Money can’t buy happiness. But it’s far more comfortable to cry in a Porsche than on a bicycle.
He who conquers the enemy withi,n need not fear the enemy without.
Shoot for the moon. If you miss, you’ll hit the stars.
If the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence, it’s because the people on the other side are taking care of it.
In our hectic daily lives the questions we don’t stop to ask can often be more important than the ones we do ask. Many times we don’t ask some questions because we don’t think there is an answer, or the answers don’t have an immediate practical relation to our current emergency, or the answers just seem too complex or they require us to open doors to the dark recesses of our minds where the boogie man resides. Whatever the reason, while you’re here now might be a good time to start asking these questions for yourself. What follows is not intended to be an exhaustive list of all the important questions. Think of it as a springboard from which you may come up with questions I never thought of.
1. Who am I?
How much of what you think, feel, believe and do is actually you and how much of it is unexamined indoctrination? We tell ourselves that everybody can’t be wrong if they all think the same thing. In fact, history shows us that when everybody thinks something it usually is wrong. Everybody once thought the world was flat. Fear of ridicule, fear of consequences, even the fear of being right keeps people from examining the status quo or questioning what everybody thinks is “common sense.” Did I say fear of being right? I did. It’s uncomfortable to be right when all your friends are wrong. Like Harry Potter’s Alvis Dumbledore sad “People will forgive you for being wrong before they forgive you for being right.” So we go along to get along. But is that really who we are? Are we afraid to give birth to a Self who may have to stand alone?
2. Why am I where I am?
If we find ourselves in a place, on a job or with a person where we are unhappy, why do we remain there? We say we’ve invested too much to quit now. Okay, if five years is too much to have invested, why compound the waste by investing ten more? If we are in a place where we should not be that means we are not in the place where we should be. This doesn’t mean we should jump up and quit every time things don’t go our way. It means when we are generally and chronically unhappy in a place we need to know why this is so and take steps to change our circumstances. No one else will change them for us.
3. Could I think differently?
We may think we are too old. Too set in our ways. Too accustomed to things the way they are. We may have surrounded ourselves with people who would think ill of us if we voiced a divergent view from theirs. Let me tell you something, if you put chains on a man’s body, you have not made him a slave. To make him a slave, put the chains on his mind. Does anyone have our minds enslaved so that we are afraid to let new thoughts take root? Are we enslaved by material things, not knowing that gold-plated chains are still chains?
4. Why am I feeling this way right now?
We sometimes have those days when all we want to do is throw ourselves on our beds and cry. We sometimes have days when we feel like we’re on top of the world and nothing can hold us back. Sometimes something happens to trigger these feelings. We may know the immediate trigger, but a trigger is not a cause. We must ask ourselves if that trigger justifies the intensity of what we feel. If it doesn’t then perhaps something else is the cause. The cause of intense feelings is often chemical. Our brains secrete certain chemicals that we experience or perceive as feelings. Dopamine is a chemical secreted by the brain that reinforces behavior by giving us a good feeling when we are rewarded for doing things. Ever wonder why chocolate is so popular on Valentine’s Day? Well, guess what? Chocolate increases feelings of sexiness. Certain types of music or atmospheres cause the brain to secrete serotonin, which gives us a feeling of well being and joy. Then there are foods such as red meant, coffee, sugar and alcohol, which give us an initial high but then bring us down low.
Bottom line is we don’t have to just go with whatever we are feeling at the time. The world is full of people who want to control us. They do this through food, mass media, music, feng shui and peer pressure. None of these things is intrinsically bad, but when people use these venues to manipulate our feelings then tell us to just go with our feelings, we can still step back away from those feelings and examine where they may have come from. This is the essence and beauty of being an intelligent individual.
5. What will happen if I ignore this craving?
The human body is equipped with certain cravings. The hunger drive, the survival drive, the sex drive, the social drive all ensure that we will seek the things we need to sustain our lives. Even with these drive we often define being a “real” man as depriving our bodies of the things it needs. But more often we go the other way and allow our needs and cravings to rule us. Why do I crave chocolate? I won’t die if I don’t eat any chocolate. I could go for years without eating chocolate. Yet, when the sight of it enters my line of vision and the smell of it enters my nostrils, the thought enters my mind that I gotta have it. I slip into an old pair of jeans and they actually feel comfortable. I can tighten my belt a couple of holes. I feel good. I want to reward myself with a Chip Ahoy chocolate chip cookie. STOP! Nothing’s going to happen if I don’t have a cookie. You’ll die. Oh really? You’ll go crazy. No, I won’t. You’ll starve. For lack of a cookie? The mind will tell you all sorts of things to make you think you need that cookie. Just remember this, if you don’t eat it, NOTHING’S GOING TO HAPPEN.
6. Why should I take what this person did personally?
One day a guy I knew at college looked down his nose at me and sniffed. I’d said hello and he just looked down his long nose at me and sniffed. I wanted to take my hello back. I spent the rest of the day wondering what that was all about. I considered that I had not done anything to him so why was he looking down at me? And I’d taken a shower so why was he sniffing at me? Saw something he didn’t like, huh? Something beneath him? Well, I couldn’t take it so I asked him. Turns out, he had a bad cold. He wasn’t sniffing at me. He was trying to breathe.
Taking what people do personally can ruin a good day. Nine times out of ten what they do has nothing to do with us. I am not the center of anyone else’s emotional world. So why am I so vain that I think this song is about me?
7. Is there another way to interpret this situation?
My mother loves to say that there are three sides to every story: your side, my side and the truth. Anxiety is often a symptom of a lack of imagination. When we get locked into a rut, it’s easier for the brain to run all our thoughts through that rut than to climb out of it and see what else is possible. Maybe we’ll just climb out of one rut only to fall into another. But at least the two ruts will give us a perspective on one another we would not have if we had only experienced one rut. Why not stay in the rut we know? Because truth is not afraid to explore. Truth is not afraid to ask questions. We may find that our original interpretation of a situation is closer to the truth than any of the others we’ve looked at, but at least we have looked at them and can give something of an intelligent answer to anyone who asks why we stuck to the original interpretation.
- What part did I play in this situation?
Let’s face it, as humans, we seldom remember what we did to other folks. We only remember what they did to us. We focus on our good intentions and see only the circumstances that thwarted those intentions without considering the part we played in bringing those circumstances about. I believe it was Richard Nixon who said, “I‘ll take responsibility but I will not take the blame.” (She‘s quoting Nixon? OMG, what next? Patience please). Nixon may not have been the most exemplary character in history, but these were, nonetheless, wise words. How do we take responsibility without taking blame? By recognizing that when we have a problem, it may not be our fault. The fault may be totally with someone else, but it is still our problem and if we use our imaginations, we will usually find that there is something we can do about it. If I did something to make a problem possible, I may find myself in a cycle. The thing about cycles is, no matter how vicious they may be, they are fragile. A cycle depends on all parties doing their part. If I don’t do my part, the cycle ends. So I am response-able—able to respond.
9. Why have I taken it upon myself to correct someone else’s personality disorder?
We meet many different personality traits in our daily dealings with people. We’re not going to like all of them. We may even find some people to be rude and obnoxious. Can we expect to do in a few minutes what their parents had 18 years to do? The best course of action is to remember where we are and why we are there. We came to take care of business. As long as a person’s idiosyncrasies do not interfere with our business, why take it upon ourselves to change them? One of the most attractive qualities I find in men is an imperturbable elegance. His unruffled “That will do” carries more power than another man’s boisterous “Let me tell you a thing or two!”
10. How do I know things would have been better if I’d done what I think I should have done?
When things don’t go well, it’s healthy to look back and think about what we could have done differently or better—but only when our aim is to do better next time. Wallowing in guilt about what might have been is a waste of energy. It’s also being terribly unfair to ourselves. None of us has the power or the knowledge to know what lies up the road not taken. “If I hadn‘t done that, this wouldn‘t have happened.” No, if God had not said “Let there be light,” this wouldn‘t have happened. You made a decision. You took an action and the world went haywire. Maybe if you had made another decision and taken a different action instead of going haywire, the world would have come to a screeching halt. There’s just no way you could know and no reason to spend time hemming and hawing about it. Have you asked yourself why you think you‘re the only person on Earth who‘s not supposed to make mistakes? Everybody else in the world is allowed to have faults but you? You have to be perfect? Give yourself a break.
11. Why did this doctor prescribe medicine when he doesn’t know what’s wrong?
My father is a retired mental health counselor who worked for the Department of Rehabilitation in Washington, D.C. Sometimes they could not find out what was wrong with a particular patient. To file a claim with the insurance, they had to have a diagnosis. So what some doctors would do (not my dad, of course) is diagnose the person as grossly appropriate. There’s nothing wrong with you and that’s what’s wrong with you.
I’ve sometimes gone to a doctor with an ache here or a pain there but no cause could be found. Still he would prescribe some medicine. When I asked him how he could prescribe medicine when he didn’t know what’s wrong, he told me he was just guessing. Guess with someone else, thank you and thirty.
12. Why do I expect my circumstances to change if I continue to do the same things the same way?
Doing the same thing over and over expecting different results could be a sign of insanity or it could be a sign that you’re using Windows.
13. Is this my last resort or is it Plan A?
Despair is when we think we only have one alternative and it’s a slim one at that. We are human and often what we think of as our goals are actually just means to a larger goal. If you think all is lost, think again about what you really want and why you want it. From that thought, you may find many roads.
14. Do I have a Plan B?
Productive thinking will produce something. If it doesn’t then it may be time to do some research to find information that will help you.
Welcome to the Teen Cafe!
This blog is for teens and young adults. We’re just getting started here, but every week we’ll have something new to feast your eyes and your mind.