KEW Episode 64: The Forest for the Trees

I’m using the Forest for the Trees metaphor to suggest that humans have become exceptionally myopic. The only reason I know what myopic means is because after defending my Master’s Thesis a professor proclaimed that I was very myopic – meaning I had a terribly narrow view of the question I had asked and answered. I thought I was being pretty broad and was a bit hurt by his statement, but I also understood his point. I could have taken a ‘bigger picture’ approach, but by the time I realized that I was too far along to expand my view.

Anyway, I realized recently that myopia was again affecting my life.

During the decade I spent in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy I didn’t really change. And I knew I wasn’t changing, but couldn’t understand why. Sure, I learned a lot, but my problems stayed the same. At some point I realized that I understood what I was doing, and how to fix it, but only in an analytical way. My mind understood the logic, but my behaviors, attitudes, and habits weren’t changing.

I was still anxious although I understood how irrational many of my fears were.

I still believed I wasn’t good enough despite understanding where those beliefs came from.

I was still angry about many things, though I knew that energy didn’t solve any problems.

I understood why I was the way I was, but I’ll be damned if I learned anything about changing.

Until I realized I was looking at the trees.

In my metaphor, and maybe in yours, my logical, analytical brain was a tree. And it’s all I saw.

Recently, I came to understand I was not only a physical body and an analytical mind, but also an emotional and feeling body with equivalent mental and spiritual elements.

And my anxiety, depression, feeling not good enough, and angry parts were spread across all of these different trees – and together formed my forest.

In order to heal, I had to form a real forest, and not just a bunch of trees.

Paul Gadola calls this Integrity – and I needed some.

A stand of trees does not a forest make. They must integrate. Together. With all parts having meaning. And seeing and feeling each other.

In the context of the Are vs. Should Problem, the analytical mind and the physical body are where a lot of the Shoulds are aimed. The Shoulds bully us into forgetting about the Ares, which lie within our other parts. Our Ares are whole. We used to be whole. We are becoming quite splintered. Myopia is stealing our wholeness.

But we can get it back. We can resist.

Download podcast audio here: https://pdcn.co/e/https://chtbl.com/track/CGDA9D/www.buzzsprout.com/530563/9221504-kew-episode-64-the-forest-for-the-trees.mp3?download=true

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Youtube video here: https://youtu.be/a08lb5Wol_M

FLASHBACK! KEW Episode 47: Changing Behavior Changes Beliefs

For years I was stuck trying to THINK my way into changing my behaviors, beliefs, habits, actions.

Not that I was all that bad or needed massive changes, but there were things I wanted to be different.

I would get anxious a lot.

I would get defensive sometimes.

I would say no to social invitations.

I would be afraid to try some new things.

You know, just some things I wanted to change. So, I would say things like, ‘next time I’m going to remind myself to do that differently’.

But I wouldn’t. Or, I would remember to remind myself, but be so overwhelmed I would end up doing the same things.

I would end up doing the same things. Out of habit.

And to change habits, we have to change our brains. It’s funny, but we can’t think our way into changing our brains.

We can’t change our brains WITH our brains.

We change the way we think by changing what we do.

Original post with full audio and video links: https://chrisburcher.com/2021/05/07/kew-episode-47-changing-behavior-changes-beliefs/

KEW Episode 56: Domestication

Don Miguel Ruiz, author of many books including ‘The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom (A Toltec Wisdom Book)‘ uses the term “Domestication” to describe the process by which humans are taught how to live. I have been fascinated by this process, whatever you wish to call it, for as long as I can remember. In fact, I still wonder, often out loud, why no one ever asked whether or not I was agreeing to this social contract. See, we are born into a world that teaches us many things before we even know what’s happening to us.

And a social contract is very much what domestication is like. We are taught so many things. How to eat, how to walk, how to speak, what to believe in, where Santa Claus lives, which religion is best, whether or not skin color matters. . . . The list is infinite. We are TAUGHT these things. Many of these things are opinions, some of them are factual, and very few of them are valuable.

Because some rules are totally important. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Don’t spit at people. Don’t eat raw kittens. So, sure, some of the domestication process is good and even fundamentally necessary to a healthy society.

The PROBLEM IS, that much of the domestication process is not only unnecessary, it’s unfair. And in the context of the Are vs. Should Problem, domestication becomes the Should Bully by teaching us what to think, how to act, and what or whom to believe in.

And the WORST part is, much of this domestication occurs before we can consent. We are, in fact, brainwashed at very early ages to follow the rules. Again, some of this is good, but a lot of it is NOT. But it’s ok, IF we understand this and can go back and edit ourselves, or update what we believe, feel, and do as we grow and change.

The lucky ones, usually in our teenage years but often again in mid life, realize we have learned some weird shit. At certain times in our lives we QUESTION our own beliefs. We get CURIOUS about our thoughts. We WONDER who is really making our decisions. If we’re lucky something encourages us to question WHO WE ARE. It is at these times we have a chance to take back our lives, our minds, and our DNA.

This week I share my thoughts about the Domestication process, discuss the damages caused, and provide a warning about our future. Solutions are necessary and urgent. Please follow this series and help me find some.

Link to podcast download here: https://pdcn.co/e/https://chtbl.com/track/CGDA9D/www.buzzsprout.com/530563/8947786-kew-episode-56-domestication.mp3?download=true

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Link to YouTube video here: https://youtu.be/kVRRKf2zh6k

KEW Episode 52: ‘Hard’ and ‘Soft’ Realities

As we pursue the “Are vs. Should Problem” and examine our personal inventory, I want to describe two main ways we can understand our selves and the realities we live in.

First, there is the measurable world. The ‘Hard’ world where science reigns supreme. Things are measurable, quantifiable, and therefore fit into the well oiled scientific machinery. Problems stemming from economics, medicine, and food supply are easily boiled down into testable hypotheses and theories used to derive definitive results. Other minds have described hard problems as being those containing subjects comprised of matter (as opposed to ideas, for example).

Is the economy going to tank? Well, the data on this and that support a trajectory that suggests no.

Will this medicine prevent a global pandemic? It is 98% effective at preventing disease and 90% of the population is vaccinated so yes!

Is this years corn crop enough to supply North America for the winter? Yes, ten billion metric tonnes of corn will feed 200 million people (I completely made up those numbers, but you get the point)

So science is pretty darned good at answering certain questions. About things that we can OBSERVE and MEASURE.

EVERYTHING ELSE is a ‘SOFT’ problem defined by a soft reality. EVERYTHING ELSE.

My point in this episode is that VERY FEW items in our personal inventory are going to fit into the HARD reality. And, unfortunately, scientists (and other professionals who get paid to think) spend most of their time on HARD problems because, well, because they have to. The hard tools don’t work as well on the soft realities. BUT THEY CAN WORK!

And so, as part of our assessment of our personal inventory, as part of the process of weeding out the needs, the wants, and the don’t-really-need-so-muches, we have to develop a new skill set.

One way to understand the soft problems, is simply to borrow the scientific tools used for hard problems. Einstein, and others, called these ‘thought experiments’. There’s no reason we can’t follow the scientific approach to ask questions about soft realities, we just can’t draw the same conclusions because not everything can be boiled down to numbers.

And that may be another way to understand the difference. Hard reality problems can be boiled down to a set of numbers that represent the reality: The average person has 10,000 thoughts a day. Whereas the soft reality problem can’t be measured like that: The average person worries about death and being unloved as they age. Worry, fear, sadness. How do you measure those things? And, if you could, why would you? What we want and need with soft problems is simply a better understanding of the realities across people. Science isn’t a good tool to go about understanding this. Our minds, however, are excellent tools to solve these problems – we just have to normalize this however we can once we find a system that works.

And, really, we probably have lots of Unscientific approaches that work – we just treat them differently from science because, well, they aren’t science. Next week I’ll go in to a bit more detail with examples.

Full podcast audio download here: https://pdcn.co/e/https://chtbl.com/track/CGDA9D/www.buzzsprout.com/530563/8777439-kew-episode-52-hard-and-soft-realities.mp3?download=true

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Full YouTube video link here: https://youtu.be/KMWmd9cmZ9k

Preview KEW Episode 52: ‘Hard’ and ‘Soft’ Realities

As I navigate through the ‘Are vs. Should’ Problem‘ I see an initial split as we start to unpack our personal inventories. If we first have to lay out all the elements of our lives for inspection and understanding, it becomes obvious that there are (at least) two types of elements to consider. I’m calling these ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ elements, and they are defined within their respective realities. I’m not trying to make this esoteric or overly complicated, it really isn’t.

In short, ‘hard’ realities are measurable things composed of matter that can be studied by science. Things like foods we like, things we find beautiful, our favorite color, types of people we’re attracted to, jobs we’d like to do. Compared to ‘soft’ realities that are less . . . definable. Less measurable. More foggy. These things include our feelings about religion, whether we think abortion should be legal, how we feel about anarchy. . . . how one defines beauty (as opposed to things we find beautiful). And so on.

In short, I want to begin the process of understanding our personal inventories by introducing the idea that there are (at least) two ways of looking at our personality traits defined by these two ‘worlds’. I’m sure other authors and thinkers have defined these things differently, and I beg you to educate me, but this is the idea I’ll ponder this week as we move toward redefining ourselves.

KEW Episode 51: Personal Inventory

On our journey to define the ARE vs SHOULD problem (Episode 50), we must first define the ‘existing conditions’. Like many scientific endeavors (and I’m NOT saying this is a scientific endeavor, rather, that I will take a scientific APPROACH), the Are vs Should investigation needs to know where it’s coming from to understand where it’s going.

And, really, the personal inventory is just that – it defines where we are at the beginning of our adventure. Doesn’t every good movie do the same thing? Isn’t this really just a classic ‘set the scene’ device we use to tell stories and keep them interesting?

And so on the path to personal growth and figuring out the Are vs. Should problem, we will first lay everything out on the table and start from there. Carlos Castaneda, in the books he wrote about Don Juan Matus, talked a lot about the table, and the tonal, as being the field of the ‘known’ or the ‘earthly’ possessions humans carry around with them.

But the personal inventory is about much more than just physical objects. It’s the feelings we have, the people we know, the relationships we build, the cars we drive, the foods we eat, and so on, and so on, ad infinitum.

Truly, the personal inventory is the story of everything that has happened to us in our lives up to the point at which we build the personal inventory. And, yes, it’s a huge job and no, I don’t expect you to nail every last thing.

The idea is that, if someone asked you about the ‘basics’ of the inventory: your likes, dislikes, wants, needs, desires, values, etc. you’d probably be able to come up with a handful of things quickly. And you might even think that those things ‘pretty much’ described who you are. And that’s the problem. We don’t see ourselves as being all that complex. Or maybe not AS complex as we truly are.

We are ourselves and our experiences. So TIME is a huge factor here. Our personal inventory is also our personal HISTORY. Much of the personal inventory is things we haven’t done, or thought about, in a long time. It’s our past and our present. It’s who we ARE and who we WERE. It’s physical and it’s metaphysical.

And, again, the idea is not to be complete nor obsessive. The idea is to think about this as much as we can, to establish a ‘who am I’ table full of things, and then to move forward.

Building your personal inventory can be fun. You will be surprised how interesting you are if you push yourself beyond your comfort zone and tolerate the pain of a thorough investigation of your self.

And, truly, if you don’t put forth an earnest effort (and you must define what that is for yourself), you will not make much progress on the Are vs. Should problem. The more you reveal about yourself, the more material you will have to work with.

While I’m not entirely sure what will come next, it will very likely focus on an ASSESSMENT of the personal inventory to think about where and how these pieces of you came to be. And whether they need to stay. Or go. And whether there are things missing that you wish were there. Please comment below with thoughts you might have about what comes next. More next week in Episode 52.

Direct podcast audio download here: https://pdcn.co/e/https://chtbl.com/track/CGDA9D/www.buzzsprout.com/530563/8746218-kew-episode-51-personal-inventory.mp3?download=true

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Direct link to YouTube video here: https://youtu.be/psgP9inkpRQ

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Preview KEW Episode 51: Personal Inventory

The concept of a personal inventory is common to many therapy, personal growth, and coaching approaches. Essentially, before you can implement a change, you have to know WHAT you’re changing. So the personal inventory is all your STUFF.

Your WANTS.

Your NEEDS.

Your LIKES.

Your DISLIKES.

Your VALUES (see Episode 46).

Your FAMILY.

And so on. You get the picture. But what many of us DON’T GET is how complex this can be. We are a LOT more complicated than we think.

And before we can pursue the ARE vs. SHOULD problem (Episode 50), we have to know what (WHO) we’re dealing with (Episode 49: Who Are You?). The process of laying out your personal inventory is the first step.

Please subscribe to my YouTube channel or Podcast if you want to follow the development of the ARE vs. SHOULD problem. And more importantly, comment below if you have input, criticism, or insight.