Getting Better is Not as Easy as You May Think

The first step towards getting well is admitting you have a problem. Since I recognised my condition, I have striven to overcome it with alcohol, drugs, and mindless activity. But I must always be alert, because the golden retriever of cheerfulness can sneak up on one at any time and inevitably leads to serious disruptions of normality.

It is proposed that happiness be classified as a psychiatric disorder…..

https://jme.bmj.com/content/medethics/18/2/94.full.pdf

Impulse Control

At the Really Really Fat Persons’ Support Group today it was the turn of the psychologist. We learned about triggers, thoughts and feelings, and ways to control our base gourmand impulses.

I took the impulse control lesson to heart, and practiced it on the drive home. As I drove up to the corner where Beefy’s Pies is located, I had a sudden impulse to drive on by and just go home for a salad later in the evening. Why this even occurred to me at all I have no idea, but I fought it manfully with the deep breathing technique I had just learned.

I turned into Beefy’s car park and went to order 1875 kJ of delight. Just to demonstrate to myself I had this impulse rubbish under control, I deliberately and considerately ordered chips and a cappucino as well. Add on another 1800 kJ. That was lunch and dinner taken care of in one fell impulse control. Sod the lettuce.

On to the pool, where I proceeded to burn off the surplus energy. Two hours and an estimated 6,000 negative kJ later it is 6:30 already and I am wondering why it’s dark. How did that happen? The pool is becoming my Happy Place.

Now the uncomfortable return of gravity. It’s time to go home.

All I need this evening is a mandarin and a mineral water.

I’ve got this.

Aberdeen

I’ve been a wanderer all of my life, and many’s the sight I’ve seen…

There is no Aberdeen to which I long to return. My whole life has been spent moving on. There has never been anywhere for me to return to, because it was no longer there after I left.

I can remember two homes in England before I was five. We had five more homes in four towns in New Zealand before I was eleven.

The most stable period of my youth was my teenage years in West Auckland. After that I moved around a lot again, until I acquired a family and had a second, relatively stable, period with them in only three locations. And that didn’t last either. Not nearly as long as I wanted. It was not my choice. Which does not mean it was not my fault. I don’t know.

What I do know is there is nowhere to which I can return. No family seat, no family. Just scattered relatives. A few friends.

In the small hours I wonder “What if?” There is no answer except the soft early call of the magpie who roosts in the trees behind my caravan.

I ponder the events that led me here. Living with anyone is difficult. When does the effort become too much? Is the person wiser who decides “enough” or the one who keeps trying? Who is at fault, when someone calls enough? Perhaps the fault must always be borne by both.

I am trying to be more zen in my introspection and self-appraisal. I accept what is, but still can’t help wondering what if? I am the sum of my memories. I owe it to myself and the world to ensure my memories are honest and clear.

I was not a good son, I was not a good brother, I proved to be a poor husband, Twice. I truly don’t know any more what kind of father I was. I want to write accurately about my memories. Of what made me what I am. That will not always put me in a good light, but it also may not please those who get to see themselves as I saw them. They may see my perception of causality as blame. But one does not blame the sun for sunburn. It is what happens.

Well. Wow. I didn’t know that was where I was going when I started this post.

Poor Old Horse

I’m paying for all this activity with extra aches and pains, but I keep telling myself it’s a good thing, and it will get better. As long as I keep my knees from twisting while they are flexing. It happens sometimes while pedalling. That fuckin’ hurts badly. I cannot ride with the ball of my foot on the pedals because the positioning of the seat, handlebars and pedals do not allow me to bend my knees that far. So I pedal with my heels. Because I am a bit splay-footed my knees poke out sideways. I need to be careful to avoid the sideways twinge. Pain is a good tutor.

Now while I ride there is a more acceptable sort of pain developing in my thigh and calf muscles, which tells me they are burning energy and performing work. I am now pedalling all the time, with the electric assist set to minimum. The boost is off, so the accelerator doesn’t work. That means the bike only helps when I’m actually pedalling. I’ve been heading out further afield and encountering some slightly more challenging hills. Definitely need the gears. I know I’m contributing significantly to my own progress because apart from being able to feel it, I’ve learned to read the LED lights that tell me how much contribution the bike is making. Also I’ve used up less battery charge by the time I get home even though I’m venturing further.

I’m still marvelling to myself how much I’m enjoying this effort.

In the water, things are even better. The initial shoulder aches and pains last less than fifteen minutes at the beginning of my swim. After that, endorphins or muscle memory or something kicks in and I seem to be able to just keep swimming. Slow and steady. Today I swam another 140 minutes, yesterday 130. I still resist my tendency to count Strokes and laps as I go, cycling through mantras like “Just keep swimming” “Om mane padme Om” finally, to trying to fit sea shanties into my rhythm. While trying to remember all the verses and versions. To quote Dylan Thomas; “Time passes”.

As an aside, by sheer coincidence, today was “Talk Like a Pirate Day”.

Yaarrrr!

Poor Old Man

A poor old man

Came riding by.

And we say so,

And we know so.

O, a poor old man

Came riding by,

O, poor old man.

Says I, “Old man,

Your horse will die.”

And we say so,

And we know so.

And if he dies

we’ll tan his hide.

O, poor old man.

And if he don’t,

I’ll ride him again.

And we say so,

And we know so.

And I’ll ride him

‘Til the Lord knows when,

O, poor old man.

He’s dead as a nail

In the lamp room door,

And we say so,

And we know so.

And he won’t come

Worrying us no more

O, poor old man.

We’ll use the hair of his tail

To sew our sails

And we say so,

And we know so.

And the iron of his shoes

To make deck nails,

O, poor old man.

Drop him down

With a long long rope

And we say so,

And we hope so.

Where the sharks have his body

And the devil takes his soul!

O, poor old man.

Another Version

Poor Old Horse

They say, old man,

your horse will die

(And they say so, and we hope so)

They say, old man,

your horse will die

(Oh poor old man)

And if he dies then we’ll tan his hide

(And they say so, and we hope so)

Aye and if he dies then we’ll tan his hide

(Oh poor old man)

And if he lives then we’ll ride again

(And they say so, and we hope so)

Aye and if he lives then we’ll ride again

(Oh poor old man)

And it’s after years of sore abuse

(And they say so, and we hope so)

Then we’ll salt him down for the sailors’ use

(Oh poor old man)

He’s as dead as a nail in the lamp room floor

(And they say so, and we hope so)

He’s as dead as a nail in the lamp room floor

(Oh poor old man)

Aye and he won’t bother us no more

(And they say so, and we hope so)

Aye and he won’t bother us no more

(Oh poor old man)

And it’s Sally’s in the garden and she’s picking the peas

(And they say so, and we hope so)

Aye and her long black hair’s hangin’ down to her knees

(Oh poor old man)

And it’s Sally’s in the kitchen and she’s baking the duff

(And they say so, and we hope so)

Aye and the cheeks of her arse are going chuff, chuff, chuff

(Oh poor old man)

And it’s down the long and the winding road

(And they say so, and we hope so)

And it’s down the long and the winding road

(Oh poor old man)

It’s mahogany beef and the weevily bread

(And they say so, and we hope so)

It’s mahogany beef and the weevily bread

(Oh poor old man)

And I thought I heard the Old Man say

(And they say so, and we hope so)

Just one more pull and then belay

(Oh poor old man)

Just one more pull and that will do

(And they say so, and they hope so)

For we’re the lads to kick her through

(Oh poor old man)

Questionnaire


How much poison are you willing
to eat for the success of the free
market and global trade? Please
name your preferred poisons.


For the sake of goodness, how much
evil are you willing to do?
Fill in the following blanks
with the names of your favorite
evils and acts of hatred.


What sacrifices are you prepared
to make for culture and civilization?
Please list the monuments, shrines,
and works of art you would
most willingly destroy.


In the name of patriotism and
the flag, how much of our beloved
land are you willing to desecrate?
List in the following spaces
the mountains, rivers, towns, farms
you could most readily do without.


State briefly the ideas, ideals, or hopes,
the energy sources, the kinds of security,
for which you would kill a child.
Name, please, the children whom
you would be willing to kill.

Wendell Berry

DSC02094

 

Changes.

At the end of the 1960s, and the mystical hippie dawning of the Aquarius age, we were all still searching for meaning.

The big four philosophers when I was 18 were Hesse, Vonnegut, Brautigan and Tolkien.

Of course I read other influential writers, but at the time I really believed everything I needed to know about being a decent human being was in the works of those four, though it took me another 50 years to really begin to understand why.

There was another influential book I encountered.

In the course of exploring the world I came upon the I Ching. inevitably. It had a great deal of credibility amongst the hippies of my generation. Of course I looked into it. I still have, in my lock-up in New Zealand, a beautiful translation from Chinese through German to English, of the I Ching by Richard Wilhelm.

Yarrow sticks were hard to come by where I grew up, but I was a numismatist, and had in my collection several of those fascinating old Chinese coins with square holes. It seemed appropriate to use them. Having designated which side was heads and which was tails, I had a culturally acceptable method of obtaining a randomly generated hexagram, in accordance with the instructions accompanying the book.

My youthful, hopeful self was quite surprised to find how seemingly accurate and appropriate was the advice I gleaned from the wise words of the Tao. The last remnants of my Roman Catholic superstition we’re slowly fading at the time (now only the guilt remains) and I could possibly have easily fallen into the woo mentality of believing some spiritual power, something beyond myself, was guiding me, through the words of the book.

But I read something – I don’t recall exactly where – some scientific article, perhaps, that said our brains were hard-wired to look for patterns. We look for visual patterns, such as potentially threatening animal or human shapes hiding in the trees, and we look for patterns of events and try to make some sense, often wrong, of the coincidences and causality.

The evolutionary advantage of this pattern recognition behaviour is in the significance of the value of the false positive over the false negative.

If I see what looks like a lion lurking in the bushes, and run, the likelihood of staying alive is increased, whether it is a real or imagined lion. If I decide it’s a trick of the light, and ignore it, my chances of survival are decreased if I am wrong.

The same principle applies if we recognise a pattern of events that seem to coincide. Should it rain enough times after we ask nature politely for a shower to water the crop, we may come to believe that asking causes rain.

The downside of this, is that as there is, or was, an evolutionary advantage to being superstitious. We suffered from pareidolia. It became an affliction. We came to see those shapes and faces in the bark of trees, as beings, and ascribed to them powers and motives. We recognised patterns of events, some like the celestial movements, or the seasons, quite real. Then some smart arse recognised the patterns of our own behaviour, saw an opportunity for power and put himself forward as an intermediary between the common people and the spiritual world. And we got religion.

But I digress. I was speaking of the I Ching. I recognised that my brain was looking for patterns in the events of my own life. I was taking the words from an ancient book written in Chinese, translate first to German then to English, and gleaning valuable meaning from them. But this was not superstition. The advice the book was giving me was good. Why? Because it was written in such a way that it was inevitable that the reader would apply the general advice in such a way that it would most benefit him. Because the Tau was the way of the upright, it had to be good advice. For a few formative years the I Ching helped me make decisions that brought me to where I am now. I have few regrets.

These musings were inspired by coming upon this following little piece in one of the philosophical emails that turn up in my in-box from time to time.

After a few more hours swimming up and down the Bribie Island pool, I may have more to write on the subject.

The following is borrowed from Psychology Today.

Impact of the I Ching on Carl G. Jung & its implications

Jung, Taoist psychology, and cross-cultural communications

Posted Mar 01, 2017 

Although research has examined how world cultures (e.g., independent vs. interdependent ones) each uniquely shaped psychological experiences, few investigations focus on how cultures influence one another in the psychological domains. This issue is important, because cross-cultural information and knowledge exchange, contacts, and influences, though moderate in the past, have transformed all cultures, including the field of psychology. For example, Taoist psychology is one of the main cultural inspirations for Jungian psychology.

In May 1930, Jung gave the Eulogy at a memorial service in Munich for Richard Wilhelm. Jung integrated the Eastern philosophy into his principles of psychotherapy and human psyche through his study of Richard Wilhelm’s translations of I Ching (The Book of Changes), The Secret of the Golden Flower, and their frequent interactions that lasted from the early 1920’s until Wilhelm’s death in 1930 (Goulding, 2015; Karcher, 1999; Stein, 2005).

Jung said that Wilhelm “inoculated us with the living germ of the Chinese spirit and we found ourselves partaking of the spirit of the East as we experience the living power of the I Ching. It is capable of working a profound transformation of our thought.” Jung said that Wilhelm’s work was of such immense importance to him because it confirmed what he had been seeking in his efforts to alleviate the psychic suffering of Europeans. The book was both a carrier of human experience and a door to the energy of the archetypes. “I heard from him in clear language the things I had dimly divined in the confusion of the European subconscious. I received more from him than from any other man” (cited in Karcher, 1999; also see Goulding, 2015; Stein, 2005).

Jung expressed his deep gratitude for what he received from Wilhelm, because through his translations and teaching, Taoist psychology influenced Jung’s theoretical frameworks by facilitating the formation of his chief conceptions: synchronicity and individuation, in addition to confirming his views about the unconscious and nonlinear or circular psychological development for adult (Goulding, 2015; Karcher, 1999; Stein, 2005).

Jung’s comprehension of Tao is much deeper than the conventional translation “the way.” As he commented, Tao is the interaction between the mind and reality. The essential Taoist idea in I Ching suggests that all of the ingredients make up the observed moment. Understanding human experiences involves recognizing a special interdependence of objective events among themselves, as well as with the subjective (psychic) states of the observer or observers (Jung, 1967). In other words, according to I Ching, psychological experiences are determined by the interaction of the mind, time, space, situations, and action or non-action. The mind and reality interaction, rather than being an isolated or independent event, symbolically represents the person’s dialogue with a broad reality transcending a specific moment and space. It is the interactions that serve as the parameter for deciphering psychological experiences.

In short, Jung’s achievements in integrating the East and West demonstrate that psychological phenomena and principles are both cultural and universal.

References:

Goulding, J. (2015). The forgotten Frankfurt school: Richard Wilhelm’s China Institute. Journal of Chinese Philosophy 41:1-2 (March–June 2014) 170–186

Jung, C. G. (1967). Foreword. In The I Ching or Book of changes (C. F. Baynes, Trans.). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Karcher, S. (1999). Jung, the Tao and the Classic of Change. Journal of Religion and Health, 38, 287-304.

Stein, M. (2005). Some reflections on the influence of Chinese thought on Jung and his  psychological theory. The Journal of Analytical Psychology, 50(2), 209-222. doi:10.1111/j.0021-8774.2005.00524

The Power of Words.

I well understand the power of words. I understand their power to hurt and to soothe.

I know the not-so-subtle difference In meaning and context, for example between Women Being Raped, and Men Raping Women.

Ive been trained in forensic interview techniques. I’ve been lied to, insulted and cursed by the best, in several languages. When this happens, I do almost the same thing I do if I have somehow got myself into a life-threatening or dangerous situation. (I do that now and then. It is part of my nature to see how far I can go).

When I’m insulted, I become calm and analytical. I try to figure out if I am in the wrong, if I deserve the criticism, or whether it is a defence/offence mechanism.

So I was taken aback recently when, after posting an old photo of myself on my bike at Katanning airfield, one of my friends made the comment “Yobbo”.

It seems reasonable enough, one would think. I could be mistaken for a yob.

The comment was surely intended in the humorous vein of friendly joshing we all indulge in. I am sure of it.

So.

I don’t know why I’m so insulted by that comment. Maybe the word is psychologically loaded in my subconscious. Call me a larrikin or a yahoo and I’d probably smile and agree. But yobbo hits a raw nerve somehow. Is there something in my youth or childhood to explain this feeling?

I can’t recall. I have thought about it for a day and still my first instinct is to say “go fuck yourself” or delete the comment. Why? I’m 67 years old, I’ve been successful in at least some of my fields of endeavour, I’ve worked in 7 countries, speak three languages, can say basic phrases or at least “thank you”, “may I have”, and “where is … ?” in another 10. I understand the power of words. Where does this one gain its power over my subconscious?

This is most interesting. It’s like listening to a song that makes you cry, even though it is not the sort you might think would do that. There’s a trigger I don’t recall. Fascinating.

So be aware. “Yobbo”, for some reason I cannot explain is a grave insult to me. As bad as, or even worse than, “climate change denier” , “antivaxxer”, or “creationist”.

Yes. There are songs that make me cry.