I wonder about happiness. I wonder if it is actually achievable in this world of blatant suffering. I even wonder if it is perhaps selfish to be happy when the world around us is crumbling into poverty, pain and corruption. Maybe even the pain and poverty is caused by corruption. So is it really possible to be happy?
I don’t know.
What I do know is that I have good days and bad days and that on my good days I try to do my best to share that apparent happiness with all who walk my path, cross my path and even, when I can, to those who piss me off. Sorry, there was no fluffy metaphor for that one.
Happiness, I believe, is a little like compassion – we have to work at it. I have discovered throughout my life that the more I learn from my own suffering, the more I seem to be able to be empathic, kind – compassionate. I am yet to discover that these same learnings increase my capacity for happiness. Ah yes, something else I have learned – when I feel happy I am paradoxically slapped across the face by guilt. I feel guilty for being happy.
Do we actually avoid happiness? Do we feel unworthy of such a blessing? Is it actually possible to be truly happy and still to feel a genuine heartfelt connection to another’s’ pain? Would this take the happiness away? All these questions. I have no answers.
I am kinda glad that I don’t have the answers because the way life has been going lately, I am pretty sure that the answers will automatically manifest themselves in an experiential manner so shocking that I will have no option but to drop the questions and, just – know.
To Your Search…
Hello you. For the next few posts I will be experimenting with a little inspirational stuff, with a twist. I will be posting statements, questions, verse, puzzles and musings. I have no idea why.
I hope you can come along. It is going to be an interesting journey….
Much Love, as always,
Matt Chase xx
Hi and welcome to the beginning of a change. Over the coming weeks (and maybe months, depending on how fast I work, bearing in mind I have very limited internet access) I will be rebranding this blog to include my ‘other’ life. For the past few months this blog has very much been about mental health and recovery and this is how it should be, I used it as a tool for recovery with the hope that my story would help others with theirs. After all, we all have a story but now, as I feel stronger, a little more optimistic and tentatively toying with the questions: ‘Have I recovered? Can I trust this?’ I have noticed that my ambitions have grown, more aptly – they have broadened.
It is only fitting then that this blog broadens too. I have always been a ‘Versatile Blogger’ but there has most certainly been a leaning towards emotional, mental and holistic health. This, I am sure, will be at the core of my way of being but my creative juices are scolding me to remind me of other avenues I am yet to explore.
Would you like to explore them with me?
I do hope so.
It’s going to be one hell of a ride…
In the blog entry The Death of the Ego I mentioned that ‘Positive thinking nearly killed me’. This is true. Allow me to elaborate…
There is a fantastic book entitled ‘Smile or Die’ by Barbara Ehrenreich in this Barbara discusses the Positive Thinking movement and specifically the Law of Attraction. Barbara was diagnosed with breast cancer and this led to her increasing frustration and sense of isolation that her anger (her reality) towards her condition was not being given air time. She was seen as being ‘negative’ and that led to her entire belief system to come crashing down around her ears. She had previously bought into the Positive Thinking ethos, to a certain degree, and found that as her real-time situation overwhelmed her with negativity, pain and fear, all those expectations around thinking herself well, well, just failed to work. The more she investigated this subject the more she found teachers, workshop attendees, groups and societies simply shunned her experience because it was ‘negative’. She was encouraged to ‘Imagine the healthy cells eating the cancer cells’ and when this didn’t work she assumed that she must be doing it wrong, that it was her fault. The same happened to me whilst I was being forcibly plummeted into despair as I lost my home, my health, my money and my friends back in April of this year. It was a different condition but the destructive effect was the same – I was being ‘negative’ or ‘not seeing things clearly’ and thus was shunned by the very people I had previously looked to for support and guidance. When I was no longer able to be positive (because I felt so crap) I imploded, along with all my previous expectations around exactly what all this Positive Thinking and Law of Attraction was going to produce for me. It didn’t bear fruit and thus I could fight no more to stay positive. I became a Negative Thinker. This ‘negativity’ (which I now real-ise was simple reality) resulted in an in-patient stay in a suicide prevention unit. What happened in this unit was nothing short of miraculous and I will tell you why:
I was allowed to be negative. The staff and service users of the facility had no choice but to be themselves. Everyone’s previous expectations of a happy life with financial security, ‘sanity’, friends who supported them, family, hopes, wishes and dreams came tumbling down along with the veils of illusion. Sometimes – shit happens and ignoring it because it is ‘negative’ is not only unhelpful, it is inhumane. Now let me tell you a little about alchemy…
On my first day in the suicide prevention unit one of the male staff there facilitated my first ‘keywork’ session. His first words were: ‘It takes balls to ask for help. Good on you man’. It was as if someone had finally seen me. Someone had dared to look into my pain without shying away or therapeutically babbling both our ways out of the reality of ‘what is’. I was in the shit and all I needed was for someone to recognise this and to not run away from it. This in itself automatically enabled me to at least take that first step on the ladder towards recovery. Had he come up with some therapeutic tool, technique or affirmation to ‘re-programme’ the ‘negativity’ that would simply have served as yet another unrealistic expectation; delusion. Here is something else Positive Thinking does (and something Barbara talks about in her book) – it scorns the person and judges their real life situation. It says: ‘You have failed because your life is negative. You are not doing the Positive Thinking correctly, otherwise you wouldn’t be in this mess’. This is, quite simply, a load of bollocks. Sometimes life gets tough, sometimes we suffer and sometimes our entire way of being falls into a pit of despair and there is nothing left to do but just get on with it. Getting on with it is real, untouched and something quite beautiful. I am beautiful. Just the way I am.
And so are you.
Here’s to your beauty….
With Much Love,
PS Oh, and just to pop all this in a succinct nutshell, Barbara’s dedication in her book reads: ‘To complainers everywhere: Turn up the volume!’
Reference: Ehrenreich, Barbara, Smile or Die. Published by Granta Publications 2009, London ISBN: 978 1 84708 173 5
There’s an old saying: ‘It’s better out, than in’.
There is also a not so old saying: ‘Choose anger over depression’.
Whenever I have approached the subject of anger in my blog posts, in my other creative works (written or visual) and during conversations with friends, the conversation goes something like this:
“You seem very angry” Said with shock, sometimes judgement, confusion and often fear.
“I read your book/blog post/saw your play and there seems like a lot of anger there. Are you okay?” Again said with shock often surprise, confusion, sometimes judgement and often fear.
Here’s the thing – it’s not okay to show your anger (says society at large). People are terrified by it. Why is this?
Because there is anger lurking beneath the surface of every human being on the planet.
The key, dear reader, is to harness this powerful force and use it for good.
The Tibetans have a wonderful practice, I forget the name, where one person stands, the other sits crossed legged in front of them whilst the standing person hurls insults and mimics punching or slapping the person sitting on the ground, who simply sits there grinning in order to witness the anger. This is especially amusing to watch when the two people doing the practice are Monks in robes. You see – even Monks get angry. Even the spiritually ‘enlightened’ have access to their darker nature and even the initiated know the power of fury. Look at the wrathful deities in Tibetan Buddhism, Hinduism or even ancient Christianity – all demonic looking beasts with weapons in their hands and fire in their smiles.
Anger is a force we all need to drive us towards our goal. Be this an awakening, the next step in development or to make that leap of faith into the unknown.
I remember some months ago I was having a telephone conversation with my Teacher. During this particularly heavy session, she reminded me of the difference between owned and disowned anger. Disowned anger is often projected (rather than channelled) onto another human being and/or it is repressed within ourselves. No good can come of this. When repressed, anger can lead to clinical depression (I have experienced this myself. In fact, why don’t you take a look back at my blog posts and see if you can spot where I was downward spiralling? Prior to this, I had been ‘positive thinking’ myself out of reality).
Owned anger, on the other hand, is nourished, the flames are fanned and the heat is turned up in order to harness the force. This harnessing then does two things:
- Energises our actions, helping us to have mental clarity
- Automatically transforms that energy (IE: emotion) into something else.
This ‘something else’ is often then seen as more positive – but actually, being true to your anger is a healthy, happy and positive way of being human. Look at the Monks, happily, healthily hurling abuse at each other. Their awareness of working with energy (emotions) in this way enables them to free flow. Our emotions, like life, have their ups and downs. It stands to reason that going with (rather than fighting/repressing against) this natural fluctuation is free flowing our way through life.
“Write it out!” My Teacher screeched at me down the phone during that telephone consultation. I was exhausted physically and so my usual method of punching (a punch bag), kicking, stamping and screaming out the anger just didn’t appeal.
And so I wrote (again, take a glance back at my posts – when did my anger become facilitative, energising, even funny?). I wrote about anger directly, I wrote about how ‘bad’ I felt, I wrote about my authentic self – because I was so angry that I couldn’t do anything else but to bitch slap mindfully upon the page. I was the standing Monk and you were the witness. Thank you.
Now – it’s your turn.
Here’s to your free flow….
I have always had this burning desire to change the world. Whenever I experience suffering I immediately want to reach out to others in order to use that suffering as a Great Teacher in the hope that others either don’t have to experience that same suffering or, in the very least, that they too can use their suffering as compost. All compost begins life as a shitty mess, stinking to high heaven and threatening the very air that we breathe.
Compost also grows the most glorious flowers with scents that ease our senses.
The best compost is the smelliest. The smell comes from many different sources that all serve as food. The more sources, the wider the variety – the more nutrient enriched the compost. It stands to reason, then, that the more we suffer the stronger we grow. Yes, this truth is pretty hard to swallow but it must be said.
Following the suffering and immediately after the awakening (how can we not wake up when we are being repeatedly slapped across the face?), it is time then to share our learning with the world. I know that some of my warmest and most connected moments have come in the aftermath of a period of crisis and especially when I have read someone else’s story that resonated with mine.
This blog is my story.
I am reaching out to you in just one way. There are many others. I hope that this way helps you to feel connected, loved and tells you in no uncertain terms – that you are not alone.
What about those who are offline? What about the people who suffer such isolation that no amount of blogging, twittering, facebooking or websiting can reach them? Not everyone is online and I know myself from recent catastrophic financial events that not everyone can afford to be online. I currently use my free thirty minutes at my local library to keep myself connected. You need an address and identification to use this resource. These are practical issues that need our consideration – how do we reach the people who need our help when they are not online? After all, the online community is not necessarily ‘real world’ no matter how helpful this cyber friend can be.
The other day I was leaving the library after my online session and saw a young girl, around twenty, crying in a doorway with her mobile phone in her hand. She was staring into the phone with the occasional glance around. Her chin was wobbling and she clearly looked distressed. For a moment I felt like an invader into her pain and initially walked on by. Then my intuition kicked in and I thought ‘Invader or not, she needs a hug’. So I went back to ask her if she was okay.
“My Gran just died’ She said as she fell into her tears.
“Oh sweetheart, I’m so sorry” I said as I flung my arms around her and told her to have a good cry.
I still felt like I was pushing my ways upon her which turned out to be ridiculous as she clearly felt comfortable with this complete stranger standing with her in a doorway holding her.
We all need to be held.
What I am saying to you (and to myself) is this – building your online profile is great. You need to do this for business reasons and also, of course, to reach out to people in need. At some point, though, we need to get out there – in the world – and touch real people. A cyber hug would have been of little benefit to the young girl in the doorway. A real hug, from a real guy who knows suffering – will, hopefully, stay with her for years to come.
Compassion is sometimes like a slap across the face, this wakes us up. Compassion is sometimes like a warm hug on a cold night, this reminds us – that we are not alone.
Just something for us both to ponder on.
Until Next Time,
Matt Chase xx
A man of my not-so-tender years ‘should’ now be learning how to avoid the chaos that often accompanies the younger years. I should be slowing down, relaxing and taking my time. ‘Should’ has never been a word of my liking. The coulda woulda shoulda doctrine does nothing but apply excessive external pressure upon us in order to dictate our values. This can be stifling to say the least.
Yes, there must be a however when one is still in recovery from a nervous breakdown – I have learned how to enjoy the chaos of others without being embroiled within it. Sort of. Allow me to elaborate….
For some weeks now I have been working for a club night/indoor festival and a big part of this is to sell the night to young people, mainly students. Fresher’s Week at the local Universities brought with it extravagance, excess, loudness and heavenly chaos. During one of my flyering shifts (handing out flyers to the masses of students whom were passing by on the busiest bus route in Europe) I was, at one point, hounded by elderly drag queens riding giant motorised shopping trolleys. My body literally buzzed from head to toe and I began to envy the student life – the fun, the trepidation, the excitement. I then became very aware of my age – forty – flyering alongside people half my age and screaming sales pitch: ‘It’s gonna be a wicked night! We’ve got stilt walkers, angle grinders – the lot! … Cool man, wicked! …’ I loved every buzzing minute of it. When I returned home a good friend of mine took me to dinner (I’m a writer, I never have any money!) and I could hardly speak, my nervous system was so over loaded. So… did I really embrace the chaos and observe from a place of maturity?
Did I have a great time anyway? And did I manage to ‘ground’ myself afterwards, that evening, so that I slept well and felt recovered the next day? Yes! I did. So I have learned something from the events of the past few months (and maybe even over the course of my life and from some of that therapeutic training) and that something is about balance. It’s okay to get (slightly) high on the energy of others, it’s not okay to stay high. I need to feel more solid and grounded for more of the time. It may be because of what has happened to me this year, it may also just be a sign of my development. I can be anything I want to be. I can be a trained psychotherapist who flyers for club nights, I can be a forty year old who goes to University (I’ve booked myself on an open day – watch this space. I’m thinking an art degree but who knows??). I can allow life to unfold in whichever way it chooses – I can be me.
It seems, to me, that the best laid plans lead to the opposite of what I ever intended them to be. It looks like fairer weather when I drop the expectations and run with the flow of water that trickles beneath my feet. Yes, that is a play on words, something I do often, think about it.
I can – be the unexpected turn in this tale of life.
What about you?
Yes, there appears to be a theme emerging from this blog – Old Habits. I guess we all have what is often termed, in therapeutic circles, ‘Repetitive patterns of behaviour’. These are just old habits. I was chatting via email to a fellow blogger the other day about how we both had supported our Mothers emotionally whilst we were growing up. We were seen to be and expected to be the strong presence in our Mothers’ lives. I know for me that, through no fault of my Mum, I had kinda been left with the fallout following her violent relationship with her first husband, swiftly followed by the death of her second husband – after only three weeks of marriage – and the following years of deteriorating physical health. These had devastating effects for her and of course for me. I had to grow up very, very quickly and as such this not only resulted in me becoming the parent, as opposed to the child, but also caused me to feel alienated from my peers because I saw everything so differently – from the perspective of an aware adult.
Fast forward to now:
I still, even now, feel guilty when I am out and about. I could be taking leisure time in a Cafe, out with friends, dancing ‘til dawn – but still I have a sense of guilt. Why? Because the old habit is still expecting that call back home where my Mum needs me, the old habit is laying in wait for the schoolyard bullies to pounce on my moment of mindless fun, just when I forget that I can enjoy myself for that is always when it happens. The old habit is a tricky customer, he knows when I am at my most vulnerable. No wonder I avoid being vulnerable.
Actually – I don’t.
I no longer avoid being raw because I was given no option back in April when I lost the plot (which turned out to be finding the plot, of course) and since then I have realised that I can actually shift this guilt, this meaningless guilt, when I am open and vulnerable enough to feel it because when I am open and vulnerable enough to feel it – I can far more easily analyse it and check its identity as a friend or foe. The old habit is simply that – outdated. Goodbye to you old habit, I am enjoying myself right now and Mum, God rest her, will of course not be calling because she no longer needs me. The schoolyard bullies will not be punching because I am a forty year old man who does Taekwon Do! That old habit is now, thankfully, just an illusion and as false as the reflection of the moonlight on water – push your hand through the illusion and it is sure to disappear.
Until Next Time,
I have always been unpredictable. Equally – life has always thrown the unexpected my way, often causing me to suddenly change course and always in a direction that I was not expecting. This week I start my new job as a club promoter (that is an enjoyable exaggeration, I will be flyering initially). Most of which is voluntary. I said to my keyworker (a support worker at a local organisation for people recovering from various crises) the other day upon his suggestion that I do voluntary work: “I will never do voluntary work again. I’ve done my bit”. Famous last words….
I mentioned in a previous post that I went along to a meeting for a local club night purely out of curiosity and perhaps a sense of nostalgia for times gone by. What I didn’t expect was to feel present enthusiasm for a job that I will, initially, get paid nothing for. I want to do it. I have a passion for performance (promoting is the same as performing, engaging the public to the point of fascination), I come alive when I am around people younger than me, I am artistic (the club night involves art installations, stilt walkers et al), I am fun to be around – I am of benefit to others simply by engaging with them, regardless of the circumstance. I had imagined that my involvement with ‘helping people’ would take the form of previous occupations – therapy, care work , nursing etc. I was possibly wrong. I dare not commit, of course, for the tide will surely change the moment I make an announcement of such definite clarity. I will, however, take the risk of saying that maybe, just maybe, ‘The Tide’ has turned in yet another unexpected direction and that my interpretation – correct or incorrect – tells me that The Tide is gently informing me that I can still be of benefit to others just by being here in the first place. The Tide may, just may, be whispering in my ear: ‘The darkness is behind you, you are stronger than you think, you are allowed to have fun. This will automatically give others permission to do the same… and this, Dear Matt, will have beautiful, powerful, life-changing repercussions for all who cross your path. Enjoy…’
Here’s to Changing Tides….
With Much Love,