Monthly Archives: December 2013

Dealing With Your Inner Jerk

I love the brain. It’s beautiful in its complexity, but, down at its depths, it’s the same bits you’d find in a lizard or chicken or chupacabra. Our cerebral cortex, with its billions of neurons and trillions of connections, sits atop a bare-bones, eons-old structure, like a mansion built atop an old workshed. This situation, my friends, is why we tend to suck so much.

You see, these old structures are built solely to keep us alive, whether that means breathing, pooping, or making you eat three plates at a buffet.  I’m kind of lumping a lot of brain structures together, but it’s to emphasize a point: The parts of our brain that have dreams and hopes, that have standards for what we eat or who we date, the ones where romance and love and symbolism arise; these all have to contend with a big subcortical jerk.

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Lies Massage Therapists Tell: “It has to hurt for it to work!”

This one is rarely said quite so bluntly. It’s usually delivered implicitly: “Breathe through the pain.” “This is going to hurt, but we need to work this knot out” (Don’t get me started on “knots”). “If it hurts, it needs work!”

Fine. You know what? I’ll give you that last one, straw-man massage therapist. If a muscle, joint, or tendon is tender to the touch, it could likely use some work. You know what it probably doesn’t need? Your thumbs sunk deep into its inflamed fibers, stimulating pain receptors and causing local release of pro-inflammatory chemicals. You know what the person doesn’t need? More pain in their lives.

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[Source: Pierre Willemin, CC BY-ND 2.0, via flickr]

“No pain, no gain!”

“No pain, no gain.” Ugh. How tired I am of that toxic little idiom. While it has certainly been used by the timid to overcome fear, and by the sick to conquer disease, it’s usually used as justification for us to abuse ourselves and others. Think of how you’ve used it on yourself: Was it while you were training, pushing through signals that your body desperately wanted a break? Was it during a work week, where you were ignoring sleep/nutrition/family so that you could manage your workload? During school, when you were so stressed that faking a seizure started to look awfully attractive?

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The Courage to Be Imperfect

Perfectionism is a curse. It can be loosely defined as “the compulsion to create only the very best, and thus to create nothing at all.”

Look back at your own perfectionist tendencies and tell me it’s not true. You start with a good idea, but you defer implementing it until “just the right time,” “when inspiration strikes,” or “when everything is ready.” Think of how much has been left undone because of this poisonous idea, how much creativity and productivity has been stolen from the world.

ALL GLORY TO THE HYPNODOG
Credit: Jolene via Flickr, CC BY 2.0

The very fact that I’m writing this blog is amazing to me, because I had to pass through a number of thick, gelatinous membranes of perfectionist compulsion to get here. Enjoy that imagery for a moment. Indeed, this is probably the third or fourth incarnation of my blog, with a graveyard of other blogs with even sillier names left in its wake. I had this strange idea that I needed everything to be right before I started in earnest, so I did a lot of faffing about (which is British for “fucking around”) for a few years. In the end, I was only faffing myself.

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3 Rules To Reduce Chronic Pain

I was sedentary for the first, oh, 20 years of my life. My only exercise was lugging my backpack, dense as a neutron star, from class to class because I was too lazy to make the detour to my locker.

I had back pain. Good lord did I have back pain, and it was ever so mysterious.

Poor kid.

That’s me about 15 years ago, taking a “before” picture (I think I was planning to start lifting weights… didn’t happen). Please realize that I thought I was in a completely neutral stance, feet even, shoulders relaxed, etc., and please notice how completely I failed. One foot was forward, one hip was hiked, one arm was rotated inward, and my entire torso was displaced 2 inches to the left.

Our bodies do the best they can with the stimulus that we give them. While our brains have access to a ton of information, the body will get limited cues, such as “needs to walk short distances,” “needs to sit for long periods,” and “needs to occasionally haul heavy loads.” Based upon these inputs, our bodies adapt. Mine had decided that I needed to be shaped a certain way to meet the needs of playing lots of lots of video games.

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Where The Hell Am I?

Quick update: I just got back from a faraway land (Tennessee) and plan to start back on my graduate research project, so my posts might be erratic. If you’d like to hear the thoughts my brain has that are less than 1000 words, you might find me on Facebook or Twitter.

That said, if I ever post less than one blog entry per week, I’d like to you find me and stab me in the liver.

Your pal,
Ian