What I Learned the Week of May 20th, 2022

Warning: This blog is intended to evoke curiosity, however if for any reason it unintentionally evokes shame then I sincerely apologize for that impact.

From Podcasts – Logic Doesn’t Always Win

Dax Shepard Arm Chair Expert – Molly Shannon – Really appreciated so much about what this conversation had to offer. I had very little knowledge of Molly Shannon other than her comedic work as an actor. And I learned so much from her extreme vulnerability of sharing not just her heartbreaking story of having her mother die at a very young age, but also her more radical childhood experiences (I won’t spoil it but I was shocked and it takes a lot to shock me). Overall, it had me have a lot of compassion for her and a lot more compassion for others as well as it was such a good reminder that you really never know what people’s past experiences were like.

A good learning moment was Dax making a point that people who have experienced trauma cannot unsee that trauma and how that can impact every thought and behavior afterwards. Even when they logically know something is not true or the normal it does not make it easier to simply adapt their thinking and behavior to what they may know is logically true. The example he shared was the Ames window illusion experiment, which you can “see” for yourself here, that literally shows you the ‘trick’ behind the illusion and yet even when you know the trick you still see the illusion. Dax’s overall point is there is more than simply understanding trauma and thinking you are not going to be impacted by it anymore. Trying to convince someone who has experienced trauma that the world isn’t the way they see it (e.g., a place to be afraid of) might not be as effective as offering them tools and support systems to better manage the emotions they are experiencing regardless.

From Book/Article – The Body Keeps The Score – Tools for Trauma Recovery

This book may be the most recommended book I make. Particularly anyone while in our conversation speaks of trauma or of having mysterious ailments in their body that could not be explained. The author, Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D., was the founder and medical director of the Trauma Center in Brookline, Massachusetts. He is also and a professor of psychiatry at the Boston University School of Medicine and the director of the National Complex Trauma Treatment Network. This guy knows a little bit about trauma.🙂 A summary of the book can be found here.

A key point that has been emphasized by many in this field and in the field of neuropsychology or neuroscience is that our brains are trying to make meaning of the world around us. Here are a few excerpts directly from the book that emphasize this point:

“Traumatized people have a tendency to superimpose their trauma on everything around them and have trouble deciphering whatever is going on around them.”

“…trauma affects the imagination.”

“Traumatized people look at the world in a fundamentally different way from other people.”

“In those early days, we labeled our veterans with all sorts of diagnoses – alcoholism, substance abuse, depression, mood disorder, even schizophrenia – and we tried every treatment in our textbooks. But for all our efforts it became clear that we were actually accomplishing very little.”

I went back to re-read a few things in the book as I recalled the author had evaluated multiple different treatment therapies when it came to processing and recovery of therapy and I was curious what specifically did he offer when it came to tools and support systems to better manage the ongoing emotions a person who has experienced trauma might have.

First, I looked at the index for the word trauma, which of course there were several references to that word. I noticed more specifically the references to trauma, healing from, and here I found over thirty different references (e.g., body therapy, CBT, EMDR, mindfulness, etc.,) available. Having read the book before, I have a high degree of confidence that each of these references will speak to one if not multiple studies where this therapy was leveraged, how it was leveraged and how it was beneficial. Everything has a probability of being effective and always depends on the person hence why having all of this comprehensive knowledge can be useful to any person working through trauma for themselves or supporting someone who is.

Next, I narrowed in more on what were specific tools a person could leverage, on their own, with basic guidance. This is not to say that other forms of therapy should not be leveraged as well. I absolutely believe that they should. However, to the point that Dax Shepard had made in the podcast reference above, processing or understanding trauma is not always going to be the end of the struggle. Having additional tools to leverage will also be important. I have pulled out a few noted in the book to help specifically as a calming and emotional regulation technique.

  • Focusing on breath and breathing in and out, in and out at six breaths a minute. Interesting that this same breathing pattern was also recommended in the book Breath by James Nestor. More specifically this technique effects the parasympathetic brake on your arousal
  • Tapping acupressure points, a practice often taught under the name EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique). Note there have been past criticisms of this technique which I think speaks more to potential closed-minded views we often have in Western culture. I found this meta-analysis study completed in 2019 which positively speaks to its efficacy as an evidence-based practice. You can google EFT and find several youtubes and blogs that describe the very simple process involved and with all things having someone who is an EFT practitioner teach you would be a good start.
  • Mindfulness – the number of resources available today to help support anyone wanting to improve their mindfulness is overwhelming. My favourite is still Insight Timer app and there are both simple easy ones to follow and classes you can take.
  • Movement Techniques that incorporate the focus on breathing, physical movement, and mindfulness (focused on the present). Again, with all these it’s a good idea to work with someone who is already a practitioner/teacher in this field to learn the basics. But once you have those basics you can do completely on your own.
    • Yoga – from the book it was noted that the research specifically showed 10 weeks of yoga practice markedly reduced the PTSD symptoms of patients
    • Tai chi
    • Qigong
    • Rhythmical Drumming
    • Martial Arts such as Aikido, judo, tae kwon do, kendo, jujitsu and capoeira
  • Body Awareness – the simple act of noticing our feelings and the body sensations that go with them. When we are able to recognize the ebb and flow of our emotion we can begin to increase our control over them

From Social Media – 4th Dimensional Mindstate

Twitter Spaces is a new social media tool that I fell into this week. It’s a bit like Instagram Live streaming but only audio. I found it as I logged into Twitter one day and there was an initial splash page inviting me to check it out. There were many “topics” to choose from like NFTs, Crypto, groups praying together, Manchester City chat box, etc. I decided to jump into one called the 4th Dimensional Mindstate for no other reason than I didn’t really know what the 4th dimension was.

I can honestly say after listening for about 20-minutes I still do not know what the 4th Dimensional Mindstate is. I tried googling but found many varying answers that it could be but not one that clearly aligned with what. Apparently, this group gets together every Sunday and hosts this space. The primary host twitter profile had the description “I am not sure I could say it better myself #neurodivergent #highlysensitive Divergent Mind: Thriving in a World That Wasn’t Designed for You by Jenara Nerenberg” which certainly had me intrigued as I am consciously trying to think about how the world can be more inclusive to neurodivergent people. Still, as I went back and listened to the first 30-minutes of the stream I couldn’t get too much clarity on their purpose other than the promotion of “a union of that force of great intention for mutual wellbeing”.  That I could get behind.

When I did join there was one speaker who was doing 90% of the talking. She was extremely articulate and had very strong POVs on the discussion. I appreciated how she was challenging others without threatening their belief systems. For example, this is what is true for me versus you are wrong. The range of the conversation was unlike any I have sat in recently or ever. Debate over ascension to a new level in this life versus expansion to reveal all that is already within us.

I did hear one person reference a dimension of time and the idea of another dimensional universe that exists where our energy could somehow move to. Unclear on how, why, etc. But it did get me thinking that if there is really another dimensional universe AND if we assume each dimensional universe is serving some purpose for our personal “expansion” then what is the purpose of this current one we are in?

The answer I came up with is that we are to learn to be OK with pain and suffering. To find beauty and love in as many places as we can. To let go of the need to change others to conform to our belief systems and simply be.

There is so much chaos, conflict and pain in this world and it is difficult to be with it much less explain it. And when I look to nature and animals, I see that they appear to just continually learn to adapt to all of this while at the same time having little to no control over what is going on around them. Yes, we humans in theory have more intelligence, or shall we say different intelligence, than animals and nature display to us, however does that make it easier or harder for us?

It was an interesting reflection all the same and not one that is usually initiated from social media. I don’t feel I have any irrefutable proof to tell me that these 4th dimensions, as being discussed by this group, exist or don’t exist. Any more than there is irrefutable proof for most of the religions or other myths many people have grown to accept. And maybe in the 4th dimension they are all true and everyone accepts them all?

From Others – Be Unsettled

I love meeting new people and this week I had the pleasure of being introduced to Mayar Mozaffari from a past colleague Deniz Demirel. Mayar and I had so much in common that we could have easily spent the afternoon jumping from one topic to another. It’s funny how one moment you don’t know a person even exists and then there they are.

It makes me ponder how many more Mayar’s are out there and what would happen if I met them all? It seems like an impossible experiment and not even sure what the purpose of it would be other than the impact to a person’s wellbeing to continually be meeting people who shared the same values, interests, ideas, even hobbies as you. On the one hand you would likely lose perspectives of those who think differently than you – and by different, I mean radically different because they have different values, etc. Mayar and I brought different perspectives to the conversation because I am sure we have very different experiences growing up. Different influences from both parents, education, culturally, etc. Yet we clearly had lots in common despite those differences. And there are people that are much more like me in how we were culturally influenced yet we are way more different in our values, interests, etc. So maybe an outcome of this theoretical research project would be simply to gather data on similarities and differences about two people meeting for the first time and a simple assessment of how mood changed and was this exchange “delightful” or “draining”.

I did learn at least one interesting thing from Mayar about a global community for those who are embracing the unknown and value of meaningful human connection. The organization called Be Unsettled, does many things including creating space for those who work mostly independent, from anywhere, and would like to have some of the “social team” benefits that those who work in organizations often get such as retreats and events. However, they do much more than just this. Their overall mission is to inspire a lifelong pursuit of growth, meaning, and adventure through travel and shared experiences.

From Myself – Where do I shame others?

This was prompted by an amazing podcast listen with Dax Shepard and Cathy O’Neil, author of Weapons of Math Destruction, which I highly recommend for reading. Cathy has a new book out called The Shame Machine: Who Profits in the New Age of Humiliation.  The entire conversation is well worth a listen but the point that really had me reflecting on myself was where I do I take pleasure in shame?

Pleasure might be a strong word to use here, but according to Molly Crocket it is more about the brain circuitry that is getting activated when I attempt to punish people because I believe they have or are about to do something I believe is wrong. You can read more about this from the research by the digital outrage project at the crockett lab.

The way Cathy described the goals of shame are important to note here.

  • Primary goal of shaming is to get someone to conform to a set of norms/rules. Arguably on any social media platform there is very little agreement to a set of norms.
  • Second goal of shaming is to set an example of the person so that others will also conform. Again, I don’t know that you have agreed to my shared views around moral beliefs and behaviours, particularly if on social media. And just because something is the law or not the law does not constitute an agreed upon belief or set of norms. And just because I was born into a certain jurisdiction with laws that have been passed by government of that jurisdiction also does not constitute my belief in those laws. I could be too poor to leave on my own or have any number of other restrictions imposed upon me that prevents me from moving to a new jurisdiction.
  • Third goal of shaming is to perform shame. This is where I’m essentially taking on the role of enforcer or “cop” and I’m telling you what the rules are. I’m righteous and I’m maintaining my righteousness. That is the goal to show others I am righteous and maintain my righteousness.

Overall, this had me go back to my most recent posts or tweets and evaluate where I was posting with any of these three goals either consciously or sub-consciously there. I only evaluated a week or two back, so this is a long way off from being conclusive. However, I could see that almost all of my posts were definitely trying to persuade others into my belief system. Was my language intentionally targeting to make them feel bad if they did not take some action or “like” my post? I would like to say mostly not but again maybe in some cases there was a slight push to “if you don’t have this/feel this then you need me”. Which is in some small way, unintentionally, suggesting to this person they are less than and could evoke feelings of shame or humiliation.

I can honestly say that when I’m writing I’m trying to channel “evoke curiosity” in others as my primary goal. I’m Ok if they do not agree with my prescribed views of life and/or simply do not see me as the right guide on that particular topic. If I evoke a new thought or perspective for them to consider, if only for a moment, then great.

However, whether that is my intention or not does it matter?

I know the premise behind Cathy’s work is how companies are profiting from shame. Either taking advantage of an already losing battle where we often feel shame (e.g., body image) or creating one that never existed (e.g., does my vagina smell good enough?). In any case this reflection will sit with me for a long time in how I present new ideas and services to others. I can see it is a very slippery slope one can slide down. And to make matters worse the research shows that I my brain activity experiences reward MORE when I do more “shame evoking” writing based on the social media algorithms and how people tend to react. Which be the way holds up in my most recent postings. The post that was leaning more towards the third goal had by far the most likes and/or comments.

Social Media, and possibly society, is reinforcing me to be more “shaming”. I need to be even more self-aware/reflective on being clear on my intentions and not falling prey to the profit shaming world.

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