Category Archives: psychology

There’s nothing wrong with being unhappy.

My Philosophy Bookshelf(bottom)

My Philosophy Bookshelf(bottom) (Photo credit: jddunn)

I had a late night talk with some people the other day and they seemed astonished at the idea I was not blissfully happy with my life. Off the top of my head I had said I was about 60% – 40%, by which I was trying to say that I was generally more unhappy than happy.  In reflection this was probably wrong. Really I’m 30% – 30% with the 40 being “meh” – that’s neither good nor bad for those unfamiliar with the lingo.

Anyway, a large part of the rest of the night was spent “robustly” discussing the idea: One side saying that you can make yourself happy, by mindfulness and what not. The other side (me) saying that you have what you feel what you feel and that just because you pretend to be happy, doesn’t make it true. Interestingly enough it was a good argument at times with plenty of stomping about and offense – ironically enough this kind of thing makes me happy, so maybe 31%.

After it all, I still think the same thing, although I’m happy to have my mind changed. Here’s what I think:

1)      You feel what you feel and you cannot make yourself happy.

2)      There is nothing wrong with being unhappy.

Not sure if I should explain this, because I more interested in what others’ think, but I suppose I should just for clarity.

You feel what you feel and you cannot make yourself happy.

Is there such a thing as free will? It’s a big questions and I’m just going to skim around the edges, because I’m lazy today. What I want to say though is that even if there is such a thing as free will and choice, our ability to use it is very limited. I am who I am because of things that happened millions of years before I was born. Many of my feelings and thoughts come from a biological origin that I will never be able to alter – unless I can meet Dr Who and change the course of sun or something. Others come from my experiences – especially as a child: If I had watched “My little pony” more that I watched “He-man” maybe my life would be very different today. I’m also constantly affected by the behavior of my surrounding environment: if I don’t get the right things to eat and drink I get sleepy, cranky and become more of pain in the ass than usual.

In the end, after all this, what I end up feeling is really not up to me.

There is nothing wrong with being unhappy.

Oddly enough, the people who I was talking to seemed to be saying to use mindfulness as a way of being happy. Yet it seemed to miss the point in mindfulness. For me mindfulness is about experiencing what is there already, not hiding from it. If I feel unhappy then I should just be unhappy, if I feel happy, or angry, or horney, that’s okay. It’s the judging happiness as a good/bad thing that’s the problem.

I’ll throw in the over used arrow story here. A guy gets shot by and arrow and there is pain. He can’t stop that, it is what it is. But he can avoid more pain, by not judging the pain as a bad thing. The Buddha tells a more elaborate version, but I think that’s the point.

And unhappiness can be a good thing and it’s natural. Sure you don’t want to be stuck in it your whole life, but you don’t want to be suck in any emotion permanently – there is nothing more annoying than a person who is always happy; usually they’re idiots. However, being unhappy can be good motivator, it can help bring about change and can tell you when something is wrong.

There’s more I could say on these things, but I’ll leave it to people to join the dots. Agree or disagree, I’d be interested in your thoughts.

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Can we create anymore?

The Glass Bead Game

The Glass Bead Game (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

One of my favorite books is “The Glass Bead Game” by Herman Hesse.  I can only really describe it as cultural science fiction. The people in the future don’t really create culture anymore, they just manipulate it put it together using the bead game. It’s not a terrible future, but there is something sad about it.  In many ways it seems like this the way that things are going.

 

I was looking for a film to watch the other day and all I could really find were remakes of older films. It’s not even just remakes, now it’s remakes of remakes.”Spiderman” is good example. Having just finishing remaking the film with Toby Maguire, they’ve started again remaking the remakes with a new actor.

 

It’s not just straight remakes either. There are plenty of books and stories that are little more than retellings of the same tale with a different name.  I think I remember Steven King pointing out that authors like Terry Brooks are not really making their own new work, they’re just trying to rewrite the works of Tolkien that they love.

 

It does make me wonder, are we gradually losing the ability to create? Will we be left with only the glass bead game?

 

 

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The oddity of a five day week.

Hamster wheel

Hamster wheel (Photo credit: sualk61)

This post might just be me being a lazy bugger, but is a five day working week really necessary?

I enjoy many things. For example, on the weekend I often go cycling and last night I went a run. I even manage to write some stuff now and again. However, if you asked me to do any of those things – note, things that I enjoy – a regimented eight hours a day five days a week, I would almost certainly start to dislike them. So why do we expect work to be any different?

I’m probably romanticising, but I’m guessing things wouldn’t have been like that back in the good old days when we lived in the forest and had a high chance of being eaten by something with big pointy teeth or dying horribly from a common cold. I guess in those times we worked when we had to, ie when we were hungry, and the rest of the time was pretty much up to us, leaving us to sit about grunting or poking the mysterious fire to our heart’s content. So why do we think that sitting in an office for forty hours a week is sensible?

And what is it we are working for exactly?

‘Well if we don’t work hard the economy will go into recession and that would be terrible!’ said a made up Tory politician (I’m pretty sure they say that kind of thing all time.)

But don’t they get it? The economy, money, recessions, they’re all made up! They don’t really exist. It’s just some convention that we’ve all agreed to work by and could just as easily stop working by and do sometime else instead. It would be like going to another planet and finding out that they worked only because if they didn’t the giant bunny rabbit of death would come and eat them. On further questioning we find that they are all perfectly sensible people and know that the bunny thing is… well… nonsense. ‘But that’s just the way we’ve all ways done things on this planet, so no point in changing that.’ So what it we are working for? I can understand a scientist, doctor or someone talking about the advancement of the human race etc, but for most of us our jobs are not like that and what we do is simply production for the sake of production with no real benefit to mankind what so ever. In fact with the way the environment is going we’re probably doing harm.

Another of those fallacies is that if we stopped forcing people to work, then nothing would get done, but again that is total nonsense. Just look at the internet and be proved wrong. A five minute search and you’ll find load of free programs, stories,games and music that people have spent a lot of time and effort making, not for financial gain, but because they wanted to. People are not lazy, we just think we are because we are so tired from working on stuff we don’t like all the time, but give people a month off and once they’ve spent a some time recovering, suddenly the urge to work will come and it wort be work 😦  it will be work 🙂 .

So here’s a not really thought out idea to consider. How about we take the jobs that people don’t really like doing (making shoes and cleaning sewers stuff like that) and divided them up between everyone in the country. Hopefully that works out as about three or four days a week for most. The rest of the days are then ours to work on doing whatever we want. You want to be a teacher, teach. You want to be a writer, write.  Okay so we might be a little less productive, but we’d certainly be a lot more happy.

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I’m Chris and I’m an addict.

Expanded coke zero can!

Expanded coke zero can! (Photo credit: Audin)

Now I know many people will say it’s not a real addiction, but recently I’ve been trying to give up or at least cut down on my caffeine and it’s been really hard. Much harder than I thought it would be.

My particular brand of addiction comes in the shape of a can of coke Zero. I never really got into coffee – thank god as that has crazy amounts of caffeine in it and I’d need to take out a loan to pay Starbucks’ prices – and while I drink tea from time to time, it just doesn’t seem to have the kick of a can of zero. For some reason that little black can just works for me. As a teacher I often throw one back between classes to keep my energy up and it’s not easy task getting through a hundred or so exam papers without that little jolt to keep me going, not to mention when I want to get a chapter done in a book, but it’s all got a bit out of hand recently. More and more I find myself drinking the stuff without really thinking about it and gradually it’s become my water; it’s time to start cutting down.

Thing is, it’s much harder than people think. Online I’ve read a lot of people complaining about the headaches that come with withdrawal and I’m glad to say while I’ve had a little, it’s not been anything too bad. The thing for me has been the sleepiness. I just feel so tired at the moment and it’s not the kind that you can just push through. It’s like when you’ve been up for two days straight kind of tiredness with weights pulling down your eyes and when you have to work, that’s really not a good thing.

I’d say the big thing that makes cutting down on caffeine so hard is to be surround by temptation all the time. Now, don’t get me wrong I’m sure giving up heroine it probably a little bit harder, but at least – for most people- they’d have to make a little bit of effort to get some. With caffeine it’s everywhere. In the school I just have to walk down a flight of stairs to get to my dealer and sometime people just give me some without asking. Although I’m sure in some parts of Glasgow that’s the same for a heroine junky.

One thing people have asked though is why do you want to give up? And the answer is I don’t really. It’s also part of the problem. As a veggi my diet is boring enough without cutting out caffeine, but I want it to be a choice rather than a compulsion. The thing is I know I can give up. Last year I gave up all soda for half a year, but what I really want to learn to do is manage it and getting that balance seems to be a lot harder for me and something I think I’m going to be wrestling with for some time to come.   

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O father where art thou

Father & Son

Father & Son (Photo credit: jeroenadema)

I was going to call this post “man on man action”, but decided against it.

Anyways it may have been the father‘s day stuff that I seen on the net, but I’ve been thinking about my relationship with my Dad recently. My parents split up when I was young and while I seen my Dad for a while after I ended up not seeing him any more. It was complicated, he had a new family and I felt a certain amount of miss placed duty to my wronged mother to stop seeing him. Anyways long story short, I haven’t seen my Dad for almost twenty years now.

It’s something I wouldn’t mind changing. I mean I don’t hold it against him any more. I’m old enough to know that relationships don’t always work out and that there’s a certain amount of madness surrounding the whole thing. I did try googling him and had a quick look on facebook, but nothing came up.

The thing is I’ve always thought that it hadn’t really effected me that much. I mean I know it changed me, of course it did, but I’ve never considered myself to have any psychological hang-ups about it, but recently I’ve started to wonder.

You see when I was thinking about psychological issues I guess I was thinking about in my relationships with women. Now I admit I’m not exactly Mr commitment and not wanting a family is maybe a bit odd, but it’s hardly unusual these days and I know plenty of people from “normal” upbringings that feel the same way. What I’m starting to wonder about is how did my parents break up effect my relationships with other men?

We’re a generation of men raised by women. I’m wondering if another woman is really the answer we need.”Fight Club.

I hadn’t really thought about it much, but I am far more comfortable around women than I am around men. Even the male friends I have, and no offence here guys, are not exactly the most macho of people. I seem to have a certain amount of distrust towards other people of my own sex, especially the more butch kind and I usually assume the worst when I think of the male motives. Likewise I’m often not sure how I’m supposed to act around other men, especially in larger groups.

So I’m wondering, is that something to do with my family history?

Thing is there are plenty of other factors that could contribute to it. High school was fine for me, but I was on the fringes of things generally and knew who to avoid. Maybe I’m just continuing on the same way. Also most of my home life was dominated by female figures and I was rarely part of a group made exclusively of men. I’ve also wondered if it could be natural. Is this some genetic animistic thing about male dominance?

In truth it’s probably a combination of all of the above. Either way it’s interesting to think about where our ability to form relationships comes from. Does anyone have any great psychological insights?

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