Sunday, September 27, 2015

Fear Pangs


A lot of my posts discuss emotions. I'll start with a quick summary chronologically and then move on to the core of this post.

  • In Emotions: Awareness of Hormones (April 2015) I discussed how the subjective experience of "feelings" are simply an awareness of different hormone levels in our blood.
  • In Empathy: Awareness of Other Awarenesses (May 2015), I discussed how being aware of others' emotions and being aware of their free will is the core of our experience of empathy.
  • In Moods (June 2015), I discussed how your emotional state can affect your choices.
  • In Deconstructing Emotions (July 2015), I discussed the way to recognize that some of our language uses catch-all terms (e.g. "happy" and "jealous"), which are really just combinations of constituent emotions attached with some abstract thoughts.
  • In The Role of Philosophy (July 2015), I discussed how emotions are one of the facets of life which are currently on the move from subjective to objective data.
  • In The Bisection Method (September 2015), I discuss how to better define which choices you want to make in regards to an emotional situation such as a breakup.

Hunger Pangs

Now that that's out of the way, let's switch gears a bit and discuss the animal kingdom. Lesser animals have significantly less (if any) self-awareness compared to humans. When they feel pangs of hunger, they react. They hunt for food for example. They aren't aware of their pangs rationally; they just know instinctually that in order for the pangs to be solved, they have to eat sustenance.

Whereas humans can feel hung pangs, but not necessarily react. Logically, our language has allowed us to classify and describe the feeling of hunger pangs. Our self-awareness has allowed us to make different choices. If we are on a diet, for example, we can use our awareness of a hunger pang, to recognize that we are choosing to ignore it for the moment.

We can choose to diet. Animals can't.

So based on that premise, the way to measure our self-awareness, is to determine how much we can make a choice, given an urge from the external environment (your own body's hormones as the external environment in this example).

Fear Pangs

So using that definition, what's next?

Imagine you're in marketing. You have a big presentation coming up for your boss, and you're nervous that you're slightly unprepared. You try to "pull yourself together" and calmly give it your all.

But what did you really do?

You became aware that the feeling in the pit of your stomach, was simply you being afraid of negative consequences for your career if your presentation didn't go well. Or perhaps you were afraid of being judged by your coworkers triggered from some old unresolved childhood issue.

You used your self-awareness and language to put a label on that fear, and made a choice of how to handle it, and how to present yourself, despite your fear. A less-spiritually-evolved person may have freaked out and screwed up such a presentation or had a panic attack.

How many people walk around with subconscious fears subtly dictating their every day decisions? Fears they aren't even aware of.
  • Maybe they're subconsciously afraid they might die alone and therefore act more desperately in their sexual relationships, which yields them ending up with a sub-par mate they end up miserable with.
  • Maybe they're terrified of being bored by life and are becoming an adrenaline junkie out of that fear (not out of an actual choice). Midlife crisis anyone?
  • Maybe they're scared of their family judging them, and simply subconsciously choose what to wear to a gathering based on that.
By increasing their self-awareness of these fears, they would be able to recognize that they are simply experience some hormone related to fear, and truly make a choice despite that fear pang hormone they've detected in their body. They will have "grown" as a person.


How could we define our next stage of spiritual evolution as a species?

Here are a few examples of ways to increase our self-awareness, and thereby increase our choices.
  • Being aware of what your hormones related to sadness when someone dies, you can choose how to deal with the emotions of that death, and choose to not push your loved ones away.
  • Being aware that your personality tends to be one of extremes ("work hard play hard"), and make a choice of whether to continue acting that way.
  • Being aware that the pleasurable feeling of a quick release of dopamine is driving you to use drugs, and choosing to find other methods to get your dopamine release.
  • Being aware of a constant fear about the future is allowing you to remove your generalized anxiety disorder (the entire basis for the highly effective CBT method which has been shown to be more effective than pharmaceuticals in some cases).
  • Being aware of your cycles and long term style of relationships allows you to choose a different partner next time who doesn't emotionally abuse you.


To measure self-awareness, we must measure out how many choices are stemming from underlying subconscious motivations (just chemicals in our bodies and brains).

The next time you feel a fear pang, just realize it's just some hormone interacting with your cells, and actually make a choice instead of simply reacting.

It's the entire basis for meditation. Becoming enlightened, is simply the process of becoming self-aware. Being aware of your true underlying motivations so that you can actually make a choice.

Eventually we'll be at a state where our fear pangs no longer dictates our choices as a species, the way our hunger pangs don't have to dictate our choices.

Constantly increasing self-awareness through technology (e.g. the internet containing our collection of knowledge to share), through self-exploration (e.g. meditation), or through science (e.g. measuring brain activity and hormone levels and correlating that with emotions).

What's will be the next step in our spiritual evolution? Meta jokes aside, what are we aware of that we aren't even aware we're aware of?

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Bisection Method

Improvement is the path to perfection.

"Perfection" is such a nebulous term. There's no real "perfect". There's only change in the universe. Buddhist have discussed for centuries the principle that the only thing one can count on is change. The atoms around us are constantly moving, changing, popping in and out of existence ("virtual particles"). The relationships in our lives are constantly changing. Our bodies are constantly changing. Our personalities are constantly changing. Our pattern recognition used to change our response to the external circumstances in our lives are constantly changing as we learn more and acquire more memories.

In my post about Adaptation, I discussed the importance of frequency in order to tap into the fact that life naturally adapts, in order to direct that change towards specific goals. In my post about Mind Over Matter, I discussed how using choices can morph the external environment into your specific desires. In my post about Deconstructing Emotions, I discussed how excitement is simply happiness with the direction of your choices.

To get from where you are now "Point A" to where you want to go "Point Z", you must direct the change towards Point Z If you imagine the perspective of driving a car, you have a vision of the future you wish to achieve, and there are several factors to getting you to that location on the map (really the physical location in the field of choice) through your choices.

Improvement: Choosing to direct the change in the direction you want.

Frequency: The percentage of time you spend being intentional about your choices.

Hard Work: The speed with which the change you want occurs.

Goals: The end vision you wish to achieve.

What about the direction though? The GPS? You have the goal in mind. You're ready to work hard, and ready to choose to spend your time improving and tapping into that change to achieve that goal. But sometimes the direction of choice is not necessarily obvious.

You may think that having a specific goal in mind is sufficient. It is true that the more clearly you define your vision for your goal, the more your subconscious will use that to subtly guide your choices towards that vision (the closest I can ever come to believing that book The Secret). But you can help your subconscious by thinking in terms of what I call the Bisection Method.

Take the vision of a goal (Point Z). Take where you are now (Point A). Cut it in half. What would halfway between A and Z look like? Define a clear vision for Point M.

Do it again. Define a clear vision for Point G. Keep doing it again until your immediate decisions, Point B, become clear.

Here's how this "Bisection Method" can be applied to various aspects of life. Yes, some of these may be obvious "duh" moments of just moving towards goals, but stick with me; you may be surprised how effective it can be.

You have a goal to be able to run 5 miles. You can barely muster running 1 mile. Before you do that, you'll have to be able to run 3 miles with ease. Too hard right now. Before that, you'll have to be able to run 2 miles with ease. More reasonable. Before that, you'll have to be able to run 1.5 miles with ease. So for the next month, you build up to running 1.5 miles with ease. Reapply. You then use the following month to build up to running 2 miles with ease. Rinse and repeat.

You're restlessly lying in bed going over the day's events and tomorrow's to-do's. Imagine what it would look like to be peacefully dreaming. You're so far from that, it's laughable. What would halfway look like? You'd probably be slowly drifting to sleep. Too far away. What would halfway to that look like? You'd probably be thinking less and less about whatever happened in your day. Now we're getting somewhere. What would halfway to that look like? At some point, you'd probably make a conscious choice that tomorrow's activities can wait until tomorrow. Now you have a clear choice in the direction you want.

You're devastated that your boyfriend broke up with you. You're a wreck, and can't focus on work. What would the goal look like? Well, in 5 years, you'd probably be laughing with friends and looking back on that one time 5 years back when you were "going through a rough patch". Okay, too far away. Use the bisection method. What would halfway to that look like? You'd probably be having a great social life but with a few old thoughts of your ex floating around in your mind. Too far. What would halfway to that look like? You'd probably be picking up the pieces of your life, and looking forward to some personal time, or time with friends. Getting closer. What would halfway to that look like? You'd probably be embracing your newly embraced freedom. What would halfway to that look like? You'd might decide you're better off in some way without him. I don't know how you personally deal with things like breakups because we're all unique, but you can use the bisection method to figure it out for yourself.

Let's say you're an architect. You want to come up with a killer blueprint design for a new project. You have the vision of it working out beautifully and being praised by your boss. Maybe you have some self-doubt, and are getting overwhelmed by how far off that is, or how unreasonable it appears. What's halfway to that? You'd probably have some struggles along the way but found a beautiful design you are pleased with. Maybe still too far. What's halfway to that?

You get the point. I can keep giving examples, such as:
  • Painting
  • Composing music
  • Business development
  • Social anxiety
  • Software development
  • Depression
  • Confidence
  • Graduating College

Defining clear visions of the "halfway" points is essentially you helping out your subconscious to more efficiently make choices which lead you to your goal. And those halfway points are not necessarily the time it takes; rather, what would have to be in place for the goal to be realized. Notice how in the "Emotions" example, I didn't bisect the "5 years" part of the goal, but rather the "laughing with friends" part. The time it takes will depend on hard work, frequency, and just time naturally flowing. This method is simply used to help guide the direction of the choices.

Improvement is the path to perfection, and the bisection method is what I like to use to decide how to improve.