Monday, December 30, 2013

Friday, December 27, 2013

When Life Doesn't Meet Your Expectations, also, Babies

Hi Edahn,

I found your blog just a few weeks ago and I find your humor and wisdom incredibly comforting. I'm hoping that you can help me with something.

Does anyone in a stable, heterosexual relationship on this site find it necessary to have the "what would you want if I were to get pregnant discussion?" I think it's an important discussion to have, and one I've had with two men in our late 20s who I have been in stable relationships with. They've both answered that they know for sure they would want an abortion since they're not ready to have kids until they're independently wealthy.

I'm firmly pro-choice, but I've always known that, for myself, at my age (28), I would want to keep the child. Hopefully I'm never faced with that choice, but emotionally and financially I know that keeping the child would feel right to me. However, knowing that child wouldn't be wanted by my partner puts a definite kink in things. I feel like I would be compelled to have an abortion if the child wasn't wanted by my partner as well.

I'm having a hard time coming to terms with the fact that these men have no emotional attachment to pregnancy. To have their minds made up that an abortion would be their definite preference in any unplanned scenario just strikes me as a bit callous and extreme. I didn't realize there are so many men out there whose first instinct is actually abortion, even in a stable relationship with a partner they trust.

I can't help but take this all a bit personally. Any insight you can provide about what is going through a man's head when faced with this question? Are there any men out there who understand that pregnancy is a possible outcome from sex, even protected sex? And that abortion isn't just a given if that happens? 

A VERY WISE PERSON I know once told me that life doesn't always unfold according to your expectations. She was right, and she touched about a personality trait that, I think, lies at the bottom of your dilemma.

Some cultures (American, Canadian, British, German, Chinese, Eastern European) place a high premium on planning, strategy, and stability and eschew improvisation. Members of that culture are expected to carve out a path and walk it, carefully. When obstacles arise on the path, their habit is to remove them. Other cultures (French, Spanish, Latin, and Italian come to mind) are more comfortable with improvisation and creating new plans to replace old ones. 

I think what you're experiencing in these men is their commitment to their plans. In those plans, babies come after financial security is achieved (and probably marriage), so the pregnancy is out of order. Sounds pretty harsh, huh? They're less emotional about their decision because they haven't really embraced the emotional impact of bringing a baby into the world. It doesn't reach that point. 

The experience is very different from the person bearing the child, because (1) the alternative scenario is much more salient, due to the fact that you're the carrier, and (2) you've probably fantasized about the experience much more than any man you're dating, seeing as how bearing children is something that distinguishes you from half of the planet. Other factors are probably also at play, like your personality, your comfort with improvisation, and your own criteria for bearing children, which might be lower than your partners'.

So where does that leave you? On the one hand, you could try dating people who are more spontaneous and comfortable with changing plans, but I think the planning mentality is probably attractive to many people--men or women--because it signals security. I think you should talk about your thoughts with your partners. You might freak them the fuck out, but you might also encourage them to broaden their approach to life. As the Tao says, "To bend like the reed in the wind, that is the real strength."

Thanks for the great question. Keep working through it. I think it'll help you grow. I hope you find someone special to have those babies with. --ES

Who am I?

This came from a forum I used to post on. I really liked it. Happy New Year.


Who am I?Born as an infant I observed the world, without any sense of anything. I was the void. I was just an observer.But then the environment started affecting my mind, molding it, shaping it, and I turned to an extreme extravert. Highly energetic fearless and social. I danced on the stage when other kids didnt were shy and silent.But everything got reversed as I grew up like a magic.I became the introvert, anti-social, and others became extraverts. They teased they disturbed, I was not anti-social, I wanted to be social but I failed.God? Who is God? Who am I? Questions started appearing in my mind.Fear of death kept me in fear every second. Highly paranoid, I thought of every possible ways poop can happen.I changed from religion to religion.In dog I found peace. I felt I was not human. I am an alien. ET.I seeked enlightenment. Truth was the only thing I needed.I bought material things one after another, but none could fill the void within, instead made it expand.That is how I learned how peace can only be found within.I seeked , seeked seeked.I found the characteristics of indigo. So exciting moment for me. I was overwhelmed. I felt special. I learned more and more. But I didnt like the label.It made me feel special and unique. But I dont like feeling special. Being so egotistical.I seeked on and on, I wanted enlightenment. Soon I found, how deluded was everything related to indigo phenomenon.Who am I? Who am I?I was introduced with MBTI. Labels after labels, I got.INTP, add. Spd disorders and personalities. Labels of so many things.Masks after masks I wore, site after site I visited, got banned one after another.Walked on and on in search for enlightenment.
My mouse got broken and I retreated and thought for 2 days continously. And I gained madlightenment instead.I saw the truth. Nothing matters. That is the absolute truth. That is absolute freedom. I dont believe nothing matters. I know.
Then again I used one mask after another and interacted in different forums. But then I stopped.
Who am I?
I used so many masks, that now I dont remember my true self. 
I looked within. I am just an empty shell. The void itself. All there remains are the masks.Behind the mask, there is just other masks. And behind the innermost mask there is nothing.
Who am I?
I am the void.
But what is I?
Awareness. The simplest answer possible. Belief, thinking patter, faith, occupation are all changing factors. Even when the I remains they change, the only thing that remains as long as I remain is awareness. That is the only true answer.
But no no no. Degree of awareness changes. And what is awareness without the objects to be aware of? The objects to be aware of are eternally changing, so is the form of awareness. 
I am no one. I am nothing, I am impermanent. They is no permanent self. In each second I die. And I die permanently. And a new I gives birth. None can understand it better than me. I was born an extravert, turned into a overly sensitive and emotional introvert and then at-last to a sociopath. I have seen so many changes that only I can know that there is nothing permanence in this world except the impermanence itself. There is no soul. No self. Only void.I am imaginary.
But then I went beyond the I and looked with my eyes.
I saw the flow. The force. I saw the universe. From a tiny point it started from a big bang (or may be not. doesnt matter how it started) that tiny point expanded to give birth to me, this body, this place, this everything. I was born from a sperm, and now I have all these sperms within, and then I will die, and I will decompose ( I will be burned into nothing. that is how it is done in here). And I will merge with universe again. I will become the universe. Wait how am I separate now? I am the universe. The ever flowing change. I am the part of it. In one way or another I will live on and on. Effect is a form of cause.

This body, these all of these things are nothing, just one form of the All, just a temporary separate form, which will some day take a complete different form.I am beyond this body. I am beyond all of these yet I am all of these. 
There is the flow. The flow of life. I am the flow.I am that which cannot be named. I am that which cannot be seen. I am that which dont have any form. I am the force. I am the Void.
I am the incomprehensible one. So I never can know who I am. Can you eat your own head? Can your finger touch it's fingertip? 
I am that. I am the undeducible, never knowable.
I AM GOD.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. This year I had trouble feeling gratitude. It's not that I'm not grateful...well, maybe I'm not. I don't feel grateful, though. I've had so many things to do that I really haven't had a chance to stop, purge myself of all the thinking and planning, and just feel good. That's not to say I feel bad--there're lots of feelings between good and bad--but I feel genuine gratitude the most when I feel calm and collected.

The thing I love about getting in touch with yourself is the paradox involved. I've always loved puzzles, and trying to feel is a great one for me because feeling is a non-cognitive exercise, while trying (to do anything) is a very cognitive exercise. Feeling happens in a place where words, narratives, definitions, and calculations don't take place. Feeling is the remainder when cognition comes to a screeching halt. It's always there, hiding behind your thoughts and inner dialogue. That's nice because you can never lose it. You can never really lose touch with yourself, your heart, and your inner-strength.

When you see your feelings, i.e., your body and its sensations, without any thought, you see how absolutely weird they are. They're not words, they're experiences, which really gives no additional clarity to what they really are. They're changing from second to second and they have certain properties, but beyond that, everything gets weird. Each sensation seems to blossom on its own in the field of your awareness, and then dissolve into nothingness, and you're sitting here, watching it all unfold like a windows screensaver.

Then the quiet sets in as the body calms down and the heart starts to open. Different feelings cascade through your body as gradually, you are reminded that everything is okay. There are no flaws, just things that haven't ripened yet. Everything is suspended in an ocean of pure compassion as you're reminded of your purpose in life: to spread peace using whatever talents, skills, and tools you have at your disposal.

Thanks everyone, for being on this great journey with me. Peace.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Why do I get self-conscious around close friends?

Dear Edahn,

I wanted to ask you about friendship, platonic friendship between guys to be precise. Recently I spent a long time with one of my oldest mates on holiday. I’ve known this guy since the first day of high school, and consider him still one of my best friends - we were in the same class since day one, come from similar backgrounds, and have shared so much and basically grew up in each others’ houses.

The issue is we seemed to have lost the easiness and closeness one has with one’s best and dearest mates. You know, the easy banter and great chats, and the being able to hang out effortlessly and unselfconsciously for hours. Instead, it was awkward and self-conscious at practically every interaction. Our conversations had no natural flow for the most part, and I realise from my side that I was worrying constantly about what and how to say things to him, how to be funny around him, and generally contorting myself in a bloody ridiculously contrived manner now that I think about it.

I know it’s a bit naive to expect us to be as tight as the day we left school all those years ago, seen as we have obviously led different lives in different places, but what I can’t abide is my own reaction to the whole thing: that I feel I am at fault by being so self-conscious around one of the people I should be the closest to in the world, which in turns seems to drive me further away in my own mind, and become more distant from him - something he noted about this and some previous occasions, when we finally broached the topic one drunken evening.

I suspect a lot of the problem (if it’s even helpful to call it that) lies with me in any case, as he is not the first person dear to me that I’ve felt self-conscious around. There have been a number of times when I feel on reflection as if I’m putting up some kind of facade in front of my genuine self, upon which I project what I think people might like to see - which is utterly nonsensical, as I am fortunate to be a very well-liked person for who I actually am.

Thanks for your other posts by the way - a lot of stuff on this blog makes a lot of sense. 


I'VE GONE THROUGH THIS same sequence with some of my closest friends and I myself was (and in some situations, still am) a very self-conscious person. 

I'm not sure I'm really satisfied with the words social anxiety, shyness, or self-consciousness. I think what we're really talking about here is apprehension about losing connection to someone when they find something they stop enjoying us and turn off or turn awkward. Some might say it goes back to your attachment to your mother, but I think that's narrow-minded. I think it has more to do with a universal need to belong to a group (after all, we're tribal animals) combined with a genetic proclivity towards sensitivity and high levels of empathy. So underneath all this lies some real beautiful qualities that you shouldn't forget about.

I think people can sometimes get into a trap where their apprehension about the loss of connection makes them feel distant and act different, which increases their apprehension because they think no one wants to be with someone like them. Part of the reason they feel so distant is because the apprehension makes their mind work in overdrive and they become severed from their actual thoughts, moods, feelings, and body. And so, their apprehension of disconnection turns into real disconnection, both from themselves and from others.It's a horribly painful experience that a lot of people aren't enough ready to admit, acknowledge, or experience. Those are 3 separate "stages." 

It sounds to me like you're doing all 3, but having trouble making room for the experience because it's risky. And it is. It's risky to let yourself experience the full extent of your disconnection, because, well, it's not something we typically do in our culture. We're used to masking our fears, rather than revealing them. That has to do with the shame we store about being weird and different from everyone else.

Here's my take, because I think everyone's got this all fucked up. I think everyone experiences this. I mean everyone. It comes out in a lot of different ways, and at different times. A lot of people have developed strategies for avoiding these feelings, but they're there; I just think that we, as a society, haven't really done a good job of recognizing it. For example, sitting to my left are 3 girls who are talking shit about a guy who just came here and tried talking to one of them. They're not just having fun--they're strengthening their own feelings of being normal by identifying him as abnormal. And I'd bet this is a pretty common activity for each of them. (BTW, I'm at Starbucks. BTW, you should never sit next to me at Starbucks.)

This apprehension that you have--painful as it is--is expressing itself in a very beautiful way. It's not turning into hatred or anger. It's not being suppressed. And it's not turning into blame. It's actually bubbling up to the surface in a pretty pure form, which is exactly what you want so you can do the only thing you can do to bring peace to your situation--allow it. Allowing it doesn't mean you lose your shit and start crying in your bro's arms. It's more of a dignified, genuine, compassionate acknowledgement. 

That kind of acknowledgement isn't manufactured from your mind. It's not forced into your perception with a mental crowbar. It's not a trick. It comes from wisdom and insight, and the insight is pretty simple: this is hard for me, but I'm a good person, and it's okay to love myself.* 

Again. This is hard for me, but I'm a good person, and it's okay to love myself. Again. This is hard for me, but I'm a good person, and it's okay to love myself. When that starts to sink in, your discomfort may not disappear, but it stops running the show and becomes a little more tolerable. Your heart opens up a little bit and makes more room for yourself and your struggle--the universal struggle. Remind yourself as often as you need to.

You, me, and the rest of us people are all good people. When all the bullshit is cleared away, we just want to smile beside people we love, and help others smile too.  It's shared peace, and it's a beautiful thing.

Thanks for writing in. I mean it.

Edahn


* Ah fuck now I'm crying too.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Some things to remember about life to make you more happier (sic)

Here's a list of things you can keep in the back of your pocket and pull out as needed.

1. Things tend to work out. 

True, times in life can become challenging and often we feel lost, confused, stressed, in a bind, or not sure when the hell it'll ever change. But things tend to work out on their own. Usually it's hard to have faith that things'll work out, especially when you're stressed, but they tend to. Look at your life for evidence of this. Things may not work out the way you originally intended, for example, your relationship might fall apart, or you might lose your job, but those losses play a role in creating new opportunities. You only see it in retrospect, so it's good to remind yourself sometimes that things'll be okay.

2. Problems become easier to manage.

Whether it's self-consciousness, overthinking, chronic sadness, frustration, or feeling lost, things improve because you have a mind. Even just thinking about these things helps. Why? Because you're becoming more familiar with your own experience, and as that happens, you're able to see more of what's going on. You can start to make connections between your reactions and their causes, even if it happens slowly. As your awareness starts to grow, you're able to step away from your automatic reactions, as you're having them, and look at the situation differently with fresh eyes. New perceptions, new reactions, new experience. Now we're cruising. 

3. Mood changes are normal and healthy.

We like to pathologize everything, i.e., make everything into a disorder. There's a lot of reasons why that happens: pharmaceutical industries wanting to create more opportunities to push pills; a legacy from our pessimistic Freudian days; strong cultural (and biological) pressure to fit in and compete; and other people who rely on your fear of inferiority to make money (sorry, Oprah, but it's true). But the truth is, feeling happy and sad and scared and joyous are all part of the normal spectrum of human emotions. Life is hard at times, and it's scary at time, and it sucks at times. And having reactions to these changes are expected. They don't need to be "fixed." At all. So relax, dammit!

4. Things don't have to change in order for your feelings to change.

This is a big one. We tend to think that our situation needs to change for our feelings--stress, fear, anger, frustration, jealousy, gloominess--to change. But it's not always true. Our moods aren't just based on the events that happen to us, they're based on how we perceive and choose which events to recollect. 

There's a ton of information we experience on a daily basis, but to make sense of our lives, we have to collapse this information into chunks. The chunks are strung together into stories (narratives) that we tell ourselves and share with others. Think about how you talk about your career, or your luck, or your relationships, or your moods. There's a story we tell people that summarizes these aspects of our lives, and each story has certain key moments and interpretations. For example, "I have the worst luck in dating. Everyone I meet looks great at first but then has something seriously wrong with them. Three examples..." The examples we pick help shape the story and what we expect in the future.

Some narratives skew negatively; you know these people, that always have 100 things to whine about. Sometimes they skew positively (and sometimes a little too positively...I'm looking at you, New Agers), and sometimes they wobble. I'm kind of a wobbler myself. The point is, the way we interpret and recall the events that shape our lives, both good and bad events, influences how we feel and think about our lives--whether we're optimistic, pessimistic, confused, stressed, frustrated, fearful, or whatever. That's why people who watch the news (like me) become cynical hopeless bastards (I stopped)...their memories and narratives skew negatively, so they're moods and thinking start to skew negatively too. 

So pay attention to your own stories about things, about your relationships, your "issues," your successes and failures, your conflicts, about others...your loved ones and especially your enemies. Try to identify your own narratives and examine them. Are they accurate? Are you recalling events in a biased way? Are you discounting or ignoring evidence that contradicts your narrative? Sometimes that's all it takes to change a relationship, a problem, or a slump.

Hope you enjoyed. Questions > askedahn@gmail.com

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Weird names for dogs

I tried guessing my friend's dog's name, so I started running through a list of names in my head, only to realize that 90% of them sounded awful. 

So here's my official WEIRD NAMES FOR DOGS list.


Alan
Mitch
Daniel
Steve
Stephen
Stephan
Todd
Brad
Antonio
Samuel
Bob
Robert
Phil
Dan
Jim
Alexander
Montel
and my alltime favorite:
SCOTT
- - -
Erin
Barbara
Estelle
Janet
Ruth
Michelle
Patricia
Jenna
Patrice
Karen
Olga
Miranda
Bethany

Let's add more to the list. Leave a comment, okay?
YOU BETTER DO IT

Sunday, October 13, 2013

How do I help my wonderful partner calm the fuck down?

Welcome back. I've got a question.

I've been in a relationship for 4 years. We've got a fun vibrant relationship. Lots of laughter. For the past few months, my girlfriend has been really stressed out. Lately her anxiety has picked up. She can get paralyzed with fear and feeling overwhelmed with work. I know to not be judgmental with her, but kind of lost after that. I'm wondering if you had any other strategies for helping her cope during these times of panic? What do I do when she freaks out? Also, I'm beginning to sense that it's causing strain and stress in our own relationship. thanks.

S.O.S.
Stress On Stress 


I THINK THE BEST thing you can do is run ask her what would help when she gets worked up into a frenzy. She might just want you to listen and nod mechanically. Maybe she needs a hug. Maybe she'd like you to just keep things casual and keep doing whatever it is that you're doing. I'm guessing she wants #1, although I have a hunch that #3 would work out pretty, pretty, pretty...pretty well.

Truth is, while you could kind of help contain the situation, the changes really need to come from her or from her workload. She could try and space things out, but you've both probably considered that and rejected it for some good reason. The other thing she can do is start to take some initiative to stem the anxiety before it matures into full-blown hysteria.

One way to do that is through managing her thoughts a little better. In essence, being aware of the pattern that she gets into--e.g., ruminating, magnifying the negative, discounting positives, etc.--and starting to think very fast, and probably breathe very fast or short. It's kind of like DDOSing a website, which is Nerdspeak for flooding a website with so many requests that it shuts down. The mind kind of gets overloaded and just starts shutting down. That's probably also the source of the friction you're starting to see in your relationship: the mental overloading is starting to affect her mood, making her less pleasant, more irritable, and less sympathetic too. All normal, bee tee dubs.

So, her job is going to be to notice what's been happening, and start to catch it in the early stages, when the thoughts are only going 15 mph. That's when she can pause, take a step back, and say "okay, I know I tend to focus on the negative, think about everything that I have to do, think about everything unfair and irritating, and skip from one topic to the next. Instead, I'm going to gently remind myself that 1) fuck this shit, 2) I'm a good person, I'm doing well, and I don't need to be perfect, 3) there's some good stuff going on that I actually enjoy, and finally 4) I'm probably going to do pretty well and get all my shit done in the end because Imma gangsta." Then take a really deep breath and maybe ask you how you're doing, or maybe share something funny that happened at work, you know, like how she punched her supervisor in the face. awkward, fear-infused laugh

What I just gave you is kind of a makeshift cognitive-behavioral technique for managing anxiety. You could suggest, gently, and probably from a safe distance no less than 15 feet, that she make an appointment with someone who's well-versed in cognitive-behavioral therapy. Five-to-ten sessions are probably enough to really help. There're books available too, but having someone to talk to is nice and you can ask questions. From a safe distance.

G'luck amigo,
Edahn

Got a question? Email askedahn@gmail.com. Gracias!

Monday, September 30, 2013

The Psychology of Breaking Bad

I just finished watching Breaking Bad. What a great ending! Vince Gilligan and the writers did a great job of tying together all the loose ends and justice was served to all parties. Walter White did something good and selfless, but helping Jesse at the cost of his own life and finding a way to help his family.

So what's the show really about? Is Walter White evil? Does he get redemption at the end? What made Breaking Bad so captivating?

The answer has to do with Walt's transformation. As the teaser for the finale said: "chemistry is about transformation." Walt's story is a universal myth with a great twist. It's the story about a man who feels screwed by the system and screwed by life, who fails to live up to his hopes and dreams and slips into a comatose state of living, which resembles death more than life--in psychological term, Walt is dysthymic. He's become the subordinate male: subordinate to the system, to Elliot, and in a way, to life.

But then something happens. Walt decides to make a change. He decides to take a risk and stand up for himself. He stops taking shit from people. He stands up to Tuco, Fring, Elliot, and the Nazis. It's not just that he gets a taste of power, it's that he no longer lives in fear, as a subordinate of life. As he states in the final episode "I did it because...I felt alive." He finds purpose in his life and conquers his existential angst. He climbs out of the subordinate ranks of men into the ranks of the alpha males.

But what makes it so complicated is that his journey to self-respect is mired in sociopathy and immorality. We root for Walt because he's doing something that we all want to do--to climb up from where we are and surpass our fears--but we're conflicted because we know what he's doing is wrong. He manufactures drugs that ruin people's lives; he's killed multiple people; and he's ruined the lives of everyone he's close to. We identify with his struggle, and identify with his achievement, but we're horrified by the means by which he accomplished his goals. And in the end, that complexity is what makes Walter's story so enticing.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Ah man! My site's down

This isn't going to work, is it.

Edit: It worked!



So let me say a few things. First, I know people read this blog because I check the stats every day even if I don't post. And I'm both glad and flattered that people find my writing useful or interesting, or maybe it's just a trainwreck and you're all looking for FAILs. Whatever. I'm happy, and I'm happy I can share that happiness with others, to some extent.

I haven't posted here in a while because life got a little crazy with work, school (counseling degree, here we come), and managing relationships. In the process, my writing and creative projects started to suffer. But I'm back and excited and I got a cool haircut from the future. (I look like a Jewish anime character.)

So, here we go. AskEdahn round 2.

FIGHT!

Peaces and Loves,
Edahn

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Waking Up

Today I glimpsed eternity
For the briefest of moments
Upon awaking from a deep sleep
I experienced the sharp contrast
Between nothing and something
Between emptiness and matter
Between absence and substance.


For the briefest of moments
I pierced the sublime, the unfathomable
I saw reality stripped of its contours and definitions
I drank from the universe directly
And it quenched all my ancestral thirsts at once.


For the briefest of moments
I laughed with amusement
Realizing that the thing I've been staring at for years
Watching, studying, codifying,
Was ultimately just a mirror.


How marvelous.

Monday, June 17, 2013

He says he loves me, but he won't leave his wife

Hi dear Edahn

I need your help desperately. One of the people who call me his love and keep me waiting for almost 4 years and keep telling me he will get divorce recently start calling me a sicho bitch or infront of his friend telling me that I have bipolar disorder.

Please tell me what to do?


THERE ARE PLACES WHERE psycho bipolar bitches can get help.

Just kidding. He's an asshole who's using you and he'll never leave his wife. Fuck him. He's not as great as you think he is, and time, as well as dating people with more integrity, will help you see that. Move on and be happy without him, because you'll never find happiness with him, ever.

Love,
Edahn

Thursday, June 13, 2013

How to Find Inner Peace

Hi Edahn,

I read several blog posts about your philosophy that everything is okay. Your words make sense in a simple but profound way. It reminded me of something I read about Aldous Huxley said about the universe being "All Right," with a capital "A" and a capital R". He made this statement when he was reflecting on one of his experiences with LSD. Many people have bad trips apparently, while some have very enlightening experiences. I have never had any experience with the drug, but his words were always comforting to me, and they reminded me of your philosophy.

Just wondering if you can relate to the below in any way? (It's a bit long.)
"The intensity of the experience is entirely unlike any ordinary experience, but on the other hand it quite obviously resembles spontaneous experiences certain artists and religious people have unquestionably had. It's an immense intensification of the world, a transfiguration of the external world into incredible beauty and significance. It's also beyond this kind of aesthetic experience, there may be other experience, a sense of solidarity with the universe, solidarity with other people, understanding of such phrases as you get in the book of Job: "Yeah, Though He Slay Me, Yet Will I Trust In Him", it becomes quite comprehensible. This thing opens the door to these experiences which can be of immense value to people if they choose to make use of them. If they don't choose to, I mean this is what the Catholics call a gratuitous grace, it doesn't guarantee salvation or it's not sufficient and it's not necessary to salvation but if it can be collaborated with and used in an intelligent way it can be an immense help to people. This sense that in spite of everything which of course is the ultimate, I suppose, the ultimate mystical conviction in spite of pain, in spite of death, in spite of horror, the universe is in some mysterious sense is all right, capital A capital R."
I THINK ALDOUS AND I are talking (in my case, blathering) about the same thing: this experience of shifting from mind to body. In Aldous's case, I think he's taken it a step further, maybe with the help of hallucinogenics, but it's still the same thing.

To be honest, it my favorite thing to write about because it's my favorite thing period. It's a profound experience that means something, and you can feel it, rather than just think it. The crazy thing is that there's no obvious road to get there, because roads made with mental effort always lead outwards while real peace only resides within you. That's comforting because you can never lose your touch point with peace, but scary because you can't force it or speed it up.

What we're talking about is the shift from mind to body. I'd say about 99% of our days is spent totally absorbed in our thoughts. It's like a hallucination. Our thoughts are so all-encompassing that it's like we're watching a movie and oblivious to our surroundings and what's going on in our body--the tensions, the subtle movements, and how those change. We track our thoughts like a hunter tracks its prey, and during that time, become more and more disconnected from everything else.

Thought tracking takes on so many different forms. Some of them are beautiful, but most of them are directed at planning, conversations, rehearsing events from our past, and building us up with positive memories. I think it all comes down to an impulse to make ourselves permanent. Our body help up do this through the pain/pleasure system which rewards things that increase our chances of survival and successful reproduction and punishes (through pain) things that threaten our survival. Think about it: sex, food, shelter, physical safety, popularity, children, pair-bonding, cute babies, and financial stability all give us a sense of relief and/or pleasure. Losing these things causes physical pain and anguish.

The most insidious form of thinking is thinking about enlightenment, because it seems like it's more spiritual or holy than other thoughts, but it's the same thing: a desire to escape pain and preserve ourselves in a form that we like the most. That isn't to say that things like meditation and yoga and philosophy (and AskEdahn) aren't valuable. But using them as a vehicle to escape is dangerous and antithetical to the whole purpose. The purpose of these things is to get to you to shift from the thinking-tracking-hallucinating mind-absorption to whatever's happening with you and around you. It's such a weird concept because if you think about what that's like, you're already back in thinking territory. 

The shift away from your mind can happen in different ways. Sometimes it happens after exhaustion. Other times by accident (Grace). Other times through pain and sickness. And other times by just listening is a really stupid way. Not intellectualizing, not pondering, not trying to "get" something from your listening, and not having any expectations. Just listening to your breath, then to the tensions and movements of your body. You can do it right now. You probably already are, I bet.

It's quiet, and peaceful. And you start to loosen those tense places in your body, especially around the heart. At some point, when the mind starts to STFU, you're just here. Just sitting (za-zen) or just whatever-ing. And that's when you realize you've made peace with it; the world, you, everything. The peace is in you flowing out to whatever's there. There's no rush anymore because that desperation to change, plan, and better your position in life is muted. It's just All Right.

Thanks for the question, I appreciated it. For you or others, I've written more about the subject of peace, which I call Rest. P.S. What school?

Questions? AMA @ AskEdahn@Gmail.com.

Monday, June 10, 2013

How Men Really Date Women (the Category Theory)

Click to enlarge.
Hi everyone! I'm back from my little break. On with the show!

My Dearest Edahn,

I've gone out with a guy seven times now. He's 50 and I'm 38 and considered a pretty good catch. We've never had a discussion about being exclusive, and both he and I are still on a dating website (where we met). I'm actually still on that site since he's still on. He seems very into me when we're together. Although unlike other guys, he doesn't call right away after the date, but texts and then calls a day or two later. We had sex on the fifth date, and I feel ever since then he hasn't been as persistent. I am not available to him every time he wants to see me and he seems very into me. So I don't really get what's going on. Why's he still on the dating site? Please don't say "he's on because you're still on" because there have been times I haven't logged in for days and when I log on- lo and behold he either just logged in or is online with *IM ME NOW*. I don't get what's going on here. Things are moving so slowly. I feel it's going nowhere and I'm wasting my time. I want a real relationship that is evolving, and we spend more and more time together. That's not happening here. I even verbalized before that I was hurt after we had sex that he just texted me for two days and never called. Well he said he didn't mean anything by it, and just did it again

Should I dump this fucker? I really do like him, but I need a strong man that isn't waiting for me to bring up exclusivity, or that he may just be playing with me. Please help!

LET ME TAKE THIS opportunity to introduce you to my Category Theory of Male Dating. With most guys, you'll find that they put the women they date into categories. Each category has a different level of investment. 

At the bottom is the Casual Dating category, where the investment is very low and the relationship is a means to sexual gratification. Because of the low risk, anxiety levels are low, so these relationships can be fun and captivating. At the top is the Potential Soulmate Category where the investment is high and consequently, so are the stakes, so anxiety levels are usually high. Men who are anxious--who have poor self-esteem--might try and push people into the Casual Dating Category because it lowers their anxiety levels, even if they're interested. Then there's people who don't fit into either category, yet. In that case the guy will try and figure out which category his partner fits into. And to the side of this whole thing is the I'm Not Interested Category. So essentially, 3 categories, and once you've been classified into one category, you don't get reclassified.

You know what category you're in based on the investment level. How often he calls, how often he thinks about you, how considerate he is, how much he's making future plans with you, and yes, whether he's still looking for other people--these are all indicators of investment. All his indicators are pointing to "low investment." Instinctually, you already know all this. 

I think what you're asking for is a guy who put you in the Potential Soulmate Category because you're not interested in getting used for sex. Dump the fucker and go for it.

Got a question? AskEdahn@gmail.com.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Robot therapy? Fuck that.

Yesterday, NPR reported on a joint project from USC's Institute for Creative Technologies.  Psychologist Albert "Skip" Rizzo and computer scientist Louis-Philippe Morency have created a robot therapist. According to the article,
"'Everything has been thought of,' says Morency. For example, when patients talk, Ellie encourages them to continue talking with a well timed 'uh-huh,' just as real people do. 'We have recorded more than 200 of these uh-huhs,' Morency says, 'and these are so powerful.'"
Wow, well I guess they did think of everything, since therapy can seemingly be boiled down to a series of well-timed uh-huhs. And here I was listening, trying to understand, and trying to apply stupid things like wisdom. I wish I knew this when I started my blog. They continue,
"Because a simple 'uh-huh' and a silence — if they are done the right way — can be extremely powerful. So we spent a lot of time on these little details."
Uh-huh. I think it's more like "the robot has no idea what you're saying, so all it can say is uh-huh."  The robots main feature isn't its intensely healing uh-huhs, though. It's loaded with sensors of all sorts.
"Under the wide screen where Ellie's image sits, there are three devices. A video camera tracks facial expressions of the person sitting opposite. A movement sensor — Microsoft Kinect — tracks the person's gestures, fidgeting and other movements. A microphone records every inflection and tone in his or her voice. The point, Rizzo explains, is to analyze in almost microscopic detail the way people talk and move — to read their body language."
Oh that makes me much more comfortable. So the robot is like a hyper-scrutinizing therapist, measuring and analyzing everything about you, even things you're not aware of yourself. That's a little freaky to me, like getting therapy from a Terminator. Jeez. This is a screenshot from the Institute...


But all I (and my Photoshop) could see was this:


Now, to be fair, I think this could be interesting and useful for some diagnostic purposes. It could help people diagnose things like anxiety or maybe depression. (Realistically, I bet it'll be adapted for espionage and interrogations.) But is it really a substitute for a therapist? Hell no. But I'm not sure people, and maybe more so academics, really appreciate that fact.

I've lamented America's obsession with standarization, automation, and commercialization before. It all goes back to the assembly line at Ford Motor Company at the turn of the 20th century. Ford realized he could automate the manufacturing of cars and produce more, faster. In the 1950s McDonalds followed suit by dividing the kitchen into work stations. America fell in love with the concept of mass production because it was a great vehicle for making money. Marketers got smarter, and the industry figured out how to get us addicted to their products. The consumer was born...and exploited. We've commodified (turned into a commodity) nearly everything: education, art, food, health care, and now, therapy.

The urge to commodify therapy is surely related to the broader commodification of health care, where insurance companies have tried to standardize and minimize treatment in order to maximize profits. Therapy sessions were limited, and superimposed with a rigid structure, much like an assembly line. The first two sessions are for building rapport and gathering information; the next session is for diagnosis; then interventions, follow up, and kick em out the fucking door. It's a travesty, and it's not how healing really happens. Forget the fact that there's no way you can really understand a problem in 2 one-hour sessions, or that diagnoses--which are highly stigmatizing--are usually corrected after 7 or 8 sessions. The automation of therapy leaves no room for a therapist's humanity...the connection, understanding, forgiveness, and compassion that open the door for healing.

The researchers at the Institute for Creative Technologies have taken the mindless worship of industrialization to an extreme, by literally removing the human from therapy. They recklessly disseminate the idea that therapy, like education or medicine, can be boiled down to formulas and algorithmic. It's a wildly dangerous notion that, without correction, will quickly devour this ancient healing art, in the same way its devoured our education system.

Questions? AskEdahn@Gmail.com. Thanks.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

One Question that will Forever Change Your Life

Not the actual question, but a good one.
Here at AskEdahn, we (okay, I) like to serve you great (okay, mediocre) content in small, digestible portions that you can grab and go because I understand that you're busy (surfing the internet) and that electronics have reduced your attention span down to the size of a fruit fly (infant fruit fly, to be exact).

In fact, you probably stopped reading the paragraph midway through. No worries. There are probably lots of questions that have changed people's lives, questions like "who am I?" or "who's making the world just?" or "shouldn't this swelling have receded by now?" Questions are very beautiful things. They seek out minds and ideas to dance with and mate with, creating new ideas. "How can we fix the healthcare system?" is a great example. With just a little intonation and clever syntax, the listener conjures a universe of ideas and sorts them into novel arrangements. Tell me that's not beautiful.

Well, I digress a little, because digressions can sometimes be more interesting than the main road. The question that will change your life forever...ready?

What's happening right now?

Before you cancel your subscription to AskEdahn (that doesn't exist), let me explain. What's happening right now is an interesting question because unlike other questions, it has infinite depth. Think about that for a second: infinite depth. That's a shitload of depth. You can ask that question and keep getting different answers.

You're sitting in a cafe, like I am right now, and you ask yourself what's happening right now? On a superficial layer, people are working, chatting. On another layer, you're sitting here, breathing, being. On another layer, people are absorbed in their stuff--electronics, worries...minds. On yet another layer, you're thinking. And on another level, things just happening, changing. Words fade away because they're just mind-made labels, not actual things. Ask yourself this question when you're upset, and you find a whole new world of phenomena to study, most of which is unfolding in your body. It's amazing.

What's happening right now is the gateway to true knowledge, which is knowledge you gain through experience. It's also the gateway to responsibility and wisdom, which is the only way we can lead virtuous, good lives. It's the gateway to our evolution.

So...what's happening right now?

Friday, May 3, 2013

How do I get my friend to stop calling me all the time?

Hi there

How r u? I have a quick ? - i've got a new friend and she is cool but she calls me like 5 times a day and sometimes talks for like an hr I want to keep her as a friend but cut the conversations to ever other day and 30 min tops How do i do that? (when i let her calls go to voicemail and don't call her back she says she's worried and i need to call her back :( plus she calls again and again Please, help She's really cook otherwise

Thanks!


THANKS FOR TAKING THE enormous time to text in your question. 

Here're some options:

1. Every time she calls, keep shifting the conversation to the competitive deals being offered by Allstate. "That's funny you mentioned that your boyfriend dumped you, because I don't think he was insured by Allstate, was he?"

2. Next time she says she's worried about you, tell her not to worry because the ER doctor said the surgery was mostly successful. Also, your new penis should be working any day now.

3. Every time she calls, send her a text that says "om gg hlppp" or "maskd men;; locaton unknw" or "need liam neeson asap". This can only end if she leaves this speech on your voicemail.

4. Start calling her every 20 minutes to ask her stupid questions like "what time is it?" and "have you heard about Allstate's great insurance rates?" The second one will be a stupid question because you already told her about Allstate's great insurance rates, right?

5. Hire a customer service representative to field all of her calls. Better yet, set up an elaborate and ultimately closed-loop phone tree that tries to figure out what she wants to talk about with you. Example: "Thank you for calling [your name]. Para Espanol, oprima numero dos. To better assist you with your call, please answer the following numbers with your touchtone keypad. To bitch about your most recent date, press 1. To complain about your supervisor, press 2. To discuss Allstate's amazing new insurance plans, press 3." Whatever she presses, make sure it goes to 3.

6. This one's a little more elaborate. Call a professional auctioneer. Ask him to help you set up an auction. (Find out if he takes a percentage or flat rate; it's important.) Sell everything you have, including any real estate. Go to Google Maps and find the nearest mountain range with a fresh water source nearby (river, lake). Learn to hunt. Buy a water purification kit. Learn to build a cabin. Buy cabin building supplies (screwdriver, hammer, maybe some nails or glue, I'm not really sure). Move to the wilderness with bare essentials. Make sure to take extra socks. Build the cabin and paint your face as part of your hunting ritual. Master your environment. Examine your life, its meaning, and your essential nature. Explore your most primal self. Get connected to the animals, the Earth, and Universe. Unravel the mysteries of God. Call friend and tell her you have no reception where you are. 

Hope this helps!

Got a question? Email AskEdahn@Gmail.com. If you liked this post, share it, okay?

Thursday, May 2, 2013

When dating, how do I show my affection for someone?

Not like this.
Dearest Edahn,

When dating, how do I show my affection for someone?

HOW DO YOU KNOW someone feels affectionately about you? When someone really feels something for you, you can tell by their body language. Their eyes look a little softer. Their posture looks relaxed. Their movements are slow, but not annoyingly slow, and their voice is soft and relax. What's happening is that their mind is calm, and their body is mirroring their mind. The content of their speech (as opposed to just tone) also shifts: they become accepting and peace-seeking, rather than conflict-seeking. They're also much more open to connect to you--intellectually and emotionally--without being clingy or fake. That's the profile of someone who feels genuine care.

That description is universal because our biology and basic psychological architecture is universal. Meaning, that's how you show your affection too.

If that's confusing to you or seems like it's not resonating with you, then I'm going to take a guess that you're struggling with a lot of self-consciousness. Self-consciousness in relationships is like the guy who invites himself over to sleep on your couch and ends up staying for 3 months. He's a frequent, uninvited guest. If you're feeling a little tense or stuck in your mind or frozen, you're dealing with that uninvited guest.

The best antidote to self-consciousness is catastrophe. Before you go joining a bereavement group, let me explain. When I was in law school, I had an interview with a semi-high profile law firm in Los Angeles. I was worried as hell that I was going to fuck it up because I get extremely self-conscious in interviews. (Just to give you an example, in one interview I asked the law firm partners if they had any moral objections to working in a firm. Yes, this is while I was trying to get the job. The silence that ensued was so intense I could hear the ants gasping in horror.) Anyhow, I ended up running late for the interview and on top of that forgot my resume at home. I walk into the waiting room saying SHITSHITSHITSHITSHITSHITSHIT to myself. And then something weird happens. I start laughing because...well, because everything was so utterly fucked already, I had no control anymore. There was nothing I could really do. The need to control was gone. I couldn't control what they thought of me, how I appeared, and whether I was going to get this job, because I knew I wasn't. And that relief turned into joy.

That was the best interview of my life. I was funny, engaging, intelligent, and charming. (Which, coincidentally, are psychopathic traits, but that's another story.) And they actually offered me the job. 

Most people approach self-consciousness and anxiety by trying to control it, which is a big mistake because that's self-consciousness's best weapon. It's like a ninja challenging an NRA member to a gunfight. The gun person is going to win because guns are his domain.* People function much better when they aren't over-thinking, over-analyzing, and trying to control everything. That's our domain, and catastrophe is the fastest route to it.

So, if you find yourself over-thinking, think about how badly you want things to change, and then think about how wanting things to change will never help you, because that's the same thing that's making you self-conscious in the first place--the need to control everything. Then, when you realize that you're absolutely fucked and that you really have no available moves left, like me in my interview, you'll have to choice but to give up, laugh and be your natural self, with your natural affection pouring through.

Got a question? Email AskEdahn@Gmail.com. If you liked this, please share it with your friends, if you have any. ;)

*FALSE. Ninjas always win. /Dwight Shrute voice

Monday, April 8, 2013

How to Change Yourself and Your Life (the Only Guide You Need)

If you're reading this blog, you're probably an introspective person. You look at yourself, either occasionally or obsessively, and evaluate how you're doing. You've identified things in your life that you do well, and other things that you know are missing. You look around you, and it probably looks like everyone you know has an abundance of that quality you're lacking...self-confidence, business savvy, discipline, presence and charisma, etc. You say to yourself: I wish I could be different. I wish my life could be different.

This is what life is for everyone. This is the carrot that perpetually dangles in front of us, enticing us to chase it. A little more security. A little more respect and status. A little more comfort.

But it's that chasing that leaves us feeling alone and disconnected, because chasing is also a form of escape. When you chase something, you're saying "what I have isn't good enough." You split off from your situation, kind of the way a spirit leaves a dead body in a cartoon.

The irony is that we think once we get that security or that status or that personality flaw fixed, we'll finally be at rest--happy. Is that true? Do we really reach a state of satisfaction or do we just habituate and then start needing more? Five to seven years ago, all I wanted was a blog to express myself and help others, a business where I could be creative, and to be in a psych program. Now that I have those things, am I satisfied? Not at all. I want more...better.

The stuff, the security, the skills, the options, they're like gum. They lose their flavor and we end up needing more. It's an addiction that we build a tolerance to throughout our lives, needing bigger and bigger doses to feel good. The Buddha, on his deathbed, said "All conditioned things are impermanent." Conditioned things are things that depend on other things to exist. My security depends on my bank account, which depends on my job, my clients, the economy, global trends, the weather, politics, etc. They're inherently chaotic and unpredictable, always in a state of decay.

So where does that all leave us? What can you do when everything is so slippery that you can't really hold onto it? What if there was no security? No progress?

You stop.



And you see what you are.

You see where you are.

You greet yourself in your situation. Hello me. The spirit comes back into the body.

And what you start to see is that all this fucking craziness settles. The desperation, the agitation, the worrying. It just stops, because it was all a byproduct of this false notion that getting something will finally satisfy you.

And you smile.

Because your heart begins to thaw. Kindness starts to pervade, almost from no where.

And no you're just sitting, doing nothing. Nothing needs to be done anymore. Everything is just fine where it is. Maybe even more than fine. There is no pretending.

You change yourself not by becoming someone else, but by becoming what you already are, who you are, where you are.

Wallpaper for ya. Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hmoong/

Friday, April 5, 2013

How can I tell my family that I don't want to spend the holidays with them?

Dear Edahn,

My spouse and I usually split holidays to avoid the guilt of not seeing one side or the other. I've found myself gradually leaning toward spending more time with my spouse's family and less time with mine. To be frank - I like them better as people and they treat me better as a person.

Now, how do I (a) stop feeling like a horrible child for ditching my family and (b) get my family to understand that I love them, but I don't need to see them every holiday.

Sincerely,

Guilty Gal

A FAMILY IS REALLY an organism. It grows slowly, and every person plays a role, like organs all have a role in the body. The patterns that develop within a family aren't always healthy. He person might become a scapegoat, another a victim, another the aggressor. Everyone's role is maintained with the help of everyone else. In that way, the family drama, or theater, persists even when one person starts to doubt its health.

You sound like a person who has begun to doubt the health of your family dynamics, in part because you've seen how healthy families function because of your in-laws. Now you're feeling the pressure to maintain your part in your family's drama by playing the role of the person who's shit on. That's normal. But I think the thing you want to remember is that love can be expresses in many different ways. You show you grandfather love differently from the way you show your partner love (hopefully), which is still different from the way you show love to a best friend or a mentor. For years, you showed love to your family in one way, and now that you've changed, and grown, your relationship and the way you express your love needs to change too. That's not a bad thing--it's a part of growing, in the same way you might outgrow a favorite jacket and then turn it into an art piece.

In sum, it's not your love that changes; it's how you share it.

Got a question? Ask away. AskEdahn@gmail.com. Average turn-around time is 3-6 days.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Why it's important to be nice to people (the selfish reasons)

Compassion at its finest.
No verbal appetizers for today's post, just the main course.

When you make fun of people or look down on them for having faults, you're not just setting up a roadblock for them--you're setting a roadblock up for yourself. If you don't make room for people to have mistakes then you make it impossible to look at your own self and see your own flaws. Because seeing your own flaws means you suck, and no one wants to suck.

If you can let people have their flaws, by being nice about it, by not blaming them, by understanding and having some kind of sympathy for them, then recognizing your own flaws becomes less intimidating. Why? Because it doesn't mean you suck anymore. It just means you have certain challenges.

And, recognizing your own flaws is the only way you can investigate them. Master them. If you deny them because to do otherwise would crush your self-confidence, then you remain a slave to them forever.

LOL, have a good Sunday. New post tomorrow.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Why are feelings so important? [Blog post]

We are constantly drowning in data. This is something I realized a few years ago when I was jealous of my brother's fashion sense (the younger one, not the gorilla). I was trying to figure out why he was so good at knowing how to dress himself and it occurred to me that he was sensitive to fashion, colors, and whatever else goes into having good style. (Still have no clue, as I'm still wearing my flannel shirts from 1994.)

I, on the other hand, have never been sensitive to that stuff. When I walk down the street, I notice people, their moods, and the vibes they give off. (I don't like using the word "energy" because it immediately conjures images of people who need haircuts holding magical expensive crystals.) An architect notices structures; a designer notices branding; an officer notices safety conditions. All this information is around us, but we only attend to a small sliver of it.

I wasn't always like that. For years, I spent hours organizing ideas into logical structures. I saw ideas everywhere. So it was kind of bizarre when people started talking about feelings. Now that I'm in school for psychotherapy, my teachers talk about feelings even more, as if they're both the cause and solution to everything. Cue every therapist ever asking "how does that make you feel?"

There's been a trend in psychotherapy away from feelings and towards thoughts and behavior. Cognitive-behavioral therapy has been instrumental in this shift, and so have insurance companies who demand evidence-based practices to avoid wasting money. The therapies that are supported by evidence are cognitive-behavioral (rather than emotionally-focused therapies). I can only venture a few guesses as to why this is the case. It may have to do with the fact that qualitative studies are not given merit when assessing the efficacy of a certain technique or style. I would also guess that clinical labs that producing evidence lean towards cognitive styles of therapy because most people who gravitate towards academia and research and head-strong--they may not believe feelings are that important in the grand scheme of things. Then again, maybe the other, emotionally-grounded theories and techniques just don't work as well.

So which is it?

I suspect it's both. On the one hand, some techniques in psychotherapy are based on outdated models of personality, development, and progress. A lot of theory is still locked in Freudian and post-Freudian thought, where unconscious, inner feuds drive interpersonal and intrapersonal dysfunction, and, where the therapist's only role is to evoke emotion (hence the robotic how are you feeling? questions). On the other hand, I believe that the expression of feelings is necessary, but not sufficient, for psychological progress. The reason why has to do with what causes, and ultimately soothes, psychological distress.

Think back to nearly any problem in your life or in your relationships that you've overcome. A fight with a partner, a dilemma in your career, a part of you that you hated. Now dissect it carefully. What helped you solve the problem? Ultimately, it was action or a decision, but that action and decision was preceded by a shift in your attitude, and that attitude shift was preceded by an emotional event.

Emotional events are moments where we merge with the feelings we're experiencing, rather than denying them. We let ourselves experience something even though it's intimidating. Sometimes it's the pain that you fear, other times it's the fear of losing control and the "edge" we've worked so hard to gain, even though it hasn't really helped.

Until we face our feelings, we're stuck in this state of overthinking and confusion. We're essentially trapped in a hallucination, where everyone is assigned a role in this cosmic drama: there's the victim, the perpetrator, and other satellite characters that play supporting roles. We can try and navigate that world of bullshit for years before putting it down and facing our real feelings.

That's not to say there aren't aggressors in the world. There are definitely people who are fucking up the world is very real ways. But it's impossible to see solutions as long as we fuse them with their aggressor-role, and us with our victim-role.

Facing your feelings--the sadness, the hurt, the anger--and sitting with it without any need to surpass it (that's the key) helps dissolve the role-thinking and open up new possibilities for growing and working with others.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

What does it mean when your boyfriend wants to take a break?

Dear Edahn,

My boyfriend and I have been together for 3 years. In those 3 years it was the best. We were so sure we are soul mates and we also talked about getting married and all those talks no one ever has with their boyfriends. We had the best time of our lives. We both have admitted that we are meant to be together forever. He was 14 and I was 16.

Recently he decided that we needed to go on a break for awhile which devastated me. He said he doesn't want to do it but he feels like he needs to. He said he needs to appreciate me more and that by spending time away from each other and being on a break he will be able to come back one day and make it even better. He doesn't know life without me. I guess he just wants to gain perspective and know what it is like out there. He said he wants me to wait but also have fun at the same time. Which I don't really understand.

Im having trouble accepting the fact that he chose to leave instead of working it out with me, together. Its has only been a week and Im' falling apart because I don't know if he's out there enjoying himself single while I'm brokenhearted. What should I do?


I THINK YOU'RE HAVING trouble because he sent you mixed messages. His words said: "I love you I want to be with you indefinitely" while his actions said "I'm not really sure I love you, I don't want to be with you." So here you are with these two different stories that don't fit...unless you consider the possibility that either his feelings changed or (and this is the hard part) that they weren't as strong as he led you to believe. I don't know which one it is, and it's possible that even he doesn't know. But maybe it doesn't really matter that much because either way, he's moved on and doesn't have the same feelings for you that he had before.

That's not easy for anyone to accept, especially when they have so many strong feelings and especially when their partner told them the opposite. But that's the truth.

So where does that leave you? I'm sure you're in a lot of pain. All I can say is that in a few months, you're not going to feel this bad. You're going to move on and feel whole again and you're going to feel excited about making progress in your life, your education, your purpose, goals, and whatever else you choose. For now, you have to try and work with your feelings, instead of working against them. By that I mean, rather than ignoring them or giving them too much attention (both mistakes), you can try listening to how you feel and finding a way to let that feeling come out in a way that makes sense.

For example, when I'm feeling sad, I sometimes take a pad of paper, sit outside a Starbucks and draw. I'm a horrible drawer (like, HORRIBLE), but it's a way for me to get in touch with that feeling. It guides me and my art. Other times I might listen to some music and pretend I know Tai Chi and move around my room in slow motion. (Yes, it looks really weird.) Just about everything I do when I'm sad looks really weird, but hey, it feels right and it pulls me together. I discovered these things by accident by just letting the feelings flow through me and direct my actions.

So what types of weird things can you do?

Got a question? Email AskEdahn@Gmail.com.

Friday, March 8, 2013

How can I stop fighting with my boyfriend?

Edahn,

My boyfriend and I have been together for almost a year, our anniversary is next month. He is my first serious boyfriend and I am his first serious girlfriend. We had been fine together until my boyfriend switched to night shift a month and a half ago. He has become what I see as a completely different person. Up until that point I have respected and loved him because not only does he have great character and motivation in his life, but he showed me his appreciation and desire to be with me constantly. He only has a handful of friends and I have even less than him.

After he started night shift, I began to miss connecting to him. He says he's tired, dehydrated, has a stomachache, headache, or something, and he is always stressed about not being able to do the things he wants. He has always been a gym rat and he has lost a lot of motivation, relinquishing his life to playing video games and watching TV all night long. I have on a couple occasions been able to break into his thick barriers and he has admitted feeling frustrated and depressed to me.

I feel constantly angry, so angry that I want to break things and cry and I feel that the whole world would explode if I could let out my anger. My boyfriend and I not only argue every day, but we argue heatedly, and I raise my voice because I feel so desperate. I feel that he will not listen, and is always defending himself, when all I want is for him to look at the situation and realize he is not here for me. He is not making an ounce of effort in my direction, and honestly I feel used, abused, alone and angry. I do not want to leave him, I want to get him back, but I don't know how.

I CAN SEE HOW exhausted and tired you must be from all the conflict and inability to connect. It must be sad to think about the relationship you one had and what it deteriorated into. It's like your relationship died, or even like your partner died.

I think one difficult question you have to ask yourself is whether the relationship has fallen apart because of the change in work, or whether that just triggered something that was lying underneath. The healthiest relationships that I've seen started smoothly and with romance, but both partners were still able to maintain their independence. They continued to keep their friends and their personal interests, rather than getting too wrapped up in the other person. The relationships that start off really intense--like yours--can often falter later on, because one or both of the partners never learned how to be themselves within the relationship. Instead, they become a reflection of who they are, what their partner expects, and what others expect. Without a connection to themselves, they start to feel depressed and resentful, and often turn that resentment on their partner.

I'm not saying that's the case for you, since I'm not privy to all the details of your relationship. But if it rings true, maybe it's worth thinking about and having a conversation about. If it fits, there's no easy answer, but I'd suggest that both of you rise above the bickering and take time to study yourselves, what you're feeling and why, and learn how to communicate that to your partner in a way that doesn't turn them off or make them defensive. Communication is really an art that requires attention to words, attention to tone, and attention to timing. Just saying how you feel let down is not going to cut it. You have time find the right way to package that, especially given where you guys are, where there's so much bitterness and frustration that's being tapped whenever something goes wrong.

Every relationship is a learning experience even if it doesn't work out.

Got a question? Email AskEdahn@Gmail.com. All questions welcomed.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Tips for Designing with Prezi

Hi, I really LOVED your Prezi on Elizabeth Gilbert's TED talk on genius - I found it through the Prezi TED finalist section. I wondered if you would share (via email or on your blog) how you found your own inspiration for Prezi, how you learned to use the tool, anything that would help me conquer my own Prezi presentation that I'm trying to design. I'm finding it awkward to translate PowerPoint slides into a Prezi (but I'm building something for a client from an existing presentation they have). I'm completely new to Prezi and just wanting to find more inspiration about how to build and conceptualize the presentation as a whole. I can use the tools themselves but of course that's only part of the process!

Keep up the great work!


FIRST OFF, THANKS FOR the kind words. It's really cool to be a finalist! I'll try to weave some advice into the story of how I created that presentation.

A. THE CREATIVE PROCESS

1. Colors, Fonts, and Tone. Any time I create something, I devote at least 5 hours (sometimes 20) just to creative exploration. In that time, I'm looking through different sites, google images, and doing research on similar projects that were executed well. I'm looking for something beautiful that resonates with the project. Something about designer furniture would have a different color palette, different fonts, and different visual elements than something about punk rock. 

2. Layout. Once I've found visual elements that work, I start to think about layout. The interesting thing about Prezi is that because you're zooming in and out, you have multiple levels of layout, and your layout is more flexible in a lot of ways. My first draft of the presentation was more like an infographic, but I felt like I wanted one unifying visual to tie everything together, so I used the picture of Elizabeth speaking at the TED talk. I was pretty lucky to find that image. I dropped it into Photoshop to add the title of the presentation to the visual.

4. Telling a Story, rather than PowerPointing. Once you have an idea of the visual direction you want to go in, it's time to create the story. For me, this is the part that really separated the top presentations from the rest: the narrative. As a presentation designer, the thing I hate more than anything is something that reminds me of PowerPoint, because it's boring and looks unprofessional. Anything with a title and bullet points reminds me of PowerPoint. Breaking away from that is a challenge, because it means you have to reconceptualize how you're going to explain your idea. The PowerPoint format encourages people to explain ideas in terms of heading and bullet points, or topic and supporting point. 

But that's not really how people talk and convey ideas. Generally speaking, they move from one idea to the next, making sure that each one follows from the previous one. It's kind of like a stone skipping on the water, rather than having 3 huge boulders spread throughout a lake. Eventually, I'll develop a voice for the presentation, and then the narrative just kind of moves itself along. It'll probably be uncomfortable to move away from the PowerPoint slide format, but I think you should try it and see what happens. You may be surprised.

B. TECHNICAL EXECUTION

1. Zooming with Intention. Here's where you really can take advantage of Prezi's zooming feature. You can use the zooming feature to help communicate ideas by having thing zoom in when elaborating on a certain idea. For example, if you have a question that you pose, you can answer it by zooming in. Or, if you're talking about the benefits of the product, you can zoom into some aspect of the product. In that case, the viewer associates zooming in with moving deeper into a topic. You can also zoom out to show context or show a new surprising idea. In my presentation, the transition from slide 24 to 25 uses that effect on a small scale. For legibility, it's probably a good idea to zoom in on areas that contain single colors (like a letter or a shape) rather than a picture, but not always.

2. PROTIP: Photoshopping Images. Most people who are using Prezi probably aren't Photoshop savvy, but  Photoshop can make a big difference, especially when it comes to images. Two things come to mind. One is cutting out the backgrounds of images to make them a little more interesting and then saving them as PNGs. The other is colorizing pictures using effects, adjustment layers, and blending layers (e.g., setting the layer style to color, multiply, etc.). You can achieve interesting effects that way, but more importantly, reduce some of the visual noise so (1) you can focus on typography and (2) your presentation is more visually coherent. In my presentation, I experimented with a few adjustment layers (particularly, Threshold) but decided to use a pink layer set to Multiply on top of all my images.

C. EDITING

A piece of the original Prezi design
1. Don't be Afraid to Start Over. When I do anything creative, including writing this blog post, I usually go through a few different versions before I find something that feels good. I'll create a draft, then realize something new about the problem or topic, and find a better way to explain it. The same thing happens at least 2-3 more times. Then I throw everything out and just create something that feels personal and natural. That last draft actually comes together very quickly compared to the first few. In this Prezi, I did the original draft in Photoshop, which was just a big infographic (see picture). I didn't like that it didn't have order behind it, so I created another version using some imagery (not a complete version, just a mock up). Then I found that image of Elizabeth and rewrote the entire presentation. It was based on the infographic, but also pretty different, and it didn't have Billy Mays in it. (Yes, Billy frikkin' Mays.)

2. Don't Overdo It. If you're making a Prezi for a client, I think it's important to find a balance between overusing the zooming feature and using it enough to create interest. Like PowerPoint, those animations can be really distracting and take the focus off the message, so be careful. On the other hand...it's awesome.

D. MISCELLANEOUS TIPS

1. Find a few pieces of visual inspiration to start with.
2. Watch some cool Prezis and improve on what they did.
3. Use interesting photography, not just stock photography or, god forbid, clip art.
4. Get to know the software, it's not that tough.
5. Don't import your PowerPoint slides, you cheater. ;)
6. Play with typography.
7. Explore different layouts.
8. Be different.
9. Find your voice.
10. Lose your voice.
11. Find your genius.

Hope this helps. You can leave a comment in the comments section if you'd like! 
Edahn