The Valley Of The Shadow Of Death

For you. We talked about this.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
Psalm 23:4

I have seen darkness in people which defies comprehension. We’ve talked about this before. There is a time in many journeys when our lives completely break. Type “swerve” into my search bar to find out more. or “The Event”.

Most of us grew up believing our lives would somehow turn out just fine. The weight of the truth can be devastating, at first. We are shocked when the ugly truths sink in.

Not many people walk through my door because they want to. Reality has punched us in the face and it stings. Few of us imagined we would have a lifelong battle with anxiety or depression or the fact that your Uncle Tom was the tomcat people…

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To my close relative: Why Aliens Probably Didn’t Help Build The Pyramids.

I love you, you know that. I believe in Santa and life on other planets (likely), and that Bucky is the best superhero (they turned the nicest guy in the world into a killing machine who is best friends with the other nicest guy in the world. It writes itself).

I want to believe in fairytale endings and the fable that there really is justice in this life, but I just can’t bring myself to believe that aliens helped people, smart people, build stupid triangles. Sure some people who live in trailer courts where it’s very warm outside have been allegedly violated by curious martians, but that still doesn’t constitute a double-blind study, and these stories are often reported by people who believe the world is flat and vaccines give you autism. Sure the moon landing could have been faked (no it wasn’t). It’s entirely possible that the Illuminati is dictating the global agenda, except that it isn’t. Ok, I got a little distracted there. I know you don’t believe all those things but I was on a run.

There is, to our limited understanding, something profound about sentience. You can see it in your pet dog, in the playfulness of an otter, the intrigue of a dolphin. Life itself struggles to understand,. Thinking beings are curious. The very essence of intelligence is the need to know. I’ve watched Star Trek so I know that travellers among the stars would want to put on local outfits and bring their tricorders down for a good look. Aliens would seek interaction. Why would anything spend all that money, all that time to make first contact, and then be so easily satisfied with rednecks and bad television? I know I read comics so my opinions seem slightly less credible, but there isn’t a ton of rigorous debate among smart people, just those conspiracy freaks on the History Channel. Aliens probably do not walk among us.

And alas, my love, I could mention the sciency stuff. I’m sorry if you call it “geek time” but our lively little ball of blue is in the middle of nowhere, and there are a trillion stars in our galaxy. And there are trillions of galaxies. You are probably right about life on other planets but, and I don’t mean to sound condescending because I barely know what I’m talking about, the universe is ridiculously big; so big that it’s impossible for my little brain to even imagine.

Things are so far away. I hope like heck that there are sentient beings out there somewhere, but the length of time since the beginning of time has been finite, and it took our earth billions of years and a few thousand lucky accidents to produce a Big Mac. The thought that there are other beings looking through telescopes somewhere is a dream that I too want to believe. It seems entirely possible that of the thousands and perhaps millions of planets that could sustain life that there is at least one or two other cosmic accidents like us. Many scientists desperately want Einstein to be wrong about those weird equations like E=MC2, but we still haven’t broken the speed of light and so trips around the universe are nothing like in Firefly. And don’t even talk to me about quantum entanglement if you have a hard time buying the moon landing.

Our planet is 100,000 years away from our closest goldilocks neighbour, and you’re just getting started. It will, unfortunately, take you millions of years to reach anything of note after you pass that solitary planet. They would need faster then light speed travel (maybe that gets easier to imagine the faster science speeds up, you have me there). Yes there are scientists who postulate that Einstein’s theory of wormholes is how aliens travel to other groovy Star Trek galaxies, but their technology would have to be so utterly beyond our understanding and we still can’t even prove wormholes exist in any pragmatic sense.

Sadly there is little evidence that those hillbillies were anally probed by real aliens. But that’s not really what I’m writing about, it’s just fun to argue.

I admire your curiosity. There is something in all of us that wants to believe that there is something out there. When I look at the stars at night, the vastness and wonder of space can give me literal goose bumps. One of my great regrets is that I never bought an expensive telescope. I love the stars. Believe it or not I actually hosted an astronomy show with my good buddy Bill in Fort McMurray. Bill went on to adventure and fortune and I’m sitting on the couch at home wondering what I’ve done with my life.

Curiosity is the point of the story. The same curiosity that drives you to wonder at the pyramids and dream big dreams of ancient worlds is what I believe any sentient being would automatically possess. An evolutionary desire to make sense out of your world has to be a prerequisite for someone who can build a spaceship and drive carefully beyond the speed of light; at the very least know how to fly through a wormhole, which probably exists. Anything that is alive is confronted with a panoply of decisions that literally mean the difference between life and death. The universe is oblivious to the needs of an alien from the planet Zork, and the very act of existence is a struggle to survive. That skillset necessitates decision-making, which depends on the ability to discern choices. Creatures who develop the capacity for intuition are obviously much better suited for survival, and evolution has a way of sorting that out. Intuition is very close to curiosity.

I’m sorry but there is a chance you may be wrong about the pyramid thing. In spite of media culture the evidence really isn’t there, and there is a chance that that short dude with hair that sticks straight up on The History Channel is doing is for the fame because no real scientist in the world believes that crap. The weight of evidence isn’t even a close fight; the Flat Earth people seem to be taking over the world but that is only YouTube and the evidence is overwhelmingly in.

I love how you have such a good mind. There is absolutely nothing wrong with choosing to believe we have been visited. There is nothing wrong with faith in things we can’t prove in a laboratory. Mystery is essential to my life and I don’t believe in a world where all the evidence is really in. You are bright and are right about so many things I barely understand. As cliche as it may sound I want to honour your journey as we try to figure this out together.

But not this. Aliens didn’t build the pyramids. I love you.

What Hockey Taught Me About Life

I am a Canadian and for the most part, many of the stereotypes are true. Most of my friends say ‘eh’ and we do love hockey. I don’t watch it, many of us don’t. But put an ice rink in the middle of your block and someone will show up with beer to watch or play hockey. We will shine our headlights on the ice and let your stupid little sister play, although we had agreed that today was going to be a serious game.

As I said, I don’t watch hockey. I do not watch many sports outside the Olympics, and I watch The Olympics because I am a Canadian and that’s what we do. I love watching volleyball and pole vaulting, luge and Big Air, but nothing defines our nation like the game of hockey. Watching the Canada-USA game is a religious belief system here, and we have the best women’s hockey team in the world. Our men don’t do too poorly, either.

You can find a Maple Leafs fan anywhere, and they aren’t even any good. Sidney Crosby is a national hero. The 80’s Edmonton Oilers ruled the earth, and the highlights of the 1972 Canada-Russia Series still plays well on national television. My dad drove me into the city at 5:15 on a Saturday morning to play A-Team hockey when he literally had three jobs and three little kids. Canadian parents are used to sitting on cold benches, clad in team colours, with a thermos and box of oranges somewhere. Even those of us who put our kids in soccer and T-ball have driven to a rink to watch a relative or friend’s kid skate on the ice. I am Canadian. We made a beer commercial a cultural icon. Most of us say sorry more than we should. We define ourself but what we are (not American, socially conscious, more vain about our freedoms than we let on) and by what we are not (we are not American). We are Europe’s exotic and homespun little sister.

What some foreigners may not know, however, is that ice hockey was only part of the game. Street hockey is a revered Canadian pastime and most of us old-timers still have a street stick somewhere down in the basement. I played 2-on-2 on my boulevard for almost the entirety of my youth. Drive down any block on a warm summer afternoon in Canada and almost assuredly you will run into some kids pulling those iconic red hockey nets to the side of the road. We love hockey.

From the outside, hockey looks like a semi-violent and occasionally phallic warrior sport, but that’s only half the story. When you are floating on that fairytale surface with a puck on your stick, and you feel the blood pumping as you pass the defenceman, you can actually feel your comrade on the other side of the ice. Hockey is the ultimate team sport, where you are shamed if you do not pass the glory on to your teammate and trust that you are both completely in the moment together. It may not be Band of Brothers, but there is no denying the palpable intimacy of intention between the players on every hockey team.

It didn’t even matter if I was the one who scored. The glory of setting up a goal was considered a heroic act, applauded by the masses. Winning a hockey game is about talent and grit, but it is also about camaraderie and harmony and the depth of human connection. There are people all over Canada and beyond that I have scored a goal with, set-up a perfect spike with, done battle together on some field or pitch; and in many of those moments we shared connection that I don’t always get in traffic on a Friday night.

Hockey is volleyball on steroids. It may have something to do with how amazing the experience of skating really is. Hockey players glide, they fly, and the beauty of skating with a puck and a friend is not so distant from the sense of freedom that I have felt skydiving; it is poetic and sensual; it’s ice on your blades, hot cocoa on your breath, and stories of glory all the way home. It is bragging to your mom or dad while they rubbed your toes until you could feel them again. My dad used to take me for a frosted mug of A&W Root Beer on the way home after every home game. That’s Canada.

But again, this is only part of the story. Hockey is also about team. It is about ideals like sharing, and the belief that we could trust a brother or sister in a time of turmoil, while the enemy is in your end and time is running out. Hockey is our social religion, along with back bacon and John Candy and Michael J. Fox. Hockey is about heritage and hot chocolate and feeling like a real community; the deep cultural understanding that ‘we’ is always better than ‘me’. It is intimate and brave and built on the understanding that we will both believe in the same dream.

Can you believe the Americans beat us this year?

Dating After You Break-up: Why No One Ever Listens

This conversation is a part of my world, almost every week. People who are breaking up often wander into my office, and inevitably it comes down to the conversation that no one who is freshly single really wants to investigate too thoroughly, with someone as brutally honest as yours truly. When you are in my clutches I do not filter. Ever. Any of you who have worked with me are welcome to share your stories in the comments section.

Some counsellors will ask you “and how does that make you feel”. Every class in Master’s level psychology assumes the role of a counsellor to be that of empathetic and boring mirror, paid to help you realize you already know the answer deep inside your precious heart. I don’t do that. I’m getting older and I’m sick and tired of pretending I’m normal so clients either like the process of they see someone else. This sounds like the height of arrogance but I’m wearing my counsellor hat as I write this and some of you know what I mean. I’m not filtering for my ego as I write this.

It works for some people. People do not pay me to play with my gloves on, and it was never my wheelhouse to begin with. Those who continue to let me buy them coffee are a particular bunch. I am not for everyone. That comes off as self-glorifying but I mean this, and those of you who know me know what is coming next, I mean this in a purely “Counsellor Scott” kind of way. Normal dude Scott would not usually invade your space so fully, I am even shy in some social settings. Counsellor Scott can be a dick. Counsellor Scott, when working with teens, is just plain weird.

There are times in life when it is important to have someone who isn’t afraid to pull off the bandaid of your subjective reality, someone who won’t judge you. Practitioners in my field are all about that liberal mushy crap. When people tell their psychologist, “here’s something you haven’t heard before” they really don’t know what society’s secular priests hear on a daily basis. We are paid to hear your worst nightmare.

As usual, I just went on a tangent. Back to our original conversation. Let me set this up for you.

You come to my office, and you’ve been separated for 2-5 months. You’ve met someone, and nothing has happened, but you are definitely getting ready to rumble. In every single one of these conversations people, hundreds of people, eventually get around to the question we’ve all been waiting for – Is it too early for me to date?

I’ll save you a ton of words and tell you that the end of this paragraph is going to end with the words “damn straight”. With few exceptions, it is too early. There are exceptions (to literally repeat what I just said but in a way that tells you I’m about the say the exact opposite) but that only reinforces the truth. Ending a relationship that has been your whole world for 10 or 25 years has profound emotional consequences, though those consequences differ wildly depending on if you are the leave-r or the leave-e. That’s an entire article on its own. Any of my colleagues can tell you that people are far less objective in those first months, and yes, years than they believe at the time. Damn straight.

When my life fell apart I was categorically insane. Leaving a relationship messes with your mind, and your body. Moving in with someone, or throwing your heart at Mr. Fabulous No-faults, is typically a faulty decision, and I believe I have the data to back that up. Simply put, time heals and you are almost always more deluded about yourself when you are in crisis than you want to believe. Don’t do it.

This article is not called Great Advice That All My Clients Follow. The simple truth is that in all my years doing this gig I can probably count on half a hand the people who have followed that choice little piece of advice. Chime in here clinicians, we have seen thousands of patients who have been psychologically traumatized by the death of a dream dive into the heady world of romance and infatuation because, and this is the real story, nothing temporarily heals a broken heart like someone who wants to touch you in fun places and tells you that you are one in a million. Isn’t that the best thing in life?

There are dozens of reasons I could give you, but it almost never matters. Vulnerable people are just that, vulnerable. They are prone to impulsivity, eager to fill those holes in their hearts, indescribably susceptible to unhealthy relationships and emotions in a barren wasteland that has been their lives.

Here’s another hurtful tidbit. Sick attracts sick. Do you really want to attract someone who is as vulnerable, as recently broken, as emotionally dysfunctional, as you are? Healthy people are far less likely to date a deeply troubled and needy trauma victim than you might think. Take what is likely the most important decision of your life then rip your heart apart and mess with your feelings and cognition and grief and a hundred other painful words. Now go ahead and make the most weighted decision you will ever need to make. Don’t forget to mix in a bunch of broken relationships and hurt feelings and angry relatives. Add the incredible stress and poop storm that every break-up brings, those added bonuses called lawyers and fights about money and selling your house and kissing off half your friend. Recipe for a fruit salad.

When you look at this from the outside it’s a no-brainer.

But it doesn’t really matter, you won’t listen anyway. It’s not your fault, blame your neurochemistry. Those tortured neurons that you depleted for months and years are starving for some love, and you deserve to think of your own needs for once. How many of us have spent years without real intimacy and can barely imagine being in lust again. Bring on the dopamine.

You really do deserve to think of your own needs for once, and the best way you can do that is to spend that time with yourself, sans another person upon whom to focus your substantial energy. There are lessons that I learned single which are not available to those who move from relationship to relationship. I can just hear some of you saying right now, “I’ve always been in a relationship. I can’t be alone”. Deal with it. This is the route back to emotional wholeness. Spending time alone will teach you lessons you simply cannot learn when you are emotionally attached to someone you are attracted to. This is not really my opinion, it’s common knowledge that we all agree to in theory but have difficulty employing when we are horny.

You are better than that. As Milne said, you are stronger than you know. You deserve the time it takes to remember what it was like to be autonomous. You do not need to be defined or dictated to by something outside yourself. As I have often said, as cheesy as it is, don’t date until you don’t need to. Refuse to fill that hole in your heart with the emotional succubus that is rebound love. Realize that your amygdala is firing like a cheesy western and ask someone who isn’t afraid of you to be brutally honest; and hear them out without interrupting. Don’t inflict the mess that is your life on to another hurting individual or, god forbid, a healthy person who doesn’t deserve your dysfunction. Simply put, you will be attracted to different traits when you are unhealthy than you will be when you know who you are and what you want out of life.

Take a year. There I said it. Give yourself the time you need to become a better you. This is an amazing opportunity to redefine your life, and taking on the baggage of another person is not what you really need right now. I don’t care if this person is special, do you have any idea how many times I have heard that garbage? How can you know what you want when you don’t even know who you are? And if you are into dating guys you need to know that you have a big and obvious energy right now that is going to attract the wrong kind of action. I’m sort of a guy and I can tell you, we’ll became anything you want us to be if there is a chance we can wake up in bed with you someday. Men on the make are pigs and nothing says open for business like an emotionally needy potential friend. I care about how you feel. Really. Your last partner didn’t really talk about their feelings? Well let me tell you, I could listen to you talk all night. People tell me I’m almost too sensitive, I just really want to connect with you on an emotional level. You buying this?

Enough ranting, I don’t really mean it that way. We all know what that loneliness feels like, even when you are with someone else. Who doesn’t want to ravish someone again, or be ravished? There are few things in life that compare to that wonderful time when you first fall in infatuation and call it love, and before you realize how much of a moron that person really is. Romance is intoxicating, bring it on.

You are more amazing than you know. Most of us are. We are prone to self-criticism and overly hard on ourselves, and making you feel like crap isn’t my schtick. At the end of the day you really are worth getting to know. Have some fun. Go on some dates if you must but don’t give your heart away. Make more time for friends and kids and eggnog lattes and go do something crazy. Buy a kayak or go skydiving or visit Romania, and spend your dopamine on things that will build your self confidence and heal your soul. Spend the time, you deserve it.

 

 

 

 

Leave No Path Untaken

“Sleep my little baby-oh
Sleep until you waken
When you wake you’ll see the world
If I’m not mistaken…

Kiss a lover
Dance a measure,
Find your name
And buried treasure…

Face your life
Its pain,
Its pleasure,
Leave no path untaken.”
Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book

Most people aren’t really sure what they are getting themselves into, when they come talk with someone like me. What we do at that coffee shop, or while walking by the river, has little in common with what happens on television or Netflix. You are not Tony Soprano and I am not that horrible psychiatrist who sucked at counselling and committed ethical violations on an episodal level. You won’t spend the whole time complaining, and I am intrusive when it comes to the nitty gritty details. I get paid to act as a professional and you can go home and talk to your cat for hours about your medical problems or how much that person makes you mad at work. People want ideas and conversation and help, that’s why they make the appointment. Most counsellors are sedentary by nature and I am a screaming ball of ADHD and philosophy and other words that they offer at universities for those who don’t really want to earn much money or get their teeth cleaned on a regular basis.

Most of my clients have tried it their way, and life has a way of humbling the most stubborn of us every once in a while. I have written extensively about this topic and you can read about it here, here, here, or here. Moving forward in your life is usually more complicated in the real world, and we rarely get to live on Saturn or have a robot maid like on The Jetsons. Life is hard and they don’t post the rules on a website, and lets be honest, I usually did things the hard way because I’m naive and idealistic and not as self-aware as I thought at the time. For the love of god, don’t write your treatise in your 20’s. We shouldn’t have to review the reasons, this one is rock solid. I am startled at how dumb I was when I was 25. I’m not telling your story, I’m just speaking to those of us who have had to admit that we didn’t know what the crap we were talking about and some of those opinions we yelled so loudly, back when we knew everything, were utterly moronic.

At the risk of becoming a Hallmark Card, it really is true that most of us don’t live at our potential. I’m not talking about you.

I am working on another project or two with a few friends, and there is this feeling (and if you’ve had it you know what I’m talking about) at the beginning of a new adventure that is cocaine for me. The entire entertainment industry seems designed solely for the purpose of providing adventures which allow us to live lives in ways and places not connected to my grinding job or upset partner. We are neurologically wired for novelty. This has a profound impact on everything from our relationships to our addictions to our sexual satisfaction. I go to movies to be alive, but maybe it’s just me. When I am inside a great audiobook or an old fashioned paperback it triggers parts of my brain which include those yummy juices bouncing around in my neurons. Unlike many, I am blessed with primarily pleasant dreams, and I may be a child inside, but under countless moons I have been a secret agent or kung fu legend or somewhere warm drinking foofy drinks on a beach. I do this for a living and I know what living in a fantastical dream state suggests. The real world blows when it does.

Kiss a lover
Dance a measure,
Find your name
And buried treasure…

Face your life
Its pain,
Its pleasure,
Leave no path untaken.

Here’s to you making that trip to Europe. A good one on those of ya who have decided to go back to school, or go on a road trip, or start to sculpture; just for the joy of getting your hands muddy. It is very easy to learn to play the bass… poorly. My wife just brought a 300 ton piano into our house, and her relentless pursuit of something that hard is inspiring (she doesn’t read my writing so I won’t get credit for that). In The Graveyard Book, Nobody Owens grew up in a graveyard, was adopted by ghosts, and mentored by a vampirish thing and a Hound Of God. With his life in danger, he was forced to spend the majority of his childhood playing with dead people, a witch, several nasty goblins, with only one friend who had a pulse and almost killed him, by accident of course. Those words, face your life, its pain, its pleasure, leave no path untaken, reminded Bod that his life was among the living, not the departed. It was his turn to have experiences and see oceans and taste coffee in faraway lands.

And how’s that working out for you?

That sounds so tiring, he said partly in jest. Life is ridiculously busy, and my freaking phone is becoming an addiction, and I dream of going to Kitts or a Balkan State or a castle in Scotland; but right now I’d settle for another hot day to float in my Canadian Tire pool. Everywhere I look, people complain about the pace of life in the 21st Century and the noise, noise, noise. It’s only 95 days until Christmas. See what I did there?

The good book says, without hope the people perish. Philosophers create theories to describe the meaning of life. Existential Psychoanalysis plays with creating meaning from meaning, or something nerdish like that. As Victor Frankl said, the person who has the why can bear almost any how. That sounds like a cheeseball meme until you find out the dude was in Auschwitz. Having a reason for staying alive another year is a powerful thing. Words like meaning and purpose, dreams, and hope, are powerful aphrodisiacs. Having that why makes this crappy how worth living.

…leave no path untaken.

Ear Hustle

I like socks. Strange socks. People who don’t know what to get me at Christmas usually land on the weirdest socks they can find at EA Games. So when I found out there was a socks company that donated a pair of socks for every pair purchased, it had my attention. But that’s not even the cool part.

I started listening to some different podcasts today. I downloaded an app and the next thing I knew I was listening to Ear Hustle. It’s a podcast written, produced, and starring longterm inmates at San Quentin Prison. Honourable mention is given to Pelican Bay Supermax. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m interested in a lot of things, and Maximum Security Prisons are on the list. I have attended several prisons in various roles, and the psychology of the experiences that humans are subjected to in places like Pelican Bay is staggering. As a Canadian it is a surreal experience to watch your first documentary about American prisons. Our maximum security prisons are no joke, but what happens in the deep south is beyond most idealistic Canadian’s imagination. I knew a salesman who was sent to Pelican Bay for a very long time, and I imagine there are few humans who have had to endure the level of intensity such an experience would invoke. I have swapped prison stories for years with persons who have real world experience, and have spent an inordinate amount of energy asking questions about the gritty detail. So yes, the first podcast I happened upon was Ear Hustle.

It’s fantastic.

Here’s where the two stories connect. That sock company is called Bombas and they sponsor Ear Hustle. As an entrepreneur I can appreciate the subtle marketing potential of such an enterprise, but that pales in comparison to the good that one company can do if it tries. To date they have also donated 4,000,105 pairs of socks. No wait, 4,000,110. As Bombas points out, “Socks remain the #1 most requested clothing item at homeless shelters. So for every pair of Bombas you purchase, we donate a pair to someone in need. So far, you’ve made over four million small acts of human kindness possible. We can’t thank you enough.”

They aren’t quite weird enough for me, but that’s still very cool.

It really amazing what one company, or one person, can do when they decide to change the world. One of the best parts about my job is that I get to hear stories, thousands of stories, and many of them have a happy ending. I have known people who walked in the door so entirely messed up they were seemingly beyond the pale. They sat on the white couch or in my little office and fundamentally changed who they were, once they decided to step out. There are many ways to deal with your personal issues, and finding a greater purpose or learning about the meaning of your life may sound cliche, but few techniques can take you as far as a reason for living. Hundreds of people I have cared about have told me stories, tales of redemption and loss, staggering failures and unbelievable saves.

You might not think giving a pair of socks to some homeless dude is not your thing, but it’s a hell of a lot better than not giving out 4,000,000 pairs of socks to people who often have not felt the warmth of human kindness in some time. People and organizations that follow their hearts, and not just their wallets, genuinely feel better about their lives. Believing in something bigger than your worst moments is better than living a purely self-indulgent, puerile life that ends in meaninglessness, unless you’re a complete sheep (in which case you would not be reading this in the first place). This, unfortunately, compels me to remind you that no one wants to see another stupid picture of you on social media. We know what you look like, and it’s nothing like that doctored pic of you standing in a pose which is oddly reminiscent of what we imagine you would look like if there was something up your hiney. We’ve even talked about how mildly narcissistic that can become, so turn the camera around and show me a picture of nature, or culture, without your duck lips in the picture.

Liking a post on Facebook may give you warm fuzzies, but it’s the getting off your butt and living your life for something of value that will take you to the next level. Living in the moment is important, yes. So is mindfulness. So is having a reason to get up in the morning.

Get a life.

Phil Collins And Why You Can’t Know What You Don’t Know

Growing up, so many years ago, I loved the pounding beat and consuming rhythm of Phil Collins’ In The Air Tonight. The intense drumbeat was stirring; the story behind the song even more so. What follows is my own flawed memory of how the story went:

One day, while playing with a friend beside a river, Phil’s childhood friend got in trouble and began to drown. The young Phil Collins was too small to rescue his drowning companion and begged a passerby to help. The adult simply laughed and walked away. His friend died.

Years later, while on tour with Genesis, Collins anonymously sent this individual tickets to his upcoming concert. As “In The Air Tonight” began to play, Collins belted out those now famous words:

Well if you told me you were drowning, I would not lend a hand
I’ve seen your face before my friend, but I don’t know if you know who I am
Well I was there and I saw what you did, I saw it with my own two eyes
So you can wipe off that grin, I know where you’ve been
It’s all been a pack of lies

And I can feel it coming in the air tonight, oh Lord
Well I’ve been waiting for this moment for all my life, oh Lord
I can feel it coming in the air tonight, oh Lord
Well I’ve been waiting for this moment for all my life, oh Lord, oh Lord

Well I remember, don’t worry. It was the first time, the last time, we ever met.
And I can feel it coming in the air tonight…”

Collins turned to the audience as the lights came up on one seat, one man, and yelled something like (accounts vary) “It was you, you S.O.B.! 

Powerful stuff. Revenge.

So what, then, is the moral of this story?

The moral is that this story is not true. I told that story for over 20 years in front of thousands of people and it was complete crap. Fabricated nonsense.

The moral is that we love a great story, that we are prone to believe untruths when they are packaged in such a way as to draw us in. Disinformation. The moral is that it is very tempting to blindly accept anything you read for the sole reason that it is sending a message with which you want to agree. These fairytales are powerful because we all want to believe in words like destiny and fairness and happyendings. The moral is that you are far more likely to believe something if you already agree with it; and the age of mass media is overwhelming our critical systems. The exploding cacophony of information eventually strips us of unbiased thought, and we were always friends with Eurasia. Big Brother is programming you. See, I just did it again.

Bringing the apocalyptic into my story creates a defining moment which just happens to be bullshit. Calling your opponent Hitler is a convenient way of labelling someone in such a way as to discredit further investigation. Easy labels diminish the truth. Things are rarely as absolute as in the land of stories, and the impact of such things as the rise of bionomics, media, and reductionism, is profoundly beyond what we can imagine. Let that sink in for a moment. Humanity gleefully embraces a future that it does not understand; has not reckoned with an impact we have yet to invent.

Reality cannot be contained in a YouTube video. Your primary belief systems warrant intense scrutiny. The world is filled with loud and profoundly ignorant voices, screaming for your attention.

Phil Collins confirmed it hadn’t happened. Like most of the polls and trends and arguments between the huddled masses, this was the creation of a storyteller whom no one took the time to investigate. One discredited study on autism and a child dies in the prairies because people believe stuff that seems right to them at the time. Some pseudo-scientist creates a Youtube video about the earth being flat and seemingly reasonable people start to think that the sun is 3000 miles above the earth, and the government is spreading mind-altering drugs using airplane contrails. The president of a neighbouring country was actually born in Kenya. Carrying a concealed weapon becomes a must if you want to avoid a terrorist attack. Those Syrian refugees, fleeing unimaginable persecution and a situation you literally know almost nothing about, are all terrorists. Jayden Smith knows the mysteries of the universe. Muslims cheered when the twin towers came down. Donald Trump is the messiah, or the Anti-Christ. The list of the ridiculous is seemingly endless.

This is by no means a confirmed fact, but it is apparent that many of us watch a single YouTube video or read an article and are willing to fundamentally change our belief systems or argue about a belief we know virtually nothing about. I cannot count the numbers of people who are convinced that something is true because they spent 20 minutes online or heard it from a “reliable” source. It is a sure bet that millions of people get their politics or religion or theories about life from a few solitary sources that agree with them anyway. That Zeitgeist movie seems to make sense. Those documentaries on the way they treat chickens, or that conspiracy about how the moon landing was faked, the FACT that the government is covering up contact with aliens, or the opinions of uneducated actors or musicians or some geek with iMovie, appear entirely believable. I have witnessed arguments at parties between individuals who clearly know very little about science or reality but are willing to virtually come to blows over a topic they watched on YouTube or read about in a forum of like-minded and biased idiots like themselves. Few of us take the requisite hours to actually perform real research. We are the media generation, subject to the slings and arrows of outrageous opinions and 5-minute ready to believe theories.

The objective truth is that it takes hundreds, even thousands of hours to understand concepts like philosophy, politics, or basic scientific principles. When Will Smith states publicly that he considers himself a physicist, he speaks in ignorance. The profound insights of actors and amateurs are usually neither profound nor insightful, in any real sense. Becoming an expert in any field requires years of directed study. You cannot become a martial arts practicioner by watching a series of videos and you certainly aren’t qualified to even speak about vaccines if you base your opinions on something you read in a chat room or online.

By now most of us have heard of the Dunning-Krueger Effect. To put it another way, we don’t know what we don’t know. We lack context. It is impossible to assess something you have never seen before. The first warriors on the receiving end of gun powder lacked the capacity to appreciate why they were about to die. American troops in World War Two were flummoxed by the Kamakazi. The thought of a volunteer willingly slamming their plane into an aircraft carrier seemed ludicrous in the extreme. We can only comprehend that which we already know, at least in passing. We cannot understand what we have never even imagined. As Heisenberg so eloquently mused, “Not only is the Universe stranger than we think, it is stranger than we can think.” There is the world as we understand it, the philosopher said, then there is the world as it really is.

We must be careful of our own thinking. When I was younger I knew everything, or so I thought. The older I get the less I seem to know. The essence of wisdom is not intelligence alone. We must experience in order to comprehend. We must, as Covey quipped, seek first to understand, and then to be understood. There must be humility, wonder, and hard work, before we can really know anything of value. Abandon your absolutist opinions and spend a hundred or a thousand hours learning about that thing before you make a fool of yourself in that chat room.

You’ll be glad you did.

The Idiot Genius That Is Carl Pilkington

In the early 2000’s Ricky Gervais was one of the first to harness the power of the podcast to reach millions of people. Together with one of my favourite deadpan comedians, Stephen Merchant, Gervais hired a location and a production geek and set to work. He and Merchant would host an off-the-cuff radioesque podcast made to seem like it was made up on the spot. Early in Season One Gervais began throwing a few bones to the tech working the show and Internet history was born.

Karl Pilkington seemed to have a normal and successful life. He was married and an Executive Producer at a legit media heavyweight, seemingly a position which would require a good deal of smarts and an exceptional talent for getting ahead in a cutthroat industry. It was apparent from the start, however, that Karl Pilkington was no ordinary media geek, he was comedy gold.

Merchant was actually the meaner of the two. He was fond of telling Pilkington that he was a subhuman ape, a moron or an idiot or one of those amazing British ghetto language terms, thrown out with practiced indifference. If you look up Karl on Wikipedia you will read:

Pilkington was born in Manchester in 1972. He worked as a journalist for the Sun for a period of time [6] and moved to London from Manchester to work with XFM as a producer, at one point unintentionally causing Gail Porter to leave the station in tears after only one show by criticizing her performance, which Pilkington maintains was an attempt to encourage her to improve.[7] After several years he began work on The Ricky Gervais Show, broadcast on Saturday afternoons. Initially Pilkington was solely the programme’s producer. As Gervais and Merchant began to invite him to make the odd comment, Pilkington’s persona came to light and his popularity increased. Pilkington was eventually included as a main element of the broadcasts, with large amounts of airtime often given over to his thoughts on various subjects, or various childhood stories. In December 2005, Pilkington stood in for two BBC 6 Music shows for Nemone, and co-presented the shows with Russell Brand.

Pilkington was an internet phenomenon. The series was downloaded over 300,000,000 times. People composed music to Karl’s head, his various axioms for life, and his offbeat look at life among pretentious smart people who unrelentingly compared Pilkington’s head to various fruits and extremely round spheroids. I always find it amusing, when rereading his bio, that both Gervais and Merchant felt compelled to defend his persona as real. I read somewhere that Merchant was to have said that Pilkington had to be real because there was no way he would waste such good material on this “poxy” radio station or some such.

It is crucial to listen to the whole series beginning at Season One. The shows were free and this allowed the hosts not to give a crap. Both men are well educated private school boys who portray as hard-line antagonists who paraded their atheism and delight at their own observations, a detached and comedic spin to everything. It was brilliant.

Clearly friends, the shows were both a row and a tug at Pilkington’s seeming endless ignorance of common words or phrases, and an homage to his brilliance and fearless stupidity in the face of endless ridicule. By the end of the first season, 12 brief shows, the podcast was the biggest in the world and everyone loved Karl Pilkington.

Without a clear or present agenda, the men simply talked about Karl’s week, read his diary, listened to his epic blunders in “Monkey News”, and took part in a series of bizarre and often hilarious misadventures and incoherent games and stories and questions about life. Throughout the series Gervais and Merchant refused to admit that Karl Pilkington was a persona because the guy was just too weird to be normal by any definition. Hundreds of questions were asked of him and it became immediately apparent that the next thing out of his mouth was not what you were thinking.

The podcast was turned into a cartoon. Watching the animation it feels like a completely new experience, all over again. It reminds you a bit of the Flintstones, one of Gervais’s favorite analogies when making fun of Pilkington’s lack of understanding of history.

Season Five was different. The team had just come off a break, Gervais and Merchant were international stars and Karl Pilkington had a T-shirt with his round head on it and millions of people wanted to ask him questions. I remember tuning in to Season Five and finding that I had accidentally put on my Counsellor hat and things were pinging everywhere. This was a different Karl Pilkington. His head was still as big “as a fucking orange”, to quote Ricky Gervais.

An interviewer for The Daily Telegraph concluded that Pilkington’s persona is genuine.[12]

At first it felt like I could understand him in a different way. The things he said had an air of bizarre legitimacy; and it occurred to my counsellor brain that he knew exactly what he was doing. The entire premise of the show was built around Pilkington’s ignorance and suddenly Karl appeared different, but not necessarily stupid. He had been, after all, a significant player in the entertainment engine. They talked about Karl’s wife like she was a real person and never lobbed a disparaging word in her direction. Karl knew all about Ricky’s house, had been there playing pool the night before. He knew Ricky’s girlfriend, they had spent time together. One begins to understand, as the show progresses, that the seemingly endless ego that is Ricky Gervais’s public persona clearly cares about this Idiot Abroad and it’s hard to imagine that Gervais would spend quality time with someone who appeared to drive him crazy when behind a microphone. There is a bit of a con going on, though you could argue this is a natural by-product of any chaotic show whose sole purpose appears to be making fun of a far lesser intellect.

I will never meet Ricky or Stephen or Karl so I cannot say with absolute certainty what is really going on. What is certain is that Karl Pilkington is more than a big bald head and a vision of reality skewed a little left of mental illness. One could even be offended on his behalf, if it weren’t so apparent that Pilkington is crafting euphemisms on an intentional level. It is easy to fall for the apparent and be swept away by his infectious personality and ludicrous charm. People love Karl Pilkington, he is charming without meaning to be and everyone loves an underdog. Merchant and Gervais are spectacular boors, and even before Season Five you can tell they are smiling as they talk. Merchant loves to feed Ricky’s ego and even Gervais is only screwing with your head some of the time. These people hang out.

In  Season 5 it feels like Pilkington is winking while he speaks. Some of his offbeat ideas make actual sense. There is a little too much Hamlet in the ham. Far from witless, you begin to wonder if Pilkington has been playing you, all along.

I can imagine a world where Gervais or Merchant might actually be reading this and laughing their ass off because Karl really is a twot and apparently I am as well. (Un)Fortunately this blog is beyond obscure and there is little danger of that. If he really is that dense than I’m totally fine with that, assuming that I am not laughing at someone with serious mental health issues.

Karl, and you immediately feel like you can call him that, may be different, but not in a wholly bad way. Remembering, for the sake of argument, that this is merely a futile exercise because we are talking about a radio personality, one is left to wonder how brilliant he really is. Pilkington has a staggering openness, a childlike sense of wonder, and a serious wit. He understands how to roll a phrase and speaks profundity in such a way that you laugh at him while you go “hum”. When asked what is the most important thing to him he replied, “learning stuff”. Brilliant.

An interviewer for The Daily Telegraph concluded that Pilkington’s persona is genuine.[12]

I have no doubt. The thing is, one never doubts Karl’s sincerity. Things may be more staged than they are made to appear but it is evident that Pilkington looks at the world in a profound and complex way, in spite of the obvious barbs in the other direction. Step out of your belief system and cultural context and really listen to what he is saying. He may understand reality but he does understand something about reality, and in a way which confounds. He is disgusted by old people trying to live forever, his is a pragmatic and supine viewpoint. He is baffled but some of the most basic concepts of reality but occasionally makes observations which are both incredible and beautiful.

Pilkington is an exile. He may live in London and have a wife and hold a job but he is only visiting this reality. Pilkington is a one-in-a-million, a seriously weird dude who is adored by the masses. Most marginal personalities don’t get to co-star in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. In An Idiot Abroad this fool was paid to travel to 30 countries and his antics attracted audiences that numbered in the millions. One can only imagine how much filthy lucre was made by someone who appeared to hate travel and managed to be underwhelmed at the Great Wall of China. Pilkington is an internet meme.

But chances are, you aren’t.

*the apparent lack of a feel-good ending is due, at least in part, to the fact that this is part of a larger project.

Early Childhood Development: Why It’s Really Important To Spoil Your Baby

I went to a boring conference, not so very long ago. The speaker, it progressively became clear, seemed like he was under the influence of something. A conference organizer was heard to say that they had to hire a driver, that Mr. Speaker seemed confused, didn’t know where he was, and seemed to ramble. There was a uncoordinated feeling of aggression, though he was simultaneously quiet, even passive-aggressive – if that was a look. He made a few completely unscientific claims which caused me to mutter an expletive loud enough to be heard two or three rows away. I am way too ADHD for most conferences in general, but this one was particularly memorable. Don’t get me started on the sad fact that most professional speakers in the mental health field simply don’t have the speaking chops to warrant being paid to do this professionally. We have settled for people who write books, or have gone to a special course, or who happen to be the flavour of the month at your local health authority. Most speakers kind of suck. Like I said, don’t get me started.

While it may be true that this speaker was altered in some way, that really wouldn’t surprise or even dismay me anymore. Drugs are almost legal and scores of very smart people become addicted to prescription medications or smoke weed more than they know that they should. The list of professionals who have been walked off the property is probably longer than most people would imagine. But alas, this still isn’t our story.

This speaker, inebriated or no, reminded me that when it comes to early childhood development it is the very first part of the story, from a few months before that child is born until 3 or even 4 or 5, that is the most important. Humans do an incredible amount of growing, especially in the brain, during this initial few years of life. They are defined, in a very literal sense, by the experiences and impressions that imprint them in these first few tender months and years.

Now listen to this part. This part is important.

Any psychologist worth their salt will tell you that affection is one of the most important things you can give any child in the first three or four years of their life. We throw around words like “attachment theory” because the first people that love a baby will, in a very real sense, imprint a bazillion things through expressions of  love and cuddling and affection and attention. The people that tell you not to spoil your baby are flat-out wrong. Spending time touching that kid, reading them books, giving them hugs, and playing hide-and-go-seek will do more for a young human than any diet or program or trendy stupid crap young parents will believe if they are granola enough. Study after study points out that if a child has at least one adult who will completely love them and help them feel safe than that kid is going to have a much better chance at a complete and happy life. Loving your nieces and nephews and grandkids and those 8 or 10 kids of my friends that I love like an uncle is an incredibly important thing, and the more time you spend with those young ones, especially in those first three or four years, the more they soak in that safety and unconditional love.

That crap sticks.

This is why my kids are so intoxicated with their young children. I must admit to some guilt as well. We are evolutionarily compelled to become fixated on our babies and take way too many pictures, and send me videos every damn day of you life. Sorry, I was projecting. We love our children because that kind of stuff is primal and no one really cares about those pictures of your kid in a raincoat anymore. Family is family; everyone else’s kids are cute for only 5 pictures, 6 tops. Early Childhood Development practitioners would tell you that it is critical that you spend significant time rolling around on the carpet and dancing to those stupid children’s songs sung by neutered hipsters. Watch Baby Jake videos. Embrace the Disney.

Please, spoil your kids and your relative’s kids and be that amazing person in the life of someone you know. Invite your nieces or grandkids or friends kids over for a sleepover and use flashlights. Make tents and do hand-spiders and kiss them over and over and chew on their toes. Read about Attachment Theory.

And don’t forget, some day that beauty is going to be a teenager and tell you off, and you’re going to remember how nice it felt when they were two.

Giving Advice To Your Friends

Wisdom comes in many forms. Right now I’m watching The Passionate Eye, The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution, an excellent expose on an important chapter of American History. I do not, out of interest, spend much time thinking about American History; it bombards Canadian culture 24 hours a day. There is more to the world than one country, and my interests lie closer to Charlemagne or Marcus Aurelius than Lincoln or Kennedy. I love stories of ancient kingdoms and empire building, war and anthropology, Kierkegaard and long-gone cultures. American History is too recent and predictable for my tastes, though I’m not willing to have a Comments battle if you think U.S. history is the bomb.

Like many romantics, I am sucked in by stories of underdogs.

The Black Panthers have been wildly misinterpreted by those too close to the culture to reflect with any measure of detachment. They are often painted as some fascist paramilitary; hell-bent on getting even with the ‘honky pigs’ whom they believed took joy in imparting racist justice. As an integral part of American recent history, the Black Panthers were difficult to separate from the political mania of the 60’s. Racism and guns and Vietnam, assassinations and acid trips and movie stars sleeping with Mafia Dons. It was a decade that stood apart from much of American nationalism and precipitated a revolutionary movement led by African Americans whose grandparents had firsthand knowledge of slavery; and a racism so profound that it labeled an entire race as sub-human. Blacks were beaten and even raped, often for exercise or because of some perceived slight to white arrogance.

The Americans were not alone in this practice, one that now seems so vulgar and wrong. As with any study of history, however, the rule of thumb is that you must not judge historical events only through your liberal 21st Century morality. Fundamental to historical studies is the awareness that people who lived hundreds of years ago were very much like us, but they were also very different. You are a montage of your world. You grew up in a free country with enough food to eat, a television, and without having to worry about having the crap kicked out of you because of the color of your skin; in a culture which does not go out of its way to ruin your life.

People started letting their Afros grow. Imagine an entire people who felt bad about their heritage or skin color or the way they wore their hair, trying to dress more like those who belittled them because of their genetics or country of origin. The Black Panthers came across as arrogant and uppity. Ronald Reagan publicly stated that anyone who acted like these young, black upstarts was out of their mind. He wondered publicly why they couldn’t just use the regular channels, a rigged system which honored rich white males like Ronald Reagan, and literally everyone he ever hung out with.

It is a horrible thing to feel powerless and subject to the whims of the powerful. Anyone who has ever been in an abusive marriage or terrorized by a violent relative can relate, just a little, to the feelings of an African American in the middle sixties. Less educated, unable to pursue their piece of the American Dream, they finally decided that enough was enough. Exercising their Second Amendment rights, a part of the American milieu I will never fully understand, they began carrying rifles and standing in circles around police who were in the process of hassling or arresting their neighbors. What began in Oakland soon spread throughout the states, and eventually the Black Panthers opened an International Office in Europe.

I have not talked about the American election, at the beginning of 2017, though I have been sorely tempted. At one point I realized that I could contribute little to the conversation, although I should have written more about micro-expressions because… holy crap. That’s all I’ll say about that.

Love him or hate him, soon-to-be President Donald Trump’s election is clearly a metaphor for the fight against the status quo. It is not only Americans who feel the sting of elitism. When you are poor and rural, with very few options and a factory that is closing which has employed your clan for generations, you understand the staggering frustration of watching the rich get richer and the pretty people spend thousands on glittery crap when you can’t afford your truck payment. My father was poor and an orphan, and not everyone has that made-for-television story of catching breaks after working really hard. For millions of us, hard work does not automatically translate into media contracts. It wasn’t until Making of A Murderer that some people realized that even white people can feel the sting of prejudice. I cannot begin to imagine what it must be like to be a Palestinian or a Syrian refugee right now.

The Black Panthers have slipped into the annals of Americana, with past members looked upon as folk heroes, or at very least a cool part of history. We no longer can recall the sting of these emotions, and most of us realize that J. Edger Hoover was bat-crap crazy. It was a different time.

There is a part of your story that I will never understand. I may get paid to talk with people about their problems and secrets, but we did not share the same history. In much the same way that we must look at history through a different lens, it is important that we remember everyone is on their own unique, and ofttimes lonely, journey. We all die alone. There is no possible way that I can understand what it is like to be treated like an animal just because of a pigment in my skin. You were right all along, I really do not know how you feel, how could I? You are wired up in a spectacular and bizarre way, too complex and sometimes, and you know what I’m talking about, living your own brand of crazy. There is no synergy strong enough to allow me to fully comprehend what you are going through. I can feel your pain but I cannot ever fully know it.

I don’t want you to tell me, “I know how you feel”. No you don’t. I’m not even always sure I know how I feel, and my brand of cray cray is fed by a thousand or a million facts and experiences and beliefs you know very little about. It sounds funny coming from me, but most people don’t really want a bunch of advice when they tell you how crappy their day is. I have had multiple clients tell me that my job is just to agree with them while they spew out a wellspring of pain or problems or confusion.

And besides, most people shouldn’t give out too much advice. First and foremost, advice is tainted by our experiences. I have spent an inordinate amount of time learning how to step outside the drama, and it is still hard. How can I truly know how to help you if I am trapped in the narrative? And while we are on this topic, I would encourage you to accept advice sparingly. Most people don’t really know what they are talking about when it comes to this complicated crap, and those who have a smattering of knowledge are often emotionally entangled in the show. This also applies to professionals as well. If your psychiatrist diagnosed you after a 20 minute interview than chances are they don’t know what the hell they are talking about. I cannot tell you how many people have carried a label or a diagnosis for decades that was spuriously flung at them by a condescending expert who didn’t have a clue what was really going on. If you were diagnosed as a kid or youth, that goes double. Dozens of people have confessed to me that they were pegged with a mental health issue as a teen, after having lied or exaggerated symptoms to get out of school, or make the old person shut up, or to impress a friend or parent. It takes months to understand what my clients are about, and even then I’m just going on biased information from an emotionally invested one-side of the story.

Chances are, I don’t know how you feel. Not really.

Mindfulness Exercises: And Now For Your Virtual Vacation

My good friend Lori is a great writer and has started taking virtual vacations. This is a great mindfulness exercise for anyone who needs a break from the rain or the snow or the office. Ever wanted to go to England but don’t have the time or money? Just sit back and let Lori be your tour guide.

For years I have introduced clients to Neil Gaiman’s five-minute and twenty-three second walk through fantasy land called, “Instructions”. A Buddhist may encourage you to listen to a rock grow. Some people go tanning. Many of us have a go-to song for when we are feeling low or pouty. I’ve recently reconnected with my 12-year-old self who likes doing “Dot To Dots”. Some of us go fishing or take a nap or watch that channel with video cameras at places on the planet where people are having way more fun than you are right now. The vehicle doesn’t really matter, it’s the journey and the destination which counts. Continue reading “Mindfulness Exercises: And Now For Your Virtual Vacation”

Teen Spirit

First blog post from a colleague and friend who is perhaps the best youth counsellor I know. Welcome aboard Dawn!

Dawn Taylor Counselling

Youth groups are truly an amazing beast. They tend to take on a life of their own, for good and sometimes not so good. When I am facilitating a youth group I am often in awe at the wisdom that comes to the table and when the mood is just right, we get to hear the most brilliant morsels of teenage insight.

Yesterday I ran 2 youth groups. One group is for youth who are deemed to be relatively stable and without much substance use. I created the course content with two colleagues in my field and we each bring to the table a unique perspective on our training and experiences in working with adolescents. The other group is a drop-in style where we merely open the floor for discussion based on what the youth need to discuss in that given day. Each group has its challenges, and yesterday was…

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My Dog Has Generalized Anxiety Disorder. And He’s A Racist.

My dog has Generalized Anxiety Disorder. This is my day job and I have watched literally hundreds of human clients who have struggled with GAD so I feel qualified to diagnose my dog. Human persons with mental health issues are diagnosed primarily on symptomatology; you tell the doctor what is wrong with you and he sends you to a psychiatrist who will, after talking with you for a part of an hour or two, tell you what is wrong with your head. Don’t get me started on misdiagnosis. Continue reading “My Dog Has Generalized Anxiety Disorder. And He’s A Racist.”

Go To Sleep

I have three grandchildren. Young kids marrying young kids, marrying young kids. Now that they have spawned, I regularly tell my children they are redundant, sperm donors who no longer serve any other familial purpose. I am a counselor so I’m used to being honest with people for money.

Isaac is two-years-old and a force of nature. He is the one in the beer hat, although we would never do that and I get one first. Isaac and I are joined at the hip and he is definitely my little man. Continue reading “Go To Sleep”

Why We Care More About Paris

The world feels like a terrifying place. People are dying in Paris while at a middle class concert. What if we are next?

Catastrophizing is normal, when we hear stories like this. Suddenly the world feels a little less safe. People in Mission, British Columbia are talking about not attending concerts in Vancouver because ISIS might attack. The world has changed.

The funny thing is, Canada is generally safer than it ever has been. Crime, thanks to DNA and technology and changing societal norms, is actually down in many areas. So why are we so afraid? Continue reading “Why We Care More About Paris”

Stupid Little Pill

In a recent conversation with a friend I accidentally referred to anxiety medication as “aspirin for the brain”. I meant it in a good way. Why is taking something for anxiety any different than taking the exact same thing for insomnia?

There is much stigma around medications and it is tempting to believe any number of ridiculous cognitive distortions we all battle, from time to time. As simple as it sounds, people generally push back when a professional prescribes a stupid little pill to cope with the uncopeable. We have been told that people with depression are emotionally weak and need to “snap out of it”. Anxious people seem skittish by nature and those panic attacks might just be a personality flaw. Taking medication for depression or anxiety or (insert name of mental health issue here) means that I have somehow failed or given in or given up. I shouldn’t need to see a counsellor to take an SSRI or go on disability. People who take meds because they cry allot are weaklings. Continue reading “Stupid Little Pill”