Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Obsessions and Addiction

Obsessions and Addiction

Obsessions and Addiction
This article isn’t meant to address obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), which is a mental disorder affecting one percent of adults. It starts in childhood and is believed to have a genetic component. OCD may include only obsessions. Usually, the themes are about: Fear of contamination or dirt; having things orderly and symmetrical; aggressive or horrific thoughts about harming yourself or others; and unwanted thoughts, including aggression, or sexual or religious subjects.
The Mayo Clinic has developed an Apple app ($4.99) to cope with persistent anxiety, obsessions, and compulsions. If self-help isn’t enough, seek professional help for overcoming anxiety and obsessions. If you have OCD, seek professional treatment.

When an obsession dominates us, it steals our will and saps all the pleasure out of life. We become numb to people and events, while our mind replays the same dialogue, images or words. In a conversation, we have little interest in what the other person is saying and soon talk about our obsession, oblivious to the impact on our listener.
Obsessions vary in their power. When they’re mild, we’re able to work and distract ourselves. When intense, our thoughts are laser-focused on our obsession. As with compulsions, they operate outside our conscious control and rarely abate with reasoning.

Obsessions can possess our mind. Our thoughts race or run in circles, feeding incessant worry, fantasy or a search for answers. They can take over our life, so that we lose hours, sleep, or even days or weeks of enjoyment and productive activity.

Obsessions can paralyze us. Other times, they can lead to compulsive behavior such as repeatedly checking our email, our weight or whether the doors are locked. We lose touch with ourselves, our feelings and our ability to reason and solve problems. Obsessions like this are usually driven by fear.
Codependents (including addicts) focus on the external. Addicts obsess about the object of their addiction. Our thinking and behavior revolves around the object of our addiction, while our true self is cloaked with shame. But we can obsess about anyone or anything.

Obsessive worry frequently occurs. Because of shame, we’re preoccupied with how others perceive us. This leads to anxiety and obsessions concerning what other people think about us. We especially worry before or after any type of performance or behavior where others are watching, and during dating or after a breakup.

Shame also creates insecurity, doubt, self-criticism, indecision and irrational guilt. Normal guilt can turn into an obsession that leads to self-shaming that can last for days or months. Normal guilt is alleviated by making amends or by taking corrective action, but shame endures because it is “we” who are bad, not our actions.

Codependents typically obsess about people for whom they love and care. They might worry about an alcoholic’s behavior, not realizing they have become as preoccupied with him or her as the alcoholic is with alcohol.

Obsessions can feed compulsive attempts to control others, such as following someone, reading another person’s diary, emails, or texts, diluting bottles of liquor, hiding keys, or searching for drugs. None of this helps but only causes more chaos and conflict. The more we’re obsessed with someone else, the more of ourselves we lose. When asked how we are, we may quickly change the subject to the person we’re obsessed with.

In a new romantic relationship, it’s normal to think about our loved one to a degree, but for codependents, it often doesn’t stop there. When not worrying about the relationship, we may become obsessed with our partner’s whereabouts or create jealous scripts that damage the relationship.
Our obsessions may also be pleasurable, such as fantasies about romance, sex, or power. We may imagine how we’d like our relationship to be or how we want someone to act. A big discrepancy between our fantasy and reality may reveal what we’re missing in our life.

Some codependents are consumed by obsessive love. They might call their loved one many times a day, demand attention and responses, and feel easily hurt, rejected, or abandoned. Actually, this isn’t really love at all, but an expression of a desperate need to bond and escape loneliness and inner emptiness. It usually pushes the other person away. Real love accepts the other person and respects their needs.
Denial is a major symptom of codependency: denial of painful realities, of addiction (ours and others’), and denial of our needs and feelings. A great many codependents are unable to identify their feelings. They may be able to name them, but not feel them.

This inability to tolerate painful emotions is another reason why codependents tend to obsess. Obsession serves the function of protecting us from painful feelings. Thus, it can be looked at as a defense to pain.

As uncomfortable as an obsession can be, it keeps at bay underlying emotions, such as grief, loneliness, anger, emptiness, shame and fear. It may be the fear of rejection or the fear of losing a loved one to a drug addiction.

Often certain feelings are shame-bound because they were shamed in childhood. When they arise in adulthood, we might obsess instead. If we believe we shouldn’t feel anger or express it, we might not be able to let go of resentment about someone rather than allow ourselves to feel angry. If sadness was shamed, we might obsess about a romantic interest to avoid feeling the pain of loneliness or rejection.

Of course, sometimes, we really are obsessing because we’re very afraid that a loved one will commit suicide, get arrested, overdose, or die or kill someone while driving drunk.
Yet, we can also obsess about a small problem to avoid facing a larger one. For example, a mother of a drug addict might obsess about her son’s sloppiness, but not confront or even admit to herself that he could die from his addiction. A perfectionist might obsess about a minor flaw in his or her appearance, but not acknowledge feelings of inferiority or unloveability.
The best way to end an obsession is to “lose our mind and come to our senses.” It follows that if an obsession is to avoid feeling, getting in touch with feelings and allowing them to flow will help dissolve our obsession. If our obsession helps us avoid taking action, we can get support to face our fears and act.

When our obsessions are irrational and allowing our feelings doesn’t dispel them, it can be helpful to reason them out with a friend or therapist.
  • Ask yourself, “What am I feeling?” and wait patiently until you know.
  • Learn to meditate to quiet your mind.
  • Do slow movement to evocative music and allow yourself to feel.
  • Write about your feelings (ideally with your non-dominant hand) and read it to someone.
  • Share at a CoDA or Al-Anon meeting.
  • Spend time in nature.
  • Read spiritual literature or attend spiritual or religious gatherings. (Note that religion and spirituality can become obsessions, too.)
  • If you’re obsessed with a person, get “14 Tips for Letting Go” at
  • Put your energy into expanding your social network.
  • Do something creative.
  • Develop interests and passions that feed, inspire, and nurture you.
  • Do what you enjoy. Don’t wait for someone to join you.
  • If you’re obsessing over a broken relationship, here’s a list of things to do and think about.
  • Do the exercises in Codependency for Dummies, especially Chapter 9 on nonattachment and the exercises in Conquering Shame and Codependency.

Titus Lucretius Carus and the Nothing that isn't

As old as recorded history, there have been people who described the universe as infinite. Born near the year 100 B.C. the philosopher Lucretius argued that space can never end, for what would happen, he asked, if you throw a dart at the outer edge of the universe. "Wherever you may place the ultimate limit of things, I will ask you: 'Well then, what does happen to the dart?' The universe has nothing outside to limit it", said Lucretius. We know today that space is curved, and so the present universe can be finite if it is closed into a circle of some kind, but the point Lucretius made still holds true. There are no walls or edges where space suddenly ends.
It is interesting to imagine how Lucretius envisioned the universe from his poetic writing. In his book entitled, The Nature of the Universe, he writes:
If all the space in the universe were shut in and confined on every side by definite boundaries, the supply of matter would already have accumulated by its own weight at the bottom, and nothing could happen under the dome of the sky -- indeed, there would be no sky and no sunlight, since all the available matter would have settled down and would be lying in a heap for all eternity. As it is, no rest is given to the atoms, because there is no bottom where they can accumulate and take up their abode.

Lucretius viewed the infinite as endless and boundless, but he always described it as having a consistent reality of space, time, and atoms. He made the age old mistake of defining atoms as separate things in an independent space. Albert Einstein would one day show that space, time, and matter are interdependent, but you may have noticed that he recognized the universe has no bottom or top, long before anyone knew anything about outer space in a scientific way. It was his ability to reason out such rules with argument, and his belief that such rules formed some basic eternal reality, that gave Lucretius his place in history. In another passage Lucretius writes:
Things go on happening all the time through ceaseless movement in every direction; and atoms of matter bouncing up from below are supplied out of the infinite. There is therefore a limitless abyss of space, such that even the dazzling flashes of the lightning cannot traverse in their course, racing through an interminable tract of time, nor can they even shorten the distance still to be covered. So vast is the scope that lies open to things far and wide without limit in any dimension.
The most famous quote from Lucretius was, "Nothing can be created out of nothing." He deduced this from carefully observing his environment, noticing that plants died without rain, that things needed time to grow and required raw materials. He wrote, "Surely because each thing requires for its birth a particular material which determines what can be produced. It must therefore be admitted that nothing can be make out of nothing, because everything must be generated from a seed before it can merge into the unresisting air."

Lucretius in my mind is a great example of how science often fails to acknowledge its heritage with philosophers. I have never heard Lucretius given credit for developing the First Law of Thermodynamics, which states that energy is neither created nor destroyed, yet he was arguably the first to state the first law, deriving it simply from intuitive reasoning and observing his environment.
The second great principal is this: nature resolves everything into its component atoms and never reduces anything to nothing. If anything were perishable in all its parts, anything might perish all of a sudden and vanish from sight.

From the principle that elementary things are never destroyed, or something never becomes nothing, Lucretius recognized that the universe must exist some way in a forever time. He wrote:
If throughout this bygone eternity there have persisted bodies from which the universe has been perpetually renewed, they must certainly be possessed of immortality.
His cosmology was rather complete considering he lived two thousand years ago. He derived the second law also, which states that a system moves from an ordered to a disordered state, stating that all things eventually return to their constituent parts, writing "nature repairs one thing from another, and allows nothing to be born without the aid of another's death. He even had his own version of the anthropic principle.

Certainly atoms did not post themselves purposefully in due order by an act of intelligence, nor did they stipulate what movements each should perform. As they have been rushing everlastingly throughout all space in their myriad's, undergoing a myriad of changes under the disturbing impact of collisions, they have experienced every variety of movement and conjunction till they have fallen into the particular pattern by which this world of ours is constituted.

Blessings to those who have gone before.....It happened this way:,,for my Father at Samhain

It happened this way:,,for my Father at Samhain

When the time was right, when the season had come, he came to the deadly place and was sacrificed. Knowingly he came; willingly he came in honor and sorrow he came,
To do what had to be done.
Death made life possible; from it sprang the food we eat.
Grain grew where his blood flowed, animals walked forth from the shade of his fallen body. Like an ash felled by an axe, his body lay and nourished the ground.
This is the way it happened, and the way it happens today.
For each moment dies and nourishes the next as it is birthed by the Goddess. Each year dies and nourishes the next as it is birthed by the Goddess. Each life ends and nourishes the next as it is birthed by the Goddess.
You who die and are reborn, in this season of death, we remember your deeds.
You who are reborn, in this season of life, we remember your sacrifice.
You who die and are reborn, in this season of life and death, we remember what happened and we praise you in our living, and we praise you in our dying.
death, we remember what happened and we praise you in our living, and we praise you in our dying.

Blessings to those who have gone before.

I call to the ancestors who lived and died before I took breath,
to all the mothers and fathers who created life,
who created life,
who created me.
Walk with me tonight.

I call to the ancestors who lived and died in my lifetime,
my beloved dead, my family, my friends.
Those who made me laugh and shared in my tears,
who shared this journey with me,
who shared their journey with me.
Visit with me again.
My breath is your breath.
My bones are your bones.

We are all relations.
I drink water for you.
I take in food for you.
Together we light the beacon…
Together we stand in the doorway…
We call to the recently dead.
We offer your names to the air.
We offer your names in prayer.
Kieth John Shrewsbury Marian Shrewsbury, Wilfred Earnest Hazlewood, Edith May Hazlewood, Horace John Shrewsbury Liliie Miriam Elias
All of my ancestors,
all of our relations,
wait to greet you.
Safest passage to each of you.
You are loved,
you are remembered.
Be at peace.

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Tell the US Ambassador: ban Tommy

Tell the US Ambassador: ban Tommy

One of the biggest anti-Muslim think tanks in the USA has invited Stephen Lennon (aka Tommy Robinson) to speak at a major event in Washington DC next month. Speaking at this event will give Lennon a huge platform to stir up greater Islamophobia and a chance to raise even more money from far right donors in the States.
Lennon is a violent thug with multiple criminal convictions, including for trying to enter the United States illegally.
Add your name to tell the US Ambassador to the UK about Lennon’s record, and demand he be banned from entering the country to further his hateful cause.

Defense Mechanisms against the Passions

Defense Mechanisms

Sigmund Freud (1894, 1896) noted a number of ego defenses which he refers to throughout his written works. His daughter Anna (1936) developed these ideas and elaborated on them, adding ten of her own. Many psychoanalysts have also added further types of ego defenses.

Defense mechanisms are psychological strategies that are unconsciously used to protect a person from anxiety arising from unacceptable thoughts or feelings.

We use defense mechanisms to protect ourselves from feelings of anxiety or guilt, which arise because we feel threatened, or because our id or superego becomes too demanding. They are not under our conscious control, and are non-voluntaristic.

Ego-defense mechanisms are natural and normal. When they get out of proportion (i.e., used with frequency), neuroses develop, such as anxiety states, phobias, obsessions, or hysteria.

Why do we need Ego defenses?

Freud once said, "Life is not easy!" The ego -- the "I" -- sits at the center of some pretty powerful forces: reality; society, as represented by the superego; biology, as represented by the Id.

When these make conflicting demands upon the poor ego, it is understandable if you feel threatened, overwhelmed, as if it were about to collapse under the weight of it all. This feeling is called anxiety, and it serves as a signal to the ego that its survival, and with it the survival of the whole organism, is in jeopardy.

In order to deal with conflict and problems in life, Freud stated that the ego employs a range of defense mechanisms. Defense mechanisms operate at an unconscious level and help ward off unpleasant feelings (i.e., anxiety) or make good things feel better for the individual.

Examples of Defenses Mechanisms

There are a large number of defense mechanisms; the main ones are summarized below.

defense mechanisms

Identification with the Aggressor

A focus on negative or feared traits. I.e., if you are afraid of someone, you can practically conquer that fear by becoming more like them.

An extreme example of this is the Stockholm Syndrome, where hostages identify with the terrorists. E.g., Patty Hearst and the Symbionese Liberation Army.

Patty was abused and raped by her captors, yet she joined their movement and even took part in one of their bank robberies. At her trial, she was acquitted because she was a victim suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.


This was the first defense mechanism that Freud discovered, and arguably the most important. Repression is an unconscious mechanism employed by the ego to keep disturbing or threatening thoughts from becoming conscious.

Thoughts that are often repressed are those that would result in feelings of guilt from the superego. For example, in the Oedipus complex, aggressive thoughts about the same sex parents are repressed.

This is not a very successful defense in the long term since it involves forcing disturbing wishes, ideas or memories into the unconscious, where, although hidden, they will create anxiety.


This involves individuals attributing their own thoughts, feeling, and motives to another person (A. Freud, 1936). Thoughts most commonly projected onto another are the ones that would cause guilt such as aggressive and sexual fantasies or thoughts.

For instance, you might hate someone, but your superego tells you that such hatred is unacceptable. You can 'solve' the problem by believing that they hate you.


Displacement is the redirection of an impulse (usually aggression) onto a powerless substitute target (A. Freud, 1936). The target can be a person or an object that can serve as a symbolic substitute. Someone who feels uncomfortable with their sexual desire for a real person may substitute a fetish.

Someone who is frustrated by his or her superiors may go home and kick the dog, beat up a family member, or engage in cross-burnings.


This is similar to displacement, but takes place when we manage to displace our emotions into a constructive rather than destructive activity (A. Freud, 1936). This might, for example, be artistic.

Many great artists and musicians have had unhappy lives and have used the medium of art of music to express themselves. Sport is another example of putting our emotions (e.g., aggression) into something constructive.

For example, fixation at the oral stage of development may later lead to seeking oral pleasure as an adult through sucking one's thumb, pen or cigarette. Also, fixation during the anal stage may cause a person to sublimate their desire to handle faeces with an enjoyment of pottery.

Sublimation for Freud was the cornerstone of civilized life, arts and science are all sublimated sexuality. (NB. this is a value-laden concept, based on the aspirations of a European society at the end of the 1800 century).


Anna Freud (1936) proposed denial involves blocking external events from awareness. If some situation is just too much to handle, the person just refuses to experience it.

As you might imagine, this is a primitive and dangerous defense - no one disregards reality and gets away with it for long! It can operate by itself or, more commonly, in combination with other, more subtle mechanisms that support it.

For example, smokers may refuse to admit to themselves that smoking is bad for their health.


This is a movement back in psychological time when one is faced with stress (A. Freud, 1936). When we are troubled or frightened, our behaviors often become more childish or primitive.

A child may begin to suck their thumb again or wet the bed when they need to spend some time in the hospital. Teenagers may giggle uncontrollably when introduced into a social situation involving the opposite sex.


Rationalization is the cognitive distortion of "the facts" to make an event or an impulse less threatening (A. Freud, 1936). We do it often enough on a fairly conscious level when we provide ourselves with excuses.

But for many people, with sensitive egos, making excuses comes so easy that they never are truly aware of it. In other words, many of us are quite prepared to believe our lies.

Reaction Formation

This is where a person goes beyond denial and behaves in the opposite way to which he or she thinks or feels (A. Freud, 1936). By using the reaction formation, the id is satisfied while keeping the ego in ignorance of the true motives.

Conscious feelings are the opposite of the unconscious. Love - hate. Shame - disgust and moralizing are reaction formation against sexuality.Usually, a reaction formation is marked by showiness and compulsiveness.

For example, Freud claimed that men who are prejudice against homosexuals are making a defense against their own homosexual feelings by adopting a harsh anti-homosexual attitude which helps convince them of their heterosexuality. Other examples include:

* The dutiful daughter who loves her mother is reacting to her Oedipus hatred of her mother.

* Anal fixation usually leads to meanness, but occasionally a person will react against this (unconsciously) leading to over-generosity.

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Freud, A. (1937). The Ego and the mechanisms of defense, London: Hogarth Press and Institute of Psycho-Analysis.

Freud, S. (1894). The neuro-psychoses of defence. SE, 3: 41-61.

Freud, S. (1896). Further remarks on the neuro-psychoses of defence. SE, 3: 157-185.

Freud, S. (1933). New introductory lectures on psychoanalysis. London: Hogarth Press and Institute of Psycho-Analysis. Pp. xi + 240.

Paulhus, D. L., Fridhandler, B., & Hayes, S. (1997). Psychological defense: Contemporary theory and research. In R. Hogan, J. A. Johnson, & S. R. Briggs (Eds.), Handbook of personality psychology (pp. 543-579).

She Walks in Beauty Lord Byron

She Walks in Beauty
She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellowed to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express,
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent

Analysis of She Walks In Beauty - Stanza by Stanza

She Walks In Beauty is a flowing, musical lyric poem initially written as a song by Byron. It explores the idea of a female's physical appearance being dependent on her inner psychical state.
First Stanza
That well known first line is simple enough yet also slightly mysterious because of that preposition in which suggests the female figure's relationship to beauty is total.
The caesura midway through the line places special emphasis on that word beauty - the reader has to pause at the comma - with the feminine ending to beauty contrasting with the masculine night, the first of many opposites.
And note that the enjambment, when the line continues into the next without punctuation, is vital to maintaining the sense. The female is compared to the night of cloudless climes and starry skies, a simile which needs both lines to work to full effect.
Lines three and four are similar in that line three is incomplete without line four, dark and bright meet - again the duality persists.
  • The inversion of the iambic foot is important in line four because it reinforces the idea that these opposites exist both outwardly and inwardly. For the reader the change from iamb to trochee means that the stress comes on the first syllable - the word Meet - which alters the rhythm of the line.
The eyes have long been called the windows of the soul so the speaker is suggesting that her soul tends towards perfection (all that's best).
The last two lines, five and six, imply that the light of the night has the qualities of skin; it can be touched (tender), and that she has developed a naturally relaxed, softened approach to it. Daylight in comparison is vulgar and lacking (gaudy).
Note the religious reference - heaven - which hints at the divine.

Second Stanza
Nuances are apparent in this first line. If she gained or lost only a little of either the dark or light her nameless grace (a second religious reference? as grace is elated to Christian ideals) would be undermined.
The first line, split midway and ended by a comma, is an important focal point for it reflects the delicacy of her being. Her natural grace moves from hair - waves in every raven tress - to face which peacefully reflects her inner thoughts, which must be pure.
Note the repeated use of certain words and phrases, which underlines meaning.
The use of alliteration and internal rhyme brings musicality.
The use of opposites in a line emphasis the contrasts.

Third Stanza
Throughout this poem the concentration has been on the head, hair and face of the woman. This theme continues in the final stanza as the speaker introduces cheek and brow and lips - she wins people over with her glowing smile.
This focus on the positive physical attributes leads to the conclusion that morally she is also faultless - her love is innocent - she spends her time doing good - suggestive of saintly pursuits and behaviour.
She is content with her earthly existence, unsullied by life and untainted by love

Brecht, Kafka or Camus? alternative late October 2018

An alternative late  October 2018.... As John Macdonnell MP picked himself up from his fall on the way back back home, he reflected on what might have been. If only, he reflected that we had had one more nomination we could have managed a significant challenge to the new Blairite leadership. He thought of the opinion polls. Labour and the Conservatives were bumping along in the polls at 22% and 21% respectively. David Cameron's government was in crisis. UkIP had won three by elections in a row and the Greens standing at 26% in the polls had developed a membership of 250,000 and a youth movement Green Moment had over 40,000 members. Caroline Lucas had handed over the Leadership to Molly Scott Cato the MP for Bristol West .

The rise of UKIP had led to anti EU riots and with the Far Right and six former Tory MPs defecting to them were contributing to a crisis of democracy. Frank Field, Liz Kendall and Stephen Kinnock had supported the Cameron government in a crucial vote of confidence. The Cameron Government was staggering on supported by the DUP on the basis of financial  guarantees
Macdonnell, Corbyn and others of the left were attending a conference the following day it was entitled "Where next for Socialism?" Within the Green Party the pressure was building to rename the party "The Green Left"

I love the speculation of what if's?. All I have done is to transpose the German political conditions to the UK. Without the EU referendum this alternative history may well have been valid. Yet on the day before Samhain I ask myself the question which version of history would I prefer? I come down clearly on the one I exist in and experience as the bus climbs through Godre-Graig. I conclude there would have been no chance of a real Socialist Party without the Referendum. I ask myself what would I feel to be still in the EU and yet still living under a Cameron government. AND I know what I would prefer...

Yesterday's budget showed that the Tory Party is applying a thin tinge of Labour lite policies. Just as the Callaghan government of the late 70s began Thatcher lite monetarism. We stand on the edge of a Gramscian hegemonic shift. History often has echoes of the past and we can discover much from reflection. Yet I know which version I prefer...and it's not the one without a Referendum.
I grow weary of the centrism of the Peoples Vote campaign. There are many worthy people within it and many friends too. Yet within it too are many who created the policies that caused the crash of 2008. The market policies of the Blair government with it's PFI's and it's love of entrepreneurs like Lord Sugar and Philip Green led to and contributed to Brexit and the financial crisis of a decade ago. I am afraid that many of them begat the populist right and contributed to the causes of Brexit. Oh the unforseen consequence of  Weberian events.! Perhaps the sliding doors of alternative histories should be often considered...for the want of nail .. and all that?

Irony is often useful here.. do we need Brecht, Kafka or Camus? I just don't you?