Therapeutic Journaling Part 4: Internal Family Systems

One of the most useful journaling methods that have helped me is loosely based on Internal Family Systems. It’s the concept that within every individual is a plethora of different personalities all warring for dominance over their directing mind. You might be thinking about people with split personality disorder and how you would be so far removed from them, but actually what they suffer from is a very drastic disintegration of the self.

For those of us fortunate enough to not be clinically diagnosed with that mental illness, we still contain a variety of competing personalities within ourselves, which would explain why our thoughts and emotions are so complex. There are different versions of ourselves living within us that comprise of our entire being as a whole. It doesn’t make you crazy or anything, just human.

Due to varying factors such as culture, upbringing, and social circles, we all internalize different thoughts and opinions from our environment and all these ideas become a huge part of our personalities. Some ideas are stronger than others, while some are strong enough to contend with each other, and the goal of Internal Family Systems style journaling is to integrate these personalities, not disperse them.

I talk a lot about contending with your shadow on here and this is a more detailed and nuanced form of that. There are parts of you that you might be ashamed or even afraid of, and perhaps it is your resistance to their existence that creates their persistence.

(I totally didn’t mean to rhyme, I’ll try not to do that all the time ūüėČ

What you resist persists, though. According to Freud’s theory of repression, the more we stuff down things in our psyche, the stronger they actually become in trying to take the center stage of our minds. This is possibly how split personality disorder can occur aside from the unfortunate randomness of neurological development in the brain.

So instead of trying to completely cast out certain parts of yourself, you befriend them and finds ways to make them work in your favour. Most especially if they run counter to another personality of yours that seems to be its complete opposite. In actuality, these two warring personalities are two sides of the same coin, and sometimes one side wins over the other causing discord within our lives.

By allowing these varying parts of ourselves to have an open dialogue with each other, our directing mind can have a better time at getting a clearer picture of who is saying what, and why they are saying it. Imagine your consciousness as the director of a play and all these different aspects of your personality as individual actors who you need to assign roles to. Then as the playwright, give them their lines and let them put a play on for you to get a better grasp of yourself.

What I am about to teach you is definitely useful in understanding yourself better through Therapeutic Journaling, but also your fiction, and you’ll start to see how and why as you read along. I’ll even go into further details afterwards, but without further adieu…

Assigning Roles to Your Personalities

Think of the most prominent thought patterns you have about yourself, your relationships, and the world. For simplicity’s sake you can call them protagonists. Then think about if you ever have other thought patterns that contradict your protagonist’s patterns. Consider those contradictory thought patterns as antagonists. In actuality, there is a little good and bad in each of them, but whichever way you slice it, what you want to do is give each pattern a distinctive name as to give them some character.

In turning these thought patterns into characters, having a distinctive name and visual representation of them in your mind will allow you to get a clearer picture of how and what they manifest in your life. Sometimes writing out your thoughts, contradictory as they may be to each other, is not enough, and so the more divided you are, the more important it is to try out IFS Journaling so that you can better manage the contradictions within yourself.

Drawing from my own experience, I’ll give a couple examples of some of the characters living within my Internal Family System and how I integrated them into my being in a healthier way than just resisting what I thought needed to be discarded.

Becoming Your Own Inner Parent

Little Marlon is the wounded inner child. He just wants to be loved, taken care of, and allowed to enjoy his hobbies without judgement and without the pressure of turning them into careers. He just wants to enjoy these things for their own sake. He’s also very shy around people, but also wants to befriend them anyway because he likes to talk.

Papa Marlon is the kind of father I wish I had growing up, and the kind of father I wanted to become when I grew up. He works in tandem with Little Marlon to give him compassion, leniency, and empathy. He comforts Little Marlon and knows how to talk to him so he can feel better, thus helping him develop his social skills and become more confident with other people. However, sometimes Papa Marlon is too soft on Little Marlon and lets him get away with too much when he needs discipline.

Inner Father is the internalized version of my actual father. Although my actual father could be loud, aggressive, and sometimes physically abusive, much to Little Marlon’s and Papa Marlon’s dismay, he is not wrong in asserting that children need to be disciplined. They need to know between right and wrong or they’ll go about life disrupting the order of things.

I originally saw Little Marlon is a weakling who I needed to forget all about and become infinitely better than. I also saw my Inner Father is a nuisance because he was the one bringing up shame in for me simply being vulnerable and sensitive. For so long I wish I could get rid of this weak and sensitive part of me as well as the one who was so judgmental about his very existence to begin with.

This is where Papa Marlon had to come in to empathize with Little Marlon to let him know he belongs in the Internal Family System because reconciling his sensitivity is actually what allows me to understand the sensitivity of others and treat it kindly. Papa Marlon also went head to head with my Inner Father during the years I studied psychology and childhood development, thus developing some resentment toward my actual father for some of the ways in which he failed me growing up.

Papa Marlon represented the moral stand I took in that if and when I have kids, I will never hit them or yell at them, mishandle their vulnerability, and outright ignore them throughout their lives. He is also how and why I was able to raise my God-daughter without raising my voice or laying a hand on her, and that was a great exercise in self restraint and learning to break the cycle of violence in my family.

However, I did get over zealous with peaceful parenting and at times had been too lenient with my God-daughter, who in many ways was the physical and present manifestation of Little Marlon; another fresh new child brought into the world who just needs some love and guidance to survive it so they can feel safe and sound. But at the same time can bring danger upon themselves and even us adults sometimes.

My Inner Father was right, you really can’t let kids step all over you, which is what I allowed to happen at times with my God-daughter and Little Marlon.

Papa Marlon and my Inner Father had to duke it out in what was one the most fundamental journal entries I’ve ever written in my life. What it all amalgamated to was knowing that you must be gentle and patient with children in order to foster a safe environment for them to grow in, but you also need to discipline them whenever they act out in unruly ways.

For a long time it was either/or for me. You either be kind to them or you beat them into submission. But thanks to the dialogue I wrote out between Papa Marlon and my Inner Father, the two were able to meet in the middle and teach me that you can discipline children without having to hit or punish them in any other way.

It took some time, but alongside raising my God-daughter like she was my own, while concurrently parenting Little Marlon, I discovered ways in which I can teach these children how to behave properly without having to resort to any aggressive means of discipline. A lot of the times, I learned that some of the things parents allow their kids to do was more of the fault of proper supervision, while at other times, it was just kids exploring the world and not knowing how to do so safely.

So for instance, to teach my God-daughter why it’s important to not run into the street, I comically simulated one of her Barbie dolls getting run over by a car and voice acting how in massive pain she was in. My God-daughter laughed at this depiction, which was a relief because in hindsight it sounds like I could have easily traumatized her instead.

But she understood even at the age of two what I was trying to teach her. So any time we went out for a walk, yes I mostly held her hand to keep her close, but there were times I’d let her go and she just knew to stay on the sidewalk.

The Internal Interpersonal Tournament

This was just one of many examples I could have shared with you, and while it was geared towards healing my inner child, other dialogues I’ve written for my Internal Family System comprised of a vaster array of characters that lurk in my psyche. There’s the Lovelorn vs the Casanova, the Anima vs my Inner Mother, and many more character battles that had to take place, and still take place within me that allow me to get a better sense of myself.

So to do an Internal Family Systems journal, you assign characters to certain thought patterns of yours and like a movie script, write our their dialogue and see in what ways they can resolve their conflicts with each other so that they can live in harmony within you, as opposed to discord.

After all, this is kind of what we do, as writers, when we write novels. All the characters we write about may be amalgamations of other people we know in our lives, but ultimately their words and actions are being born out of our very own hands. If that isn’t a more creative and emotionally distant form of Internal Family Systems journaling, then I don’t know what is!

But I digress.

Writing an Internal Family Systems journal can be a more direct, dark, and gritty form of getting the kind of self-knowledge you get from writing a novel with characters who all represent different sides of you. With an IFS journal, you remove the creative filter and write something raw, unhinged, and uninhibited. Just like the Shadow Journal, you will want to proceed with caution because the more honest and vulnerable you are, the scarier this kind of journaling actually is.

Though the good news is that if you can survive it, you will become a much smarter and stronger version of yourself that you may not have imagined possible before.

Resisting Rejuvenation

For as long as I can remember, I have contended with resistance to expressing my own creativity. This has ranged from writing novels, writing music, and editing videos. I often question how these things I find so enjoyable can also become so difficult to jump back into, especially when it gets to the point where I constantly have to remind myself how good it feels to get into the flow state because I can’t seem to as quickly as I once did when I first started a project.

Couple that with life’s little curveballs and it could be a recipe for disaster. Competing for our attention, there’s work, maintaining an active social life, and other responsibilities that seem to get in the way of our creative self expression. When all of these curveballs are successfully caught, evaded, or even if they end up hitting us in the face, it can seem pretty easy to feel like we just don’t have any energy left to work on any of our creative projects.

The crazier thing is that even when you do have a full day, week, or even a month to do whatever you want, resistance can still creep up on you. I’ve certainly experienced this throughout my life where I’ve had a significant amount of downtime from working, while all these creative projects I know I want to do work on fell by the wayside. Despite remembering the joy these projects brought me, I rationalized that I deserve to sit around all day like a potato, binge watching stuff on Netflix and YouTube, playing the hell out of video games, and then dozing off in the middle of the day when all entertainment options have been exhausted.

If you can relate to this, then I’ve got the solution for you, and it’s actually quite simple. It may seem counterintuitive and pretty obvious in hindsight, but what we must do in the heat of resistance is push through it and get to work anyway.

Even when you’re not feeling it, nay, especially when you’re not feeling it.

Here’s why:

Creativity is Our Life Blood

If you are a creative person with a ton of ideas, with little to no execution of said ideas, you know very well how excruciating it may be to “not have the time” or “not have the energy” to create something. All the while your other creative friends and family members, along with other creatives who have their work put out into the world, are pumping out piece after piece, and you’re stuck staring at a blank page or canvas.

Or maybe you’re not even at that stage, and instead choose to distract yourself with TV and video games, but no matter how hard you try to pay attention to your distraction, the back of your mind is nagging you about that thing you know you should be working on. That project you tell all your friends and family about with the utmost gusto like it would be the coolest thing put out into the world, but you’ve yet to put pen to paper.

Something I learned recently is that creativity actually fuels us, not drain us. You may feel mental and/or physical fatigue from the stresses of life, but actually starting a project can wake your soul back up and bring you back to life. Creative people die inside when they’re not creating because all of these ideas get locked up inside our minds and the overwhelm of having things left unexpressed brings about a ton of anxiety.

The funny thing about anxiety is that it’s really just a bunch of unspent energy. At the psychological and emotional level, anxiety is all about fearing death and being too afraid to act in the face of it. Yes, there’s a sense of possible death when we dare to do something creative because if you plan to put your work out there you risk getting criticized and having said criticism make your work feel like a waste of time. It would hurt to admit your ego was right, that you’re not that very good at the thing you do.

Or if you never plan to put your work out there to share with the world because you’re more of a solitary hobbyist, you can still run up against that perfectionism and potential fear of death. You may be doing it just to entertain yourself, but being your own worst critic and hardest fan to please, what would it say about you if you can’t even entertain yourself?

All these anxieties and more are there because creating art is a risk for the reasons above and more. While valid, you shouldn’t let them stop you from simply expressing the depths of your soul in whatever form you choose.

At the physiological level, anxiety and excitement are exactly the same. That surge of adrenaline coursing through our bodies that makes our hearts race? That’s our body’s way of readying itself for action, and if that action isn’t taken, that energy stays locked up inside and eats away at you.

It’s pretty much the same thing as wanting to confess your love for someone. The longer you keep it in, the harder it becomes to take the next opportunity to do so, all the while just feeling the pain of having something meaningful to you left unexpressed. Art is the exact same way, except it’s you confessing your love for yourself, and by extension, your love for the world and expressing how you see it so others can see it the way that you do.

This is why it is of utmost importance that if you do have a creative project constantly brewing in the back of your mind, that you get to it as soon as you have the time. In fact, I’d say you should make the time. It’s important. It’s in your soul to express it, so instead of creating excuses as to why you can’t or shouldn’t do it, just create the thing to begin with.

Free Yourself From Your Ego

Even when you have “good reasons” as to why you shouldn’t start that project, what it really comes down to is your ego getting control over you. It’s afraid that it’ll die once you start working on something, and so it tells you you’re not good enough to start yet, that you’re not ready, and no one is going to care about what you create, so why bother, right?

If these excuses sound familiar, then it’s time you recognize your ego for what it is and learn how to fight back. If you’ve ever been in a flow state while creating something, you know very well how good that can feel. Time seems to fly by and all your worries go away.

That’s the death of the ego.

The ego wants to stay alive by robbing you of the present moment because all it wants you to do is think about your past failures and regrets, and all the fears you have about the future. Creativity, on the other hand, brings you straight to the present and converts your mind’s proclivity to obsess over the past and future into a wonderful tool.

If you’re writing a novel, then you start to think about what has happened in the story so far and use that to inform the current scene you’re writing, and that’s a useful function of our ability to recall the past. And since novels aim to have an end goal in mind, you also start to think about what needs to happen next as a natural consequence to what you just wrote, and that’s a useful function of our ability to think about the future.

Life only happens in The Now, the present moment. When you experienced the past, that was the form The Now took, and when the future comes, it only happens in The Now as well. This is all we ever have and then seemingly in an instant, it’s gone. So why waste time worrying about the things that have past and things that may yet to be when you can seize the moment and create something that immortalizes your soul for eternity?

How to Achieve Immortality

If it’s the fear of death that stops us from creating, perhaps it’s the very act of creation where we achieve immortality. When you stop to really think about it, all of the artists that have come before us still live on in their work.

Jimi Hendrix’s physical body may be dead, but his spirit lives on in the music he bestowed upon the world. Those tasty guitar licks and funky vocals of his are the encapsulation of his soul at certain points in time of his life. Every studio track and live performance is a record of not only his existence that we can experience from now until eternity, but also the deepest depths of his soul with what he expressed through his music.

You may or may not reach the level of stardom Jimi Hendrix has, but one thing is for certain; if you too create something that is the genuine expression of your being, a piece of your soul will live on in that artwork for all time. Assuming, of course, that you have a means to preserve it and ensure that it remains preserved long after your physical being fades away.

Just having anything created is one step closer to immortality. If you’ve got a painting, a document containing your novel, or a sound file containing your music, that is a piece of your soul you’ve captured for any potential audiences to experience long after you’re gone.

Whether you do it for yourself and/or for the world, that is how immortality can be achieved. To what degree do you want others to remember you by is completely up to you and that’s why there are many services out there that provide ways in which your work can be shared and preserved.

So next time you’re not “feeling it,” take a moment to stop and think. If we’re all destined to be dust one day, why not express what big emotions we have in the very little time that we have?

Quelling the Quarantine Blues

As of writing this post, we are about two months in our global lock-down due to the infamous coronavirus. With several businesses having to reduce or halt their operations altogether, many people have been laid off from their jobs and are ordered to stay home by the state in order to prevent the spread of the virus.

It sucks, I know.

You want to go out with your friends and do an escape room together, have a sit down dinner with your family at a restaurant, or even spend some alone time sipping a java while reading a book at a cafe–but you can’t. We are all stuck at home, literally left to our own devices. The usage of smart phones and computers must be on a rise with how many more people need a little bit of escapism through watching things on YouTube and Netflix.

Then of course there’s the go getters who always need to be on the go and do something productive to feel at ease with themselves. After all, keeping busy does help keep us stable by providing value to others and reaping the rewards of being responsible. Some people get the option to work at home, while others don’t.

Whether this global lock-down has altered your life in any significant way, one thing this strange time in history is inspiring–or forcing, depending on how you think about it–several people to start considering is slowing down the gears and taking the time to pause and reflect.


Rustling the Hustle and Bustle

For about a year now, I have been working at an accounting office doing something completely out of my element, and trying my hardest to adapt. After all I am more of a wordsmith and math was never my greatest subject in school. This has come with it its own set of stress and problems I had never faced in my life before, and while it has been trying at times, I am incredibly proud of how I have survived thus far. And just when I thought I was hitting my stride at doing this job somewhat perfectly, I get laid off due to the decrease in business.

Maybe in a future post I’ll write more about my experiences there, but for now I’ll sum up the year I’ve spent there in one sentence:

I came to this job as an awkward novice who knew literally nothing, and eventually became a dependable team member who teaches new things even to veterans of the office.

This was my first full time job and it made me realize just how busy all my friends and family have been back when I was in my part time job Heaven. And yes, I do mean to be dramatic in saying that being a part timer is Heaven because you really start to feel the difference between working four days a week vs five.

Now it made sense why so many plans with friends and family sometimes had to fall through, adult life is quite difficult when it comes to juggling a job, relationships, and responsibilities at home. To stack on top of that, and what I really want to talk about in this post, is something not many people put much value on, though they should if they want the previously mentioned aspects of life to truly flourish.

What I’m talking about of course leisure and recreation.

It’s weird, right?

How dare I mention having fun and saying that it’s important?

That’s because it is important. They are just as important as the job you need to excel at, the relationships you need to maintain, and the home you need to keep in order. Leisure and creation, especially of the meaningful kind, are the jobs, relationships, and home you need to keep in order within yourself.

We live in a culture that puts so much emphasis on the hustle and bustle, and we often make the mistake of deriving our sense of identity out of it that we lose sight of why we work so hard to make a living. Is it not to be able to afford to enjoy ourselves with the things we buy with the money we earn, as well as serve as a reward and contrast for putting our best feet forward on a daily basis?


Presence Over Productivity

So I’ve been keeping up with some friends and family, and not while all of them are down and out about this lock-down, for the ones that are, this post is for you. If you’re feeling guilty about having this state enforced home time or even feel anxious about it, I invite you to take a moment to breathe, put your hands to your chests, and reconnect with yourself.

You feel that? You still have your breath and your heartbeat which means much more than whatever sense of self you derived from being busy. Again, not bashing how important it is to making a living as it is required for us to thrive and survive as human beings–but basing our identities and sense of self esteem over them is a deadly trap.

This global quarantine is a strange opportunity to take the time to pause and reflect. It may seem scary if you don’t intentionally do any self-work, but trust me it’s worth it, no matter how painful it is. It may be agonizing to start having all your anxieties fill your head faster than when you were busy, but the sooner you confront them, the sooner they become your friend.

Especially if you’re the type of person who just¬†needs to be productive all the time, in which case I suggest taking up new hobbies in this time and/or learn to be okay with doing nothing.

I, for one, am just continuing to do the things I’ve always enjoyed outside of work which is to do some creative writing, self-knowledge work, and studying Korean. When that’s all said and done, I like to strap into a video game and lose myself to these inventive and interactive worlds.

But if you know me already, these passion projects don’t come easy. I know how much my own mind likes to turn on itself and give me resistance toward doing the things I know I love to do, and for quite a long time I let my resistance win. Hence I haven’t posted much here for quite a while until recently.

The point, of course, is to start taking up new hobbies or reviving old ones more for the sake of the presence it gives you than for the sake of being “productive.”

This was something I wrestled with for the first month of being laid off from my job. When I was given the news I was driven to plan my entire days around writing, self-knowledge, and studying, but what ended up happening was that I just laid around the house a lot feeling lazy, tired, and bored despite of all the wonderful video essays I’ve consumed on YouTube.


Giving Yourself a Hall Pass

The real reason why I talk about this dangerous trap of deriving your sense of self around how busy you are, if you haven’t noticed yet, is because it’s what I started to do having my first full time job. While I don’t think a little pride in one’s efforts is a bad thing, I did start to define myself by how busy I was at work and the value I was providing to the team with my refined skills. Especially after spending most of the year sucking absolute ass at the job, I was bound to overcompensate by focusing so much on the growth I’ve gone through during my time there.

Now while I don’t want to make light of this pandemic and treat this order to stay home as a vacation, it actually could not have come at a better time. For all of April, lying around the way I did, it made me realize just how burnt out I’ve actually become. For a whole year I’ve been firing at all cylinders to get a grasp at this job and even though I did spend my time off gaming and watching Netflix, my mind was always fixated on how I will do at work the next day. I couldn’t truly enjoy myself.

For a while I used my passion projects in writing, self-knowledge, and Korean to keep me upright as something to do in the morning before going to work, but due to the fatigue I developed, I had been staying up later than I should and losing a lot of sleep causing me to drag my feet throughout the day at work and then either half ass my passion projects, or completely ignore them.

So come April with being laid off, it made sense I couldn’t do much for an entire month except for muster maybe one or two “productive” days a week before lying around and doing a whole lot of nothing for the rest of the week. I was tired because I hadn’t given myself the hall pass to just laze about with no direction required.

This doesn’t mean stop giving a crap about life and start neglecting your grooming needs or anything like that, but it is very important to consider how much our minds and bodies take a toll amidst our hustle and bustle. And now that we have this strange opportunity, I think it’s important to be a bit kinder to ourselves and use this silver lining to inspire us rather than string us up with the help of our own anxieties.

Whether you’ve lost your job or not, and whether you’re an extrovert or not, I’m just here to remind you that it is important to give yourself the time and permission to rest. You don’t always have to be going to get to where you want. Perhaps pausing to rest can get you to your intended destination much quicker because it is in pausing and reflecting we refuel the gas tank.

Truncated Trifecta of Tribulations

A few weeks ago I shared my life long experiences with depression, as well as the resulting lessons I learned in dealing with a recent depression spell I suffered under.

The original posts cut deep and it only made sense to transcend my usual desire to keep articles under 1000 words for concise and bite sized comsupmion. Now while I do urge you to check out the full Trifecta of Tribulations series, I decided to see if I can put these lessons into their simplest form possible.

My personal story as to how I came to these Top 3 Lessons help flesh them all out more, but for a quick and bite sized experience, here they are in their most concise form:

1. Share to Shed Your Shadow Side

We all have dark parts lingering within us. Parts of us, for better or for worse, that sometimes urge us to behave in ways that go against our values. Instead of trying to suppress these dark thoughts–only to make them boil up and burn you over worse in the future–trying sharing them with people you trust.

Maybe you have a life coach or therapist, family members you’re close with, and/or some very trustworthy friends. Whoever you have in your life who won’t judge you or ostracize you for voicing your vulnerabilities, feel free to share your shadow side with them. Make it clear that these dark thoughts you have are just that; thoughts. You may be afraid that they end up fearing you, but if they are trustworthy people, they’ll end up understanding you better.

There’s always that horrible thing you want to do to someone who has wronged you in the past, or that vicious verbal assault you know you can unleash on someone who you think “deserves it.” Unless you actually act these things out, don’t feel ashamed of yourself, just notice it’s there and pay attention to what’s driving it. You can usually then find more healthy ways to express your frustrations with the people you find yourself in conflict with.

2. The 60:40 Principle

Optimism is a helpful tool in keeping yourself hopeful and excited to live in the world. It’s a mindset required in order to achieve the things we want and connect with the people we want to connect with. However, an excess of it can make you naive and susceptible for possible abuse and maniuplation. Not to mention, the higher your set your hopes, the harder the fall if things don’t go as planned.

So what’s the solution? Pessimism?

Well, Pessimism is a little more “realistic” after all, and is so much easier to convince yourself of. Yes, life is unfair, it’s full of suffering, and we might not get everything we want before we die. This much is indeed true, but if Pessimism is taken on as a primary mindset in which to live with, it can be quite dibilitating. We’re only human and it’s only natural for us to need things and need other people to survive, but too much Pessimism can cause you to suffer needlessly, and it makes little to no sense to inflict any more suffering on yourself that life is bound to give you anyway.

Life is about balance between the two mindsets. Always try to operate from 60:40 Optimism over Pessimism, or 60:40 Pesssimism over Optimism. Why not 50:50? Because you’ll logically and usually be feeling one mindset stronger than the other, depending on how your life is going. The trick is to not turn it into 70:30 of either mindset over the other. Hope and dream, but be cautious so that you’re not too attached to a certain outcome. Feel your negative emotions and experiences, but remain hopeful life can get better.

3. You Create Your Own Reality

Now while it’s obvious you can’t delude yourself into thinking everything is fine when your family is at war with each other, your friends are ditching you, and your job is sucking your soul dry–despite of what you’re experiencing in life, it’s still your responsibility to handle it in the best way that gives you the least amount of uneccessary suffering.

Taking The 60:40 Principle in account, you must ask yourself, “if my life is Hell right now, what did I do to make it this way?” And if you find that an undesirable circumstance is, indeed, your fault, don’t fall into the temptation of beating yourself up over it. Ask yourself then, “what can I do to make it better?” And, “how can I make sure I don’t suffer any more than I have to?”

Unless your brain chemistry is misaligned beyond repair by a serious disease that makes it visible, chances are that you actually have more control over your mind than you think. Over time, it just gets easier to buy into everything our mind tells us. Most of the thoughts we have are uncontrollable and we had little to no choice in getting them stuck in our heads due to our unique set of environments and childhoods. So relcaim your mind and remembering the silent observer that is merely aware of such thoughts, and become its ally, so that in turn, your mind can be yours once again.

Trifecta of Tribulations 3: Creating My Own Reality

Welcome to the final stretch of the Trifecta of Tribulations!

In Part 1, I began by sharing my Ralph Wiggum dream that lead me to engaging my Shadow Side. This in turn taught me how to have a healthy detachment from desired outcomes so that I don’t stake my entire identity and existence on external outcomes.

And then in Part 2, I shared how the swinging pendulum of Optimism and Optimism can be balanced when you adapt the 60:40 Principle.

Now we top off the Trifecta of Tribulations by going back to my roots and paying infinite homage to Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now.


Welcome, to the Present Moment

I have read more than a fair share of personal development books over the years, and while I have gleaned a ton of value from all of them, nothing will ever be as powerful as The Power of Now.

When I first read this book 10 years ago, it actually did change my life in numerous ways and on numerous occasions upon several re-reads. The idea of being mindful of present moment isn’t anything new, but having read The Power of Now at the right times, Eckhart Tolle’s delivery of this important message never ever fails to transform my life.

For the unitiated, being present simply means paying full attention to the present moment without having to label your environment or experience, and of course disallowing the internal dialogue in your head from having any power over you. You can even go insofar as to not even think at all like an intentional meditation at any time and anywhere you choose.

While Awaken the Giant Within¬†opened me up to the idea of positive thinking, The Power of Now taught me to stop my excess thinking, which is often the source of many life’s problems. We tend to view the world through a specific lens and the world then manifests itself in ways that embellish what we tend to focus on.

Focus on the negative, and all you experience is the negative despite having good things pass you right by. But then of course you can also be too positive as to ignore that life brings with it some inherent suffering, hence my 60:40 Principle. Know which mode of being to focus on while acknowledging that the other polarity continues to run in the background so that they don’t sneak up on you and overwhelm you.

Kind of like what it did to me when my Pessimism returned after many many years of trying to supress it. I fell into the habit of trying to stay positive all the time and trying to ignore that I would have to deal with any amount of emotional and personal hardship that I am again reminded of being neccessary for human existence.

We are always in a constant flux of becoming more or less than what we can be. Being is becoming.

Shaping Your Reality

When I was having my trip to the Underworld last month, a lot of it was due to my own excess thinking. I obsessed over when I would ever get published and often got upset over my lacking comprehension of the Korean language. I was so focused on getting over there that I was closed off to appreciating the here and now, which is the only time frame that ever truly exists. The past was once the present, the future will later then become the present, and no matter which point in time you think about, you do it all right here. Right now.

I had my doubts over whether or not my Optimism was bullshit or not, but what I think the real issue was was the ungratefulness I had for where I was in life. Sure, we can never be truly satisfied as there is always more to grow towards, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take stock of where you are and appreciate it.

If I had only taken my own advice and appreciated how far I’ve come, I probably could have avoided all the emotional pain I felt the past month. But I digress, I feel that it was entirely necessary to experience these issues to test my values and see what I would be without them. Simply put, it’s quite scary to consider, and I am now thankful that optimism and happiness are a ton of hard work to achieve, else it would not feel as valuable since the satisfaction is in¬†earning these things.

Beyond being happy about having gone so far with my novel and my Korean studies, I forgot the most simple thing to do in moments of distress: breathe and take stock of the present moment. Nevermind my achievements thus far and what I have yet to achieve, the true happiness I was seeking was available at any time if I had taken a moment as I do now, to just breathe and be present.

In the end, I have always been in control of my moods and thoughts.

Not all of them are going to be pleasant, and not all of them will be easy to ignore, but what’s important is how I handle them.

So whether I’ve been clinically depressed or not,¬† it has ultimately always been my choice whether or not I bought into such an ancient suspicion of my mental limitations.

Being Authentic

Even within this post I am starting to write simpler headings and hopefully in a simpler language. Amidst all this turmoil I realized how much I’ve relied on my intellect to cover up how stupid I really am in different aspects of life, as well as using my intellect to either build myself up or tear myself down.

Whichever way I’ve gone, I’ve realized that both the Optimism and Pessimism are authentic expressions of my being. They only times either have them have been bullshit was when I’ve engaged them in excess extremes without taking in account of their polar opposites.

When my friend was sharing his problems with me, or whenever my study buddy expressed some self doubt in her English skills, as well as some hesitance toward adding a romantic aspect to our relationship (this particular relationship has ended, but that’s a story for another time). My excess optimism in these relationships caused friction because I was dedicated to changing their personal experiences to fit my own selfish needs. I wanted them to stop having their negative emotions and wanted to be that annoying ray of sunshine to brighten up their day.

And likewise when another friend of mine gave me the space to let my Shadow Side spit its venom out, I noticed a moment where being Pessimistic became exhausting because I was trying to deliberate and prolong it beyond what felt natural and neccessary.

Then I had this moment of laughing at myself because of how “quickly” and “anti-climacticaly” I had escaped the Underworld. I was simply reminded of how much of a master of my own reality I have been, even though the start of this bout of depression started from questioning my own power over it.

Now I may be wrong in asserting this, especially if there are people out there who do suffer from severe psychological issues that require treatment, but I do think we are the ultimate gods of our own realities. This doesn’t mean delude yourself into thinking that everything is alright when it’s not, but I do mean staying calm and as stoic as possible when observing the situations in our lives that cause us distress.

If you’re happy, take it all in stride because it is but a fleeting emotion to behold.

If you’re sad or angry, take¬†that all in stride too because it is also a fleeting emotion.

Whichever myraid of emotions you ever experience, be honest about your experience, no matter how irrational it may seem.

Give yourself the time and space to express these raw emotions until they lose their grip on your mind and body. Once again, I cannot stress enough how helpful journaling is, especially if you can’t afford therapy or are not yet ready for it. Sometimes we just need the permission to be wrong. There’s always time to step out of that funk and observe them from the outside as I am now doing in regars to the month I’ve had. On a daily basis:

I’ve fallen in and out of love with a woman.

I’ve fought and toiled with a friend.

I’ve contended with and confided in myself.

And in the end, no matter what has happened, I have always been in control of my own experience. While I do need to accept that I can’t control certain circumstances, most especially the way others feel, I am now reminded of something I have forgotten lately: I cannot hold energy. Its natural state is to move and to change forms. And that can only be possible by being authentic with how I feel and constantly re-learning to regain my composure after I’ve allowed all aspects of myself to express themselves.



The Constant Ascenscion

I’ve accepted my lot in life.

I have more privileges and advantages than others.

I also have more limitations and disdvantages than others.

Life is going to be difficult because we are in a constant flux of death and rebirth. It’s okay to feel a little sad and crazy at times because being happy and content will always slip through your fingers like quicksand. While pleasant and enjoyable when they come into our field of experience, they are not worthwhile goals in the end.

Admirable and worthwhile goals transcend mere pleasure. They are the goals that adding meaning to your life and are good in ways that trickle through your interactions with the world. Being in the service of others while also feeding your own sense of fulfillment  toward your purpose is how to live a truly meaningful life.

That is all for the Trifecta of Tribulations. I hope you’ve enjoyed this series and gleaned some value from it. If you’ve read each entry since the first one, my most sincerest thanks goes to you. I know I’ve started to surpass my usual word count with these posts, there was just so much I needed to share and express to bring all this into the proper context.

For those who were looking for a more bite sized and actionable version of what I was trying to teach, I will consider writing a condensed version of all this where the focus is more on the action side of things rather than the personal experiences that taught me all this.

In any case, thank you and have a great day! Be sure to leave a comment and follow Your Write to Live for more self-knowledge on Meaningful Mondays and writings tips on Workshop Wednesdays!