Pain From Pictures

There’s a study referenced in The Hacking of the American Mind where some people in an fMRI were shown a picture of someone who broke their heart and some people were burned on the arm.

And yep, the brain looks very similar in both cases.

It’s why I’ve deleted and blocked so many people on social media over the years, glancing at my phone shouldn’t be scrolling through a mine field.

I had a mini heart attack just from hearing someone’s name come up unexpectedly a while ago, years after I thought the pain had dissipated.

(It’s a grimace-inducing sentence but) I have to acknowledge that I’m extremely sensitive. It used to be great: Sensitivity is creativity, sensitivity is insight, sensitivity is honesty.

But now I’ve just been in mourning for a bunch of broken friendships and dead dreams for years and it’s awful.

The only time I feel good about it is when I’m floating. Every time I feel myself being bitter my next thought is when is my next float?

Being in an isolation tank stops all the stories we’re telling ourselves about our lives and it’s great, it’s like the character and the author get to have a conversation knowing that it won’t be included in the story itself. Or maybe it’s a lawyer and a judge having an aside to discuss the trial.

While it’s made me more resilient, more sympathetic, and insightful, it hasn’t revealed any strategies. That’s what the 3000 words of the To Forget Or Not To Forget post was about and I didn’t find anything pragmatic in that either.

Mourning is about moving on in steps you’re comfortable with, and it can’t be brutal when other people are comfortably and quickly taking huge steps while you’re clinging to or ignoring a facebook photo for a year.

There’s an archetypal story I’ll call False Paradise. In the Batman episode Perchance to Dream Bruce wakes up in a world where his parents aren’t dead, he’s marrying Selina Kyle, and Batman exists but it’s not him. It’s paradise, it’s everything he wants, he doesn’t think it’s real at first, or ever, but he wants to. Except letters in books and newspapers are always jumbled, some doors lead to rooms in other buildings, like in a dream.

It’s these bitter little reminders that cause him to jump off a clock tower which makes him wake up in the real world and defeat the Mad Hatter.

Stories have climaxes that lead to happy endings, even ambiguously happy endings. Life doesn’t have endings in the narrative sense, it just stops. And moves. And lays dormant. And moves. And even death is a much longer, slower, messier thing than we imagine it to be because we think in stories not reality.

There’s no case in life where you just have to be brave enough to do one immediate thing and get to a satisfactory point to roll the credits. Everyone’s paradise is a little bit false, even people who got their plan A and aren’t over here trying to hobble together a plan B without touching any of the ashes.

Life is a series of Instead Ofs and Afters. The healed injuries that somehow still ache from the weather.

I saw my future as totally dichotomous, either the best case or the worst case was going to happen. Now I’ve avoided both.

And I’m quite happy. I often have a Present and no longer feel the crushing omnipresent weight of the Future. I guess the cost is now having a Past, and intermittent reminders that the real world is over there, visible sometimes, and I fucked up, I surrendered the whole field, I ran away and have to keep running, paradise is false and the real world is cruel, there’s no one to defeat for control.

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Posted in Depression & Suicide, floating

Your body is working against your health

Your body, the thing you feel your mind is in, cannot in anyway take care of itself in the modern world. It needs constant coaching, babysitting, and patience.

First of all your body is lazy. If it figures out an easier but destructive way to do something, it does it that. You can walk like a duck for what you think are 50 pain and problem free years right up until you need surgery.

Or you can use your glutes the tiniest goddamn bit for their intended purpose and walk comfortably human til a hundred and ten.

Sitting, putting your socks on, lifting things off shelves… if you do it wrong once and it uses fewer muscles it’ll stick. Practice makes permanent.

People think working out leads to injuries but it’s extremely rare one gets hurt in the gym. Working out is about form and feedback, pain is a diagnosis. But ultimately it’s because no one’s in the gym as much as they’re in life. You might do 30 squats a week in the gym, conscious of your form the whole time, but you sit down like a thousand times all the while assuming you don’t need to think about your body.

Meanwhile your body can’t even protect itself from how much you look at your phone.

I’ve always been annoyed at people wearing flamboyant Nikes with jeans – or even worse slacks – because I thought it was a fashion crime but now I want to yell why are you confusing being sprinter-ready with being comfortable and thinking that’s the ideal for your physical health?

That’s like keeping winter tires on all year round because if they can handle winter then summer must even better. That’s like putting on SCUBA gear because it might rain.

Wearing shoes that are too tight will ruin your balance and shoes with heel, like any heel even the heel on running shoes will wreck your form – yes your simple walking form – and take years off the comfortable life of your legs.

It’s weird that people get it when it comes to their teeth, I knew a guy who brushed his teeth at the bar and proudly said he was gonna have these teeth til he’s 90 but when it comes to our legs and our spines we start falling apart when we’re 36 and act like that’s just the way of things…

When you’re an athlete you get to see the future of your form all the time. Let’s say that with bad form you can take 80, 000 steps before noticing any pain. For an SUV commuting desk jockey that will take a long time to rack up but I did it already this year. I got my diagnosis and know what needs correcting.

The worst thing you can think is that relaxation is protecting your body. Your muscles should be acting like muscles, they should be moving you, not just giving your limbs momentum as you basically fall and catch yourself like a marionette through life.

And the next worse would be thinking that if you didn’t invest in athleticism when you were young then you just have to live with that regret. You can start re-training your body today.

I know so many people who want to take up yoga because they’re sore and inflexible. Bummer time; you’re never going to get around to going to a yoga class, you’re never even going to get around to buying a new outfit for it. But what you can do any old time you want is get shoes that aren’t destroying your legs and correct your posture a little bit and feel 10 years younger.

think about the position your body is in, imagine your skeleton if you got a full body x-ray right now. Your head and spine probably look like a 20 pound weight on the end of a slack rope. If your hips were a bowl the water be spilling out everywhere. How sustainable is that?

Be a good skeleton.

Life is a sport, stop sucking at it.

Posted in fitness

Don’t take comfort in shared faults

Nobody’s perfect is the most overused, over rated, bullshit thing people say in order to keep being shitty. But there’s an often unsaid even shittier thing that people use to hold themselves back and it’s the belief that we all do it.

It doesn’t matter what it is or who we are, attaching a behaviour to a group and placing yourself in that group can be a cheap source of comfort, it can temporarily reframe a fault into a feature.

Take for example any punk rock song that mentions losers, or fuck ups, or any folk song mentioning dreamers, or the entire persona of Kesha (I know she’s not topical anymore butI avoid things when they’re relevant, preferring to wait ten years to see if it’s culturally going to matter and so I can enjoy it with ironic detachment). Most pandering country music runs on the formula of mentioning something that one presumes is seen as low class; wearing jeans, driving trucks, and the presence of dirt on those things, and just declaring that it’s endearing to us.

Any reference to us, we, or ‘round here, is all to make it seem like there’s a group to which you and the singer and all other listeners both belong.

Most people are happy enough to hear a song and like it without obsessively hypothesizing about why they like it. Like eating a meal and not wondering what’s in it or how it was made, or doing a workout and not wondering if the form is doing more harm than good. I’m unable to just enjoy anything, especially things I really enjoy so the songs I love are under some hard fucking scrutiny at all times.

(Although I think if you need to accuse others of overthinking, as the voices of my friends in my head are doing to me right now, you don’t really trust your happiness either. Letting things stay a mystery is supposed to make them better according to common thought but really it’s because people are scared there’s nothing under there.)

Anyway…

Sometimes when people like a commercial they forget, or in a way deny, that it is a commercial. It sort of transcends being a commercial, which is something we treat as inherently bad, and becomes something lovable. But in reality that makes it so much worse, a thief that makes you love him so he can better rob you hasn’t transcended being a thief, he’s excelled, he’s essentialized. He’s become the uber-thief.

That’s what shared-fault thinking has become in our culture, a thief that makes us love being thieved. We fall in love with the identities holding us back, or at least it feels like love because it provides comfort.

Certain music can make you lazy, TV shows can make you dumber, that’s just a fact. You know how Neo-Nazis stay Neo-Nazis? Constant reinforcement. They’re obsessive about imagery, music, message boards, rallies, slogans, collections, just everything to stay in the mindset that deepens the sense of belonging. Because people are naturally wired to care more about belonging than they are about being right. It’s a habit you have to choose to break. Any kid who was on the receiving end of a …and if all your friends jumped off a bridge…? argument while thinking yeah that was obviously dumb but now I have to defend it knows that.

And how do nazis become nazis? Indoctrination. They get a little exposure and then a deepening hold. But we in the cultural norm of the mid ground don’t have to work very hard to reinforce how we’ve been indoctrinated, it’s just everywhere. The idea that it’s fun and funny to be stupid and smart people are mean, the idea that everybody lies to protect people’s feelings, the idea that everyone who feels more strongly about something than you do is insincere, naive, or crazy.

They’re all ideas we’re pushing on ourselves because we’re scared we can’t be better. No one’s as smart as they think or as dumb as they act but everyone’s afraid to be counted for their actual worth.

So in today’s metaphor round up we’re all lazy, Kesha-lovin’, nazis thinking we’re pretending to be dumb to be palatable to others when that’s actually a genuinely dumb thing to do.

Posted in Depression & Suicide

Your cortisol levels

We all know people who make situations stressful, they make little things into big things. They bring it with them into a room.

And we tend to council these people to use their will power to stay calm after a stresser has happened. Which is useless, it’s like telling an alcoholic who’s already in a bar not to drink, they’re actually going to get more agitated.

You see these people are bringing a lot of cortisol with them, they’re already at a simmer, the guns already cocked, their body is expecting to attack and be attacked. What looks like an over reaction on the outside is being broadcast as the only reaction on the inside.

You have to remember, chemicals don’t influence your feelings, chemicals are your feelings. If you have no serotonin receptors you cannot feel happiness, not in any way.

Well cortisol blocks those receptors, they’re there but they’re inaccessible. Hence why you have no chill in a moment that seems heated to you and only you.

You need to get those cortisol levels down. In the moment, sure, but primarily in advance.

People tell me all the time now that I’m noticeably happier and it’s because I changed things upstream. The things that bother me are all exactly the same but the guns not loaded because I boosted my serotonin over my cortisol.

So at bottom as always it comes with change of diet. One really, really big problem to watch out for is insulin resistance. If you’re overdosing on sugar then you’re body starts ignoring insulin which is trying to get nutrients into your cells. As a back up your body will use cortisol, the fight-or-flight hormone, to jam it in there. So you’ll be stressed out and worse your muscles will start eating themselves. Watch this video which taught me the phrase All Gut, No Butt, and explains the weird body type of old alcoholic ladies where they end up looking like the CGI singer from Jabba’s Palace.

That was a tangent I was dying to get in somewhere, sorry.

Anyway for the purposes of just not being a stress bag shitty person eating right will lower your insulin, up your serotonin, and literally save your life. So what’s the prescription? Eggs, walnuts, and bananas.

If you track a year of advice on the blog it’s just buy outfits and eat eggs.

Step two is also obvious, get some exercise. A work out or a run is great, you’ll get the endocannabinoid anandamide in your system. That’s right, cannabinoid, free high. Assuming you have enough omega-3 to synthesize it so get your avocado on.

But more important than that I think is a sport with other people. You’ll get oxytocin from the social bonding and that’ll really keep the cortisol at bay.

3, protect your sleep. A bad sleep will fuck up everything. Lower serotonin and higher dopamine means you’ll seek quick fixes of pleasure rather than feel happy and cortisol will be there all day thinking it’s helping to keep you awake in case you get attacked by leopards because your hormonal system doesn’t know what cities are. So sleep early and sleep often, cut down on the screen time, no media in bed other than books, no social media before bed (and really no social media at all if you want to not be annoyed), if there’s anything on your mind write it down, sleep should be dark, quiet, and a little cold to be most effective. And sleep has to be most effective for you to be effective at all.

And if you really want to get started a psychedelic neurological reset. Without drugs. To quote so many people, drugs are a rocket with no GPS. They might take you to the worst possible places. That’s why Tim Ferris recommends floating. In general and as a test. If you can’t be in a flotation tank for for an hour without feeling squirrely – don’t do psychedelics.

My first float changed my life, changed my mind, and I float every two weeks now. That’s a big part of where my chill comes from. Floating flushes the system of cortisol. An hour of floating is worth a week of mediation, by my totally subjective non-meditating point of view.

Really how it started for me was just doing all the things I felt truly good people do. Eat clean, work out, nurture friendships, try new things, don’t be a total drunk, and be comfortable with introspection. All the science caught up to that philosophy after.

Feelings can’t change feelings, not without your prefrontal cortex’s benevolent aid. The feeling of wanting to change can’t grow unless you nurture it, and you nurture it by respecting the chemicals that are the fluids in the machine that is your body. Your car can’t conjure up a lubed engine just by wanting it really, really, bad. You gotta keep all your fluid levels balanced.

So the metaphor tally on this one is we’re all squirrely cars on a rocket ship dancing in Jabba’s Palace, peace.

Posted in Depression & Suicide, fitness, floating

Caring About People

I feel like 2017 was the year I learned to care about people.

Before then it happened the way it happens for most people, I thought I cared about people when I liked them and I thought I liked them when our goals were aligned. And then retracted that later when our different goals overlapped badly.

My growth in this area started like all growth, with honesty. Someone joined the team at the Gateway who is the most difficult, selfish, mentally ill, person I’ve ever had to deal with. And the fact that we had to work together and I couldn’t just give up came in handy later but at first it was just honesty that made the difference. We were headed for conflict, we could all sense it, and I humbly and privately said I can tell we’re headed for conflict and I shouldn’t be taking out my issues on you, here’s what I think you think… And it cleared the air and the friendship started from there.

He’s not a bad person he’s just a little bit (actually quite very) broken and if I can see it, and accept it, and be the patient one then I must not be that broken. And with being slightly not-broken comes slight responsibility.

Before that I didn’t care about people and I thought that was okay because I didn’t care about myself. I thought I was the most broken one. And looking back on that time I still do, even I didn’t realize how close to suicide I was all the time because for me it was my normal.

These days I moved past the idea that in any kind of relationship whoever is the most broken deserves all the help. That’s the way assholes think and it causes them not to try and be better.

For me I realized that sometimes I have to be there for people in the difficult trauma that is my friendship. What happens with most people who we call selfish pieces of shit is that they are, or think they are, holding it back and being quite selfless for a while and all we see is the frustrated explosion of selfishness at the end.

The thing is you’re not actually giving anyone anything when you’re just holding back your shittiest self for a week or for a few hours. It’s like if you had a box of doughnuts you told no one about and no one ate them all week then you blew your stack about how you were sick of being so generous and unappreciated and ate them all yourself.

It was really at the start of my relationship with Liv that I felt like I had to help her through my depressions. Not hide them from her, not blame her for not being able to help, but just walk her through it because after all I had the most experience dealing with it. I am, although I wasn’t always, an expert on my own depression and it’s stupid not to share that expertise with people when they’re thrown near it’s vortex.

We all pride ourselves on being there for someone in an emergency, the problem is we decide, not them, what’s a real emergency. There’s times in my life where I’m desperate to blow my brains out spending my nights weeping and cutting and people, as group, choose not to help me because they I’m doing it just to be selfish.

Then things get really bad when I feel backed into a corner and think the only way to prove that’s not the case is to go through with it. That’s when the spiral starts gettin’ steep.

And at times like that, when it feels impossible to do anything for anyone including yourself it’s most important to be generous. And all you have is honesty. Don’t wait, don’t hope, for people to start giving honesty or time or empathy to you because to them it doesn’t look like an emergency. If you were on fire they’d be there for you, if you’re about to light yourself on fire they don’t want to reward your dramatic behavious and they’ll get together behind your back and tell each other how simply your problems could fixed.

It was really getting crushed and ostracized that made me able to stop and take people at face value, when someone’s acting like this is an emergency then I consciously get on board with that, anything else can get unpacked later. A lifeguard doesn’t lecture people about water safety during CPR.

When I look back and think fuck, I just wish people had been better then we wouldn’t be in this forever-mess I remind myself to wish that I’d been better too. Too, not instead. Toxic relationships are fueled by the idea that faults cancel each other out – like siblings claiming they only did this because he did that – and I don’t want to fall into the shitty person trap of just trying to prove I’m technically the least shitty person in the shitty situation. Honestly though, when I get to the absolute core of it I feel that just because my behaviour wasn’t excusable doesn’t mean their’s was.

Now all the time I ask myself did I do not what’s fair but what is right.

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Feeling disqualified from fitness

The only diet one can be disqualified from for a single infraction is Ketosis. Because it’s a biological process that is interrupted by the presence of carbs. No one I know is in keto nor do I think myself or anyone I know could sustain it right now.

Most of us are just struggling with eating clean. My goal starting last year was Paleo Monday to Friday. I always got Perfect Paleo on Monday and then the odds went down from there, especially with beer involved.

First it was carbs starting Friday night – because it’s basically the weekend – then it was starting Friday morning – because if I’m going to be there by the end of the day why bother waiting – then it was Thursday because I’d been good and the weeks almost over blah blah – and then I’d usually toughen up again as I noticed the slip.

I was still shedding body fat though, the Slow Carb refs never came and gave me a red card declaring me fat for the remainder of play.

And if there was some sort of occasion like going out for sushi or dinner at someone’s parents I’d put the diet on hold to not be a drag for myself and others, let fun be fun.

Again, I didn’t get dragged to the gulag for fatties out in the badlands.

It happens with exercise too, there are days where I should have ran, gym’d, and/or swam, that I didn’t. And a diet slip or a missed work out is really disheartening. It’s natural to start telling yourself you’re not legit, you’re a poser, you’re washing out, one imperfect day proves forever that everyone is right to hate you and you should drink yourself to death before you drag anyone else down with you.

Well, not natural but not uncommon.

Here’s the thing: 1, if you’re beating yourself up, good, that means you’re not deluding yourself. You fucked up and you feel bad, you’re supposed to feel bad when you fuck up, that’s your navigator yelling that you’re going the wrong way. It’s much worse if the ship is going off course and the navigator is like yeah we’ll just steer twice as hard next week and it’ll be fine, you got this. That’s how boats go missing.

There’s a writing tip that I heard about from Lauren Graham’s autobiography; basically it says you start with a schedule like one hour a day and if there’s a day you don’t hit you schedule the next day not for two hours to catch up but for half an hour so that you’ll actually do it. If you can’t do one hour today your not going to be able to do two hours tomorrow, you’ll feel bad, you’ll feel all-or-nothing and you’ll ‘accidentally’ choose nothing. But it’s okay, says the asshole navigator, you’ll just three hours tomorrow, and if not then sometime next week you’ll just put aside a whole day and plow through it.

No you won’t.

You don’t take the power away from a threat by making it bigger.

What really matters is point 2, you acknowledge it, track it, and keep trending for the better. Admit that today you had 80% compliance with the program and your compliance for the week is now imperfect but you’re still in this. Last week was 70%, the week before was 90, don’t take the fuck-it pills and make this week 60, don’t write off all the good you might do by letting one mistake justify all future mistakes until an arbitrary reset date.

Keep trending toward the goal. There’s no deadlines, you don’t need to do this as fast as possible in order for it to be worth it. You don’t have to be perfect, you don’t even have to be excellent most of the time, I’m proof that you can be pretty good for 3 months and get the results you imagine from that one perfect impossible month.

Relax, because the true goal is to feel good, and no one feels good trying to pressure themselves into a diamond all the time, you go ahead and be a lil’ smudgey piece of coal sometimes. I don’t know what that really means but it’s okay ’cause for blogs I’m still around 70% of making a high-degree of sense this week so it’s good, we’re coal on a boat.

Posted in Depression & Suicide, fitness

Incels

While I just learned this term a few weeks ago, when most people did, I actually was aware of this type of guy for a long time. In fact I said once if I could magic wand anything in the world it would be unwinding, all the weird built up hate certain types of guys get for, primarily, women.

I’m intimately familiar with the dark-nerd, school-shooter archetype and I know it comes a from a place of loneliness and self-hatred. The persona is the only source of control they have and it has massive walls and trenches to protect it’s host. But the thing is no one else has an incentive to fix that for you.

And in the internet era anyone, with any glaring flaw, can find a community. So they don’t have an incentive to fix themselves either.

The worst thing you can do is lean into and focus on the parts of your identity you don’t like. You’ve formed a community – and humans need community and want to belong – that reinforces the thing that it hates. Recovering alcoholics form community around supporting each other to get better, not feeding each other’s hopelessness about the situation.

Literally do any other thing that join a community and take on a label of something like that. Be a karaoke regular, hit the gym, get into model trains, anything that puts worth on something you do rather than defining yourself by what you’re not and feel you can’t ever be.

Where does the violence come into it? At the end of a logic chain no one else sees.

It starts with the belief that pity will get you what you want. Because when you’re a toddler it does. The more pathetic you act as a young kid the more likely adults are to give you what you want.

Jocko tells a story on the podcast about how even after his kids learned to tie their shoes it was still a struggle every day because they wanted him to do it, they’d whine, they’d make insincere overtly struggling attempts and then say can’t you just do it?

That’s why these so called nice guys think women are just withholding sex. Women can, could, should, and would tie their shoes for them, they’re just choosing not to because they enjoy watching you jump through hoops.

They don’t think sex is something that happens between two people and they don’t believe they’re adult enough, or good enough, or man enough, or anything enough to actually get it.

That’s why it turns into these toxic power fantasies. In their subconscious they’re negotiating like a toddler; first be nice, then be helpless, then throw a temper tantrum. And throwing a tantrum isn’t always about getting what you want it’s about punishing them and making them regret not giving it to you.

This type of guy thinks he has a lot of power stored up in the dark-nerd school shooter persona and he was doing you something like a favour by pretending he doesn’t. He flirts like he’s stocking the pot in a poker game, giving it up and expecting to rake it in after.

And the insane thing is the women of the world don’t know they’re in this life-and-death negotiation. Women know they’re playing a balancing game with the feelings of any man who decides he’s romantically interested in them, even if it’s just a skeaze on the bus. I know they know because they tell me they’re tired of it.

Toxic people use their emotional volatility as a trump card. Whether it’s an addict using a hurt to justify a binge or someone self-harming and threatening suicide as a last resort when they can’t get their shoes tied. Or ever since the dawn of everybody wanting to be famous and equating fame with power, they want to commit a nihilistic murder spectacle. Thanks Reagan.

And the true problem is at this stage of the negotiation I don’t know what the fix is. There’s two types of shitty people – those who, early on, had people who were too nice or too cruel. We’re dealing with the too cruel camp here (Niel Strauss’ Emotional Incest article is dealing with the too nice). But we can’t counteract that cruelty. Once someone is taking out their half of a high-school rejection on any remotely plausible surrogate it’s unethical to expect that surrogate to act as a surrogate, or even acknowledge it. Only famous people and attractive women get hated for being different than people fantasized them to be.

The worst thing you can do for a toddler throwing a tantrum is tie their shoe. It’s not anyone else’s job to fix a past cruelty, real or perceived, but how do we get a bunch of armed, self-reinforcing, anonymous toddlers to see that?

 

Posted in Pop Culture, Pragmatism