Friday Flotsam: Depression, Self-Help, and Not Your Ferret

1. More depression flare ups this week. The tendency in these cases is to latch on to some external factor and blame that as the cause, so that if one can only get rid of that, things will be okay. Right now it’s my job, which I dislike immensely, but I remind myself that, however genuinely I dislike it, that is not the real reason. The real reason is something deeper and more nebulous, and perhaps not even a tangible reason at all.

You know, having dark and miserable thoughts is unpleasant, but reminding yourself that your thoughts aren’t trustworthy is really not very comforting either.

2. Another tip on publishing through Amazon: your cover looks much darker in print than it does on your computer. So, if you have a generally darker cover, make sure you tint it up brighter than you think you need for the paperback version.

I discovered this when my author copy of The Walk Home arrived and I found that the cover image I’d spent so much time on was now mostly a solid black field (it’s been subsequently edited, so if you decide to purchase a copy you’ll be getting a more visible cover).

3. I’m reading Relax and Win at the moment, a book on relaxation techniques for use in high-pressure situations. The author applied them first on pilots during World War II and later used them in coaching Olympic-level athletes. So far I think the main thrust of the book could be gotten within about 2000 words rather than a hundred-and-some page book (though that’s true of most self-help books I find), but it’s proving useful. I’d say that you’d be well advised to at least look up a summary or excerpt, especially if, like me, you suffer from anxiety, insomnia, etc.

4. By the way, I’ve read my fair share of self-help books. They’re all pretty similar, in my experience. In fact, there is more than one channel on YouTube dedicated to summarizing these books (which, in most cases, give you all the benefits for none of the costs), and the pattern comes out remarkably similar each time. There’s an opening anecdote about someone’s life being changed by the book’s subject, a general statement of the thesis, plenty of references to ‘scientific studies’ demonstrating the author’s thesis, an account of “people used to think so-and-so, but Science now tells us…” and several chapters elaborating on the subject, usually each following the same basic outline.

Usually, the core idea could be stated in a few paragraphs, but nevertheless they assure you that reading this book will change your life.

5. A different source on anxiety I examined this week made the claim that it was really more of a habit than anything; the habit of responding to uncertainty by mentally trying to anticipate the likely results. If makes us feel like we’re doing something.

That makes sense to me, since anxiety in my experience does often come with a feeling that to do other than worry would be irresponsible; that this is the only rational reaction to the situation.

Again, I really don’t like having to shut down those kinds of thoughts, but I think a little irresponsibility, a willingness to shrug one’s shoulders and let go is just what is needed a lot of the time. That is, to recognize that the worry doesn’t do its intended office: it doesn’t guard or remedy the anticipated evil. As such, it can be safely dispensed with.

I don’t think anyone’s last thoughts have ever been “Gee, I wish I’d panicked more.”

6. This is especially true when it comes to things like politics and world events, which we have little to no control over. At the end of the day, that’s someone else’s ferret. Punishing ourselves for it won’t help anything.

7. To end on a lighter note, here are some more ferrets that are not yours (I assume. That would be an amusing coincidence if any were)

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