Paul Little and I would so not get on *

Paul Little is a NZ Herald journo.   I am so gobsmacked by today’s piece, I can’t help but think it’s meant to be a pee-take.   Especially in the face of the NZ Herald’s relentless fight to discuss mental health.   Let’s take them one at a time.  Although I must admit, he gets one right.

Talking about it will help.

Talking about it is equally likely to open up a whole bunch of new cans of even more unpleasant worms that you will never be able to force back into said cans.

You’ll feel better in the morning. Partly true – you’ll feel better for that split second of semi-consciousness before you’re fully awake and realise that yes, that actually did happen last night.

Solving every problem in your life by yourself limits the perspective and access to other ideas.  Sometimes, professionals are needed to help you undo circular or self-destructive thinking.  I once spent months doing nothing “until that” was fixed.  It was pointed out to me I stopped living.  Wow.  New perspective.

I have one of those junky pop-“paintings” in my lounge.  It says:  Life isn’t about waiting for the sun the come out.  It’s about learning to dance in the rain.

You are unique.

Actually, you’re undergoing exactly the same experiences as thousands of other people. If we were all unique we would all have personalities at odds with each other and society would not be able to function.

You are unique.  That doesn’t make you special however.  Or give you some kind of license to justify poor choices or ridiculous behaviour.  Your needs and views are personal to you.  To force you into thinking your existence and opinions are not unique is about the same as saying there is no point to voting, because your vote makes no difference.

Anyway, tell Baby L she’s not unique.

It doesn’t matter as long as you try.

This is the ultimate existential folly – wasting energy and emotion on something at which you know deep down you have no chance of succeeding.

The point lost on Paul Little is that we convince ourselves so often that we aren’t capable of something, that we don’t even try.  There was a time I had never stood on top of a mountain.  I was unfit and overweight.  Surely there was no point in even trying?   Turns out, climbing a mountain is as hard as taking the next step.  And you can always take a next step.  Always.

You can’t control what happens but you can control how you feel about it (or something).

No you can’t.

Some people never figure this out, but it’s actually you who decides if you are a happy person or not.  You are in control of your own happiness.   Physiologically your body is fooled if you force a happy smile and demeanour on yourself.  The other side of the coin is that if you wallow in your own imagined problems, you make sure you’re going to be unhappy.  Taking ten deep long breaths in a row also fools your body into calming down.   Those are just two physical ways of making a start at controlling how you feel.   Granted, some people are too  invested in their funk.  They get a kick from being down and negative.  Go figure.

You’ll feel better when you’ve had a drink.

You’ll feel better for the exact length of time it takes to have the drink. Then you’ll forget about it for a while. The next day you’ll feel slightly worse than before.

This is the one I agree with.  I tried that one, and all I can say is that you delay having to deal with reality.  I still miss suspending reality for a bit, sometimes, but I know there is no point to it.  Unless you drink yourself into a continuous stupor, I’d recommend not leaning on this drug to suspend some of your problems for the illusion of happiness.

If it’s not broke don’t fix it.

Where would we be if people had not decided to fix such unbroken items as the abacus, horse and cart and feudalism?

Those were never broken.   What Paul is saying “don’t try to improve things, or invent new things”.   Plastic  surgery to assist a burn victim is great.   Plastic surgery to make bigger bums and fatter lips?

Kids need quality time not quantity.

No, they need both. They need you there when they need you, not just now and then when you feel like giving them your precious time and totally focused attention.

Kids don’t need both.   Kids need to learn how to entertain themselves, solve problems by themselves, be creative without being guided, and (gulp) be allowed to stuff up lots of times.  None of those conditions occur when a parent is being a full-time coach.   All you do is making adults that can’t function unless they have mum or dad telling them what to do, how to think and how to act.  After all, that’s their reality growing up.

Just do your best.

And then what? Magic will happen? Realising the futility of this advice saved me much time that would otherwise have been spent on sports grounds pretending my lack of hand-eye co-ordination was not a reality.

So don’t bother trying?   We won’t all be All Blacks, so why bother even if you don’t make it out of the social grade?  I remember a fat kid addicted to computers joining my son’s soccer team.  The first few games he just stood there watching people run around him.   Lots of encouragement from the side.  Kids in the team accepted him as he was.   And then he tried defending.

Because of his size, most oncoming players would lose their nerve.   He cottoned on that he could run towards someone and most of them would lose their composure.  All we asked him to do is punt the ball forward.

Confidence built.  His defence was worth 2 others, meaning we could push one of the kids up the field.   We started off losing every game.   In the end, we won every game.  Because of him.

Don’t bother trying?

Dance like no one’s watching.

They are – and pissing themselves.

They are.  It’s not about the dancing Paul.  It’s about not letting what you think other people think about you dictate your behaviour.  Man, I so hope you wrote this piece trying to be contrary, because if this is really how you see the world, you are one broken puppy.

There’s work there for people if they really want it.

Heaps of it – just ask the people working two low-paid jobs to subsidise their meagre benefits.

Good.  So there is work.  Enough to have two jobs.   As to why these people can’t progress beyond low paid jobs, that’s a whole other issue.

Aucklanders are addicted to their cars.

Actually, many of us hate our cars and we hate even more that a government’s mania for motorways means we haven’t had the money spent on public transport that would allow us to leave them behind.

I love my car.   And I’m annoyed at successive governments putting money into public transport when shortly we are going to need roads for effective transport solutions for our self-drive trucks.  And busses.  And taxis.   In the mean time, roads are being stolen from us for cycle ways, pedestrian zones and rail.   Just the construction of these are causing worse traffic flows for years on end.  Eh Auckland?   Waterview tunnel?  People love it.   More.  More!

It is what it is.

[What] does that even mean? It’s like a parody of Jehovah’s “I am that I am”, which also made no sense but at least had a bit of poetry going for it.

Ever got angry at the light going red just as you get to it?   Can you think of a more futile thing to be angry about?  Ever sat in a plane when they told you there would be a delay to check the runway for debris?   Were you raging about being late for something?    It is what it is.   Don’t rage about things that are out of your control.  Like the weather or an earthquake.  It is what it is acknowledges that not everything about our lives is under our control, and to waste time and energy by not accepting that is futile.

It was meant to be.

To put it another way, why don’t you give up all hope of ever doing anything about anything. Nothing was meant to be – everything is the result of the combination of an enormous number of random events accumulating in a single act. You didn’t get run over because fate so decreed. You got run over because you stepped off the footpath at the same time as that car came around the corner.

OK, maybe two.  It was meant to be a mental crutch for us to get over an event where we could not have known the outcome in advance.   In short:  Shit happens.   Which is why It is what it Is, and you can decide how to feel about it.  These are basic human survival mechanisms that allow us to get up the next day… and dare I say it, just do our best.

Give it time and you’ll get over it.

No, you won’t. You’ll merely find that the intervals between the times when it upsets you get further and further apart.

Let it go.  Let it goooooo….   Grief is something else.  You can’t rush it.  And yes, the intervals between times when you process another chunk do get longer.   But we all know that Time heals all wounds.  The deep personal betrayal you may feel from being rejected by a friend or partner should not be as fresh and intense ten years later.   If it is, you are holding on and you are not choosing healthy thinking.

Paul ends with

Sorry if this has been depressing, but don’t worry – it gets better. Or does it?

No, it doesn’t get better.  Nor does it get worse.

It just is what it is.   Our need to control everything around us is what makes us unhappy.

He forgot “don’t sweat the small stuff”.

It appears to me Paul is short on wisdom.


– Pete


* I would not get on because I refuse to be around people that are a constant negative emotional drain.  A seed can’t choose where it falls.   Some have to grow in the most hostile and arid conditions.  Humans, unlike a tree, can decide to move themselves to more fertile and hospitable conditions.   Paul strikes me as someone who creates hostile conditions for those around him.  Ergo, I’d avoid him.

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