Let’s first state the fact that all of us have our own emotional problems. That is, all of us are little crazy to some extent.
None of us is an exception.
Some suffer more than others. Some manage to cope with their problems in a good way.
The goal is not to totally eliminate our emotional problems; the goal is to handle them in a healthier way.
That said, I’ve seen that there are unhealthy patterns which will make you crazier and more neurotic. Patterns that are unhealthy for your emotional health.
I’ve probably done all the errors I’m going to mention below. And I am not going to stop doing them 100%. However, I’m now aware of my emotional issues and of the unhealthy patterns that will perpetuate my own madness.
Being aware of these patterns, and consciously challenging them, will 1) relieve most of the anxiety which is associated with these problems (we are going to see how), which will help you … 2) Become less crazy as you start peacefully untying many of the emotional knots within you.
Let’s start right where most people don’t want to start.
I Don’t Know That I Don’t Know!
What is worse than meeting someone who acts in a stupid and arrogant way?
Someone who doesn’t know (or doesn’t want to admit/know) that he is acting in a stupid and arrogant way.
I sometimes meet such people and feel sorry for them. But then, a question crosses my mind, “what if I was just like them in some areas of my life and I have no clue about that?” Then I feel terrified. Then I immediately feel humble. Then I start feeling terrified again that this humility is nothing but arrogance which I’m not aware of. But hey, I’m probably aware of it now since I consider that it might not be humility, right?
In the end, I come to realize that yes I’m probably like them in some situations and some of the time. I suck sometimes just as they suck. Sometimes I’m aware I suck, other times I’m not. I need to get more of the first, and less of the latter as much as possible.
That is me practicing some self-awareness. It’s not pretty. It’s painful most of the time. It includes a lot of uncertainty and questioning. And the deeper you go, the uglier it becomes. And recently, I’ve learned that there is something that is called too deep.
But it’s important.
You need a minimum baseline of self-awareness to function as a healthy individual. In a very simple way, you need to be aware of your emotional problems in the first place to solve them.
Self-awareness is about knowing what you’re feeling. Why you are feeling it. What you’re doing. Why you are doing it. Even if sometimes you don’t like the answers that you hear.
Self-awareness is about having honest conversations with yourself. And one of the best ways to have conversations with yourself is through asking questions.
There are a variety of questions to ask yourself. But one of the best, and the most dangerous, questions is “What if?”
I asked it in the example above.
Ask it and notice how you are feeling after answering it. Acknowledge that feeling without judgment.
Now here comes the interesting part. Start asking why.
According to the book, you need to ask yourself the question why 5 times.
In my opinion, you don’t have to stick to the 5 times every time. What you need to understand from the number 5 is the fact that you need to dig a bit deeper than the usual answer. And also you should understand that you need to stop the questions at some point.
I’m feeling terrified.
Because maybe I’m like those people.
Why are you afraid of being like those people?
Because they lack self-awareness.
Why are you afraid of lacking self-awareness?
Because I will live my life blindly and think that I’m doing a great job while I’m just screwing up.
Why is that a problem?
Because that is a screwed up way to live life.
Because I believe life should be about understanding yourself and growing to become a better person.
The value that is guiding me here is growth and self-understanding. I may ask further to know why this value guides me. But it’s not necessary.
I find it extremely difficult to live my life without meeting this value. That is probably why it rebels me when I see people who don’t live with this value. And it’s why I rebel myself when I stop meeting this value.
Self-awareness is a skill. And it becomes better with practice. Not prettier –just better.
Without it, you are not going to solve anything because you can’t even see the problem. Or you don’t see the real problem because of not being honest with yourself.
The goal is not to reach full self-awareness –there is no such thing. The goal is to have enough awareness of your problems to start solving them.
That said, self-awareness, in and of itself, is not enough. Yes, it includes some nice “aha!” moments. But there are a lot of “oh fuck!” moments. Those “oh fuck!” moments can make you lose your self-esteem if you are not careful. That’s why you also need to be aware of the next section of this article …
(Note: this is just the tip of an iceberg when it comes to self-awareness. For those who are interested in diving deeper, you’ll find a few resources at the end of this article. Not only for self-awareness but also for every topic in this article that needs further explanation).
You Are A Piece Of Shit, Aren’t You?
No, you are not.
But sometimes you think you are, for a variety of reasons.
Mainly, two reasons.
One, you’ve been made to feel as if you are not good enough all the way throughout your childhood and adulthood. I’ve written about that in details here.
Two, after a painful session of self-awareness.
But both of the situations stem from one root cause, which is stigmatizing yourself because of your issues and flaws.
There is a huge difference between having a problem and believing that you must be bad because of having this problem. Read that again and let it sink.
I’ve written about this many times on this site. In fact, this concept is a cornerstone of many of my writings. I’m going to leave links to articles on which I discuss it in details below. After that, I’ll briefly explain it when it comes to the purpose of this article.
- How to Raise My Self-esteem If I Hate Myself
- Why Self-compassion Is The Best Thing You Can Ever Do
- How Do You Feel About Your Flaws (And Why It Matters)
- What If You Are Not Good Enough?
Self-acceptance is not about blindly forcing self-love. It’s merely about not stigmatizing yourself because of your problems and issues. For 3 reasons:
- Because we all have problems and issues.
- Stigmatizing yourself is more psychologically damaging to your self-esteem than the actual problems.
- It will be easier to work on a solution now that there is no shame attached. Self-compassion helps you work on solutions. Self-blame destroys you psychologically and prevents working on solutions.
Two Different “Ends” Of A Spectrum, But “Ends” Nonetheless!
We see it all the time.
People start developing some self-awareness and decide to change.
They change by becoming exactly the opposite of what they used to be.
OK, at least on the surface. They look totally the opposite but they are operating from the same place –from the same dysfunctional values and insecurities.
You know these people:
- A depressed, miserable person who becomes an optimistic person who is positive and happy all the time. Or the opposite.
- A nice, giving guy who turns into a jerk who treats people like garbage.
- The giving, sacrificing people who end up being in romantic relationships with cold assholes who are distant and aloof. (According to Attachment Theory).
- The unorganized, lazy guy who suddenly becomes disciplined and punctual (for a while before he returns to his same laziness).
- The people who suddenly become religious (too religious, usually) after being anything but religious. Or the opposite.
(Note: the self-awareness those people develop is limited to noticing the negative results that they are getting in their lives. And they decide to change those negative results without examining the real reasons behind these results. They are guided by faulty self-awareness).
One of the mistakes that many people make when they want to handle an (emotional) issue is swinging between two extremes.
But the other extreme is as dysfunctional as the first extreme. Why? Because, after all, it’s an extreme; it’s an end.
Also because the real change is about the intentions and the root causes.
People who swing to the another extreme usually still have the same dysfunctional intentions. They never take time to try to figure out the root causes of their suffering.
They may change their behavior, usually in an extreme way. But they are operating from the same insecurities. The same toxic beliefs. The same screwed-up values. So, they are the same even if, at the surface, they look totally the opposite.
Those people, in my opinion, have a primitive belief. It says, “If I changed my behavior to the opposite of whatever I’m doing right now, I would get the results I want.”
This strategy doesn’t work because change is not only about the behavior; it’s largely about the intentions and the values. That’s why you need to look deeper than the behavior, especially if this behavior is extreme.
This strategy is a way to compensate. You realize that your current behavior is making you weak and not getting you the desired results. So, you try to compensate for this weakness and lack of results by doing exactly the opposite of it. This is not only a way to compensate but also a defense mechanism.
You need to be aware of this when attempting to handle any emotional issue.
However, it is sometimes unavoidable. We sometimes have to go to the other extreme in order to change. We just have to!
Some of us have to compensate and use this defense mechanism in order to survive psychologically. I know I did a couple of times.
You need to be aware of this. In order not to stay there. In order to eventually create a healthy change.
As long as you are working on the intentions and the real root causes, you’ll eventually become a different, better version of yourself. Even if you swing for a bit to the other dark end.
The problem is when you swing to the other extreme and naively believe that you are now a different person. Remember, you become a different person by more than changing your behavior; you become a different person by examining your intentions and values and working on them.
The opposite of fear is not courage; it’s recklessness. Courage is down in the middle. Had it been courage, we wouldn’t have felt any fear when attempting to be courageous.
I Want It Now
When undergoing any emotional, or psychological, change, you need a huge amount of patience.
Because it takes more time than you wish it would take.
I know that we are living in an age where we are able to get most things instantly. Without having to wait! But unfortunately (or fortunately!), emotional change is not one of these things. In fact, most of the meaningful and the important things are never reached instantly. Even if you are doing it all right, you need patience.
Patience is not merely about waiting. It’s about putting efforts and waiting. You never know when (or how) your efforts are going to pay off.
And in the period between putting your efforts and waiting for the results, it’s important not to give up on yourself.
One of the most important things you need is self-compassion. Check the articles above in the second section.
You are going to make mistakes. You are not going to be perfect. But you need to forgive yourself and keep going. 5 years from now, you will look back and see how much you have improved and changed.
Take it easy. It’s going to take time. Do your best and always learn to be kind and compassionate towards yourself in order to keep moving forward.
Putting This Together
We are all crazy. The shared humanity states that we all have our own emotional problems and issues.
However, we should do our best to become less crazy and handle our emotional problems in a healthy way.
I just noticed that there are some errors we make when handling our issues. And those errors will perpetuate our suffering. The sooner we stop doing them, the healthier (emotionally and psychologically) we become.
Remember, if you want to NOT solve your emotional problems and become crazier, do this:
- Become oblivious and lack self-awareness.
- Stigmatize yourself.
- Go to the other extreme.
- Be impatient.
We explained these point above. And I’ll leave links below to further reading for people who want more details.
And, yes! I’m sure you don’t want to NOT solve your emotional problems. So, this is you don’ts list. Stay emotionally healthy by avoiding these as much as possible. Suffer sometimes by making these mistakes. But get back on the track and keep fighting. You will not reach a problem-free world, but you will become better at handling your problems. And as the old cliché goes, you will use your problems as opportunities for growth.
For people who are interested in learning more about self-awareness, here are some suggestions:
- Article: this is an article written by Mark Manson on self-awareness. It’s amazing. He goes really deep and he even points out to where self-awareness can fail you, something that was an eye-opener for me. He even talks about self-acceptance and its relationship with self-awareness. Check it here.
- Book: this is my first book, The Art of Change. It helps you change the things you are not thrilled with in your life. The first (and the longest) chapter of it talks in depth about self-awareness. It’s more like a step by step plan to encourage you to practice self-awareness. I share some personal and general stories and ideas that explain the importance of self-awareness and how to start practicing it. The rest of the book is, for sure, about how to use this self-awareness. People who read the book said that it’s the most exciting, and frightening, chapter in the book and it’s what has made the book special. Check it here.
For people who are interested in learning more about the idea of not stigmatizing yourself, the articles above are a good start. But for those who want to dig deeper, here you go:
- Book: I internalized this idea of not stigmatizing yourself from the book Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. Stigmatizing yourself is about feeling shame. Brene is probably one of the best people who can write about shame. She doesn’t only research sensitive topics such as shame, vulnerability, fear, and worthiness but she also learns from that and practices it, she walks her talk. The book discusses many ideas but it’s based on the idea of developing shame resilience, handling vulnerability, and becoming more authentic. All these things will contribute to our sense of worthiness and make us braver. Check it here.