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

Advice for Boys – The Bygone Bureau

My readers taught me as much about listening and taking people’s problems seriously as anything I have ever done. They taught me the value of what kindness and generosity can do, not only for the person receiving it but for you who give. Of what happens when you give people the space to talk about themselves, and of how much guys will start to talk about their feelings if we give them space to do so.

Advice for Boys – The Bygone Bureau

Whenever we invent something new, our neuroses rush over there and get writ large.

George Saunders. And further in his LARB interview:

A definition of parenting: “That state in which, because of the existence of great love, an individual feels that he or she has failed, or is failing, or will soon fail.”

Which old sayings are true and which are false? – Barking up the wrong tree

Let’s go ahead and insert the “studies say” caveat, but there’s a lot of interesting stuff here. Selections:

“All _____ people look alike”

For all of us, whenever people are a different race it’s harder to tell them apart.

“The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long”


“You can tell a lot about a man by his handshake”

Absolutely. “Results showed that HGS was correlated with SHRs, aggressive behavior, age at first sexual intercourse, and promiscuity in males but not in females. HGS appears to be an honest signal for genetic quality in males.”

“Happy wife, happy life”

When the husband is happier than the wife, couples are more likely to divorce.



“Attractive women make men stupid”

True. In fact, just thinking about attractive women makes men dumb.

“It’s the booze talking”

No, actually, that’s you talking.

“Spanking is bad for kids”

Kids who were spanked behave better as teenagers.

Which old sayings are true and which are false? – Barking up the wrong tree

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.

When you’re in denial about how invested you are in a single outcome, that’s when unrealistic expectations creep in.

Magical Thinking – Psychology Today

5. To name is to rule. […] After watching sugar being poured into two glasses of water and then personally affixing a “sucrose” label to one and a “poison” label to the other, people much prefer to drink from the “sucrose” glass and will even shy away from one they label “not poison.” (The subconscious doesn’t process negatives.) Rozin has also found that people are reluctant to tear up a piece of paper with a loved one’s name written on it. Arbitrary symbols carry the essence of what they represent.

I also like this bit on rituals and luck:

People who truly trust in their rituals exhibit a phenomenon known as “illusion of control,” the belief that they have more influence over the world than they actually do. And it’s not a bad delusion to have—a sense of control encourages people to work harder than they might otherwise. In fact, a fully accurate assessment of your powers, a state known as “depressive realism,” haunts people with clinical depression, who in general show less magical thinking.

Woody Allen nailed it:

We need some delusions to keep us going. And the people who successfully delude themselves seem happier than the people who can’t.

Magical Thinking – Psychology Today

More and more, a psychiatrist is approached today by patients who confront him with human problems rather than neurotic symptoms. Some of the people who nowadays call on a psychiatrist would have seen a pastor, priest or rabbi in former days.

Viktor Frankl. For better or worse, who knows?

Misinformation in TV Drama Gains Credibility Over Time – Miller-McCune

New research finds we’re more likely to believe a piece of false information conveyed in a television drama after two weeks have passed.

Okay yeah yeah yeah you can find any number of things “a recent study” will tell you. But I like this because it makes me think of Tyler Cowen’s talk on being suspicious of stories, which I have listened to probably 6 or 7 times and will do so again starting… now. (via)

Misinformation in TV Drama Gains Credibility Over Time – Miller-McCune

Envy works upon what is close at hand, and things that are far off we are more free to admire.