Let’s call the authority we have over weakness in ourselves autonomy, because it’s the authority we have over our own premeditated actions. Not all of our actions happen after some consideration. For example, you’re breathing and blinking right now. Do you recall making a decision to take those actions? Our survival instinct has the authority over those actions, not our personality. In a future post, I’ll go in depth into the difference between power, control and authority. For now, here are a few tips and suggestions for achieving greater autonomy in the face of any weakness you find exposing itself in your personality and preventing you from taking action.
Don’t let anyone accuse you of being an optimist. Be logical instead. Optimism requires the denial of reality. For the very same reason, so does pessimism. The glass is half filled with water and half filled with air. Any other description of the cup of life is inaccurate at best and disingenuous at worst.
Instead, let’s see the possibilities for the future in terms of the accomplishments of the past. Remember when people said that there’d never be emancipation, women’s suffrage or a black President? (You do? Are you immortal? That is so cool — please DM me.) Pessimism, like optimism, is a rejection of half of reality. Rejection of reality is one way of lying. When governments present only one half of reality — even if that entire half is truthful — we call that lie propaganda. Don’t be the propaganda generator for your group of friends and family. Stick to the truth and acknowledging all the facts, viewing the horrifying parts and the joyful ones as being equally relevant.
Fear is your body’s way of warning you that you could be punished for the action you’re about to take
There are two ways to get and maintain justice: protest the injustice and demand that a specific solution be implemented by those in the position of authority to make it happen OR occupy a position of authority and implement it yourself. Both ways take time and involve a high degree of perseverance and a high pain threshold, but the first can be done right now. The first amendment of the Constitution protects our right to petition the government for a redress of grievances. Next time a link to a petition asking those in an authority position to take an action you strongly agree with gets posted on Facebook or Twitter and you hesitate to sign it, ask yourself if an authority figure from your past ever punished you for protesting injustice. We often attribute the traits of our first governors — our parents — to our current governors (the Government) even though our parents may have been a lot more dictatorial and tyrannical than our state or federal government. In order to keep our actual government in check, and reverse the many civil liberties violations that have been legislated in the past ten + years, we will have to be strong — not weak — and protest injustice. I don’t believe that you would be reading this post at all if you weren’t already on the strong side of the strength-weakness continuum, but when you feel that hesitation, or worse, the rhetorical “what difference does my one signature/vote/phone call/letter make?” question pops into your head, ask yourself if isn’t really fear masquerading as a “sensible” objection.
Then ask yourself, what is the worst thing that could happen? Remember that brave people and cowardly people both feel fear; brave people simply protest injustice and object to abuse of power by authority anyway.
Emotions are information
Fear can be an indicator of weakness but it’s also an excellent way for the survival instinct to remind us that we might be making a huge mistake. Rather than try to eliminate fear (which is exactly what you should feel when in danger! also, going into fight or flight triggers lots of adrenaline and noradrenaline to flood your bloodstream, and who doesn’t like that rush?), next time you feel it, remind yourself that emotions are information. Fear informs us that we are in danger. Let it be a matter of probability: How likely is it that you will be punished by the authority whose injustice you are protesting? We’re very lucky in the United States to be able to tweet and blog and call the ACLU if we get punished for expressing our freedom of speech. Check out my post on what a fascist regime looks like if you want to learn more about the alternative.
Sadness, like fear, is often viewed as a weakness, as an indicator of someone who is “really emotional” as opposed to, say, “really successful” or “really powerful.” At some point in our 20’s, we arrive at a realization followed by a conclusion. The realization is a given, but the conclusion varies for everyone and will define our attitude toward power and authority for the rest of our life. The realization is that the amount of corruption in the world is widespread and devastating. The vast majority of people then conclude that they cannot change it. This is because they perceive themselves to be weak but may not even be aware of seeing themselves in that way. The next time someone says to you, “I’m not strong like you, [your name],” you say, “Yes, you are strong and that’s a lie. There are two kinds of greed, greed for power and greed for money. Whoever told you you weren’t strong wanted to profit from your perception of self as being someone who isn’t strong. Whether they wanted to gratify their desire to have power over you, make money off of you, or both, they were lying, and you are strong.” It is more likely that they will not perceive themselves as being weak but instead perceive you as being stupid/ignorant for thinking you have some kind of power. There are some indicators or signs of this that I like to call “blinking red neon signs.” The irony here is that only people who are aware of the incredible degree of power they have ever get anything done that makes a lasting difference for many people (for good or bad!). So watch for these indicators of weakness not only in others but in yourself.
When you come across a person who is metaphorically holding up this red neon sign that declares, “there’s nothing I can do. I’m simply not powerful enough,” they are displaying submission, sometimes to life itself. A few of the indicators are sarcasm, hatred, and gross predictions of the future. Sarcasm, as John Knowles said, is the protest of the weak. Hatred is a declaration of impotence (anger is what we feel when we do become aware of our power, confidence is what we feel when we are finally expressing that power by taking action to right the wrong and correct the injustice). And predicting the future (for example, “we’re not going to have a female president; it’ll never happen”) is faux omniscience; when people predict the future in this general way and in a presumptuous tone, it is usually a compensation for overwhelming feelings of fear caused by not knowing what is going to happen. This is an act of self-comforting, the adult version of thumb-sucking. These people are mainly talking to themselves, to reassure themselves that the unknowable is knowable. Now please consider how much pain they must be experiencing to feel compelled to constantly self-comfort in this way. From that perspective, don’t you feel lucky — and grateful — that you are strong enough and brave enough to handle going into that place of “I don’t know” and still feeling ok? And, the more consistently you take action, the more pressure you’ll personally be exerting to shape the future, and the less you’ll have to guess at what the future holds because you’ll be sitting in the front row as it takes a more and more clearly defined shape in front of your very eyes.
When you feel sadness, know that you have detected injustice. Feeling sad is how you know. Now, what are you going to do? What action are you going to take to change the situation?
Joy is often measured in the absence of pain
Happiness is an emotion — not a goal. The concept of the pursuit of happiness (thanks, Founders) has irrevocably influenced what we as Americans think of as the meaning of life. As human beings, we know we are capable of feeling joy even in the midst of injustice and crisis (think SNL), and I highly recommend you write down on scratch paper or a note card, “what would it be like if I had a happiness scale and could actually measure the emotion joy in the same way I could weigh coffee or sugar or flour?” Maybe your pain:happiness ratio is 1:1. The most intense joy is often measured in a total absence of pain. What action could you take to get out of pain right now? Now, what action could you take to get into joy?
Want to read more about the glass being half filled with water and half filled with air? Click here.
Want to read my post on what a fascist regime looks like? Click here. Posts will open in a new window.