The Fallacy of Voting for ‘the Economy’

‘The economy’ is a popular term, especially in election year.  Unfortunately, most New Zealanders have very little understanding of what it is. When economists and politicians talk about ‘the economy’ they are usually just talking about Gross Domestic Product (GDP) which is the sum of all the transactions: every time money changes hands in an officially recorded way it increases GDP. There is an assumption here that the greater the country’s GDP, the better off it is.  The problem with this is that a greater GDP doesn’t necessarily mean greater social well-being. It certainly doesn’t mean less crime, better education or health care and it doesn’t necessarily even mean more jobs. It just means greater transactions – more money is being moved around.  New Zealander, Marilyn Waring: a pioneering radical economist[/caption]

 

 

It’s time we started questioning ‘the economy’. The Christchurch earthquakes have been great for the economy. Oil spills like the Rena also generate a lot of economic activity, selling off New Zealand’s assets looks great for the economy too, because there are lots of transactions adding up to greater GDP.  Child abuse generates much more economic activity than good parenting, with all the associated legal fees, media frenzies and so on.  Countries with high GDP can have major problems with crime, unemployment, massive debt, poor education and insufficient health-care, like the United States for example. There is a lot of money being moved around, but it isn’t going to where it is most needed.

The current government is basing it’s campaign on a strong economy, hoping that the magic of the word will be enough to win votes.  They are laying claim to the creation of 83,000, most of which were actually created by circumstances outside of their control, especially the Christchurch earthquakes. It is shameful and embarrassing for a political party to be profiting from disasters in such a way, especially when people are still suffering from them and not enough is being done. 83,000 kids are going hungry in New Zealand and many of them have working parents. Creating more underpaid jobs isn’t the answer.

Experts have been questioning ‘the economy’ for a long time. GDP is such a poor measure of social well-being that many other systems have been developed that more accurately and specifically look at positive indicators, not just transactions.   The countries with the greatest social well-being have more equality: less of a gap between the rich and poor. These countries, like Denmark or Japan, have lower levels of crime and much better health and education statistics, while maintaining a strong economy. 

‘The economy’ is a system created by people, not a law unto itself.  When we think about ‘the economy’ we should be thinking of it, not as a force of nature, but as a socially created system that measures what we value.  Rather than a generic economy based on GDP and nothing else, we should be asking the question: what kind of economy do we actually want? What kind of jobs do we want to be creating? Do we want our numbers to be bigger without actually having a better-functioning society or do we want an economy that values children and old people, health and well-being, education and sustainability, innovation and new technologies, peace and safety?  Instead of blindly voting for ‘the economy’, it’s time to think about what kind of economy we really want to have.

The invisible closet: The hidden politics of bisexuality

The invisible closet: The hidden politics of bisexuality

“Bisexuals are greedy,” a friend once told me back in highschool, “They should just make up their minds.” Her statement didn’t make any sense to me at the time, I was just on the verge of identifying as bisexual, but nobody knew that just then, and now most people still don’t, but there doesn’t seem to be any point in coming out when no body I care about would really care… or is there? Apart from female bisexuality being the focus of gratuitous heterosexual fetish, bisexuality is largely invisible and invisible things are easy to ignore and difficult to talk about, which is probably why there are thousands of bisexual women seeking out internet forums, confessing to the ether of cyberspace their similar stories.

Many of these women are living what appear to be heterosexual lives but something is missing, they fall in love with their best friends but are unable to tell anyone. Telling friends could ruin a friendship, telling their husbands could ruin a marriage. Being public could mean being exposed to judgement. Many of these women are socially isolated, and have no connection to queer community, so the internet is the only safe space to express their hidden sexual identities, desires and the overwhelming longing that many of them share.

Often bisexuality isn’t taken seriously. Mainstream society doesn’t know quite where to place it, other than in heterosexual fantasy or some quirky marginal category. Bisexuals often experience discrimination from within the queer community, sometimes resulting from the ease at which they can ‘fit in’ to heterosexual society. Male bisexuality, not often being the subject of heterosexual fantasy and is more subjected to homophobia. Bisexual men are often regarded as a myth, and are seen to be in some transitional period between thinking they’re straight and realising they’re gay. The New York Times recently ran an article about the scientific quest to prove bisexuality, which demonstrates how marginalised bisexuality is, even compared to homosexuality.

For a lot of bisexual people, both men and women, it’s easier to ‘play straight’ and take on a heterosexual identity, at least publicly. Many still identify with dominant romance narratives about how life and partnership should go: find someone of the opposite sex, get married, have kids, and so on, as one friend of mine expressed: “I’m bi, but I still see myself setting down with a man in the long term because that makes sense for having kids and stuff.” Another friend, a bisexual feminist activist, expressed internal conflict over her identity when she found herself in a long-term committed heterosexual relationship: “I’ve always identified as bisexual, but now it just seems like I’m straight because I’m in this relationship.” She felt alienated from the queer community she had been part of.

Some people resent all identity labels, other people feel more closely connected to other communities and their sexual identity is submerged beneath labels like ‘mother’, ‘artist’, ‘lawyer’ or ethnicity and class related identity. Some people identify as ‘pansexual’ to include all the variances of gender rather than just two. ‘Bisexual’ is just one word to describe sexuality, which can be an intricate, fluid and complex thing. Since Kinsey, scales have been a common tool. People can be positioned or position themselves as a number or location on the scale, somewhere between heterosexual and homosexual. It’s quite simplistic, but it may be impossible to accurately map sexuality that differs from person to person and culture to culture.

‘Coming out’ as bi seems like nothing to shout about. The hesitation comes from questioning whether my sexual identity is private or public. I know some gay men who feel their sexuality is private and everyone assumes they are straight and other gay people who feel like it’s an important political statement – making a marginal group more visible. In recent years a few celebrities like Anna Paquin, Lady Gaga and Angelina Jolie have come out as bi in order to make such a statement. I don’t know whether these statements make much of a difference or whether they are just absorbed into the hetero fantasy or marginalised. Many of my historical heroines were bi including Frida kahlo, Virginia Woolf, Margaret Mead and Simone de Beauvoir, they were largely inside the invisible closet.

As a bisexual woman, ‘coming out’ is almost a non-event, hence the ‘invisible closet’. I haven’t been trying to hide anything, but no one can tell. Apart from the brief period of my life where I wasn’t attracted to men at all and was in a relationship with a woman, it has been easier for me, like the forum women, to perform a fairly ‘normal’ heterosexual identity, not particularly by choice, but because it is more difficult to swim against the current and because exposing the marginalised ‘personal’ makes us vulnerable. Either way, I will continue to live-out dual sexualities in whatever way makes the most sense to me at the time.

Why does ‘nutrition’ keep changing?

Originally posted on Nourishing Revolution as ‘The problem with ‘nutrition’

One minute coffee is good for you, the next it’s bad, blueberries will save you from cancer, no, they won’t, red wine will.  Chocolate is a health food, sugar is the devil. After studying food and nutrition formally and informally for the past decade, I could tell you a thing or two, but the things I can tell you won’t make any sense unless I clarify something first: there is a problem with the way we have been taught to think about nutrition.  Actually, there are a few inter-related problems. I will do my best to explain them.

 

The body complex

Now, here’s the main thing: the body is incredibly complex, probably more complex than we even realise. We seem to simultaneously know too much and not very much at all: it’s very confusing. Nutritional research usually works in one of two ways: 1) controllable experiments on rats, 2) much much more variable studies of human beings. The main problem with this is that the much more scientific studies of rats are hard to extrapolate to humans, because we are not rats, and more importantly, because we do not live in controlled environments. The research on actual human beings can hardly tell us anything because there are so many factors that unless something is really obviously good or bad for us the difference is not statistically significant. The other problem with the latter is that correlation is probably a much more major factor than we’d like to think, eg: people who drink a glass of red-wine a day are probably eating more ‘healthy’ bourgeois food like vegetables than people who are drinking five beers a day.

Media sucks

The media particularly suck at reporting science, especially relation to nutrition, for example: this neuro-psych experiment looking at people’s behavior after consuming a serotonin-decreasing drink resulted in media reports that cheese and chocolate help people make better decisions.  Obviously this is not science, by any stretch, but it makes a good story because people like the idea that cheese and chocolate are good for you.

 

 

People’s bodies are different

Yes, we are all biologically and genetically very similar, but we are also very different. Partly this is to do with lifestyle, and the way our different digestive systems have experienced life so far, partly it’s to do with the way our immune systems, as well as endocrine and other bodily systems interact with our digestive system and the food coming into our bodies.  It’s well known that not everyone can digest or tolerate gluten or dairy or peanuts or a plethora of other things.  Suffice to say, nutritional advice is often given out as if it is relevant to everyone, all the time.  This makes absolutely no sense.

 

 

Nutrition has become a moral issue

There is a naughty and nice list when it comes to nutrition.  Fat tends to be considered immoral and sinful along with almost anything else that is indulgent and delicious.  Apparently ‘callories’ are bad (so getting energy from food = bad?). It used to be common knowledge that cholesterol was evil, but actually it’s a very important substance in human health, wait a minute: there are good and bad types of cholesterol (actually LDL and HDL are lipoproteins, not cholesterol as such – public health advice tends to treat people as if they are stupid).  This puritan religious discourse continues: healthy food is hard work and morally good. This is echoed in advertising and is absolutely ludicrous.  Perhaps we will reach a kind of healthy-heaven if we use trim dressing. Perhaps we will burn in hell with all the other lovers of saturated fat and the chocolate biscuits that give you devil’s horns.  I very much doubt it, but the moral value of nutrition is something that most people take for granted.  People who over-eat or are obese are considered to have no self-control and are blatantly discriminated against. People who are skinny must be morally superior, especially women, after all, there is only one ideal image of feminine beauty that we should all revere, and Barbie doesn’t eat at all.

 

 

Nutritional value means different things

I was quite confused when a friend of mine once remarked that mushrooms have no “nutritional value”.  It turns out that they aren’t particularly high in calories (not morally bad?), they aren’t a great source of macro-nutrients (fat, protein, carbohydrates), but they are nutritionally very complex and are a source of lots of things like potassium and vitamin B6, so how, exactly, don’t they have nutritional value? Sometimes nutritional value is just talking about calories, other times it’s talking about other things we know about that might be “good for you”.

 

 

‘Nutritionism’ 

Nutritionism, as described by Scrinis, is the focus on the constituents of food, on vitamins, fiber, minerals, amino acids, types of fat, anti-oxidant and so on, rather than focusing on whole foods.  This reductionism is great for selling vitamin supplements and for advertising products but it’s not actually very helpful for people who are trying to decide what to eat or to understand healthy food.  One obvious problem with this goes back to the body/health/food being so very complex.  Identifying vitamin C and Omega three may be helpful in situations where there is a problem with deficiency, but supplementing is inferior, in practice, to consuming whole foods.  Supplements are often dubious in quality and sometimes taking a substance in isolation is actually more harmful than taking it in a complex form.  Vitamin C, for example, is commonly known as ascorbic acid, but that is only the name of the most active component of a whole lot of things that are naturally found together. It didn’t surprise me when the research came out a few years ago that Vitamin C didn’t help treat the common cold, the experiments on mice were using only ascorbic acid.  Whole foods contain a whole lot of complex things that we are just beginning to understand. We know of hundreds of important compounds like vitamins and minerals, but there is a lot we don’t know.   Remember:  Nutritionism is only one fragmented western perspective on food/health. It does not integrate well with other views.

 

 

Things keep changing

Not only do the chances of coffee saving you from Alzheimer’s or giving you cancer seem to change from week to week, every five minutes there’s a new super-food from the amazon that will probably cure all your problems, and make you a more morally superior person.  Aside from the constant instability in the nutritional landscape, our food has actually changed.  Wild fruits, before we selectively bred them for hundreds of years, were lower in sugars and higher in protein and micro-nutrients.  We have never-before had access to so much energy in the form of processed grains and processed oils. Chances are, our bodies, which are still very similar to how they were 10,000 years ago, don’t really know how to deal with this stuff.

 

Good nutrition is a privilege

Ironically, the cheapest foods now, are the more processed. A century ago only the wealthy could regularly afford white bread, now it’s mostly the domain of the poor.  Bread has become somethings almost mythical: soft and light, like a cloud, and totally unlike any other food ever known in human history.  While the middle and upper-classes can afford to buy whole-grain sourdough with only four ingredients or, better yet, go gluten free, there are plenty of people who make do with processed sausages and the budget-brand loaf.  While some can afford to drink their glass of red wine and eat a variety of vegetables, other people learn that vegetables spoil quickly and that red-wine is best consumed by the cask in order to forget how terrible life can be.  Moral judgement when it comes to nutrition is a privilege.  ‘Healthy food’ is a privilege, and in a ‘developed’ country we have the vague idea that there are thousands or millions of people in the world worse-off than us, and there are.  While there are many people in the world who would be grateful for any calories at all, the wealthy are watching their waste-lines and trying not to cave-in to temptation because the over-processing of food has left a legacy of over-fed and under-nourished people.

 

Why the market won’t save us

There are lots of things that are said so often that people take them for granted: if you work hard, you’ll succeed, people are lazy and selfish, and so on.  We are usually so absorbed in our own culture that we don’t really see it, and therefore, can’t challenge the things that aren’t healthy/functional/true/ideal. After all, our culture is the water in which we swim.  There are some serious problems with out dominant social discourses.  Neoliberal ideas surrounding work and ‘the market’ tend to come under this bracket, so while I’m in a deconstructive mood I’m going to rant about a few of the false premises that people seem to take for granted:

1. People are essentially selfish and lazy 

This is only a lie because it’s a partial truth: people are sometimes lazy and selfish, but that is not our essential nature (if we have one at all). People are communal animals. We are hard-wired for community. We get satisfaction from work that is meaningful and helpful, we get good vibes from doing nice things and helping other people. Assuming that we are all just selfish and lazy is actually kind of yuck. It’s an excuse to devalue some people’s lives because they haven’t achieved as much as other people.

2. We all have equal opportunities to succeed

Now, even to an amateur goldfish, this would sound ridiculous. No one really believes this, do they? There is absolutely no evidence for this assumption. Perhaps it is part of the fairy-tale of the uber-privileged who have no vision outside of their limitless choices. Okay, so maybe we don’t have equal opportunity to succeed, but surely even socially disadvantaged people have options, right? They have choices, right? Let’s just pretend that this is good enough.

3. Poor people are just making bad choices

This has been bugging me since I read Linda Tirado’s essay: Why I make terrible decisions. We all know the price of rent, food and power has gone up heaps and the minimum wage and benefits haven’t followed suit, yet some people insist that people accessing food banks are just not budgeting properly, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg – you see that poor-looking person over there smoking cigarettes/gambling/drinking and you think it’s as simple as ‘bad choices’? Fuck man, you have no idea what it feels like to have massive social pressure and so few choices, that easing the pain just a little bit, and sacrificing other important things, seems like the best choice you have. I’m not even going to go into the implications of inter-generational trauma, but I will mention that my supervisor who did her PhD looking at food scarcity found that some of the people she talked to smoked cigarettes because they suppress hunger and a packet lasts longer than a meal.

4. Hard work can work for everyone

Even if you don’t really believe in premise 2, you might have a bit of faith that with a lot of hard work and a dash of determination success is possible for anyone. The ‘hard’ work discourse really grates because it assumes that the people who are at the top worked the hardest. News flash: the people who clean your toilets work fucking hard for relatively little reward. This also assumes there are enough jobs for everyone and that everyone has the ability to work.

5. There is this trickle-down effect…

So, the idea here is that people who make it to the top will invest in more business ventures and create more jobs, that this is all good for the economy, and that wealth trickles down. Now, anyone with a bit of critical awareness will tell you that the trickle-down effect is nothing more than the rich pissing on the poor, that for those people to get to the top they have to make tough choices – like paying people as little as possible and employing as few people as possible. That’s just good business sense, right?

6. What is good for the economy is good for us

People seem to have this idea that the economy is very important and must grow at all costs, without really knowing what ‘the economy’ is and who it is serving. We all need to think a bit more critically about what ‘the economy’ actually is, every time these words crop up in conversation. The way we measure ‘the economy’ is actually just a number based on all the transactions (GDP) and lots of transactions might just mean lots of crises – earthquakes are great for the economy, times of peace are not. While the economy is booming we still have poverty, crime and deprivation, in fact, we seem to be getting even more of the above as the gap between rich and poor widens. What is good for ‘the economy’ is not necessarily good for us.

7. The market is holy

‘The market’ is a similar concept, used in the religious discourse of neoliberal devotees: the market will save us. Just let it be free. There is absolutely no evidence to support this religious belief.  The main problem with this is that it leaves corporations free to exploit whomever they can, in whatever way they like. Corporations function much like cancer in the body – their job is to grow and grow and amass more and more resources. That is all. If you take all the power away from governments to regulate this kind of unhealthy social growth, you give all the power to the the tumors.

8. Paid work is morally good

This is based on the premise that people are inherently selfish and lazy. It’s much like the other puritan discourse in our social religion: we are all born sinners (selfish and lazy) and therefore to be morally good we must perform paid work – as much as possible – then we are able to feel self-righteous and superior to those who don’t work. If we are really really good we will even do unpaid work for charities or something, and if you work very hard for a long time you deserve your pension (not a Neoliberal idea) but any other dependence on the system is morally wrong and should be punished with verbal abuse and judgement, never mind that people who seek welfare are vulnerable and socially disadvantaged, never mind that they are human beings, never mind that the way they are treated by society and dysfunctional welfare systems is dehumanising and not really helping, never mind that poverty and social inequality is bad for everyone and that more equal societies are better off.

9. Taxing the rich is mean

Now, someone keeps telling me that extra taxes on high incomes are punitive, that is: punishing the rich. I fail to see how wealth distribution is a kind of punishment when more equality is better for everyone and quite frankly, I’m not overly sympathetic if Banker-Brad can’t afford a second yacht when there are far too many hungry children in this world. Now I’m not meaning to be mean and judgmental of wealthy people, there are lots of unhelpful stereotypes of rich people as well, I’m sorry about that, but it’s not top priority for me.

Negative stereotype of rich person

 

10. Taxing the rich is bad for productivity The argument goes like this: Banker-Brad works hard for his money (unlike those lazy toilet cleaners).  If Brad doesn’t get rewarded with extra money, or (heaven forbid) he gets extra money but it’s taxed at a higher rate (to subsidise the lavish lifestyles/healthcare/education/welfare of the undeserving poor) then Brad will start to lose motivation for his high-flying job, he won’t want to work as hard, and neither will all this other high-income-bracket friends. The economy will collapse and everyone will suffer. Bullshit. Research into human motivation shows that money motivation only has limited effects – for example, when people are given a task that requires creativity/challenge or ‘thinking outside the box’, money doesn’t help them achieve the task, but in a similar experiment where the creativity is taken out of the equation more money does work as a motivator. This suggests that people with more challenging/creative roles like Brad would actually benefit less from monetary motivation than the people cleaning his toilets.

For more information, watch this TED talk:

There are lots of other things that could be included here, but I hope this begins to point out how ridiculous some of the ideas we have around work and poverty are. Sometimes the ideas we take for granted are analogous to the shit floating around our social fish tank. We can either see it as part of the water or we can see it for what it really is: an unhealthy part of an unsustainable eco-system.

Trying not to hurt someone, and other self-fulfilling prophecies

It is almost the plot of every romantic comedy and about half of all dramas: X knows/thinks/finds out something about Y but doesn’t say anything. Ridiculous things ensue that would never have happened if X was just honest about the situation from the beginning, but hey, then we wouldn’t have a plot, would we? Y eventually finds out and feels betrayed/hurt/angry – and much worse than had the information been effectively communicated in the first place.  We are often careful about what we say to the people we love. Sometimes this is sensible, there’s no need to be an ass, after all, but usually when there’s a real tension, and often insecure attachment, trying not to hurt someone goes beyond politeness into dishonesty and manipulation.  We are actually trying to escape taking responsibility for reality, and we might be deluding ourselves on the road to even more pain and destruction.

trying not to hurt someone walking on eggshells

It is one of life’s great ironies that being well-meaning often leads to making a much bigger mess.  The little wall of dominoes we build up in order to protect people we care about from what we actually think is just waiting to cascade into chaos.  If only things were simple and easy. If only contradictions cancelled themselves out and disappeared in a puff of logic. Most of the time we are not even honest with ourselves. We convince ourselves we are doing the right thing when really, trying not to hurt someone is actually trying not to hurt yourself. No matter how altruistic you think you are, you’re acting in your own self interest and avoiding potential stress/pain/guilt.

Speaking of guilt… what I call guilt-cake is another fear-based self fulfilling prophecy. This is evident in people dieting in a conventional way (or giving up smoking). People start by feeling guilty about their weight and fearing the social/personal stigma and so on. This motivates the restrictive diet. The diet causes stress which causes people to feel bad which causes them to feel entitled to eat cake to feel better. Cake causes more guilt which causes more cake which causes more guilt. Here is a carefully constructed diagram:

guilt-cake

If guilt is a secondary emotion based on fear, as we have been led to believe, then perhaps all this fear stuff is self-fulfilling when left unchecked. This sentiment is expressed by Wait But Why in their post How to Pick Your Life Partner:

Fear is one of the worst possible decision-makers when it comes to picking the right life partner. Unfortunately, the way society is set up, fear starts infecting all kinds of otherwise-rational people, sometimes as early as the mid-twenties. The types of fear our society (and parents, and friends) inflict upon us—fear of being the last single friend, fear of being an older parent, sometimes just fear of being judged or talked about—are the types that lead us to settle for a not-so-great partnership. The irony is that the only rational fear we should feel is the fear of spending the latter two thirds of life unhappily, with the wrong person—the exact fate the fear-driven people risk because they’re trying to be risk-averse.

Of course, it all comes back to fear, so be careful if you’re making decisions out of fear, they may not be the best ones. Human beings are not very good at dealing with fear.  The protection patterns we develop unconsciously through watching our parents and society, as children, are often not very helpful, in fact, they are awfully dysfunctional and account for a lot of what is wrong with this world.  The end.

Oh wait, not the end; there needs to be some advice. Okay, so here’s the thing: be honest if you possibly can. Don’t be an ass, but try not to hide the truth either. If your significant other is really insecure, you’re not doing them any favors by propping up their insecurity with lies and obfuscation. If you can’t work out how to communicate effectively and openly, you may both need therapy.  But really, who am I to judge? I’d just rather not have to cringe at the obvious chain of events leading to relationship train-wreck that comes from trying (too hard) not to hurt someone. Oh yeah, and don’t feel guilty for eating cake. Break the cycle.

How to get over someone

Are you caught in a bad romance narrative? Maybe X has suddenly broken up with you or you really need to break up with her/him… Or perhaps you’ve never even gotten close enough to that lusty bottle-store clerk to even have the chance to go out, let alone break up and yet you can’t get the beer chiller fantasies out of your head. If a crush, unhealthy infatuation, pathological relationship or similar is getting you down or making you crazy, have I got the post for you.

Unhealthy romantic attachments can soak up a lot of time and energy. The drama can be exhilarating, but after a while you might notice you’re stuck on the same roller-coaster and you can’t seem to figure out how to get off. As I discuss in the Romance Narrative Trap, these kinds of things function much like addictions, producing the same neurotransmitters (like dopamine) and activating similar pathways. The patterns that we tend to fall into come from the attachment patterns we learn in childhood. I discuss this in more depth in my post about insecure attachment. The good news is that all these destructive mental patterns can be changed, you just need to change the way you think. The first thing to come to terms with is that you really want to get out of the loop. Then try out some/all of the following advice:

 

1. Get some perspective

Step back from the drama of the romance, to stop sinking my energy into crazy fantasies. Don’t turn into a love zombie, you’re too good for that, and after a while your friends will stop wanting to hear about X and how awesome or horrible they are. Maybe X is your soul-mate, but that’s neither here nor there. In your present life you have other more important shit you could be doing. Do it.

2. Bring it back.

Bring your focus and your energy back to you.  You have been leaching it all over the place and it’s making a mess on the carpet.  I have this mantra which also resembles this 90s song, which ironically has extremely love zombie lyrics if you read the rest of it. Play this song and try to dance like in the music video. Go on.

3. Balance. 

Balance everything – food, sleep, exercise, entertainment, meditation… be calm. Balance out your one preoccupying attachment with X by spending time with other awesome people. Balance out your brain chemistry with lots of hugs from different sources. Don’t rely on any one person/thing to be your opiate. Regular exercise does wonders for the brain. Try going for a stroll in the sunshine (when possible) and eating a salad every day.

4. Get fulfilling creative interests. 

There’s nothing better than fulfilling creative interests. Do something, make something, build on something. This will get your dopamine/reward pathway functioning more healthily because you are being awesome and getting rewarded for it.

5. Learn to meet your own emotional needs.

Easier said than done, but you really are the most qualified person for the job. Be sensitive to your own feelings and figure out what needs aren’t being met – then find more awesome ways to meet those needs.  People who actually have healthy relationships tend to be experts at meeting their own needs, they tend to have good self-esteem and realistic/adaptable expectations.

6. Stop talking about X all the time

Just stop it. stop thinking about it so much, think about cats, cats are nice. Okay, if you can’t stop it, write it all out.  Journal every thought you have and watch how circular it is. Get it out of your head and onto the paper. You can always burn paper.

7. Bring the relationship to its logical conclusion in your mind.

Stop playing white picket fence in your mind and get real, even if X changed and got totally into you the relationship would probably end because… Take off those rose tinted glasses and have a healthy dose of reality. If X fell madly in love with you/told you what you wanted to hear/stopped being a ____ and so on, what would actually happen? Probably in a few months you would get sick of the relationship, X would become too needy, you would out-grow him/her. Face it: if you’re in an unhealthy attachment with someone, the chances are they’re not really the best person for you to be with, anyway.

8. Get Freudian.

Let’s talk about your childhood. There’s nothing like incest to ruin the mood. Most likely, your unhealthy relationship-infatuation patterns come from unresolved childhood attachment patterns. Don’t beat yourself up, its normal to project your mommy/daddy issues onto lovers, its just not a sexy thing to think about. So think about it: what needs were unmet, as a child? Is X like your mum or dad? Maybe a sibling? Do you want to punish him/her for mistreating you in the way children react to betrayal? Is X a healthy or unhealthy model for a parent? Either way, it kinda kills the romance buzz, doesn’t it?

9. Resolve the underlying issues:

This is something that can take years of therapy, but is ultimately worthwhile. Basically, if you have unstable foundations (the kind that cause insecure romantic attachments), it won’t do you any good to keep piling bricks up. Your structure will always be wonky unless you take everything down, brick-by-brick, peel back the layers of protection and self-deception, and heal the primal wound.

10. Let Go

To really get over someone and get out of the romance narrative trap you need to let go – over and over. Surrender is a powerful life-skill. My good friend writes the Surrender to the Infinite blog. She has some great posts about letting go of a lover, letting go of Prince Charming, letting go of jealousy and letting go of grudges, among other things one might benefit from letting go of. The wonderful thing about letting go is that it can only do more good than harm. The  unhealthy/unreciprocated attachment you have is hurting you. Letting go won’t get in the way of any future romantic possibilities with X, in fact, it will only make future possibilities more likely because you won’t be so crazy/attached. The tricky thing is, you have to want to let go in order to make everything better and when you are attached you don’t really want to let go, but you can get there, step by step, until it’s not even a big deal anymore, I promise.

The story of your life: on the genre and plot of your personal narrative

We all use narrative to tell ourselves (and other people) the story of our lives, to try to justify ourselves or make sense of the craziness. Have you ever had a friend who went from one crazy drama to the next? Sometimes all you can do is sit back and watch the soap-opera unfold from a safe distance, right? I was recently recalling the few friends that I have fallen out with over the years. Underneath from the incredible theatrics of our friendships ending, there were always similar tales they had confided in me: “Sarah and I used to be so close, then she betrayed me”, “Lucinda was my best friend, then she stabbed me in the back.” On reflection, it was the same story over and over. I’m so relieved not to have these people in my life anymore, especially when I hear through mutual acquaintances that even more shit has gone down. It does make me wonder about the narratives of my life – of everyone’s lives. What stories we are telling and repeating?

Listening to other peoples narratives

Have you ever reflected on the stories your parents tell you to make sense of their lives, or how your story is similar and different from theirs? Families often have repeating themes that cross generations: infidelity, wanting/trying to have children, failed career aspirations, trauma, being neglected or abused, winning, achieving, and so on. The way our parents make sense out of the world affects the way that we learn to see it as children, and sometimes it we never even question their truths. If we don’t question we just go on subconsciously living the same plot with the same villains, be they personal acquaintances, the government, rich people or criminals. We go on striving for the same goals without figuring out whether we actually want the things or not. It can be liberating to step out of ones family narrative and have a really good look at it. Are you stuck in the same kind of romance narrative trap or have you got your own unique brand?

Have you ever thought about the repeating stories your friends tell you? Are they the hero? Did they just discover the most awesome zombie apocalypse defense plan ever? Do they feel the urge to name drop in conversations and talk themselves up? Are they, maybe, overcompensating much? People sometimes feel the need to tell their story (at least outwardly) as if they are the best thing since sliced bread. This can be a bit exhausting if you want to chill and have genuine conversations about important things, like cats.  But at least people who are telling you all these great stories, like how they saw Elijah Wood once in the cosmic corner in Cuba St and he was getting his head massaged by an Orgasmatron, and, wait, look at me, I’m talking… these kinds of people are a little less difficult than the opposite kind of narrative…

“Why does this always happen to me? I can’t believe he would do this?” Can you hear the cries of the victim? Perpetual victims are also very exhausting, and everyone has an inner-victim, everyone knows what it feels like to be victimised, to be mistreated, to be hurt: c’est la vie. Most likely, people who are incessant victims can’t see the pattern very clearly in themselves, and perhaps if they could the gained perspective would be an invaluable asset.  Instead of projecting all that pain onto absolutely everyone who comes into their lives, maybe, just maybe, they could step slightly to the left and edge out of the vicious cycle consuming their lives.  It’s an interesting thing to think about, anyway: everyone has an inner victim and an inner hero because everyone is the protagonist (main character) of his/her story. These character archetypes tend to fit easily into a genre and follow the same plots over and over until something changes.

Comedy or tragedy?

There are two meta-genres that date back to at least the ancient Greeks. They would go out, in their togas, to see a play like Oedipus – that was all murder and incest and suicide, followed (thankfully) by a ridiculous comedy like Lysistrata – that was all sexually frustrated husbands and giant erections.  The tragedy plot is the one most sensible people want to avoid. It goes like this: Life is okay but a bit shit, oh it just got worse, oh dear, more worse, now it couldn’t possibly get any worse than that, but just when you think it might get better, from left field, comes something… something so horrendous you can’t even imagine, then it gets worse again. Sometimes it ends there, sometimes there is a bit of a resolution tacked onto the end. Think: 1984, Trainspotting, Requiem for a Dream, Biutiful, and just about every horror film ever made.

A comedy, on the other hand, is usually silly and amusing, much lighter and more palatable than it’s tragic cousin. A comedy used to be anything that wasn’t a tragedy, for instance, some Shakespearean comedies aren’t even funny, but no one dies, so it’s okay. Traditionally comedies end with people getting married or engaged À la Importance of Being Ernest, because marriage is funnier and more palatable than death, apparently. It seems pretty obvious that unless, you are a total martyr, you would prefer life to be a comedy than a tragedy, and probably if you are a very serious person who wants to be taken very seriously, you’d prefer a more contemporary genre, a modern drama perhaps. You could be the lead role in Grey’s Anatomy or something less medical but equally tense and pointless. Probably, you are too edgy for these kinds of mainstream things and are more like an indy/artsy film: some things happen, something is odd, there is food, roll credits.

What’s the plot?

The plot of one’s life tends to be a lot to do with aspiration, meaning and your ability to achieve.  If you’re trying to figure your plot out, think about: what is important to you? What are you trying to do? Is it working? I have come across people who are always on the verge of a big break-through. Every time I see them it’s something else that is almost about to happen – they are just about to be famous, just about to be recognised, just about to actually do a thing, but it never works out. There is so much energy thrown into this unrealised destination thinking, this great hope and expectation and then, into dealing with yet another disappointment. This one seems to be a dysfunctional plot because instead of actually doing all the things, a huge amount of energy is wasted in unrealistic expectation.  Other people have dysfunctional plots and sub-plots that center around always being too busy, being broken and trying to fix oneself *hem hem*, never being the one who is chosen, being left out, someone else is the bane of their existence, being betrayed/rejected/abandoned, being sick, being guilty/sneaky/a bad person, and so on.

Transformation and losing the plot

Obviously not all plots are a problem, but when they are, and when you start to see them in all their repetitive, cyclic glory, you have the opportunity to step back and get better perspective. Perspective helps, and when you start to change one part of a plot the rest will have to change too. Unfortunately you can’t fix other people’s plot dysfunctions, and most of the time, the really dysfuctional people are not interested in seeing outside of their circular universe because they’re so enthralled by the mounting drama, but you can try to point out the giant ice-berg beneath the water.  Either way, if you don’t buy into the drama, it has less effect on your life… and then what? Well that is up to you. How do you want to write the story of your life?