Category Archives: psychology

Take Courage

Exposure – Word of the DayIMG_0134.jpg

Augusta, the town jetty, and Blackwood River rising.

Fortunately we had raincoats and we knew the rain was coming, but nonetheless, with the wind whipping the rain along, and the cold air pressing in, we felt more than a little exposed. But, because we were prepared we enjoyed the walk. The tide was very high as predicted by the Weather Bureau. There was also a lot of flow from up-river after three major rain bearing fronts have been through and local flooding was expected. You can’t tell from the photo but the timber decking of the jetty looked as if it was floating as the water was touching the underside. We haven’t seen it like that for a while.

Weather exposure can be very serious, hypothermia or sunstroke, the risks are great if you’re not prepared. Preparation means covering up, sunblock, hats, raincoats, warm clothes, appropriate footwear. So that whatever the weather we put on what is necessary to be comfortable and to protect ourselves. However, we know not to wear winter gear in summer and vice versa, and usually we’re good at that.

We’re not so good with emotional exposure. We’re trained, or we train ourselves, to overprotect, and sometimes we wear the wrong emotional gear, like using the mask of happiness to cover depression, or the mask of confidence to cover fear. Rarely do we let others in, we become invulnerable, strong, a veritable fortress. Yet the best possible way forward, the only true way to wholeness is to trust others with our inner world. Of course, it goes without saying, you don’t grab a megaphone and announce your life to the world, but there are people in our lives we can talk to, take off our masks, and be vulnerable with.

As Brene Brown has said many times, in our society vulnerablity, to be exposed, is to be seen as weak. Brown counters this with “vulnerability is our greatest measure of courage.” Brown defines vulnerability as “uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure.” It is an opening of the self to another, whereby empathy becomes the healing counterpoint or the supportive staging point, depending on what we are going through. Brown’s research is thorough, and in it she discovered that every courageous act was underpinned by vulnerability. That tells me that we can only really flourish when we are able to speak our truth and take off our masks and be real with others, then we are whole and not just pieces or segments. The fortress life may serve us well but to really floursih we need to let the drawbridge down from time to time, otherwise we not only defend ourselves against the outsider, we imprison ourselves from the world. I’d rather be open than be a captive! Take courage.

cherry tree winter bare
cold has stunted many new buds
the wild branch has fruit

©Paul Cannon

Paul,

pvcann.com

 

 

 

 

 

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Fawlty Rage

Conniption – Word of the Day

The wonderful thing about comedy, especially satire, is that it tells the story of what is really going on inside. Take this scene from Fawlty Towers. John Cleese in conniptions, ranting at his car which has broken down (because he hasn’t had it serviced, he’s been avoiding the responsibility – which is a major theme in the show) and he, naturally,  blames the car. It speaks to the times we have been frustrated with our car or similar object. Computer perhaps? It reminds us that we sometimes internally rant, we might also mentally pick up a branch and thrash the car, threatening it to get it to start. We might not physically do it but we think it, well, some of us might, and that’s why satire is so funny, we know it.

One of the main points of Fawlty Towers is that Cleese’s character Basil is constantly feeling victimised, or frustrated, by others. His blind spot is that he cannot see that it is his own behaviour that is his downfall, not the behaviour of others. His lack of attention to detail, his choice of builder, his innability to get the car serviced on time, his failure to prepare for a health inspection and etc. etc. The show was also an outworking of the therapeutic relationship between John Cleese and his therapist Robin Skynner (1922 – 2000). Skynner was a family therapist and specialised in communication process, Fawlty Towers deals with communication issues in a number of relationships, and looks at self deception, as well as our unwillingness to deal with our own stuff.

Conniptions, rage, hissy fits, whatever, we deceive ourselves if we don’t look deeper and own the roots of our frustration or anger. Why beat the car if we’ve failed to take it to the dealer for its scheduled service? Why blame others when the fault lies with ourselves? (Of course there are a number of well honed answers and a body of research to answer those question) The beginning of conniptions is the time to take stock and attend before damage is done to a relationship, or the car,  besides, beating the car verbally or physically (or a person, heaven forbid!) won’t work. Dealing with our own stuff does actually  work.

the wind buffets
branches madly flail about
but stillness bears fruit

©Paul Cannon

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Scale Back

RDP – #31 Scale

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Looking through some of the online resource for anger scales I did laugh out loud. One set has “Call 911” which is dramatic, another had “Stop!” I mean, who’s going to just stop? Wouldn’t you have already done that if it were possible? The last thing you’d want to say to an angry person is “Just Stop.” That’s likely to further frustrate the angry person. By far the most concerning are those scales that say “Out of Control.” After all the work of the seventies to get people to see that anger is a feeling and that the feeling is not an issue of control, but rather an issue of being aware and attending to it, we’re still inducing fear of anger.

Actions that stem from anger are not the feeling themselves, they are a form of expression, anger looking for a form of outward expression. It would be wise to say put down the sharp object to an angry person, but not – stop being angry or control yourself.

It took a long time in human development to arrive at the idea that feelings are okay, they are simply feelings and that feelings are neither right or wrong – they just are. The other bomshell was that no one makes you angry – a very hard concept for some people to grasp, especialy as we often want to locate the rise of the feeling in someone or something and apportion blame. People can be irritating, there’s no doubt, but how we respond to them is actualy up to us, how we work in our feelings is up to us. We are all responsible for ourselves when it comes to feelings.

Anger is something we can work with. Numerous professionals in the field of counselling have written about how anger is an energy that can be transformed into positive action, and that results in our transformation from anger to reasonable. But by far the best way to transform anger is to reframe. By talking to someone, using I statements (I’m annoyed when I can’t … I’m angry when you say …), naming the feeling and acknowledging it. Naming it simply opens us to reflection, and doing that helps us with perspective, we reframe our situation and look on our feelings and process it, most often stepping back. Overall, I find meditation and reflection really help in my equilibrium.

One of the best resources I’ve encountered in recent years has been Pixar’s “Inside Out.”

 

flames sear my heart
my head is thrumming with noise
mantra is joyful

©Paul Cannon

Paul,

pvcann.com

 

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Meh?

Meh – Word Of The Day

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I’ve had a great day today, so it’s meh to meh. However, as an anagram, hem will do.

Hem carries two meanings or tones, the first is to hem a garment, as in the hem of the shorts in the photo, or hemming curtains to make them look complete and drop properly. Secondly, hem can also be about restraint, not just in stitching, but in being held back, trapped, pinned, stopped. People feel hemmed in if they’re on a tight schedule that seems impossibe to complete, stuck in a role they don’t like, or if they’re in a room and cannot easily break through the throng of people. In claustrophobia it is that feeling of being trapped in a confined space and the fear of no escape.

Phobias are helped by therapy, sewing by those who know how, but feelings, well they’re down to us. The feeling of being hemmed in is surely a time to take stock, to talk to a confidant and tease the feeling out, to prioritise and make adjustments in the daily, time to self care. Feelings just are, they’re never meh, but they are always a communique to take note and take steps. Feelings, especially those that alert us to pressure, are the best time to be mindful.

“If you have no power, talk about your influence. If you have power, talk about the constraints that hem you in.”  Mason Cooley

like a spider's web
gossamer-like I'm tied
meditation frees

©Paul Cannon

Paul,

pvcann.com

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The Other “I”

Doppelganger

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(Image by Toby Dixon: found at https://i.pinimg.com)

The term alter ego was first used by the Roman philosopher, lawyer and statesman, Cicero. Cicero described a second self or other self, he used it to describe his close friend and trusted advisor Atticus, saying in a letter to him: “You are a second brother to me, an alter ego to whom I can tell everything.”

But alter ego has also been used to describe something else, a person who has a second self which is distinct and separate from the person’s true original self, they literally live a double life. Or put differently, the alter ego is a differnt version of you, it is another “I.”

We can see this in David Bowie/Ziggy Stardust, Barry Humphries/Dame Edna Everage, Ernest Hemmingway/Nick Adams. In the dark sense this is Jekyll and Hyde, or Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader. In the hero sense this Spider Man/Peter Parker, Superman/Clark Kent. In the non-fictional sense they are projected or intentional personality, an alternate person, a way to express differntly. In the Fiction sense, it is a person thrust upon you or is derived from circumstantial change. But it can be dark and evil too, the unrecognised me as when the gentleman doctor Jekyll becomes the evil Mr Hyde when he takes a particular potion.

There is in some of this a hint of the shadow as described by Carl Jung where he talks about the shadow as being an unknown dark side of the personality, the unacknowledged, rejected least desirable aspects of oneself, manifests in dreams, and also comes out in the things we see clearly in others (ego, controlling behaviour, manipulative behaviour, fantasies, greed, lust). Shadow feeds the ego.

We all have a shadow, and some of us have alter egos, and some of those are dark. My late father was wonderful, caring, helpful, George in public and jealous, angry parent and husband in the home. I think we all have a bit of Darth Vader in our Skywalker. But if that is true, we also then have a bit of Skywalker in our Vader, depends where you’re standing and how you’re feeling, it’s never black or white. It gets dark when we fail to recognise who we are and how we are effecting others. It gets better when we acknowledge our other side and we put it to good use and it becomes creative potential (like Bowie).

I very much prefer Cicero’s original use in practice, that my alter ego is a close and trusted journey or soul friend. The twist is, if we have a good journey friend, they will point out to us the short comings of both alter ego, and shadow in due time. I hope you have a good journey friend, I certainly have a few, they are like gold, but a far better investment. Soul friends are the key to unlocking the shadow and pursuing the real me, that’s an alter ego we all need.

Paul,

pvcann.com

 

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Daily Prompt: Assumption

via Daily Prompt: Assumption

dirty-windows.jpg

The assumptions we sometimes (perhaps often) hold become like a dirty film that encrusts our windows to the point we can no longer see out of them! In other words, our assumptions blind us, distort our view of people and life, the world.

How do we form assumptions? Well instead of observing what is going on around us in the world, instead of checking facts, instead of trying to understand another person’s view, we tend to bias our views on what is going on in our inner world. And so we base our views on our emotions, feelings, expectations, beliefs, preceptions, and even our desires and wishes. Our inner world, which can be so helpful and yet in extremis, so unhelpful, becomes, in assuming things, the controlling factor. In assumption there is no second voice, no check, no brake, no alternative canvassed, it is all in our mind. In assumption we are going solo, but we are also going mono. The problem is we begin to believe our own views to the exclusion of other voices and facts, and we become convinced that we are right, and we live into our own reality, our own version of the world.

Simple assumtions don’t really matter, but important ones really do.

One example would be the infamous bystander effect. Following the murder of Kitty Genovese in NY city in 1964, researchers Latane and Darley discovered that there were many witnesses, but all had assumed another would act or do something, hence their coined phrase The Bystander Effect (perceived diffusion of responsibility).

Another example would be the original 1968 Broken Window Theory where Stanford psychologist Philip Zimbardo was able to prove that when buildings, parked vehicles, and property in general are left unrepaired, some people assume they too can vandalise that property. Thus, one broken window becomes several broken windows on a factory. We assume no one cares.

In terms of people we often make assumptions. We have written off people with disability, we have been suspicious of the foreigner, the refugee, the person who is different by race, colour, belief, creed. Sometimes we cannot even see the person if they hold different political or religious views. we assume they are too different, not from our world, not of our kind. We assume they are dangerous. We just assume.

assumptions - hippie peace freaks.jpg

We must clean our windows! Alan Alda makes a good point when he said: “Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.”

Assumptions are costly in every way.

One of the greatest antidotes to assumption is dialogue, to simply sit with your neighbour, be that house, train, bus, walkway, beach, college, wherever, just get to know the person and not the assumption. Simple really, yet so little practiced. The other antidote is to check your internal view against what is going on around you, don’t just take self-reference as the expert view, or what I call the Facebook view of the world.

Talk and reflect – what do you see now?

All is now darkened
my mind has painted the glass
my ears will bring light

©Paul Cannon

 

Paul,

pvcann.com

 

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A Little Reflection (Don’t Smash The Mirror)

via Daily Prompt: Narcissism

narcissus.jpg

Narcissus was the son of the river god Cephissus and the nymph Liriope. Liriope was told by the blind seer Tiresias, that Narcissus would have a long life so long as he didn’t recognise himself. As the story goes, Narcissus was rejected by the nymph Echo (though in earlier versions, he was rejected by Ameinias). He went to a pool and gazed in and was captivated by his own image. Narcissus was know for his beauty. He fell in love with himself, and could not leave his reflection, and as a result he died there. The ancient Greeks are said to hold the belief that to see your reflection was fatal (there is a third story that says Narcissus was consumed with grief by the death of his sister, but this is not commonly accepted).

Freud took the term and utilized it as a clinical descriptor. For Freud, narcissism is when you have an excessive degree of self-esteem or self-involvement (focus) which usually denotes immaturity. Freud noted that narcissists become their own sex object (sexual overevaluation), are experts on everything, have no understanding of other people’s boundaries, are likely to exploit others, suffer envy, and more. There are seven types listed, ranging from Positive Narcissism to Success Oriented Narcissism. Many confuse Narcissim with being egotistical, or with being arrogant. The fact that Narcissism memes float around Facebook with indiscriminate likes and comments is proof of this, too many think they can diagnose someone as a narcissist by a single trait. It’s more complex than that. That sort of thing is best left to those professionals trained to make such judgments.

But clinical diagnosis aside, there are still things we can attend to in this story.

It raises a number of valid questions. Am I consumed with myself (am I just gazing into myself all the time)? Am I aware of others? Do I know other people’s boundaries? Do I claim to know things when I really don’t know? Do I exploit other people? Do I shame others regularly? Am I crippled with envy? A yes to any of these would warrant some self-work to effect change. If we don’t we might just die! There is a body of evidence in the public sphere now where medical researchers have show connections between health problems and anger, jealousy, hate, egotism and more. Such things literally eat away at us. But we also die in others ways, constant anger kills relationships, as does egotism, envy, lack of boundaries and so on. And when we live an unfiltered life we not only have an impact on others around us, we also affect ourselves deeply, often crippling oursleves emotionally.

The way forward is not to smash the mirror, but rather to set the mirror aside and notice the world around us, to respond to others in our lives, to not love the self more than another (balance), to respect our own and other people’s boundaries … Our health is in each other, we are the key to each other in some ways and should value each other as reflections to learn from rather than being absorbed in solely ourselves. We are not singular repositories of excellence, we all have pieces of the puzzle of life and we need each other to be able to put the whole picture together as best we can, it still won’t be perfect (and my view is that life can’t be perfect, nor was it meant to be). Alone we may flounder and stagnate. Together we can thrive and flourish and grow. The best reflection is not our own image but the things we give out into the world.

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Love is Infectious

via Daily Prompt: Infect

IMG_0057 (original).JPG

My love walking the beach.

When we fall in love there is a chemical cocktail that is released into the body, literally infecting us with those feelings we call love.

Being attracted to another stimulates the body. If you feel elated, over-the-moon, energised, then dopamine has been released in your system. It works for other forms of elation too, winning a prize, gambling, sport, and drugs. Dopamine is the pleasure chemical.

Intimacy, closeness, bonding, means that oxytocin is in your system. Oxytocin is released when it gets physical, all that hugging, holding, kissing, touching, staring into each other’s eyes. Oxytocin calms and eneables intimacy and bonding. Sigh.

If sex is on the menu, then testosterone is in the system of both sexes. Testosterone is higher in males, and higher in male saliva, it is believed that kissing increases desire in both partners. Sex increases testosterone in the system.

Pheromones, those chemical messengers, also play a role in love, our noses are key to how we interact with others.

These chemicals work at the intense falling in love/sexual leel, but they are also released in long term relationships. They also impact in the four types of love, so that family, sibling, pet, and friendship also include feelings of love as these chemicals are released.

They’re the things I want to be infected with, the things of love, the elation, the focus, the bonding, the intimacy, belonging, joy, and the energy. Imagine if that infected the world!

The Beatles sang “All You Need Is Love” it was considered a trite song by many, and way too idealistic, and maybe that’s so, but there’s nothing wrong with poetic aspiration. I really liked then, Iand I like it now. And I beleive that love is all we need to change ourselves, and therefore, in turn, to change the world. It doesn’t seem that difficult.

Paul,

pvcann.com

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3 Day Quote Challenge – Day Three

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Viktor E. Frankl, neurologist, psychiatrist, author, holocaust survivor. Frankl was the founder of  Logotherapy (Existential analysis). Frankl, a keen observer of human behaviour, and especially his own (much of his reflection came out of the camp life) wrote:

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

I love this quote because it is so encouraging, we are not disempowered by circumstance or situation, only by our own refusal to engage with change. Frankl had to adapt rapidly to the life in the SS camps. First he was sent to Theresienstadt Ghetto in (the then) Czechoslovakia. He was later moved to Auschwitz in Poland, and then to Kaufering (a satelite of Dachau), and then to the labour camp at Dachau in Germany. He worked in camp clinics to help give fellow prisoners mental health tools for survival, and he helped newcomers get over the shock. thus, challenge to change was in his own experience.

Again, thank you for the nomination Soul Write Empire

Rules:

Thank the nominating blogger.

Post three quotes (one per day)

Nominate three bloggers each day, today’s nominations:

sumiswu8

Rohit Sahu

A Voice From Iran

Paul,

pvcann.com

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Laughter Is The Good Medicine

via Daily Prompt: Laughter

Rowan Atkinson as Mr. Bean.

In a documentary he did on comedy I remember Atkinson saying that he’d modelled Bean on the great silent comedy actors, Buster Keaton in particular. Atkinson was quite serious about his comedy. Mr. Bean is not everyone’s cup of tea though. Comedy is a matter of taste, some people struggle to laugh at contrived misfortune, others don’t get certain types of jokes. I love all types of humour, and I struggle to be serious for too long. I think life without humour becomes a rut, which “is a grave with both ends kicked out” (attributed to Earl Nightingale). Unfortunately we have entered an age of poltical correctness that won’t allow for certain types of humour –  it would be hard to imagine Benny Hill starting out now.

I thoroughly enjoy the slapstick of Keaton, Laurel and Hardy, the satire of Monty Python or Littel Britain, the black humour of Blackadder, the innocent humour of the Vicar of Dibbley or Keeping Up Appearances, and the pointed humour of Yes Minister. The gentle humour in Friends, or the raucous Seinfeld, political humour with John Stewart. Some of you may remember Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, in Australia the Graham Kennedy Show, the Glass house and so on, too many to list here.

Humour is even acknowledged in religion. Osho taught that laughter was releasing, and held sessions in laughter release, he also taught that laughter brought energy to the fore and was for a few moments a meditative state. Both Jesus and St. Paul used sarcasm. The Christian Pentecostal movement encouraged holy laughter as healing. In the Medieval Church a mass was developed in France where the lowest of society were invited to take high position and celebrate their own version of the mass, a social inversion, pure comedy. It was an attempt to offer an opporunity to release social pressure.  Naturally, the Church hierarchy were horrified, but the Feast Of Fools is still celebrated (and still upsets serious minded purists, which in my view is a good thing). In his book, “My Spiritual Journey” the Dalai Lama, reflecting on the many sadnesses of exile and hardship, says: “… I am a professional laugher …”  There is even laugher yoga.

Laughter is also homespun, families have their own treasure chest of humourous moments. Some yo uhave had to have been there to really get the humour. Mine include dad handing mum the steering wheel when it detached from the column (as we entered the school parking lot). Or when our family were at a Chinese restaurant and the vegetable oil for the sizzle dish spilled onto a napkin and my yongest son said: “I’ll help” and tried to blow it out, turning it into a blow torch that set fire to my beard (fortunately quickly doused). We are still laughing.

Laughter is releasing and it is claimed that it brings several health benefits. It destresses, uplifts, it is contagious, breaks down barriers, is enjoyable … Some of you would be familiar with the maxim of the Readers Digest – “laughter is the best medicine.” I certianly feel much better after a good laugh.

I love a good laugh and I don’t mind being laughed about. I like ot think I’m a professional laugher – I hope you are too.

For those who are more serious minded a video about laughter 😊

sitting for dinner
my beard is aflame now
laughter douses it

©Paul Cannon

Paul,

pvcann.com

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