Ground Zero

Well, it would seem that today, 31st August 2019, marks the day where I’ve more or less returned to normal (for me!) after my Spiritual Awakening.

My feelings, thoughts and behaviour all seem to be back to the old me. And thankfully, I can sleep normally again.

But that doesn’t mean I’ve lost everything that was good about this experience.

As I look back over the last two and a half weeks of blog posts, I’ve managed to capture the vast majority of the insights and ideas which occurred to me during this period of mania/psychosis.

I still feel confident that 95%+ of it is valid and useful, not only to me but hopefully to other people too.

I’m extraordinarily proud of my Tidy Your Room graphic v2, which I see as the crowning glory of my Awakening.

Tidy Your Room

For me, it captures the essence of several very real and powerful systems for self-improvement:

It might seem grandiose or preposterous to claim I’ve figured out a system which captures all of the above. But, it is what it is. For now, I stand by that graphic 100% and I feel deeply attached to the methodology it represents. It’s certainly a system I intend to keep using in my own life from now on.

[EDIT: I remain humble and open-minded though. The current v2 of the graphic may not be complete or fully accurate. So there may well be a v3 which comes along in future.]

You could almost say I’ve started my own religion or a version of Spirituality. It works for me, maybe it will be helpful for other people too.

I certainly wasn’t the first person to come up with these ideas – they’re as old as mankind itself. But I’m not going to preach or evangelise. I feel everyone deserves the dignity of choosing what they want to believe for themselves.

So, Where Now?

Over these last 19 days, I started off feeling almost bulletproof. Gradually, that feeling has faded, along with all the other effects.

I feel a bit like a toddler who has had the stabilisers removed from his first bike. I’ve been given all the tools and techniques I need to cope with life on its own terms now, without chemical assistance.

Even as I write those last 3 words, I can feel the devil on my shoulder whispering in my ear…

That won’t be the last time you ever take drugs. There will be other times. Why would you want to miss out on something so awesome? You don’t need any external help. You can handle your addiction on your own.

The devil is a liar.

If I continue taking drugs, pretty soon I’ll end up in jail, a mental institution, or dead. Not to mention the fact there’s a serious risk my wife will leave me. She’s the best thing in my life. It’s simply not worth it.

I’ll keep going to 12 Steps meetings. I’ll keep focusing on what’s meaningful, not what’s expedient (or fun). I’ll face the dragon voluntarily. And I’ll pray I’ll be able to accept the things which I cannot change. In essence, I’ll attempt to live a virtuous life around the 3 core principles of Truth, Courage and Love.

It’s a hell of a lot better than being depressed, addicted and nihilistic.

Not A Real Addict

[Bear with me, this is a very long post which covers some heavy ground. But it’s important to me.]

How do we know what’s real?

Possible answers may include…

It’s real if…

  • … scientific evidence tells us it’s real.
  • … a majority of the people around me agree it’s real.
  • … my Holy Book tells me it’s real.
  • … an authority figure such as a parent, teacher or priest tells me it’s real.
  • … I experienced it and it feels real to me.
  • … it taught me something useful.

What if all of the above are just different versions of reality?

I used to believe only the first answer… in scientific evidence. I thought that without good evidence, any assertion might as well be nonsense.

My understanding of what could constitute reality widened a little when I got into the party scene in my 20s. Many of the best times of my life have involved party drugs such as MDMA (Ecstasy) and Ketamine. These drugs can radically alter your perception of what’s real.

N.B. I am not advocating or condoning drug use. I am an addict currently receiving treatment from a 12 Steps fellowship. Drugs have hospitalised me multiple times. It’s a grave mistake to take them lightly.

While you’re “high” on drugs, you can feel incredibly connected to the people around you. You feel happy, you laugh a lot, you feel a strong connection with others. It’s such a beautiful feeling and we rarely feel it when sober.

But as the movie Human Traffic so brilliantly demonstrated, when you come down, it can feel very deflating. That person you were chatting to for ages and felt they might be your new best mate… now they’re just mildly annoying and all sense of connection has been lost.

So, which was real? Your normal, sober, daily life? Or the wonderful, blissful, connected love you felt thanks to the drugs?

Many years ago, I posed this question to a good friend of mine:

“I’m having some of the best times of my life on these nights out when I’m on drugs… but is it real?”

Bollinger, R. (sometime back in his 20s)

This question really concerned me. I didn’t want to feel like the best times of my life were some kind of delusion… or a lie.

His answer surprised me. After all, he was even more logical, rational and scientific than I was.

“Does it matter? If it felt real to you, then it was real.”

Friend of Bollinger, R. (in the same conversation as above)

This struck me as profound. My understanding of reality expanded: it wasn’t just what science had learned, it could also be what I’ve experienced. That applied even when under the influence of very potent narcotics.

I read a fascinating book recently about neuroscience and human perception. It demonstrated, through a series of well-designed scientific experiments, that humans do not perceive reality accurately at all. Much of what we experience is “confabulated”. In other words, it’s our brains’ clever ability to fill in the gaps of our perception with what we think should be there.

And yet, we’re all under a collective delusion that we do perceive reality accurately (well, at least when we’re sane and sober).

Let me tell you something… life did not evolve to perceive reality accurately. Rather, life evolved to perceive the world in ways which are useful for survival.

Humans often make this mistake… we mistake our internal maps and models of the world for the real world.

“The map is not the territory”

A good example is depression. To a depressed person, it feels like their perception of reality is very real. They genuinely believe their life is worthless and (in extreme cases) everyone would be better off if they were dead.

So, you could say that a depressed person isn’t perceiving reality accurately. But what do we mean by that? What we really mean is that they’re not perceiving reality in the same way as most other people.

However, there is some startling scientific evidence which shows that under certain conditions, depressed people actually perceive reality more accurately than “healthy” people.

How can that be true? Well, one explanation is that “healthy” people are all under a collective delusion which makes us much more optimistic than reality might logically justify.

It seems that humans need hope in order to survive and thrive. Without hope, humans become depressed and want to die. But with hope, anything becomes possible.

But, from a scientific perspective, hope also seems to be just a delusion.

So again:

“We didn’t evolve to perceive reality accurately. We evolved to perceive reality in a way which is beneficial for our survival.

Bollinger, R. (Now much older and wiser)

From a scientific perspective, this is one of the most “real” and profound truths out there about the nature of our reality.

Back when it first became apparent that I had a problem with drugs, I sought treatment.

I went to my first 12 Steps fellowship meeting. I hated it – it felt like a cult. I didn’t go back to another of these meetings until several years later.

I also attended a separate drug treatment programme, which I think was funded by the local council. It was a bit of a joke.

In some of the group sessions, one of the staff members attempted to teach us something important about self development. Except… he didn’t understand the concepts properly (maybe even at all). He kept muddling things up and mis-explaining things. He was the least competent trainer/teacher I’d encountered in my life.

At least one other addict agreed – if his regular snoring in these meetings was any indication of his level of engagement.

I don’t want to sound arrogant, but I could have done a better job of teaching those sessions… an active drug user in the grip of addiction, whose knowledge of how to improve himself had been (mostly) self-taught from books.

I lasted maybe 3 weeks in that treatment programme. At least it was longer than the single evening for which I stomached the 12 Steps meeting.

To be fair, at that point in time I was looking for reasons to reject the help which was being offered. I thought I could handle my drug problems on my own. I wasn’t 100% sure I even was an addict. (For clarity: I was, it’s just that my ego prevented me from admitting it to myself).

It was in a one-to-one counselling session with that same member of staff when the decisive blow was struck. I walked out of the treatment programme and never came back.

This member of staff had just told me that I “wasn’t a real addict.”

By this, he meant that I wasn’t addicted to heroin (unlike how he used to be). It suddenly occurred to me that in his mind, there was a hierarchy of addicts, with heroin as the most real and serious. For him, addictions to prescription drugs were almost frivolous.

But the thing is, I felt my addiction was deadly serious. It was a big part of the reason why I had separated from my wife not long before. I was depressed and felt that almost the only thing which gave my life any sense of meaning was the drugs I was addicted to.

If that’s not serious addiction, I don’t know what is.

Imagine going to the doctor with suicidal levels of depression and being told, “Nah, it’s all just in your head.”

It feels awful to be totally invalidated like that. It feels like your concerns and difficulties are unimportant. It feels like you’re stupid.

It feels like other people don’t believe your problems are real.

And that’s how I felt, thanks to this staff member’s casual dismissal of my addiction.

Interestingly, 12 Steps fellowships take a different approach. For them, what’s important is whether the individual considers themselves to be an addict. If they do, then they are.

To 12 Steps fellowships, subjective experience is more important than any objective yardstick.

At that point I decided I didn’t need any external help for my drug problems…

… But that was a big mistake. Drugs would come back to bite me again and again over the coming years.

In the last week or so on this blog, I’ve mentioned a few times that I’ve recently fallen out with a couple of friends.

In essence, the main disagreement was about whether I’ve genuinely experienced a Spiritual Awakening, or whether I’m merely deluded due to psychosis and/or mania.

One of these friends was initially very supportive of my intuitions and insights. She believed that I was having a Spiritual Awakening. I felt validated and listened to.

She helped me feel like I wasn’t just going insane.

She shared her own experiences and intuitions from a few years ago which closely matched up to mine. I felt we were on the same page. We had both awakened spiritually.

But then her views towards me changed very suddenly.

She came to realise that my Spiritual Awakening experiences had been preceded by a session of heavy drug use and I’d received a provisional diagnosis of drug-induced psychosis.

Suddenly, all of my experiences, which she’d previously supported, were totally invalid in her eyes.

According to her, what I’d experienced wasn’t a real Spiritual Awakening, it was just a set of delusions brought on by drugs.

It didn’t seem to matter that up until the point at which she knew drugs were involved, she’d been taking my Spiritual Awakening very seriously.

Just like the staff member back at the drug treatment centre, she seemed to have very rigid ideas about what was real or not real. According to these other people:

  • I wasn’t a real addict, and;
  • I also hadn’t experienced a real Spiritual Awakening.

Since then, I’ve been reflecting on that phrase another friend said about our partying experiences many years ago…

“If it feels real to you, then it’s real.”

Why does it matter if my experiences didn’t fit someone’s pre-defined notion of what a Spiritual Awakening looks like? I was still thinking and feeling as if I was having one. I was still coming up with crazy levels of insight and intuition which looked very much like a Spiritual Awakening.

Who is to say that her definition was complete and correct? She’d already told me she didn’t think of herself as any kind of authority on spiritual matters, and yet here she was, acting like an authority figure towards me.

Not long after, she stopped talking to me. To me, it felt like a cruel and unnecessary betrayal.

Now, credit where credit is due: this woman is extremely intelligent and has an accomplished career. She is knowledgeable about a wide range of subjects. She is kind, wise and perceptive. Over the last year or so, she has started to feel like a really good friend to me. We seem to share a lot in common and understand each other.

She also doesn’t have an easy life. She’s dealing with multiple difficult issues right now and is demonstrating considerable strength of character and wisdom. So the last thing she needs is a psychotic friend like me adding to her woes.

She is a good person, doing her best, under difficult circumstances.


She had written me off completely merely because my definition of a Spiritual Awakening didn’t fit hers, even though up until then it very much looked and felt and sounded like one to both of us.

She made the classic mistake of thinking she knew more about my own experiences and what was best for me than I did myself. Please don’t ever invalidate someone like that – it feels truly horrible.

It’s also quintessentially arrogant. Who are you to say that your definition of a Spiritual Awakening is more valid than mine? Just because you’ve had some limited experiences of similar things in the past? That doesn’t make you an expert! It just means you’ve seen some people who at first felt they had Spiritual Awakenings, but some of them later felt differently.

“If it feels real to you, then it’s real.”

Similarly, if you’ve ever experienced depression and recovered from it, that doesn’t make you an expert on depression. You don’t then have the right to inflict your unsolicited advice onto other depressed people under the assumption your experiences and lessons will help them too. Often, such advice will do more harm than good. That’s because everyone is different. And yet, I see people making this mistake all the time.

The professions of counselling, life coaching and many others take a different approach. They put the person and their experiences first, no matter how “crazy” they might seem.

12 Steps fellowships do something similar. There’s a focus on similarities, not on what’s different.

I’m lucky that I have quite a robust sense of faith in myself. I’m lucky I have an intelligent brain and can sort through difficult problems in an analytical way.

I’m lucky that I question everything, try to make up my own mind about things, and don’t listen dogmatically to everyone who considers themselves to be an expert.

Quote by Jordan Peterson

Not everyone is as lucky as me. When a friend invalidates your experiences and then abandons you, that can be enough to push vulnerable people (drug addicts or the depressed) even further into their illnesses.

I’m lucky that I’m relatively strong (at the moment).

My Spiritual Awakening is real because it feels real to me.

At a later date, maybe I will decide to amend some of my beliefs around my Spiritual Awakening.

But how is that different to normal human behaviour? We update our conceptual maps all the time based on new information. That doesn’t necessarily mean we should denigrate or dismiss our previous experiences as invalid. We were doing the best we could at the time with the information we had available.

“If it feels real to you, then it’s real.”

I said in another blog post that I hope my two friendships can be salvaged. I really want to just be good friends again and continue to support each other. Life’s hard enough already without losing good people from your life. Fingers crossed.

My Videogame Idea

One of the coolest aspects of this “psychosis” I’ve been experiencing since the 13th Aug is that I came up with a concept for a videogame which I’d like to make.

I’ve since realised that it doesn’t really matter if I make it myself, I just want the videogame to exist so I can play it. It’s just my ego talking when I think about becoming a famous game developer or getting rich. In my heart, I know I’m not particularly interested in either of those things.

So, I figured I’d put my idea out into the Universe (via this blog). If I’m meant to make this game, I will make it. If someone beats me to it, that’s fine, I will play their game and still be delighted. Maybe by me making this post, it’ll be the start of me finding other game developers to collaborate with… I’m humble enough to admit that my programming skills and development experience are basic at best.

There’s a chance this game (or something close to it) already exists… but I don’t think so. And if it does, then I want to play it.

To help narrow down the genre, it’s a game about music. It has stuff in common with several existing games, including:

  • PaRappa The Rapper (PS1)
  • Rez (PS2 originally)
  • Guitar Hero (plus sequels)
  • … and probably many others

The concept begins with a question:

“Does music have a shape?”

Imagine a symphony orchestra. See the conductor waving his baton in your mind’s eye. Can you see the shapes it traces? Imagine it’s like a sparkler being waved on bonfire night, leaving traces of light behind it.

Imagine people dancing. See the shapes they make with their bodies and with their hands. Imagine lines and colours tracing behind their movements. You’ll have probably seen an effect similar to this in some music videos.

Recently, a VR kit was released which includes individual finger detection. Wow! So it doesn’t just track your hands (like previous versions), it now can make out the movements of your individual fingers.

When I listen to music, I often make shapes with my hands which follow the patterns of the music. Sometimes I’m following the pattern of the percussion (drums, symbols etc). Sometimes I’m playing the notes on an imaginary (and very forgiving!) piano. Other times I’m following the waves or pulses that it feels like the music is generating.

In my (future) game, you would play your favourite music, maybe from Spotify. Then, you would wave your hands around to the music and the computer would record your movements. There’s no right or wrong way to do this, it’s just what feels right for you… a bit like dancing.

Using the game, you can add glowing balls to your hands (or fingers). You can add traces of light following your movements.

And you can “layer up” visual effects, a bit like in video editing software… first you could start with percussion, then you could follow with the main melody (probably using slightly different visual effects). And the game (or maybe “software” is a more accurate term) would allow you to layer all these different visual effects over each other.

The result is a kind of home-made music video based on the movements of your hands and fingers. This means the result will feel deeply personal to you. Then, at the end, you can play back the results and just lie back and enjoy the show along with your favourite music.

There are no points, no leaderboards, no items to collect, no baddies to kill, no way to fail or die. Maybe it’s not really a game, but just an enjoyable experience.

To expand the software’s capabilities, you could collaborate with friends online… so you might make the shapes which follow the percussion, your friend might make the shapes for the melody. And the software could combine both in real-time. This might generate a feeling of unity, something a bit like playing in a band together or singing in a barbershop quartet.

You could share your “music videos” online, for other people to download and enjoy. Maybe they get uploaded to YouTube or similar video platforms.

The VR kit may prove to be a barrier though. It might severely limit the potential audience. So, I started thinking about how the software might work using existing peripherals.

Maybe you could use a game controller (like an Xbox 360 wireless controller) for percussive elements. And maybe you can use a mouse to generate the more flowing or wave-like movements.

It wouldn’t give you the same 3D freedom of movement as you’d get with VR, but at least it’s a start.

So, what next? Well, I have some ideas for a concept video. I could use that video to begin a KickStarter fundraising campaign. I do think I need to collaborate with other developers, otherwise this game could take me forever to make on my own.

Or… if someone makes this game before me, I won’t begrudge them. I just want to play this game, no matter who makes it!

Learn to Accept the Apology You Never Received

Recently, a couple of friends did something which hurt me.

I felt I could adequately understand their point of view about the matters we were discussing. But they didn’t appear to be making much of an effort to understand my perspective. For them, it was easy to write off everything I said or believed merely because a few days ago I received a provisional diagnosis of drug-induced psychosis.

I mean, their position isn’t totally unreasonable, right? How can you believe anything a mad person says? They’re mentally ill!

But I’m disappointed they couldn’t be a little more open-minded and look beyond labels. Is it possible that someone can have psychosis and still talk sense, at least some of the time? Let’s try to break down some of the stigma around mental illness.

My friends have cut me off now – they won’t talk to me. That feels hurtful… but I’m not resentful.

I’m retaining my power to choose how I want external events to affect me. And I believe they were doing the best they could at the time and didn’t mean to hurt me.

At this point, I don’t know if the friendships are permanently ruined. I don’t know if my friends will talk to me ever again. I hope they do. I want to treat this as a learning experience for all of us. We can grow stronger from this, if we choose to do so.

In an ideal world, they would apologise to me for jumping to conclusions. They would say sorry for calling me less intelligent than usual simply because I blogged about beliefs which were contrary to their (rigid) understanding of the world.

They would apologise for the rudeness of trying to do two things at once when I was talking to them about matters very dear to my heart. They would say sorry for allowing me to take sole responsibility for a misunderstanding, which, if I’m honest, I still feel was much more their fault than mine.

They would recognise that they used the word psychosis as an excuse to believe they knew what was best for me more than I did myself. They’d say sorry for disempowering me this way.

Ideally, they would show some humility and admit they were wrong...

… and I would admit to my own mistakes and failings too.

I’ve been tempted to use any means possible to get in touch with them and try to reason with them. I want them to understand me, see my point of view.

But I fear that would come across as overly forceful and only make things worse. Oh look, here’s the psychotic guy back again, trying to make us believe his delusions.

So, instead, I’ve decided to accept the apology I never received. This is for my own benefit – it helps me to feel compassion and forgiveness for my friends. It eliminates any traces of bitterness or resentment from my heart. It helps me move on.

I don’t know what’s going to happen from here. I can’t make my friends listen to me. Instead, I’ll just hope that in time they’ll try to get in touch and we can have a reasonable, adult, respectful discussion about all of this.

Fingers crossed.

What are Prayers Good For?

The act of praying is treated with derision by many. A common example is after mass shootings in the US. Religious folk often use the phrase “thoughts and prayers”. Secular folk will mock them for using (supposedly useless) prayers as a substitute for taking meaningful action.

Let’s re-assess though. What are prayers for?

As part of my quest to unify Science, Religion and Spirituality, I’m going to hypothesise that prayers may have some kind of positive function, though perhaps most of us don’t fully understand it.

It doesn’t make sense to me that so many humans, worldwide and as a species, would bother to pray if doing so conferred zero utility (benefit). Humans generally don’t like to waste their time and energy like that.

The first idea that occurred to me is about praying to put events into God’s hands. What function could that serve? Well, I believe it has a very important one.

If you look at Stoic philosophy, there’s a strong focus on what’s within one’s locus of control. In other words, we really only have control over our own thoughts, feelings and behaviour. External circumstances are often outside of our control. We can’t always force a certain outcome to occur because there are so many variables outside of our control.

This is why I feel that a good general approach to life is to do your best, but let go of your need to control the outcome. This is the spiritual principle of Acceptance (or Love). And it’s extremely powerful.

If there was a medication which could minimise depression, anxiety, worry and stress within a matter of a few minutes, everyone would want to be taking it, all the time! And yet, that’s the power of Acceptance.

It releases us from our need to control events outside of ourselves. And by doing so, it releases us from any emotional prisons we’ve wandered into.

NOTE: There’s often a misunderstanding about Acceptance. It is very much NOT about being passive, falling into a heap on the floor, allowing the world to kick you while you’re down, becoming a helpless victim.

I re-iterate, Acceptance is about doing the best you can, and then letting go of your need to control the outcome.

Doing this can bring a tremendous sense of peace.

For example, think about job interviews. You can give them your absolute best, but still not get the job. Sometimes there’s a candidate who beats you by just a tiny margin. You couldn’t control that (other than assassinating all other candidates before the interview!) And so it doesn’t make sense to beat yourself up for “failing” when you know you did your best. So instead, you just Accept the outcome, even though it’s not what you wanted.

This is why I included Acceptance/Love on the second version of my Tidy Your Room diagram. To do our best at taking personal responsibility and improving our lives, we need to attend to our psychological well-being. Acceptance is a great way to do this.

So, how does this relate to prayer?

Well, how do you feel after a mass shooting? Quite possibly any or all of the following: deep sadness, sick to your stomach, anger, frustration, helplessness.

Or maybe you’re just numb to it all because it seems to happen so often and yet nothing seems to change at a societal level.

These feelings, whilst understandable, can be psychologically debilitating if they go on for too long.

The truth is, for most of us, there’s very little we can do to directly affect the chances of a mass shooting happening in future.

Maybe we could vote differently (assuming we believe that would help). Maybe we could donate to relevant charities to help the victims. Maybe we could hold a protest. But, unless we happen to be a US Senator, there isn’t really that much we can realistically do.

Except, we can also pray.

God, please care for the victims of today’s tragedy. Please bring them comfort in their time of need. And I pray that such a thing doesn’t happen in my own community. I leave all this up to Your Will, my God.

The act of prayer hands over responsibility for a situation to God (or a higher power, or Fate/Destiny). [EDIT: Again, this is NOT an excuse for inaction. We should still be courageous and do what we can to make things better. Only then then should we hand over responsibility to a Higher Power.]

Praying like this is tremendously liberating from a psychological perspective. It allows us to function normally again. (See the Serenity Prayer a bit further down in this post).

I take the position that we need to look after our own mental health first, otherwise we’re no use to other people. Looking after yourself is definitely not selfish. It’s the first step to being able to help others effectively.

And, it seems to me, that prayer is an effective way of re-centering ourselves psychologically. It removes the burdens of stress, sadness and worry from us. It allows us to return our focus to the things which are within our direct control.

I’m really not sure if there actually is a divine being up in the clouds who can intervene on our behalf. But I think praying to Him serves a useful function.

Maybe prayer is a powerful way to bring ourselves to a place of Acceptance.

Bollinger, R. 2019

Of course, there are people who use prayers merely as virtue signalling – “Look at me, aren’t I such a good Christian person [smug smile].” But, I think that’s probably only a minority.

We also pray as part of the 12 Steps for addicts. It’s very far from useless. I feel it serves a similar function to that in mass shootings. It reduces guilt, fear, depression, shame, anxiety, worry, stress. It re-centers us, gets us back on an even keel, heals our hearts. Using Acceptance, it brings us back to a place where we can take full responsibility for ourselves again.

The Serenity Prayer

“God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.”

Reinhold Niebuhr (1892-1971)

So, again, be open-minded.

Just because something may strike you as useless, pious, weak, like an excuse for inaction… that doesn’t mean it really is.

Challenge your assumptions. Look beyond your prejudices and biases.

Assume the best of other people. We’re all human, we’re all doing our best, we’re all imperfect and we all make mistakes.

Focus on our similarities, not our differences (another important lesson from 12 Steps).

Diary: Internal Monologues

Last night (Tue 27th Aug) was interesting. I attended my regular 12 Steps fellowship meeting. By the time I arrived, I was feeling quite tired, so I downed a cup of strong coffee to perk myself up.

A quiet voice in the back of my mind said:

Hmm, so you’re using a substance to change the way you feel? Interesting – that’s familiar, isn’t it.

That seems to be at the core of my various addictions: using a substance, activity or person in an effort to change the way I feel.

Most people would agree that a reliance on coffee is less serious than using potent narcotics… but for me it’s still part of the same issue… the illness of addiction.

I can foresee a time at some point in the future, after I’ve dealt adequately with my more serious addiction issues, where I decide I want to live without relying on caffeine as a stimulant.

Rather than trying to change how I feel, I want to get into the habit of noticing and accepting how I currently feel, even if it’s not particularly positive. This seems important: both for my recovery from addiction and also to keep me on my spiritual path. I have a strong inner knowing that running away from myself is not conducive to harmonising all aspects of my being.

As the meeting progressed, alongside the delightful spiritual renewal which I always get from these meetings, I could feel my social anxiety coming back. DAMN!

Partly I knew it was because I was so tired, but I also could tell there was something else going on, but I wasn’t quite sure what it was.

Pretty soon, my unhelpful internal monologues (“scripts”) were going full pelt. It had been so nice recently barely having to deal with those negative voices – they’ve been almost entirely absent. Last night they were whispering something like this:

Hide. Make yourself small. Don’t make eye contact. You’ve lost the connection you had to these people. Maybe it was never really there. Why would they want to be friends with you anyway – you’re so different from most of them? They’re only being nice to you out of politeness. You’re fat. You don’t fit into your trousers properly. They will have noticed you’re less chatty today and they’re judging you for it. The girls think you’re gross. Yes, your social anxiety is back. That’s it now, you’ll never get that beautiful flow state back again. You’re feeling sad. You should feel sad. You’re pathetic.

Looking at the way my inner critic was talking to myself, it’s no wonder I was feeling bad, despite the wonderful events which unfolded at the meeting outside of my head.

Unfortunately, I didn’t notice the above internal monologue at the time, it was only after the meeting when I was reflecting on the day’s events and trying to work out why I felt so bad.

And I reminded myself: I don’t have to listen to these critical internal voices any more. I don’t need to give them any power.

And I resolved to returning my focus back to what I know has been working for me… Awareness, Attention and Acceptance.

I wasn’t feeling great, but you know what? That’s OK. I just accepted how I felt. I noticed the feelings and allowed them to pass in their own time. I stopped resisting how I felt. I took some deep, calming breaths. And I resolved to return my focus back to the real work… locating and attending to the next important thing, whatever that may be.

And soon, I felt better.

After a reasonable sleep last night (still too short, but better than before), I felt back on an even keel again. Luckily I’ve still got all the positives from my spiritual awakening – my fears of losing them were unfounded… at least for now. I’m pleased to say that those negative internal monologues have barely dared to make an appearance today. Good, they can fuck off. I don’t need that shit any more. I’m born again [though probably not in the Evangelical Christian sense]

I’m a bit less manic now (compared to a few days ago); I feel calmer, more measured. It seems like the psychosis is reducing in intensity.

Maybe at some point soon I will lose all the positives too. That will feel very sad. I will grieve for the loss of this bliss, but I will also accept that everything happened the way it was supposed to. And if the bliss does disappear, it might not be the end… maybe it will come back again one day too.

I’m determined to just enjoy the good parts while they last and accept whatever happens, good or bad.

The more I accept the “lows” rather than resisting them, the more likely it is that (sooner or later) I’ll slip back into the delicious flow state.

Graphic: Tidy Your Room v2

From Jordan Peterson’s YouTube videos, I picked up the rough process of 1 and 2. And recently I’ve been thinking lots about Awareness and Attention and they just seemed to fit. And it occurred to me that we need to use Truth to help us do step 1 correctly (Tell the truth or at least don’t lie). And then it occurred to me that we needed Courage to do step 2 correctly (Face the dragon voluntarily). That’s when I published version 1 earlier today [on 27/08/2019].

The size, shape and colours of the 3 large shapes were inspired by the concept of AT Fields in the anime Neon Genesis Evangelion (yes, honestly!) Just like with The Lion King and many other stories, that anime seems to tell us some powerful and useful ideas about reality.

As I’ve been thinking about 1 and 2, it just felt like something was missing… a third component. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the 3 principles of Truth, Courage and Love. Actually, I got those 3 from the videogame Ultima IV (believe it or not!)

So, I asked myself, if I’m going to add in LOVE as a third step, what’s the practical manifestation of love? The closest concept I could come up with was Acceptance. I also realised that often after doing step 2, I feel kinda burned out, maybe even a little depressed. But having compassion for myself and using mindfulness in step 3 returns me back to an even keel.

I must admit, I also really like the fact that all 3 steps begin with the letter A. It all just feels kinda right to me.

All feedback/suggestions welcomed.