Category Archives: psychology

Conscious Authenticity

via Daily Prompt: Authentic

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Sunset at Uluru, one of my many favourite photos of the rock, taken last year. Uluru is a well known Aussie icon. Primarily it is an indigenous sacred site, but in a broader sense it is a well known visual associated with Australia as a country. For us Uluru is as authentic as it gets for an icon, along with the Sydney Opera House and the Sydney Harbour Bridge. But Uluru is a natural wonder. The icons created by human endeavour are sleek, well designed and engineered, repaired and maintained. But Uluru was forged through time, weathered, beaten by the elements, sometimes shedding its skin as layers peeled off. It is old and wise and has many stories to tell, It has scars and wounds to show beneath its grandeur and striking presence.

We are a little like that. Forged through time, we grow and develop, mature. Along the way we are a little weathered, and beaten by the elements. And there are, perhaps, times when we psychologically shed our skin. We may well feel our age, but not many of us would admit to being wise – usually that is a label applied by others who experience us, and yet, in my experience,  every person carries a wisdom of their own. And we certainly have many stories to tell, especially because we have wounds and scars that are our story.

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. 
"It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, 
long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you 
become Real.'
 
"Does it hurt?" Asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes." said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. 
"When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, 
"or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. 
It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people 
who break easily, or have sharp edges, or have to be carefully kept. 
Generally, by the time yo are Real, most of your hair has been loved 
off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very 
shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are 
real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand. 

Margery Williams Bianco "The Velveteen Rabbit"

Unless we risk love, unless we risk vulnreability, we cannot become, we cannot be, And we cannot be real. The sort of risk I understand is expressed perfectly by the Skin Horse, that we loved and held to the point that we are both hurt and yet whole. But in the main it is our scars and wounds that really make us. They don’t define us, they help make us, help us to become, help us to grow and be authentic.

To be authentic isn’t to be a thing, to be some predetermined you, to be ‘someone’. Authenticity doesn’t come down from the heavens, it isn’t randomly assigned to you. To be authentic is to simply be the you you already are. But you can’t be that person unless you risk the scars and wounds of living, it is a slow thing, it takes a long time, but it is to have lived and to have been real.

As Brene Brown has said: “Authenticity is not something we have or don’t have. It’s a practice – a conscious choice of how we want to live. Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.”

I really like that, “Life is a collection of choices.”  and, that it is “a practice, a conscious choice.” Authenticity is something we can do.

Paul,

pvcann.com

24 Comments

Filed under bush walking, Country, life, mindfulness, psychology, quote, self-development, Uluru 17

Thwart Across, Side to Side

via Daily Prompt: Thwart

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These boats have timber seats, planks thwart the boat. Otherwise known as thwart seats because they cross from side to side. They are a seat , but only rudimentary, their true purpose is to act as a reinforcing brace that helps provide a rigidity to the boat’s frame, so a thwart seat is a double-bonus, seat and brace in one.

I came to this example of thwart while at the same time I had been reflecting on forgiveness. The more common understanding of thwart is to obstruct, to stymie, or block someone or an action. When we don’t or won’t forgive, then we thwart ourselves, we block ourselves.

There are many serious quotes on forgiveness, one that I like is from the Greater Good magazine from UC Berkeley: “Psychologists generally define forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness.” The upshot of this is that we unblock when we forgive, we help and enable ourselves to move on from the anger and pain. So forgiveness is about ourselves and not the other. When I forgive, the other may never know, but in the act of forgiving, even from afar, I am indeed releasing the anger, the revenge and the pain, I’m stepping away from the negative. And as a result I feel better, whole. And sometimes that enables me to reframe a relational conflict and bring healing into it, so that there can be reconciliation. Again, that’s because I have done the work in myself, I am transformed and able to meet the other, to enable the other, as such it is a double-bonus.

Forgiveness is not unlike the thwart seat, it spans from one side of a relationship to another, it bridges opinion and blockage, and most importantly, forgiveness supports me, and helps to hold me together when I’d rather take negative attitudes or actions. Without the thwart seat of forgiveness in our lives there is nowhere to place ourselves in conflict that has any positive way forward. As vessels we are fragile beings and we really do need forgiveness to be able to reconcile, heal and grow. Forgiveness is a gift to our selves, and yet also to the other, even though they may never know. Forgiveness strengthens us.

Paul,

pvcann.com

21 Comments

Filed under beach, boats, life, mindfulness, psychology, self-development

You Haul

via Daily Prompt: Haul

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That day! Moving out of home for the second time, this time permanently. The solemn art of leaving one family to start another. 1983, and the year Lyn and I got married, left Perth, and went to live on the family farm. The trailer we are loading is not a U-Haul by brand but a Coates Hire Service – Move It. But a U-Haul by any other name. Looking back it was a fun day really, and we hauled a lot of gear in a couple of trailers and my panel van, and it was trouble free.

What we weren’t fully in tune with at that point was that we were hauling other stuff as well, what we loosely refer to as emotional baggage. And that took time, patience, awareness, deep listening and support to release. Empathy won out and the baggage has somewhat reduced.

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The stored painful realites and fictions of life can be a massive burden if not acknowledged, spoken and released. Carrying alone can be crushing. Charles Dickens once said: “No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of it to everyone else.” We can’t carry another’s baggage, we can’t make someone drop theirs, but we can share in lightening that baggage through empathic support. There’s that old saying, that it takes a village to raise a child. I think it takes a patient village, a friendship or two,  to help us see the baggage and to begin to let go.

Paul,

pvcann.com

10 Comments

Filed under community, life, love, mindfulness, psychology, self-development

Frigid or Just Unheard?

via Daily Prompt: Frigid

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Photo: http://www.cleverdicc.com

 

There is such a confusion and misrepresentation around this word, instead of being an adjective, it has become a poisonous weapon.

Frigid was, in my learning and memory, principally a word to describe extreme cold. It described being out in the snow, or the wind chill factor in winter, or the bodily reaction to cold water. Who could forget the US giant Frigidaire and the heavy marketing of the 70s and 80s across the world? Their campaign aimed at Australia was one of turning extreme heat successfully in cool temps.

Somewhere, sometime, someone in history used the word frigid to describe women who weren’t deemed sexually responsive. Nothing, I note about men, though if you are keen you eventually find the references to men as frigid as well, but historically it has been used to describe women, because, well, only women could be dysfunctional – as if the planet were so bifurcated, ridiculous thought, but purely old school male thinking. The word was used in the sense that the woman was icy, frosty, frozen shut, cold hearted, incapable of warm response, and so on.

What it denies, is the reality, like all cheap put-downs. A woman, or man, who is (possibly) unresponsive may well be just exhausted. They may be lacking empathy, warmth, connection, romance, validation, equality. They may feel used, objectified, enslaved, robotic. They could well be feeling taken for granted, or stuck in a rut. There is no end to the possibility of why anyone might be (mis)judged as frigid. Australian academic Jill Matthews in her seminal work “Good and Mad Women” shows how women who failed to live up to male or societal (thus male) expectations were deemed mad, and some (too many) were incarcerated in institutions for the mentally ill, and in recent history!

Researcher and therapist John Gottman makes it clear that through his institute’s research over three decades, they have discovered that the real key to any problem is communication. Trivial as that may sound, I believe that in a non-defensive and mindful moment you will find that to be true, if you reflect openly you will know that it comes down how you perceive, how you think, how you respond, often without reference to the other. Gary Chapman, another therapist founded his focussed work on love language and communication which became his best seller “The Five Love Languages.” Clearly, communication is the centre of relational issues, not “I’m right, you’re wrong” or “You need fixing, but I’m good.” To call someone frigid is to hide behind a projection, an intent to wound or put down, a way of controlling another, a way of making oneself look good by comparison (the death of most relationships). It is an avoidance of one’s own part in relationship at the expense of the other, and in some cases becomes abusive.

The upshot of research is that most men don’t listen, I mean really listen, that active listening. If it comes down to sex, and it doesn’t really, solely sit there, it goes back to expectations, often unrealistic and selfish expectations.

Watch your expectations! Don’t hide your own shortcomings behind the other, and check your communication skills.

Just to give you an insight into Gottman’s insightful work:

Paul,

pvcann.com

9 Comments

Filed under life, love, mindfulness, psychology, Science, self-development, Sex, Therapy

I Churn For You

via Daily Prompt: Churn

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Image from b-i.forbesimg.com

Lyn’s parents left us a milk separator, and butter paddles, there was even an old milk churn in the shed, but no butter churn. Milk separators do just that, separate the cream/butter fat from the milk. Milk churns are misnamed in my view – they’re just a large metal container for transporting milk. Butter paddles and butter churns do something else, they turn the butter fat from the milk into actual butter, they produce something.

Emotionally we churn. Surely you’ve heard the term butterflies in the stomach, a reference to mild worry. I don’t make a habit of it, my stomach rarely churns, but there are those rare occasions. If I’m going to churn it will be heights. I was fearful of flying, and my first few flights were nerve wracking, but I’m getting better at it. I engaged with abseiling, that was certainly nerve wracking, but I found I could even enjoy it. But with each activity, the night before I would be churning, worrying, mulling it over. By the morning I was no better, often exhausted from all the useless churning because my sleep had been interrupted or prevented by all the worry. Now it’s different, I find a mindful approach is helpful.

All the ancient cultures and religions relate strong emotional fellings to the stomach, hence the term “I have a gut feeling.” A churning stomach is, for many, a far too regular experience. Churning stomach often results from anxiety and stress. While the habit in days gone by (in the West) was to prescribe something, eventually there was a realization that worry was different to stomach ailments or sickness. A churning stomach is simply the body getting our attention that we need to make some adjustments to whatever the body is registering.

The ancient cultures and religions, (and now) modern medicine, suggest more simple, even commensense remedies to help end the churning: Adjusting diet (reducing sugar, caffeine and alcohol, other stimulants, large meals in general), exercising, and ensuring adequate sleep. In addition, and more importantly, a mindful approach is beneficial: adjust your breathing (awareness, calm breathing), relaxation, reduce stress (awareness), meditate, rest, and adjust whatever it is that is the cause of your churning. If we don’t take steps to adjust and change, then why expect anything to be different? For me, rest, creativity (simply writing or painting is a wonderful reframing), exercise, and meditation make all the difference. Stop, breathe, reframe, and arrest the churn.

Paul,

pvcann.com

6 Comments

Filed under Farm, life, meditation, mindfulness, psychology, religion, self-development

Betrayal Hurts

via Daily Prompt: Betrayed

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Photo: moviedb.org  – Richard Burton as Alec Leamas, the spy who takes on one more mission in East Germany, only to discover layer upon layer of deception, and his own betrayal (‘The Spy Who Came In From The Cold’ by John le Carre), a story often used, and most recently in Atomic Blonde (from the graphic novel ‘The Coldest City’).

We’ve all tasted betrayal.

Betrayal is an auspicious topic for Good Friday. Today recognises the crucifixion of Jesus. One particular detail in the story, is the cold and public betrayal by his disciple Judas. Judas is dazzled by money, he’d been stealing from the communal purse and now he was enamoured with the thirty pieces of silver he was offered to publicly identify Jesus to an arrest party. As the story goes, Judas leads a party of soldiers and police to where Jesus is, and identifies Jesus by greeting and kissing him. Essentially the kiss of death for a man he professed to follow.

There are many classic stories of betrayal. The Song of the Niebulungs which tells of the betrayal of the dragon slayer Siegfried. Odin was considered by the Norse to be the god of frenzy and betrayal. Euripides’ famous story of how Jason abandons his wife Medea for a younger woman is chilling, it ends badly.

Modern stories abound. Anything by Graham Greene, but especially ‘The End of the Affair’, and classic spy stories are essentially betrayal stories especially as written by John le Carre.

The stories of betrayal, whether true or fiction, actually bear out the popular saying: “The saddest thing about betrayal is that it never comes from your enemies, it comes from your friends and loved ones.” That’s why it hurts so much. Siegfried’s wife takes revenge, Medea kills the children, Alec Leamas chooses death even when he is able to reach freedom. We’re not told what Jesus thinks about betrayal, but he is consistent with his teaching about forgiveness and love, he refuses to stoop to the level of those who whip and kill him.

But for us mere mortals there is a piece of very sound advice to heed: “If someone betrays you once, it’s their fault; if they betray you twice, it’s your fault.” (Eleanor Roosevelt) Clearly boundaries matter. But even then …

I find myself drawn to what Jesus lived and taught – that forgiveness (properly understood) is life giving.

Paul,

pvcann.com

5 Comments

Filed under community, history, life, love, Mythology, psychology, religion, self-development, Spirituality

Faceless Fawkes

via Daily Prompt: Faceless

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To wear a mask is to be intentionally faceless, or differently faced. The Guy Fawkes (he of the Fifth of November plot) mask has become popular, especially with the Occupy Movement (which is still active, if you were wondering) and Anonymous. It’s modern usage was inspired by the grahic novel V For Vendetta, which is a dystopian story in which the hero, an anarchist seeks to defeat the fascist government ruling England. Ironically, V desires anarchy – people will be allowed to do as they please, there will be no more control, yet this replaces the total control of fascism. One extreme to the other! I call V’s version ‘no-hopia.’ V’s dream comes to fruition even as he is dying, and in the novel it is the final scene where the lights go out on the freeway that makes the point, V’s mask hides another form of dystopia. England has gone from total repressive control to no control, and nothing in between. V’s goal was no goal.

One of the criticisms of the Occupy Movement is that it has had no real goal or drive other than to protest the evil of capitalism. Perhaps that is the frustrated view of those who expected anarchy, or revolution to ensue in some particular way? Another group, Anonymous have been associated with anarchism, exposure and disruption of governemnt and corporations. For me the Occupy Movement and Anonymous were symbolised by the mask, lacking face and lacking cohesion. In my view they were hiding even from themselves and perhaps, therefore, from purpose. Protest for protests sake goes nowhere, there must be resolve, there must be purpose, and it must be authentic.

We have enjoyed many masked heroes too. Batman stands out, but yet Batman is as dark as his enemies, and his mask belies the hero (which in reality I accept, who is perfect? No one is that good).

But Guy Fawkes never wore a mask. He was caught red-handed ready to light the fuse that would blow up the English pariament house. That’s courage, that’s purpose. Not that I’m encouraging anyone to rush out and follow his example (however …).

As e.e. cummings said: “The greatest battle we face as human beings is the battle to protect our true selves from the self the world wants us to become.”

Psychology teaches us that we all wear masks, to protect, hide, obscure, change who we are in differnt contexts. We seek to avoid being found out (the Imposter Syndrome), sometimes we believe we are unworthy and so we project a personae to cope, to win friends, to make our niche, to avoid being hurt. Sometimes we hide too much and people miss who we really are, or colleagues never really appreciate our potential, there are risks with masks.

There is always the real self, the deeper you, the authentic you inside. I want the real you.

Oscar Wilde once said: “Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.”

Paul,

pvcann.com

 

13 Comments

Filed under history, life, Philosophy/Theology, politics, psychology, self-development

Grasping The Hot Coal

via Daily Prompt: Grasp

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The quote is often attributed to the Buddha, however, he never said it (see: fakebuddhaquotes.com). It is thought to have originated from the fifth century commentator Buddhaghosa who said: “By doing this you are like a man who wants to hit another and picks up a burning ember or excrement in his hand and so first burns himself or makes himself stink.” Visuddimagga 1X,23. At least the Quotery didn’t get it wrong.

What a great quote! Another great teacher, Jesus, once said “… do not let the sun go down on your anger …” So a similar perspective – don’t hang onto it.

Whichever quote you choose, the point is made, that anger grasped and held is toxic. We know that feelings are neither right nor wrong, they just are, but when we hang onto one or another they change us. Science can now show how the hormones associated with anger, especially when suppressed or lacking expression, poison our system affecting us body, mind and soul. Stress, cardio, respiratory, muscle, blood, all deeply affected. Anger is normal in context, but to never express it or deal with it will affect our lives in every way. When anger becomes a pathology, a way of being, a default, it cripples us, and especially because in that way, we are most likely unaware of it. It can be difficult when anger is attached to identity issues, rejection, depression (anger turned inwards) suppressed gratification, bullying and so on. However, we must learn to let go, to set issues aside, to talk it through, to call for help, get a perspective, find a position of empathy and compassion, I find meditation forms very helpful. Anger isn’t wrong, just don’t hang onto it otherwise it will consume you. Besides, who wants to be defiend by anger?

Paul,

pvcann.com

 

28 Comments

Filed under life, mindfulness, psychology, self-development, Spirituality

We Can All Restart

via Daily Prompt: Restart

 

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I’m always amazed at the resilience of nature. This section of the Bibbulmun Track had suffered an intense bushfire in 2014, but as we walked it, we encountered nature’s restart or recovery. In particular the eucalypts are hardy and you can see the regrowth along the burnt branches, and the regeneration in the grass trees or xanthorroea in the foreground. We were walking in the spring of 2015, so two winters had washed over the section and helped in the regeneration.

The resilience of nature is not indistinct from trees or animals, all living things demonstrate a hardy capacity to survive, adapt and recover from hardship, even regenerate after near annihilation. No less humans. Surviving cancer, divorce, near death, redundancy, the onset of debilatating health problems, disability and more, are all effects that people have demonstrated not just survival, but a capacity to turn their lives around and start again.

I think one of the greatest examples would have to be Nelson Mandela, who determined a change in his political goals and style, and in how he would lead. As he sat in prison on Robben Island (Mandela was incarcerated in a number of prisons, but spent most time at Robben Island) he determined that he could not continue as he had begun, but rather, he needed to let go of bitterness.

Mandela said  “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”

And, not unlike the regrowth of the Eucalypts after a bushfire, Mandela experiences a personal regrowth by letting go the past, and letting go the potential attendant bitterness and hatred that, he acknowledges, would cripple him and indeed, imprison him. He lets go. He literally blooms. And the result is recovery, he restarts his life and becomes a gift to his own people, and in the end a gift to all peoples.

We all need to review our lives, we all need to attend and be aware of what we need to let go of lest it cripple us and therefore determine our lives in the negative.

We all have the capacity to restart, and constantly.

Paul,

pvcann.com

18 Comments

Filed under bush walking, community, environment, life, mindfulness, nature, Philosophy/Theology, psychology, Restorative Justice, self-development

What Do You See?

Premonition

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Back in the nineties I was working in a country high school. One Friday I passed one of the teachers in the stair well, and I greeted her, as I normally would have done on any day. She looked up, and nodded, I couldn’t make sense of her grunted, terse,  reply. But I noted her eyes, black holes, pits that never ended, and it startled me. I commented to a couple of people who merely retorted that she was under pressure, her marriage was struggling, and she was always terse. But that’s not what bothered me, they were merely symptomatic, this was deep.

I left that afternoon with a heavy heart. It was a long weekend ahead and lots to do at home, so I turned my mind to the journey home. I spent Saturday around the farm and with the family. But all through Saturday I felt a deep pressure. I wasn’t ruminating. It was just there, and probably stemmed from my meeting in the stairwell. I felt that she was on edge, at risk.

Come Monday afternoon I told Lyn that I was feeling like something really bad had happened, but I didn’t know what, but that my colleague was in trouble. It was oppressive. At around 5.00 p.m. a friend rang me to ask if I was aware of the news around town, and I said I had no idea, but now my mind was racing. My friend replied that someone who was always scanning the short wave news, had picked up a police report of a death, something to do with the teacher and thought I should know. I realised immediately that my feeling was real.

I later rang the deputy principal and yes, the teacher had shot her husband then shot herself in a carefully planned action. She had her resolution, sadly. But I had had a premonition. It was painful knowing, and painful not being able to use the sense of it. It was what it was, and nothing could have been done (as my training tells me). The use of a premonition is not clear to me, but somehow I felt connected to a process no matter its outcome. It was a diferent level of awareness.

Paul,

pvcann.com

 

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Filed under community, life, mindfulness, psychology