How to be Happier and More Effective In Life

Another journal transcription, this one I’m putting up to share with family.

*When crisis or events truly beyond our control happen, this perspective refers to how we react to what we can control.

An internal locus of control refers to feeling that you yourself are in charge of your life, the choices you make lead to success or failure, rather than external forces exerting pressure on you to bend you to their will. Those with an external locus of control are more likely to feel victimized, blame others, be pessimistic, focus on “what if” scenarios, have less resilience, and greater apathy. They sometimes become manipulative, reasoning that others are manipulating them, in an attempt to gain control of the external world that provides them with validation.

Internal locus of control shows higher rates of happiness, less stress, and more feelings of being empowered. The opposite perspective is sometimes framed as being faith in that a higher power will controls one’s life, but the two can be merged when seeing that God gave us free will and wants us to use it, to learn and grow, and affect the world in a positive way. We feel better when we attend schoolhouse Earth, rather than being used as God’s pawn, a built in reward system for using our free will.

Internal locus is associated with higher need for achievement, and self motivation. A fixed mindset believes they have natural talents that just occur, an internal locus of control leads to a growth mindset, where you are always looking to improve your talents by working hard, making a plan, and getting input from others. Those with an internal locus have a higher sense that they can impact the world around them, leading to greater satisfaction.

To Nurture an Internal Locus of Control:
1) Define your values and beliefs. When we have regret, that is because we were not acting in our true nature. We can regret missed chances as much as we might regret our own actions, both should be evaluated to help define who we are, and we should act accordingly.
2) Become aware of your choices and accept them. Systematically evaluate your choices. Be aware of what you truly can’t control, and where you may have made better decisions. Ask for help when needed, an outside perspective aids evaluation.
3) Embrace failure, that is how we learn. Those with an external locus of control will avoid situations that may involve failure, those with an internal locus of control will go out and do something they know could result in failure and use the experience to refine their future outcomes. Go ahead and take calculated risks, using your experience as a guide.
4) Accepting the choices we made and failure as a result also leads to accepting when we are responsible for negative outcomes that impact others, apologizing, and striving to do better or rectify the situation however we can.
5) Focus on solutions when you encounter problems. When something bad happens, don’t let it be all you think about. Focus on what you’ve learned from the experience, come up with an actionable plan. Distract yourself if needed, but see what plans you can form when you calm down.
6) Spend time in introspection. Try to truly understand yourself, and your limitations as well as your strengths, what you can rely on and build upon. Build the skills you need. Base your decisions on actionable goals, broken down into achievable steps.

You Have Done Good – Yes, You – I Mean It

We leave fingerprints on people’s lives. I didn’t come up with that. I would say Sierra did, but when I really think about it, she probably didn’t either. Someone said it to her. It affected her. It left a mark. She shared it. The mark stuck on me, as well.

Then there was Chris, the disenchanted waiter. He affected me in the strangest way, completely accidentally. This must have been… 1994? I was a teen. I remember him very clearly, every toss of his hair embodied drama in action. If he didn’t have a fantastic story full of adventures to complain about, he would he sit in our booth (this was Denny’s), light up a cigarette, and loudly complain about his customers at the table nearby, within earshot. He once brought my friend the wrong order, and when he spoke up, Chris said, “Well, the sign does say Denny’s” and walked away. He did not fix the order, ever.

We loved him so much. He got all of our allowances in tips. He lived in the office, and the manager wouldn’t fire him because customers drove across the city to see him, and we would riot if he couldn’t get to work due to a lack of ability to get to work or like, not having a bed and stuff.

Anyway, once upon a dark and dreary long night of the soul, I was feeling fairly forgotten in a city far away from my friends and home, and Chris popped into my head and I laughed. My heart warmed with joy at the antics of that asshat, and I knew I would never forget him until the day I died. Then I realized I had no way to tell him that. Then I realized how shitty his life was at that time. It likely means he took a while to recover, and he probably at times became so close to broken or, well… probably even might have broken and maybe he needed to hear something like some random person far away would never forget him, he would always bring them joy, no matter how many mistakes he made. I was sad I couldn’t tell him.

Then, the weirdest thing happened. I wondered if anyone ever thought that way about me. Grocery cart races popped into my head. And the thing with the prom dresses, the prank with the foaming candy, that time they didn’t tell me a crowd was gathering to hear my spontaneous song. I could go on, and have actually been invited to a few parties because of my ability to do so. I’m just saying, that dark period of my life wasn’t the only period of life that I’ve had, and that night I realized a few things may have happened that probably make me actually a bit rather hard to forget. In the way of good things, with laughter, and song. I’ve probably left fingerprints.

It happens digitally, too. It’s easy to dismiss internet culture as not “real”, even telling people to “touch grass” indicating we need to focus on “what’s real” over “what’s not”, but that’s not really what’s happening, is it? Yes, the internet is manipulating us heavily, in ways that exaggerate or completely misrepresent reality, if we aren’t careful. But also, passing conversations from the days when forums were still popular are still with me. People who were just a picture with a user name of nonsense next to them really were people, they really did give me advice, comfort, laughter, a feeling of community.

We leave fingerprints. We can use that. We might even be able to smudge the world into the shape we want it to be.

I am at a phase of my life where my role is changing. My life was rough, but I had guidance. Yes, therapists. Yes, a few key people who were kind enough to step in and fill a role other adults in my life wouldn’t. Not just them, though. Some people weren’t even talking directly to me. Sometimes I was confused, or lost, and I overheard a conversation somewhere. The journal I started keeping, I got the idea when I realized a couple of those people had a journal on them that they would pull out, something they could rely on when they needed to present a logical argument. News clippings often backed up passages where they wrote down their thoughts, and then they shared those thoughts with people in their community.

Only a handful of those people have come into my life, and I remember them still. I think of them when I see activists online, getting weary. I remember I sent one a personal message letting her know that even though my interactions with her were nothing but likes, her words were being remembered. I’m glad I did that, because soon after she became targeted by unfair harassment, I hope I helped. As I mentioned, I feel my role is changing, like instead of maybe sucking up all that healing they were throwing my way, maybe now I can start doing what I can to turn some of that support outward, because I see a lot of tired people, and when I say things like “I want to show people how to see the world a better way”, I get replies saying it’s just not worth the effort.

I think maybe we as a species need feedback. We are social creatures. But the work of trying to reach out to others, you can’t always see the results right away. You might not personally see the results of what you have done at all. Those results might be kept secret, locked in the memories of people who will carry you with them forever, sometimes without knowing your name. I know this, because I have those secrets. I’ve spoken to people who have those secrets. It happens. It’s a part of human life. Don’t give up. We all leave fingerprints.

A Secular Devotional Journal

I have a tool for navigating today’s turbulent world. I have what I think of as my secular devotional journal, and I know that’s a thing that is out there, but I don’t know what others look like, or how they go about it. But, I did something with mine recently that was really cool, and I wanted to share it, because it made me feel good, and we all need a little hedonism in our lives. I got through to someone (face to face, in the real world), and it felt excellent.

No scandalous details provided, sorry. Not of the event, nor of the trauma involved. Just the method I used to calm down, and explain my position more clearly. I will, however, admit to being the emotional person. I’ve been in years of therapy, starting with childhood, and have a (dusty and relatively unused) BA in psych. I was talking to someone I know is intelligent and compassionate, but not about the same issues as I am. Nor do they have the same approach to conflict.

The journal is the evolution of an attempt to review my skills. I’ve been sitting at home comfortably, and my ability to maintain my chill during difficult conversations has grown slack. My degree is looking like so many wasted dollars, my ability to explain my opinions based on my education has grown fumbly and weak.

The journal starts with a guided meditation (a prayer or calming motivational passage will do, maybe a soothing poem about nature), followed with topics organized like a bullet journal. The topics are notes on subjects such as de-escalation, differing perspectives, logical fallacies, and (most recently) notes on a webinar I attended for standing up to street harassment (of any type). When I am angry and frustrated at the world, I pick up my journal and read the meditation to get my chill, and then review my notes. That way, I know I am more prepared for discussions that make me angry, frustrated, and likely to panic.

I highly recommend this practice. Those notes are what helped me be more confident and calm during a critical discussion recently (combined with breathing and soothing skills). The discussion itself reminded me of things I wanted to make sure I kept in mind. To give you an idea of what goes in my journal, below is my reaction to that discussion, something that I typed up on the computer and revised, and am now about to transcribe into my journal.

Sometimes what we focus on the most makes it seem as if we are speaking different languages, and we may have different approaches to conflict resolution. Some people come from an environment where feelings were respected, and the phrase, “Stop, that hurts my feelings” is met with acknowledgment, and the behavior stops. This is done out of respect for how people have different comfort zones on different issues, this can be difficult to navigate, therefore the rules of acknowledgment remain consistent, giving the encounter predictability.

Sometimes, the request is met with an attempt to calm the feelings by discussing the problem logically. This strategy tries to cool the waters of conflict with logic, to decide the most productive way to look at the situation. The logical person tries to respectfully explain their perspective to aid balance. When they respond to claims of hurt feelings by trying to discuss their perspective and are told to stop the behavior, this is seen as a selfish attempt to control them.

When the rules of acknowledgment are not met, the emotional person might see it as disrespect, and the attempt at explaining their perspective as telling them that they did not have the right to have their emotion. When they try to explain why their comfort zone has been violated, this is met with being told they are not being logical, even if the emotion stems from a traumatic experience. They feel they feel they are being shamed for having a normal human reaction to events beyond their control. They can become even more hurt and flustered by this, and when their arguments devolve, it is interpreted as an attempt at emotional manipulation. In the environment the emotional person comes from, a mutual immediate respect for emotion allows them to back off and calm down, before discussing things in a more respectful way. If there is lingering trauma, these rules give a person a safe space to react, and regain control, and this becomes valued highly.

To the person from a background that respects logic over emotion, this can represent a power struggle, and emotional immaturity. After all, a breath of fresh air can clear the mind. Many have been through trauma themselves, and their coping skills work just fine. When they tell the emotional person that they need to just let the bad feelings go, or try to offer their motivations to give perspective, those from an emotionally respectful background can become enraged, as the rules of engagement have been broken, their stability is threatened. Those taught to respect emotion are also taught logic, but they are taught to navigate stress and biases differently, and the rules that provide them with stability are ignored, while the other person insults their approach.

It becomes worse when both are compassionate people. The emotional person might become frustrated with what they see as part of a cycle of abuse, feeling they are being told they don’t have a right to feel an emotion or react to stress, and this is part of how manipulative people in their lives have gained control over them. They want to reach out to the logical people and explain what they feel is basic empathy. They want to teach them about how to maintain safe emotional space, and how good it can feel, and they are met with criticism.

The logical person with compassion might want the emotional person to learn how to control their emotions, and feel if they tried harder, they would not need to try to control others around them. They might see discussion of chemical imbalances or psychological distress as signs of a weakness that needs to be combated with better emotional regulation and control. It’s very possible, though, that the person from a supportive emotional environment came to that environment as part of their experience with therapy and their attempts to heal, they might not be at a part of their journey where they are ready to easily dismiss the stress, or there could be a real physiological reason for their emotions, and criticism of their emotional control is seen as an attempt to shame them into feeling worse, until they behave to try to meet approval of someone whose ideals they don’t agree with. They feel giving in would be weakness or a lack of self respect, and they end up in a true power struggle, thus confirming the logical person’s belief that the request for emotional space was an attempt at control all along.