Full Circles

Reflections on Living

Category: Psychological (page 1 of 2)

Recalculating

Jewish Buddisht teacher Sylvia Boorstein said,

“The GPS never gets mad at me… It just says, ‘recalculating.’ No matter how many times I don’t make that turn, the tone of the voice stays the same.”

Instead of being rigid and demanding of what we expect of life, perhaps our approach to parenting, relationships, and work should be have an improvisational quality of recalculating, recalibrating, or re-routing, and being openly responsive to what life presents.

The real challenge perhaps is how to stay unfrazzled.

Here lies a paradox: while we hold steady to pursue or goals and maintain our focus, we must continually let our expectations die. When we learn to let go of our demands of life, then maybe we can encounter life; the opening to live.

Daily, we must recalculate. And let the tone of our voice be fiercely gentle. 

Note to self: Remember this when my kids don’t do what I tell them to do.

“Will You Forgive Me?”

“The lesson here is that there is no fix. There is, however, forgiveness. To forgive yourselves and others constantly is necessary. Not only is everyone screwed up, but everyone screws up.”

~Annie Lamott, Almost Everything: Notes on Hope.

 

My spiritual director the late Fr Claude Barreteau, MEP once told me a story about a man who repeatedly climbed a hill every week to arrive a small chapel where he made his confession to a priest. He felt bad that he had been doing so for such a long time, and seemed to  make the same mistake. On the exterior, it looks like this person hasn’t learned.

But I suspect Fr Claude’s story speaks to the business of forgiveness, which is a daily affair.

Today, out of sheer frustration, I yelled at my daughter. She burst into tears. She was inconsolable. Maybe Mom would come and sooth her. I was rendered helpless. I chastised her for being rude in the first place. She cries even louder. Mom’s not coming.

Then, in exasperation and lack of ingenuity, I realised I scared her. I sat down on the floor and I said, “I’m sorry. I messed up. My loud voice must have scared you. I’m gonna try better again the next time…”

She stopped crying. She looked at me. I brought her close. Meanwhile, in my mind, I was resisting even ounce of my being to correct her faults. There’s another time for that.

For now, “will you forgive me” is enough.

We need to climb up that hill and come to our senses that “everyone is screwed up… and everyone screws up,” and come back down again.

See this video by Fred Rogers.

(If you can’t see the video above, click here.)

Weeds

I was a really good gardener, until I had a garden.

Never in my entire adult life, have I been so consumed by weeds.

Perhaps growing up in Singapore, where the majority of us live in high-rise apartments, other than the ones in pots, I never had to consider the upkeep of a patch of greenery.

Living in Australia on and off for the past 9 years now, I find myself wondering if I’m not doing something right with my garden. I mean, I’m not growing anything spectacular (or anything, as a matter of fact). Somehow, weeds seem to blossom with rage in my garden.

I secretly wish there was something I could do, once and for all, to stop them from ruining my life.

I was told by my neighbor that “it’s an ongoing business.”

A Builder vs A Gardener

All analogies have a point. Somehow we were indoctrinated to a Builder’s mindset. Plan, develop and build it. Maintain. Done. This doesn’t seem to apply to the messy business of life.

Instead, we require more of a Gardener’s mindset. Scatter some seeds, nurture the soil, protect and water it; let it grow. Prune.

Even before I grow more stuff in my backyard, I need to fully appreciate the business of gardening, or rather, to weeding. Subtract, not add. (See Point #3 of this blog)

And then I can consider to add. Add stuff like mulch and plants, in order to subtract.

When we think of adding a new project, we must consider what we need to remove for the new ideas to grow. When you choose to focus on one aspect of your development as a therapist, be ready to weed out what is non-essential. And if things evolve, things change. Your learning edge will change.

Chase two rabbits, and you’d catch none.

Pay Attention?

Protect your attention the way you protect your money. Because unlike money, when time gets robbed it cannot be retrieved.

“A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.” ~ Decision making scientist, Herbert Simon.

In the endless flow of information streaming at us and social media platforms designed to mimic casino slot machines, attempting to hook us in with more dopamine-driven feedback loops, not only our attention gets robbed, our intentions gets screwed over.

And in order to live intentionally, this doesn’t happen by default. This happens by design.

Be intentional on what you attend to.

Moved By Music

It’s been a long time since I’ve discovered a new artist that moved me. Rosie Carneys music doesn’t scream for your attention. It’s probably not going to hit some charts. It’s quiet, but penetrating. It’s soft, but her songs invites you in.

I am so taken by her music.

I first hear this track that she did called Thousands. In this track, she had the backing vocals from someone she looks up to, fellow Irish singer Lisa Hannigan (formerly singing with Damien Rice)

Here’s a live performance of the song, Thousands.

I wanted to learn more about her. The Web isn’t sprawled with information about Rosie Carney.

I was surprised that she’s only in her early twenties. At the age of 16, Donegal’s Rosie Carney signed a record deal that guided her away from the unadorned and honest songwriting that she wanted to pursue. After that false start, Carney knuckled down and got even more real and began to address her battles with anxiety, depression and an eating disorder that occupied her teenage years. “I lost so much weight. I don’t know how I didn’t die.”

Here’s a short documentary about her battle with anxiety at a young age:

 

 

In the video above, she said that the catalyst for change was when her grandmother, who was suffering with dementia.

One day, (my grandmother) asked my mother if I had cancer, as I was so thin…. that’s when I realised I need to completely sort myself out.

Music really became a form of therapy for her. The song “Thousands” speaks about her grandmother

Carnie Rosey’s music reminds that our life is not about comfort, but about courage. It not about living an anesthetic life, but to be awaken each day to the aesthetics around and within us.

Work Hard, Play Hard?

Modern life dictates we should “work hard, play hard.”  Why must everything be so hard? Why is there such an overvalued idea on being so hard on ourselves?

When can we nurture the times for softening and lightening up?

Maybe we should  “Work well, play freely.”

Go easy. Life is tough enough already.

Make Time

Sit on a chair, and look around you.

The table in front of you took many hours to be built; it’s four legs shaped symmetrically. The finishing of the wooden top, coated to protect from wear and tear.

The music that is playing in the background. A singer with a four-piece band, playing through the speakers. The layers of production to give you this sonic experience.

The building that you are in, sheltering you from the afternoon heat. The house that is now your home.

Four thin pieces plus a slap of wood on the top took more than 40 hours to be made. The 3.5mins song took more than 3 months to be written and another 3-4 months to produce (maybe a year’s worth of mulling with the muses—and writing other bad songs—to even begin writing that song). The house that you live in took more than a year to be built, another six months to make it your home, and a lifetime for its soul to come alive.

Everything takes time to be made, but so little to consume it. Even that chair that you are sitting on right now.

You are made in the passage of time.

Make time to appreciate the making of things and people around you.

Make time.

Against Resilience: Numbness is Not Strength

We often mistake the ability to persist and soldier on as a sign of resilience, an evidence of strength.  

The issue is that we overvalue hardiness, and fail to appreciate our fragility. Resilience connotes the notion of overcoming obstacles and setbacks, and the ability to soldier on. There isn’t anything wrong with that. In fact, we need to be able to go through hardships and difficulties and come out the other side with valuable life lessons—sometimes with scares to prove.

However, sometimes we need to embrace the fact that we don’t have to “bounce back.” Instead, we have to first listen to the inner workings of our body, sometimes we simply need to take the time to recharge, to re-organise ourselves, or even call it quits on certain jobs or relationships. No need for “bouncing” or moving on. Just sitting still. 

Resilience is obsessed with forward movement, as if life is a straight line. As you probably experienced it first hand, life is anything but a linear process. When we continue to persist in our belief that life is a straight line, we push ourselves ahead.

In order to “move on”, we numb ourselves. We mistake numbness as a strength.

Indeed,  numbness happens when the waves of emotions overwhelm. But if we numb-out because we want to be a trooper, we fail to recognise the our mind is there to take care of the body… not “mind over body.” As Tim Minchin said in his commencement speech, we need to learn to feel it, not fill it.

If we learn to feel it, not fill it, then there is strength in vulnerability. 

Information is Not Transformation

If information is all we need, everyone would have become billionaires, with perfect six-pack abs, so says thinker, writer, and entrepreneur Derek Sivers.

Information ≠ transformation.

We spend a lot of our time consuming information, in hopes that we can be transformed. What if we spend our time making attempts at transformation, and then, seek to fill the information gap, when we need it instead? 

Gathering information is makes you feel smarter, but no less closer to what you want. Attempts at transformation is almost always risky. Because we might fall flat on our face. But I think it’s worth it.

Watch this video.

On Suicide: “Do Not Make a Permanent Decision…”

Do not make a permanent decision

Image by Pablo Heimplatz

Do not make a permanent decision in a temporary storm.

 

This is one of the most compelling argument I’ve seen on the topic of suicide. This is from the poet, philosopher Jennifer Michael Hecht.

Hecht makes us rethink from a nonreligious perspective our cultural position on suicide as moral freedom:
“One of the arguments I hope to bring to light is that suicidal influence is strong enough that a suicide might also be considered a homicide. Whether you call it contagion, suicidal clusters, or sociocultural modeling, our social sciences demonstrate that suicide causes more suicide (emphasis mine), both among those who knew the person and among the strangers who somehow identified with the victim. If suicide has a pernicious influence on others, then staying alive has the opposite influence: it helps keep people alive. By staying alive, we are contributing something precious to the world.” ~ from her book, Stay, A History of Suicide and the Philosophies Against It.

Ripples

The evidence is clear that suicide impacts not just loved ones, but people around us. This is not to put people on a guilt trip. Instead, the empirical findings point towards reality, that we live in a web of relationships. Even a celebrities suicide has a ripple effect on others (e.g., Robbin Williams, Kurt Cobain, Chris Cornell).

Hecht goes on to make an important point: “Your staying alive means so much more than you really know or that anyone is aware of at this moment.”
Though suicidal ideation is different from attempting suicidal (The evidence is clear that suicidal thoughts are more common than we realise, and thoughts about suicide isn’t predictive of suicide attempts). If you are feeling vulnerable to suicide, or know of others who struggle with this, I highly recommend you check out the following, in order of priority:

1. 10 things I wish people understood about suicide

2. An interview with Jennifer Michael Hecht, on the renowned podcast and radio show, On Being with Krista Tippett

3. A short essay On Suicide 

Stay

Here are two points that stand out:

1. Staying alive is a life-saving social contribution.
2. We need to consider the rights of our future selves.

 

Here’s my plea to you: 
1. You matter more than you will know at this point.
2. Let’s figure out a way to end your problems, not your life.
3. Living is your right. You have a right to Life.

A recent Canadian study based on 2,884 people uncovered a really hopeful piece of information. Suicidal people are 7 TIMES more likely to recover completely from their mental health concerns when they have SOMEONE TO CONFIDE TO. [1]

Do not make a permanent decision in a temporary storm. Stay.

Blessings,

Daryl

~

Footnotes:
1. Baiden, P., & Fuller-Thomson, E. (2016). Factors Associated with Achieving Complete Mental Health among Individuals with Lifetime Suicidal Ideation. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, 46(4), 427-446. doi:10.1111/sltb.12230

2. I am a psychologist, but I’m not your psychologist. This short article should not be used as a substitute for the advice of a mental health professional. Please seek professional help if you are at-risk, or contact your local helplines to connect with someone. The first step is to step out, because isolation hurts.
 For people in Australia, here are three helplines:
Lifeline
13 11 14 – www.lifeline.org.au – A crisis support and suicide prevention service for all Australians.
Suicide Call Back Service
1300 659 467 – www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au – A free service for people who are suicidal, caring for someone who is suicidal, bereaved by suicide or are health professionals supporting people affected by suicide.
Kids Help Line
1800 55 1800 – www.kidshelpline.com.au

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