I guess some of you will know me so that’s great. And you’ll be here for the gossip, firstly and foremost, I guess?
So yes, here I am, this is it… this is what I’ve been up to for the last few months. Hi there…
OK an introduction… Well, I have struggled with this introduction cos I’m hoping it will be a kind of go to, for new listeners etc, so I’ve wanted it to be sticky, an outline of what I’m trying to cover. The struggle really was the decision has been whether to go into my own narrative or just to let COW do the talking. And of course we all get a bit nervous about exposing ourselves in public… It’s apparently one of our greatest cultural fears – speaking in public, revealing oneself, standing out from the crowd.
When I started putting the shows together it was just about starting something, getting something out there. Reading back, then I thought… well it’s led me to set up this intro…
And I’m conscious that you’re here cos you want something, whether it’s entertainment or education, ammunition maybe, or maybe a good laugh I do’nt know. That I may never know, unless you want to leave a comment and I’d be very pleased if you do. But you want to be entertained… Why should you listen to this? So in reality we’re looking at something like episode 16 in reality, just bolted on the front. Hopefully I have the level of detail worked out. You know what makes for an interesting read without being too cringey. What can I say to give you some kind of understanding of where I’m at without playing games etc?
Here’s the story… I think a sort of halfway house for you that I’m comfortable with. Where I’m at. Where I’ve been.. By way of introduction.
Hopefully it engaging. open, honest, back to the source. Some of these early episodes you may want to skip and come back to. But not this one… enjoy.
So first Jordan Peterson, Ha! Look if you don’t know who Jordan Peterson is, please let me know in the comments. I feel a bit like Doctor Who for you… Awwwwww! You humans! What have you been up to? But I guess that isn’t going to help. Trust me you will know him sooner or later and I will refer to him from time to time. might help..?
For short. Jordan Peterson is a psychologist, with views, love him or hate him. He has views on just about everything, particularly the problems that young men might be facing. Views on what make us tick. What struck me today was his view on creativity, or the creative, the creative personality. And his views, are based on research. It’s hard science… or as close as it gets, at least.
According to him I fit the definition, no doubt. I am a creative. I have all of the traits. Doesn’t mean I’m any good at it, I’m not saying that. I’m just saying that I fit the description.
I do this and that, and that and this, I’d rather do this than that, openess etc
It might sound great but there’s the downside. And Jordan Peterson says that it’s a curse, or it can be. A massive high stakes strategy with virtually no chance of affording you a living. He says that to be a creative is to invite alienation from friends, family and from society. Cos if they just don’t get it, you frighten them, you are a threat. Great hey?
It’s not all bad. As a creative you can find your meaning and if you do nail it the payoff can be high. Its not like the creative isn’t an important part of the big picture. We haven’t crawled out of the primordial mud without thinking outside of the box from time to time. But the creative is not really looking for the payoff. He has no choice. Peterson says that for a creative to be denied the ability to create is to be forced to wither and die. How about you?
It’s not that the ability to create can’t be focused into some form of meaningful life through work, if you make the right decisions. Don’t get me wrong. Or that raising children isn’t one of the most rewarding and creative opportunities that exists anywhere. Or that a creative hobby might just get you through.
But as Peterson recognised it isn’t easy making the right decision all of the time and suppose you make a few bad ones. Suppose your entire life feels organised to deny you that opportunity. Suppose you end up working long hours, you don’t get back in time to see the kids, your weekends are spent catching up with chores… Suppose that all the money you make goes straight back out again and they just keep wanting more more more. Suppose that creative being in you is just getting suffocated.
You take up some new addictions, work longer hours? drink too much? Eat too much? Put on weight? Shop til you drop? Veg out in front of the television all evening, every evening? Or withdraw maybe. Are you beaten?
Or all of the above? I know I did, and I know that at the time I had no idea what was going on.
Peterson seems to think that there are very few creative people about, and he may be right, in which case I stand to be corrected. But I tend to think that there are more creatives out there than he is giving credit to.
The need to create exists within all of us. Thinkers such as present day sociologist Noam Chomsky and even so far back as Adam Smith the C18th economist talk of the need for people to have control over their own lives and there is scientific evidence for the ideas. I can show you. The dissatisfaction we feel, when we are controlled and suffocated, is as our minds become aware of chemical, hormonal triggers, reactions to our environment. These are natural feelings, and real, as real as it gets, born of billions of years of evolution. That’s the tell. The dissatisfaction. I’m not talking about writer’s block. I’m talking the dissatisfaction we all understand, cognitive dissonance. Some of us maybe never feel do this, maybe. But for everyone else, call it depression, or introversion, call it a lack of self-confidence, or just feeling under the weather… there are many factors that get in the way of our need to create, or at least to be in control of our own destiny, and we feel it, and we express it, even though we may be unaware of what’s going down. And the figures that relate to the use of anti-depressants in the US and in the UK are some sort of testament to how well we are doing in tackling this, or even recognising it. That’s a lot of symptom being repressed, and nothing addressing the cure.
As a musician and a creative, as an entrepreneur, I’ve seen a number commercial startups through successfully and moved on… I’ve made good decisions, and bad ones. At this point I’d made a few bad ones and I guess they were stacking up… Day to day just wasn’t working for me but I was denying it. The creative in me was trying to fight a way out but was getting dragged back every which way.
So you have these feelings, and you try to smother them maybe, and you try to tinker at the edges. Are you in search of happiness I guess. I was lucky, I took up music, revisited music, for the first time in years, it has always been cathartic for me, like therapy. I knew I needed that. And I revisited meditation, and walking, connecting to the wildness. Like an instinctive go to, but again I was lucky to have these things in reach. They were opening the door to some greater connections. I could change my state, I was becoming the observer and that was working for me. I had at least gained back hope.
And then one morning I was to wake up in a police cell, 30 miles from home. I’d been taken there in a police car in the middle of the night. The police had been called to my house. They stood over my bed. They woke me. They told me to get up. I did. I was naked. They told me to get dressed. I did. I was shown through my house, down the stairs, into the car. I kept quiet so as to not wake the children. I was asleep in my bed. Then they were driving me away.
This was new territory. I was in shock, such barbaric and primal intent totally beyond me. I spent the night in a cell, in jail. This was me losing my home, my kids, my job, the whole support system… and jump to any conclusion or judgement you like, you can be sure that if you don’t take charge of your life, then life will take charge of you. I had seen something coming, but didn’t know what it was, hadn’t been able to move on. Was it fear? Was it loyalty? Whatever it was, I wasn’t ready to fully change things up. There was no alternative now… And so started a journey…
And there’s only one direction that journey goes and that’s into the darkness, into the dark night of the soul… and yes it can be pretty dramatic. Sometimes you are going to get hit sideways and it’s going to be hard, and ultimately it’s going to be you on your own, facing the worst stuff ever. It’s fear, it’s grief, it’s abandonment and its bad as it gets because it is you. facing yourself. That’s you digging into your own darkness. And who is going to know where to find the scariest stuff? Exactly, that would be you… And you have to go. You’ve avoided it for so long but now…
I am guessing you might recognise the story. Because it is everybody’s story. Day after day, and moment after moment a constant need to reach out, sacrifice, to learn, and return. This is the age old story, of death and ressurection, of fall and the ascent. It is the hero’s journey, the journey into the underworld, and the return. Our hero transformed. It is the human narrative, how we make sense of our selves. And perhaps more than that it exists world over in human culture, and can even be seen in sociological or economic or evolutionary processes, the process of metamorphosis, change and progress.
Again with good fortune, and with the help and the patience and the wisdom of some very good friends, I stumbled into the dark forest, to find a new path. And on my way I found my mentors, to guide me, to provide me light and my allies, to spread the load, and the inn for the night and I found the harpies, and the dragons set to destroy me… and I fought them. And some battles were won, and some battles were lost. And with the losses came great pain.
And the journey continues, it will never end. We return from battle and install our newest prize, until the next one then…
For me, I knew I could not find that peace and connection without understanding what had gone on. To enter into that world is to know there can be no return without the prize. I couldn’t ever have been enough for this to just be a thing, cured by distraction and torpor.
There were questions to answer… massive questions and so I began to question everything… So how had I come to be the pale echo of the person that I once was? How had I become of so little consequence that people were prepared to walk into my home and under threat of violence lock me up? How had my world come to that? How could people comply with it? And deeper than that, how did we get to this? Look, anti-depressant use has more than doubled since 2006. Its an epidemic! How did we get to a position where so many people are relying on anti-depressants to get by? And deeper again. Is there something better? What do we mean by better? Are there any answers? Can we create them? Where do we start? What can we do?
I was going to try and avoid all the facts and the quotes and the analysis today but look, there’s a whole landscape out there, there’s a whole narrative that we, as a group believe, and that we all play a part in, and that we are fed with. And COW – the podcast is here to try and remap it.
Here’s one example, on the issue of anti-depressants. And here’s a disclaimer first. I am not saying that anti-depressants are evil, and that they have no part to play in saving lives, just that we can understand the landscape in which they exist in another way.
IN 2017 figures were released showing an uptake in anti-depressants used to treat “depressive illness, generalised anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and panic attacks”.
An article in the Guardian by Dennis Campbell (June 2017)… covered this.
“NHS prescribed record number of antidepressants last year”
And in bold underneath, the strapline, the summary.
“Data prompts debate about whether rise shows drugs are handed out too freely or whether more people are getting help”
The article faithfully follows up with quotes and facts and figures and does what it says on the tin.
Pretty harmless reporting right? Maybe…
Look how does it work? And on many occasions, we skim through the news, we hear it repeated and repeated and we accept it. And we repeat it ourselves. We might even decide to debate it. And we may be really good at that. We can talk about the issues for ever, we can delve into the figures, ask how they were collected, we can talk about medical training, restricting patient consulting times, we can talk about drug company profits, or even the effectiveness of the drugs and that is all great. We have been given the news in a full and truthful manner and we have determined a best course of action. In the end however this debate, if we stick to the scope we were given, only serves to maintain levels of misery at a manageable level. Not until you ask What the causes of these symptoms are, and what if anything can be done to address the causes. Not until you begin to ask those questions can you begin to see how our thinking is being coralled.
And then you can begin to ask why it is being coralled, should the mood take you?
Like the drug companies, so with Dennis… I’m not having a go. I should write to him maybe and ask him what was going on, but consider this an open letter then. Did you just miss the point? Didn’t think to go beyond the official narrative? Just a problem of education? Or sleepwalking maybe?
The issue of an increase anti-depressant use for me is a wake up call for all of us. We all go through these transitions. It is part of our natural path. And to me I have come to understand there is no progress without a change of state. No gain without some investment in that future, no pain, no gain. My interest is in understanding the landscape in which we find ourselves and re mapping it. We made it, I don’t believe it is sustainable, but we made it, so we can mould it.
I guess as my transition began, as I began to wake up, and to suffer loss, and to fight to bring myself out of the depths and grab a breath, to find some meaning in this chaos I was originally drawn to find proof that I was right about stuff, whatever it was, everything. I’ll tell you now that has a name – confirmation bias. And whilst it might help you justify a bad night once in a while once that turns into habit you are screwed. Like an addiction…
If a person craves, finds pleasure or relief in any behaviour,and suffers negative consequences and cannot despite the negative consequences give up the behaviour – that’s an addiction. I don’t care whether it’s sex, gambling, ideology or cocaine… and the brain circuits are the same. So we think there’s all these different addictions, you actually look at the addicted brain? It’s the same circuitry that’s involved in all of the addictions…
But as I began to dig and dig deeper into the deep code question after question began to emerge. There was the rabbit hole but I wasn’t looking for conspiracies. They didn’t seem deep enough for me. I was looking to science, to neurology, psychology, physics, biology, game theory, social research.. linking them all up there and now you’re talking.
That was where I found great answers, cutting edge thinkers and a new conversation, already being held on the edge of the herd, and already joined by millions. It is conversation of progress, of logic, of informed and controlled thinking, of critical thinking and compromise, of common sense and ultimately human growth. Survive, Thrive, or Dive – It’s calling for freedom of speech, for individual freedom and for an end to redundant ideologies that seem hell bent on destroying the planet. And it is a conversation to which we can all belong. Things are changing, people are waking up.
COW – the podcast, putting it out there