Changes & Going Places

Just a quick note before this post begins. Longtime readers will notice several changes in the blog during the next week or so. I am going to be marking the “Chapters” of my posts. I’ve noticed I write in the exact same pattern for every post, and I have felt that my posts the past few months have been lacking in images and overall zest, so I figure ‘why not?’ Also, I may be changing the background, header and the way my posts are set up… In other words: change is coming, roll with it.

~Hannah-Elizabeth

We took turns taking bites of the world’s greatest quiche at The Cafe, breaking into personal and casual chats in between bites and sips of coffee.

Myself and a dear friend from my Kohl’s days (previously mentioned on my blog) by the name of Cali were in Downtown Keller for a few hours of antiquing. Cali Madame is one of those young ladies who can wear not a spot of make-up and still look beautiful. Her hair was braided on the side in a classic Cali style, and she wore a classic unusual-but-extremely-stylish outfit. In an odd way, I felt like being around her made everything simple and normal, in comparison to the rather hectic and stressful day-to-day routine I’ve fallen into. There was nothing to worry about or ruin a peaceful moment – there was just Cali, Keller and the kind folks of the stores surrounding us. Simple.

It reminded me how much I crave being around people who make things simple. No underlying dramatics or unresolved conflicts, just being present in the moment as it occurs.

Something I’ve noticed about Cali Madame’s presence, too, is that the simplicity of the conversation and her endlessly kind words and demeanor make her into sort of an instant, free-of-charge therapist. As if everything you say is safe and won’t be judged. Especially since Madame doesn’t build an emotional wall around herself and shares personal information, too. As a result, I found myself repeatedly opening up to her about the most personal moments and facts of my life. My struggles with my mother, my eating disorder, the whole Josh mess, my feelings of lack of support, ect., and, remarkably, she took it all in stride. Even when I ended up crying nearly bawling in her car, she immediately said, “Hey, you’re allowed to cry here. I have tissues in my purse if you need ’em.”

But, I’ve skipped quite a bit of yesterday’s story.

After the cafe we went to my favorite antique store in the potential multiverse, that I’ve mentioned millions of times in this blog. That’s right, say it with me: Whistle Stop Antique Mall. Madame bought a cute little white elephant key chain charm and oversized pink bow. After Whistle Stop we went to The Pecan, and then to a baseball game where I met a lovely human being by the name of Erin. Because of Madame’s persistence, I was talked into borrowing a pair of her shorts (I was wearing a red dress with lace tights and high heels with a grey cardigan) and changing into a brown blouse I had purchased at The Pecan. I’m convinced if I hadn’t changed I would have ended up dying of heat stroke, or worse – I would have ruined the dress and my shoes. It was my first time being at a ballgame in over eight years, and several times I actually reviewed my emotions to see if they matched up with what psychologists claim folks typically feel in the middle of a crowd at a ballgame – they didn’t, but I suppose the fact that I had no idea what was going on and the only emotional bias I had for a certain team was due to the fact that Madame’s boyfriend was in it (his parents were sitting behind us – very friendly, kind folks), so I suppose I’ll just have to learn more about sports and try again sometime. Or otherwise try to hush my inner psychologist more often.

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After going to church this morning with Heather Madame, we went to Chili’s for a couple of hours of coffee and french fries. The place didn’t seem very busy for a Sunday afternoon so having a conversation wasn’t the challenge I had feared it would be. It was business as usual – equal parts what’s new with her and with me. We’ve gotten into a rather comfy weekly routine. Church, coffee, lingering at the park, Starbucks or a restaurant for an hour or so, and filling the time with talking about her wedding plans and my college plans. Mainly, how on earth I’m going to get to the college I’m going to (still top-secret for ya’ll, I’m planning to drop hints soon). As the scheduling figures at this point in time, I’ll have to leave right after her wedding to…well, that’s where it gets tricky. There’s the Amtrak, which is expensive. A plane, which is expensive. Or driving, extremely expensive. Not to mention the challenge of shipping my items to myself. It has been settled that about 90 percent of any money I make over the Summer is going into my savings account for the sole purpose of getting me from point A to point B.

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Now, let’s go on to the part where I tell you what I’ve figured out. I’ve noticed it has actually been a while since I’ve written in a post something that has completely changed my perspective.

While I was speaking to Cali, during the pleasant brunch at The Cafe, nibbling on scones and sipping on coffee, and while I was sitting in Madame’s car, crying and trying to explain myself in brief spurts of coherency, I discovered several things about myself that Cali Madame opened my eyes to.

  • There are some things (and people) that I haven’t moved on from. I’ve just mentally swept them under the rug and assumed that means they don’t exist. When truly, how could that sort of Descartes-esque justification of ignorance do me any good?
  • Just like when I lived in the mobile home and I used bulimia as an anchor when things felt out of control, I use vanity and false confidence to control how I look so I’ll feel like I still have something to hold onto in the face of lifeless support and extreme discouragement from the people I’ve come to rely on the most, instead of turning to God in the face of the discouragement.
  • I handle things that disturb and emotionally harm me by ignoring them or turning my back to them. And respond to negativity by shutting people out.
  • It is, indeed, possible to get a good picture of me outside (as long as Cali is the one holding the camera and telling me how to pose).

I’ve never mentioned this on my blog before, but every time I feel any amount of stress or sense any tension or negativity, even if I’m not going anywhere, I’ll spend a couple of hours doing my hair and make-up and dressing up. The feeling would just come over me to look pretty when things got ugly. I can’t believe I didn’t make the connection until yesterday.

So, just like with anything, now I must take it one day at a time and attempt to ‘rewire’ the way I think about myself and how I handle stress.

I heard once that it is impossible for a psychologist to heal themselves of mental malady, just like a doctor shouldn’t first attempt to diagnose their own illness. In a way I’ve come to think that my knowledge of human behavior would have torn down some of the one-way glass that is my perception of myself. That maybe knowing what makes people tick would help me to stop a bad habit in its tracks before it was too late. But it takes outside input to get the full view of anything. We’re all looking at the same box, just from different angles.

All of that to say, I may shut down The Last Classic for the Summer.

I would bring it back in August, in time to document Heather’s wedding and the trip to- well, you’ll find out. And I’ll just use the two other blogs I keep open in times of boredom, work on new readers and subscribers before returning to this one.

I suppose we shall see. But I will certainly inform all of you before I vanish.

Until I Write Again,

–Hannah-Elizabeth/Classic

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On Emotional Psychology…Sort Of

Just a note before I publish this little post. The fancy struck this morning (well, by now, yesterday morning) to write a post on psychology. For my PWRP post series I try very hard to remain on topic. But for this post, while I will try to stay on one little rail of thought, I’m not going to limit myself to any rules. That is, don’t expect decent writing or really any order to this post. As for this little bit here that I’ve just written, think of it as a friendly warning of pure disorder and dull recollection.

Enjoy.

~Hannah-Elizabeth

I’ve been known to drink a few pots of coffee in one day.

Yep, not a few cups, a few pots. These days I tend to do it more out of routine than anything else. The familiar motions of making a cup of coffee, opening an old newspaper and trying to forget about what I need to do. To heck with it. I think, A moment of peace now will go a long way later.

And even if my daily routine means that I’ve lost time that could have been used to be productive, I don’t even try to eliminate those moments. Sometimes I think that I stick to it just so I can tell the story of drinking too much coffee and reading old newspapers. It’s something comfortable and set in its ways. It’s something that I do, that I always want to do. It may not be productive, it may not be healthy (though, one could argue, there are multiple benefits to drinking coffee,) but it does place me in a positive state of mind.

Recently while reading a few articles on Psychology Today, I suddenly came to the conclusion of several weeks worth of contemplation: Negativity and self-delusion can be healthy.

Allow me to explain:

Self-Analysis

I recently started rereading material on personality profiling after seeing a reference to the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator in a post of a fellow blogger. During a recent trip to the library, the post came to mind and, out of boredom and curiosity I picked up a popular book on the subject of the MBTI that I first read  several years ago, Do What You Are, and reevaluated my personality type according to the MBTI (still INFP…dangit,) along with my type according to the Hartman Color Code, the Five Elements personality test found in The Face Reader, my brief self-analysis from my Rorschach inkblot test (I couldn’t bring myself to do a full analysis because the Rorschach is touchy enough without extreme bias from the tester getting in the way,) as well as several classic tests, and very quickly I realized an undeniable truth:

Self-delusion is very much in my nature. According to the five elements test, I tend to make excuses for the bad behavior of people I care about. The Meyers-Briggs informed me that when I’m in a relationship I tend to fabricate positive traits in the person I’m with, and even in the face of strong evidence I will still keep them on the pedestal I’ve created. According to the color code I tend to ignore negative traits in people and instead admire their values because of my inherent need to keep peace and avoid conflict. All other tests said generally the same thing, that I tend to view the world through rose-colored glasses, my mind remains oblivious to the potentially negative outcome of a relationship until it’s much too late, and on and on and on…

At first this revelation made me want to track down the creators of each test and give them a talking-to (which would be rather difficult with the MBTI, because the true creator of the test was Carl Jung…he died in 1961), but then apparently my passive nature made me rethink that idea. And I realized that I couldn’t deny what the tests told me, because I purposely lie to myself everyday.

In late September of last year I started a personal happiness experiment. Everyday I focus on one thing to be happy about and, as I’ve mentioned before, this significantly changes the mood of the day. When I can’t come up with anything, I settle on ‘Today is going to be a good day.” Even if I know it’s going to be stressful and hectic I say it anyway. I asked myself once ‘what exactly should one do when there is absolutely no silver lining to be seen?’

I replied to myself instantly, Well, just make one up.

I couldn’t help but wonder if I was negatively affecting my view of reality, and perhaps delaying my psychological maturation by doing this to myself. After all, if I’m viewing my relationships incorrectly, my friends incorrectly, my family incorrectly and myself incorrectly, I must be missing a lot of what other people are seeing throughout their lives.

I suppose the easy answer is yes, yes I am. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Mind Over Body

The mind controls the body. This is seen everywhere from a strong emotion giving you goose bumps, to a biofeedback machine helping a patient learn how to ‘think’ away their headache and lower their blood pressure. There are even mind-over-body techniques used in cancer treatment, in a field called psychoneuroimmunology.

John Gottman (my favorite relationship psychologist) discovered a darker way that mind affects the body. Specifically, that the presence of contempt in a relationship spells out not only the end of the relationship, but also problems with the health of the person on the receiving end of the contempt. “…we can predict how many infectious illnesses that person receiving the contempt will have in the next four years. People in those kinds of relationships really live significantly less…they die earlier.” He said in an interview with 60 Minutes.

And, sort of a fun fact, multiple studies done in the 1990’s revealed a loss of hippocampal volume (8% in war veterans) in individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder (your hippocampus is a part of your brain that mainly handles memory storage.)

Optimism = More Likely To Pop The Red Pill

blog post on the Psychology Today website in December brought a new spin on what looking on the bright side means when it comes to being level-headed.

Raj Raghunathan, Ph.D. executed an experiment at the University of Texas that involved polling the students to discover if the majority of individuals would decide to be happy even at the cost of being aware of the whole truth, or if they would instead decide to be completely aware of the truth, even at the cost of cheer. Long story short, Raghunathan and his research partner, Yaacov Trope, put subjects in either a bad mood or a good mood, had them read an essay on coffee that contained both positive (caffeine promotes mental alertness) and negative (caffeine can cause cancer) factoids about coffee, and then tested their memory of the essay. Turns out, individuals who felt more upbeat were more likely to remember negative effects of caffeine, while sad participants were much more likely to remember the positive facts from the essay. Raghunathan believes that this is because the sad subjects subconsciously “chose” a reality in which coffee is all good, “Because they were sad, they were inclined to repair their mood through positive knowledge – or felt too down to handle a dose of negativity.” While the happy folks proved that more upbeat feelings make us more receptive to the truth and all of its downsides. “A hierarchy emerges: First we seek happiness. Only after we’ve tipped toward contentment are we open to hard facts.”

This article surprised me because when I think pure and simple happiness I think illogical. Trusting. Endlessly peppy. A child in the middle of a war that climbs on some giant rock, holds a little fist in the air and yells “Can’t we all just get along?” The idea of happiness lending us the ability to accept more difficult facts is unheard of (or rather, was unheard of to me).

The Upside To Negativity

Honestly, fourteen hours ago when I started writing this whole shindig  (yep. I have been writing and rewriting and deleting entire paragraphs in this post for the past fourteen hours straight. I was determined to write a post and I don’t mind that it’s nearing 2:30AM, I am not leaving my computer until this post is published,) the title of this post was “Making The Case For Rose-Colored Glasses”, and I was going to attempt to convince you of the upsides of a little self-delusion here and there. But, the positive side to negativity kept trying to elbow its way into my post and I just kept shoving and pushing and aiming and firing at the idea of negative thinking being helpful, when I realized that I was being too negative about negativity.

To quote a popular Eli Young Band song, “Start out depressed, everything comes as a pleasant surprise.” It seems rather obvious: If you apply for a job and have high hopes of getting it, you’ll have to deal with the intense disappointment if you’re rejected. On the other hand, if you have low expectations and end up not getting the job, you won’t have to deal with strong negative emotions. (But you’ll be that much more excited if you have low expectations and get the job anyway.)

“The nice part about being a pessimist is that you are constantly being either proven right or pleasantly surprised.” – George F. Will

A pessimist will also see things that an optimist might miss if said optimist is too busy being angry at personality tests for declaring them an optimist…Also if said optimist is making an important decision and may not be thinking as clearly as someone with a bit more doom and gloom and less smiles and sunshine. Pessimists lend a new and possibly clearer perspective.

In closing, though, we need to remember why pessimism has gotten such a bad rap. The bad news about being a pessimist and why every article on mood in every psychiatric and psychological journal and magazine and report tells us to aim for happiness. Let us look at two simple facts:

1. Happy People Live Longer! A study in the UK involving 3,800 people aged 52 to 79 has yielded results informing the world that happy people live an average of 35% longer than people who claim to be unhappy. And the happier you are, the longer you live (which means, terrifyingly enough, Barney and Spongebob are probably going to outlive all of us.)

2. Happy People Are Happier! Yep! Happy people get more serotonin, dopamine, endorphines…all of our favorite feel-good neurotransmitters that give us a natural high. Meanwhile pessimists get cytokines (blood proteins that have been linked to major depression, Alzheimer’s and cancer) and an increased risk of many a horrid disease.

Alright then, it is nearing five in the morning, and I leave you with…ah, whatever it is that I was writing and editing the past seventeen hours.

Before I leave you be I’m going tell you something that I learned five years ago from a book that a behaviorist by the name of John Watson wrote (something that I misunderstood entirely at the time, but a misunderstanding that shaped who I am), it is impossible to fully understand the outer workings of a human being unless one first comprehends the inner mechanisms. Understanding psychology is an incredible foundation for reading people at a glance. If you want to read people through body language and facial expression and you want to learn to do it right, begin with the mind and work your way out. It gives us empathy and understanding and an ability to better predict the behavior of those around us. Psychology is the science of mental life, as William James once said. And mental life is reflected on our faces.

Until I Write Again,

–Hannah-Elizabeth/Classic