Modified Buddhism in a nutshell
- Embrace Buddhism around close friends & family i.e. laugh at yourself, turn the other cheek, be generous, don’t be defensive etc
- Be nice to animals
- Take zero shit from people you don’t know well or like very much. Set boundaries politely where possible e.g. say “please don’t mock my vegan diet” rather than “mock my diet again and I’ll chin ya”
- Modify the techniques used when setting boundaries, according to the situation. Asking politely might not work well for example, if you work on a building site. In which case it’s sometimes better to give them banter
- If you’re never going to see someone again, you can also be pretty Buddhist – really doesn’t matter what they think of you
I was a bit of a dick as a kid. I was relatively aggressive considering my lower-middle-class routes, especially in primary-school, I remember chinning lots of people for virtually no reason. I can vividly remember lamping someone in the infant-school’s TV-room just because the lad had been annoying me.
After a few kickings and tellings-off, I vastly changed my ways. I remember reading the book – “How to Stop Worrying & Start Living” written by Dale Carnegie in the 50s. It’s actually an excellent book, despite the title. The author interviewed lots of successful businessmen and war-veterans and asked them how they coped with stress. One line about – if something makes you angry; it has gotten the better with you – has always stuck with me.
That book and a couple of Buddhism videos and a meditation book I bought in the early 2000’s, took me down the route of ‘turning the other cheek’ and ‘rising above’. But fuck me, that really doesn’t work. I can’t really blame some of the incidences on Buddhism, probably more like me being too weak and having very little self-worth.
To give you an idea of what I’ve endured (again, I see this as my own fault) – One example – I have asthma; my ex-girlfriend told me the whole Tyler Durdan plot twist at the end of Fight Club – at the very start of the movie, because I wouldn’t go to the shop for her to buy her cigarettes. Another example off the top of my head – being constantly introduced by a colleague as “the thick one” back when I worked in a hotel (by the way, I have a first class degree and a Master’s but I was majorly depressed back then and my generally cognition was completely fucked – apparently this has something to do with inflammation that’s closely tied to depression – see this study for more info).
Maybe it’s my own self-serving-bias or some kind of confirmation-bias, I don’t know but I’ve found that if people laugh at yourself and turn the other cheek constantly people see it as a green light to be complete dicks. I also think that if you don’t engage in vicious gossip, you’re more likely to be gossiped about – because there’s no fear of any retaliation on your part.
Anyway, I try to never play the victim (I do sometimes, but I try not to!) – so I’ve been scratching my head for ages to come up with some kind of solution. I don’t want to be a dick and engage in bitching and be defensive all the time. Stoic Philosophy is definitely a good approach in many ways. Stoic acceptance is helpful, having low expectations of others but high expectations for yourself and generally embracing reality and copying with challenges.
My current approach however is going to be this – “Modified Buddhism”. I’ve come to classify people into two categories – “Lotus Flowers” and “Cacti”.
Lotus Flowers open up, they work in harmony with the environment and animals/insects
Cacti – well they work in harmony too, but they are closed off and I think of them as being more defensive and protective of themselves.
People that I trust and think have emotional intelligence and compassion, I’ll literally make a list of – these are the lotus flowers. These guys can take the piss out of me all they want, they can slap my shoulder, wrestle me – whatever they want bar hitting me and I’ll laugh and turn the other cheek etc.
People that I don’t trust to regulate their own egos and to not be dickheads – I’ll keep these off the ‘good list’. I’m taking zero-shit from these guys, literally zero. I’ll do my best to be polite e.g. say “please don’t make fun of me in front of others”, rather than “fuck you or I’ll kill ya” or anything similar.
It’s the way I think I have to be at the moment. After a few unpleasant incidences, I feel like I’m backed into a corner with my self-worth at 0 out of 10. I’ve had anxiety-induced stomach problems and muscle-tension for over a decade, but I’ve started having semi-regular panic attacks to boot recently* and I’ve had to change my anti-depressant medication which hasn’t exactly been fun. I can’t fold or roll over, so I’ve got to try something different – at the risk of being a dick myself.
*beta blockers have helped in the last couple of weeks.
I think I’ve tried almost everything for mental health – exercise indoors, exercise outdoors, ice baths, infrared saunas, yoga, meditation, CBT, therapy, anti-depressants, herbal supplements, ketogenic diet, journaling, gratitude diary. The problem is, the more ‘weird’ shit you do to try and help yourself, the more people give you shit for it. I’ve also tried never to mention mental health with people, I’ve wanted to work out a way of dealing with people, without having to play that card.
I’d be very keen to hear people’s thoughts on this:
- Does Buddhism work in modern society – specifically office environments
- What’s the best approach?
I don’t want to be a defensive dickhead but I think I’d rather been a dickhead than a doormat.
Final thought – If mental health is as important as physical health – why can’t you punch people that humiliate you?