Through the Prism

After passing through the prism, each refraction contains some pure essence of the light, but only an incomplete part. We will always experience some aspect of reality, of the Truth, but only from our perspectives as they are colored by who and where we are. Others will know a different color and none will see the whole, complete light. These are my musings from my particular refraction.

4.04.2012

The Calm After the Storm

Most of my most tranquil moments in life have come during quiet reflection after long, hard exercise.

I came home from my workout this morning with the following thought, which I posted as a Facebook status: "Even for a groggy-headed, bleary-eyed, morning hater like me, caffeine and rage make an awesome fuel combination for excellently intense workouts."

Someone commented to ask me, Why all the rage? and I responded: "Snarks and grindylows. Or, my lack of omnipotence; the finite, limited, impotent nature of human existence; my inability to make everyone think and act the way I want and everything happen the way I would prefer."

The point wasn't really what was bothering me, so much as the very fact that I was bothered. And that the best strategy I've encountered for dealing with my anger and frustration is aggressive physical activity. It's no secret that stress and emotions manifest physically in various ways, most of them unhealthy. I use exercise as a way to combat that.

It's not just about exercise, though. During my best workouts, I sink deep down into myself mentally and let my imagination run wild. I fantasize about being a truly despicable person. I imagine saying and doing all the mean, immature, counter-productive things my hateful, vengeful side would love to express, while my body works through all the physical results those thoughts bring. If I go long and hard enough, by the time I'm done I've worked through it all and can let go of it, relax, and move on. I can be at peace.

Fantasizing in this way, I've found, isn't just an exercise in fun. It really does satisfy a need to express myself, allows me to actually vent what I'm feeling instead of repressing it, so I can be healthier in my actual approach to dealing with things. I can move onto a more productive perspective because it's like I've already had the actual experience of giving expression to my darker emotions. In some ways, the brain really doesn't distinguish between reality and fantasy. As I quoted in What Is Your Perspective? (Part II):

The brain, it seems, does not make much of a distinction between reading about an experience and encountering it in real life; in each case, the same neurological regions are stimulated. . . . And there is evidence that just as the brain responds to depictions of smells and textures and movements as if they were the real thing, so it treats the interactions among fictional characters as something like real-life social encounters.

And from The Life of the Brain:

We enjoy imaginative experiences because at some level we don't distinguish them from real ones. . . . The emotions triggered by fiction are very real. . . . at every level—physiological, neurological, psychological—the emotions are real, not pretend. . . . But the idea here is more interesting than that--it is that even once we consciously know something is fictional, there is a part of us that believes it's real. . . .

The same part of the brain we use in seeing is also used in imagining that we are seeing, in remembering seeing, in dreaming that we are seeing, and in understanding language about seeing. The same is true of moving. The same parts of the brain used in really moving are used in imagining that we are moving, remembering moving, dreaming about moving, and in understanding language about moving. Mental "simulation" is the technical term for using brain areas for moving or perceiving, imagining, remembering, dreaming, or understanding language. It is mental simulation that links imaginative stories to lived narratives. . . .


So, while it all just happens in my head, allowing myself to imagine all the dark things my rage desires really does allow me to give voice to my anger, to vent it and move on in a very real sense. It's the same type of argument that Gerard Jones makes in Killing Monsters: Why Children Need Fantasy, Super Heroes, and Make-Believe Violence, that pretending they have power through make-believe violence is how kids deal with the fears they have about actual violence and their feelings of powerlessness. Violent fantasy can be a healthy and vital way to achieve emotional well-being.

So my strategy--never consciously chosen, just developed over time--is to save my stressful thoughts and negative feelings for when I'm working out, then live them fully while my body is working to deal with all the resulting physical stress. It's been a fairly successful strategy for being mentally, emotionally, and physically healthy. And when I do it right, I not only process the bad stuff and get past it, I do so in time to really enjoy my workouts and the moments after. It can leave me full of tranquility and feeling a happy sense of wonder at and communion with the beauty of the natural world all around me.

As I quoted in Trail Running Is My Favorite Form of Meditation:

"When I'm out on a long run," she continued, "the only thing in life that matters is finishing the run. For once, my brain isn't going blehblehbleh all the time. Everything quiets down, and the only thing going on is pure flow. It's just me and the movement and the motion. That's what I love--just being a barbarian, running through the woods."

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