sarahmichigan: (Default)
J. and I used to joke around about "Just Stop It" therapy. This is when someone you know is complaining about some problem they have, either partly or wholly self-induced, and you want to tell them that whatever behavior or attitude is bothering them, "Just stop it!"

But, this almost never works. Dr. Laura seems to be about the only person who can do this, and actually gets thanked for it. However, any time I forget that it doesn't work and try it- or one of its variants such as "Just get over yourself" or "Suck it up and deal" or "Calm the fuck down"- it just gets the person's hackles up, even if advice was solicited (and I rarely give unsolicited advice anymore, because it's generally a losing proposition).

One of these days, I'll get it through my thick skull that offering this kind of "stop it" armchair therapy doesn't work. And, eventually, I'll just... stop it.
sarahmichigan: (Default)
I know I post a lot about what I *don't* believe in or phenomenon or "alternative treatments" that I think are bunk. I don't dismiss all and sundry out of hand, and I have my superstitious moments as well.

Homeopathy is bunk, but herbs do work
I think homeopathy is bunk, but I do think that some herbal remedies are useful. I do NOT, however, always think that "natural"="good". I have deadly nightshade in my backyard, and it's been known to be a remedy, in small doses, for certain conditions. I wouldn't recommend using it, though, unless you've studied herbology for a dozen years. I think that many teas are good for relaxation, and I do know some simple first aid remedies that can be made from common wild plants or house plants (i.e. aloe for burns or plantain for insect bites). So, I'm not completely dismissive bout all alternative therapies and remedies.

Mixed feelings about other alternative treatments
I think that chiropractic is useful for certain back and spine issues, but not necessarily any more helpful than visiting a traditional physical therapist. And I think it's complete bunk when they claim they can cure things like asthma or allergies through chiropractic.

I'm fairly skeptical of the scope of claims made for acupuncture and acupressure, and I think that the explanation for how it's supposed to work (the flow of qi energy and so on) is pretty unbelievable. Yet, I know it's been clinically tested, and I think there's at least reason to keep an open mind about its usefulness, especially in the realm of pain relief.

I think many types of body work are bogus or at least the claims about how they work are bogus, but I do get a lot of relief from repetitive strain issues from traditional massage.

Why I don't put faith in Western Medicine, either
When I have had arguments with others about my skepticism and/or rejection of certain alternative treatments, the other person often says something along the lines of, "OK, if you want to put all your trust in Western medicine/allopathic medicine, then be my guest."

This assumes a false dichotomy. I have enough skepticism to go around for both! I do NOT trust Big Pharma or western doctors any more than I do naturopaths or herbalists. I DO, however, respect treatments that have shown to have effect beyond the placebo effect in repeated scientific studies.

I'm not dismissing the placebo effect out of hand, and I think that western medicines often "work" the same way that homeopathy "works." Study after study has shown that even for western medicine, your good relationship with your doctor and your doctor's belief in the medicine she's prescribing for you will often contribute to you getting better as much as the medicine itself.

Often, someone will seek alternative therapies, and they'll try treatment X without result, then Y, and then finally they get better when they try treatment Z. They exclaim, "Oh, I've finally found the right treatment!" and they become big advocates of treatment Z. This doesn't necessarily mean that Z made them better though; perhaps enough time passed that they just got better on their own. The thing is, I think this happens with regular western medicine too!

Say you get put on one anti-depressant or heartburn medication, and it doesn't fix the problem. So your doctor tries out two or three others, and finally, after the fourth try, your condition gets better. It doesn't mean the last medication was the silver bullet-- it could be that you've changed your lifestyle or eating habits or have dropped something stressful out of your life, and the depression would have lifted or the heartburn would have gone away even if you hadn't tried any medicine at all.

Does this make me superstitious?
As for being superstitious; surely, I don't believe in god or any supernatural phenomenon. But this doesn't mean I'm wholly 100 percent logical or that I don't have my superstitious moments. I don't believe that people get crazy during the full moon or that astrology is predictive. However, I DO tend to put a fair amount of stock in symbology.

I don't mean that when I see four crows flying south overhead that I think it's going to rain. I mean something more along the lines of, "If he bought THAT for her for their third anniversary of dating, it's a sure thing they're going to break up in the next few months." Or, "He dreamed that the refrigerator came alive and tried to eat him. Surely he's having some issues with this new diet he's just started." Or, "That guy she's crazy about is just like her Dad in a lot of ways. I bet she's going to have a lot of issues around abandonment with this guy, just like she did with her father."

I think partly this is superstitious on my part, but it's also legitimate psychological observation as well. I think that human beings do put stock, even if subconsciously, in symbols, and I do, too.
sarahmichigan: (Default)
1. I know I sometimes come off as a know-it-all, but I'm perfectly aware of the fact that there are many areas where I don't know enough to have an informed opinion. This is true of factual/scientific/academic issues, but I think this is especially true of passing judgment on other people's romantic and familial relationships. I think the only people who *truly* know what's going on in a family or a couple are the people in that family/relationship.

2. I've heard it said that if one person says something critical to you about your behavior/habits/relationship, then you should take it with a grain of salt, but if several people point out the same problems/issues, then you should take note. Do you think that's true? I tend to think that has *some* truth in it, at least.

3. If you know that you're prone to making bad judgements in one or more area of your life, how do you protect yourself from those kind of errors without paralyzing yourself and being afraid to do anything at all? I know some people have appointed friends to alert them when they're going off the deep end with some project or passion and some people who have a best friend whose opinion they seek on all relationships because they're prone to not noticing relationship red flags and so on until it's too late. What do you think works and what doesn't in this sort of situation?
sarahmichigan: (Default)
I've been reading "Slowing Down to the Speed of Life." It's sparked some interesting insights and has confirmed some things I had already figured out for myself.

A few things I'm not crazy about: 1) it has a sort of New Agey tone that grates sometimes, and I don't believe that developing "unconditional love" for people no matter how they act is necessarily a mentally healthy thing. 2) While I agree that how we think about things often *colors* our experience, I don't necessarily think that our thoughts "create our world."

However, I've already picked up a few tidbits that have helped me stay calm when I was feeling upset or rushed. First is the idea that you have two basic modes of thinking, and being in the wrong mode at the wrong time can cause stress. You're either in analytical/processing mode, or you're in intuitive/free-flowing mode. If you have all the data you need for a cut-and-dried problem, like pricing tickets for a trip, then analytical/processing mode is appropriate. When you want to do some creative task or make a decision about a relationship, often free-flowing mode is more helpful. If you don't have all the facts you need, and you keep trying to process in analytical mode, you just drive yourself crazy and stress yourself out. It's better to put the issue on the back burner and let your intuitive side try to sort things out. This is often the reason why you have great insights when you're dreaming or when you've given up on a problem for the day. The idea of NOT over-processing an issue that I don't have all the facts on has been extremely helpful. Just let it go until you have the facts you need.

The second and third ideas I found helpful are similar to insights I had a few months ago. I decided that while I can't always change external stressors, I CAN work to take care of myself and make myself more stress-proof, and I can change my attitude about these stressors. I've also talked on my LJ about the idea that if you rush, you'll muck things up, and it'll take longer to complete things than if you slow down and do it right the first time. Sometimes it's important to move swiftly, but "rushing" is never productive. The book goes into a lot of detail about these concepts. If you start your day with a To Do list of 10 things, and you keep filling your mind with stressful thoughts about "How am I going to get this all done?" and "I never have any free time!" you're still going to have to do all 10 things, but you're going to be stressed, distracted, and inefficient. If you acknowledge that you're having stressful thoughts about how busy you are, but just let them go and try to get into the free-flow zone, you'll be able to do those 10 things more efficiently without stressing yourself out.

I have noticed this last bit of dysfunctional thinking in myself. If I obsess about how busy I am and how much stuff I need to do, I get stressed and cranky. If I just tell myself, "Sarah, it'll get done, and what doesn't get done probably wasn't that important," then everything usually gets done, and I feel much more relaxed about it all.

I do have one quibble with the idea that your thoughts create your experience. The authors seem to be saying that the ONLY reason you get upset or stressed is because of your thinking. While I believe that's at least partially true, I think that we're wired to react to certain stressors on an instinctual level that's pre-thinking. If someone verbally attacks you, your heart races, you sweat and shake, and it's not because of your thinking-- it's an instantaneous reaction, and the person's attack IS causing you distress, not just your own thinking. Of course, you can use your own thinking to defuse the situation, such as thinking, "Geez, he's having a bad day. I know that I did nothing wrong, and this guy is usually not this nasty, so I will try to stay calm and react with compassion."

Anyhow, I'm sure there will be more insights gained from this book. Anything that helps me slow down and de-stress is a good thing, even if I don't agree with the philosophy behind the techniques 100 percent.
sarahmichigan: (Default)
A link found via [ profile] windswept about the damage that can be done by Scientology's stance on psychiatry. "Tom Cruise Killed Mommy":

I thought [ profile] dionysus1999 would appreciate this, as well as the "bonus link" toward the bottom of the post about the agreement you must sign that says they can kill you.
sarahmichigan: (Default)
I've been thinking over some things over the last few days, and I could probably go on and on, but I'll try to keep it concise.

I've heard or read several acquaintances and friends lately talk or write about feeling like observers in their lives, talk about "faking being an adult," or talk about feeling they are play-acting at some aspect of their lives. I know others who get down about "getting in a rut" or "taking someone or something for granted" or doing things out of habit.

It seems to me those feelings are both completely normal and are the beginning and ending points of a process of acclimatization.

At first, when you try any new skill, whether it's something you do at work, or a relationship skill, you feel like you're faking it. I used to feel quite scatter-brained, and so I would keep multiple calendars and put sticky notes all over my desk. People would assume I was organized, but I felt like a deeply disorganized person who was just "faking" being organized. But if you turn those behaviors that help keep you organized into regular habits, you're not just faking organized anymore; you ARE organized. I've always thought that "Fake it til you make it" was great advice for many situations, but especially in the area of faking confidence until you actually feel confident, whether it's a work interview or a first date.

The flip side of that is feeling that you're in a routine, that you're doing things out of habit, and you're not really putting much thought or effort into them. That's actually a good thing in some parts of your life. I surely don't feel the need to be wholly present and give brushing my teeth my full attention. If I was a good Buddhist, I probably *would* spend some time giving tooth-brushing my full attention, just as practice in being mindful, but I'm not quite that enlightened yet.

I think the problem comes when you feel that *too much* of your life is routine, or that things that should have more meaning and more feeling attached to them have become mere habit. Kissing your spouse before work or as you're arriving home from work is a nice ritual. But if it's done out of obligation and without feeling, I can see how that would feel deadening and disappointing.

After all my pondering, I think it's important to:

1. Relax when you feel you're play-acting or faking it, and trust that the new way of being or doing things will become more comfortable over time.

2. Figure out what things it's OK to let become habitual and routine and not worry about those.

3. Find the important areas of your life where you've gotten into a rut and figure out how you can do those things more mindfully, whether it's giving your spouse a really *soulful* kiss upon arriving home or whether it's doing a routine job at work with more attention and thinking of ways you could improve your efficiency at that process or another process or task at work.

4. Plan to try out one new thing every week (or month or every quarter, since everyone has different needs and tolerances for The New vs. the Old and Familiar) to keep yourself feeling challenged and alive. These new things can range from something small like listening to a different radio station on your commute (or turning off the radio and driving in silence) to planning a long hike somewhere you've never visited before to committing to taking concrete steps toward finding a new, more challenging job.
sarahmichigan: (thoughtful)
I saw this question asked in an advice column, and I thought it was interesting. I'm paraphrasing, but basically the question was: How do you know when a personality trait that annoys someone is something you should change, or if it's just a quirk that the other person should be more tolerant of?

Again, I'm paraphrasing, but the columnist said it depended on whether it was a personality trait that was actually reasonably liable to change, and whether you really wanted to change that personality trait.

She gave the example of being a worry-wart. Read more... )
sarahmichigan: (Default)
I mentioned a while back in this post that I have been listening to the book "Destructive Emotions" on CD:

I'm more and more impressed with the Dalai Lama and his branch of Buddhism. The book is largely a transcript of a multi-day meeting between Buddhists and brain scientists, and one of the big topics in the book is how to teach children "emotional and social intelligence"; that includes things like recognizing and coping with your own negative emotions, learning to recognize emotions in others, and learning to calm down and not react violently in response to negative emotions that arise. I was really impressed that he and the brain scientists agreed that it was necessary to find a secular way of presenting the information. How many evangelistic Christians would be so enthusiastic about turning the precepts of their religion into something secular to make it more widely accepted and applicable?

One highlight so far (I'm almost finished):

Typically, therapists who work with people who have explosive anger issues try to lengthen the time between when the person gets angry and when they act on that anger (i.e. "Take a deep breath and count to ten."). In Buddhist psychology, they believe in trying to catch the anger even earlier, and learning to notice the thought processes that lead up to the feeling of anger. Say a man is in line and someone cuts in front of him. He begins to think, "That's not fair. That person is a jerk." Then he gets angry. Then he is tempted to push the person or say something nasty. Traditional therapy would tell the man to breathe deep, count to ten, and not take action until he'd calmed down. The Buddhist approach is to try to catch yourself earlier, while you're in the "unfair" part of the thought process, and re-frame. "Maybe he didn't see me. Anyway, it's no big deal, and nothing worth losing my cool over." That way, you might even be able to stop yourself from getting really angry, much less acting on it.

I had more to say, but I'm running out of time. Maybe later.
sarahmichigan: (Default)
As part of my book on CD kick, I'm reading "Destructive Emotions." It's about the overlap between Buddhist philosophy of the mind and neuropsychology, and I'm gaining new respect for Buddhism and the Dalai Lama. I think it's especially neat that he thinks that if science proves a tenet of Buddhism wrong (for instance, when he was a boy, Buddhist cosmology still said the earth was flat), then Buddhism should change to align itself with the science. He's doing that to make Buddhism relevant and creditable in the modern world, and I think that's pretty cool.

I think [ profile] novapsyche would like this book a great deal.
sarahmichigan: (pensive)
-I am afraid to lose control. I feel like I've often HAD to be the one in control, the one "keeping things together," and if I let go, people will fuck me.

-Change, even necessary and/or good change, is scary.

-My sexuality is not defined by anyone else. I am a whole sexual being in and of myself.

-A mantid, close up, looks like an alien from another world, with that triangle face and glittering eyes. I bet some movie aliens are loosely based on members of the mantis family.
sarahmichigan: (Default)
For a long time, I've realized that unsolicited advice is unpopular, rarely heeded, and is likely to make the person being advised angry. I've also long held the belief that even when people ask you for advice, they almost always only want you to tell them to go ahead and do whatever they've already made up their mind to do.

More recently, I've come up with a corollary belief: people can't extrapolate from other people's experience to their own.

You see this in LJ communities like sextips and birthcontrol, and you see it in advice columns.

Good critical thinkers can make generalizations and apply them to new situations. For instance: Ah, I see that putting my hand in the bonfire hurts. I see flames on the kitchen's gas stove; I bet that putting my hand in that source of fire also hurts! In fact, I bet even an electric stove, since it is a source of heat, could burn my hand and hurt me.

But so many people are obviously NOT good critical thinkers when it comes to extrapolating from one situation to another. For instance, versions of the same goddamn question get asked over and over on sextips because people think they're a "special case." For instance: I know you gave the person two posts ago advice about having an orgasm through PIV sex. But my situation is different because my boyfriend is 5'7" and blond and 28, not a 17-year-old brunette. (OK, yes I'm being snarky, but you get the idea).

Or, on birthcontrol, there will be a series of questions about whether you're "really protected even on the placebo pills." They think their situation is different because they're on a different brand of pill. Or they can't extrapolate to the fact that the same thing applies when you're using the patch and you're on your no-patch week, which is essentially the same thing as the placebo pill week for pill users.

I think the place people have the hardest time making generalizations and extrapolating is in relationship issues. Yes, generalizations can be problematic because we're all individuals, but people still fall into the trap of thinking they're "special cases." In an advice column, you'll see a letter that says something like, "I'm a big fan of your advice, and I know you've had several letters about cheating. You've said that if he cheated on his wife with you, it's likely he's going to continue cheating even if he leaves her and marries you. But my situation is special. He's only cheating because blah, blah, blah."

No. You're not special. You just don't want to accept the advice everyone in the same goddamn situation gets, and so you're looking for all the exceptions and minor differences.

Really, if we could learn from other people's experiences, it'd be great and would save us a lot of heartache. But it rarely works that way, does it?
sarahmichigan: (Default)
I was talking with [ profile] dionysus1999 about default social strategies. If they're at all nervous in social situations, most people have a default strategy or personality they don. For some, it might be "The Jester," where you feel you have to entertain people. For someone else, it might be "The Lecturer," where you feel most comfortable teaching people something. You might be "The Cruise Director" or "The Devil's Advocate."

I think my defaults are "The Flirt," "The Hostess," and occasionally "The Hermit."

How about you?


Jul. 15th, 2005 07:20 am
sarahmichigan: (Default)
At work, at home, in your personal life: What are you pretending not to know?


If you're not currently pretending not to know anything, can you recall an instance in the past when you pretended not to know something?

examples behind the cut )
sarahmichigan: (Default)
I took one of those silly Quizilla type quizzes that rated you on several personality factors. No big surprise that I skew toward introverted and messy and that my creativity scores came out high.

But it's been bothering me way more than it should that I scored pretty far over on the "disagreeability" scale. I mean, I know I have some bitchy tendencies and can even joke about them. But, really, in my own self-image, I'm a sweetheart. I always strove to be the "cool girlfriend" rather than the nag. I think I'm a compassionate listener and I'm quite motherly with many of my friends and my lovers. I want to be one of the sweet, good-tempered people, but I know I'm not. I'm argumentative and a know-it-all.

I don't ever want to be a nicey-nice person or a pushover, but maybe I could work on just holding my tongue when someone else is "getting it wrong"-- just a little more often.
sarahmichigan: (Default)
I’ve become more and more convinced that the idea of “the one” and “soul-mates” as defined by most people is subtly destructive. If you believe there’s an exact match for you, and only one, you’ll do crazy things. Some people will stick with someone who is rotten for them or doesn’t treat them right because they believe that if you leave “the one” then you’ll never find someone so compatible again. In the opposite direction, if you believe in “the one”, you may hop from relationship to relationship. Even if you find someone who is extraordinarily good for you and sweet to you, you’ll leave if you find one little area of difference or incompatibility, because he or she must not be “the one” if you’re not perfectly matched in every way.

I’ve also come to believe that a soul-mate isn’t something magical that happens to you, but something you build with someone over time. Back in 1993, I would never have imagined that in 2004, I’d still be with someone who makes up his own words (wroten, broughten) and has a hard time pronouncing the words “taut” or “rancid” correctly (but who can, nevertheless, kick my ass at Scrabble 2 out of 3 times). Looking back in my journal about 6 months after we started dating, I had an entry in which I said that if I broke up with J., it’d be because he didn’t like “Howard’s End.” Nothing happened and nobody died, so it wasn’t his kind of movie. How anti-intellectual he was (and still can be). A terrible match for me, I thought. He was going to be the rebound guy. I’m so glad I gave him a chance and stuck it out with him.

This is a man who makes me laugh by dancing around the kitchen naked. This is a man who arranged his Star Trek figurines on the kitchen table, with Kirk holding a mini-bouquet of flowers for me, with a sign that said “We love you”. This is a man who really understood how I felt when my father died, because he loved my Dad, too. This is a man who has consistently found me beautiful and desirable, even though I weigh 45 more pounds than I did when I met him. This is a man who combs my hair for me and rubs my feet when I’ve had a bad day. This is the man who I am happy to sleep beside every night. This is my soul-mate.

I love you, babe!

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