Friday, 23 November 2012

Perception Fail

I can tell you that the two most internationally recognizable emotions are fear and anger. I can tell you that an emotion translated into a physical ailment is called a somatoform disorder. I can tell you that various negative emotions are likely to manifest as anger in many males. These are all things my psychology degree has taught me about emotions.

What my degree didn't teach me is how to identify in myself the difference between anxiety and an upset stomach. Must have slept through that lecture.

I seem to have trouble recognizing a lot of what I feel. I mean, I can manage the difference between happy and not happy, but whoever it was that said "females are more in touch with their emotions than males" clearly was thinking of someone else that is not me. Up until just a couple years ago, my supervisor at work was more in tune with my emotions than I was.

It was early morning at Tim Hortons. I glided behind the counter with my usual grace and charm, inquired as to the well-being of my coworkers, and started doing Tim Hortons stuff. It was a nice morning, so I hummed a bit and doodled with the grease pencil on the cream dispenser.

When my supervisor, Debbie, asked how I was, I gave her a long-winded reply to the effect of "fine" and mentioned that finals were over at school.

"Oh," Debbie said, "Is that what was making you stressed lately?"

"I was stressed?" I said. "I guess.... wait... Was I behaving poorly or being snippy or something?"

"Well," said Debbie, not making eye contact, "To be honest, you were kind of... quiet." By this, I take her to have meant sullen and dull and taciturn.

"Oh," I replied. "I'm sorry. If it happens again, let me know and I'll try to stop."

"Most people wouldn't notice," said Debbie, "It's just that I've known you for so long. I'm glad you're feeling better now."

For several months after that, my early morning shift at Timmy's was the primary tool I used to measure how stressed I was or was not feeling. I discovered that if I didn't spontaneously break out into humming while stirring coffee, but spent my time sighing instead, then that meant I was stressed. Eventually, I was able to extrapolate so I could tell where I sat on the stress-o-meter when I was at home or at school, too.

But it turns out that even measuring objective criteria doesn't always work.

Yesterday, something felt off. Initially, I put it down to worrying about finances, but I wasn't really sighing. So then I thought I might just be coming down with something, because I remembered mistaking nausea for nervousness during the puke fest at family camp this summer. But it didn't get worse and I didn't anticipate throwing up, so I just got confused.

At any rate, I told my prayer partners during class.

"I don't feel right," I said. Then I paused. "What does it tell you about my personality that I can't distinguish a physical ailment from an emotion?"

They laughed at me (and also prayed for me). Then the professor mentioned something about "all the people getting sick," so I thought the odds were good I was just physically ill.

This morning I slept until noon. Now I feel better, despite there being no change in the possibly anxiety-producing situation. It seems safe to say that I was actually sick. Which is good. Psychology major and crisis line volunteer or not, I wouldn't have known what to do had it turned out to be objectless, generalized anxiety. I only know what other people are supposed to do about it.

All in all, I feel pretty proud for having figured this out. One day soon, I might even be able to reliably tell the difference between frustration and embarrassment.

Dealing with ailments of the more existential kind:
Londo: What's wrong with me?
Vir: What's wrong with you is you!

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Mom Style vs. Aunt Style

Since starting school, my parents are too far away to conveniently visit for a weekend, but other relatives are much closer. My mom and my aunt get along really well, yet I've discovered a rather large difference in their parenting styles.

This is how something would go with my mom:

Me: Mom, it's a quarter past midnight. We're all going to start watching The New Avengers now.
Mom: What? This late? We have to go to church early tomorrow morning. You'll have trouble staying awake. And other people might be trying to sleep already, and the noise will be too much. At least turn it down. This isn't a good idea. I don't think you should.

This is how it went with my aunt:

Me: Aunt Ang, it's a quarter past midnight. We're all going to start watching The New Avengers now.
Aunt Ang: Ok.

Though, she did make a comment at breakfast the next morning to do with the cause of our sleepy tardiness...

 I love you both :-)

Hawkeye Pierce: I'm not sleeping, I'm inspecting the inside of my eyelids.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Lest We Forget

I'm not a fan of war. This is nothing controversial; if someone were to admit to being a fan of war, they'd be dismissed as a sadistic sociopath. Yet, if I say that I am not a fan of Remembrance Day, I'm in danger of making myself out to be an idiot at best. Why is this?

Well, wars cause suffering and results in massive amounts of lost lives, limbs, and livelihoods. Hence, wars are regrettable. The soldiers themselves, on the other hand, are brave and sacrificial. Therefore, they are noble and to be respected. To disagree is to defile their memory and once we forget their sacrifices, we forget the horrors of war. If we forget the horrors of war, we will rush into another one. This is the rhetoric.

Never mind the fact that we can apparently remember very well, and rush headlong into wars regardless. Has everyone forgotten that there can't be a war without people to fight it? The soldiers are the ones that do the killing and a good amount of the dying. What is noble and respectable about that?

Remembrance Day does not, it is claimed, glorify war, but I feel safe to say that I was not the only one who, as a kid, was inspired and motivated by it to march off and join the military. My plans changed and I didn't go, but even now, the ceremonies on November 11th seem sacrosanct; they're beautiful in an sentimental way. The pomp and solemn ceremony around the day, while mournful, also makes us proud of the people who engaged in battle.

Yet, they fought to defend us on foreign soil. In wars that usually didn't threaten us. Making unreasonable demands on the other side that prolonged the fighting. Strafe-bombing civilian targets. Nuking civilian targets. Abusing the human rights of POWs.

Not all soldiers do these things. Neither do I wish to condemn soldiers that believe they defend us from our enemies. It it because I wish no one to be condemned that I do not support war.

I agree that many of our soldiers were very courageous. They were willing to sacrifice their lives for what they believed in, which is highly respectable. We need more courageous people in our world. I will remember this and I will strive for courage myself, but I will not seek to follow their example. Their bravery was misplaced, their trust bought through propaganda and placed into the untrustworthy hands of ambitious generals and expansionist national leaders. They were duped into committing atrocities that most people would never dream of condoning. And I do not respect what they chose to do. Their sacrifices were brave but tragic and in most, if not all, cases unnecessary.

And so, on November 11th, I remember the tragedies that destroyed so much. I thank God for the soldiers that came home safely and mourn those who didn't. I cannot remember with pride the wars we have engaged in and I cannot believe that soldiers are heroes simply by merit of being soldiers. War is not sacred. Courage does not excuse all other failures. And if we forget this, then we are in danger of making a lot more courageous dead people than we ever bargained for.

The German soldiers in the 1940s had courage. Few of them realized the extent of the atrocities being committed by the Reich. Most of them were average people, who meant well and believed the war was necessary. Would you be comfortable with Germans now saluting their dead war heroes? With praising their bravery? With expressing gratitude for their actions?

Do we have any right to be more proud of our wartime behaviour than they? A true hero would balk at being honoured by a people that has no intention of avoiding similar tragedies in the future. This would be hypocrisy and propaganda in the first degree.

We remember the tragedy of the dead. There is nothing inspiring about tragedy.

"When you are winning a war almost everything that happens can be claimed to be right and wise." Winston Churchill