We are onion

Whenever I encounter a negative issue, or more precisely when I take an incident negatively, I follow a usual pattern of reaction: A pins-and-needles sensation covers my entire body. I feel slight zipping pain on my fingers and my brain receives a small migraine. My muscles become stiff and my lower back becomes numb.

After my body has effectively “shut down,” the pandora’s box of past incidents open, flooding me with memories of other negative issues in addition to the one I already have. The world turns into a solitary cell embedded with various torturing devices that activate by making a wrong move—maybe any move at all.

(This movie’s director and I must have something in common)

My protection mechanism instantly tries to ditch the lowest-hanging rotten fruit: the incident. If that is not a reasonable choice (which usually is the case), I go for the second lowest-hanging one: my reaction.

The problem is I do not always deal with my reaction directly. The important “Why am I feeling this way?” or “Am I seeing the fact or my imagination?” questions get too easily converted into the quick “Forget it, I need to make myself better first” diversion and therefore I go out for food hunting, parties, gaming, sleeping, web surfing, anything that can divert my attention to something else. Or I might replace the negative incident with something more pleasant. I might try to bring up good memories or “rewrite” the negative reaction by telling me that what happened wasn’t what it looked like.

By the time I lift myself up (temporarily), not only I completely forget about dealing with the original negative incident, I also reinforce my hidden notion that I am incapable of handling unpleasant issues. All I do is to run around…but because it is myself that I am running away from, the picture might not be different from a dog scared by his own tail. I am going nowhere because I am not working on the core issue: the original reaction.

Reaction is my body’s natural response, taking in external information and reflecting whatever is inside me. It is just a projector showing my inner world up into my body, providing me with physical signals. It never lies, it is automatic, and it is neutral.

Wait, is it really “neutral”?

Actually my reaction is closer to seeing the world through Instagram filters on a smartphone instead of the native camera finder. All these years of incidents, memories, and traumas have installed a complex set of filters in the name of habits which are fused tightly with my entire being.

Alright, I should carefully distinguish the filters from the reality. Then I should be able to see what exactly happened and therefore can take the incident without overly leaning toward the negative or positive side. Case closed.

Not yet.

My Instagram filters are already part of my lens, and therefore, whatever I see or think has already gone through the filters the moment it pops up in my brain and recognized. Is it possible to “remove” the layers of filters by seeing things through the filters?

As anybody who used Photoshop or Illustrator understands, removing filters is possible only when the original underlying layer can be examined intact. That is certainly not my case. In other words, the “layers” are already part of my “lens.” My Instagram does not have an option to revert the image into its original form or even switch to another filter.

Some people go through meditation or other techniques to “peel off” the layers they have accumulated. Having tried meditation for some time, I can attest that it works to an extent. It is tempting to go back and try to walk a different (mental) path, too. But having lived for almost half of my life span, going back feels too wasting. I will try the opposite: adding layers.

Yes, I will be enhancing the Instagram effect by leaving the current imperfect filters as they are and adding even more. It is risky: I might end up skewing my vision completely, blurring the border between what is real and what is imagined.

But honestly I believe the only way to live a better life is to face forward no matter how much time is left for us, and if a filter can divert our mental image from reality, it should be able to do the opposite: take us closer to what actually is happening. I would like to add THAT filter.

I am also considering the possibility that peeling off the filters might be futile because there is no “lens” at the core. My filters might be all what I have, and those filters, admittedly skewed, might be collectively working as a lens, just like an onion. Haven’t we heard countless stories of failed/faked attempt to find the “real” us? Maybe it is because there is no such thing as “us” as we expect.

What I have might not be perfect but at least it works. They say don’t fix something that is not (completely) broken. I will give that a try.