Thursday, 29 October 2009

A is for ....

A is for Award. And this one was given to me by the lovely Paula Rodriguez at paulawannacracker. Hurray!!! (And I finally learnt how to link! )

Paula is looking great after losing 30lbs so far and working hard on improving her eating at the moment. Her's is an honest blog - trying to be careful with what you eat is not easy, especially with a large family to entertain. I think Paula is often too hard on herself because she's actually doing an amazing job. Cheer her on if you're not already.

A is for Appreciation. If you appreciate great writing then you will love Green Stone Woman's new Writing Blog. Her writing is quite exceptional. Check out "Rituals" posted on Oct 28th. Paragraphs 3 and 4 particularly put me in mind of Ted Hughes' "Lovesong". See what you think. She has also set up a new Art Blog where you seriously want to check out those sculptures. My favourite is Bog Woman, but The Frog is pretty amazing too. Of course Nora continues to write her daily journaling blog too. In her post this morning, her wish was that people would follow her new writing blog, so let's wave the magic wand and make her wish come true.

A is also for Anger and Appropriate. As in, Is anger an appropriate response to someone else's pain? I have read several bloggers writing about the anger they feel when someone else is depressed. Especially if the pain is so severe the person actually feels suicidal. Apparently a suicidal person is particularly deserving of these people's anger and disgust. Yes, the word disgust has been used in this context. One blogger actually wrote that she was "offended" by other people's pain. Offended???? WTF??? And these people call themselves Christians?

Can anger and disgust ever be appropriate responses to other people's pain?

For example, if you are very overweight you have possibly at some time been on the receiving end of someone else's anger over this issue. It may have been your parents, your partner, even a complete stranger in the street. Did you find this remotely appropriate? Remotely helpful? Chances are you found someone else's anger directed at you a crushing experience. At the very least it's highly unpleasant that someone else seeks to increase your pain over this issue. Why would they do that? Does it make sense? Does it achieve anything?

Why do some people feel intense anger when someone says openly that they are depressed? Or suicidal? What does that anger signify? There could be various factors at play here, but the most obvious candidate is denial. Denial of their own pain. To some people, admitting that they have such negative emotions is too frightening for them. They want to stuff those feelings down. Pretend they don't exist. Those feelings are linked with feelings of their own inadequacy and lack of self esteem. Some people prefer to block this stuff out of their mind. It gives them a feeling of superiority, after all, that they have been able to "overcome" (supposedly) the causes of their pain, and not "give in" to those feelings.

Why do overweight people in particular often bear the brunt of other people's inappropriate anger? Well, as we know, excess weight is often pain made highly visible. Unlike alcoholism, or drug taking for example, which are not immediately apparent when the person walks down the street, the compulsive eater's pain is there for all the world to see at all times.

So people are trying to distance themselves from their own pain when they look down on someone else who is obviously in pain. And an inadequate ego will always get a boost from feeling superior to other people of course.

I remember when I did a creative therapy class some years ago, and before the first session when we were all in the reception area waiting to go in, a woman in the group proclaimed very loudly that "People think that to come here there must be something wrong with you". And she went on to explain (to her highly embarrassed listener) that there was nothing wrong with her. Of course not. Like she was just there for the craic.

Fact is that everyone attending that group had been diagnosed with depression.

She told me in no uncertain terms that she was not depressed. And evidently felt that because of this she was rather superior to the rest of us. She was not mentally ill. She was not one of us. She then proceeded to paint a very large piece of paper entirely in very dark grey and black. Yeah, I thought, you're so not depressed.

Being British, no-one in the group mentioned it. Every time this poor deluded woman dropped another clanger (supposedly demonstrating her own psychological superiority to the rest of us) there was much raising of eye brows, shaking of heads and knowing smiles exchanged.

Thing is, this woman was the most depressed person in the group by a very long chalk. Her desperate attempts to bolster her own flagging ego only signalled the enormous hole she was in emotionally.

For the other members of the group, treating this woman as a figure of fun (in their own heads) served to stop them (to some extent) being hurt from the message that this woman was transmitting ie you are worth less as a human being if you are depressed, if you suffer from mental illness, if you are in psychological pain. We tried to insulate ourselves from her opinion that we were unacceptable and weak; less than "normal" people. We tried not to allow her to increase our pain.

This woman's feelings of disgust towards herself could have had a very destructive effect on other people. And possibly did in other situations.

Her unfortunate, hurtful behaviour towards us was really to do with her feelings about herself. Ie feeling that she was worthless, unacceptable and "less than" other people.

Appropriate responses to other people's pain are things like empathy, offering comfort, understanding, making suggestions to ease the situation, telling a story from your own experience of how you dealt with something similar, or simply listening (or reading).

Inappropriate responses are anger, disgust, feelings of superiority. These responses say a lot about the person feeling them and zip all about the person they are aimed at.

OK. I finished ranting now. Me, angry??!! That would be so inappropriate ....

In other news, The Bear has been suddenly demanding my attention after virtually no contact for quite a while. I have seen him every day the last three days. And we have had a lovely walk each evening. I also went on a walk on Monday evening on my own.

I was surprised that he was in quite good shape psychologically despite a bit of a crisis - which required my help and support. I really have loved spending a bit of time with him. Spending time with him helps me be more accepting of myself, because he accepts me totally and unconditionally. He is the only person in the real world I trust (I say in the real world because obviously I trust you lot).

My eating - rubbish. All rubbish. Massive eating every day. But at least my exercise levels have improved. And that is really necessary considering I will be walking a very large steep hill to see my healer on Monday.

I am feeling a little better in myself. Your comments have been very supportive and helpful. Between you lot and The Bear and my healer, I hope to crawl out into the light any time soon ...

Thank you.


  1. Hi!
    What a great post again! You're so right about people trying to distance themselves from other people's problems by expressing and maybe genuinely feeling disgust and anger! I've never really understood how people can find comfort in cultivating a sense of superiority to others, but there's no denying a lot of people do. I guess in my case I don't bother with that because the things that make me feel bad about myself are almost always down to failing to live up to my own expectations of myself - I don't need to compare myself to external people with that critic living inside my head taking up all my energy!
    Its great to hear you sounding so much more positive in this post! Obviously the exercise and company are really good for you, and far more important than sticking to any arbitrary diet plan at the moment.

  2. Insightful post. I agree that others' reactions and opinions about who, what and how we are reflect about them, not about us. When my kids were younger and would come home upset because someone had been mean to them or teased them, I would tell them that what others' think of us is really not about us. It's about them. This whole idea is at the core of bullying, which is a terrible problem in schools in the US. A kid hates him/herself deep down so the strategy of belittling and even tormenting and terrorizing other kids (or a vulnerable "one" in particular) comes to the fore. The bully has no clue of his/her motivation - but inflicts pain and fear on certain victims.

    The afflictions of mental illness, essential lonliness, extreme emptiness, self hatred, post traumatic stress or any number of other self diminishing states manifest differently in different people. Some are emboldened with courage to put the truth out there regardless of how unappealing and off-putting it may be to other folks. I admire this quality of ruthless honesty some possess - to tell your own truth in the face of possible rejection or lack of acceptance. You have this ruthless honesty, BF. And it can be hard to read and hear for some people for a lot of reasons, ranging from fear of acknowledging and accepting their own pain, to their religious beliefs, to their feelings of powerlessness to really help; and countless other reasons.

    Other people similarly afflicted may have a brand of coping that requires the psyche's attempt to bolster itself through denying it's own truth and judging others who "wear their afflictions" in the more public way. The bully is the extreme version of this, but the subtler version is the one you speak of, BF. The subtler version of distancing oneself from another's pain as a mechanism to avoid one's own.

    As usual, you bring up a very thoughtful issue, and you speak your truth about it. I wish I had more brass sometimes to express my real reactions to things that anger me. I'm fine with ranting about institutions and injustices, but when I feel unheard or unaccepted or wrongly interpreted, (or jealous, left out...)I know I can tend to go to that fault finding jugemental mindset that enables me to rise above the hurt. Just yesterday a friend mentioned she was having dinner with 3 other AA folks to celebrate someone's AA anniversary, and I felt a zing of "Why wasn't I included? Well, I don't even like so and so anyway..." Basically a bunch of mental bullsh*t to make myself feel better for not being asked along. Pretty juvenile, but there it is. Obviously this topic tweaked me to send me into this looong comment.

    Glad to hear you're getting out and about and connecting with the Bear. Guard your heart while keeping it open. Connection with others, in person, is a good thing.

  3. I think perhaps when people respond to depression or obesity or pain with feelings of disgust or anger, it is because they think the object of their wrath is being selfish. I only say this because it's what I used to feel before I understood the idea of compassion. No matter the cause of a person's illness, responding compassionately (even to the woman in your group that's in denial) brings a certain level of peace. Maybe this understanding develops more in some (ahem, me) as we age?

  4. Hi! Just surfing new blogs today and found yours. Very interesting reading. I'm looking forward to more. Cheers

  5. As is usual, you show a lot of insight and understanding into the behavior and motivations of other people. It's good that you have this insight and understanding, because, in the end, you can't help but apply it to yourself and your own situation and I hope you do it with the same amount of compassion that you show other people. You are a worthy cause to apply it to.

  6. Congratulations on the award. :o) I can understand why you were/are so angry to read that people are 'disgudted' by those who are suffering from suicidal thoughts. A close friend of mine, who had SEVERE depression (as a result of years of childhood sexual abuse) that brought on scizophrenia (please forgive me if I've misinterpreted that, but I'm sure that's what we were told at her funeral) finally succeeded in committing suicide about 3 years ago after several previous unsuccessful attempts. I couldn't do anything to help her, other than be her friend, and I just hope she's in a much better place now...

  7. Friend of Bear

    I truly enjoy reading your blog. With each post you educate me in matters of the psyche. I agree with Amy's comments. As I have gotten older, I have learned to have empathy and compassion for others. Even when I don't understand. For example, "suicide". I used to think suicide was about anger. Anger at a particular person. When my friend's son committed suicide after his girlfriend broke up with him, I thought... this kid was angry.. "like you'll see when I'm gone [[insert reasons here]]. I couldn't understand how this boy of 16 could kill himself in his mother's garage. Did he not think of her pain in finding him? Again, because I couldn't understand... I summed it up to him being angry.

    You have a good knowledge of psychology and continue to educate me with each post. Thank you. This is why I you so deserve THE BEST BLOG AWARD.

    Have a great weekend.

  8. Strike out that last sentence in my previous post. THIS IS WHY YOU SO DESERVE THE BEST BLOG AWARD... There. I just wanted to clarify.

  9. Congratulations on the award - it is much deserved.

    I have learned a lot from you in reading your blog about psychology and the workings of the mind. You are so articulate and introspective.

    Your ability to see inside of people can only serve you well as you make your own journey.

  10. Congratulations on the well deserved award. I love reading your posts because you are amazingly intuitive about other people and the way they think or see things. Sad as it my be or as much as it makes me angry, I think you made some excellent points.
    It is not right and makes very little sense. There is a great deal of compassion missing in our society when it comes to being overweight or for mental health issues. I read the article Glenn Close wrote in the Huffington Post about the Stigma of Mental Health and the new group Bring Change 2 Mind, but it is a double whammy for obese people. Compassion and understanding is the key, but how we get there is the million dollar question.

  11. I have awards for you over at my place, please come and get them.

  12. Congrats to you for the well-deserved!!

    I don't know about society as a whole, but I know why I have my own anger towards my sister and the whole suicidal thing. She has schizophrenia. She's in her 30's and started developing it about 6 years ago. There's a very specific date where something went "click" in her head and things have gone downhill ever since. In the last 6 months, things have been really bad, but I think we might finally have her on the right dose of the right medicine now, as she's showing tiny glimpses of improvement.

    I don't direct my anger AT her specifically. As far as she knows, I'm completely loving and accepting, always trying to help her in any way I can. But internally....I had to trace my anger back to the source. After all, how can you be angry at someone for something they cannot help?

    The reason is simple. I'm helpless. I'm very much a type-A person who when presented with a problem, immediately goes into a mode where I want to solve the problem as quickly as possible. However, I'm also highly emotional and many times, these 2 do not mix well. When you mix handing me a problem, like my sister's schizophrenia, with me being so emotional, and we're talking about my flesh-and-blood sister here, you get some serious anger. I want to help her. I want to fix her. I want to heal her. I want my baby sister back. But the Amy I knew is vacant. And it kills me. It really does.

    However, I know that with the right meds, a person stricken with schizophrenia can lead fairly normal lives. That's what I pray for. I continuously pray that it won't go the other way, and she won't kill herself, leaving her 2 children behind.

    I can also say, the more I understand, and the more I reach out to busy her mind more than "the voices" do, the more my anger is replaced with real hope and the utmost compassion.

    Does any of this make any sense to you? lol Wow what a long ramble!! :)


All comments gratefully appreciated!