Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Normality versus Abnormality - Defining the Difference

We all question our normality at times. As human beings we are bound to have negative feelings that we're not proud of. We don't always act rationally with sufficient restraint, and so on. Of course, normality is a very vague term that only refers to a generally accepted consensus in the environment we know best. But as such, it does have some validity and we should allow ourselves to learn the lessons this very fact has to teach us. It's about us in relation to others - how can we get along better? Let me say first of all that the fact that we question ourselves is already a sign of mental health, because our inner censor is at work. This is not the case with deeply disturbed people who need to enhance their self-importance to ridiculous degrees in order to maintain a sense of self. To acknowledge flaws would be too catastrophical to them. They wouldn't be able to live with the suspiscion that they are not the perfect human beings they wanted to be. If we feel so inclined, we can feel sorry for the sad history that has made them into such people, but the world is full of them and very often all they need to do is just get a grip or seek help.

We may not always know with confidence whether we're acting within the framework of normality ourselves, but we usually recognize seriously and detrimentally deviant behaviour in other people. I am not saying all deviancy is bad, because the world needs many different kinds - I'm talking about the kind that harms other beings. This is yet another reason for studying other people; it may be a bit of a new age adage that we're only responsible for ourselves and should not concern ourselves with others since we cannot change them, but my opinion is nonetheless that by looking at others we may get a perspective on our own thinking and feeling. This is how we can identify patterns in ourselves that aren't working for us or for other people in our vicinity. In fact, if we look mindfully, we can see ourselves in other people as if we were looking into a mirror. What we dislike about someone else is often something we dislike in ourselves. If we didn't, we'd probably feel pretty neutral about them. Sometimes they disturb us because we are forced to take a stand; we have to decide whether we should be around these people and if we decide their presence is unwholesome to us, we may have to take steps to distance ourselves from their sphere of influence. All this can in truth be quite tiring. I for one have gotten a bit tired of worrying about other people and have decided that some people should simply not be bothered with at all. People are always going to disappoint us as they rarely meet with our expectations. There are times when it's best not to think about others too much but just get on with one's own life the best one can.

I have written extensively about manipulative people so whoever is interested in more is referred to older posts. I have been quite interested in this phenomenon but I think this should be my last post on the subject. Truth to say people who feel the need to manipulate are sorry people with unhappy lives, and the best you can do is leave them to dwell on their own issues. They have problems that don't have to be yours as well.

My husband had an affair with a woman some years ago but recognized after four and a half months that she was not quite "right". He ended the affair but she wouldn't take no for an answer. She became obsessed with him and wouldn't leave him alone. She would do whatever it took to get him in bed with her. When he found me she stalked me online, in the most vile manner. She infiltrated into my private FB account and when we found out, she sent my husband stories about her perception of who I "really am" in order to warn him. When this didn't work, she sent me some derogatory story about my husband, including accounts of their sex and how she would love him forever and ever. Her page was full of spiteful comments about my husband in Dutch (easy enough to run through a translator). She's still sending me anonymous manipulative comments online, obviously with the intent of creating unease. Perhaps she thinks I don't see through these games or understand that she's behind it all. The last thing that came to my notice was that she had forced her way into our house on the morning after our wedding when we were at a hotel. My mother was at the door but completely taken by surprise when this woman "with the mean eyes" ran upstairs uninvited to have a look at our home. The truly sad part is that this woman is a preacher. I don't suppose her God is particularly pleased with her transgressions.

As a side note, nobody that I know in this little town is impressed with her as a human being or a minister. Needless to say, they are sick and tired of her  rants about having been badly treated by my husband (who wouldn't hurt a fly). Among other things, she bought some stock for her shop from another local business and never paid for it. And this is not all... But she would probably not be able to see what she's doing, because presumably, in her mind she's not doing anything wrong. I am guessing that hiding behind a facade of spiritual authority in the role of a preacher is her way of justifying her existance in some way while trying to make sure no one sees her darker aspects. We have seen these kind of people over and over again - history is full of them. Religion is the greatest excuse and weapon humans have come up with, ironically the very anti-thesis of true spirituality.

Sometimes, people who want to be an authority within a church feel that as they consacrate their lives to God, God ows them something in return. They think they can expect God to be supportive of whatever they decide to do, and all means are sanctified. Some members of a parish believe that the authorities have been sanctioned by God, and this makes them especially vulnerable to manipulation. Some people are practically asking to be manipulated because they don't want to think for themselves.

While I don't know what drives the woman my husband had an affair with, she did actually do me a favour because she put normality in a perspective for me.

In extreme cases, people with sociopathic and/or narcissistic tendencies step beyond the boundaries of normality and common decency in ways we simply cannot ignore. Unfortunately, many live among us and therefore it's important to recognize the signs even when they are good at fooling people with their ingratiating ways. Intuition is your best guide. But I would also say that one sign of this type of personality disorder is the unability to let go of other people and instead continue to act as if they had a right to possess their victims, who should bend to their will. They are the first class bullies, with very little ability to feel empathy and understand other people's feelings - yet they love to tell other people how to run their lives because this is their power trip. The other sign is that there is no ability to see one's own wrongdoings, in fact there is a tendency to think that God or Satan or whatever entity inspire them is exclusively on their side, very much as fundamentalist religious terrorists or a cult leader would think. I don't think a normal person would be able to continue as an "authorized" advocate of deep religious values of truthfulness, kindness and love if they were able to acknowledge that they had these kinds of problems. If nothing else, this certainly is the greatest give away.

The term "sociopath" has nowadays been replaced with "antisocial personality disorder". Wikipedia says:  "...common characteristics of those with Antisocial Personality Disorder include superficial charm, shallowed emotions, a distorted sense of self, a constant search for new sensations (which can have bizarre consequences), a tendency to physically or verbally abuse peers or relatives, and manipulation of others without remorse or empathy for the victim. Egocentrism, megalomania, lack of responsibility, extroversion, excessive hedonism, high impulsivity, promiscuity and the desire to experience sensations of control and power can also be present. This type of disorder does not relate to assaults of panic or to schizophrenia." In other words, people border on the abnormal when their anti-social behaviour is excessive and harmful to others.
Artwork: digital photograph by author, all rights reserved 2010

Monday, 31 May 2010

True Equality!

My energies at this stage in my life are preoccupied elsewhere, and I have not felt much inclination towards keeping this blog going. I am sure I will come back to it later when my life has settled but am apologizing for some delay... I am now in the midst of turmoil in that I'm moving countries and getting married. My previous entry was probably a bit soppy and I don't want to go on sounding insipid or trite! My focus has changed and I'm not sure how it will translate into more philosphical musings.

I recalled having written some things on equality in the past. I was in a lot of despair at the time because of the whole dating game that I experienced as so trying and depressing. I will pick out some central viewpoints  and comment on them from my present perspective, which has shifted since I met my fiancée. I hope to take the discussion even further in the future as this is a very exciting subject matter.

"I come from a country where men and women had to work side by side in a rather equal fashion in order to survive the harsh climate. At least that's how equality in our country is usually being explained. Note that Finland is among the few countries that has a female president"

While this is true, it has also been clear to me that equality in Scandinavia has been taken to an extreme or to be more exact; is at this point in time it's ruled by certain arid, set concepts rather than true, feeling-based respect towards our differences as men and women. I found while dating that men in this part of the world had a tendency to either dismiss any form of gallantry towards the woman or even complained that they should have the same rights as women! This was to me a rhetorical reply rather than a genuine response from one human to another.

I saw a documentary by a Finnish guy that brought out the fact that gender studies at the University still refuse to acknowledge that there are any significant differencies between the ways men and women function. He demonstrated through his empirical research that men solve problems by setting up hierarchies and competitive situations while women prefer to negotiate on a basis of equality. While this to me seems self-evident (and more or less the message in the popular Venus and Mars - books) it was baffling to learn that authorities still wish to ignore this. It was also suggested that women have trouble asking for a higher salary and feeling worthy of it. I can certainly relate to this, though in other areas of life. Being a female go-getter is probably less common than finding an assertive male, though at the same time we mustn't forget that exceptions usually confirm the rules.  

In my present relationship, we have acknowledged all gender differences from the very start and treated them as objective facts that we can joke about. It doesn't mean we don't take them seriously too, but only in relation to our need to fit together and work as a team. Many of our strengths and weaknesses are tied to our personalities or our physical condition, but a great number of them are also evidently tied to our gender. We are exploring these and trying to find a way of complementing each other that is genuine and respectful. I am very lucky to have met someone who is motivated to do this and doesn't hold his own activities or products as so sacred that they cannot be shared with another. His intelligence is such that he is able to grasp the higher meaning of teamwork within a relationship.

As an example, we curated an exhibition together and found that we were able to do a very good job as long as we did it rapidly without concerns of the ego. We have found that as soon as there is a sense of threat or accusation in one way or another, things go awry. (Luckily we aren't stubbornly holding onto matters of principle, which can be an efficient way of killing a relationship). I tend to make undue assumptions about the way men "always do things" because of bad past experience and he gets very upset when he feels accused of things he haven't done and isn't about to do. I am also the one moving to a different country and so I am quite overwhelmed by the prospect of fitting in and accepting all that is his. So far, we've mostly lived on my territory with my things. I can easily feel threatened as I have visions of how I want to lead my life, decorate my home, and so on. It's easy in these instances to forget about all the things we actually agree on and focus more on the differencies - especially if one doesn't quite understand what drives and motivateds the other. On the other hand, by testing these things and communicating them we are learning. I should also add, that I realized I have to stand up for myself more in order not to be treated in sexist ways by a society that easily sees the man as the leader - in our relationship, we are equal artistically speaking as well and I noticed that people didn't quite grasp the idea that we might be able to work as a team.

"I don't deny that my way of expressing myself can be perceived as strong by some people, but I am by no means a bully. I am not trying to get the upper hand, only have equal rights with everyone else. I am tender and giving but won't waste my efforts on anyone who only wants to reinforce their ego. I can't afford wasting my precious energy, as I don't have that much of it (at least for the time being). The fact that men have complained about the strong will of mine tells me that they have not been very strongwilled individuals themselves"

Well, I see myself as a bit of a paradox, as I have strong tendencies of nurturing but also refuse to be treated with disrespect or made into a doormat. I get very upset when I don't feel understood. But of course, to a great extent this has occurred in my life because not very many people have been able to relate to me on a deeper level. It takes a very intuitive and empathic man with a whole other set of values that aren't quite the norm to grasp what I'm about. It seems that I am indeed appreciated for the reasons I want to be appreciated, and that is for all the reasons by which I am different from most other people. I also need to add though, that my partner has no hang ups whatsoever about social roles and is also able to see my feminine essence rather than the way I represent womanhood within the framework of society. This applies to how I feel about my partner as well.The latter is a sense of the complementary qualities of yin and yang that is our basic working theory.

"One thing that I've noticed in my own life is that men want to be in charge of how a relationship develops. It starts with them deciding when to write or call, how to meet, and where to develop the contact. This to me is extremely stressful because for one thing I find it unacceptable and unfair, and on the other hand it wears on my over-stressed nervous system. I easily break down like I did the other day if I have to put up with a state of not knowing what the deal is"

I have found, that I actually want a man to be in charge a lot of the time but only if he truly respects me. Only now do I feel respected and also valued for the things that I am able to do, and so I have trust. I also have trust because I feel that my partner executes projects more or less the way I would too, and so there is seldom any conflict of interests. This helps me mellow out and allow him to take care of many things that are difficult for me. Of course, some people have to learn about compromise in some big way, but to me too many differences would detract from what I consider important. The things I know he's better at taking care of than me are especially things of a practical or physical nature, as well as technical issues. I am not physically equipped for many things. When it comes to technical problems I have realized that it comes more naturally to men to deal with those, and though women can certainly learn how to tackle them, it's often not worth all the trouble. I suppose I in return give him what he feels he needs, as this he tells me very often!

"I wish that men would realize how emotional women can sometimes be without it meaning half as much as they think. Secondly, I wish they would realize that their actions cause us to fret and ruminate for ages afterwards. Women spend an enormous amount of time trying to understand men, but when do they ever care to understand us? In other words; how can we ever reach true equality if one part of the population is not interested in investing any efforts into truly understanding the other part? This leads me to the core of my thinking, which is that rather than choosing sides and thinking in terms of either-or the way we are used to, we should really try and embrace both-and. So even though I'm a bit sad and nervous about the way men so easily dismiss me as "difficult" I still hope to give each individual the benefit of doubt. But my refusal to be submissive is probably going to cost me a lot of things that belong to a normal life on Earth"

I think it takes a bit for a man to realize that women often over-react. However, if they are willing to find a way of approaching us that doesn't appear patronizing, it can work out just fine. An intelligent man will see the meaningfulness in developing this kind of understanding and may even see it as a spiritual quest. I am lucky in that my partner is interested in how people function psychologically speaking and so there is always plenty to talk about. I always knew, that I would not be able to live with someone who didn't meet me in this area of life. I think that this form of curiousity defines a higher level of intelligence, but then I am biased, of course!

We do sometimes argue because neither of us wishes to be a doormat. We do, however, think that there are ways around it. First, we must realize that neither is ever going to be submissive and accept this as a fact. Then, it's a question of trusting the other not to be manipulative. I can see the temptation to manipulate another but am trying to catch myself every time. I also know that he's able to detect any such behaviour as a result of past experience and an analytical mind. It takes time to get to a place of true trust. This leads to the feeling of being respected and from this, more confidence and less fear of being put down in any way follows naturally. It takes effort, because you must always keep the other person in mind. You don't make important decisions without consulting with your partner. You try and remember the ways in which your partner complements your weaknesses and allow them to fill up that space for you. You treat your relationship as a kind of business relationship that extends indefinitely outwards in all the directions, in ways in which you can express love towards the other. At its best, it can encompass all of life's areas and help you evolve towards a greater sense of fulfillment as an individual as well as a couple.

In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with acknowledging your partner as complementary and in some deeper way as your other half. As always, I'd like to finish with a statement about the importance of seeing paradoxes as an expression of the greater truth about reality. I believe, that we can be whole unto ourselves as well as whole within a relationship. In other words, you can be a whole and a half at the same time. If you sense any truth whatsoever in this, I challenge you to think of ways in which this is possible! I believe this is for each and every one of us to find out for themselves. I would suggest, that this is the secret of the sort of equality this world will see more of in the future.

Artwork: "Swan Play" digital photography, copyrighted by author 2010. All rights reserved.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Life Starts When You Start Loving It

It's of course a common misconception that problems disappear when you find someone who loves you. We think that the acceptance of another will patch us up. In reality, the acceptance of another does help soothe the bruises and may help us grow. It's nonetheless my experience, that it's only when I enter a relationship that the real work begins. In between I've felt that I've been on hold in many ways. But the older I get, the more stuff there is to dig out, deconstruct and let go of. Apart from that, I don't really enjoy solitude very much. Even though I can be creative on my own, I find the lack of regular day-to-day interaction with another being quite deadening. It undermines my belief in myself and does nothing to strengthen my sense of self. 

Yes, we can have what we want in life, but the point is really being aware of what we truly need in order to feel fulfilled and be able to evolve as human beings. At least we should get our priorities straight without resorting to stupid idealism; having love and better health is surely more important than money, but the money can come in quite handy and help us enjoy ourselves more. I find, that things progress is some mysteriously natural order, and I should not have doubts about this and try and force things in a headstrong sort of way. It's my belief  that if you know yourself deeply, you will know what you need in your life at any given time and you will strive towards it, but you will also realize that life is inherently intelligent and therefore more capable of working things out for you than the little you are. Reach into yourself and feel what you need, then have an intention, but let go of the outcome.  Life does give us what we need. You could call it the manifestation of your own desires, it really doesn't make a difference in a deeper sense if we postulate that we are one with life. However, we reside in a dualist space and so I prefer to choose my words carefully.

Anyhow - some of what we need is the dull stuff, the challenges that we have to work through in order to get to a better place. Some of what we need is wonderful, joyful stuff that makes life worth living. Some stuff we do for the sake of others; some stuff is for ourselves. Each aspect of  life's "gifts" are equally important. Most of the time we only have an incling as to what we need and want in life, but there is no way we can imagine the full scope of the gifts of life as they usually stretch far beyond our imagination. Still, given our trust and faith, life can provide with a whole array of things that are truly good and useful for us. Just give it time... sometimes we do have to wait until the time is right.

Having doubts about your self-worth or the ability to attract good things in life is not really a problem. Just try and keep in mind that they are natural but do not need to define your life. I know this sounds a bit trite, but try and also believe, that miracles do occur. Sometimes, as I guess most of us realize when we really think about it, they are so small you hardly notice they are just that. The only answer is as far as I can se to be conscious and aware, notice everything that's going on and look at life with fresh eyes. There's always something to be amazed at. Why not just start with the assumption that life itself is pretty amazing... put the horrors aside; it's still a vast and complex piece of utter ingenuity.

So... I persisted in my pursuit of certain things, and they arrived. After a number of very dreary, lonely and very stressful years in a small town where social autorities are petty and doctors incompetent, I am finally on my way towards a place where I always dreamed of living. And what is truly amazing is, that the exact destination looks a lot better than what I had thought I might have to settle for. I have even been lucky enough to impart some hope to a few people around me, because my life started to change against all the odds. If as a result of my persistance, good things come to me, whatever other people really wish for can come to them as well. In my case, I did eventually find my better half - and the whole process has been a marvel. Someone did find me here in the middle of the dark forest, and has not left me since. I have met my equal, and it's a man! We are living the conscious relationship. Some of the process has been effortless and it's obvious that there's flow when things are working out in a positive direction. In some other ways, there have been a great deal of trouble. The body and mind that is used to a life of struggles is having a hard time adapting to the idea of a more pleasurable life (this manifests in the body as various pains, it seems). We also have to find ways of managing my chronic illness. It will still take time to adapt and find a way of keeping a vulnerable heart really open. In order to be open towards others, it needs to be open towards life itself. So the universe and I still have some dues to settle.

Artwork: Digital photograph by author, all rights reserved 2009

Monday, 22 March 2010

Alternation between theory and practice, objectivity and subjectivity

It seems to me that personal development comprises at least one theoretical and practical phase. By this I mean that most intellectually inclined people get excited about a certain worldview or beliefsystem tend to read up on things and organize their rational views for a while. I did just that but after a number of years of constructing the backbones of my worldview I got naturally bored with the limitations of intellectual thought. I say "naturally" because it felt just that; natural. There was only so much I could learn theoretically until it started to feel stale, repetitive and of course, most of all, removed from the actual fact of existing in this particular reality. When I think about it, I seem to recall some similar feelings coming to me earlier on in my life. To me it looks as though there's a wave-movement that alternates theory and practice in various forms throughout my life, some phases being more obvious than others. This resonates with my belief that all phenomena do in fact alternate in a yin/yang sort of fashion as they change with the progression of time.

Unfortunately, one can get stuck in a phase and resist change. It's easy to spot this sort of state of being in some people as they will invariably sound stifled and dogmatic in their intellectual approach to life's issues. So - there's nothing wrong with a theoretical framework, but it has to be integrated into one's personal being and way of life. Each one of us has to find their own way of doing it as it's bound to be a test and challenge to our individual uniqueness. Therefore, there is no textbook out there that will explain exactly how to do it so that it is right for you.This is a deeply subjective experience as opposed to the ingestion of theoretical knowledge that one might characterize as more objective in nature. It might even be difficult to talk and share these things with other people as they are so subjective and often quite emotional. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why we don't see much talk about the more practical approach of people who are serious spiritual seekers? It's in the very nature of practical experience and field work (so to speak) that it's "out there" far away from the chair by the computer or the vicinity of a library. Perhaps it's also something people don't feel inclined to demonstrate on an intellectual internet forum because they fear being labeled "subjective" and not taken seriously.

I don't know... these are just a few thoughts that come to mind. I am also a bit concerned about the gap between people who enjoy their armchair philosphy and those who passionately engage in changing the world on the practical level. As an intellectual, it's easy to become complacent or disenchanted as one witnesses and understands ignorance within society. I have certainly felt that myself (e.g. "there is too much to be done and I want to make a BIG difference if there is to be one") and have to work so as not to get too sucked into such feelings. As it happens, my life seems to present me with challenges in the real world that help me confront some difficulties I may be experiencing in engaging in some work of a very practical nature (e.g. regarding social injustice) that meets with so much resistance from those in charge of the bigger decisions in society. It's a bit of a cliché but I guess it does boild down to a matter of being aware of the opportunities of growth and change, but also of finding out what is your own personal way of making a difference.

I think we can still be useful to society even when we are not quite "there" yet in terms of inner peace. However, I assume that our work is at its best in our moments of calm and positive determination that comes from a sense of "spiritual passion" or something of the kind. Again, I think that someone on a sincere path to deeper insight will have these moments despite other experiences of imbalance and rupture. Perhaps it's also a question of following an inner incentive when this happens and not do much when we are not in a good frame of mind! Of course, it goes without saying that having too much ego or too little of it causes problems - being too assertive or too easily bogged down, to mention a couple of common issues in this regard, In any case it's important that people who realize this don't get too discouraged on their way towards a more wholesome existance.

Digital photo by author, all rights reserved 2010

Sunday, 31 January 2010

Gentle Advice For the Chronic Insomniac

My insomnia started as a result of emotional trauma, some ten years ago. As I was against taking drugs I resisted for a year, but got increasingly burned out and had to give in to them in the end. Herbal sleeping aids may help some but is not strong enough for me. Contrary to what many doctors tell you, some of the drugs that are supposed to help you fall asleep (but not necessarily stay asleep all night which a real sleeping pill would do), can actually work for years (Zopiklon in my case, you may need to look up the generic names, e.g. Lunesta in the USA). Doctors prefer to prescripe other "non-addictive" things such as Seroquel, which in higher doses is meant for epilepsia and psychoses... Well, it makes you drowsy and may work, but I'm not convinced the sleep quality is very good. One of the problems for many insomniacs is the lack of deep (restorative) sleep. This is for instance true in cases of fibromyalgia or chronic stress, where the nervous system is not able to wind down. Amitriptyline which is an old fashioned anti-depressant may help a bit in this case, but the side-effects are not very nice. They include dry mucus (for instance resulting in tooth decay and trouble speaking) low libido, and god knows what else that I have now forgotten. Anyhow, sleeping disorders may be very complicated and it's hard to get proper help. GP's and many psychiatrists like to make you think that you don't really have a problem because they don't understand the workings of the nervous system and the mind-body connection. I thought to compile a little list of things that I find helpful though, hoping that some of it might help others.

  • make sure that your bedroom is clutterfree. This is really, really important. Make it into a really cosy sanctuary with lots of soft cushions, a fluffy down duvet and good quality bed linen that has NO polyester in it. Change your sheets quite often, at least every fortnight. Make sure there are many layers of cotton underneath you if you have a foam mattress. Make sure the bed is soft enough to induce a feeling of security. The bedroom should never be used for anything but sleeping. I can't stress this enough! It really makes a difference. Sometimes sleeping on the ground floor can be a problem because you subconsciously may feel that someone could come in through the window. Try and see if this is the case. If you only have one floor, make sure the window is well blocked at least with heavy curtains if not in other more drastic ways.

  • make sure your bedroom is dark enough, and that it's neither too warm or too cold.

  • you might need to wear ear plugs. I have worn them for years...

  • According to Feng Shui, your head should face the East. You can always try... I turned my bed around but made other changes too so it's hard to tell whether this could have made a difference. Feng Shui also tells you not to have mirrors facing your bed, and to me that's really just common sense.

  • research has shown that having some carbohydrates before going to sleep is helpful. So the old adage about milk and cookies is correct. I find it calming to have some soyamilk or night time herbal tea along with a sandwhich or cake. Some say a small piece of dark chocolate is helpful.

  • alcohol can be bad for the quality of the sleep but sometimes a glass or two of wine can be helpful in calming the nerves. Don't make it into a habit, though.

  • lavender oil (make sure it's essential!) can be burnt in an oil burner or sprinkled onto something close to your nose. I find that it really does have a soothing effect. You might like to experiment with different brands, possibly from different countries of origin.

  • some incense may help. I find that some cheap incense from Thailand has a woody note that soothes me. You have to experiment to find out what works for you. There is also lavender scented incense but again you have to see which brand works for you. For me, the scent of rose is also conducive to positive feelings. If you can, keep some beautiful fresh flowers by the bed.

  • sit up in bed and meditate before sleep, if you can. If you have a helpful partner, he could stroke your back while you gently fall asleep.

  • get enough exercise in the daytime, for instance a half-hour walk or more. Then do some gentle exercise such as yoga or light weight lifting in the evening.

  • Qigong is very helpful in tuning in with your body and calming the mind. There's something you can do when you're already in bed - it's an exercise called LaQi, but it's by no means exclusive to Qigong. You hold your hands in front of your navel as if holding a bowl or a ball (the hands should not touch each other). Slowly separate them by moving the hands further apart, about half a meter. Then move them back again, slowly. Keep doing this for a while and find that your energies settle a bit (you're "collecting" and "building up" energy between your hands).

  • lying on a bed of nails (look it up online) for half an hour before bed is helping me feel more relaxed.

  • try and remember that your body does know how to fall asleep and don't buy into the mindclutter that tells you that you just can't. Breathe deeply, connect your mind with the whole body, and have faith that nature knows what to do. Don't get frustrated if this doesn't immediately solve your problem; rest assured that at least it's helpful...

  • going to bed at the same time every day is an important thing to strive towards even if the mind may make all sorts of excuses to avoid it. One problem could be the feeling of not wanting to get up the following day, and so you postpone going to bed... try and counteract this by sticking to the schedule and finding reasons that make getting up in the morning into a more pleasant experience. It could simply be having more time to wake up and having something nice to drink or eat that you can look forward to. If watching TV first thing in the morning works for you, then go for it! Whatever helps...

  • it really is best not to watch TV before bed, especially not an engaging movie. For some, reading a boring book helps but in my case it makes me have to focus and so it has the opposite effect. Looking through a magazine and dreaming about a beautiful home seems like a better option.

  • whatever is on your mind needs to be dealt with, so write it down or settle an argument before sleeping. Seriously consider cutting the cord with people who distress you on a permanent basis. Do whatever it takes!

  • footmassage to yourself with some pleasant oil is a good idea.

  • sometimes, soft music can help you drift off to sleep. The choice is obviously yours, it could be New Age music, nature's sounds (birds, rain, waves) or something alternative. There was a time when Steven Reich's drumming was helpful to me. Now I prefer complete silence.

  • last but not least; a sense of security is really important. You need to address the emotional issues that may make you feel insecure. Try and feel that nothing out there is out to get you, or that you are surrounded by benevolent forces that keep these negative energies at bay while you sleep. Having another person in your life that helps you feel safer could be a solution to some of these problems. Feeling vulnerable is not a crime...
As a side note, I'd like to add a few viewpoints on the way doctors often look at insomnia, especially in relation to a chronic illness of sorts. It's rare to meet someone who truly understands what it's like. You usually get referred to a psychiatrist, but they may not know much about insomnia per se (for instance, which medicines are really useful and not just "horrid addictive ones") and even less about the physical issues involved. If you're one of the unfortunate who suffer from ME, CFS and/or fibromyalgia, for instance, then the condition will affect your sleep in every conceivable way. It's all very well to talk about regular sleeping schedules, but when you're overly fatigued one day and extremely hyper the next, following a regular schedule can be next to impossible. It's also very disruptive if you are in a phase when you wake up a lot and thus loose hours of sleep. You may not be able to cope with the loss of even one hour of sleep. Getting up to do something else is just plain stupid advice. You might also find that you have to leave a party much earlier than anyone else because you can't cope with a disturbed schedule the next day).

I find it very stressful to try and juggle with medicines so that I can rest assured  that I will fall asleep when I'm supposed to. It's already hard enough to motivate myself to stick to schedule! Doctors rarely understand any of this. A shrink I had said that for one thing he doesn't believe fibromyalgia exists, for another I just need to stay up for two days and then I'm sure to sleep! Yeah right. I'd sleep for 24 hours, wake up bright as a morning bird - at four in the morning! Try and stick to schedule - it does help. But you might have to be prepared for some anxiety in relation to all the arrangments that need to be made to ensure that this really works.

Artwork: Digital photograph by author, all rights reserved 2010

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

From Victimhood to Victory (Victim Mentality Deconstructed)

There have not been any blogs for a while because I was thrusted into the whirls of an intense new relationship that demanded my full attention 24/7. Before this happened, I had experienced yet another burn out from the stress caused by dealing with the callous people at the social services, and other personal issues to do with dating. It is only now that I have a bit of time to get proper rest and let my mind wander around... I'm not sure what exactly to write but lets see what comes out. The theme is in any case victimhood, made into an even more of a burning topic due to the earthquakes in Haiti.

I think it's more than obvious that there are generally speaking two categories of people in the world; those who are victims and those who are oppressors in one way or another. Powergames are unfortunately to be seen anywhere from within personal relationships to the relationships between citizens and their authorities. Sometimes, as in the case in Haiti, nature appears to cause us great distress and loss. In the following I will focus on the interaction between humans, however. We obviously gain from the security provided by those in power of sorts but we also pay a price that compromises our integrity. In my own life, I have experienced victimhood in many ways. When your body is not strong enough to keep up with the Joneses, you easily get pushed aside by other people and seen as a lesser being. If you're not doing your share of the "work" within society, then why should you have any rights? Of course I was grateful that I was granted the choice of not being in working life but little did I realize how stressful the situation would become nonetheless. Instead of the state paying me a decent allowance I was made to crawl in front of the social services every month in order to get some extra money for electricity, heating and medicines that the pension would not cover. This autumn, the situation eventually became psychologically speaking so unbearable that I saw only one option, and that was to cut the cord to the social services. It was a scary thing to do as I would have very scanty means of surviving, but I had to do it in order to regain a sense of dignity and to remove the stress that these people were causing me. I had to rely on other people for help but it was still a better option in this case. I also made a report to the court of justice but there was no will of taking my complaints about the way I had been treated seriously. I had to swallow my frustration, try and forget my feelings of being wronged, and move on.

Another area in which I have recently felt helpless has been that of dating. I went through a great deal of stressful connections that seemed to only reinforce the feeling that no one wanted me and that no one was on my wavelength. I had to muster the last scraps of self-confidence and inner strength so as not to fall prey to utter despair. In the end I said alright, I shan't continue with my teeth clenched. I had felt that I was at a great disadvantage because of suffering from a condition that few can truly relate to and also because of my physical location. Who would find me here in this solitary and remote corner of Europe? It was all so bewildering. In the end I had to let go and think, well, if I'm meant to meet the right person, then I will. If not... then I have to accept my lot in life. My deepest feeling was, however, that I did not want to remain alone and that in fact I was not really equipped to manage life on my own (and maybe I really shouldn't, as perhaps we are all here to help each other rather than fight wars!). I needed someone by my side but not a parent-figure who would nanny me. I had great doubts that the right sort of person existed but I kept on hoping while I loosened the reins... and at that moment the right man appeared.

One of the first things this man said to me was that he would not have contacted me if he had felt that I was into victimizing myself. He could see that I was a "victim" in terms of being forced to rely on the goodwill of people of all sorts (doctors, the social people, the state, ignorant people in general, men I've tried to date or have relationships with, and so on) and that I was a bit of a mess because of it, but he also saw that I was fighting for my sense of personal freedom and integrity. Thank goodness! I am indeed very lucky... someone finally perceived me for who I believe I am. Thing is... it's alright to feel weak and vulnerable - allowing such feelings is healthy as they are natural and should not be repressed. It's alright to have moments of doubt and even feel sorry for yourself. It's human! I'm the first one to admit to having trouble with the kind of helplessness that comes from fatigue, physical weakness and from being a highly sensitive person. But it's the general attitude that counts... being able to say alright, this is my life and only I can take responsibility for it.

My new partner and I quickly established a working relationship that is based on the idea of teamwork, so that our various strengths complement each another. He has the physical strength and stamina that I lack and so I feel that I can finally let go of some of the heavy burdens in my personal life. I am hoping that I am now transitioning from simply "managing" life to actually living and enjoying it. This would not be possible without the help of someone who can fill in certain blanks in my private life. It seems that I might be able to move away from the dreadful feeling of being "helpless, weak and dependent" to a state of being in which I can develop my true potential rather than spending all my energy on practical trivia. The practical side of life is quite difficult for me because of my condition, but when I get to share all the decision-making and the activities that life calls for on a mundane level, life truly takes on a whole other meaning and various fears and apprehensions may turn into positive anticipations regarding the future. It is not about co-dependency, but a case of relying on another person for assistance because you have reasons to trust them. And of course, in the end it's about true equality and a balanced given-and-take though it can be hard to see what exactly you're giving the other person!

In the West, we live in a society that celebrates independency and freedom but most of it is an illusion. Like I said, we're in it together, aren't we? However, there is a difference between unhealthy dependency based in powergames, and a healthy working relationship of assisting those in need (see early blogs on this topic). We should certainly strive to remove ourselves from the sense of victimhood because nothing good comes of it. If we find ourselves in a place that provokes an experience of dependency and victimhood in relation to authorities or other people in general, we must fight it... there is always something good to be found in terms of learning experience. I am not saying there are no victims; in a sense we are all victims in one way or another. That's the way the world is today as we are not yet living utopia. Though I hope things will gradually improve, I am also not in favour of the typical New Age idea that it's wrong to even talk in terms of victimhood. I have been attacked by such people way too many times, as they have perceived my occasional despair as their favourite topic for conversion to New Age ideals. As soon as you even as much as whisper that you feel overwhelmed by external forces, it is not unusual to hear that you're being negative and only interested in pretending to be weak in order to get sympathy from others.

There are indeed energy suckers who do that sort of thing but obviously, it's not always that simple. As usual, I prefer to take the middle path. On a spiritual level it is possible to see all this from a different perspective and as a game within the frame of dualism that helps people learn about a more genuine and caring interaction based in empathy rather than pity (for instance, the case of true caring tends to creep up when natural disasters such as the earthquakes in Haiti occur). It can also help us establish boundaries and decide that other people have no real power over us. I know this bit is very difficult and hard to grasp. All I can say is, that everyone has their own quest and may or may not be able to see things from a more spiritual point of view. I think that we do need each other and should never deny this; on the other hand we must be very clear about our personal integrity and not allow others to take advantage of ourselves or throw ourselves into a pity-party. The latter is a sort of passive-aggressive way of attempting power over those that seem to exercise power over us. It surely goes without saying that it's not a constructive way of solving problems!

Incidentally, both myself and my partner have exes that have tried to use their victimhood as a way of getting to us. My ex in the USA refuses to send me my personal belongings and artwork although I have paid him to do so. He goes on and on promising this, promising that... nothing ever happens and the last thing I heard was that he can no longer find the things that were originally neatly packed in one box. Of course, in his mind I am the evil one who doesn't have the patience to wait for my things or even ask for them in the first place (this has taken two years). This is someone who is clearly unable to care for others because he's so engrossed in the wrongs that other people are doing onto him. People who perceive of themselves as the ones who are always being wronged by others will usually become quite manipulative as demonstrated above. My partner's ex who felt wronged because he didn't feel she was right for him was stalking me online and trying to manipulate me into believing that my partner has so and so many flaws (of course the last one in a row of many evil men). When that didn't work as she had hoped she tried to manipulate him into believing all sorts of horrible things about me based on bits and pieces of information that she had gathered on the internet by infiltrating into spaces where she had no business to be in the first place (posing under an assumed identity). Apparently this is due to some form of stifling victimization and unability to let go and let live. Of course, the trick is to try not to feel like a victim of those who victimize themselves... not always easy, true.

So how do you recognize people who victimize themselves so that you can be on your guard? Well, apart from the obvious fact that they blame everyone else for their misfortunes, my experience tells me that these people tend to appeal to other people's emotions repeatedly and excessively. You also get the sense of speaking to a child when you confront them about issues of conflict. That's because most likely, they got stuck in some pattern as children and were not able to resolve it back then with the help of an adult. As adults, they should take responsibility for their own deficiencies, however. Of course, it's always advisable to seek help and counselling, but the first step of recognition and desire to open up repressed issues obviously comes from themselves (who else?).

All you can do is to decide that these kind of people do not have power over you and re-align with your true self and integrity. You may have to cut a few cords in order to do so. I still find it very hard so I can see that it's one of those major life lessons. Each has to find their own way of setting boundaries. The main thing is that we don't fall into the trap of feeling pity, which is a way in which those with a victim mentality can keep us tied to their energy. And do not listen to all the "I had a dysfunctional childhood" talk if it seems a bit too obsessive. While the things that were going on as we were helpless children might have been seriously disturbing, the truth is the majority of all people have had some kind of dysfunctional background. It's all very well to talk about it and recognize where your issues come from, but don't use it as a way of provoking pity in others: it's ridiculous. Use it only as a means of deeper understanding and if you are so inclined, as a way of spiritual growth. While it's also true that many of us are in a weak position and feel very helpless at times, there is always a way out. It may take time, but the way I see it is that life "wants" to evolve and thus we also will if we only have the incentive to do so.

Artwork: digital photograph by author, all rights reserved 2010