The other blog

Ever since I started this blog, I neglected my other blog. As that is my professional website, neglect is not the message I want to send to potential clients who accidentally visit my website. Therefore I made myself a list what to blog there. The real challenge is execution as I really, really prefer writing on this more personal blog.

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The story we tell ourselves

I came across a very interesting passage in The Storytelling Animal: how stories make us human. It explains the Lake Wobegone Effect, the effect that we think of ourselves as above average when it comes to positive qualities. Like being a good driver (which for a matter of fact I am). In the book the author makes a link to depression.

Depressed people have lost their positive illusions; they rate their personal qualities much more plausibly than average. They are able to see, with terrible clarity, that they are not all that special.

Jonathan Gottschall, The Storytelling Animal: how stories make us human (p.174)

He then refers to psychologist Shelley Taylor, who said that “a healthy mind tells itself flattering lies. And if it does not lie to itself, it is not healthy.”

This is a perspective I hadn’t taken on depression before, but it makes a whole lot of sense. As someone who is on the realistic side of self-assessment I can tell you that it is indeed an unhealthy state to be always doubting your self. It would have really helped me sail through life if I had more self-esteem and a less realistic view on the world.

Because, as the philosopher William Hirstein puts it, positive illusions keep us from yielding to despair:
“The truth is depressing. We are going to die, most likely after illness; all our friends will likewise die; we are tiny insignificant dots on a tiny planet. Perhaps with the advent of broad intelligence and foresight comes the need for…self-deception to keep depression and its consequent lethargy at bay. There needs to be a basic denial of our finitude and insignificance in the larger scene. It takes a certain amount of chutzpah just to get out of bed in the morning.”

Jonathan Gottschall, The Storytelling Animal: how stories make us human (p.174)

Gottschall goes on to describe the role of a psychotherapist as someone who helps you to rewrite your life story. To give you a story you can live with.

A psychotherapist can therefore be seen as a kind of script doctor who helps patients revise their life stories so that they can play the role of protagonist again – suffering and flawed protagonists, to be sure, but protagonists who are moving toward the light.

Jonathan Gottschall, The Storytelling Animal: how stories make us human (p.175)

Spot on.

Excellent read by the way.

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Music is an amazing invention (144)

Ever since Daughter started listening to the Frozen songs I was amazed how naturally she interprets the mood expressed in the music. At the end of the songs the film music starts, which has a dark mood. The first time she heard it she asked me to stop the music. It’s scary music to her ears. The last few weeks she started listening to the songs of Frozen 2 and again she immediately recognizes when the song is sad or happy or powerful. Her dance moves and facial expression perfectly match the song, even when she listens to the English version (and thus doesn’t understand a word). Amazing invention of humans, music.

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Meaningful art (141)

Someone visited our home recently who wondered about the art on our walls. He admired how much we have. His walls are pretty bare (I know so, because I visited his home a few times) and he told me he only wants to put something up that has meaning. So far he and his wife haven’t come across such objects to hang on the wall other than family photos. It made me realize how lucky I am I grew up surrounded by art. The main reason is that we had a painter in our family. He is called Jan van der Baan and he was married to my mother’s aunt, the sister of my grandfather. Tante Peta and Oom Jan lived in Groningen and every time we visited the city we would ring their doorbell to have a coffee in their apartment close to the Groninger Museum (which Tante Peta had strong opinions about when the first plans were revealed). Oom Jan died when I was still in primary school, but his artwork was always present in our home. Over the years my parents got gifted with pieces and after Tante Peta died the family had to divide the remainders of Jan’s collection of paintings. I got a few pieces as well (there was A LOT still in storage).

One uncle of mine, Oom Jan’s nephew, played in a band. Jan made many paintings of them playing. The most beautiful piece is of course in possession of my uncle. The variation that hangs on my wall seems to be unfinished. The left part looks great, the right part feels off. There is a reason Oom Jan stored it in the basement and never sold it or gave it away. Despite its flaws, I’ve grown to love this painting. It’s big and the colours really brighten up the room. Unconsciously, over the years the Man and I bought furniture and accessories in colours that harmonize with the colours of this painting.

After Tante Peta died, my mother took on a project to take pictures of as many of Oom Jan’s artwork as she could trace. Some of those pictures are still on Flickr. A wonderful overview of the variety of his work.

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