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Clear the Emotional Clutter of Discontent
"Plato used the word pharmakon to represent something that was simultaneously a poison and a remedy. The unquenchable craving for more and the desire for newness and novelty might be considered a pharmakon to some extent. Much advertising strives to get us to discount what we already have in favor of something new. In other words, to sow the seeds of discontentment.
This is not to suggest that desiring a better car, house, or the latest fashion leads to discontentment. Wanting a house for your family can motivate you and your family to save and work hard for that goal—not to mention it being a good investment. It can be wise to replace cars, clothes, and mechanical devices that are wearing out and are costly to repair. But when does desire cross the threshold into producing a never-ending cycle of suffering and dis-content? When do novelty, newness, and the need for more reach the tipping point of becoming a pharmakon?
This all begs the question, When is enough really enough?"
Countering Emotional Discontentment Practice:
1) Notice where you find discontent in your day. What thoughts keep repeating that tell you, "this is not good enough, or I need something else to feel better or be happy"? Jot these down.
2) Rediscover the value and usefulness of that object or situation you would reject. How did you originally feel about this situation or object? Reconnect with those positive feelings of appreciation and excitement you once had. Write these down. Overcome dis-content by re-valuing and appreciating what is in your life today.
A study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences looked to see how kindness and cooperative behavior would act in a social network. According to researchers, a positive contribution caused by kind acts ends up spreading and cascading and multiplying many times throughout the social network. The researchers believed this was because cooperation is important for survival, and that groups that are kind and giving are more successful.
3-Minute Practice for Staying Centered with Kindness
Kindness isn't just a way of helping others. It is an important way to regulate and calm the brain's amygdala--the smoke detector of the brain that triggers stress and the fight/flight response.
When you feel upset with another person, anxious, or depressed, turn your attention toward a time when you were cared for. For example, was there a recent time when you helped someone? Or when someone helped you? Of course there was! Here's an easy centering practice from Clearing Emotional Clutter that uses the power of kindness:
Reflect on the following for the next 3 minutes:
- Bring to mind that moment or event when you shared a word of encouragement with another, or vice-versa.
- Remember that even the smallest and most ordinary act of kindness—a smile, a pat on the back, a word of encouragement—is a powerful expression of caring that can have long-lasting effects.
- Do this during the week--at least 4 times when you find attention turning toward discontent, frustratration, or any negative emotion.
- Rate your mood before and after the practice on a 1-5 scale, 1=low, 5=high
How can you bring one ordinary kindness into the world today? Make a commitment to kindness, and write down your kindness or share it with others so that you don’t forget.