This week I’ve been reading
A great article in Esquire called Exposure Therapy and the Fine Art of Scaring the Shit Out of Yourself On Purpose. In it, the author describes how her fear of heights has periodically debilitated her life, such as not being able to climb to the tops of cathedrals on holiday, and how it’s probably impacted what she’d like to do such as rock climbing. She uses new research into exposure therapy to systematically reduce her immediate physical and mental fear when in a heights situation.
From the Esquire article:
Exposure therapy is basically an inversion of a well-known psychological technique known as classical conditioning. If you can teach an animal to expect pain from, say, a blinking red light by repeatedly combining the light’s appearance with an electrical shock until the animal reacts fearfully to the light alone, it makes sense that the twinning of stimulus and fear can be unraveled too. Show the animal the red light enough times without an accompanying shock, and eventually it will no longer fear the light—a process known as extinction. I was determined to extinguish my fear by proving to myself that I could climb a cliff.
This idea of dealing with eliminating your fears and weaknesses reminded me of some of David Goggins’s advice. He says don’t work on your strengths (what you know you can do); instead, work on your weaknesses. So if you’re scared of heights, or big-bodied, hairy spiders, or sea swimming, or huge snakes, then he exhorts us to tackle these head-on. Imagine your life with less fear, fewer weaknesses, and the confidence to methodically excise the shackles you don’t think about or want to look at.
As a recent first-time dad, I signed up to Daily Dad, and it gives you daily wisdom. Check this out from their email from 29th Jan 2020:
It’s interesting to think about the steady decline in expectations for kids when it comes to reading. Not long ago, kids were taught Latin and Greek and they were taught Latin and Greek so they could read the classics…in the original language. Think of Aesop’s Fables. Think of children being read Plutarch’s Lives by their parents. This is heavy stuff. When you read old school books, you’re struck by a few things. Sure, there is the racism and the historical inaccuracies, but there is also an assumed familiarity with obscure figures from the ancient world and a willingness to wrestle with morally complex topics.
There is a quote from George Orwell, which dates to the early 20th century, that accidentally illustrates how much things have changed. “Modern books for children are rather horrible things,” he said, “especially when you see them in the mass. Personally I would sooner give a child a copy of Petronius Arbiter than Peter Pan, but even Barrie seems manly and wholesome compared with some of his later imitators.”
How many adults even know who Petronius is? (He was a writer who lived in the court of Nero). And how many adults today probably winced at the idea that a book should teach kids how to be manly? Even the idea of “wholesome” is controversial!
It shouldn’t surprise us that the children and young adult sections of bookstores these days are filled with so much infantilizing or absurd nonsense. Is that because kids are dumber than they were in Orwell’s time? Or back before that? No. It’s that we’ve stopped believing they are capable of reading challenging books. So we provide “kids editions” and give them silly picture books. We haven’t built their muscles and then we wonder why they can’t handle heavy stuff.
Well stop it. Push them. Push yourself. They aren’t babies.
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YouTube video of the week
Quote for the week
“Change is the essence of life; be willing to surrender
what you are for what you could become.”
Have a great week ahead!
First published on my weekly email newsletter at Substack on 09 Feb 2020