Recently, a family member asked me for a write-up of my life philosophies as a birthday present. What I ended up writing seemed to have a lot to do with what I write about here on this site, and was sort of a concatenation of some of the main ideas that I work with, have noticed, and feel confident enough in to share with others. So, I decided to post my life philosophies here, although as you will see, they are more of a theoretical framework: something that has stood the test of my personal experience, but is still open for questioning, reexamination, and modification. It is mainly a set of ideas that seem true to me. In any case, here is what I wrote:
Me: What are my life philosophies?
Peaceful side: I don’t know – what do you think they are?
Me: Um, well, that all things are open for question, including life philosophies
Peaceful side: Ok
Me: I mean my life philosophies are basically… “the truth” – in the sense that, the truth is worth valuing, and any thinking ought to be aimed towards the truth. I guess that could be a second one.
Peaceful side: Alright
Me: Um, but what else? I mean, I don’t really get the question. Maybe… guiding principles in life? Things I find important? Or maybe things I find true? Maybe, a theoretical framework of things I’ve found true thus far in life, that seems to hold up so far.
Peaceful side: Ok
Me: Actually, do you have things you’d like to contribute to this?
Peaceful side: Hm… I don’t know
Me: Alright, I’ll put some things together, and you can let me know if you have any addendums or things you’d like to add
Peaceful side: Ok
Theoretical Framework that has been substantiated by evidence from experience thus far:
Idea 1 – expressing feelings, and self-awareness:
Feelings are the gateway towards balance in life, on an inner and outer level. This gives a way forward, even when all seems lost. If one isn’t in touch with one’s feelings, then on a more basic level, it is self-awareness that one can turn to as a way forward. Even if one is completely lost, one is able to observe their own condition of being lost, and in so doing, they inspire a connection between observer and observed, which can help bring out their feelings, allow them to be worked through, and give them a way forward.
The benefit of feelings seems to only occur when those feelings are expressed. That is, working through feelings is an active thing, and it is not necessarily enough to just notice or experience feelings. Expression seems to be a process of translation and articulation, in which someone takes things that are important to them on some unspoken level, and gives them some other form, such as in words, music, symbols, drawings, or bodily movement. It is not necessary to express feelings TO anyone else, as the only required recipient is one’s self. By expressing feelings to one’s self, one’s mind begins to understand and notice patterns in the content being expressed. As understanding is reached, new ideas of ways forward can occur.
Me: Ugh… that last way I phrased it – “new ideas of ways forward can occur” – seemed a bit… off.
Peaceful side: Isn’t that the phenomenon that you’ve noticed, though?
Me: I guess so, but it’s hard to explain! I mean, when someone is expressing their feelings they’re not always STUCK in some way, are they? Maybe they’re excitedly expressing their feelings. Or, I guess if the point is if the expression is done to re-balance someone, then… I guess, they find a balanced way forward? Idk. Maybe, “as understanding is reached, new ways of responding to the situation involving those feelings… can occur.” – something like that? I guess the main point is that something new opens up once feelings are expressed. Expressing feelings is like an anti-stagnation mechanism – if one is expressing one’s feelings to one’s self, one need NEVER get “stuck in one’s ways” – you know?
Peaceful side: Hm, it does seem to move things along, in whatever area is being addressed
Me: See? That’s what I mean. Ok, let’s get back to it, I guess
As new understanding is reached, new ways of responding to the situation involving those feelings can occur. This is not necessarily limited to “life events”, but can instead address themes in life – that is, patterns that perhaps have come up often in life, and could perhaps come up again. For instance, if one were to work through feelings of low self-worth after being bullied, then by working through those feelings and finding a way to balance out those feelings, and reaching an understanding of those feelings, one might not only be able to handle bullying in THAT scenario, but in future cases of being bullied as well. One might be able to maintain one’s self-worth, despite attempted attacks. If one, however, ends up not being immune in certain cases, then the method of working through feelings via self-expression can again be fallen back on in order to work through the new case. There may be little particularities and new qualities to the situation that weren’t a significant part of the first issue of its kind. But, that doesn’t mean that an increase in ability to handle a certain kinds of situations (rather than a specific situation alone) did not occur.
Thus, on the most basic level, self-awareness is a tool for finding balance and direction, while expressing feelings to one’s self is one step beyond that, where one utilizes self-awareness to bring forward the feelings found there, and articulate them in a way that is understandable to one’s own mind. Furthermore, as stated, it is not enough to just notice feelings, as awareness itself seems to be just the first step towards understanding what one is aware of. That is, expression can get to the cause of feelings, rather than just the appearance of those feelings.
Idea 2 – parts of the self and working through conflicts:
Feelings can be focused on individually, and articulated, not as one’s “overall” feelings, but instead as stemming from a place inside one’s self. That is, in expressing one’s feelings, one does not necessarily have to be bound to representing those feelings as coming from one’s self as a whole, but can instead look at feelings as coming from individual parts of one’s self. This can help protect an individual from confusion about what their feelings really are, since they themselves may be deeply conflicted – having feelings that seem to tend towards one direction, and other feelings that are strongly directed in some opposite way. By expressing feelings as coming from individual part’s of one’s self, conflicts such as these can be examined and worked through, without one having to commit to either side’s suggested direction. Working through inner conflicts can be a very practical and straightforward way of seeing how balance can be achieved through the expression of feelings.
The phenomenon of being able to articulate individual strands of feelings can also be utilized to engage in interviews with feelings that one does not understand or is wary or frightened of. By understanding those feelings on a deeper level, and being present to them, one may understand how to associate with those feelings on the level of how we respond to feelings internally, when witnessed as part of our reality, such as when a feeling pops up, seemingly out of no where, or when something can be noticed at the very edges of our consciousness, like a nagging doubt. Any feeling that can be noticed can be brought forward and questioned through focusing on the feeling and the answers it gives in response to questions one purposefully poses to it, in an attempt to understand mysterious or pernicious aspects of its character.
An addendum: while I talk of bringing forward individual feelings – the sources of feelings seem to have their own energy and character to them, and are capable, often, of a myriad of emotions and feelings, though they have a general energy to them. Examples include: peace, kindness, grit, curiosity, practicality, criticism, concern, thoughtfulness, aggression, gentleness, ferocity, righteousness, serenity, valor, etc. It is really these energies that seem to get into conflict with each other. For instance, our kindness may prompt us towards giving in to someone’s complaints, while a side concerned with self-worth and dignity might object to and push back against kindness’ suggestion. This conflict is experienced, perhaps as hesitation, but through self-awareness, and pin-pointing the two opposing sides (the side wishing to act, and the one bringing on the hesitation), one can begin to articulate and understand the nature of the conflict that before was just a felt experience, and probably an uncomfortable one. Continuing the example of kindness vs dignity, one possible conclusion to this argument would be that it is not kind to one’s self to just give in to other people. That is, once a certain pathway, such as standing up for one’s self, could be seen as upholding the values of both sides, action could be taken without conflict. In other words, one doesn’t have hesitation anymore, and wouldn’t have to violate their own sense of kindness in order to act. But this result can be made possible through the debate between the two sides, through each side’s ideas, about the argued-over action, being articulated to the point where they can each try to convince the other through rationality and reason, rather than purely the tug-of-war of feelings.
This does not mean, however, that the side that sounds rational and reasonable in an argument will win the argument, but merely that the goal of articulation is for all sides of an argument, even irrational, emotional ones, to have their reasoning brought into the realm of understanding. For example, if one were to work through a conflict with respect to an addiction they were trying to resolve, this might be a conflict between a “rational” side, whose feelings are easily articulated into arguments about why being addicted is bad, and a perhaps more emotional side, whose feelings are more difficult to articulate. The goal here is to articulate BOTH sides, to the point where BOTH, and not just the “rational” side, can be understood. It is at this point that the tug-of-war of feelings can subside, and the real issue can be handled through reason – when both sides are in some kind of understandable dialogue with each other, such as when each are using words to express themselves, rather than just raw emotional power.
That is to say, the intensity within the decision-making process can be dissolved. The most powerful feelings with the most conviction behind them aren’t going to necessarily be the victors of any conflict, because if there is some flaw in their reasoning, made obvious through one’s expression of it, then the parts of the self who hold that conviction will themselves see the error of their ways and adapt their thinking so that it remains aligned with reason. And if they do not align to whatever is thought to be reason, then the feelings behind that unexpected hesitation can, too, be expressed, which may point out gaps and misconceptions in one’s own expectations and ideas of what is “reason”. In other words, some new, unexpected aspect of the situation may be brought to light. In this sense, nothing within the self is forced to adapt their mindset or comply with ideas, for, ultimately, expression of feelings – new material to be understood – is welcomed through this process, and any reservations or hesitations or doubts or misgivings can be brought forward and, also, be honestly expressed. This goes back to the first point, about how expression of feelings can be the way towards balance. The point to emphasize here is that all feelings may be welcomed, since it is by working through the conflict between feelings that greater understanding and clarity can be reached. In other words, by admitting and working through all experienced imbalances, one can become more balanced. As a further note, it seems as though once imbalance is expressed and is the focus of one’s attention, then the counter-balance within one’s self RUSHES to address the imbalance. For example, when one expresses one’s anger in words on paper, and one sees what one has written, often times a more reasonable side will rush to the forefront of one’s feelings, and try to express itself to the angry side. This is an example of balance-through-expression in action.
On fear of sides of the self: One fear that can block one from bringing a side of themselves forward is the idea that a side might threaten them somehow – maybe it’s a side that’s full of hatred, or seems “dark” in some way. But when one brings a perspective forward, one way to think about the encounter is that when engaging with a side of one’s self, one can put one’s awareness around it, like a bubble, that can make it so they can’t negatively affect the other side’s condition. Their arguments don’t have to cripple one’s self: they can instead just be things one hears but don’t necessarily agree with. Maybe a person would prefer to not listen to what they have to say, but perhaps, at the same time, there are certain aspects of what they say that are true, even if on the whole that person disagrees with their arguments, claims, demands, and/or suggestions. Enduring what one may disagree with in these scenarios can be important because by working with a threatening side, one may find a way to resolve it, so that they no longer are one’s enemy. And the tension from that conflict will dissolve. AND one may feel wiser because of what one has learned from the conflict – not only in terms of understanding those sides of one’s self, but also in understanding problems within one’s experience that may exist beneath its surface – problems that are ignorable, but may negatively impact one’s reality all the same, if left unaddressed. After all, if it seems that a perspective within one’s self is angry or spiteful towards them, then perhaps there is a reason for the animosity – maybe it seems like the only way to try and get the person as a whole to listen to what they have to say.
Idea 3 – working through conflicts can be a way of uncovering many truths:
Given that any debate is essentially over the issue of what is true (such as “what is truly the right way to go?”), by engaging in these internal debates, one can find truths that feel agreeable to multiple sides of one’s self, even the harshest and most demanding (in terms of what they’ll accept as true) part of one’s intellect. The conclusions of debates ultimately involve agreements between both sides: agreement about what is true.
Idea 4 – self-expression to one’s self can bring about a calmer understanding of one’s situation:
By expressing one’s overall feelings, one seems able to overcome confusion and stress. While the reason for this is uncertain, it seems that this is due to being able to recognize and see patterns in one’s own thoughts, once they are capable of being observed from more of a third-person perspective. That is, once one’s pacing thoughts and upset feelings become just another part of observable reality, something to be noticed and potentially understood – another phenomenon, then one can be considerably more calm in one’s approach to those thoughts. Observation is essentially a peaceful act, so by observing the content of one’s own experience: thoughts, feelings, moods, sensations, etc – then one can essentially feel a sense of peace, despite the reality of one’s feelings. From this peaceful place, it seems easier to calmly, one step at a time, approach the issues that are of concern to one’s self. It puts one outside the chaos that one might hope to address, rather than inside of it, where at times the intensity of the forces can make it hard to focus on or address much of anything.
Me: So, any other ideas?
Peaceful side: Hm – those seem to be rather major ones, for you
Me: Yeah but… I’m not sure I have much there about WHY people ought to be concerned about balance, or perhaps that they already are, but may not be addressing it with self-expression
Peaceful side: That seems like it might be the case, that people do that, or can.
Me: But I don’t think the claim has enough evidence to it in order to warrant it as part of this theoretical framework. After all, it’s just speculation
Peaceful side: What is your experience, then? Why do you self-express, or use these techniques involving self-awareness?
Me: Well, because I feel better after doing it, but I know WHY I feel better. I gain mastery over my life situations, I get to make decisions on my terms – I don’t have to sacrifice or bypass my hesitations, but can resolve them before moving forward. It makes life less a struggle, and more abundant, rich, solid. I feel like I can honor myself and all my many parts, while still being a part of a world with other people in it. I feel like I can overcome any inner difficulty or weakness, even if it takes time – I feel like I have a pathway towards handling things like fear, or anger, or negativity. I can get past hurdles and obstacles with more ease, through self-expression. I don’t have to dwell in any feeling that I disagree with or don’t want to dwell in – not through denial of that feeling, but through expressing that feeling and seeing what it has to say, and then expressing my own feelings in response. I feel like I have a toolset to adapt to any situation – since even in horrible situations, it’s just my feelings that feel that it’s horrible, in which case as long as I can remember to express those feelings to myself, and work with them, I at least have some way to overcome that situation. It’s like, I don’t have to fight any situation that occurs, because what will be there? Feelings. And I can work with feelings, no matter what they are, through self-awareness, through self-expression, to myself. Even now, I’m not sure of what else to say in terms of my “life philosophies”, but by expressing my uncertainty and all the feelings that I’m having at this moment, it allows me to work through this dilemma, to “move things along” as you said – to move them forward. There’s no need for stagnation or hemming and hawing. By expressing feelings, things flow, change, move on. I can adapt, essentially. That’s the sense I get, both right now, and in my experiences thus far with expression of feelings.
Just to reemphasize one final point: it seems as though the resolution to imbalanced feelings can be found through feelings as well, allowing one to find a way forward through the very condition one might dislike or seek to escape. For example, peace can occur, not through running away from disturbance, but by working through the cause of that disturbance. That is, peace doesn’t have to be an escape from disturbance, but rather a natural consequence of working through that disturbance. This is a key distinction, for it highlights the importance of, in times of disturbance, the importance of not just focusing on feeling peaceful and relaxed, but instead focusing on the disturbance itself – not to exacerbate or dwell on it, but to resolve it. And resolution can happen through understanding, and understanding can happen through self-awareness and expression of what one is aware of, to one’s self.
So, those are my life philosophies, I suppose – or rather, a theoretical framework regarding phenomenon I’ve found to be both important and true. Other, unconsidered or undiscovered evidence might prompt changes to these ideas, but so far, these ideas have held up when weighed against my experience. Maybe there are many more ideas that seem important to me and also seem true, but I felt compelled to present the ones I listed above. They feel solid, like a foundation, in a sense, as they provide a framework and methodology for responding to one’s raw experience in life, in a way that seems to improve the quality of that experience, as well as one’s understanding of it.
Thank you for reading, and if you have any thoughts on any of the above, or have your own life philosophies you’d like to share, please do so in the comments section below : )