Knowledge + Experience = Wisdom helps people realize their unique importance. Using my knowledge of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, my experience with therapy, coaching, somatic healing, and personal growth I create products to help you discover, develop, and express the elements of your identity critical to your health and your contribution to our world. My goal is to research, develop, and disseminate these materials so that every individual can reconnect with their uniqueness, realize their passion and purpose, and live the life they were born to live.
But this week’s episode is specifically about the process we humans experience as we grow that essentially teaches us how to live. On the one hand this process is perfectly necessary and enables us to interact with our fellow human beings. Domestication teaches us the ‘rules of life’ so we don’t kill each other or eat each others’ french fries. There are some norms, rules, and even laws that improve both our individual lives and the lives of the human population. But some times we go WAY too far.
Domestication isn’t about teaching your kids the Golden Rule. No one is going to argue that treating each other like we want to be treated is not a great idea. It’s also not about us learning not to punch each other over every little disagreement. Nor is harmful to teach your kids to speak when spoken to and to smile when people are kind. These norms and rules just make sense so that we all get along and get our basic needs met.
Domestication often gets a little unruly after that, though. There exists some basic, and very short, list of the fundamental ‘rules of life’ that begins with the Golden Rule and ends 4 or 5 rules later, but as we add more and more rules we start to lose sight of the purpose of these rules.
And I’m not even talking about speed limits and seat belt laws. Those are probably pretty good laws/rules/norms that help keep more people alive. No, I’m talking about the little rules. The in-between-the-lines rules. I’m talking about traditional, conceptual ideas about how we ‘should’ be and live that start to push away from the Are and more toward the Should. This week I’ll talk a bit about that and much more as we continue investigating the Are vs Should Problem.
In this second part of the Bully vs your DNA miniseries I describe the DNA part. I will make the argument here, which is a fundamental element of my future work on the Are vs Should Problem, that it is our birthright to express our DNA as fully as possible. I hope you enjoy.
For many years I have heard things like, ‘Follow your passion!’ or, ‘if you do what you love you’ll never work a day in your life!’. And while I want to love these sentiments, I can’t get passed the ‘woo-woo’ or idealistic nature of the message. Can we really just do what we want? Is that somehow the secret to life? Is being happy really a function of having a job you love?
Now, the old Chris was incredibly cynical (see Episode 28: Doubt and Episode 25: I Suck At. . ) but I am trying very hard to be less so. In fact, I’m starting to see my cynicism as an opportunity for growth. And one of the obstacles I am tackling is this idea that following your passion (or following your ARE) is a worthwhile endeavor that isn’t necessarily sprinkled with rainbows OR unicorns.
So I asked the question as to whether there was any evidence that supports the basic human need of ‘being ourselves’ or ‘following our dreams’ or ‘being our Are’. I came up with what I consider to be hard evidence supporting a ‘follow your dream’ approach to life rather than a ‘put your head down and grind it out’ methodology. An Are vs a Should approach, if you will.
See, as an ecologist and evolutionary biologist, I studied a lot about DNA, evolution, natural selection, and the basic machinery available to all animals through time. I believe we understand how these things work inasmuch DNA is a genotypic (i.e., small scale internal biology) expression of sexual reproduction in a species that is expressed phenotypically (i.e., the outside appearance of that animal offspring) AND provides the basic instructions for living out that individuals’ life. So that individuals’ DNA is a result of reproduction, which rearranges the DNA of each parent to form a new ‘set of instructions’ for the individual offspring. THEN, that offspring, with their unique DNA instructions, lives in its’ environment. During the individuals life, it will express the DNA physically, emotionally, sexually, and all the other ways DNA can be expressed as it is translated from a script to a tissue or action or skill.
That’s a lot, and could be a book in itself, but the key here is that the DNA inside our cells is EXPRESSED outside in the world. This is the ARE. When we are in our Are, we are expressing our unique instructions into the world. We are reading the instruction manual the came with us, and only us, and to whatever degree we are then embracing, in the case of the Are, or denying, in the case of the Should, that uniqueness.
In short, I see the complete and total phenotypic expression, the realization, of our unique DNA as a fundamental goal of life. I’m not saying this is a requirement of being human, more like an opportunity. I see this as sort of a challenge that needs to be examined for evidence rather than an edict or, God forbid, rule.
I think it would be totally cool to take a subset of humans and prescribe to them three sets of treatments in an experiment. One group listens to everything they’re told. They embrace a lifestyle of the Should. They follow all the rules their parents, families, and politicians tell them to. They get the right job, the right partner, etc. The second group ‘follows their hearts’. Members in this treatment group ask themselves what they want and feel when making important life decisions, and try to stick to their inner voice when navigating their lives. The last group is the control, and they just sort of do whatever works without thought about Should vs Are. In fact, they should be sequestered from any talk about the Are vs Should problem.
And then we’d check in with these folks at maybe 18, 30, 45, and 65 to see how they feel about their lives and decisions. My hypothesis would be that the Are group is more fulfilled, calmer, less anxious, and more satisfied with their lives. I would also posit that the control and Should groups are not that different from each other as we seem to be on a trajectory where our knee jerk decision-making is more Should than Are nowadays.
Regardless of ever completing said experiment, I think it is entirely worthwhile to consider the amazing history of your unique DNA. Your DNA exists because your ancestors survived all of the natural selection filters to reproduce and create offspring. Those are all huge evolutionary wins. Each of those transactions, and all of the isolated behaviors during those individuals’ lifetimes, multiply to become what is now you. Part of me wonders to what degree we owe it to our ancestors to fully express the DNA they subconsciously worked so hard to guarantee.
To me, the idea that our DNA contains an historic message about how we can live our individual lives is encouraging. I am encouraged to listen more to my Are and try to suppress my Should. The idea that this may be biologically important reduces my fear that listening to my Are is going to cause me discomfort. The DNA is the Are idea gives me courage to resist the Shoulds in my life and more openly express my Are. If these ideas can help others do that then it is a good tool.
In the second installment of this miniseries within the Are vs Should problem, I talk about the Are side of the equation. Whereas the Should part of us is an amalgamation of society’s worst elements, the Are part of us is uniquely US.
I can’t wait for you to see this episode because in it I fully integrate my scientific training with my psychological and spiritual healing journey.
See, for years I wrestled with the idea that we should ‘follow our dreams’ and ‘live our passion’. I got to the point where I found it incredibly irritating to hear these suggestions, because it seemed so impossible to actually do so. I was living in the world of the Should, trying my best to follow all the right steps that would guarantee me happiness.
Well, I followed the right steps and found myself more confused than ever.
So I had to revisit the idea of purpose, and wonder if I had chosen the wrong path.
Using my unique science and therapy Knowledge and Experience, I make the argument that following our purpose isn’t that far-fetched an idea, and that doing so might actually have millions of years of support in being the preferred method to live ones life.
Yes, this week I argue that your purpose is determined by your DNA, and that realizing this not only minimizes the human struggle, it does justice to your ancestors and our evolutionary history.
In this Episode I talked about how important it is for humans to feel safe. We need to feel safe in the same way that we need food, water, and shelter. Feeling unsafe is exhausting and will do whatever it takes to feel safe. Truly, we spend all of our energy trying to escape a feeling of vulnerability. If we cannot reach a state of feeling safe, we will continue to waste our precious energy trying. As a result, many of us go through life exhausted.
In fact, this can be a huge issue if we don’t define safety accurately – or more precisely, if we are too severe in our expectations of safety. We can’t guarantee anything in life, and acquiring 100% safety is impossible. If we are unable to compromise, or to find safety from multiple sources, we are doomed to fail and to be anxious, depressed, and frightened.
This topic of episode plays into Episodes 54 and 55 about the Bully and your DNA, where the ‘Should’ voices in our heads are making it more and more difficult for us to achieve a feeling of safety, or that we are good enough. I hope you enjoy revisiting this Episode, or listing or watching for the first time. And please check out the Are vs Should series beginning with Episode 50.
Last week I introduced a few examples of the Are vs. Should problem. One of the most obvious examples comes up when we think about our careers. When we’re young people ask us what we want to be when we grow up. As adults, many of us wonder what became of those childhood dreams when we find ourselves doing jobs we don’t like. And I’ll argue it’s because we listen more to our Shoulds than to our Ares.
And this isn’t to say that Shoulds are all bad, because I think their intent is honorable. Our shoulds are single-minded in trying to keep us safe. As with our choice of career, the Should wants us to make enough money to take care of ourselves and to ‘be happy’. Unfortunately, the Should is a mosaic of all of the ‘responsible’ voices in our lives telling us what to do, how to think. and how to act in life in an effort to ‘be happy’.
The problem is, the Should isn’t YOU, and it doesn’t really understand what YOU want. The Should wants what ‘the world’ wants. What your teachers, parents, family, friends, and other close relationships want. The Should is modified by the tv we watch and the articles we read on the internet. The Should is deigned to keep the Are at bay, and to push this common agenda at all costs. I’ll talk more about the Are in Part 2 of this miniseries, but for now let’s just say your Are represents the ‘real you’ or your ‘true self’. Or something like that – whereas the Should is partly you, but is comprised of all the voices you hear everyday.
Historically, I think humans connected more with the ‘real you’, or ‘true self’. In other words, we used to listen to the Are more. The emerging problem is, we see a lot of Should in the world today. I’d say more and more people are spending more and more time in their Should than in years past, and humans are losing their Ares in the process.
I think a result of this increasing Should phenomenon is that the Should has become a bully. Rather than being just one of your many parts, the Bully has become the loudest, most feared, and threatening ally in our head. Due to the peaceful nature of our Are, the Should now represents the antithesis to the ‘real you’. The Should berates us, exaggerates reality, and will do anything to keep you from listening to your other parts. But it’s not only that the Should’s voice is becoming louder, it is becoming more and more stifling and homogenous.
The onset of social media, the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO), and the idea that everyone else is more perfect than you further strengthens our Shoulds. Now our Should aims even higher. To perfection, even, making it impossible to get even close to achieving what the Should would tell us to achieve. To the point where many therapists and counselors suggest we don’t use Should statements at all because this line of thinking sets us up for failure, depression, anxiety, and frustration.
So somehow this Should part of our ‘self’ has gotten way out of hand. The should is taking over who we imagine ourselves to be and creating anxiety, depression, and frustration. It is time to regain control of the voices in our heads by realizing there is a dictator in charge that needs to be checked. And one of the easiest ways to do this is to reconnect with, and listen to, your Are.
Next week I’ll talk about the Are and why it is critical to rediscover yours.
To hear more about the Should side of your self, listen or watch the full Episodes below.
The Are vs. Should problem is unfolding before our eyes right here at KEW, on YouTube, and your favorite podcast server. The next step for me, and hopefully you will find this helpful, is to lay out the philosophical personalities of the Are and Should elements of ourselves. To me, the Should part can best be described as a bully, and the Are part best described as your DNA.
Bullies get their way.
Bullies continue to push your buttons to hurt you.
Bullies prey on our greatest weaknesses.
The Are, then, is your ‘real self’ and, to me, can best be describes, at the deepest level, by your personal DNA.
The Are is the unique you.
The Should is a big bully trying to make you into something else.
In this first of two Episodes, I’ll go in deep to characterize the Should Bully and how incredibly pervasive this personality has become in today’s society.
Full Episode, in podcast and video forms, coming right here this Friday.
After talking to Mandy and realizing she had something special, I decided to do sign up for coaching. I spent 12 weeks with Mandy and learned near as much as I had in ten years of therapy.
Though Mandy’s coaching is aimed at making high achievers even better, she has a lot to offer ‘normal people’ like me. Mostly I FINALLY learned to believe that mindset and understanding our personal values are critical elements to personal growth. Mandy was able to help me get ‘unstuck’ and move passed these roadblocks.
I hope you choose to listen to this entire interview because there are many gems that might help you get unstuck as well. You can find out more about Mandy and her coaching on her personal website https://mindsetforsuccess.com.au/about-mandy/.
As we move forward trying to discern the gist of the Are vs. Should Problem, I want to describe both the general dilemma and share a few specific examples. Generally speaking, you know you are in the Are vs. Should Problem when you experience discomfort, cognitive dissonance, anxiety, fear, anger, and other uncomfortable emotions. Of course, there could be many causes for these states of mind and it’s ALWAYS hard to identify the cause. It’s like when my kids get sick I always want to know where and when they picked up the virus or bacteria. We are all Sherlock Holmes to some degree and need to know WHY things happen. With the Are vs Should Problem it is difficult because the symptoms are so universal.
On the other hand, it could be that any discomfort, to some degree, is RELATED to the Are vs. Should problem and I make the assumption that this is nearly always the case. Despite the multitude of things that can happen to a human and the variety of reactions we can have, I’ll argue that the cognitive dissonance related to these reactions is in part a result of the struggle between who you ARE and who you think you SHOULD BE.
If you look at the Episodes I have recorded, you will see the Are vs. Should problem at work in many forms. Analysis Paralysis is something we all experience where we can’t make a decision, get anxious, and lose the ability to move forward. To some degree, this is a result of the conflict between what the person we ARE would do, and what society/family/job tells us we SHOULD do. We all experience internal conflict and Doubt about our decisions and what the outcomes will be. This is the essence of the Are vs. Should problem. Similarly, struggles between narcissists and codependents epitomize the ARE and SHOULD extremes between two different people where each person is struggling between extremes of selfishness and caretaking.
Though I can’t yet offer distinct solutions about which voice to listen to, I do know that this struggle is fairly universal. I talk about this in episode about different vs. the same. I think this is because the struggle between these competing personalities (ARE vs. SHOULD) can be isolating and lead us to spend a lot of time ‘in our heads’ and at the very least we need to be aware of how isolating this struggle can be. When we are in our heads, we are feeling more pressure from the SHOULD and need to get more inside our ARE. Think about it, who is the voice in your head most of the time? Who are you talking to? Who are you?? The more in your head you are, the more ‘should’ you are being.
Which person do you want to be? This is where we will be headed in future episodes. This is the type of person you are being – but is it the type of person you want to be?? Who do you REALLY want to be? The are or the should? This dissonance can be mild or critical. This is what the personal inventory is all about, identifying and ranking your traits and prioritizing what to do about it.
In this episode I share a few examples ranging from fairly benign to critically important. Struggles between the ARE and SHOULD can create chronic anxiety, stress, and fear. Do you want to live in a state of anxiety all the time? Our perspectives about gender roles or blue and pink jobs can greatly influence some people’s choices and experiences. Isn’t it important we figure out what matters to us as individuals and each other? Does it really matter if a woman wears pants to work or makes as much money as her male counterparts? Some times it most certainly does matter, and the potential outcomes are disastrous. Other times it might not matter so much. It comes down to the type of society we want to live in and be (see the Dream Bigger Episode) and what rules we think are worth defending, and which ones are not.
The first step, again, is to lay out your Personal Inventory prioritize each item, and decide what matters. This will determine your personal values and beliefs.
In upcoming episodes I will discuss how these personal values lead to society-level norms, rules, and laws. I will start to dissect how the ARE and SHOULD come to be, and ultimately, how learning not to care what people think goes a long way to choosing which voices you want to hear.
I’m struggling a bit at the beginning of the Are vs. Should Problem I have been discussing in Episodes 51-53. So far, I have introduced the problem; that we all struggle with the person that we ARE and the person we think we SHOULD BE. I have described the first step toward a solution in taking a Personal Inventory. Next, I tried to begin the process of examining the personal inventory by separating items as being described by Hard and Soft realities. This may not make perfect sense yet, but I promise it will.
In Episode 53, the fourth installment, I share a handful of examples and situations for you to ponder in your own life or others’ lives. Situations where you may experience the dichotomy of Are vs. Should. There are infinite examples, but this is one of those things that our minds, or our Ego, can talk us out of. We protect ourselves from being aware of the Are vs. Should by living in the Should. (I suppose there are those who live in the Are, and I am envious and very curious to know more about those people). The Should mind beats us up. It tells us we are not good enough. It convinces us that people look down on us and that our shortcomings are things we have to cover up or change. The Should mind is a bully.
The Are mind can appear to be a push over, childish, or be hidden from view by the overpowering Should bully. In other words, the Are side of us is sometimes hard to see. The personal inventory is one means of examining ourselves objectively, and determining whether an item or experience or belief belongs on the Are vs. Should side.
Hopefully, this weeks’ Episode will be helpful during the examination process. Full Episode coming Friday.