|*About Bobbing Around
guidelines for contributions*Politics
An open letter to the Prime Minister*Environment
Why IPCC forecasts have to be wildly optimistic
Ecology Is the Meaning of Life, by Dr. Glen Barry
Obedience to Corporate-State Authority Makes Consumer Society Increasingly Dangerous, by Dr Yosef Brody
Bigger Than That (The Difficulty of Looking at Climate Change), by Rebecca Solnit
*What my friends want you to know
A brief essay on brief therapy
I’ve just been notified that Ernest Dempsey has posted a little essay from me. You could possibly change your life just by reading 500 words or so.
Bobbing Around is COPYRIGHTED. No part of it may be reproduced in any form, at any venue, without the express permission of the publisher (ME!) and the author if that is another person. You may forward the link to anyone else.
Because of a hacking attack, Savvy Authors have had to move their web site. My August essay with them, Empathy: the novelist’s most powerful tool is again accessible.
From the 31st of October, they are featuring a second writing essay from me:Bringing a story to life. Please visit and leave a comment.
Also, please note that Ascending Spiral has its own Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/AscendingSpiral
I’d be grateful for a “Like.”
Pushcart Prize nomination
The Pushcart Prize — Best of the Small Presses series, published every year since 1976, is the most honored literary project in America. Writers who were first noticed here include: Raymond Carver, Tim O’Brien, Jayne Anne Phillips, Charles Baxter, Andre Dubus, Susan Minot, Mona Simpson, John Irving, Rick Moody, and many more. Each year most of the writers and many of the presses are new to the series.
Victor Volkman, the publisher at Loving Healing Press, has done me the honour of nominating Ascending Spiral for this prestigious award.
An open letter to the Prime Minister
24th October, 2013
The Right Hon. Tony Abbott
Dear Mr Abbott,
A private citizen may hold any opinion, however wrong it may be. A PM hasn’t got that luxury. You need to form your opinions on the best available evidence.
You have stated that the bushfires in NSW are not related to climate change. This flies in the face of the evidence.
Extreme weather events like drought, unseasonably high temperatures, and high winds have complex, multiple, interacting causes. Nevertheless, there is an average that can be observed.
This applies to other things, e.g., human height. People’s height varies. However, babies born to women who drink alcohol during pregnancy are shorter on the average than they would have been otherwise. It’s possible to extract the influence of this one factor from among many others that influence height.
The same holds for the weather patterns that increase wildfire risk. Multiple causes interact to determine daily temperature, wind speed, humidity, rainfall. Several of these causal factors have been demonstrated to be affected by climate change. Looking at weather statistics over the past 30 years clearly shows upward trends in fire risk in Australia.
If you cannot understand this, you should resign.
I am responsible for anything I have written. However, where I reproduce contributions from other people, I do not necessarily endorse their opinions. I may or may not agree with them, but give them
the courtesy of a forum.
Peace is not an absence of war; it is a virtue; a state of mind; a disposition for benevolence; confidence; and justice.
Why IPCC forecasts have to be wildly optimistic
Ecology Is the Meaning of Life by Dr. Glen Barry
Obedience to Corporate-State Authority Makes Consumer Society Increasingly Dangerous by Yosef Brody
Bigger Than That (The Difficulty of Looking at Climate Change) by Rebecca Solnit
Why IPCC forecasts have to be wildly optimistic
IPCC base their work on science, as they should. On that basis, the current forecast is that unless we make major changes, we have perhaps 30 years before universal catastrophe.
Globally, many hundreds of scientists gather and study data. They apply sophisticated statistical techniques (mostly referred to as “computer models”).
So, the analysis is based on well established, validated and cross-validated trends that have been shown to hold beyond reasonable doubt, typically at or beyond the “95% confidence level.”
When I am considering insurance, I don’t have the luxury of making my decisions on such a basis. The probability of accidental damage to a car has to be one for many thousands of kilometres driven, and yet it is foolish to decide to drive without insurance. That rare event is expensive enough that allowing for it is good sense.
The same is true for climate change. For practical purposes, it is CERTAIN that business as usual will lead to the destruction of human culture, the death of billions, and perhaps the extinction of humanity in 30 years. However, there is a significant risk, far more probable than accidental damage to my car, that disaster will strike a lot faster than that.
There is plenty of evidence for this, but it is not (yet) up to the level of scientific rigour required for an official IPCC prediction.
For example, there is now evidence that the Greenland ice cap is melting from below (because Greenland is a potential supervolcano that has been kept from exploding by the weight of the now thinning ice). The West Antarctic Ice Shelf, which is so heavy it has depressed the sea bottom under it by between 500 and 1000 metres, is being attacked by warmer water. The slope of the sea bottom is such that once a breakup starts, it could continue very fast.
IPCC forecasts simply cannot factor in such real but so far unquantifiable risks.
So, almost certainly, we don’t have 30 years. I will be very glad if we see 2020.
We can, and should, work for a miracle. We can save humanity, but only if we have a complete change of attitude. If every resource of every person, organisation and country were aimed at sustainability instead of expansion, then we could do it.
Ecology Is the Meaning of Life by Dr. Glen Barry
Ultimately, all humanity and all life have is the biosphere, the thin layer of life just above and below Earth’s surface, composed of ancient, miraculously evolved natural ecosystems. The natural Earth is a marvel — a complex coupling of species within ecosystems, whereby life begets life.
Ecology is far more than the study of life and its environment. The word is used here as a synonym for ecosystems — the vibrant connections that emerge between species across scales, which cumulatively make life on Earth possible.
Nature is far, far more than pretty plants and animals. Ecosystems make Earth habitable, providing water, food, air, shelter, and more — everything that we need and desire to live well. In naturally evolved ecosystems, from genes to individual organisms and species, to ecosystems and everything else in between, each living being present fulfills a niche which sustains itself, its neighbors, and the whole.
The Earth as a whole is a living organism, similar biologically to a cell, plant, animal, or ecosystem. Yet sadly, she is being murdered by industrial human growth at the expense of ecosystems. Past certain planetary boundary conditions, like any life, Earth can die.All species uniquely express evolutionary brilliance and have a purpose, a reason for being, a right to exist, and are necessary to maintain life’s full potential. From the lowly worm to soaring eagles, to the human race — all naturally evolved life has value and relies upon all the rest. Even seemingly noxious disease organisms and man-eating predators have a role to play in maintaining ecological balance.
Without large intact ecosystems, Earth becomes uninhabitable. The vibrant melange of life found in natural ecosystems is godlike in its all-embracing nurturing. Ecology is the meaning of life.
Hope in Ecosystems
Today free your mind and senses to see ecology everywhere, in everything you do, and the myriad ways it suffers from human hubris, indifference, ignorance, and overuse. As long as together we still breathe, there is hope we can sustain Earth, but realistically the state of ecosystems and the biosphere is grim and worsening. We must start in haste, today, to build the world that is possible and needed.
Love of other peoples and species, nature, truth, justice, and equity are the only lasting basis of global ecological sustainability and show the only effective way forward to avoid final ecosystem collapse. For a sustainable, decent future we must go back to the land, stop burning fossil fuels, and nurture ecosystems and one another.
We are one human family with inalienable rights and duties to freedom, work, equity, peace, justice, and sustained ecology. Profound inequity, ecological collapse, persistent injustice, nationalistic perma-war, superstition, and ignorance when faced with truth — all are sicknesses that mar human potential and will prove fatal.
Together the human family either learns to live well together within intact ecosystems and without fossil fuels or faces a period of profound suffering, followed by biosphere collapse and the end of being. Together we could end the current system’s elite rule, inequity, injustice, and gross ecological negligence at any time. Either we act together soon, courageously, on the basis of truthful ecological knowledge, or else each of us alone faces misery and a final apocalyptic global ecological collapse.
Ecology is the meaning of life. Truth, justice, equity, and sustainability are the ideals whereby ecology can be maintained. Let’s make it so.
Dr. Glen Barry is an internationally recognized environmental advocate, scientist, writer and technology expert, who resides in Wisconsin. He is well-known within the environmental community as a leading global ecological visionary, public intellectual, and environmental policy critic.
Obedience to Corporate-State Authority Makes Consumer Society Increasingly Dangerous
by Dr Yosef Brody
Fifty years ago this month, Yale psychologist Stanley Milgram published a groundbreaking article describing a unique human behavior experiment. The study and its many variations, while ethically controversial, gave us new insight into human tendencies to obey authority, surprising the experts and everyone else on just how susceptible we are to doing the bidding of others. The original experiment revealed that a majority of participants would dutifully administer increasingly severe electric shocks to strangers – up to and including potentially lethal doses – because an authority told them that pulling the levers was necessary and required (the “shocks,” subjects found out later, were fake). People who obeyed all the way to the end did so even as they experienced tremendous moral conflict. Despite their distress, they never questioned the basic premise of the situation that was fed to them: the institution needed their compliance for the betterment of the common good.
After this opening, Brody ties this understanding of human nature to our woeful record on addressing climate change. This is a must-read.
Yosef Brody PhD is a psychologist and president-elect of Psychologists for Social Responsibility. He is at work on a book about obedience-disobedience.
Bigger Than That (The Difficulty of Looking at Climate Change)
by Rebecca Solnit
Rebecca’s essay is perhaps the most powerful piece of writing I have read about climate change. Here are a few quotes:
“So much about climate change we used to imagine as a grim future, that future is increasingly here and now.”
“Our house is on fire. Rather than argue about how fast it’s burning, we need to start throwing buckets of water.”
“The IPCC report makes it clear that we need to leave most of the planet’s fossil fuel reserves in the ground in the coming decades, that the choice is either to fry the planet or freeze the assets of the carbon companies.”
Rebecca was a guest at Bill Moyers.
Rebecca Solnit, author most recently of The Faraway Nearby spent time at Occupy San Francisco, Occupy Oakland and Occupy Wall Street in 2011. This essay is adapted from her introduction to Nathan Schneider’s new book, ThThank You, Anarchy.
Australian Psychological Society signs Statement of Commitment on Climate Change
In October, 2013, the APS signed the Statement of Commitment on Climate Change to protect the children of today and tomorrow from dangerous climate change.
In this statement, we acknowledge the scientific consensus regarding the existence of climate change and the substantial contribution the human population is now making to this via our greenhouse gas emissions.
We also acknowledge that climate change is the biggest global health threat of the 21st century and that current Australian and international carbon reduction commitments are nowhere near enough to avoid this threat. Despite the urgent need for steep reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to avoid dangerous climate change, the level of global emissions continues to increase. The threat to our children and future generations grows larger with every passing year. The current generations of adults have a responsibility to do everything we possibly can to protect the children of today.
I am delighted that my work as APS Director is being carried on. During my 3 years in that job, I was the main irritant to everyone else on this issue.
Sir David makes a couple of valid points
At a recent event in London, Sir David Attenborough cited examples of people in poor countries engaging in environmental conservation. Looking after the natural world that sustains us is not just a yuppie hobby, but is understood to be essential by those who live closer to nature.
Read the whole article.Second, he advocated education for women in poor countries, this being the best form of population control. This is not a new idea of course, but well worth pushing.
How Congress Just Stuck It to Monsanto
Other than reopening the government and averting a global financial crisis, one good thing about the funding bill passed last night was that it put an end to a corporate giveaway known colloquially as the Monsanto Protection Act.
Formally called the Farmer Assurance Provision, the measure undermined the Department of Agriculture’s authority to ban genetically modified crops, even if court rulings found they posed risks to human and environmental health. Republican Senator Roy Blunt worked with the genetically modified seed giant Monsanto to craft the initial rider, and it was slipped into a funding resolution that passed in March. There was concern that an agreement to end the shutdown would extend the provision, which is set to expire at the end of the month.
Jon Tester, a farmer and Democratic senator from Montana, removed the measure from the bill yesterday. “All [the Farmer Assurance Provision] really assures is a lack of corporate liability,” Tester argued in March. “It…lets genetically modified crops take hold across the country–even when a judge finds it violates the law.”
Read the rest at The Nation blog.
Zoe Carpenter is a reporter in The Nation‘s Washington, DC bureau. She has written for Rolling Stone, Guernica and the
The newest on LED light bulbs
The news is, that over their expected life span, they are now more cost-efficient on average electricity charges than a compact fluorescent.
Have a look at the tables at Eartheasy.com.
Solar efficient no-grid home
by Matthew Wright
I recommend everyone interested in getting themselves a new house (bought, commissioned, or built with your own hands) to read this essay. It is excellent.
What Politicians can Learn about Decency from George Washington
by Michael Michalko
By age sixteen, George Washington had copied out by hand 110 Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation. They are based on a set of rules composed by French Jesuits in 1595. The first English translation of the French rules appeared in 1640, and are ascribed to Francis Hawkins, the twelve-year-old son of a doctor.
These were the rules that governed Washington’s behavior and helped to mould the man who attracted the love, loyalty and respect of all who served with him during the American Revolution and his Presidency. It would be easy to dismiss them as outdated and appropriate to a time of powdered wigs and quills, but they reflect a focus that is increasingly difficult to find in our political leaders these days. The rules have in common a focus on other people rather than the narrow focus of their own self-interests that we find so prevalent with our politicians. They represent more than just manners. They are the small sacrifices that we should all be willing to make for the good of all and the sake of living together. These rules proclaim our respect for others and in turn give us the gift of self-respect and heightened self-esteem.
Without realizing it, the Jesuits who wrote them, and Washington who copied and lived by them, were outlining and absorbing a system of courtesy appropriate to equals and near-equals. When the company for whom the decent behavior was to be performed expanded to the nation, Washington was ready. Parson Weems got this right, when he wrote about Washington that it was “no wonder everybody honored him who honored everybody.”
Both of our political parties have become openly uncivil toward each other and toward anyone or anything that disagrees with their programs. The televised debates focus on which candidate can hurt or dishonor the others the most. The winners are usually the most dishonest, unscrupulous and immoral of the lot and who have the most money to wage the most comprehensive “hate” campaigns.
I’ve extracted 63 of Washington’s 110 rules of decent behavior that relate to speaking, debating, or meeting with your political competitors. Read the rules and imagine, if you can, how George Washington would fare in a televised debate with contemporary politicians. Imagine the contrast between what was and what is now acceptable behavior. (So far as possible, I tried to keep the original wording.)
RULES OF DECENT BEHAVIOR FOR POLITICIANS
Health is cells cooperating; disease is cells competing
“Nature, red in tooth and claw” is a popular conception people hold of evolution. An interesting study at The Mount Sinai Medical Center offers a very different perspective. Multicellular organisms evolved through the combination of single-celled beasties. A colony of amoebae compete with each other. The cells in the tiniest worm cooperate.
This study examined the role of certain genes that foster cooperation within a cell. If these genes are destroyed or switched off, the cell can become competitive: a cancer.
“This study suggests that cell cooperation, altruistic behavior, cheating, and other so-called social behaviors are wired into cells via the genome at the early primitive stage,” Dr Thomas Zwacka, the senior investigator, has said.
While this line of research has interesting medical implications, my interest is in terms of society. My initial quote is the justification for “social Darwinism,” the excuse for exploiting unfortunate people, for the business world of anything for profit, dog eats dog. This is the philosophy destroying our planet.
All my writing for many years has promoted cooperation rather than competition. This is most notably expressed in the concluding passages of Ascending Spiral.
The way to stop cancer in a body is to ensure the cooperative genes are working. The way to stop cancer in Gaia’s body is to do the same for humanity.
How to Get Out of Fear’s Trap
by Joan Y. Edwards
Fear is an emotional response to danger. It doesn’t matter if it’s real or imagined fear. The fear response can be the same. Fear is like a big strong powerful balloon. The more you feed it, the stronger it gets. It gets bigger and…
Here is the comment I left on Joan’s blog:
Joan, I didn’t know you were a psychologist. This is exactly where I try to lead my clients. Did you know, over 50% of people can expect to qualify for a diagnosis of an anxiety disorder and/or depression during their lifetimes? This shows it’s the crazy culture at fault. Posts like yours are just the thing to lead people to sanity.
Why am I so desperately unhappy?
I’ve never married & childless (both by choice). I’m a retired teacher who still teaches part-time. I’m in a relationship, but It’s not a satisfying one. I know I’m hard to be around in private b/c of my state of mind, although no one but my Significant Other sees me like that. I don’t feel like I can live in the world anymore b/c of all the horrible cruelty that goes on. I know people say that are good people, too, but the good is far outweighed by the bad. That’s just the truth.
I don’t know what my question is. I’m just feeling so desperately unhappy.
Read two books: “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl, and “The Rugmaker of Mazar-e-Sharif” by Najaf Mazari.
My guess is that there is nothing wrong with you, except for loss of meaning. And that is not your malady, but a consequence of living in a crazy, meaningless culture. This is Viktor’s message. He found that having meaning and purpose allows people to survive the worst hell. Without it, people can be miserable in what from the outside may seem like heaven.
Najaf was able to tell his life story of serial hell with full acceptance, gently laughing at himself and getting the reader to laugh with him.
John Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” Let’s extend this. Ask not what life should give you, but what you can give to others. As a teacher, you have skills and experience to influence young people. Perhaps you can seek meaning by doing a brainstorm on how you can use your talents in making the world a better place for them.
If you accept my suggestions, make sure you have fun doing it.
I don’t want him to visit me
I am Muslim, 27 years old. I met a Muslim man online, also 27, from a different country. We have never met.
After months of chatting online, he said that he would like to meet me and he’s planning to visit me in my own country in December. He says he’s in love with me but I don’t feel anything. Our conversations are starting to bore me. Should I tell him not to bother to come all the way to visit me? I myself don’t know what I will feel after meeting him in person, but what if I can’t still feel anything even after I meet him? What should I do?
Fatima my dear, you need to be honest with him. Let him know that while you enjoy his friendship online, you don’t feel a romantic attraction for him.
Whether you agree to him coming to visit you depends on an important point. Do you feel safe? If in your opinion he may want to force sex on you as a way of making it necessary for you to marry him, then break it off. If in your judgment he would respect your wishes whatever the situation, then tell him that if he still wants to come he may, but you don’t think you will change your mind.
Why do I push girls away?
Well I’m from a really messed up background, at the age of 6 my dad died, the cause was the fact that he cheated on my mom, and mom snapped and killed him, she is still in jail even now. I never actually had someone to play a father figure role.
So in school I happen to be one of the top students, and I’ve been good with girls all these years, until I was heart broken in college that’s when it all changed.
Right now successful with my career and still I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I was hoping you could help.
I was a normal kid in high school enjoyed chasing girls and it was nice at the time, then at some point I met some one in my life I loved so dearly. we dated for two years I was still in college then, during my final year she decided to call it off, because of some unfinished business they both had with the ex boyfriend.
She broke up with me two years back (2011), since then I have been unable to date anyone for long: a month or two and it doesn’t work out. I feel that I am responsible of pushing these people away, I guess I protect myself and I’ve became too sensitive over all these years. One stupid mistake a girl does, makes me feel the need to distance myself from them, and always after they’re gone, I just wanna get back to them for some reason, but I think it’s mainly loneliness.
I tried to overcome the whole thing, tried to meet as many new women as possible. My contact list is flooding with female phone numbers, but none of them wants to be near me, e.g. last week I asked a beautiful one I was almost involved with to delete my number and never call again and I’ll do the same. A week later which is now, I decide contact and she’s not interested and I don’t blame her for that. It’s all my fault.
I don’t know if its because its me with all the negative thought running in my head that’s blocking me to have a healthy relationship.
The way things work, when we are very young we form a view of the world that makes sense of our situation. In your case, that had to be influenced by your parents’ tragedy. I don’t know what childish beliefs survive from that time, but they could be things like “It is dangerous to allow someone to get close to you,” or “people you love will hurt you.”
These beliefs lay dormant while everything went all right. Then, your girl left you for her ex, and the childhood beliefs got triggered. Suddenly, you were reacting to your present, young-adult situations as if you were that hurt 6 year old child. So, since then, any time a girl seems to be getting into that danger zone where you are vulnerable to possible hurt, you push her away.
Does this make sense?
The way to deal with this is to work through the bad times of your childhood. This can be done through trauma counselling. I don’t know what resources you have, if psychologists or other therapists are available to you and if you can afford their services. But if you can, the money you spend will the best investment of your life.
You might look up http://www.tir.org and see if they have a “traumatic incident reduction” person in your geographic area. One session with that person could possibly allow you to improve the rest of your life.
One cause for all his problems
HI Bob, my name is Trevor. I found your email address on queendom after reading several stories I could relate to. I found your feedback to other people’s questions very good. I was hoping you could help me or give me some advice as I want to try and make sense of my life once and for all. I have written down all my problems.
I am desperate to change my life. I feel like I am going to end up lonely and with no friends or family. I am a very lost person who is living an unauthentic life I feel like I am a ghost and my life is not real.
I have suffered from depression and social anxiety for longer than I can remember but I refuse to take medications and found in the long-term cognitive therapy has not worked for me.
I have seen counsellors, psychologists and mental health professionals since I was 12. My first referral was by my school due to behavioural and concentration problems and finally got kicked out of school by the age of 15.
I was also put on medication that made me doze of to sleep in lessons on the last year before I got kicked out due to my bad behaviour. I was not an aggressive child I was just lost and confused and could not concentrate so I became a nuisance to everybody.
I was abused by that age of 12 by a vicar for about 3 years. I believe this has had a very strong impact during my school period and the rest of my life and explains the reason why I struggle so much with life and people getting close to me (physically and mentally) and won’t let anyone in my life.
I have no friends. I have tried several times to get help but my problems seem to be deep-rooted. I feel sexually attracted to younger people but I now it is not right and would never harm anyone. But it’s the thoughts in my head. I wish I did not think like that but it does not go away. I can’t quite understand why I feel like that as I now I am a good person and can only put it down to the abuse I suffered. It is the one thing in my life that I wish would go away and is one of the reason I have contemplated killing myself before. All I want is to be happy and be loved and to be able to love and have a family. But I just can’t seem to move on from the past and the wrong feelings don’t go away.
I also have been struggling to come to terms with being bi-sexual for the past 12 years of my life and I can’t accept it. My life is hell and it feels like it is a constant nightmare I just wish I could wake up one day and it would all go away. I want to know what real happiness is and real love with another human being, to be able to live a life a guilt free one, and no more mental torture to myself. I would like to thank you in advanced as it feels better when I can express myself and explain my situation with someone as I have no one to talk to.
From the age of 12, for 3 years, a man who was supposed to be a representative of God sexually abused you.
The way these monsters work is that they “groom” their victims to be willing participants. You knew this activity was wrong and evil, you didn’t want to do it, and you hated him. At the same time, he probably made you feel that you loved him, and to enjoy the activity, and that you wanted to do this nasty activity with him.
Have you ever told anyone of this sexual abuse? Or have you kept it a secret? Now as a young adult, I have no doubt that you know, that young boy did not do anything wrong. He has nothing to be ashamed of. The vicar did the crime. If you haven’t done so already, when you are ready you should make a statement to the police. It is highly likely that he abused many other children, and if he is still free, he may still be doing it now. So, you can then feel good about protecting other children. Even if you have no independent evidence, if enough past victims come forward, his actions become undeniable.
Let us look at all the various problems you have described.
You could not concentrate in school. This was because 110% of your attention, energy and thinking were taken up with your terrible secret. You were no doubt ashamed to be you, felt damaged and faulty, were scared at your next contact with the man while at the same time felt horrified at yourself for wanting it. No one can study in such circumstances.
Your behavioural difficulties were of course due to the same cause.
You are lonely, unable to make friends, and push people away because at a formative stage in your life, you were betrayed. You learned to distrust, and you have generalised the fear to everyone. Does this make sense?
When that vicar groomed you, he implicitly taught you to accept him as role model. No matter how much you reject him and his example, at a nonverbal, deep level, parts of you continue the pattern he started. So, I am confident you are not bisexual, and have no inherent desire to sexually molest children. These are, if you like, bits of his personality he implanted in you. That is why you completely reject such activities, and have stayed a moral person who refuses to hurt others. Well done.
You are wise to refuse medications. They cannot fix the problem, and are counterindicated for post-traumatic reactions. Standard cognitive therapy should have been useful to some extent, but I am sure you kept your secret from those therapists and counsellors. Had you told them about the childhood sexual abuse, they would have used appropriate techniques. There are many versions of the activity that works. They are called “exposure therapy.”
The reason past traumatic events stay with us, and influence us to react inappropriately to present events as if they were the past ones, is that they have not been processed, are incomplete. Normally, a threat results in a “fight or flight” reaction. However, if the situation is such that both fighting or fleeing are impossible, what occurs is a state in which we give up. We cannot move on.
This is why trauma results in flashbacks, nightmares and inappropriate emotional reactions. What should be in the past feels as if it was NOW.
The solution is to process, to complete, that past event. That is what’s achieved by the various forms of exposure therapy. They all work.
A very effective technique is to process the trauma under hypnosis. That’s my preferred method.
So, have one more go at therapy, but this time, disclose the history of abuse to the therapist, and ask for exposure therapy. It will work, as long as this person uses a research based, established technique and you follow the instructions exactly.
Have a good life (you can)
Thank you so much Dr Bob Rich, your advice is invaluable and it has been a relief to hear such positive feedback in terms of treatment. I have suffered for a long time now and to get some answers to my questions I did not dare ask anybody is quite a relief in itself. I have mentioned my abuse before in treatments but never really talked much about it, instead focusing on the things I wanted to change and tackle them. I have never told psychologists how I feel, like I have in this letter and I am afraid of their reaction as it is different telling someone in person and would feel like a bad person. I suppose I owe it to myself to get help and completely open up which I find the hardest. Here in the UK were I live I am not sure if they offer (exposure therapy) or ( on the NHS (National Health Service) which is free, but I can ask. As I am a student at the moment I cannot really afford to pay for private sessions.
Thank you again for your advice
You have done NOTHING that’s shameful, or reflects badly on you. Go to the police and make a detailed report, giving as many dates, places and other facts as you can. Hold your head up high: you have proved yourself to be a moral, decent person because when you had urges to abuse children, you chose to go against them.
Here is something else I’ve picked up. You were kicked out of school at 15, as a direct consequence of the abuse. You haven’t written me your current age, but by now, you have surmounted this obstacle sufficiently that you are a student. This proves intelligence and determination.
Actually, you can do exposure therapy for yourself. I did, between the ages of 21 and 23, and after that whenever I needed to. I am attaching a free copy of my latest book, hopefully for your enjoyment. When you get to the right part, you will see how I did it.
The Longer We Live, the More Species We Doom to Extinction by Susan Bird
Exercise More Effective Than Prescription Drugs by Michelle Schoffro Cook
Drug companies ‘put profits over lives’
The Longer We Live, the More Species We Doom to Extinction
by Susan Bird
People are living longer these days. That’s good, right? For us, yes. For species at risk, not so much.
That’s the conclusion of a new study by biologists from the University of California, Davis. Advances in medicine and science now allow humans to live longer than ever before. Unfortunately, human longevity has a direct and decidedly negative effect on endangered and invasive species.
The UC Davis team looked at 15 social, economic and ecological variables to determine their correlation with invasive and endangered species. Although human longevity hasn’t typically been a factor in studies about human impact to the environment, it turns out to be “the key predictor of global invasions and extinctions.”
“It’s not a random pattern,” said the study’s lead author, Aaron Lotz. “Out of all this data, that one factor — human life expectancy — was the determining factor for endangered and invasive birds and mammals.”
Read more at Care2.com
Exercise More Effective Than Prescription Drugs
by Michelle Schoffro Cook
We all know we need to get moving, but new research gives us one more reason to stay or become active. According to a large review published in the British Medical Journal, researchers from Harvard University, Stanford University, and Britain’s London School of Economics found that exercise was more effective than prescription drugs for stroke recovery. The researchers assessed 305 studies of 340,000 people. They also found no statistical differences between exercise and drugs for people suffering from heart disease or prediabetic symptoms.
Read more at Care2.com
Drug companies ‘put profits over lives’
Writing in The Sydney Morning Herald, Melissa Davey reported on a recent article co-authored by Australian, American and British researchers that, for the thousandth time, exposed the way Big Pharma uses its obscene profits to control all aspects of the medical and pharmaceutical professions.
She writes, “Patients are being deceived into taking drugs they do not need, that do not work and even put lives at risk, according to a scathing review of the influence big drug companies have on healthcare.”
This affects you, personally, so do read the article.
How to START well
As part of my job in judging in a writing contest, I am reading a book that became really excellent — on page 157. Had I been reading for pleasure, I wouldn’t have got that far.
I also get this problem when editing books by new writers. For one reason or another, the start is less than inspiring, but the book improves as I get into it.
This is not a good idea.
What are some of the reasons an author may start a story in a way that fails to do it justice?
1. World building through info dumps
As a beginning writer, I was very focused on informing my reader, making sure I specified everything I knew about the world my characters inhabited. I thought this would bring a story to life.
This is a common attitude among inexperienced writers — and it’s wrong.
World building is necessary. It is needed even when the setting is perfectly well known to the book’s intended readership. An airport lounge will be familiar to most readers, but all the same, the specific sights, sounds people and events need to be described. This requires the writer to pass information on to the reader.
My point is, this must not be an info dump, but a magical trick by which this environment is perceived through the consciousness of a character. This way, the name in the book becomes a person; someone whose thoughts, emotions and bodily sensations are influenced by the immediate environment, so that the facts are background. Here are two versions:
- The airport lounge was packed with humanity. Everything was gray in color, except for the sickly green of the announcement board lights. The air smelt stale. Incomprehensible announcements blared. A woman two rows away was changing her baby’s diaper, and the child set up a wail.
John checked his watch again. The plane was two hours late.
This definitely sets up an atmosphere. It is good journalistic writing. However, it is all from the outside. Who observes all this? Why should I bother to read about such a depressing scene? Let’s try again.
- John checked his watch again. The plane was two hours late, and he felt like running out, away from the press of people, the depressing grayness of the lounge, the stale air, the blare of incomprehensible announcements, the scream of that infant having its diaper changed.
In a short essay, I needed to give a short example. But imagine a journalistic description that goes on for a page or more before John enters the picture. You are bound to ask, “Why should I be forced to study this place? What’s it about anyway?”
2. Starting a sequel with back story
The author shall remain nameless. The cover screamed “HIS NEW BESTSELLER.” I was short of both time and reading matter, and the genre is one I enjoy from time to time: naval fiction from the Napoleonic era. So, I grabbed it off the library shelf.
Inside, I learned that this was the twenty-fifth book in the series. Must be good.
First I was treated to an editorial from the author, sketching the naval situation immediately after Napoleon’s defeat. Oh well, it was only a little over a page long.
Then the hero started musing about events from his past, obviously the author giving me back story. It went on, page after page. And then we switched to a second character, who also mused about the past, his own and the hero’s.
I am overly persistent, and read on. We switched to a third character, and guess what he was doing? Yawn.
It occurred to me that this was an opportunity for research: how much longer can a best-seller book go without any excitement?
Thirty-five pages. That was the end of chapter 1 (way too long), and during all those pages, nothing much had happened. A ship set sail.
Then at last, at the start of chapter 2, we were in a storm. Only, by now I’d been thoroughly conditioned to be bored, so my reaction was ‘so what.’ I never finished chapter 2.
Maybe a best-selling author can get away with it. Maybe his fans know to go straight to chapter 2, skipping the rehash. Just the same, this is a self-defeating technique. Readers who know the story don’t need to be endlessly oriented. New readers will react like I did, and probably never get to the fun bits (I’m assuming there are fun bits, or else how did he get his books published in the first place?).
What else could he have done?
How did he do it in the first book? Presumably, that was not about our hero as a newborn babe, or even a Midshipman. He was most likely a dashing young Lieutenant, gaining advancement. And anyway, even a newborn baby has background.
I haven’t read the first book of the series. I imagine it was gripping, and quickly captured the reader. Otherwise, how did the author ever get it accepted by a publisher? I imagine he gave background as needed, through dialogue and action, and occasionally through reporting the thoughts of various characters. I am sure he did not spend page after page on just this last device.
That is a good way of introducing the first book into a series, or a stand-alone book. It is an equally good way of introducing the twenty-fifth.
3. Not yet living the story
You have an idea. You invent a few characters, and with or without a predesigned plot, you start writing. Gradually, the people and their story catch fire in your imagination, and you’re writing well. So, eventually you are writing stuff that’ll fire the reader’s imagination too. But what about the first parts, when you were not yet inspired, when it was still taking form?
I think this happened for the author of the book I mentioned at the start.
The simple answer is: rewrite. Put the project away long enough for it to get “cold,” then read it. Having got to the part where you as reader find yourself engaged, stop, and rewrite everything up to that point. The characters and the events in their life are now real in your mind, and so they will be in the new opening chapters.
4. Being stuck in straight-line chronology
A person once sent me a manuscript. He used to be a drug addict, but permanently recovered. He wanted to assist other addicts in gaining self-understanding, inspire them, and show them a path of recovery. Being a psychologist, I approved of his aim, and started reading with interest.
The first chapter of about 3000 words was a summarized biography of his father. The second chapter was the same for his mother. I waded through impersonally told facts. I read the first 1000 words of the third chapter, which covered the author’s birth and infancy.
I sent the manuscript back, with instructions for a rewrite. No reader would ever get to the important parts.
I assume his parents gave him a dysfunctional upbringing, and therefore the influences that shaped them were relevant to his message. However, the theme of the book was not their life story, but how a person may become an addict, and what to do about it. Reading about the lives of strangers was irrelevant, and boring.
How should he have started?
His life must have had a crisis point: the moment he decided to reject a drug-dominated lifestyle and build a new future for himself. THIS moment was the correct starting scene. He could have presented it vividly, with a lot of emotion and immediacy. That would have instantly made the book a page-turner for anyone, particularly those wanting to follow his example.
When biographical background was needed, it could then be put in, but always in small chunks, and always related to the theme.
Ten Easy Ways to Keep Dialogue Sharp
by Carolyn Howard-Johnson
One: Keep it simple. “He said” and “She said” will usually do. Your reader is trained to accept this repetition.
Two: Forget you ever heard of strong verbs (just for the purpose of editing dialogue–then go back to your strong verb mode!) Skip the “He yelped” and the “She sighed.” They slow your dialogue down. If you feel need them, look at the words–the actual dialogue–your character used when he was yelping. Maybe it doesn’t reflect the way someone would sound if he yelped. Maybe if you strengthen the dialogue, you can ditch the overblown tag.
Three: When you can, reveal who is saying something by the voice or tone of the dialogue. That way you may be able to skip tags occasionally, especially when you have only two people speaking to one another. Your dialogue will ring truer, too.
Four: Avoid having characters use other characters’ names. In real life, we don’t use people’s names in our speech much. We tend to reserve using names for when we’re angry or disapproving or we just met in a room full of people and we’re practicing our social skills. Having a character direct her speech to one character or another by using her name is a lazy writer’s way of directing dialogue and it will annoy the reader. When a reader is annoyed, she will not be immersed in the story you are trying to tell.
Five: Avoid putting internal dialogue in italics or in quotation marks. Trust your reader and your own ability to write in a character’s point of view. She will know who is thinking the words from the point of view of the narrative.
Six: Be cautious about using dialogue to tell something that should be shown. It doesn’t help much to transfer telling from the narrator to the dialogue. It just makes the character who is speaking sound longwinded. Putting quotation marks around exposition won’t draw the reader into the scene or involve him more than if you’d left it part of the narrative.Five: Avoid putting internal dialogue in italics or in quotation marks. Trust your reader and your own ability to write in a character’s point of view. She will know who is thinking the words from the point of view of the narrative.
Seven: Magic number seven is, don’t break up dialogue sequences with long or overly frequent blocks of narrative. One of dialogue’s greatest advantages is that it moves a story along. If a writer inserts too much stage direction, it will lose the forward motion and any tension it is building.
Eight: Avoid having every character answer a question directly. Some people do that (say a sensitive young girl who has been reared to obey her elders), but many don’t. Some veer off with an answer that doesn’t follow from the question asked. Some are silent. Some characters do any one of these things as a matter of course. Some do them purposefully, say to avoid fibbing or to change the subject or because they are passive aggressive.
Nine: Avoid dull dialogue that doesn’t help draw better characters or move the action forward. Forcing a reader to hear people introduce themselves to one another without a very good reason to do so is cruel and unusual punishment.
Ten: Use dialogue to unobtrusively plant a seed of intrigue. If a character brings up a concern that isn’t solved immediately, you can heighten the page-turning effect of your story. Just don’t forget to answer the question raised at another appropriate time in your story.
For more on writing dialogue check out Tom Chiarella’s Writing Dialogue (Writers’ Digest) and for more on editing in general–from editing query letters to turning unattractive adverbs into metaphoric gold–find The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success. A famous book that touches on dialogue issues is Stephen King’s On Writing.
Carolyn Howard-Johnson was an instructor for the UCLA Extension Writer’s Program for nearly a decade. The first book in her HowToDoItFrugally Series of books, The Frugal Book Promoter, won USA Book News’ Best Professional Book Award and Book Publicists of Southern California’s Irwin Award. The second, The Frugal Editor, is also a USA Book News winner. It includes many editing tips on dialogue, the use of quotation marks and more and will soon be in its second edition as a paperback and for Kindle. And her Great Little Last-Minute Editing Tips for Writers is full of tricky homonyms lying in wait to trip you up.
I wholeheartedly agree with some of Carolyn’s points, have a “yes but” reaction to others, and disagree with a few. Rather than put my own views forward, I invite readers to have a bit of a debate over it. Please let me know what you think.
What my friends want you to know
National Day of Climate Action
Sunday, 17th November, 2013
Australia’s new government has wasted no time on vandalising every possible measure to reduce the effects of climate change. If they want to commit suicide that’s fine, but the trouble is, they are taking us with them.
If you want a future, and a future worth living, show them that you care.
In Melbourne, be at Treasury Place by 11 am.
There is to be a rally in every major city and hundreds of regional towns.
If you’ve never been to a rally before, now is the time to ramp things up. If you have, we need you again. Because now more than ever, we need to stand up for everything we hold dear. Join the community of those who care.
New Voices Contest for kids open for entries
Every year, I am one of the judges who enjoys encouraging the writers of the future through the New Voices writing contest for young writers.
Entries are accepted from 1st November to 20th December.
Your entry can be something you’ve written for a school assignment or especially for the competition. Entries have to be written in English. Any flavor of English is okay.
Entry Fee: None. No kidding. It’s free.
Judging: Judges may include teachers, librarians, published authors, publishers, and editors. Each entrant will receive feedback from our judges. Finalists will move to a secondary judging panel to determine winners in each division and category. A Grand Prize Winner will be selected from the Junior Division and the Senior Division.
New short story collection by Elizabeth Delisi
When Cassie buys an antique compact, little does she know it can foretell the future–her future. Marjorie, a Florida girl unwillingly transplanted to Vermont, learns there’s more to fear from the alien snowfall than just the cold. Neil Dallas’s jagged descent from rock and roll singer to drug-addicted has-been is unstoppable… or is it?
Travel deep into unknown territory, where life and death are not as they seem; where you have to be careful what you ask for, because you might get it. These stories will take you beyond the realm of the solid and real, into the deepest, darkest corner of your imagination. Don’t forget to bring your flashlight…
Check out the The Midnight Zone.
Carolyn’s newsletter for writers
SharingwithWriters newsletter is now coming to you as an easily read (and easily passed along) .pdf file.
To read it you now go to http://HowToDoItFrugally.com/newsletter_copies.htm and click on the October 17 issue.
- Note from Carolyn: Please Buy My Book! Not!
- Thank Yous (where you also find leads and great resources!)
- Tips and News Galore! (They’re scattered; you’ll just have to find them!)
- Opportunities (You’ll find them in several places.)
- Accessible Contests
- On Poetry
- Author Successes
- Mindy Lawrence’s Itty Bitty Column: “Defining Yourself”
- Carolyn’s Appearances and Teaching
This Issue Only
- Feature: Kickstarter: Beth Cox Thinks Your Time Might Be Better Spent
- Feature: A Better Sellsheet: Borrowing Green Formatting Ideas from the Smithsonian
- Q&A a la Ann Landers: Full Scope of E-book Platforms or Kindle Exclusive–with Benefits?
The Life of Things, by Bernie Neville
This scholarly book is an important advance in the philosophical basis of counselling/psychotherapy, but it is much more than that: an implicit recipe for living. Since I am no longer used to reading academic writing, I found the task difficult at first, but well worth the effort. In my opinion, any thinking person will benefit at many levels from the education it provides.
Bernie has based this thesis on the work of many of the finest minds in recent history, notably Rogers, Jung, Whitehead, Gebser and Naess (the initiator of ecopsychology). However, his sources go right back to ancient Greek mythology, which he uses as a consistent metaphor throughout the book.
Like several of these authors, he has built on the findings of modern physics to elucidate the nature of the universe. He applies this perspective to the relationship between therapist and client, then between people in general, and then between a person and the rest of the cosmos. It becomes clear that distinguishing between person and environment is a fallacy: both are parts of the one. Further, it is even a mistake to think of things, including people, as the units of existence. Following Whitehead and the insights of quantum physics, he shows that we are process rather than matter and energy.
One particular insight should be very valuable in our conflict-ridden, polarised-thinking world: dichotomies are always wrong. My personal cliché for this is: “all truth is paradox.” Just as an electron is potentially both a wave and a particle, reality on the human level is not this or that, but a complex of perhaps five ways of perceiving it, and all five mutually incompatible realities are true. The problem is when we are stuck in one and reject others that could be useful.s to elucidate the nature of the universe. He applies this perspective to the relationship between therapist and client, then between people in general, and then between a person and the rest of the cosmos. It becomes clear that distinguishing between person and environment is a fallacy: both are parts of the one. Further, it is even a mistake to think of things, including people, as the units of existence. Following Whitehead and the insights of quantum physics, he shows that we are process rather than matter and energy.
Each of these five realities can be positive or negative. For example, “magical” thinking gives us the power of the placebo effect, but led to the terrible events of Nazism. Materialism has given us the undoubted benefits of science and medicine, while trapping society in a self-destructive path that may lead to human extinction within our lifetimes.
If I have a criticism, it is that when applied to counselling, Bernie focuses on the positive aspect of advanced empathy: the ability Rogers described toward the end of his life to enter the reality of the client. This is legitimate, but perhaps insufficient attention has been given to what Beck (1988) calls “mindreading,” which is the opposite of mindreading: when one person sends a message that is emotively misinterpreted by another. This mistaken empathy is probably the most frequent reason for conflict between people.
Over the years, I have built my own model of the universe, and am delighted that The Life of Things validates many aspects of my thinking. This is a book that should be studied by practitioners and students involved in helping relationships, and by anyone with a passion for understanding our world.
A bit of fun
Only in Australia…
In the olden days, people used to piss outside and smoke inside.
More serious eliminatory business was done in the outhouse, commonly referred to as the dunny.
Granfather Jim had a lifelong habit. He’d sit there, enjoying the relief, and hold his breath until he heard the plop.
His grandson Ernie moved to Bendigo, which is a country town that started its life as one of the centres of the great Victorian goldrush of 1851. Once Ernie was well set up, he invited Grandfather to visit him for a while.
Grandfather got off the train, hopped on the horse Ernie had brought for him, and they companionably rode to Ernie’s farm. There, the old man said, “Fella, I’ve got to get rid of some business. Where’s your dunny?”
Ernie pointed to the little building, and there Jim went. When he didn’t turn up in an hour or so, Ernie went to look for him, and found the old boy DEAD. He called the doctor, who made it along in half an hour. He examined Jim’s remains and said, puzzled, “He died of asphyxiation.”
“What’s that, Doc?”
“Like when you can’t breathe, say when someone is choking you.”
Ten minute criminal — or the danger of a smartphone
Having lost a lot of strength after my hip chop operation, I’ve been doing regular walking. My friend Chris Gallard recommended I put “Map My Walk” on my phone, so I could track my improvement.
I am a smartphone bunny, while Chris has at least 100 apps on his magical device. Naturally, I followed his advice.
Today, I had my first go at riding a bike, which uses very different muscles from walking. I immediately noticed that these muscles still need strengthening. But, even before that, I had a problem. Unlike on previous occasions, Map My Walk wouldn’t load. Maybe you are not allowed to use it on a bicycle, and it detected the infraction?
Still, I thought, perhaps reception was not good enough outside my house, and rode around the corner. I took the phone out of my pocket, casually noticing a high school kid walking by. This time, the screen turned into a white rectangle, so yes! something was happening. Wanting to time myself from my usual starting point, I rode the short distance home, stopped, and looked at the phone again. At about that time, the same kid walked past.
Frustrated, I looked at the blank white square for about 5 minutes of trying various things without success. Giving up on the app, I started my ride.
Sore thighs told me to cut this first, experimental ride short. As I rode along, I saw Chris with his beautiful dog Jed Malemute (he has a Facebook page, look him up) walking in the middle distance. I called him over and asked his advice.
He’d barely started to answer when a woman with blazing eyes and snarling face tried to wrestle my phone out of my hand. Robbery in broad daylight?
She screamed, “How dare you photograph my daughter! I’ll call the police!”
I looked around but could see no girl who might have qualified as the daughter.
She kept shouting as I put the phone safely in my pocket. Then I remembered the kid near my home. She must have been the daughter.
“Look,” I said, “I’ve never taken a photo with this phone. I don’t know how to, even.”
“I’m calling the police!”
OK. I took the phone out and gave it to her. “Go ahead.”
She did, and soon had a conversation in which she thoroughly garbled location, but gave a very good description of the clothes I wore, my helmet, the bike.
While she was talking, I had a thought. I said, “Look, I don’t know how to find photos taken with this phone. Chris, can you?”
The woman looked dubious, said goodbye to the police, and the three of us (Jed wasn’t interested) inspected the photos: all were of my grandchildren, sent through over the months by my daughter.
We parted with apologies and even a handshake. I commended her for being a good, protective mother.
I’d almost reached home when a police car pulled in front of me. Good to know the protectors of young kids are on the ball.
The cop and I had a nice chat. Yes, he’d heard on his radio that the woman had phoned again, explaining the mistake, but he saw me ride along, recognised my description, and thought to stop for a chat.
I guess I am on probation.
About Bobbing Around
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