Back again

Some days it feels like this

Well, that was interesting.

The pit of despair was cold and drafty, and it wasn’t much fun. It’s been a while since I was stuck there, and I’d forgotten how unproductive and self-defeating it is to get stuck there.

Even at the bottom of a well, if I keep looking up, I see light.

So, I got down to work, did something constructive with all my energy, and just took it one hour at a time.

And I remembered, for all my difficulties, there are many people in the world who would love to have my problems. Because they happen in the process of me living what’s overall a really good life. And all my worry and distress really makes me more aware of how others feel and how they, too, struggle with things — whether those things are “hard” or “easy” for others.

Compassion. That’s what came of it. For myself and for everybody else.

Now I’m back, and life goes on.

Better, though, this time.

Much better.

It really does matter how you look at things — and yes, you can choose

Your brain is more powerful than you think!

So, after posting about working on my perspective, I took a quick look at my Twitter feed, and I found a mention of a new study that’s been published:

Neurophysiological correlates of various mental perspectives.

From the Abstract:
A common view of consciousness is that our mind presents emotions, experiences, and images in an internal mental (re-)presentation space which in a state of wakefulness is triggered by the world outside. Consciousness can be defined as the observation of this inner mental space. We propose a new model, in which the state of the conscious observer is defined by the observer’s mental position and focus of attention. The mental position of the observer can either be within the mental self (intrapersonal space), in the mental outer world (extrapersonal space) or in an empathic connection, i.e., within the intrapersonal space of another person (perspective taking). The focus of attention can be directed toward the self or toward the outside world. This mental space model can help us to understand the patterns of relationships and interactions with other persons as they occur in social life. To investigate the neurophysiological correlates and discriminability of the different mental states, we conducted an EEG experiment measuring the brain activity of 16 subjects via 64 electrodes while they engaged in different mental positions (intrapersonal, extrapersonal, perspective taking) with different attentional foci (self, object). Compared to external mental locations, internal ones showed significantly increased alpha2 power, especially when the observer was focusing on an object. Alpha2 and beta2 were increased in the empathic condition compared to the extrapersonal perspective. Delta power was significantly higher when the attentional focus was directed toward an object in comparison to the participant’s own self. This exploratory study demonstrates highly significant differences between various mental locations and foci, suggesting that the proposed categories of mental location and intra- and interpersonal attentional foci are not only helpful theoretical concepts but are also physiologically relevant and therefore may relate to basic brain processing mechanisms.

I downloaded the paper – you can get it here – but I haven’t had a chance to read it, yet. There are some pictures with color, which are probably going to be cool to look at, once I get my head on straight today. I’m still a bit foggy from this past week. But I’ll have some free time this afternoon to chill and relax and rest, and hopefully read this paper.

Basically, it sounds like they’re saying that your state – your experiences, emotions, and images in life – can be determined by internal focus, rather than external circumstances. That focus can be on others, or on yourself. But the important part is — it’s your focus, it’s your choice. And different parts of the brain “light up”, depending which choices you make about what to focus on.

Where you put your focus determines how your brain "lights up"
Where you put your focus determines how your brain “lights up” – downloaded the paper here

Or, more simply put – we don’t have to be victims of circumstance and pushed around at the mercy of the rest of the world. We can choose how we want to feel and think and experience our lives, regardless of external circumstances.

Of course, this is assuming that you have the energy to focus your attention on what you want to think and feel. If you’re in poor health and you feel like crap and you have no energy, it can be pretty tough to keep a positive outlook.

But it can be done.

An attitude of gratitude

I’m feeling incredibly grateful today. And it is good.

To all appearances, I shouldn’t be quite this happy. The weather has turned ugly again, and it’s looking a lot more like November than July, right now. I have had to really work at keeping up with my workload, lately, and I have this sneaking suspicion that I’m falling behind on something… though I’m not sure what that is. My schedule has  been kind of up in the air, with different appointments coming up that need to be dealt with, a fender-bender that has been followed by messed-up paperwork… and my regular life still needs to be tended to, as usual. Laundry has to be done. The lawn needs to be mowed. On any one given regular day, I can do some if not most of it, but lately – with all the excitement – I’ve been doing less than I feel I should. And I’ve been feeling like I’m falling behind.

Still, today I’m feeling great and very hopeful. It’s like something has taken a turn for the better, and I have yet to find out what that is. There’s a whole world of possibility out there waiting for me, and I can’t see why I shouldn’t be able to enjoy myself while I’m finding out what that is.

The feeling started yesterday, as I was driving around running an errand. I was thinking about all the crap stuff I have to do, trying to figure out how I was going to do it and get a nap in (I never got the nap). I was feeling pretty hassled and harried and I wasn’t having fun. But in the midst of my dissatisfied reverie, I was interrupted by the thought,

“Nobody is making you feel bad. Nobody is making you feel any way. Yes, you’ve got plenty of logistical concerns and things aren’t easy right now, but it’s your choice how you feel about it all. You can either get your knickers in a bunch over what’s wrong, or you can be grateful that your life is complete enough and you are functional enough that you can have these “problems.” A lot of people aren’t. And you didn’t used to be. If you weren’t doing this well, you wouldn’t get to experience this level of complication and irritation. And frankly, it’s a very good sign that you do.”

That snapped me out of it. Got me right off the proverbial pity-pot. Three years ago, I wasn’t able to deal with all the wrinkles in days like I have now. I wasn’t able to hold down a full-time job that places extra demands on my time management skills with its telecommuting aspects. I wasn’t able to hold down a job, period. I wasn’t able to hold a civil conversation with someone for longer than 15 minutes, and I wasn’t able to manage my money effectively. I wasn’t able to communicate with my spouse or take good care of my house and my yard. I was “functional” only because I had worked so hard over the years before to build up a lot of supports that were able to prop me up when I was in a bad place. They propped me up, but they also wore out and went away. The money. The job. The friends. The peace and stability in my home.

It’s taken a lot of hard work to get back to a place where I have at least some of those things back. It’s taken a lot of hard work to get to a place where I am once again able to maintain the life that I desire. It hasn’t been easy, but it’s been possible. And it is good.

And for that, I am very, very grateful.