Making Sense of the Human Condition

Month: January 2023

Why calling people toxic is toxic.

I’m really aware of this recent phenomena in Psychotherapy circles of calling people or relationships ‘toxic’. I see it all the time now on mental health blogs and I personally don’t think it’s helpful.

If you go around labelling everyone who offends you as ‘toxic’ you are in danger of actually making a very bold statement about yourself, in particular your intolerance for anyone that doesn’t share your views. I think it reinforces the notion that certain people are the cause of your problems and if you avoid them, your problem will go away. The truth is that virtually anyone can present a very challenging set of circumstances to you if you are experiencing a mental health crisis or simply going through a difficult period in your life.

The solution maybe is not to avoid everyone that you consider represents a threat to you but maybe to examine why you feel that way about that person, and why maybe others don’t. You might not like their behaviour or agree with what they’re doing, and you also don’t need to put up with it, but at least you can see it more objectively as someone’s own response to anxious behaviour, trauma, neglect or any other unresolved issue, rather than some notion that their behaviour is aimed at harming you.

I presented this idea on my Facebook page recently and had some interesting replies, some agreeing with me and a number of people who were really defending the use of the word.

It could of course be semantics over the words used but I just think the labelling doesn’t resolve the issue. For me when faced with this kind of situation, I need to confront the reasons why the behaviour was unacceptable, why the boundaries were crossed, and where to set them in the future, in order to be sure my actions were appropriate. Without that I’m just reinforcing the belief that everyone I meet is toxic if I don’t like the way they behave. I can’t see how that’s healthy.

A few people were concerned I was advocating a policy of ‘turning the other cheek’. That’s absolutely not the case and in many cases I was thinking absolutely the opposite. If someone wants to do harm to you, then show them clearly where those boundaries are in no uncertain terms. But the real battle comes afterwards when you have to deal with the fallout, post trauma… The therapy for that is a bit more complicated than simply labelling that person, or behaviour ‘toxic’, sweeping it under the carpet and moving on. There lies the danger of it being used as a fix all sticking plaster.

Experiencing trauma should not be a life sentence for living the rest of your life, and a good therapist should be able to help to reframe those events without the labels.

The view we take of these events is crucial to our mental health going forward.

I am Analogue man

I am Analogue Man – Why the Future is not like it’s shown on TV.

Despite enjoying many of the attractions of modern technology, in many ways I am ‘analogue man’, and here to remind you of what we have all lost in the unstoppable procession into the future…But maybe we haven’t lost much at all?

If you are old enough to remember the BBC series Tomorrow’s World that was very popular in the 70s and 80s, they delighted in showcasing the ‘Home of the Future’ giving us all a tantalising taste of how we’d all be using laser disc players, video phones and have robots doing the housework. Well elements of all those things came true, but maybe not quite as literally as they were depicted by Judith Hann and Michael Rodd all those years ago. The thing they didn’t factor into their futuristic predictions is that people don’t conveniently follow technology curves, throwing out everything that’s old and replacing it with new. They didn’t factor in that people kind of like old and new stuff and mix it all together.

Now we have smart phones capable of video calls, and there’s no need for laser discs, video recorders and minidisc players…. But get this! We ‘stream’ our music from data servers whilst still buying something called ‘vinyl records’, remember them?

You see, a lot of us still have this profound underlying need to connect to bygone eras. It’s not just nostalgia for Boomers or Generation X’ers either… Generation Z’ers are buying LPs for the first time and discovering The Beatles and The Stones. And they are finding out all about this historic music from their smartphones watching something called TicTak and FaceTube. This is the beauty of marrying old with new.

In the real world of Tomorrow, the wonderful thing is, you get to pick and choose. Our Homes of the Future are typically an eclectic mix of 4K TVs, smartphones with more processing power than Houston Mission Control in the 1960s, and carpet and furniture designed in the late 19th century. The Kubrick 2001 ‘esqe vision of bright red plastic furniture and white walls was cool for a while, but we got tired of Spaceman fashion and craved a return to the more sartorial elegance of an Edwardian country house. Just as long as there are enough USB charging points and a decent internet connection.

How many of us still read good old fashioned books but purchase them from Amazon on an iPad or Phone? Technology hasn’t yet killed off the book, and I don’t think it will kill off the CD either, which is another weird anomaly that is set to survive the streaming revolution.

My other job is repairing, and servicing vintage watches and to some extent I also make music ‘of a bygone era’, where again, I mix, quite literally, the old and new. I’m now the proud owner of a 2020 spec Apple Silicon M1 powered computer running the latest version of Logic which I can seamlessly interface with my handmade valve powered microphone pre amp designed by Universal Audio in the late 1960s.

Rolex steadfastly still make the most desirable and iconic watches in the world and, they are also the most environmentally sustainable too. They require no power, no nasty lithium mined batteries, take minimal energy to manufacture, last 100 years + and are worth more in 10 years than when you bought them. They are also less accurate and useful than a £30 Smartwatch. Which is why the two happily co-exist at the same point in history.

The thing is, the past is full of imperfection, crackles, hiss, noise, smell, heat, weight, inaccuracy, inconvenience, danger, and the digital world promises to solve all these problems. But we forget that we become fond of things that aren’t perfect. The imperfections that the analogue world creates, are the very imperfections us humans grow to love.

The crackle and warmth of vinyl, the distorting characteristics of an overdriven valve amplifier, the sound of the Mellotron trying to imitate a choir or strings. Then there’s the orange glow of filament bulbs, the smell of a leather interior, the sound of a V8 engine under load…You get the idea..

Some of these things disappear but they come back in digital form. Then people wonder how good the emulation is and get excited about rediscovering the original analogue design. Before you know it we are all paying ridiculous sums of money for stuff that was thrown out in the rubbish 50 years ago.

In the music production world we have plugins that emulate classic analogue circuitry. LED lights now mimic the look of filament bulbs and once we are over this initial phase of electric vehicles with the aesthetic appeal of household domestic appliances, my prediction is that a new era of EVs will arrive that resemble the classic lines of yesteryear. I have no doubt that EV sports cars will also come with a choice of organic engine noises played in the cockpit to hide the really awful ones like brakes squealing and tyres rumbling.

A good friend said to me once, that one day the digital world will be better at being analogue than analogue is….He may be right.

But on that subject of old things becoming desirable again. Here’s a fascinating question.. What are we are throwing away now that will become priceless to collectors in the 2070s?… Answers in the comments please…

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