The Golden Path to Finding My Enlightenment. 

I have returned to a concept that I had abandoned due to my whole “I need empathy” thing. Which I did; however I think that I may had gone a bit far with it. I will say that in my quest for empathy I did find a better understanding of emotions, which was a great enlightenment. 

But,  I lost somethings along the way. 

I lost my cynical view of the world. I lost my misanthropic outlook on people. At the time I thought this was a good thing and that I had become a better person. I thought that I had grown. What happened was is that I made myself vulnerable. I let my guard down and I took one to the jaw. 

But,  this is still growth. 

Now, I have to learn how to blend all of these things. To be emotionally aware, empathetic, and cynical/misanthropic all in a healthy balance. Its going to be challenging, but I feel like I will be a better person after its all said and done. 

Hopefully this time I won’t have to buy any books. 

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A Faulty Concept

Funny preface to this post: I sat down this morning to type this up and I had to stop because my AC was leaking water in a closet in my office geek lair and all over the floor. Called my HVAC Guy and he came over to check it out. The issue was that I apparently didn’t understand the effects of gravity on the movement of fluid in a hollow cylindrical tube. When I last changed the filter, I didn’t place the drain pipe back at a downward angle so that the condensation from the coils could drain. He just slanted the pipe back, smiled, and told me to have a good day.

Before all of that happened, I was watching a documentary called “The Mask You Live In“. It covers the concept of masculinity and how it can be damaging to young boys and the men that they become later in life. I kind of talked about this in a previous post and my experience with it.  It involves the concept of masculinity as far as how we teach our boys to suppress emotions. We tell boys “don’t you cry” or “men don’t cry” and it wasn’t until  I was in my mid 30s that I saw how this had damaged me as a person.

Now, let me start this off by saying that I know that I give Tumblr a lot of shit; however that is because Tumblr tends to take a concept like this and go to the farthest extreme with it. In this case, I actually owe some Tumblr users a thank you because without their rational and educational posts I would never have even thought that this was an issue and by “this” I mean the tradition that we raise our boys, if not our children in general. Another thanks to Tumblr (sort of) is that the thought of gender being a created concept had been planted; however no one on Tumblr actually ever really explained it in a way that I understood. A point that is made in this film is that, generally speaking, kids are biologically the same. You give them choices and they will make similar choices 90% of the time no matter what sex the child is, but that 10%, or 5% on each side of the spectrum, is where we get the concept of gender.

This concept is created by traditionalism, commercialism, and media. All of these create the social norm for gender. Tradition says that men are to be strong, fast, muscular, good at sports, sexualy active ( if not overly sexualy active) and they conquor/dominate. If you are not this; then you are not a man and you will never please your parents. Tradition says that a woman is to be pretty, fit, good at domestic duties, a nurturer,empathetic, not sexualy active (or at least don’t let anyone know that you are),but flirtacious and submissive. If you are not this; then you will not attract a good husband, and you will displease you parents. Commercialism supports this by advertising to these points from everything from kids toys to laptops. Media also helps with the creation of gender by the music, film and literature of the time. While traditions may be changing all over the globe, it’s still a change in progress.

Our traditions are moving away from the heteronormativity that mainly was focused by religion; however now we have new concepts that are still flawed. These concepts (again, I have talked about this in the past) like “Alpha” types and those are usually assigned to a gender (Alpha Male, Alpha Female) and even still when we look at the definitions ( of which there are many) you see these old traditions still deeply entrenched in them. You see words like “enterprising” , “Assertive”, “Superior”, “seeking all avenues of fulfillment, including the sexual”, dominant, physically fit, rarely get emotional and these were taken from sites that gave traits of both “Alpha” Males & Females. So, in our great step forward we have learned that masculinity is not a gender, but a trait; however it is a trait that we still are fucking up six ways to sunday. You also apparently cannot be “Alpha” and be feminine. Every trait that is generally described as feminine, is used to describe the “Beta” type. So, again, having empathy, emotions, being sensitive, nurturing, sexually submissive/inactive is all seen as weaker.  So really, we haven’t changed anything, we just allowed females to become masculine and men to become feminine and we still ridicule them for “switching teams” (no matter what that person’s orientation is) because it is still entrenched in our brains that boys do Y and girls do X.

My problem with this is that kids don’t need this shit. If little Billy is crying; then go find out why he is crying. Why is he sad? Let him talk about it. If little Jenny wants to take karate and play with robots, let her. So what if all of the other girls have dolls and are playing with a giant fake plastic oven that comes with fake pans and food? So what if Bill likes art and doesn’t want to play football?  Let Jenny have Optimus Prime and become a black belt! Let Billy talk it out and draw unicorns fighting dragons! Because if you don’t, later in life, your holidays will be awkward and your kids will be in therapy.

Trust me on that one.

Because I know if that I had heard a lot less of “if you don’t stop crying; then I will give you something to cry about!” and was allowed to express my feelings and emotions then I may not be in a few places that I am now. I know that if I had kids, I wouldn’t be pigeonholing them into these gender roles and stereotypes that come along with their sex. I would be letting them make their own choices, and guiding them as they went along. Last time I checked that’s what parents did.

Or so I have heard.

What To Do When You Are Branded.

It’s a widely known fact that I am an asshole.

Hell, I admit to it most of the time and almost wear it as a badge of honor. I do so because it means that people see me as someone who doesn’t take any bullshit and doesn’t get pushed about by this or that seem to fucking care about anything but myself. When you look at it psychologically, it means that I know how to set firm boundaries, be assertive, and I am not afraid to use the word “no”.

Now, here’s my lamentation.

It’s not always easy being an asshole. Sometimes it’s damn well heartbreaking. Because you have to make the choice between helping someone else, or caring for yourself or to continue caring for a person at the same level of quality that you already are or by helping this person it will add to your existing burden and it comes back to the quality of care for others or time to care for yourself issue. You want to do all of these things; however you know that taking on that extra burden just isn’t something you can do. So, you have to own up to being human, set a boundary and then stick to it. If you have enough on your plate and someone else comes along asking for XYZ. You have to just tell them you can’t help them, say “No” and walk away.  Just know, if you do this then you earn your asshole badge and will be forever branded as such.

A lot of people will say “God never puts more on you than you can bear” (Which is a misquote and a misuse of 1 Corinthians 10:13, that phrase is nowhere in the bible). Yeah, he does. That’s why people have fucking migraines, mental illness and nervous breakdowns. That’s why I had a nice church lady in one of my IOPs because she was so damn exhausted and stressed out, yet co-dependant, from “The Lord’s Burden” on her that she was literally being driven out of her fucking mind and had to learn to:

  1. Set Firm Boundaries
  2. Be Assertive
  3. Not be afraid to use the word “No” and walk away.

If g-d is so fucking awesome with his workload management, then why doesn’t he come down and pitch in every once in a fucking while?

Another more logical way to look at things is this:

“Givers have to set limits because takers rarely do.”

– Henry Ford

You have to set your own limit and you have to decide what you can bear. It’s up to you and not some imaginary friend that thinks they know global logistics.

But, I am digressing.

The point I am trying to make is that you have the right to say “No” and to not be cursed for it; however it’s going to happen anyway. If someone needs help, then point them in another direction that they can find it; however you are booked. These are the boundaries that I set, and that I use. People may not like it, I generally do not like it, but I am not a superhero and I can’t save everyone. I think that realization and my ability to set and hold onto my boundaries are actually my superpower, and sometimes I feel like the world hates me for it.

Then again, I’m an asshole.

In Sporting News:

I am not a sports fan. I don’t follow scores or stats. Hell, I couldn’t tell you who the hell was IN the last Superbowl much less who won. Sometimes, I will catch myself watching a hockey game or a rugby match, but that’s about it; however there is a Sports Journalist that has become a voice of reason here in Texas. That voice is Dale Hansen. He has delivered messages during his “Sports Special” segment that have drawn national attention spanning subjects from his own childhood sexual abuse, to LGBT players in major league sports; however in his broadcast on the Friday after the Dallas Shootings, he again was the voice of reason in Texas. When I watched, and more importantly heard, this video I actually cried. Simply because an old white man, in Texas, was talking to a large audience and actually being logical and reasonable. It gave me hope.

Before I saw this I was going to write about my day that I had and what happened during my therapy session and my further feelings on this subject. Honestly,  my day can wait and Dale says exactly what I am still feeling about Dallas and more:

Watch Here.

 

A Time of Loss.

It’s time for me to come clean about something.

I am a BFG.

That means Big Fat Guy. In February of this year I had to have a physical exam (for my disability claim) and I weighed in at 505 pounds (229.064 kg). I would love to tell you that was only the first time that I have weighed that much; however it isn’t. About a year or so ago, I weighed about the same and did what I am doing now. Counting my calories, and trying to move around more. This time is different though.

That last time I wasn’t diabetic.

This time it’s serious. I have to lose this weight and drop my A1C numbers or I start down the path that my mother went down. Diabetes tore her health and life apart and I will be damned if I go out like that. So, if I have to give up the carbs and say goodbye to the candy aisle; then bring on the kale and splenda because I am not going through that shit.

So, since the news of my giant ass and then the news of my diabetes, I have been cutting out starches & “bad” carbs. Working out periodically, and just trying to keep busy. I try to keep between a 1200 and 2000 calorie intake and stick to greens and lean protein. From time to time I will have some ice cream or a burger, but it’s a rare occasion and when I do, it’s definitely a workout day the next day.

I have been using Google Fit and Myfitnesspal to track my progress. So far, I have been doing pretty good.

MFP_Profile

Yep, from that weigh in back in February  as of  yesterday morning I have dropped 70 pounds (31.7515 kg).  Which is the equivalent to:

  • A full helium tank
  • An electric fireplace
  • 31752 thumbtacks
  • A big wingback comfy chair
  • 187 Bananas
  • The average sheet of drywall
  • An Irish Setter
  • 3/5ths of a North Pacific Giant Octopus
  • 2.5 Gold Bars
  • 7 Cats
  • 11 Bricks
  • 75 Soccer Balls
  • .02% Of a T-Rex
  • 1500 AA Batteries

Well, you get the idea.

So, despite the absolute shit sandwich that is my life right now, this is a big win for me. I went out yesterday (with the help of medication) and played some yard games, set off some fireworks, and hung out with some friends. I feel less depressed, but I am still not in the clear.

Everything just really comes down to what happens on Tuesday, but for now I am celebrating our nation’s independence and the loosening of my pants around my now less of a fat ass.

Have a great 4th of July weekend America (Everyone else enjoy your weekend as well).

Problem Solved!

Before I go into this I want to start by saying that when I came up with this brilliant idea that I was:

  1. Not Drunk.
  2. Not High.
  3. On my medication and of a sound mind.

Now that I have established this, I can tell you that I have…

SOLVED AMERICA’S GUN PROBLEM!

Yep, I have the solution to the ongoing gun violence that is plaguing our country!

Now just hear me out.

My mom was a cop and I grew up in a police station. I learned two things by hanging around cops a lot.

  1. Thieves always rob your house during the day (good ones anyway)
  2. The best gun to have for home defense is a shotgun.

The reason why any smart cop or gun dealer will tell you to buy a pump-action shotgun for home defence is this: Once you rack in a shell and make that “click-clack” noise, no one usually sticks around for the next noise that happens. Also, shotguns fire multiple fragments (shot) instead of one small bullet so they have a greater chance of hitting the target; however that 1st noise usually does the trick in making your intruder run away.

So, why do we have all of these unsafe “assault weapons” all about? The U.S. Government should launch a mandatory weapons buyback program of all weapons currently owned by civilians. In exchange you will issued you own government certified home and personal defence shotgun starter kit! That’s right! We should have the US Government buy back all the guns from civilians at a reasonable market value and in exchange they will receive (pending a background check, psychological evaluation, gun skill assessment check and a weapons education class) the following:

1 Federally registered Mossberg 590A1 Tactical Tri-Rail Shotgun

1  locking case for weapon storage.

1 cleaning kit.

1 case of 50 #00 12 guage shotgun shells.

1 1lb block of USDA government issued cheese.

Now here are some things to mention regarding this new program:

  1. You do not have to have any weapons to sell back to opt in to the program. All U.S. Citizens and Legal Residents are eligible (So, the NRA WINS! MORE GUNS!).
  2. You do not have to Opt In. Citizens that Opt Out will be registered on the “OPT OUT” list and will receive a $2000.00 tax credit in lieu of receiving the starter kit. People who Opt Out can not Opt In at a later date. If a citizen has Opted In and later decides to Opt Out, they do not receive the $2000.00 tax credit and must return ALL ITEMS that were in their Starter Kit in working, non-modified, order or pay fees and charges (See below).
  3. All other guns other than your government issued shotgun are now illegal. Manufacturing or sales of any firearm in the US or it’s territories is now illegal.
  4. Manufacturing any other ammunition other than ammunition that is compatible for your government issued shotgun is illegal unless you are authorized by the U.S. Federal Government.
  5. Any crime (felony) committed by you, or by you with your shotgun, will result in the forfeiture of your right to possess your issued firearm indefinitely. You must return ALL ITEMS that were in their Starter Kit in working, non-modified, order or pay fees and charges (See Below).
  6. Charges for damaged or modified items will be assessed at the time or repossession by a certified technician. Restocking fees and non-returned items fees are as follows:

 

1 Federally registered Mossberg 590A1 Tactical Tri-Rail Shotgun = $1000.00 + $400 restocking fee = $1400.00

1  locking case for weapon storage. $300 + $120 Restocking Fee = $420.00

1 cleaning kit. $50 + $2.00 Restocking Fee = $52.00

1 case of 50 #00 12 guage shotgun shells. $100 + $40 Restocking Fee = $40*

1 1lb block of USDA government issued cheese. $17.00 (restocking fee waived, no proration given for partial blocks of cheese)

(*Restocking Fee and Cost will be prorated for partial boxes of ammo returned. All costs and fees subject to change without notice.)

As stated: “Any crime (felony) committed by you, or by you with your shotgun, will result in the forfeiture of your right to possess your issued firearm indefinitely”. This is a zero-tolerance policy and will go into effect upon indictment. You will be also subject to any punishments that the courts inflict upon you if you are found guilty and any further fees or damages will be your responsibility to pay. If you are proven innocent of the crime you status to carry your issued weapon will be reinstated as soon as possible and item costs will be refunded. We will not refund restocking fees.

It is also of note that any crime committed with a non-issued firearm, or an issued firearm that is not registered to you,  is subject to an automatic life sentence without parole in Federal Prison if found guilty. You will still be responsible for the costs of forfeiting your starter kit.  Shootings involving your issued firearm in the case of self defense or protection of your home will only result in the temporary freeze of your status while an investigation is done by local authorities and once it is concluded your status will be reinstated.

Qualifications:

  1. US Citizen or Legal Resident
  2. Age 21 or older
  3. Must undergo Federal Background Check (Including but not limited to criminal history).
  4. Must submit to a psychological evaluation session.
  5. Must show proficiency with the  Mossberg 590A1 Tactical Tri-Rail Shotgun (classes will be available to those who do not show proficiency at an out of pocket cost)
  6. Must take a mandatory 3 day weapons safety class.

 

So, there you have it! My solution for the gun problem in America! We go with the wise words of the police that I grew up with and of Vice President Joe Biden and “just go get a shotgun”. Everyone gets to get a gun, so the 2nd amendment is intact; however if you fuck up, you pay out the nose and lose your right to have a gun. You have to qualify for the program, so even if you sell all of your guns back to the government, you can still not qualify for the program and thus, we have eliminated a person that shouldn’t have had a gun (or guns) in the first place. So, this creates an effective background check system. If and when people do have to forfeit or they choose to opt-out, the fees that will be charged will generate revenue for public spending programs. You can’t lose with this!

Now, you may be asking “But why the cheese? ” and that’s the best part of this program. It’s the cherry on top of the sundae! Some people will look at this package and turn their nose up at it…until they see that it includes that block of cheese.

618297_dysjvPXd

If you have never been poor, then you have missed out on this. This stuff makes the best goddamned grilled cheese sandwiches ever. It is AMAZING and is the lure in this whole plan. Even if you have never been poor and have been living the good life since birth, who doesn’t like cheese?  So, when people sign up for this program they will eat this cheese or throw it out. If they have to forfeit or opt-out they have to return everything in the starterkit, even the cheese. So, even f they have everything else and it’s in excellent shape, the Federal Government would still get at least $17 off of them even if they returned a partial block. The cheese is the guaranteed money maker in this entire plan.

I’m telling you, if they offered some legislation that involved cheese, it would sail through with no problems.

Unless you’re lactose intolerant, but we will work on that.

 

His small heart grew three sizes that day.

Remember that book I was reading, The Art of Empathy? I haven’t picked it up in several weeks and I will tell you why. I came to a section that confused me and I needed to think about. The section was on emotions.

Now, I may have posted about this a  before ; however I think that I have finally had an eureka moment regarding this subject. I had already learned that there are no “bad” emotions and that there are multiple complex ways to have and deal with them, but I was still baffled by a lot of the mechanics of the whole thing.

I have seen a few friends/acquaintances go through some emotional turmoil (some IRL and some online) and I have wanted to reach out to some them, but I honestly don’t know what to say to them or if its even my place to do so. The empathy is there and the want to help is there, but the understanding of emotions is still kind of a roadblock; however I think that I have made an observation that helps me understand a little more.

Here’s what hit me:

In the book, the premise of emotions being “action-requiring neurological programs” is introduced. So, if this is true then an emotion requires an action. The book goes on to give some ideas on how to look at emotions and how to channel them. One of the emotions that I see is sadness:

Sadness arises when it’s time to let go of something that isn’t working anyway

Let me say this clearly: People are allowed to be sad. You are allowed to cry. You don’t have to “man up”, big girls can cry, and there is nothing to apologize for or be ashamed of if you are sad and you express it. My advice is to let it out, don’t be ashamed of it, make sure you breathe and don’t tense up and just cry and let it out; however you have to let go of what you are sad about. That is what your brain is telling you: “This isn’t working, so let it go”. Is it easy? Nope. Can it be done? It sure can.

Now, sadness is not grief and I think grief maybe another issue that I am seeing.

Grief is a lot different and doesn’t always relate to death. It relates to loss. The loss of a job, a treasured possession, a relationship, or your health. Those can all be something that you can lose and that can cause grief.

Grief arises when something has been lost irretrievably…

Now, unlike sadness, there is a mourning process to grief and that is the action that is required. We have all probably heard of the “5 Stages of Grief”  and it encompasses multiple emotions (FYI: Not everyone goes through these exactly in order and stages can be repeated). This is how I now have started to view these:

  1. Denial – You will try to convince yourself that what has/is happening isn’t really happening and that you can “make a comeback”. You will deny the current reality of the situation and substitute your own to rationalize the overwhelming emotional state that you are in. Don’t worry, this is, for lack of better terminology, “normal”. It is our fear throwing us into a mental feedback loop and we just have to work to get ourselves re-oriented. Once we recognize that this is our fear working, and our brain panicking, we can start to come back to reality.

  2. Anger – When the reality of the loss does set in, anger will soon follow. Anger is the best emotion we have. It’s real and it tells us where we are. Anger tells us what is broken and what needs to be restored. It also helps us set boundaries. In the case of mourning, anger helps us start to restore reality. It gives us the energy and strength to set boundaries with people and to keep on going during this entire process. It’s OK to be angry, just be sure you are channeling that anger and using it wisely throughout this process.

  3. Bargaining – This is where we play the what if game. Sometimes it’s with g-d, sometimes it’s with the past (G-d, if you will <insert impossible/improbable thing here> for me/my loved one; then I will do <insert thing that you probably will not do here> or If we had only done X this wouldn’t have happened). Another thing that is done here is people “should’ve” all over themselves (We should’ve <insert act or task here> or I should’ve <insert act or task here> and then <loved one’s name> wouldn’t have <insert horrible event here>). The root of this stage is shame. As the book mentions there are no bad emotions and shame can actually be healing. Shame shows us what is unauthentic within our emotions and can save us from being hurt, from being dehumanized, destabilized and embarrassed by ourselves and others. Through that shame we finally realize that no amount of bargaining is going to make this right, and we must continue to let go.

  4. Depression – This is the tough one. Depression is anger turned inward like an implosion. Depression is almost all of your emotions hitting you at once and then putting the boots to you while you’re on the ground; however there is a phrase that, once you master it, puts depression on its ass.  DEPRESSION LIES. When you are depressed, the depression itself will try to use your emotions against you. DEPRESSION LIES. You may not feel like it, but getting up and moving around will help. A hug will help and something that I do that helps me is I find something that will bring me “instant joy” and I run to that stronghold. At this point self-care is very important; you have to take care of yourself. Friends and family are also important, don’t isolate and lean on them for support and remember: DEPRESSION LIES.

  5. Acceptance – This does not mean that you are suddenly going to start walking with a bounce in your step and start smiling and whistling. You aren’t going to start high-fiving people when you accept the loss that has occurred in your life. You will just notice that you have a little more peace regarding the loss than you previously did. You may start to open up about it more. You may start to move forward with a sense of closure and contentment. You may still feel sad or angry when that memory comes up, but you will know that whatever it was is now gone and you have accepted it. Acceptance is different for everyone.

My PSA: There is no time limit on how long it takes this cycle to complete and sometimes grief doesn’t end. If that happens, you will need to seek psychiatric treatment, be it a therapist or a psychiatrist ( or both). Again, you have to take care of yourself and that means getting mental health care. Sometimes, you just need help getting through these stages and through all of these emotions. It’s not a sign of weakness, and if you feel shame then use it to see that something is trying to keep you from being hurt further. Knowing you need help and getting it is a sign of bravery and intelligence. So, if you are stuck in the grief cycle, go get help.

So, there it is. I had this eureka moment, and now I will be reading this book again. Whether I  say something or not is still unknown. Part of me has the notion that I am just seeing something broken and I want to try and fix it, yet another part of me sees people that are going through situation that I have gone through and can empathize with. Maybe there’s a part of me that is hoping that they will stumble onto this blog post and find some solace.  However it works out, I feel that I have grown emotionally and if I do ever reach out to someone, I feel that I could actually make a difference. Now, I feel that I can continue and begin to learn more and be a better human.

 

Hey, at least I am not just offering up my “thoughts and prayers”, right?

 

 

Enough

Right now, I am listening to the ongoing filibuster being ran by Senator Christopher Murphy (D – Connecticut) regarding the issue of gun violence in the United States. Currently, this filibuster is going on it’s 14th hour. He is joined by another 40 Democrat Senators to add 2 measures to legislation that has been in talks by both party leaders in the Senate that did not come to vote by the end of session today. These two measures are to close the terrorist loophole by not allowing people that are on any form of watch list or investigation to purchase a firearm and to also force background checks at gun shows and close the deregulated sales that occur there.

These make sense, and it is completely mindblowing that it takes 40 senators to filibuster for 14 hours (at the time of this post), 10,000 phone calls, a top trend on Twitter, and multiple social media campaigns to even get this debate going in our government. Deeper than that, it takes the senseless violent act of one man and the deaths of 50 people to even get this much action going. It takes all of this for us to finally get 40 Senators to say “Enough”.

We have had more high-profile mass shootings than I care to remember and while watching this filibuster I have done just that. I have remembered the Amish Schoolhouse shootings where a gunman walked into a small Amish schoolhouse and gunned down 5 young girls. I had to relive the mass murders that occurred in Charleston, Sandy Hook, Fort Hood, Virginia Tech, Aurora, and some others that shamefully I had forgotten about. Yet, when we have this recent shooting that was the worst in our history, we finally say “Enough”.

Sorry, I said “Enough” about 4 years ago and I think it’s fucking idiotic that it’s taken this long for people that we elect to office to catch up. The funny thing is that only part of the elected idiots are there right now. The republicans clocked out on time. My Senator, the majority whip for the republicans, is asleep right now while these 40 Senators are putting in some serious OT.  My Senator is also the other party leader that was in talks about this subject today. He called this filibuster “filling dead air” and also stalled the talks to make sure that this legislature would be OK with the NRA.

Late Wednesday afternoon, however, Feinstein signaled that her talks with Cornyn were unlikely to bear fruit.

“I don’t think that’s gonna work out,” Feinstein told reporters. When asked why, she responded: “I was told he gave it to the NRA. Now, that would do it.”

I have sat here for 4 years since Sandy Hook and watched the entire Legislative Branch of the US Government do jack shit about gun laws. Meanwhile, they have done all kinds of things about trying to regulate vaginas, keep “the gays” in line, and make sure that the rights of bible-thumpers were defended (and thankfully failed to all of these). We have sent these unusefull idiots to D.C. to do nothing and collect huge paychecks for it.

I suggest that we finally say “Enough”.

See you at the polls.

Yo! By the Power of… Thunder, Thunder…ROLL -OUT! Big, Pard.

Because of the magic that is Hulu. I have been able to relive part of my childhood. Some of the greatest 80s cartoons are on there and I have added all of them to my watchlist. This past Sunday, I sat down with my coffee and diabetic friendly breakfast and started watching a cartoon that I made my mother break traffic laws and the laws of physics so that we would be home in time for me to watch.

That cartoon would be He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.

I would sit in the floor with my He-Man and Skeletor action figures eyes glued to the TV. I remember I had tons of those action figures! Oh, and Castle Greyskull! You had to have Castle Greyskull! The He-Man guys would fight the Star Wars guys and let’s just say that Castle Greyskull was ran by the Empire at one point due to the cunning use of an AT-AT and superior fire-power.

But I am digressing.

I was hooked on all of the 80s cartoons (and toys). He-Man, G.I.Joe (who had to team up with He-Man to get Skeletor & Cobra Commander out of Castle Greyskull one time), Transformers (Megatron and Skeletor didn’t get along), Thundercats, BraveStarr, and the list goes on. So, I was always watching these cartoons as a kid and also playing with the toys and emulating what I saw them do on TV.

Now, back to the present.

When I was watching He-Man on Sunday, something caught my eye during the credits. There was a credit to a man named Donald F. Roberts for psychological and educational consultant. I was intrigued by this. Why would Filmation need a PhD holder as a educational and psychological consultant? I mean, this was 1983, the year of Lawn Darts and skating boarding without a helmet. Why do we need this for a cartoon designed to sell toys?

Then it hit me.

Cartoons in the 80s had one common theme to them (besides everyone being a horrible shot and bad puns). They had a morality message at the end of the show. These consultants, one in particular that did consult work on BraveStarr, were there to make sure that the cartoons had educational and moral value. Usually, the entire show taught the lesson and it was summed up at the end, but in some shows (like G.I. Joe) a lesson had to be given at the end to give the show educational and/or moral value. Not that it was mandated in the 80s, but it was “encouraged” by the FCC to keep the kid’s TV programming watchdog groups happy content quiet.

Then another question came to mind.

With people my age (the ones raised watching these cartoons), did these cartoons form or help form our sense of morality and common sense? Was Generation X raised by 80s cartoons?

I started watching more of episodes of He-Man and I did start to remember some of the morality messages at the end of the shows. I remember some of the ones at the end of G.I.Joe (which is how I know how to put out a grease fire , approach a stray dog, and not to try and move a downed electrical line BTW) and I know that other shows like Transformers and Thundercats also had these same messages. Now I just can’t help but wonder if that the reason I know that eating strange berries in the wild can be dangerous is something that I learned in school, from my mother, or from Orko.

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My curiousity got to me and I researched more into 80s cartoons and it turns out that EVERY major 80’s cartoon had a psychology, education, or communications PhD on staff as a consultant at one point during their run. One consultant, Robert L. Selman is actually a PhD from Harvard and wrote a section of a compendium for moral development called: “The Relation of Role Taking to the Development of Moral Judgment in Children” and assisted Sunbow Productions with G.I.Joe. Probably most notable is Dr. Gordon L. Berry.  He consulted on BraveStarr and multiple other shows not only in the 80s but also in the 70’s, including Fat Albert and quite a few more current shows. It’s guys like these that we should thank for adding value to the cartoons that we hold dear.

So, a big thanks to He-Man, Duke, Optimus, and all of these PhDs that helped raise me during the 80s. Apparently I learned something from what my mom called brainless TV watching!

And Now I Know!

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(Had to be done.)

A Little Trip Into Self-Discovery.

I have made some discoveries about myself while reading “The Art of Empathy” and some discoveries about this book that make me a bit disgruntled.

I will get to the disgruntled part later.

The big thing that I have discovered is that I DO HAVE EMPATHY! I just have a form of empathy that is a bit different from what the author would like the world to have and what she says that she posses. Basically, she claims to be an empath and even notes that this term was first used in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Now, she doesn’t believe she is a Betazoid per say, but she just claims to be able to read body language and notice non-verbal cues, feels the emotions with the other person, and knows how to react supportively.   This is something that therapists, and social workers do daily. No alien DNA required.

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However, I am not that empathic and really do not care to be. I have decided that the issue is that I do not know how to handle emotions (mine or someone else’s) and that is what I am focusing on.

The type of empathy that I have is called Cognitive Empathy.

Cognitive empathy is the largely conscious drive to recognize accurately and understand another’s emotional state.

 

Basically, this allows me to understand the emotion of another without currently sharing it. Because I approach things logically, I tend to do that with emotions; however this can still be perceived as uncaring because I am not “feeling it”.

I also discovered a couple of other things that I found effect me.

One is “emotional contagion”.

Emotional contagion is the tendency for two individuals to emotionally converge.

Another definition that I like better:

A process in which a person or group influences the emotions or behavior of another person or group through the conscious or unconscious induction of emotion states and behavioral attitudes.

Basically, an emotion can be transferred from one person to another.  Think it sounds stupid? (I did at first) Then why do people cry at weddings? They aren’t getting married, hell they may not even be at the wedding but watching the wedding video. Same with funerals, they aren’t the ones that died or may not even be related to the deceased. What about sporting events? You aren’t the one that scored the … whatever. Why are you cheering? Why are you high-fiving the guy you don’t even know that is as equally excited? Because emotions are contagious. We can all get happy, sad, pissed off, and excited as a group by one thing. Some people more than others. I feel that I am a little less susceptible to emotional contagion outside of what I like to call “my tribe” (except when it come to characters in movies/TV shows and animals). When it comes to general people, I may crack a smile if I see something that makes me feel happy/joy, or I may look away if I see something painful/sad, but I tend to “walk the streets” with my shields up, and my eyes down to avoid these things in general (when I actually go outside my house). Most people are afraid of emotions (especially us dudes) and thanks to society and public schooling, we are pretty much trained to be emotionally avoidant.

 

The other thing that I come to realize is that I do have a concern for others; however I cannot deal with everyone so I limit that concern to “my tribe” and even then I judge the issue and decide if it’s worth expending the emotional energy on the situation (Basically is this a crisis or celebration and how much of one). I do this because if I don’t, I will try to fix everyone’s issues and burn myself out. How do I know this? Because I am emotionally and empathically burnt out now. That is what I have discovered about myself. I have looked back on my life and I remembered when I was younger and involved in the church (I know, here goes the atheist blaming the church again, right?). I gave of myself 110%. To the church, to the l-rd, to the ministry, to the congregation, and no one was really meeting my needs. I was “on fire for the l-rd” and no one saw me burning out. Now days, I am older (and hopefully wiser) and I know that self-care is must. Because, despite the teaching and parables that were taught in the church, no matter what my mother taught me; I learned that no one is going to take care of you, but you and you have to put you first. It sounds shitty and selfish, but it has to be the case. Because you can’t do a damn thing for anyone, if you aren’t physically and mentally healthy.

“If you scratch underneath the surface just a little, you will find that some of the angriest, most anxious, most arrogant, and most anti-social people harbor a profound well of concern that they’re either unable to manage or unwilling to acknowledge – or both.”

– The Art of Empathy

So, this is where I am at right now. I feel that I have empathy and that I am just trying to grow it and manage it. My main focus is just trying to understand my emotions better. I have a bad habit of intellectualizing my feelings away and I am trying to break that habit.

So, still working on things; however I feel better about myself (more or less).

 

Oh yeah, that part about being disgruntled. Because this book does focus on everyone becoming a joy-filled empath (IMO), I am having to bend this book and work it into what works for me. If you are in the same boat as I am and are looking to gain a perspective into empathy, this book will help you; however it is not an infallible resource. I find myself taking a lot of notes, highlighting relevant passages, and Googling a lot of things that I find interesting and relevant to me. It’s a great guide, but it gets a little “New Age” at times.