a lot of energy to examine, filter, worry, and choose.  On the other pole, we could use the label: “lacking insight.” Here we find the frustrations of having to solve the same problems over and over again (because they’re repeatedly created and remain constant).

Now we need to introduce parts-of-self.  Let’s say you have a disturbing dream where you’re doing some really funky things. So far, we have the dreamer who dreamed the dream, yes?  Then if we add the, “what does this say about me,” stamp, we introduce another role. If a part-of-self is saying, “wow, you’re a weirdo for having that dream,” then the dreamer has become a *receiver* of this message and there’s a new part-of-self of judger/sender. This is why self-concept is such a critical layer to examine.  It shows splits and parts, the stuff of inner-conflict.  There’s a view-er and a view-ee; a do-er and a do-ee.

In “self-consciousness” the volume is turned way up for viewer (who also happens to be very judgmental).  There’s the self who’s the doer.  And then there’s the self who’s viewing and judging the doer. Self-consciousness is very frustrating because, ultimately, we all want to dance like no one’s watching.   If you’re on the dance floor and there’s an individual standing a few feet away from you scowling at you and mocking your movements, it would be tough to enjoy dancing.  It’s also probably worth noting that “self-consciousness” has a lot of projection.  Instead of fully realizing, “hey I’m sitting here and judging myself,” it’s projected and experienced as an external fear: “if I do such and such, what are YOU going to think about me?”

To the flip side:  repetition after repetition due to a lack of insight.  If a person *never* asks themselves “what does this say about me?” then they’re discrediting their creative efforts.  If we look at a problem in our lives (especially if it seems repetitive/familiar) and then we wonder “what does it say about me,” then the next automatic step would be diving into how and why the problem is created by our own movements.  If we don’t turn our *sight* *in* (insight) then we’ll be “seeing” (out there) a really frustrating problem happen over and over again but the odds of it changing are very slim because we won’t adjust our own steps.

Here’s a quick peak at theory. In theory, growth entails the self-concept becoming integrated to where, at any given moment, the messages are the same: what the person is *doing* is identical to the concept of *what it says about the person*.  There’s a congruence of intent and message, something like “what it says about me” = “what I’m saying.”  Instead of a gap between [an expressive, creative behavior] and [a concept of self], there’s a confluence and sameness between them, like: “what I’m saying is what it says about me is what I’m saying.” In growing, the two come closer and closer.

On the contrary, growth also entails self-concept becoming more and more irrelevant.  Health simply means having a vast range of abilities to respond fittingly to different contexts in different moments.  Attributes of “character” aren’t as relevant because different situations call for different responses.  A concept of “I am warm” might actually be a detriment if there’s a situation that would be best suited with a “cold” response.  Self-concept, seen this way, becomes more and more  flexible and dynamic with growth to where it’s basically rendered irrelevant.  The self actually loses any sort of a fixed structure.  Perls loved this and talked about how he felt more and more like “nothing” as he grew.  Bruce Lee talked about this in terms of “be water.”

When I began this post, my intent wasn’t to examine two polar frustrations that relate to self-concept, nor to talk about self/growth theory. I just wanted to paint a quick picture of what self-concept is – and how to access that layer – so that I can talk about how you can get a two-for-one for your efforts; a psychological snowball effect; a buy-one-get-one for the same energy cost.  So here’s what the post was originally going to include before I went off on tangents:

There’s a huge difference in the value of completing tasks depending on whether the task touches your self-concept or not.  If you vacuum your house, you get the reward of the satisfaction of vacuuming your house.  And you get a vacuumed house.  If it didn’t touch your self-concept, then that’s all the reward you get.  No more.  HOWEVER, if your self-concept is “I am a dirty person” -> “I vacuumed my house” -> “what does that say about me” -> “maybe I’m not a dirty person!”  Now you have an unspeakably larger reward for your output.  When you complete a task and it also touches your self-concept, the reward is so much larger to the point where it can snowball bigger and bigger into, “what else am I capable of?!”

When we realize how much dead energy sits around in our personalities because of self-concept – “I am [such and such]” – and then we start hunting for how to get buy-one-get-one snowball effects, we can really get some things moving.

Try playing with it.  Try to differentiate tasks based on whether they touch your self-concept or not.  If you’re not sure, just take a quick moment and think, “what does this say about me,” and it must mean “I am [fill in the blank].”  This layer of life called the “self-concept” can really open up avenues for getting a lot more reward for your output and unlocking a lot of patterns and stale energy.

Try it with this post.  What does it say about you that you read this?  Fill in the blank: “I am [blank].”

“I am a bad-ass who is going to keep challenging myself and improving so that I can keep getting more and more engaged with the world and make the most out of my life.”

“I am a hopeless case who reads mental health articles because I can’t quite get it together.”

“I am inquisitive about the inner-workings of my psyche.”

Big differences, yes?  Even though the fact was the same (fact = I read this article), doing a quick peak at the self-concept layer can make a world of difference. Try to choose the tasks that go straight at the parts of your self-concept that need the love.

Be the snowball.  (The devil whispers to the warrior, “you’re not strong enough to withstand this storm.”  The warrior replies, “I am the storm.”)




Respect is one of those vital abilities we can start learning in our childhood. It’s obviously not binary (“yes I’ve learned it” or “no I haven’t”). It’s on a continuum and we can always keep improving.

Some groundwork:

There’s a term called complementarity in systems theory. When people say “opposites attract,” they’re talking about complementarity. If one partner loves the pizza portion and the other partner loves the crusts, that’s complementarity.  It’s like puzzle pieces: if the one piece is caved in, it will fit perfectly with a piece that sticks out.  Symmetry is where the puzzle pieces go together because they have the exact same straight lines.  In symmetry, both partners simply love pizza, period.

Complementarity is where there’s a perfect opposite-ness.  Symmetry is where there’s a perfect same-ness.

They are the reasons we fit together as we move through the world.  They create a certain balance in a relationship (not necessarily a healthy or sustainable balance, but a balance nonetheless).

Back to respect.

Respect is one of the lines around our personalities that determine the shape of our puzzle piece and what kind of people we fit best with.

Since it’s an ability (like everything else) it’s not a static line.  It’s a skill.  The line can be moved.  In addition, it potentially aims in both directions:  an “inward” respect (self-respect) and an “outward” respect (towards other people, laws of nature, etc).

A quick and rough template to make the respect-skill visible:

Regarding adults: it can be summed up by being ok with difference – not being offended if someone has a different view – not trying to conquer the other person’s view to make it more like your own – not feeling an automatic need to change/hide your own view if it meets opposition.

Regarding parenting: it’s not trying to control your child. You still want to shape your child, yes, but you shape them best by controlling what’s in *your* control. You don’t try to over-power them. You leave them a sense of choice with a clear description of things *you* will do (or not do) depending on what choices they make. This teaches them respect. It teaches them worth: the worth of others, relationships, decisions, and self-worth. It teaches them creativity and responsibility: how their choices create results. It teaches them to look for feedback loops, many of which come from nature. It makes them thoughtful and full of care. If you use your power to over-power your child, you create a funky shaped puzzle piece; a shape that has a hard time learning the skill of respect.

Please notice how, in both examples – the adulthood one and the parenting one, it’s about the use of power.  Respect, power, and violence are a part of the same package.

Done with groundwork.  The main point I’d like to illustrate:

If we didn’t learn a large dose of respect in childhood, we have some work to do in order to re-balance. We’re probably either too “respectful” of other people (letting people harm us) or we’re too “respectful” of ourselves (doing harm to others).

They’re both in quotes because it’s not a balanced, healthy picture.

There’s harm!

In ultimate respectfulness, when our respect-ability is pulsing vitally in both directions, we are careful (1) not to harm others and (2) not to be harmed.  If our puzzle-piece-shape is one of the two versions in quotes (even though it kind of looks like “respect”) there’s too much harm happening.  Those are shapes that leave us lonely, confused, and/or hurt because we can’t nestle up comfortably in the puzzle.  One of our primary needs isn’t met: a sense of belonging.

The point of these words is to show how deceptive those two versions are.  They look like respect… but they aren’t whole.  They aren’t balanced. And we can really mess ourselves up by leaving the respect-skill underdeveloped (leaning heavily in one direction) because it’s a skill that goes right down into one of our primary needs.