My neurotic existence

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Fear…………..you should approach it head-on. But I can’t do this because I’m, well, afraid, all the time.

This has been a long time coming……my first post. For many years I’ve been afraid to write. Authors say you should write about a subject that you know most about, that is true. But I’ll be writing about what I know, what I don’t know, what I should know, and what I feel. This brings me to my first subject, one that I’ve thought about for most of my life. A time that I cannot remember I didn’t feel… FEAR.

For as long as I can remember I have feared to write. Oh, the entities of excuses. Depression, anxiety, rejection, let’s have one last shot of Jack; a cigarette for the nerves perhaps — I’m really not good enough — I’ll do some reading first, another Whiskey? Is this low self-esteem and low confidence?

The truth is I should have written years ago but fear stood in the way. Every. Single. Time. It stopped me from doing most things in my life. So, this got me thinking.

What is fear exactly and why is it so well……feared? Webster’s dictionary defines fear as “unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger.”

When I was a small child, I was petrified of the drain monster. My mother would scare the bejesus out of me with ‘Herbie’. I would peek fearfully down the bathroom sink that carried away the water and be petrified.

The garbage truck dude gave me a feeling of terror, the idea of this gigantic truck intruding upon me with its loud sounds paralyzed and terrified me at the same time.

Even though as an adult, I have become less scared of monsters lurking from the drain and giant trucks, I have developed many other fears and phobias. Some rational and some errrr not so rational.

Here’s what I am afraid of:

1. The dark — I don’t sleep with the lights off — can’t figure out why yet (maybe I watched too many gothic and supernational horror movies when I was younger)
2. Aging in a way that I look like uncle Fester from the Addams Family.
3. Death or injury by car accident
4. Being raped (when I was living in South Africa, this was my greatest fear)
5. Hi-jacked and taken to that “second” location (in South Africa).
6. Drowning (not a major fear)
7. Fear of being rejected (normal, I realise)
8. Abnormal fear of snakes — scared to the point of paralysis
9. Fear of worms (maybe it’s a fear of animals with no legs)
10. I panic greatly when in a crowded area, such as at a concert — claustrophobia, even though I love these, I feel like I can’t breathe
11. Fear of my mother growing old in South Africa without any of her children around — she has no brothers, sisters, cousins, aunties, uncles, nieces, nephews, there’s no one — but good ole’ Molly’, the neighbour.
12. Fear that all my promises to her will be broken.
13. Of course, fear harm will come to my husband and children.
14. Constant anxiety for my daughter, who is now an adult — even worse now that she has her drivers’ license (and lost it within 3 months, phew bit of a relief).
15. Thanks to the 2019 Australian bush fires, I now fear fire.
16. My shadow (as my mom would joke…no, that’s not really true).

My mindset has been fuelled by an undercurrent of constant fear that has made me stuck, but safe. To me, these are genuine fears, but to others not so much.

Then there is the personality disorder of fear. The neurotic side. I hate it when my meat touches my vegetables. I can’t fall asleep when my cupboard doors are open, even if it’s just a tiny bit open or I feel like someone is watching me. I can’t walk on grass barefoot — the grass touching my feet gives me the heebie-jeebies. Not to mention my road rage and obsessively overthinking and panic in non-life-threatening situations.

I didn’t realise these fears could stem from a certain personality disorder called neuroticism. Neuroticism as described by Tzeses from Psycom.net is the most debated personality disorder there is and is ‘heightened self-criticism’.

Betterhelp explains that a hallmark sign of neuroses is constantly worrying — this I do well. I worry about how others see me and like or dislike me and I need reassurance a lot. I drive the people in my life crazy. On the flip side, researcher Richard Zinbarg says that this is a good attribute, as I am empathetic to people’s emotions and want to make them feel better.

This constant neurotic state is exhausting, not only to me but to my relationships too. Writer Carol Anne Strange says it’s a self-limiting thought pattern that can create a jail and keep you in there for life. This is exactly what it’s done.

But I am not “one lab accident away from becoming a supervillain” as Leonard described his best friend, Sheldon Cooper. And I had myself tested, so rest assured I am mentally stable.

But maybe there isn’t a deep psychological reason I’m like this, maybe this is just how I am, and fears and phobias are sewn deep into my being. After all, we are who we are.

I’ve managed to live with it for so long. But the worst part is that I have lived through many traumatic events and after the tragedies of the bush fires and COVID-19 with its destructions and lockdowns, my fears and phobias seem insignificant. The universe is larger. And yet, here I am, still scared.

My survival strategy? I talk a lot about a particular fear when I feel like this, to my best friend (mother dearest) and anyone who’ll listen. I don’t take myself too seriously and I laugh at myself a lot and do feel ridiculous. But sometimes you have to let go of the fear, of any kind, and just go for it.

Relocation: Bravery or stupidity?

Image: Annie Spratt – Unsplash

The big question around relocating to another country or state even is “is it bravery or stupidity?” What makes us leave our comfort zone?

I said I’m “stuck”, I was being suffocated, I needed a challenge, this place is too small for me. But in truth, I left behind my entire life, my support structure, my career, and once the dust of the adventure settles, I am afraid — all the time.

What is so great about forcing yourself to be brave and strong? There are enough hardships in life when we need these qualities so why create hardships? In hindsight, I wouldn’t have done this had I known.

Romanticizing

No matter how well you think you thought the move through, it was still romanticized, and the stark reality is pushed aside, covered up. And as you go forward in your new life in the new place, day by day, you know that your life will never be the same again. Because in as much as you left the “bad” behind, you also left so much “good”. The old, threadbare words “nothing will change, we’ll email, phone, WhatsApp, visit” are a lie.

Once you have moved away, everything changes, and the friendships and family relationships take strain, and even if a friendship lasts through the years, through the distance, it’s so different, and the heartbreak sets in.

Then desperation kicks in

There are prayers for each other in tough times but no quick visits, no long visits with cup after cup of coffee. No hug, no shared tears. You become so desperate to see your friends and your closest family that you have to stop yourself from begging them for attention, for time, for a visit.

And how, in my mid-40’s, do you make new close friends? Friends that know you, the real you. Even if you chat to everyone you meet, no one is going to say ‘hey come over, I want to be your ‘bosom pal’. All these “new” people have their structures in place and don’t need a newcomer.

The question beckons

So, what was it? Bravery or stupidity? Sixteen years later and I’m asking the same question, and I still feel it was the greatest act of stupidity. Because you can never go back, nothing will ever be the same. You won’t be the same.

Suicide: Is it even a choice?

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This week my friend killed himself. Even though I hadn’t seen my friend in a few years, I am shattered over his death. The balance of my life has changed. We are all entwined and are part of each other’s worlds. When one person dies out of his time, it affects us all.

I do not know how I could have helped him, and I can’t shake the question if suicide is even a choice? His goal was to end his pain. How deep did that pain run in his veins?

I have considered suicide once or twice and I imagine it to be a lifelong wounding of the people left behind. But to honour my friend, I sit quietly and try to imagine my deepest pain, the darkest emotion and the void in my being and I go there, and I sit there for a while to feel what it must have felt like. To be a black river of loss, the abandonment, to feel his hopelessness.

In my soul, I quietly speak to him. What was your pain? How could I have gone inside your head to make you understand the heartbreak you’ll leave behind? Sadness that will be prolonged for a lifetime now that you’re gone and into your next life. I want to say that you are selfish, but I know that’s not the case. You were broken, a soul that was long gone before you took that handful of pills.

And I wonder if he lived in some kind of oubliette towards the end? An oubliette is the French word for a kind of dungeon with only one opening in the high ceiling, a prison from which there is no escape without help from the outside. The dictionary etymology of the word describes it as to “forget, show negligence”. Best-selling author Oriah Mountain Dreamer says this is the human experience-our own experience-of despair. To feel that you are forgotten-this is the worst of what we all fear.

I know he suffered deeply. He was on suicide watch many times and averted to traditional methods of trying to “cure” himself. From forced treatment, depression clinics, to self-medication such as alcohol.

The question to me is why, but not the why you think. My why is, why could no one reach him? He was trying to escape his life and had unbelievable pain in his heart. I can imagine he was desperate.

It’s all well telling someone to get professional help, but that kind of help is cold and impersonal. I doubt there is a discussion about social life, connections or what he did for his mental wellbeing. There are tons of information and support services out there, but they seem to be generic; I feel the help he needed was to surround himself with people he trusted, who didn’t try to fix him, who would listen without judgement, and he enjoyed being with.

I don’t know exactly what my friend went through the last years of his life as I had moved to Sydney, but what I do know is that he didn’t have a strong support system. Research says that having social buffers against stressful life events can help prevent mental breakdowns. Social connections and family in a man’s life is extremely important. Grassroot men’s group; to get out of the house and meet people and to socialise.

Last year the Australian Government announced that it was injecting $2.3 billion into mental health and suicide prevention — this is fantastic news — but for my friend, it’s too late.

Australia’s Treasurer Josh Frydenberg welcomed the focus on access to mental health services, particularly in regional areas. Over the next four years, money will be spent on a national network of adult mental health centres, treatments such as repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) and digital mental health services and group therapy, supporting the participation of family and carers.

But will these services decrease the suicide rates? Australia offers zillions of services. Lifeline, Beyond Blue, Blackdog Institute, Kids Helpline, NSW Mental Health Line, Suicide Call Back Service, Sane Australia, National Alliance on Mental Illness, R U OK?, The list goes on. And then what type of help will realistically help people on the verge of taking their own life?

Professor Emeritus, Anthony Jorm from The University of Melbourne says that it’s an uncomfortable truth that neither Australia nor any other comparable country has improved the mental health of its citizens by increasing mental health services.

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It’s a risk as there’s no guarantee that these extra services funded in the budget will make a difference. I’m hopeful it will. But as Jorm says it’s important we focus on the longer-term benefits of these services to mental health rather than on the immediate increases in services the money will buy.

Statistics show that even though rates aren’t rising, painfully 3,139 Australians still took their life in 2020 (2021 figures not out yet) — equivalent to 8.6 people each day. And even more alarming, this rate is more than three times that of COVID-19 deaths of the same year (1,442). Suicide is the leading cause of death in people aged 18 to 44 and second leading cause of death for Australians aged between 45 to 54 (ABS 2019a). My friend was 55 when he ended his life.

We have to do better!

I’m back to quietly talking to my friend in my quiet space. I know you felt hopeless and desperate and that nothing was right in the universe for you. As Mark Manson writes, “our minds tell us it’s an inevitable fuckedness of tomorrow” — that is true. But I wish you had stayed, and I wish someone had reached you sooner.

***

Anyone feeling emotionally distressed or suicidal can call Samaritans for help on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org or jo@samaritans.ie in the UK. In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1–800–273–8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.

Teenagers could kill…………………………….but how much do we love them?

Teenagers…………..well what more shall I say about them?

When people think of fairy tales, they think, “children.” But pay close attention to the stories and a bigger picture emerges.

When looking back at the fairytales of my childhood and comparing them to my adulthood especially now that I have an impossibly misbehaved teenage daughter, I am beginning to see the logic behind the reason for locking Repunzel in a tower, sending Snow White to a ghastly death, putting a rather “awkward” spell on Princess Fiona ensuring she remains an ugly green creature until she meets true love (which ofcourse in real life would never happen), sending Cinderella into slavery, and then there is Sleeping Beauty – lets put her to sleep for one hundred years.  She will never get up to mischief – never do drugs – never complain or be “cheeky” to her parents and never have a chance to be addicted to any kind of social media that will ruin her life.

Adolescence has always been troubled, but for reasons that are somewhat mysterious. I now understand completely why these measures were taken (never mind the true reasons behind them).  The fact remains, these fairy tale princesses were teenagers.

I am by no means a square mother, I am open minded and love my child with all my being, but I sometimes DO feel like locking her away in the highest room of the tallest tower.

Hello!!

In our culture (I am South African), we always say hello and how are you?  It does not matter whether you know the person or not, a friend or enemy, you still say hello and how are you?  If it is a friend you might say “Howzit”, meaning ‘hi how are you’ – all in one go.  The next response from the receiving person would be “I’m fine thanks and you”.  It does not matter how you feel, you still say I’m fine thanks (South African attitude).  So, at work or socially I always say Hello to people with a ‘How are you’?  If it is a good customer, I will say ‘Hello, are things well on your side?’

When I say good bye, it is usually ‘Good Bye, have a fantastic day’, if it is a customer.  When it is a friend or colleague, I’ll say ‘Bye, have a great night’.  When I say good bye to my really close girlfriends, it will be ‘Cheers, see you later’.

I really dislike uncomfortable moments and I often find myself talking the biggest amount of nonsense just to fill the silence.  I don’t often have those uncomfortable moments because I talk a lot and ask people about their lives and that keeps the conversation going until intuition kicks in and I know its time to go with a humourous closure.

In Defence of Rhetoric: No Longer Just for Liars

In the web link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BYMUCz9bHAs&feature=youtube&hd=1, the key discussion about Rhetoric are:

  • Dispel
  • Defend
  • Answer

Most people do not understand Rhetoric and that is why it is extremely controversial.  When communicating, the components of an argument should be broken down.  When persuading people, the orator is more self-conscious about practices – they should clear what they are trying to say and tailor to individual situations.

People do not realise, that in today’s modern society, there is Rhetoric every where.  Everybody has to talk at some point and they must have the ability to speak, whether it is for a job interview, going shopping, drawing a picture, communicating with a cab driver or even searching on Google (a person is making a decision as to their career opportunities).

The rhetorical triangle consists of:

  • What messages do we want to create or communicate?
  • Who are the audiences and what are their expectations or needs?
  • Communictor – how to address them.

Choose what to say and how to say it, then the audience can understand, believe and agree with the orator.

Another point the video makes is that Rhetoric is the science which refreshes the hungry, renders the mute, articulates, makes the blind see and teaches one to avoid every lingual ineptitude.  It is not just a language, but also a culture.

Rhetoric is a discipline.  All fields of study are determined by discipline.  Rhetoric is epistemic which is used by everything from mundane to the bible.  Finally, Rhetoric is about making one’s own decision, not somebody else’s.  Gather the facts and start talking….

The Art of Aristotle

Would rhetoric work for speakers who want to outwit their audience and hide their real motives?  So, what does Aristotle say about rhetoric?

Aristotle says rhetoric is the counterpart of dialectic, namely, the discussion and reasoning by conversation in which arguments are persuaded to find truth and lies.

He believes that the audiences of public speech are ordinary people who do not follow an exact proof on the principles of science.  These audiences will lose interested on subjects or issues that they do not relate to.  Aristotle states that the situation detoriates if the constitution, the laws and the rhetorical habits in a country or town are bad.

Some public speeches do not relay all the knowledge – they leave room for doubt; this is important if the person is credible and the audience is in a compassionate frame of mind. The decisions of juries and assemblies is a matter of persuasiveness, not of knowledge (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy 2010). Certain speakers can be persuasive simultaneously, but it is rhetoric that assists in discovering all means of persuasion on any topic.

The three classes of listeners are:

  • The hearer – must be a judge with a decision to make either past or present.
  • Observer – member of assembly decides a speaker’s skill, and comprises:  political, forensic and ceremonial display.

Political – either to do or not to do something.  Forensic – attacks or defends.  Ceremonial – either praises or censures and is concerned with the present. Aristotle believes that some events occur naturally or by accident.

The absolute art of rhetoric:

Political speeches consists of the following:

  • Ways and Means – the speaker must know and understand the availability of the country’s resources and revenues.  What needs to be increased or decreased to maintain a good economy.
  • Peace & War – know the strength of the military, both actual and potential.  It is important to gain knowledge not only in his own country but also in other countries.
  • National Defence – must understand the various methods of defence – what is the defence force’s strengths and weaknesses and character?
  • Imports/Exports – What resources needs to be outlaid to meet the demands of his country.  What commodoties are produced within his country as well as abroad? Agreements and commercial treaties must be made with the traded countries.
  • Legislation – the most important issue is legislation.  The speaker must understand the country’s laws as it is these laws that it’s welfare depends on.

Aristotle believed that humans gain knowledge from experience, from ecouraging probable knowledge, therefore examining what is the truth of a particular case.

Aristotle spent a great deal of time in his work on rhetoric, talking about virtue and character. He explains the concept of credibility and its importance, but he thought clearly on the subject (Horton 2004).  He entertained the idea that audiences can be persuaded by using emotional words.

Aristotle continues that our judgments, when we are pleased and friendly are not the same as when we are pained and hostile.  He talks a lot about emotions, mood, love, hate, pain and admits that emotions control man.  The speaker will have to speak so as to bring his audience into a frame of mind that will augment these emotions.

Aristotle summarises the arguments available to a speaker in dealing with evidence that supports or weakens a case. These arguments contain laws, witnesses, contracts, tortures, and oaths.

He highlights arete, which is defined as virtue or excellence. When applied to rhetoric, arête means natural rather than forced or artificial.  Metaphors are also addressed as a skill that cannot be taught and should bestow “verbal beauty”.

Aristotle discusses the simile.  Similes are only occasionally useful in speech since they are poetic and their similiarity to a metaphor.  Speaking properly by using connectives, calling things by their specific name, avoiding terms with ambiguous meanings, observing nouns, and correctly using singular and plural words.

Rhythm should be incorporated into a style to make it well “rhythmed” but not to the extent of a poem.  He covers the necessary parts of a speech which include the statement of the proposition and proof of the statement, along with the introduction and conclusion.  The conclusion must contain the following: disposing the hearer favourably toward the speaker and unfavourably to the opponent, amplifying and minimising, moving the hearer into emotional reactions, and giving a reminder of the speech’s main points.

This is the most important single work written on persuasion.

First post

Hi

I am Candice Gouck and I am studying for a Bachelor of Professional Communications degree.  Hopefully one day I will finish it (when I’m 80, ha ha).  I’m almost half way through my degree, but doing it part time takes a long time.

I am thirty something and into my third year at uni.  I am from Johannesburg, South Africa and have been in Australia for 7 years.  Ever since I left school I have wanted to do Public Relations but never got the opportunity.  I was too busy with life.

I left a life I knew behind in South Africa, of family and very close friends to have to start over again.  There has been many challenges and a lot of tears but eventually we settled in Australia.  First of all, my greatest aim for this course is to finish it and finish it well……and finally do some PR work.