“Mindfulness is the ability to know what’s happening in your head at any moment without getting carried away by it.”
“The proposition here is not that you should be rendered by mindfulness into some lifeless, non-judgmental blob. The proposition is that you should learn how to respond _wisely_ to things that happen to you rather than just reacting blindly.”
“Rarely can a _response_ make something better. What makes something better is connection.”
What is the best way to ease someone's pain and suffering? In this beautifully animated RSA Short, Dr Brené Brown reminds us that we can only create a genuine empathic connection if we are brave enough to really get in touch with our own fragilities.
Animation: Katy Davis (AKA Gobblynne) www.gobblynne.com
Jeremy Larson: Why Do We Even Listen to New Music? (Pitchfork)
Our brains reward us for seeking out what we already know. So why should we reach to listen to something we don’t?
The act of listening to new music in the midst of a global pandemic is hard, but it’s necessary. The world will keep spinning and culture must move with it, even if we are staid and static in our homes, even if the economy grinds to a halt, even if there are no shows, no release parties, and even artists sink even further into the precarity that defines a career as a musician. The choice to listen to new music prioritizes, if for one listen only, the artist over you. It is an emotional risk to live for a moment in the abyss of someone else’s world, but this invisible exchange powers the vanguard of art, even in times of historic inertia.
Jess Zimmerman: This Is All My Fault (Electric Literature)
I can't stop thinking about a sci-fi novel where a woman has to choose between personal and global ruin.
What if I, like Patricia, was at some point unwittingly asked to choose between my own contentment and global peace? If that happened, it’s clear which one I went for, and it’s ultimately no surprise; personal comfort over the greater good is a calculation I make again and again. If the question were posed again explicitly, I don’t even trust myself to choose a different way. I want all this to be over, to be better, for everyone; I want wrongs righted that I didn’t even realize were wrong six years ago, or that I understood were wrong but didn’t really think about because I didn’t have to. But would I give up everything good in my own life? Would I give up my partner, our home together, whatever I’ve made of my career? I want to say yes, but no.
In reality, of course, that question is purely academic. I couldn’t fix everything with one grand sacrifice, even if I wanted to. I couldn’t even fix it with a lifetime of smaller ones. Most of the world’s ills are created from the top down, and can only be truly addressed from the top down. We tend to overestimate the role that individual choices can play, partly because that overestimation gives us an opportunity to be self-important or scoldy, but mostly because people like to feel as if it matters what they do. Tip well, call your senators, eat less meat, buy reusable replacements for your single-use papers and plastics; these efforts make us feel helpful, and they are helpful, to a point. At the same time, though, they will always be eclipsed by the inaction of the people who could really make a difference: the policymakers protecting the corporations and the corporations protecting themselves. You can’t flatten that curve on your own.
I’m not cruel, but I’m privileged and weak, and that’s enough to add up. And so when I think “this is all my fault,” I am wrong in every reasonable way except the one that matters.
It would be such a comfort to fully dismiss this self-blame as self-delusion. I obviously did not directly and single-handedly cause a pandemic, or global warming, or Fox News. Trump didn’t get elected because I didn’t knock on enough doors. But he might have gotten elected because everybody didn’t knock on enough doors, and one of those people was me. I stayed home when I should have been canvassing, emailed when I should have been calling, donated $25 when I could have afforded $50, said I would look for a volunteer gig and did not. And I’ve been given chance after chance to reconsider, disaster after disaster that could have shocked me from complacency into sacrifice, and every time I have chosen the easy way, and every time it gets worse.
The fantasy of being wholly to blame for everything is also a fantasy about being able to make it stop. Most of us will never get that chance—to choose the peaceful timeline or the content one, to make the brave sacrifice that saves the world, to warn the public in time or make a million bucks on insider trading. This is the purview of protagonists and villains. My purview is sitting inside, being more scared than I have a right to be, sending Venmos that will never be enough, watching people die anyway and not ever knowing whether it might otherwise have been just a tiny bit worse.
Scott Berinato interviewing David Kessler: That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief (Harvard Business Review)
The coronavirus pandemic has led to a collective loss of normalcy.
Anticipatory grief is the mind going to the future and imagining the worst. To calm yourself, you want to come into the present.
Your work is to feel your sadness and fear and anger whether or not someone else is feeling something. Fighting it doesn’t help because your body is producing the feeling. If we allow the feelings to happen, they’ll happen in an orderly way, and it empowers us. Then we’re not victims.
Drew Millard: Time for some completely unhelpful game theory (The Outline)
Historical precedents and doomsday projections serve their purpose, but focusing on the worst-case scenario is a great way to make yourself sick with anxiety right now.
Reading about the worst-case scenarios at a time like this is about as helpful as licking the handle of a shopping cart.
I’m not saying that we should not be concerned about coronavirus. We most undoubtedly should be. But at a time like this, worst-case scenarios are not your friend, unless you like being friends with things that give you nightmares. It can be easy to catastrophize, to let your mind wander into doom and gloom, to feel like you have no control over events shaping your life, when you’re stuck inside seemingly watching the world crumble around you. It’s important to remember, though, that just as the coronavirus has enjoyed such a rapid spread because we live in such a physically connected world, our digitally connected world may just mitigate it.
Just stay inside, stay safe, and stay away from that really scary coronavirus story, and the next one, and the one after that.
Helen Rosner on Twitter: "One thing I’ve learned in therapy is that in times when the world around us feels terrifyingly beyond our control, we turn to small expressions of control over our thoughts, our bodies, and our time."
One thing I’ve learned in therapy is that in times when the world around us feels terrifyingly beyond our control, we turn to small expressions of control over our thoughts, our bodies, and our time.
Two big ways that desire to regain a sense of autonomy & control can manifest is spending money, and physically going places. If your aging parents (for example) insist on going to the grocery store unnecessarily, it’s possible they’re doing it to (unconsciously) soothe anxiety!
If a person needs to spend money and/or leave their house to feel a sense of control over themselves, telling them not to do it is a direct threat to this assertion of autonomy. Of course they’re going to push back, of course they’re not going to “listen to reason.”
So much of being the adult child of aging parents is the art of benevolent manipulation. (Sorry Mom & Dad, if you’re reading this.) Instead of telling them not to go to the grocery store, full stop, redirect their impulses — buy a cozy sweater online, take a walk through a park
There are ways to both spend money and leave the house that don’t put you or others at risk!
Sometimes people ignore good & urgent advice because they’re assholes or idiots! More often, they’re just scared, and don’t necessarily realize they’re scared, and don’t necessarily realize they’re making their choices in an attempt to calm their fear.
NB grocery shopping can also be soothing because (if the person doesn’t live alone) it’s not just spending, it’s spending *to care for loved ones*. Buying a sweater online doesn’t scratch that itch—in that case maybe the move is buying books or games as gifts for friends/family
This is especially ~a thing~ with many older women, who can have a hard time centering themselves when soothing their own anxieties. (“I’m cold, go put on a sweater!”)
I don’t want to make this all about older generations though! Those beautiful young idiots still packing into bars and restaurants are asserting autonomy. I usually hate leaving the house and lately all I want to do is take the dog for a walk, or go for long drives.
Our brains are always running background programs to rebalance and recalibrate. The best thing you can do is learn how to see it in your loved ones (and yourself! but that’s um many many years of therapy) and gently help them fulfill those self-soothing needs in less harmful ways
Eleanor Cummins: Feeling Like an Idiot Can Be Good for You (Elemental)
We’re careening toward climate collapse. Wage stagnation means, in 2018, that the average American had the same purchasing power as they did in 1978. And Donald Trump is president. Yet we continue to respond to civilizational challenges with personal solutions that simply aren’t up to the task. Desperate to do right and get ahead, we opt for vegan meals, stay late for no overtime pay, and post only milquetoast tweets. We end up looking smart, strategic, optimized — and feeling very, very small.
Dan Brooks: Raising a person in a culture full of types (The Outline)
We probably shouldn’t be telling children that who they are determines what they do.
This admittedly fine point is not just a matter of language; it also carries an ethical implication. The coward can’t really be blamed for doing cowardly stuff, because that’s his nature — the same way you can’t blame the kitchen table for being hard and heavy when you stub your toe. But the difference between human beings and objects is that we do not have fixed natures that determine our behavior. When I say I didn’t do the dishes because I’m lazy, I’m talking around the fact that I could have done them but chose not to. The illusion of a fixed nature gives us an excuse to repeat bad behavior. To insist that what we do determines who we are — and not the other way around — is to make freedom and therefore responsibility a part of our worldview at the most basic level.
Freedom is scary, though, because it is the freedom to become something other than what you are now — something you cannot predict. It’s easier to think of yourself as a type of person, riding along with yourself and playing out the behaviors your type does. It’s comforting to think that you did what you did because of who you are, even if who you are is bad, because nothing is more frightening than the feeling that you are about to change into someone else. Ask any 12 year-old.
Devon Price: Laziness Does Not Exist (Human Parts)
If a person’s behavior doesn’t make sense to you, it is because you are missing a part of their context. It’s that simple.
Needing or benefiting from such things doesn’t make a person lazy. It just means they have needs. The more we embrace that, the more we can help people thrive.
If a person can’t get out of bed, something is making them exhausted. If a student isn’t writing papers, there’s some aspect of the assignment that they can’t do without help. If an employee misses deadlines constantly, something is making organization and deadline-meeting difficult. Even if a person is actively choosing to self-sabotage, there’s a reason for it — some fear they’re working through, some need not being met, a lack of self-esteem being expressed.
People do not choose to fail or disappoint. No one wants to feel incapable, apathetic, or ineffective. If you look at a person’s action (or inaction) and see only laziness, you are missing key details. There is always an explanation. There are always barriers. Just because you can’t see them, or don’t view them as legitimate, doesn’t mean they’re not there. Look harder.
Lawrence Diller: 100 Years Later—The Flexner Report Still Relevant (Psychology Today)
100 years ago doctors had little credibility. A education reformer's report remarkably reformed medical education and physicians' professionalism. In the last thirty years this credibility has been eroded by financial ties between doctors and the drug companies. Is it time for another Flexner Report.
It's not enough to have doctors' payments from drug companies listed on some website. In every waiting room, patients should be able to read clear signs indicating doctors' payments received from companies and the specific drugs and products involved. In the long term medical research and academia must find a better way to separate their work from their sponsors' money. A general research fund of drug company money directed by an independent board has been suggested but seems unlikely given the profit driven priorities of the drug industry.
Paris syndrom is a condition exhibited by some individuals when visiting or going on vacation to Paris, as a result of extreme shock at discovering that Paris is different from their expectations. The syndrome is characterized by a number of psychiatric symptoms such as acute delusional states, hallucinations, feelings of persecution (perceptions of being a victim of prejudice, aggression, or hostility from others), derealization, depersonalization, anxiety, and also psychosomatic manifestations such as dizziness, tachycardia, sweating, and others, such as vomiting.
Longreads Member Exclusive: 'The Nature of Social Evil'
Maria Bustillos picked Ernest Becker’s ‘Escape from Evil’.
Becker won a Pulitzer for his previous book, The Denial of Death, but this one, published posthumously and building on ideas from that earlier work, is far, far better, to my mind, more compact, more advanced, more compelling. This book is pragmatic synthesis of multiple disciplines in the science of man, the place where humanities and science collide. Theories about Becker's work abound, but for me his great gift was the way he seemed to have led us to the threshold of a new enlightenment, clear-eyed, undeceived, ready to take the next step. It's a step the reader may be able to intuit, and perhaps even gain, and make practical use of in his or her own life: '[W]e have to take a full look at the worst in order to begin to get rid of illusions. Realism, even brutal, is not cynicism.'
Back in 2009 I began pestering friends and random strangers. I would walk up to them with a pen and a sheet of paper asking that they immediately draw me a men’s bicycle, by heart. Soon I found out that when confronted with this odd request most people have a very hard time remembering exactly how a bike is made. Some did get close, some actually nailed it perfectly, but most ended up drawing something that was pretty far off from a regular men’s bicycle.
We all have the ability to blame others. It comes natural, feels powerful and cathartic, and is essential to a society that seeks to dismantle oppressive systems and those who oversee them. If we can do this, then we can all take part in the radical act of blaming ourselves for this year and the years to come. Give it currency. Rate, like, and subscribe to culpability to help reverse the flow of democracy.
Ceridwen Dovey: Can Reading Make You Happier? (New Yorker)
Bibliotherapists Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin prescribe fiction for healing and self-exploration.
Berthoud and Elderkin are also the authors of “The Novel Cure: An A-Z of Literary Remedies,” which is written in the style of a medical dictionary and matches ailments (“failure, feeling like a”) with suggested reading cures (“The History of Mr. Polly,” by H. G. Wells). First released in the U.K. in 2013, it is now being published in eighteen countries, and, in an interesting twist, the contract allows for a local editor and reading specialist to adapt up to twenty-five per cent of the ailments and reading recommendations to fit each particular country’s readership and include more native writers. The new, adapted ailments are culturally revealing. In the Dutch edition, one of the adapted ailments is “having too high an opinion of your own child”; in the Indian edition, “public urination” and “cricket, obsession with” are included; the Italians introduced “impotence,” “fear of motorways,” and “desire to embalm”; and the Germans added “hating the world” and “hating parties.”
It turns out … spoilers don’t spoil anything. In fact, a new study suggests that spoilers can actually increase our enjoyment of literature. Although we’ve long assumed that the suspense makes the story—we keep on reading because we don’t know what happens next—this new research suggests that the tension actually detracts from our enjoyment.
Krista Tippett: Brené Brown on Vulnerability (Nov 22, 2012) (On Being)
You know, and so, I've come to this belief that, if you show me a woman who can sit with a man in real vulnerability, in deep fear, and be with him in it, I will show you a woman who, A, has done her work and, B, does not derive her power from that man. And if you show me a man who can sit with a woman in deep struggle and vulnerability and not try to fix it, but just hear her and be with her and hold space for it, I'll show you a guy who's done his work and a man who doesn't derive his power from controlling and fixing everything.
Whitney Phillips: What an Academic Who Wrote Her Dissertation on Trolls Thinks of Violentacrez (The Atlantic)
I would challenge the idea that trolls, and trolls alone, are why we can't have nice things online. There is no doubt that trolls are disruptive, and there is no doubt that trolls can make life very difficult. That said, trolling behaviors signify much more than individual pathology. They are directly reflective of the culture out of which they emerge, immediately complicating knee-jerk condemnations of the entire behavioral category. Until the conversation is directed towards the institutional incubators out of which trolling emerges -- as opposed to just the trolls themselves -- no ground will be gained, and no solutions reached.