Experts lay the origin of certain mental health complaints squarely at the foot of one’s early life experiences. That said, can they really account for as much as is suggested? If not, should psychological interventions be tailored to take this thought into account?
Environment and Genetics – Nature versus Nurture.
Marsha hosts a Writer’s Quotes Wednesday Writing Challenge –#WQWWC which I am joining in a little early today – as it is Wednesday here, already.
I believe the theme this week is Trustworthiness. My take on this theme is a little skewed, but I thought – Can I trust my intuition, my own thoughts? Should I trust my intuition?
Yesterday two things came to mind, nothing serious, just thoughts and today, those two things were most significant in events, both, in my house and the larger region where I live.
Intuition or coincidence?
Does this ever happen to you?
If you have pre-cognitive thoughts, do you or should you, trust them?
As I contemplate what to write in a ‘death letter,’ to my daughter, I came across the following text.
They are not my words but I thought it important to reproduce it here for others to read. I do not know the author. If someone knows who wrote this, please let me know in the comments and I will gladly update the post and credit them.
The Important Things in Life
When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and the 2 Beers.
A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.
The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.
The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full.. The students responded with a unanimous ‘yes.’
The professor then produced two Beers from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.
‘Now,’ said the professor as the laughter subsided, ‘I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things—your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions—and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car… The sand is everything else—the small stuff.
‘If you put the sand into the jar first,’ he continued, ‘there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life.
If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you.
Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.
Spend time with your children. Spend time with your parents. Visit with grandparents. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and mow the lawn.
Take care of the golf balls first—the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.
One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the Beer represented. The professor smiled and said, ‘I’m glad you asked.’
The Beer just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of Beers with a friend.
Words, once they are printed, have a life of their own.
Carol’s quote came to mind recently, when I received some strongly-worded criticism in response to a post I’d made, on a social media group. Whether my words were truth or lies, seemed less relevant than the individual opinions of the responders making the comments.
It seemed some people relished an opportunity to vent their spleen, albeit in an anonymous way.
Normally, I’d be a little rattled by heavy-handed criticism, but I’m no longer surprised by being hammered with a critical counter-argument, at least on social media.
And yet, in distancing myself from reacting to the negative commentary, I began to feel like some kind of stone-hearted internet troll.
Aristotle was unsurprisingly philosophical about criticism:
“There is only one way to avoid criticism: Do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.”
I wondered should we ignore all negative feedback and scroll on, or respond to critical comments? If so, how?
Criticism of others’ opinions via the internet, and indeed, cyber-bullying, itself, has seemingly reached pandemic proportions. Thankfully the blogging world is mostly immune to negativity, but it did make me wonder how others dealt constructively, with heavy-handed criticism.
An American Politician, Sam Rayburn once said,
Any jackass can kick a barn down, but it takes a carpenter to build it.
Compassion motivates people to go out of their way to help the physical, mental, or emotional pains of another and themselves, according to Wikipedia
When I was young, I don’t think I was such a compassionate person. I think I may have been caring and kind, but I do not think I was truly compassionate.
I did not go out of my way, nor did I always take the time to remember the details of others’ lives. I came to realize this was important and meant a lot, when someone takes a moment to enquire how they are faring.
Animals have the ability to teach compassion to anyone.
We are possessed by the things we possess. When I like an object, I always give it to someone. It isn’t generosity-it’s only because I want others to be enslaved by objects, not me. Jean-Paul Sartre
I was washing the Schnauzer Dog this morning and the young pup and rest of the family kept interrupting me, pushing open the door hitting me in the shoulder, when I was working with the dog in the tub, full of shampoo.
If it wasn’t the pup pushing open the closed door latch, it was the Moth a.k.a. ‘Man of the House,’ (New homes appear to have internal doors that don’t securely latch closed, unless you slam them).
Each time the door was opened, the very wet and soapy Schnauzer, now full of shampoo would repeatedly try to leap from the tub, and and you can just imagine how slippery a fully soaped up dog was. It was a slightly exasperating situation.
Dog washing complete, I then set about cleaning the laundry and the same scene repeated, much to my dismay. Newly cleaned floors covered with either Schnauzer paw prints or Moth footprints as suddenly everyone wanted to get into the laundry for some reason. Grr.
I felt the tension rising in my body. I was irritated by the door latch not staying closed and the laundry suddenly becoming busier than Central Station. After a few grumbles under my breath, I paused, took a deep breath and tried to remember the wise saying I read earlier this week:
If there is something you don’t like, you can either change it or change the way you think about it.
Each and every day, the real battle for freedom takes place in your mind.
Do you have a way of dissolving tension that works for you?
So many of us seek, even actively chase, a sense of peace and fulfillment. We enjoy the fruits of life that we find bestowed on us, in parochial measure, but can we say that we truly treat ourselves kindly or are content, with ourselves?
Kindness as an act, is something we do in treating and interacting with others. Whatever your beliefs, as a child of this universe, we are all deserving of kindness and respect. It is a fundamental human right.
And yet, we shy away from practising loving self-care towards our own bodies and minds, because it gives rise to feelings of guilt. Or, we see it as some kind of character flaw, a sign of weak indulgence or self-centred narcissistic navel-gazing.
Body Image and Disliking Ourselves
Some of us take this even further developing an intense hatred or discomfort with parts of our bodies, for whatever reason. We seek to change the way we look via cosmetics, surgery or decoration.
We may have been unkind to ourselves over time, seeing ourselves only through others’ eyes. It is all too easy to be hyper-critical of an imperfection, when comparing oneself to others. It is important that we see that this kind of perspective, or lens, distorts the way we think about our own bodies and our sense of self suffers. Over time, these thoughts become hard to shift.
..there is no hurt, no lost or berated part of ourselves that cannot be touched by our own loving kindness. Indeed, little kindnesses towards ourselves made habitual in daily life are enough to turn any tide, bit by bit, day by day.
Whatever we think of ourselves, at this moment, we must not forget that we ARE INDEED unique and valuable to this world.
In apportioning loving kindness to all, we can consciously practice self-care.
Being kind to oneself, on a regular basis, is a useful life skill which can help us more readily soothe and quell anxiety and distress in the face of difficult challenges, or thoughts.
Furthermore, when we are kind to ourselves, (and others), we begin to see that we are indeed worthy of tenderness and this, in turn, may strengthen not only our own self- confidence, but also feelings of comfort and support.
It is never too late to be kind and loving towards ourselves. The past is gone and the future has not yet arrived. Focus on thinking that will sustain and support you.
Blame and finding fault teaches us to avoid facing up to some truth about ourselves.
It encourages us to search for what is wrong and who we think was responsible because of an underlying often unconscious belief, we carry, that infers if we are always right, we will be happy. If we could control other people and their actions, then that might be possible.
We all know that controlling others is, pretty much, impossible.
When controlling others fails, as it inevitably does, our innate Plan B might be to use guilt, fear, domination or manipulation; even conditional love and criticism to get what we think we want, or feel that we need.
If there is no value in holding on to guilt, why do we do so? Why is it so hard to let things go?
Forgiveness is the key.
Forgive yourself as well as others, for your own sake.
Tolstoy suggested a bad mood might be the reason we blame others. How often do we hear:
“If only they/it would/didn’t/can ………”
Yet blaming others is not likely to lead to feelings of serenity. Instead it may create more negative feelings and paint your own self as a victim, as the following quote alludes.
“Some people love being victims because they love being able to blame someone else. Accountability is too much for them. They don’t like being responsible for who they have become or where they are in life.” Anonymous
Gode ord skal du hogge i berg, de dårligere i snø.
Carve your good words in stone, the bad in snow.
Old Norwegian Proverb
I do love the way old words of wisdom offer us a way forward when we are stuck in our heads, with thoughts that do us no good at all.
Old proverbs offer us succinct suggestions and have many layers of interpretation, if we are open to listening.
Not only does the Norwegian proverb relate to criticism of others, it might also give us advice on how we view ourselves and how we react to criticism from other people.
Criticism from Others
Is it possible to eliminate criticism?
Du kan unngå kritikk ved ikke å si noe, ikke å gjøre noe og ikke å være noe.
You can escape criticism by not saying anything,
by not doing anything and becoming nothing.
The only way to escape criticism entirely is to follow the Danish proverb’s advice.
Accepting that there will always be people who criticize, regardless of what you do or how well you do it, is something we might have to hear, but not something we have to internalize.
If you say you want to be a dancer, they will discredit your rhythm. If you say you want to build a new business, they will give you a dozen reasons why it might not work. They somehow assume you don’t have what it takes, but they are dead wrong.
It’s a lot easier to be negative than positive – a lot easier to be critical than correct.
I came across an interview as a follow on from a friend’s blog.
It was on a sensitive topic.
I have lived through a family member’s depressive and suicidal behaviour, and spent a long time trying to analyse and digest what and why.
There are always questions and no answers. A puzzle that is never complete.
A mystery without a solution.
If a tragedy involving a young adult occurs, the parent is forever changed. There are no magic answers for dealing with it, no rulebook. It leaves a black hole of despair, a permanent scar, for which there is no cure.
How can we help to prevent it?
Suicide occurs less in impoverished circumstances, as opposed to those who have resources and might be perhaps more comfortable in a socio-economic sense.
“I think you can say that when there is a suicide the entire family becomes totally unhinged. And even though we all seem to go back to normalcy, something has been broken forever.
In my own case, having been abandoned by my father in a way – he never was much of a father and then having being abandoned by Jim. The only person who never abandoned me except when he died was Johan Oosterveld, the farmer in the Upstairs Room, the man who saved my life. He was always there for me. He even left a closet, in his attic, with a hole that you could crawl into, where I had hidden from the Germans.
Because he always said: ‘You never know – it might come in handy again, and then Annie you can come back from Neuf York and you can get right back in there.”
Johanna Reiss, author of a Hidden Life.
Johanna Reiss explains it in a better way than I could:
“The middle class and the upper class are much more likely to commit suicide than those who have to find their daily bread, so to speak.
(In) Elie Wiesel’s book. I had read that in concentration camps, the biggest goal for most of them was to get the next crust of bread. And they were already being punished by the Nazis, so they didn’t think they had to punish themselves too.
There were very few suicides in concentration camps, which is strange when you think about it, it surely seems like a place you’d want to get away from.”
“‘There has to be a reason for people to stay alive, there has to be hope, and there has to be somebody or something that is so important, that you couldn’t possibly leave it.’
Elie Wiesel, a Romanian-born American writer, Nobel laureate, and Holocaust survivor wrote that he was considering running into the barbed wire once, but he didn’t because his father needed him. And that’s the only time he mentions the allure of suicide.”
It is vital that the sufferer does not feel abandoned, that they have a reason to be.
You are not alone.
If you feel it is just too much, speak up and tell someone you are not okay.
Call a friend.
Send a message or text.
Tell someone that you need support.
Tell anyone you feel you can speak to, be that medical, commercial or religious.
“The happiness of life is made up of the little charities of a kiss or smile, a kind look, a heartfelt compliment.”
~Samuel Taylor Coleridge
In the wake of #Black Lives Matter, some folk appear inclined to believe that being strong is a way to win respect, when it is just a way to promulgate fear.
They may have mistakenly learnt that in being strong they achieve more, or receive more. Does being strong ever bring happiness and contentment?
The two just don’t seem to go hand in hand.
Does a staunch or rigid boss even win respect from his workers by being hard-core? Or they do live in fear of disappointing him? Does a hard-line leader win support through negativity or merely decrease morale?
Kindness is not to be mistaken for weakness, nor forgiveness for acceptance. It’s about knowing resentment of any kind is not on the path to happiness.
Self – Criticism
We may be in the habit of berating or criticising ourselves for perceived shortcomings, constantly putting our own needs last, or inadvertantly disallowing ourselves the time, space and patience we deeply need to rest, heal and, ultimately to feel more content. In short, we are unwittingly being unkind to ourselves.
We may be our harshest critic; it may have become second nature to criticise ourselves and very challenging to praise and comfort ourselves or others.
But we cannot pour from an empty cup.
Kindness can fortify life, and seeing ourselves and others through a kinder lens can make a world of difference to all.
Regular practice of kind words and actions is infectious and it might just be the highest real success we achieve in this life. And it needn’t cost a thing.
Ultimately it is up to us as the sole creator of our thoughts.
Do you think you will appear weak if you show kindness to others?
Would it feel indulgent or selfish to show kindness to yourself?
Is there a time when you must display strength, without kindness, to survive?
“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.”
If you think of yourself as the best thing since sliced bread, that will become your reality.
Likewise, if you think you are broken, or a failure, then in all likelihood, you will feel broken and miserable.
If you feel you have some faults but are working hard to improve them, you might also feel differently.
Individual thoughts become your reality.
If you feel the future is hopeless, it is extremely hard to find a solution.
Even if your reality is realistic and accurate, intrusive thoughts have a way of sneaking into our mental vocabulary. Ann Koplow had some great pointers to remedy those. Perhaps it is useful strategies for all of us?
Challenge Labels. If you label yourself negatively, such as “a fool” or “a loser,” remind yourself that such absolute terms are subjective and meaningless, and that human beings are too complex to be reduced that simplistically. Also, consider the possibility that somebody else may have given you that idea about yourself, and that they were wrong.
Reality testing. Ask people questions to find out if your thoughts and concerns are realistic or true. This is a particularly effective response to the distortion of mind-reading.
Thought stopping. If you notice an unhelpful thought, cut it off immediately. Typical techniques include visualizing a big stop sign, saying “STOP!” to yourself, and giving yourself a sensory cue (e.g. snapping a rubber band you wear around your wrist). A “gentler” version of this is to notice an unhelpful thought and tell yourself, “That’s just a thought.”