Learning from The Donald

September 21, 2016

Fascinating article on the upcoming Clinton vs Trump debate at The Atlantic (http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/10/who-will-win/497561/).

hilary-vs-donald

I was feeling quite anxious about the upcoming US presidential election but on reading this I feel a  bit more reassured. Trump does worry me, but if you look more closely at his body language and his statements there’s a pattern there – of domination, bullying etc. He is powerful because his message (both verbally and physically) is often very simple. James Fallows shows in this article how Hillary can win the debates (and by extension the election).

More broadly it also got me thinking about how I relate to bullies. How I am intimidated by them, how they get under my skin, how I get rattled and irritated. But I also started thinking about how I relate to dominance in general – whether it be a dominant male boss or a controlling parent! And when my partner is dominant and controlling, do I sometimes feel intimidated and annoyed as well? What about using our own dominance, and learning from the bullies (without being insensitive though)?

What I also found interesting was seeing the narrow band that dominant women have to operate in . It’s easy for Hillary to fall into the trap of being too shrill or harsh. She’s much better (and more effective) when she’s powerful AND relaxed. When she’s able to joke – and also deliver some put-down lines at the same time. Thanks James Fallows for a stimulating article. I’ll report back here after the debate on the 26th.

Advertisements

On reading and not writing

August 30, 2016

I’d sort of given up on blogging, since life was just too hectic and I wasn’t finding time to do anything much at all. But then I found that life without blogging was not necessarily more productive than life with blogging. So I’ve decided to start again. Even if it’s just a way of checking in and saying “this is what I’m reading and not writing”. So to make it sort of easier to write, I’m doing a Q&A.

Q: What are you reading at the moment?

winnicott A: I’m reading Winnicott by Adam Phillips. I’m enjoying it but it’s definitely harder to read this on Kindle. I lose the thread and it takes days to pick it up again. I’m interested in Winnicott because he’s more hopeful than Freud or Klein. He was also one of the first clinicians to stress the primary importance of the mother-infant relationship. He says there’s no such thing as a baby, only a baby in relationship with its primary caregiver.

He stresses the importance of playing, of creativity, of holding (physical and emotional), and of transitional objects. He’s interested in aggression, in real and false selves, and in many other things as well. I just wish that I had more time to read and think.

I’m also reading “Towards an Emancipatory Psychoanalysis: Brandchaft’s Intersubjective Vision”. brandchaftIt’s long, it’s good, it’s dense. I’m reading this for our self-psychology reading group, and so it’s one chapter a month. I’m also reading this electronically since the physical copy was very expensive. Even with the pound taking a slight dip with Brexit fears, books are still outrageously expensive.

I need to find a good novel to read. Maybe a re-read. The last novel I read was “The Little Paris Bookshop” which was good but not great. I always feel a little guilty saying that. Is it me? Is it the book? A combination of the two? Seeing a Goodreads rating of below four stars also tends to make me think that it’s not just me.

 

Q: What are you writing at the moment, if anything?

A: I tend to write a lot of concussion reports since it’s rugby season. To be honest, I really dislike them. I write the minutes of meetings. I write off and on in my journals (both electronic and book-form).

Q: What would you like to write?

A: I would like to write some sort of memoir, but I know that that’s not possible at the moment for a number of reasons. Firstly, I could never bring myself to write about my family knowing that they might read it. And secondly, I need to work on my writing fitness.

Just today I thought that I would like to write about my mother. It’s a difficult topic but it just feels right. For a long while I thought I should write about my dad. Since he is the more well-known of the two (famous even, one might say). Sons writing about their fathers seems more logical, right? But actually the more difficult story would be the more interesting one. But I can’t write about it here. Part of me thinks that I would have nothing to say. But I know that’s not true. I also have a whole drawer full of journals which I could trawl through. *sigh* It’s complicated.

And you? What are you reading at the moment? And writing?


Homophobia, Islamophobia and toxic masculinity

June 15, 2016

Orlando news collage

I’ve been so shocked by the tragic events in Orlando (the mass shooting at an LGBT club in Florida on Sat night) that I’ve been reading obsessively to try and get a handle on how to think about these events. I’ve watched the vigils on TV and I’ve read the updates and the opinion pieces and the analyses. How can such a terrible thing happen? What motivates someone to such hate and violence? What can society do to prevent such atrocities?

There are many themes which are emerging: the radicalisation of marginalised American Muslims; the dangerous mix of homophobia, mental instability and ‘toxic masculinity‘. The possibility that Mateen himself was struggling with a gay identity. The shocking lack of gun control in America. As more evidence emerges I’ll see what the psychologists have to say. For now I think the most powerful research comes from Sarah Lyons-Badilla, a social psychologist who has researched radicalisation in America.

If I was a journalist I’d want to interview the local Muslim authorities about what they teach their followers about tolerance and diversity. Is there tolerance or acceptance of different ways of life from those permitted in Islamic scriptures? I guess, as with Christianity, it really depends who you ask. I’m sure the media could do more to publicise the views of liberal Muslims (athough the cynic in me asks why they would do that if sensationalism is more profitable).

 

 

 


The mind of Donald Trump

May 25, 2016

The mind of Donald Trump

Interesting article. Dan McAdams, a psychology professor at Northwestern University, has crafted a detailed psychological portrait of Donald Trump, the reality-TV star and real-estate mogul who would be US President.

 He looks at Trump in terms of the Big Five of Personality Variables:

Extroversion: gregariousness, social dominance, enthusiasm, reward-seeking behavior

Neuroticism: anxiety, emotional instability, depressive tendencies, negative emotions

Conscientiousness: industriousness, discipline, rule abidance, organization

Agreeableness: warmth, care for others, altruism, compassion, modesty

Openness: curiosity, unconventionality, imagination, receptivity to new ideas

 

How does Trump stack up? High extraversion plus “off-the-chart low agreeableness”.

“People low in agreeableness are described as callous, rude, arrogant, and lacking in empathy.”

“Anger can fuel malice, but it can also motivate social dominance, stoking a desire to win the adoration of others. Combined with a considerable gift for humor (which may also be aggressive), anger lies at the heart of Trump’s charisma. And anger permeates his political rhetoric.”

A tendency to lie and distort.

Fascinating comparison with Andrew Jackson (who was the source of the donkey as the symbol of the Democratic Party). Similar populist appeal and driving personality. Brashness and anger.

Authoritarianism (associated with prejudice towards minorities or outgroups)

Disgust

A textbook case of narcissism

Archetypal warrior

But what is the purpose of fighting to win? Make America Great Again, says the Trump slogan. But what does that mean?

Great conclusion: “It is always Donald Trump playing Donald Trump, fighting to win, but never knowing why.”

 


Strange dreams and other things

April 25, 2016

My alarm went off at 5.50am. I turned it off and went back to sleep. T-bird gave my back a half kick. In my dream I was very intrigued to see how the plot would develop. I can’t remember the details but I was in some kind of difficult situation involving two women. Was I married to one and had made some kind of promise to the other? What made it more bizarre was that I knew this was the plot of some book. I had even asked the opinion of the most writerly blogging friend I knew. Lilian had agreed with the reviewer (but whether this comment was positive or negative I couldn’t remember).

The first woman had arrived from somewhere it seems. Maybe she had come to stay for a week? She met the second woman who I can only assume was my girlfriend. Woman #2  felt bad because  #1 had clearly been led to believe that we would have some kind of relationship, and she didn’t feel able to tell her the truth. I remember at some level thinking that these two women would be very annoyed to hear that I was actually married!

Woman #2 helped #1 with some kind of spell, which would need to be undone when woman #2 and I got together. Very complicated.

At which point L came to wake me to tell me that I had over-slept and that I would need to get a move on to get to work on time.

Bizarre. What did it all mean? One association that I have is with “Forty Seven Roses” in which Peter Sheridan writes about his dad who, while being married to Peter’s mother, managed to have a largely long-distance relationship with a previous girlfriend.

Needless to say I don’t have a girlfriend. I suppose the Jungians would say something about masculine and feminine selves. Maybe my feminine self has different aspects to her.

**

Other than that, I can report :

  1. T-bird is almost two. Loopsie is five. T-bird is quite good at the ‘terrible two’s” and at other times is sweetness and light. She charms strangers in shopping centres. She blows kisses at everyone in her little play-group. Her favourite activity is running around the house.
  1. I did a Resilience talk to our staff, and now feel heartily sick of the topic.
  1. I am endeavouring to read more novels written by women this year. I have just started “Station Eleven” by Emily St John Mandel. I have also just finished “Rembrandt’s Mirror” by Kim Devereux.
  1. I have also just started “Cloudstreet” by Tim Winton. We’ll see which novel wins.
  1. Not much else. Parenting. School. More school. Family. Back ache. The weather. And no blogging. Plenty of coffee though. Ho hum. I hope that life is more scintillating where you are.

Resilience 1: Prozac, Coffee and Fridges

October 27, 2015
resilience2

Photo credit: Rebecca Wolsak

Struggling today but persevering. I was thinking (for the umpteenth time) about resilience. About being down but not out. I was going to post something about coffee and Prozac and then I remembered that I’d forgotten to take my little white pill today. I’ve got mixed feelings about being on Prozac. I think it’s definitely helped but I’m also sceptical and I don’t like the idea of being dependent on a chemical to feel better.

One of the side effects of being on fluoxetine is that I’ve started drinking coffee again (and eating more). I know that both coffee and sugar are bad for me but I definitely crave both of these substances now more than before. Previously my body just wouldn’t tolerate coffee and I would be bouncing off the walls (before crashing metaphorically at my desk). Now I quite like the buzz but I’m worried about overdoing it.

I read an interesting post detailing new developments on Chronic Fatigue which had me wondering what’s going on in my body at a cellular level. I’m certainly tired a lot of the time but I put that down to the strains of parenting. I don’t get to exercise enough and from the time I get home in the afternoon I’m often on the go with two small, demanding girls. Feeding, bathing, the bedtime routine. After that I often just collapse on our bed until it’s time to clean up the kitchen. Oh the drudgery!

This weekend we had the added drama of the fridge packing up. I was so stressed about the South Africa versus New Zealand rugby match that I decided to do some fridge defrosting as a stress release. Pick up knife, hack away at the ice in the fridge until …. I hit something I shouldn’t have and there’s a long hisssssing sound. Uh-uh. That’s the sound of Freon escaping and our 15-year old fridge expiring. The rest of the weekend didn’t get much better. But on the positive side we now have a sparkling new fridge which dispenses lovely cold water and which is purring contentedly on the side of our new kitchen. It’s silver, it tells the temperature (a chilly 2 degrees) and I think it’s possibly the best thing we own. We can;t afford it but that’s another story.

In due course I will post properly about resilience. About how resilience is not quite the same thing as Grit. I will even put up a picture of my beautiful new couch. Life carries on. The girls are on their TB-prophylaxis and it’s going better than expected. At least it’s Rifampicin and not INH. Three months to go and then we can breathe a little easier.

Life is hectic but it carries on. And there are good days in between the hectic ones.


I am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes

September 2, 2015

I am PilgirmTerry Hayes’s gripping debut novel is over 800 pages but well worth the read. The plot is pretty simple: Scott Murdoch (aka Jake aka Brodie aka …) is a retired secret agent. He was one of the best but now he’s hiding out in Paris, taking stock of his life post 9/11. The intelligence world has changed irrevocably, Scott is out of a job and he also knows that there are many people who would like him dead. He is very reluctant to return to his previous life but when a gritty New York cop tracks him down, he gets drawn into a very bizarre and intriguing New York murder investigation. And then, fast forward a bit, he is hand-picked by the head of the CIA to be a one-man secret operative hunting the world’s most wanted would-be terrorist.

The other side of the story is the Saracen. Hayes has done a brilliant job of getting into the head of a Saudi exile who is plotting to wipe out millions of Americans through a biological terror attack. The Saracen’s family life, his training and psychology are all detailed very convincingly.

However, when I had finished I couldn’t help wondering about a few things. I should probably put a SPOILER alert here but I will try not to give away the details of the plot. Firstly, why are Scott and the Saracen operating largely on their own? Everything that I know about al-Qaeda or ISIL or ISIS tells me that agents tend to operate in groups. They are trained in cells and they need a support network. The way I am Pilgrim plays out it’s Scott vs the Saracen. We know who will win but it’s still a nail-biting race against time.

Secondly, isn’t it convenient that the terrorists (in this case the Saracen plus some Albanian thugs) use the same interrogation techniques on Scott as the US use on their prisoners? If the CIA were trying to justify the use of waterboarding on terror suspects, they couldn’t have done a better job. Yes, they might say, this interrogation technique is abhorrent but see how the terrorists are using it themselves. All is fair in love and war.

Thirdly, I did wonder about the boy with Down’s syndrome. Call me cynical but did we need the added heart-string-pulling of a child with disabilities? Disability as a plot-device leaves me a little uneasy.

All told though, an excellent thriller up there with the best that you will read. Hayes is also a very successful scriptwriter so we can expect that when this becomes a movie it will be huge.