Tricks of the Mood

I'm a bit sad today. When that happens, being massively overly-emotional and all that, my mind really quickly starts throwing up thoughts that fit with that feeling. Before I know it I'm suddenly thinking I've fucked up my life and everything is terrible and hopeless. The feeling triggers the thoughts and the thoughts feed the feeling and down I spiral.

But these days, most of the time, I can get off that pesky train of doom before it runs away with itself. If I'm lucky I'll think "oh here's that thing my brain does when I feel sad". And I can tell myself that the thoughts aren't true, I'm just sad today, and I might not be sad tomorrow. Then I just sit in the sadness and try to keep moving forwards and get shit done.

I used to think my thoughts were real. I thought I made them. I thought I was my thoughts. But that's not how I see them anymore. They're just thoughts. Just things my brain throws up in given states or situations to try to help me navigate the world. But sometimes they really don't help. They do the opposite. But it's just my stupid monkey brain doing it's best to deal with a world it hasn't had time to evolve for. Poor little monkey brain. 

It was bit scary realising that my thoughts aren't me, but ultimately very helpful. It means I don't always have to go along with them when they're not helping me.

I heard someone say something brilliant in a 12 Step meeting once - he said "I must not confuse how I feel with how my life is going". That's so clever. Sadness tricks my mind into thinking sad things. But I don't confuse that with what's actually happening anymore. I just feel sad sometimes. But it always goes away eventually. So I just try to ignore the thoughts until it does. When I'm happier my brain gives me much nicer thoughts. Like my dad always said, you gotta take the rough with the smooth..

Angry Baby

Recently I've found myself getting angry about stupid shit like why noone's working at roadworks or how ugly all the new blocks of "luxury" flats look and the economic and social travesty they represent. When I'm in the grip of anger these seem like justified things to get angry about. But these days I'm better at catching myself. It's not really about the roadworks. When I'm getting angry about stuff it might be because my insides are starting to rot. Resentment is infiltrating my brain. And then I start confusing how I feel with how the world is. It's the beginning of a decent into hell. That sounds quite dramatic, but if you visit hell you'll see it's no picnic. I've got to keep an eye on these things. Catch it early. It's important to never forget how bad hell is. Humans have adapted over millions of years to forget bad shit. It probably helps with being able to pass on my genes to not be thinking about hell all the time. That's one of the the reasons humans make the same dumb mistakes over and over again. We forget. It's important I don't forget. It's why I need other people around to get better. They help to remind me. Left to its own devices my brain can do all sorts of little adjustments about what the past was like.

So the decent to hell starts with anger. Resentment is the tour guide to hell. It can get me there faster than I think. The anger builds, until there's noone left to get angry at, and then it switches its target. Someone once told me that depression is anger turned inwards. I didn't get it at first, but now I think that's the best description of depression I've heard. So I've got to watch out for anger; resentment; the little baby in me who wants everything to be how he wants it and not how it is. Stupid angry baby. When the baby surfaces I know it's time to think like an adult. Think how I can be useful to other people. If I'm thinking about other people I'm not feeding the angry baby. He soon goes away and I'm all zen and shit again. Or at least not as angry about the roadworks. And not on the way to hell.

Black and White

I read a bit more of Notes on Suicide. It's good. Lots of different perspectives on a complicated issue. People like things to be simple, because it's easier if they are. But interesting things aren't simple. We like to think that things are one thing, like "suicide is selfish", or "suicide is wrong". But there's lots of types of suicide, for lots of different reasons; unbelievably complicated reasons. The author points out that when people choose to be killed rather than renounce their beliefs (Socrates, Thomas More, Jesus) that could be seen as a form of suicide. You could argue that that's an honourable sacrifice for the greater good, or something like that.

I remember, when I was suicidal, thinking that doing it would make my family and friends really sad and that I really didn't want to do that, but also thinking that if they really knew where I was, the hell that I was in, then they would understand. I didn't commit suicide, obviously, which I'm very happy about. But I know it's not a simple issue. I'm not making a point about whether suicide is good or bad, more that everything that's interesting is complicated. 

I was listening to Russell Brand on the Joe Rogan podcast this morning. I like him and have followed his journey. He was a presenter at MTV when I worked there in my first proper job. I only met him a couple of times but he was ridiculously charming and friendly. He was taking a lot of heroin at the time, which probably made being charming and friendly more difficult. Anyway, listening to him today, he seems quite obsessed with the bad bits of our economic system and how everything that's good gets "commodified" and ruined. I'd say that happens to some things. But only when people let that happen, which they don't always do if they stand up for what they believe in. And there's lots of good things about our economic system. It's definitely not perfect, but it’s been suggested that we live in a more materially comfortable time today, with more freedoms, than at any point in history. If I'm a slave to money that's my fault, not money's fault. Whether our economic system is good or bad isn't a straightforward issue. There's bad bits. Lots of them. But there's good bits too. It's complicated. 

People say that one of the things that depressed people exhibit is one dimensional or "black and white" thinking. That was definitely true for me. I'm not sure which comes first, the black and white thinking or the depression. They probably work together in a weird swirly way. But if I ever realise that I think one thing about anything - that I think I'm right about something - then that's probably a bad place to be - or I'm heading for a bad place. If I think I'm right about something, I'm probably just ignoring the part of the story that doesn't fit with my story. And if I'm wrong, which is likely, and there's bad consequences to being wrong, but I still think I'm right, then ultimately I'm going to have to sacrifice the part of me that's wrong - kill it - and that will hurt. In one way, life is a process of letting the parts of me that don't work die. Or killing them. It's painful and annoying. And the bigger a part of me they are, the more a part of my identity, the more it will hurt when they die. But if it's not working, I have to let it die. I often cling on too long. But I'm getting better. Let go, or you’ll get dragged around.

I won't always realise at the time that I'm doing black and white thinking - thinking I'm right - but as soon as I do, I let go of trying to be right. It's annoying to not be "right" about things. But there's also a freedom in that. And if I'm thinking I'm a terrible person who's fucked up my life, but I'm wrong about that, then that's good eh.

There's a great quote from Saul Bellow:

"That's the struggle of humanity, to recruit others to your version of what's right."

We're so desperate to be right. We need it. Then we try to convince other people to think like we do to make us feel sure that we are right. Trying to convince myself, then everyone else, that I'm right is tiring and probably annoying. Realising how wrong I am about everything makes me feel much better. 

Here we go

So I'm starting this blog to run alongside Rebel Lectures. Not sure exactly what it is yet, but it will work itself out.

I started reading a book last night called Notes on Suicide by Simon Critchley. I haven't got very far, but so far it's awesome. We don't like talking about death and suidcide in general, but I seem to like stuff like that. I think I'm kinda dark in some ways. But there's no light without darkness. If I’m not prepared to venture into the darkness, life will be pretty boring. I found a review of the book on the independent.co.uk with the heading "Why society must confront the stigma around suicide." If there's one way to make me not do something it's to tell me I "must" do it. Also, is there actually a "stigma" around suicide? There seems to be a stigma around everything according to some people. Lots of people talk about the stigma around depression. I didn't experience any stigma. A big part of me didn't want anyone to know I was depressed. But almost everyone I opened up to about it was understanding and wanted to help, even if they didn't know how. And the ones who weren't, well that tells you something. When shit gets dark, you find out who and what is really important to you. So I didn't experience a stigma. But that doesn't mean that people massively want to be around it. Or talk about it. Or even believe in it. But on the whole, it seems to me, that a lot of the stigma around depression, or suicide, or whatever, is inside the heads of the people who think there's a stigma. Of course lots of people don't like talking about suicide, but that's not necessarily because of the disgrace associated with it. It's because it's fucking dark, edgy and unbelievably complicated. People don't like talking about complicated things. Humans like simple solutions. In some senses suicide is the simplest solution to a complex problem. But the concept of suicide, the morality of it, the reasons for it, that's all ridiculously complicated. It's at the edge of the edge of darkness. I'm looking forward to the rest of the book.