Full Circles

Reflections on Living

Category: Reflections (page 1 of 2)

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

Teach Me…

Teach Me-3

image by Aaron Burden

I woke up this morning with these words ringing in my ear, “teach me.”

Maybe it was because our almost 3 month old daughter was screaming for her feed at 4 in the morning.

But it struck me that as parent, we ruminate about how we are going to raise our children, and what we’re going to teach them.

What if we turn things around?

What if we see our kids as our teachers, not our students?

What if we see events as doors for learning, and not just a stimulus as we mindlessly react?

When something goes wrong, our default reaction is, “what’s wrong with me?”

Instead, we can turn things around and ask ourselves, “what can I learn from this?”

A Redemptorist priest I know used to share an antidote about Viktor Frankl, a psychiatrist who survived the brutality of the concentration camp in Auschwitz. Dr. Frankl noted, “It’s not so much about what you ask out of life, but what life asks out of you.

At this moment, what does life asks out of you?

I know that I’ve got to learn strip things down. Why? I need to be a better husband, father, and a son.

Teach me, teach me….

In Praise of The Nurturers of The World

MOther and Child Painting

To the Nurturers in our lives, I thank you. You are a gift to this world. You are gift to others. Without you, we’d fail to thrive and grow. 

From the words of Fred Rogers, 

 

“Think of those people who loved you into your being.” 

 

These people belong to the universal Nurturers of the world. Nurturers have a special role in the grant scheme of things. They bring a piece of heaven on earth.

 

To you, dear Nurturers, you are part of someone’s life. Like a gardener, you have sown the seeds for the flowers to grow, tend to soil, and water the plants; the work never ends.

 

Nurturers give. Like my mother, like my grand auntie, like my wife—mother to my two children, like many carers I know from my work with individuals and families. 

 

I heard a story from one my clients. He is a father of a five year old, fighting for his dear life to have shared custody of his child. He wants to be part of his child’s life. He divorced from his wife, but not his child.  He wants to be present. He wants to be a Nurturer for his daughter. It’s an upward battle.

 

Nurturers sometimes give all of themselves away. They forget that when they neglect themselves, they have nothing left to give. Dear Nurturers, please don’t forget about you. Because you are a precious gift. Treat yourself as you would to a beloved. What would you do to nurture that person?

 

A true Nurturer knows how to give AND receive. There is a gift in giving, and there is also a gift in letting others become a giver. By learning to receive, we allow others to feel the blessing you’ve experienced in giving.

 

Because of you—and those before you—a cascade is happening. Passing on love, from one person to the next, one generation to another. The passage of transmission is indeed unpredictable, but it’s also inevitable. It’s inevitable that you, dear Nurturers, have an influence on the one you love.

 

Once again, “think of those people who loved you into your being.” 

 

Take a moment to picture them in your mind as vividly as possible. Visualise them standing right in front of you. Now allow yourself to say a heartfelt, “Thank you.” to them. A mother, a father, an uncle, a teacher, a friend.

 

Better yet, say thank you to each of them.

 

Thank you, dear Nurturers. You have loved me into my being.

 

p/s: I try to remind myself to trade my expectation for appreciation of those around me. It holds an antidote to suffering.

Blessings,

Daryl

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

 

Creating Movement in Your Life: Put Your Horse Before the Cart 

People often mistake that

  We need to feel confident in order to do something with competence;

  We need to feel loveable in order to love;

  We need to feel good before we do any good;

  We need to know before we act, and

  We need to find the passion before we become good at a something.

It certainly helps if we do. But often, we are mistaken. We have put the carriage before the horse.

screen-shot-2016-10-01-at-8-52-31-am

Often times,

  We simply need to become competent at something in order to build confidence;

  We need to give love in order to feel love;

  We need to do some good before we feel good;

  We need to act in order to know, and

  We need to follow our curiosity before we find our passion.

In this case, we have put the horse before the carriage. And this allows movement.

screen-shot-2016-10-01-at-8-59-28-am

We are to learn not just to think on our feet, but to think with our feet.

There is wisdom in our feet. We are not designed to be sedentary creatures. We are designed to grow, and growing takes place when we move, both in our inner lives and our mortal flesh.

I look at my 3-year-old daughter. She thinks with her feet by trying things, even if it means that she might get a scolding or two for testing our limits.

Composers, movie directors, performers, writers and storytellers know the importance of creating dynamic movement in order to an experience to come alive.

We are designed to move and be moved. No horse with the carriage in front is going to get very far.


 

footnote: I gave a shot at drawing. Not the best, by I hope it does the job. 

Becoming a Gifter

i-beg-your-pardon-excuse-me-frog-sweet

   The truth is, I’m a lousy gift giver. Ask my wife.

   For the life of me,  my creativity becomes non-existent whenever I think of gifts to buy for her, or for family members (kids doesn’t count).  I once bought a jewelry box for my wife, when I later found out that she had hinted to me, that she wanted a particular inexpensive piece of earring. That wasn’t even the problem. The problem was that I actually thought buying the jewelry box  was a brilliant idea. “I nailed it,” I said to myself.

   I couldn’t have been further from the truth. Because truth resides in the other.

Insight isn’t a state of enlightenment or some form of intellectual prowess . Rather, Insight is a state of mutual agreement.  When we comment about a person, “He has good insight into his problem,” what we really mean is that we have come to a consensus, not some deep understanding of something.

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The Playful Present


Playful Present (See-Saw)

 

The present is a gift inviting us to open our doors. It flowers when we can embrace our history and welcome all  doors of possibilities of our future. 

This means that we allow ourselves to touch and heal past wounds, and live without anxiety of the unseen tomorrows.

Like a see-saw, it’s not easy (and probably of no use) to attempt to balance one side of the past and the other of the future in equilibrium. Rather, we show learn to play with it.  And when we do, we become flexible enough in the currents of change, and become inspiringly responsive, not reactive, to situations.

This form of  movement and openness – or vulnerability, is an antidote for the modern soul. Much like the jazz improviser responsing to the unforeseen musical turn that is up ahead, co-creating something vibrant and alive, and even joyfully unexpected; the moment-by-moment present, calls for our presence.

The best response you can have to any gift is to receive it. And playing with a gift is a true act of gratitude.

Have a playful new year ahead.

– Daryl Chow, Ph.D.

*playful doodle above hand drawn with Paper & Pencil  on iOS device

 

See-Saw (big trunk)

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.

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