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Lying

After a year (or years?) of living in my post-disillusionment world, I think I’m one of life’s liars after all and feel a growing desire to return to my kin and its ways of seeing.

Oscar Wilde has written of that type of liars in his The Decay of Lying.

Some random excerpts:

One of the chief causes that can be assigned for the curiously commonplace character of most of the literature of our age is undoubtedly the decay of Lying as an art, a science, and a social pleasure. The ancient historians gave us delightful fiction in the form of fact; the modern novelist presents us with dull facts under the guise of fiction /————-/

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Many a young man starts in life with a natural gift for exaggeration which, if nurtured in congenial and sympathetic surroundings, or by the imitation of the best models, might grow into something really great and wonderful. But, as a rule, he comes to nothing. He either falls into careless habits of accuracy /—–/ or takes to frequenting the society of the aged and the well-informed. Both things are equally fatal to his imagination, as indeed they would be fatal to the imagination of anybody, and in a short time he develops a morbid and unhealthy faculty of truth-telling, begins to verify all statements made in his presence, has no hesitation in contradicting people who are much younger than himself, and often ends by writing novels which are so lifelike that no one can possibly believe in their probability.

(Happy Oscar, little did he know what was to follow and how much more mundane literature’s subjects could get!)

I think understanding the truth about the way society works has completed me, made me more well-rounded, which is likely to benefit me in all sorts of ways, but I do not enjoy living in that kind of world.  Now, it has also run its course and I want to shift focus.

As Oscar said somewhere else, lying and poetry are essentially connected. Yes, I mean that sort of liars, not the types who lie on their CVs and other similar self-serving behaviour: I mean the fantasists, the dreamers and believers in things that are not strictly true or rarely true but can become true when you believe hard enough. That sounds so unicorns and glitter. But well, I feel a longing for the unicorns and glitter people as well. They make my heart happy.

And generally, I think the dreamer side of me has become a little neglected lately and I want to nourish it a bit more again. Become less world-aware.

 

 

Procrastination

Recently, there have been these theories going around about procrastination being linked to perfectionism and self-esteem. Allegedly, people who procrastinate are the types that tend to set too high standards for themselves so they are not even motivated to begin because the likelihood of falling short of perfect is high. And it’s generally demotivating to contemplate doing things under such pressure to perform perfectly. It is also linked to one’s sense of self-worth. Procrastinators, like defensive pessimists, use procrastination as a coping strategy to deal with failure. The defensive pessimist will imagine everything that can go wrong. When it doesn’t, they feel a sense of accomplishment. When it does, well, they expected this anyway. For procrastinators, the focus is slightly different, it’s on maintaining a positive sense of self-esteem. So, when putting off studying for an exam until the last minute, and then failing, the procrastinator failed not because of their lack of ability, but because they did not prepare properly. The latter is a lot easier to accept, no ego bruise will follow. You got the ability, you were just lazy. If, however, the exam turns out a success, more reason to be proud of oneself for making it even under such circumstances. Such ideas are summarized here, for example: Warning: extremely clickbait title.

So yes, these ideas seem to dominate the popular science psychology articles. I don’t know if they are equally dominant in the less popularly accessible segment of psychology. I hope they are not, because reading these explanations for procrastination was very eye-brow-raising for me.

First: don’t these people with such hypotheses consider putting off doing the dishes as a form of procrastination? If they do – and I would – then how can one possibly fit perfectionism and self-esteem into it? Perhaps an obsessive-compulsive person with a cleanliness fetish might be daunted by the thought of not getting the dishes absolutely spotless, but surely this is not the case for the average procrastinator. Maybe I miss something. These articles always talk of deadlines, essays, work-related procrastination etc., but what of cleaning the bathroom, weeding the flower beds, mowing the grass and other such activities. I would be very interested to know how does one fit “putting off going to the supermarket for milk” style of procrastination into the self-esteem and perfectionism explanation.

I do think I am missing some vital piece of information when reading such articles, because researchers cannot be so blind to ignore these forms of procrastination also happening.

Yes, I think perfectionism can be demotivating and make it hard to begin on something. But I don’t think it’s the universal key to unlock the mysteries of procrastination.

Some alternative hypotheses:

  1. Evolutionary psychology may not be my favourite branch as it is often too reductionist and dismissive of potential for change, but sometimes it can work for explaining things better than many other theories. It’s certainly very intuitive. So I’d intuitively hypothesise that evolutionally, human beings have not been accustomed to much consistent, regulated effort and the time management required of us now is very new to our brains. Rather, in humanity’s long infant stage, we did things in short intensive bursts, followed by periods of rest/doing nothing much. Most procrastinators are similar, are they not? They can get it done, they can work hard when required, but most of the time they spend in some sort of energy conservation mode. Such as: you go hunt that mammoth, then you eat it and stay put and don’t do a great deal. Maybe you pick your teeth with the bones. Even the division of the day into work and leisure time is a relatively new invention in the context of how long the human race has been around. So the short energy burst theory is one hypothesis.
  2. Second: similar difference as between extroverts and introverts when it comes to social energy. Procrastinators have less motivational energy, they prefer to conserve the little they do have and do things that are easy and undemanding most of the time and only to activate their motivational energy when it is unavoidable. I wonder if there is a concept of motivational energy in existence? I hope there is. That could also explain why people are super motivated on the first few days and lose it along the way. It just runs out. Most of us are not blessed with a lot of it so consistency in attaining one’s goals is hard for us.
  3. The negative impact of the must. Most people don’t like doing things they have to do. If phrased like that, this is demotivating. It seems almost hard-wired into a lot of people that whatever is a must is an unpleasant duty, even if it wouldn’t be in essence (like going for a run or gym). I’m definitely like this, perhaps to the extreme: make something a thing I MUST do instead of CAN do and I feel its oppressive weight descend on me and kill off all motivation.
  4. Points 2 and 3 stem from this evolutionary tendency and help to explain variation. Not everyone is a procrastinator, so the evolutionary theory cannot explain why some are classified as procrastinators and others not. Unless. One adds the component of other personality traits that can either neutralize (very high discipline and motivational energy, very high ability to accept authority) the general human tendency to do things in short intense efforts or cancel it out from manifesting.

It’s all rather vague and hardly more than a mind game, but it makes more intuitive sense to me than the perfectionism and self-esteem theories that strangely ignore aspects of procrastination where it is hard to imagine those forces being at play. I hope someone comes up with a more plausible theory.

Also, perhaps this perfectionism theory at least is yet another ‘saving of face’ strategy of the procrastinators themselves – being a perfectionist makes for a good, comfortable excuse. One can be proud of being a perfectionist. But admitting you procrastinate because you lack discipline and motivational energy is not so nice. I certainly procrastinate for those reasons.

On a personal note, I intend to carry out an experiment in mid-September and live without the internet. Since I do my work with the internet, I will get internet access during work hours, sufficient to read e-mails and do the truly necessary things, but no internet outside of work at home.

I want to see how that impacts my procrastination and whether I spend time better. I want to get something written, something that I see as my BA thesis in creative writing. But I put it off and off and off. So drastic measures are required. I get internet back when it is writ. I fear though, that I would just find other ways of wasting time instead. Such as daydreaming in bed of the alternative lives I could have or cleaning the floors (because I must write, but can clean).

Curiosity

Isn’t it a little bit wonderful, and curious, how people, what with all their self-centredness, take an interest in the world, and I don’t mean the world of other humans (like me with my interest in human nature), their ways, motivations and creations , but in things completely out of the humanosphere – like birds and mosses. What drives a person to want to understand the life of mosses? What is it to us how these mosses live in the forest? The possibility of learning something beneficial to us, such as discovering medicinal properties of plants or finding things in the behaviour of higher animals that could add to our understanding of human behaviour, yes. There is that. But, but.  It’s not always that.

Bog body

 

Book impressions: Jean-Christophe I

In my book destroyment post, I mentioned my ugly old editions of Jean-Christophe. I do exaggerate for effect quite often, but as one can see below, I was truthful, wasn’t I?

"Get thee off the shelf and on to the table. You will have your picture taken for the blog. Please be good and try to look romantically and artistically aged."

Get thee off the shelf and on to the table. You will have your picture taken for the blog. Please be good and try to look romantically aged.

These were published in 1958. They have been repaired with adhesive tape in places, the covers are somewhat loose, there’s pages sticking out, some staining, and general wear and tear. I got them for free at the library’s book give-away day.  Since I was so enamoured with the first book, I naturally checked whether there were any newer editions available so I could replace mine.

There weren’t. But what should I come upon but an advertisement on a local forum. Some person seeking other individuals who had read and been deeply impacted by Jean-Christophe, with a half-apologetic “I’m seeking kindred spirts, you know” at the end. If it hadn’t been posted 10 years ago, I’d have replied.

I don’t think I’ve ever come upon an ad like that on a local forum. A person seeking soulmates based on a book they liked? Yet I can totally see why this particular book.

It tends to inspire and pull into itself if you can at all relate to the main character’s aspirations and temperament.

I’ve been yammering on about Jean-Christophe on the blog for a while. I would apologise for it if I was sorry, but I am not. I want to write of what inspires me at a particular moment and sometimes it just happens to be one and the same thing. It took me more than a year to finish the first volume because I’m weird. The more I like a book, the more likely I am to put off reading it, and go for something else instead. I want to draw out the enjoyment of it.

The first book consists of four volumes and focuses on Christophe’s childhood and early adulthood. His struggles with an alcoholic father, the death of his grandfather, his developing musical talent and fame, his disappointments, humiliations, numerous infatuations, rebellion against falseness and unearned high status in society and in music.

Speaking and thinking truth

The final volume, Christophe’s rebellion years, was where I grew to dislike Christophe a little. Part of the charm of this book is that we are very similar, both highly emotional neurotics, passionately idealistic, who love life but hate what society is doing with it. Our personalities make us be tossed about by life, but we love it still, and find meaning in it, somehow. Just as he was crying by the river, face in the dirt, and was consoled by the awareness of “life” in the grass and birdsong, I’ve been consoled by the winds and the mists on similar days. Yet I couldn’t relate or like this Christophe who had nothing but contempt for every musician who didn’t share his preferences or was less talented, the Christophe who was difficult and alienated everyone with his frank nastiness. I didn’t like the pleasure he took in hating and destroying under the guise of speaking the truth.

I would not disagree with him. My understanding of music is very poor, but I too could relate to his sentiments on singers being full of affectation and theatrical performances being ‘unnatural’, with middle-aged ladies playing Hamlet. I would not disagree, but the manner in which he did it and what the results of it were – is truth in this form wise or necessary?

Truthfulness towards ourselves and towards others is one of the hardest things to successfully execute. Christophe failed and alienated everyone. When I start reading the second book, he will probably achieve a better compromise than that witnessed in the final volume where he had become a complete outcast as a result of his frankness.

Maybe the compromise could be that you remain truthful, but do not hate those with inferior abilities and discernment. A kind of sympathy rather than contempt? This might soften the harshness and antisocial way of expressing one’s truth.

However, the falseness one sees around ourselves has rubbed me the wrong way for a very long time, and inspires rebellion too, so I found Jean-Christophe’s frankness inspiring as much as I found it excessive and distancing.

I too have been comparatively more sincere and unversed in the art of social pretense, so I have a soft spot for such frankness, a kind of rational appreciation, even if emotionally I may recoil from it.

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Christophe rebelled against people who only make a pretense of liking music, but don’t love it.

There’s always been a lot of that about. It’s pretty classic to complain about upper and middle class people attending concerts or art exhibitions more for the prestige than for the love of the thing.

Of the countless girls who show themselves as great book lovers on social media, posting pictures of themselves reading a book in the wild, how many actually read that particular book? Isn’t it more often simply a decoration to get a good romantic look? Because reading books is romantic and if you want to ‘do’ the dreamer type convincingly, you got to have a couple of pictures of yourself reading, preferably on the beach, on a mossy stone near the ruins. I have no doubt some professed book lovers are sincere, but I have as little doubt that some are just putting it on as an element of their public image. And believing in it. That’s why Christophe alienated people to this extent. They believed their own lies.

I’m not above this either. I can create a good public image and in job or university interviews it has served me well. I can believe in it too. Don’t we all do this to some extent? I regret to say, however, that I’m a lot less intelligent and a lot less well-read than I appear. With the pace at which I read books, I couldn’t be all that well-read. I take it as a compliment when people assume I’m familiar with the authors they refer to, but frequently I am not and need to google not to lose face.

I think reading this book made me a lot more aware of my own lies to myself and this is what I’d like to reduce. To dare be a truthful version of myself. To find that truthful version from underneath the exaggerations and image-making. It has always been my goal to be authentic, but reading Jean-Christophe reminded me of how far I am from it still, how lost I’ve become.

The love of a thing. It really ought to be the primary guiding force for enjoying and selecting art to enjoy. Not curiosity, desire to understand and know what people are talking about, or the desire to appear educated. Pure love of a good book, film or musical piece. Not put on appreciation or faked interest. Genuine curiosity is of course different, but even that never beats love.

Maybe one way of uniting truthfulness with pro-sociality would be through a kind of trickster figure? As long as the tricks are friendly. And then there is comedy, of course. Laughing with, not at. I often feel that the only chance I would have of speaking absolute truth would be in my creations, because there I would not be limited by character. I could express all my contradictory truths and inclinations without causing dissonance.

I suppose what I would like to move towards is truthfulness even if it harms my self-image or disadvantages me. Today I caught myself once again denying a truthful assessment of character because I didn’t want to appear pitiful. I didn’t lie while denying it, but I diverted conversation to behaviours that I do possess and which contradict it. Yet, the former assessment was true too. I just happen to suffer from excessive pride and a disinclination to show weakness.

I think our Western society is suffering from the same problem. We attempt to eradicate and deny self-harming truth. It goes as far as the academia and science. We don’t want some hypotheses to be proven correct. We want to do away with truth that does not fit our desired image of ourselves and our humanist ideals, what we’d like us and humanity to be like. This would of course require a separate post of its own, so I won’t dwell on it further.

 

(Some more thoughts coming when inspired…)

Not practising what one preaches

Today is a hopeless one, so I decided to take a sick day in, read a book in bed and try a new comedy starring my current favourite actor. Writing on the blog also fits nicely into a day like this, so here I am.

While reading someone else’s blog, I noticed the blogger criticising one man, who was defending traditional family values publicly, but not being able to keep his own family together. This sort of criticism is often used to discredit what a person is saying. Even the most intelligent people employ it unthinkingly.

But if one thinks a bit.

Consider the people that practice harmful behaviours and preach it. Apologists of paedophilia and zoophilia, for example. Western society being heavily geared towards moral relativism, it is unsurprising that people dare to justify even such behaviours or that criminals may garner sympathy for having had a “difficult childhood”.

The main thing is, however, do we want to have apologists for behaviours that cannot be considered particularly ‘healthy’? Should people really be preaching what they practise? Or should the people whose families did fall apart, who can’t quite avoid cheating or be monogamous, who can’t quite quit drinking or eat healthy, should those people really begin to preach cheating as a justified necessity, drinking as beneficial to one’s creativity, and being fat from overeating as a new lifestyle choice? I think I’d much rather people didn’t preach their weaknesses, but joined the ranks of the “hypocrites” who preach what they fail to practise but believe in as a value. Who try to encourage others and society to be better than they are (even if this is not a concious aim, but more of an attempt to save face?).

I suppose this dislike for people who don’t live according to their ideals comes from the fact that some of them sound moralistic.  And no one likes a moralistic attitude – “You think you are better than us, eh? Look at your own relationship!” “My friend’s daughter’s grandmother saw you eating a burger in McDonald’s! Your healthy eating business is a fraud!” etc. Or maybe it’s simply the easiest way of discrediting someone’s opinion.

Personally, I cannot imagine turning my worst weaknesses into things I’d advocate. If I were an apologist, then an apologist of well-intentioned hypocrisy for the benefit of society, our values and healthier lifestyles. We really don’t need to have paedophilia normalized. The people that cannot help it should at least publicly denounce it, not try to paint it in a positive light. I can understand why they do it – they want a positive self-image, but well. If you are a terrible person, you should deal with the consequences.

Having said all that, I, like anyone else, much prefer a person who actually manages to live up to the ideals he or she preaches. Yet I don’t see why we should automatically discredit someone’s opinion if they fail to live up to what they publicly support. People are not ideal, people are often weak, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have some standards and ideals to aspire to. Speech over and out.

Why seeing a psychologist may not work

1. When I decided to study psychology, I was primarily motivated by wanting to improve the manner in which therapy sessions were conducted. I wanted greater intensity, lesser patients and more commitment to the few I’d take. The way things are done here, due mostly to financial reasons and a discrepancy between demand and supply, is that a person sees their psychologist/therapist/psychiatrist once a month. In milder or chronic cases that are unlikely to worsen, even less frequently, once in three months. Waiting times can be a month as well if you want national health care service. This is not conductive to improvement. There are so many people out there who haven’t found seeing a therapist/psychiatrist helpful. People who have felt very alone with their problem. You’d need to be incredibly strong-willed, motivated and prepared to do 90% of the work yourself to obtain a result. A lot of people are not strong-willed, motivated or high in self-efficiacy. They look to the doctor or therapist to fix them, but the doctor or therapist isn’t there when needed.

I do think medicine should be more about cooperation between the doctor and the patient, rather than the patient meekly accepting whatever the doctor prescribes, and placing all responsibility for treatment success on the doctor. In a lot of conditions, there is much the patient can and should do to improve and speed up healing. Psychology and psychiatry are very different from traditional medicine, however. They treat what can be invisible and hard to measure, so the usual treatment frames do not work. It is my belief that the role of the doctor/therapist is too peripheral for some of the conditions one is dealing with. I am not referring to people who have time to spare to untangle their unhealthy life patterns, like why they are so irritatingly competitive or incapable of commitment. Such people can afford seeing their therapist once in three months. They are sufficiently healthy and capable not to require intensive care, but people with depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress are very far from it. In such cases, the cooperation should be intenser and the doctor/therapist should be more available to the patient.

Distance works when dealing with treating the majority of bodily diseases. The medicines and treatment guidelines are fairly straightforward. Take this pill twice a day, avoid eating X and Y, get plenty of rest; if the condition worsens, call back. Come for a check-up in a week or a month. There is clarity and the person, unless bizarre side-effects or symptoms occur, has no need for a doctor until the check-up time. This is not so in psychology or psychiatry. The conditions a person experiences can often be surprising, bizarre, unbearable, the pills may not work, the side-effects can be more frightening than the condition. Point is, people are scared and would need constant attention, and they shouldn’t feel they are imposing when they call their therapist out of hours. Left to their own devices, the majority does not improve or it takes years. Alternatively, the condition heals on its own, which once again makes the psychiatrist/psychologist more or less useless.

Right now, the primarily role of the psychiatrist/psychologist is to diagnose and tell the person what is wrong with them. This is important too, but in the treatment phase, the person is very much on their own. I think mental health problems are things one shouldn’t be alone with, until obvious improvement has occurred. One CAN be alone with them and self-treat, or get better naturally because time is a great healer, but then we cannot speak of the psychologist (who cannot even prescribe pills) as being particularly useful or necessary.

2. The second reason, beyond the fact that a psychologist cannot give their patients as much time and attention as their conditions would require, is that mental health issues require a person who “gets you”, who would actually be capable of going on the level of the patient, seeing where they are coming from and why they are the way they are, and trying to help them from this position. It is not possible for any psychologist to understand all people and all their problems equally well, or have the motivation to do that. A professional would of course know the procedure for certain conditions and the typical symptoms of it, but this is not real understanding and the patient would feel it and be disappointed. Patients do get disappointed when they undress their soul, but get thinly veiled incomprehension or standard responses in return.

This is not the psychologist’s fault that the patients are very demanding in this particular way, but that they often are is also a fact. I’ve witnessed a number of people say that they found more help talking to people with the same problems, usually on the internet, than when seeing their therapist. I’ve also heard the opinion that one’s best friends are one’s best and real therapists.

If one leaves the hierarchical doctor-patient relationship aside for a second, it is not that common in life to find persons you click with either, but for some reason patients with mental health problems expect their therapist to be that person – someone who ‘gets them’ and gives advice that will transform their life. This is an illusion, but the patients are not to blame for their illusion. If a sick person goes to a doctor, it is natural they expect to return feeling better or having the security of pills they can take to improve. It can be very frustrating for mental health patients not to experience it.

There is a solution for this problem too, which others have come up with before me. There are trained support persons who have experience with the same condition or situation the patient undergoes and who’d hopefully provide what a psychiatrist or psychologist may not be able to. There are never guarantees, but this would alleviate the availability of support problem I wrote about in point 1 and the chances of clicking with your support person are higher too. Sadly, the bills of such a comprehensive service must be huge and most people are not aware of this option nor its possible benefits.

Unrelated, but on a similar theme:

I think that with the decline of religion in the West, a lot of us have not only lost the purpose in living, but also lost the opportunity of having someone to unburden oneself to, such as the priest or the function the confession had, or perhaps even god.

Who does one talk to if they have no close friends they can trust completely? Especially if a person has done something bad or morally dubious. If you tell that to a friend, you risk losing a friend.

I’d like to be a non-religious priest to non-religious (or religious, I don’t discriminate if they prefer me) people. Like Holden with his catching children business, I’d like this to be my job. The funny thing is that I don’t even want to be as non-judgemental, but I somehow cannot help it on an individual level. I may disapprove of a thing on the level of an idea, but when I hear a person out, I am more likely to sympathise. Sometimes I’m ashamed of myself for the people I can be made to emphatise with. But what can you do. Overdeveloped empathy, underdeveloped sympathy.

Too young, too old

I’ve felt younger ever since I remember myself. I had a younger sister and younger best friends in early childhood. Maybe it led to me wanting to identify with them, I don’t know. Youthfulness somehow runs in the family, too.

I’ve looked younger than my age from my teens onwards. Prior to that, I was normal and at one point I must have looked older. I was tall once. That is funny to recall.  One time in my life I was actually tall. Anyhow, looking younger continues to this day. Most of the time, I’m grateful that nature has been so generous. It feels very fitting that if I feel younger at heart, I should also look younger. I’m really most glad.

The only downside is dealing with the adult world. No, it’s not about how I feel inadequate doing adult things. I feel that too, but it is worse. People sometimes don’t take me seriously because I look 18 or something. I meet with raised eyebrows and confusion so very often when I’m trying to handle some formal business. I’m sometimes patronized. I’m often not treated with the same courtesy as more mature-looking people. Add to it my natural shyness, and the result is a disaster. I look like a total ingénue tossed into the real world.  And I do try. I try to dress more formally, but it seems to be of little help. Fortunately, there are people who manage to remain professional, but there is a lot of the opposite too. I don’t actually mind being patronized. BUT I do mind not being taken seriously as a customer when dealing with serious things. If my hairdresser patronizes me and calls me doll-like and sweet, they have my permission to waffle away. But if bank employees and real estate agents do that, it’s annoying.

This leads me to prefer e-mail communication to handle formal affairs. I’m neither shy nor will they see my face. Chances are that everything works out more satisfactory than face-to-face dealings where I regularly fail to appear assertive and competent enough. I’m actually both, if necessary and up to a point. But when I feel cornered and not taken seriously from the very start, I feel that I must prove myself to be an adult and I don’t perform well.

That is one side of the coin. It will most likely pass and by the time I’m supposed to start working as a psychologist I will be old enough in numerical terms so that signs of age will be visible. I actually hope to work with young people more, so that may be an advantage even.

The other side of the coin is that when signs of age do become quite visible, what of the 16-year-old inside? How can I keep her?  The world is so ageist and every behaviour is classified into age-appropriate and not. Oh well. That is to be seen.

Sunday

I must be getting old. Really old. My greatest dream is no longer an exciting and fun life, but one of peace and quiet. It feels bizarre to think back on this time last year and remember how I longed for exciting things to happen. Now, quite typically to any human, I long for nothing else but my release from such misfortune.

I was reading Hoffmann again. It so happens I’m foolishly in the middle of 5 books at the same time, so nothing ever gets finished. Hoffmann strikes me as one of those authors who is too rich to be consumed in one reading. He makes my head spin. His vibrant fantasy world is marvellous in small doses, but when I reach page 25 or thereabouts, I feel I need a break. Too much of the bizarre upon the bizarre mingling with the realistic. His writing reminds me of some very rich Baroque fabrics, with plenty of red and gold.

It is not a bad thing. Some books and writers are not suited for reading in one sitting. Typically the more philosophical and intellectual ones. I haven’t yet experienced it with a fantasy author, but I don’t often read fantasy either. Hoffmann just happened to bewitch me with his Cat Murr and his Romantic values. Continues to do so too, but I guess he is yet another author who is best read in small portions.

Beautiful hearts

I have some sort of interesting thing going on with beautiful souls.

Whenever I come upon one, either in real life or through TV or internet, it makes me want to cry. I’ve wondered about this sort of peculiar reaction a lot. I’m obviously touched that a person like this exists. But it doesn’t quite seem like a sufficient explanation. I rarely do actually cry, but I feel like their beauty pierces my heart somehow. That my own heart leaps up and wants to run to theirs. Or press their hand in sympathy and understanding. To express it somehow how much it means to me that people like this exist.

In addition to that mixture of joy and pain, I also experience an overwhelming desire to protect the said person from the world. Even if they are a grown man twice my age in no need of protection. But there is that feeling. Of a treasure. And a distrust of the world. That destroys its beauty.

But a grown man twice my age surely knows that….

An absurd feeling overall.

 

It matters, it matters not

At the beginning of university, I struggled with stress management. My particular problem were presentations and essays. I could fret and worry about them weeks, months in advance.

And then magic happened and I learnt to “think about it tomorrow”. While I so rarely make leaps in self-development, that was the start of my present life philosophy. That I consider to be the most useful skill I’ve acquired during university and during adult life in general.

At first, I used to think about things tomorrow when dealing with school work. Everything came to be categorized into two groups: the immediately relevant and the not. All things in the ‘not presently relevant’ category I would deal with when I came to them, a day or two before the presentation or essay. While at first a conscious stress-management technique, it later became automatic. Rather than worry myself sick over the upcoming exam session or thesis defence, I managed to switch off, enjoy carefree walks and film evenings and have an altogether better time of it.

In time, the same tendency to categorize crept into other areas of life. I’m  overly sensitive, so there is only so much I can take into heart. I had to learn to control at least to some extent what I care about. Psychologist might call it the repressive coping style. They say it is bad for you, apparently, but I’ve only found it to be good, so perhaps my strategy is not THAT repressive? I’ve never believed in suppressing one’s emotions. I’m the sort of person who advocates letting yourself hit the bottom because only then can a full recovery follow. So, when down in the dumps, I cry in my room and don’t repress a thing. When in the heights of happiness, I dance and giggle and don’t repress a thing either.

What I do believe in controlling, however,  is the things I have an emotional reaction to. If I allowed myself to take everything to heart, life would be too emotionally overwhelming. I’ve learnt to stay calm when someone pushes past me in a queue, cheats me out of a small sum of money, snaps the very thing I want from in front of my eyes, listens to music on full volume upstairs, gives me a bad grade unjustly, and other trivialities. I always ask myself in situations like that whether it would matter on my death bed. If it does not, it’s not worthy of a strong response. Rather, a few deep breaths and maybe a curse, and life goes on.

I also do not read or watch the news very often. Major news do reach me, but I try to avoid constant exposure and commitment to following the madness that goes on in the world. I admit I felt or feel? ambivalent about that. Am I being cowardly? Hiding my head in the sand? Perhaps. Some crime reports can be very detailed and it is hard to read without having your imagination spoilt by yet another atrocity that cannot be unseen. Also, what good would MY knowledge of the worst of humanity do? I’m not in a position to help or influence. It amuses me sometimes how people are opining away on TV about what ought to be done to fight crimes against humanity or do for the poor, but then go home, drink tea and have a cuddle with their spouse. Nothing but waffling. All talk and zero action. From times immemorial, the doers and talkers are often different people.

But, to return to categorisation, to what matters and what does not. The death bed question is what I keep returning to. If I lose something that seems important, if I get hurt or angry, I always ask myself if it would matter on my death bed. If it would not, then I try to calm myself, take a few deep breaths and let it go.

I lost my job? Will it matter on my death bed? Not unless it was my dream job. If it weren’t, there will be others. There always are. Particularly in my field.

I have even learnt to categorise illnesses and dangerous situations. I ask myself: is it deadly? Will it change my quality of life? If not, then I’ll suffer through it or try to ignore it if it is chronic and nothing can be done but live with it.

Human relationships are a little trickier, but to protect myself from overdoing on the caring front, I also tend to categorize people into two basic groups: friendship material and superficial social butterflies. The former I invest myself in emotionally. Social butterflies are the kind of charming people that you can have a nice chat with once in a while but who are incapable of caring about you deeply. They have just too many other friends and acquaintances, and a different sort of personality altogether. But I want some sort of devotion, even from friends. I want to matter. If I feel I don’t matter, my heart stays locked in self-defence.

Overall, this ability to categorize may seem suspect to some, but it has helped me immensely in limiting what I get worried, hurt, angry or sad about. Very often, I can’t avoid the hurt, worry or sorrow, but thinking like this – that it doesn’t matter in the end – it helps me overcome life’s little annoyances and disappointments much faster and relatively unscathed. So there is more room for my heart to be scathed by the big things. Haha.