Category Archives: psychology

Anxiety, an Internal Struggle

Mental Health, personal Leave a reply

I wish I understood the mechanisms of anxiety, at least within myself. I believe, perhaps mistakenly, that understanding these mechanisms would make it easier to resolve them, to overcome them. So that they’d stop ruling my life.

I had intended to leave my apartment about 5 hours ago to go get a haircut. It still hasn’t happened. Or, more accurately, I still haven’t gotten up and left.

It’s a bizarre feeling. It’s like that if I “decide” to do something, that decision gets consciously processed in the usual way and then….. nothing happens. I don’t rise out of my chair. My legs don’t move into position to lift me up. But if my legs are uncomfortable in their current position, I can move them just fine.

I can decide to type, or not to type, or to think about pretty much anything, but once I start thinking about “going outside”, suddenly there’s a *crowd* of other thoughts that urgently need my attention. Like I should take a shower. Or I should check my email. Or read an article. Or just play 15min of a game.

Looking at the door doesn’t cause me any consternation or fear. I’ve opened the door several times today to step out to get some air. That’s a non-issue. But once I decide that this move is to leave? Nope, nothing happens. Or, more accurately, something that *isn’t* me getting up to leave happens. E.g. this article.

There’s no obvious cause in my consciousness for this, no “nope, let’s do something else”-thought, I’m just suddenly flipping through twitter, or facebook, or doing a random search for details on my insurance, or….. So there’s nothing to discuss or argue against, to make my case in favour of a months-overdue haircut. The haircut is cheap, so the cost isn’t an issue.

And I am on edge, anxious. And I know that the moment I decide “ok, fine, not today”, I’ll feel my entire body relax, as if it were bracing for a massive burst of muscle-energy that is now no longer needed.

And it’ll be another day without a haircut. And if I can’t handle going outside, 100m from my home, for that, what fucking hope does the rest of my life have?

The Dangerous Seductiveness of Rage

Mental Health, personal, psychology Leave a reply

I’ve spent most of my life dealing with ‘rage’ issues. I’ve never been physically violent, but verbal vitriol, especially online, has been an issue in the past (and something that I continue to work on, of course). So I know of what I speak when I talk about the seductiveness of rage, and the appeal of anger, and the problems that can accompany them.

For the skimmers: if you conclude from this article that I believe that one should never feel or act on anger, then you have not read this article correctly.

In retrospect, I spent much of my teenage years and early twenties in a mild depression. The why of that is not pertinent to this article, but it’s important to understand that depression doesn’t simply mean ‘feeling sad’. Oftentimes there’s no feeling at all: feeling sad would be a positive change of affairs, because then I would have actually felt *something*.

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Beliefs Don’t Change in “Real-Time”

culture, Education, freethought community, psychology, science Leave a reply

An acquaintance of mine sent me a link to a conversation between Dan Dennett and Sam Harris, wherein Dennett attempts to explain the holes in Harris’s puerile arguments against the concept of “free will”.

In any case, this particular post isn’t about Harris, but a particular point he reiterates repeatedly: that we can (and should) change our beliefs “in real-time”.

This view, regardless of who holds it, is incorrect, and here’s why.

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Anxiety and Hunger

Mental Health, personal, psychology Leave a reply

Here’s a thing that I attribute to my anxiety, but perhaps other people (not suffering from anxiety) deal with it too.

I’ll get engrossed in reading articles/playing games that time passes and I get hungry. Not “omfg, I’m going to die if I don’t eat”-hungry, but the pangs aren’t minor. Noticing them, bringing them into attention, is uncomfortable.

So I’ll go back to reading articles/playing games “for just a couple more minutes”, moving the hunger back out of awareness such that I don’t feel the pangs anymore. Then I’ll think about getting some food, and the cycle continues.

This can mean that sometimes (on a day off) I don’t eat from the moment I wake up for 10+ hours, until I finally suck up the wherewithal to just go make something to eat. Or if I’ve made the mistake of doing this for several days in a row, such that I keep failing to go for groceries, I end up ordering food (which is, of course, expensive, but I can do it through the computer, so I can avoid thinking about it some more…..).

This is one of the many shitty things that anxiety does, and contributes to me not showing up places (because I’ve put off eating, which requires me to get groceries, and oh look, I’m supposed to be at x in 20 minutes…..), and wiping out my money.

(Posting this as a way of motivating myself to get to the grocery store before in closes in 75min. No suggestions/advice sought)

Laundry and Anxiety

Mental Health, personal

I did laundry today.

I can appreciate that this seems like a minor thing. ‘Seriously, Brian? Posting about doing laundry? Ffs…..’

My anxiety has been pretty bad the last couple of weeks. The threat of job loss hanging over my head, alongside dealing with incompetent and unprofessional HR staff (I know, I know, ‘HR staff’ would have been sufficient…..), plus some kind of low-level fever that I’ve had for about a week now……. It’s all pretty difficult. I’m fortunate to have good friends.

‘Doing laundry’ takes me roughly 2 hours. I don’t own a washing machine or dryer, and the nearest coin laundry is 10-15min away, depending on how long I have to wait for a bus. I need to sit there while it runs. So I need to find a day where I can set aside 2hrs of basically doing nothing (there’s insufficient space to do the marking that I’ve committed to doing), and I need to spend some time getting physical cash (because why the fuck would I carry cash when debit is ubiquitous?). For everyone else, this is a bit of a pain in the ass. For someone with anxiety, where every step in this process requires a chunk of additional effort: This. Fucking. Sucks.

[Here’s a visual aid. Imagine, though, that this is required for *every* task. Like going to the ATM to get money. Get clothes into a bag for bringing to the laundry place. Actually going to the laundry place.]

It’s been [a socially unacceptable amount of time] since I did laundry. Y’know that scene in Ghostbusters 2, where Weaver is going to stay over at Murray’s apartment, and she discovers all his unwashed clothes, and he’s like ‘no, no, they don’t smell bad, they’re still good’, and it’s hilarious? It’s not so hilarious when you’re living it. Especially when hygiene is particularly important to you. I mentioned having good friends: if they noticed my situation, they didn’t comment. And I appreciate that.

My local laundry place does a drop-off service. I’m thinking of doing that just to take the edge off my anxiety: I’ll only have to set aside 20-30min twice in a week, about twice a month (2 round trips each time, drop off then pick up), and I won’t need to worry about change. It’ll cost my about $17 a pop, instead of $4, but it might be worth it to ensure that the laundry gets done. (I’ve looked into pickup services: they don’t charge for the pickup, but they charge 2-3 times what my local place charges, and their minimum is often $30-$50)

Anywho. I did laundry today.

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Rhetoric and Context

Atheism, freethought community, philosophy, psychology, Rhetoric Leave a reply

How we argue with people sends signals to those around us. We are socially signalling the kind of person we are, and giving them cues as to whether or not they want to engage with us. This is, I think, an important point in rhetoric and persuasion, and can determine how we approach an argument. We can, of course, choose to remain ignorant of the signals that we send (thus sending the signal that we hold the people around us in contempt), or we can go too far and focus too much on ‘how’ the argument is presented such that the content is diluted to nothing.

An example of the former is a tweet by Secular Outpost (@SecularOutpost):

This is, frankly, sending up a flare that displays to all and sundry “I am a giant asshole, and I am not here for constructive conversation, but to have fun at the expense of those around me”. Disagree? Alright, let me walk you through it. Continue reading

Shaka, When the Walls Fell

culture, Linguistics, psychology 2 Replies

I have to admit, I’m a life-long fan of Star Trek. I grew up watching reruns of The Original Series, went through Secondary School (High School) with Picard in The Next Generation, thoroughly enjoyed the myth-building in Deep Space Nine, and wound down with Janeway in Voyager. We shall not speak of Enterprise here…

Now, The Next Generation had a number of woefully bad episodes. Some were just egregiously sexist and racist, many were just terribly written, and almost all were awfully costumed. But in *concept*, most of them were a fairly decent story idea. Most. One in particular stands out, and (perhaps because of this?) it seems to be the most quoted The Next Generation episode: Darmok.

A short synopsis is that the Enterprise crew attempt to communicate with another species who communicate entirely in metaphor. Thus the Universal Translator can convert what they’re saying into English (I’m assuming), but it fails to convey any meaning due to lack of context. An example would be me attempting to communicate something by saying “David, at the exam”. You have no idea if I mean success, or failure, or lateness, or elation, or whatever.

And this is, I think, the worst episode concept in the history of Star Trek. Bar none. Yes, really.

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Our Brain is a Car

philosophy, psychology, science 4 Replies

I’m going to try to lay out what my personal ‘Philosophy of Mind ‘ is. Most of this has been hacked together from a mix of Psychology and Philosophy classes, years of reading articles, and my own subjective experience. As such, it’s going to be fairly light on links and references.

On the other hand, our research into “consciousness” (what it is, how it works, what it’s not, how it doesn’t work, etc) is so basic, there’s little empirical support for any Philosophy of Mind (at least with regards to consciousness in particular) out there. So sure, I’m just telling a story. But… So is everyone else.

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An Open Letter to Mark Mercer and Saint Mary’s University

culture, ethics, feminism, philosophy, politics, psychology Leave a reply

Dr. Mercer,

I recently read your article in the UBC’s Ubyssey, and I have to admit: it raised some serious questions for me. I’ve spent some time thinking on them, so I hope that you’re not immediately dismissive.

These questions pertain to your being a Doctor of Philosophy in Philosophy, and yet you fail to act in accord with at least two critical principles that you should be teaching.

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Religion is the Cause of Terrible Behaviour

ethics, philosophy, psychology, religion 4 Replies

A fairly common theme in many atheist blogs is that religion is a causal factor in the various atrocities committed by people who are religious. JT Eberhard makes that point at the bottom of this post when he says (sarcastically):

But Islam can’t be the cause of this barbaric behavior because the Koran has some beautiful parts.

Now my purpose here is neither to attack nor vilify JT, so let’s not focus overmuch on that post. The key idea is that:

[Religion] is the cause of [general terrible behaviour]

It’s a reasonably popular viewpoint, which should be readily apparent to anyone who frequents atheist blogs. And I think it’s problematic (and wrong) for a number of reasons.

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