“Less”

There’s a great line – one word – spoken by Josh Brolin in Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps. Shia LeBouf’s character asks (more or less) Brolin’s “how much is enough?”, and Brolin replies “More.” It’s said with such avarice, literally dripping from his lips. So representative of the failure of character: “There is one word that describes what is right about America; that word is greed. There is one word that describes what is wrong with America; that word is greed. There is one word that describes the difference; that word is character.” The failure of character. Why???

Because we go in the opposite direction of character. We gravitate towards more… And it is not just more material things. It is the incessant presence and by extension need for more thinking (the curse of over-thinking), more being right, more fear. I stole the idea for this post from Tim Ferriss, who had a TV show called Fear {less}. That’s what I’m interested in here: less.

Just because you think it doesn’t mean it’s true. Our best thinking is a function of just that: our best thinking! The echo chamber of our mind… we lack new information but ironically our filters tend to keep out information that doesn’t align with our existing pattern of interpretation and meaning of information. And so we need, or indulge in, more. The demands of the childish emotional mind, that insidious little storyteller. To think less you have to think less. Or more accurately, think less about the stories that are being foisted upon you and think more about something else. Attentional control – so of course refer to the Weaponized Mindfulness posts. Know for a fact that your brain is telling you stories and they might not be right. They might be propaganda! Cognitive distortions based on your existing pattern and filters. Remember the Anais Nin quote: “We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are.”

The other day I gave myself a headache. I was thinking too much and I knew it. Minal came into my office and noticed my headache face and I explained what was going on. She told me to just stop thinking (I know how to of course. Well, mostly…) and I replied that I didn’t want to but as soon as my next patient arrived I would. My attention would (and did) go fully to her, and the headache went away. I stopped thinking about anything else. Be aware of your “need” to think and learn to allow your mind to sort things out on its own. This is the capability acquired in Stage 3 of the mindfulness program so maybe that’s an incentive to work it. Learn to quiet your mind and you can think slower, with improved clarity and accuracy. As they say on Kilimanjaro: “Pole Pole!” Slow slow. It’s how you get to the top.

An important factor in thinking less is to notice what exactly you think of. Is it useful? Helpful? Or is it more of the same garbage, not germane to anything of value in your life. Once you clear out the clutter of useless thoughts there is a new-found ability to not only have a quiet mind but also to be able to turn it towards something useful and helpful.

“Do you want to be right or do you want to be effective?” A core question of DBT. Most people will either answer “Both!” or if they’re honest will answer “Right!” The need to be right, to have our best thinking validated and even praised, is so ingrained in us. And so divisive. “I’m RIGHT!” “You’re WRONG!” Our childish emotional minds spew endlessly such judgments and clings so tightly to them.

I would suggest that we aspire to being less wrong.

There are few absolutes in this universe, and absolutes by their nature are abstractions. They exist only mathematically or are a function of faith. Yet we, in our best thinking, are so utterly sure of them. Mark Twain said, “What gets us into trouble is not what we don’t know. It’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so.” Nothing is certain until it actually happens, and how we perceive what happened is determined by our filters, our pattern of interpreting and giving meaning to the information. That should sound familiar as I said it earlier in this post. And it will bear repeating until we understand the truth of it. The Nin quote validates it.

When we stop needing to be right we are open to the possibilities of being less wrong, and the abdication of the need to be right. The irony is that when you are open to the possibility of being wrong you increase the likelihood that you’ll learn something and be less wrong. **So I’m being redundant and inelegant. Please help**

One of the reasons we cling so tightly to the need to be right is fear. “What if I’m wrong?!” What if what if what if… The storyteller hard at work, isn’t it? Without going into the roots of fear (an opposite of love) how about just offer the antidote? And that is (drum roll!) Curiosity. The natural opposite to the fearful “what if?!” becomes its opposite – “what if?” and then “We’ll see!” It opens us up to possibilities, perhaps that we have never considered in our best thinking.

One other less that occurs to me is flaw less, to stop finding fault in ourselves or others. Stop blaming, start exploring. In Radically Open DBT we call this self enquiry, checking both the facts of information but of our interpretation and meaning of that information – our emotional response patterns. If we are going on a fault-finding trip the best place to start, in fact the only place to start, is within ourselves. And it is not an emotional blaming but just looking at ourselves as we are, with curiosity and love, in order to become less. Less judgmental, less reactive, less emotionally enslaved. In any conflict we may (probably do) have some responsibility in our own words or actions. Examine them! Not to find fault but facts. How did I contribute to this mess?

The key to less is of course the ability to control your own mind, to choose to think less, to be willing to be less wrong, to be vulnerable enough (ironically) to fear less, and look for flaws less. Radically accept the what is and consider your emotional response to the information, how you interpret and give meaning to it. Be willing to be less.

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