Monday, January 3, 2011

One More For The Road...

If it looks like this blog has gone off topic, that's because I don't have much more to say on it. And honestly, nobody seems very interested in it either. Most of my popular stuff has little to do with uncovering the causes of depression, or helping diagnose it, the main point of the blog.

So I'm closing up shop. I'm starting a new blog which will be dedicated to translating classical Hebrew books into English and posting them on the site (If you're interested, email me for the details). I'd like to make it a communal project, where everyone will translate books for me to post. (I would have liked to make it a Wiki site, but I have no idea how to set that up. If anyone knows how, please help me out.)

Before I let you out on your own, I thought it would be fitting to share a therapeutic technique that has helped me in the past. I am not a doctor, so you need to use your common sense if this applies to you or not (actually, that boilerplate is very good advice when seeing a therapist too). The technique is pulled from the annals of behavioral conditioning, and is helpful in dealing with all types of trauma.

First, imagine yourself in a situation that causes anxiety. Bring up the situation in your mind to the point where you actually feel the reaction you normally get. What exactly is causing the anxiety? Is it a certain type of person? A group of people? Now, come out of your imagining state, and think about the situation rationally. Is there truly a reason to be afraid? Or does this type of person fit into a mold of someone you were afraid of in childhood and thereby triggers an ingrained reaction?

OK, now let's say for example that this person, by virtue of her being a red-haired woman, reminds you of your mother, who was extremely critical of you. This has made you neurotically fearful of many things, but especially of a woman who fits your mother's mold. Now, go over the rational possibilities in your mind. Does this person probably act like your mother just because she shares certain external characteristics? And if she happens to- coincidentally- does she have any power over you? No, and no.

The next step is to go back into that imagined state, and bring up the fearful feelings. Now, calm yourself down. You can do this by physically calming your muscles. How? Let's say for example that your chest tightens up when you get these feelings. Breathe deeply to show you actually have control of the situation. Now move up to your face and relax your facial muscles. Now, command your mind to relax. If you need to, shift your focus to something else in the imagined room to prove you have control over it. Now think over the same rational thoughts from before.

Do this exercise a few times, until you have it down well. Congratulations! You have done step one! Now you can move on to step two. Enter a non-pressured social situation that will bring these feelings up. Now do the technique. Repeat this a few times until these situations lower their anxiety-level for you. You can work your way up to situations that actually cause you anxiety for a good reason. For example, your jerk boss. Especially if they have features other than power (big, black hair) that evoke the same childhood anxiety state.
Now do the technique so that you can separate the real, healthy, anxiety, from the flashback memory anxiety state. Unless you work in special ops, or a slave-labor camp, your anxiety will now go down to a manageable level. Now you're cured. You deserve a drink. :)

Friday, December 24, 2010

The 2010 John Edwards Award for Biggest Douche goes to...

It's the end of December, and that means it's time to discuss the results of this year's John Edwards Award for Biggest Douche.

Congratulations are in order for all participants of this year's close race, but Levi Johnston, making a valiant effort to clinch the title in the waning months of 2010, has pushed himself on to victory.

Levi Johnston first made a name for himself in the race by abandoning the girl he knocked up, Bristol Palin, after she gave birth to their child- with absolutely no regard for public opinion. This was definitely a power-play, but some questioned whether he was just another one-trick pony. Airing Palin family secrets in public along with rumors that he was shopping around a tell-all book with his time with Bristol helped his candidacy a little, but many still questioned his resolve. Could he stand up to contestants with real douche-stamina like John Mayer, or would he cave under withering public disgust?

To quiet the naysayers, Johnston decided to use his fame-by-association and pose for Playgirl magazine. This finally shook up the established front-runners. When Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino from the show "Jersey Shore" was asked for his reaction, he said something retarded, of course, but he was also visibly shaken.

While some undoubtedly would have coasted on these extraordinary achievements until crunch time, Johnston has shown himself to be made of tougher stuff. In July of this year, he went out of his way to rescind a public apology for airing Palin secrets, saying the apology was a lie, and the only thing he has done that he is ashamed of.

At this point, most speculators considered him a shoe-in until an old favorite announced his candidacy. Just a month later, Mel Gibson responded by unleashing a verbal assault unheard of in in public record. Judges ruled that according to the new laws drafted in 2009, although Gibson had entered previous competitions, his past achievements could be counted again this year since he did not actually win the title.

If you thought a heavyweight like Gibson would scare Johnston, you would be wrong. Just one month later, the 20 year old Johnston decided to run for mayor in Wasilla, Alaska, the state wherein he is the single most unpopular person, as part of a reality show. (His 6 percent approval rating stands 9 points lower than John Edwards' 15.) This brought him neck-and-neck with Gibson. By November though, with months of inactivity, polling showed him to be trailing the more popular Gibson by 11 points. It seemed like Johnston was beat.

Then came December. In an astonishing turn of events, results of extensive polling secretly conducted by Johnston's staff were produced to show that Gibson actually qualified for the title of "Craziest Person Outside of a Mental Institute". According to an obscure rule in the Douchebag Handbook dating back to 1896, no person may hold two awards in the same year. As all the other contestants had already lost in the semi-finals to Gibson and Johnston, the judges were forced to acquiesce to this douchey maneuver by Johnston and hand him the award.

As Johnston was too cool to attend the awards ceremony, his manager Tank Jones (real name) accepted the award for him saying, "People questioned Jesus Christ, so I definitely don't care about these mere mortals questioning Levi Johnston." Douchey words indeed, from another big fat douchebag.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Silly Psychological Slogans #3: Overreaching Associations

Everybody knows that good advertising attempts to tap into existing emotions and associate a certain product with it. Thus the old adage, "Sex sells". That works fine with coke, cars, and the like; things that naturally appeal to you. Then it's only a matter of elevating this specific brand by associating it with another need. I'm anyways gonna drink soda, why not spend a few cents more to get the one that might make me more sexually desirable. The problem advertisers sometimes face is taking a boring product and trying to associate it with those same deeper needs.

Take Excedrin. Their tagline is: "For life's headaches". Their commercial shows people in otherwise happy families bogged down by headaches. The connection trying to be built here is that headaches are the impediment to your otherwise happy life, and Excedrin is your friend. That's overreaching. Nobody today thinks that curing headaches will cure all their problems. They need to aim a little lower.

Here's one for Gillete: A 20 second scene of kids seeing only a smooth-shaven Dad (close-up on the shiny chin) amidst a large group of people at their game/play. The tagline? "Show em how much you care, with gillette fusion proglide". If you can't even figure this association out, your not alone. The best I can come up with is that your kids are judging how much you care by how presentable you make yourself. Gillete has always had sexual commercials. Here they are trying to shamelessly branch out. In my opinion, the oedipal basis of this commercial points more to the disturbed psyche of the ad designer than the demographic Gillete is trying to attract. Or at least I'd like to hope.

Finally, Chase bank makes a notable contribution in their "Chase what matters" commercials. Here we have the same pattern over and over. A mother or father trying to help out in the family, and being able to do so by Chase taking care of the finances. Here Chase is trying to score from behind the 8-ball. Being concerned about your money makes you Scrooge in the zeitgeist. Chase is taking over the burden of your guilt to allow you to still feel good about yourself. We'll sell our soul to keep yours pure. We recognize that we've damned ourselves by chasing money, but you can save us, if only a little. We are weak and have trapped ourselves in evil. But by doing this we allow you, the good one, to chase what matters.

Burning Questions

After much research, I present some of the most difficult questions I've come across. Got any answers?

1. Why are there no bathrooms in the Clue mansion?

2. What caused so many butlers in the early 1900's to become ingenious murderers?

3. Why do the Howells have suitcases of clothes and money if they went for a three-hour tour?

4. If Gandalf can kill a huge fiery demon with magic- after which he becomes much more powerful - how come he only fights the armies of Mordor with a stick and a sword?

5. If objects can be thrown at wizards and knock them out when they can't see them fast enough to block them with a spell, why doesn't Harry Potter buy a machine gun?

And 6. Why are we here?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Painted Eyebrows Have Got To Go.

This is a public service announcement. Some people don't seem to realize, but painted sharpie eyebrows went whore years ago. And as everyone knows, once that industry has gotten a hold of something, it never goes back. If you aren't in that line of work, you need to give them up.

I think some people don't understand the dynamic at work. They like the style and think they can still pull it off. Please let me explain why you can't.

All style, be it on clothes, makeup, cars, whatever, are there to get other people's attention. If you were the only person alive, you wouldn't dress up. You'd walk around naked in the summer, or in a heavy peasant coat in the winter. Now, people try to make a statement to others with their style for a variety of reasons, but the main one is to attract people they'd like to hang around. And usually the people they're trying to attract most are ones they'd like to have sex with. Your average middle-aged middle-class married person observes the basic dress codes that keep them from being ejected from society, and that's it. When they don't, you know something's up. Either they're divorced and looking, gay and looking, need approval, or just insane.

Interestingly, men's styles usually incorporate a not-caring aspect (ruggedness, carefully messed-up hair). As men age, the style needs to become understated (expensive material with muted colors). This is also part of the message attempted to be displayed, albeit more subtly. It says to women, and to men you are in competition with, that you aren't trying too hard because you're confident in yourself. Women want that, and men fear it.

In higher classes of society, keeping up with fashion is still demanded, even as you get older. People generally keep a younger appearance versus working class society. (Before you jump on me, I wasn't the first to make this observation. See here.) That's because there's a constant competition going on, with money and power determining your place in the pecking order. The same is true with business professionals. They too need to keep up a business appearance to strike fear into rivals. Working-class people don't have too much money, and therefore usually prefer to take pride in traditional "Christian" values, like work and family. (In Western society, this is generally considered the loser's way out.)

By a similar token, gay men generally keep up their appearances longer because they aren't locked safely into marriage and a family unit. They need to keep themselves marketable. The opposite is true of old maids who've given up on the game.

Which brings us to prostitutes. As any good feminist knows, women's styles are heavily based on accentuating physical features to attract pigs men. But you always have to toe the line. You can't sell yourself out totally or you look like you're a one-night stand, not relationship material. And when all is said and done, that's really the big prize. Landing the man to support you so you can have kids. It's evolutionary. And really, most men want a family too.

Enter the whores. Hooking is a business based solely on sex appeal. Everyone knows it's just about sex. Ergo, their style represents this. Therefore once something, like clear heels or pencil eyebrows, is adopted by them, it's forever cheap and sluttish, and can only be worn by women who want to send that message. Maybe in the future sharpie eyebrows will be replaced by other styles, but until they hit their whore half-life, they're off-limits.

Harry Potter: False Messiah- Update

I just read an article by George Orwell about the "boys' weeklies" in his time which strikes an excellent parallel imho to my post on Harry Potter a week or two back. Read "Boys' Weeklies" here. Some highlights include the use of old stone schools in the boys weeklies since 1900 as a way of introducing privilege fantasy into the story. And that many boys read several 12-15,000 word fantasy stories every week, and didn't read anything but the newspaper later in life. I'll quote one paragraph from the essay, where Orwell describes the background to every story in the two most famous boys weeklies:

The mental world of the Gem and Magnet, therefore, is something like this:
The year is 1910 — or 1940, but it is all the same. You are at Greyfriars, a rosy-cheeked boy of fourteen in posh tailor-made clothes, sitting down to tea in your study on the Remove passage after an exciting game of football which was won by an odd goal in the last half-minute. There is a cosy fire in the study, and outside the wind is whistling. The ivy clusters thickly round the old grey stones. The King is on his throne and the pound is worth a pound. Over in Europe the comic foreigners are jabbering and gesticulating, but the grim grey battleships of the British Fleet are steaming up the Channel and at the outposts of Empire the monocled Englishmen are holding the niggers at bay. Lord Mauleverer has just got another fiver and we are all settling down to a tremendous tea of sausages, sardines, crumpets, potted meat, jam and doughnuts. After tea we shall sit round the study fire having a good laugh at Billy Bunter and discussing the team for next week's match against Rook-wood. Everything is safe, solid and unquestionable. Everything will be the same for ever and ever. That approximately is the atmosphere.