So you know (S.Y.K.)

Revenge of Eye So You Know

It’s So You Know (S.Y.K) time at Revenge of Eve.  Here’s what’s involved, and feel free to join in:

  • There are no right or wrong answers… Your answers = Your opinion = Your life
  • Answer a few or one, whatever you are comfortable with
  • Pingback to any S.Y.K. post
  • Use the hashtag #SYK to tag your post
  • Be real. If you feel a certain type of way, say it. You were asked your opinion (double dog dare)

This week’s questions:

  • How much of what you do for other others is conditional?
  • Are you driven by motive?
  • Who do you think of when you offer assistance to someone in need?
  • If you see someone, a stranger in distress, do you….. A. look the other way B. hang around to see if they receive help C.jump to aid them without thought D. help if you have time???
  • Do you feel integrity is a moral or something created by society that guilts us to follow societal standards?

My answers:

How much of what you do for other others is conditional?  Not much that’s conscious/intentional, but sometimes that will bubble up from the subconscious.

Are you driven by motive?  I think almost everything we do has some sort of motive, so I’ll read this as referring to self-serving motive.  Life has taught me that I can’t rely on other people to look out for me, so I need to look out for myself.  Perhaps this is self-ish, but if an action isn’t either neutral or serving me in some sense, I’m probably not going to do it.  That being said, doing something for others can in and of itself be something that serves me.

Who do you think of when you offer assistance to someone in need?  For the most part if I’ve gotten to the point of offering then the thinking part is already finished.  Making the decision about whether to offer or not is part cost-benefit analysis, part gut feeling.

If you see someone, a stranger in distress, do you….. A. look the other way B. hang around to see if they receive help C.jump to aid them without thought D. help if you have time???  It’s probably got a lot to do with being a nurse, but regardless, Nurse Ashley takes over and jumps into action, leaving regular Ashley dazed and confused off in the back of the head somewhere.

Do you feel integrity is a moral or something created by society that guilts us to follow societal standards?  I think that true integrity comes from following our own moral compass, and that’s separate from societal expectations to conform to certain social norms.  I believe that it’s a good thing if our moral compass is open some variability with exposure to new things and novel ideas.  I also believe some people’s moral compass fell off the boat and sank to the bottom of the ocean, such as the investment bankers in the great financial collapse/bail-out (I just watched Inside Job – what a corrupt bunch of assholes).

Book review: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

book cover: The subtle art of not giving a f*ck

The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson.  Mark Manson is a blogger who wrote this book in reaction to the problems he saw in the self-help industry, but he doesn’t have a background in psychology or any sort of related field.  This book represents his opinion, and the ideas presented in the book aren’t based on any sort of research.  In broad terms I tend to take issue with books that present opinions as fact without being based in actual evidence.  There’s nothing wrong with an opinion, but I think it needs to be clearly delineated as such.

In some ways, some of the author’s philosophy is a rebrand of radical acceptance.  He discusses the importance of non-superficial values, and while his approach isn’t necessarily my favourite the content is reasonable.  He challenges modern society’s focus on materialism and more, more, more.  He also disagrees with the focus on the pursuit of positivity, to point of of avoiding the rest of what reality throws at us.  He repeatedly returns to the idea of entitlement as being a fundamental underlying problem, but there is a tinge of brattiness to his writing style that takes away from this message.

There were a number of ways in which this book fell short for me.  One of the places where he lost me was the idea of “don’t try”.  Trying for the sake of personal growth is very different from trying to keep up with the Joneses.  Manson argues that “everything worthwhile in life is won through surmounting the associated negative experience”, and while this may sometimes be the case, I doubt the veracity of this as a broad generalization.  There are some valid messages about things like values that get watered down by somewhat cavalier examples.

Manson criticizes the often-repeated “be happy” message, pointing out that “the desire for more positive experience is itself a negative experience.”  He adds that “accepting negative experience is a positive experience.”  He explains that focusing on positive expectations actually ends up showing people how they have failed.  Social media tends to trigger a “feedback loop from hell” that constantly reminds that others are doing better than we are, and we are inadequate.

Manson suggests that “to not give a fuck is to stare down life’s most terrifying and difficult challenges and still take action.”  He adds that we should choose what matters based on person values, which I would certainly agree with, and challenges the social media-fuelled idea that average represents failure.  The values-based metrics we choose determine what we perceive as success or failure.  He advocates for interpreting pain as a call to action, and recognizing pain as an action that one strives for rather than having it dropped in one’s lap.  He encourages acting even the absence of motivation, which is reminiscent of CBT concepts regarding behavioural activation.

Entitled people are presented as exuding a “delusional degree of self-confidence” and operating within a “narcissistic bubble”.  This made me wonder, though, isn’t this just an extreme example of not giving a fuck?  Manson explains that “The ticket to emotional health, like that to physical health, comes from eating your veggies – that is, accepting the bland and mundane truths of life….  This vegetable course will taste bad at first.  Very bad.  You will avoid accepting it…  [But then] the knowledge and acceptance of your own mundane existence will actually free you to accomplish what you truly wish to accomplish.”  I disagree with simple pleasures being presented as “bland and mundane” and something that is necessarily aversive at first.

The book touches on the idea of “victimhood chic”, with a lack of personal responsibility and the tendency to be easily offended and outraged by any perceived slight.  Whether or not this is true, I think it minimizes those that are victims of abuse.  I also disagreed with the author’s statement that “in the process of changing your values, you’ll feel like a failure and will experience rejection”, as I think there’s no reason why that should be true as a blanket statement.

Manson touches on what sounds like his own entitled, bratty past.  I get the sense, though, that in the present tense he’s not necessarily someone I would want to spend a lot of time with.  He explains that if his wife gets dolled up for a night out and he doesn’t like her fashion choices, he will come right out and tell her, “because honesty is more important to me than feeling good all the time”.  In my mind, there is honest, and then there’s asshole, and the difference lies in consideration of the other person’s feelings.  He states that “if two people are close are not able to hash out their differences openly and vocally, then the relationship is based on manipulation and misrepresentation, and it will slowly become toxic.”  I’m not certain why he presumes to dictate how couples should communicate within their relationships, but personally I don’t think it’s appropriate to project one’s own views onto others in that manner.

This was definitely an interesting book; sometimes interesting in a good way, but other times in a bad way.  I’d say it disappointed me compared to what my expectations were.


You can find my other book reviews here.

My first book, Psych Meds Made Simple: How & Why They Do What They Do, is available on Amazon as an ebook or paperback.

Exploring values

ethics infographic

Values: we’ve all got them, but how often do we think about them?  It’s worth checking in with ourselves every so often as to what our values are, and how consistent our behaviour is with those values.  Unlike goals, values are not an endpoint, but rather a guiding direction.  Acceptance and commitment therapy offers some assistance in this values clarification process, and there are some useful worksheets here.

Some of the values that I’ve identified:

  • kindness, compassion, and empathy
  • staying true to myself
  • keeping an open mind
  • curiosity, ongoing learning, and exposing myself to new things/cultures/places
  • independence, autonomy, and freedom of choice
  • being able to express myself
  • having a sense of meaning and purpose
  • respect
  • helping others
  • honesty
  • authenticity
  • challenging stigma
  • being a good furbaby mama
  • working towards wellness, taking care of myself
  • fairness, justice

One thing I’m working on clarifying for myself is whether the importance I place on fairness and justice is purely a value  or whether there’s an element of cognitive distortion (the fallacy of fairness) muddying the water.  Also, I used to have certain work ethic beliefs that have unfortunately not served me well, but they get tied in with my sense of integrity and so I get a sense of dissonance when I go against them.  I used to value helping my coworkers and was happy to inconvenience myself to some extent in order to support my teammates, but as it’s become clear that no one was willing to do the same for me, I’ve chosen to be selfish and only look out for myself.  It’s necessary, but still not really congruent with my values.

Aside from those muddy bits, my values have remained pretty much constant over my adult life, although over time the level of priority I place on each has probably shifted.

Do you ever reflect on your values?  Are there things that you struggle with?


Image credit: Maialisa on Pixabay

Book Review: Emotional Agility

Emotional Agility by Susan David book cover

Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change, and Thrive in Work and Life is written by psychologist Dr. Susan David, and was recommended to me by Chris at Breathe Underwater.  I was quite impressed with this book.  Normally when I’m reading a book I intend to review I take notes as I’m reading of the points that stand out for me.  I ended up with several pages of notes for this book, because there was a lot that resonated with me.

The book is written with a casual tone that makes it feel like an easy conversation.  Research findings and terms from the field of psychology were explained in an accessible way.  The concepts presented resemble the fundamentals of acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), which I was already familiar with.  Books in this genre can sometimes run the gamut from “out there” to boringly obvious, but this falls into that happy little place of common sense but insightful.

The author presents emotions as something that serve a useful purpose and help us to survive and thrive.  Emotional agility involves responding to those emotions with clear judgment, and opening up a space between feeling and reacting that allows us to make reasoned decisions.  The author identifies four key steps in gaining emotional agility:

  1. showing up: facing thoughts, emotions, and behaviours
  2. stepping out: being able to detach from and observe thoughts and emotions
  3. walking your why: making choices based on core values and goals
  4. moving on: making small tweaks influenced by values, and finding balance on the teeter-totter between challenge and competence

David identifies several common “hooks” that move us from facts to judgment, generating an autopilot response.  These sounded oh so familiar to me.  The hooks included blaming thoughts for one’s behaviour, “monkey-mindedness” (anticipatory thoughts turning into mock conversations predicting expected negative events), assumptions based on past negative circumstances, and wrongheaded righteousness (cutting off your nose to spite your face).  She also describes two problematic responses to stress, which are often earned early in life: bottling things up, and brooding.  I am most definitely a monkey-minded brooder.

The author challenges the idea that people should try to be happy and paste on a smile all the time.  She points out that fakes smiles are actually not the same as genuine smiles; fake smiles don’t produce the contraction of certain muscles around the eyes that are not under voluntary control.  Emotions that are thought of as negative actually serve constructive purposes, and David argues that trying to suppress them is counterproductive.

David explains the benefits of mindfulness.  She encourages us to clearly identify our personal values, as all too often we tend to get swept up by social contagion into mindless decision-making.  She also talked about motivation and how to achieve habit change.

In the teeter totter between over-competence (being excessively comfortable) and over-challenging/overwhelming ourselves, David suggest that we aim for being “whelmed”.  She warned against “dead people goals”, i.e. goals like “not being anxious” that a dead person could achieve.  She suggested that while grit and perseverance can be useful, emotional agility also involves knowing when to give up and move on.

There are chapters specifically devoted to emotional agility at work and raising emotionally agile kids  While she made some good points in the chapter about work, there were a few things that didn’t quite ring true for me; in particular, she suggested that people should speak up about organizational issues rather than staying quiet.  I’ve worked in organizations that actively attacked employees that raised concerns about the status quo, so I’m just not buying this suggestion.

David concludes the book with a series of suggestions on how to be emotionally agile, including accepting yourself with compassion, welcoming your inner experience, accepting that love & hurt and success & failure are inexorably intertwined, and releasing narratives that no longer serve you.  While these suggestions may not be easy, they provide some useful areas to work on.

I would say this book is well worth a read.  Besides being consistent with ACT, there is some overlap with principles of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT), and I think there are useful points that would apply across a variety of mental health conditions.  Two thumbs up for this book!


You can find my other book reviews here.

My first book, Psych Meds Made Simple: How & Why They Do What They Do, is available on Amazon as an ebook or paperback.