How to survive an adolescent, Act 1.
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How to survive an adolescent, Act 1.

“You just don’t get it! You’re so cruel! Why did you even have children if you can’t be a parent?! All my other friends parents would let them go [to the party]!”
My 13 year old daughter screams as she slams the door to her unkempt room, the house fills with the now all too familiar noxious yellow gas of parental defeat and crushed teenage dreams. In that moment, I hate being a parent, I hate adolescents, a heady blend of impotent rage and self pity mockingly swirl around my deactivated therapeutic skills. All those books I’ve read on consistent, attuned parenting are burning gloriously in the middle of my mind, where my daughter’s judgement smugly warms it’s hands. It’s different when it’s my child, I grumble to no one.
“You ungrateful little shit!” I scream at the impassive door, it takes every iota of self control to not go into her room and throw all of these toxic emotions at her in an effort to reclaim some sense of ego equilibrium, but I know that it’ll just make me feel worse, that I’ll bully her into submission and with that will come guilt, for which I’ll apologize thereby rendering any attempt at boundary setting totally ineffectual. So I try and suck it up, shaking with anger, I shout at the dog, collateral damage.

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How memory works.
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How memory works.

In today’s excerpt – from “Making Connections” by Anthony J. Greene. How memory works:

“Many people wish their memory worked like a video recording. How handy would that be? Finding your car keys would simply be a matter of zipping back to the last time you had them and hitting ‘play.’ You would never miss an appointment or forget to pay a bill. You would remember everyone’s birthday. You would ace every exam. Or so you might think. In fact, a memory like that would snare mostly useless data and mix them willy-nilly with the information you really needed. It would not let you prioritize or create the links between events that give them meaning. For the very few people who have true photographic recall — eidetic memory, in the parlance of the field — it is more burden than blessing.

“For most of us, memory is not like a video recording — or a notebook, a photograph, a hard drive or any of the other common storage devices to which it has been compared. It is much more like a web of connections between people and things. Indeed, recent research has shown that some people who lose their memory also lose the ability to connect things to each other in their mind. And it is the connections that let us understand cause and effect, learn from our mistakes and anticipate the future. …

“Learning and memory are not sequestered in their own storage banks, but are distributed across the entire cerebral cortex. … The significance of these findings is profound. It means that memory is dispersed, forming in the regions of the brain responsible for language, vision, hearing, emotion and other functions. It means that learning and memory arise from changes in neurons as they connect to and communicate with other neurons. And it means that a small reminder can reactivate a network of neurons wired together in the course of registering an event, allowing you to experience the event anew. Remembering is reliving. …
“The hippocampus [is] an essential mediator in [connecting neurons]. In a very small brain, every neuron might be connected to every other neuron. But a human brain that worked on this model would require that each of hundreds of billions of neurons be linked to every other neuron, an impossibly unwieldy configuration. The hippocampus solves this problem by serving as a kind of neural switchboard, connecting the distant cortical regions for language, vision and other abilities as synaptic networks take shape and create memories.

“[People with hippocampus damage] appear to have impairments that go well beyond the loss of memory creation. They also have severe difficulty imagining future events, living instead in a fragmented, disconnected reality. Recent studies show that imagining the future involves brain processes similar to, but distinct from, those involved in conjuring the past. We also tend to remember the people and events that resonate emotionally, which is why forgetting an anniversary is such an offense: it is fair evidence that the date is not as important as the ones we do remember. The discovery that memory is all about connections has revolutionary implications for education. It means that memory is integral to thought and that nothing we learn can stand in isolation; we sustain new learning only to the degree we can relate it to what we already know. …

“The connections across the brain also help us conceive the future, as recent imaging studies have shown. Functional magnetic resonance imaging … shows that a mosaic of brain areas similar to those involved in memory is active when participants imagine details of hypothetical or prospective events. …

“[This] can sometimes cause us problems by altering our memories instead of augmenting them. … Psychologist Elizabeth Loftus [has shown] how easy it is to create false memories of past events. In one study, participants watched a film of a car accident. Researchers asked some subjects how fast they thought the cars were going when they ‘smashed into’ each other and asked other subjects how fast the cars were going when they ‘hit’ each other. The subjects, who heard the word ‘smashed’ gave significantly higher estimates of the speed. In other experiments, subjects were fed incorrect information about an accident after watching the film; they might, for instance, be asked repeatedly whether a traffic light had turned yellow before the collision when in fact the light was green. Many then remembered a yellow light that never existed, which is why eyewitness testimony after police interrogation can be so unreliable.”

“Making Connections”
Author: Anthony J. Greene
Publisher: Scientific American Mind
July/August 2010
Pages: 22-29

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To thy own self be true.

To thy own self be true.

“Man is born free and yet everywhere, he is in chains”- Rousseau.

As men, many of us are socialized to serve and maintain collective structures such as family, organizations and social institutions that all have a life of their own but require the repeated sacrifice of the individual to sustain them. When men stumble into my office (often out of desperation, unsure of where else to turn), stumped by the disintegration of their best efforts with regards to work, love and family, they resemble lost, angry and confused children. We have been conditioned to donate the most vital parts of our lives to these institutions and I suppose in some ways, that is why humanity has ‘flourished’ on the planet, but career, producing children, having the generic dream of two cars in the garage and a chicken in every pot is all illusion compared with that one thing, that our lives are meaningful. Without meaning, we sustain the most grievous of wounds to the soul- a life without depth. There seems to be a terrible, invisible virus in the lives of modern men, a discrepancy between our role expectations and the needs of our souls.

On average, men die eight years before women as a result of stress and the toxic addictions we use to soothe ourselves. We are four times more likely to be substance abusers and also four times more likely to take our own lives.

We do not live by bread alone. We need more in our lives to feel alive. In ‘The wounding and healing of men’, Hollis outlines steps to healing that may offer you at least a fragment of the map towards a life that matters-to you.

1 Remember and forgive the father

Many of our fathers were more wounded than we can imagine, with few alternatives or emotional permission to be themselves, they were unspeakably lonely. For such men we must grieve. Grief is honest. It values what was lost, or was never there.

The wounded son will wound his son if he does not cleanse himself and break the cycle. Each son must examine, without judgement, where his father’s wounds were passed on to him.

Some of those questions may be-

What were my father’s hopes and dreams?

Did my father live out his dreams?

What would I have liked to know from him about being a man?

What was my father’s unlived life, and am I living it out, somehow, for him?

2 Tell the secrets

Those of us in the healing professions know that wherever there is denial, the wound festers. Or, as the twelve step program puts it, what I resist, will persist. Many men’s lives are based on denial and resistance to the truth, that we are torn between fear and rage. And that in relationships (whether it be with our partners or our work),  we are emotionally dependent on them but resentful of the object of that dependence.

Our mythology is full of heroic adventures- mountains climbed, wars fought, dragons defeated- but it takes even more courage for a man to speak his emotional truth to another.

Telling the truth of our soul to ourselves is the first task, living that truth is the second and telling it to others is the third.

3 Seek mentors and mentor others

I have noticed that it is men of greater emotional strength and core honesty who seek therapy. The others are too fearful. Therapy is but one way men can share the secrets about the task of being a man. It is often in therapy that they realize that they must heal themselves, that their partners cannot. Then they cry and rage, and admit the fear. When these things happen, healing begins. Most men will not enter therapy of course. Yet they can still turn to other men and pass on what they have learned, or learn from others. A mentor is one who has visited the other side and can tell us something of what it’s like to be there.

4 Heal thyself

Do not let yourself live a sham, someone else’s sense of what your life should be about instead of your own. The crux of our lives as men, whatever your age or situation, is to pull out of our automatic behaviours and attitudes, to radically reexamine our lives and to risk living out our thunderous imperatives of our souls.

Empowerment means that one feels good energy for the tasks of life. one feels the permission to dive into life and struggle for depth and meaning. one feels that there are resources within to draw upon when the forces of darkness are nigh.

A man must ask himself:

What fears block me? What tasks do I in my heart of hearts, know I must undertake? What is my life calling me to do? Can I bring my work and my soul closer together? How can I serve both individuation and relationship?

Being a man means knowing what you want and then mobilizing the inner resources to achieve it.

5 Recover the soul’s journey (The Godseed)

Most of us are still reluctant to examine our lives in case we are then called to change, and change always brings anxiety. But when one realizes that the anxiety accompanying change is preferable to the depression and rage occasioned by limiting ourselves, change becomes more attractive.

What is the point of just working hard and feeling broken? Why else are we here on this spinning blue planet, if not to try to know ourselves? Men have stopped asking the right questions and so begin to suffer soul-sickness.

“Traveller, you have come a long way led by that peculiar star. But what you seek is at the other end of the night. May you fare well, companero, let us journey together joyfully. Living on catastrophe, eating the pure light.” -McGrath- Epitaph.



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Coping Ugly

Coping Ugly

By Amy Morin
There’s a good chance you’ll experience some type of crisis during your life: Research estimates that almost 90% of people endure at least one traumatic event.
Whether you’re dealing with serious health problems, natural disasters or the loss of a loved one, adversity doesn’t have to hold you back from reaching your greatest potential. Mentally strong people often bounce back from a crisis even better than before; they may even report feeling healthier, happier and more hopeful after a tragic event.

In my experiences as a therapist and through my research for my book, 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, I’ve discovered the strategies that help mentally strong people thrive after a crisis:

1. They focus on what they can control
Digging in your heels won’t stop a crisis from happening, but it will waste your time and energy. Mentally strong people put their resources where it matters most by focusing on what they can control—even when the only thing they can control is their effort and attitude.

2. They reflect on what they’ve learned
You can learn a lot about yourself in your darkest hours. While it’s not helpful to replay your painful memories, taking time to think about what an experience has helped you learn can lead to growth.

3. They take decisive action
Ignoring problems or hosting a pity party won’t make a difficult situation any better. In fact, the longer you avoid problems, the bigger they might grow. Mentally strong people look for solutions and tackle problems head-on.

4. They practice gratitude
No matter how rough your experiences are, there’s always something to feel grateful for. Mentally strong people practice gratitude, even during the toughest times. They remind themselves of all the good things in life while still acknowledging their pain.

5. They look for new opportunities
Sometimes a crisis can change your entire life. A job loss or a financial disaster may force you to change course. Mentally strong people accept that they need to adapt to change, and they look for opportunities that will improve their lives.

6. They evaluate their priorities
A major crisis can cause you to second-guess the way you’ve lived your life. But instead of questioning themselves, mentally strong people turn life-altering circumstances into an opportunity to take a closer look at their priorities. Through this process, they ensure that their behavior is in line with their values.

7. They recognize their inner strength
Thinking things like, “I can’t handle this,” or “I can’t get through this,” will affect your ability to cope. Mentally strong people draw upon their inner strength. They trust in their ability to deal with whatever life throws their way.

8. They take care of themselves
It’s impossible to be at your best if you’re exhausted and worn down. So even in the middle of tough times, mentally strong people make sleep, exercise and healthy eating a priority. They know they can’t be mentally strong if they’re not feeling physically strong.

9. They remain psychologically flexible
Recovering from a crisis requires you to be flexible in the way you think, feel and behave. Mentally strong people are committed to adapting their circumstances. Rather than repeat their usual patterns, they’re open to creating positive change in their lives.

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