I Do Not Need to Do Anything to Make My Life Special

My view of reality has changed dramatically in recent weeks. I keep expecting my old ways of thinking to drag me under again, but I’m so enjoying this radical shift in my worldview and hopefully it will last. There is this persistent feeling of inner lightness; it is something that I’ve never experienced before. Even on my best days there has always been this nagging feeling that things should be better, or that I should be doing something else. When these thoughts come up now I can instantly dismiss them. There is nothing outwardly special going on, but it feels like a special time. For the first time in my life I feel comfortable with the ordinary. It is so ironic. I’ve spent most of my life trying to escape the one thing that can give me peace and make me happy.

Ordinary Life is Wonderful

I’ve devoted so much time to trying to fix and change things that it became a habit. Somewhere along the way I developed the idea that there is something wrong with reality and that it was my job to fix this. This quest to find something better than the ordinary must have began at an early age because it was this that drove me into addiction. I drank alcohol because of a desire to escape ordinariness – at least that is what I thought I was doing. In truth I’d lost touch with the ordinary long before this. I gave it away as a young child when I replaced it with beliefs about how things should be. It is so obvious to me now that I’ve just been chasing my own tail. It is like I’ve been carrying this huge wad of money but living like a pauper because I believed that I was broke.

Ordinary life is such a precious thing. It contains everything that I need to be content and satisfied. I do not have to do anything special to enjoy it to the full. There is no need for me to go and meditate in a cave for 10 years or run an ultra marathon in order to appreciate it. This precious thing is always available to me – all I have to do is stay still and stop running away from it.

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5 thoughts on “I Do Not Need to Do Anything to Make My Life Special

  1. Hi Paul. It’s been really great the past few weeks to follow all your very, very positive postings. I recently also finally had a chance to catch up on the “Stop Micromanaging the World” podcast and found it very insightful. So glad to hear things are looking bright to start the new year!

    I am curious…was there a discernible “turning point” for this change in perspective you have recently experienced, or more a gradual transition? I ask because, struggling with my own depression and persistent negative thinking, the rational side of me knows that internal, self-made pressures, negative outlook and pessimism are largely/wholly responsible for my chronic bouts with depression. Even though I have “known” this for some time now, my patterns of negative thinking (i.e. filtering in only negative thoughts, interpreting everything negatively, etc) always seem to come around and hit me with a body punch. The negative thinking has become a habit that I am finding so hard to break, despite the fact that I know it’s the problem.

    A lot of my problem is that I have years and years of negative thinking in my past that still carries a lot of momentum (when I drank alcohol it only kept this in check). Additionally, my current work environment is very stressful and unsupportive generally, which contributes to my negative frame of mind.

    So anyway, how long did it take you to learn this new type of thinking? Any suggestions or insight on how to transition successfully (and quickly?).

    Looking forward to more of your writing and podcasts!

    1. Hi Tan, it is tempting for me to say that this change of perspective happened suddenly, but I’m sure it is something that has been developing over time. When I was back in Ireland, I was going on these long walks (two or three hours at a time), and it was like everything began to click into place. I realized that all of my problems stemmed from pushing reality away. I somehow picked up the notion, like I suspect we all do, that there is something wrong with reality, and that I need to change it. I remember one day I was walking through the park near my home in Ireland and realizing that I was this fragile and vulnerable person, but that this was OK. I’ve spent so much time trying to hide my fragility and vulnerability because I didn’t want to get hurt, but I can now see that it was this that caused most of my suffering. So what’s been happening is that in order to protect myself I had been pushing reality and other people away. I remember during my twenties some friends told me that I was very hard to get close to because there is this wall there – that was me trying to protect myself.

      I’ve suffered from bouts of depression, but I can now see that this occurred because of my resistance to ordinary living. I’m not saying that this is the cause of all types of depression, but this is what happened in my case. This struggle to manage reality is exhausting, and it is no wonder that people become depressed. I moved from trying to escape reality using alcohol and drugs to trying to control it through a bargaining strategy – I’ll be good if you do this. The reality is that we do not get to micromanage the universe, and what a relief that is. I’ve found that by giving up this battle with reality I’m experiencing true contentment. By doing this I’ve found that all I need for happiness is right here now. I don’t need to earn this specialness or become a better person to enjoy it – it is already in my possession, and it always has been.

      It is difficult to snap out of negative thinking, but I’m no longer so sure that this is a battle we need to get involved in. This negativity stems from our beliefs about how things should be, so maybe by giving up on the idea that we know how things “should be” we can be free. Perhaps the thing that really drives us into the pits of depression is trying to ignore and resist how we feel – “what we resist persists” as they say. I’m not sure if that makes sense Tan – I’m not even sure if this last bit makes complete sense to me.

  2. Hi Paul. Thank you for providing more insight into your experience. I read your comments a couple of times, and found them very profound. I am glad you noted the significance of becoming aware of your vulnerabilities. That strikes me as such a crucial part of addressing chronic negative thinking and depression. Reading your thoughts, it really dawned on me how that is something I have neglected – i.e. not recognizing how my own shortcomings, for lack of a better term, feed my negative thinking. In my case, that sense of selfishness – that I’m entitled to a world where I am a king and everything is about me – really ends up being the hobbling agent. When things don’t go my way, that’s when the anger and depression are triggered.

    In many ways, it is so easy for me to react negatively towards others in those circumstances – to get angry and pissed at someone or something else – and it won’t even cross my mind how my own selfish expectations are driving my moods. That anger and disappointment at not getting what I want just builds and builds. Because I am extremely sensitive as well, that complements and magnifies that sense of entitlement and the negativity when things don’t go my way.

    One thing I have found recently that has been very helpful is to be more open and expressive about processing my feelings and moods. I am married to a beautiful and supportive woman, but for a long time, I hid many of my emotions from her. I still do to some extent, but it’s gotten better since I have been more intentional about opening up to her. I think a lot of this façade was out of a desire to “be the strong man” and never show weaknesses. A lot of it is pride, and also, a sense of shame both as a man and a person to have and be willing to share emotions. I am finding how relieving and satisfying it is for me to share my emotions with her. It has been a positive move forward both for me personally and for us.

    In regards to striving for “success”… I do understand what you are saying. It is clear that the pressure to succeed professionally, financially, etc., is just overwhelming. It frightens me just contemplating the extent to which we are told to achieve, achieve, achieve, and when we don’t then we are failures. What frightens me more is how easily we, and I personally, fall into that trap. Don’t get me wrong, like anyone else I enjoy and value the successes I have earned in life. It’s somehow striking that healthy balance between success, contentment with what we already have, and happiness that eludes me.

    Finally, I really can’t agree more with your characterizing this unhealthy negotiation of the world around us as exhausting.

    Anyway, I hope you are having a great weekend. I hope to listen to your latest podcast sometime early this week. I really value your thoughts and insight. Thank you again for doing all of this.

    1. Hi Tan, I do think that being honest with ourselves about our vulnerability is vital here. The problems seem to start when I develop the crazy notion that “I shouldn’t be vulnerable”. This means that I then get caught up in this act of trying to hide my vulnerabilities and doing all type of crazy shit to protect myself – all because of the stupid idea that I shouldn’t be as I am.

      I’ve just added another post about my addiction to stories, and I think this is relevant to what we are talking about here. Most of my suffering originates from believing in things that weren’t true. It is these stories that can help me to navigate through life, but the problem starts when I begin to treat them as more than just stories. It is from this that all the “should be” and “shouldn’t be” nonsense comes from. Reality is what it is. I now believe that the closer I’m in harmony with reality the easier life will become, but that it is these stories involving “should” and “shouldn’t” that move me out of sync with reality.

      It was these stories that would cripple me with depression. I would become sad for one reason or another (usually because my stories didn’t fit reality), and then I would get this idea that I shouldn’t be sad, and this would make things 10 worse. I would then get caught up in this emotionally exhausting vicious circle of feeling bad because I was feeling bad. Who says that I shouldn’t occasionally mess up and feel sad about it afterwards? Who says that I shouldn’t feel sad because I was silly enough to fall for one of my stories about how things should be and then have reality kick me in the gonads? That’s life. I do not believe that there is anything wrong with feeling sad now and again, but feeling sad about feeling sad is just unnecessary nonsense and a sign that I’m taking myself (and my bullshit) way too seriously.

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