Be cool, don’t be a fool 

Emotions are a tricky thing. If you don’t watch what they are doing to you, they can control the better part of you. We cannot control our emotion, but if we have a healthy brain, then we should be able to control our actions that our emotions want us to perform. 

For example,  whenever a driver ignores a red light when I’m crossing the street on the crosswalk, I imagine myself cursing the driver and flipping the finger at him (I did this just one time in the many times I have witnessed such irresponsible driving.) There is so much anger inside, but instead of acting on it, I’d talk about it with whoever is around to listen to my rant for a minute or two, and then, Whew! I can smile again. 

In my 40+ years in this world I have learned that I cannot just let anyone or anything control my actions. I can’t remember where I read this, but I’ve never forgotten it: We should act, not just react. 

Wherever you go, there will always be people who will make you angry or make you feel insecure. Some may do it intentionally,while others may not even know they are doing it. Either way, I think the reason they do it is people like these are either emotionally or socially immature, or they have a psychological problem.  (Don’t you think it’s easier to forgive a person when you know he’s sick?)

With social media, young people measure their worth by the number of  “likes” they get on their posts. “Likes” from people they don’t even know. And when they don’t get the expected number of “likes,” they would feel there’s something wrong with them. I see this happening not only among young people, but even among older ones who spend so much time on social media. 

But really when you come to think of it, there should only be a few people whose opinions count to you — family and real friends — those who we truly know and know us as much as we do them. 

The other night I saw a video of Taylor Swift talking about what made her write her song, “Shake it Off”. I don’t know if she practices what she preaches, but it’s quite good advice for people out there whose moods, emotions and behaviors are mere reactions not only to social media feedback but also to what their so-called friends and co-workers tell them. Really, just shake ’em off. 

Don’t ruin your day by giving too much attention to people whose opinion does not help you in any way but merely adds a wrinkle on your face and a white/gray hair on your head. 

Don’t let them win. 

Don’t be a loser. 

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On Compassion, Forgiveness and the Brain

daenerys drogon

Photo source

Have you ever been extremely angry with somebody that you imagined you were Daenerys riding Drogon which was breathing fire on to your enemies?

(Fortunately for me, I have not been that angry with any one person in a long time, but only with a group of people terrorizing my beautiful island of Mindanao, oh yeah. I was so angry that in my imagination, I didn’t even have to be Daenerys. I was happy just to be Drogon!)

Don’t you find it exhausting when you dislike this person so much, but this person just can’t disappear from your life? You hear people talking about him/her, and it’s worse when he/she is doing so well while you aren’t?

For us, humans, anger towards somebody is most often accompanied by its best friend, jealousy. Those two are perhaps the ugliest, meanest pair ever. They will keep you awake at night, make you lose your appetite, then your energy.

If you’re smart or meet the right people who can help you get rid of that ugly pair, then lucky you. If not, that pair will ruin your life.

A few months ago, I started reading Oliver Sacks’ An Anthropologist on Mars. For some reason I could not finish reading it, but a couple of weeks ago I picked it up again and read the chapter called “A Surgeon’s Life,” which is about Dr. Carl Bennett (a pseudonym), a surgeon who has Tourette’s Syndrome.

This chapter was truly an eye-opener for me, and I’m writing about this because I am hoping this can somehow also make my readers re-evaluate how we judge our fellow human beings.

Dr. Bennett is highly respected by his colleagues and patients, and despite his tics, is able to perform surgery efficiently as if he didn’t have Tourette’s at all. He said the outward expressions of his Tourette’s that most people see are not the worst problems he has to face. The real ones are those within — panic and rage. In his words,

                “It’s not gentle….You can see it as whimsical, funny — be tempted to romanticize it —   but Tourette’s comes from deep down in the nervous system and the unconscious. It taps    into the oldest, strongest feelings we have. Tourette’s is like an epilepsy in the  subcortex.; when it takes over, there’s just a thin line of control, a thin line of cortex,  between you and it, between you and that raging storm, the blind force of the subcortex.     One can see the charming things, the funny things, the creative side of Tourette’s, but there’s also that dark side. You have to fight it all your life.”

At home, Dr. Bennett can give expression to this rage, not directed at people but at inanimate objects around him. His wall, his refrigerator are witnesses to this rage. One wall is covered with knife marks.

Scary? I find this very sad. That a human being who does not want to be violent CANNOT CHOOSE not to be violent.

Dr. Bennett is fortunate enough to have a family that understands and accepts him and helps him deal with all of these. But not everyone is as fortunate as Dr. Bennett. I wonder how many people out there have undiagnosed neurological disorders, committing crimes which they could not help doing? They don’t even know why they are doing it, or perhaps they think they know why they are doing it; but do they really?

I wonder if a brain scan is required of every criminal, how many of these people we would find to have neurological disorders?

This question led me to think how the human brain is very much like a computer. Just as computers have software-related problems such as viruses and bugs, the human brain can have chemical imbalance or viral infections. And just like computers that can have hardware-related problems such as overheating, a malfunctioning chip or a motherboard failure, our brain can also suffer from head or brain injuries.

When your computer is defective, do you try to save it or do you discard it, right away?

It seems computers are luckier than humans because we can easily see that our computer has a problem, and our initial reaction is to find out what caused it and how to fix it.

But with a human being, if his brain has a problem but it’s undiagnosed, we right away judge the person according to his actions without asking whether he has control over his actions or not.

What is worse is we label these people as crazy, nuts, wacko, lunatic, deranged, etc. without even knowing what caused them to become such people. Perhaps  you have heard or read about people who were known to be gentle or kind, and all of a sudden murdered somebody. People express shock or disbelief, saying it was totally out of character.

Here are some ways people can suddenly change:

Trauma to the brain can cause a drastic change in personality. 

Alcohol and drugs (medications) can change a person’s personality. 

Viral infections in the brain can cause a change in personality. 

Certain foods and food  ingredients like MSG can affect your behavior. 

Now, going back to my first question: Have you ever been extremely angry with somebody that you imagined you were Daenerys riding Drogon which was breathing fire on to your enemies?

If you have or you still are extremely angry with somebody, ask yourself whether it’s possible this person has a hardware or software-related problem in his brain, and perhaps he has no control over some of his thoughts and actions, just like, sometimes, you have no control over some of your own thoughts and actions.

And when you realize that we are all in the same boat, then you would hopefully understand your fellow human being, and perhaps forgiving will be a little bit easier (but, of course, be smart about it!)

I wonder if that is what prompted Jesus to utter these words when he was crucified: “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”

When he said those words, He became the epitome of compassion and forgiveness.

 

Note:

A couple of years ago a friend and I talked about whether human beings have free will or not. Back then I wasn’t really convinced that we don’t, but mostly because I did not have the time to think about it and read about it more. But now I think my friend may be on to something. 🙂 He wrote a book called Without Free Will. It’s well-written and thought-provoking. Check it out.

Love and Anger from Boredom

JMUAFT6

One day many years ago, when I was still young, free and single, I spoke with a colleague/friend who was only a few years older than I, about a boy who had been calling me almost every day for several months and then one day just stopped. I was telling my colleague/friend, who was married with two toddlers, that I could not stop wondering what happened, and that I could not sleep just thinking how it could just end like that. She looked me straight in the eye and said to me, coldly, “You do not have real problems, so you invent problems.” (I miss you, Nancy GRO.)

I do not know how anyone else would react to that, but I laughed. And even now, I laugh when I remember it. Indeed, that was not a real problem.

A few weeks ago, I re-read “Notes from the Underground” by Fyodor Dostoevsky, and I highlighted the quotes below as I know I have been guilty of these things myself too many times in my youth, and a couple of times in adulthood.

“How many times, for instance, I’d take offense, out of the blue, for no good reason, deliberately; I’d know very well that there was nothing to be offended at, that I was playacting, but in the end I’d bring myself to such a state that the offense would become real.”

“Or else I’d try to force myself to fall in love; in fact, I did it twice. And I suffered, gentlemen, I assure you I did. Deep down in your heart you don’t believe in your suffering, there is a stirring of mockery, and yet you suffer – in the most genuine, honest-to-goodness way. I’d be jealous, I’d be beside myself…And all out of boredom, gentlemen, all because I was crushed by sheer inertia.”

We sometimes think people have offended us, when, in fact, if we had important things to do or think about, we would not even remember what they said. And sometimes, when people have nothing to do, they imagine being in an amazing place, with an amazing person living an amazing life. And then this imagination can lead to the illusion that one is in love, when in reality, there is nothing amazing about the subject of one’s imagination.

Idleness can lead to love or anger, both of which may be mere illusions.

One ought to have time for quiet, for introspection, (I maintain that being quiet or introspecting is not the same as having an idle mind) but one also needs a distraction from the tediousness of daily living – a distraction that needs action. Hence, the need for a hobby. As an introvert, I am happy to add photography and guitar-playing to my list of hobbies that include reading and writing.

What’s your hobby?

On Growing Old

“I grow old… I grow old…                                                                                                                                                             I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.”

-T.S. Eliot

I have a lot on my plate lately, and don’t have the time to be quiet nor to have a good conversation with people I can really talk with, so yesterday as I sat down to rest for a few minutes I thought about how many strands of white hair could be growing out of my head. I decided to just laugh about life instead of worrying about it. I’m not ready to dye my hair.

Beautiful winter afternoon sun in Jimei

Winter afternoon sun in Jimei

With every misfortune,
And every disappointment,
And angry and hurtful words,

With every neglect
And every apathy
And unwelcome silence,

I can feel white hair
Growing out of my scalp.
I swear I can hear each strand
As it wriggles its way out.

And I look at myself in the mirror
And I look for those strands of white
There’s one close to the right ear
And another one by the hairline,

And then there’s none.

Perhaps those two came out
Because I worried
That because I worried,
I would grow old.