Alone in the World

I think solipsism has its advantages — it’s the idea that I’m the only player in the game. It puts all responsibility on me, which may sound daunting, but I don’t take it too seriously. My primary takeaway is that everything that happens to me is MY fault — which sounds bad, but also means I can fix it. I’m not a passive victim of my surroundings, I’m the guy in charge. I may be a masochist that likes to hurt myself — but anytime I want, I can change those circumstances.

So when I think of my childhood for instance, I did it, I caused all that nonsense. WHY? Well apparently I’m a masochist that enjoys freaking myself out. There was no other perpetrator but me, not my mom, dad, siblings, relatives, schoolmates, teachers, strangers — no one but me to blame. Within that context, I never even deal with the concept of forgiveness — there’s no one to forgive. I made the mistake, I was in a negative mental-state and caused myself to have an unpleasant experience — that’s it — done.

So nowadays, if I’m having a tense interaction with another person, I say to myself: “whoa, I must be in a bad mood, I’m even manifesting an unpleasant scene. I better calm down and get in a good-mood, obviously my attitude is causing this negative scenario to develop right before my eyes.” And it works, I don’t blame anyone but myself — and when I further analyze my mental state, I find that I WAS in a bad mood prior to the tense interaction. The evidence is there, I DID do it.

I’ve had this perspective for awhile now, and it’s worked wonders. It’s allowed me to leapfrog over that whole “coming to terms” with people stuff, I don’t have to hash anything out, I don’t have to “forgive” anyone. It’s like it never happened. I suppose it’s a cheat-code of sorts — but I’m fine with that. And who knows, it might even be true.

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Procuring Pain

Dear Rich, why am I a masochist?

Well dear reader, you seek out pain in its various forms because it’s an easy way to feel alive. So not only are you a masochist, but you’re lazy. You use fear to make even the mundane seem thrilling, you use frustration to make your blood boil in every endeavor, you actively suppress your own enjoyment of life, and you use hurt to sour every experience.

You and I both know you can do better. First, let’s accept that you’ve been purposefully torturing yourself for lo these many years. Cheap thrills, I get it. But that kind of fun doesn’t last forever, you need something more meaningful. And that “something” is already inside of you waiting to come out, yet you’ve been preventing its development.

Second: if you want to stop the pain, stop hitting yourself. The pain you’ve been feeling is self-inflicted. Third: when you cease seeking the cheap thrills produced by pain, a more meaningful path through life appears to you. From there, you do you. THAT’S the person you were meant to be, the one that surfaces when you stop your stupid hobby of humiliation.

And the best part, my dear lazy reader, is that you simply need to stop your pain-producing efforts. That’s right, you need to become even lazier! Just sit there and watch for now. Observe what you’re doing to yourself — then the absurdity of the act will cause you to stop. Once you see the torment happening in real-time, your own sense of decency will kick in.

Masochism Maelstrom

Note: in this context, masochist means someone that seeks out pain on purpose.

You might be a masochist if…

You constantly provide yourself with content to complain about e.g. reading the news, browsing an infuriating website, communicating with certain acquaintances, watching shows that make you feel bad, etc.

In your mind, you dredge up unpleasant scenes from your past or you imagine an unpleasant future.

You keep performing an activity despite poor performance, all while maintaining a losing-mindset, causing you to fail at aspects you would normally succeed at.

You avoid things that might actually be fun for you.

You insist on doing things the hard way.

You intensely focus on minor aches/pains and other discomforts, allowing them to influence your life and daily routine.

Is masochism just a personal preference that should be honored?

No, it’s a low-quality way to spend your time. It’s like eating junk-food instead of consuming something nutritious. In the long run, you don’t feel satisfied by the pain, you feel empty and incomplete.

So how does one stop being a masochist?

You’ll need to replace it with something better, something more nourishing. The first step is to recognize that you’re a masochist and that you’re done with the pain-loving lifestyle. Next, you’re gonna wanna take some time to think about the painful and frustrating life that YOU have been putting yourself through. You sadistic sicko. Next, you’ll need to seek out new ways to spend your time. Since you won’t be torturing yourself any longer, you’ll need some new hobbies.

This will take some effort, but you can do it. There’s creative pursuits, pleasant activities, lighthearted entertainment, loving something, connecting with others, celebrating stuff, being helpful — whatever incites delight. And during this exploration and experimentation time, you’ll need to recognize those moments when you’re absentmindedly seeking out pain — when you see it, shut it down. Luckily you can use the feeling of pain as an alarm to indicate that you’re doing something masochistic again. In brief: feel pain, stop doing what you’re doing, do something better instead.

Masochistic Delight

So I’m sitting there in the War Robots lobby looking at the scrolling chat, and this guy is complaining about something not working right. And believe me, EVERY complaint about War Robots is probably legit — there’s so much to complain about –in fact, I do it all the time. Yet we all still show up to play the game. WHY!!?? The game literally abuses us in every way possible. So I contributed to the conversation and said, “well yeah, I think you gotta love some level of abuse to play this game.”

And then it hit me, I’m a freakin masochist!!! It’s like one of those M. Night Shyamalan moments when your life flashes before your eyes and all the clues were there, but you just couldn’t recognize them at the time. It’s dead-obvious now that I’m analyzing it — but I always thought it was such a dumb concept: who the heck would purposefully seek out pain? Uh, um, well, me I guess. Please hurt me!! Thank you, may I have another!!?

I’m always playing games in which I suffer frustrating losses. Even this blog frustrates me. My relationships frustrate me. Food frustrates me. It turns out, EVERYTHING frustrates me! YET, I keep going back for more.

So then I started thinking about memorable circumstances throughout my life. Would things have gone more smoothly if I had only trusted life and stopped trying to fight at every turn — if I had simply gone with the flow? And my conclusion was: no, not really. BUT, what readily and reliably explains the circumstances of my life: I’m a masochist! It’s as if the scenes I experienced were professionally designed to evoke maximum frustration!

If you think about it though, games are typically designed to introduce frustration, that’s their underlying nature. An obstacle prevents your progress — and until you overcome it, you’re frustrated by it. And the MORE frustrating a challenge is, the MORE it draws you in. That’s why the concept of “playing hard to get” can work in the realm of romance. If it’s easy, who cares. But if it’s difficult to attain, that’s a challenge that’ll keep you interested! That’s something you can dedicate yourself to!

If you quickly get through a game, it’s over — there’s nothing left to do. Whereas if challenges continually keep you from getting to the end, you literally might play for years. Sure you’re frustrated, but you keep going and going and going. You MUST reach the end no matter what it takes!!! So that’s life in a nutshell: a series of unconquerable tasks that string you along to the end. After all these years here, I haven’t mastered ANYTHING — and apparently, I’m not supposed to.

And if I did master life’s challenges, there’d be nothing left to accomplish. It’d be: “You Win!” followed by: “Game Over”.

So the question becomes: can I participate in this game-of-life while only experiencing minimal frustration? Must I always find myself maximally frustrated? Is pain simply my preference? I honestly don’t feel like it is, but ample evidence says otherwise. I would theorize that it’s possible to give up the pain-loving lifestyle if I develop an alternate means in which to appreciate life. For example, maybe I could develop a taste for winning.

As it is, I barely care if I win. But when I lose, oh boy, I can feel that frustration brewing. That’s something real. What a thrill it is to feel dominated and defeated!! In every path of life, I’ve felt that same frustration from my inabilities. I’m nothing but a weak and worthless moron that can’t do anything right. A loser. A loser lapping up frustration like it’s the tastiest cake on Earth. Sicko.

Therefore, having recognized my masochistic tendencies AND having recognized that I do not enjoy the level of pain produced by said tendencies, I hereby declare that I will work towards developing a new way to appreciate life. I will celebrate the victories and the revelry, the camaraderie and the creativity, the gentle and the loving — I am done delighting in despair and the not-fair.

Fountain of You

You’ll notice that we’re all different in particular ways. Our individual preferences vary quite a bit. For example, I despise the so-called dessert known as “cheesecake” — it’s gross. Our character has a dossier full of attributes that make it relatively unique. To play our character correctly then, is to honor those preferences and attributes.

If you’re playing Street Fighter II for example, you don’t play Guile the same way you play Chun Li — that’ll get you KO’d pretty quickly. You have to learn the abilities of your character and exploit those to the fullest. Special moves and abilities are there to be used, not ignored. You don’t want to play your character like it’s generic — that’s dumb.

That’s why striving to be “normal” is dumb. There is no normal, EVERYONE has an individualized dossier of attributes and abilities. And these abilities MUST be expressed by the character in order to fulfill that role. If you don’t express your individuality, it’s like holding in a poop — your bowels will ache and strain — you will suffer until you let “you” flow out.

How do you know what your character’s preferences and abilities are? Experiment! In Street Fighter II for example, you’ll find that keeping Guile in a low defensive position while utilizing leg-sweeps will prove devastating to many opponents. In other words, you won’t know what you can do until you do it — so do an assortment of things until you find what you’re good at.

Guile is a defensive character, he’s good when you wait for a chance to attack — if you play him aggressively you’ll likely get KO’d. In other words, there really are limitations on your character and you have to play according to his abilities. But that’s the fun part — all games impose limits — it’s a puzzle to solve, it’s attempting to accomplish something within a limited set of parameters.

And the best part is: the game-of-life wants you to win. The game is rigged in your favor. IF you play the character correctly, you WILL win. Whereas if you sabotage the character, trying to make him into something he’s not, you WILL suffer — you will get KO’d. In short, discover who your character is (explore and experiment), then play to his strengths. Result: “YOU WIN!”

Simple and Efficient

I enjoy cheat-codes. Back in the day, I utilized the famous “Konami Code” to receive extra-lives on Contra for the original NES. It was something like: up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, B, A, Start, Start. If you look it up now, it’s slightly different, but that’s what I entered and it worked. I learned it from a kid in my class — he was a video-game expert. He’d read about video-games in magazines or something. He also helped me to find all the hidden stuff in the Legend of Zelda for NES.

In other words, I’m not a stranger to taking the “easy route”. I guess that’s why magic and wishing pique my interest. I’m a slave to efficiency — and what’s more efficient than cheat-codes, magic, wishes, etc.? I suppose I like the feeling of taking shortcuts because I love efficiency so much. In fact, the more effort I put into something, the less I appreciate it. The end-product seems too convoluted to be worth all the trouble. For me, simple is best.

But usually, I use cheat-codes when I literally couldn’t have done it any other way. I couldn’t have beaten Contra with a measly 3 lives, I’m not that good of a video-game player — I don’t care enough to dedicate the time nor are my reflexes fast enough. So boom!, there I am with all those extra-lives, reaching the end. From feeling frustrated at my inability, to complete domination of the game itself — how’s that for a self-esteem boost!?

Perhaps it’s part of my character, but I don’t feel like I’m cheating myself. Because I value simplicity and efficiency, the easier and quicker route feels correct to me. So if the game-of-life, for whatever reason, hands me millions of dollars — I’d say “oh, well it’s about time! But thanks, I appreciate this. I was struggling quite a bit with the gameplay, but this will provide the boost I need.” I’m not particularly good at games, but my persistence and willingness to utilize shortcuts typically pays off in the end.

P.S. I serve as a beacon of hope to pessimistic slackers ONLY. I am NOT a type-A hard-charging go-getter. I understand that some people really do get a sense of satisfaction from effort and “hard work” — and that’s great. But it’s also great that variety exists. There’s a path for everyone in this world and some of us have fun taking the accelerated routes.

Dueling Perspectives

You’ll notice that much of life as a human is just trying to “keep it together”: I wanna snap! No, don’t do it! Okay, I’ll try to remain calm. Ugh! I can’t do it! I’m gonna go nuts!! No, no, smooth and steady, maintain composure. Ahh I can’t take this!! Yet if all you’ve ever known was being human, shouldn’t “being human” come naturally? Should simple daily-life contain such struggle? Hmm….

Well, unless you weren’t always human. Or maybe you’re not “just” a human. I know when I play a video-game for instance, it’s often a struggle to get the little character to do what I want. No, turn up! UP! Gah! Dumb controller doesn’t respond to my lightening-quick reflexes! Again, life makes more sense when you view it in terms of a game-character and a game-player.

Obviously, controlling the character we play-as is part of the challenge itself. The player wants one thing, yet the character sometimes does another. It’s a prevalent source of frustration in much of game playing. But the player that enjoys himself the most, is the one that shrugs it off and plays wherever the ball lies — if it ends up in the rough, then so be it.

And we know we can influence our character. We can shut him right down and sabotage everything he wants to do in this world. Perhaps he wants to go out for a nice bike ride… NO, I’m not in the mood today, we might have to interact with other people. Or maybe he wants to rent a new movie… NO, are you crazy, we can’t afford that! If you were merely a human born of this world, why would you argue with yourself so often? Hmm….

In any video-game, success comes down to syncing with your onscreen character and aligning with the timing of the game. You can only jump when the rope swings close enough to grab it. Jump too late or too soon and you fall in the hole. Oftentimes gaming comes down to practicing again and again until you can finally meld with your onscreen character.

Characters, by their nature, are limited in their abilities. The limitations are what provide challenge and make the game fun. It’s not the character that needs to change, but the player. In other words, it’s not appropriate to argue with your character all the time. The better course of action is to go along for the ride and perform the activities he wants.

But what craps that up, is when the player is too lost in the game and gets in the way of his character — the player gets anxious and takes everything too seriously. Whereas when player and character are in-sync, there’s no frustration and no need to “keep it together”. Summary: Your goal as the player is to synchronize with your character — and when you do, your life will be a lot smoother.