Peter Mullen


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Have you ever felt hopeless. How do you personally deal with hopelessness. What keeps you from being paralized by this feeling.

self explainitory

  • Aug 6 2013: I know this feeling well and the only way i dealt with it was to just understand time never stops and nothing lasts forever.
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      Aug 6 2013: That is a great philosophy, understanding the constant changing nature of all things ( impermanence ). Just as happy moments slip away, so does pain, and suffering. Think about the most painful moments of childhood. While the memories are still there, most likely there was a moment in the interim where the pain subsided, hopefully went away. That's where to focus. Fear of some imagined (punishment ) after death is not something most dying people concern themselves with near the moment of departure. Usually it's desire to feel the presence of loved ones, and a desire to sleep. Gentle sleep.

      It seems as though one might attempt to adjust ones thinking even at deaths door. One of the many feelings terminally ill patients speak of is guilt. Imagine that. It's guilt that if they have the audacity to die peacefully that they'll be letting down their family,or committing some sin. The best way to combat that silliness is through happiness, even laughter. Let go of all guilt. The life of every individual is their own responsibility not yours.

      None of us know what we'll feel ,or say until that moment comes, but it's likely that our death will reflect the way we live our life. If one can adjust ones thinking somehow, death may be our finest performance, and a release. That is not a call to resign oneself to death, but a call to continue living with happiness, or at least peacefulness until the eyes close.

      For those in a state of hopelessness in the midst of life, the choice is the same embrace impermanence. Embrace change, and literally choose to be happy, choose to see each nanosecond as pure, as awareness, as life. The metaphor is "Stone walls, and iron bars do not a prison make". The mind may wander the universe at will.
  • Aug 5 2013: Yes and I guess I am a fatalist so I push through it, even if I know I am going to fail, you finish and try to fulfill your commitment or die trying. I was taught very early in life it is better to fail trying than not try at all.

    There is a difference between hopelessness and depression.
  • Aug 3 2013: Hopelessness is based upon or connected to, the idea or concept of hope.
    Hope itself is a false concept.
    Just another in a long line of false beliefs that Americans and many others, worship
    and anchor their lives to.
    Nothing is done by hope and in fact, the very "act" of hoping is proof (to me)
    that the one doing the hoping doesn't really believe in what they think, say or
    even believe they believe.
    This state or condition of "feeling so deeply down, lost and/or defeated is easily rectified
    by looking at what one does believe in and whether or not it has actually transformed
    through a progression I believe should take place. So, what I say next may seem or sound
    contradictory to what I just wrote but try it out. It really isn't. Here's the progression.

    In the beginning, there might be a real, but fleeting hope that some thing will work. But, that
    brief moment of "hope" must transform or be transformed into some action. In action, some
    faith will be found, given, granted in some way, but it will come. How? I don't know. I just KNOW
    that it does. But, faith is also like hope. It is false or becomes false without action and without
    the most important feature needed. That is KNOWING. Coming to KNOW what it is that you say, think,
    or believe you actually believe in. Take the idea of a God. If you believe, then you should trust it.
    If you trust it, then you shouldn't worry. If you worry, you don't trust it. If you don't trust it, then you
    don't really believe it because you haven't come to KNOW it. I don't believe in God.
    But I have one thing I KNOW and it shrinks every problem I have, face, fear, or imagine
    will happen, is happening or is going to happen, down to the size of a tiny drop of water, until it
    "PINGS!" into nothingness and is gone.
    Come to KNOW what you believe in. You don't have to prove it. It can't be, nor needs to be.

    Don't worry. Something good will happen. If it doesn't?
    Don't worry. Something bad will happen. Either way, you're O.K
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      Aug 3 2013: You, and I, have a convoluted way of saying things,I can see that. Logic isn't easy to explain.. Academics, philosophers, psychologists spend their careers trying to explain the nature of human emotion, perceptions, and concepts of faith, hope, altruism. It's difficult to explain the mind exercises, or emotional dances we do to keep on an even keel. Every input may affect some positive result for someone. The very act of participating in this discussion may be highly effective therapy for someone in that condition of hopelessness. Just being around positive people is a very important strategy. After participating in certain blogs, and discussions where there is a lot of hostility many people report feeling hopeless. It all goes back to having a systematic way to compel oneself to engage in some form of positive work, on a daily basis. Walking, building bird houses, planting flowers, and working in the garden one of the most powerful medicines by the way. Retirement is a fantasy, and a fallacy by the way. Unless your physically incapable of the exertion you should engage in some deliberate productive form of work at least 5 days a week, then like you did for 40-50 years take a couple of days off. After all it helps you emotionally and physically, you can vegetate all weekend. I recommend that too. Stop, and smell the roses. Thanks Random
      • Aug 4 2013: Hi Peter.
        Not sure what you are saying, so I will have to go through your comments very
        slowly and see if I am able to glean your meaning. Help me if you so choose to.
        I agree there is way too much pain and suffering in this world, much if not most, brought
        upon others, by others. But also, much brought by what one believes or has been taught,
        told to believe or unfortunately, brainwashed into believing because there are hidden agendas
        taking place.
        The mind creates the abyss. And the heart must cross this.
        I have been to the bottom of the abyss. It was there I learned hope is false. And faith becomes false
        too, if it doesn't transform into something else. That something else is "knowing". Knowing rather than hoping or believing what I say, think or believe I believe.
        I feel very deeply for people but I cannot help them. My ideas, words, thoughts and especially my experiences are rejected because they are so caught up in this false world they too have been brainwashed in, since they were children.
        Convoluted? Yes, but crossing any convoluted stream of life requires small steps, not huge leaps.
        Huge leaps is what people usually attempt and thus miss out on the learning, the lessons, the wisdom, the truth and the healing they so want and need.
        Hopeless feels so bad because hope is false.
        People have to find out and in order to do so, they need to let go, of ALL OLD IDEAS, ABSOLUTELY.
        They are unwilling in many cases to do so
        I always the real truth. I abhor lies.
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          Aug 4 2013: You may be on to something. Just know what you believe don't hope, don't wish. The tough part is, the universe we live in never sits still, not even for a moment. We are all constantly in motion , and the world inside us, and outside us is changing every second of our lives. That means our system of (beliefs) must be in constant state of change as well. The reality changes therefore our minds, and bodies must adapt. Think back on the place you grew up. when I return home, little remains of the reality I knew 40, or 50 years ago. The people are moved away,or dead, with new ones replacing them, all the old roads, buildings, schools, and traditions are gone, and forgotten. All the myths and dogma of those days has faded into obscurity. That's the nature of life, constant change. This is why poetry, and art are so powerful and important. They act as sign posts on our journey. They are a way for us to find our way through the storm. I strongly recommend poetry to all people. It is not always easy to understand , but it can be understood with the help of a little background reading on the individual authors. There a re fantastic poetry reading compilations on Youtube for a good start. Try it when you get a chance. theres a great mixture there. It's where one learns that reality is often (between the lines.
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    Aug 1 2013: Interesting question. I have worked with many people who describe themselves as hopeless. This is what I know.

    Hopelessness is paralyzing because the hopeless cannot see a way to move forward. It is interesting because their brains need to manufacture hope. Usually you cannot give them hope or give them a way out. They have to see it themselves.

    The brain and the body are connected so the best way I have found is to help them move. I know it sounds weird but walking helps. Sometimes combining a review of options with walking seems to break the hopelessness. Then they can start to move forward. But there also has to be some successes because hopelessness is learned, and they will fall back into it if they do not see progress. Even walking to the mailbox may be a cause for celebration. But it has to be followed up again to reinforce new thinking and behavior.

    Hope that gives you some ideas.
  • Jul 31 2013: Hopelessness is often caused by circumstances, so I try and change my circumstances. Perhaps location, perhaps circle of friends, perhaps job.

    If it is caused by an ominous task, then I try and break it into manageable pieces, then figure out a good sequence for the tasks, then start by doing the tasks then alternate between tasks that are low hanging fruit and more difficult, so I have something to look forward to when I am doing a hard task.

    If it is a physical emotional problem, I usually talk to a friend or a doctor.

    If if is a financial problem, I try and break my bills up into payable amounts, then pay them off slowly while i focus on doing things that are free for fun.

    To keep from being paralyzed by this situation, you need to come up with a strategy that enables you to get through the tough times that you believe in. Then you can focus on the execution of the strategy rather than the tings that seem hopeless to get you through.

    For some it is relying on faith to get through. Others it is work and friends.
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      Jul 31 2013: Outstanding response Robert thanks for responding. I'll give you the same recommendation I gave to others. Try watching Marx brother performance of (Lydia The Tattooed Lady) on You tube, one of my favorite techniques. This question, and the answers may help someone out there, more than you can imagine. Thanks
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          Aug 1 2013: It is just plain nutty. It's all of the above. If you go on line, and read the words, just enter lydia the tattooed lady lyrics. It's an absolute cosmic masterpiece. I love good comedy that isn't vulgar. That's probably my upbringing, but far more important is the cleverness. It's the skill needed to extract laughter without cheep vulgarity. I'm not a prude, I just value language, and people who master it's complexity, and nuance. Groucho ,and his brothers were world class masters. I must admit another aspect. When I was in helicopter OJT in San Francisco 40 years ago, we went to a club. That's when they still referred to the area affectionately as the Barbary Coast. There was a particular dancer there, who did catch my attention. After a few dances, some watered down drinks, and some rather awkward tense moments I left the club happy, confused, and short a months pay. All thanks to the dancing, charm, and (pick pocketing skills) of the (tattooed lady) I don't remember her name, but it wasn't Lydia. My friends, and I laughed so hard we nearly exploded. The laughter, and humiliation lasted for months. While adverse, those are the things memories are made of. I love laughter, and encourage people to consume mass quantities on a regular basis, strictly for medicinal purposes. Laugh with me Mary, it's good for you.
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    Aug 5 2013: Your absolutely right. I tried to point out there is a difference between hopelessness, a common symptom of depression. It's always going to be part of the discussion because only a victim of it, their family hopefully, and a good doctor can make the call, but they are inextricably tied together. They same sorts of brain chemistry is seen frequently, to much lesser degree in people who aren't clinically depressed, but are experiencing hopelessness. A similar pattern of brain activity is there. So the neurologists tell us. What you say is absolutely right. Give yourself a good swift kick in the pants, and get off your tail, and press on. I personally know that philosophy well, and have practiced it for 50+ years. Unfortunately the world is not entirely made up of Hard asses, and Marines. There are good, sound, decent, loving, deserving people who, for a number of reasons get overwhelmed. They may not do anything like suicide, but they are so traumatized, they may loose their job a serious thing at any time. They fail to act to protect themselves, they can't function enough to make good decisions, about family, or money. Your plan doesn't always work for every person in every circumstance. Some people need ideas to spur them on, or heaven forbid they might ask for a little help. The boot strap approach is a tried, and true method. I stand by it hardily, but it doesn't always work for every person. That's why we're talking about it. It can help a lot of people climb out of the pit. Thanks Wayne.
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    Aug 3 2013: There is the potential for these ideas, in this discussion, to reach millions of people. I am a veteran. I do not wish to be offensive, and I thank you for the conversation. It is impossible for me to explain to you my friend the myriad ways our veterans have been abandoned by this nation. All one needs to do to understand the situation is simply read the statistics about poverty, unemployment, disease, mental illness, and violence among veterans. I don't wish to delve into the subject any further here. The subject tends to draw crude radicals who deny the suffering, and bring only anger, and insult to the conversation. If people can't see it for themselves by now, there is little I can do to convince them. It suffices to say there is a vast sea of pain, remorse,sadness, and devastation caused by our various wars. If civilians could understand the horrors, there would never be another shot fired in anger. There are so many suffering people who need our compassion. Let us share our ideas instead for attempting to lift our brothers and sisters out of the hell they are experiencing. Thanks for you participation Greg.
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    Aug 1 2013: not felt hopeless so far, even when things are black I usually think they'll get better, possibly because I don't get myself into too serious messes, I avoid people and situations that might drag me down.
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      Aug 2 2013: Thanks for the response. That clearly is a great idea, staying away from negativity. The sad thing is there is a neurological, physiological component to helplessness, that millions are victims of. That has been clearly demonstrated by decades of research. The problem is the balance of things like serotonin in the human brain is unimaginably complex. The therapies, and medication regimens are expensive,and require careful monitoring, to minimize side affects, and liver damage. I'm so glad that, you and most people can get past the feelings by self correction, and exercise. For millions unfortunately the imbalances of brain chemistry are serious maladies that can lead to serious life threatening consequences. For them it's not just a simple matter of positive thinking and a walk on the beach. The pharmaceutical companies have their vested interests, and doctors aren't quite up to the task unfortunately in many cases. Consider yourself lucky. Thanks for the response.
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        Aug 2 2013: why do you mention this, Peter, are you advocating for taking medication? Do you take it yourself?

        One thing that I think keeps me positive is not going out at night, I'm usually in bed by 7 or 8 PM, and then rise around 5AM. It feels more positive and natural. Another thing is to avoid going to bars, bars seem to have their bad side. And to avoid illegal drugs.
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          Aug 3 2013: I do not take medication at all. "That is only a personal choice". I do not advocate taking any medication unless the problem is "severe, and debilitating", if there is some other remedy such as: (diet ) (keeping really busy) (being with friends) (Exercise) (counseling ) a person is better off without medication. "That is not medical advice !" That is just my opinion. I personally feel there are far to many medications used in our society today.The costs are enough to "cause" depression if one is on a modest income. The side affects can be worse than the condition. I believe the (system) of Psychiatry,and pharmacology is corrupted by ( MONEY ) In many ways it's still in the dark ages. That is not meant as an insult to the many dedicated, loving, hard working practitioners who heal millions, and do their best every day to literally save lives of severely depressed people, and other mentally ill patients. People with "severe" depression are different. It's a clinical state, where people are at serious risk of (life threatening symptoms) caused by severe abnormalities in (brain chemistry) cases like these, simple remedies make little difference. Then medication may be indicated. It is very easy for people, who do not suffer from these conditions to judge people suffering this condition as weak, lazy and other misconceptions. A prominent condition is unbalance in (serotonin) Administration of medications for it require long term treatment, experimentation with doses, careful monitoring by trained medical professionals to guard against organ damage from the medication, even worsening of the condition. Despite huge advances in brain science, the brain remains in some ways a black box that we are just barely beginning to comprehend. More than just chemistry, it's a tricky business. You are so right about getting up early, good sleep, and not taking (unprescribed) drugs especially alcohol. It's complicated. That's what this discussion is all about. "IDEAS".
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        Aug 3 2013: so what was your purpose in starting this conversation, Peter? Do you yourself feel hopeless, and you were looking for ideas to combat it? Or you would like to help people who feel hopeless, and you are looking for ideas to share with them? Or some other purpose?

        Another thing that gives my life meaning is combating noise. For example, just today I was talking to a truck driver about excessive noise coming from the loading dock at the supermarket across the street from my apartment. I know a lot about combating noise, and I think it could be a problem for some people that might lead to hopelessness, but it's a very complicated topic, there's a lot to effectively fighting noise, if it turns out you or someone else is interested I can share, but I'm not sure hardly anyone could be as good at it as me, I'm an extremely sophisticated person.
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          Aug 3 2013: To help millions of people around the world who feel hopeless like the 81 veterans per day that commit suicide in America because their congress, and their countrymen have abandoned them. To help the millions of victims of war, and militarism ,and patriarchal religious fundamentalism who's lives have been destroyed, and are dying of poverty, wounds and hopelessness. That's why.
        • Aug 14 2013: I'm interested in combating noise, (more-so in such social communications).

          And to answer Peter's question, I found the book Learned Helplessness, to be very insightful.
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        Aug 3 2013: In what way do you think veterans feel their congress and countrymen have abandoned them?

        What is your stake in this, Peter, are you a veteran, or related to a veteran? Or maybe you just have empathy for the people you consider victims, so what are you going to do, gather ideas on this conversation and then share them with Via the Web? Not a bad idea, you're already getting a start by putting them right here on TED conversations. Or do you intend to actually go to war-torn places?
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    Aug 1 2013: Thanks linda for the insight. The idea that "walking to the mailbox is a cause for celebration" is right on. For people in that state, it's like a trip to the grand canyon. Many people in that state look back at their own life, and see nothing of value, nothing to be proud of, nothing but failure. That even happens to highly accomplished, highly intelligent people. The reinforcement of learned responses set in motion by some minor slight, dispute, or memory, can trigger waves of emotion that catapult them into hopelessness. I would add, that there are millions of people suffering that condition all around us every day. They spend billions of dollars on medication, and counseling when (regular exercise) (a walk) may be the best solution for (some). The use of Pharmaceuticals may be helpful for some severe cases, but it seems our knowledge of pharmaceuticals is still stuck in the dark ages. It's anything but an exact science. I've know so many that have sought counseling, and taken medication only to find themselves with yet another serious condition, side effects, and confusion. It requires careful, frequent, expensive, monitoring, testing, and adjustments. Today that is simply out of the question for people who are already struggling just to pay the rent. Exercise is the closest thing to a magic bullet we have. Great response thanks
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    Aug 1 2013: .

    Yes, I have often.

    Just wait.
    Then, our brain (the most powerful computer today)
    finds the hope.
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    Jul 31 2013: Marx Brothers. (Lydia the tattooed lady). thank for an excellent response. I too have spent many hours watching ants. In fact I have spent many hours feeding them bits of my lunch just to see how they handle things. Your method is one I have used for many situations. It works well for children in temper tantrums. Divert there attention from the immediate transitory problem and before they know it they don't even remember what the tantrum was all about. thanks for a great response, and sticking to the topic.That's not always easy,especially when your attention is being diverted. (Lydia the Tattooed Lady) can still be seen at will on Youtube. I highly recommend it to everyone on a regular basis. Highly effective medication.