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DAY 301: Going Casey the Punisher on my self-righteousness

29 Jun

These are obviously Target stockings - they've snagged already.

A WISE woman who’d given up the grog and was a-brim with inner peace, once told me exactly what was wrong with me.*

“I think you’re a bit self-righteous,” she chuckled.

As I bustled my skirts about me and explained to her the difference between ‘right’ and ‘self-righteous’, I realised she might have a point. Didn’t tell her that, of course.

Ever since then, I’ve been trying to keep it in check. Hard, when you’re so fired up with sanctimony you can scarcely stop your horsemen from galloping forth, pennants snapping loudly in the wind.

Take today. I walk into Target in my hometown, loaded up with bags I’m taking to the charity shop. (I can hear my voice getting that wheedling, confirmation-seeking tone already, and I’m only typing.)

“Harry! Harry!” Some woman at the till calls out, the moment I enter. A bloke comes and positions himself at the end of the stockings aisle, folds his arms, and leans against the wall, staring at me. I’ve got your number, and all that. It’s blatant! I stare at him, he stares at me, and I go to the till.

“There some weird bloke hanging out in the stockings aisle,” I say, fastidiously counting out the notes for my fishnets.

Once outside, self-righteousness rears like a thrashed donkey as I fantasize about going back in and kicking over their knickers rack. Fuck it, I pacify myself, it’s a trifling matter – if it gives them something to do, let them have it.

I’m very pleased with my new-found maturity, but then as soon as I relax, something inside rahs me back up again, like a cheer squad, like a pipsqueak in the ear of a bully. You’re not really going to take that are you? What was it they did again?

It’s always doing that. I need to floor that inner pipsqueak like Casey the Punisher. I need to break its spindly little legs.

Ducking into the local new age store, I peruse the crystals and stones. I’m not into crystals and stones, but what I’m after here is a physical manifestation of my self-righteousness. Obsidian is moody volcanic glass, which allegedly works on karmic issues. “Leaving a chunk of obsidian by the door,” the little label says, “ensures visitors’ rubbish remains outside your abode.”

I buy a cool, smooth lump to keep it in my pocket. Now, whenever that old familiar feeling whips its own flank into action, I’ll transfer it to the stone of self-righteousness.

Keeper? Yes. It’s cradled in my fist right now.

* Don’t feel moved to do the same – I’m only taking that from someone once.

DAY 295: Tapping myself to Emotional Freedom

23 Jun

THE fact that I’ve come to investigate Emotional Freedom Techniques in this windswept Box Hill motel with Esther of all people, should suggest that I’ve come bearing a bucketload of pig’s blood to tip all over it.

Both of us pop a capillary at any pseudoscientific talk of angels, the law of attraction and whatnot, as evidenced by our recent experiment with healing our souls with song… So why do we keep coming back for more?

Maybe because we’re two reformed grog-botherers who’ve lost our religion. We once had blind faith, just like the good people we’re scathing of – faith that this time when we poured a rather large vodka, we wouldn’t end up making pricks of ourselves with our stockings at half mast. (I could metaphor on for a bit about worshipping at the altar of the bottle shop, but I won’t.) Maybe we do crave something new to believe in. Maybe, Esther worries, we have the God Gene.

The first hint that EFT might be the real deal is that this three-hour session with a husband and wife couple is free. Sure, you can buy the book, but it turns out there’s no hard sell.

I won’t use the couple’s real names, because I don’t tell them I’ll be writing about them. David and Anne used to practise Neuro-Linguistic Programming, till they “suspended their disbelief” and switched to Emotional Freedom Techniques – developed by a US realtor and NLP practitioner with no medical or psychological background – which promises to cure emotional and physical pain. The US military, for instance, has been using it on personnel with post-traumatic stress disorder.

During the opening spiel, about men and women across the States who have leapt out of wheelchairs and had pernicious diseases cured by EFT, I hear the word “tapping” and shrivel up inside. Doesn’t this involve touching people? I really should have looked into this before coming along.

Happily, tonight we’ll only be touching ourselves. We use our fingers to tap ourselves on meridian points on the hands, face and body while repeating a mantra. David gives us all a chocolate as an experiment. Most of us, upon holding it, start getting strong urges to eat it. First we do three rounds of tapping, the basic mantra of which is: “Even though I want to eat this chocolate, I deeply and completely accept myself.”

We’re told to take a bite of the chocolate. My brain usually lights up like a Christmas tree at this point, but I find the thing tastes flat and dull. Everyone else reports something similar; one bloke complains his tastes of cow. By golly, if we’ve been brainwashed, I hope we’ve done it ourselves.

Now we’re going to move to an emotional problem. We’re asked to think back to something that traumatised us, at least three years ago, and isolate what emotion it made us feel. We rate how bad it’s making us feel right now with a mark out of 10. Then we drop the name of that emotion into the mantra: “Even though I feel xxx…” and tap through it while replaying the scene in our minds. This time, though, we imagine we’re tapping our younger selves. Afterwards we see if the mark out of 10 has gone down. And repeat.

David invites two people to the front to reveal what their trauma was and then be tapped through it. The first guy recounts a childhood humiliation, and reports his anxiety levels go down as he repeats the process. The girl refuses to talk about what happened to her and is close to tears.

David asks if he can perform the tapping on her himself, an uncomfortable moment, especially given her body language. He goes through three or four rounds, dropping in phrases like “I don’t feel I can trust people” and “I know I am safe here”, which seems manipulative. Meanwhile, we’re all slapping away at ourselves in front of her. It sounds like a porn film in here.

A few times, David loses my willingness. He insists that every experience we’ve had is imprinted inside us and could potentially be replayed like a movie. He talks of the time he worked at Amway. He references The Secret. Rationalising things like EFT, he chuckles, involves “rational lies”. And then there’s his account of being regressed to the womb. I’m always suspicious of people who smile “Isn’t that interesting” when “um” would do just as well.

Keeper? I’m not sure yet if I feel beatific because I’ve spent gentle, quality time with myself (that doesn’t involve a cigarette or rolling around in bed), or because there’s something in this tapping lark. Hey – that chocolate thing was weird though.

POSTSCRIPT: Seven days later, I’ve had no desire to smoke. Isn’t that interesting?

DAY 287: Making a vision board

15 Jun

Don't worry, this isn't my one.

VISION boards have been used as a tool to focus one’s goals for decades, but ever since self-help gurus like Oprah have been peddling that nebulous “law of attraction” (probably the most bankable phenomenon in recent years), the art of pasting pictures of things you aspire to own and achieve to a bit of board has really catapulted into the zone of Things Winners Do.

It’s “ground breaking cognitive neuroscience”, according to one dedicated website – oh, guffaw – and there’s even a Vision Board Institute, at which you can study to be a Certified Vision Board Coach, thus helping other people to upgrade their life visioning processes. And other guff.

As a plain old map of your ideals and intentions it’s not a bad ruse, though – and two things I focused hard on as a kid did come true: I made believe I was the editor of various mags and rags, and told my mother I would move to the other side of the world. (Unfortunately joining the Famous Five and being regularly rescued by firemen failed to materialise.)

So here’s my vision board. 

A ute upgrade. NB: ute must work.

One of these.

Ablility to do fancy ATV moves, including reverse.

Carpet and curtains in my house. (That’s not me in the picture, incidentally. That’s 200 per cent more winsome LA music journo Kim Morgan. I thought it couldn’t hurt to include her on this vision board too.)

I need a chap on hand to prune my trees.

Optus reception outside of CBDs.

Ability to talk to people in social situations without stabbing the lemon in my drink with my straw.

Keeper? Yes. Will print out and stick on the wall.

DAY 286: Diagnosing psychopaths

14 Jun


TILL now I thought ‘psychopath’ was just a generalised term, roughly translating to ‘nutjob’.

Not so! Also known as antisocial personality disorder, psychopathy is a category in the weighty Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) – a manual that’s informed doctors and psychiatrists since 1952.

In Jon Ronson’s ripping new read, The Psychopath Test, the journo uses Hare’s Psychopathy Checklist to personally diagnose a number of suspected psychopaths, from a dictator (no great stretch) to an executive responsible for laying off thousands of workers. It’s surprising, experts in the book note, how many psychopaths you’ll find at the head of companies, running the stockmarket or in the entertainment business.

Of course, there’s a tendency for the layman to gaily over-diagnose in this day and age: so-and-so’s got ADHD, blah blah’s probably mildly autistic (no other explanation for it), you-know-who’s a narcissist… suddenly everyone’s either a pop psychologist or a psychopath. But damn it, this one’s fun. Turns out I know three!


Upon perusing this checklist you’ll probably think, what tosh! Anyone would avoid admitting to those characteristics. But the psychopath sees things like cunning, glib charm and impulsivity as positive traits (necessary traits for CEOs and Wall Street traders), and so will load up points while brimming with pride, under the godlike delusion that he or she will get one over the profiler anyway, probably by slicing off their nipples.

I think that’s how it works.

If you want to test someone else without them knowing, you can casually base questions around each point on the checklist, as though in conversation. (1.) “If someone was ineffectually trying to get their point across, would you do it for them? Wait, I haven’t finished… Ow!”

Or you can test yourself, via these scenarios a psych student put together.

I self-scored 9, but having riffled through the DSM when I was taking A-level psychology, I know psychopathy’s not my particular problem. Not top of the list, anyway.

Incidentally, a score above 28 in Texas – should you already be in trouble – incurs the death penalty.

Keeper? Would be a bit hard to assess someone in my head with any more than five categories to work through, so twenty’s a bit much. I suspect I’ll have forgotten all about this idea by tomorrow.

PS: Here’s some email spam that went around a while back.

A woman, while at the funeral of her own mother, met a guy whom she did not know. She thought this guy was amazing. She believed him to be her dream guy so much that she fell in love with him right there, but never asked for his number and could not find him. A few days later she killed her sister..

Question: What was her motive for killing her sister?

Answer: She was hoping the guy would appear at the funeral again. If you answered this correctly, you think like a psychopath. This was a test by a famous American psychologist used to determine if one has the same mentality as a killer.  Many arrested serial killers took part in the test and answered the question correctly. 

DAY 284: Smashing a telly

12 Jun

TODAY’S mission is twofold:

  1. To let Launceston’s garage sales determine the day’s adventure
  2. To duly have the adventure

I’m secretly pleased that the various garage sales only bag us a rabbit hutch, an Ella Fitzgerald single and a TV, as anything involving a tent or mattress would have had a direct impact on my latte intake.

Instead, we go back to Old Dog’s house, where he determines that I need to smash up his old TV to make room for the new. Because, as the comedian Jeff Foxworthy noted, “you might be a redneck if your new TV is on top of your old TV”.

At first I look into throwing the telly out of the window, rock star-style. I’m pretty fed up with writing about the antics of musicians. I’ve given them the best years of my life, for shame, and now that I’m calling it quits it’s about time I show them how it’s done.

Unfortunately, the window’s not big enough, so I take a sledgehammer to it instead.

Keeper? A tough job for an animist, but it’s ultimately fulfilling. A friend likes to take crockery to a field and smash it. Similar deal.

DAY 282: Getting my misshapen face read

10 Jun

VENTURING into somewhere like the MindBodySpirit Festival is bound to set off new age rage.

It’s not just that I’m agnostically skeptical of things that cannot be proven; it’s that my experience in the field so far – just in the course of this blog – has been something of a holistocaust:

* My reiki healer breaking and entering into my no-go zone
* My tealeaf reader unacceptably changing the subject to Princess Diana
* Being pinned to the table during acupuncture
* Getting cupped within an inch of my life

…And at Frankston’s Psychic ’n’ Parma night I was told I’d wind up hitting rock bottom and running drugs for bikies. Peruse the ‘cosmic shit’ category of this blog for more woeful incidences.

So, wandering around the Melbourne Exhibition and Convention Centre, taking in stands on aura photography and Christocentric light over the gentle strains of acoustic guitar, I feel that old rage start to boil over.

Sure, there’s the odd, slightly adorable flake who, if not communicating with angels, is at least communicating their own desperate need to do so, but everyone else just seems so… smooth.

They’re not crackpots, but crooks, quacks and snake oil salesmen. They appraise you in a fraction of a second, assign you to a drawer and whip out the relevant patter. Their motives border on criminal.

I pick a stand.

While the Chinese have long read faces to identify problems in a person’s constitution (kidneys around the eyes, heart around the nose…), the face reading stand I visit analyses your features on a more spiritual level.

“It’s not fortune telling,” Abby tells me as she slides my chair in close by pulling on my hands, until our faces are a foot apart. “I just tell you where you are at in life by reading the shape of your face.”

I would have thought genes come into play regarding both the shape of my face and the state of my life right now, but I’ll suspend my disbelief from the nearest hat stand for 10 minutes ($25).

To begin, Abby pops her eyes in mock-astonishment and mimics a huge pointy chin by pulling both her hands out into a V in front of her. I’ll let this go on account of English not being her first language. She says I’m sticking my chin out defiantly, which means I force my way through life – and other people had better get out of the way. I can be interpreted as manipulative, but I’m holding my motives inside – hence my sunken cheeks. The left side of my face, she appraises, is particularly sunken – and that’s my feminine side, representing creativity and sensuality, which are being thwarted. My jaw is tense and so is my body:

“Look how tensely you are sitting in this chair right now!”

Throughout, Abby beams – quite winningly – as though we’re sharing a private joke, although it feels like I’m the butt of it. Then she peers at me and wheels back in satisfaction. “You have one eye bigger than the other!”

She’s about to elaborate, so I jump in and point out this is the result of a head injury one exuberant night, back when nights were still exuberant.

“But everything happens for a reason,” she scolds. Then: “Why would it affect that eye?”

“Because I landed on it.”

She shakes her head and smiles beatifically.

Time’s up.

Truth be told, I’d pay $25 for someone to stroke my face for ten minutes regardless of the insults that may come with it.

DAY 279: NOT exploding with rage at my disconnected upload

7 Jun

IT’S either a sign of the times, or just because it can’t fight back, but my most apoplectic explosions of rage are reserved for technological equipment. I’ve taught countless printers a lesson they’ll never forget, while my violent rebuttal at the TV playing up is likely to surprise us both.

I decide to set up an impromptu experiment, to see if it is actually possible to avoid an episode if I really put my mind to it. I want to upload a very large file, and I want to do it right now – on this country train – and I am not allowed to curse, tut, slap my forehead or even bunch my fist if it fails.

Common sense dictates this is a stupid idea – I’ve tried it many mornings before and only achieved a dozen disconnects and accompanying oaths. It’s bloody asking for trouble. What’s more, a woman has sat next to me and is clearing her throat softly every few minutes, despite there being free seats elsewhere; I know full well that if I were to mete out a savage little “FUCK” upon disconnection, I would be able to glean some enjoyment from her discomfort, which makes this experiment all the more challenging.

Having established the controlled variables, I hit ‘send’ and keenly watch the progress report at the bottom of the web page. We’re passing through North Melbourne and out into the internet wasteland that is Sunshine, always a trouble spot for my disposition. Meanwhile, I’m egging myself on by watching the connectivity box; watching the green squares flicker in a desultory fashion around point zero. I can feel my blood pressure rising.

I dare myself further by thinking of the money; how much of my data allowance this is using up with every passing minute.

You can’t do it, can you?” I taunt silently, as I struggle not to shake my head slowly and condescendingly at the screen.

After 25 minutes, 90 per cent of the file has been uploaded. I’ve got my hand over my mouth, Hillary Clinton-style. We stay on 90 per cent for a further 14 tantalising minutes… and then finally, finally, that punchable little pop-up reports: “You were disconnected by the PPP server”.

Woohoo! I feel a strange kind of elation; something like triumph. The computer may have totally failed in its simple task, but I have succeeded in mine.

Keeper? I can do this.