How to Sit Yourself Down When Your Brain Goes Bugfuck

I’ve been bouncing off the walls all week, perhaps longer. I’ve managed to get a lot done lately, but the panic sets in the moment I wonder if I’ve been taking off in the right directions. It’s hard to gauge, especially when the money’s not coming in, seeing as it’s modernity’s primary indication of worth – and even though it’s 100% shit, we’re stuck wading in it. Anyway…

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Do Our Dreams Help Reveal Who We Are?

Dreams, and the mind in general, still baffle science. I’ve read quite a few theories about why we create surreal simulations of the world in our sleep. The current theory is we dream to process memories, but on top of that we dream to process emotions – in particular, to numb emotional pain and prepare us for it by creating safe scenarios of our worst fears. So I wonder, is this how our brain tests our mettle?

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How a Life Lived Entirely Online Can Turn You Into a Bitter Sadsack

In the wake of the growing phenomena of online mobs dragging people to the pillory, often for the most ridiculously minor offenses, I’ve been thinking about what we can all do to be better than this, and the answer is we all need to go the fuck outside. This is not an original observation, of course. Viktor Frenkl made it a century ago in his book Man’s Search for Meaning. Therefore, I’m going to let the man who survived Auschwitz do some of the explaining:

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Reasons Why You’re an Idiot: Gettin’ Mad on the Internet

Anger is an addiction. Righteous indignation is a disease. This is how I came to see my own online behavior as I got into comment slapfights and fell for endless streams of rage-inciting clickbait. Rage is a poison in the brain, an infectious one that poisons the air around you, like smoking. Isn’t it about time we all quit?

Imagine a dude bashing himself in the head with a laptop. You ask him why he’s doing that, and he says, “Because people on the other end are idiots!”

You point out, “But you’re the one smacking yourself in the head. If you keep doing that, you’re going to turn yourself into a jibbering idiot.”

He replies, “But I need to smack myself in the head. I keep trying to get information, and other people keep being wrong, so I need to smack myself to get their wrongness out of my head. There’s no other way, so I’m going to keep beating myself until other people stop being wrong.” And he turns his brain to jelly.

Do you see how ridiculous this is? Maybe you do, but you still don’t stop. Fine, we all get like that sometimes. Every one of us has to make a concerted effort to not keep poking at our sores. It’s there. It’s being sore. It’s maddening. And you don’t like it, so you keep poking it, but the only thing you’re accomplishing is making yourself more sore. You rub yourself so raw that even the tiniest grain of sand feels like a hot knife in the wound.

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Dropping Ballast to Gain Momentum in Life

De-cluttering is one of those things we do to make ourselves feel better, because who wants to live in a mound of crap. However, it also tends to be an exercise in procrastination. You clean your desk before sitting down to write, for example, and end up vacuuming the cat until dinnertime. I’ve managed to turn it into a routine activity that gives me energy for writing instead, so I’m going to talk about how.

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How the Talent Myth Hurts Everyone

“Some people are just naturally good at some things, and other people aren’t. If you’re no good at something, don’t give up. You just haven’t found what you’re good at yet!”

If you’ve heard that, or any variation thereof, feel free to roast whoever said it over an open fire because that person is feeding you a comfortable lie. It’s bullshit – especially that “don’t give up” bit, because that’s exactly what they’re telling you to do. Here’s a similar quote to put the first one in perspective:

“Kids, you tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is, never try.”

—Homer J. Simpson

How are those quotes even close to the same thing? Here’s what the first quote really says: “If you’re not good at something first try, then give up and keep giving up until you find something you’re instantly good at, because that’ll totally happen. In the meantime (meaning until the day you die) you can pretend your genius is all pent up inside instead of taking a big scary risk to do something you actually enjoy with your life.”

The above sentiment is often trotted out when someone complains that something is “not fun” or “too hard” and desperately looking for reasons to give up instead of useful advice about how to tackle the problem. However, the most pernicious lie is in the first sentence: “Some people are just naturally good at some things and other people aren’t.” Because this plays on the myth of “talent” and the idea that skill is innate instead of learned.

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How I Stopped Smoking: The Slow Habit Shuffle

I’m an impulsive, all-or-nothing type person. What’s moderation? What’s discipline? How the hell did I quit smoking? Especially since I loved smoking. Well, here’s the story, along with some motivational bullshittery because it’s New Years, the time of year where people vow to quit smoking and get in shape – and I’ve had some success so far.

First Some Background

I first attempted to quit smoking about 12 years ago, when the taste of cigarettes had become utterly foul to me. I managed to get all the way down to one cigarette a day, but just couldn’t give that one up. So I gave up. I said, “Screw it. If I’m going keep smoking, I’m going to damned well enjoy it.” And I bought myself a pipe and 25 grams of some shitty vanilla tobacco.

I smoked that damned thing for 10 years, until all I could stand was the finest Virginia tobaccos. I loved it. Other people loved it. The same people who used to do that “hack hack, cough cough” routine as they passed by would take a deep breath, fill their lungs with the stuff, and say, “Mmm, that smells so good!” It was like burning incense, with nicotine, and I still get a twinge of nostalgia thinking about it – but I don’t get the craving.

The thing is, I haven’t touched a cigarette since. I’d completely transferred my habit to the less addictive, less additive-infected pipe tobacco. The cravings were different. They didn’t come with the same pain and urgency. It’s probably the same reason vaping helped my SO stop smoking around the same time.

Vaping didn’t help me quit the pipe though. I was definitely addicted, smoking on average about 50 grams of tobacco a week. I had a pipe in my mouth the whole time I wrote my first novel. I didn’t want to quit, but I had to. The reasons were piling up: my teeth are trashed, my SO developed an allergy to my favorite tobacco, taxes raised the price to $1.50 a gram and I’d lost my day job due to chronic migraines.

So how did I finally quit? I’ll break it down into a nice little listicle, because everyone loves listicles!

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Why Participant Ribbons Are Bullshit

I’ve read a lot of gripes about whether or not every kid should get a trophy just for showing up. The defenders talk about how competition divides kids into winners and losers. The detractors talk about how rewarding kids for bare-minimum effort leads to entitlement and failure. Both sides have valid points, but what the self-esteem supporters fail to realize is getting a trophy for doing badly, or fuck-all, does nothing for anyone’s self-esteem save the back-patting school administrators who think they can do the bare-minimum to make every child feel included and call it a day.

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