Out the window with all insights of positive psychology, at least for the lenght of this blog post. There’s a vast deluge of self-help books each year that try to encourage us to see the rosy side of all things, and there’s some value in what they have to offer, but just this once, we’re going to pretend we haven’t read any kind of mental hacks to feel good about our existence.
So you wake up and your mind goes: ‘same old shit, different day’.
Sure, there’s the beacon of light in the form of your wife, the sweetest person you could ever hope to meet, sure, there’s that.
But there’s also the sledgehammer telex hammering in the forefront of your mind that
- you’re never going to be a famous rock star
- you’re probably too old to become an ambassador who makes 25,000 euro a month to do almost nothing at all (I’ve worked at an embassy, it’s one of the most overpaid cushion jobs in the world)
- you can’t do anything about the Turkish incursions into Syria and there’s nobody around who even wants to discus this topic with you. Not that discussing it would ever do any good, but it would blow off some steam
- there will be peace talks concerning Syria in a city called Vienna, just an hour by train away from your fucking doorstep, and you will not be part of that. Some big whigs who were more fortunate in their career will stick their legs under the table and with their own country’s interests in mind they will pretend to be wanting to solve this crisis. They will eat well and feel important which will make them healthy, because nothing influences your health as much as your spot in the social hierarchy.
- there’s a major offensive going on against alternative news sources, such as www.rt.com. The gatekeepers of the news, the new thought police, Facebook and Twitter are using the power we mindlessly give them to make the posts of rt fall into obscurity. And since people are too lazy to actually visit their website, because they are so lazy that all they do on internet is scroll through their social media newsfeeds, a high quality alternative news site is losing views because the American government wants them to lose views. We’re not inventing this, this is really happening. Facebook and Twitter are pressured by the American power elite to mute subversive news sources.
- Even though you want to stay home and work with therapy clients from the moment you wake till the moment you fall asleep, clearly your calling, with some writing and reading in between, you have to drag yourself to some big office building to teach Dutch to people who are very unlikely to ever use that language. The best you can hope for is to make the lesson as fun as possible, and to at least give them a good feeling while still teaching them something and maybe slip in some minor therapeutic effect. At the same time you can only hope that someone in Belgium or the Netherlands will not lose their well-paid job at the same firm, because someone in Slovakia who now speaks Dutch can replace them and do the exact same job for far, far less money. Let’s not think about that suicide in Belgium a while ago, a person who lost his job in Belgium at a firm you are now teaching Dutch at here in Slovakia. Listen to the people who tell you there can’t possibly be any connection.
At this point your wife tells you to not take things so seriously and to just think of the relatively large amount of money you’re getting for this.
You’ve prepared an unorthodox lesson aimed at actually getting to know your students, their most humane side, with a lot of use of positive psychology. You know, that happiness boosting wisdom we’ve chucked out the window for the sake of this blog post.
So you get sort of ready, you put on old clothes, since you’ve given up investing in clothes about 3 or 4 years ago, you stare at holes in your pants, not the good kind, the kind you have to pay for, but the bad kind, the kind that form naturally and you shrug it off. It’s not like it matters. You can show up dressed like this hobo or like a catwalk model and people will react in the same superficial way as ever. It won’t get you any kind of nurturing bond, because you can’t drill for oil where there’s no oil to be had, and you have a 0,0 chance of running into casual sex today, no matter what you’re wearing.
You don’t take the bus, because the big box that’s supposed to be modern architecture is only three kilometers away from the smaller box you call a home, plus walking there makes you feel like you’re not lazy.
And your narcissistic side and also your introjects via your father who was a bodybuilder and a fat phobic culture don’t want you to gain weight.
You need the walk, since in the evening you won’t be able to motivate yourself to go for a run.
You’re in Slovakia and you’re risking your life now. Pedestrians are at the bottom of the food chain here. You need to walk only 3 kilometers along a busy road, but there’s often no real side-walk and cars don’t tend to slow down when they see a pedestrian, not even at a marked crossing…
You do not mind this too much, as long as you’re dead on impact.
But with your luck, you would survive, just a little bit more hacked up than before.
Every time you get away with a close shave, usually because you simply don’t have any patience and hate waiting by the side of the curb as it’s an other small humiliation that you simply don’t need.
You arrive in the big box and since you are not a regular employee here, you have to show you Slovak id.
There’s a lady who always lets you pass without putting your data into the system, but there are others who never remember your face, who are swamped by other duties and still want to put your data into their system. You can lose up to ten minutes like this, after which one of the students might accuse you of being late. You thank Alzi (short for Alzheimer) the receptionist and if you’re lucky he remembers to push the button that makes the steel bars turn so you can walk in. You ignore the people waiting in front of the sardine box, we mean elevator, and you take the stairs, since this is about the best aerobic exercise you’ll be getting this week. Unless, you know, you do locate a frazzle of that vaunted motivation you once had, when your bodybuilding intellectual of a father was still alive to prod you on by his mere existence.
You arrive on the fourth floor and you ring the door. Of course, the receptionist there is having his breakfast and is none too happy to see you, because you’re giving him work.
You have to sign your name in a big log that keeps track of everyone who comes and goes.
You either sign this with Elvis or with Kurt Cobain, because you don’t give a shit about this next part of time consuming protocol.
Here you get a badge to get past more revolving steel bars about 4 meters to your right. If you arrive before 8 am you need a different kind of badge. Don’t ask us why. Sometimes they give you the wrong badge and you can’t get past the steel bars that are there to give people a fake feeling of safety, because anyone who would want to do some serious damage here has like a zillion ways to do so, badge or no badge, protocol or no protocol.
So temporarily disguised as Kurt Cobain or Elvis you walk to the meeting room where you’re supposed to teach some Dutch.
They don’t tell you in advance where you will be, so you walk into either a meeting room called The Netherlands or Belgium, or perhaps Luxemburg if you want to be adventurous.
The first student to arrive will take you to the right meeting room, even though you were silly enough to unload all your stuff already, and that’s a lot of stuff, because you have this inexplicable drive to make the lesson as fun as can be, even though inside you wish you would just drop dead to the ground, because of how silly and uneventful an average day in your life has become.
The student who sort of, not really, likes you, asks if you’re in a bad mood.
You deny this, of course.
You lie and you say you haven’t slept well, even though you always sleep well, except for some recurring nightmares in which you are reminded of your own powerlessness and fundamental boredom.
You teach the lesson, you ask a lot of questions, somehow some humor breaks through the clouds, and they laugh quite a lot. In spite of everything you are still eager to find the best possible teaching methods, and given that it’s actually sort of complicated what you’re doing with this beginner or perhaps intermediate group, you may be doing something right, which is hard to admit, because you are deadly afraid of thinking you are good at something and then later perhaps discovering that you’re not good at it.
After one hour you are relieved that they are selling 7 or 9 or even more hours of their time in this box, and that you can go.
After this the process repeats itself in an other box, or if you don’t have a class immediately following this one, you go to your home box, while you see hundreds of boxes on wheels pass, those boxes on wheels that people get into debt for, those boxes on wheels that you refuse to own, a decision that enables you to save thousands of euros every year and it gets you some exercise. What all the exhaust fumes along the way are doing to your lungs is something else, but if it could really kill you, you would be standing here on a street corner and inhaling regularly as deep as you could with the discipline of a buddhist monk.
No, instead the day rolls on.
In your home box you prepare food you bought in a box and you check your email box, and answer an email from someone who’s getting competely desperate in her relationship, and after three or four exchanges she thanks you, and she says she’ll consider coming back to therapy, but she won’t, because you’ve already helped her out for free.
Then you have a private student, so you don’t have to go anywhere, you’re too kind and give the student five options to do during this lesson and the student picks the option you’re least excited about, but that you’ve included, because you are a therapist and can read what people want incredibly easily, and you know he will pick that option. And so you do it and your wife who’s overheard part of the lesson later says that the guy practically went dancing out the door after the lesson, that he got therapy for the price of a language lesson (which is a bit cheaper).
For total lack of anyone around to have a serious face to face conversation with that could actually give you more options in life, you turn to a book, and since you’re obsessed with money, money equalling the freedom to decide how you use your time, it’s a book you’ve downloaded, sometimes in the form of an audiobook, so you can listen to it while you make the same spaghetti you’ve been eating two to three times a week for years. Which you wash down with water, because you got a little too adapted to the local culinary habits and had started drinking too much beer.
You listen to the wildly popular Jordan Peterson and his book ’12 rules for life, an anti-dote for chaos’ and although some of it is quite interesting, you mainly think, ‘hell, I could very easily write something like that, but who would want to publish it? That guy is such a celibrity now that he could publish his used toilet paper as a book’.
You put on a movie for your wife, and she -with some very good arguments- claims that you’ve put on the movie to put her through some torture. And you’re just surprised that she speaks up, because usually she is like this perfect angel whose goodness is not of any human nature, and as far as you know, has never been recorded in any kind of history books. You hug her and you think you, obviously, do not deserve to be with a woman like her and what a burden you and your negativity are to her. But when you say that she goes: ‘Don’t say you’re a burden to me. Don’t make me cry’.
At night the residual pieces of your 50 percent Catholically indoctrinated childhood creep up and you pray, you actually pray, you, the atheist, to please not let you wake up anymore, to please give your remaining years to someone who loves being alive.
As with most prayers, also this once goes unheard, and you do wake back up, perhaps shaking from some painful nightmare, perhaps crying, because it was about your father, or worst of all, and luckily rarest of all, you have some dream in which you are in a state of happiness, like you once were, and you wake up reminded that you are capable of feeling something completely else, that your brain is capable of producing bliss, which did happen, even regularly, all those years ago, and now you have to go through the same routines thinking: how exactly did I lose that feeling? How do I ever bring it back? But you probably know too much, much more than you once did, and the potential for naive bliss has become ever so tiny, instead you get unasked for flashbacks to all kinds of shitty experiences, both personal, first-degree bad experiences, and secondary scarring that you have to deal with.
Of course, this is only when we ditch all the benefits of our insights in human psychology, when you do not ditch those insight, you are truftfully the luckiest person alive.
With apologogies to all whom I’ve offended or hurt with my report on the inner and also outer wasteland (US politics, the economy, instagram obsessionists, fashion, Syria, Libya, Western imperialism, the chokehold of bankers and big share holders, well, all those things that get the least views when I write about them).
May you have a peaceful, authentic, oversharing day.
And please be kind to people.
And if you do feel you must traumatize someone today at least give them my card, I really am a great therapist, I can mend all who is broken, myself not included.