Hearing Voices

Another blog I wrote for Tune In Not Out, and one which I feel is especially important for people who have never learned about mental illness and schizophrenia.

Throughout history, every culture has had a small group of people who have experienced things that no one else was aware of. Sometimes they heard a ringing in their ears, a buzzing or other annoying sound (ala tinnitus). Sometimes they saw visions of ghosts, angels or animals. Most commonly, people have heard voices in their heads. Sometimes the voice was their own, or that of a family member or friend. Other times it belonged to someone they’d never heard before. Generation after generation, these have all been common experiences throughout human history. For the purposes of this blog post, I will refer to all of the above experiences and more under the general term “hearing voices”.In today’s day an age, many of the people who hear voices are often described as having schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is a mental illness whose symptoms commonly involve seeing or hearing things that other people can’t perceive. It’s a psychotic disorder which, let me make it clear, does not mean having multiple personalities or being prone to violence. Psychosis refers to an altered perception of reality. Indeed, some of the best and brightest minds of human history have produced masterpieces by virtue of their unique perspective, including nobel prize winners, musicians and writers. But I digress. As I have said previously, the word schizophrenia is just a label, and it may or may not be useful to an individual as a way of understanding themselves and their experiences.

More importantly, hearing voices is not a sign that you’re going mad. It’s not even necessarily a sign of mental illness. It is an experience that has been often celebrated throughout history – one need only look at prophets, shamans, telepaths, psychics, mediums and anybody who has claimed to see God or angels or spirits. And it’s a surprisingly common experience. It’s difficult to get exact numbers due to under-reporting, but recent research indicates that between 4-10% of the population hears voices at some point in their life. That makes it even more common than left-handedness.

There are many different reasons why we hear voices. It’s often associated with trauma, but some of the other causes include:

This is not an exhaustive list. But it goes to show that there are a range of reasons why people might hear voices. It’s also worth noting that voices are just one symptom in a host of very complex life circumstances, often featuring trauma, guilt and shame. Given this, it becomes very understandable that people experience some pretty intense emotion and they deal with it in different ways.

 

And each voice hearer has a completely unique experience. As I mentioned earlier, the voices might be just a single person they know, or a whole group of people they don’t know. They might hear their guardian angel. They might hear the ghost of their mother. They might overhear telepaths communicating with one another. They might hear demons. They might hear a radio chattering incessantly in the background. They might just hear one jerk telling them over and over how stupid they are (and other worse things besides). They might hear people giving them advice or being kind to them (or even giving them the answers to exams, as in Eleanor Longden’s video below). They might have a huge group of people arguing with each other. For some people, the voices are a one off experience for a second or two. For other people, they are a life-long experience. In some cases, the voices are 24/7 and can wake people up at night. In most cases, they come and go. Like everyone, people who hear voices have good days and bad days: days when their voices are loud, or mean, or relentless, and days when they are quiet, supportive or silent.

 

So. What happens if you (or someone you know) does hear voices in some form or another? Well, breathe a sigh of relief because now you know it’s a normal experience, that you’re not alone, and that you’re not crazy. However, not everyone is aware of this. Unfortunately the stigma of being a voice hearer is often worse than hearing the voices themselves. If you do decide to tell someone close to you about what you’re going through, my best advice would be making yourself as informed as possible about what you’re going through beforehand. Saying to a friend “I hear a voice in my head telling me not to leave the house” is a pretty intimidating conversation for someone who’s not expecting it, so you might want to break it to them gently. It would probably help to explain what your experience is, how common it is, what you think is causing it, what services exist and what you plan to do about it. Having an informed conversation like that takes the responsibility off the other person to do something because they’re worried for you or scared for themselves, and hopefully they’ll become your support and ally.

Depending on your individual experience, it might be that you would benefit from professional mental health services. Medication has proved very useful to many voices hearers, though I will say not everyone agrees with me. I’ve met many people who have said the side effects and emotional dampening of their meds has prevented them from enjoying life with all its ups and downs. This is a very individual issue because there are many different types of medications, some of which might be helpful and some of which might not be. In many cases, medication isn’t needed at all – as long as you are able to have a good relationship with your voices and continue to live the sort of life you enjoy, you might not even bother with the mental illness label. The medical model of diagnosis and treatment has its limitations, and mental health services (particularly those working with a recovery model) offer a very different way of working with voices.

 

For more information, check out Tune In Not Out’s topic of Psychosis. ReachOut also has quite an extensive page of information. Other websites that are specific to voice hearers include the very practical http://hearingvoiceswa.org.au (with quite an extensive section on what you can do if you are a voice hearer). Intervoice also has a very detailed website, with an equally impressive practical guide for voice hearers. And for anyone wanting to talk to other people having similar experiences, they might like to check out this very active forum and read other people’s stories or perhaps even share their own.

 

For help offline, there are a large number of mental health organisations that work from a base of non-judgement, understanding and support – a quick internet search into “mental health services in [your area]” will probably turn up helpful results. Being connected to an organisation for help, advice, counselling, treatment and support can be invaluable. And what’s more, meeting people who can understand your experiences without judging or discriminating against you can be life-changing. Let me say again: you are not alone.

 

Finally I really recommend checking out this amazing TED talk by Eleanor Longden, who eloquently describes her experience of first hearing a voice, and the subsequent challenges she’s faced on her recovery journey. It’s a really inspiring video, and she does a much better job than I do of breaking down this issue and talking about it. Please give it a watch!

That’s all from me. Stay safe everyone!

-Xin

The Kinsey Scale

At last, I’m very happy to publish this blog which I wrote for TINO. I consider it one of the more important posts I’ve ever written, because these ideas can break down much of the fear and discomfort around homosexuality while promoting greater understanding and acceptance of differing sexual orientations. Please read and consider sharing!

 

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Did you know that sexual orientation doesn’t fall neatly into the categories of “gay” or “straight”? Sexual orientation (that is, the gender that a person is attracted to) is often conveniently thought of in binary: you’re either one or the other. You either like boys or you like girls, and depending on which one you like, it means you’re either heterosexual or homosexual. In actuality, there are many different ways that you can classify sexual attraction: there’s bisexuality, pansexuality and asexuality just to name a few. But for the purposes of this blog post, I want to talk about the two most common forms of sexual orientation: heterosexuality and homosexuality. And for simplicity’s sake, I’m also going to make the generalisation that people either identify as male or female (although in reality there are a large number of people who identify as neither).

 

Alfred Kinsey is widely considered the grandfather of modern sexology. He had some pretty radical ideas which are well summarised in the excellent film Kinsey (2004), starring Liam Neeson. For me, the most valuable idea that Kinsey put forward was the idea that human beings are not exclusively homosexual or heterosexual. That is to say, he rejected the idea that you are one or the other. Instead he proposed that there is a scale, ranging from 0 (Entirely heterosexual) to 6 (entirely homosexual), and that most people are somewhere in the middle.

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So what does that all mean? Let me break it down a little further.

Someone who identifies as 0 on the Scale would have no sexual interest or attraction in members of the same sex, none whatsoever. They are exclusively attracted to members of the opposite sex.

Someone who identifies as 1 on the Scale would have “incidental attraction”, meaning they might be surprised to discover they find a member of the same sex to be cute, or they might not immediately look away if homosexual porn popped up while they were browsing. Maybe being gay isn’t really their thing, but they’re kind of curious about it.

A person who identifies as a 2 on the Kinsey Scale would be mostly straight, but also intentionally pursue experiences with members of the same sex as well. If they hadn’t already had direct sexual experiences or relationships with members of the same sex, they probably wouldn’t mind trying it.

3 on the Kinsey scale is perfectly in the middle, where attraction to males and females is about equal.

Someone who identifies as a 4 would be mainly gay, but have experiences of heterosexuality as well. Maybe they don’t mind members of the opposite sex, but they prefer members of the same sex.

People who considers themselves a 5 on the Scale would be mostly homosexual with the occasional interest in members of the opposite sex. They might be curious, or have tried relationships, but they’re really just not into it.

Someone who identifies as 6 on the Scale is exclusively homosexual, only interested in/attracted to members of the same sex.

 

Holy shit right? That explains why sometimes you find yourself attracted to members of the same sex. That explains why sometimes you don’t mind watching lesbian or gay porn. I don’t know about you guys, but I spent a lot of my teenaged years questioning whether I might be gay just because I felt an attraction to other boys. Kinsey’s Scale helped me to understand that it’s perfectly normal to be “somewhere in the middle”.

 

What’s more is that Kinsey wrote on the idea of sexual fluidity. That is to say, once we identify as a particular number on the scale, we don’t have to stick to it. I might be a 2 right now, but who’s to say that next year I might not be a 4? Sexual identities are fluid and can change over time. Just as we change and grow and mature as people, who and what we like can change too.

 

So what do you guys think? Where do you sit on the Scale? Have you always been there? Let me know in the comments down below, and talk to someone else about it! Topics like these aren’t often talked about in our society, but I think we can all agree that for most of us, sexuality is a fundamental part of who we are. Spread the word! Start having more conversations about the Kinsey scale and educate other people as well. For more information about sexuality and gender, I recommend hitting up websites like ReachOut, watching videos by esteemed youtubers such as Ashley Mardell and Laci Green , and checking out books on sexuality in your local library/book store.

 

Stay awesome everyone!

 

-Xin

100 Happy Days Challenge

A little while ago I completed the 100 Happy Days Challenge. The idea of the challenge was to post a picture of something that made you happy to social media, or if you didn’t want to publicise it you could email it to the Foundation privately. “Cool idea,” I thought, “But not really something I’m interested in.”

Then I opened the website and the first thing it said was “Can you be happy for 100 days in a row? You don’t have time for this, right?”

And they were right on the money. Somewhere deep down, my attitude was reflecting the idea that I had more important things to do than express happiness. In a way, I was saying I was “too busy to be happy”. How crazy is that, right? I mean, if you can’t be happy now, when can you be? Sometimes no matter what’s going on in life, we just have to take a moment to smell the roses. (Especially when we think we’re too busy).

I decided to post my photos on facebook, using my phone to take the photo and uploading it with the hashtag #100happydays. I was really excited to do it, and I made the resolution to take photos of both objects and experiences that brought me joy in every day life. It did get a little uninspiring after I’d been doing it for a while, but I’d made a public commitment so I kept up with it. And do you know what I learned?

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Life is full of things that make you happy. I resolved never to photograph the same subject twice, so I had to actively seek out things that made me happy. As I went about my day, somewhere at the back of my mind was looking for things to revel in. And the closer I looked, the more there was to see. Some days I took several photos of different subjects and submitted them all at once.10551003_10154477471250220_807779086281073060_n (1) 20140805_10334420140421_200243

And what’s more, I know that I brought a lot of joy to other people as well! I got so many comments and likes on facebook from people who were cheering me on, who appreciated the things I expressed gratitude for, or who were just happy that I was happy. People I hadn’t spoken to much got to know me quite well, and a couple of them have even resolved to undergo their own 100 Happy Day Challenge.10294238_1412806575665907_8745887532024959992_n (1)

100 days might sound like a lot, but by the end of it I was so sad to stop. (I did stop, though, because I didn’t to lose all my friends by overloading their walls with an endless stream of cat pictures.) A couple of months is a great amount of time to set up the habit of practicing gratitude every day. It increased my awareness of the world and the pleasure I take from bearing witness to this miraculous ball of atoms we call earth. And, to sweeten the deal even further, there’s an option to have my photos printed in a book so I have a tangible reminder of the time I made the effort to express gratitude every day.20140430_105257

Happiness is worth pursuing, even (and especially) when it gets hard. Why don’t you make the time to try it too? If this is something that’s interested you, start it right now, this very minute. It can be tempted to put it off for another time, but if you can’t be happy now, when can you be? Grab your phone or camera and go take your first picture. And then link me to it! I’d love to see it, and to cheer for you in your own challenge!10403948_10154298618145220_8536667224944677238_o

Looking forward to seeing your photos everyone! Keep happy y’all!

Xin

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Addiction to online gaming

I’ve been writing a little on Guild Wars lately, and the reason for that is it’s resurged as an enjoyable, even important part of my life. This blog is a very general look at how I started getting sucked into playing as an addictive behaviour, how I realised what was happening, and how I drew myself out of it. I still play Guild Wars most days, but I no longer feel compelled to do so, nor am I particularly fussed if I miss a day. For me now, it exists as a wonderful and fantastic world to experience, and to share with friends (largely from America, where the server is based). But it hasn’t always been so, and it may yet change to addiction again. This is something close to my heart, and I hope that this blog helps others who are suffering from the same thing.

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In 2003, I started playing an MMORPG called RuneScape. In case you’re not familiar, MMORPG stands for Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game. This is a game where a large number of people can go online and play together, often in a fantasy/adventure setting. World of Warcraft (WoW) is probably the most famous of them, but there are plenty of other ones out there at the moment.

As I was saying, I played RuneScape quite a bit in 2003 when online gaming was just starting to flourish. I enjoyed it so much that I played it at every spare moment of the day, and often in moments that weren’t spare at all. I’d log on to kill greater demons for 20 minutes after breakfast, or set my alarm for 3am so that I didn’t have to share the computer with my brother. In one instance when one of my friends was having a bad day, I chose to stay home from school and go questing with her to cheer her up. I poured hours and hours of my life into the game, and almost as much into the clan (community of players) I was part of, posting on the forums and trying to maintain dozens of friendships. Eventually I couldn’t keep it up, and I finally realised what I had long suspected: that I was addicted to RuneScape.

There was no single moment where I went “Holy crap, I’m an addict”. Instead there were lots of little signs here and there, signs which you probably would have recognised but I was oblivious to. Addictive behaviour can often seem very appealing for a wide range of reasons – I had friends who wanted me to play with them, I was just a few repetitions away from gaining a new level, I really wanted that rare weapon that had a 1% chance of appearing and so forth. But at the end of the day, I was able to recognise that my life was suffering in exchange for the time and energy that I was investing online. I didn’t have any time for homework, I resented going to social events because it was taking away time I could have spent playing  (not that I had any friends outside of the game anyway), and my sleep patterns were abysmal.  It reached a point where I decided it just wasn’t worth it, and I decided to stop.

From then on, I swore off RuneScape and MMORPG’s in general. I was terrified of falling back into that pit of addiction where I kept playing, even though I knew that the rest of my life was suffering as a consequence. Even so, I still felt the ache of longing as my brother continued to play and my clanmates emailed me from time-to-time. I even agreed to return once or twice to help out with special events, but I made it very clear that I was only playing for the duration of the event and no further. My friends accepted it, I dropped out of contact with many of them, and I moved on to new adventures in my life.

I’ve heard the term “addictive personality” thrown around a lot. It’s a real thing, but I think a lot of people are using it as an excuse. They say, “Oh I can’t help playing six hours a day, I just have an addictive personality.” To me that’s like saying “Oh I can’t help having hypoglycaemia – I have diabetes.” If you know you’re likely to be addicted to something, it means you have to be especially responsible if you start engaging in the behaviour.

Even with the benefit of experience, gaming addiction is something that I am still prone to. Normally my obsessions are only a couple of days at the most where I’ll delve into an incredible world without compromising my other responsibilities (such as work, training etc.). But a few weeks ago I started playing a new MMORPG, and I noticed pretty quickly that I was spending way too much time playing and had lost interest in doing chores, hanging out with friends or spending any time with my girlfriend, Beth. I found myself thinking, “I don’t have to get ready for work until 2:30, so I’ll get up early and play as much as I can before then.”  But after Beth pointed out to me that she had only seen me for an hour or two a day for the entire week, even though we were living together, I realised that I’d once again fallen off the bandwagon.

After that I immediately took measures to limit my time online. I scheduled in other activities, like “Dinner”, “Spend time with Beth”, “Go shopping”. It seems ridiculous to need to lock in these mundane daily activities, but even so, the first few days were a real struggle not to use any excuse to jump back online. But I found that as soon as I did something other than playing, I was able to focus my attention on other things which I enjoyed even more than gaming. Through mindfulness, I could really enjoying cuddling and watching a movie rather than exploring a new part of the map. I could drink tea and read a book rather than crafting new gear. The virtual world, while beautiful and compelling, will still never be as rich or miraculous as the world we live in.

Addictions work by feeding into a biochemical reaction. Stress hormones build up as the desire to play increases. If you give in to that desire, you feel relieved or relaxed as endorphins flood your system. However, this relief is short term, and the moment you stop playing, the stress hormones start to be released again. You may not even enjoy playing any more, but those stress hormones make it seem really compelling to do it, and so the cycle continues. But if you can build up the strength of will to break the cycle, the stress hormones will gradually lower on their own and the compulsion won’t be as strong – it’s short term pain for long term gain. For me it was almost as if my Addiction had its own personality, and when I refused to give it what it wanted, it threw little tantrums, sulked for a while and then gradually faded into the background as I carried on with my day.  It wasn’t easy at first, but it was entirely worth it.

One of the most straightforward ways to tell whether an action is an addiction is if you know it’s causing harm but you can’t stop doing it anyway. If this post reminds you of anyone, yourself included, get them to ask themselves “Is this behaviour having a negative impact on my life?” If they find the answer is Yes, then check out this page here for more information. If you do decide to alter the amount of gaming you’re doing, talk to the people around you about what you’re going through and what you’re trying to do. Changing a lifestyle habit isn’t always easy, and you’ll find that their support makes a world of difference.

All the best,

Xin

A Guide to Not Complaining

I would like to start by remarking on an observation I have made. Previously when people have asked me the generic opening line “Hi, how are you?”, I made it my goal to give them an honest and unique answer rather than the generic “I’m good thanks”. I would pick some part of how I was feeling and comment on it: “A bit tired”, I would say, or “I’ve been better”, or “Not bad considering I’m at work on a Sunday”. But I’ve recently discovered that these lines, innocent and honest as they may be, are layered with a subtle negativity. I have found that when you talk about things that are going wrong, the people you are talking with will respond in one of two ways: They might start to withdraw from you and avoid getting into a discussion of an unpleasant topic by brushing you off with something like a “Oh, right. That’s too bad”. Alternatively, they might start to feed into your negativity with a well-meaning response such as “Oh, I’m so sorry. What sort of sickness do you have?” While this might initially seem like kindness, it is feeding into the cycle of I believe I feel bad – this person believes I feel bad – I continue to feel bad. When you see that person again, they are likely to open with “Are you feeling any better today?” And you might think to yourself, “I don’t know, am I? Maybe I am still a little under the weather.”

 

That’s not to say that sickness isn’t real, and that you shouldn’t care about people who are unwell. But if every time you talk to someone you bring up how tired you are, how many challenges are in your life, how unpleasant your day has been, they’re going to always see you (consciously or otherwise) as tired and hurt and to be frank, a little whiny. And they’ll either avoid spending energy talking with you, or feed into your cycle of thought that encourages you to feel so negative. Complaining is a subtle thing, and I daresay most of us don’t realise we’re doing it. But it’s so harmful to us and our relationships because it’s so insidious.

 

The bottom line is that people who complain feel that they deserve something better than what they have. They believe that their circumstances (whatever they may be) are unjust, and that they are worthy of special treatment, that they are privileged somehow and that hardship should not happen to them. (Note: I use the word “should” deliberately to point out the flaw in this kind of thinking.) There is a tremendous host of reasons why this kind of thinking has become prevalent in our societies, but ultimately it is a deluded way of living your life. To put it another way, would it be unfair for your neighbour to get hit by a car today? Do you think it would be more unfair if you got hit by the car instead? Most people would say they deserve it less than their neighbour, and please God don’t let it be me. But when you think about it, it’s just as likely to happen to someone else as to you, so what makes you feel like you don’t deserve to get hit?

 

Forgive my pessimism, but it was this kind of thinking that shocked me into the realisation that I’m not more special than you are. That’s not to say you’re not special – please remember that you are a miracle of creation [link to you are not your body], energy and matter synthesised into an autonomous, sentient being with free will and movement. You are an incredibly improbable creature capable of awesome things. But at the end of the day, you are still just matter and energy, and when the sun explodes and the cosmos reveal new secrets, you may come to realise how small and humble you are in the greater scheme of things.

 

The answer to this kind of privileged attitude is to not take anything for granted. To appreciate what you have [link to http://www.tuneinnotout.com/blog/simply-living/], rather than complain about what you don’t have. My friend Dan writes a far better article about this [link to http://dandjurdjevic.blogspot.com.au/2013/03/wanting-more.html] than I, and I strongly encourage you to read it. At the end of the day, we are so blessed by the bounty of miracles that are unfolding all around us, and yet so many of us resolutely ignore them so that we can get sucked into our own self-pity.

 

Indulge me once again in another experiment. For one hour, or one day, or one week, make a conscientious effort not to outwardly express anything negative. When someone asks how you are, tell them how great you feel, even if you don’t. When you feel the aches in your body and the lethargy in your mind, draw your shoulders back and smile from your heart, even if you don’t believe it. I promise you that, if you do this for long enough, you will change the way people see you. And more importantly, you will change the way you see yourself.

 

Leave a comment and let me know how you’re going!

 

All my love,

 

Xin.

On Not Being a Parrot

A blog I wrote recently for TINO. I haven’t been having the easiest time lately, but in recent days things have been going much more wonderfully. Sometimes I think I need to realise that even being a parrot can be pretty amazing. But right now, I’m pretty content being me. <3

 

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A little while ago, I was struggling with learning how to enjoy life despite walking alongside anxiety (a process at which I’m much better versed since seeing my counsellor). I was working at a pet supply store, and I was thinking about parrots (who are really intelligent birds) being locked in cages, so bored and unstimulated that they would pull out their own feathers in distress. I couldn’t stop thinking about how horrible it would be to be a parrot without any toys or social interaction, and I eventually got so upset that I brought it up the next time I saw my counsellor. She looked at me right in the eye and said, “Well it’s a good thing you’re not a parrot.”

 

That simple sentence has changed my life. There are so many scenarios I imagine that stress me out. I stress about what to do if I failed uni, what it would be like to be a youth worker again, how I would respond if someone asked me to babysit their kids etcetera etcetera. I project endless situations that cause me stress, and I often work myself into a bit of a frenzy. Then all of a sudden I stop and ask: “Why am I worrying about this? Right here, right now, I don’t have to deal with any of those problems. And if they come up, I’ll worry about them then.”

 

How many of your problems are “because you’re a parrot”? And how many times have you actually turned into a parrot? I would venture to guess the answer would be less than one. We often worry about things that are going to happen in the future, but the simple truth of the matter is that no one knows what the future is going to be like. For instance, I was really nervous about giving a presentation a little while ago, so much so that I had trouble sleeping for days. The day before I was due to give it, I got a call from the organisers who told me the event had been cancelled. The world is full of infinite variables, and 99 times out of 100 the things we worry about turn out differently from how we imagined. Yet we waste so much time and energy worrying about them for no reason!

 

So my advice to you is this: whenever you find yourself worrying about some event in the future, take a deep breath and ask yourself: “Where am I? What time is it?” (The answer, by the way, is “Here” and “Now”.) Practice mindfulness, and by the time the future rolls around, you’ll probably find that there was nothing to worry about.

 

All the best everyone. I hope you’re finding joy in all your moments.

-Xin

Fighting: Advice from a Martial Artist

I’ve been practicing the martial arts for a long time. In over ten years of study (some of which I was training five or six days a week), I have learned many lessons, and there is one in particular that I want to share with you.

There is a persistent but unspoken assumption that being good at fighting is really cool. Since I was about thirteen years old I would choreograph fights in my head. Some guy would insult me and I would stand up to him, and he’d throw this kind of attack and I’d respond with that kind of attack, and I’d look so cool as I totally owned him. The scenarios I projected were endless, but every single day, usually several times a day for about six years, I would plot out elaborate fights that always resulted in me spectacularly dominating and defeating my challengers. I had every confidence in my level of skill, and when I started learning Taekwondo this confidence skyrocketed. I would walk around school practicing my head-high kicks, and I tried to build a reputation for myself as the guy not to mess with because he could spectacularly hurt you if you crossed him.

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At my Taekwondo black belt grading when I was 16

But that all changed when I had to defend myself for real. Now keep in mind I’ve done a hell of a lot of training, and I’m a very competent fighter. But one day a couple that I kind of knew was having an argument, and things were getting out of hand. The guy was being really scary, grabbing his girlfriend and threatening to hurt her, so I stepped between them and told him to cut it out. The next thing I knew was that he had put a knife to my throat.

It turned out okay in the end because he wasn’t seriously trying to hurt me, he was just showing his dominance. As I stood there, I thought of how I could break his knees and stab him with his knife and “look really cool”. But let me make this very clear. There is nothing glorious about someone trying to hurt you. It is scary. It is really fucking scary. No matter how much training and experience you have, when someone is doing everything in their power to cripple you, there’s nothing cool about it. Yeah you might be able to defend yourself and hurt them in return, but it doesn’t make you feel any better about someone hating you so much they tried their hardest to cause you grievous injury.

In the end I didn’t need to resort to violence at all to escape that encounter unharmed. I practiced self defence: I did not take any unnecessary actions because I did not feel like I was at risk (despite his threats). I didn’t need to cripple him to protect myself, and I didn’t need to prove I was better than him or to punish him for daring to threaten me. And if I could restrain from using violence with weapons pointed at me, I certainly wouldn’t hit someone for insulting my mother, or shoving me in the chest.

Violence is the crudest and most destructive solution to any conflict. If a fight is forced upon you, it is not something to enjoy or brag about, but something horrible to regret because it couldn’t be avoided.

BSA_riot_FA_pathThere is no victor in any fight. Either you get hurt, or someone else gets hurt, and in my books that’s a lose-lose scenario. Nobody deserves to get beaten up so someone can say “I’m right and you’re wrong”, or “My reputation is more important than your health”. Fighting doesn’t prove you’re right about an issue, or that you’re stronger than someone else – it proves that you’re able to beat up people who are weaker than you.

To the martial artists out there, do what you do because you love it, not because you enjoy dominating others. The martial arts are arts. Any thug who goes to the gym can have a strong body, but what truly distinguishes a warrior is not their ability to win a fight, but their devoted effort to improving themselves.

My teacher, demonstrating betterment of character through meditation

My teacher, demonstrating betterment of character through meditation