In Obliquity, John Kay argues that the best things in life can only be pursued indirectly. I believe this is true for happiness: if you truly want to experience joy or meaning, you need to shift your attention away from joy or meaning, and toward projects and relationships that bring joy and meaning as byproducts. As the great philosopher John Stuart Mill once wrote, “Those only are happy who have their minds fixed on some object other than their own happiness.” — Adam Grant

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http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=images+self-image&qpvt=images+self-image&FORM=IGRE#view=detail&id=BEDBC9CA48E912512A8AEF6388774E3F4D7F91B0&selectedIndex=68

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http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=images+self-image&qpvt=images+self-image&FORM=IGRE#view=detail&id=EEE93F61110202D3439F59BFE1BEF6CC9AE118D4&selectedIndex=138

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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/adam-grant/does-trying-to-be-happy-m_b_3276701.html?utm_hp_ref=books&ir=Books

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Trying to be happy makes us unhappy

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As we muddle through our days, the quest for happiness looms large. In the U.S., citizens are granted three inalienable rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. In the kingdom of Bhutan, there’s a national index to measure happiness. But what if searching for happiness actually prevents us from finding it? There’s reason to believe that the quest for happiness might be a recipe for misery.

In a series of new studies led by the psychologist Iris Mauss, the more value people placed on happiness, the less happy they became. I saw it happen to Tom, a savant who speaks half a dozen languages, from Chinese to Welsh. In college, Tom declared a major in computer science, but found it dissatisfying. He became obsessed with happiness, longing for a career and a culture that would provide the perfect match for his interests and values. Within two years of graduating from college, he had bounced from working at the United Nations to an Internet startup in New York, applied for jobs as a supermarket manager, consultant and venture capitalist, and considered moving to Puerto Rico, Trinidad, Colombia, or Canada.

These careers and countries didn’t fulfill him. After another year, he was doing standup comedy, contemplating a move to London to pursue an advanced degree in education, philosophy of science, management, or psychology. But none of these paths made him happy. Dissatisfied with his own lack of progress toward happiness, he created an online tool to help people develop more productive habits. That wasn’t satisfying either, so he moved to Beijing. He lasted two years there, but didn’t find the right cultural fit, so he moved to Germany and considered starting a college dorm for adults and a bar for nerds. In the next two years, he was off to Montreal and Pittsburgh, then back to Germany working on a website to help couples spend more quality time together. Still not happy, he abandoned that plan and returned to Beijing to sell office furniture. One year and two more moves across two continents later, he admitted to his friends, “I’m harder to find than Carmen San Diego.”

Tom made four mistakes that are all too common on the road to happiness. The first blunder was in trying to figure out if he was happy. When we pursue happiness, our goal is to experience more joy and contentment. To find out if we’re making progress, we need to compare our past happiness to our current happiness. This creates a problem: the moment we make that comparison, we shift from an experiencing mode to an evaluating mode. Consider several decades of research by the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi on flow, a state of complete absorption in an activity. Think of being engrossed in a Harry Potter book, playing a sport you love, or catching up with a good friend you haven’t seen in years. You’re in the zone: you’re so immersed in the task that you lose track of time and the outside world.

Csikszentmihalyi finds that when people are in a flow state, they don’t report being happy, as they’re too busy concentrating on the activity or conversation. But afterward, looking back, they describe flow as the optimal emotional experience. By looking everywhere for happiness, Tom disrupted his ability to find flow. He was so busy assessing each new job and country that he never fully engaged in his projects and relationships. Instead, he became depressed and entered a vicious cycle documented by psychologists Katariina Salmela-Aro and Jari-Erik Nurmi: depression leads people to evaluate their daily projects as less enjoyable, and ruminating about why they’re not fun makes the depression worse.

The second error was in overestimating the impact of life circumstances on happiness. As psychologist Dan Gilbert explains in Stumbling on Happiness, we tend to overestimate the emotional impact of positive life events. We think a great roommate or a major promotion will make us happier, overlooking the fact that we’ll adapt to the new circumstances. For example, in a classic study, winning the lottery didn’t appear to yield lasting gains in happiness. Each time Tom moved to a new job and country, he was initially excited to be running on a new treadmill, but within a matter of months, the reality of the daily grind set in: he was still running on a treadmill.

The third misstep was in pursuing happiness alone. Happiness is an individual state, so when we look for it, it’s only natural to focus on ourselves. Yet a wealth of evidence consistently shows that self-focused attention undermines happiness and causes depression. In one study, Mauss and colleagues demonstrated that the greater the value people placed on happiness, the more lonely they felt every day for the next two weeks. In another experiment, they randomly assigned people to value happiness, and found that it backfired: these people reported feeling lonelier and also had a progesterone spike in their saliva, a hormonal response linked to loneliness. As Tom changed jobs and countries alone, he left behind the people who made him happy.

The final mistake was in looking for intense happiness. When we want to be happy, we look for strong positive emotions like joy, elation, enthusiasm, and excitement. Unfortunately, research shows that this isn’t the best path to happiness. Research led by the psychologist Ed Diener reveals that happiness is driven by the frequency, not the intensity, of positive emotions. When we aim for intense positive emotions, we evaluate our experiences against a higher standard, which makes it easier to be disappointed. Indeed, Mauss and her colleagues found that when people were explicitly searching for happiness, they experienced less joy in watching a figure skater win a gold medal. They were disappointed that the event wasn’t even more jubilating. And even if they themselves had won the gold medal, it probably wouldn’t have helped. Studies indicate that an intense positive experience leads us to frame ordinary experiences as less positive. Once you’ve landed a gold medal or won the lottery, it’s hard to take pleasure in finding a great parking spot or winning a video game. Tom was looking so hard for the perfect job and the ideal country that he failed to appreciate an interesting task and a great restaurant.

Today, for the first time in more than a decade, Tom reports being — and appears to be — happy. Instead of pursuing happiness alone, he fell in love and got married. Rather than evaluating his happiness daily and hunting for his dream job, he’s finding flow and experiencing daily satisfaction in helping his wife set up a company. He’s no longer bouncing around from one continent to another, following the advice of psychologists Ken Sheldon and Sonja Lyubomirsky: “Change your actions, not your circumstances.”

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https://curtisnarimatsu.wordpress.com/2013/05/15/the-law-of-freewill-ensures-that-the-self-will-never-force-itself-upon-you-but-that-doesnt-mean-it-has-abandoned-you-this-is-when-understanding-the-difference-between-loneliness-and-aloneness-beco/

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https://curtisnarimatsu.wordpress.com/2013/05/09/you-may-be-shocked-to-learn-that-the-supposed-essential-principle-that-this-country-was-founded-upon-the-pursuit-of-happiness-is-nothing-more-than-an-impossible-vainglorious-wild-goose-chase/

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http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=images+seeking+happiness&qpvt=images+seeking+happiness&FORM=IGRE#view=detail&id=BAFE8746E6B18A3FC2CD462ACC160783167F5D95&selectedIndex=4

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http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=images+seeking+happiness&qpvt=images+seeking+happiness&FORM=IGRE#view=detail&id=6F546BF88C3829E05532AC2625F80A8BDFC7A51B&selectedIndex=10

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http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=images+seeking+happiness&qpvt=images+seeking+happiness&FORM=IGRE#view=detail&id=DA0A6194F1F86630F6D4CF64724FE17C06F7E36A&selectedIndex=23

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http://www.huffingtonpost.com/scott-manley/everything-you-know-is-wrong-about-the-pursuit-of-happiness_b_3227844.html?utm_hp_ref=religion

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Everything You Know Is Wrong (About the Pursuit of Happiness)

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You may be shocked to learn that the supposed essential principle that this country was founded upon — “The Pursuit of Happiness” — is nothing more than an impossible vainglorious wild goose chase. All the saints, sages and wise men of history agree: The way to be happy is to stop trying to be happy.

We are by nature pleasure-seeking entities. Everyone seeks happiness, but the problem is we don’t know what real happiness is. There are only two people who are happy in this world: The drunk and the self-realized soul. Everyone else in-between is miserable, trying to be happy by gratifying the senses, but making the mistake of trying to sever the pleasure of the senses from the needs of the character.

The ingenuity of man has always been dedicated to the solution to this one problem. How to detach sensual gratification from the service of God, Who is the Self of ourselves. The soul says Eat; the body would feast. The soul says, The man and woman shall be one flesh and one soul; the body would join the flesh only. The soul says, Have dominion over all things to the ends of virtue; the body would lord it over nature to its own ends.

The nature of this material world is duality. Unless we are serving God on the transcendental platform of self realization and true happiness, we can’t have one side (material “happiness”) without the other (material “distress”). Ralph Waldo Emerson described this duality succinctly in his essay on karma called “Compensation”:

Men seek to be great; they would have offices, wealth, power, and fame. They think that to be great is to possess one side of nature, — the sweet, without the other side, — the bitter.

This dividing and detaching is steadily counteracted. Up to this day, it must be owned, no projector has had the smallest success. The parted water reunites behind our hand. Pleasure is taken out of pleasant things, profit out of profitable things, power out of strong things, as soon as we seek to separate them from the whole. We can no more halve things and get the sensual good, by itself, than we can get an inside that shall have no outside, or a light without a shadow. “Drive out nature with a fork, she comes running back.”

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https://curtisnarimatsu.wordpress.com/2013/05/02/those-who-are-driven-by-a-quest-for-happiness-are-more-likely-to-end-up-feeling-lonely-instead-according-to-a-study-this-is-because-they-focus-on-themselves-rather-than-on-their-connections-with-o/

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https://curtisnarimatsu.wordpress.com/2013/02/22/by-putting-aside-our-selfish-interests-to-serve-someone-or-something-larger-than-ourselves-by-devoting-our-lives-to-giving-rather-than-taking/

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https://curtisnarimatsu.wordpress.com/2013/04/18/dedicated-to-jesus-disciple-lester-chun-lesters-lifetime-journey-of-authentic-living/

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http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=images+authentic+journey+of+selfhood&qpvt=images+authentic+journey+of+selfhood&FORM=IGRE#view=detail&id=B6CB3A603214C5CBBED47B65867E62AB7654FB7E&selectedIndex=6

http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=images+authentic+journey+of+selfhood&qpvt=images+authentic+journey+of+selfhood&FORM=IGRE#view=detail&id=AECDD4D657ACE164DCEEC017E717C6A0E3C1EDEE&selectedIndex=7

http://www.sidestreetsydney.com.au/2010/05/side-scene-biennale-photo-essay.html

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https://curtisnarimatsu.wordpress.com/2012/08/24/for-me-theres-hardly-a-gnats-whisker-of-difference-between-the-psychological-idea-of-healthy-individuation-and-the-christian-idea-of-salvation-both-include-the-lifetime-journey-o/

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“For me, there’s hardly a gnat’s whisker of difference between the psychological idea of healthy individuation and the Christian idea of salvation. Both include the lifetime journey of authentic living.”

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Title quote from Steven Kalas       http://www.lvrj.com/living/living-authentically-a-challenge-worth-embracing-89350462.html

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The more practiced you become at living authentically, the more often you’ll have to make friends with Alone.

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If you take seriously a commitment to authentic selfhood,

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you find that you regularly must sacrifice belonging.

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Living authentically includes regular re-negotiations of how we belong to family.

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In some extreme cases, whether we will belong to family at all.

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Likewise, adjustments in friendships,

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and sometimes distancing and even discarding friendships.

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There are journeys of selfhood and wholeness that must be walked alone.

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https://curtisnarimatsu.wordpress.com/2013/02/12/thriving-learning-having-wisdom-are-about-getting-up-each-morning-with-intention-clarity-commitment-to-seek-nurture-connection-along-lifes-healthy-healing-path-of-inner-nouris/

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Valentines Day One Billion RisingWorkout Music PlaylistMindfulness Practice

http://www.lvrj.com/living/you-don-t-have-to-die-to-go-to-hell-but-trips-there-hurt-190578441.html

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Sometimes you have to go to hell [deepest self-reflection, unlovely as well as lovely].

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Oh, I’m NOT talking about religion here.

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In fact, I don’t use the word “hell” very often to describe some afterlife place of deliberate torment as punishment for not belonging to the right religion.

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Writing on Man's Stomachhttp://www.andilit.com/2010/05/20/writing-as-therapy-or-the-bum-rap/

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No, when I say you sometimes have to go to hell, I mean a very immediate, very real, “here and now” experience [existential introspection].

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You don’t have to die to go to hell. Though going there will feel like dying.

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Hell paralyzes normal thinking and feeling. Sleeping and eating become less necessary. It is dark and empty down there. In hell, some people cry and wail and clutch carpet. Others sit, dazed, in unlit rooms for minutes or hours on end. Not much use for words in hell. But, if you’ve ever been there, you know. You remember.

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You cannot take any prior learning, wisdom or life experience into hell with you. You can’t even take what you learned the last time you were there. If you could, it wouldn’t be hell.

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We go to hell with nothing. We go to hell to be nothing, for a necessary while, because hell burns down the identity in which we have heretofore reveled in supreme confidence [leave behind your inflated ego!].

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A variety of circumstance and happenstance can summon us to hell. But the different occasions have in common a grief beyond knowing.

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Beyond words. A loss beyond measuring. Someone dies. Someone betrays you. The one and only love of your life … leaves. Maybe you have a random, capricious, could-have-happened-to-anybody accident that leaves someone dead. Disfigured. Permanently disabled. Or maybe you are confronted with the consequences and humiliation of your own egregious dereliction. Grave moral failure. You burn down your life, reputation and important relationships in an act of wanton, desperate stupidity and selfishness.

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Hell is the place we go to face eviscerating, sledgehammer loss. Loss that changes you. Forever you’ll be different.

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When life demands our descent into hell, we have two choices.

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We can go.

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Or we can refuse to go, at least for a while. Sometimes for a long while. But woe to the person who puts off this journey.

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Because every strategy for putting off this journey leads to … hell. But it’s a different hell than the life-changing (if terrifying) descent described above.

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The hell we enter by putting off hell is “mere suffering,” as opposed to a meaningful suffering. It is a pathos. An absurdity, as opposed to a redemption.

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Alcoholism, for example, can be seen as a strategy for putting off hell. I’ll never forget my friend who, 20 years sober, said: “There should be a sign on the door of AA meetings that says ‘Sobriety is Hell.’ Because the first thing that happens to drunks who stop drinking is … it gets worse. And then it gets better.”

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There are treasures in hell. My spiritual director spoke of two treasures, specifically: “In hell you will meet your True Self,…  and you will meet God as you have never known him before.”

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No one can accompany you to hell. If someone could go with you, it wouldn’t be hell. Friends, family, beloved mates – these people can walk you to the entrance of hell. They can wait for you on the rim of hell. But hell, by definition, is a place we go alone.

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Twice in my life I’ve been to hell. It changes everything. Both times the experience made for more of me. That is, my True Self. I had more depth. More humility. I learned more about love and gratitude.

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But that’s not to say the journey is without cost. One of the costs, of course, is the way the journey changes the names and faces in your innermost trusted circles.

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When you come out of hell, there will be people standing there with you and for you who you never would have imagined would still be standing there.

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And, likewise there will be people not standing there any longer who you would have bet your life would still be standing there.

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The former will surprise and delight you. The latter will break your heart.

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Those relationships will never be the same. And you’ll never understand either list. It will always be a mystery.

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I’m saying there’s nothing like going to hell for showing you what friends, family and soul mates are made of.

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Hell sifts through the pretenders.

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Who, in your life, was still standing there when you came out the other side of hell?

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https://curtisnarimatsu.wordpress.com/2013/01/03/writing-and-eventually-dying-a-good-death-expressing-sharing-love-to-the-end/

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http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=images+of+a+writer+in+deep+thought&qpvt=images+of+a+writer+in+deep+thought&FORM=IGRE#view=detail&id=FC4083F995FD47F1E3C39EAC4D1A970867E60C12&selectedIndex=89

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https://curtisnarimatsu.wordpress.com/2012/12/21/i-write-to-live-authentically-having-been-is-the-surest-kind-of-being-per-great-sage-viktor-frankl/

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I write to live authentically — “having been” is the surest kind of being, per great sage Viktor Frankl

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Usually, to be sure, man considers only the stubble field of transitoriness [the “now”] 

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and

overlooks

the full granaries of the past [reflective lookback] –

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wherein he had salvaged once and for all his deeds, his joys

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and also his sufferings.

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Nothing can be undone, and nothing can be done away with.    

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[for example, I dream of being loved & wanted in the most beautiful way, & even if this dream is not reality, such thought/”unction” comprises my strength & “positive/right” attitude, even in the starkest moment of despair/seemingly hopeless predicament/state of nonexistence-nonbeing closest to death itself, having been forsaken all the way around   —

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which is why Jewish Viktor Frankl’s dream amid the Holocaust even when facing down the death chamber/firing squad was “the angels are in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory.”   Ohh, so true!!]

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I should say   ”having been”  is the surest kind of being.

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http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/2782.Viktor_E_Frankl?page=2

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‘Instead of possibilities, I have realities in my past, not only the reality of work done and of love loved –

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but of sufferings bravely suffered. These sufferings are even the things of which I am most proud, although these are things which cannot inspire envy.’ “

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From “Logotherapy in a Nutshell”, an essay” Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

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The reality of life is the luck or unluck of the draw [a crapshoot]  —

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“fair” & “unfair” are nonexistent in life’s vocabulary —

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life “just is.”  

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Thence, how I deal with setbacks is the key to existence, not the external factual triggers [to despair/hopelessness of predicament].  

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https://curtisnarimatsu.wordpress.com/2012/11/17/all-those-moments-of-life-will-be-lost-in-time-like-tears-in-the-rain-time-to-for-me-time-to-deal-with-myself-alone/

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http://www.lvrj.com/living/54285947.html

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In this gaping hole of despair & hopelessness of one’s predicament is a crushing emptiness and an aloneness that can make you lose your mind and a sadness that can make your heart question the wisdom and the relevance of continuing to beat — a sadness no person thinks one can bear alone.

On some days, very much to wish it would stop beating.

To die of unrequited love.  Van Gogh didn’t shoot himself in the head.   He shot himself in the heart. He saw reality so deeply and clearly, yet could not ultimately disconnect his heart [“be not of this world” — self-respect despite this indifferent and tragic sentient life] from this reality or the other people in it.

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Van Gogh died because, in the end, he could not differentiate himself [self-respect] from the Collective Unconscious [our indifferent & tragic lack of empathy/compassion in our broken/flawed sentient nature] into which he was compelled to wander.    

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My own epiphany, but I always was a wanderlust, dreaming of beautiful landscapes and never-seen places.   Last night I dreamed that my long ago deceased uncle from Kona [symbolizes the love which my ohana/kazuko progeny Minnie/Donna still have for me] showed me a breathtaking vista of a mountainscape ahead of us as we gazed from the seashore toward the distant horizon.    This “awesome dream come true” despite my 3 other Hilo family members having ignored me yesterday at McDonald’s in Hilo.    I could’ve unconsciously nightmared over forsaken-ness, but such did not manifest.    Wow!

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https://curtisnarimatsu.wordpress.com/2012/11/24/sharing-grief-puts-a-healing-distance-between-us-and-the-pain-this-is-why-storytelling-matters/

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sharing grief puts a healing distance between us and the pain — this is why storytelling matters

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Share the suffering. The opportunity to tell the story of our suffering to a compassionate and skillful listener is helpful beyond measure. Simply in the telling and retelling, we begin to shift perspective, to put a healing distance between us and the pain.

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https://curtisnarimatsu.wordpress.com/2013/02/20/ambivalence-killed-jesus-the-people-waved-palm-branches-on-sunday-singing-hosanna-hey-come-friday-they-shouted-to-free-barabbas-same-crowd-when-you-stand-too-close-to-beautiful/

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Ambivalence killed Jesus. The people waved palm branches on Sunday, singing “Hosanna hey.” Come Friday, they shouted to free Barabbas. Same crowd. When you stand too close to beautiful, bright lights, you find yourself deeply ambivalent about the way that light shines on parts of yourself, not so beautiful, not so bright.  — sage Steven Kalas

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Astrid Preston

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https://curtisnarimatsu.wordpress.com/2013/01/10/acknowledging-ambivalence-is-best-way-to-cope-sage-steven-kalas/

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http://www.lvrj.com/blogs/kalas/Ambivalence_challenges_most_close_relationships.html

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The word we toss around in therapeutic circles for this universal phenomenon is “ambivalence.” Meaning “mixed feelings.”

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Whenever we find ourselves in love or loving someone, or whenever we find ourselves deeply, emotionally attached to anything — an institution, a value, a cause — we invariably stumble across the experience of ambivalence.

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The reason is obvious, but you won’t ever find it in a Hallmark card and rarely in a film or novel. Rarely do people talk about ambivalence as the unavoidable companion of love, nor is it common for parents to teach us how to handle it when you are growing up.

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Simply put, to offer your heart to someone necessarily includes giving away a tremendous amount of power and no little degree of control.

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You simply can’t love deeply and stay completely in charge. Oh, people try it all the time. Some folks even normalize this ever-cautious, carefully calculated “ration stamp love.” Like someone sitting on the edge of a pier with one toe in the water, who then says convincingly, “I went swimming today.”

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Nope. Swimming is when you let go of the pier in water so deep you can’t touch the bottom. Only swimming is swimming.

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Love means giving someone the power to break your heart, to hurt you deeply. The subject of your heart’s affection is free to be present, faithful, creative and attentive to the relationship, to cherish you. He/she also is free to neglect you, to be inconstant, or mean, or even to betray you and leave you. Not to mention the inevitable pain: Your beloved is going to die. So are you.

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You can see why Hallmark isn’t jumping all over this.

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In the Ron Howard film “Parenthood,” the family patriarch, after years of distance and antipathy with his now-adult son, finally confesses his ambivalence. He recalls to the son that, as a child, the boy was stricken with a life-threatening illness.

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“I hated you for that,” the elder man says simply. Meaning, of course, I hated that loving you so deeply dangled me over the fires of so much pain and anticipation of pain.

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Ambivalence is why, when parents scream watching their toddler almost get hit by a car in the parking lot, they will run up and fiercely hug the toddler … and then fiercely scold or even spank the toddler. How dare you make me see clearly the vulnerability of my love for you!

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Ambivalence killed Jesus. The people waved palm branches on Sunday, singing “Hosanna hey.” Come Friday, they shouted to free Barabbas. Same crowd. When you stand too close to beautiful, bright lights, you find yourself deeply ambivalent about the way that light shines on parts of yourself, not so beautiful, not so bright.

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Ever observe sisters? Those relationships tend to be cyclically incendiary, especially in childhood. They will, in turn, be ready to die for each other … and then hate each other to the point of metaphorical homicide.

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You see this in brothers, too, but Freud observed — though never explained why — ambivalence is given its freest rein between sisters.

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An accepted bit of “wisdom” in our culture is that, in marriage, being “in love” and hot sex must, of necessity, “wear off.” The elders ask us to accept that. Comedians have a field day with it. But this bit of wisdom isn’t so wise. In fact, it’s crap.

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It is ambivalence that erodes love and sex. Nothing more. Nothing less. The human ego finds the experience of great vulnerability — great love — both compelling and intolerable. So we seek it, find it and then promptly begin to erode it, starve it and stonewall it so as to protect ourselves. This almost always is an unconscious process.

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In fact, that’s the rub: Ambivalence begins unconsciously. And we can’t manage it well unless we are willing to make it conscious. When ambivalence is made conscious, then we have choices for bearing it creatively, usefully, sometimes even playfully.

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https://curtisnarimatsu.wordpress.com/2012/12/14/because-in-the-end-great-journeys-of-integrity-are-walked-alone-sage-steven-kalas/

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http://www.lvrj.com/living/10174701.html

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Great journeys of integrity are walked alone

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When another man’s life forces you to behold your own smallness, all you have to do is retro-narrate pathologized stories about him. Just like that, your world is a safer, happier place.

Your friends who are simply gone? You force me to behold, J.K., something I hate to think about:

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All great journeys of integrity are ultimately walked alone.

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The archetypal picture here is probably Jesus, whose friends agreed to accompany him into the garden of Gethsemane that night to pray. Jesus is scared. Anxious. Asking God if there isn’t some other way. He looks to his friends for support and encouragement.

And they are sound asleep. And Jesus asks a rhetorical question into the silent night air: “Will no one stay awake with me?”

As a matter of fact, no. Tonight Jesus will suffer, and he will suffer alone.

How to maintain some sense of respect and optimism for humanity? I can only tell you what I do.

When I’m feeling low, when I’ve lost track of why I keep putting one foot in front of the other, when I am sick and tired of paying the price for living out values about which no one else appears to have much if any investment, when I can no longer argue with Protestant theologian John Calvin who used the word “depraved” to describe the essential nature of human beings …

… well, J.K., that’s when I think of people like you [who suffers alone in ennobled integrated fashion to care for his incapacitated wife].

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http://www.lvrj.com/living/9380491.html

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Mystery surrounds deep connections we make with others [making friends with “Alone”]

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An old friend writes from far away. Oh, not that old. She’s 48. I mean we’ve been friends a long, long time.

There’s this bond between us. A connection. I felt it the first time we spoke, which is funny because the first thing she ever communicated to me was disdain. I was 23, so I reached into my repertoire for managing repartee with beautiful women and selected “boyish cockiness” for my retort.

When you’re 23 and male, boyish cockiness is pretty much the extent of your repertoire.

But that was it for us — bonded. A connection that has survived time together, protracted times apart, even years of no communication whatsoever. The friendship has survived love affairs — not with each other — marriages and becoming parents. We’ve been drunk together. And sober. It occurs to me that I’ve never seen her cry.

She was 20 when I met her. Once, on a whim, she sent me a picture of herself at age 5. I smiled. Somewhere inside myself I knew her then, too. Recognized her. In some alternative past, she and I played together in a sandbox (until she made me cry because she was so bossy). Like the bond between us contains secret passages that defy time and space.

She writes to me: “I get you, Steven Kalas.”

Her words strike me like thunder. Truly awestruck, like the way you fall into a spectacular sunset, or the way you stop breathing when you’re standing in a barn at 2 a.m. watching the birth of a calf. I’m focused in a point of time, staring at my monitor. It’s like she’s right here. Right now. I have a friend who gets me. She sees me. I jumble a few words and she says, “Oh yeah.” She not only understands, but understands why and how things matter to me.

Amen.

Then I have this other friend. Or did. Or thought I did. Could’ve sworn we were friends. Soul mates. Years we were friends. Across passion and victory and folly and failure. Across celebration and loss. This friend knows me. And doesn’t know me at all.

We’re not connected anymore.

And I know as much about why we’re no longer connected as I do why I’m still connected to the other friend. Which is to say I don’t know anything at all. And I’ve been railing against the disconnection, like, if I protest loudly and long enough, my erstwhile friend will snap out of it and be connected to me again.

I’ve decided to stop railing. Sad, yes. Probably sad forever. But pounding on it serves all the purpose of pounding on a grave. Why would I look for the living among the dead?

See, both connections and disconnections deserve the same responses. Awe. Respect for the mystery. Even I, a man who believes his gifts and his calling to be teaching people how to be in relationship — well, I can’t tell you much of anything about why some connections happen and some connections don’t happen and still others disintegrate.

The most terrible thing my therapist ever said to me was also the most important: “Steven, we’re alone. No one has anyone.”

Yikes-oi. (Sorry. This sort of thing happens when a GoyBoy tries to express himself forcefully in Yiddish.)

I hated what she said. Railed against it. Argued with it. She had thrown existential sand into the gas tank of my fine-tuned DeLorean of delusion. And my pricey car would go not one mile farther.

My therapist was right. And, as with every other time when she is right, it’s time for me to grow up. We’re alone. No one has anyone.

Strangely, this new truth, while initially a scalpel slashed across my chest without anesthetic, did not burden and depress me for long. Surrender to separateness and aloneness quickly began to create a new space in me. A space for … for …

… relief. A kind of peace. And, most precious, gratitude and humility. Relationship is a grace. A kind of miracle. Human communion emerges as a gift. An unmerited joy. Yes, there are ways of living more conducive to forging and maintaining lasting relationships than other ways of living. I’m not saying there’s nothing we can do. Just that, in the end, I no longer think I have earned or deserved the people who stand in the inner circle of my life.

I just give thanks.

We’re alone. No one has anyone.

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Human beings cannot be possessed. They cannot be apprehended. They can only be respected and enjoyed. Or respected and bid farewell. Relationship is mystery.

Who really sees you? Who gets you? If you need more than one hand to count those people, you are rich beyond your dreams.

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Individualism as ego overpride is not the solitary reflection of an authentic life   –

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http://www.lvrj.com/view/steven-kalas-we-are-individuals-in-consequential-relationships-162688016.html

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http://www.lvrj.com/living/culture-s-approach-to-suffering-only-prolongs-pain-129608658.html

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And, for those kinds of sufferings/losses that can never be entirely healed, to bear it. To find meaning in it.  To turn that suffering into some transformative work in the world.

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And the truth is this: The human journey includes suffering. No one comes to ask for help who isn’t suffering.

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But, here’s another truth: In any given time in your life, the number of people who actually, really, honestly want and

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are willing to grant you an engaged and healing audience for your suffering/loss  is      …     

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small!!     Or nonexistent!!    

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Even people who sincerely love and adore you might find themselves ambivalent about really engaging and listening to the part of you that suffers. See, the people around us have egos, too. Their egos mobilize to protect them just like your ego does. “Cheer up … get over it … God has a plan … everybody is doing the best he or she can … don’t cry” — the felt motive for these messages is to help you.

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But each of these messages also contains the anxiety of the messenger: 

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Please stop bothering and disturbing me by suffering.

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And that’s what most modern people do. They try to stop suffering. They “get over it.” They build layer upon layer of pretense and persona over their wounds, because it’s, well, the sociable thing to do. Most of us, then, suffer unconsciously. Because that’s the way we’ve been taught to suffer.

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http://www.lvrj.com/living/9146411.html

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Lots of people don’t want to be present to sadness — their own or anyone else’s.

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Other people would like to be present to their bereaved friends and family, but don’t know how.

We live in a culture where grief is treated as a disease to be “cured,” or a weakness cursed of shame or self-loathing.

Contrarily, grief is the holiest of human journeys.

One of my favorite Friedrich Nietzsche quotes is, “Everything holy requires a veil.” Now, modern Americans might think he means that we should keep things covered up because those things are shameful. Nope. He means that some things are so beautiful, so huge, so powerful, so naked, so intimate, that to gaze casually upon them would be injurious to their meaning and value. Injurious ultimately to us.

Grief is such a thing.

I concur with your observation that people around us are largely inept at befriending us in grief. Yet I also encourage people like you to remember to veil (protect and value) their grief. Keep the circle of confidants small. Pick two and no more than five people who will hear the depths of your pain.

There are two ways to read your question at the end. Literally you ask how you might numb the heartache. But I’m guessing you aren’t being literal. In fact, it’s not a question at all, is it? It reads more like an indignation. Like, how dare anyone ask you to numb the heartache! How dare the medical community suggest drugging your bereavement!

See, J.R., you know how precious your sadness is. A breathless, crushing burden, yes. But precious.

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https://curtisnarimatsu.wordpress.com/2012/08/17/alienation-i-dont-belong-and-estrangement-getting-dumped-because-i-dont-belong/

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alienation [I don’t belong] and estrangement [getting dumped because I don’t belong]

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Alienation & estrangement   –  the results of Loss  [e.g. getting dumped]  by your beloved  [lifemate/soulmate]   

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http://www.lvrj.com/blogs/kalas/_Retirement_leaves_time_for_pondering_self_relationships.html

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Question: What do all people seeking release from personal despair have in common?

Answer: They are suffering some combination of alienation and estrangement.

Alienation means a crisis of belonging. We are alien. We don’t belong.

Estrangement means the painful disruption of the bonds of relationship. Interpersonal injuries and injustices. To become estranged is to become a stranger to the one we love and by whom we are loved.

I’m saying your use of the word “misfit” sounds like a crisis of alienation and estrangement.

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42 Responses to In Obliquity, John Kay argues that the best things in life can only be pursued indirectly. I believe this is true for happiness: if you truly want to experience joy or meaning, you need to shift your attention away from joy or meaning, and toward projects and relationships that bring joy and meaning as byproducts. As the great philosopher John Stuart Mill once wrote, “Those only are happy who have their minds fixed on some object other than their own happiness.” — Adam Grant

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  3. Pingback: Jesus’ death becomes even more powerful when this particular messiah also carries your personal projections. That is, the celebrity’s life mirrors important pieces of your own psychic journey. Your own life dramas. Jesus did this for me with h

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