***WARNING! This article uses strong language. Intended for mature readers.***
“Roller coaster -— Wanna go back to the way things were! I’m on a roller coaster -— wanna get back on the tilt-a-whirl!”
I honestly don’t have a coherent reason for writing this post. This one has been rolling around inside my head for a while. I’m one of those chipper people who get accused of having manic depression and bi-polar disorder. Honestly it’s more like a rollercoster. I’ll be doing fine for a while. Then for no good reason, I’ll hit an emotional dip, and my world magically turns to shit. My original intention was to write on depression and being a creative. But I think I can make a broader point with this article.
The Broader Point
“Feelin’ stuck when I’m on my way…”
Girl In a Coma
Many of you are potentially on your way towards success in your chosen field. Everything is peachy. The future is looking brighter ever second. Suddenly you hit a brick wall. It manifests itself in many forms. Lack of money. Somebody crapping all over your work. Realizing you made a dumb-ass mistake. Assuming you don’t have what it takes to accomplish something. You intellectually know that shit happens, but for whatever reason, emotionally it feels like the end of the world is coming.
Some people blame the devil, others claim that it’s the subconscious mind or ego conflicting with you, while other folks claim it’s just law of attraction working in the wrong direction. Steven Pressfield aptly describe this as resistance. As far as I know, we can’t fight the devil. I have as of yet to reprogram my subconscious to actually work for me, if that’s even possible. Even though I intellectually understand the Law of Attraction, my mind is so screwy and negative, it’s too damn easy for me to screw it up. For this article, I will use resistance to describe life’s road-blocks. This term seems pretty universal.
Dealing With Resistance
In Pressfield’s book, “The War of Art“, he describes resistance as a force of nature whose sole goal is to kick your ass and keep you from achieving your goals. I can say with certainty that there are three kinds of resistance in life:
- Distraction (Things you can help.)
- Circumstantial (Things you can’t help but can work around.)
- Mental (Things inside you must chip away at.)
For the past 48 hours, resistance has been kicking my ass with all three of these weapons. I only feel worse for allowing it. Your goal, as well as mine, are to find ways to fight back and to push forward with our work. In order to competently do so, we must learn about our enemy.
“Never put off tomorrow what you can do today.”
If you’re human, you’ll know all about this. That television show that you’ve suddenly made time for. Or it’s that new project that suddenly has priority. (You can say that this article is currently a distraction. I’m also in the middle of Chapter 10 of “Yes, You Too Can Draw”.) It’s that favorite song that had pulled your attention. If you have kids, you know how difficult it can be for them to focus on a task or to allow you to focus on something. There’s always something else going on.
A lot of you foolishly believe that humans are capable of multi-tasking like a computer. Unlike a computer, your mind can only focus on one task or thought at a time. When you’re being mentally pulled in two or more directions, the quality of your work diminishes. Suddenly a job takes longer than it should. You get frustrated with the sluggish pace you’re going at. You’re screwing up to the point where you want to give up. (Try learning Italian while drawing. It doesn’t work.)
I’m not saying you shouldn’t take breaks. You can just as easily risk burning yourself out. When you do take a break, take them consciously. That means plan them out. Take a couple of minutes to relax, then get back to work. Don’t be lazy and allow your breaks to drag on into hours.
If a distraction is pulling your attention, find ways to isolate yourself from it. If your family is driving you nuts, go work at a library or a coffee shop. If your mobile phone keeps interrupting you, turn it off. Back when IMing (instant messaging) was all the rage, I was constantly getting IMs while I was working. I didn’t have a really good reason for running my IM program while I was working in the first place. Plus the IMs were so constant, they were driving me nuts. I simply didn’t run the program while I worked. You actually have the power to control your surroundings. If something is causing you a problem, don’t be afraid to do something about it. Your work should have priority over the time you allot to it.
“My mother thinks I’m lazy, and maybe she is right. I’ll go to work mañana, but I gotta sleep tonight.”
Procrastination is an habitual form of distraction and resistance. I know we’re stepping into “mental” territory because there can be psychological and emotional reasons for procrastination. A fear of failure is a great example. Procrastination is also a voluntary form of distraction. We make the mental gamble that a distraction will bring us more pleasure or benefit than completing our task. In the end we come to regret our choice and suffer a serious case of guilt due to the fact that our task isn’t done yet or hasn’t been completed on time. (This phenomenon happens to a lot kids who are in the habit of putting off their homework.) Focus and self-discipline are the keys to fighting off procrastination. We must convince ourselves that the pain we’ll suffer from putting off our work will be greater than any temporary pleasure we might gain from the latest distraction.
“If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.”
Shit happens. A death in the family, a car crash, a job loss, it doesn’t matter. No matter how hard you try, you can’t control the world around you. Most of you most likely never had the right circumstances to propel you to immediate stardom. Neither did I. Regardless of where you are in life, the only thing you can control (I know for some of you, this will sound really stupid) is how you respond to your circumstances. Most of us are reactionary creatures. Reacting is our habit. We want to go after a goal, and think it’d be really awesome to do it. But we take a look at our life and assume that a desired goal is beyond our reach. “I really want to do it but…” So we give up before even trying. You might be right, but you’ll never know for sure because you never tried. It honestly takes a great deal of will to push oneself forward after or during a period of time when life is absolutely at its worst. No matter how awful your life is, you should make every effort to push forward or find your way around your current circumstances towards your goal. It may change your life.
“Manic depression has captured my soul. I know where I’m going, but I just don’t know…”
Mental resistance is the worst. It can feel like wearing a straight jacket. Mental resistance is fueled by negativity. Negative thoughts are repeated inside your mind, like an affirmation, over and over. One bad thought begets another negative thought, which begets another. You pile on enough negativity and you end up with a mental disorder such as depression or a nervous breakdown. By then you’re just simply walking around, viewing the world through dark, miserable, and discouraging lenses. Events and circumstance will reenforce your negative view of yourself and the world around you. It’s an endless cycle.
Much like circumstantial resistance, mental resistance can feel overwhelming. No one can pummel you like yourself. Ironically, you cling to your resistance like a drug addict. Deep down, you’re addicted to the pain, the self-pity, and sorrow. You want people around you to feel sorry for you and your shitty life. You want to die, yet you couldn’t possible ever see yourself living any other way. You don’t know any other way to live. “A better life” seems like a fantasy. You’re stuck in that negative paradigm. No wonder you can never get anything done! You’re too busy being hopeless. How many years do people waste because of mental resistance?
I believe that troubles like depression is an unconscious decision. Through conscious effort, we can change. I was watching UFC Fight for the Troops and saw vignettes showing how American soldiers, who have suffered sever brain trauma go from being mentally retarded to almost fully functional. To me that demonstrates the power of the mind.
Fighting mental resistance is a bitch. Even when you realize that your negative thoughts are holding you back, you still feel stuck. This is the part where we go into self-esteem. Everyone with a mental disorder deep down feels an overbearing sense of worthlessness. The remedy most people resort to is usually a vice. (drugs, alcohol, food, etc) What’s really needed to help overcome this endless feeling of worthlessness is a boost in self-esteem. Unfortunately people are often confused as what it means to have self-esteem.
What is “self-esteem”? Is it something you can give? Can you buy it? Can you learn it? Can you raise someone to have self-esteem? The answer to all of these questions is NO. Self-esteem is generated by the self through achievement. That means doing the things you go out of your way to avoid when feeling down, something other than giving into resistance. That means getting off your ass to tackle a problem you know you can deal with. That means starting on an intimidating project and breaking it down into small manageable chunks. That means not seeking out another distraction just to avoid life. You’re taking the risk of chasing after a goal and accepting the possibility of looking like an ass and feeling even worse. You’re pursing your idea to the end. Like negativity, self-esteem is built up with every goal you achieve.
Mental resistance stands in your way of building your self-esteem by telling you that you’re not good enough, smart enough, capable enough, whatever bullshit excuse it takes to prevent you from even starting. Worse yet, resistance will use whatever illogic to coerce you into giving up while pursing a goal. Even when you intellectually understand what’s really going on and are taking action, you’ll still get dragged kicking and screaming back into that dark abyss. That is the fight only you can face. You pay to play, and you must play to win. No one else can do it for you.
I bet so far this sounds pretty hard. That depends on how you spin your victories, large or small. You don’t need to start with a successful multi-billion dollar start up to increase your self-worth. You can always start with something small, like a painting you’ve been meaning to work on. You could plot out that book you always wanted to write.
If you are currently suffering from a mental disorder of any kind, I want you to know that you are not doomed to live a shitty, unhappy life. I want you to realize the possibility that you just might have great power deep down inside yourself. Just like anything else, you have to work to build up that power. That means working on the biggest and most important project that you’ll ever work on, YOU. There is no “one size fits all solution”, and there’s no “over-night fix”. You’ll have to seek out the tools that’ll work for you. I can never guarantee that you’ll ever become “normal”, but working on yourself will make life suck a lot less. (And why the hell would you ever want to be “normal”?) You work on yourself so you can eventually push mental resistance aside to focus on the stuff that you want.
Fighting mental resistance and pursuing a goal can feel like a constant tug of war. Some days it feels like two steps forward and fifteen steps backwards. You work on your goals for two reasons:
1.) To better your life.
2.) To give yourself brief moments of living. (Imagine something a little more exciting than just taking up space.)
When you’re working, you’re distracting yourself from your negativity. You’re pushing resistance aside long enough to experience some type of joy or excitement in your heart. The set-backs hurt, but it’s better to keep climbing up that mountain rather than sliding down it painfully. Despite the excuses and distractions that mental resistance throws at you, you must keep reminding yourself of how truly sweet the end result will be. Once you achieve it, you’ll have evidence supporting your case for growth.
I do have a few suggestions for fighting back against mental resistance and all of the negative crap it poisons your mind with. For starters, you need to realize, that you are unwittingly resistance’s greatest ally. You unconsciously help mental resistance fuck you over time and time again. (I should know.) SO STOP IT! Stop loading your mind with more negative crap! I don’t give a shit if it’s radio, music, television, books, whatever. Whenever you’re consuming media with a negative bent, it reinforces all of the negative crap that’s already in your head and holding you back. It undermines the efforts you put into pushing your life out of that funk. Don’t ever voluntarily put yourself in a negative situation or a negative mood. The more you do it, the more you hurt yourself.
For more on negativity and fighting it, watch this video on curing the world’s biggest disease by Andy Shaw.
Make Time to Laugh
Set a side time in your day for humor. Earlier this year I was going through one of the roughest patches in my life. I had just quit a nightmare of a job that was quite literally destroying my health. I spent over two months unemployed, having to mooch off my parents just to pay the bills. I was scrambling to find any way of bring in money without any luck. I was fortunate enough to had downloaded the official Three Stooges podcast from Crackle. I spent each crappy afternoon watching them, laughing my ass off. I kept watching them because I knew doing so actual lifted my mood. They not only saved my sanity, but those Three Stooges videos saved my life.
Do the Fucking Work!
“Do it… Do it. Fuckin’ do it. Dig fuckin’ deep and get it done.”
There’s not a lot more that I can add to that. You can’t make a jackass move. It doesn’t matter where you are in your life. You ultimately choose where you go. Your current circumstances are a result of the choices you made, good and bad. Whatever you want to do in life, you must make the conscious choice to do what your heart wants. It doesn’t matter if times are good or bad. Resistance, in whatever form, will always be there to fuck with you. Resistance will always give you a reason to feel stuck. Resistance will always give you an excuse to give up. It is up to YOU, not God, the Universe, your parents, your friends, or even some utopian bureaucrat, to choose whether or not you’ll set a side the life you want and give in. The difference between a slub like you and someone rich and successful, is that you chose not to do the work. It’s as simple as that. When you choose to do the work and actively put in the effort, you are actively kicking resistance’s ass for that period of time. Everyday you kick resistance’s ass, you are making yourself stronger. Even if you fail (and it will happen), at least you can learn from your failure and put the lesson to good use. So stop making excuses and put your ass into gear!
“Those of us that get through it by just doing the things we need to do, (getting off our rear ends) are the ones who will make it.”
Dr. Robert Anthony
If this entire article wasn’t enough, listen to some words of wisdom form a guy that actual has achieved success in life: