It’s the apocalypse, but at least I’m smiling

It’s the apocalypse, but at least I’m smiling

Queensland researchers reckon that Prozac might cause antibiotic resistance. I can’t talk to the science behind this. Maybe it’s right, maybe they missed something.

Either way, it’s not like we can turn around and say “phew, no problems then”.

Just to be clear – I have no issues with antidepressants. That category of medicine has done more than save lives. For many people, it’s the difference between living an amazing life and lying in bed all day.

I’ll never talk down about those drugs or anyone who needs them.

Let’s just consider groups of people for a moment.

There are people who take antidepressants because they need them.

There are those who take them because they needed them once. They’re past that point now, but they keep popping pills. Either because they don’t know they could stop or they don’t know how to.

There are folks who never needed them. A medical professional talked them into taking them and no one talked them out of it. Or they shopped around until they found a doctor willing to sign a prescription, thinking that pills were the answer.

If you think antidepressants are as awesome as I do, then this abuse should tick you off. I’m not mad at the users or the doctors, but the whole damn system.

Sure, there are always going to be people taking these things when they don’t need to. You can’t eliminate that.

But, as a society, we sure as hell could reduce it.

For most of you, drugs are not the only answer. They may be part of the solution. Or they may be unnecessary.

Just know that functioning well is more than chemistry.

If you’re struggling, then talk to a medical professional. All I ask is that you find one who looks beyond drugs for the answer.

Most of the good ones will tell you to try meditation. After all, it’s proven to reduce stress. Forget the other benefits – that alone makes it restorative to your body and mind.

And if you’re going to do that, then take it seriously. Be as serious about meditation as this guide is irreverent.

100% pragmatic, secular and unique advice inside.

And only the stuff that works:

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How to ethically manipulate people for your own benefit

How to ethically manipulate people for your own benefit

I know many people get squeamish about influence tactics. It feels wrong, as if you’re manipulating people for your own purposes. Only con artists, sleazy creeps, ruthless businesspeople and the worst politicians manipulate others.

Right?

I’ve a truckload of bad news for anyone who believes this.

If you breathe, you’re manipulating someone.

When you smile and greet someone, that changes their thinking. That psychological hack gets them to like you more, even if you’re not doing anything for them.

How manipulative.

Even if you stop doing that, you’re still using mind control. Whether you ignore someone or pay attention to them, you’re influencing their thoughts.

There’s no escaping it. You could become a hermit and still influence anyone who hears about it.

So you could feel off about the whole topic.

But you might as well embrace it.

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Lose your mind to gain control

Lose your mind to gain control

The world is full of ironic fears. What do I mean by that? Well, so many people take action to avoid one outcome… only to make it more likely.

An example:

Someone might have a fear of flying, so they spend three days slamming coffee to drive across the country. It’s an ironic fear because, statistically, flying is safer than driving.

Especially when you do it like that.

My point isn’t to pick on anyone like this. It makes sense to avoid things that twist your insides into pretzels. You don’t have to live with that, of course, but for now, scary things are scary.

I get it.

But I can’t help but spot the irony. Fear’s purpose is to drive you away from danger, not towards it.

Some ironic fears are much more common than others.

Like with, say, hypnosis.

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Why I would murder my twin and take over his life

Why I would murder my twin and take over his life

Evil twins are great and not at all unrealistic, clichéd messes.

That’s why I would be one. You know, in some hypothetical where I have a twin and I’m murderous.

Really, it just makes sense.

The biggest challenge about murdering your twin and then assuming his place isn’t that it’s hard to impersonal people. Or even that it’s morally and logistically questionable.

No, the biggest obstacle is that genetics predispose you to violent tendencies. If I’m a cold-blooded monster, then there’s a good chance so is he.

Sure, he might appear to be a respectable businessperson. That could be a façade though. A raw, savage, untamed animal might lurk beneath the surface. He may have suppressed that all his life, but the moment his life is in danger, he accesses something deep inside him.

Even so, I like my odds.

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An insight into my deranged wisdom

An insight into my deranged wisdom

It might be tough, but at least it’s not boring.

That’s what I have to say to myself when I realise how strange the mind is. You have to live with the strangeness and embrace it. There’s no other option. And, sure, that can challenge you, but it’s entertaining.

Some days you’re brilliant – others you put the laundry in the dishwasher.

All I know is that everything is easier when you listen to your inner voice. No matter how deranged it might sound.

For example…

I spent the last week or so with the same song stuck in my head. I’d fall asleep to it and wake up to it. It wouldn’t stop.

Now, this isn’t unusual. I fixate on things all the time. I’ve had songs looping around the ol’ grey matter for longer than that.

But this was different.

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Live like a King

Live like a King

I recently caught a snippet of an interview with legendary author Stephen King. A good friend (you know who you are) sent it my way because in it, he described writing as self-hypnosis.

I agree about that – why do you think I do so much of it?

Writing is self-hypnosis – it’s good for you, it gives you a buzz, it takes your mind somewhere else and the more you do it, the better you get.

And writing requires turning thoughts into words. This requires changing your thoughts from abstract and personal, to concrete and understandable.

In other words, it forces you into an altered state of consciousness.

To jump from King to Einstein, you can’t solve a problem with the same level of thinking that created it. Likewise, you can’t write with the same state that thought of ideas.

So if you’re stuck, you need to alter your consciousness – and writing does that.

But this snippet of an interview – which was not even three minutes long – had another gem of wisdom in it.

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When suffering is optional, what do you do?

When suffering is optional, what do you do?

Some people sure like to make things harder. Take smoking – there are plenty of well-meaning professionals out there who make a big deal out of quitting.

They write pamphlets saying that nicotine is incredibly addictive.

They inform smokers that quitting is one of the hardest things they’ll ever do.

Oh, but don’t get discouraged. Yes, it’s absurdly challenging, but it’s worth it!

Bah.

Sure, some people like to suffer. They think that their pain shows they’re serious, or that whatever they’re doing is worthwhile.

I wish those folk well.

But not every improvement comes with sweat, blood and tears. Even if it does, going on about how hard it is only makes it harder.

Especially for something that can be so simple.

Don’t get me wrong – quitting can be a challenge.

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When meditation is easier than not meditating

When meditation is easier than not meditating

Your brain is excellent at finding patterns and meaning from signals. Think about how much a friend can convey with a glance. Now think about how your brain receives that glance.

Everything you see is flashes of light that disappear as fast as they appear. Even so, you can see. You can look upon the world and learn about it.

Imagine if you lived in a bunker underground. Every now and then, a monitor flickers with static. That’s what your brain does, times a thousand.

You don’t see reality – you deduce it from data.

But what if there’s no data at all?

Well, then something interesting happens.

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Dangerous therapy, thanks to Freud’s great mistake

Dangerous therapy, thanks to Freud’s great mistake

Ah, Freud. He had a few good ideas and a few dangerous ones. Good on him, because that’s true of all pioneers. When you’re in uncharted territory, you do well to find the brass among the muck.

And you never come out of it entirely clean.

My problem is that Freud and his early supporters were a little too… pushy. The way they spoke about him was if he cottoned on to some divine truth or something. He wasn’t infallible – in fact, he was wrong about some important things.

But, listening to his supporters, you’d think he was the Moses of the mind.

Honestly, I pity him. Seeing the “subconscious” as a dark, dangerous place sounds like an awful way to live. If your mind has suppressed desires, why can’t it have suppressed virtues, nobility and wisdom? Why not think of the greatness inside you and not just the animal?

I like to think my intellect and unconscious mind are allies, not enemies.

But there’s another legacy of Freud that’s worse. I doubt he was the first to think this, but he sure drove it. Even today, qualified psychotherapists with expensive, prestigious degrees use this idea of his.

Even though common sense says it’s wrong.

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Good journalists make bad meditation guides

Good journalists make bad meditation guides

I remember reading an article by a journalist a few years ago. I won’t name and shame them – partly because it’s a distraction; partly because it’s an archetype.

This isn’t something that happened. It’s something that happens, and won’t ever stop.

The article was an angry, vicious attack on a fellow writer. The journalist was angry – not irritated, not professionally concerned, but outright outraged. I felt awkward reading it, like listening to a drunken uncle discuss politics.

This journalist spent probably 2,000 words condemning this poor fool of a writer. The tirade focused on how the writer wrote in an earlier piece that start-ups were great businesses. In a series of paragraphs beginning with “well, actually”, the journalist pointed out that most start-ups fail, leaving most entrepreneurs miserable and broke.

And that’s awesome. If you’re not injecting truth into the topic, then what are you doing?

Except there’s one teeny tiny little problem…

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