It is all about me!

If Walter Mitty finds that his ears are burning does he accurately interpret the omen?

Joking aside we can imagine, if we are somewhat self-absorbed, that everything is about us. That it is pointed at us and that the entire universe is out to get us. A classmate of mine once told me that when he read a previous blog of mine, he was unsure as to whether it was aimed directly at him. It wasn’t and we both had a great laugh about how weird people can be. A generality can be deemed targeted, bespoke and specific. That is if we have a small measure of paranoia.

A bit of paranoia is fairly common, maybe from time to time we all experience it. We never know if the smoking man has impregnated us with some alien DNA during the night. We can imagine ourselves taken by aliens to the mother ship for experimentation.

Having cued this up:

Do I often think “it” is all about me?

How accurate am I in these perceptions?

Getting the Wrong End of the Stick

Have you ever gotten entirely the wrong end of the stick about someone?

I’ll speculate that, at one time or another, we all have. How badly wrong we have been may vary. Someone we assume to be a “great guy” can be an utter bastard, someone who we imagine the devil incarnate may be a paragon of virtue. We all make mistakes, some big, some small. If we rely on the presented face value we may be way off the mark, if we trust what “they” say we can be misguided. If we rely on repute alone we may in fact be missing a lot. But this getting the wrong end of the stick is a part of the human experience, and it is only by experience that we learn to discern more accurately. It is possible that we get the wrong end of the stick on purpose, for to get the right end of the stick has implications we don’t like; it would place us in a sticky situation. We may plead ignorance about our selection of the end of the stick.

Sometimes however getting the wrong end of the stick can be a fuck up of huge proportions. The less close to our expectations things are, people are, the more likely it is that we will misjudge them. Our expectations and suppositions may impact badly on our choice of stick end. And once we have made this choice we can be stuck with it for a very long time. The wrong end of the stick is often coated with superglue and we can’t free our hands from it, no matter how hard we shake that stick is stuck fast.

Having cued this up:

Do I often get the wrong end of the stick?

Has any one of these caused me big problems?

Once I have gotten the wrong end of the stick is it hard to let go of that stick?

Ways of Thinking – Joined Up Thinking

How flexible are you in your thinking?

I found this image above and although it is illustrative it doesn’t encompass much flexibility in approach. So far today I have hinted at pirate-think and the two sides of Walter White. I don’t know what others think of Walter, maybe he is a baddy, maybe he is a goody. It depends upon where you are coming from and which lenses you have in your eyes. There is a line in T-shirts which has a message; “Never underestimate an old guy with a chemistry degree”, so maybe Walter speaks to this sub-set of the population. Perhaps a little punk-rock spirit is reborn if only in mild gesture. I suspect that some find Walter’s “edge” threatening. After all he is a murderer and a meth-cook.

Now I’ll posit something here, it is to do with lack of joined-up thinking. I suspect that people forget the entirety of their prior knowledge in the heat of the moment. Even if we know a fair deal about a person, we can simply not take that into consideration. If, for example, we have previously found someone to be of sound judgement, the moment that judgement is contrary to what we want to do, we forget this. Why? Because it pisses us off slightly. That person becomes the enemy. If they are not aligned, then they are now wrong and very wrong indeed. Our thinking is not joined up with our knowledge. All we can see is what we want, and nothing is going to get in our way. This selective memory is a part of a wider selective perception.

To refer to the above, it is a bit silly to feel threatened by a character in a fictional TV series. We can forget whilst watching it, that it is TV; not joined up. A lot of people are scared about chemistry, labs and explosions and now we have Novichoks to worry about. Someone like Walter could probably knock up a batch of these. Anything which is unknown to us is scary. I have “played” with arsine in the past and that is some serious toxic shit. It is not so scary as a concept to me as it would be to the majority of the population. Hell, they even let me help plumb in gas lines with this, in central Manchester. None of us doing that had any health and safety qualifications, we were just a bunch of young post docs and students, let loose with cylinders of toxic gas. A simple way to keep your average chemist happy is to give them a bonfire, a can of petrol, a water hose and a box of matches; hours of fun. I can remember a number of times when pyro-Alan has freaked people out, but I have been in perfect control of what I have been doing. Because it was unknown to them, they were scared. When I lived in Brixton, we had a few bonfires, all the people in the other flats relaxed after the first one, and we had the odd fire “party” or two after that. Fear of the unknown clouds our judgement. If you knew about pyros and chemists, you could use joined up thinking to get an overview of sorts.

So very often our joined-up thinking fails, we may not even attempt it. All we can see is local to the situation and now, we can forget all of our prior experience. Our thinking can become very selective indeed and once this has set-in we can end far up shit creek without a paddle in a barbed wire canoe.

Having cued this up:

Has my thinking ever failed to be joined-up?

Did this cause problems?

Has my selective memory and selective perception ever caused me to grab the wrong end of the stick and hang grimly on to it as if my life depended upon it?

Could I benefit from a little more flexibility in thought?

How We Are Perceived

There can be a big difference in how we perceive ourselves and how we are perceived. For we, in truth, know not what goes on in the minds of others. Sometimes we do not even know our own minds. It is pretty easy to get very hung up on what people think of us. If we are keen to project a certain image, we may be concerned about the efficacy of our projections. This image projection is PR or public relations.

Perception of actions and words, is culture dependent. What is considered good in some cultures is frowned upon in others. Being dynamic, pushy, ambitious and successful might be a goal for some, others might see people so oriented as arrogant wankers. In the UK we might have a national self-image, which is myriad, and, in that set, some are jingoistic about Brexit. We may not appreciate what the rest of the world thinks of the UK and this cunning plan of ours. On the island things look a certain way, outside of the island they look different. If we think that everyone shares our perception of ourselves, we are of course wrong. Other people may sigh when they see us doing something and judge it unwise.

To use a very simple example. I have no idea what people are making of this blog, especially when taken as a whole. I can guess that it will be perceived differently in different countries and there will be a significant variance according to the background and world view of anyone reading this. I can’t do anything about this, but I can be sure that it will not be perceived the way that I perceive it. All I can do is try to communicate as effectively as I can. That is about it.

I personally am not concerned about my “image” because it is not necessary for me to be so concerned. I am not really after anything. But others are concerned about their image, how they are perceived at home and abroad. It is not possible to prevent other people from taking a view and making of it what suits them. We all formulate opinions, some strong and fixed, others time varying.

Having cued this up:

Am I concerned about my “image”.

If so, for what purpose?

Do I have any clues about what others think about me, how they perceive me and what views about me they hold?

Lost on the Emotional Plane?

I’ll restrict this to two primary emotions, fear and anger. There is no need to take loads of mushrooms or peyote, to completely lose the plot. It can happen in day to day life. One can become utterly lost on the emotional plane. The perception gets ever more selective and turns in on itself. All clarity vanishes, and any sense of wider perspective is abandoned. It happens by indulging in fear or anger.

Once fear gets a toe-hold it can magnify and amplify alarmingly, a deep pervading paranoia sets in. Under these circumstances the merest thing can be seen as a deep personal attack aimed at maiming or destruction. The slightest contrary opinion becomes a death threat. One figuratively puts up the barricades, lays the minefields, heats the boiling oil and readies the crossbows. One is perennially on the look-out for slights, snubs, attacks and the like. They aren’t there, they are largely imagined. And so, lost in fear, life becomes nightmarish. On edge one lashes out and destroys. One sees plots and intrigues on all sides and thereby actually generates some of these, because one starts playing secret squirrels and other related games. Tense as a tense thing on a tense day, one is like a porcupine. There is no reality simply an out of proportion fear. Threat is on all sides.

Once the red-mist of anger sets in, all one can see is ire and hitting back. One must destroy, avenge, make them pay and otherwise teach them a lesson. It burns, and it seethes. The perception clouds over and all there is that red-mist. Skewed thereby, a being whom you might otherwise love and care for becomes enemy number one, who must face sudden, complete and humiliating destruction, preferably over a prolonged period and in public so that everyone can see that your just and deserved vengeance has been done. There is no clarity, no wider perspective just the immediacy and longevity of that anger.

Maybe after the destruction has been wrought some sense of wider perspective returns by which time it is too late. Perhaps finally you return to your senses and calm. Perhaps you can then acknowledge that your perception has been more than a tad selective.

Having cued this up:

Have I ever been lost on the emotional plane?

Did it damage or wreak havoc in my life?

Selective Perception and Supposition

It is not uncommon for people to imagine things very different from how they actually are. For example, the notion of cancer patient rarely conjures up a hairy fifteen stone guy with a full head of hair and still in possession of most of his own teeth. And the idea of quantum mechanics does not sit so well with a working beef farm. In the two clips previous, nothing has been faked or photoshopped. It is just like this. There is a big stack of patents and papers just behind me and outside I wait for Mr Pheasant the chicken fancier to make an appearance as he does usually, at this time of day.

The written word can easily be subject to selective perception. My speaking voice is as it is in the clip and I am nearly always calm, so if anything else is imagined, imagined it is. People will select from a whole bunch of perceptions and fit them to / with their suppositions. Many selective perceptions are so wide of the mark. Unless you have current personal experience of someone, chances are your perceptions are out of date and inaccurate. Once you have fallen off the cliff of selective perception, there can be no going back.

People make all sorts of shit up. It is weird but true.

What is Your Mind Like?

Last night I was not well enough to go to Aikido, so I watched a film, The Forest. It is largely set in the Aokigahara Forest, a place apparently popular for suicides. It was quite an engaging film and the early part of it brought back many happy memories of arriving at Narita and going to the Hotel New Otani in Tokyo. It was great to get to my room, put on a yukata, order a bento box and a couple of Asahi, then to look out over the skyline. Sarah the main protagonist is warned that the forest does weird things and that if she saw anything, she should remember that it was only in her mind and not real. Advice which she failed to take. As the film unfolded she started to have her inner demons surface. It did not end well for her.

I’ll hazard a guess that many of us have some inner demons, which from time to time come visit our minds. We may not need a mystic forest, it can happen on the tube train or when we lie on our pillow at night. Many, as I understand it, have problems getting off to sleep, sometimes it is just internal dialogue about the day, other times it is the demons. The minds of the allegedly sane, can be pretty strange places. And keeping it together is a bit of a struggle. You never know what goes on in the mind of another unless they tell you and even then, they may fib.

The thing is that most of these inner “demons” are born out of selective perception and come from blowing things out of proportion. Our fears and insecurities feed them, and they grow and multiply. Talking about them, getting them out into the light of day, can help to dissolve them. Laughter is a very good anti-demon tincture. All of us have the odd crazy thought or two. Some “demons” must however be faced, otherwise they keep on coming back. They can exhibit guile. The more we try to fend them off, the more artful they become, they shape-shift. Until we can accept that which is the seed of the “demon”, its roots, we cannot hope to weed it out from the garden of our mind. Pretending that an inner “demon” isn’t there does not work. Most of us don’t get to meet a group of yūrei, because we live in cities. Our “demons” are already here, we made them ourselves. And therefore, we might un-make them also. All of us have a dark-side and to be whole and free one has to eventually face it down.