Author Archives: Burak Bilgin

About Burak Bilgin

Software developer with a Ph.D. and 15 years of experience. I write daily on personal development and life lessons.


The Secret to an Amazing Life

It must have been more than a decade since I read the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. Among other ideas, a thought experiment in the book stayed with me over the years. That is imagining your own funeral.

Maybe, the idea was dramatic. Maybe, it’s the fact that I discussed it with my family. Or maybe, it’s the combination of both that made it stick in my mind, but to this date, that idea still fascinates me.

The underlying idea of the funeral exercise is to remember your own death, or memento mori as it is referred to in philosophy. The whole idea is sobering, especially the formulation by Pema Chödrön.

“Since death is certain and the time of death is uncertain, what is the most important thing?” Pema Chödrön

Sometimes, I’m looking forward to a weekend or a vacation. Then, that weekend or vacation comes to an end in a heartbeat. I don’t even understand what happened. Nowadays, I remind myself that fact in the first few hours of a weekend or a vacation.

“This weekend or vacation will end in a heartbeat. Soon, it will be Sunday evening. Soon, I’ll be on an airplane traveling back. What do I want to make of this weekend or vacation?”

I can’t help but think about the same about my life. Even though that last day seems to be too far to be concerned with, I know that when it comes, it will feel like it came too soon. On that last day, I don’t want to feel like I have wasted my life .

You might think that I’m being pessimistic and dark. That’s not my intention at all. Thinking about my own death can feel sad at times, but at the same time, it incites the desire to make the most of my life. In a way, memento mori makes me think carpe diem, seize the day, because I have one opportunity to live and it can end any time.

Thinking about your own death can help you let go of what doesn’t serve you in your life. Do you really want to have spent your days being glued to your smartphone, hung out with people that you don’t care about, or indulged in whatever your bad habit is?

Do you really want to have spent your life working for the future only? Some people are only interested in their legacy. That’s fine if that’s what you want. But I also want to have experienced some beautiful memories in my life.

Sure, my work in the past provides me with a life that I’m grateful today, but it’s the memories of exceptional moments that make me glad that I was alive for 39 years.

It’s important to have a decent lifestyle, but it’s also important to collect some memorable moments throughout your life. So, I’d rather balance both as I go through my life. And we’re all better off letting go of our habits that serve neither.


The Linchpin of Any Online Marketing Strategy

You must have heard the story of the elephant and the four blind men. Four blind men touch different parts of an elephant and argue with each other what the elephant is like.

One of them likens it to a tree, the other one to a hose, yet another one to a sheet, and so on. It all depends on where they touch on.

In reality, the elephant has various body parts, and they all feel different. It doesn’t make sense to jump to a conclusion with partial data without having the big picture. Yet, we do it all the time.

Sure, there are times we have to move on without perfect information, but if you have a chance to access meaningful data, you better use it.

The Algorithm Change in Medium

With a recent algorithm change in Medium, I saw a sharp drop in the stats of my posts published there. This made me doubt the future of my blog.

Was I wasting my time blogging daily if Medium didn’t distribute my posts to readers? Was all the work for the last nine months for nothing? More important, should I stop blogging daily and move on?

Questions like the ones above floated around in my mind. I had decent arguments to stop blogging daily. I also had solid arguments to keep doing that.

Then, I checked the stats of my blog on my own domain. I realized that the traffic to my blog was fairly stable. Only 22% of the traffic came from Medium. 37% was coming from Google, and 31% was direct traffic. The remaining 10% was coming from the so-called long tail.

Those numbers were soothing. Probably, only a nerd would be soothed by numbers, but that’s what their effect was on me.

Sure, I’d like to keep that 22%, but if I couldn’t, it wasn’t the end of the world for my blog. 78% was still a decent chunk of my existing traffic. There was no reason to get discouraged. That’s why the ability to find out the truth is the most critical skill that you can develop in life.

What Social Media Does and Does Not Provide

Medium does a lot of things right. It gives the readers the ability to highlight and bookmark the posts they read. It gives the writers the stats about the views, reads, claps, and highlights. There is a community that exchanges comments.

My blog doesn’t have interactive features as Medium has, and I’m fine with that. If someone wants to bookmark a post of my mine, they can do so in their own browser or using their favorite social channel. If they want to highlight a section, they can clip the post and highlight it with Evernote.

My blog provides me with something crucial that Medium doesn’t. That is control.

Bloggers who didn’t bother to set up their blogs on their own domains and only published on Medium are in serious trouble after Medium changed their algorithm.

If I solely relied on Medium as a blogging and distribution platform, I’d lose 99% of the traffic to my posts. That would be a death sentence to my blog. There’s no way, I’d keep writing and publishing for only 1% of the traffic my posts used to receive.

Since I kept 78% of the traffic to my posts, I’m fine with continuing. Sure, I’d like to see that number grow and not shrink, but a 22% hit doesn’t kill my enthusiasm.

In a way, I’m grateful for that 22% hit. It’s a sobering event, but I can reframe that challenge as an opportunity to stop and look at my blogging practice. It makes me think about how to change my practice so that I can overcome that 22% hit and create further growth.

What Does Your Blog on Your Own Domain Provide?

With all the social media channels available to us, it’s easy to fall in love with a channel and to avoid starting and maintaining a blog on your own domain. After all, it’s a lot of work to do that. And who reads blogs on independent domains nowadays?

The reality is some people do. What’s more important? It’s a matter of time that your favorite platform will change their algorithms, ban you from publishing there, or go belly up altogether.

What are you going to do if any one of those events happen if you don’t have your own platform? You’ll lose all of your traffic overnight. That’s why a blog on your own domain is the linchpin of your online marketing strategy. It’s the little piece that holds everything together.

Summary

A blog on a domain that you control might look like a small, irrelevant piece of an online marketing strategy, but when your presence on other social media channels takes a hit, it’s usually your blog that survives that hit.


What Coaching Is and Isn’t

Before we start today’s post, answer the following question.

What does coaching mean to you?

In the past, I answered that question as telling someone what to do. That’s what I learned from the popular culture. Sports coaches tell you what to do and how to do it. Sure, a life or business coach would do the same.

A few years ago, I took a coaching course, and I realized that my definition of coaching wasn’t correct. Coaching isn’t telling people what to do and how to do it, in fact, something entirely different. It is asking people questions to make them find out what to do and how to do it.

The Socratic Method

The Q&A method of coaching has deep roots. It is based on the Socratic Method. This method is more effective than preaching. Preaching creates resistance in the receiving end.

When you use the Q&A method, the coachee finds their own solutions to their problems. This has advantages on multiple levels.

First, the coachee is less resistant to the solutions found in the coaching session because they came up with those solutions. Those solutions weren’t dictated to them.

Second, the Q&A method bypasses the ego of the coachee. If your definition of a coach is someone who preaches you, you might think that a coach-coachee relationship puts you in a lower position as a coachee.

If the Q&A method is used, there’s no hierarchical relationship between the coach and the coachee. It’s a relationship of equals. Two individuals are discussing a matter to find the truth, which is the most important life skill.

Overcoming Resistance to Coaching

When there’s no hierarchy in the relationship between the coach and coachee, it’s much easier for a prospective coachee to hire someone as a coach. This is especially true for accomplished individuals.

When you are already successful and see coaching as someone better than you teaching you, than you’ll have a hard time getting into such a relationship, because of two reasons.

You might think that people more successful than you won’t work as coaches, and you might not want to be preached by someone who isn’t more successful than you. If that’s your perception of coaching, you’ll be missing out on some opportunities.

A Coach Is Genuinely Interested

In a proper coaching session, the coach is genuinely interested in the problem of the coachee. The coach asks questions to clarify the events and the way the coachee perceives and approaches the problem at hand.

During a coaching session, two things can happen. First, the coachee can realize how they contribute to the problem at hand, and decide to stop doing that. When someone has a persistent problem in their lives, most of the time, they are doing something to contribute to the problem.

Second, the coach can ask a question that would stimulate a solution in coachee’s mind. I remember a coaching session where I wanted to brainstorm about how to find customers. My coach asked me which message I wanted to convey to my prospects. That question made me look at the problem at hand from another angle, and focus on my message instead of obsessing about customers.

The Q&A method is not only relevant to the professional coach-coachee relationship. It’s helpful in various contexts, such as boss-subordinate, parent-child, between friends and romantic partners.

Which friend would you like to have? The one who starts preaching to you once you start talking to them about a problem? Or the one who listens to you and asks you questions to process the problem at hand?

Summary

Unlike the common impression, coaching isn’t about preaching people what to do and how to do it. It’s about asking questions to someone to help them find their own solutions.

The Q&A method of coaching is more effective at motivating people because the solutions aren’t dictated to them but reached by themselves.

Developing good questioning and listening skills is not only beneficial when working as a professional coach, but also in boss-subordinate, parent-child, friendship, and romantic relationships.


Surrendering to Success

What comes up to your mind when you think about a successful person?

  • A hard worker who forces themselves to work day and night?
  • Self-discipline, lots of stress, even anger?
  • Aggressive, competitive, argumentative?
  • A take no prisoner approach to life and work?
  • A go-getter?

Sure, that’s a way to become a success if you manage not to kill yourself or someone else in the process. There’s another gentler way to success, which I’ll call surrendering to success.

What Does Surrendering to Success Mean?

Surrendering to success means letting go of what keeps you from succeeding.

Surrendering to success is not forcing yourself to work. It is relaxing yourself to work.

Think about a minute and answer the following question.

What keeps you from succeeding?

  • Is it your distractions?
  • Is it hanging out every night?
  • Is it lashing out to your colleagues?

Or

  • Is it not getting yourself to sit down, concentrate, and do the work?
  • Is it not summoning the courage to take risks?
  • Is it not being able to make that hard decision?

Whatever it is that keeps you from succeeding, it has an emotional charge that is powering it. Your urges are pulling your strings to distract yourself. Your anger makes you lash out to your colleagues.

It is the stress of unprocessed emotions that keeps you from concentrating on your work. Your fear is preventing you from taking a risk and making that hard decision.

Look for the underlying emotion that fuels your obstacle to success. Is it anger, fear, desire, or another intense emotion?

Whatever that emotion is, you can discharge it. Once you let go of the emotions that keep you from doing your best work, you’ll do whatever is necessary and reach success on autopilot.

Forcing Yourself to Success

Forcing yourself to success is like driving a car while the emergency brake is on. You’ll wonder why you can’t accelerate even though you drive at full throttle.

You’re spending a lot of effort, but most of it gets wasted on your inner resistances. You don’t make much progress to justify the energy you expend.

When you release the emergency brake, you realize that you accelerate at a much faster pace even without slamming the throttle.

How Can We Release Our Inner Resistances?

We can release our inner resistances by discharging the underlying emotion. That means becoming aware of the emotion, staying with it without trying to express, suppress, or change it, and waiting until it subsides.

Yes, that’s a lot of emotional labor, and it takes time, but so does forcing ourselves to override those emotions.

The advantage of the letting go method is that the unwanted emotions dissolve over time. When we force ourselves to overpower them, those emotions stay where they are. Same or greater amount of force is needed to overpower them.

The story of Michael A. Singer is an excellent example of surrendering yourself to success. He has documented his life from a confused college student to the CEO of a billion-dollar software company in his book The Surrender Experiment.

Summary

There are two ways to success, forcing yourself to success and surrendering to success.

Forcing yourself to success involves trying to overpower your inner resistances with ever greater force. It is like driving at full throttle while your emergency brake is on.

Surrendering yourself to success is about letting go of your inner resistances in the first place. It is like releasing the emergency brake such that your car accelerates much faster at the touch of the throttle.


Why Does No One Care?

If you ask a why question to yourself, ask yourself whether you’re really interested in finding an answer or you’re just venting off.

Asking why questions repeatedly can be helpful to find the root cause of a problem. You can solve a problem by addressing its root cause.

If your problem is drinking too much coffee, you might question why you do that. You might find out that you do that to cope with the stress of dealing with your colleagues.

You might decide to use other stress management techniques instead of relying on coffee when you interact with your colleagues. Self-awareness can help you solve a lot of problems.

If your why question doesn’t lead to the root cause of a problem, you might be making thinking errors on three levels.

Responsibility

The question in the title of this post doesn’t sound constructive. It would be a constructive one if it were formulated like one of the following.

  • Why doesn’t anyone care about my cause?
  • Why doesn’t anyone care about my content?
  • Why doesn’t anyone care about me?

Even the last question is more constructive than the one in the title.

When you ask those questions, you might find answers like the ones below.

  • People already have enough on their plates.
  • There’s already enough content online.
  • People already have enough people in their lives to care about.

The follow-up questions will be the following.

  • How can I formulate my cause so that it stands out among the issues that people have to deal with?
  • How can I compose and promote my content so that it catches the attention of people?
  • How can I find the people who are willing to care about others?

If asking a why question doesn’t help you make progress with the matter at hand, formulate it as a how question. How questions require you to take the responsibility and can be more empowering than why questions.

Projection

In psychology, projection means denying the existence of an undesired property in oneself and seeing it in others. For example, I might deny that I’m selfish and blame others for being selfish.

If you’re asking yourself why others don’t care, ask yourself whether you care. If you really cared about the problems of others, you might not have the time to ask yourself the question in the title.

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

I saved the most intricate one to the end because it’s the most difficult to understand, but once you understand it, it will change your life.

When you look at the world through a certain filter, you won’t perceive the events that don’t match your filter. I see this very often in online forums like Quora where people are discussing their problems.

Some of the questions discussed in online forums aren’t actually questions but rants. Here are some examples.

  • Why doesn’t anyone care?
  • Why are people so angry?
  • Why do people not respect me?

The people who are asking these questions are actually making a statement.

  • People don’t care.
  • People are angry.
  • No one respects me.

When you look at life with that filter, you won’t see the people who care, who aren’t angry, and who respect you. You’ll only see the ones that match your concept of people.

You’ll expect people to match your beliefs and treat them accordingly. As a result, they will fulfill your expectations. This is called self-fulfilling prophecy.

If you expect people not to care, you won’t make an effort to make them care, and they won’t care. If you expect them to be angry, you’ll act passively, and as a result, they will be angry. If you expect them not to respect you, you will act submissively, and they won’t respect you.

If you find yourself asking questions that are in reality a rant, just formulate the question as a statement. Accept that you have that statement as a limiting belief. And take the responsibility and start replacing that limiting belief with its opposite.

  • People do care.
  • People are calm.
  • People respect me.

Look for people who satisfy those statements. If you look carefully, you’ll find those people in your environment.

Summary

When you find yourself asking questions like “why doesn’t anyone care,” ask yourself whether you’re really looking for the root cause of your problem or venting off.

If you’re just venting off, formulate the question as a how question, which will empower you to take the responsibility to solve your problem. Instead of “why doesn’t anyone care,” ask “how can I make people care?”

If you find out that your questions are actually rants, ask yourself whether you’re projecting your own unwanted attributes on to others. Do you care about other people?

Last but not least, formulate your question as a statement. “People don’t care.” If you’re just venting off, this statement is most probably a limiting belief. Now, replace this limiting belief by cultivating its opposite. Look for evidence of its opposite, and you will find plenty of evidence, because people do care!


Help Yourself First

Yesterday, I received a question from Quora that resonated with me. Here, it is.

“What should I do? I feel weak and dumb because I am a young computer scientist and I think I can’t help people in difficulty.”

The Messianic Stage

We all go through a developmental stage that Jordan Peterson calls the Messianic Stage. In that stage, we see the suffering in the world, and we think we can change it.

We dive into social causes and try to do whatever we can to make a change in the world. Unfortunately, we figure out that we don’t make a significant difference.

We try to involve others, but we realize that they don’t care. We get frustrated and heartbroken.

My Experience with the Messianic Stage

So far, I met only two people who stayed in their Messianic Stage. One of them is an extremely competent person who was able to build a charity and executed some remarkable projects in Africa.

I acknowledge and appreciate his work, but he is more of an exception than a rule. So, I wouldn’t call myself weak and dumb if I cannot replicate his success.

The second person I met followed the academic path. I expect her to become an academician or a career politician. Again, she is more of an exception than a rule.

All the other friends of mine who were serious about social issues eventually got regular jobs or started small businesses and carried on with their lives. That includes me.

I must admit that I was super fast realizing that I cannot make any significant change as a high school student and got over my Messianic Stage pretty quick.

My Case for Outgrowing Your Messianic Stage

Does outgrowing our Messianic Stage make us weak and dumb? I don’t believe it does, and here’s my case. There are different job descriptions in the society, and everybody has a job. Social work is a job in itself and requires a certain skill set.

I don’t agree that you can’t become a social worker. I believe in growth mindset, and that means that you can become a great social worker if you put in the time and effort necessary. The question is, do you want to commit to this path? Or do you see it as a second job, a side hustle, or a hobby?

You might work as a volunteer in a charity for a year to get the experience, but if you don’t commit to that path full time, you’ll likely not make the kind of impact you’re aiming for.

How to Really Help People in Need

Here’s the twist. You don’t need to commit your life to social work to make a positive impact in the world. You’ll make the most positive impact in the world by becoming your best version.

If your best version isn’t a social worker but a computer scientist, then you becoming the best computer scientist you can be has a much greater positive impact on the lives of the people you are trying to help.

Let that last sentence sink in, because I know it’s hard to grab. We live in a tightly connected world where you help the humanity the most by helping yourself. Or in other words, you cannot help yourself without helping the humanity.

Yes, there are exceptions to that rule, but they are exceptions. For average people like you and me that rule holds.

Creating Wealth for Yourself is Creating Welfare for Humanity

In today’s society, you create wealth for yourself by creating value for others. By doing that, you increase the welfare of humanity as a whole. Not only by all the value you contribute to the humanity, but also with every dollar you spend and all the taxes you pay.

When you believe that you have created sufficient wealth for yourself and for your family, you can retire and commit yourself to charity work as Bill Gates did. You don’t have to be a billionaire to do that. Reaching financial freedom for your retirement is sufficient.

Moreover, you can build more wealth than you and your family can spend, and then donate a portion of it to charity like Warren Buffet.

If you read the biography of Warren Buffet, The Making of an American Capitalist by Roger Lowenstein, you’ll see that he didn’t distract himself with social issues. He was focused 100% on his own business.

Buffet had the urge to do something good for the society, but he procrastinated on it until he realized that he could trust Bill Gates with his money on that front.

Now, think about it. What would provide greater value to society? Warren Buffet focusing on his business for his entire life and then donating most of his wealth to charity? Or Warren Buffet going back and forth between his business and charity work?

Put Your Goals and Life in Perspective

Again, you don’t need to become a billionaire to make a significant donation to charity at the end of your life. Just look at the big picture of your life and put your goals into perspective.

Maybe, the first milestone of helping people in hardship is you becoming the best computer scientist you can, and the rest of the path will reveal itself once you reach that milestone.

Summary

The Messianic Stage is a developmental stage that we go through. In that stage, we think that we have to save people in need.

After a while, we figure out that we can’t make much difference in the lives of people in need, and we carry on with our lives. This doesn’t make us dumb or weak.

There’s one thing that we can do for the people in need. That’s becoming the best version of ourselves in our chosen profession.

That way, we’ll add value to humanity in general and pay taxes. A portion of the taxes we pay will be spent on welfare projects.

When we reach retirement, we can always dedicate the rest of our lives to helping people in need like Bill Gates did. Or we can allocate a portion of our wealth to charities as Warren Buffet did.


Maximum Motivation

Sentient beings, including humans, are mostly motivated by the principle of pain and pleasure. I want to add two variables to that formula, the belief in one’s capability and the perceived pain of taking action.

Motivation = Actual or Anticipation of Pain + Anticipation of Pleasure + Belief in One’s Capability – The Perceived Pain of Taking Action

If the amount of motivation exceeds the threshold of resistance to take action, the person takes action.

The interpretation of this formula in humans is more complicated than animals because unlike animals, we can feel pain and pleasure from abstract concepts.

A person can make great effort to work on a piece of art or play a musical instrument because they derive pleasure from them. They can also sacrifice their life for their country because of the pain they feel when they perceive their country to be in danger.

Pain Is a Greater Source of Motivation than Pleasure

Pain is a greater source of motivation than pleasure, and the exact ratio seems to be 5-to-1. This is reported in multiple areas of applied psychology.

An average investor feels five times more pain when they lose a certain amount compared to the pleasure they derive from the profit of the same amount. A basic leadership rule is that an instance of critical feedback has to be balanced with five instances of positive feedback to offset its effects.

The 5-to-1 ratio stems from our negativity bias. We tend to see the world as more negative than it actually is. This helped our ancestors to survive in the wilderness, but it doesn’t serve us anymore. We can overcome our negativity bias by training our mind to be more optimistic.

When you look at the formula, and when you consider the 5-to-1 rule, you’ll reach an interesting conclusion. Increasing your perception of pain will increase your motivation much more than increasing your anticipation of pleasure. This is the dark side of motivation.

The Belief in One’s Capabilities

In some cases, the pain or pleasure might not be sufficient to trigger someone to take action. A person also needs to believe that they are capable of avoiding the pain or accomplishing the goal that would give them pleasure.

I might know that building a successful business would give me pleasure, but if I don’t believe in my capability of achieving that goal, I won’t tolerate the pain of taking action toward it.

We can cultivate a belief in our capabilities by setting realistic goals and actually achieving them, or by breaking down our big hairy audacious goals into milestones and achieving those milestones, in other words, by putting our goals into perspective.

The Connection between Pain and Pleasure

Even though pain and pleasure seem to be distinct phenomena, they are tightly connected to each other. The absence of something that gives you pleasure can give you great pain. That might be something inessential like alcohol or recreational drugs. The alleviation of a certain pain can give you pleasure.

I’d say be careful of which pleasures you allow to your life because they can easily turn into pain. Don’t be too afraid of pain because it can lead you to greater pleasure, or more accurately to greater satisfaction.

Summary

When our sensations of pain and pleasure and our belief in our capabilities exceed the pain of taking action, we take action. This is the formula of motivation.

In the formula of motivation, pain plays five times greater role than pleasure due to our negativity bias. Therefore, anticipating or feeling pain is a greater motivation than the anticipation of pleasure.

Believing in our capability of achieving our goals to alleviate our pain or to reach pleasure also increases our motivation. We can cultivate that belief by setting goals that we can achieve and actually achieving them.

Pain and pleasure are tightly connected to each other. The lack of what gives us pleasure gives us pain. Acting despite the perceived pain and reaching our goals gives us satisfaction.

In a nutshell, we can optimize our motivation by regulating or perception and anticipation of pain and pleasure, and by maximizing our belief in our capabilities.


Beyond Awake

For the sake of simplicity, let’s define two degrees of awareness, asleep and awake. When you’re asleep, you aren’t aware of much. When you’re awake, you’re aware of your environment and yourself. What if there was a degree higher than the state of being awake?

That degree is called meta-consciousness or metacognition. When you reach the level of meta-consciousness, you become aware of your consciousness, your thought and emotional patterns.

There’s nothing esoteric about meta-consciousness, it’s a highly practical concept that you can use in your daily life.

Our Biases and Fallacies

Our biases and fallacies are reported extensively. Yet, most of us aren’t aware of them. In various cases, we can correct our cognitive and behavioral errors just by learning about them.

If you want to learn more about biases and fallacies, I recommend the book You Are Not So Smart by David McRaney. It’s comprehensive and easy to read.

One of our instincts is our urge to impact our environment. Yet, most of us aren’t aware of that urge and fall prey to it. That included me until I heard about it in the audiobook Outsmart Yourself by Peter M. Vishton.

We can improve our thinking and emotional patterns and our behavior just by learning about our biases, fallacies, and instincts. But there is a level beyond that. On that level, we become aware of our thinking and emotional patterns.

Becoming Aware of Our Thinking and Emotional Patterns

Suppose that you want to give up a bad habit. You can use sheer willpower to resist the cravings when they come up, but you have an alternative. You can observe your cognitive patterns and explore what causes the cravings in the first place. You can either eliminate the triggers in the first place or find more constructive ways of handling them.

Suppose that you want to eliminate drinking too much coffee. You realize that your coffee machine acts as a trigger. You can simply eliminate that trigger by getting rid of your coffee machine. However, you can’t do that at your job because other people drink coffee too.

In that case, you might want to observe your cognitive patterns. What is triggering you to drinking coffee? You might realize that every time you feel stressed, you feel the urge to drink another cup of coffee.

When you take one more step backward, you realize that you feel stressed when you have to deal with your colleagues. Through self-observation, you realize that the stress of dealing with your colleagues is triggering you to drink coffee.

Breaking Dysfunctional Patterns

Now, that you’re aware of your cognitive and behavioral patterns, you can expect when to feel stressed and when to feel the urge to drink a cup of coffee. You anticipate both conditions in advance and prepare for them.

You can find alternative ways of dealing with stress such as deep breathing and drinking a glass of water. You can use those relaxation methods when you’re dealing with your colleagues.

Becoming Aware of Subtle Patterns

Some of our cognitive and behavioral patterns aren’t as obvious as the example above. They might be obvious to others, but being aware of our own patterns is much more difficult. It’s like a fish becoming aware of water.

There are two behavioral patterns that I became aware of recently. The first one is apathy and giving up, and the second one is being reactional and making hostile comments. When I observed my cognitive patterns behind both behavioral patterns, I realized that they both stemmed from anger.

When I get angry, I either express it or suppress it. When I suppress it, I fall down to the level of apathy and give up. When I express it, I make hostile comments. Needless to say, neither method is pragmatic.

Moreover, acting upon them reinforces them in my psyche. Every time I act on them, I increase my tendency to use the same dysfunctional patterns next time. The behavior becomes even more automatic. It is ingrained deeper in my psyche.

Becoming Aware of Repressed Emotions

My patterns of expression and suppression were so deeply ingrained in my psyche that they happened almost in light speed. I wasn’t even aware of feeling angry before I react or give up. It required some study and self-observation until I could recognize these patterns in me.

Now, when I’m about the give up or make hostile comments, I stop myself and acknowledge the anger underneath those behaviors. I use the letting go method on the anger, while I look for a constructive behavior and do my best to act on it.

In letting go, you don’t push through with force. You tap into your power by releasing the breaks. When you release your breaks, your inner power drives you.

Conclusion

Studying psychology is definitely interesting, but there is something even more interesting, which is recognizing your own cognitive and behavioral patterns for the first time after 39 years of existence.

I highly recommend that you learn more about psychology, observe your psyche, and apply what you have learned to your own cognitive and behavioral patterns. Your results in life will justify the time and energy that you invest in it.


If You Don’t Know What You Want in Life, Read This Post

When someone says that they don’t know what they want in life, I call BS on that. We all know what we want in our lives, but some of us don’t dare to admit it, not even to themselves. Let’s start with why they don’t do that.

David Hawkins introduced the map of consciousness in his book Power vs. Force. There are 17 levels in the map of consciousness. People who claim that they don’t know what they want in life are likely to be on the lower levels of consciousness.

There’s nothing wrong with being on a lower level of consciousness as long as you recognize it and work your way up. We all have our journeys in our lives, and I haven’t met many enlightened people, including myself of course.

If you find yourself on a lower level of consciousness, I hope this post would inspire you to work on getting to higher levels by letting go of your dysfunctional emotions and thoughts. Now, let’s go over a few levels of consciousness and see how they relate to the subject of this post.

Shame

People on the level of shame think that they are inherently bad. How can it be otherwise? They’ve been judged by their parents, teachers, or other authority figures as bad boys or bad girls.

Some of these folks realize that being a bad boy or girl is a lot of fun later in their lives, but most of them spend their lives believing deep down that they are bad people.

“How dare you think you deserve something nice when you’re such a bad person?”

That’s the undercurrent of their psyche that they aren’t aware of. Hence, they don’t admit what they want in life, not even to themselves.

Guilt

Guilt is similar to shame with a slight difference. Instead of thinking that they are a bad person, people on the level of guilt believe that they have done something wrong. Most of the time, that belief is indoctrinated into them by the authority figures in their lives.

Apathy

If the people on the level of apathy would admit what they want in their lives, they have to take action toward it. However, they’re so overwhelmed by their experience that they don’t believe that they can reach their goals. This is the level of learned helplessness.

Grief

Grief is a reaction to loss. People on this level have many losses in their lives. They have to mourn their losses first before attempting to go after new goals. So, it’s understandable that people on this level don’t dare to admit what they want in life.

Fear

People on this level are afraid to admit what they want in life because they have two choices if they do that. The first choice is to go after what they want and face the inherent dangers on that path. The second choice is the pain of knowing what they want but doing nothing about it.

Anger

On this level, the energy of the person is focused on what they don’t want instead of what they do want. The challenge here is to let go of the focus on the negative and formulate a constructive goal to work toward.

Pride

The person on this level wouldn’t admit that they want something because they believe that they are already perfect as they are. They wouldn’t acknowledge that they don’t know what they want.

Conclusion

Not knowing what you want in life is a sign that you’re on a lower level of consciousness. You can use this symptom to work on your psyche to let go of your shame, guilt, apathy, grief, fear, anger, and pride. Once you transcend those levels of consciousness, you’ll be crystal clear about what you want in life and work toward it.


Discharging Negative Emotions Trapped in Our Psyche

Yesterday, I wrote an introductory post about the letting go method by David Hawkins. The letting go method is a simple and effective way to process and regulate intense emotions. It involves staying with the emotion without expressing, suppressing, or trying to change it in any other way.

When you stay with an intense emotion, it runs its course, and it subsides. The next time you feel it, its intensity diminishes. As you keep using the letting go method, the once intense emotion eventually disappears.

The Pitfall of the Letting Go Method

There’s a pitfall when applying the letting go method. When you stay with your emotion, thoughts stemming from that emotion will come up. The danger here is to dwell on those thoughts.

If you pay attention to those thoughts, if you invest more mental energy into them, or in other words, if you dwell on them, you’ll only make the emotion stronger instead of processing it and discharging it.

The trick here is to become aware of the thoughts, acknowledge them, and let them go while staying with the underlying emotions. This requires some mindfulness which you can develop over time with practice.

The Emotional Labor Required by the Letting Go Method

So far, the letting go method might sound easy. Make no mistake, it’s a simple process. It requires only some basic knowledge of your expression and suppression mechanisms, but it can require some serious emotional labor at times.

When you’re hit with intense emotions of anger, fear, or sadness, you might get overwhelmed when you try to stay with them. In such cases, David Hawkins suggests that you stay with the emotion to the extent possible, and then express or suppress the remaining part of the emotional energy consciously.

How Does Letting Go Heal Your Psyche?

The letting go method requires your mindfulness of your emotions, especially the ones that you’re suppressing. This can be hard at times because it requires self-awareness and honesty. You might be angry, but you might not realize that you’re angry or you might deny it.

You need to acknowledge your emotions to be able to stay with them and to let them go. The emotions that you’re able to feel, acknowledge, and let go are the ones that are closer to the surface. As you let those superficial emotions go, more emotions will come up from the depths of your psyche.

David Hawkins makes a distinction between suppressed and repressed emotions. Suppressed emotions are the ones that we felt but decided to avoid consciously.

Repressed emotions are the ones that weren’t recognized consciously. They are trapped in our psyche, impacting our thoughts, choices, and behaviors, and we aren’t aware of them.

By letting go of suppressed emotions, you enable the repressed emotions to come up. As they come up, you apply the same technique to the repressed emotions. That way, your psyche is being cleaned up from emotions that were trapped in your subconscious for a lifetime.

If you want to learn more about how the repressed emotions get trapped in our psyche and impact our lives, I recommend the books Breaking Free and the Disowned Self by Nathaniel Branden, which are available in Open Library.

Connections between Emotions

David Hawkins mentions shame, guilt, apathy, grief, fear, desire, anger, and pride as lower levels of consciousness. He suggests letting go of thoughts and emotions stemming from those levels. You might think that desire and pride are positive emotions, but Hawkins defines them as weakening.

Another interesting idea from the book Letting Go is that all the emotions from those lower levels are connected to each other.

For example, you’re afraid of heights, and you have public speaking anxiety. By working on your fear of heights, you’re also indirectly working on your public speaking anxiety. Moreover, by working on a fear, you’re also working on your anger, grief, guilt, and shame.

The connection between emotions makes the letting go method a power tool. You don’t need to figure out all of your negative emotions and to work on them separately. You can work on any negative emotion as it comes up. That work will have a healing effect on all others as well.

Hawkins encourages working on your negative emotions proactively. In other words, he recommends to go toward the eye of the storm. Do you have a fear of heights? Go to a high building and face your fear. Do you have public speaking anxiety? Find an opportunity to get in front of people.

Summary

The goal of the letting go method is to let go of the thoughts while staying with the emotions. Distinguishing between thoughts and emotions is a challenge at the beginning because thoughts and emotions are tightly connected. We need to be aware of the danger of dwelling on thoughts which would increase the intensity of emotions that we’re trying to discharge.

Intense emotions are hard to endure. That’s why our knee-jerk reaction is to express or suppress them. It requires some serious emotional labor to stay with them. It’s a muscle we develop over time.

The letting go method is like a detox mechanism for our psyche. It not only discharges the energy of the emotions we feel at the moment, but it also cleans up the emotions that are trapped in our psyche for a lifetime.

Emotions are connected to each other in our psyche. When you discharge the energy of a specific fear like social anxiety, you also discharge the energy of all fears. Moreover, you also discharge the energy of other emotions like anger, grief, shame, guilt, and so on.

Can you imagine how fulfilling, peaceful, and joyful your life would be if you let go of your fears, anger, shame, guilt, and grief?