The Impulsive (Part II)

Part I: The Impulsive

Be Kenobi

If we conduct ourselves in a way where an action is taken with little forethought and consideration it can be either spontaneous or impulsive. An impulsive action will usually be triggered by emotions such as fear, anger or sadness. There is a sense that the action is wrong but lack of self control enables it.

Spontaneity on the other hand might be triggered by creativity, imagination, happiness, joy or contentment. Love is a trigger for spontaneity. Flowers or a diamond ring for someone special is bought with a spontaneous heart. Deciding on a whim to get drunk after an argument is impulsive.

So how can we be less Impulsive and more Spontaneous like Obi-wan Kenobi?  Before you do anything “at the drop of a hat” or on an impulse you should try to do the following:

1. Think, think, think

Ask yourself why am I doing this? What are the motives? Does it serve? Gun shops in most states in America must impose a “cooling off” period before selling a firearm for the simple reason that the disgruntled looking man who has walked in all red faced and shaking may be intending to do something regretful.

If we are having a bad day and we decide impulsively to get “get back” by getting drunk, we need to chill for a moment and think it through. Think before reacting on social media or posting a comment or photo that will come back and bite in unexpected ways.

 

2. Look before leaping

So you have decided to do something, there is no turning back. If that’s the case, then may as well do it properly. What’s the rush? Instead of walking to the boss’s office right now to deliver a resignation in colorful language why don’t we sit down and write it out clearly spelling out our reason. Once written, read it back and perhaps even read it to a co-worker. Once you have finally decided to go ahead with it, do it but in a way where you don’t let your principles down and add another person to your amends list. Never burn bridges.

Taking a moment to think rationally and objectively may also help you decide on another outcome. Never draft an angry email and send it straight away. Leave it in the “draft” folder for a night and return to it the next day. You may be surprised how different you feel about what happened “yesterday”.

 

3. Speak to someone

Speak to a friend, partner or confident about your plans to gauge their reaction. You may be decided to act but their input may provide food for thought. Also ask yourself if acting in a certain way is consistent with your values and principles. Is it who you want to be?

 

4. Weigh up the Consequences

Impulsive people rarely consider the implications or the consequences of their actions. Losing one’s temper and quitting a job can lead to financial hardship and going out and getting drunk after an argument may lead to further bad decisions such as drunk driving or violence. Spontaneous people generally weigh things ups before they commit where as impulsive people don’t.

 

5. Know your triggers

Impulsive reactions are often the product of emotions that we have trouble processing such as anger. It is easy to make rash decisions when emotional. An argument with a spouse or a bad day at work may “force” us to make impulsive decisions. Sometimes we act on impulse when someone cuts us off on the road or we encounter a rude person.

When having a HALT moment (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired) it is a good idea to delay action and pick up a phone. By knowing our triggers we can be prepared to avoid an unpredictable response.

 

6. Trust yourself

Impulsive people ultimately do not trust themselves. We know that history has shown that impulsive decisions lead to poor outcomes however we seem to never change. With recovery we becomes more confident and in control of our emotions. We learn to trust ourselves more in the decisions we make. Usually we know if a decision is spontaneous and good or impulsive and poor by looking inward and being true to our principles.

Childlike

While sometimes it is inappropriate to be spontaneous and other times acting on impulse is the right move the opposite is usually true. Emotional maturity and sobriety means being able to resist acting on impulses particularly when the triggers are emotions such as fear, anger or frustration.

Being able to act with spontaneity can bring enjoyment, fulfillment and creativity to many people who are “free spirited” when they act with discernment, good judgement and a bit of “common sense”.

Being Jedi is not about being bland and boring where every decision is based on thorough assessment and approval. We do not go through life like automatons, inflexible and afraid to make decisions because of fear of consequence of the opinions of others.

Being Jedi is being open minded, flexible and agile enough to respond quickly to a rapidly changing environment without allowing emotions to dictate actions. Good outcomes are based on good choices and follow through. Ultimately when we are confronted with a choice we must first ask “does this add value” and “is this what I want”. The decision should be simple without resorting to impulse.

Life can be full of spontaneity if we choose. Research has shown that spontaneous people are happier. If you watch children at play you will remember a younger you when the world was so vibrant and the moment exciting and fun. Kids are spontaneous because it is in their nature. It is in our nature too. Being spontaneous expresses who we are and reflects our true divine self. Recapture that feeling of spontaneity in your life.

 

Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight, or any experience that reveals the human spirit” – EE Cummings

Jedi and the Law of Attraction

Jedi believe in the law of attraction which is basically this: whatever you ask for, and firmly believe, you will receive. The Force will bring us whatever we continue to think about, even if we are unconscious of it. This makes it extremely important to always be aware and mindful about what we are thinking about, and what we are asking for.

(33 Jedi Traits)

Like Attracts Like

The esoteric Law of attraction states that like attracts like. If we think about something consistently we will move towards that state. Being preoccupied with an illness and thinking about the pain and suffering it causes only charges that state and as a result we remain sick or get sicker. Thinking about and meditating on recovery and health raises  our consciousness and tilts the scales toward that outcome. Having a negative disposition and attitude towards life leads to negative outcomes. Conversely being optimistic and positive about life leads to positive experience.

Life largely happens at the level of the mind. Our perception accounts for everything. This is not pseudoscience but a reality. If a person convinces themselves that they will fail in an endeavor they are more likely to as they have already given up on the cause. A person who approaches life with a “can do” attitude and visualizes success is more likely to succeed. If that person also allows for the possibility of failure and finds a silver lining in every dark cloud then they are more likely to absorb and accept life’s disappointments.

 

No Guarantees

I do not believe that simply thinking a lot about a thing and visualizing it will instantly bring my heart’s desire or my worst fears in to reality. All the “claiming” and “feeling” desired change through visualization will not see money, fast cars and success fall out of the sky on to my lap as if by a miracle. The universe is not a service provider, reality does not work that way. I am the author of my own destiny to an extent; only through framing a positive outlook and  working towards what I can achieve will I get there, “God willing”. There are no guarantees.

We do have a choice how we frame our thoughts however. Instead of thinking “I need more money” or “I’m sick of feeling like this” or “I hate my job” try framing it differently. Debt can be seen as an opportunity to review spending habits and start making wise choices, negative emotions can be replaced by positive impressions and unless we are being held against our will there is nothing stopping us from actively seeking the job we want rather than the job we feel stuck in.

An overweight person can sit on a couch all day. That person can have a strong desire to have a body that is fit and lean. The universe can be implored upon to provide that physique. This can be done with absolute conviction and belief consciously and subconsciously. The adherent can work at this repeatedly everyday without fail, constantly claiming that lean and fit body. Everyday on approaching the mirror that person can expect to see his hearts desire appear. The truth is unless that person gets off the couch and starts to eat better, live cleaner and takes up a program of physical exercise there is no chance in hell that he will ever achieve that desired state.

 

Never Give Up

A positive attitude and optimistic outlook can make all the difference in healing from an illness. Scientific studies have shown that cancer patients who are optimistic and relaxed about their treatment are more likely to recover. Everyone knows that stress is a killer and worrying about the things we cannot control does not make them better. A farmer cannot worry a drought away. Positive thoughts alone will unlikely result in rain. What the farmer can do is resist the urge to despair, continue to be positive even in the face of financial ruin and have faith that times will get better. I have seen a lot of people on the edge of despair who have waited another day and seen a miracle happen. Never give up.

Thinking about disease or poverty however does not necessarily bring them on as some New Thought advocates of the “Law of Attraction” suggest. Sometimes things happen to people for no reason other than “they do”.  People who are extremely positive about life and diligent with their health still get cancer. Some of these people die, others recover in large part because they have the mental fortitude and will to live. Some Farmers “drought proof” themselves as much as possible and have contingency plans but still go under.

How we deal with crisis when it happens is more important than how we seek to enrich our lives with material goods and a transitory illusion of happiness.

 

Stay Grounded

The Stoic practice of negative visualization is as effective as the idea of law of attraction. Negative visualization asks us to consider life without all the things we consider important. By imagining the loss of home and job, having our partner walk out or losing our freedom we not only appreciate these things more but we harden ourselves for life’s many heart breaks.  Pinning all of our hope on the “law of attraction” as the ultimate source of all of our hopes and desires can set us up for disappointment if we do not get what we want, when we want it.

We should be optimistic and hopeful and claim all the blessings we can in to our lives but we should also accept that life is a river of 10 000 joys and sorrows. We will shed many tears in our lives. It is worthwhile to take time to be grateful of things we do have. Want the things you have more than the things you don’t. Accept the things you cannot change.

 

Relationships

Consider your partner, if you have one, or someone close to you. Think about all their attributes that really annoy you. What are their habits that make you angry or downright indigent? How does that make you feel? How does that person appear to you when you think that way? I bet their faults are magnified.

Now consider their positive attributes, the things that you love about them. How does that make you feel? Does it create a completely different reaction in you? Remember that there is no such thing as a perfect person. Everyone has their faults and positives as we all do. We can try to coerce them to be something else but ultimately we can’t change them unless they want to change themselves.

Everyone has a mental image of the perfect partner. The Law of Attraction suggests that if we visualize being with that person eventually they will appear. The problem of course is that they may not. Even if a “perfect” person does appear eventually they lose their shine and present the inevitable flaws of being human. The person may not be “perfect” but he or she may in fact be “perfect” for the imperfect you.

 

Be Mindful of Toxic People

People of a certain disposition will always attract those that are similar. Negative and positive minded people attract like and so forth.  Being mindful of the people we associate with in real life and online is important. Surround yourself with people who share your values and abide to similar principles. Having common interests works to a certain extent but ultimately you want to surround yourself with like-minded individuals.

If a person you associate with is habitually negative or critical about life and other people, pessimistic in their outlook and attitudes then in time you are sure to absorb some of that. Negativity and pessimism can spread and affect every aspect of your life so it is best to avoid it as much as possible. This means avoiding people who are tainted with a habitually negative disposition.  Toxic relationships are a no-go and foul the body, mind and spirit. If in one, walk away.

 

Hitting Home Runs

Babe Ruth once said that he used to see himself scoring home runs before he did. It’s no secret that if we visualize something happening and accept it as a given it is more likely to happen. The odds are in our favor. Visualizing an outcome and charging it with emotion can bring it in to reality. This is going out and getting what you want with intent, the Universe is not necessarily adjusting itself to accommodate your whims but sometimes things have a strange way of playing out. I like to think the Force is watching my back.

As an example, you may really want a particular job or you have a keen interest in forming a relationship with a person you are attracted to. If that job is outside of our league or a more suitable candidate comes along we don’t get the job no matter how much we try to “will” it to happen. If the person we desire is simply not in to us then it is also not meant to be. You can flog a dead horse and persist or you can accept the outcomes as they are and move on.

Sometimes we move on and something strange happens; you land a better job and meet someone who suits you even better! Often things just have a way of working out not exactly as we planned but even better. The path may not be direct and there are many bumps along the way but eventually we seem to end up exactly where we were meant to. It feels like someone or something has put you there. Is it Serendipity or the Law of Attraction?

 

Bird in a Storm

I’m not saying that the “Law of Attraction” exists or does not exist. In my experience I sometimes end up in the place I hoped for and at times life has thrown some curve balls and dramatic changes which like a bird caught in a storm has thrown me on to foreign shores. I believe that life is a blend of destiny, serendipity and fate, over that we are still the author of our lives to such an extent we write the story within the context fate hands us. The more we put our focus on something, the more it becomes us.

I wanted to be sober for decades and “wanting” is all I got. When I finally decided to surrender my alcoholic problem to a Higher Power I was immediately catapulted on to a new life trajectory. The life I had wanted to live had always been there for me to take.  I simply chose not to embrace the spiritual changes needed to finally let go. By no longer fighting and forcing the issue I was finally able to make my dream a reality and free myself.

 

Through the Force. things you will see. Other Places. The future…the past. Old friends long gone.” – Yoda

Creativity

Right or wrong, this is my movie, this is my decision, and this is my creative vision, and if people don’t like it, they don’t have to see it.” – George Lucas

Carrie Fisher once joked that George Lucas had made her alcoholic. Alcoholics can be very creative. Some of the most prolific writers, poets, playwrights, actors and artists were alcoholic. Aeschylus, Poe and Hemingway, Oscar Wilde and Hunter S Thompson were writers whose deaths were attributed to alcohol. Cobain and Van Gogh were also alcoholic. Beethoven, Byron and Tesla were all drunks. Alcoholism has many distinguished luminaries.

Alcohol, taken in sufficient quantities, may produce all the effects of drunkenness.” – Oscar Wilde

An article  by Jarosz et al. (2012)* (cited in Psychology Today), did indeed find that alcohol can contribute to creativity. By being at least partially intoxicated test subjects were found to be less side tracked from a task and also less constrained in their approach to it. Researchers found that the working memory improves and so does the ability to think outside the box.

During my studies I drank heavily. Assignments were written while I drank several bottles of wine. I would stagger in to exams half inebriated. Alcoholism did not seem to hold me back from academic achievement; in fact it seemed to facilitate it. My results were generally in the high range.

Here’s to alcohol, the rose colored glasses of life” – F Scott Fitzgerald

High Spirits

Everyone knows that a disproportionate number of alcoholics are high achievers. Some even argue that booze is an element of that success. Drinking fires the imagination and inspires us in almost a divine way. The word spirit comes from the Latin spiritus, meaning “inspiration”. The ancients drank heavily to acquire creativity and a connection with the Divine.

Alcohol only seems to inspire creativity. We all have an innate need to express ourselves and creativity is a natural gift that comes with being human. Of all the creatures I have seen in the wild only the bower bird seems to be able to create a work of art with random items that include broken beer bottles and bottle caps. This does not mean that Bower Birds get drunk while nest building. Humans are otherwise unique in the capacity to create for the sake of it.

There is still no scientific study out there that suggests Alcoholics are more creative in active abuse compared to while in recovery. Carrie Fisher was alcoholic and had mental health problems, she became recovered and continued to act successfully until her death in 2016. Responding once to a question on what people should do on chasing their dreams despite mental illness, Fisher said:

Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action. You don’t have to wait to be confident. Just do it and eventually the confidence will follow.” – Carrie Fisher

Be Original

Having worked for a Grunge band that toured from one seedy bar to the next, I can attest that booze did not help the musicians play better. They were lousy when drunk on stage. Being drunk did help them not care whether they played well or not and when the audience was also drunk it didn’t really matter. Especially when its Grunge, being drunk and not caring was sort of expected.

Perhaps that’s it. Drunken Artists get awards for not caring. I only wrote great assignments and blitzed exams because being drunk gave me permission not to care. Isn’t that why many of us started drinking in the first place? Because we wanted to feel normal, less self conscious and more uninhibited? Those are the traits of creative people. Like selling your soul to the Devil for fame or fortune there is always a heavy price to pay.

I’ve never seen anyone drink themselves smart, successful or happy. Most end up broke, bitter and alone.” – Anonymous

Addiction does teach us to be creative in other ways. Here are some of the things I did to be original and creative:

  1. Conceal bottles in the most unlikely places
  2. Get drunk despite a limit of two drinks
  3. Manage to get drunk despite only going out with enough money for one or two
  4. Get away with the most ludicrous excuses for being late or absent
  5. Master the skill of being able to tell half truths and plain lies with a straight face
  6. Clean up and hide the effects of an out of control party
  7. Sneak out of Barracks to get drunk and then still manage to sneak back in through concertina wire despite being drunk
  8. Walk several miles from an unknown location to home with no recollection of doing it
  9. Arrive in another country hundreds of miles away with little to no recollection of events that got me there
  10. Wake up with clothes that were not my own
  11. Wake up with a stranger I have no recollection of ever having met
  12. Juggle three Girl Friends without them being aware of each other
  13. Convince everyone I was “on the wagon” while still drunk.

Such as the nature of Alcoholism that we have throw out scruples and self respect and get creative in order to get Drunk.

Outside the Box

The Fictional Jedi were also creative. They did not write poetry or books, sing songs or paint master pieces however they were creative in applying a simple philosophy of life. They lived to a code but the rule book encouraged “thinking outside the box”.  Jedi had to be creative in order to survive their missions and work effectively with limited resources. The light sabre for example was a personal weapon of choice it was also the ultimate multi-tool. It took creative use to make it effective in all situations. The Light Saber would be used to down large Battle Droids, disable star fighters, penetrate through doors and walls, topple mega structures and deflect lasers.

The Jedi used mind tricks to avoid confrontation and used creative initiative to complete missions. In the Clone Wars “The Citadel”, the Jedi are sent on a mission to rescue captured Jedi and military commanders holding vital intelligence. The Jedi reprogram Battle Droids to infiltrate a heavily guarded separatist planet. In order to avoid detection by life scanners, the Jedi and Clones put themselves into carbon freeze until they have landed on the planet. The approach was reminiscent of the subterfuge the Greeks used to dupe the Trojans and enter the city inside a wooden horse.

George Lucas is one of the most creative people of our times. He is considered a creative genius by many. Lucas created an entire global franchise based on his imagination, an idea. In turn it has inspired countless others including a global philosophy. George Lucas is a reminder that it is only ourselves that limit our own creative powers.

Be Creative

Being sober has taught me to be creative in other ways. One of the main ways of doing that is to break patterns and try something new or different. Here are some examples:

  1. Wear something different;
  2. Try a new type of food or  restaurant;
  3. Take up a new hobby;
  4. Learn a new language;
  5. Resolve to learn a new skill;
  6. Do something that’s creative.

What will you do different today?

*Jarosz, A.F., Colflesh, G.J.H, Wiley, J. (2012). Uncorking the muse: Alcohol intoxication facilitates creative problem solving. Consciousness and Cognition, 21, 487–493.