Assault 

I was in the middle of telling someone I’d never been sexually assaulted or harassed as an adult in a way that made me feel limited or frightened, when I remembered a couple of unwanted gropings.

I’m not going to reconstitute them here, but it made me realise something; There is a right way and a wrong way for women to talk about sexual harassment and assault. In short, we must position ourselves as victims. Sure, we talk a lot about being ’empowered’ by speaking out, perhaps with some kind of pithy hashtag (take THAT patriarchy!) but there are some reactions we can’t have.

I was in a club in Kawana, QLD once when some guy reached around from behind me and grabbed my tits. It was quite painful. What I was meant to do was ‘leave the venue feeling shaken’. What I actually did was react quite instinctively and violently. I won’t glorify the details but I didn’t leave the venue feeling ‘shaken or disempowered’.

It’s clear to me that it’s not cool for women to behave like this, and I often wonder why. Why are we conditioned not to belt men who assault us?

The guy in the pub was embarrassed, and so was I – people thought I was some kind of uber-violent trashbag, the likes of which we usually only see on reality television or perhaps scragging it out with another junkie outside the train station. When was the last time you saw a media representation of a woman giving some chap who groped her a bloody good hiding? And yet we routinely see men doling out lazy punches left right and centre. Maybe we’re more sensible, maybe we think through the consequences. Maybe we’re less drunk (I was sober as a judge that night in QLD).

Food for thought.

 

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My inner critic.

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Interesting or troubling? This article popped up on my facebook feed, recommended by an extremely caring, loving mother, who commented on the big responsibility she felt to make sure she didn’t nurture her child’s inner critic. She is a really, really fabulous Mum and to be honest I was a bit put out at the idea at her feeling this kind of pressure.

I’m wary of articles that suggest that caring, loving parents should constantly fret over ‘doing it wrong’.

The article itself even acknowledges this pressure – referencing the ‘Shitty Guilt Fairy’ before racking up a couple of lines of coke for the aforementioned fairy.

I’ve got some issues;

First; the author tells us that we shouldn’t tell our children off in a negative way. Here she is describing her daughter pretending to tell the adults off in a stern way,

I decided she must have picked it up from someone. But who? She spends most of her time with me and I know I don’t shout like that. I certainly don’t use that horrible inflection at the end of my sentences. Who the hell could she have picked it up from?

Then, in the car park of Pak n Save, she did that thing that I’ve asked her not to do a thousand times. That thing where she lets go of my hand and runs off. It scares the shit out of me for obvious reasons. Coupled with my fear is also my anger: she knows better than this. Our subsequent conversation went something like this:

Me: Hey, you know not to run off in car parks. That really scared mummy!

Her: [eyes looking somewhere above the top of my head]

Me: You know you must hold my hand when we’re near cars!

Her: [eyes looking off to the right as she starts humming a little tune to herself.]

Me: What do I say about cars? You must hold my hand, okay?  OKAAAAAAY?!

Ugh. So that’s where she’s been getting it from. That’s one harsh penny dropping right there.

I don’t know about you, but I find hearing my own shitty communication mirrored right back at me through my angelic two year-old’s mouth particularly hard to swallow. I feel not just ashamed but also incredulous at how oblivious I was to it. I literally spent two weeks trying to work out who she’d modelled her behaviour from and I had ruled myself out almost instantly. I’m a conscious parent for God’s sake! I care about this stuff! I read parenting advice on communication! WTF?

The other particularly horrible thing is that I’ve had a successful career as a life coach for the last 12 years; I get paid to help people be happy. And there’s one major thing that makes all the difference to how happy someone is and it’s not about earning the highest income. It is our inner dialogue…

This inner dialogue eventually develops into your Inner Critic. You know, that little voice that beats you up, and says really unhelpful things to you like: Who do you think you are applying for that job? You suck at your job.  You’re a crap parent. You’re a lazy parent. You really screwed up today. It’s your fault your partner left you. I can’t believe you buggered that up again – idiot. Don’t be silly, why would they like you?

In summary, there are two main categories of feedback being played inside your head: Who do you think you are? And: You’re not good enough. If you pay attention to your Inner Critic for a while you will see this for yourself.

You can see how treating yourself this way has an erosive impact on your wellbeing and happiness and holds you back. Our aim in coaching is to transform the Inner Critic to Inner Coach. The Inner Coach is far from Pollyanna positive. We don’t want you going around giving yourself high-fives for making a sandwich, or looking in the mirror saying, “yeah, you shouted at your child – AWESOME!’ We want you to have a reasonable voice in there, a logical one, a kind one. You want to help yourself manage your life, make good decisions, and recover from adversity, be resilient. You want to learn from your mistakes and encourage yourself to grow. You want a reasonable, logical, truth-telling voice that helps you learn. You want to say: ‘Charlotte, that wasn’t your best parenting moment. I know you can make improvements.Why don’t we do it this other way tomorrow…?’

The question that everybody asks is why? Why does it evolve to become your inner critic, rather than your inner coach? Why does it evolve to be negative and not positive?

From my own experience and my work with clients, I subscribe mostly to theory that we model language from those around us and unfortunately some of those people weren’t or aren’t always kind. We learn to talk to ourselves in the same way we are talked to and around.

This last point means that we all do what my daughter did: we talk the way we got talked to. Our brains can’t help it – we have to learn language by modelling as there is no other way to do it. That same language eventually gets used to communicate to ourselves inside our head.

This means that way you talk to and around your children will become their inner dialogue.

So, saying, ‘No! Don’t run into the traffic!’ helps your child develop their inner critic, the voice that will eventually develop into ‘Hey, loser! Run into the traffic!’.

You know what? I’m not buying it. Almost everyone I know was brought up with ‘No! Don’t do that!’ usually promptly followed by; ‘Or you’ll get a smack’. As the Dunedin study tells us, almost all children of the 1970s were brought up with physical punishment – almost entirely gentle, but physical none-the-less. This goes hand in hand with the kind of ‘negative talk’ described above. As does life-long success.

Which brings me to the author, a ‘life coach’ whose experience is wrestling people’s ‘inner critics’ into submission. Life coaches do not deal with people who think they can solve their own problems. Now I don’t doubt she helps people, or feels that she does. However, I don’t think she can draw on her experiences with her clients as evidence of her theories.

There’s something else worrying here;

She tells her almost pre-verbal daughter that her actions caused Mummy to be scared.

Two year olds have enough trouble dealing with the concept that they have their own thoughts, feelings and sense of self. It’s a seriously big concept to deal with, and one that is at the heart of much tantrumming.

Telling a toddler they are not only responsible for their own actions, they are also responsible for Mummy’s feelings is pretty intense.

Apparently, during these ‘telling offs’ the author’s daughter looks above her head, and then off to one side, and then starts humming to herself. This is completely consistent with a kid who is too young for the pressure of being responsible for an adult’s feelings.

Mummy is very, very important. And now I’m making her scared. I need to modify my behaviour so she isn’t scared. But it’s really hard to modify my behaviour. I’m working on it, but man, IT’S HARD. Cos I’m TWO.

Hey toddler, it’s your fault if Mum goes tits up. No pressure, kiddo.

And then there’s your inner critic. It’s actually bloody great to have an inner critic. No, not an ‘inner coach’. An inner critic. Sure this critic can get out of hand. But it can also tell you things you don’t want to hear, but really, really fucking need to.

Your inner critic might enable you to work harder towards your goals. It might actually enable you to be more considerate of the other people in your life. Fear and anxiety isn’t necessarily limiting, it is usually motivating. Tenacity is the result of a robust debate with your inner critic.

We have turned to a world of wooly booly psycho-babble that places the individual at the very core in every facet of life. Personally I think this is an effective way of depoliticising people – (hey, pay attention to your personal world and nothing else) but that’s Cranky Mum for another day. It’s fashionable to endlessly mull over your personal ‘wellbeing’ – without considering the social factors that it is almost entirely comprised of.

And……This article is aimed at middle class mothers, who’re already at the pointy crescendo of Mummy-guilt. Hey, Mums, forget everything you know about mothering (from your own mother. FIRST THE GINGER CRUNCH, NOW THIS!), you must change how you speak to your child. Every single utterance must be monitored. No pressure!

AND…..The author tells us that telling your kid off is bad, but gives no alternatives. I mean really, aside from telling her toddler she’s scaring her, I thought her admonishment was completely fine; DO NOT BUGGER OFF IN THE CARPARK is pretty clear. There is, I know, a fashion for ‘no negative talk’ parenting, where children are never told no, in any way. They are discouraged from bad behaviour by distraction. Darling, I can see you really love the plasma cutter (validate their experience), but look at this! It’s tickle me Elmo! (distract child from imminent emasculation).

Of course, the no-negative-talk parents are usually middle class working parents, so by the time their child is two it’s likely they’re no longer the kid’s primary caregiver.

For many, many parents, especially the ones who read these kinds of articles (or indeed, might consult a life coach), they are not their kid’s primary caregiver. Many children spend most of their waking ours in a childcare setting,

“Here’s his organic snack box and filtered water. Now, we don’t tell Oliver ‘No’, as we’re nurturing his inner coach, not his inner critic”.  

Good luck with that. Kids learn ‘negative talk’ pretty smartly in a maxxed out daycare centre.

 

 

 

Things we don’t talk about….

No, sadly it’s not sex. Everyone talks about sex like it’s running out.

I recently ran into a friend who has had gastric surgery to address her obesity. She was happy, very happy. Being obese saddled her with misery and social stigma, the likes of which I can only imagine.

Obesity is framed as ‘your fault’, but obesity – and by that I mean, proper obesity, not just overweight – is almost entirely the fault of something other than the triumph of the will. I’ve ranted about this before, but the idea that we are in the throes of an ‘obesity epidemic’ is often read to mean we’re a nation of irredeemable fatties.

Everyone loves a spot of moralising but we’re moralising in the wrong place.

The real causes of risk of obesity (note, I said risk, not direct cause) are pretty well known. The more fat you’ve got, the more leptin you’ve got. At a certain point you’re brain gets tired of listening to leptin and becomes resistant to its messages.

Yeah, you’re full. BORING. 

And, the more you eat, the bigger your belly gets. The bigger the top of your stomach is, the more ghrelin it produces. Ghrelin tells your brain you’re hungry.

And then there’s insulin.

Fat cells generate hormones. Getting fat is like an accelerator – the fatter you get, the fatter you become.

The answer is clear right? Don’t get fat in the first place. Step away from the chiko roll. Except what we should be saying is; step away from the baby bottle. Because formula fed babies turn into fatties before they even get a chance to puree a big mac and squirt it into a sippee cup. Their brains are set up to become fat before they can roll over. They ingest far more protein than breastfed babies. They’re hardly ever actually hungry, because formula ‘fills you up’. In other words, the amount of protein in formula makes them feel full for longer. This is why formula fed babies sleep through the night. This is why childhood obesity is such a predictor for adult obesity – regardless of what you eat, your body will tell you to eat more because you’re genuinely hungry.

It’s not all about formula. It’s food too.  Generations of babies grow up eating western food – high in protein, fat and sugar. Yeah you think they’re eating well, but actually almost all processed food has added sugar, or is processed in a way that human bodies will recognise as sugar.  Obviously, there are hard ways to address this problem – you can lose weight, a lot of it, and this will change your body chemistry, making it easier to stay thin. But it’s extremely hard. Not just ‘oh I don’t really feel like it hard’ – extremely hard nigh on impossible. 

Why don’t we ever hear about the clear link between formula feeding and obesity? Well who can breastfeed every twenty minutes when they’re at work?

Disclaimer – I was a formula fed and I turned out FINE!

The real reasons cannabis remains illegal?

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There’s been an increase in anxiety surrounding the legalisation of marijuana in New Zealand, lately, mostly due to the impending election. Medical cannabis will eventually be completely legalised, certainly, as it’s just another medicinal drug. However, the debate over medicinal cannabis is frequently conflated with legalising recreational pot-smoking/consumption.

To be clear, smoking pot is widespread and more or less tolerated in New Zealand, unless the police have some other reason to discriminate against you. Keeping marijuana illegal is just another way of giving police the discretion to arrest people they feel might be ‘trouble’.

Forget stigma, this is the main reason it remains both commonplace and illegal. Sure, there’s probably a voting block of boomers who believe that pot is meth’s aperitif, but mainly it remains illegal because it serves a convenient purpose.

The other thing I find interesting is the way this debate is playing out in the mainstream hard-left media. Apparently, the government adds fluoride to water supplies to keep the populace dumbed down and quietly apathetic. Yet the government won’t legalise marijuana?

I grew up completely surrounded by marijuana, and knew many, many MANY people who smoked it all day, every day. If you want a relaxed, apathetic populace, we should add cannabis to the water. Or the next best thing.

To be clear, this does not mean that all people who smoke pot will be apathetic loseroos, of course it doesn’t. Most people use it like they’d use any other kind of drug (like alcohol) – to have a nice time. It’s not a permanent arrangement. If there’s one thing we know, as a recreational drug for ‘sometimes use’ it’s generally well tolerated, safe and nice.

I’m not pro or anti pot – I don’t think it’s particularly dangerous, but it’s not without its risks. Changing your brain (getting high) has all kinds of effects, not matter how you do it. It all comes down to how we judge the effects.

For instance, some people think it’s fun to get a skinful and bash the shit out other people. This is their idea of a ‘good effect’. I think it’s a crap effect. Likewise, some people believe there’s merit to mooching about in your trackies all day – I’m one of them – while others think we should be contributing to the future of humankind by spending ten hours a day mining coal. Each to their own.

 

 

500 words – Technology and kids

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This kind of thing pops up on my facebook feed from time to time. This time it’s from a woman by the name of ‘mudfaery’. I am grateful for the resurgence of the term ‘faery’ –  it is an extremely quick and incisive way to delineate the type of person who is constantly amazed by the body’s ability to heal itself! I could say more. I won’t.

Anyway, apparently technology is replacing human connection, play, creativity, social interaction, gardening and the ability to eat handfuls of dirt and smash your teeth through your top lip. What is the world coming to? It’s the END. The END!

Well, yeah, if you allow your kid to spend all fucking day in front of a screen playing something really inane, then yeah, it might be a problem. But let’s be real, most of us don’t do that, and the parents who do are shit parents anyway. Tech isn’t the cause of their problems, their misuse of it is a reflection of them.

There’s something else we often overlook – technology often gets used instead of TV, and frankly, that’s probably a good thing. In the ‘olden days’ – usually a halcyon period in the 1960s fondly misremembered by baby boomers – kids got to play outside all the time. This was because no-one was allowed inside. Because Mum had been driven ABSOLUTELY FUCKING MAD BY ALL THESE FUCKING CHILDREN CHRIST ALMIGHTY GET ME A DRINK.

Nowadays children can remain inside during snow storms largely due to the advent of technologies that keep them quiet (or prevent them from being born in the first place).

We use tech in our house as chill-out time – we’re careful about the games that are on the ipad, but there’s no hard and fast rules about when or how long they can be played for. I think kids old enough to play these games (+ 6) can regulate themselves on this, in the same way they can regulate their intake of sweets. They actually can. I’ve never had to tell my kid to stop eating lollies, as long as she eats them slowly enough she can tell when she’s had enough. She usually eats a couple and stops.

Anyway, I’m over the tech paranoia – it’s making our kids way smarter in a lot of interesting ways. And they’re still playing and engaging in ‘creative play’ – which is also different to the ‘olden days’ where it involved a complete lack of supervision resulting in endless bullying or setting fire to the local library.

I think tech means kids are less bored now. They’re still bored enough to come up with their own fun, they’re kids, they’re just less bored. For the record, my kid spends more time reading books than playing with tech. As she grows older she will likely do even more learning on her ipad – she already does maths that she doesn’t do at school on the ipad. She’s learning that this kind of maths extension is fun and interesting, and she can do it at her own pace. This is a vast improvement on the good old days, when she would have been otherwise engaged pulling her teeth out of someone’s head.

 

 

 

500 words; Risk, autism and wooly thinking

None of this makes much sense, it’s really just me mapping out questions rather than answers.

Recently a friend claimed that everyone at MIT (where she studied) was on the spectrum. The assumption that intelligence corresponds with autism is well known – here’s a primer on the idea that certain alleles crossover for both.

Basically, the argument runs that autism is like a concentrator – some bits of the brain get gooderer, while others get badderer. The article I’ve cited talks about this from an evolutionary perspective, including ‘assortative mating’ – like mates like.

Here’s my question – everything I’ve read about the ‘stratospheric rise’ in autism suggests that it has something to do with rapid changes in the environment (in an evolutionary sense), especially pre and immediately post-natally. In other words, the food we eat and behaviours we engage in, especially stressful ones, positively correlate with a diagnosis of autism.

I don’t know if I believe in a ‘rise’ in autism – seems like the diagnostic criteria is tremendously malleable, you can see this in the discrepancies across social categories too.

I guess I’m musing on an apparent paradox;

The rise in autism is supposedly caused by poor environment – high maternal sugar intake, high post natal stress/cortisol etc.,. and yet autism would seem to correspond with high ‘innate’ IQ – that is, ability to think about difficult topics logically (expressing this is a different story).

Does this lead to the conclusion that the rise in Lifestyles of the Poor and Ignominious have resulted in higher levels of IQ – albeit alongside autism?

Doesn’t stack up for me.

I’m wary of labelling everyone smart with being ‘on the spectrum’. As a child I was diagnosed as 100% NutBar – with many troubling behavioural and learning issues (I’m NOT labelling being on the spectrum with being a nutbar – I am claiming my own experience not speaking for anyone else’s here).

My life was very stressful but we lived in an affluent area where social problems are far more likely to be pathologised as medical ones.  Then at 13 I moved schools and started living in a hostel. Suddenly (almost) every problem I’d ever had with learning and behaviour magically evaporated. I’m not suggesting that I am completely ‘not nutbar’ – I am a bit odd, and that’s good. I’m not suggesting there’s anything wrong with being on the spectrum – as long as the consequences are good rather than negative (stigma etc.,.) but that’s another set of issues. But, I am suggesting we should be realistic about the range of human variability, and realistic about what that means. Diagnosing epidemics of this and that makes me uncomfortable.

I’m not suggesting autism doesn’t exist, or making claims about causality or anything else, I’m just very interested in what appears to be a paradox described above.

I guess another way of saying this would be – if we define IQ as the type of stuff people with autism are good at (the type of thinking defined in the article I cited above) then is there now more of it? And is this due to shitty western lifestyles?

 

 

The true cost of books

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This (old) article from the Huffington Post popped up on my facebook feed yesterday. It asks – what’s the true cost of cheaper books?

It got me thinking.

I’ve never written a book in anger but I’ve self published two of them for fun. I ‘make’ about $6 from each one sold (at the bookshop).

Although the writing bit happens relatively quickly (for me), each of my books took at least a hundred hours of editing. The price doesn’t begin to reflect the cost.

Shameless sycophants tell me that they very much enjoy my books. This response is nice, lovely, in fact, given that I write such rude stuff. But it’s perhaps not surprising, given the amount of time that went into producing them. You can’t polish a turd, but if you spend a hundred hours trying it’ll at least take on a high shine. 

And yet pointing this out is like driving a fork into an untouched shibboleth. To talk about ‘my practice’ as ‘actually practicing a lot’ seems to denigrate the idea of artists as divining some kind of rare, unfathomable genius. Real genius doesn’t take time or practice. It’s genius! 

I blame the visual arts. The visual arts celebrates the artistic genius – the idea that an artist can whip out to the washhouse and churn out a masterpiece between goon bags. Perhaps this reflects my recent lap through the hallowed Boyd studio at Bundanon. In the artist’s studio we listened to an eager volunteer deliver a rattle-gun analysis of the huge paintings propped up around us. They all looked to have been painted in a tearing hurry to me.

The idea that a ten minute painting might look anyone other than a twelve minute painting in good light is anathematic in the world of visual arts. Painters routinely expect to be paid thousands of dollars for work that took a few hours, or perhaps a couple of days. Sure, they might claim that this price reflects years spent ‘engaging the their practice’ – basically, honing their skill, but writers do this too.

Unlike painters, writers cannot rely on the ‘immediacy of the message’. You can’t stand in front of a book for two minutes and claim to know what it’s about. In fact, it needs to be extremely well written for readers to comprehend it at all. You can’t just chuck all the words onto the page and give the audience the finger – that’s called experimental poetry. Experimental poetry is the literary equivalent of modern art, except it looks better under the kitchen sink than above the fireplace.

Or perhaps the immediacy of the message is the key to understanding why visual art expects to be reimbursed for its quick-and-dirty ‘genius’. Perhaps we value it more because you can instantly judge the work. A book, on the other hand, requires commitment. You can’t know anything about it until you’ve read a few pages (and you can’t claim to understand it just by standing in front of it like a winsome ingenue either). Really, what we’re really paying for is our own lack of commitment as viewers.

Something to think about maybe…

My general thought is that writing and literature is going to get a lot worse before it gets better. Writing follows the same patterns of economic history as everything else. The late 20th Century democratised the production of literature. For the first time, poor people were both educated and could sustain themselves long enough to pen their epistle. Those days are now drawing to a close. We’re heading back to the time of self-sponsored drivel that represents the cushy upper classes, where we will once again be forced to choose between the florrid insights of upper class toffs and (televised) penny dreadfuls.

Bring it on.