Pain into resolve

My cliff notes for “Transmute guilt into resolve“:

When we feel powerless in the face of some injustice or other peoples’ pain, we have an impulse to avoid that pain, or excuse ourselves from it somehow. [This seems a form of, or a cousin to, tolerification.] Cynicism is a form this can take.

Instead of avoiding it, try turning that pain into resolve.

Averting the eyes of a beggar is an example of a situation where we feel this impulse. We tend to feel guilt in this situation — our impulses try and save us from that — because their presence in our lives suggests that maybe we should be doing something to help them.

And, maybe you should do something! But, for others who are already are working to make the world a better place, their guilt over a single person’s pain they can’t also reach is pointless. They needn’t feel guilt.

Guilt is a tool for us; we aren’t a tool for it. It is helpful “only insofar as it helps you wrest yourself from the wrong path”. If you’re doing all you can already, the fact that you can’t do more is no cause for guilt.

Rather, it’s a reason for anger, at a world where nobody is evil but everything is broken. It’s a reason for resolve, to push yourself as hard as is healthy and sustainable but no harder.

Instead of ignoring pain you cannot address, see it, and focus on it, and turn it into resolve. When we act on that impulse to avoid pain — to look away, to rationalize, to tolerify… — we miss an opportunity to confront the pain directly, and in so doing fuel our cold resolve with it, to power our motivation.

Opportunities abound every day to confront pain directly when we see it, and use it as a powerful reminder that there is work to do.

This post is part of the thread: Replacing Guilt Cliffs Notes – an ongoing story on this site. View the thread timeline for more context on this post.

Cheer up

My cliff notes from “Detach the grim-o-meter“:

Our cultural narrative archetypes instruct us to act grim when we’re facing darkness, and feeling cold resolve. But, seeing the dark world doesn’t require you to be grim, or necessitate that you must become grim. We aren’t in a narrative, and are free to disregard that script.

We calibrate our “grim-o-meters” to be more or grim in direct proportion to our grim our circumstances. But tying grimness to the state of the world is a terrible idea: It’s a terrible world, and you’ll never be happy or joyful.

Your grim-o-meter is designed for local occasions. You need to get more grim (and more buckled down) as the work immediately in front of you gets harder, and you need to get less grim (so that you can spend time recharging and relaxing) whenever you have the affordance to recharge and relax. That’s the point of the grimness setting.

Being grim can help us express resolve and buckle down, but it is mutually exclusive with play, creativity, and joy, which we also need. You can change your demeanor to one that is useful for you, given what you’re working on. When actively working hard on a dire problem, maybe be grim for a while, to help power your resolve. But you don’t need to stay outwardly grim to continue to be powered by that resolve. And, you may find that lightening up is more useful to actually getting things done.

This post is part of the thread: Replacing Guilt Cliffs Notes – an ongoing story on this site. View the thread timeline for more context on this post.

Buckle down

My cliff notes from “Being unable to despair“:

There are two ways to respond to things getting hard: digging deep, and giving up. Giving up can look like finding excuses, or failing dramatically. If your approach is giving up, here’s how to dig deep, instead.

First, realize that you probably aren’t someone who gives up all of the time; when facing hard problems, sometimes you do buckle down. So, you are capable of applying that response at least some of the time. Perhaps you can apply it more often.

Second, realize that doing nothing — curling up into a ball — is not a non-action; it is one choice of actions. When you do nothing, thus giving up, you are making an active choice for how to respond to a difficult challenge. (Note that the point isn’t that curling up is always bad — sometimes it may be good for you.)

Third, realize that to feel helpless sometimes is human — we all feel it at times. Feeling helpless doesn’t mean you are helpless; you can push on despite this.

[I]nternal drive often requires tapping into a deep desire to make the world be different, in a world that’s very large and very hurting and very hard to change.

[Putting it all together, working backwards: Recognize that the odds are stacked against you, just like they are everyone; difficult odds don’t let you off the hook of buckling down. You can choose to buckle down, just like others do. In fact, you already do buckle down, some of the time. Knowing all of this, be empowered to choose determined internal resolve even more often, even in the face of (and even because of) bleak odds.

This post is part of the thread: Replacing Guilt Cliffs Notes – an ongoing story on this site. View the thread timeline for more context on this post.