Thursday, February 29, 2024

The Algorithm of Relaxation and How Being Yourself Is Your Best Version and Option

I have always been suspicious of the concept of attempting to be the best version of yourself, and for good reason. This idea tends to be sponsored and promoted by the Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy community that was pretending or believing that it was merely a matter of changing your mindset and then you could just act out what you think or assume would be the best possible scenario in your mind and by extension the best version of yourself.

Although I am not averse or opposed to this notion and idea when it comes to planning, setting goals, following dreams, and even setting boundaries, there can be no better version or substitute than being who you truly are deep inside; that is authentically giving your innermost essence a voice and acting from it, that is from the heart.

But how do you know who you are? It would start with first figuring out what resonates with you. This cannot be achieved except by tuning into yourself and looking inward, a curious mindful mix of introspection and reflection that would give you insights into the core of your essence. It involves an openness to thought, feeling, and action to discover and uncover who you truly are. Many times, you are not who you think you are or even who you wish you were, and yet, the real you needs to shine through like rays of the sun. That is in fact the only time you would not only find but also embody inner peace and calm.

How to get there? The answer is it is not easy and will take effort and hard work. Yet one thing is certain, you cannot be yourself and worry at the same time. To attain a connection with yourself, like your source of creativity, you need to be calm and collected. Anxiety would create ripples in the sea of your essence and not let you see and feel things clearly.

Put differently, to be yourself you must relax, and ipso facto, the first step is to deal with anxiety. Anxiety, stress, and worry tend to be negative and toxic emotions that make you tense, and they are by definition the opposite of relaxation. In many ways, they would lead to thoughts and behaviors that may be the exact opposite of who you are and how you are as well as how you would like to be.

For your anxiety to diminish, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, you would want to be aware of it and accept that it is anxiety. Although it may fluctuate in level and intensity, we all have it and those who claim they are not anxious tend to score higher on the spectrum as they fail to recognize that they are human and will need to have a certain level of anxiety to function and survive in the world.

Anxiety is like thinking and so we can paraphrase Hamlet by saying there is nothing either good or bad in the world, but our anxiety makes it so. If you look at the sensations we have when we are thrilled and excited and when we feel anxiety, there is essentially not much of a difference there except how we label and respond to the feeling.

Even in daily jargon, we say that we are anxious for something to take place meaning that we are looking forward to it. To illustrate this with another example, we can cry for various reasons. It may be out of sadness or an exuberance of joy. This means that the act of crying on its own does not mean or constitute that it is always due to sadness; too much laughter can fill our eyes with tears. Feelings are often not as clear-cut, but we need to process them. It is of course much easier to process feelings of happiness than those of sadness but process them we must.

To be able to process them, you need to face them. Avoiding or circumventing them will rob you of the opportunity to process them effectively and by extension to learn and grow from them. Yet at the same time, it is important to be gentle with yourself and not push yourself too hard or criticize yourself too harshly.

It is best to lean into what is giving you anxiety, a form of tiptoeing into water instead of throwing yourself into the deep end. With patience and practice, you will learn to swim and even surf the waves. A given situation will not arouse strong uncomfortable feelings anymore, and even if they do, you will be better able to handle and deal with them.

To help you along is also the necessary insight and awareness of the situation and context. Our fear has kept humanity alive since time immemorial as we dodged tigers and wolves to survive. This inbuilt alarm system with its fight, flight, and even freeze options is a necessary component for our survival. We want to appreciate it and not curse it.

Yet, due to previous trauma and experiences, toxic feelings, and negative thinking, we may lose focus and even see things out of focus. That is when context is essential for us to notice that it is not always an existential threat even though it may feel as such. With this awareness, that it may not pose a grave threat but may even be innocuous in the grand scheme of things, we can reappraise and reevaluate the situation and respond to it in an appropriate and much calmer manner.

This is where AR, the algorithm of relaxation can become rather useful. You then look at a given situation and decide whether it is a serious issue or not. There are generally two options; either it is serious, or it is not. At first glance and as your knee-jerk response, you may think it is not only serious but an absolute tragedy or disaster. Yet when you ask yourself, is it really that serious and important, you may see it from a different light and perspective.

In some cases, we may not have sufficient bits of information to make a judgment call. In those cases, we often opt for the worst-case scenario, but we ought to keep that in check as worrying is not going to help us to deal and tackle with the issue in an effective way and manner.

Let us illustrate this with a few examples. Say, your boss wants to talk to you. This is usually followed by an immediate feeling of dread. We assume the worst and are already imagining getting sacked. A lighter shade of this strain of catastrophic thinking would entail being criticized, scolded, or reprimanded for something we have done.

It would be best to ask ourselves, is there any real cause for concern? Did we do something wrong? If we made a mistake, was it that serious? Will there not be a remedy for it? We could apologize or promise to do better the next time around.

What if it is nothing of importance but just a simple and friendly chat? Perhaps they might ask you a simple question that may not be even related to you and your work. Or, even better, what if it is good news and you are going to receive some praise for your great performance. What if there is the possibility of a promotion? Instead of jumping to conclusions and expecting the worst, you are giving yourself the freedom and latitude to imagine possible and potential alternative reasons for this tĂȘte-a-tĂȘte with your superior or supervisor.

If it is indeed serious, then you can tackle it with a clear focus. If it is not, you shall not waste your time and energy worrying about it. In either case, you want to avoid assuming the worst, especially without any sort of proof and evidence that it may be so. If you, however, have acted unethically or inappropriately, then it would be best to face the situation and the consequences, the same way one would face one’s anxiety.

What if your loved one wants to have a talk with you? Let us not sugarcoat this, that is usually a sign of trouble. Then again, if it is, ask yourself, if perhaps something good can come out of it. It is perhaps a long-due conversation that needs to happen, and it may not be as devasting and shattering as we make it out to be. In fact, although we may not wish it or would try anything to avoid it, it may even clear the air and lead to an improved level of communication and rapport and much less tension between the two of you.

Again, if it is indeed the end of the relationship, you may not necessarily see it as the end of the world but see it as the turning of a new page no matter how painful it may feel at the moment. That dreaded talk with your boss or partner may end up being much less serious than you thought it to be, and by using the algorithm of relaxation, you may be able to see through it much easier and much faster and spare yourself the drama and unnecessary worry and preoccupation that usually comes with it.

So why not try AR in your daily life whether it is the cancellation of your favorite concert or the just or unjust loss of employment? For instance, I used to fret over mistakes. I would call it part of my perfectionism, but one day, I realized that being a perfectionist was often used as a euphemism for one’s insecurity. It may be a different matter when it comes to the arts but for me, it was ensuring that my exams did not contain any errors. I would triple-check everything and God forbid there was a mistake on the sheet, which had somehow escaped my probing eyes.

You can imagine the amount of stress and pressure I would feel and put on myself for something that was not that important after all. Deep down, who cared if there was indeed an error? This was not precision surgery or rocket science in which a minor detail could endanger people’s lives and, in some cases, even one’s own.

Errors are part of life and for those of us whose work is not a matter of life and death, they are really not a big deal. A mistake on the exam or a wrong answer to a student’s question? Or even failing an exam here and there at high school? On the scale of AR that is simply not that important to fret about, so it goes straight to the category of not to worry about it. Alternatively, throughout all these cases, you may just be taking yourself too seriously to begin with!

Now I am aware that AR could stand for augmented reality but in a way, it is not that different from it. You are turbocharging your reaction and seeing things more clearly and are not overreacting to situations by seeing the bigger picture and putting them into context.

The more you do this, the more relaxed you will be and much less on edge that something bad will happen to you. The side effect is that you may be a bit too relaxed at times and perhaps confuse or misplace minor things, miss the occasional deadline, forget a commitment or an appointment here and there, or you may even, God forbid, make an error at work or in your private life or both.

But on the grand scale of things and when looking at the bigger picture, none of them would be life-shattering or as important and as serious as we take them to be, especially after looking at them again with the magnifying lens of AR.

Conversely, you will feel more comfortable in your own skin, which is the most important outcome, so instead of worrying about being the best version of yourself, actually be yourself, which is essentially the only version that really counts and matters.

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