I don’t think I’ll get very far in my writing career with an opening statement like that, so let me explain.
Parenting is an act of balance… On one hand you have to make your child the most important thing in your world. You do this through time spent with them. This will give them confidence, make them feel happy, and other important stuff*. On the other hand you have to be very intentional with this time so they don’t become selfish entitled little pricks who think the rules don’t apply to them. The balance of parenting is not a game of perfect, it is a game of consistence.
*Extreme simplification. You can read a Science Parenting book for the specifics.
I know I haven’t written a blog post in a while and that is due in large part to focusing on further developing our podcast. However, my wonderful daughter woke up early this morning (loudly) and after cajoling her back to sleep, I decided it would be a great time to work on an article (thanks Sophia). Today’s article is about a very simple rule that will bring you a lot more freedom in your life. The rule goes as follows: people do not change, unless they want to change.
Remember Newton’s Laws of Motion? (I don’t, in fact, I had to Google it before continuing any further). In 1687, Isaac Newton (then not yet referred to as “Sir” until he was knighted in 1705, thanks Google) proposed his three laws of motion in his ground breaking work the Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy. His theories on motion, which eventually became laws (the highest order of the Scientific Method), revolutionized the way we see the world today. Well, some of us anyways (I won’t drop any specific names but they see the world as non-spherical).
Now, obviously, I haven’t read his book but from what I gather it can be summarized as didactically exploring the three different Laws of Motion. The three laws are as follows: #1 “without resistance: objects in motion, stay in motion”; #2 “the greater the force, the greater the acceleration”; and #3 “for every action, there is a reaction”. I am no physics teacher (so definitely don’t quote me on the 2nd law) but for the purposes of this article we are going to extrapolate the theories of momentum and motion into human behaviour. That is that people who act a certain way are not going to change unless they either A) have to or B) want to. No amount of wishful thinking or mindforcework is going to make a person change. You can encourage change, you can even be the model of said changes but in the end: the individual is the ultimate decider, the force and the accelerator, of change in their life.
I have heard it said that a majority of the world’s mental frustration and angst is based upon trying to control things that are simply out of their control. When I work with children (and clients of all ages for that matter), I always tell them that the only person they can control isthemselves. Not nature. Not animals (especially not cats). And not others. So stop trying. If there is a behavior that you do not like about someone, you have choices to make. You can either tell them about it and hope they decide to change their behavior or you stop worrying about it altogether. Notice how both of these choices are under your control.
If you have a friend who is chronologically challenged (they are late for everything, and I’m not talking 15 minutes here, I mean an hour) and/or has extremely poor communication skills (perhaps they were raised by Carthusian monks on a lifelong monastic silence) and it drives you bonkers. Stop. Reflect. Is any of this behavior yours to control? No. It isn’t. So stop trying. These people will not change unless they have to or want to. Now, that is not to say that you say nothing or do nothing with this sheepish individual. Again, go back to your self-agency. You can make choices for yourself. Ask yourself: what do I want? If you want your friend to improve on quality x,y, or z, then tell them. But do not text them. We shirk from conflict enough as it is these days and texting, being the new form of human communication that it is (even angry letters sent from Popes and contemporaries of the Middle Ages typically took time to put a level of thought into their diatribes), is simply not an effective method of having a constructive discussion. If you want people to change, you need to tell them and then they can decided whether or not they want to.
The other version of change is when people have to. But really, nobody has to do anything if they don’t want something of it. Take for example the case of the “hopeless alcoholic” (I borrow this character from Bill W’s Alcoholic Anonymous) who can’t stop drinking. Indeed, the compulsive drinking of this reprobate seems to suggest that they are afflicted with something not dissimilar from a disease. It is killing them yet they cannot stop. They are addicted. They are powerless to the drink. Yet we hear of so many people with similar tales of addiction that are able to successfully become sober and remain that way the rest of their lives. But how? Because they want to. They want to be clean. For their families, their friends, themselves. They are proud of their success and their choices (and damn proud they should be). Even if an individual is arrested and told that they can’t, say, have a drink. They still could do it. But if they look at themselves and realize: I am not proud of the fact that I physically assaulted a newspaper box and soiled myself at a bus stop, I need to get myself together here. That is not them having to do anything, that is them wanting to do something. They want to change themselves. These are lasting changes. Not when the wife says do this or I’ll leave. Not when the police say do this or you’re going to prison. Only when the individual says, I need to do this for [insert reason, clause, ultimatum here].
I could write a lot more on this. I have decided that I will and put them into a book to be lost in the oversaturated market that is self-help books. But that is enough for right now. If you like this, then comment on it and ask for more. Share it with your friends. Print it. Frame it. Or burn it. Whatever you do, realize it is your choice. Realize that no one has control over you. That you are the most important voice and decider in your life. That is not to say you should be a selfish individual but rather that you do things because you want to. Not because you feel like you have to. If someone really cares about you, they will want you to do what you want to do. They will not pressure you, they will encourage you. So make good choices and remember that you can’t control anyone, so stop trying to force it. People do not change, unless they want to.
The internet is a fascinating and boundless place. It has so much content. So much culture. So much influence. It is a land of unlimited opportunities for information: on any subject, on any thing you can really imagine (always use caution when really tapping into your imagination). It is also a place for socialization albeit a very strange one. You see, part of what makes us humans so interesting is our ability to communicate. According to anthropologists, evolutionary biologists and other smart people – the ability to explicitly and implicitly communicate and thus share information, is what got us to where we are today. Therefore, language: the vessel through which we communicate, is complex. We do not just express ourselves through our literal written words or our spoken phrases. We also use body language, active listening, tone, and a lot of hidden meanings or symbolic language (things like idioms and sarcasm) among other amazing phonological things. My point is, there is more to language than the words we write in a comment box.
The problem is that the internet, for the most part isn’t really monitored by a ruling or governing body. Sure, they have all kinds of people observing what goes on in the internet but no one is really policing it. For example, say you woke up late and are starting your day off poorly. Then you get on public transit and someone on the bus is listening to music full blast without headphones. Yes, using their shitty phone to blare ear bleeding static noise for all to enjoy. It’s at this point you realize you forgot your coffee. Your body temperature increases. Frustration builds up. You feel a demon inside you starting to riff speed metal on your psyche. You are ready to snap.
But you can’t. You can’t walk up, rip that person’s phone and defenestrate them both from a moving vehicle. Social norms resist us from doing that. If you were to do that. You would probably get yourself in a lot of trouble with the law. Because you took someone else’s property and destroyed it (albeit, somewhat justly).
Is there a metaphor here? Yes. Is it super clear? Maybe not, so I’ll explain. We all have bad days. We have all likely been victims of our anger and rage at some point. If not externally, then internally. However, socially constructed systems, like laws and policing bodies, have created things to protect others and in so doing has developed social norms and expectations. Ask anyone on the street if it is normal to walk up to someone and punch them in the face and they will tell you, most likely defensively: no (on second thought, I strongly advise that you please do not do that). That is because we all have a right to be safe. So, you can’t take that goofballs phone and throw it out the window, even though he deserves it. And if you do you go to jail.
So you keep that anger in.
Something else happens. Then something more. Et cetera. Et cetera. And the fire that is your temper grows.
If you are a healthy person. You might start to do some deep breathing. Take a sip of cold water. Distract yourself. Maybe think about a herd of wild puppies jumping on you in a spring meadow and the sun is out. Just look at those puppies. Awww so cute. (Damn, that calmed me down just writing that!)
But maybe you don’t have the strategies to calm yourself down. Maybe you’ve been told all your life to keep it in or not to let it bother you. This advice isn’t very helpful because it isn’t practical. We have to let it out some way or another. And if we don’t let it out through a positive mindful practice, we will let it out through a negative one. Go ahead and name your vice: be it raging at others, road rage, porn, liquor, stealing stamps from your Grandmother’s vast collection, you name it.
Or, maybe you go on the internet. After all, the internet is for the most part, a fairly unregulated and ungoverned place. It seems, that the only way you are ever held responsible or accountable for something you say is if it causes enough social outrage that people come after you. Usually, this is reserved for the off-colour remarks that famous people make while tweeting well past midnight. But the troll is not famous and thus they log on and proceed to absolutely trash someone of status or otherwise. You go on groups and intentionally start fights. You love dwelling in comment boxes and typing things you would never say in public. But here, oh here, you’ve found the perfect place to unleash that monster inside you. Your goal in what you say is not to provide constructive criticism but to evoke the same rage demon that has been conjured up in you. All these years. These people are called Internet Trolls.
Trolls are bastards. They feed off negativity. They say things that cause emotional responses in readers arousing some of our most primitive emotions: hate, fear, anger. They desperately want you to respond. To ignite their fire. To keep that pain burning. Because they are weak. They are hurt. They are people who have been bullied all their lives. Mistreated and presumed powerless. Neglected when they needed a friend. Abandoned when they needed a place to share their heart, their passion, their spark. Trolls are also people just like you and me. They were once a child. They were once innocent and full of potential, now they get their power from antagonizing others online. See the hurt in their words. Hate is hurt and hurt people hate.
There is only one remedy to hatred.
Which brings me to my amazing mother. She has given me so much advice and care over the years that I could never repay her back, I can only pay it forward unto others. She used to say to me when I was angry at someone: If you have nothing nice to say, find something nice to say. I know. I know. The saying usually goes that if you have nothing nice to say don’t say anything. But our brains are wired for connection. And when we see the positive in things, our brain develops neural networks that, from that moment on, searches for positive things. It might be difficult at first, but the more you look for the good, the easier it becomes. So instead of shooting a bunch of venom into the internets, say something kind!
For example, perhaps you have a funny comment about regarding what someone does. Do a quick checklist and ask yourself: could this person misread what I am saying? Is this comment mean spirited or is it friendly? Where is this comment coming from? Is it out of pride or jealously? I probably shouldn’t post it then. There are other questions you could ask, but these are good immediate ones to consider before posting something. I’ve made jokes and said things that after I thought, perhaps sometime later: geeze, I probably shouldn’t have said that. If you are having Post Regret. Don’t sweat it. Who you were is not who you are. Just make a conscious effort to say nicer things moving forward. Maybe go back and say something positive on that person’s page. They probably won’t notice or even care, but you will.
Going around saying nice things or comments that are intended to encourage or promote positive feelings is a really good thing. You are injecting the opposite of what the internet already has waaaaaay too much of: trolls and trolling behavior. So much so that it’s a commonplace verb nowadays. Also, you will feel good about yourself too! When you say positive things and encourage others, you feel amazing after. So be an Internet Pixie instead. Might sound super lame but it far outweighs being classified as a troll.
What is a Pixie? Well, depending on where you look, the definition of a Pixie is an entity that can be mischievous but chooses to do “good” instead of being “bad”. They are literally kind-spirited (a kind spirit) versus mean-spirited (a mean spirit). We all have a consciousness and an intuition that tells us what is right from what is wrong. We feel good when we do things that are good, like helping others; however, if we feel bad, like a troll often does, we continue to do bad. Being a troll is cyclic: you feel shitty, so you say something shitty, then you might get a rush of dopamine, but because you didn’t do anything constructive, you feel shitty and the cycle repeats itself. Wow, that’s a lot of excrement. Excrement is toxic. That’s why we get rid of it. So: break the cycle. Be kind, friendly, nice and pleasant on the internet and say things that follow these values. I guarantee that if you promote kindness by throwing some Pixie dust on the internet, then your overall mood will follow!
So be an Internet Pixie, not an Internet Troll. Start Pixing today!
Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoy this article as much as I have enjoyed writing it. Have a wonderful day.
 Much like operating a car or heavy machinery, don’t post things under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
 Thanks mom, I promise I’ll clean my room. Later.
 I originally considered calling it an Internet Faerie; however, I received a lot of feedback, non-verbal and otherwise, that this was probably not a good choice in wording. My intent in using this terminology was not to offend anyone or any groups. If you think it is suiting go ahead. Whatever it is, it is meant to be positive.
 Found this through a simple Wikipedia search, then got lost for half an hour in the vortex that is the internet and ended up on the climate on Kilimanjaro wondering: how did I get here? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pixie
 It is a similar phenomenon in drug addicts called the Habit Loop. For more information, read: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.