Recently, I wrote about a book called “Emotional Blackmail” by Susan Forward. At the end of the book, she writes about traps people fall into, that makes us vulnerable when dealing with difficult relationships. One of those traps, is the fear of falling into a “black hole” of loneliness and unhappiness. Forward describes this as a normal reaction that many can have, the fear is often worse than reality, but this fear can be so powerful that people stay in unhealthy relationships or situations. She has a concrete tip on how to handle those insecure feelings. First, she sits there with the patient and ask them to go “into” the black hole in their thoughts. While there, feeling vulnerable and like life never will be okay again, she asks the client to bring forward a good memory. In the book, a woman who is afraid of loosing her husband even if she wants a divorce herself, tells Susan that she feels so alone and afraid that she never will have anyone around her again. Forward then asks her to come up with a positive memory, and to think about what makes her happy in her day to day life. For this patient, a memory of when she was a child and got a horse, comes up. Susan asks her to remember this memory, and the patient immediately feels better and stronger. In this more positive mood, it is easier for her to remember other good things: She has friends, family and pleasurable interests, and she realizes that she can feel afraid and helpless, and still be able to get out of that feeling by thinking about happy memories and what she has today.
When reading that paragraph, I remember a dream I had many years ago. It started as a nightmare. I didn`t know where to go, and felt completely disoriented. I was trying to find my way back after walking in the mountains, but everything looked unfamiliar. I kept on walking, with panic growing inside. Suddenly, I followed a path that lead my to the most beautiful waterfall I`ve ever seen. It was surrounded by a tranquil space that made me cry because it was so wonderful. I felt completely safe and protected, and when I woke, the afterimage of this beautiful place, was still there. I can still feel relaxed and reassured when I think about this place, because it reminds me of beauty in the most difficult of circumstances. Whenever I feel down, I can bring that memory back, and it reminds me that sometimes, you just need to walk for a bit longer, and you will find something that takes your breath away and makes you happy.
So, are you afraid of falling into a black hole you can`t get out of? And do you have happy memories or good things in your life that you can bring forward if you feel alone and helpless?
At the moment I am reading “Emotional blackmail” by Susan Forward.
“If you really loved me. . .”
“After all I`ve done for you. . .”
“How can you be so selfish. . .”
Do any of the above sound familiar? They`re all examples of emotional blackmail, a powerful form of manipulation in which people close to us threaten to punish us for not doing what they want. Emotional blackmailers know how much we value our relationships with them. They know our vulnerabilities and our deepest secrets. They are our mothers, our partners, our bosses and coworkers, our friends and our lovers. And no matter how much they care about us, they use this intimate knowledge to give themselves the payoff they want: our compliance.
Susan Forward knows what pushes our hot buttons. Just as John Gray illuminates the communications gap between the sexes in Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus, and Harriet Lerner describes an intricate dynamic in The Dance of Anger, so Susan Forward presents the anatomy of a relationship damaged by manipulation, and gives readers an arsenal of tools to fight back. In her clear, no-nonsense style, Forward provides powerful, practical strategies for blackmail targets, including checklists, practice scenarios and concrete communications techniques that will strengthen relationships and break the blackmail cycle for good.
I really liked the chapter on how to get out of the trap of emotional blackmail. It doesn`t promise you that everything will be okay, but that it is possible to become stronger and have choices even when it feels like everything is hopeless. It gives the power back, by teaching us how to use a non-defensive way of talking to people who blackmail us. Even when we feel there is no way out, the truth is that by giving in to the blackmail, we reinforce the blackmailer`s agenda and let go of our own integrity. This is a book that actually helps, if you use the techniques. Sometimes therapy is necessary, but reading a book can really help to motivate and push you toward change like good friends or therapists would do.
I love reading books. Especially book that makes you think about your own life, or give you a glimpse into a world you didn’t know excited. Furiously happy is one of these books.
In her new book, FURIOUSLY HAPPY, Jenny explores her lifelong battle with mental illness. A hysterical, ridiculous book about crippling depression and anxiety? That sounds like a terrible idea. And terrible ideas are what Jenny does best.
According to Jenny: “Some people might think that being ‘furiously happy’ is just an excuse to be stupid and irresponsible and invite a herd of kangaroos over to your house without telling your husband first because you suspect he would say no since he’s never particularly liked kangaroos. And that would be ridiculous because no one would invite a herd of kangaroos into their house. Two is the limit. I speak from personal experience. My husband says that none is the new limit. I say he should have been clearer about that before I rented all those kangaroos.”
“Most of my favorite people are dangerously fucked-up but you’d never guess because we’ve learned to bare it so honestly that it becomes the new normal. Like John Hughes wrote in The Breakfast Club, ‘We’re all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it.’ Except go back and cross out the word ‘hiding.'”
FURIOUSLY HAPPY is a book about mental illness, but under the surface it’s about embracing joy in fantastic and outrageous ways-and who doesn’t need a bit more of that?
There is so much to do. Get out of bed, put on clothes. Go to the bathroom, get breakfast. Taste it while you prepare for another day. Getting inside your car, being aware of the cars snailing away in front of you. Then work, all these tasks that must be done.
The day is coming to an end. I have run back and forth, from one meeting to another, from one anxious patient to one anxious nurse trying to manage all the anxiety floating around us. Is fright what wakes us up in the morning? The uncertainty about all these tasks we must do? The fear of not making it?
What do we do when everything stops? Is there a safety net for us, with holes that we might fall through? Sometimes people jump, and land on the net without bouncing away. But sometimes they just fall and fall.
I just read a paragraph in a new book from one of my favorite authors (Lars Saabye Christensen).
“When you first have gotten a son, you can never lose him”
We can never lose our memories, they can be forgotten, altered and kept away, but they will still be there, somewhere. We can`t undo what is done, and the faces we have seen in the past, are etched into our mental canvasses. We remember how people look when they are afraid, and we want to soothe them and ourselves fear appears. As time goes, and anxiousness gets replaced by calm, we know that we made it through another day. When we wake up next day, we know we already lived through the day before. We have new memories to build on, new experiences. We can`t loose what we already have. We are anxious that we can`t do everything that is expected of us, but we already have. We have always done our best.
The parasympathetic nervous system is the brakes in our bodies. It’s almost impossible to stress when the body puts on the brakes when we are deeply relaxed. Luckily, it’s possible to train our body and relaxation systems to become more active.
Right now I’m listening to ‘hardwiring happiness’ by Rich Hanson.
Hardwiring Happiness lays out a simple method that uses the hidden power of everyday experiences to build new neural structures full of happiness, love, confidence, and peace. Dr. Hanson’s four steps build strengths into your brain— balancing its ancient negativity bias—making contentment and a powerful sense of resilience the new normal. In mere minutes each day, we can transform our brains into refuges and power centers of calm and happiness.
The take-home message from the book, is utilizing the positive experiences you encounter every day. When I listen, I feel irritation every now and then as his positivity triggers thoughts like “It`s not THAT easy”. But then I relax, and realize this is just one of the many fleeting thoughts and feelings that I need to notice, but not go into. When I take a deep breath to deactivate my sympathetic nervous system that always scans for what is wrong, the negative thoughts evaporates like dew in the sun.
The author have a wast knowledge-base this the draws from in the book. He gives a lot of examples from his own life, to show how it’s possible to hardwiring our brains to happiness. When we manage to turn on the ‘rest and digest’ system, we are more open to positive experiences. We can’t be relaxed and in a very negative mood at the same time. He continues, however, with saying that it isn’t enough to try to relax, we have to work actively with noticing and creating positive experiences.
From his book:
” As you read this, in the five cups of tofu-like tissue inside your head, nested amid a trillion support cells, 80 to 100 billion neurons are signaling one another in a network with about half a quadrillion connections, called synapses. All this incredibly fast, complex, and dynamic neural activity is continually changing your brain. Active synapses become more sensitive, new synapses start growing within minutes, busy regions get more blood since they need more oxygen and glucose to do their work, and genes inside neurons turn on or off. Meanwhile, less active connections wither away in a process sometimes called neural Darwinism: the survival of the busiest.”
So, update your brain AND your mind. And listen to the audiobook, off course.
The bees make a buzzing sound that you either run away from in fear, or simply enjoy because it reminds you of lazy summer days when nature feels like a part of you. Right now my thoughts are buzzing around in a hectic tempo. Almost like they are in a frenzy because there is so much that needs to be done. The queen bee, who organizes it all, is my prefrontal cortex. My writing tries to create an overview of the disconnected thoughts so they can work harmoniously together. I haven`t written for some time, so I needed to do so now. The need is like a crawling insect, it itches until I sit down and take my time to get it all down on paper. The bees have a need to get the honey in and I need to collect my experiences and bring them home.
Yesteday I was at a book launch where one of my friends presented his book together with another local author. My heart swells with pride, as he is a dear friend who I have known since I was 17. We have so many memories together, and many of them were reactivated today. I remember visiting him at a writing school when he struggled to produce a text for review. He was so nervous, afraid that his piece wasn´t good enough. I was flabbergasted, as I never would have been able to write anything like that myself. But he was so critical of his own work, and didn`t feel it was good enough. Funny how we compare ourselves to unreasonable standards. This can be harmful when the people we compare ourselves with, are brilliant themselves. That`s when we lose sight of our own talents, that`s when we forget that we actually are up there ourselves. I read Malcom Gladwell`s book “David and Goliat” where he discussed this phenomena. What struck me, was that students who go to Harvard or other prestigious universities, struggle more later in life, than those who choose other universities. One of the reasons, was that only a few make it to the top even if every student are really talented. But they forget that when they start competing. They start to doubt themselves, and their self-esteem are easily attacked when they don´t reach the top three percent where they found themselves in high school. Now my friend has made it, he has written a book that got published, and it proves that he has talent. I think he still doesn`t quite believe it, and I know he is not completely satisfied with some parts of the book. I can understand that, because we are all perfectionists. I am so happy for my friend the busy bee, because after all his hard work, he really deserves it.
BEFRIENDING THE BODY
Trauma victims cannot recover until they become familiar with and befriend the sensations in their bodies. Being frightened means that you live in a body that is always on guard. Angry people live in angry bodies. The bodies of child-abuse victims are tense and defensive until they find a way to relax and feel safe. In order to change, people need to become aware of their sensations and the way that their bodies interact with the world around them. Physical self-awareness is the first step in releasing the tyranny of the past.
In my practice I begin the process by helping my patients to first notice and then describe the feelings in their bodies—not emotions such as anger or anxiety or fear but the physical sensations beneath the emotions: pressure, heat, muscular tension, tingling, caving in, feeling hollow, and so on. I also work on identifying the sensations associated with relaxation or pleasure. I help them become aware of their breath, their gestures and movements.
All too often, however, drugs such as Abilify, Zyprexa, and Seroquel, are prescribed instead of teaching people the skills to deal with such distressing physical reactions. Of course, medications only blunt sensations and do nothing to resolve them or transform them from toxic agents into allies.
The mind needs to be reeducated to feel physical sensations, and the body needs to be helped to tolerate and enjoy the comforts of touch. Individuals who lack emotional awareness are able, with practice, to connect their physical sensations to psychological events. Then they can slowly reconnect with themselves.
Right now I am ready “The body keeps the score” by Bessel van der Kolk. At one point, he talks about the problem trauma victims have with recognizing basic needs like if they are hungry or need to move their bodies to not be in pain.
Dissociation is a word that is used to describe the disconnection or lack of connection between things usually associated with each other. Dissociated experiences are not integrated into the usual sense of self, resulting in discontinuities in conscious awareness (Anderson & Alexander, 1996; Frey, 2001; International Society for the Study of Dissociation, 2002; Maldonado, Butler, & Spiegel, 2002; Pascuzzi & Weber, 1997; Rauschenberger & Lynn, 1995; Simeon et al., 2001; Spiegel & Cardeña, 1991; Steinberg et al., 1990, 1993).
When they dissociate, signals from the body are often disconnected from their experience, and he writes that sometimes they cannot even recognize themselves in the mirrors. He goes on to explain that brain scans have shown that this is not merely inattention, they really have problems with recognizing themselves.
He also writes that the relationship and talk in therapy, might not be the most important healing force in therapy. What patients really need, he believes, is the “therapist’s attuned attention to the moods, physical sensations, and physical impulses within. The therapist must be the patient’s servant, helping him or her explore, befriend, and trust their inner felt experience.” Relationship therapy can seem like a kind of ersatz friendship, but “it doesn’t make you better friends with yourself.”
To underscore the shocking possibility that neither talk nor relationship may be necessary in trauma treatment, van der Kolk likes to tell the story of his training in Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), an approach held in very low esteem by many of his research colleagues. Although he initially considered EMDR a fad, like est or transcendental meditation, he went for the training after seeing the dramatic effects it had on some of his own trauma patients. “They came back and told me how supportive our therapy relationship had been, but that EMDR had done more for them in a few sessions than therapy with me had done in four years,” he recalls. Van der Kolk decided to go see for himself what this weird new thing was all about, and took the training.
So, do you know who you are?
Sometimes we need others to be able to see who we are when we look into the mirror.
I found this post on stumbleupon, and wanted to share it here. I have just read one of the books (antifragile), but heard about three of them before. The books look interesting, especially the first and last one. Hopefully I will have the chance to read them both this year!
Here comes the list:
by Daniel Gilbert
What It’s About:
Gilbert is a famous Harvard psychologist who has a knack for coming up with zany experiments that show just how flawed and biased the human mind is. In the book, he shows you time and again that as humans, we inaccurately judge, among other things, what made us happy in the past, what will make us happy in the future, and even what is making us happy right at this moment.
In fact, decades of Gilbert’s research on happiness all points to the same unsettling fact: happiness has little to do with what happens to us in our lives, and more to do with how we end up choosing to see things.
Gilbert’s theory is that we each have a “psychological immune system,” basically a bullshit generator where our minds explain away our past experiences, our future projections and our current situations in such a way that we always maintain a baseline level of mild happiness.1 And it’s when this “immune system” fails that we fall into prolonged depression and/or existential crises.
“We treat our future selves as though they were our children, spending most of the hours of most of our days constructing tomorrows that we hope will make them happy… But our temporal progeny are often thankless. We toil and sweat to give them just what we think they will like, and they quit their jobs, grow their hair, move to or from San Francisco, and wonder how we could ever have been stupid enough to think they’d like that. We fail to achieve the accolades and rewards that we consider crucial to their well-being, and they end up thanking God that things didn’t work out according to our shortsighted, misguided plan.”
On The Genealogy of Morals
by Friedrich Nietzsche
What It’s About: On The Genealogy of Morals is perhaps his shortest and most influential work, was starkest of all. In three essays totaling around 100 pages, he lays out the following:
- In any population, you are going to have a group of people who are more talented/gifted/intelligent than average. Let’s call them The Strong. You are also going to have a group of people who are less talented/gifted/intelligent than average. Let’s call them The Weak.2
- The Strong will naturally accrue the power in society for no other reason than they are more capable and talented than the others.
- Because The Strong won their greater power and influence through outsmarting or outperforming others, they will come to adopt ethical beliefs that justify their position: that might makes right, that they are entitled to their privileged position, that they earned what is theirs. Nietzsche calls this “Master Morality.”
- Because The Weak lost their power and influence by being outsmarted and outperformed, they will come to adopt ethical beliefs that justify their position: that people deserve aid and charity, that one should give away one’s possessions to the less fortunate, that you should live for others and not yourself. Nietzsche calls this “Slave Morality.”
- Master/Slave Moralities have been in a kind of tension in every society for all of recorded history. Many political/social conflicts are side effects of the struggle between Master and Slave Moralities.
- Nietzsche believed that the ideas of guilt, punishment and a “bad conscience” are all culturally constructed and used by The Weak to chip away at the dominance and power of The Strong. He also believed that Slave Morality is just as capable of corrupting and oppressing a society as Master Morality. He used Christianity as his primary example of this.
- Nietzsche believed that Slave Morality stifled man’s greatest characteristics: creativity, innovation, ambition, and even happiness itself.
“Above all, there is no exception to this rule: that the idea of political superiority always resolves itself into the idea of psychological superiority.”
“Without cruelty, there is no festival.”
Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder
by Nassim Taleb
Some of the most important points in the book:
- Often the most influential events in history are, by definition, the least anticipated. These are called “Black Swan” events.5
- As humans, we are inherently biased against noticing both the amount of random events in our lives, and the impact these random events have on us.
- That due to the exponential scaling of technology, Black Swan events are becoming more common and influential than ever before.
- Therefore, we should build up systems (and ourselves) to be “antifragile,” that is, to construct our lives and our societies in such a way as to benefit from major unanticipated events.
“Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better.”
“The irony of the process of thought control: the more energy you put into trying to control your ideas and what you think about, the more your ideas end up controlling you.”
“Difficulty is what wakes up the genius.”
The True Believer by Eric Hoffer
What It’s About: The True Believer discusses why people give in to fanaticism, fundamentalism or extremist ideologies.
“The game of history is usually played by the best and the worst over the heads of the majority in the middle.”
“The less justified a man is in claiming excellence for his own self, the more ready is he to claim all excellence for his nation, his religion, his race or his holy cause.”
“Freedom aggravates at least as much as it alleviates frustration. Freedom of choice places the whole blame of failure on the shoulders of the individual. And as freedom encourages a multiplicity of attempts, it unavoidably multiplies failure.”
What It’s About: Freud was an academic sensation at the beginning of the 20th century. He invented psychoanalysis, brought the science of psychology to the mainstream, and was highly regarded in intellectual circles around Europe. Then World War I broke out, and destroyed everything. Freud was deeply moved by the devastation and fell into a deep depression and secluded himself for much of the 1920s. Civilization and Its Discontents was the result of this depression.
To Freud, Hitler and World War II just proved his point a few years later. And as an Austrian Jew, he ran for the hills. The hills being London, of course. He lived out the last years of his life in a city being bombed into oblivion.
“It is impossible to overlook the extent to which civilization is built up upon a renunciation of instinct.”
“A love that does not discriminate seems to me to forfeit a part of its own value, by doing an injustice to its object.”
The Singularity is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology
by Ray Kurzweil
What It’s About: In the beginning of The Singularity is Near, Kurzweil shows that the processing power of computers and technology has increased exponentially through history and is likely to continue doing so.
He then argues that because of this, in the year 2046 all of our brains are going to be digitally encrypted and uploaded to the cloud where we will all form a single, immortal consciousness that will control all computing power on the planet.
The technological possibilities presented in this book are truly mind-boggling. And we will undoubtedly see a significant percentage of them in our lifetime. Medical nanobots that live in the blood stream that we wireless upload vaccines to. Genetic programming for newborns so parents can choose not only the physical characteristics of their children but their talents as well. Uploading and downloading consciousness onto the internet, so that you could download somebody else’s life experiences as your own the same way you downloaded the last season of Breaking Bad.
As Neo once said:
“One cubic inch of nanotube circuitry, once fully developed, would be up to one hundred million times more powerful than the human brain.”
“Can the pace of technological progress continue to speed up indefinitely? Isn’t there a point at which humans are unable to think fast enough to keep up? For unenhanced humans, clearly so. But what would 1,000 scientists, each 1,000 times more intelligent than human scientists today, and each operating 1,000 times faster than contemporary humans (because the information processing in their primarily non-biological brains is faster) accomplish? One chronological year would be like a millennium for them. What would they come up with?”
The Denial of Death
by Ernest Becker
What It’s About: Speaking of being afraid of dying… Here’s The Denial of Death in a nutshell:
Because man is the only animal capable of conceptualizing his own existence — thinking about his life, questioning it, imagining future possibilities — man is therefore also the only animal capable of conceptualizing his own non-existence, i.e., his own death.
In other words, humans were given the gift of being able to imagine the future and who we want to be, but the price we pay for this gift is the realization that we will one day die. A dog doesn’t realize she’s going to die. Neither does a fish. Or a roach. But we do.
This knowledge of our own inevitable death leads to a kind of ever-present “terror” that underlies everything we do. Becker argues that this terror inspires us all to take on what he calls a “hero project,” where we attempt to immortalize ourselves through our deeds and actions, to create something bigger than ourselves that will live beyond our own lives.
It’s when people’s hero projects contradict one another that we get conflict, violence, bigotry, and evil. It’s when hero projects fail that we fall into deep despair and depression because we’re once again confronted with the inevitability of our own death and meaninglessness of our lives.7
“Man cannot endure his own littleness unless he can translate it into meaningfulness on the largest possible level.”
“The irony of man’s condition is that the deepest need is to be free of the anxiety of death and annihilation; but it is life itself which awakens it, and so we must shrink from being fully alive.”
“What does it mean to be a self-conscious animal? The idea is ludicrous, if it is not monstrous. It means to know that one is food for worms. This is the terror: to have emerged from nothing, to have a name, consciousness of self, deep inner feelings, an excruciating inner yearning for life and self-expression and with all this yet to die. It seems like a hoax, which is why one type of cultural man rebels openly against the idea of God. What kind of deity would create such a complex and fancy worm food?”
Photo credit: The Eternal Perspective
watching you build an elaborate Lego set called “Life,” and you turning around and saying, “Stop laughing, this is important!”
Read This Book If…
…you plan on dying one day. …you think you take life a little bit too seriously sometimes and need to chill. …you want to read a convincing argument for why we should embrace our pain and our fear rather than avoid it.