Wednesday, October 12, 2016

How a Lack of Self-Control can be Self-Control

Having poor self-control is a condition sometimes projected onto people that have very decisive control. It appears as if a person is prone to being a victim to circumstances when you recognize that somebody is lazy, overweight, or addicted to some substance. However, the thought process involved behind “poor self-control” is one where the person is decidedly giving into some strong emotion each time they make a decision that would be deemed as a display of poor self-control.

When someone takes drugs or drinks to excess, it is commonly considered as a moment of someone making a poor choice because they are giving up. Really, it’s an attempt to manifest a more manageable experience, even if it’s only for the moment. If someone doesn’t wake up in the morning to an alarm clock it is because they desire sleep more than they fear repercussions. It’s also possible that they value being rested over having had taken care of responsibilities earlier in the day. Similarly, if someone overeats, it’s usually because they want to prolong the mental satisfaction of eating or because they want to ensure that they won’t get hungry sooner than their next meal. 

Each example seems to present a person caving into desires, and thus having no self-control. But people who make these sorts of decisions just place more emphasis on immediate gratification over long term stability. In each waking moment a person is confronted with choices, and when someone chooses immediate gratification it’s only deemed as a lack of self-control by people who value longevity in their rewards, whether that be good health, financial security, or reputation. These rewards can’t be compared to other sorts of experiences because they operate on a more metaphysical level rather than on a primal level. The gratification of doing chores, paying a mortgage, going to work, etc. comes from distant moments where hard work “pays off” resulting in a promotion, new home, etc. The sort of fulfillment that’s brought from drinking until you’re intoxicated is a much more present and obvious gratification, but it comes with numerous direct burdens and hazards aside from the fact that drinking is not productive in itself.

 Just a brief side note:  I understand that there are mentally ill people that have a limited amount of control over their choices, and I’m really only speaking about a common lack of discipline that exists in many modern day people.

So what is discipline? Discipline is the practice of training to obey a code of behavior while using punishment to correct disobedience. Alternatively, the word discipline can also represent a higher branch of knowledge. When people are deemed to possess self-control, others attribute it to their excellent discipline. In one sense of the word, disciplined people are employing a sort of self-training to conduct themselves in a way that will contribute to a stable lifestyle, while punishing themselves in the way of abstaining from indulgences.
 Additionally, this stability is a sort of higher branch of knowledge in the sense that it gets away from the first primal and animal level of gratification reaching into the plane of metaphysical gratification. Discipline makes life more predictable at the cost of doing away with some primal urges. Conducting your life with discipline offers an advantageous view of your life. Rather than to run through the forest seeing only as far as the next tree in front of you, discipline offers you a map of the woods and look above the trees.

People do not scrutinize the lifestyle choices of those with self-control. Taking responsibility for the stability of one’s life was the first baby steps of rising above being a victim of circumstances, one of these circumstances being our personal primal desires.

But still in our modern society, being aware of this binary of living a life of foresight or living a life of indulgence isn’t enough to say that someone possesses self-control. Instead, they need to then make choices that would lead to a life of stability. It’s generally believed that an individual can’t be aware of these varying lifestyles and then choose to indulge, because it is counter-productive and not stable, and an unproductive and unstable life has been dubbed as a life of no control. The expression “self-control” ultimately deprives you of controlling your own life. As if giving into primal desires is not a choice at all just because once upon a time it was the only choice known to our Neanderthal brains until we began to develop plans. Now that we have begun to strategize our lives, we’ve become ingrained to believe anything non-productive is a result of a lack of choice.

Of course living either strictly by calculation and discipline or by recklessness and excess isn’t humanly realistic anyhow, but the way in which we look at decidedly abandoning certain values does not have to be looked at as a lack of self-control.  In fact it is an expression of control, albeit a choice that will most likely make one’s future more burdensome, while enjoying their present reality that much more.

Why I'll Never Reach Enlightenment

When I think about my level of consciousness I'm never impressed with myself. I think about people like Maynard James Keenan of the band Tool, and I bet he does a lot of work to move through to higher levels of being, and I think it shows in his talent, notoriety, and privacy. I'll never be an enlightened person, so I just work on trying not to getting in the way of other people and treating people with respect and kindness. I gauge enlightenment to be either such a complex emotion that I'm unwilling to do something extra to understand it, or it's too simple that I'm unwilling to let go enough in order for it to sink in. I treat enlightenment like I do politics, where I observe it while I'm feeling breezy and it's fun to talk about, and maybe even get passionate about, but I don't think I'll ever feel personally involved or thoroughly understand it.

I really enjoy eastern philosophy, but more in a way that, as dumb as it sounds, just considering the knowledge makes me feel calm. The conclusions that are drawn from following much Eastern philosophy seem aligned with my innate personality and my basic perspective of life, and the message feels like the opposite of getting yelled at as a little kid for doing something the wrong way.  BUT, when I think of the word "enlightenment" it kind of seems as mysterious as the female orgasm. It’s a sensation I’ve only witnessed and have heard testimonials of without having experienced it myself. But I believe it exists.

But why do I feel like I’ll never be enlightened myself? I think it’s because I’m a person that likes to thoroughly consider things and it seems like the term “enlightenment” carries the weight of an emotion that restless thinkers like myself don’t possess. I’m not negative or cynical, or at least not nearly as much as I have been at one point in life, but I know that I am not considered an “accepting” person for the reason that I always feel room for question and change. I question situations and try to get directly involved with my experiences to control them, and I do both of these things out of the desire to find good answers and solutions. I wouldn’t say that I’m an exceptionally judgmental person, in the sense that I don’t reach final conclusions by having a momentary opinion. I Judge people like everyone does, but I personally acknowledge that my feelings about those judgments are just that: feelings. My judgments don’t hold any objective meaning, they’re just my personal opinions. However, I can get very involved and decidedly blind about my personal feelings if it feels good in the moment, which is a trait about myself that I can’t control… or rather THE trait of myself… of having poor self-control. Though struggling with self-control doesn’t make someone ignorant of their reality, it just feels like one side of the scale is much heavier than the other.

 I wish I knew what the word was that maybe an enlightened person feels between tolerance and acceptance. Tolerance feels too begrudging. When someone says they are tolerant, I imagine the feeling as a tall flat concrete wall, built to let others brush up against while keeping their personal irritation and hatred restrained. Likewise, acceptance feels too warm and personal, like you are inviting the feeling in to live with you. Both tolerance and acceptance feel too personally involved. When considering the feeling of enlightenment, it seems like the emotion is void of the other in some respect, almost requiring an array of emotions in another dimension.

I do think about people who claim to have found spiritual enlightenment as if they are aliens. I have to admit, sometimes I think about people who claim they have found enlightenment and I want to say they’re ignorant. After all, aren’t they deliberately choosing to not experience certain states of being?  I guess when an emotion doesn’t provide you with practical application, it makes sense to rise above it, but pain isn’t a worthless experience when you consider the wisdom it provides. When someone is in pain they learn the feeling of why it’s caused, what to do about it, how to avoid it, and they learn what it feels like. Maybe enlightened individuals all had to go through pain to get where they are. Maybe pain is the reason they sought out enlightenment.

I’m aware that many people say enlightenment is an experience rather than a state of being, and that having an enlightened moment doesn’t cast enlightenment on you forever. I believe these people who have once attained enlightenment are always in the struggle to re-attain it, or at least not stray far off. I couldn’t imagine the discipline required to reach enlightenment or the desire to reach it would disappear after having accomplished it, and if they do continue to find it again and again, this puts their life back into the same cycle of ups and downs, same as everyone else. If this is the case, it makes enlightenment seem as though they are simplifying their experiences through a funnel of having and not having enlightenment. Maybe redirecting or confining their thoughts like this helps them get back on track easier. At a glance, constantly reaching for enlightenment seems almost self-destructive considering the individual has is depriving themselves of a vast amount of experiences for the one “enlightenment”, but this is coming from a person that doesn’t know what enlightenment is. Maybe enlightenment is potent with the same meaning that is deluded in other positive experiences. 

It makes me wonder then, can you get desensitized to the feeling of being enlightened? When I have a great or terrible emotion from a similar situation, it becomes more predictable, and I then see through the pain or buzz of the moment. When you become accustomed to an experience, you get bored with the obvious details. You block out those details because it’s useless to take them in, you could guess that they are going to happen before they do, so you’re not going to devote your consciousness to them. In that moment, your brain begins to notice finer details. That’s how people get to really know a person, or how someone really gets good at a skill. If a person reaches enlightenment more than once, can’t they grasp something new from the same experience, or is enlightenment an experience that binds all perspective? The latter would seem too blinding for any human to coherently understand, like taking too large a dose of a heavy psychotropic drug.

There is too much of a willingness to conform in humans to get an honest and accurate consensus on what this experience is, and if there really is a standard to “enlightenment” I’d guess that there are many people incapable of communicating the experience with justice, and many more that experienced some vaguely similar emotion and have dramatized it verbally. I’ve experienced moments of tranquility and deep reflection, but I wouldn’t be so bold as to call it enlightenment.
As it is, there are too many structures built and cultures dedicated to this experience to denote a true transcendental reality, but I’m not saying that I don’t believe it exists. I just believe that there is too much static in the atmosphere to hear a real frequency on the subject.