Mental health

Assessment Culture Is Toxic To Creativity And Mental Health

Assessment Culture Is Toxic To Creativity And Mental Health

Some quick thoughts on assessment culture as I sit in the local coffee shop this lazy Sunday afternoon…

What is Assessment Culture? 

First, a definition. What exactly is assessment culture? In my view, it’s the continuing assessment of performance from school through your adult life. Some examples of assessment culture including grades or performance reviews at work. But it doesn’t stop there, as assessment culture has become rampant in the internet age. Think Yelp and Amazon reviews or even message boards for tv shows like Game of Thrones. In today’s world, everything is constantly assessed and judged continuously and ubiquitously. 

Who Are You? The Mystery of Existence and The Importance of A Rich, Inner Experience

Who Are You? The  Mystery of Existence and The Importance of A Rich, Inner Experience

Have you ever asked yourself the question, “Who Am I?” What comes up when you do ask that question? I imagine that most of us start with labels or descriptions of our life. For example, I could say, “I'm a 5’8” Asian-American therapist that weighs 155 pounds. I was born in Mountain View, California but now live in New York City.” But would that encompass who I am in any meaningful way?

I don’t think so. In fact, I think that description is mostly worthless because it says nothing about what is going on in my subjective everyday consciousness. So maybe we’re our thoughts and feelings? That would better describe our inner, subjective experience. But have you really examined your thoughts before?

Consumerism Is Fun. Consumerism Will Destroy You: Finding Meaning in a Meaningless Consumer Society

Consumerism Is Fun. Consumerism Will Destroy You: Finding Meaning in a Meaningless Consumer Society

We worship the consumer because the consumer is us. We consume constantly and obsessively. We buy clothes to the tune of $12 billion dollars a year, far more than is needed for our existence. We consume food and alcohol like no other country, spending thousands of dollars per a person. We consume thousands of hours of television and movies and video games a year. We buy furniture. We buy 75-inch TV’s not out of any sense of utility but because “why not?” We take lavish vacations we definitely cannot afford, maybe because we think we deserve it. (But I get the sneaking suspicion some of that is related to wanting to put those pictures on our Instagram or Snapchat stories.) We are on a neverending treadmill of consumption. Are we actually free any real sense if this is the case? Aren’t we just slaves to wage labor?

I tend to think so. I don’t see most people at peace. At least not the ones I see in therapy, which is admittedly as skewed sample size).  I see anxiety and consuming and more anxiety and more consumption from the general population. And I see how we are more and more slaves to our phones. I don’t know if I realized this fully until recently but social media, while useful for keeping in touch with people, is hijacking our brains. As Sean Parker, a founder of Facebook has said about the platform he started, “It’s a social-validation feedback loop … exactly the kind of thing that a hacker like myself would come up with because you’re exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.” 

Can Psychedelics Help Prevent Suicide?

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I just finished this fascinating piece about psychedelics and mental health that I wanted to share. It's worth a read yourself but I wanted to highlight this key passage: 

"Creating meaning in life is dependent upon hope, and it begins with the story we tell ourselves about ourselves. Consciousness, in part, is a continual narrative we both invent and listen to inside of our heads. And there are brain regions involved in that process, which is why Pollan sees psychedelics as a potentially potent therapy for when those interior voices go awry:

Getting overly attached to these narratives, taking them as fixed truths about ourselves rather than as stories subject to revision, contributes mightily to addiction, depression, and anxiety. Psychedelic therapy seems to weaken the grip of these narratives, perhaps by temporarily disintegrating the parts of the default mode network where they operate."

Thre is lots of truth here. Human beings are narrative creatures. We see our lives as a story. And if the story starts to go awry, depression and self-doubt are common byproducts. In my own life, psychedelics have proven life-changing with regard to my own mental health. It's hard to explain fully in words, but I could see how unimportant all our cultural standards were so much more clearly. I could see what was beautiful and what was worth living for and what was not. I personally recommend everyone try them at least once in their life. It's a bit corny, but they can change your life. 

Exercise, Depression And Staying Away From Antidepressants

Exercise, Depression And Staying Away From Antidepressants

Depression is on the rise in the United States. The common knowledge says that depression is organic and about chemical imbalances. But this cannot fully account for its stark rise in the general population. Many, including Johann Hari,  have proposed other theories about depression that resonant with me far more. This includes lack of community, lack of friendships, jobs we hate, trauma and more. 

Antidepressants are also used to treat depression. There is no doubt that they have helped many, and I think they are useful and should be prescribed for deep depressions. But too often they are prescribed like candy to anyone going through a little sadness. Any PCP with little understanding of mental health can prescribe you one. 

The truth is depression is mostly telling us something about our lives. It's saying we don't have enough connection in some way. And because physical health and mental health are definitely not as separate as we might think, depression often times can be telling us that we aren't taking care of our bodies. 

Advertising Is Making You Unhappy

Advertising Is Making You Unhappy

"Advertising at its best is making people feel that without their product, you're a loser. Kids are very sensitive to that. If you tell them to buy something, they are resistant. But if you tell them that they'll be a dork if they don't, you've got their attention. You open up emotional vulnerabilities, and it's very easy to do with kids because they're the most emotionally vulnerable." - Nancy Shalek, advertising head of the Shalek Agency

I'm happier today than I've ever been in my adult life. I say this not to brag; more so it surprised me when I reflected on it. There are a number of reasons for this change. For one, I've become eternally grateful for the life I have because I know how fragile it is and how it changes. Suffering awaits all of us. So I try to be present with the joy I feel right now. This is my version of a spiritual life. Also, I work for myself, doing work I absolutely love. That has been a game changer from the grind of the 9-5. 

But there has been another underrated aspect to my newfound happiness: the lack of advertising in my life. Sometime in the last year, I started to watch a lot less television, and it's the point now where I maybe watch 2 hours a week. This doesn't make me better than anyone of course, but I knew I wanted to read and write a lot more, and that watching television would just distract me. 

How Capitalism, Greed and Depression are Related

How Capitalism, Greed and Depression are Related

One subject I don’t see a lot of writing about, but which happens to be one of my primary interests, is how capitalism affects mental health. The effects are often so subtle implicit and woven into the fabric of everyday existence, it can be difficult to parse out. I am by no means an expert and have my own blind spots and biases but I will continue to try and do so in this post and future posts.

My work gives me a unique perch to see how capitalism affects individual psyches and can cause much psychic pain. Because of this perspective, I’ve decided to start writing about how capitalism can affect mental health. Today I’d to begin with depression.