Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our greatest fear is that we are more powerful than we can imagine.

Posts tagged ‘mental health’

I don’t know what I’m talking about, version 2

I was asked today a question that made me think very long and hard by a work colleague.

We were eating and he said “if you were to go back in time nad talk to yourself, what would you tell them?” After thinking for a while, I finally answered “don’t worry about things”, things will work out. Don’t worry about who you’re with or whether things will go the way you want them too. But then another thought occured, one I didn’t anticipate. How do you not worry? How would I put into words a way to my younger self to not worry about what will happen? Then it struck me and is the reason I’m writing this now.

Maybe you’re not suppose to know.

It’s weird to think about but it’s informed me in this life and out of all the thngs we do, we don’t really know how to not worry. It’s just something we do and that led me on to think further. We have this thing where we want to keep track of everything and be in control, be conscious all the time. But we can’t, it can’t be done; like trying to describe how we close our hands, we just say “well, I just did it”. It’s like trying to drink the ocean with a fork and in a way, it’s beautiful to think about. The whole Universe had this continous rhythum that we’re not just a part of but are. We’re not separate from it so we can’t be different from it, and part and parcel is going with it.

Life is so strange, we do things and we do them because it has significance in our lives. We build bridges, help the enviroment and topple governments, but really we leave these marks that often do more harm than good. The Bridge rusts, our help destroys more than it helps and that government we toppled turns into a dictatorship. In a way it’s shown me that we’re likely to do harm as well as good and it’s likely we’ll do neither.

A lot of people aspire to say “I want to do this” or “I want to build this company” or “I want to make a million pounds” and they do or they don’t, but after that they leave such a heavy mark and aren’t satisfied anyway because it’s the journey that was satisfying them, so they become depressed and part and parcel of depression is believing the premise things are always going to go up like a continous graph and it doesn’t.

I used to think that the world was a place that was moving around me and I was observing it being moved, like it was some sort of a theatre and, unlike everyone else, I wouldn’t leave a mark. Now Ive figured that there’s nothing wrong with that, actually it’s significant. I’ve realised we hurt the Universe as much as we help it and are likely to do neither. Seeing the world move and observing it isn’t a bad thing, the greatest heroes make discoveries and solutions based on observations as well as doing; and the brilliant thing is when you see through everything and see how it’s a game, you can get lost in it again. I mean, people look at the temple and see through it all but when you do, what’s the harm in singing along and buying second hand souvenirs? You bring up the game and are a part of it and the only way to do that is to be really with it. Except, rather than striving for it you’re just doing it. There are no words to describe how with it you are.

So, if I were to ever tell anything to my former self I wouldn’t. However, if in the situation I would say “just keep going and focus on what you’re doing and keep doing it and when you do it, be with it without hesitation”.

 

 

Hollow Wood

A leaf falls into the pond.
Splash.

The swift wind in the breeze,
Weaving in the warm glow.

The visions that we immerse ourselves in,
We make ourselves to be made of.

To go to sleep and never wake up,
To wake up having never gone to sleep.

Dealing with special needs

Having worked with children, I have found myself being challenged by trial and tribulations throughout my time. I want to shortly testify to how it has affected me. Before I begin, I want to say I will not be mentioning where I work for legal reasons. All I will say is I am absolutely enjoying it and it has been a positive experience for me.

Going into Primary teaching, I didn’t know what to expect. I had some vague idea but overall there wasn’t any real indication I knew what it consisted of. I volunteered in year 1 and reception and I became attached to the job and the children I was working with. It gave me a realisation at work that I was not aware of before and for the first time in a long time, it motivated me to work. I felt that if I did not give these children a good learning experience, I would be letting them down and, more importantly, letting their future down. To me, children are the basis of us as human beings and we carry on those mannerisms as we get older.

Overall, it was going great. I was doing well in year one and I was transferred to reception which I equally enjoyed. It was at that point that I was given an eye-opener in nursery. When people look at nursery, they think it’s pretty simple: the children are at the beginning of education, they don’t know a lot and everything is basic. That sort of age for children (4 to 5) means that everything needs to be deconstructed to very basic language, everything needs to be simplified. Even phrases like ‘take away’ for maths need to be clarified and that becomes a word game. That for me was challenging at first but I got use to it.

On my first day of nursery, I met a child. I won’t go into detail about this special person, for obvious reasons, but the child had difficulties that inhibited his learning. In short, he was special needs. I want to emphasise that this was not the first time I have been with people with learning difficulties, special needs or metnal illness’ including autism and asperges. My nephew has autism and that is also reflected in his behaviour. A lot of people I know have one or the other in one way or another and in many instances, things were getting better with them. This case was a shock to me uniquely.  Put it this way, whereas the other children had come to a certain understanding about where they are, this child was not able to. In essence, he was half his age and, for example, needed more assistance to go to the toilet (having a nappy) and only knew a few phrases. For me, I had a mix of disgust and resentment. I want to emphasise I was not disgusted by the child or the fact he had special needs, to me it was the fact that I was challenged by it, it emotionally challenged me in a way that has not happened in a long time. I wanted to emotionally react and help the child by separating him from the others (even though that is the completely wrong thing to do). I guess as animals, we react to things intuitively to do what we think will help. We think that we should naturally react to what we don’t consider ‘natural’ or ‘mainstream’. But it doesn’t help and I’m glad I have the logic to see that through.

Because I was the only male assisting in nursery, I like to think it is helpful. Being a wide built man means that many of the children see me as a sort of father figure that deviates from the majority of teachers. This child would always look at me with this gaze of a two year old, this gaze of awe. At first it was slightly disturbing for me, I had never experienced anything like it but what made more of an impact was the look was of a child to his father. Going home, I thought about it deeply and that sense of disturbance, disgust and resentment made me realise something: I was challenged by something I had not experienced before. Previously, I had a feeling that I would be letting the children down if I faltered and I was doing that with this child. Therefore, I started to see my perspective and think that I needed to help this kid. More importantly, I needed to because I remember I was once a 5 year old child with special needs who needed help and in many cases I didn’t receive it. So when I came in the next day and saw that child with the glisten of awe in his eye, I treated him like every other child. I adored, appreciated and gave him the love every child deserves and I saw that helped him. I saw him be with the other children and thought “this will help him so much and develop him”. The kids who played with him didn’t judge him or treat him differently, why should I?

What I’m saying is be challenged by differences, even if it is with children and don’t let that that be a hindrance to them. When I was a child, I had special needs and learning difficulties and now I’m training to be a teacher and have a Masters in History. Don’t ever let the experience or challenge of a person with special needs, or mental difficulties, hinder you or make you get the better of your reaction. I want to show this so I can illustrate even the most insightful people get challenged by prejudices, especially when they experience the situation first hand. Be patient and know that even if you feel how you feel, every help you give helps a person overcome their difficulties.

 

 

Mental health (PTSD): An understanding.

People often talk about mental health as if it is something that has been solved; an incoherent problem that has been remedied. I’m here to say otherwise. I think there’s a a perception that people are better understanding mental health problems and people are able to empathise better with those who do have prevalent conditions. However, there is still a blunt gap between those who experience issues and those who do not have mental health issues. In he 21st century, there is still the reality that diabetes can be solved with insulin or a broken leg can heal but when someone says they are suffering from mental issues, the person will kindly nod, while smiling, and slowly back away from the conversation. I understand why they would. As a species, we are not biologically programmed to deal with issues like that; it does not benefit survival and it is alien to the way our biology works. Culturally, the mannerisms that are encouraged, such as individuality and non-reliance, means it is not within are mannerisms to be encouraged empathy.

What I am aiming to do in this article is debunk the myths surrounding a prevalent mental health issue: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and attempt to make the reader empathise with the condition by using writing to portray an image in the reader’s mind.

A key myth is that PTSD is it’s limtied to the warfare. Though it is prevalent on the battlefield, it is only so because the conditions and strains of warfare make it possible for the condition to become a reality. The first cases of post-traumatic stress were recorded in industrial and locomotive accidents during the 19th century (the condition was labeled ‘traumatic neurosis’). Today, it can include trauma caused by accidents; negative experiences and social, emotional, physical and psychological abuse. This leaves an underlying efffect on the way the mind reacts and develops based on those conditions.

Put it this way, the person suffers trauma at a young age or suffers an accident and though there is rationality to the way the mind deals with it, illogically the body gears itself up to the event happening again. For example, a driver might tense up or a person who was once abused may attack someone for no reason: it’s simply a means in which the mind comes to terms with the sudden anxiousness perceives an immediate danger (whether real or imaginary). One way this happens is by memories. In an experiment at an American University, a psychologist separated a group of students in two parts: the first wrote an account of events that were upsetting to them in their lives, the second wrote about some mundane aspects of their day. What was discovered was the people who had wrote down their upsetting/distrubing accounts recovered better than those who didn’t and the second group had a harder time. In other words, the mind attempts to recollect the experience the person has suffered through alternative means that are not obvious, it’s like the nerves and mind of the person as are trying to let the issue out but not directly reference. Kurt Vonnegut (author of Slaugherhouse Five who also suffered from PTSD) describes it as “describing the sun without staring directly at it”. Vonnegut does this in his novel by time travel to explore his experiences. It’s understandable, when you experience loss you try to describe it without confronting the problem because of the emotional impact the memory has and confronting it directly makes you nervous because your body reacts to an imaginary reprisal or consequence. With PTSD, it’s the same but times a thousand.

 

To give readers an idea of what I mean, I am going to describe what it is like to have PTSD using simple language and terminology, in order to build an image into the person’s mind. Imagine you are standing in a room full of people talking. Some of them you know, others you don’t. Some may be friends of friends, other’s relatives. It can be outside, in a party, an apartment, a beach, just somewhere where there’s a social event occuring. Now, looking around at all the people smiling, talking, laughing and building rapport, you feel that around the room there is an inside joke everyone is in on. For some reason or event, which you somehow missed, everyone is sharing this inside joke and you don’t know what it is. You can’t understand it and it’s not possible for you to comprehend without your mind going blank. Everytime you do talk to someone, your mind goes blank so you don’t know what to say. All you can do is listen and try not to go at 80mph and deal with things logically; if not logical, you will feel lost in a vaue feeling of confusion. Alone, your mind begins to think about things and speculate and shortly it turns into a memory and that memory becomes a fantasy. Your mind forces this memory onto you out of nowhere. In the fantasy, you recall something that happened and when you snap out of it, you realise you’re emotionally invested in the fantasy and you’re talking to yourself. Nothing really makes sense outside, I mean you know why everything’s happening but none of the social barriers, mannerism and time make any sense or seem to matter. You feel tired so you can only keep less fatigued by thinking and self-disciplining yourself to stay up. Talking to people, you can see something is not right with you, people think you are weird in some illogical way and you don’t conform to the emotional wave going forwards at a certain speed. Maybe they think you’re there to get something out of them or one-up them. Either way, they can sense something but don’t know what it is that separates you. Your head feels like there’s heavy pressure on it and you can feel the nerves around you coming alive. Your heart’s beating to the point where it feels like it’s thumping your chest and thumping the body with it in a massive vibration. You can’t get your head around how people are enjoying themselves or why they’re laughing, they just are; you can’t get on the inside joke and so you stay silent. Your mind’s still blank. You’re moving small parts of your body very quickly and realise you’re doing it only when it’s happened and it feels like there’s nothing you can do about it.

This is a taster of what it feels like to have the condition. I hope this brings a better understanding for people to understand what it feels like and how this example can also be extreme in varying circumstances.

Confidence

Confidence is a a sparing currency.

When it is present, it generates the most valuable and extravagent wealth from people,
When it is absent, all are poor and unfortunate.

It is common property and belongs to everyone,
Yet only few are able to invest it wisely.

The rare few of us inherit it from our ancestors,
Many of us accumilate it through our doings.

Spend it wisely and invest,
Your investment will be paid two fold.

Historical sword fighting in Antiquity and Medieval times: a review

Before I begin, just to clarify my position, I am a History student at a Master’s level; I have done a year of Historical European Martial Arts, mainly working on swords and shields and I study historical fighting in my free time. What I am writing about today is the nature of Ancient to Medieval European fighting that will clarify different principles and myths that surround sword and shield fighting (much of it being fabricated on television and films). What I aim to accomplish as an objective is to outline how sword fighting developed from Antiquity to the Late Medieval era and make the reader aware of the principles involved.

 

The principle of sword fighting or using a sword is the process of pulling and pushing: The sword is used to cut either forwards or backwards. For example, if you are cutting a steak and simply hack at it, it won’t cut through as well. To really get at it you cut the steak by going backwards and forwards in a motion with your knife. Sword fighting works on a similar principle. Many films and television series’ show long swords’ hacking through enemy armour but that is not possible. Most cutting consisted of landing a blow and then drawing the wound by either pulling out or pushing inwards and this is the basis of blocking, leverage, binding and striking.

 

Within Antiquity to the Late-Medieval era, the shield was the main weapon: Shields have often been stereotyped to just ward off blows however the shields of this time shows that this is was not viable. The shield is used as a main weapon while the sword is used in a supporting role to deliver the killing blow. We see this based on two prevalent aspects: size and shield handle.

Size: The large shield sizes indicate that they were used, like swords, as an extension of the arm. Therefore the shield plays a pivotal role in both re-directing strikes using biomechanical principles (e.g. turning swords away) to find vantage points. This also included using the shield’s edge to strike the opponent.

Handle: The handle becomes a key factor in how the shield operates at this time. For example, the arm strap (for formation soldiers such as hoplites) ensured the user was able to hold and control the shield more effectively. The single handle doesn’t offer this support, for example during the medieval period single handled shields were overlapped in a shield wall to compensate for the lack of arm control; it ensured the user was able to keep their shield up in formation and this is evident in Germanic, Viking and Saxon style combat. The single handled shield signals a transition to single combat and small skirmishes, which Scandinavian and German cultures were obsessed with. These gave birth to their own biomechanical principles.

For example, the Vikings and Germanics often utilised a ‘flapping door’ effect with their shields, in which the single handle enabled the shield to rotate both ways. This weakness was used to move around the enemies swing. It enabled greater flexibility and to simply use the weight and momentum of the opponents attack against them.

The exception to both formation and single fighting is the Roman style of fighting because it adapted both types of shield handling and attempted to mediate between both. This is evident from the vertical handle Roman shields had. This meant single handled shield mechanics (that are found with Viking shields) were applicable with Roman shields and it is no coincidence that the oval shield was issued to Roman auxiliaries over rectangular ones, because of its similarity to ‘Barbarian’ shields at the time. In many ways this represented the Romans combining Greek and Germanic styles of fighting together. In 212 AD Emperor Caracella declared all inhabitants of the Roman Empire citizens and this has a fundamental impact on combat style for the legions. As auxiliaries were not longer distinguishable from the legions integration meant the barbarian dominated Roman military integrated familiar weapons that the different Germanic elements were farmiliar with. By the 4th century, the short gladius stops being used in favour of the long spatha and the oval shield replaced the rectangular one. This signifies a transition from fighting up close to fighting “at arm’s length” that also meant fighting lasted for a longer period of time. This illustrates similarities in fighting between Antiquity and the Early Medieval period.

For example, both Roman and Viking fighting show the shield as an offensive weapon. The Roman’s oval shield’s narrow end meant it could be dug into the other person’s shield or be used as a ram, meaning the legionary could disarm his opponent, breach the distance and disable the combatant. In Viking style fighting, the size of the shield (from 80cm to 120cm) means the Viking would be able to ram the shield into his opponent’s arm and render him unable to use his sword.

 

During fighting, swords rarely ever touched: The size of shields and the techniques that developed around them meant swords rarely ever binded or crossed, if they ever did usually the weight of the sword would be used in a pulling or pushing motion to use the opponent’s weight against themselves. During antiquity, swords were usually too short and the shield had predominance over how warriors would fight. Even in Germanic cultures the sword, being notoriously tall, revolved around using the shield (which was passed down to Viking style fighting). Sword binding became recognisable with the innovation of sword hand guards (to incorporate long swords in disciplined formations). By the late Medieval and Early Renaissance period, swords became the stereotype we recognise today (the type X long sword, predominant from the 13th century onwards) and as a result the shield size decreased, which meant the user became more dependent on the sword to take over the responsibilities the shield once had.

The nature of formation fighting in antiquity and the Early Medieval period meant there was no need to bind swords. For example in these periods, sword handles  were much smaller and, until the late medieval period, hand guards were be wooden. This served as an advantage in two ways. Firstly, the lack of hand-guards indicated the hand was easily protected and rarely vulnerable; putting the sword hand outwards meant the possibility of a severed hand. Secondly, the wooden hand guard meant the opponent’s sword would get caught on it (if the hand was swung for) and that made it difficult to remove. This is especially evident with the small ‘half-bowl’ Roman hand guards that were designed for the opponent’s sword to get caught, for last-ditch protection (the fact it was also predominant in longer, cavalry, swords meant there was more of a risk of cavalrymen exposing their arms).

Shield Butts were not for pummelling the opponent: To put it simply, why pummel your opponent at arm’s length with a longer shield? In most cases, the shield was large enough to cover the whole body. To go in simply to punch the opponent with the shield butt was not practical, the enemy would simply go around the strike. The reason why this stereotype is so common is because of films and series’. Shield butts served the purpose of making the enemy’s sword get caught on the shield and made it harder for them to draw their sword away and that enabled the warrior to go in for the kill.

Sword fighting was a process of feeling: Different cultures have different terminologies for this but essentially it boils down to feeling the motion and mechanics of interacting with the opponent. This becomes prevalent with Antiquity and Early Medieval sword fighting. It is literally feeling the movement and physics of combating a foe and accustoming oneself to it. For example, Vikings would emphasise this in binding shields to practice moving and turning (something emphasised by the later treatises).

An open letter to feminism

Dear Feminism,

You want all of this attention like you care, like you really give it your all in a new and innovative way but instead you’ve led gender equality into an oppressive monotony. What started the movement was a sense of gross injustice: major female equality; no political power; no equal pay, health care etc and what has far concluded the movement this generation is a sense of un-realistic formality; a predictable, aggressive, mindless mess that asks you not of your sense of equality or productivity but privilidge, lack of individuality and dictating to men to follow directions. You ask of us our ability to get hit, abused or molested by women, not do anything about it and walk away; you ask of us to mindlessly not question aggression and abuse of privilidge in the face of blunt attacks. You ask of us our willingless to mudanley put up with another woman (in the most skimpiest outfit imaginable) who says she is being infringed upon as a woman in the first world. You ask of us to deal with the most hysterical and unlogical claims imaginable and the public have to roll with it because democracies are based on public and the most outspoken opinion; with the somehow counter-intuitive reply of ‘thank you’. No bias issues here that could possibly get out of hand and cripple any attempts to help women become equal.

Today’s feminism is like a spoiled rich kid who gets everything laid out for them their entire life and, when it comes to making it on their own, they can’t take it. You expect everyone to love you because ‘you are who you are’, part of the ‘illustrious women’s lineage’, nothing could possibly be wrong with you. You look just like a feminist but you’re not one. You’re a pampered, doughy, snob wearing nice clothes expected to graduate scott free because your parent’s in a lumb. Why would you need to improve? Why would you need to get any better? Everyone just agrees with you ideas because you’re a feminist.

The worst thing is men get the blame for this no matter what, as if we’re a child who has had their favourite toy taken away. Stop patronizing me as a guy and constantly berating that I’m someone who has no control over how I act. The world is a more mixed and diverse place than it was in the 1970’s. As a guy, when people tell me “what I do dictates how I view women as objects”, it patronizes me because it says I can’t make decisions for myself. It looks down on me as if I’m a child who’s had their favourite toy taken away and that’s what’s so fustrating; it suggests as a man, I’m bred to make decisions which are outside my control and automatically loose control when I see a woman in provocative clothes. That just comments on how much people lack self-esteem that they would stoop to that level. On the other hand, as a man I’m biologically geared to have sex with women (unless gay). When I see a naked woman or a woman in provocative clothes, I will look and it takes self-control not to. It’s like an office of bears being surrounded by salmon covered in honey, you can’t help but pay attention. If you have the confidence to be genuine and aren’t insecure, things like this don’t happen. In fact, life is better.

Feminist argue about ‘objectifying females’ and the body but maybe looking at naked women as being taboo is a comment on how we perceive the body. The body is such as beautiful and sexual thing; sex itself is a beautiful experience. From such young ages, we’re taught the body is taboo and genetalia is something we’re forbidden to talk about. Why are we then suprised when a moral crisis breaks out over stuff like this? And why sexual fustration, porn and rapes occur? Rape isn’t sexual, in fact it’s a form of psychological domination, what does that suggest? It suggests we are raised in this society where our sexualities aren’t made comfortable and it gives rise to uncomfortable acts. We’re so uncomfortable with ourselves that we need to dominante people. And does society help this? No, they shove things down our throats every five minutes because they know we’ll look. We’re the only people to blame for this: both the actors and reactors, both men and women. We need to sort ourselves out before we can sort this out and understand why it’s happening before pointing to finger.

So feminists, here is some advice:

1) Stop being so activist in your approach where it isn’t necessary. Help women in less fortunate countries who are actually being oppressed (rather than small cases in the first world where one person does something).

2) Be more logical concise and don’t rely on hysteria, you are just reinforcing the stereotype that women are overly-emotional. Infact, don’t be hysterical at all.

3) Show other women that gender should not be used as a privilidge to abuse, for example hitting men and not expecting to be hit yourself or expecting to be the first people to be entitled to something for everyone.

4) Encourage respect and moderate attitude to the female body. Encourage women to act as individuals and rational human beings.

Before I end this, let me extend an olive branch so you can understand where I am coming from.

Coming from a Greek Cypriot background, I know how relative this is to Western societies and their former colonies. In Britain, every woman wears the most tight and revealing clothing imaginable, sexualises themselves and says “I am a woman, I have the right to be independent and do what I want”. But they’re not being independent, they’re doing it for the men (unless gay). They don’t make the effort and get dressed up for no reason, they’re trying to show their sexiness to someone. Most importantly, all it shows is insecurity. It shows they’re so insecure, they will dress up in the most skimpiest clothes and say they are being independent about it. Really, they have been so brainwashed to be insecure about everything about them that they don’t know what they want.

In Cyprus, there’s no commoditising of sexes. In the Western World, everything is seen with a materialistic outlook: what can I buy? What is on offer? What is being sold to me? This is seen in relationships and what women look for in men. When she is interested in men, she is looking for ways to disqualify him. Whereas men QUALIFY, women DISQUALIFY. What this does is commoditieses and makes things competitive. More disgustingly, it objectifies being with a person. The person is the goal, they are the prize, they can be commoditised. This is a fantasy, a largely Western one and the results are destructive. This is inbuilt to our language, even to the point of relationships. It explains a lot. It explains for example why divorce rates are the highest from voluntary marriages in the West. It explains how cheating has become such as huge phenomena in the West rather than elsewhere. This fantasy is just that; it’s an illusion: it doesn’t exist.

Where I am from, the women are beautiful and are raised to be emotionally strong so there is no insecurity. Even the most beautiful Greek women on their best night out dress moderately (long dresses, loose tops, trousers etc) with little to show because they know they don’t need to: they know they’re beautiful anyway. If they have any insecurities, they’re part of a close-knit community that helps them and determines they are valuable. There’s no media, no television, no magazines and no internet jamming down their throat that there’s something wrong with them (the only people who sexualise themselves in Cyprus are either on T.V, insecure or British Cypriots anyway, you can tell). That’s such as superficial thing anyway and is only really a part of Western culture. It’s done no favours and never will do.

What I am trying to say is we will understand gender equality when it is here and we stop talking about it in it’s context of gender oppression, that feminists seem to emphasise all the time; it’s in our language. When Emma Watson did the speech for gender equality I was watching with optimism but then she called it ‘He for she’. She implied that men need to be dependant on women and work for them, that we can’t be independant ourselves, that we can’t make choices and everything is geared up towards women like a servant in the king’s court. Why should I do that? What if I don’t want to be ‘for she’ and be independant?

The first symptom of solving a problem is recognising it exists and we should realise that these problems, if we are to overcome them, cannot be mundanley controlled in these clear-cut categories that feminists create; that somehow oppression is there when it isn’t and women should contantly be vigilant and on the lookout for it in themselves. That just creates insecurity and that’s the last thing we need if we are to go forwards.

Best Wishes
Nicholas Petrou