Monthly Archives: October 2010

Safety is elusive!

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In this post Jesse Bering reviews an article by Roy Baumeister, reporting that:

“… idealistic conditions actually heighten suicide risk because they often create unreasonable standards for personal happiness, thereby rendering people more emotionally fragile in response to unexpected setbacks. So, when things get a bit messy, such people, many of whom appear to have lead mostly privileged lives, have a harder time coping with failures.”

I have often speculated along these lines. Not thinking in terms of suicide per se, but just that psychological robustness seems to me to need exposure to hardship, in the same way that muscles need to be exercised to become strong.

Life is full of ironies like that… the more privileged you are, the weaker you are; the less sanitised your environment, the stronger your immune system; and when morality is policed and coerced, it dies. It’s like an endless search for a control and a safety that ultimately eludes us. Life refuses to be squashed and boxed in to the confines of our ideals. Just when we get one part of life hemmed in, we spring a leak somewhere else.

I don’t find that depressing. I just find it interesting to reflect on. Amusing. Comforting, almost… in the sense that anxious striving becomes easier to stop. In all the different ways that people live in the world, there is risk; different types of risk. What type of risk am I more comfortable living with? Something to think about as I start to paint on the blank canvas that is now my life.

I think this puts a very positive spin on difficulty, too. It breathes new life into the old cliche that “what doesn’t kill you (or what doesn’t make you kill yourself :D) makes you stronger”.

Cool Chinese lantern

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My brother got some Chinese lanterns, which were pretty impressive! Here is my video of the first one setting off:

What else happened this weekend: had a terrifying lift from the train station in my brother’s fast new car; went out for a great meal for my mum’s birthday which was rounded off by the most enormous piece of carrot cake I have ever seen; slept really soundly for the first time in weeks; and spent a whole lot of time happily wrapped in a blanket reading a book. 😀

Back in the ‘burgh, I went tango dancing this evening and had a good long catch-up with a friend.

*contented sigh*… I feel so refreshed! Bring on Monday morning. 😀

Me and work these days

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For a long time I have felt like I am wading through treacle. And I have gotten tired and upset from the effort. My energy and confidence has been sapped pretty much all the time.

I chose a motivational piece of music and am regularly listening to it while imagining the kind of productive person I want to be and how good it will feel. Then when I feel tempted to do something else instead of working, I mentally play this piece of music to bring back the motivation. The only problems are (1) it is stuck in my head all the time!! (2) the first time I heard it, I was reading about the Silver Spring monkeys and this disturbing memory seems to have been frozen into it, which is not very motivational for me. 😆 But I still think it should help.

But the biggest ongoing challenge is setting goals and fixing my beliefs to allow me to reach them.

I had in mind being completely on top of everything and working productively all hours of the day and night. But then I thought this is probably an extreme, and not realistic or necessary. Maybe the whole reason I am exhausted in the first place is that I have this rigid, black-and-white measure of success and expect myself to run through the treacle.

And yet, that’s not the whole story – some people can demand big things of themselves and not crumble under the stress. What’s the difference? I guess it’s in the way they respond to the sensation of struggling. It doesn’t get them down like it gets me down.

In all likelihood I am finding things just as difficult as most people. The only problem is that it feels utterly horrible to me. It feels like something is horribly, horribly wrong. Which can only be a reflection of underlying pessimistic thoughts and attitudes that need to be rooted out. I simply can’t afford to sabotage myself by holding onto them any longer.

I think about Einstein a lot these days, I pass his portrait in the JCMB when I go for coffee and carrot cake and I remember what I read of him in “The Trouble With Physics”. We all work very differently and we all have our own strengths.

I think he was probably a good laugh to be around.