Mutual Respect and Conversations With Friends

Got to have a short, but decent, chat with my best friend yesterday.  First decent chat I had in awhile.  Even though we’ve been friends for years and both of us have had problems with depression and burnout lately, it was amazing how we were able to pick up like we never left off.  She, like myself, has been having problems with depression and anxiety for awhile.  We are both distressed by people who have misplaced priorities.  But we were able to chat, primarily about literature and novels made into movies.  I had been chatting with her a little every day most days.  But it felt especially enriching for some reason yesterday, even if the conversation was only for a few minutes.

I also reestablished contact with some of my tech enthusiasts’ groups on facebook.  And the conversations were actually quite civil.  I had been avoiding most of my groups for the last few weeks as some of them had become nasty and brutish.  It seems that the larger the group on facebook, usually the greater the chance for a lack of civility.  That’s why I usually don’t participate in large discussion groups.  I usually look for niche groups with fewer than a few thousand followers.  I felt fortunate to have a decent conversation for the first time in weeks.  It’s quite amazing how much can be accomplished when people stop tearing each other apart and actually attempt to show decency and compassion.

Compassion and decency aren’t as valued as they should be, at least not recently.  I never understood the idea that insulting and demeaning people would somehow motivate them to action.  It inspires the opposite in me.  It shows to me that you are a brute and not worth my attention or effort.  I don’t care if you do outrank me and are in a position of power.  I have never respected people who abuse their power.  I never will.  I temporarily tolerate jerks and blowhards only when I have no choice.  Most people I know are the same way.  We may “yes sir” or “no ma’am” a jerk in power when we have no choice.  But in private, among our friends and families, we make it clear we don’t respect people like that.  In the long run, most people won’t respect or love people who are arrogant and abuse their positions.  What a person sends out to the cosmos and their fellow humans tends to come back to them on a long enough time scale.  I understood this even as a child.  I tolerated bad and abusive people only when I had no choice.  I certainly didn’t respect them.  And once I had an opportunity to be rid of such people, I took full advantage of it.  What abusive and arrogant people condemn as being a ‘nice guy’ was considered ‘honor’ and ‘chivalry’ in previous ages.  It’s time to bring back the concept of honor.

In short, it’s quite amazing what one can accomplish just by treating other people with decency, respect, and honor.  Just a few minutes of conversations involving mutual respect rather than trying to insult, preach to, or shout down others was enough to recharge my batteries and undo a long string of abuse at the hands of brutes and fools.

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Self Talk and Respecting Ourselves

lisa_sobaka

In one of my earlier posts I wrote about hiring a new counselor.  I’ve been seeing him every two weeks for four months.  The relationship on a professional level has been established.  The large theme we found is that I often have self defeating thoughts.  My counselor thinks we get caught up in negative thinking about ourselves and act on thoughts whether we are aware or not.

At first I thought this was one of those meme type philosophies like ‘what you think about comes about’ that oversimplifies.  For years I thought my mental health problems were mostly the result of a bad draw when it came to genetics.  The more I went into what my counselor was saying, the more I realized I wasn’t being proactive enough in my thinking.  I was allowing bad things and poor thoughts to happen because I thought I was essentially powerless to change what was happening in my mind.  I had fallen into the trap of being too reliant on psych medications and not adjusting my thoughts and behaviors.

While psych medications can knock down some of the immediate anxieties and depression, they are unable to address the issues of behaviors and self image.  A med can’t make anyone think better about themselves.  We still have some control over what we tell ourselves and how we see ourselves.  We are not condemned to a lifetime of failure because we have mental health problems.  I have heard about too many people with issues to think depression and anxiety are death sentences.  Just Google or Wikipedia Famous People With Mental Illness and you’ll see names including Noble Prize winners (John Nash), U.S. Presidents (Abraham Lincoln), musicians (Syd Barrett of Pink Floyd), and so on.  I would argue that famous explorers and inventors like Daniel Boone, Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, Leonardo da Vinci, etc. would have been considered ADHD and problem children by 21st century standards.  Some people simply don’t fit some preordained little box to be ‘normal citizens.’  People like this are the ones who change the world for the better and make life more interesting.  Just because someone is quirky and doesn’t fit in socially doesn’t mean that person is doomed to a life of pain and obscurity.

What we think about and act on has an influence on our lives.  Once I took charge of my health, started dwelling on how I can make myself healthier, started exercising, started to eat healthy, my physical health began improving.  It all started with the idea that I could go against my previous trends and improve my health.  I’m finding the same thing with my mental self image.  As I’m thinking, and acting on, the idea I don’t have to be threatened by feelings of anxiety or depression, things are improving in those regards.  As I think, and act on, the idea I don’t have to believe anything anyone says, my life has changed for the better.

Once I accepted that I don’t have to always be the one giving without receiving good in return, I have found that others respect me more.  I respect myself more now.  Feel free to tell others ‘no’ when you aren’t up to helping them.  Tell others ‘no’ when they keep taking from you without giving anything back to you.  You know what it’s like to be disrespected.  We all do.  Ways to get more respect include respecting yourself, setting boundaries, telling others ‘no’ when they are using you and treating you poorly, and don’t go out of your way to bend to whims of disrespectful people.  If you don’t think you should respect yourself, don’t expect respect out of others.

Talk yourself up.  Start small if you have to.  Do not buy into the idea that you have to be humble and groveling at the feet of others.  Far too many people believe that being humble means thinking poorly of yourself.  Because people think poorly of themselves, they allow themselves to be victims of their circumstances, their diagnoses, and of every hustler and con man who comes along.  Think well of yourself.  Treat yourself with love and respect.  Think good about your ability and accomplishments.  We all have accomplishments and talents.  We just discount them because they are ours.  We, mentally ill and neurotypical alike, need to talk more dignity, honor, and respect into ourselves on a daily basis.  If we don’t hold ourselves with higher regard, we have no reason to be sickened when others won’t treat us with dignity and respect.  What we think about and act about does come about.

Thoughts on the Death of a Close Friend

I’m going off my usual mental illness topics for this post.  Something like what I’m currently writing has been weighing on me for quite some time.  Yet it finally crystalized into actual thoughts within the last twenty four hours before this writing with the death of one of my best friends.  This man died in his early 80s and was a retired Lutheran minister.  Pastor Vern, as this man was known to everyone living in my apartment complex, was probably the wisest, wittiest, well read, and compassionate individual I met in my entire life. I knew him for eight years but I don’t believe I ever heard him say anything derogative or hurtful about anyone.  I know I can’t go even eight days without at least thinking something hurtful directed at others, but hopefully most of this is due to the aspects of my illness.

Being a career Lutheran minister, Pastor Vern no doubt had his views on religion and God.   Yet he was not as caught up in rituals, creeds, and beliefs when talking with me as he was on the basic principles of Christianity and other religious beliefs.  Those core beliefs, the ones he lived by everyday were simply 1) Love God, 2) Care About Others, and 3) Respect Yourself.  I suppose if one were to substitute or supplement  the world ‘God’ with nature or the earth, even the most convinced atheists would be hard pressed to deny that loving nature, caring about others, and respecting yourself are good principles to attempt to live by.

Pastor Vern, being one with a wide array of interests and knowledge, was a perfect friend for someone like myself.  He and I could easily talk about history, classical literature, philosophy, among numerous other topics for quite a long time.  We would usually be sitting outside, him smoking his pipe, and just discuss whatever happened to come up regardless of whether it had any logical order or direction or not.  Some of our neighbors who listened to our conversations no doubt thought us a little odd for rarely discussing such mundane things as weather, current events, or gossiping about others.  For myself and Pastor Vern, hardly any topic was not subject matter to be discussed.  We had an unspoken agreement that no matter how much we disagreed on any one topic, we would never become angry or speak harshly to each other.  I suppose this falls under the care about others and respect yourself principles.

He and I have both studied the basic teachings and principles of most religions with significant followings.  We both came to the conclusion that in spite of the differing rituals, social practices and customs, sets of creeds and beliefs, etc. that one thing they all believed were the ideas that a person would be better off in their own lives and dealings with others if the basics of ‘Loving God (or your creator/giver of life/etc.)’, ‘Caring About Other People and Living Things’, and ‘Respecting Yourself’ were principles that a person attempted to live by.

Yes, these are simple principles to the point that any six year old child can grasp these are important.  Sadly, most of us as adults severely complicate these and often don’t live by these ideas at all.  How much less strife and division would we have in our work places and places of business if managers, workers, and customers alike lived by even the caring about others and respecting ourselves?  How much less war, famine, disease, poverty would we have if even individuals, let alone the governments of the world, operated with these guides?  How much less needless destruction of our most valuable forests, farmlands, waters and wasting of finite natural resources would we have if we lived by even the ‘Love God/Nature/Earth’ idea?  How much less conflict and needless grief would we have in our personal lives if we cared about others and respected ourselves more?

I apologize for the mini rant in the previous paragraph.  I wrote that to try to apply to our own lives the principles that my recently deceased friend Pastor Vern lived by every day.  These are principles I attempt to live by though often inconsistently.  In closing I’m glad to have had a friend like Pastor Vern for the eight years I knew him.  I wish that everyone could attempt to live by such principles, or at least become acquainted with those who do.