Reflections on society, politics and nature XVII

Continued from previous posts…. These posts are collections of brief notes on society, politics, and nature. I sometimes include a few short personal notes as well.

Positive self-talk? The Norwegian Crown Prince happened to mention that learning positive self-talk can be helpful for young people, and now psychologists are competing in informing the public how “naive” and “dangerous” it is to recommend positive self-talk. And while there are different forms of positive self-talk, and some are more helpful than others, I generally agree with the Crown Prince.

Many of us have internalized “negative” or painful ways of dialoging and talking with ourselves, perhaps from painful experiences with family and friends, and what we see in our culture. We talk ourselves down. Noticing this, and learning more constructive self-talk is not only helpful but essential for a good life.

How would I talk with myself if I was a beloved friend or family member? What would a constructive and kind friend say?

This form of self-talk can be very simple, and it’s important to keep it realistic. For instance, if I have a test or job interview, I can tell myself “do your best, that’s enough” and “the worst that can happen is that you’ll repeat the test / find another job”.

If I notice that an emotional issue is triggered in me, and it’s telling me scary things, I can tell myself “this is an issue in me talking, it’s coming from reactivity and fear and it’s not realistic or telling me the truth”.

Another name for positive self-talk is re-parenting. We may not have internalized an optimal form of self-talk when we grew up, but as adults, we can re-parent ourselves. We can learn a more constructive, kind, and even wise form of self-talk. We can learn to more consistently be on our own side.

My calling? What is my calling? For a while, I thought it was art and doing research within health psychology and the effects of traditional spiritual practices, but life has a way of going in another direction than we plan for. The one consistent thread through my life, from as far back as I can remember, is exploration. I have always been passionate about exploration. As a kid, by reading adventure books (Jack London, Jules Verne, etc.) and books about real-life adventures and explorations (moon landing, Thor Heyerdahl etc.). In my early teens, explorations into ESP through reading about it and doing my own experiments (sometimes statistical). And in my mid-teens, it turned more to psychology and spirituality, along with the history and methods of science.

October 18, 2019

Climate crisis denial scientists. An international group of scientists is having a series of press conferences to inform people that there is no climate change and no climate crisis. The only tiny problem is that none of them are actual climate scientists! It’s not their field. They don’t know what they are talking about.

It’s as if a group of random non-quantum physics scientists gave a press conference denying the main findings of quantum physics or a coalition of astronomers publishing a statement about the state of mountain lions in the world today that goes counter to the view of 99.9% of zoologists actually studying mountain lions.

Of course, this group of anti-climate change scientists is led by someone working for the petroleum industry. And the point is, as usual, to sow just enough doubt so they can keep business-as-usual going for just a little longer. The petroleum industry knows that our petroleum era is fast coming to an end, they just want to squeeze a little more money out of it first.

October 19, 2019

Why do I have the orientation I have? Why do I think as I do, like and dislike what I do, feel the way I do about different things? When someone asks me, I automatically look at conditioning. It’s usually a combination of culture, family, personal experiences, genetics and so on.

There are two ways to answer these questions, and which one we chose says something about our general orientation to life and – of course – our conditioning!

If someone asks me why I like Arvo Pärt’s music or progressive/liberal politics, I can explain that Pärt’s music is the most beautiful one to me and I like the disharmony within harmony, and the simplicity of it, and so on, and I can explain that places with more progressive/liberal politics often have higher quality of life, that larger parts of society are taken care of, and so on. But that’s not so interesting. We know those things already. And we know that any position can easily be explained and supported by thoughts. That’s the job of thoughts.

To me, it’s more interesting to look at my conditioning. What is it in my background that may explain why I like or prefer something?

That’s perhaps more interesting to me also because it’s more difficult to answer. It requires a bit more looking.

Why do I prefer progressive/liberal politics? It’s partly because I live in a country that has shown it to work. Many here have the same or a similar view on politics as I do. (My father and brother are much more conservative than I am, but my mother and cousins are more similar.)

Why do I like Pärt’s music? This one is more difficult to answer. The most honest answer – and the one I am least likely to mention in ordinary conversation – is because of the spiritual opening that happened in my teens. His music resonates with how I experience the world and Spirit.

I also like looking at the conditioning because it shifts me out of defending or propping up my orientation and preferences and into finding the reasons outside of myself. It feels more honest. More interesting. More chance of discovery.

October 22, 2019

Spoiler alert? This is another revisited topic. I often like to know the story before I watch a movie. It allows the part of my mind trying to figure out what’s going on and keeping track of people and plotlines to relax, and I can instead enjoy the story as it unfolds. I can pay more attention to the visuals, the storytelling (and foreshadowing), and character descriptions and development. Although it is important how a story ends in terms of working with it as if it was a dream (seeing all the elements and the dynamics as part of me), it’s not so interesting to me otherwise since I know the story – and the ending – is made up anyway and could have gone in a myriad different directions.

It seems clear that the current spoiler aversion, especially in the US, is cultural. I also suspect it’s a fad and it may change in the future.

Crowdsourced movies. I know The Martian was partly crowdsourced by the author (mostly for the science), and I am a bit surprised not more authors and screenwriters do it.

As an example: before The Last Jedi came out, there were some very interesting, surprising, and deeply satisfying fan-theories about the plot of the movie, while the movie itself turned out to be – in my experience – far less interesting or satisfying than these. (Disjointed from many of the plots of The Force Awakens, lack of character development, lack of more satisfying archetypal plotlines and developments, a poor psychological justification for Luke’s isolation, and so on.)

I imagine a more collaborative process where they screenwriters and director actively used and worked with fans to develop the storyline. They could use one overarching idea and developed it, and perhaps insert some other ideas as subplots and minor plotlines. The story could still be kept mostly secret since some seem to enjoy the surprise when watching a movie, and it would likely have led to a more creative, surprising, and satisfying movie. Especially for long-time fans like me.

Of course, when it comes to the current Star Wars trilogy, it seems Disney wasn’t so interested in appealing to long-time fans. They didn’t even have a strong storyline in place for the new trilogy as a whole, which would be the first thing you did if you cared about the story and the fans at all. They know that as long as they make a moderately OK sci-fi movie with good visuals and special effects, they’ll do well financially. I guess that’s enough for them. After all, that’s the reason for their existence.

Recent Star Wars trilogy. What did I hope from the new Star Wars trilogy? I had hoped for a strong storyline for the trilogy as a whole, perhaps even using George Luka’s initial outline. Strong archetypal themes as in the original trilogy. A focus on the three from the original trilogy, especially since this is likely the last chance to see them together (which it turned out to be). Strong character development of new and old characters, with some themes related to old age for the original ones. Introduction of new characters as a subtheme, again with archetypal themes and strong character development.

Since these are some of the main reasons fans loved and love the original trilogy, it seems it wouldn’t be too much to hope for. And yet, they did exactly the opposite of this. They focused on new characters, even if they’ll have an indefinite number of other movies to do this in. They left out strong character development. They didn’t bring in strong archetypal themes, at least not so far. Most surprising of all, they didn’t seem to have a strong storyline for the three movies as a whole. The two first seemed disjointed with a lot of dropped plotlines.

In addition to this, I am concerned that the third of the recent trilogy will have to tie up a lot of loose plotlines, giving it a rushed and “tying up plotlines” feel similar to the last season of GoT.

I feel I am not atypical in my response to the Disney Star Wars movies. I loved Rogue One – it feels like Star Wars, it has a good story, and it feels like it was made by people who love and know Star Wars. I couldn’t get more than five minutes into Han Solo, mostly because of the cringe-inducing dialog. The first movie in the new trilogy was OK but felt a bit hollow (as most JJ Abrahms movies do for some reason), and it also felt like a redoing of parts of the initial trilogy. And the second in the trilogy felt disjointed, had poor (or nonexistent) character development, and felt like it was made by someone who primarily wanted to subvert expectations – more than they wanted to make a good movie that felt like it belonged to the SW universe.

Recent Star Trek. On the topic of complaining about new versions of old sci-fi favorites, I have been disappointed in a slightly different way about recent Star Trek movies and TV-series. All of them seem to have lost what made Star Trek special and beloved by fans: Roddenberry’s fundamentally optimistic view on humanity and our future.

Star Trek presented a future where humanity has matured beyond the “childhood diseases” of bigotry, discrimination, nationalism, destruction of nature, huge gaps between the haves and have-nots, and so on. It showed a future where humanity functions as one, where everyone is taken care of, and where adventure and exploration beyond this planet is the new frontier. It also showed leaders – especially Picard and to some extent Janeway and Sisko – that were mature, deeply likable, and good role models.

In contrast, the recent(ish) Star Trek movies lost that overarching philosophy and became run-of-the-mill Hollywood science fiction movies. And the new TV-series decended into petty teenage bickering and small-minded personal conflicts. I actually honestly thought it was set in the Star Trek mirror universe, and when I realized that was not the case, I stopped watching it. (Also because it’s deeply unrealistic that anyone behaving in the way they do would be seen fit to work in the jobs they do.)

Although cherry-picking slightly, this video shows the differences between TNG and STD quite well.

How to talk about alternative healing. The boyfriend of the Norwegian princess is a shaman from the US, and he has written a book partly about – according to the news – shamanic approaches to curing cancer. A Norwegian publishing company pulled the book before it hit the bookstores, partly because of the attention this has drawn in the media.

Since I do energy healing, you may think I would disagree. But I happen to agree with the decision, at least if what the media says about the book is true. I know that energy healing and shamanic approaches to healing can be remarkably effective, and I have seen “miracles”. And yet, there are a few things that are important in how we talk about it.

One is that it is effective sometimes and not always, and sometimes you need to do a lot of work on underlying conditions. We can’t guarantee anything. Another is to emphasize that the client needs to do what they can with conventional medicine and follow the advice of their doctor. If they don’t, I won’t help them. And a third is that energy and shamanic work supports the system in healing itself. The healing itself doesn’t heal anything, despite its name.

Update: A day after, the news now gives more details. Apparently, the shaman boyfriend writes that we get cancer because we want to die. Again, I can’t say I disagree with the choice of pulling the book. Cancer obviously has a lot of different reasons, including genetics, lifestyle (diet, inactivity, smoking, etc.), and environmental toxins. The emotional component is uncertain.

As I have written about in another article, the initiating, maintaining, and healing factors of illness can each be different. With cancer, we don’t know if emotional issues is a clear initiating factor or not. But we do know that finding healing for emotional issues can reduce stress, and this can support the self-healing processes of the body. With something as serious as cancer, conventional medical treatment will always be primary, and complementary treatments a support.

October 25, 2019

Do you believe in God? Our questions say a lot about the mindset it’s coming from, and this question is no exception. In this case, it reflects two assumptions. One is relating to God as an image. The other, that God is something to “believe” in or not. Something we somehow have to twist our minds into taking as true even if we don’t know. In other words, something we have to lie to ourselves about. Another way to phrase the question is: do you lie to yourself? In cultures where we are supposed to “believe” in a God, we learn to lie to ourselves.

Getting to know people I initially dislike. I have done a series of courses in a particular modality, and one woman has been in most of them with me. In the first classes, she talked a lot and in loud and penetrating voice, and I noticed it triggered stress in me and dislike for her and I saw myself wanting to avoid her.

At the end of one day, we ended up at the subway station in Berkeley together and talked for a while, and I got to know her more as a person. From this and other interactions, I understood more about her background (strong trauma), I saw her consistently kind heart and behavior, and I found myself liking her. Her voice still triggers the stress response in my system, and it’s uncomfortable, but at least I like her now.

This is one of many examples where I – for one reason or another – initially dislike someone, and then soften my view as I get to understand them more. Since my early twenties, my guideline has been to intentionally get to know people I initially dislike, and it does change how my system relates to them.

I may not want to spend a lot of time with them, but at least I understand and like them a little more. And that’s more comfortable for me. It’s closer to the truth. The reality is that the more I get to know someone and their background, the more understanding and empathy I have for them.

It’s a relatively common insight. And I like following the guideline of getting to know people I initially dislike.

October 26, 2019

Exercise to lose weight? In order to lose weight, eat fewer calories. That’s pretty obvious. And yet, some experts also say that exercising to lose weight is misguided. To me, that advice seems misguided. Exercising does several things that can help us lose weight. It improves mood which can reduce comfort-eating. It can boost metabolism. And, in my own experience, I also notice that exercise helps me eat better – I am drawn to healthier foods and less interested in junk food. So although eating fewer calories is obviously essential for losing weight, exercise can do a lot too – both as support in losing weight and for maintaining a lower weight.

Radical love. Yes, we can acknowledge the harmful things people do. We can do what we can to stop and remedy it. And we can also seek to understand, have empathy, and even find love for the person doing these things.

It seems very obvious. And it seems obvious that this approach helps us deal with difficult situations better (more clear, less reactive) and find more peace for ourselves (understanding and love gives peace).

And yet, it’s still a radical approach for humanity even after a few thousands of years of civilization. I guess this is just another of the childhood diseases of humanity – the assumption that to deal with a situation and protect people, we need to vilify someone. The assumption that to deal with someone hurting people, we need to hurt people in how we deal with it.

October 29, 2019

Media bias. When I learned a new programming language many years ago, one of the first things I made was a program to determine how newsworthy a situation is – from the perspective of western media. The wealthier the people, the closer to us geographically, the more famous, and the more and higher technology involved, the more newsworthy. Five hundred people dying in a remote and poor country may get a small notice. Something happening with the space station, or a wealthy or famous person in the west, will get the same or a lot more articles. We all know about this bias, although the media itself doesn’t usually acknowledge it – perhaps because it seems a bit cynical.

Another bias I notice in Norwegian media is towards what’s happening in English speaking countries, and especially Great Britain and the US (and to some extent Canada). I assume it’s because most journalists speak English well, and perhaps not so many other languages, so they get their information from English speaking sources and pass this on to their readers or viewers.

October 31, 2019

Brexit. Brexit is a first world problem and yet it’s interesting to me. Perhaps because it says something about how people can be manipulated by overly simplistic solutions and misleading information, and partly because it may impact me directly (I have had a dream of living in England).

From the beginning, it was clear that there was no Brexit solution or deal that was better than what they have now – which is a major reason it’s so difficult for the parliament to agree on a deal, that the Brexit dream was largely rooted in an idea about Britain that belongs to the previous century, and that many leading Brexiteers wished to use Brexit as an opportunity to erode rights for people and nature. Brexit may still happen but nobody would be surprised if it doesn’t.

Trygdeeksport. Norwegian conservative government politicians frequently talk about “exporting government benefits” as if it’s an inherently bad and wrong thing. To me, there are not really any good and rational reasons why people shouldn’t take their money and live in another country. It doesn’t matter for Norway, and for those who are able to live abroad, it can mean a great deal for their quality of life. (They can get more for their money, and a warmer and dryer climate greatly helps some people.) The anti-exporting-government-benefits view seems mostly grounded in old-fashioned judgmental attitudes and the idea that people who receive government benefits – even if it’s because they are legitimately unable to work for health reasons – should be punished and have a miserable life as possible so it’s not attractive for others to get in the same situation. It’s a view that’s rooted in privilege and a deeply cynical and disturbing view on human beings.

November 1, 2019

What will happen with the world? As we all know, we are in an ecological crisis of gigantic and global proportions. Not only are we not doing nearly enough to change course, we are – most of us – not even addressing the real systemic problems and changes we need to make.

The real solution is simple as a concept: we need to change from a system that assumes nature is infinite (resources, waste) to a system that knows and takes into account that nature and Earth is finite. That systemic change will take care of a lot of the problems since living within it will make our actions largely sustainable.

So what will happen? What’s the forecast? It’s perhaps not so useful to speculate about it too much, but it is useful to have some scenarios in mind as guides and to inform our views and actions.

I often use the guideline that it won’t be as bad as we fear, and it won’t be as good as we hope. In general, that’s what happens with most things.

Already, huge numbers of species are gone, huge areas of natural ecosystems are gone, all ecosystems have been significantly impacted by human activity, and large numbers of humans suffer and have died because of unraveling ecosystems, environmental toxins, and the climate crisis.

We see the old system holding on and fighting back for dear life (Trump and – to some extent –Brexit, are examples of this).

We see most people not realizing what needs to change.

We see an old and outdated mindset assuming that a more sustainable system is inherently a system of deprivation. (It can be thriving.)

We see some people developing pieces of the new system and showing us that it can work.

We see some understanding what really needs to change, and speaking up about it.

My best guess of what will happen is that it will be a mix of everything.

Ecosystems will continue to unravel. We will continue to lose species. People will still suffer and die from ecological problems and distasters.

In some places, ecosystems will be protected and people will be more – but not completely – sheltered from these impacts.

The whole world will be impacted by mass migrations of people escaping from areas that do no longer support a reasonable quality of life.

The rich will find ways to have a reasonably good life. The poor will, as so often, be the ones taking most of the impact.

It will get much worse before it gets better. And it may get better only in some regions of the world. (Other areas may already be too impacted and not have enough resources to recover.)

Assigning causes to something unchangeable. During the Norwegian televised Fischer Random world championship, a female chess player was asked why the top chess players in the world are (mostly) men. She replied that women are not as good at chess as men because men are more rational and women more emotional. I was surprised by the answer. Fortunately, the male commentators took another view: The difference is probably cultural, men receive more support and encouragement, and there is no inherent reason why women shouldn’t be – and won’t be – as good as men in chess.

This seems a more accurate answer and one that’s much more encouraging for young female players who want to be in the world elite. It seems almost impossible that there would be any innate reasons for women to not be as good in chess as men as in just about anything else (apart from some physical sports).

Talking about culture, I wonder if the reason for the difference in view is cultural. The female chess player is from Ukraine and the men from Norway, so it may be that her view reflects her culture.

As a footnote, I’ll mention that the female chess player has a Ph.D. in pedagogy, and yet her answer was as un-pedagogical as can be if she wants to encourage young female players with ambition to continue with their sport…!

November 2, 2019

Chess, theater, and intuition. The world championship in Fischer Random chess just ended, and I am again reminded of chess as theater and how the image of chess has been systematically and carefully developed over decades and centuries.

Visually, they all wear suits and are on a stage as if it’s a theater performance. The unfolding drama at and outside the table is similar to theater as well, although that’s probably because chess is a slice of life and theater imitates life! The image that has been developed is of chess as a gentleman’s activity and a measure of some sort of global intelligence (chess intelligence is a mix of a limited set of intelligences and not a measure of the many other types of intelligences). They have systematically built up the status of chess, and through that, they have been able to attract a good deal of sponsor money as well.

Magnus Carlsen –the world champion in classical chess – lost Fischer Random. He is known to have an unusually good chess intuition – developed over years of practice and playing, and I wonder if he lost because he can’t apply that intuition in Fischer Random as well as he can in classical chess while his opponent has other qualities that fit Fischer Random better. Of course, there may be other and more mundane reasons as well – a couple of inevitable bad days, home town disadvantage, overconfidence, and so on.

November 4, 2019

What not to do as a therapist or spiritual teacher. I notice I have a mental record of times I encountered a therapist, or spiritual teacher, or medical doctor, and felt not seen. The reason these instances – and there are many of them – have made an impact is probably because this is an emotional issue for me. From early childhood, I remember many times I felt not seen and I can connect with it now as well.

As the stories below show, I tend to accept that other people make wrong assumptions about me and resign to it without trying to do much about it, and that’s part of the issue as well.

I once met with a self-appointed spiritual teacher in Oslo (Vigdis G.), and she quite forcefully and authoritatively (a) made strong (and wrong) assumptions about me and my background, (b) used a fire & brimstone approach where she seemed to think that if she was insistent enough that would create some change, (c) she was condescending and talked down to me as if I wasn’t already familiar with what she talked about, (d) she used a monologue approach instead of dialogue or collaborative investigation. It felt like a mostly useless couple of hours.

At the CFS-centered at a major hospital in Oslo, I was given a psychological questionnaire before meeting with the psychologist as part of the standard exclusion process to set a CFS diagnosis. The questionnaire asked about the presence of things that are on a scale (I answered “yes” to just about all for that reason) without asking for the strength (which was very low and had no impact on daily life). I assumed I would talk to the psychologist about the questionnaire so I would be able to explain, but she read it on her own and – again – made very strong and inaccurate assumptions that I was unable to do anything to change. (She sent me to a specialist who just shook his head about her and saw it as a waste of his time, which it was.)

When I started going to a spiritual center in Oregon (CSS), I went to talk to the main teacher about the awakening process I had been in for many years. He asked me questions that clearly showed me he was looking for the common short-term side-effects of awakening, and I had to answer “no” to all of them since they had happened two decades earlier and only lasted a few years. He asked questions based on an assumption (that the initial opening had happened recent enough for the side-effects to still be there) and made another assumption based on the answers. Fortunately, a couple of the junior teachers were more open-minded and receptive and could meet me where I was coming from.

Again, in Oregon, I went to my medical doctor for a routine examination and she said sternly “eat less salt”. It made no sense to me since I have never had high blood pressure or any other conditions related to salt, and I didn’t eat processed food and only food made from scratch. Against my better judgment, I stopped adding the little salt I had added to my food and within a few weeks almost died of a heat stroke in the 35-40 degree weather. (I desperately needed salt because of the hot weather.)

Of course, there have been many more interactions in similar settings that have been very useful and where I felt seen.

November 8, 2019

A neighbor with a different mindset. My parents still live in the house where I grew up. When I was little, there was a large barn next door, little or no outdoor lighting, and a (well kept) dirt road leading up to the house. A few years ago, a new neighbor moved into the house across from my parents, and they made several changes including a lot of outdoor lighting and street lights (!) along the tiny road to the two houses, and they also had the gravel road paved.

For me, it was one of those painful experiences from seeing what I loved as a child changed into something far less charming. Why put asphalt on a tiny road that never needed it? Isn’t there enough asphalt already in the world? Why remove the potholes that filled with water so birds and animals could drink from them and take a bath in them, and children could play in them and make dams and streams? Why replace it with something as sterile (and toxic) as asphalt? Why replace a beautiful dark starry night sky with light pollution? Isn’t there enough light pollution in the world already? Don’t they know what impact light pollution has on animals and humans?

It obviously shows a different mindset, also reflected in that they seem to watch TV all the time and are almost never in the yard or outside in general.

As anything else, it has helped me look at some things in myself. A wish for what I loved as a child to not change. (Unrealistic, not even desirable.) A wish for nature to be preserved as much as possible. (Often not happening these days.) A wish for awareness and some thought put into our choices. (Again, doesn’t always happen with us humans.) I also see the myopic view behind this – wanting this one tiny road to be preserved in a world where a huge amount of things are happening which I – as a very human human being with lots of biases – either like or don’t like. And, of course, these neighbors may be amazing people doing amazing things in the world for all I know.

What’s most important is how I relate to it (as an enemy or with kindness) and the actions I take in the world. That’s my business.

I don’t think I have done explicit inquiry on this situation, but it has simmered in me, changed and shifted over time, and been digesting.

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