Can you Relate to Into The Wild too?

Spoiler Warning: This review gives away the ending. If you don't want to know what happens, stop reading now!

I was profoundly moved by this film directed by Sean Penn. Starring Emile Hirsch as Christopher McCandless, it tells the true story Christopher's journey of self-discovery leading into the Alaskan wilderness. This film hit me hard, and I found it hugely cathartic. Despite a packed cinema, it was as though there was just me and this film connected to each other. I cried almost the whole way through.

Part of the reason I connected with it so strongly was that I first saw it while on a journey into the wild of my own; in my case a solo motorcycle road-trip of self-discovery from my home town of Sydney to Byron Bay where I saw the film, and beyond. There are also many parallels between Christopher's emotionally disconnected family, and my own. The scenes depicting the ongoing conflict between his parents transported me straight back to my own childhood and the sense of emotional disconnection between Christopher and his father mirrored that between me and mine.

Every character in the film is flawed in some way, and I found myself relating deeply to the pain in each and every one.… Continue reading…

By Graham Stoney, ago

How to Soothe Anxiety by Identifying and Releasing Attachments

I was just listening to The New Man Podcast interview with Robert Glover talking about Nice Guy Syndrome, where Dr Glover points out that the underlying cause of the nice guy's dysfunctional behaviour is anxiety. Anyone familiar with Buddhist philosophy will be aware that attachment causes suffering, but Robert points out that attachment also causes anxiety.

We can't avoid anxiety altogether, so we need to learn how to soothe it within ourselves. The solution is to identify what particular attachment is causing anxiety when we feel it, and consciously let the attachment go each time in occurs. Whenever we feel anxious ask the question:

What am I attached to right now?

Then take a deep breath, and think "I'm letting go of being attached to X".

For me, examples are:

  • I'm attached to being well, when I'm feeling ill.
  • I'm attached to her liking me, when I'm talking to a pretty woman.
  • I'm attached to being successful, when I'm working on my business.
  • I'm attached to getting good comments, when I'm writing a new blog post.
  • I'm attached to this being a best-seller, when I'm working on writing a book.
  • I'm attached to getting it right/perfect first time, when I'm trying something new.
Continue reading…

By Graham Stoney, ago

How to Stop Worrying

I like that Frank Tallis has written a relatively small book on How to Stop Worrying. Although I'm much better than I used to be, I still worry too much sometimes myself, and it's nice to think that there could be a simple solution to a seemingly complex problem. And it turns out there is.

Worry fills the gap between when we realise that we have a problem, and when we have a solution in place to address it. It's our brain's way of making sure we pay attention to our problems; the psychological analogy to physical pain. If we don't do anything about the problem, the worry gets worse until we're forced to take action. Worry, like pain, is our friend. But it's also a kind of mental suffering we'd rather escape given the chance.

The solution to worry is quite simple: take effective action to solve the problem. So the bulk of this book is actually about problem-solving techniques. Taking action to address the problem immediately starts to put our mind at ease, and if the action is effective in solving the problem, the worry ceases altogether.

Problem-solving is a skill that develops and improves each time we use it.… Continue reading…

By Graham Stoney, ago

Healing The Shame That Binds You

When a fellow recovering-computer-engineer friend of mine SMS'd me saying: “I've worked out what the problem is... it's shame.”, I knew immediately what he referring to. The perpetual self-consciousness and lack of confidence that kept plaguing me, the low self-esteem, the anxiety and awkwardness around other people, the fear of embarrassment, the worry about what other people thought when I asserted myself, the vague feeling of inadequacy and the sense that I somehow wasn't good enough all came down to one underlying emotion: Shame.

I knew instantly that my friend was right, yet it took me over a year to get around to John Bradshaw's best-selling book on the topic. That's the insidious thing about shame: we avoid it like the plague, even though it's at the root of many of our emotional, psychological and behavioural problems. We hear an increasing amount these days about stress and depression, but very few people are talking directly about the underlying problem of shame that man men face in their. As Bradshaw points out in his book, we're even ashamed of our shame.

Shame is a sense that we are bad or wrong; that we are defective in some way. It causes us to live in constant fear of being exposed; of being revealed to other people, who might just happen to see through the façade we present to the world and discover what we're really like.… Continue reading…

By Graham Stoney, ago

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Many of you may have heard of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. Whilst there is no standard definition of PTSD, it is generally agreed that PTSD is an anxiety disorder that occurs when a person sees their life flash before their eyes. For example they are involved in, or witness, a near death incident, or a series of events resulting in them having the perception that life as they know it, is about to end.

Emotional overload in these circumstances causes the primitive region of the brain called the limbic region, responsible for brains involvement in emotions, to recalibrate in order to cope. PTSD occurs when the brain doesn’t go back to normal operation of its own accord.

So why talk about PTSD here?

Well it gives a great extreme example of emotions at play within us. You may not suffer from it, but you may demonstrate some of the same characteristics. This is very normal, and has occurred for the same reasons as someone with ‘the bug’ (I use the term bug, because it highlights that you can get over the disorder to live a normal life) – self defence.

There are many elements involved with a person suffering from PTSD, but one of the major ones is their emotions.… Continue reading…

By James Greenshields, ago

How to Defeat Depression for Men

I've been there myself, and I know how debilitating depression can be. It sucks the life out of you. There's a zoned-out feeling in your head, a blank look on your face, and an all-pervading sense of hopeless like you've never felt before. The light has gone out of your eyes. It's a different feeling to sadness, which tends to pass when you've cried it out. Depression hangs around like a dense fog, clouding your judgement and colouring everything a nasty shade of grey.

You Don't Have To Be Trapped By Depression

Psychiatrists will tell you that depression is due to a chemical imbalance in the brain. They're right, but this doesn't say much; your brain is a complex biochemical system and pretty much any problem in there comes down to a “chemical imbalance” of some sort. The questions to ask are: what caused it, and what to do about it.

There's no instant fix for depression, and everyone gets down sometimes. It's part of being human. But small steps in the right direction add up. The following tips have worked for me, and will gradually get yourself feeling more hopeful and optimistic as the fog of depression clears and you get back to enjoying life again:


Continue reading…

By Graham Stoney, ago