Full Circles

Reflections on Living

Category: Psychological (page 1 of 2)

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

What is the Opposite of Play? (It’s not work)

The opposite of play, is not work. It is depression.1

When was the last time you allowed yourself to play?

Play is an antidote to feeling depressed. Play is fuel; without it, we run on an empty tank.

Play is a spark. Many of us need that to reignite our daily living.

Even dogs play.

Dog Playing

Work on play, and play at your work.

Related posts:

Here’s One Mental Model to Change Your Life: Press Play

The Movement of Recovery: Love, Work, & Play

Note: I highly recommend Stuart Brown, MD book, aptly titled Play. See also his TED talk. 

Here’s One Mental Model to Change Your Life: Press Play

 

play-pause-stop

We don’t stop playing because we grow old;

we grow old because we stop playing.” ~George Bernard Shaw

Mental models are powerful ideas to learn. They act like rules of thumb, that is, rough principles/heuristics  to guide the traffic of our minds.  The important criteria on whether to adopt a particular mental model is to evaluate, “Is this helpful?”

If you are in your thirties and above, you might recall the days of playing those bulky videotapes from a VHS machine. It requires manually forwarding and rewinding, until the tape head gets dirty and the visuals become blurry. Or you sit there, waiting for your favorite movie to play on TV, so that you can hit record (and pause when those crappy adverts appear), for many more hours of repeated viewing.

Here’s one mental model  based on this idea.


PRESS PLAY

When your life feels like is on pause, press play.
Play, do something fun, get down on the floor with a baby. Go to the beach, strum that guitar, or sing in the bathroom. tickle your partner.



PRESS PAUSE:

When life takes over and moves too fast like it’s flashing you by, press pause. Recompose, and study one frame of your life. Contemplate on it. It’s ok to take a pause.


PRESS FAST FORWARD:

When you feel stuck, it’s ok to press fast forward. Get out of the rut by stepping on the pedal to the wheels moving. Fast.


PRESS STOP:

(Ever heard a record player get stuck on the same groove on a vinyl and you just let it keep playing? It’s hypnotic).
When things play and replay in your head like a bad loop, press stop.
Then, change what is playing in the first place.

Have you ever feel like you are speeding to get to somewhere because you are late, only to meet with a red light? What do you do? You take heed of the sign, and stop. There are things not within your control. And realise the world is not about you.

Stop. Breathe. Re-treat, or just give yourself a treat.

PRESS REWIND:

Moments of transitions and change, or big events like Christmas, new year, anniversaries and birthdays, are a good time to press rewind.

Recall moments in your life that you were moved, touched and deeply grateful for. Look at pictures and journals. Put on that old song and indulge in the next few minutes. Go back in time. If you keep worrying about time, you lose time.

This is not simply nostalgia, but its a platform of creating self-continuity into your future. As the Japanese proverb goes, a good time to look at the past is on a summer’s eve.


PRESS RECORD:

Whatever the shit may be, don’t forget to press record. Then hit rewind, and play it back again. 
Learn to write things down. Date it, so that you know which time in your life you had this wisdom. To capture a moment, take a photograph. Not at yourself, but at the life that is in front of you.

Reflect:

Do you know what to press, and when?

No one strategy applies to all of life. Life has its platitudes. As the adage goes, if you hold a hammer, suddenly everything becomes a nail.

Play with this idea.

Where our attention is, that is where our life is.

Happy Christmas & a playful new year ahead.

Yours, 

Daryl Chow Ph.D.

29th of Dec 2016

 

The Movement of Recovery: Love, Work, & Play

sunset-summer-large

A man walking is never in balance, 

But always correcting for imbalance.

– Gregory Bateson

People with mental health concerns do recover. Even with chronic and serious mental health concerns like psychosis, obsession-compulsive disorder (OCD), borderline personality disorder (I prefer the terminology of interpersonal difficulty), there is reason to hope, as people do get better and lead a full functioning life.

And it’s also not about leading a  “normal” life, but an “optimal” life.

The literature in what is loosely called the Recovery Movement suggests several factors that contribute to a person’s recovery. Beyond what most mental health professionals thinks, it’s not just a reduction of symptoms like low mood, anxiety, or voice hearing, but rather consumers on the receiving end of help point towards a different horizon.

Gleaning from  a variety of clinical studies, qualitative research, and firsthand encounters with people on their journey of recovery, there are three pillars that stands out:

WorkLoveplay Continue reading

The Dark Side of Pursuing Happiness

food-sunset-love-field-large

The search for happiness is one of the chief sources of unhappiness.

– Eric Hoffer (1954)

Have you considered that there is something dysfunctional about our deep cravings for the pursuit of happiness? It’s like most things in our lives. If we eat too much of it, it spoils the good of having enough.

Dark SIde of Happiness Graph

 This is about the dark side of the pursuit of happiness.

The Negative of Happiness

My profession in the mental health circles are guilty for propagating this overly simplistic and self-defeating idea. Sometimes it’s bubble wrapped in the paddings of positive psychology. At other times, it’s coated in the zeitgeist of “client’s goal” when they tell us that all they want is “TO BE HAPPY.” Shouldn’t we listen and abide by their goals?

This is the danger. We fail to see the negative impact of over-valuing something so innocuous, and forget to critically evaluate the shadow side of this pursuit.

A recent study by Ford, Mauss, and Gruber 1 caught my attention. I was totally floored when I read this.  Published in a well regarded American Psychological Association journal Emotion, these researchers wanted to find out if there were negative consequences to people who valued happiness to an extreme. It turns out that not only do these “happiness-chasers” have worse psychological health, such as experiencing depressive symptoms, there were also associated with bipolar disorder! Based on the combination of studies that Ford and colleagues did, they were even able to demonstrate that participants with extreme valuing of happiness were at an increased risk of developing manic symptoms, as well as maintaining feature of bipolar if they were already diagnosed with such an issue.

I was aware that the clients that I’ve met through the years with bipolar symptoms sometimes have inflated and grand goal-setting, which spirals them in a self-defeating cycle. But what Ford and colleagues indicated in their study was a flashbulb moment for me.

This has important implications for us to come full circles and reconsider the ethos of knowledges-based, and sometimes hedonistic culture. Happiness does have it’s dark side.

As a psychologist, I’m going to take a more specific angle. I’m going to make the case about about the negative impact of our “happiness-chase” on our emotional wellbeing.

Continue reading

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