[Habits of Confusion] 3. Ignoring Intuition

I once had a workmate whom the other coworkers regarded as strange. Not the kind of strange that you want to keep away from, but the kind of strange that is like daydreaming, partly immersed in his own reality, not caring too much to explain himself to the world. Like Luna Lovegood from Harry Potter. The guys were telling me that one time he was staring out the window for like 10 minutes and they were laughing about it, not so much in a mean way, but more like in a curious and endearing sort of way. I was both amused and intrigued by it. I think perhaps I would be that kind of strange too, if I weren’t so self conscious. But this made me think… what if some people are able to receive other types of information than those that are delivered by the 5 senses? What if they can access something else, which makes them behave in ways that appear to be irrational? What if there is another type of logic guiding their actions, which can seem random and meaningless to those that are not familiar with it? And what if many of us receive it too, but we don’t act upon it because we need evidence that it is worthy of being considered?

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I believe that most of us have this capacity for sensing things that are outside of the 5 senses. This can manifest as a good or bad feeling about something, as an internal resistance or as a feeling of anxiety, giving us information that is not logical, but that still impacts us.

Part of it relates to the subconscious. The brain does much more than we are aware of, it organizes our experiences and makes all sorts of connections and associations that we may not be consciously aware of. Then, when it encounters things that remind it of those associations, it can bring forth the same feelings that were elicited by the initial experience. For instance, say we had a bad break up in a restaurant where an obscure song was playing at the time. After a while we may hear the same song without realizing we’ve heard it before and start feeling sad or angry because of the connection our brain makes with the unpleasant past experience. Or even more, say we’ve been fooled by someone to get into a bad deal which made us lose money. Later on we may meet someone that we are cautious about or that we dislike instantly without knowing why. Perhaps this person has some of those same traits as the person that tricked us and our subconscious is able to recognize them without us being consciously aware of it. Ignoring these feelings because they seem irrational can lead us to repeat past mistakes.

The second more important part relates to intuition. Everything looks nice and perfect yet something about it feels off. The conditions are great, it has everything you want and need and yet you can’t help feeling that something is wrong. Intuition is the ability to feel the truth of a situation without a factual basis for supporting that impression. It does not originate from thinking, though it can manifest as thought and it appears to be irrational. It is like an intervention in what appears to be the logical and predictable course of events. Intuition is a fragment of knowledge delivered to you as an impression or as a feeling. Sometimes it can manifest as a mental image, as a song that suddenly pops in your head or as a line from a movie that seems to be relevant to your situation. Of course, there are all sorts of influences we are subjected to and it takes a lot of discernment to distinguish between true intuition and conditioned responses, but through experience and a commitment to self-observation and reflection, we can learn to differentiate between the two.

This learning may come through difficult experiences, where we explore through trial and error the way our intuition works. It is true that some people are more attuned to their inner guidance and they are able to flow with the necessities of each moment, but usually in the beginning we may strongly feel the pull of our conditioned behaviors preventing us from connecting with our intuition. Our minds may go crazy with overthinking things, trying to gain control, trying to analyze all aspects of the situation and attempting to remove all uncertainties from the equation. We may confuse ourselves with projecting into the future, worrying about the consequences of our actions and fearing to listen to that inner voice because of how it might impact those around us. And we do this because we don’t want to act in irrational ways, we want to be able to justify our behaviors, we want to be able to put forward the facts and we are afraid to count on our subtle impressions to make important decisions.

Depending on the importance of each decision, our intuition can be strong, or it can be subtle. Whereas subtle intuition can be easier to miss, strong intuition can be pretty blatant. For me it can manifests as pain or unpleasant sensations in my solar plexus, a feeling that something bad is going to happen, an unwillingness to move forward with that decision, crying, feeling like I’m forcing myself to do something I don’t want to, mechanical preparations for that decision that I know I don’t want to do, numbness and depression and a weakening of my immune system, getting sick. Of course, this is an intuition for negative potentials, but intuition can also manifest on the positive side. It manifests in quite the opposite way, it can make you feel excited and joyful, it can fill you up with good emotions and it just feels right. When you act on the positive intuition you feel relieved, determined and clearheaded as opposed to acting on the intuition of a negative potential where you feel unsettled and confused.

“I found that going against heart/intuition and then doing something out of obligation despite screaming on the inside, that can have damaging effects on one’s spirit or spiritual connection, similar to throwing a car in reverse while going forward can damage the transmission.”

– Tom Montalk

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Caroline Myss wrote in her amazing book Anatomy of the Spirit about how we can develop what is called a symbolic sight in relation to the world around us. This means that the external world is regarded as a reflection of the internal world, and so we can develop the ability to read the symbols of our daily existence and derive meaning from them, which can help us understand ourselves better. The symbols may take literal forms like that one time I saw an image in a Facebook post with a sign that said WRONG WAY as I was contemplating doing something stupid, more specifically going somewhere. Other times it may take the form of a song that pops in your head, like when Billie Joel’s Vienna kept playing in my mind with the lyrics “slow down, you crazy child, you’re too ambitious for a juvenile” when I was desperate about finding a way out of a situation that I felt afraid to be in. The guidance is not meant to tell you what to do, it is meant to make you reflect on what you are doing and question your reasons so that you may develop a wider perspective on what is happening and make better decisions that don’t stem from fear.

Not all guidance, however, is of a positive nature and this is where we need to train our discernment. We may find that the miracle solution to our problems that seemed too good to be true wasn’t that miraculous after all and that it created other bigger problems. Or we may find ourselves feeling discouraged from pursuing a course of action that would be beneficial because someone said something that seemed tailor made for our fears. In his brilliant article Battle of Opposites, Tom Montalk of montalk.net reflected upon how we can discern between positive and negative influences. In it he divided the various types of influences we can receive into 8 categories, based on where the influence originates from (internal or external), the nature or polarity of the influence (positive or negative) and the response it can elicit from us (resistance or encouragement). These categories help differentiate between the signs of true intuition and positive guidance which appeal to our higher nature and those of  misguiding forces which appeal to our lower nature. I thoroughly recommend reading it. You can find it here.

Intuition asks you to have faith and not seek answers too soon. The answers come after you make the decision. What you can do is reflect upon your motivations, intentions and aspirations, seeing whether they stem from conditioned responses or genuine interest. If you are too adamant to act only on the basis of logical deductions, while at the same time ignoring the way you feel, the unsettling feelings will persist. Intuition is linked to the things you want and need at a deeper level and it can contradict that which you believe you should do. It stands solemnly as the truth that you avoid to see because you confuse yourself too much with ideas of duty, acts of desperation, misguided impressions of what the right thing to do is and feelings of guilt and shame. It confronts you with the reasons for which you act the way you do, it compels you to question yourself and understand yourself better and it encourages you to trust the way you feel as opposed to the way you think should feel.

I strongly believe that ignoring intuition clouds the judgement and disconnects us from our needs and wants, from our sense of self. I believe that confusion primarily arises from this state of disconnection. Our intuitive guidance exerts a pull that we can attune to and it is always guiding us towards a fuller expression of who we are if we only let go of our need to be in control of how the process unfolds.

[Habits of Confusion] 2. Clutter

Back when I worked as a programmer my favorite tasks involved cleaning up code. I liked removing redundancies, organizing functions for better accessibility and simplifying things for better clarity. I think this preference of mine originated from my need for being more organized in real life.

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While being messy can be a sign of a creative mind, it can also be a cause for anxiety, confusion and lack of inspiration. After all, the environment we live in is a reflection of who we are, influencing us as much as we influence it. Our inner state manifests in the way we live and its effects become causes for our state of mind and being. Our habits therefore, tend to create feedback loops of experience and the environments we live in become like extensions of who we are, reflecting back to us our personalities, emotional states and habits of thinking. Living in an environment that is nurturing, safe, clean, bright and organized can help improve our state of being because when the environment is not a distraction, then we have the external conditions for being able to think clearly.

I have often felt after difficult experiences the need to clean my room. I didn’t question this need, I just knew that I had to put everything in order, I needed to put myself together and I had to start somewhere. Cleaning your room is the easiest and quickest form of improving yourself, because it’s a clear, practical thing you can do. You want to clean up, because you want to be able to think clearly, you want to be able to see how things really are and from that space, you want to be able to make better decisions.

But we don’t always know how to clean up and organize, how to remove clutter and improve our homes. I have tried numerous times to find the best way to set up my environment so that I would enjoy it, yet it always seemed to end up messy and disorganized, which made me feel really anxious. It got so bad, that I had to remove a piece of furniture from my room, and ended up creating clutter in another room. I just couldn’t bear it in there any longer.

Just about the time this was happening, the Universe brought to my attention the book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. In it I found the answers to why I couldn’t keep my environment clean and organized. And it has helped me tremendously, not only in cleaning up, but also in understanding myself better.

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Marie Kondo created a cleaning up method called KonMari that has had great success in not only creating order in the environments it is applied, but also maintaining order indefinitely. There are two main rules that need to be followed:

  1. Keep only those objects that give you joy
  2. Have a designated place for every object you have

This is all you need to keep your place as organized as you want it, because if you only have objects that give you joy, then you will feel good in your environment and if you have a place for each and every object, then you know where to put it back after you use it. The most common reason for untidiness, after all, is misplacing objects.

Moreover, the KonMari method provides a great way to declutter and to organize objects too. It says that the best way to declutter is by category. First you start with books, then with clothes, then papers, then miscellaneous objects, and finally objects to which you have an emotional attachment. The way you go about it is to collect all objects in the same category on the floor and go through each of them, touching them and asking yourself if they really bring you joy, keeping only those for which the answer is yes. Then, you thank the objects that you want to give away or throw out for having served you, and then you release them.

When you are done decluttering, all that remains is for you to find a place for each and every object and the best way to do it is again by category. After you do this you will feel much better, as you will be surrounded only by objects that bring you joy and you will know where each object goes, so that your environment doesn’t end up in chaos anymore.

One very important thing I started noticing when I decluttered was that many books I had bought I didn’t buy for good reasons, many clothes I had I didn’t like to wear and many things I had, I never used. For instance, some books I had bought because I liked someone who was interested in those topics. Others I had bought because I was too ambitious about learning things that I wasn’t that interested in. And others no longer represented me. The same with clothes, some I had bought from second hand and I realized I just didn’t like to wear second hand clothes because I am sensitive to other people’s energy, other clothes I had bought because I had created a false image about myself and they didn’t really suit me. And others were just colorful and I like color, but they were too flashy to be worn.

I realized that more than half the things I owned I no longer identified with. The biggest realization I had was that I didn’t really like music production. I liked the outcome of it, psybient music, but I didn’t like the process of creating it. I got angry and frustrated when I tried making music and I just didn’t find peace or joy doing it. I had bought a Korg Minilogue synthesizer, understood its functions, connected it with my computer, and just when I got to the first bigger obstacle, I realized I didn’t really like to do it. I had spent a lot of 2018 learning about music production, bought an audio interface and a professioal microphone, took lessons on Udemy on piano and music production, bought a Korg Volca Beats drum machine and a Yamaha Reface CS that I sold because I felt I was limited by them, bought the Korg Minilogue, only to find after almost a year, that I didn’t really enjoy it that much.

That is the power of cleaning up and decluttering. You start seeing the ways in which you have fooled yourself about your identity. You start to understand what you really like and dislike, who you are and what you want to appear like to the outside world. You start to see yourself clearer and it puts you in touch with your wants and needs. Thus, decluttering really helps to relieve the state of confusion you may find yourself in. It creates the space needed for self-observation. That’s why that Jordan Peterson meme about cleaning your room is so powerful. You need to sort yourself out before you can impact the world in a meaningful manner that is based on true understanding.

When you create this space you may start seeing the things in your life that are good or bad for you. You may find the cause of your anxiety, you may realize that certain activities don’t bring you joy, that certain things no longer work for you anymore or that you are no longer willing to accept certain behaviors in other people. What starts out as minor decisions on your home environment, can turn into radical changes in your life.

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There is also an esoteric perspective on cleaning up. Clutter and uncleanliness is a magnet for negative energies. I experienced this first hand. When I decluttered I didn’t want to throw things away because I had a lot of books and clothes in new condition that I could sell or give away. So I put them in bags and deposited them in another room. There were like 8 to 10 bags of stuff. Then, after a while, when I decided to sell them on the Romanian equivalent of ebay, I had to unpack them and that is when I started feeling sick, like needing to purge. It’s as if I had bothered the stale energies that had settled there and they started to run amok.

Light is also very important for your state of mind, not only from a biological and psychological perspective, but also from a spiritual perspective. The Sun is after all the life giver and it heals the aura. We need natural sunlight for our well-being and a room that is well lit really helps improve your state.

Fresh air is another thing that helps with anxiety. During a time when I had trouble sleeping, I would leave the window open over the night. The air needs to be renewed and even 5 minutes of fresh air/day can improve the quality of your experience at home.

Lastly, I will leave you with a fragment of a lecture by Jordan Peterson that perfectly illustrates the idea that the environments we live in are an extension of who we are.

“Jung said first of all you unite your mind with your emotions so that makes one thing instead of two fighting things. That’s a good one! And then the next conjunction he talked about was that it isn’t enough to unite your mind and your emotions and he thought about that as a male-female pairing symbolically. That’s how it would manifest itself sometimes in dreams. So you take the masculine element and the feminine element, the thinking and the emotion, unite those and that makes you more like one thing. Ok, now all of a sudden that’s represented as symbolically male, that one thing. And it unites with something else that is now represented symbolically female, that’s the body. So you take the mind-emotion integration and integrate that with your body. So what does that mean? You act it out instead of just thinking!

So there’s this philosophical idea called a… now I’m gonna forget what it’s called, it’s a contradiction in action, there’s actually a technical term for it but that’s when you think and believe something but you don’t act it out. And so that means there’s a dissociation in you somehow between your abstract representations and what you manifest in action. Well, that’s another form of discontinuity that isn’t doing you any good! You know, the driver’s going one way and the car is going the other and you won’t even be able to understand yourself if you do that. But even more, you’re not putting your principles into practice so your being is dissociated. So once you get your mind and your emotions working together, then the next thing to do is to act that out consistently. So that was the second conjunction as far as Jung was concerned.

And then the third one was – this is the tough one and this is the one that is related to phenomenology – you erase the distinction between yourself and the world. That’s a tough one. So imagine you’re dealing with someone who is hoarding. People who are hoarding are often older or neurologically damaged or they have obsessive compulsive disorder. But then you walk into their house and there’s like 10000 things into their house. There’s maybe 100 boxes and you open up a box and in the box there’s some pens and some old passports and some checks and their collection of silver dollars and some hypodermic needles and some dust and you know, a dead mouse. And there’s boxes and boxes and boxes, it’s like that in the house, it’s absolute chaos in there, absolute chaos, not order. Chaos! And then you think ‘is that their house, or is that their being, is that their mind?’ and the answer is there’s no difference. There’s no difference! So you know, I can say if you want to organize your psyche you could start by organizing your room, if that would be easier, because maybe you’re more a concrete person and you need something concrete to do. So you go clean up under your bed and you make your bed and you organize the papers on your desk and you think well, just exactly what are you organizing? Are you organizing the objective world or are you organizing your field of being like your field of total experience? And Jung believed – and I think there’s a Buddhist doctrine that’s sort of nested in there – that at the highest level of psychological integration there’s no difference between you and what you experience.

Now you think, well, I can’t control everything I experience but that’s no objection because you can’t control yourself anyway, so the mere fact that you can’t extend control over everything you experience is no argument against the idea that you should still treat that as an extension of yourself. So let’s say you have a long standing feud with your brother. Well, is that a psychological problem, is that him, is it a problem in the objective world or is that a problem in your field of being? And it’s very useful to think that way because you might ask what could you do to improve yourself? Well, let’s step one step backwards. The first question might be ‘why should you even bother improving yourself?’ and I think the answer to that is that so you don’t suffer any more stupidly than you have to and maybe so others don’t have to either. It’s something like that. There’s a real injunction at the bottom of it, it’s not some casual self-help doctrine.”

More here:

 

The Four Temperaments

This article is a collection of quotes by Rudolf Steiner, offering a spiritual/esoteric perspective on the Four Temperaments: the sanguine, the choleric, the phlegmatic and the melancholic.

The Sanguine

“In the nervous system and astral body, sensations and feelings constantly fluctuate. Any harmony or order results solely from the restraining influence of the ego. People who do not exercise that influence appear to have no control over their thoughts and sensations. They are totally absorbed by the sensations, pictures, and ideas that ebb and flow within them. Something like this occurs whenever the astral body predominates, as, for example, in the sanguine. Sanguines surrender themselves in a certain sense to the constant and varied flow of images, sensations, and ideas since in them the astral body and nervous system predominate.

The nervous system’s activity is restrained only by the circulation of the blood. That this is so becomes clear when we consider what happens when a person lacks blood or is anaemic, in other words, when the blood’s restraining influence is absent. Mental images fluctuate wildly, often leading to illusions and hallucinations.

A touch of this is present in sanguines. Sanguines are incapable of lingering over an impression. They cannot fix their attention on a particular image nor sustain their interest in an impression. Instead, they rush from experience to experience, from percept to percept. This is especially noticeable in sanguine children, where it can be a source of concern. The sanguine child’s interest is easily kindled, a picture will easily impress, but the impression quickly vanishes.”

“In the sanguine the nervous system and astral body predominate. The astral body’s inner liveliness animates the other members, and makes the external form as mobile as possible. Whereas the choleric has sharply chiseled facial features, the sanguine’s are mobile, expressive, changeable. We see the astral body’s inner liveliness manifested in every outer detail, for example, in a slender form, a delicate bone structure, or lean muscles. The same thing can be observed in details of behavior. Even a non-clairvoyant can tell from behind whether someone is a choleric or a sanguine; one does not need to be a spiritual scientist for that. If you observe the gait of a choleric, you will notice that he plants each foot so solidly that he would seem to want to bore down into the ground. By contrast, the sanguine has a light, springy step. Even subtler external traits can be found. The inwardness of the ego, the choleric’s self-contained inwardness, express themselves in eyes that are dark and smoldering. The sanguine, whose ego has not taken such deep root, who is filled with the liveliness of his astral body, tends by contrast to have blue eyes. Many more such distinctive traits of these temperaments could be cited.”

“If a child has a sanguine temperament, he will not be helped if his elders try to flog interest into him. His temperament simply will not allow it. Instead of asking what the child lacks, in order that we might beat it into him, we must focus on what he has, and base ourselves on that. And as a rule, there is one thing we can always stimulate the sanguine child’s interest in. However flighty the child might be, we can always stimulate his interest in a particular personality. If we ourselves are that personality, or if we bring the child together with someone who is, the child cannot but develop an interest. Only through the medium of love for a personality can the interest of the sanguine child be awakened. More than children of any other temperament, the sanguine needs someone to admire. Admiration is here a kind of magic word, and we must do everything we can to awaken it.

We must reckon with what we have. We should see to it that the sanguine child is exposed to a variety of things in which he has shown a deeper interest. These things should be allowed to speak to him, to have an effect upon him. They should then be withdrawn, so that the child’s interest in them will intensify; then they may be restored. In other words, we must fashion the sanguine’s environment so that it is in keeping with his temperament.”

“From the examples of these pedagogical principles, we see how spiritual science can address practical problems. These principles can also be applied to oneself, for purposes of self-improvement. For example, a sanguine gains little by reproaching himself for his temperament. Our minds are in such questions frequently an obstacle. When pitted directly against stronger forces such as the temperaments, they can accomplish little. Indirectly, however, they can accomplish much. The sanguine, for example, can take his sanguinity into account, abandoning self-exhortation as fruitless. The important thing is to display sanguinity under the right circumstances. Experiences suited to his short attention span can be brought about through thoughtful planning. Using thought in this way, even on the smallest scale, will produce the requisite effect.”

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The Choleric

“In the choleric, the ego and the blood system predominate. The choleric thus comes across as someone who must always have his way. His aggressiveness, everything connected with his forcefulness of will, derives from his blood circulation.”

“People in whom the ego predominates seek to triumph over all obstacles, to make their presence known. Accordingly their ego stunts the growth of the other members; it withholds from the astral and etheric bodies their due portion. This reveals itself outwardly in a very clear fashion. Johann Gottlieb Fichte, that famous German choleric, was recognizable as such purely externally. His build revealed clearly that the lower essential members had been held back in their growth. Napoleon, another classic example of the choleric, was so short because his ego had held the other members back. Of course, one cannot generalize that all cholerics are short and all sanguines tall. It is a question of proportion. What matters is the relation of size to overall form.”

“The choleric child is also susceptible of being led in a special way. The key to his education is respect and esteem for a natural authority. Instead of winning affection by means of personal qualities, as one does with the sanguine child, one should see to it that the child’s belief in his teacher’s ability remains unshaken. The teacher must demonstrate an understanding of what goes on around the child. Any showing of incompetence should be avoided. The child must persist in the belief that his teacher is competent, or all authority will be lost. The magic potion for the choleric child is respect and esteem for a person’s worth, just as for the sanguine child it was love for a personality. Outwardly, the choleric child must be confronted with challenging situations. He must encounter resistance and difficulty, lest his life become too easy.”

“Persons of a choleric temperament should purposely put themselves in situations where rage is of no use, but rather only makes them look ridiculous.”

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The Phlegmatic

“We proceed now to the phlegmatic temperament. We observed that this temperament develops when the etheric or life-body, as we call it, which regulates growth and metabolism, is predominant. The result is a sense of inner well-being. The more a human being lives in his etheric body, the more is he preoccupied with his internal processes. He lets external events run their course while his attention is directed inward.”

“The phlegmatic temperament manifests itself in a static, indifferent physiognomy, as well as in plumpness, for fat is due largely to the activity of the etheric body. In all this the phlegmatic’s inner sense of comfort is expressed. His gait is loose-jointed and shambling, and his manner timid. He seems somehow to be not entirely in touch with his surroundings.”

“The phlegmatic child should not be allowed to grow up alone. Although naturally all children should have play-mates, for phlegmatics it is especially important that they have them. Their playmates should have the most varied interests. Phlegmatic children learn by sharing in the interests, the more numerous the better, of others. Their playmates’ enthusiasms will overcome their native indifference towards the world. Whereas the important thing for the melancholic is to experience another person’s fate, for the phlegmatic child it is to experience the whole range of his playmates’ interests. The phlegmatic is not moved by things as such, but an interest arises when he sees things reflected in others, and these interests are then reflected in the soul of the phlegmatic child. We should bring into the phlegmatic’s environment objects and events toward which “phlegm” is an appropriate reaction. Impassivity must be directed toward the right objects, objects toward which one may be phlegmatic.”

“If we are phlegmatics, having no particular interests, then we should occupy ourselves as much as possible with uninteresting things, surround ourselves with numerous sources of tedium, so that we become thoroughly bored. We will then be thoroughly cured of our “phlegm;” we will have gotten it out of our system. Thus does one reckon with what one has, and not with what one does not have.”

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The Melancholic

“In the melancholic we have seen that the physical body, the coarsest member of the human organization, becomes master over the others. As a result, the melancholic feels he is not master over his body, that he cannot bend it to his will. His physical body, which is intended to be an instrument of the higher members, is itself in control, and frustrates the others. This the melancholic experiences as pain, as a feeling of despondency. Pain continually wells up within him. This is because his physical body resists his etheric body’s inner sense of well-being, his astral body’s liveliness, and his ego’s purposeful striving.”

“The melancholic is distinguished by a hanging head, as if he lacked the strength necessary to straighten his neck. His eyes are dull, not shining like the choleric’s; his gait is firm, but in a leaden rather than a resolute sort of way.”

“The melancholic child is not easy to lead. With him, however, a different magic formula may be applied. For the sanguine child this formula was love for a personality; for the choleric, it was respect and esteem for a teacher’s worth. By contrast, the important thing for the melancholic is for his teachers to be people who have in a certain sense been tried by life, who act and speak on the basis of past trials. The child must feel that the teacher has known real pain. Let your treatment of all of life’s little details be an occasion for the child to appreciate what you have suffered. Sympathy with the fates of those around him furthers the melancholic’s development. Here too one must reckon with what the child has. The melancholic has a capacity for suffering, for discomfort, which is firmly rooted in his being; it cannot be disciplined out of him. However, it can be redirected. We should expose the child to legitimate external pain and suffering, so that he learns there are things other than himself that can engage his capacity for experiencing pain. This is the essential thing. We should not try to divert or amuse the melancholic, for to do so only intensifies his despondency and inner suffering; instead, he must be made to see that objective occasions for suffering exist in life. Although we mustn’t carry it too far, redirecting the child’s suffering to outside objects is what is called for.”

“Melancholics should not close their eyes to life’s pain, but rather seek it out; through compassion they redirect their suffering outward toward appropriate objects and events.”

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[Habits of Confusion] 1. Mismanaged High Openness

Being someone who’s been struggling with making decisions to the point of anxiety (I call it decision anxiety), I started becoming familiar with the mechanics of it. I learned that it relates to a feeling of powerlessness and to a desire to always know what the right decision is but I have also come to believe that the most important cause of this kind of anxiety is confusion. And so, I decided to put together a list of habits that create confusion in hope that they may be more easily identified when they occur and thus, easier to fix.

So here is the first habit:

Mismanaged High Openness

Openness is one of the 5 personality traits (Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism) from the Big Five personality theory. People who score high on openness are creative, curious, imaginative, explorative and inventive which is why they are very often involved in artistic pursuits. Those who score very high on openness, though, may run the risk of becoming unfocused, interested in too many things, getting distracted by novelty or experimenting with a variety of things, which can be a cause for instability.

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I don’t recall if I scored 100% on openness, but it was definitely more than 98% which both surprised me and didn’t. It surprised me because I didn’t think I was that easily swayed by various interests and it didn’t surprise me because I already viewed myself as a creative person.

I didn’t know this could be a problem, but this new knowledge made me think of the various ways in which I had overwhelmed myself with information to the point where I couldn’t dedicate myself to any pursuit, because my attention would be drawn by something else every time.

As an example, I signed up to so many courses on Udemy and Coursera: Music Production, Propaganda, Hypnosis, NLP, Programming, Piano Lessons, Music Theory, QiGong, Guitar, Social Psychology, Photoshop, Astronomy, History, etc. and I lost interest in many of them halfway. Most of them I have purchased, yet I didn’t even start them.

I have been interested in too many things for my own good. And since I have quit my job, I have been feeling a bit purposeless and confused about what I am doing, about what I want, what I like and where I am going. I have been acting like a kid distracted by shiny objects and it hasn’t been very fun.

After I wrote this article, I was reading The Four Temperaments by Rudolf Steiner, and the following quote really made an impression on me:

“In the nervous system and astral body, sensations and feelings constantly fluctuate. Any harmony or order results solely from the restraining influence of the ego. People who do not exercise that influence appear to have no control over their thoughts and sensations. They are totally absorbed by the sensations, pictures, and ideas that ebb and flow within them. Something like this occurs whenever the astral body predominates, as, for example, in the sanguine. Sanguines surrender themselves in a certain sense to the constant and varied flow of images, sensations, and ideas since in them the astral body and nervous system predominate.

The nervous system’s activity is restrained only by the circulation of the blood. That this is so becomes clear when we consider what happens when a person lacks blood or is anaemic, in other words, when the blood’s restraining influence is absent. Mental images fluctuate wildly, often leading to illusions and hallucinations.

A touch of this is present in sanguines. Sanguines are incapable of lingering over an impression. They cannot fix their attention on a particular image nor sustain their interest in an impression. Instead, they rush from experience to experience, from percept to percept. This is especially noticeable in sanguine children, where it can be a source of concern. The sanguine child’s interest is easily kindled, a picture will easily impress, but the impression quickly vanishes.”

~ Rudolf Steiner – The Four Temperaments

It made me realize that there is a correlation between the sanguine temperament and high openness and that I need to become more focused and more restrained in my explorations. Also, I find it interesting that Rudolf Steiner mentions anemia, because I also have iron-deficiency anemia.

So if you are high on openness like me, I think it helps to become a bit more organized. Set goals, short and long term. Make lists. Narrow down your interests to what you really love to do, to what you are really interested in. You’ll be able to identify it by the level of satisfaction or joy it gives you. For me that was figuring out tools of media manipulation for a while and developing my critical thinking. Another thing I am always interested in is shadow work, understanding my conditioned behavior, reflecting on it and writing about it too. I think I would have loved to do something like what PewDiePie does because I feel I have the same kind of craziness within, except I don’t manifest it very often. 

I think that people who are high on openness don’t like committing to things, but if you love to do something, you need to grow that something. And commitment is the tool by which you achieve it. It’s not something that restricts you, it is what channels your creative power, which would otherwise squander among your short lived interests.

 

What would be your one question?

The world needs people. The world needs you.
by Dr. Jacob Needleman

“Here’s an anecdote that I think is suitable for introducing what I want to say to you as you graduate from high school today. At the one and only time in my life in which I had the opportunity to teach a course in philosophy at high school level, my first step was to ask the class (and I ask all of you, too): Suppose you were in front of someone whom you regarded as the wisest person in the world and, as though it were in a fairy tale, you could ask one question and one question only. What would it be?

I think it is enormously important to take this seriously—in front of a person of great wisdom, what would be your one question? If we take a moment or two to ponder that, you will find it is not so easy. The fact that it is not so easy is already a sign of something that is rather important.

At first these students, like most of us, found it very difficult. But then, after a couple of minutes of reflection, they wrote their questions on pieces of paper and handed them in. What came back was very striking. It was a small class of about twelve students. And the questions that were written, all of them, were the great questions of the heart the great questions that are asked from deep inside ourselves, from the part of ourselves where there is the source of inner freedom. These questions are the questions that come out of the essence of human nature, the real depths of human nature, the part of ourselves that modem science and technology have not really understood or honored yet, and which has been somewhat lost in our culture. Questions like: Who am I? Does God exist? Do we have a soul? Is it immortal? What is good? What is evil? Why do we suffer? What can we hope for? How should we live? These are the great unanswered questions, or unanswerable questions if you like, which define us as human beings. They come from that part of ourselves that is the beginning of freedom.

What I am trying to say today, what I want to propose to you today, is that this deep part of human nature, this deep part of ourselves, we might think of as the place where we find the answers to what our life is about. Surely in the long run that is probably and almost certainly true—that is where the answers will be found.

But I’m proposing to you today that you look not for answers but for questions. It’s the question that we need to find. It’s the place where the deep questioning arises—this tender, essential, human power to step back in oneself and step back from all of one’s urges, one’s anxieties, one’s cravings, one’s passing wishes, one’s fears, one’s maybe foolish hopes, one’s agitations, one’s chaos—to step back from that and not only to have a question but to be in question, to be a question. It is there that the freedom appears, and this freedom is intimately connected with this sense of the universe, of the greatness of human nature. The great self within, that you’ve probably heard a lot about, that all of the great ancient teachings speak about, the great truth within ourselves I am proposing to you, as a philosopher, begins in the form of a question, not of an answer. You will see that the mind is free only when it starts to question. We don’t suffer from our questions in life, we suffer from our answers, and that is what as philosophers we can bring to this whole life we live, and where we are asked to contribute something to the world.

Now these young people, the high school class; half of them wrote their questions in tiny little letters at the bottom of the page and at the margins of the page and they left the whole space of the page blank, and I couldn’t figure out why. Why were they writing these wonderful questions that were so much of the heart—questions like; What is the mind? What is it for? Why do we live? Why do we die?—in tiny little letters down at the bottom of the page or in the margins, as though I was looking at a blank page? I realized that, unlike the Waldorf School but very like what is going on in so much of our culture, they were afraid to ask these questions. They were afraid they would not be honored. It was as though there was a kind of metaphysical or philosophical repression in the whole culture, a repression of this impulse within the self, this impulse of deep inner wonder and questioning. Plato, as you al have probably heard, has called this Eros, which is a word that we have not understood fully. The deepest meaning of it for Plato was the impulse of love, of understanding, the wish to contact reality—the big reality—to participate in it, to serve it. Eros—this love of wisdom, this love of truth, this wish to know and to understand and to serve what is great. For Plato, and for many of the great spiritual teachers of the world, this is the essential defining quality that makes us fully human, much more essential to our humanness than all the other intellectual/biological elements which we tend to identify ourselves with. When that energy, that striving, is covered over or suppressed, it is a far greater danger to our lives, our own personal self and the life of our society and community than any other kind of repression. Repression of sexuality is very harmful, repression of many other things is very harmful, but nothing is more dangerous to human life than to suppress the essence of human nature, which is the desire to understand and serve something in ourselves that is bigger and higher and greater than ourselves. This appears in the form of a questioning—it first makes itself known in the form of a questioning.

Look up at the stars on a clear dark night away from the city, and the sense of wonder appears. This is a form of questioning, because in a state of wonder you are asking; Who am I in this great universe? What must I do? It’s not an anxiety; it’s a sense of a holding, almost a sacred sense of desire, wish, lack, and a quiet and deep and sacred sense of what my purpose may be, not so much to find the answers but to live the questions. There’s a great German poet— Rilke—and there’s a poem by Rilke which I would like to read to you because it expresses something of what I am trying to say. It has to do with the scale, the measure, of what we undertake in our lives, what our essential wish is. If we find our wish, if we find our real essential question, this gives us a meaning far greater than the answers, because the great question is a discovery of a deep, hidden part of ourselves.

I have given many classes in philosophy at the University, and of late most of my students, like most students everywhere now, are very angry, very troubled, with America. When they begin to go into the depths of the ideas of a great American philosopher like Emerson, it’s not that they change their political and social views, but their anger is no longer paramount. If you ask them what Emerson or the great philosophers have meant to them, they say these thinkers brought them hope. What is the hope that brings ideas that lead to the great questions of life? It is hope not because of the answers, not because of the contents of what is spoken. It’s a hope that appears because men and women have come in touch with the part of themselves that has been covered over throughout their lives. It’s not that one gives up any of one’s pleasures, or any of one’s interests, or any of one’s obligations in ordinary everyday life. It’s just that this part suddenly begins to come forward, and it’s that part which one intuitively feels will bring meaning to one’s life, because a human being lives and dies not by pleasure and pain or success or failure but by meaning. So the fundamental question is a question of what brings us meaning. This is a poem by Rilke that may throw a certain light on this. It is called “The Man Watching.”

I can tell by the way the trees beat, after

so many dull days, on my worried window panes

that a storm is coming,

and I hear the far-off fields say things

I can’t bear without a friend,

I can’t love without a sister.

The storm, the shifter of shapes, drives on

across the woods and across time,

and the world looks as if it had no age:

the landscape, like a line in the psalm book,

is seriousness and weight and eternity.

What we choose to fight is so tiny!

What fights us is so great!

as things do by some immense storm,

we would become strong too, and not need names.

(And here’s the point of his poem:)

When we win it’s with small things,

and the triumph itself makes us small.

What is extraordinary and eternal

does not want to be bent by us.

I mean the Angel who appeared

to the wrestlers of the Old Testament:

when the wrestler’s sinews

grew long like metal strings,

he felt them under his fingers

like chords of deep music.

Whoever was beaten by this Angel

(who often simply declined the fight)

went away proud and strengthened

and great from that harsh hand

that kneaded him as if to change his shape.

Winning does not tempt that man.

This is how he grows: by being defeated, decisively,

by constantly greater beings.

It is the question that we’re searching for—that wants to come forward, that we need to wrestle with, this Angel within—that we need to be humbled by, because it is in the defeat of the ordinary personality, its dominance, that the question opens up and one becomes receptive. So all I wish to say today is: search for your question—the question, if it’s lived, of who you are, what we must do, how I must relate to what is greater than myself in order to serve others in universe.  When that question is felt with your mind and your heart and your body, the question becomes the answer.  What the world needs, the hope, comes not from new ideas or new techniques or new ideologies or new programs or new politics or new books.  The hope comes from people.  New people.  All I ask is that you consider what you wish to become as fully human people, for that’s where the hope of the world is.Thank you.“

– Dr. Jacob Needleman