Month: February 2017

Does introversion make you susceptible to post-natal depression?

This was a weird thought I had in London last week. I can’t remember what sparked it off. I was just travelling on the underground when the thought came to me. Actually, I know what sparked it off. I was reading this book at the time the thought came to me, which is written and illustrated by Marzi Wilson.

My London book

I love this book and the website that came before it. There is so much in it that I relate to. I don’t relate to everything, however. I generally try to resist labels such as ‘introvert’ or ‘extrovert’. We are all individuals, after all. However, if I had to put myself in one camp or the other I’d have to veer towards introversion. And if I am an introvert, then I’m the sort who loves being around people and socializing. The stereotypical introvert doesn’t. I love socializing, on the proviso that I might want to get my sketch pad or book out when with others and be alone in company. So, contrary to the average introvert, I like to be with people, but I like to be alone with people. But generally, I’d say I am an introvert.

But this introverted ‘need to be alone’ whether physically or mentally, or both, brought to mind how impossible that is when you are a new mother. When you have a baby, your life, for at least six months and in actual fact for much longer, is no longer your possession. It becomes the possession of someone else, a child. Many people are able to embrace this change and in fact revel in it. However, three times, I struggled with this. And in London, last week, it occurred to me that my struggle with this stems from my introversion tendencies. I find comfort in the ability to withdraw. When things get too much, I turn into a snail. I retreat. I curl up with a book and forget the world. However, when you have a baby, you cannot do this. You cannot do this for months, or even years. And, this may sound awful to say this, that is very hard for someone who needs solitude. So my question is: are people with introvert tendencies more susceptible to post-natal depression? That great beast of wisdom, the Internet, seems to agree with me. In fact it says ‘they [introverts] get energy and strength from solitude’. So when your source of strength and energy is removed, it is no wonder that anxiety and depression could ensue. This is what happened to me, to different degrees, three times.

Me and Toby when he was about six weeks old.

I found this thought quite liberating. I think that anyone who has suffered from post-natal depression may feel a sense of guilt. I certainly had huge guilt about it. You feel a failure, inadequate and weak for having struggled to deal with something that is natural, or something you see others coping with admirably and with a halo of love around them. I know for me, I felt guilt because I’d dealt with various hardships in my life, including working in stressful environments, yet looking after a fairly low-maintenance being who, let’s face it, acted quite predictably, caused me much anxiety and distress. But this realisation that perhaps my personality just isn’t perfectly suited to early motherhood, helped me feel less guilty. It was actually quite a good weird thought.

After having this thought in London last week while travelling on the underground, I felt lighter, and more human. I love my children with all my heart. And it is much easier now that we can all be introverts together with our noses in our books and our mutual love of doodling.

Toby seven years later, nose in a book.

Why I like to dangle my legs

At the weekend, I went to London. For lunch on the Saturday, I ate at my favourite okonomiyaki restaurant this side of Tokyo. In fact, I don’t know of any other okonomiyaki restaurants in the UK. When I lived in Japan, okonomiyaki was one of my favourite dishes (joint with chilli raamen and perhaps just above tsukune – also known as duck balls).

Okonomiyaki – also known as cabbage omelette – but it is so yummy

The seating in this restaurant was like no other I have come across in the UK. The main dining area is in a square horse shoe shape around the centre. The seats themselves are quite high. They are more like benches than seats as such, They have a lid. On arrival you are asked to place your your coat and bag inside the seat. Then you sit on the lid and, as the seats are quite high and unless you are six feet tall or above, you dangle your feet down.

So when I did this, I felt an odd sense of comfort. I thought weirdly about this. After two minutes of deep contemplation I concluded that this comfort  is a Proustian / Freud uncanny-childhood-memory thing. I reasoned that I liked the sensation of dangling my feet because as a child, my feet always dangled wherever I sat. It was lovely to sit and dangle. I really did feel comforted.

This man again?

The food was pretty lush too.

I want to be a gastrophysicist

Today, I came across this news item on the BBC News website. It’s about a growing field which blends food technology, psychology, neuroscience with physics: gastrophysics.

What a pretty Venn diagramme

What a pretty Venn diagram

If I wasn’t a publishing project managing artist blogger, I’d love to be a gastrophysicist.

My main employer

My main employer

I’ve looked into the physics of food-related things before with the physics of the teapot. I think it is a fascinating area. This particular news article, however, looks specifically at the science of the spoon. It includes an interview with a man, Andreas Fabian, who actually specialises in spoons. He has a PhD in spoons. He has made spoons his life. In his words ‘its probably the first thing we use when we are born, we are fed, and probably the last thing when we die.’ How wonderful to be so passionate about a single object.

A spoon

A spoon

The gastrophysicists don’t just look at spoons though: there’s a whole load of stuff they study: colour, what you should watch when eating, who you should eat with to name but a few.

Perhaps when I come back in another life I’ll pay more attention in physics lessons at school and get into gastrophysics. It seems such fun.

My newest ‘cool thing’ discovery – morphic resonance

I’m reading the most amazing book I have ever read at the moment. It is called The art of looking sideways, written by Alan Fletcher.

My Bible

My Bible

The best way to describe it would be the Bible for artists. It is a huge tome, full of anecdotes, stories, facts, fictions, images, quotes, It is described as a ‘primer in visual intelligence, an exploration of the workings of the eye, the hand, the brain and the imagination’. That is exactly what it is. It flits from theme to theme. It is like a stream of consciousness but it is hugely inspiring and colourful.

The author describes himself as a ‘visual jackdaw’, which is very apt I think. He collects words, words about stuff.

Every day when I read this  book I discover something new. Yesterday, it was the concept of ‘morphic resonance’.

Morphic resonance on one level appears to describe the psychic abilities of species set apart. So if a flock of birds works out how to crack open a particular seed in Papua New Guinea later today, tomorrow a similar flock of birds in Wolverhampton, psychically connected to the first flock, might appear to make the same discovery.

However, on the more scientific grounding of reality, morphic resonance describes how species arrive at the same conclusion at near enough the same time about something new through as of yet unexplained genetic evolution processes.

The idea behind morphic resonance, coined by Rupert Sheldrake, is that memory is inherent in nature. This means that when a certain shape, structure or behaviour has occurred many times, it is more likely to occur again. This happens not through conventional interaction (such as communication) but through a process of “formative causation” which does not allow for any formal communication amongst species.

Rupert S.

Rupert Sheldrake and his cat

In simpler terms, the theory goes that knowledge can be unconsciously transmitted between minds. If one person or animal discovers something somewhere, it becomes easier for another person or animal to overcome the same issues when faced with the same dilemma.

A good example of how this could happen is with Blaenau Ffestiniog Syndrome. The sheep of this small Welsh settlement have recently learnt how to cross cattle grids by tucking up their legs and rolling over the bars. The farmers of the area where this has happened are concerned that this learned behaviour will transmit to other sheep elsewhere. Maybe it will, if morphic resonance is a sound scientific theory. It hasn’t yet, at least not to my knowledge and I do watch the news regularly.

An intelligent Welsh sheep

An intelligent Welsh sheep

However, this theory isn’t fact. There are many scientists who say it is poppy cock.

I’m a big fan of the teeny, tiny possibility theory of science so I, for one, hope that the theory is true.

What type are you?

This is a weird thought I’ve just had in the bath. When I say ‘type’, I mean ‘type of Facebook user’, by the way in case that isn’t clear.

That addictive social media beast

That addictive social media beast

The problem with having a weird thought in the bath is that I either have to write it in steam somewhere so I don’t forget it, write it in bubbles somewhere so I don’t forget it, or leap out of the bath and find my laptop. Today, I had to opt for the third option. So here I am, wrapped only in a towel, furiously getting my weird thought from head to data with some furious typing.

This woman, like me, has weird thoughts in the bath

This woman, like me, has weird thoughts in the bath

Anyway, back to the weird thought that had me leaping. I was remembering in the bath something my mum said to me the other day. She was talking about a Facebook post of mine where I had said somewhere in the comments ‘I hope my mum isn’t reading this’. She informed me that, yes, she did read it and yes, she was amused / shocked by my referring to Donald Trump as a giant flaccid willy (and, yes, I have no doubt my mother will be reading these words too as she tells me she reads all of my blogs – hello mum!).

So initially I was surprised she’d read my comment as it was quite hidden amongst comments to a status update and also, she is, or she appears to be, hardly ever on Facebook. I was wrong. She’s what is known as – a lurker (see below)!

My weird thought then is: there are a number of types of Facebook users and these are truths so there is no good trying to convince me otherwise, or presenting me with alternative facts. Actually, most people are unique (most, that is, I stress) and do not fit to stereotype at all. That is how it should be. Be different. So take this weird thought in the spirit of jest it is intended.

The Constant Life Is Amazing Poster 

Also known as, the narcissist. This person is very happy with themselves. Good for them. I’m happy for them too. They often have the most friends (3,000 at least) and just love life. I hope they really do. They also think they look AMAZING. Indeed, they do. Lucky pigs!

The Constant Life is Amazing (or is it?) Poster 

Also known as the pseudo-narcissist. This is the person who posts lots of selfies as above, and also uplifting ‘life is ace, look at me, I’ve lost weight’ posts and ‘I look amazing now I’m single’ posts. However, the truth is, this person is deeply troubled and has been harshly burnt by someone they loved. They want their ex-partner to see their posts, or friends of their ex-partner to see their posts, and feel regret that they let them go. I worry about this person. I want to hug them. I want to say ‘don’t keep doing it’ to them.

The Bitter / Life’s a Bitch

This person is one step beyond the above. They are very, very bitter about life. They have been deeply hurt and it is taking years to move forward and every bad thing that happens to them means that life-is-out-to-get-them. It might be, I’m not sure. I worry even more about this person. They need a real hug and / or counselling. They aren’t getting the help they need.

The Perfect Parent

This is the person who only posts cute family photos (usually on the beach or getting at one with nature), adverts for organic baby food, share if you love your son / daughter or share if you’d put your son / daughter before yourself in a towering inferno type scenario. They aspire to be the perfect parent. Little do they know that not everyone is perfect and it is normal to have crap baby-sick-in-hair days.

The ‘I am angry about Brexit / Trump’ Political Activist

I admit freely I do fall into this category. If there is a Venn diagram, I overlap this category. I have had some very, very heated debates on Facebook about Brexit (not so much Trump, I think I used up too much energy about Brexit). I’ve lost friends over it. This Facebook user is very angry and they want to change people’s views. Little do they realise that those people whose views they want to change won’t see their posts thanks to the logarithms at play in Facebook that means that you only see what you already agree with.

This man makes me angry on Facebook

This man makes me angry on Facebook

The Emotional / Suggestive

This person posts things such as ‘Life’s a bitch, I hate the world’. Someone responds with ‘What’s up?’ and they will reply ‘PM me’. This, I find quite annoying, because being the nosy person I am, I need to know what they are upset about but I don’t want to go to the length of private messaging them to find out, especially if I don’t know them that well.

The Liker

This person scrolls through their phone every hour or so and likes everything. I have one liker. You know who you are if you are reading this, although I must admit you’ve stopped liking so much recently. Perhaps you don’t like me so much.

The Post Everything

This is me, I have to confess. I do use Facebook a lot to tell the world about my dinner, my day, my art, my children’s eccentricities, my own eccentricities. I share articles and quotes. I am a Post Everything Facebook user (with an overlap into Political Activist – see above). I’m the most annoying type (and I have been told so on numerous occasions). I’m not sure what the psychological reason for being this type of Facebook user is. I think these people just want to be liked.

The Lurker

This is my mum. This person rarely post anything. Yet they read EVERYTHING. These are the ones you need to watch out for. Remember that the lurkers will see your comments about Trump being a large flaccid willy so think, next time, before you post (note to self).

We live in language

The one good thing about having to drive to Wolverhampton and back instead of taking the train is that I get to listen to Radio 4. I love Radio 4. I grew up listening to Radio 4. Radio 4 is my comfort blanket. I was put to sleep with Radio 4.

But despite its soporific effects on me, Radio 4 is great for encouraging thinking. In the mornings on my way to Wolverhampton, I get to hear all sorts of interesting stuff about science, politics, philosophy and current debate. In the evenings, I generally get to catch up on the news. The mornings are the best.

This morning Melvin Bragg kept me company as I sailed down the M54 talking to a random woman about Hannah Arendt. I knew very little about Hannah Arendt before today. I had heard of her. I was aware that she was a writer and political theorist / philosopher but that is as far as my knowledge of her went. I now know a lot more about her thanks to Radio 4 and that is Not A Bad Thing.

Hannah Arendt was actually a very influential political philosopher. She was born in Germany but fled to Paris in 1933 and then emigrated to the US eight years later. She became part of a lively intellectual circle in New York (lucky cow, she was). She wrote a number of relatively well-known philosophy books but also lots of essays. She was heavily influenced by Greek philosophy but she was also a fan of Heidegger, and more than a fan at times too. I am also a bit of a Heidegger fan for some of his thoughts on ‘stuff’ and philosophy as I am a little bit obsessed with ‘stuff’.

Hannah Arendt with her cat

Hannah Arendt with her cat

One thing that was mentioned on the radio today though that struck me as particularly interesting about Hannah Arendt is that she argued that ‘we live in language’. She was very interested in the internal dialogue that we have in our heads when we are thinking, as were the Greeks. I like this idea. I agree; we do ‘live in language’. Language is all we have in our heads. It is what keeps us awake. It is what stops us from sleeping. It forms our dreams so it is still there as we sleep. Equally, as well as internal to us, language is everywhere around us: whether it be a visual language or a spoken / written language.

Language is also so much about interpretation. We read something, someone says something to us, we say something to someone, there will be an interpretation of that spoken or written communication which may or may not match the intent. Language is omnipresent. We cannot escape it. It informs our emotions, our reactions, our beliefs and our culture. If we’re not reading it, listening to it, speaking it or writing it, we are thinking it. What it must be like to live without language? But I would argue that if there is no language, the mind creates a form of language that does not use words, images or gestures. Language just evolves from whatever resources there are. Perhaps that might be sound, touch or raw emotion.

Philosophy has a lot to say about thinking and how we think, what we use to think and language. So this is a topic that I could think, talk and write about for hours. But I won’t.

I’m going to think about lunch instead.