I spent a lot of years being a hypnotherapist. Maybe I was good at it because it helped me focus on my own personal development too. Back then, I devoured a lot of self help literature in order to gain insight in how others in the same field thought and worked. Most of it was new age rubbish, but through a lot of sand you could find some nuggets here and there. I was into yoga and meditation, as the hypnotherapy basically was an extention of those traditions mixed in with Classic Freudian psychotherapy.
As I lost interest in this field of work, and became engulfed in the coffee world, I also lost touch with my own practice. The coffee world seemed rational, and so my focus turned to the understanding of the craft rather than the meeting between people, at least for my first couple of years. And my reading list shifted towards the neo-Atheist movement; Daniel C Dennet, Christopher Hitchens, Carl Sagan, Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins to name a few. Not that I agreed with them necessarily, but it rooted me in the material world at the same time as my finances crumbled and my interest in coffee reached a high that demanded some investment on my part. From being a person who didn’t necessarily dream of material wealth beyond a specific guitar, or a new vinyl player, I all of a sudden looked at Hario scales, ACF cups and various brewing equipment with an alarming desire. I see the contradiction in this now.
Many years later, when I got diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, I started a therapy called MBT (Mentalization Based Therapy), and I found that the whole point of the therapy was to intellectualize my response to other peoples behaviour. If you know anything about Borderline, you will know it is basically a disorder that appears from how you are treated in your childhood. As a therapist used to digging deep into the subconscious, this had a lot of triggers for me as a professional, but also I realized that without the catharsis of using your feelings to heal your past, you will never heal at all.
The only thing this therapy did for me, was that I came up with a formula I call The Pyramid of Basic Needs. Basically, a pyramid has Three sides. Each side represents Relations, Work and Living. Lets look at each side individually:
With Relations, I mean the relation I have with myself and others. If I’m in a healthy relationship with a partner I’m ok. If I am happy to be alone and don’t need a partner, that’s ok too. But if I am alone and haven’t gotten over a former partner, scared of being by myself or missing someone to share my life with, I’m really not ok. Same if I am with a toxic partner. It takes energy to be in that place, it drains you. So, with relations, I mean a supportive one, a relation that gives energy, generates well being. If that is living with your mom, that is ok too. As long as the relationship is what you really want!
With Living, I mean your accomodation. Some people love travelling the world living half their lives in a hotel room. Others hate it. Some people chose to live on the streets, others are there without it being a choice of their own. As long as you have a place that you can unwind, call your own, not being scared that it will be gone tomorrow, not having to ask if it’s ok to stay another night. Or house two kids in a 1 room apartment without privacy for anyone, where they hate to be with you. In my own preference; somewhere sustainable for myself and my kids, having a bed and somewhere to cook, somewhere to put my Xmas decorations in a basement, and I will know next year where they are.
And I guess Work is pretty obvious. But having a job isn’t necessarily your foundation for the Pyramid. A work place is a bit like a relationship. If it’s toxic though great pay, it still might steal more energy than the money is worth. I’ve had jobs in the past that the only reward for going to work was the pay check. And it’s fucking draining.
So my point with the Pyramid is that if you have two sides covered, that can usually get you through the day in the one that isn’t. For instance; you have a loving family and a home, but a shitty job, the support from your family and the sanctuary of your home brings enough energy and comfort to sustain you. You have a home and a job situation that is really rewarding, that could get you through a divorce. You have a girlfriend you love that you can stay with while being without an apartment and you have a job that is rewarding, homelessness is bareable.
If you just have one of these filled, I’d like to imagine it just being the bottom field, and there is just a long hard walk in front of you, no roof on either side to cover you. That is when your life starts to crumble. At one point more than a year ago, I actually didn’t even have a Pyramid. That’s what I realized, and that’s how I came up with the idea of it.
There are a lot of mental images to harvest from a Pyramid. The idea of being a slave building it (though it is now scientific facts the Egyptians didn’t have slaves but free labor to build them), and gain freedom once it’s done, is one I like because it’s actually true. But more importantly; you can’t fully focus on balancing your life truly unless the Pyramid is filled. From my years in hypnotherapy, I now realize that a lot of people seek help in desperate times, which is great if you have the basics covered. But if you don’t, therapy will do very little to change that for you. If your wife leaves you, and you have to move home to your demanding mother, while you’re struggling at work, there’s no way that any therapy will help you sort that out. It can help you find motivation to get a new job, move away from mom and find a new partner at best, but true change will only appear when the Pyramid is filled on all sides.
That’s why I have so Little tolerance for these so called “yogis”, who spend their time posting Pictures of themselves on far away beaches, in expensive yoga outfits, trying to sell you yoga teacher Courses so you too can become rich and go to a far away beach and wear expensive yoga outfits. That is escapism, and escapism is always used when you want to get away from something; not rarely a job you’re not happy with, a relationship that isn’t fullfilling, or a home you’re not completely happy with.
My wife wrote something extremely Beautiful to me the other day, and it totally resonated with me, cause that is exactly how I feel too: “My life Before you is a dull haze, it seems somehow both unimportant (as if I wasn’t fully alive yet), and in some strange way a preparation to get to you, to us. Maybe it was a trial of some sort, and I’m so happy and grateful I made it through to get to this profound love and happiness we share“.
Looking back at my life now, I see that my Pyramid was never filled. I used to Think that whatever job I had was ok as long as it kept me being able to do what I was passionate about in my spare time. The problem is, I didn’t have the energy to pursue my passions. Instead I escaped through drinking. And then I escaped through work, I escaped through my family, and while stuck in a vortex of alcoholism and hating life, I escaped it all and ended up with nothing. Basically, I had to lose it all in order to realize what I actually needed. My life had been an endless trial up until that point, and in a way, my wife had done not the same, but a similar journey.
Writer Cal Newport said something obvious yet so profoundly life changing for me to understand: do what you’re good at, not what your passion is. For ten years I’ve been trying to chase that passion of coffee, when what I am good at is really to deal with people. And all this time trying to get to the core of the bean, has been an idea to use as a Foundation in order to build relationships. I work bar cause I like to socialize with customers. I want to be a roaster so I can go to farms and get to know people from other walks of life, not really to understand the absolute best way to set a roast curve. I want to write in order to meet people and let me share their stories. If you ever saw “Into the wild”, or read Jon Krakauers fantastic book, there is a very touching scene at the end, when Christopher MacCandless is dying alone in deepest Alaska in the Magic Bus. He has carved in the Words “Happiness is only real when shared”, while realizing he has gone through all these adventures, yet has chosen not to share it with anyone. And with sharing I don’t mean an Instagram Picture.
NP: Dio Egypt (When the Chains Are On)