RECIPE FOR A VILLAIN

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In most forms of fiction, the most interesting character is the villain. But what’s most interesting is the villain as they are…not as the were. Let me explain.

I think most villains’ backstories are wholly inadequate…with few exceptions (Walter White, anyone?). But there is a recipe for a villain. You take anyone and have them live through certain events and the hero within is destroyed…and the villain is born.

I’m writing about this for one reason. We need far fewer villains and far more heroes. And if we know the recipe for a villain, maybe we can stop making them.

No one is born a blank slate. We all have a slightly different natures. But no matter our natures, very few of us are born villains.

The worst villains we call psychopaths. Those with psychopathic traits only account for about 1% of our population with about .6% of the population having the full blown disorder. But these aren’t the only villains.

There are other psychopathologies with antisocial tendencies. These tendencies are brought to the front through the complement of nature. Nature is where most villains are made.

We are born incomplete. Compared to mammals such as horses or cows, we’re born half baked. Within hours of birth, they’re completely ambulatory and able to do almost everything an adult of their species can do. For us, it takes years to achieve adult level of functioning.

To reach this level of functioning requires nurturing, connection with a caregiver. The caregiver has to connect enough with the child to provide all the things a child needs. And that child needs more than things than to be fed and changed.

A child needs regulation. And that regulation comes in a few forms. And all of those forms come in the form of connection.

The unique viewpoint we offer at THE MOVEMENT is the connection between sensation and action. But these connections aren’t all the way inborn, or embodied. They are something we learn…from our caregivers.

When a child is upset, the caregiver attends. The caregiver figures out what the child is upset about. And the caregiver acts.

The child learns from this interaction. But what does the child learn? Does the child learn his upsets can be quelled…or does he learn that upsets cannot be rectified or are they simply ignored?

When the child learns their feelings don’t matter, the effect is profound. It isn’t just that they learn that their feelings don’t matter to their caregivers. The child doesn’t learn to value their own feelings, either.

We are born so immature, that we are born somewhat disconnected. Caregivers, at their best, teach correct connections. When you feel this way, this action (that I, the caregiver, do for now) makes you feel better. When you feel this way, you’ll eventually be able to do this for yourself.

Conversely, when the caregiver ignores or doesn’t act effectively based on their feelings, misconnection, even disconnection occurs. And any form of “dys-connection” makes up the blueprint of the villain. That villain’s dys-connection can wreak havoc on the rest of us.

Whether it be trauma in the form of neglect of abuse, a dys-connection occurs. The caregiver is dys-connected to the child. And the child is dys-connected to himself.

The child will learn to neglect or abuse himself when he feels a particular way. Maybe he’ll even start to neglect or abuse others. If neglecting or abusing others makes him feel better than he did…the villain starts to emerge.

And disconnecting dys-connection, especially connection that was made at a young age, is a daunting, sometime impossible task. It’s so impossible that we’re content to sequester those dys-connected in cages…guarded under lock and key. And as bad as we are treating dys-connection, we’re almost as bad at preventing it.

If functional, stable, and secure connection doesn’t occur between child and caregiver, all other connections in that child’s life will be disrupted. Those connections include the ones the child has with himself. And it’s all about connections.

While we are born with prosocial tendencies, if these tendencies aren’t wired correctly we can’t connect with them. And when we’re not well connected within ourselves, we can’t feel the positive reinforcement from connection to others. This can start a downward cycle.

When we don’t connect well with others, they lose interest in connecting with us. We lose the opportunity to learn to better connect to others and ourselves. And if we cannot connect with others, it is hard to value others…and makes it easier to act antisocially towards others.

If someone, anyone, makes a connection with us, it can be all the momentum we need. From that momentum, we can more thoroughly connect with ourselves and others. This leaves us with a moral imperative.

For those of us with more connections, we must help those with less connections. If we see someone less connected, it is up to us to succeed where either nature, nurture or both left them dys-connected. This is what heroes do.

That doesn’t mean we have to connect with everyone less connected than ourselves. But if we cannot connect with them, we can help them or find someone else to connect with them. Most villains are made, not born, which means they can be unmade.

They’re villains because they’re dys-connected. They’re dys-connected from others…and themselves. How we make ourselves (and them) a hero is through reconnection.

If caregivers didn’t connect, it falls to the extended family. If the family fails, as well, it falls individuals within the community. The problem of connection is too big for something so big as society or government to address. We, individually, must find a people and a place for everyone…or risk making ourselves the victim of a newly made villain.

NEGATING NEGATIVES

Facebook_logo_thumbs_up_like_transparentNo matter what we do in our lives, we’re doing it for one reason. We simply want to feel better. Think about that.

That is the the litmus test. It is the measuring stick of all behaviors and thoughts. Did that make me feel better?

Of course, not everything we do is effective at making us feel better…much less everyone else. That leaves us with a simple task. Exchange those thoughts and behaviors for others than make us feel better. Easier said, right?

Let’s say we do something that makes us feel negatively. At some point we become aware of how it’s making us feel. That may lead to a host of other feelings like regret, shame, embarrassment, anger…but we only need to feel enough of any emotion in order to do something different. But what do we do?

If all the world’s a stage, and we’re all actors…what can we do about our next performance? We rehearse. We rehearse how we want to behave.

We imagine the next time we feel the way we were feeling when we did what we didn’t want to do…doing something different. Instead of ruminating on what we did do, we rehearse over and over again until we know we’re going to nail our part. But the way we behave isn’t the only thing that makes us feel negatively.

Sometimes just the way we feel is a function of how and what we think. Pessimism, catastrophization, rumination…there are ways in which our thinking can get us and keep us feeling negatively. We thought our way into negativity and we’re going to have to think our way out of it.

But thinking our way out of it isn’t as simple as charge cancellation. Positive affirmations aren’t likely enough to dispel our negativity. We’re going to need a better tool.

In the face of negative thoughts, we have to replace them with something else that fits. We have to look for another thought, that is as true as what we were thinking. And this new thought won’t likely make us feel positively…but it can make us feel better. And feeling better is how we know our thoughts and actions are effective…and we’ve negated negativity.

WHAT SHOULD I DO?

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There are so many instances in my life where I’m not sure what to do. Perhaps, it’s that I’m not sure what to say. This, of course, is in regards to social situations.

But this feeling isn’t just about my interactions with others…as awkward as those might be. There are also situations I find myself in where I’m at a loss…for what to do with myself. So what do I do?

Like most problems I encounter, I have to simplify things. We all have to go back to the basics. There are manners to follow…even for interactions we have with ourselves.

When I’m not sure what to do, the first thing I do is sharpen my tool. Do you know what I’m referring to? If you have a certain amount of time to cut down a tree, you should use at least half that allotted time to sharpen your saw or axe.

How I sharpen myself is by tuning in to my body. And that tuning is achieved through questions. If I already don’t know what to do, that probably means I’m not feeling my best.

That leads to one of the most important questions of all. What do I need to do to feel better? What kind of intervention do I need?

Do I need food or drink? Do I need social support? Do I need to move?

Perhaps what will help me feel better is the exact opposite of that. Maybe I need to fast. Maybe I need to isolate myself. Maybe I need to lie down.

Somewhere within those mechanical, chemical, and psychological extremes is my answer to feeling better. And once I feel better, once my axe is sharpened, I can back to the business at hand. It’s time for the tree to fall.

Once I feel a little better, clarity can be had. But clarity about what? I already don’t know what to do.

Doing is just one part of the equation. The equation is two-fold. I have to also know how I feel.

And how I feel is a good starting point. If I don’t know what to do, I probably don’t know exactly how I’m feeling. But I do know that how I’m feeling isn’t particularly good.

Getting to an answer is often about refining our questions. We turn, “What should I do?” into a different question…one that incorporates the whole equation.

Words have to transform, as well. “Should” turns into “can.” It doesn’t matter what you should do if you cannot do it.

“What can I do so that I feel better?” is the simplest of questions…and it often is enough provide the right answer. But the deeper problems require more specific questions. “What can I do about feeling like ______ ? With more specific identification of emotions comes the specific answer to…what you can do about it.

OFFENSE & DEFENSE

offense-defense-camppI often to listen to Gary Vaynerchuk. He preaches a very simple message. And in the repetition of that message, he sometimes finds new metaphors.

One of his recent metaphors was a reframing of negativity and positivity. To him, negativity is defense and positivity is offense. And Gary is all about offense.

We could extend those metaphors and mix them with others. “Offense wins games, but defense wins championships.” “I don’t have defense, I have counter offense.” I, of course, want to look at the roles negativity and positivity play in the practice of BioFeedback.

I am a naturally “negative” person. I can see problems. I can see what’s wrong.

If that were completely negative, that would be an awful predicament. But can’t the same be said for positivity? Positivity is only seeing the good.

If we only see the good, can we ever fix the bad? That, of course, is where the synthesis comes in. Negativity plays one role, positivity another.

Just because something needs change doesn’t mean it can be changed. Negativity is not for finding out everything that should be changed. It’s simply for finding out what can be changed.

That, of course, is where BioFeedback and a scientific posture comes in handy. The application is simple. Can I change this now? If not, move on to the next potential thing to change.

Positivity’s purpose is three-fold. It’s for reframing or taking a new point of view on things that can’t be changed: this can’t be changed yet, but what can be changed? But that’s not the primary purpose of positivity.

Positivity’s primary purpose is enacting whatever level of change can occur. But that doesn’t mean change is easy. Sometimes change on a scale smaller than we would like.

Positivity is about all managing one’s emotional state while change, no matter how small, is occurring. “I’m not stuck, I’m changing…this is good.” But positivity plays an even more important role.

And when that change isn’t occurring yet gets us to the primary purpose of positivity. Just because we can’t change in the moment doesn’t mean we can’t rehearse for when we can change. When we rehearse sufficiently, the change happens bigger and faster than we had even hoped for.

Negativity is for seeing what’s wrong. Positivity is for finding, practicing, and maintaining an effective psychology while doing the most important thing: changing. The artful and scientific use for positivity and negativity make for a strong offense and defense.

THE ELASTIC LIFE

elasticityWhen I was coming up in fitness, staying in the fat burning zone was the thing. So joggers strapped on heart rate monitors and limited their activity by staying within these narrow parameters. They didn’t know how limited they were about to get.

Once runners started stabilizing their heart rates, the ultimate limitation emerged. Their mortality rate increased. WTH?

How did active people die…from activity? Here’s another one for you. The most active person I know, someone who was active probably using all energy systems…developed diabetes. Why? For the same reason the joggers died.

Even though he was active for 10 hours a day (and eating “clean”) the rest of the time, he still developed diabetes. Why? My hypothesis is his routine.

He was the most “disciplined” person I knew (and many consider me disciplined). But this discipline came in the form of routine. Routine, no matter how good it is, is the freeway to the graveyard. Why?

Why would consistently doing the “right” thing lead to the ultimate negative consequence? Let’s focus on two possible reasons. The first is adaptation.

Adaptation can be understood as the ability to change directions. If we’re routined, we’re moving through a limited number of directions. When we have to get out of our routine, we’re negatively impacted.

Of course we are. We’ve been practicing a routine. We haven’t been practicing adaptability.

The second reason the “right” thing could lead to the wrong outcome is how organisms respond to stress. Organisms with too much stress predictably die. But also consider those organisms with no distress at all, die, too. This points us in the direction we need to go.

Mechanical systems break down through use. Friction wears away the parts. Not as much in living systems.

Living systems build themselves up through use. Hypertrophy, right? And they break down through disuse…atrophy.

Whenever we don’t experience distress, we lose the ability to deal with distress. But too much distress and the system breaks. How do we navigate this conflict, even paradox?

If we don’t use, or use it enough, a bodily part or area breaks down. And if we use it too much, it breaks down, as well. But that isn’t the whole story.

Each part of the body affects the rest of the body. How it affects the rest of those parts is movement. But even the movement of one part affects the rest of the movements of that same part.

Let’s take the shoulder, for example. The shoulder flexes, extends, adducts, abducts, internally rotates, externally rotates, and circumducts. But here’s the kicker – when the shoulder flexes (with all other things being equal), it makes the rest of the motions harder to perform.

Why would moving your shoulder in one way make it harder to move your shoulder in all the other ways? It has to do with how our tissue adapts. Our tissue reshapes itself with use.

Like a living clay, the body reshapes itself in the shape of movement. That’s why we can often tell what a person does or doesn’t do by their posture and their gait. So when we have tissue that loses function if we don’t use that function, we’re left with one biological command: use everything.

We have to use every musculoskeletal motion of the body or we’ll eventually lose every motion of the body.  But we can’t just look musculoskeletally, we have look organically, as well. If we don’t utilize the upper and lower limits of all function, those functions become limited…until we cannot function, at all.

Our joggers lost physiological function because of how limited activity limited their hearts. No longer was there as much variability in the heart rate. It only went so far up and so far down. It purposefully stayed within a “zone.”

But to stay in this zone changed the organ tissue. Because it physiologically, or functionally, didn’t go up and down as much, it lost the analogous anatomical quality. What is that quality? Elasticity.

Our tissues are all elastic in nature. Our anatomy is elastic. While form follows function, in living systems, function follows form, as well.

If we want to maintain our elasticity, we have to live elastically. We have to breathe really fast…and really slow. We have to eat a lot and nothing. We have to drink a lot and nothing.

Periodically, life has to be be about the extremes. It’s not as though one day can be feast and one can be famine…at least from day to day. But a flat line is just that…life needs its ups and downs.

For many of us, life provides enough downs, so we spend our free time working on going up. But we forget that the climb is indefinite, it foreshadows a fall…at least on one front. But life is lived on many fronts.

When we’re down in one area, we can be up in another. But if we’re so focused on where we’re down, we’re missing the opportunity to find an area where we can go up…and then actually go up. And if we can’t find a place to go up, we have to remember that our anatomy is elastic, so our physiology is elastic, so then our life is elastic….and the only way to move forward is to go both up and down.

SMARTER

smarterIcon_animateIn some measures of intelligence, I’m smart. In others…not so much. I experienced something at a young age that science has confirmed.

Intelligence, like many other attributes, is not fixed. I discovered this by getting tested over and over again when I was starting school. Each successive time I took a test, I got much better at the test. I started off well below average and ended up being well above average.

This trend has followed me throughout my life. It takes me a long time to become competent in a subject. But the time between competence and mastery is comparatively short.

Like Dweck, Ericsson, and others, I discovered that considering I could get better and deliberately practicing on the things I could actually improve led me, quite predictably, to improvement. When it comes to intelligence (Mensa style not Gardner style intelligence), getting more of it isn’t easy. And I don’t think it’s taught all that well, either.

I want to talk about becoming more intelligent entails and an approach to becoming more intelligent. It isn’t as straight forward as taking more IQ tests (although that could help). And it isn’t enough to study people who have intelligence(s) that you desire.

It’s going to require you to see smaller, and do smaller. And you’re going to be able to see more. And once you do more, you’re going to be able to know more (knowledge) and be more (intelligent).

Being that what we learn is based on BioFeedback, we need to look at intelligence through BioFeedback’s lens. BioFeedback has to do with the relationship between sensation and action. In the common parlance, that’s the relationship between knowing and doing.

Whenever we’re talking about Intelligence, we think of it more in the realm of knowing…than doing. And we’ll keep Intelligence in that realm for a bit. Intelligence has to do with knowledge.

But knowledge of what? When we’re speaking of intelligence, we’re not talking about any specific domain. We want general intelligence…or the ability to be smart in anything.

How can we be generally smart, or generally intelligent? We have make the specific – general. Let me explain.

Each intelligence, whether it be in the arts, sciences, or mathematics comes with a particular set of specific terms. For the artist, the scientist, the mathematician, they call those sets of terms a language. For the uninitiated, we call those terms jargon.

If we don’t want them to be jargon, we have to understand them. And understanding those terms requires using other words, more words to make meaning of them. But it’s not enough to just define your terms.

When we define the terms (or understand) everything we encounter, we have yet to make the specific general. To make the specific general, we have to move beyond definitions. We have to find synonyms.

Finding synonyms is seeing how one word, or term, is like another. Ennui is like boredom. Misery is like suffering.

We’re using one term to understand another. But understanding isn’t just limited to terms, it can be applied to ideas. A peak experience is like summiting a mountain.

When we can see how seemingly non-related things can be related, we’re not only “building” empathy (see what I did there?) we’re making the specific general…building general intelligence. But there is another direction intelligence can go.

Not only can Specific Intelligence be generalized, General Intelligence can become specialized. An easy way to go down this path is to see how things are different. Can you see how synonyms can be antonyms?

What would else would you call something heavy? How about massive? Synonyms, right? But not entirely.

Massive refers to mass (to others, size), heavy refers to weight…they’re different. This differentiation allows for general intelligence to become specific (Hipsters are great at this, lol). And it’s in moving back and forth between the general and specific where we get smarter.

Think of general and specific in visual terms. General is more macroscopic. Specific is more microscopic.

If you look macroscopically, you see astronomy. Smaller, you see geology. Smaller you see sociology. Smaller, you see biology. Smaller, you see physiology. Smaller, chemistry. Smaller, physics.

Or you may not see any of the sciences. You may hear music. You may see art. You may hear poetry or prose. You may feel sports or martial arts. You may make peace or war.

But they’re all related. They’re all connected. They’re connected into patterns.

You may’ve heard intelligence (especially Artificial Intelligence) referred to as pattern recognition. Can you recognize what makes them the same? Can you recognize what makes them different?

If you can connect them generally and disconnect them specifically, you’ll be well on your way to being smarter…maybe even smart…maybe even genius…but probably not savant (but no longer an idiot, either).

And in the most important measures of intelligence, new knowledge should lead to new action. Here’s the most important insight into intelligence: action leads to more intelligence. More intelligence, whether general or specific, is a function of more action.

THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING

This-Changes-Everything-1080One of the best compliments I ever received was from a student and colleague who noted, “When you get a new piece of information, you get excited. You’ll say, ‘Don’t you understand…this changes everything?!!!” I think what he meant was that when I get a new piece of information, it changes everything for me….eventually.

While I periodically get enthusiastic about change, my disorder makes change very challenging. Times change, and I’m left behind. This means if I’m going to keep up with the times, I have to be ahead of them.

But I can only be ahead of them in spirit, the body changes too slowly…at least for now. But the prediction of where things will likely go helps those of us who are little slower catch up. And this all leaves me with a very important question, “Where are things going?” (More importantly – to me- where am I going?)

When I can make a somewhat educated guess as to where things are going, I can start work on moving in that direction. Since I move a bit slower than most (both literally and metaphorically), I need a head start. I usually need that head start in any direction.

An example direction is Martial Arts. There have been three trends that have emerged since I’ve been practicing BJJ. I’ve tried to stay ahead of all three.

The first was the movement away from the Gi. It’s only now with the popularity of EBI, 10PJJ, and the DDS (these acronyms mean something to BJJ players) that No Gi is emerging as a distinct practice. I saw it early (Marcelo @ ADCC and at my home Dojo) and 2.5 years after I started (over 10 years ago), I took off the Gi and haven’t consistently put it back on since.

The next trend that emerged in BJJ (which is in full force now) is the practice of leg locks. While I have never been interested in becoming a leg lock specialist, I did start becoming more versed in their use. I watched videos, bought books, and started rolling with leg lockers.

The final trend that has yet to surface in BJJ but I believe ultimately will is wrestling. Fundamental wrestling shuts down many submissions. And wrestling wins nearly every position.

No Gi, Leg Locks, and Wrestling has and will change everything in BJJ. But what clued me in to that? Why did I think that those things changed everything?

I thought No Gi, Leglocks, and Wrestling changed BJJ because I saw how their players fared against traditional BJJ players. I saw how the practice of each of those demonstrated dominance. While I only saw No Gi players, leg lockers, and wrestlers show up occasionally, the effect was undeniable.

Others saw the same thing I did…but where I saw the future, they saw an anomaly. You have to understand the scope of this, though. These were just a few data points.

These three trends were previously only personified. They were three solitary datums. But I knew that they wouldn’t be solitary for long.

When I saw the three trends first emerge, there was resistance to their practice. They weren’t looked at as trends. They were looked at as trendy, a novelty.

Each time the trend reappeared, it became easier for people to accept that this new thing was here to stay. And the new somehow subsumed the old. Those people who wouldn’t accept the new either left or became a relic of the past.

While we don’t identify as such, we’re all more naturally conservative than progressive. We want to conserve what was before more so than we want to progress past it. While some things are timeless and remain, those things are in the minority.

The natural order is change. In order to orient towards the future, we have to be on the constant lookout for what will change everything. Most things that are new won’t be catalysts.

But when we see something new that puts a chink in the armor of the old, we have to pay attention – very close attention – to understand the scope of that change. For every bit of change we see, we get more insight into what actually works. And we better understand what changes everything…and the personal work it takes to change.