Monday, October 27, 2008

Thoughts on thinking

The brain is at work 24/7. There's no point where you aren't thinking. Unconscious thought processes are at work even if you don't recognise it. Every action, thought and emotion is regulated by conscious or unconscious thoughts.

Kant famously said 'I think, thus I am'. Existential questions aside, my layman's interpretation of that statement is 'who and what I am is shaped by how and what I think'. I find that I sometimes fall short in my relationships and life endevours precisely because I'm not thinking (or thinking throughly enough). This needs to change.

I've been lazy and relied on my emotional reactions as opposed to my reasoned thoughts. I know I haven't been the best I can be lately, and I've hurt some people because of my failure to think and to get out of my comfort zone. I'm truly sorry that I've hurt you, and I am making a commitment to rectify this problem and hopefully make amends.

My action plan/points to remember for change are as follows

1. Be aware that I am thinking

2. Be aware of what I am thinking, consciously and unconsciously

3. Recognise self-absorbed/self-focused 'tunnel vision' and avoid it

4. Consider things rationally, systematically and realistically

5. Recognise my emotions, but not allow myself to be controlled by them

6. Do not stick with a single way of thinking, but look at the issue from different perspectives

7. Think of how my message will be received by listeners

8. Think quickly, thoroughly and decisively

9. Stop being automatically defensive and argumentative because it stops me from thinking

10. Do not think in extremes or absolutes

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Green, green, aquamarine!

Hmmm. I'm not entirely sure this is accurate...
you are mediumauqamarine

Your dominant hues are cyan and green. Although you definately strive to be logical you care about people and know there's a time and place for thinking emotionally. Your head rules most things but your heart rules others, and getting them to meet in the middle takes a lot of your energy some days.

Your saturation level is medium - You're not the most decisive go-getter, but you can get a job done when it's required of you. You probably don't think the world can change for you and don't want to spend too much effort trying to force it.

Your outlook on life is brighter than most people's. You like the idea of influencing things for the better and find hope in situations where others might give up. You're not exactly a bouncy sunshine but things in your world generally look up.
the html color quiz

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Voting for change and other brief political thoughts.

Barrack Obama inspires me. If I were American, I'd vote for him. Nevermind that his policies make sense and that he's argubly the best man for the job. I'd vote for Obama because he's an inspiration, not just because what he says and does are inspirations.

Let's be honest. Politicians rarely inspire. People I know often vote based on self interest and what the politician or political party can do for him or her. Kennedy famously said, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." I believe Obama is almost Kennedy-esque in his inspiring power; a Winston Churchill for our time.

The last time a politican inspired me was when I met the grand old man of Singapore's political opposition, the late Mr J.B. Jeyaretnam along Battery Road, where he was speaking soap-box style about personal freedoms and the state of the Singaporean economy in the 'nanny-state'. Here's a 80-year-old man, so convinced in his message that he's preaching at street corners. This same man took ten minutes of his time to personally speak to me - then a 18-year-old punk - about the state of the nation and how even though he couldn't do much about it, I could.

That's inspiring, same way Obama's inspiring. Here's a black presidential candidate who's talking about making a difference. I'd vote for that.

To those politcally indifferent close-minded friends of mine, please understand that who becomes the next American president will impact your lives and livelihood. As much as you might dislike it, your economy is pegged to the American economy. There is a world outside your oyster shell, please don't be indifferent to it. We live in a democratic nation, it's your consitutional right and your privilege to vote. You don't want to be responsible for ushering in a tragedy of Palin-ian proportions. Don't fuck it up.

(Sorry, couldn't resist the Palin comment :)


Looked for jobs this morning:

Psych/counselling-related jobs in Perth: 4

Psych/counselling-related jobs in Sydney: 75

Psych/counselling-related jobs in Melbourne: 63

I think I might have to move once I graduate!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Cyber bullying: a reaction

Spent yesterday compiling information on cyber bullying for my work, and I find that a lot of mainstream education and approaches to tackling this issue are off the mark.

First, there's a lack of empirical research. Second, what research we have is largely sketchy and utilises research methodologies which may not work online. Thirdly, interventions for cyber bullying are mostly adapted real-world bullying interventions. Hey boys and girls, net dynamics are not a facsimile of real world interactions, different kettle of fish here!

The sources I've read (mostly federal, state and education-based sites) suggest that the a cyber-bullied young person will (1) appear depressed or have mood swings, (2) cry or have nightmares, (3) have increased antisocial behaviour, and (4) spend a lot of time on the computer. While this may be true, remember that the average teen very often displays some or all of these 'symptoms'. Also note that the only 'symptom' related to the net at all is 'spending a lot of time on the computer'. Common sense dictates that amount of computer usage isn't necessarily related to type of computer usage. Obviously these 'identifying symptoms' need to be better defined.

Suggested intervention strategies to manage cyber bullying include putting the computer in a public area, in-school education and parental monitoring of internet activity.

To be fair, the intervention and identification measures are responsible and make a certain amount of sense. But in my opinion, they are also off the mark. Education and watchfulness do work, but they fail to take into account the insidious nature of cyber bullying and how net dynamics function.

In the real world, bullying often has finite consequences with practical immediate solutions. But the net doesn't work that way. Insults, remarks and comments don't go away, but remain on the net for anyone with a search engine to discover. In the real world a hurtful comment can be forgotten. But on the net, the victim can unfortunately continually re-read the comments or remarks if they choose - or sometimes have it thrown in their faces - thereby continually re-wounding a wounded psyche.

Another issue is that the net has a global scope. An Australian teen can easily encounter scathing remarks made about a 14 year old Brazilian. This scope potentially expands the victim's degree of humiliation. The feeling that "everyone knows" is profoundly hurtful and damaging. Doubly so because on the net, literally everyone can know.

The net's anonymity also undermines trust and can create fear, anxiety and distrust in persons. It is difficult to trust someone when someone you 'trusted' posted your deep dark secrets on the net just to hurt you. I don't think we need to go very far to consider the potential effect cyber bullying has on young persons. Remember this and its fallout?

I would say that cyber bullying has far more severe negative outcomes than 'real world bullying', especially among the young.

Educators and support organisations need to recognise that an internet-based problem needs to have an internet-sensitive solution. You can't fix the problem if you don't completely understand the problem. You can't accurately research the problem if don't take net dynamics into account. Cyber bullying is a problem that doesn't end just because you regulate internet usage, new solutions need to be found and more research needs to be done.

I really want to try and research the role of the net/net usage on psychological health when I do my masters.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Where is the love?

Stories like this make me wonder.

Australian social and mental health services are stretched thin. Too often it seems that there's more problems out there than we can solve, and as the above news article shows, sometimes the way we try to help doesn't really help.

Trying to refer a client to the appropriate mental health or social services can be a bitch. Too many services are taxed to the point where it's very often 'first in, best dressed'. I've been turned away too often when trying to link a client to services he or she needs.

I know a kid who's been homeless for the past two months. He's been moved from shelter to shelter, sometimes three times in a single week. Sure he can be made a 'ward of the state', but that takes time, and time is not something this kid has. He needs a roof over his head now, not after the courts deliberate for a month.

There's a childhood sexual abuse survior who sat on the therapy waiting list for a month because she wasn't 'high priority'. Hello the system? It may have happened four-ish years ago, but how 'high priority' does it have to be before it gets around to her turn? When she slits her wrist?

Don't get me wrong, people in the helping professions do good work. The problem lies in the lack of services, or in the lack of appropriate services. In the short term, we can try to promote existing services within our communities so that people are aware of them. The obvious long term solution is to increase investment to either expand existing services, or to create new services. Too many people in need slip through the cracks.

Short-term goals.

October 2008
  1. Start writing again
  2. Get gym membership and start exercising seriously
  3. Read a good book
  4. Spend more time with family
  5. Take more photographs
November 2008
  1. Get accepted into part-time psychology masters
  2. Get a new job that pays at least $43k/annum
  3. Learn to speak more clearly and accurately
December 2008
  1. Open a first home buyer savings account and start saving
  2. Take a short break in regional WA
  3. Lose fat, gain muscle
  4. Play in MtG pro-tour qualifiers
  1. Buy a new car
  2. Move out if finances permit
  3. Take a holiday interstate
  4. Improve photography skills
  5. Finish writing book
  6. Maintain weight at 85 kilos by end of year
  7. Learn a new skill

Education investment.

The former Carpenter government was frequently accused of not investing enough in state education. About three weeks back, the new liberal government started looking at raising teachers' pay. It's a good start, and raising teachers' pay is 'investing in education', but that's insufficient.

Every day I meet kids who don't engage in school. Will a pay rise suddenly create a better crop of teachers? I doubt it. Simple fact: for many kids, school sucks. They don't engage in school because they're not interested in school.

The girlfriend commented yesterday that some kids should be allowed to 'do their own thing' and explore areas that interest them because normal education holds them back. That's a brilliant idea and some schools do that. Problem is, those schools are "alternative education" schools with limited post-school pathways. "Mainstream education" on the other hand doesn't allow much leeway to 'do their own thing'. Sure there's electives and structured workplace learning, but based on the number of disengaged kids I see, that's not enough.

Interest improves engagement, which will improve achievement. Higher achievement will have knock-on effects for discipline, self esteem, and achievement in other subjects. It's pure common sense. I'm not talking about completely revamping the academic programme, I'm saying maybe an hour or two a week.

If the state wants to invest in education, then give schools the money and the leeway to let students 'do their own thing' within that school environment.