Tuesday, December 29, 2009

From the Bookshelf: The Death of Sigmund Freud

With all the plane hours I've recently logged, I had the chance to finish reading The Death of Sigmund Freud: Fascism, Psychoanalysis and the Rise of Fundamentalism by Mark Edmundson. Partly a look at Freud's last two years of life, partly a look at his theories of power and their contextual applications, it was a great read.

One of my favorite history teachers made a point to teach us through storytelling, rather than the recitation of facts and dates. This book takes that tact, outlining Freud's last days in a conversational, but still accurate way.

What makes this book particularly interesting is the way the author handles the historical context. In telling Freud's story, Edmundson also takes on Hitler's rise to power in Germany, his take over of Austria and the fuhrer's subsequent acts of war. In his psychoanalytical works, Freud explains what people get out of tyrannical dictators -- a replacement to the guilt-inducing superego.

Edmundson goes on to apply Freud's theories on power, dictatorships and mobs to present day geopolitical situation. In other words, without going into great detail, he applies psychoanalysis, to terrorism and fundamentalist religious sects in the United States, Middle East and elsewhere.

Piggybacking on Freud, Edmundson makes the case for continual reevaluation of divinity, connections and self. Being self-aware and aware of the forces of the subconscious results in inner tension, the ego constantly battling the superego and the id to create balance.

It's worth a read if you:
a) have an interest in psychology,
b) like history (particularly WW2 era), or
c) need food for thought.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Yogi Under Fire

The practice of yoga is all about rewiring the fight or flight response we have in challenging moments. Through breath and mindfulness, you begin to change the situations you're in, or at least how you're choosing to perceive them.

That's all well and good for those challenging moments. But what about prolonged situations? How does the aspiring yogi handle long periods of challenging, anxiety-provoking times?

Since Thanksgiving, my family has been managing a fairly consistent challenge. With stress levels already pretty high, I came home for the holidays prepared to give support and broker some sense of calm. A challenging situation from afar; I jumped head first into the fire.

Returning to the question at hand, how do you deal with ongoing stress? Here's what I've been working with in the wild, wild west:
  • Create space (for you) -- I've had to work pretty hard to find time away from all the madness of the drama at hand. But I've really needed the time and space to have the energy I need to be supportive to anyone else. It's been challenging for a few reasons: logistically, I'm without a car; emotionally, it can be hard to leave someone when they're hurting (even if you don't have anything left to give them).
  • Perspective -- Although the situation here is admittedly pretty bad, I know it won't always be. It's been really helpful to remember that. I believe things will be better for everyone involved, eventually.
  • Parse & Prioritize -- While perspective tends to feel like a future-looking worldview, the immediate issues still need to be resolved. Break down the big problems into smaller more manageable pieces; then order them according to importance and linear progressions (this has to happen before that, etc.). If you want to move out of your place, you probably want to find a new place before you pack all your stuff up.
  • Talk -- Human beings are uniquely social--we need to communicate. It's healing to speak to friends, family, partners and even professionals (therapists, social workers, psychiatrists, psychologists, etc.) about what's on our minds. Also, how we feel about any given situation gets molded and refined by our contact with others. Pain, regardless of the cause, has an illness narrative.
  • Find the Good -- Some people would call this perspective, but I think it's different. When you make the conscious choice to be happy, meditating on the good things -- especially at challenging times -- helps keep you there. This situation doesn't make me happy, but I am (sometimes with a little help) able to find some positive things that have come out of it.

I have a few more days here in the thick of it, so I'm open to suggestions. I'll keep you posted. :-)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

PSA: The Kindness of Truth

Recently, someone I care about hurt someone else I care about. I'll keep the details for that novel I'll write someday. But I at the center of all this hurt was the intention to do no harm and a whole lot of lies to spare a person pain.

In reflecting on the situation and what led up to it, I'll just say this as a public service announcement to all you regular people out there trying to do the right thing:

Honesty is the best policy for a reason. It can seem kinder to keep hurtful things to yourself, but remember: trust betrayed is the worst kind of hurt. Beyond the immediate feeling of betrayal, you damage the person's ability to trust you again, to trust others and to his / her judgment. It's three or four times the pain you would have caused by simply being honest.

Yes, truth is the kinder route. But if that's not enough of a reason to be honest, consider the obvious: it's a whole lot easier to remember the truth than the little lies that build up.

Be kind; tell the truth.

You can find the "Honesty Jar" image in protactinium's flickr stream.

Friday, December 4, 2009

PSA: Crosswalk Safety

When it's raining out, it's probably not a good idea to walk in front of moving traffic in the hopes that they'll stop for you.

When it's raining out. Visibility is bad. Ask yourself, can this driver see me? Can the driver even see the crosswalk?

When it's raining out. It takes longer for a vehicle stop. Stepping into a crosswalk twenty feet in front of a car that's moving at 30 miles an hour isn't smart regardless of how you do the math.

Whether or not it's raining, it's probably not a good idea to just decide you're going to walk in front of a moving vehicle a) if you haven't made eye contact with the driver b) if the crosswalk isn't marked or c) driving conditions are less than ideal.

You're life is probably more important than being right. But I suppose that's something you have to ask yourself.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Episodes of a Soap Opera and PSAs

I've struggled with format for this blog for a long time. I am so many things - a social media practitioner, a consultant, a daughter, a yogi, etc. - it's hard to really capture all of that in a way that is meaningful to someone who would be interested in tales from the yoga or my thoughts on social media, but maybe not both.

So to structure my thoughts around some of these things, I'm introducing two different features to this blog: episodes and PSAs.

Episodes is more of a concept for telling random stories. We like to think of life as a timeline, but often times it's specific conversations or timing around a series of events that stands out as meaningful. That is what episodes is for.

PSAs - public service announcements - are typically ad spots that are run pro bono for a cause (think ACS or Red Cross). At Sandying, PSAs will be snarky, ranting commentary for the betterment of others. Basically for amusement, I'll be telling folks how to not be tools (or D-Bags) in everyday life.

I'll still be writing about social media, marketing, and other such topics. However, I will likely be moving that sort of content to the Media Awaken blog in the coming weeks -- I'm still trying to decide whether I should cross post everything here (so that this blog remains a central place for my content). If you have any suggestions on that, please share! I'm not sure what makes the most sense.