Introspection

How is life? A work in progress. Just like me. I’m constantly growing and learning; acquiring knowledge of what fascinates me is one of my enduring obsessions. There is definitely more that’s unchanging and relentless about me (including, paradoxically, my regenerative strength), but it’s much easier and more palpable to articulate the ways in which I feel I have changed or the areas in which I invite change. In my life I have shifted from cynicism to idealism to optimistic nihilism to a sort of hedonism to aestheticism (I know I’m merging philosophical and artistic concepts here, but I think of them more widely, as approaches to life), and there have been times when I have ricocheted among them. I’ve spent some time in what may be considered an adrift state, but this has often led to acquiring better knowledge of what I see myself doing, what I enjoy and what I’m good at, a realignment with my deep wishes and interests, and attunement with myself, in all my glory and imperfection. On that note, add an increasing willpower to either embrace or change and improve imperfections, case by case, because that approach makes sense the most, a balance between personal development and contentment is key, and both complaining and self-pity are the most useless ways to spend your energy. Unless you write it down on a blog or capitalise on it or use it as fuel to express yourself through other creative outlets, in which case you can be relatable, earn something, or it can be cathartic. With that being said, perfectionism should be kept within limits, otherwise it becomes a sad quest.

After emerging with more self-knowledge regarding what fulfils me, plans have crystallised, but I need to maintain a healthy self-discipline in areas that are essential to my functioning and leading to a more substantial well-being rather than dopamine rewards. Building self-discipline is a challenge for most, and I’m the type of person who has always been most driven by spontaneous bursts of energy and motivation and outpourings of inspiration more than consistency and routine. I’m naturally inclined towards having a whimsical rather than methodical approach to life, with a lifestyle that may seem chaotic to some, though I can adapt and push myself to add order to chaos. I plan daily routines, but I sometimes end up doing what feels best ultimately, if I can afford to. This has worked for me creatively, in the past, but it’s not a viable or sustainable option as I age and have more responsibilities. I believe personality is a fluid thing, and thus I can adapt to something different and more efficient, but it takes a lot of deliberate effort to change something that has become ingrained in your being. I’m on the right track, though, because I’m getting into the habit of being more productive even when I’m not feeling at my 100 percent.

I want to put myself in the way of beauty and in the way of inspiration and of good things happening, even when my willpower is somewhat tentative- as opposed to resorting to taking the easy way out, or prioritising self-indulgence in the form of distractions, of whatever nature, and yielding to unproductive mental traps that get me stuck, creatively or otherwise. “Everything in moderation, including moderation” as Wilde said. Also, although focusing on materialising plans is necessary, it should be noted that this will definitely not be achieved by obsessing and thinking about the future, but by living in the now and taking steps towards tangible results- even small steps make a contribution. You’d think this should be obvious, but my brain often begs to differ for some reason. Obsessing over things and slipping into problems with self-discipline used to be my Achilles’ heel, but it’s something that I’ve focused on altering and dedication truly helps you forge new neural pathways. On another note, doing good deeds has a very uplifting power and effect for me. So does inspiring someone, either through my words or activity. I used to receive personal, touching messages online, in which people mentioned how I posted, wrote, or quoted the right things at the right times for them to see or read and how they’ve been inspired or helped by posts and that makes me smile. I like influencing and inspiring people, and this realisation has made me reconsider the appeal of certain paths to me.

I should probably nurture my dual & complicated relationship with vulnerability. I know better than to associate vulnerability with weakness, I know it can be empowering and unifying and brave, and yet, I find it so unnatural to open up entirely, I always have, partly because I don’t want to put myself in the position of allowing others to have full access to everything I am, partly because I don’t know how to convey things in an ideal way that makes me feel satisfied because I haven’t figured everything out but also partly because I’m at a point where I need to prioritise other things and don’t feel like I need to make many connections in order to be content. I’m also someone who doesn’t need constant contact to validate a friendship and actually in my book giving each other space and allowing yourselves to fall back into place and reach out to each other whenever you both need or feel propelled to is a love language. Also, it’s quite rare for me to fully resonate with another person so whenever it happens, when everything just flows and feels right I often feel this compulsion to protect it, and worry that there will come a moment when I might say or do something that alienates them, which triggers an uncharacteristic fear of abandonment. There are psychological shadows that I still need to integrate. I think it’s not uncommon, I think a lot of people curate their thoughts and feelings to express mostly positive or flattering ones, especially online. Within the context of a relationship, ironically, not wanting to give all of you can be considered a fear in itself, of sacrificing, of being tamed, subdued, sucked into, or simply, too dependent or entangled with someone else. Actually, I used to be quite the opposite in the sense that I felt like sharing many thoughts with others, I poured my mind and heart out. I still kind of do that, yet, on another level, perhaps emotionally, I’ve never fully given myself, in a way. At least I never feel like I do or that it’s beneficial. It’s also partly because we are all made of multitudes. Even though, in theory, I acknowledge that when you connect and give love (platonic, romantic, or of whatever nature), in a way, there is strength in putting yourself on that path, no matter what happens. But what happens if you become so enmeshed that you forget where you stop and the other begins? What happens when someone doesn’t act the way you expect him or her to? What happens when someone changes?

What else am I still in the process of learning? Learning to let go. Of detrimental or fruitless thought patterns, of the burden of roles other people may cast me in through assumptions or expectations because sometimes I’m not easy to read and other times I’m pretty straightforward and transparent, letting go of my own expectations from everyone in favour of focusing on whomever resonates with me and I resonate with, of unnecessary prohibitions and restraints uttered by a part of my psyche that I keep silencing, instead of reconciling with or making sense of in order to change it.

A poem: Freesia girl

I am intoxicated
with the saccharine mystery
in your warm gaze,
your sylph-like appearance-
a misty dream haunting
idyllic paths
inexorably, I find myself
in the same spot
under the tree archway
as much as I try to escape
how sweet-
sickeningly sweet-
my suffering,
the uncanny feeling of being
hypnotised to return,
to haunt and be haunted
I feel masochistic urges
to re-enact scenes of
long-lost delights
of the senses
delicately,
then vigorously
wistfully all along
You never wither,
I decay in the scent
of nostalgia.

Life observations and tips on how to pass through life with awareness

– Empowered people contribute to the empowerment of those around them.
– Avoid judging things at surface level. You need to dig a few layers deeper without closing your eyes when you find treasure rooms or catacombs. On the surface, you might be trapped in a Fata Morgana.
– It’s true that high expectations often lead to disillusionment with the world; however, as long as you don’t let yourself be disillusioned with your self, high expectations can be used as fuel to build and improve your life.
– Falsity contaminates. Authenticity inspires; it’s contagious, enveloped in light, and arouses kindness. Its adepts are a dying breed, so value them.
– We all have both light and darkness within us. Some will see the angelic, others the devilish, and such judgements are partly reflections of the watcher. I wouldn’t say you should never see yourself through the eyes of another as that could inhibit empathy and diminish your humanity, or simply prevent positive things from happening- instead, be selective of the eyes you borrow, why, and when…
– …and whatever you do, never lose your own vision, lest you be swallowed by the mouth of the world and become a watered-down version of yourself.
– Sometimes you won’t know if something is right or wrong for you until you try it. If you realise it feels wrong, give up. If it feels right, carry on, regardless of external views. Not all compasses for life navigation reveal the same directions.
– Your beliefs, perspective on, or perceptions of many subjects will shift over time. This can manifest in your response to and interpretations of the world around you, which can, in turn, re-shape your world.
– You should create your life, not just react to it. Relinquish fatalistic views.

– Don’t fall into toxic ego traps.
– As you age, years start flying by in a blink. I’m young, and I already feel life slipping away so quickly. Don’t live in the past and don’t spend too much time lamenting the death of past moments or things that are out of your control.
– Don’t become complacent. If you ever feel ‘there is more to life than this’, whether you’re thinking of your job, lifestyle, or experiences, you are probably right. Explore and feel new things, pump up your dopamine and adrenaline levels. Take risks, but have a safety net.
Embrace who you are. Maybe in your adolescence and your twenties that’s a meaningless or elusive statement since you’re constantly learning new things, going through changes, growing as a person. Well, hopefully your whole life will consist of that. But embracing yourself encompasses that fluidity too, it means giving yourself a break, recognising all aspects of yourself and accepting them (if they’re not harmful or toxic). It’s okay to cultivate happy thoughts and it’s okay to be cynical sometimes. It’s okay to be funny and it’s okay to be serious. Intense and light-hearted and giggly. Sociable and reserved. Impulsive or stoic. It’s okay to explore your provocative side and it’s also okay to be timid.  To see yourself as a collection of thoughts and memories. To be made of many things, without any single aspect defining you by itself. It’s okay to be real.

Cognitive biases

Many people live their lives jumping from one cognitive bias to another, with a reluctance to delve deeper or look beyond. They see what they want, they perceive things, events, and people around them in a light that reinforces what they already think or fear of the world or hope the world to be like, and often in a one-dimensional way. This can range from something superficial like snap judgements and the famous halo effect -for instance seeing an attractive person and automatically, sometimes unconsciously attributing them other good traits like being good-natured or intelligent (although there is also the reverse effect, in which people associate some positive assessments with negative personality traits), from the Barnum effect with practices like astrology and certain personality tests, to having confirmation biases such as unsubstantiated interpretations of ambiguous events and situations which fit some pre-existing beliefs or the illusory correlation of behaviours or events. People also tend to have selective, biased memories, often more likely to remember emotionally-charged events more vividly and subjectively. They often have a filter through which all information and their perception of reality goes, which reaffirms some values they hang onto and – sometimes unwisely- attach their sense of self and their interpretation of others to.

 

This may seem like an effective and useful self-defence mechanism in many cases, because it means you can always stick to your own little bubble, never having to confront points of view which don’t match your own and which will make you contemplate and potentially doubt the beliefs that you’ve relied on for a long time. However, this approach to life is pretty clearly a double-edged sword. It can often prove to be delusion-inducing, divisive, and toxic as it prevents genuine connection among people and can even turn everything into a -sometimes subtle and insidious- war of ideas, with every person being uncompromising and unwilling to let their guard down and be open or receptive. This war is not always transparent or even vocalised, it can be silent, low-key, as well as appearing disguised as something else-i.e. power trips – because of feelings of repression and the fear or rejection of the unpredictable and the unknown. Things get particularly problematic when the subject concerned is something of importance to people, something related to someone’s core beliefs or nature such as views on life purposes, career choices, relationships, kids, religion, etc.

 

What would be the solution then? To judge appearances and only hang out with those who never challenge any of your beliefs? This scenario is quite problematic and actually impossible unless you only seek superficial connections and you’re not truly connected with others- because otherwise, you will most likely never be on the same page with anyone else entirely. Whether that’s a partner, friend, acquaintance, family member, there will always be a situation in which your views on some subject diverge. Because everyone has had unique experiences which shaped them differently. If you’re lucky, one of you will be more diplomatic about it and drop their view to prevent reaching a point where you’ll be pulling each other’s hair out. But is it such a good thing? Always relinquishing one’s standpoint in order to stay away from any semblance of confrontation is not a long-term, or constructive tactic, because it doesn’t stimulate change or self-development and doesn’t really benefit anyone in the long run. It normally only provides moments of relief and passing through life as lightly as possible- although even that depends on what the voice of your ego says.

 

I anticipate what one might think: maybe that’s all you want sometimes, moments of relief and bliss. Choosing your battles seems like sensible advice, after all, doesn’t it?  Indeed, and in the end you will inevitably also weigh how much you value the opinion and judgement of the other, as well as how much you value your own opinion, how important it is to you; if you decide it’s a matter of significance and, simultaneously, that it’s a person whose opinion matters to you, and you can’t just brush things off, then you need to be aware of how you tackle the subject, don’t try to make it seem like you’re imposing your perception of reality on someone else. People might be less inclined or willing to digest and properly, openly process information communicated with an ostentatious holier-than-thou attitude. Even though you may find it difficult to act in an emotionally intelligent way if it’s a subject you feel strongly about, like an ingrained belief, it’s not impossible. Promote acceptance by embodying an accepting and open approach to the world around you. Sometimes this implies accepting that people have different opinions, some of which you may view as wrong; other times the best approach is to educate, where there is ignorance. The more you get to know yourself and others, the easier it will be to know when to be assertively relentless in your convictions, and when to let go.

 

The key is to aim towards becoming the best versions of our selves. Let’s be aware of our cognitive biases and not trust them blindly, let’s be open-minded and non-judgemental and non-dismissive towards other perceptions of reality. Let’s build bridges. Let’s do this whilst still being authentic and true to ourselves and to our own core system of values, but also true to the people around us. Let’s choose understanding first and foremost, which ultimately leads to happiness anyway, and let’s defy the narcissistic tendency of our contemporary society by practising empathy and fulfilling self-interests simultaneously, rather than treating them as mutually exclusive.

 

 

 

 

A poem: Polarising

You were polarising-
in so many ways,
your vibe confused the hell out of me
and the ambivalence made me
uncomfortable;
I met you at a time when
I didn’t know the best things in life
are somewhat polarising,
they tend to be transformative,
with their stimulating powers
I liked transparency, I still do,
but you had authenticity,
your polarising effect was
not a play, not intentional and
definitely not ill-intentioned
it was pure and unfiltered and yet,
despite your genuine madness,
a friendship couldn’t survive
Now it’s far too late,
And, albeit more mature than back then and
still sticking to openly blissful patterns,
I’m also tinged with jadedness
in the human relations sector

Review: Laura Makabresku’s dark fairy tales

Polish self-taught fine art photographer Kamila Kansy, known as Laura Makabresku, draws inspiration from her deep, intimate connection to her native land – which she perceives as a mysterious realm of sinister fairy tales, in order to design a tragic world revolving around death, obscure eroticism, suffering, and human frailty. The suggestive name of her artistic identity conjures up the darkness portrayed in her haunting photographs which seem to reflect the Freudian uncanny through their eerie and strangely familiar quality.

Stepping away from digital cameras, she embraces the analogue practice with a soft painterly style with dark undertones. To create a gloomy, glacial, and morbid atmosphere, the colours used are often desaturated dark blue and green and the photographs are intentionally underexposed. Some photographs adopt the technique of superimposition to achieve a ghostly aesthetic and induce the impression that there is always something morbid looming within the frame – a dormant presence about to be unleashed.

The distinctive imagery depicting Laura Makabresku’s artistic world can be compared to a dream: it has multiple layers, inviting the observer to begin an internal exploration. Her pictures should not only be admired aesthetically, but also felt from within. The shots are like collections of impulses, raw emotions, objects filled with hidden symbolism displayed in a beautifully chaotic, surreal manner which often involves strikingly unexpected combinations of elements such as dead animals, naked bodies, blood, knives, ants amplified in size, ravens pictured indoors, and human bodies with animal masks. The uncanny is ever present in this artistic realm: from dead birds coming out of the mouth of a woman collapsed on the autumnal earth, a naked body covered in moss, guarded by a mysterious fox, a sorrowful girl’s languid body enveloped by a goat’s hide, a pensive woman touching a bowl filled with blood, upon which a little bird rests, a touching portrait of a girl embracing a fox in a glass coffin, eyes covered by pressed flowers or positioned dangerously close to a raven. All of her entrancing visual creations are filled with lyricism. In addition to these transparent motifs and compositions, the uncanny also lies in the homely atmosphere of the photographs, as well as the strange aesthetic quality reminiscent of macabre fairy tales.

Influenced by Francesca Woodman, her black and white portraits of the naked female body convey a duality between the calm, beautiful, graceful vulnerability and simplicity of the nude body sight and the undertones of death, darkness, emptiness, isolation, and dark sexuality. Through self-portraits, she embraces her fears and anguish and explores themes like autopsy, witchcraft, love, and a deep connection with animals, mortality, and the evil that lurks within her. The universe she creates makes the viewers look within and be inspired to embrace their own dark instincts and fantasies.