The ancient Greek philosophers argued among themselves over the idea of nature versus nurture. Meaning, are we born with a clean slate and what happens to us changes us in our upbringing? Or, are we born how we are meant to be regardless of external factors? I don’t know the answer to this, but I’d argue that to some degree, it’s both. Genetics, obviously, play a major part in our personality make up probably, if I had to guess, just as much as our surroundings and experiences that we endure. I’d argue that our genetics play a significant role in how much we are affected by external circumstances. Implying how strong minded an individual is. Ultimately, however, who the fuck knows?
My entire life, I’ve been a relatively aware individual. I spent a lot of time thinking, living in a high state of anxiety, and was extremely inquisitive. I would often drive my grandfather nuts with the amount of questions I had about the innerworkings of life. But in October of 2017 I decided to take 3.5 grams of dried mushrooms and see what all the hype was about. What I constituted as awareness and inquisition was nowhere fucking near what I felt during and after those six hours of tripping. I felt and thought about things so clearly and purely than I ever had before. I felt like I understood everyone in my life for those few hours. Including myself. The portals in my mind that opened up were like windows to a whole new perception on my existence. For the first time in my life I got a taste of what happiness felt like. However, the time that has elapsed from then to now has been very… well, everything. Dark, angry, happy, sad, exhausting, eye opening, and relieving all at once.
See, what I learned is that there is a price to be paid for awareness. Wisdom and growth are not free and we must all pay in discomfort and pain. As we become more self-aware, we begin to see the innerworkings of our own world. Our minds. We see ourselves from a third person perspective. Close your eyes and imagine for a moment stepping outside of our body and watching yourself interact with everyone in your life in every setting. How do you feel? I felt repulsed and ashamed. The lack of love, vulnerability, and pain that I projected onto others broke my heart. It killed me to see myself as a person that hurt people. But in this moment of witnessing myself in this way, I began to see I wasn’t the only one. I began to see how many people, particularly those close to me, were living the same way. Projecting all of their fears, insecurities, and traumas on each other. But, why do we do this? Why do we project? I feel it is because proper, honest communication is its own language. One that the majority of us never learn. There is a way to use your words to be able to convey a point of view so that it can be understood clearly and concisely, usually. However, like I said, the majority of people don’t know this language. So, without knowing it, we make passive aggressive comments at others about things we don’t understand rather than just asking a question. We take jabs at people we don’t know because we see something in them that reminds us of ourselves. Generally, something we don’t like about ourselves. I’ve learned that most people are entirely unaware that they do this.
Pain has a way of making or breaking us. Traumatic experiences increase blood flow to the amygdala (the emotional thinking part of our brains) while decreasing activity in the prefrontal cortex (the logical thinking part of our brains.) Undealt with experiences generate thoughts, which, create emotions that, when unchecked, pile up like a rain water reservoir until it over flows and causes damage in the surrounding area. Prior to that mushroom trip, I realized this is how I was living. Prior to my increase in self-awareness, I had no clue this was happening to me. I was taught to take life as it comes, suck it up and deal with it. I was trying so damn hard to live like this. Then I saw another way. I saw that the only way to move on and heal the wounds from those experiences, I had to throw myself to my own wolves and live a very uncomfortable life for an indefinite period of time. I had to put myself into unfavorable situations, have discussions with people that I didn’t want to have. I had to look in the mirror every day and remind myself that I did the best with what I knew at the time. I had to build my own confidence back up because not a person in my life could do it for me.
Every single one of us are the thing that holds us back the most. Our lack of self-awareness, clouded by fear of rejection, of judgement and discomfort, is the thing we need to face to get out of our own way. Nothing outside of you can help you as much as you can help you. Nothing outside of you can make you as happy as the thoughts that you choose to have about happiness. How we perceive ourselves is how we are perceived.
*Kasey Pipitt is a former member of 2d ranger battalion and security contractor. Currently in pursuit of his BA in psychology to one day give back to the veteran community by using his person experiences as a method for helping others get through the transition process from military or civilian life
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