Posted by: L | May 1, 2014

May Day Musings

After all the years I have lived here on the prairies, one would think that I would learn that spring does not arrive until the beginning of May. I just looked back, and yes, every end of April, beginning of May, I say ‘spring is late this year again’. Well, not really. Interesting how ingrained this thought is.

I grew up on the west coast, and of course spring comes weeks earlier, and by this time of the year, everything is in full flower. Whereas here, there a tiny little hints of growth.


It is just another indication, that I have come to understand over the past year or so, of how much our growing-up years influence us, in so many subtle and not-so-subtle ways. There is so much one can be unaware of, or vaguely aware. Becoming aware has been a slow process. There has been a lot to learn and that will be an ongoing process. There has been a lot to face, to contemplate, to find out over the winter. With the coming of spring, I am hoping that all metaphorical hibernation that has gone on over the winter will bring forward new growth in me.

Some of the things I have been thinking about have been along the lines of discovering ideas in psychology, behavioural research, philosophy and such. Quite a lot has involved taking as objective a look as possible at myself, not always a pleasant undertaking. However, positive knowledge has come out of it and now I need to take that knowledge and begin to apply it.

For quite a while I wondered if it was too late to learn new ways of thinking. Then I reminded myself that I am always trying to learn new things. This was reinforced when I read an interesting article I saw about mindset, which was describing a new book on the subject by Carol Dweck. The article talks how being of one of two mindsets – fixed or growth – affects a lot about our lives. The article is worth a read, has implications for any age, for personal understanding and for parenting and educating young children as well. A summary statement is intriguing: The key difference between the two mindsets — for those with a growth one, “personal success is when you work your hardest to become your best,” whereas for those with a fixed one, “success is about establishing their superiority, pure and simple. Being that somebody who is worthier than the nobodies.”

Another piece I found interesting came about from one of those lists that turn up on various sites. I think this one was on a Facebook feed. It was a Huffington Post item on ‘23 signs you are secretly an introvert.‘ I read it for fun because I think of myself as an introvert and of course I could identify with several of the points. One of them was more interesting that the usual though, and it was #16 – You have a constantly running inner dialogue. Well, doesn’t everyone? Apparently not. You mean not everyone has this non-stop discussion going on in their heads? That was a revelation. I started looking at several of the links in the article which lead to new-to-me information about introverts, the result of recent research. The old idea I had about being shy and retiring was really quite outdated, and there is some very interesting new information that actually gave me a major ‘aha’. This podcast with another researcher, Marti Olsen Laney, was particularly enlightening.

I didn’t know that one of the main differentiating features between introverts and extraverts was how each type dealt with their energy, introverts recharging by taking quiet time and extraverts by being around others. Introverts expend energy with everything they do and extraverts gain energy from what they are out doing in the world. Nothing to do with shyness. Also that introverts and extraverts use different brain chemicals to process their thoughts and actually have different thought patterns. If you think you might be an introvert, this is worth listening to. So many things that have been said to me about the way I am, as if there is something wrong with the way I think and how I feel and need, are actually based in brain chemistry (acetylcholine for introverts vs dopamine for extraverts). Examples: having to think before talking, writing more easily than talking, having to have quiet alone time, not being able to engage in much conversation after 10 pm, reading too much, being odd for not wanting the radio or tv going all the time, being odd for being able to tune out background noise. Did you know that introverts actually have a lot of advantages, like aging better? This talk was the ‘aha’. There isn’t anything wrong, it is just the way I am wired. Such a simple explanation that simply opened my eyes to me. It took a huge weight off.

Another spin off is the whole noisy brain thing. This has lead to looking into ways to quieten it down, and this has lead to mindfulness (and yoga, which I have been doing and enjoy that quieter time). This is an area I am really not very knowledgeable about, but plan to do a lot more learning. Another interesting article is about how we suffer (this also has to do with Buddhist thought, another area I am not well versed in and intend to explore more as it goes with mindfulness). Two items are ‘Neuroscience of suffering – and its end‘, about how someone was able to get his brain to shut up,  and ‘Mindfulness: more than a fad, less than a revolution‘, about using mindfulness in the UK Government, among other things. I think this will be my spring project. Learning to turn down/off the useless/pointless/negative loops is something I really look forward to.

One other piece that has been very useful to me is a video, by Dr Gabor Mate, about attachment, when one is a child, and how poor attachment has long term effects in life. This had a great deal of resonance for me, having grown up in a family with parents who had mental illness. There is so much good information out there now. Also, there are good people who can be of help too, when you can’t do it by yourself. It is worthwhile, in the end, facing the hard parts. There are still more I have to work through; I am optimistic that I will be able to do it. It is important that I do.







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