Snippets of things I've been thinking lately, including my broken mental time machine, and other matters
How mental illness hampers futuristic thinking:
Could it perhaps be because of a deficit of hope? When I think of the future, I think of March 30, 2022: the Moon Knight premiere. But I have tried, and been unable to see beyond the end of next month.
Anticipating the release of season 3 of Westworld had gotten me through 2019 and early 2020. What does it say that the only things I look forward to in the future (when I am able to) are escapist fantasies? And why is the future a matte of black, a teflon-edged void? An article by Kellogg and co. on the role of mental time travel in depressive and anxiety disorders says:
“negative beliefs about the future and feelings of hopelessness that characterize depressive disorders…can be directly linked to faulty prospection, an inability to envision possible futures and poor evaluation of possible futures.”
So the future gear of my mental time travel machine is broken. Noted. Brett Marroquín and Susan Nolan-Hoeksema, in this article, also
“hypothesized that dysphoric individuals’ predictions of what will happen in the future (likelihood estimation) and how the future will feel (affective forecasting) are attributable to individual differences in incorporating present emotion as judgment-relevant information.”
They also found that “the pessimistic view of the future in depression is attributable not merely to the dysphoric state itself, but also to the tendency to use negative emotion as information more—and positive emotion less—in cognition.”
Ah, so I’m possibly using the wrong fuel, powering my craft with a flat affect and hopelessness and neglecting to use the “good” fuel when I have it. I don’t feel that the future will necessarily feel any different than the present, so this would make sense. There are astonishingly few points of light or loci of anticipation (in my view), although I otherwise, objectively, have a good life.
I have also found that “an inability to visualize a future for oneself (let alone a positive future) is a hallmark trauma symptom,” and that an overwhelming sense of a foreshortened future is associated with PTSD. I’ve also seen in the literature that future-orientation can improve conditions that lead to impaired future-orientation (here, also here) (circular much?). But how do I develop future-orientation? It is evident that “If faulty prospection drives depression, then interventions should aim to fix prospection.” Some tentative answers from this article:
Challenging pessimistic predictions (including the tendency to catastrophize); goal-setting and planning; cognitive rehearsal; and scheduling “pleasant, mastery-inducing experiences in the future.” Believing I am not powerless to mould my own life is also personally helpful. Putting these all together might just be what this doctor needs.
I’ve been doing some more baking, which has been very enjoyable for me. I only wish my 5 y-o were more interested in my creations. I’ve recently tried naan, lemon loaf, and a blueberry yoghurt cake. She liked none of them. She even loves baking cupcakes with me, but never takes more than a bite. Is my baking that bad, or does she just not like pastries? I’ll keep trying till I find something she likes, then I can bake it every week for the next few years. :)
What should I do with my hair?
Having worked in the past 13 years in a variety of settings including direct patient care, and executive-facing project management, I have remained conservative in my approach to hair care. I’ve lived in North America for 6+ years anyway, and apart from the year I spent in Baltimore, I’ve lived in cities in which it has been hard to find a barber that knows their way around Black hair. But I have been thinking about what it might look like to no longer be bound by the need to groom my hair “conventionally” as a Black man. Could I pull locs off? That might be something to look forward to.
Crickets are supposedly the sound of silence. I have tinnitus, worse in my right ear, so I do not have the luxury of this view. My crickets drone in both ears in every waking moment, world without end. Not fun! Screaming children, sometimes right next to my ears, have not helped at all. A tuning fork and string section orchestra (not my lovely girls!), with one note looped forever, doesn’t sound good even in theory. Tinnitus is a source of considerable distress for so many. Noise cancelling ear buds have brought me episodic relief, but this article has made me decide to actually get my ears checked out. Perhaps mine is not incurable?
An obscure feeling:
What is the name for the pain and pleasure of having people cry when you leave, and not wanting to cause them pain by leaving? Whenever I close the child gate to go upstairs and my 15-month old cries because I’m taking a moment, even though she’s with my partner, this has been coming more to mind. Is this what if feels like to be needed? Intoxicating stuff.
Homo narans—the storytelling human:
Every now and then, my older daughter asks me to tell her a story and I draw a blank. I guess I have depended too much on reading storybooks, and have too few folk stories retained to be much help. I want to learn how to invent new stories, or improve my bank of plausible age-appropriate stories.
Can a poem, WWF/WWE-style, be a heel character and save the day on one’s behalf? Rescue us from the dark? The poem below, which I was fortunate to have published in the March/April 2022 issue of The Walrus, explores this notion. Plz buy my book so you can read more poems like it.
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