Overcoming setbacks...and even appreciating them


Overcoming setbacks...
and even appreciating them

original writing and photos
_ _ _ by @d-pend _ _ _



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Introduction — good and bad

Whatever occurs in life is inherently neutral. If something is perceived to be supportive of personal survival, then it is desirable and "good." Anything that is considered to be contrary to one's immediate well-being is complementarily bad, or even evil. These reactions are primordial and instinctual; even an amoeba chases hungrily after a nourishing morsel and shrinks violently from a toxic one.

On top of this inherited fight-or-flight mechanism, we layer conceptual frameworks — glorified gradations of goodness/badness — onto whatever is glimpsed through our perceptual window, some of which are hopelessly contradicting of each other; so that it is difficult for us, in the final consideration, to decide whether what we are perceiving is even good or bad anymore. Ironically, in confusion of this sort we come somewhat closer to the truth of the matter.


Aspiration — victory and defeat

In order to live well and be stable as a human being in the long term, it is necessary to set goals and aspire to something beyond that which we consider ourselves presently capable of. In proving ourselves wrong, we emerge victorious. In the unknown lies the excitement of human existence; whether this is experienced as terrifying or exhilarating depends on our willingness to tolerate uncertainty of outcomes.

The animal portion of ourselves wants everything to be predictable and conform to our expectations; the human part understands that an existence of this sort would be simply abysmal and not worth living. In falling short of our aspirations by misapprehending reality, we paradoxically find a reason to wake up another day. We refuse to submit to a temporary defeat of this nature by recontextualizing the defeat as a hidden victory.


Life's drama — archetypal compression

While living a moment, we are in a dynamic, fluid state; we experience an inherently indescribable mixture of sensations, sentiments, emotions, concepts, and images. Only afterwards, with cognitive analysis, are these moments split apart, collated, re-organized, romanticized, denigrated, or otherwise exaggerated into archetypal charicatures, similar to dramatic scenes in a screenplay or movie. Then, we iterate these manufactured memories so many times that they become absurdly distorted from the "real" — yet in this form they play the important role of framing artistically the events of our life symbolically in a manner we can understand. Powerfully euphoric and traumatic experiences especially benefit from cognitive compression of this sort in order to conserve limited mental energy.


Overcoming and appreciating setbacks

Over the course of a lifetime what is conceived to be desirable and undesirable changes endlessly; when we encounter a way-of-thinking-feeling-or-being that seems novel, intriguing — we tend to be wholly consumed by it for a period of time. Once this infatuation period is over and we become soberly aware of this approach's shortcomings, an opening arises for us to re-examine past approaches and perhaps discover them anew. The periods of temporary deflation that follow an experience of disillusionment are commonly categorized under the "bad" label, but generally end up moving over to the "blessings in disguise" grey area, and then perhaps even to the "good" category given a long enough stretch of time.

In order to overcome setbacks, it isn't really necessary to constantly rehash the past; indeed, "doing nothing" takes us quite a ways towards the goal. It's truly remarkable what can occur in terms of healing when we don't continually "pick the scab." Allowing space for things to resolve themselves is helpful, paired with a proclivity for perseverance. Without setbacks, the adventure of life would not be the riveting story that it is — or more accurately — that we make it.

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Images and writing are original content
created by Daniel Pendergraft (@d-pend)
to be published to blockchain on April 11, 2020.

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Great post!

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Thank you, appreciate you reading!