Category Archives: psychology

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Would You Wear This Bizarre Mask Just So You Can Get A Good Night’s Sleep?

In a bid to stop interacting with our smartphones right before bed (setting alarms, checking Whatsapp, one last scroll of Twitter) we are willing to try all manner of alternative sleep gadgets.

But we think we might have to draw the line after discovering a full electronic face mask that users are required to wear all night while they sleep.

The Dreamlight is effectively one of those sleep masks you see on aeroplanes, but with a lot more hardware built into it, supposedly to help you get “the best sleep you could possibly have”, according to the creators.

Shown at CES in Las Vegas, the futuristic sounding device is primarily focused on a system using light technology, which makes it bulkier and heavily padded, but that might not be so bad.  

The band has a panel of sleep-inducing orange lights and wake-inducing green lights on the inside, that your eyes can detect despite being closed. You cannot set an alarm.

Although this sounds like it would be really annoying, the makers say it is based around “proven relaxation techniques” which moves in sync with your breathing and will make your rest “better and healthier” when worn.

It also has an optical heart rate monitor, infrared sensors, accelerometers, gyroscopes, and four speakers embedded in the sides.

And because it is 2018, of course the sleep mask is synced with your smartphone where you can track how well you have slept, how long you were in REM deep sleep and check in with your personalised sleep schedule, that you can tailor.

The company suggest that you wear it if you are having trouble sleeping, or experiencing jet lag (of which they claim it lessens the effects). And a Verge investigation found that it might be able to improve sleep quality by around 20% in a single use.

One hangup is that it is secured with velcro, which feels like it might just get caught on hair and/or pillow, or just come undone, leaving you with the device wrapped around your throat.

Also you will need to charge it, so don’t forget to plug it in during the day, rather than waiting till you’re getting into bed and having to stay up for another hour.

The product is currently part of an IndieGoGo campaign, and is due to arrive on the market in less than 12 hours, although the app is currently only available on Android.

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What Dating With Anxiety Taught Me About Love

“I love this bit when you’ve just met someone,” a newly and blissfully coupled-up friend told me over brunch “it’s so exciting”.

As she fired off another message to her Bumble conquest I marvelled at her breezy demeanour. Whilst she revelled in the giddy highs of a new relationship, my own dating life seemed a veritable circus of horrors.

“How’s that guy you’re seeing?” she asked, and a familiar terror reared at the thought of my own faltering fling.

The tell-tale signs of my mental health struggles were always there: the endless desire for perfection, my compulsive analysis of social situations, my self-flagellating response to every minor misstep. After graduating from university the fear of failing to achieve excellence gnawed at me. At first it was quiet, a murmur in the back of my mind, but it quickly rose to the crescendo of an impossible to ignore symphony.

As my anxiety escalated from nauseating to completely paralysing a small part of me encouraged it. I was convinced that this constant loop of self-critical thought paid off—without my preoccupation with achieving the best grades I wouldn’t have won a spot at a top university. The crippling dread of an unremarkable job drove me to secure my dream career. Anxiety was both my worst enemy and my greatest cheerleader, my oldest and most toxic friend.

Perhaps predictably my relationships bore the brunt of this ostensible frenemy. Opening yourself up to someone can be frightening for the most secure of people. To me it’s inviting a stranger to confirm my worst fears about myself.

“It’s not you, it’s him,” my friends would tell me over a glass of Pinot and Bridget Jones.

“It’s you,” my anxiety said, just a little bit louder.

Dating in the Tinder-age is particularly triggering for anyone struggling with their mental health. When the next better thing is a mere right swipe away rejection is expected, to be blocked out by seeking more matches, more dates, more distractions from the niggling sense of being not quite good enough.

Speaking to my dating-app-active friends confirms that this issue isn’t just for the perpetually anxious.

“I don’t get excited anymore,” one told me, “you just expect to get ghosted”.

The ever-overhanging possibility of failing to illicit so much as a response from someone you’ve shared your bed, your innermost thoughts, and a few too many glasses of cheap red wine with makes easy to get caught up in a cycle of over-analysing.

Each telling blue WhatsApp tick divulging that your message has gone read but unanswered could spell the end. You re-read conversations and scour through your last meeting for any subtext that your love interest could be planning a spectral escape. A response brings relief, but it’s temporary. One carefully worded comeback later and you’re checking your read receipts for the next sign that it’s over.

Unsurprisingly my anxiety made me difficult to date. I was sure that each unsuccessful relationship was a reflection on me, and that if only I could somehow do better I would be rewarded.

I became fixated on becoming the cool girl who I was convinced that everyone wanted to be with. I careered wildly from being aloof and guarded to desperately vulnerable as I tried to mimic versions of myself I thought others would want me to be. I looked up partners’ exes on Facebook, just so that I could tell myself over and over again that they were better than me.

I needed constant reassurance, which drove me towards frighteningly possessive people. In one particularly low moment I sobbed through a police statement after an ex stalked and harassed me, threatening self-harm if I rejected him before pouring sexually violent expletives down the phone.

“You must have done something to end up here,” my anxiety told me, “you deserve this.”

Throughout this, the old Hollywood trope of highly-strung women who let loose when they find “The One” sat heavy: Sandra Bullock in The Proposal or Cameron Diaz in The Holiday. A cultural narrative proclaims that when somebody makes us feel good enough our issues will melt away. Anxieties and insecurities become a plot device wedged in to convince us that love is the antidote to our supposed flaws.

It won’t come as a spoiler that this is not how my story ends. I’ve dated people who couldn’t have done more to make me feel amazing. Did it alleviate my conviction that I wasn’t good enough and they were about to leg it out the door any second? You can bet your right-swiping thumb it didn’t.

Instead, shortly after the end of a relationship that felt like being forever on the edge of some terrible and inexplicable disaster, I finally began to seek help for my mental health.

Learning to manage the negative chatter I constantly contend with has changed the way I date. Relationships have become, for the first time, enjoyable, and not just another way of measuring myself up against an impossibly high standard, feeding my hungry and gleeful anxiety each time I fall short. When I meet people it’s finally becoming about me and them. My perception of myself takes a quieter back seat.

Although I’m yet to fall head over heels, my struggle with anxiety has been a love story of another kind. It’s been learning to love myself, to appreciate my successes, and be less tough on my failures. It’s been knowing my own value, rather than relying on the affirmation of others, or on totting up my sexual worth like it’s a points system based on how many second dates I score.

In spite of what the game-like nature of online dating might suggest, relationships are not a thing that you can win or lose at. A new match notification or getting asked out by that hot-but-definitely-a-fuckboy guy you’ve exchanged a stream of witty messages with is not a reward. Equally, getting ghosted by someone who isn’t mature enough to have an honest conversation is not a punishment.

Being kind to yourself is not just a lesson for the endlessly anxious—it’s a lesson to all of us still riding the dating rollercoaster. Have fun, stay safe, and show a little love for yourself. Maybe eventually you will share that love with someone else too.

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I Want To See The World Celebrating Neuro-Atypical Thought

Everything Is Going To Be KO was born after I was diagnosed with dyslexia and dyspraxia in my second year at Oxford University. My having learning difficulties was something unthinkable. It was unthinkable because I didn’t really understand what they were or how they manifested themselves. It completely changed my life and perception of myself. And at the same time, it also gave me the language to understand the way that I thought and worked.

It took a very long time to be able to understand myself and my brain. I felt like I had always grown up full of contradictions. I liked reading but I was bad at spelling. I worked hard in school but apparently, I was “too lazy to check my work through”. I am self-aware and empathetic but still, I can’t keep my mouth shut even when I know I should. Certain labels can help to encapsulate that complexity. When I was looking for help, it just wasn’t there. After I’d closed yet another primary coloured website covered in Comic Sans, I realised most resources are catered to parents and their children. It was a very lonely time because it felt like everyone just expected learning difficulties to disappear once you left school.

But it doesn’t. Once you’ve got through university, if you get the chance to go, then you have to find employment. I have had a huge number of job rejections in the last year, which might not be that unusual, but it feels like the system is made almost deliberately inaccessible. Application portals are my worst nightmare. They ask for long written answers in browsers and you tend to be unable to see the following questions. This makes me anxious about repeating myself, losing information and clarity as I try to construct answers in Word and transfer them over. Then you have to create endless profiles for each company, and worst of all, remember the passwords. I recently went for a last stage assessment day for one of our big British telly companies. I had let them know of my requirements: coloured paper for reading tasks (I’d even bring my own) and any writing tasks to be done on my laptop. They were very reassuring; “We try to make every concession for disability”. Halfway through the day, we were given one white piece of A4 and a writing task. Everyone was thrown – which is the point I guess. But to me, it feels like they were testing your ability to handwrite an email (which is something no-one has ever done in real life). It doesn’t represent me accurately and it doesn’t make me feel welcome. It’s not even worth getting started on the amount of time it takes to write yet another cover letter inevitably left untouched in an employer’s inbox. It feels like a set of challenges set up just to point out all of my inadequacies. But it’s not actually just me who feels like that. There are so many of us who would make amazing employees that don’t get the chance to show their abilities in full. Surely there has to be another way.

I want to see the world celebrating neuro-atypical thought. We are incredible storytellers and innovators. Because of what we might struggle with, we have had to create new untrodden paths to succeed. Everyone benefits from that. Intelligence is not based on a sound grip on grammar and spelling. In the same way, balance and structure have their uses but transformation and change are born from failure and chaos. Those of us with SpLDs are old friends of failure and chaos. We know how to use the negative and create something new when we are given the chance. If everyone else took a moment to stop calling us lazy, thick and r*tarded, took the time to take a deep breath and open their eyes, we’d all be better off. Disability is not inability.

Everything Is Going To Be KO is a project I’ve been working on for five years to try and create the sort of work and stories I was looking for then and now. It is about taking ownership of my own representation and the way my neuro-atypicality is presented whether on stage or in film. This is the only way I can be seen properly. It’s the only work I really want to do and probably the work I’m best suited to. So you can keep your job, I’ve got my own stories to tell and my own films to make. Those of us lucky enough to have disabilities know we have to create our own work, shout twice as loud and forge a new path.

The stage show is on at Gerry’s Theatre Royal Stratford East 18-20th January. The film is available on Canvas’ channel, and for more information visit everythingko.com

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What Next For LabourToo In 2018?

2017 has been a year full of confusion, despair and disbelief, but also of hope. Hope that finally something might change. That our efforts might lead to the change we want to see in the Labour Party and in politics more widely. 

Every time a new story broke in the media about another woman being taken advantage of by a politician, we thought we couldn’t be surprised or shocked any more, and then we were. And as more and more stories came out about abuse, assault and harassment in politics, it only made us more determined. 

If you had asked us back in October – a group of Labour women, brought together by our experiences in the Party, sitting in an unassuming office – we would never have thought that our small campaign would turn into what it has become. 

All of us with full time jobs, hastily setting up a website, Twitter profile, writing articles and coordinating press comments in every spare moment, often late into the night and early in the mornings.

We weren’t, and still aren’t, out for revenge. LabourToo is not about naming and shaming; it is about ensuring that in the future, there is a complaints process in which individuals can have confidence. But in order to do so, we had to prove that our intuition was right. 

We were brought together because we, and our friends in the Labour Party had experienced an unsatisfactory process. But our assumption was that it went much wider; that this was endemic throughout the Party, at all levels, from Parliament, to Councils to our local parties.

And sadly, we were proved right. The stories we have collected through our website tell of harassment, abuse and assault at all levels of the Party. It isn’t constrained by age, race, class or location in the country. 

In the coming weeks we will be sending our final report, the compilation of all the stories we have collected, and our resulting recommendations, to Jeremy Corbyn and his team, the NEC, and Karon Monaghan QC, who is looking at the current Labour Party complaints process.

We hope, for the sake of all those brave women, who contributed their stories, that we will be listened to.

We took the risk of raising our heads above the parapet to try and change the conversation, and make demonstrable change for the future of our Party. 

It was with heavy hearts that we made the decision to be anonymous. But we felt we had, to protect ourselves, and those close to us from abuse.

 

LabourToo is not about naming and shaming; it is about ensuring that in the future, there is a complaints process in which individuals can have confidence

 

That doesn’t mean we have escaped without people trying to out us. We have been attacked on Twitter, the internet has tried to unmask us, as have some in the Party, and fellow Labour members speculate that LabourToo must be being run by a group of Conservatives out to undermine the Labour Party. Because why would a group of women who claim to be dedicated to the Labour Party want to do this to their own party?  

We can safely say that we aren’t secretly trying to undermine the Party, it is not because we want to take down the Leadership, and it is not because we want to see our Party come to harm. There are still too many who cannot comprehend the myriad of reasons why a woman needs to protect herself and her family. 

We are doing this because we can’t stand idly by. There is real opportunity for change. For us to give a voice to those who are too scared, or worried about the impact it will have on them, if they do speak out. 

LabourToo is calling for an independent process; a process which allows individuals to report with confidence, knowing that their complaint will be investigated without prejudice. 

Along that, there needs to be the specialist support that individuals who have experienced abuse and assault require. 

And training. For all levels of the Party, to ensure that those who are receiving reports of harassment, abuse and assault have the necessary skills and knowledge to offer the support that those reporting need. 

One hundred years on from the first women getting the right to vote, 2018 can be the year that real change is made. We aren’t giving up. We will plan. We will fight back. And we will campaign tirelessly until change comes.  

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Seven Reasons I Refuse To Let Stigma Make Me Feel Ashamed

Living with a mental illness is hard enough as it is without all the extra baggage that stigma would heap on top of you. When going through a period of depression, or anxiety stigma would have you believe that you must be weak. A failure. Unable to handle what is thrown at you whilst others can. There is stigma attached to taking medication, seeing a therapist, being ‘too’ open about your feelings or from just suffering from it in the first place.

Here are 7 reasons that I refuse to let stigma make me feel shame for being me:

1. We have immense inner strength

Perhaps the biggest lie that stigma told me was that I was weak for having depression. But I have learnt over the last few years that I am strong, and the reasons that I am strong are the same reasons I can use to know that you too are strong. Getting up in the morning, showering, going to work, eating healthily, doing my job etc – all of these are near impossible tasks when suffering from depression. Some days I manage them all, some days I don’t. But even when my to-do list doesn’t really get touched I know that just making it through the day has taken more strength and resilience than I ever need when I am ‘mentally healthy’.

2. We are persistent

Externally it may seem like I am falling short of the standards I want to meet, but consider this picture. Two men climbing up a mountain path. The first seems physically fit, has all the best equipment and isn’t carrying much. The second is weighed down by a huge backpack filled with bricks, has cramp in both legs, limited supplies. Both are climbing the mountain, and of course the first man is going much faster. The second man is falling further behind but is clawing his way along, sometimes face down in the mud, using every ounce of energy to move the next half metre. No matter what, the second man keeps going, while the first man bounds up the mountain. If you don’t see what the two are going through and only see their progress the first man seems stronger and fitter. But when you know the effort, blood, sweat and tears being put into every last step, you soon know where the true strength lies.

3. We do what it takes

For reasons that are a bit beyond me, there are a large number of people who will try to make you feel ashamed for taking medication. They claim that fresh air and exercise is a better antidepressant than antidepressants. Now for some people this will be true, for me I know it is not. I love the peace and quiet of a large expanse of water, nature all around, the sound of the waves being an optional, beautiful extra. When I am mentally healthy and feeling low or anxious then yes this helps me immensely. But when I am in the depths of a depressive episode the countryside does nothing for me. I am fighting every day for my mental health. I will use any, and all weapons I can in that battle and I will never feel ashamed for doing so.

4. We ask for help

There was a time that asking for help seemed like a sign of weakness to me. Wrong. So very wrong. Asking for help shows emotional maturity and it shows wisdom. It opens us up to vulnerability which can be the source of so much joy, but we open ourselves up to it despite the risks of being hurt further. There are no prizes in life for going it alone. There is help out there, I ask you to have the strength and wisdom to use it.

5. We need our rest

We fight battles every day. Some big, some small. Even when it feels like you are constantly losing, please know that you are winning ones you aren’t even recognising. You’re still here, you’re still fighting. Sometimes you may need a break, and it’s ok to take a break, it’s ok to rest from the fight, just be sure to get back up again and keep going. Let’s go back to our two men climbing the mountain. Would you begrudge the one fighting every inch of the way a break or two so he can get his breath back, let his cramp ease up, get some semblance of energy back? Of course not, you would probably question him if he didn’t. We need our rest too. It isn’t failure, it isn’t weakness, it is natural and necessary.

6. We help others

Everytime we speak up it is a beacon of hope to someone else who is fighting their fight but yet to feel able to speak up. It is a light at the end of the tunnel that looks less like a train and more like sunlight. If you have yet to speak up, that doesn’t mean you aren’t strong, it doesn’t mean you are less than those who have, it just means you are at a different stage of a different journey. We are all unique and so are our struggles.

Do open up, little by little, where you feel safest. When you do and someone else hears your story, it will help them, just as it helps you to read about others in a similar position to you. And my hope is that soon you will realise that the lies you believe today, are just that. Lies.

7. We know what it is REALLY like

They may think they do, everyone has felt low, everyone has felt deep sadness or times of anxiety. And when you do feel like that but are mentally healthy, advice like exercise, or think happy thoughts etc can actually work. But we know the reality of mental illness, the emptiness, the crushing truth of it. Often those who give such misguided advice are very well meaning, they simply don’t know the reality of it. So, I choose to not let a view that comes from ignorance bring me down. I know that their opinion is based off only half facts. It is frustrating and depending on who it is and their impact on my life in general it can be more than frustrating. However, I won’t let that opinion make me feel ashamed.

Conclusion

As far as I can see, stigma is little more than a collection of lies and mistruths. Quite simply you have enough to battle and to contend with already, don’t let stigma add to it by making you feel ashamed. You are infinitely more than stigma would have you believe you are.

Originally posted on iam1in4.com

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Watchdog Calls For New Laws To Stamp Out Bullying Of MPs

A watchdog has called for new laws to be put in place to stamp out bullying of MPs and Parliamentary candidates. 

The Committee on Standards in Public Life has published a report on intimidation and harassment faced by those working in the public eye, including a package of recommendations on how the government can tackle the issue. 

The independent watchdog wants Theresa May to bring forward new legislation to shift the liability of illegal online content towards social media companies, and put more pressure on them to take down offensive material more quickly. 

It also wants the prime minister to consult on the introduction of a new offence in electoral law of intimidating Parliamentary candidates and party campaigners, and for political parties to work together to develop a jointly-enforcable code of conduct on intimidatory behaviour by December next year. 

Committee chair Lord Paul Bew said: “This level of vile and threatening behaviour, albeit by a minority of people, against those standing for public office is unacceptable in a healthy democracy.

“We cannot get to a point where people are put off standing, retreat from debate, and even fear for their lives as a result of their engagement in politics.

“This is not about protecting elites or stifling debate, it is about ensuring we have a vigorous democracy in which participants engage in a responsible way which recognises others’ rights to participate and to hold different points of view.”

Internet troll Joshua Bonehill-Paine, 24, was convicted of the racially-aggravated harassment of Labour MP Luciana Berger last year, while several other MPs have reported incidents of abuse and intimidation.

Conservative Anna Soubry said her office had made complaints to the police after she received threats over her stance on Brexit, while her backbench colleague Sarah Wollaston had a coffin left outside her constituency office by protesters. 

Outside of government, the watchdog has also called on the National Police Chiefs Council to ensure local police forces across the country have sufficient training to enable them to properly investigate offences committed through social media and online

Lord Bew added: “The increasing scale and intensity of this issue demands a serious response. We are not alone in believing that more must be done to combat online behaviour in particular and we have been persuaded that the time has come for the government to legislate to shift the liability for illegal content online towards social media companies, and to consult on the introduction of a new electoral offence.

“We believe that the parties themselves must show greater leadership. They must call out members who engage in this appalling behaviour, and make sure appropriate sanctions are imposed swiftly and consistently.”

The former Bloody Sunday Inquiry adviser said political parties and their leaders must recognise they have a “duty of care” towards their candidates, members and supporters.

“We have heard evidence that intimidatory behaviour can stem from of our current political culture, with low levels of trust in politicians and a feeling of frustration and alienation by some people,” he added.

“Against that backdrop, it is down to all in public life to play their part in restoring and protecting our public political culture by setting a tone which respects the right of every individual to participate and does not, however inadvertently, open a door to intimidation.

“Many of the recommendations we are making today are not limited solely to election periods, but will have wider relevance across our public life.”

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Facebook responds to criticism that the network is ‘destroying how society works’

In an unexpected move, Facebook PR just pushed back against criticism after a former executive’s critical words of the company affecting our behavior and society spread this week.

“The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works,” said Chamath Palihapitiya, who joined Facebook in 2007 and served as its vice president for user growth. 

SEE ALSO: Former Facebook exec says network is ‘destroying how society works’

The comments were made on Nov. 13 but a video of him speaking at Stanford Graduate School of Business circulated after The Verge shared it on Monday, nearly a month after the event.  Read more…

More about Tech, Facebook, Social Media, Psychology, and Sean Parker

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Lives At Risk: When Crisis Teams Fail To Understand The Impact Of Trauma On Their Patients

Last week I was grateful to be one of the speakers at a National Summit on trauma.

It was clear that many of the speakers felt that all psychiatric services need to be more trauma-informed. Trauma is not just the domain of psychologists. We need crisis team staff and community mental health teams to understand and actively help people who have experienced traumatic events.

After a traumatic experience in 2012, I was referred to the crisis team.

GPs at my local surgery started to notice that I was experiencing symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. I told the crisis team about this and they simply replied “Is that what the GPs think?” The crisis team didn’t offer any help for the symptoms I was experiencing, nor did they pass the information on to a psychiatrist.

A member of the crisis team did recognise, however, that I was experiencing a post-traumatic reaction called dissociation. An Approved Mental Health Practitioner (AMHP) within the team noticed that I was a “witness to my emotions”. She called out a psychiatrist, who pointed out that there was a “disconnect between my thoughts and emotions”. It was as if I could stand outside myself and comment on how I was acting and what I was feeling.

They were clearly concerned about the potential impact of dissociation on my suicide risk. However, it was looked at in isolation, not as part of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Whenever I asked the crisis team a question about dissociation, their reply was “You can ask the psychologist that” or, more accurately, “You’ll have to wait to ask the psychologist that”. The waiting list for psychological therapy was long and it would be months before I would see a psychologist. They knew that. They predicted it would be an eight-month wait. That was hopelessly optimistic. It was far longer.

So, I was experiencing dissociation but no one within mental health services could help me with it, other than psychologists, who I couldn’t access for months. Why can we not train members of the crisis team and community mental health teams to know how to help and support – and answer questions – in this situation?

As well as no help for dissociation, I was also getting no help for the other symptoms of PTSD. It took over a year before a psychiatrist under my local NHS Trust diagnosed me with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In the year leading up to diagnosis, I felt an increasing sense of despair that my symptoms would ever be understood or addressed by psychiatric services, and I attempted suicide twice. It is documented in my psychiatric records that the two suicide attempts within a week were the result of a loss of hope that clinicians would ever understand or offer appropriate help.

After a traumatic event, the internal chaos you experience can feel frightening and inexplicable. I had never been under mental health services before. I had never experienced serious mental illness before. I wanted to understand more about what was happening to me. That’s what my questions to the crisis team were about – trying to understand a condition (dissociation) that I had never even heard of, until a psychiatrist walked into my home that day it was first recognised. And I wanted support and access to people who understood about dissociation and PTSD. The crisis team and community teams seemed to feel that it was the area of psychologists, not their area.

It is their area – or it should be, if they want to prevent people from dying. I was very fortunate to survive my second suicide attempt.

My experiences were the driving force behind the setting up of a Suicide Crisis Centre and a Trauma Centre in Gloucestershire. Originally, the plan was just for a Suicide Crisis Centre. However, it was clear that there was a profound lack of support and help for people in the aftermath of traumatic events, before they were able to access psychological therapy.

Our Trauma Centre is staffed by people who understand about trauma and how it affects people. They provide one to one support and understanding. We have also provided psycho-education via groups, and these have been run by a psychological therapist with input from psychiatric advisers. These groups help participants to understand the symptoms that they are experiencing. The therapist also provides techniques which can help reduce post-traumatic symptoms.

All of this was what I wanted, when I was under services.

If we want to ensure that more patients survive after traumatic events, then crisis services and community mental health teams need to have a trauma-informed approach. And we need to put an end to waiting lists of several months to see a psychologist.

For information about the Suicide Crisis Centre: www.suicidecrisis.co.uk

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Former Facebook exec says network is ‘destroying how society works’

“You don’t get to 500 million friends without making a few enemies.” 

That was the tagline for The Social Network, the film about creating Facebook, and it’s only become more relevant as the social network has grown to more than 2 billion people. Those “few enemies” are former Facebook executives, people who helped build the tech giant. 

“The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops we’ve created are destroying how society works,” said Chamath Palihapitiya, who joined Facebook in 2007 and served as its vice president for user growth. He was referring to the iconic “like” button and other reactions we have while browsing News Feed.  Read more…

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Art Unifies Me And My 21 Different Personalities

It was 1995 when I began therapy and was diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder (originally named multiple personality disorder). D.I.D is a creative way to cope with unbearable pain. The main personality splits into several parts with dissociative or amnesic barriers between them. It used to be a controversial disorder but I have had extensive tests over two years by leading psychology professor at UCL, John Morton, who has established I have no memory of switching between the alters (splits in personality) and that I have the misfortune of representing the ‘British gold standard’ over genuine dissociation between them. 

D.I.D is the norm for us as we have known no different. The split in the personalities happened at a very young age and, for me, the main problem that I encounter daily is amnesia.  With the help of our therapist, daughter and our art we are managing better than ever, to fill the gaps in memory.

In 2004 while spending some time with a support worker who was training as an art therapist, five of the alters showed an interested in painting. Initially it was with children’s paints, on the back of wallpaper but after a few months it was suggested that we should take our art more seriously. After buying some canvases and acrylic paint, we have not looked back and now 14 of us paint and we have had over 70 group and solo exhibitions, nationally and internationally. Each artist has their own distinctive style, colours and themes, ranging from solitary deserts style, figurative, abstract and paintings with traumatic content. Each style has become easy to identify, which helps me to track life when I am not in control of the body. Many alters are unaware that they share a body with other artists.

I am completely unaware of any switching between personalities. It is quick and spontaneous. I suppose for people to have some connection to what it feels like it could be similar to not being aware – like sleep-walking. Other people tell you you have got up in the middle of the night and eaten all the cake but have no memory of it and it is hard to believe until you get on the scales and your weight has increased.

Four of the alters are exhibiting at a current exhibition (With Art in Mind at Zebra One Gallery), they are Judy, Anon, Karen and Ria.

Anon paints in the middle of the night and nobody has been able to ask for a name. She likes to paint with thick acrylic paint pouring it onto the canvas with limited touch so the paint if fresh and untouched.

Judy is 15-years-old and has an eating problem. Originally she would only paint on large canvases as she felt they made her feel smaller in size. She does have a poor body image.

Ria is about 12-years-old and paints graphic scenes of abuse, usually in bright colours. She feels that abuse should not be covered up or ignored and that by using the bright colours you cannot miss the canvas and have to have a look.

Karen is a very shy, quiet person who does not talk much but gets pleasure from painting. 

I like some of the personalities’ art like Anon, Judy and Abi, but as people I have never met them so find it hard to say if I like them or not. I do like Judy’s rebellious streak. Sometimes I leave her notes making suggestions about her paintings, but she has trouble accepting that she has D.I.D and feels I am interfering in her creativity. She’ll leave a note telling me to mind my own business and get a life. I am not sure I would like to meet her.

I feel my art has to be influenced by my mental health issues but I see our art not as art therapy but therapeutic. Having no formal art training our work comes from within, our experiences, our thoughts and feelings and it is our way to communicate, relate and learn about one another. Art has had a great impact on our lives. For us it is a way of meeting one another and getting to have a better understanding of some of the people I share my body with. Also it gives me a feeling of unity. It has helped me to get in touch with a feeling of confusion, madness and the unknown. I suppose it is similar to getting in touch with your subconscious. Yet our subconscious is a physical being, with its own personality and life and art has opened up a new world. In 2011 I wrote my biography ‘All of Me’ and also appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show.

Our work will be on exhibition until the end of the year. I felt very honoured when I was asked by Gabrielle, the director of the gallery, to exhibit in With Art in Mind alongside world-known artists like Dali, Warhol and Bacon. I greatly admire their work – their paintings reflect their own pain or confusion or someone we know who has suffered deeply like Marylyn Monroe. I jumped at the opportunity to be involved in the exhibition to raise awareness about mental health, with a percentage of the proceeds from the purchased paintings going to the Mental Health Foundation. 

The best advice I can give anyone in the same situation as I am in would be to get the right diagnosis, so they will be in a better position to get the right treatment. Therapy is a long and hard journey but worth all the pain it can entail.

Life Less Ordinary is a weekly blog series from HuffPost UK that showcases weird and wonderful life experiences. If you’ve got something extraordinary to share please email ukblogteam@huffingtonpost.com with LLO in the subject line. To read more from the series, visit our dedicated page. 

Useful websites and helplines:

  • Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393
  • Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI – this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill.)
  • Get Connected is a free advice service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email: help@getconnected.org.uk

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