Feeling-Making Machine: An Interview with Mary Karr – R A I N T A X I o n l i n e Spring 2010

This interview is such a gold mine.

I differ from the most diseased part of myself, and I think that an irony of spiritual practice is that when you get out of yourself you kind of more become yourself. When I was a little kid I was bouncy and I made a lot noise and I broke shit. I ran around, I was very enthusiastic. In all the pictures of me I’m smiling. Now, I’m pretty happy. I laugh a lot. I have joy on a given day. I’m not a blithering idiot, and I suffer when it’s hot out or it’s raining and I can’t get a cab. I worry about my kid or my friend getting chemo or whatever. I suffer. But I’m pretty happy. And it’s almost like, I remember my mother saying when I was getting sober, “you’re going to come back to that [childhood happiness].” And I said, “Mother, I don’t even fucking remember that.” I just don’t remember feeling that way. But I really think that voice—not the one that says, fuck you, you stupid bitch, you’re a whore, but the one that says, you can do better than this, honey—that voice is God. And that’s actually who you really are. The other stuff that’s telling you what an asshole you are all the time is fucking noise, your ego or your head or whatever. The Buddhists would call it your ego. Pentecostals would call it Satan. It doesn’t matter what you call it. It’s my fucking head talking.

Feeling-Making Machine: An Interview with Mary Karr – R A I N T A X I o n l i n e Spring 2010

Last year at a dinner party, I was seated near an overweight man who was eating heaping helpings of roast beef, bread, vegetables, and potatoes. During the meal, when he heard me mention that I specialized in addiction therapy, he said, “I’m a food addict. I’ve tried everything–Weight Watchers, The South Beach, raw food, Atkins, low-fat diets. Nothing works for me.” I looked at him and said, “Have you tried suffering?” He laughed out loud, as if I was joking. I wasn’t joking.

An excerpt from the opening of a later chapter of Unhooked, which I really liked. Great book on addictions of all sorts (cigarettes, weed, alcohol, porn, gambling, the internet, exercise, food…), how they develop and sustain, the value of therapy, relationships, change, case studies. The chapter continues…

A therapist should not strive to make you happy. Living well, even suffering well, are more attainable goals than being happy, regardless of what the advertising world, Hollywood, the Hallmark card company, and the pharmaceutical industry would have us believe.

Reminds me of Marcus Aurelius:

Remember too on every occasion which leads thee to vexation to apply this principle: not that this is a misfortune, but that to bear it nobly is good fortune.

Are people who dwell on their problems more creative? – Barking up the wrong tree

Because rumination may allow an idea to stay in one’s conscious longer and indecision may result in more time on a given task, it was expected that these two cognitive processes may predict creativity. Self-report measures of rumination, indecision, and creativity were electronically distributed to 85 adults (28 men, 57 women; M age = 32.96 years old). Reflective rumination significantly predicted creativity, moderated by high levels of indecision. This study may resolve previous conflicts between findings on rumination and creativity and introduces indecision as beneficial in the creative process. This study also provided important clinical implications in distinguishing between adaptive and maladaptive rumination suggesting a new cognitive link between creativity and depression.

Insert the “One Single Study Often Means Jack Shit” disclaimer here. But it reminded me of Alain de Botton:

Being cheerful is really no recipe to get down to work: nothing happens until paranoia, jealousy, competitiveness and guilt arrive.

And also of Roz Chast:

I kind of tend to stay up late just about every night, anywhere from 12:30 a.m. to 3 a.m. I putter. I nurse old grudges. I fold origami while nursing old grudges. I think about the past. I wonder if there’s any grudges I should start.

Are people who dwell on their problems more creative? – Barking up the wrong tree

Only part of us is sane: only part of us loves pleasure and the longer day of happiness, wants to live to our nineties and die in peace, in a house that we built that shall shelter those who come after us. The other half of us is nearly mad. It prefers the disagreeable to the agreeable, loves pain and its darker night despair, and wants to die in a catastrophe that will set back life to its beginnings and leave nothing of our house save its blackened foundations.