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Tuesday, 04 September 2018


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I sometimes wish there was a "like" feature on your blog so that I could show a sort of general, positive nod of the head in agreement without actually having to explain why. Primarily because once I get started, my explanation is almost guaranteed to go on for too long. However, I am going to learn to write more concisely.

Good post. I agree.

I found your OM today very interesting and I think I'm gonna have to reread it to get all I can out of it. I was just involved in my 1st auto accident due to no fault of my own (I was clobbered by uninsured driver who totaled my beloved SUV photo/camp mobile). Now I'm finding myself saying, "I'll never find another car like it or it's equal that I can afford". And it's leading to some very depressed moments. I'll try my best to give it a new spin - and thanks for that advice!

This all brings to mind an old book that I have on my shelves, or did have until an anarchist friend of my daughter's borrowed it... You Can't Win, by Jack Black, with a forward by William Burroughs.


I've become more optimistic in general the more I work on things with other people. Sort of an "I can't win, but WE can" phenomenon.

What you are talking about here sounds a lot like what educators are now calling the `growth mindset' vs `fixed mindset' paradigm - helping children (and adults) learn by encouraging them to believe that they can learn new skills. A typical example is `I'm not good at math' (fixed mindset) vs. `this is a challenging problem that I am going to enjoy working on' (growth mindset).

Another, relevant example might be `the system is broken, and there's nothing one voter can do about it' vs `the system is broken, and working together we can fix it'.

Re "Every boyfriend I find is a jerk."
When I met my wife for the first time she said, "I'm looking for Mr. Right." I said, "That's me!"

There can be a hidden benefit to making a pessimistic assertion like your examples. If it turns out that way ("I'll never get married", let's say), then you were proved right. That's a powerful thing for many. It might even seem like the only control a person has over life.

So the thing that comes about might be uncomfortable, or unhealthy, or whatnot, but at least you were *right* about it.

It's better not to be very dependent on being right, but it can be hard to get to that state.

As for your comment "I'm going to be alone for the rest of my life", I think you're stuck with us. Maybe not quite what you were after, but.....

Language is our thoughts made verbal. The clearer your thinking, the clearer your language and your intentions can be. Once you've cleared up your intentions, it's time for action. Actions clarify thought. The loop can be positive, or negative. You choose.

The challenge we face as readers and listeners is that even the source of the ambiguity can be ambiguous. For example, suppose I respond to your "I'm going to have my mortgage paid off soon" statement with "I"m sure you will." Depending on your mood and the nature of our relationship at the moment, you might either say to yourself, "That was very kind of Gordon," or "The last thing I need is Gordon's *&#$! sarcasm." Either interpretation could be correct, yet the statement itself is, at least on the surface, quite positive, optimistic, and hopeful.

The power of words. I try to be careful.

Two stories:

There is a story told in the Talmud to emphasise and explain how the tone in which something is said is often critical in understanding what is meant by what is said.

The background to the story is that the Talmud mandated that every landowner had an obligation to give a tithe to the priests (the Cohanim). But there was a lot that was left to the discretion of the landowner – which priest or priests, and what quality the tithe should actually comprise.

Now on this particular occasion the landowner needed to be absent for a few days. He appointed a manager who he left in charge of gathering in the figs and grading them into three qualities – best, middle, and poor.

Now it so happened that when the manager was in the middle of doing this, a priest passed by. The manager knew he should give a tithe, he knew that every landowner had an obligation to give a tithe – but which quality? He opted for the safe bet and gave from the middle quality.

When the landowner returned, the manager told him he had given a tithe to the priest, to which the landowner replied ‘Why didn’t you give him the best quality?’

Now you tell me what the landowner meant. You cannot and I cannot without hearing the tone of his voice.

Did he mean that the priest was such a worthy person and the landowner considered the obligation to tithe so important that the manager should have given the best quality figs?

Or did the landowner use an ironic tone because he begrudged giving the figs for the tithe or to this particular priest?

Did he mean ‘Why stop halfway – why didn’t you make an even worse decision than you did, and give the priest my best figs?

It’s all in the tone of voice – and that is what the story is intended to illustrate.

The childless couple go to the rabbi to bless them that they will have a child.

Months go by and nothing happens. The couple complain to the rabbi, who asks them what they have done to prepare for the birth. Did you buy a cot? Did you buy baby clothes?

They tell him they haven't done anything. And the rabbi says - if you don't act on the promise, then how can you expect heaven to take notice?

...he pointed out the old scientist on the other side of the room he’d been having natter to and said, “Fair dinkum, that bloke, he could give you the square root of a jam jar, and not know how to get the lid off! Emphasis added. https://bit.ly/2wzHhm7 This made me chuckle, I know several people who fit that description ...do you too?

What I'm reading now: Insanely Simple: The Obsession That Drives Apple's Success Kindle Edition
by Ken Segall https://amzn.to/2Nin7Xc

What I'm reading next: Creative Selection: Inside Apple's Design Process During the Golden Age of Steve Jobs Kindle Edition by Ken Kocienda https://amzn.to/2Q2oE2e

Fiction: Transreal Cyberpunk Kindle Edition
by Rudy Rucker (Author), Bruce Sterling (Author), Rob Latham (Introduction) https://amzn.to/2MPH5sY

Unconscious aspirational lies fit into this discussion also. The extent to which we unwittingly reveal ourselves is startling once you learn to listen for it. I tell people this, they don't believe me, then they try listening for it for a while and often then tell me how well it works.

When someone makes some moderate to strong statement about their character or behavior using unconditional terms they are quite often expressing their recognition of their failing and their desire to overcome it. This is overwhelmingly true if the conversation they were in didn't really require them to comment one way or another on themselves.

For example, if someone says I'm very good at keeping secrets, you will make long-term money betting that that person cannot keep a secret.

If someone says I'm really good at juggling a bunch of different tasks you can be confident that that person really really needs to focus on just one thing at a time.

If someone says I'm an especially safe driver, you can be sure that at any time they are not actively thinking about driving safely they will be way to close to the bumper of the car in front of them.

I used to call this the Big Lie. And I'm not pointing fingers, we all have roughly the same genetic code. After I became aware of this I caught myself gratuitously telling people how I was good at managing time and being on time, and I believed it as I said it. But when I caught myself in the act I immediately saw that I aspired to be a great time manager because that is what I am not.

And apropos of nothing, other than because you mentioned Reed College...As a high school student, a long time ago and far far away, I and a friend were talking to Gary Snyder, the poet, about going to Reed College, as he had done. He generously chatted with us about Reed and his basic takeaway was that going to Reed would help us build minds with steeltrap discrimination
& articulation capacity but would not likely help us learn to be generatively creative.

Of course, that comment, could apply to much of academic education and having a more finely honed discriminating mind is not, in itself, a bad thing; I think Gary was just planting the seed that the kind of education one can get in college/university does not cover all the kinds of education one needs for a full life.

Ah, so you went to Reed! No further explanation for anxiety required.

Does the mortgage payment mean the wife-quest statement paid off better than expected?

Or is that misplaced optimism on behalf of another person?



If you try to think , speak and act as though the thing you want is already true, it will more likely become true (as long as you are willing and able to do the work required to achieve it.
Making your intentions known and working toward them is a very powerful thing.
As James Allen said," Move confidently in the direction of your own dreams" which is really the power of intention. People who wake up every day determined to make progress toward a goal are far more likely to achieve it. Announcing it to the world in a kind and thoughtful way, will bring you unexpected help.
As you point out, there are different ways to say the same things, the way that displays your intention and willingness to work toward it will bring more satisfaction over the long run..
I've seen it play out a thousand times. Does it always work, of course not, but it works better than the alternatives.

I often notice what I call 'emotional intentions' in what people say (it being of course always easier to recognize bad habits in others instead of in oneself) and I try to avoid going that road myself (an endless project, for sure): 'If thát happens, I will feel bad / frustrated,' etc. I don't mean obviously horrible things like losing someone or getting diagnosed with cancer, but things like: 'We are going to have an outdoor party, and the weather forecast is really nice, safe for a slim chance of a drizzle - but if that drizzle happens during my speech I am really gonna feel bad!' Please, don't be so sure. Give other feelings that may present themselves unexpectly a chance (lightheartedness? when you see all those umbrella's opening up all of a sudden, and especially your favourite granddaughter of five dancing with hers?). Don't you worry, when feeling bad is the natural reaction, you will - with or without resolve.

I think you are over thinking this. (How’s that?)

My favorite, muttered silently when the wife drags me from the couch to attend to some chore; ‘no rest for the wicked’.

When working I had a truism about medical care: "Those who spontaneously claim to have a high pain threshold generally do not." More than just an assertion about their lives, this misperception frequently interfered with their care. Meanwhile my wife always admitted to wimpiness and she really is average to above average in pain tolerance.

Love your sh*t man.

Amazingly, I just had a similar experience! I found myself having a thought which seems like the ultimate failure of responsibility, but which may be true and profound according to my spiritual beliefs. It came back more than once, so it’s not a fluke.

You went to Reed? We were neighbors!

Also apropos of nothing, other than because you mentioned Reed College...

My older granddaughter is a junior at Reed College this school year. She has previously confirmed that - as expected before she even started there - some of her professors are "not exactly conventional".

But she likes the school very much, has liked every instructor she has had so far, and finds it intellectually challenging . . .

- Tom -

Self-talk is a powerful force. The sound of the words come out of our mouth, into the air and then back around into our ears then eventually into our brain. Its like a person telling us what we should think and then we act on it. There is also the notion of speaking it to the universe and thereby bringing it into existence.
Maybe you just found an off topic topic that i'm interested in, but I enjoyed this one. "you done good".
You have a great future in writing.

This post brings to mind a book I'd recommend to everyone: Mindset by Carol Dweck. It's not about ambiguity, but it is about how you think and talk about your ability. You might say "I'm bad at math," or "I'm great at tennis;" alternatively you might say "I can keep working on that math problem," or "all my hard tennis practice is paying off." The first pair of statements reflect a fixed belief about a capability, and the second pair reflect a growth mindset. Having a growth mindset generally allows you to be more resilient and to improve in areas you might otherwise have felt stuck in.

I think there's a real benefit in making positive statements, at least to yourself, particularly if in a relationship with a neurotic person, who may make statements putting you down. Specifically saying to yourself "just because that person says it, doesn't make it true" and "in fact I am good at x, y or z as well" can make a real difference to mental health.

"I do wonder about the power of language."

We live in an age of informational excess. Language, communication, and interaction come cheap, at least online. And as we are rather shielded from the consequences of what we say, language becomes a throwaway.

Language has great power. Not just as words and sentences themselves, but through repetition, pattern, and paths of thought. It fascinates (appalls?) me to contrast the care that many people take with what they eat—or at least the time and energy they put into thinking about and discussing it—with a general disregard for the information they consume and the language they share.

Great post. More power to you! May you find a wonderful wife.

In parting, just a few more words. Johnny Mercer said it best... https://youtu.be/f3jdbFOidds

God spoke the world into being and magnified his word above his name. I'm just sayin'.

"Making Contact", Virginia Satir


Since I battle depression and "automatic negative thoughts", I have read several books on the topic. One that speaks directly to these types of statements is "The Feeling Good Handbook" by David Burns. He lists several self-defeating automatic thoughts and these statements, I believe, he calls "all-or-nothing thinking". Like you said, the key is to catch yourself thinking or saying these things and think, do I really believe that happens every single time? Can I think of examples where this is not true? Eventually you are hoping to reverse that automatic thought and provide a more rational and positive one in your subconscious.

As for me, I tend to say all-or-nothing things when I'm down. I also say a lot of "I should do this...I should have done that...I shouldn't think that way." My psychologist once said that I "should all over myself"!

Similarly, the emphasis placed on different words can change the meaning of the sentence or idea dramatically.

Try giving a strong emphasis to each word in this sentence:
"I never said she stole my money."

Quite different stories behind each emphasized word, no?

An interesting commentary.
I struggle with a similar conundrum, but focused outwardly rather than within.
In these bizarre and troubled times, I see the people I know responding in two rather distinct and opposing ways.
One is to be all-in politically, watching the news, having strong opinions and concerns, maybe writing and petitioning, donating or even protesting. All-in.
The other is to ignore it as much as possible - avoid discussions, not watch the news, "focus on the positive things in life" (this is where it starts brushing up against the issues you were discussing). Not that they don’t have positions or plan not to vote - they just don’t want their daily “mind space” occupied by the sturm and drang of our current political idiocracy.
I personally incline toward the first type, but understand the reasoning and the potential benefits of the second approach. I would feel guilty not paying attention, but I’m not sure my attention makes much difference and it may be very detrimental to my mental and physical health.
I’m an old fart (72), a recreational photographic “artist”, and I have the time to ponder such “first-world problems”. And to enjoy beautifully written essays on life by such as yourself. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. :)

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