Emotional Health: mind, will, emotions – S01E14

Original Script of the Video (not a direct transcript)

Hello, everyone, and welcome back to Watch Me Shine. My name is Brian and I want to thank you for joining me again. I missed a couple episodes and I apologize to anyone that’s been waiting, but the subject of this week’s episode isn’t an easy one to approach. It’s about mental health. I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to say about this because I’m not a mental health professional. So, the first thing I want to say is: if you’re dealing with mental health in some way, please see a mental health professional. It’s not something to take lightly.

The second thing I wanted to say is: I’m going to approach this from a standpoint of what helped me improve my mental health. I feel that these changes can help anyone, but they’re not going to fix everything. I also want to try something new. I’ve noticed that my viewer engagement rate isn’t very good. That means either you’re not interested in the subject matter, or I’m not a very engaging presenter. I would like to change that. So, I’m going to try and be more… me. I’m going to try and tell more stories instead of lecturing you like we’re sitting in a high school guidance session. This subject matter shouldn’t be boring. I want you to be excited about the prospect of changing your life. 

That being said, let’s look at the tasks from last week and see how we did.

  1. Make a choice to find a map.
  2. Set time aside to study
  3. Read and study it.
  4. Apply music.
  5. Join a community.

Did you find a map that makes sense to you? Have you decided to study it so the world starts to make sense to you? Did you get started? What’s your soundtrack? Did you find others that can help? Comment if you want some help and I’ll help you out if I can. No pressure.

I remember the first time the question was posed to me, are you a mind with a body or a body with a mind? This really wasn’t all that long ago. I think it was last fall sometime. I was always the type of person to sit and think too much. My father liked to point that out a lot when I was growing up. He still says it often, to this day. I just can’t help it, I guess.

I was sitting on my back porch, just after the sun went down, and the stars were coming out. It was a bit chilly and I was actually considering starting a fire in the burn barrel in my backyard. My family was inside. I think my wife was probably relaxing after dinner and my daughter was probably in her room dancing. And I was outside, sitting in a chair on my porch, and listening to some presenter on YouTube. I think the topic was the nature of consciousness. And the question came up, are you a body with a mind or a mind with a body. And as I sat there, I felt really, really small. I felt so unimportant and insignificant. And, honestly, the idea terrified me. But then something hit me that turned all that around. The idea that hit me was that, no matter how small and insignificant we may feel, no matter how true that is, the human mind is the origin point for everything we have in our lives. Literally everything that didn’t just happen in nature started as a thought.

Just let that sink in for a moment. Everything from religion, philosophy, art, music, poetry, government, law, politics, inventions, family, all the way down to tools, how to make fire, recipes and cooking in general, all the way back to the decision to come down out of the trees and start evolving into something greater than monkeys hiding from predators and surviving on fruit, came from someone using their mind to generate an idea and taking a chance that it may lead to something better. Our minds, our ability to think, to see the world around us, notice problems that need solving, and then take ideas that came before and combine them, modify them, and start using them to solve those problems, is the tool that we use to do so. Mankind is the dominant species on this planet because we’re constantly not satisfied with the way things are and trying to find better ways to improve things.

As I sat there on the porch, that idea struck me hard. I started thinking about those past ancestors and what they’d done for us. I have a home, a building in which to shelter myself. That building was made from construction techniques that had evolved over thousands of years. I had just eaten a meal that came from food that had been grown and raised by thousands of years of evolving agriculture techniques. It came to me through a network of distribution that made sure that food was delicious and nutritious by the time it got to me. It was cooked using techniques and recipes that had evolved from a bare campfire to appliances hooked to power systems. I was wearing clothes that were manufactured instead of animal skins. I was sitting in a chair that was designed to be comfortable and durable instead of a tree stump or log. I was holding a pocket computer in my hand connected to a wireless network in my home that was connected to a global network of computers delivering ideas from people all over the world. People had created those ideas out of learning, combining, and modifying ideas that they’d learned from those that came before them and then delivering those ideas to me from thousands of miles away, not to mention the span of time between which they recorded it and I chose to watch it. And yet, all of this was possible because we as humans had evolved new methods. But, overall, it’s really not far from the way we used to transmit ideas millions of years ago.

I’ve been watching a lot of videos by a man, a really fantastic speaker, named Eric Edmeades. One of the videos I watched talked about the way humans used to transmit ideas hundreds of thousands of years ago. Humans used to sit around the fire and tell stories. These first people didn’t have computers, phones, TVs, radios, or even a writing system when they first started out. They had each other, the security of a tribe, and the safety of a campfire. They used to sit around and tell each other stories so that others could benefit from their experience and that experience would often save lives. The people that learned those lessons had a better chance of survival in the future. Now, for the most part, we don’t have to worry about it to that extreme, but I think we’ve lost something in the process.

I’m not going to argue that technology is bad. I’m a technophile and I believe that technology can absolutely be used to better our lives. I think that we can use technology to grow our tribe, expand the safety of our campfire, and transmit the experiences of our lives to those that could benefit from it. And that’s exactly why I’m doing these videos. I want mine to be one of the campfires you choose to join, to learn and benefit from my experience, to better your life when the world seems a dark, cold, and foreboding place that makes you feel small and insignificant. Within you is a mind that holds the potential to better not only your own world, but the world of those around you. I believe that, within you, you contain a store of knowledge and experience and that knowledge and experience is a source of potential that is limitless. I believe that you can use that potential to create a better world, again, not only for yourself, but your tribe.

I remember the day I met my daughter. I’m not sure I’ve ever mentioned this story in this channel. I met my wife at a bar and we exchanged numbers through a mutual friend later. But when I met her she didn’t like me, for some reason. The numbers came later so I must have made a good impression. But, when I met her, the first words out of her mouth after I introduced myself, were designed to scare me off. She asked, “Do you want to see pictures of my kid?” She told me later that it usually filtered out a lot of guys. Not one to be scared off easily, I said, “Absolutely!” And, after some phone conversations and a date or two, about a week or two later, we met in a park. All the typical things went through my head when meeting her daughter: getting to know her, playing and having fun, keeping her safe, and all the other things that typically go through peoples’ minds when they are playing with a child. But, because my brain likes to overthink things, I was also thinking about how children work and how brains evolve.

Children are fascinating to me, particularly how they learn and how their thought processes change over time. Children, specifically their minds, are like basic computers. They have a basic input system via their eyes, ears, fingers, toes. They have a basic output system via a system of crying and a type of protolanguage, mimicking the sounds they hear. And they have a basic processor that uses that data to expand their understanding of the world. They learn by combining that input into useful data and understanding. Over time, their programming becomes increasingly complex. They learn to walk, talk, use tools, and modify the world around them. As time goes on, all these systems become more complex through increasing the amount of input they receive. They still learn from parents, but they begin learning from others like extended family, friends, teachers, and so on.

Eventually, they evolve into more complex computers. They start deciding what to do with that input. They start making choices. Instead of one decision making path, the one they were taught, they start to evaluate the inputs and decide which way they are going to use them. They either keep the original programming or abandon it for one they think might change the results to something better. We can see the evolutionary process at work in something as simple as a decision to try something new to create a more optimal result given the nature of inputs. We eventually have to become our own programmers. When you hear that phrase, what does it mean to you? To me, it means that we need to analyze how we take in information and how we use that information, how we combine and modify it, and then apply it to our lives, not just as children, but also as adults.

The problem, as I see it, is that people generally quit learning about this process once school ends. I fell victim to this after leaving university. Learning often becomes a passive thing. We learn what we need to learn based on employment or the circles of friends that we maintain. How many of you know that person that just doesn’t read? How many of you, honestly, are that person? I know that I stopped reading to learn right out of the gate when I entered the real world. I tended to only read stories for entertainment purposes, like sci-fi or fantasy novels, unless prompted to do so by my employer. Combining this with my other chosen inputs: music, television, movies, etc., this fundamentally changed my input, which I’m sure had dire consequences for my overall programming.

What this did, in essence, was to skew my view of the world. I was reducing my input to that which was required to become better at my profession or distract me from the world. I became a specialized processor, a piece that only fit into a specific role in a larger machine. What happens when that role is no longer required or becomes redundant?

I just lost my job again this week. I was working as a System Administrator for a company that no longer required as many System Administrators as they currently had. They decided not to extend my contract. As you can imagine, this is devastating, terrifying for me. I did what anyone would do: I started to look for similar roles to the one I had or ones that I’ve had in the past. Again, this process is terrifying and devastating when I’m turned down for those roles for one reason or another. I’m currently having to change my programming.

So, I’m having to use my willpower to learn new things. I don’t honestly believe I’m just going to switch career paths, but I do believe that I need to change what I’m taking in and expand my inputs so that I have more knowledge and experience to call upon. How many of you have ever been in a position in which you called upon seemingly unrelated experience to solve a problem? How many of you, say, changed a recipe because you were cooking for someone with a food allergy? How many of you solved a computer problem by knowing about how someone used their computer, not because of something technical? How many of you ever explained a process to someone based on their profession, not yours? All of the knowledge we take in can be applied to other things.

The thing that allows us to expand our knowledge and experience is willpower. It’s one of the greatest tools we have. It’s the tool we use to get us out of our comfort zone. It’s the power of self-determination, the drive to become something better. It’s a muscle, one you can’t see or touch, yet one that needs exercise. The problem is that most people, myself included for much of my adult life, is that we choose not to exercise it until we need it, and one that fails us because, when we need it, it’s often not there because we didn’t choose to exercise it and we can’t carry the load we require in that moment. I already did a video that you can find in my channel, on ways to exercise your willpower so that it’s there when you need it. I encourage you to watch that video, because it’s a vital tool to add to your kit. You might say, “OK, Brian, that’s great. But where do I start?”

When I was a child, I was not very emotional. I tended to accept things for the way they were. If they weren’t the way I wanted them to be, I just learned to adapt. This is a good skill to have, but the problem is that I just took things at face value and rarely had a desire to change them. As I got older, this trend followed me into adulthood. I learned what I needed to learn. I would take jobs when they presented themselves. I would take whatever salary I was offered because that’s what was offered. Expressing emotion has always been a sort of weak point for me. Granted, the ability to control my emotions has always been a strong point for me, but the ability to show them has not.

Thinking about this I was reminded of when, as a child, I had an interaction with my one of my grandfathers. I was probably six or so at the time. Just a kid. I remember spending the day with him and watching him do work. It’s just what he did. He was always working on something, always busy. He was a gardener, a handyman, and absolutely loved working on cars. If he didn’t know how to do something, he would just try new things until he figured it out. I think this is probably the main person I got this skill from. I remember this day vividly because I always felt bad about the interaction later in life. We were in the garage and he was doing some kind of MacGuyver stuff to fix a problem. I don’t know what it was and it doesn’t really matter. He was doing what he was supposed to be doing: solving this problem and keeping an eye on me. At some point, I let my emotions get the better of me and I blurted out, “When are you going to have time for me?” Now, as a fairly unemotional child, this was uncharacteristic for me. I knew that what my grandfather was doing was important. He was solving a problem. But what I didn’t expect was the look he gave me. He calmly put down the tools with which he was working, looked at me, heartbroken but with one of the kindest smiles I remember ever receiving in my life, and said, “Ok, Brian, what do you want to do?”

We went downstairs to the workshop he had in his basement and I spent hours going through all the drawers in that room. I pulled things out and asked him, over and over, “What’s this?” Through that interaction I learned more about my grandfather than I think I had at any other point in our relationship. Not only about the tools he used, the things they were used for, and the wealth of knowledge that man had at his disposal. But also his kindness, love, and what he valued in life. He was willing to drop what he was doing, the job he was working to complete, to spend time satisfying my curiosity as a child. He showed me two things that day: one, that expressing my wants and needs should not be something I should hide, and two, that dropping everything to aid those in need should be a value by which we should all live our lives.

As I said, that interaction is something I felt bad about throughout my life. I never wanted to impose upon people and make them stop doing what they were doing to help me. But, now I look back on that interaction in a different light. The way we learn is to expand our inputs and modify how we use that to create different outputs. The drive to do so is fueled by our willpower. But it’s the emotion, the desire, that prompts it all. If we don’t examine our desires and express them to ourselves and others, it doesn’t matter how much willpower we have or what we learn that matters.

We, as human beings, need to listen to our desires, feel the emotion behind them, understand those emotions, and express them in an appropriate manner. We need to learn to balance that, to feel the emotions and allow them to flow, but we also need to learn to control them, not let them control us. We need to allow ourselves to feel passion, curiosity, creativity. We need to harness them and allow them to fuel our desires. We need to express those desires and then use our willpower to drive us to learn. So, think about things that make you curious or the things that inspire creativity. Do you want to learn to communicate with others more efficiently? Learn a language or take a speaking course. Do you want to create? Take an art class or learn to play an instrument. Your desires are your own, but you must learn to understand them. Think about what drives you as a human being, learn something new, and then expand your tribe, invite them to share your fire, and teach them something that can help them do the same.

If you do these things: use your mind to its fullest extent, use your will to fulfill your self-determination, and harness your emotions to understand what you want and why, your emotional health will flourish.

So, let’s talk about tasks for next week that can help you work on these things. And we’re going to kind of work backwards through the topics of this video because they’re foundational and build off of each other:

  1. What do you want to learn? What drives you as a human being? Are you curious or creative about something? Spend some time thinking about these things and decide to learn something completely unrelated to your profession or things your friends do. Pick something to learn.
  2. Use your willpower to sign up for a class, pick up a book, watch some YouTube videos, or otherwise begin learning about this new thing. Figure out a way to expand your exposure to something new. Then commit to going to the classes, reading the books, watching the videos, and practicing.
  3. Use your mind to expand that knowledge. Don’t just take in the lessons. Actually practice it, modify it, and use it in new ways. Figure out how that knowledge can be applied to other areas of your life. Most especially, teach it to others. There’s no better way to learn something than to take the time to explain it to someone else.

We are not cogs in a machine. We are not specialized tools meant for one purpose. We are complex beings, full of potential, and that potential is unlocked through learning a variety of skills and talents. If we limit ourselves to what comes to us in life, we are limiting ourselves in life in general. Become something greater and help others become something greater. I’ve made a commitment to doing the same, so, until next week… Watch me shine.

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