Author Archives: JLakis

About JLakis

Jessica Lakis - Writer/screenwriter. Geek & mental health blogger. Conqueror of the Useless. NERD INVICTA!

The Elephant in Your Brain

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Don’t think of an elephant! You’re thinking of an elephant, right? And no matter how hard you try not to think of an elephant, that elephant is still there, isn’t it? What if Bob Newhart shouted, “Stop thinking of an elephant or I’ll bury you alive with an elephant!” Didn’t work, did it?

What would I rather not think about? It’s a long list. But I’ll go with the most recent: I finally was going to see Morrissey in concert, and well, golly but he cancelled. I knew there was a chance he would, so I suppressed my anxiety and excitement. When he cancelled, I felt this rush of rage, and almost relief. I’m not in the depths of despair over all this. But I am a bit sad. That concert had been the elephant I was trying not to think of.

We all have those elephants we don’t want to think of. That big party to host. That phone call. Bills. That elephant grows in your mind until you pay attention to it. When we stop struggling to not think of it and give in, pay attention to it, and do what we need to, the elephant disappears.

Carl Jung, a pioneer of psychology and psychiatry, thought that we all had a conscious self and a shadow self that was the opposite of our conscious self. He encouraged his patients to find that shadow that drove them to unhealthy thoughts and behaviors, and let it out to play a little, so to speak. He used art, exercise, hallucinogens, dance etc to help his patients explore what their shadow was trying to tell them. So in a safe, relaxing, and supervised setting they paid attention to that elephant they didn’t want to think of, before it took over their lives. Enough of his patients successfully recovered through these methods that we still use them.

Sometimes the elephants were are trying not to think of are like the shadow selves of Jung’s patients. They can be terrifying, deeply sad, lonely, or enraging thoughts. But when we try to push them away, they only grow until you can barely not think of them. They are taking over.

What if you just made a little space for your elephant, shadow, thoughts and feelings? If you could calm yourself down, relax, and begin to feel safe around your elephant, what do you think could happen? Bad feelings are reminders to us to pay attention, just like good feelings are then our rewards.

The past, the future are the same in that they do not exist. The thoughts we have about them are like air. They cannot hurt us. Our brains are spitting up these thoughts because it really wants us to pay attention to them. Not by resisting, but by feeling calm and safe in the present enough to allow them to just be, do we win. The way to stop thinking about the elephant is by letting ourselves think of the elephant for a moment.

So, going back to my disappointment about the concert, my stressball of sadness had to be reckoned with. Little ticked. Mellow has been harshed. But I am not going to stop listening to my favorite singer/songwriter or his band. It’s some of my favorite music. So I put on my Smiths/Morrissey playlist, and did some Molly Ringwald dancing. I felt sad with the sad songs.Β  And was grateful someone sang these dramatic lyrics about everyday troubles with that swooning voice. I was happy. The elephant was gone.

That’s obviously a minor example. But if we truly learn to calm down, feel safe and in the present enough that we can make a little room for our big elephants. Then we can heal. Then we can entertain them for a moment, but then show them the door.

NamastΓ© you legends.

-JL βœŒπŸΌβ€οΈπŸ§‘πŸ’›πŸ’šπŸ’™πŸ’œπŸ–€πŸ€πŸ€ŽπŸ––πŸΌπŸŒ»

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Toxic Masculinity Will Kill Us All

“And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,   
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?” – Yeats
(Created by author with Nightcafe AI image generator.)

Per The Washington Post, “Not a single week in 2022 has passed without at least four mass shootings [in the US].” The article defines a mass shooting as 4 or more people being injured or killed. These facts need no other words to illustrate the state of our nation today.

Over 600 mass shootings have taken place so far in 2022, with the numbers increasing every year since 2017. And for each life lost, imagine the mothers, fathers, children, grandchildren, families and friends left behind, their lives and psyches ripped apart for their lifetimes. And we do not have the mental healthcare or the social safety nets to provide for these broken lives.

At the COP 27 environmental summit, no steps were taken by world leaders to cut emissions, leaving our world on track to the temperature tipping point at which the Earth will cease to become habitable. Meanwhile, little man Putin continues his barbaric shelling of Ukraine. Europe has not seen such a level of violence since the Second World War. Another little fat man in North Korea has developed ICBMs capable of reaching the Eastern United States. And young women and teens are being brutalized by the Iranian regime for showing hair.

And when I say leaders, men, and regime, I squarely lay this destruction of life at the feet of the supposedly “Masculine.” The “toxic masculinity” that we have all heard of.

It never occurred to me to consider the term deeply enough to realize that toxic means poisonous and deadly. Because toxic masculinity kills. It kills wives. Breaks up families. Rapes. Molests, beats, and kills children at school, church, in their own homes. It lays waste to all life without regard. It is what George Harrison called “I, I, Me, Me, Mine.” It’s the single unit, the fragile ego, the individual without regard for the lives that surround and help sustain it. Without regard for its own life, on a trajectory to collide with and explode all that is good, wholesome, and beneficial.

I fully realize that these traits can be found outside of the cis-male. But it is the cis-male who can and does do the most damage. It is woven so deeply into the fabric of human life that it is difficult to recall a time when its deathly touch was not felt. But it hasn’t been and needn’t be the only way to survive. In fact, it is an excellent way to prohibit survival: of individuals, families, the Earth that sustains us, the survival of our species.

Darwin never used the term “survival of the fittest.” That was devised to debunk his theories as “the law of the jungle” — the antithesis of civilization. All a species needs to do to survive is to continue having children who go on to have children. And the success of modern humans has always been the result of our ability to live in large groups cooperatively. This increased our lifespans, which allowed the community’s older members to watch all the children while women and men worked. Everyone, every life, matters to our continuing existence in this world. Survival of any species is not about any one individual, it is a numbers game.

The enemy of life is the man who thinks he is an island. Who believes his life, desires, whims must all be satisfied to the detriment of others. He must have all the wealth, the power, the sexual partners he desires. He can hurt, wound, kill at his pleasure. He believes there should be no repercussions for what he perceives as his right or “freedom.”

It is true that freedom is not free. There will always be consequences. The man who beats his wife and children creates broken children, who grow up to repeat the cycle ad infinitum. These violent, angry, arrogant, and selfish men are never satisfied, and will never stop until we are all dead, in our dead world.

Toxic means deadly. And until the good men and women stand up to these killers of all things beautiful and life-sustaining, we are a doomed species on a doomed world. None of us alone can change this. Yes, we need to change our culture. We need more access to mental healthcare, more help and advocacy for the damaged, broken, weak and innocent, more respect for our only home in the vast Universe, to end this destruction. But we also must all do our part, and begin the change within and with everyone we encounter in our short stay here. Or we become accessory to this murder of humanity and its spirit.

The lucky few may hang on a bit longer. Surviving inside barricades, while others do the dangerous business of getting groceries. And there will be no more human voices or sounds of joy from churches, schools, baseball fields, theaters, or even our own homes. There will be no one left.

“Better recognize your brothers
Everyone you meet
Why in the world are we here?
Surely not to live in pain and fear?” – Instant Karma, John Lennon

Namaste, you legends. Go forth in love.

– JL βœŒπŸΌβ€οΈπŸ§‘πŸ’›πŸ’šπŸ’™πŸ’œπŸ€ŽπŸ–€πŸ€πŸ––πŸΌπŸŒ»

Check out my Instagram!! And connect with me on Facebook here and here.

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Meditation to Soothe Physical Pain

Created with Nightcafe AI.

We often think of kindness as something we extend to others to soothe their mental or physical suffering, and to help restore their sense of well-being and happiness. But we generally don’t consider the equal power of being kind to ourselves. In fact, we are normally the last person we consider being kind to. Imagine being able to soothe yourself and your own pain. Wouldn’t you then become a kinder person overall?

I have recurring headaches that can last for days due to a neck injury. What I have learned from meditating with my own physical pain is that pain comes in two forms. The first is the actual pain itself, whether from sickness, a chronic condition, or injury. The other part of pain is the mental and emotional distress we experience. Everyone naturally has an aversion to pain. We may fear the pain or its recurrence, try to push it from our minds, or use unhealthy responses such as numbing pain with alcohol.

In mindfulness meditation we attempt to connect with what is now. Usually we use the breath to connect our physical body and mind to the present moment. Noticing what exists right now for us.

This is the first step to healing through meditation. Although the process can take many forms, first we must be present and tuned into how we are.

This process is accompanied with detachment from our own judgement and a sense of curiosity. For me this would mean lying down on my bed or on a mat, making sure I was comfortable and warm, and noticing my breath. Is it shallow? Can I breathe more deeply? Can I lengthen my breaths?

The next step, would be to scan the body for tightness, pain, or whatever is present. It helps me to imagine I’m examining something besides myself, to be somewhat detached. Once the area of pain is noted, we do something very strange.

We don’t try to fix it. We let ourselves feel that pain. Build a mental image of it, let it grow, feel what is going on in your body and mind in all its intensity. This is how we begin to acknowledge our pain and not push it down or fight it. We let ourselves truly feel it, and any associations that pain may have for us. We can even assign it names or describe it.

Once we have allowed ourselves to feel our pain and examined it, we can begin the process of relieving it. And this process is relaxation. There are different techniques, but I generally focus on a completely relaxing, beautiful, and stress-free visualization. You may imagine yourself floating in cool water, with the sun on your face, or whatever makes you feel relaxed. You can imagine a darkened room, with the smell of the sea drifting in on the breeze, revelling in the most comfortable bed and sheets and comforters. A cup of tea. Smells. Sensations.

Make your experience of relaxation as real as possible. Are there trees? What kind? Are they swaying in the wind? Maybe you have trouble imagining everything but can remember a feeling of complete relaxation in your life. Soak yourself in this experience of soothing relaxation.

You can set a timer with music or peaceful sounds, or you can follow a guided meditation. When you are ready, you may begin to feel yourself returning to your body after treating it to a sense of comfort and ease. Or you may fall asleep. It doesn’t matter.

What matters is how you feel when you come back into the present moment and your body. Can you feel a loosening? Perhaps a quiet or calm? What is your pain level now? Has it changed?

What you have done is not magic. You didn’t cure your illness, but you have removed the second element of physical pain, the avoidance and all the stress that comes when we push away negative feelings. We have listened to what our body is trying to tell us, to rest and to relax. We have felt our pain, and then shown ourselves kindness by giving comfort and ease to our body.

I practice this method with my headaches. I used to be so pain adverse that I wanted to pound my head against a wall to make them stop. I still feel that way. But through this meditation technique, I have been able to calm my screaming nerves, and given myself a break from the pain. Maybe enough to have a wonderful nap. Or to refresh myself before dinner. Before bed.

It doesn’t matter when or how or for how long you practice this method. What matters is that you have given your mind and body just a few moments of kindness. If we can make tea or be there for someone else in pain, why shouldn’t we tend to ourselves? By doing so, we can be better able to show up for others and for life.

If you’re interested in trying this type of meditation, you can search Spotify, your music or podcast platform, Google or YouTube for terms like “guided meditation for healing/pain” or “guided relaxation for pain.” All I can say is that this technique helps me, and hope you will try it and that it helps you be a bit kinder to yourself, learn to listen to your body, and soothe yourself for a better quality of life.

Namaste legends!

– JL βœŒπŸΌπŸ’šπŸ––πŸΌ

Check out myΒ Instagram!! And connect with me on FacebookΒ hereΒ andΒ here.

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