I don’t get explosively angry anymore. Mostly I credit floating, eating right, working out and all that but also the learned experience that anger doesn’t work.

We’re conditioned unconsciously as children that anger creates fear and fear creates control. It’s why some kids only listen to their parents when they’re really mad.

When kids grow up and live out this training with their peers however it runs into the fact that everyone thinks someone trying to be controlling is a twat. Even if someone is legitimately out-of-control angry we still all resent that they are now the center of the universe until we deal with them.

People will be nice to an angry person during and after the anger (which also contributes to the sick cycle and the blind spots of it all) but once they’re out of the room they seek control of their own. They aim to take away the status of the angry person over them by letting everyone know what a twat they think that person is.

Anger and arrogance are closely related in that both can make someone act like a spoiled brat and both can be dealt with by humility. Arrogance makes even your friends want to see you fall and humility makes even strangers want to see you succeed.

Deliberate and non-deliberate displays of anger are about trying to shape the world to suit you. Through force, through fear. And there’s this terrible somewhat Randian idea that if everyone acts this way the world will shake out fine. Not only is there the toxic idea that the shitty behaviour of one can validate the shitty behaviour of the other, it creates the fear that non-shitty people will get ignored and trampled by the people who react strongly rather than wait.

This is wrong, it arouses contempt in the collectivist heart. Although if that heart is enlightened enough it should be beyond contempt at least at first.

The fact is the tortoise wins the race. I see angry people quickly build things up then destroy them and move on, feeling victimized by all, onto to new things and new people who don’t know them which they will then destroy. All the desperation to shape the world to their exact comfort leaves them exactly where they were 10 years ago, just with different supporting characters. Meanwhile the calm, low-key people are riding out the waves of shittiness and their lot in life improves year by year.

That’s who I want to be.

There’s a story told in The 48 Laws Of Power about a Japanese village conquered by Christians. The villagers took the forced conversion easily, they all donned their crosses, they converted the temple to a church, they went about their lives. The Christians were repelled after a few years, they causally removed their crosses, reconverted the temple, and went on about their lives.

That’s the level of non-petty I aspire to be.

So, as promised in a previous post I’m going to talk about what I do when I notice I’m upset.

First, I tell myself not to keep reinforcing it. Sam Harris pointed out after the initial shock of whatever happened to make you angry what people most often do is start telling themselves the story over and over again, living out imaginary arguments in their head, dragging up past problems, all to stay angry.

As I’ve said before: Anger Aspires To Be Useful, all feelings do, your mind tries to stay angry because it thinks you need to go fight, to defend yourself, to do something. Most of the time when I’m angry though, doing something is the wrong thing to do. So every time I catch myself pushing the replay button I tell myself not to.

Instead I think about something I could be enjoying right now. If there’s music playing, do I like this song? If the weather’s good I just take a second to feel the breeze, if I’m not hungry I’ll take a second to be grateful for it.

One thing that gets people in trouble is that when they’re mad they only think in the moment. There was a day recently I was raging under the surface as I went about my day and I thought of someone I don’t like, who had done nothing to bother me that day, I thought about how I’d love it if they said something dumb so I could just crush them. And then I thought what do you think is going to happen immediately after that? You’ll look like a crazy asshole out-of-the-blue and then what, we all have to drink in that awkward moment and file out of the room, is that going to feel good?

And finally I’ll engage with somebody else and see if they need help with anything, simple advice or if there’s just a favor I can do them. It’s a quick mood booster because usually anger comes from a perceived loss of status and/or identity so recasting yourself as someone helpful, useful, and strong takes away the incentive to go ‘fix’ whatever irrational thing one is upset about.

If something is really a problem then it’ll still be a problem when you’re not angry and you can look at it from all sides and find a solution. Try to do that while angry just means you’ll plow through with the thing that makes you feel like a big tough guy. That’s where you get stupid ultimatums, bullying, and self-destruction.

I’ve been there, it’s costly. It doesn’t move the chains at all. Most of the time anger either holds us back because we attach it to our pride or we let it hold us back because we’re scared to move forward.


Posted in Pragmatism, Uncategorized


One way in which I was lucky in the relationship between my drinking and my depression was that I wasn’t drinking to escape the darkness; I was drinking to make it worse. I wanted to be certain, resolute, and unwavering in my self-hatred. I wanted to drink enough to overcome my self-preservation and die. It was an extremely ugly dark thing.

That’s why giving up drinking was important to me getting better, it was the first thing I did to not give depression everything it wants. And it’s also why I could go back drinking after a time. Taking a break was the only way to find out it wasn’t the problem.

That was the sitch in 2016, this time around – the 60 day sobriety in 2018 – it was actually that drinking was the problem, but a problem with my diet and exercise rather than my mental health.

One difficulty in giving up drinking is, for us, it’s giving up a part of ourselves. Drinking is something difficult that we got good at for years. Look at all these light-weights throwing up and crying and saying embarrassing shit and losing their shoes and we’re fine.

People tend to think they just love drinking but the reality is, just like smoking, we actually trained ourselves really hard to get here. You have to train harder to like it than to not like but it doesn’t feel that way from the inside.

In the week since my arbitrary 60 days was up I’ve returned to drinking and thankfully it’s been exactly what I hoped. I had a few beers with the guys Friday, it was pleasant. Then next Friday my first thought was I don’t know, I drank last week, what if it’s too soon? And then I had a few beers and it was pleasant.

I like to budget things in amounts rather than money or time because it makes things into simple yes or no questions. My limit for Starbucks is twice a week, I want a Starbucks, am I under my limit for the week? If yes, yes, if no, no. There’s no maybe, no hemming and hawing about how I spent this much money last week so technically I’m still under budget if I think about it, blah blah blah.

So my limit with booze is 6 drinks a week. Although I only have one week of data I’d say the same pattern as my Starbucks and Jugo Juice (it seems the only things I consider a waste of money and health are beverages) has emerged. With no limit it was four a week and with a two-limit it’s one or none. I had four pints the first Friday and three the second.

And I think one has to take a serious habit-breaking sabbatical (that means break) for a plan like this to work. Trying to go down to six drinks a week from a totally free range 30 drinks a week will leave you feeling deprived and cause you self-negotiate once you’ve already had your six. Because, well, you didn’t have drinks this one and you’ll go without next week and blah blah blah now you have a sobriety debt to yourself you’re never going to pay and that makes you want to drink and then you laughing say you quit quitting when someone points it out.

I think a 60 day sobriety binge was important for me to go from feeling like I’m so bored of drinking that I hate it to honestly not caring about drinking, to being over it.

But just like people can’t learn when they think they already know, if we’re sure we’re sure-footed we don’t see the slipperyness of the slope. So an eye will be kept on this just like other indulgences like Coffee and books (I spend $1500 a year at Chapters, that’s a problem I’m not ready to deal with yet) and results will be measured.

And special occasions will be considered which again is why a sabbatical is important. Isn’t is a coincidence that when you’re drinking all the time all these special occasions keep popping up? Like Tuesday? Or like the fact that you drank last night?

Watching out for deprivation-and-binge cycles is important. White-knuckle sobriety isn’t sobriety, it’s just foreplay to a binge.

With my weekly diet I don’t have feelings of self-loathing after the weekend carb up and I don’t have feelings of deprivation during the week. I feel organized and motivated, I feel for the first time in my life that I’m not beating myself up no matter what.

Money is a big factor too although I hate to talk about such petty things. I like the feeling of my savings account going up a lot more than I like the feeling of knowing I drank every chance I got this month. I joke about inevitably becoming bulimic because I read calories for fun and need to quantify everything now but I’m actually quite relaxed on all my parameters about food because the ultimate goal is to not be beating myself up. Anyway I was going to make a joke about being cash-bulimic because I do deprive myself of spending for weeks at a time then go make it rain at Best Buy and Indigo but I really shouldn’t joke about mental illness. Not because it’s wrong but because there’s no problem I can’t convince myself I have.

This post got weird for me. I hate it when that happens.

Posted in Uncategorized

Impressed, Proud, and Happy

I have this strange quirk that I hate being congratulated, other people’s pride disgusts me. Yet I love to impress people.

When you’re proud of someone you are also saying that you’re not-disappointed; and who the fuck are you to think you’re entitled to be disappointed in me?

Truly one of the strangest ways to feel about a good-natured gesture but here’s the rabbit hole you won’t be able to get out of once I’ve pointed it out.

A master watching an excellent student is entitled to take pride – to feel good about themselves – when they see their student excelling because that student wouldn’t be excelling without them. They also, I want to note, should feel humility because if they are a truly great teacher the student will surpass them. I don’t know why I’m picturing samurai archers but I am so come along.

Another student in the class or someone not even in the class (or whatever groups of student samurai are, stumarai?) feeling proud of the best student is somewhat saying they contributed to that person’s prowess. I did a really good job being supportive of that very talented person who possibly doesn’t need me at all, I’m wonderful they say to themselves.

Being proud of someone else is just one more way our species turns everything into a this-is-really-about-me moment.

One way to tell if someone is impressed is if you get the apples-to-oranges conversational twist. A comment about how good you’re doing in the gym is followed by a dissertation on how much money they saved on random crap or a story about how much more they know than their boss.

Being impressed is something people don’t like to admit to often because it puts them below the person of prowess, and if you’re peers it sucks to be below. It’s humble to say I’m impressed. People would rather exaggerate and say I’m amazed with humour than to admit to sincerely being impressed with someone they don’t want to think of as better.

I think this where people pointing out how you used to be comes into the conversation. People are holding onto at least the feeling that you were once below them so things can’t be all that different.

The Oprah paradox is you’re fat friends don’t want you to get thin. I think the phase after that is those friends ‘congratulating’ you and being ‘amazed’ at ‘far you’ve come’ because you used to be a fat piece a shit, remember. They don’t want to think of Oprah as someone thin, they think of her as someone who used to be fat.

There’s sting to admitting someone is good at something you can’t do or, way worse, better at something you can. Because someone else changing their rank effects yours. And we’re all exhausted just trying to hold on to the rank we have. Everything is easier than it has ever been in human history except for the fact that feeling good about yourself is harder than it has ever been in human history. Thanks, Obama.

And that’s where I think being happy for someone comes in. Proud and impressed are both self-status-aware things but you can be happy for someone without taking your own rank into consideration.

Most people aren’t aware that they’re depressingly status aware, they like to think they’re above it most of the time but the assumption that you can be above it while others can be mired in it shows that you’re still doing it. People think babies are these enlightened pre-toxic-socialization zen masters because they’re not racist but even babies will freak the fuck out if something in the room seems more important than them. Babies have social status awareness before they know not to put the dog in their mouth, that’ how important it is to the human brain.

Floating in an isolation tank takes you completely off the social ranking in your own head and the level of objectivity is astounding.It’s like the world exists and I exist but they’re both closed systems now.

One example is the realization that I didn’t really want the bands of people I hate to be bad. I’d moved through the world treating it as obvious that their bands were terrible and I liked that they were terrible but in the tank that idea didn’t ring true or stand up to inspection. I realized that I did want their bands to be good and I wanted them as people to be happy, the world is a better place with more good bands and happy people. When in the tank and able to take myself out of the equation I felt relief at that thought and relief is usually the indicator that a thought is true.

So where had the negative thoughts that I’d been propping up come from? My own rank awareness. It’s not that I didn’t want them to be good, it’s that I didn’t want them to be better than me. Once I was free from the feeling of me I was free to wish for, and enjoy the best of, anyone in the world.

Now rather than be proud of someone I am happy for them. Which means I can still be disappointed by someone but not disappointed in them. It’s a shade of difference but what I mean is like being disappointed by the weather, you can hope for a sunny day and those hopes can be dashed but either way it’s not about you.

And on the topic of being impressed I have really horribly low expectations of people so I’m actually impressed a lot. Then I think I need to do better because I don’t want them to catch up to me.

Posted in Depression & Suicide, floating, Pragmatism

Arrogance as a reaction not a trait

Is there anywhere so common a refrain as ‘Alastair is arrogant’? Perhaps even so arrogant?

If you’re a frequent reader or interlocutor then you know I’ve been meditating on humility for about 2 years now but I’ve lived in a perpetual state of thinking I used to be arrogant all my life.

As I defeat one period of arrogance another seems to rise up invisibly, unrecognizable until viewed in hindsight.

The conventional idea is that arrogance is trait that you simply are or aren’t. You’re arrogant until you’re humbled the same way you’re blonde until you dye your hair.

This is wrong. Although the idea doesn’t arouse contempt in my arrogant heart.

I think arrogance is a reaction, just the same way one can be quick to anger or despair, we can be quick to arrogance. Everyone has arrogance in them, it’s just a matter of disposition and mindfulness.

I’m not quick to anger. If people see me angry it means that a dozen things have been going wrong for days and the fuse finally burned down. I’m very mindful when I sense anger and I work extremely hard to still be fair when I’m angry. I constantly tell myself to continue to behave ethically regardless. I’m working on another post about all the steps I go through when I’m getting angry so heads up for that.

I am, however very quick to despair. My sense that all life is worthless can kick in from almost anything. One bad event, even a micro-event, and a few under-stimulated hours and I’ll find that I can’t remember why not to be suicidal.

And so it is that I’m mid-quick to arrogance. When things are going well for me I tend to feel I earned that wellness by being suited to it, I found yet another well of creativity and drive within myself. Hurray. Whenever I’m good at something I tend to feel there’s something special about me that makes me good at it. Just the same unfortunately as when I’m bad a something I tend to feel I’m uniquely, especially, one-of-a-kind broken and bad at it.

When I was depressed I promised myself I’d remember how it felt to be talked to by the non-depressed so that I wouldn’t make the same mistakes. It’s easy, natural even, for the non-depressed to be impatient with the depressed. So the same way a recovering addict can have true understanding for a spiraling addict, I pledged to be for anyone expressing hopelessness.

Yet with arrogance and ability I fall victim to what Echo Charles often refers to as the curse of knowledge. Once you know how to do something you forget what it’s like to not be able to do it, you lose that empathy – or actually you didn’t know to build it when you had the chance. For example when you know how to play guitar but have forgotten what it’s like to learn how to play the guitar you get frustrated trying to articulate to a beginner or an outsider what it is that they need to get. As an aside this how someone who’s great at something can still be a horrible teacher, particularly if they were merely born predisposed to be good at it.

I should be using more complex examples because my arrogance is never about straight-forward abilities. I’m not the best, or even great, at literally anything easily objective. I get arrogant about the fact that I made a snap decision to quit drinking for 40 days in 2016 and 60 days now in 2018 and I have no empathy or patience when people tell me they want to do something similar but it’s hard. It’s not hard. You make it harder by thinking it’s harder. Pussy.

By the time I was 30 days in, effortlessly sober, I’d forgotten what it felt like to struggle with my drinking for years. I was a pathetic wreck, far more unhappy about it than anyone I’d be arrogant to now, watching my drinking spiral in and out of control for the last decade. Maybe it’s downright hypocrisy or maybe I’m just retroactively mad at myself and it comes out in tough love advice to others, or maybe it’s that I always resented the soft-love co-dependent enabling of my peers. Who knows but it certainly doesn’t give me the right to be a prick about it.

I think I create the illusion of changing really fast because I stay quietly unhappy about things for a long time and then snap, whereas people talking to me now have the desire to be different but haven’t made the decision to change.

And ultimately I think I’m entitled, or even obligated, to offer my insight into the process. It’s not arrogant to say I know what you’re going through, here’s the pitfalls that I ran into but I guess it is arrogant when you feel like you don’t like someone because they’re still them after you’ve totally shown them the way. It’s arrogant to act like I never stutter stepped or fell indecisively. I’m not specially suited to do anything I just finally hated myself enough to change.

Going back to addiction thinking: it’s dangerous arrogance when an addict thinks they can keep using if they just get it under control. They don’t want to quit, or to lose anything, they just think if they serious up and buckle down they can make it fine. The arrogance reaction is that you’ve seen millions of others fall to the exact same thing but you’re just going to tap into your greatness and make it happen your way.

And I don’t want to end by saying I wisely know I’m not in control of anything because I think that’s junkie mentality too. I don’t know the relationship between humility, responsibility, and control.

I know that sometimes being responsible and taking control of things sometimes makes me arrogant in the eyes of others and sometimes not taking responsibility seems arrogant. And it’s possible to have responsibility without control and now I’m into a whole different rabbit hole.

I don’t think I’ve answered anything about how hating myself for being arrogant makes any sense…

Posted in Pragmatism, Uncategorized

Your thought diet

Think of a famous person. Notice that you didn’t choose who came to mind. Someone did, some famous person did and then maybe you rejected that or continued to scan your memory banks and thought of someone else but it all happened instantaneously out of your mind-depths. I can’t say who you thought of but I know there are millions of equally famous people you didn’t think of – Chinese soap stars, south African singers, Swedish sleep scientists doing interviews in France right now.

This will seem a little pedantic but my point is you can’t think of things you don’t know. Despite that the fact that you know there are things you don’t know, your mind treats it’s banks as the scope of the universe. No matter what you ask it for, your unconscious mind will always hobble together a thought, even if it’s a woefully useless one.

Just as you have a diet based on chosen foods to influence your body you have to have a thought diet to influence your mind.

And just as on a food diet, diversity is key and monotony is death. It takes a wide range of nutrients to support the body and eating exclusively one food no matter how healthy will make you ill. Broccoli is my go-to super food and if you tried to live on broccoli alone you’d die from a complete lack of fat-soluble vitamins.

So it is with thoughts. You need to take in a wide variety of thoughts, absorb their nutrients, break down their parts, so your unconscious mind  – like your unconscious body – can make use of them.

And you don’t need to think of learning as drilling deep into one very profitable topic. The trope of the scientist so ensconced in academia that they have no social skills is the broccoli-inspired vitaminless death of this metaphor.

Learn lots of little things, explore big things in fun bites, constantly add to the menu of your subconscious, so that as you surf the wave your board is solid below you.

Because like I said, you’re brain can give you answers it knows are wrong. The same way a coiled rope in the corner of your vision can be a snake, a homeopath can seem like they really know what they’re talking about.

The worst bias we have is the one that tells us we don’t have any bias. If you don’t actively look out for the laziness of your subconscious you will be a victim of it.

Posted in Uncategorized

Being on stage

There’s a difference between being able to do something and being good at it. Everyone can fuck, for example.

I seem good at being on stage compared to others because I can do it whereas many people find it hard or think they can’t. I’m on the bottom rung of the ladder but often that means being the only one on the ladder.

There’s degrees and thresholds that can only be seen once you’re on the ladder. Anyone who can do gymnastics or cook or play an instrument seems good to someone who can’t. It is those who can who are able to see the gradations of others. Magic doesn’t look like magic to magicians.

So what do I think gives me the ability to public-speak?

Ability to turn off filters. I see most people lose a lot of mental efficiency thinking about how they’re supposed to act to convey how they’re supposed to feel.

Some people can’t act because they can’t get passed the need to show people that they’re acting, that they’re in on the gag. They believe that being fooled is low status so they have to illustrate they aren’t fooled. Most people are actually blocking out their situational awareness throughout the day but it overwhelms them if you give them an audience and a mic.

There are also people who I think have the ability, maybe would be good at it, who seem to botch it up on purpose to be cute.

Making things look easy sometimes makes it look like you’re not doing anything important and people want to be seen doing something important so there’s a tendency to play up the difficulty. Some people play up that difficulty by accentuating clumsiness.

Anyway, I actually block out my situational awareness when I’m on stage. I don’t view myself subconsciously from the audience. I don’t think about how I’m supposed to feel, I don’t worry about creating an impression, I don’t freeze up worrying how best to be seen.

I just try to narrate the moment as I see it, not how I want it to be seen.

I focus on not acting. In any moment there’s humour if you look for it, or gravitas, or whatever emotion you need to communicate. I look for what is true in this moment, for me, for that person I’m interacting with, and for the person watching the interaction. No wants, or needs, or impression, or performance, just truth.

That’s why when a joke doesn’t land and it’s best to move on you say “Well that joke didn’t land, moving on…” Rather than be a twat trying to get the audience on board with “Am I right, fellas.”

You know how babies stop crying for a second and look around to see who’s paying attention then resume crying? Adults do that too, just with subtler things. You can see the is-this-working gears turning when you talk to someone who is thinking about what they want you to be thinking. And those layers of meta-cognition and artifice cause lag, lag that comes out as um and ahs, stutters and pauses, etc.

If you stop thinking about yourself while you’re trying to think about what you’re saying that goes away. You have to be willing to let everyone make up their own mind how they feel about you and that lag goes away. That’s why I can think faster and talk faster, which translates into speaking casually on stage.

One thing that trips people is up is that to think this way you have to find it totally valid if someone doesn’t like you. People want to be liked so badly even by people they don’t like. And they’ll say they’re not like that and don’t care because they think that’ll make people like them. A constant one man game of chicken around withholding approval.

And one final thing on how to get good at being on stage:


Judge the shit out of people. Watch people on stage and rip them to shreds, feast on their every mistake, don’t be the least bit merciful hoping for mercy yourself because mercy is the coward’s mutually assured destruction pact. Pry into every mistake you see so that you don’t commit them. Forgiving others is just trying to take pressure off yourself, loser.

Put the pressure on then ignore it.

Posted in Pragmatism, Songwriting, Uncategorized

Happiness addiction

Imagine you’re among a group of cowboys around a lonely old campfire at night in the dusty old deserts of the American south west. Imagine my voice as a dusty old cowboy voice, hm hm. Near the fire is light and heat, away from the fire is darkness and packs of coyotes and freezing to death. You’re gonna huddle close to that fire. When it gets lower you’re going to huddle closer and the circle of light around you is going to get smaller so you keep trying to huddle closer.

One of the principal problems of addiction is diminishing returns, getting less and less as you give more and more.

I see so many people in their late 20s or early 30s (really any age, I’ve known guys in their 50s who were still covering the mental ground work of their teens) huddling close to the burned embers of something that used to keep them warm yet their still afraid to move.

I’ve never been happy, I’ve never arrived at the fire and felt it’s warmth so much that I couldn’t leave. It’s why I’ve had so many Bowie-esquire transformations in my life. From all-black clad youth to wearing suits everyday to being a mohawk’d punk rocker to being a work out bro.

I’m not holding on to anything. There’s nothing worth holding on to, there’s nothing that says if you give this up then you’ll be miserable. I’m in for a penny in for a pound when it comes to unhappiness. It’s all degrees of slightly for me. Everything’s objectively great right now and I’m unhappy as often as ever, and back when I was homeless I was happy about as often as ever too.

I think it’s nihilistic pragmatism. People might think it’s cold to look at everything in terms of it’s usefulness but really it makes me happy is the ultimately intended use of most things. If something isn’t serving that purpose anymore it has become junk, it has become ash.

But like a crackhead searching the carpet for rocks, people won’t get up and walk away. They have all the things they used to want and it seems to scary to try wanting new things.

The unique gift of the depressed brain is I don’t have that problem.

With all the dieting and self-improvement going on people tell me all the time, tacitly asking for permission, that they gave into temptation. I don’t have a lot of temptation, it’s almost a non-factor for me because I know it won’t make me any happier.

When you give into temptation the feeling of wanting goes away, and it is a cumbersome feeling to be sure, but does happiness actually follow?

Not for me, by the third bite of an ice cream sandwich it’s a chore like anything else.

We can become junkies for anything these days. Netflix shows, video games, shopping… and we’re so accustomed to accessing what we want we don’t think about how little we feel after we get it.

Posted in Pragmatism, Uncategorized