Job snobbery – is success materialistic?

Author and philosopher, Alain De Botton’s Ted Talk on A Kinder, Gentler Philosophy Of Success, believes that today’s society has reached a critical point in where our careers dominate our lives so much that we have created more stress and anxiety than ever before and must be acknowledged. He gives a witty anecdotal talk, highlighting a few ideas of what causes this anxiety and that we may have very well become culturally consumed with the ‘god of success’. 
The first thought is job snobbery, the mentality that your job defines who you are to those around you. If we walk into a social gathering, the first thing one generally yet naturally ask is “what do you do”? Alluding to – what is your status? what brand do you work for? Depending on what you are doing, you have a well phrased out answer as you will be sized up, judged instantly based on what you say about your career.
De Botton continues on this line of thinking and touches on materialism. Simply that one attaining success means also showing off what you have, like a hot new red Ferrari. He quickly dismisses that those who place success in material consumption as merely an outlet for satisfying or rewarding themselves for an emotional need, possibly fill an emptiness inside of themselves, making themselves feel more valued or “loved”. The media nowadays portrays that if anyone has a real cool idea, you can be successful. The issue with that is, Alain observes, if everyone believed they can equally achieve their dream of ultimate success, low self esteem will exist alongside.
Platforms like Kickstarter an online business website, creates an opportunity to sell your idea or even yourself and gets people to back you so you can essentially get famous and rich, and quickly thus fulfil your dream. Because of how we are informed that you can do anything, this “equal opportunity” can be misconstrued and give a warped sense of motivation and drive for success. Because of this sense of equality it can also bring an unhealthy attitude like envy which of course is not a positive motivator at all long term. 
It is also possible that your initial intentions of wanting to be successful were genuine. It’s in our nature to genuinely want to achieve, improve or build and desire more and explore. There is natural and definitely healthy creativity in all of us. True success, designed by your own hand is worth much more, a well worth price to pay even if you fail, that you really did your best. Your idea could be just as crazy but as you understand that you leave this world one day being true to yourself with no regrets influencing those around you. You would exemplify ethical, loyalty, nobility, equaling true success.
A kinder, gentler philosophy of success

Experience vs. Memory – How your mind trims your happiness

By Linnea Gannon
The Riddle of experience is based on two selves, the experiencing self and the remembering self. To make a clear distinction between the two selves the experience/present self is preset in our conscious life but does not store all information we process; as we cannot remember every moment of our lives. Instead we remember significant or memorable moment due to the Remembering self. The remembering’s self though not seemingly continually present keeps score of our life with specific memories stored. This is collated to create our life story.

The experiencing and remembering self work together as Mr Kahneman shows in this Ted talk with diagrams that depict patients’ real time experience versus what they remember after a procedure. 

Patient A had two spikes of pain but Patient B had more recorded pain over time. Patient B had the most amount of experienced pain, however patient A had a more painful remembering self as the last register of pain for Patient A was higher than that of patient B. The remembering self is more complex than the experiencing self as it tells the story of our life and it makes our decisions. While we look back to make decisions we also have to look to our future to our ‘anticipated memory’.
The two selves, due to their complexity are hindered by three cognitive traps. Firstly the human reluctance to understand the complexity of happiness; it is the over usage/simplification of words like happiness that have led to the term being un-descriptive and needing a more complex word to explain happiness. Secondly is our confusion between experience and memory of our two selves. The experience self is being happy with what you are doing in life, but the memory self is questioning if you are happy with your life? These are two distinct questions that are easily confused for asking one in the same thing. There is a low correlation between happiness for the two selves they must be distinguished separately. Thirdly is the focusing illusion; we distorted a situation so both the experience and remembering self are not given representative information to form a clear emotion on the experience or later the memory.
A further strength of this argument for the two selves being divergent is that Mr. Kahneman explained through the Gallup Survey how happiness for the remembering self could vary due to income. Where as the experiencing self there is a “flat line” suggesting that money does not have a great effect on ‘happiness’ to the experience self compare to the remembering self.” He says “Money does not buy you experience happiness but lack of money certainly buys you misery. “
The riddle of experience vs. memory

Pop Stress

What if someone told you that stress is a good thing? Stress can build your self esteem, and sharpen your character and make you successful. Over the years in her practice as a health psychologist , Kelly McGonigal has promoted that stress is an enemy to be fought against in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Today, ten years later, in her milestone TedGlobal Talk on How to Make Stress Your Friend, Kelly admits that she was completely wrong all this time.
She realised that one’s belief that if stress is a good thing, it changes your physical and mental state thus allowing you to live longer. How is that possible? During a 8 year research in the U.S. following a group of 30,000 people on how they deal with stress including death from stress, 182,000 people had died prematurely not from stress but from the belief that stress was bad for you. That study also showed that one group of people who chose to believe stress was positive, tests showed their heart vessels would reflect a state that emanated joy and courage.
“TAKE AWAYS: First, change your mindset in order to experience stress as your body’s way to prepare you for the challenge. Second, help and care for others in order to manage the risk of death due to stress.”
Furthermore, though you often encounter your adrenaline running high under stress, your body also releases oxytocin, known as the love hormone. With both your adrenalin and oxytocin running not only would you be elevating your life’s perspective, taking on a different path, you want to do anything and everything in your power to achieve the best and stress becomes a more pleasant and enjoyable experience. Choosing to understand and accept stress as a friend rather than a foe will change your approach to everyone in your life and in everything you do. You would then welcome any thing that came your way as an opportunity, exert a new found excitement of new possibilities and take you to live a life of success, whatever that may mean to you.
Kelly also refers to another study which found that major crisis events have no significant impact on the risk of death due to stress for people who are involved in activities around caring and helping others. Once again we seem to find evidence that self-awareness of body and mind and the subsequent change of mental and physical strategies within ourselves – applying kindness and compassion amongst others – are key to well-being and longevity.

Tropical Depression

Inside the airport express you still felt refreshed und summery – motivated again to attack work, restart your workout routine and reanimate your social life. Then the disenchantment hit you. The moment you stepped outdoors, the heat and humidity coated you like a heavy fur. Pollution levels at 10 “very high” colour the sky yellow. Here we call it “haze”. The jackhammers in your street remind you that you better be vibrant. Everything in your apartment is hot. Hot glasses, hot plates hot walls. Hot water comes out of your tap no matter which way. And when the cockroaches fly … Wondering why you feel a bit low? A bit much low maybe? 

Coming back to the city after a vacation or a longer break is a challenge for most people I know and I work with. And quite a few develop a depressed mood and bring it up with me as they see this getting in the way of their well-being and performance.

“Hot town, summer in the city, back of neck getting dirty and gritty
Been down, isn’t it a pity, doesn’t seem to be a shadow in the city
All around, people looking half dead
Walking on the sidewalk hotter than a match head …”

Summer in the City by The Lovin’ Spoonful – John Sebastian, Mark Sebastian, Steve Boone. 1966

One of the main reasons we can give for the shock of re-entry is the sudden and extreme change of climate for most who come back from other continents. Heat and humidity are hard to deal with when you found yourself cycling through Hyde Park with a fleece on or had a pint under a mushroom heater on Pony Island just a day before. Of course coming back from leisurely activities, fresh air and your own holiday swing to find yourself back at work and duty does not help your mood. Neither do commuting and rushing for lunch. The downward trend of your sentiment often amplified by the accelerated pace of this place. It’s likely some of your favourite eateries, bars and shops are gone and replaced or under construction.

But then again one more aspect is often overlooked: The emotional baggage that you have brought back with you. It did not show up as weight at the checkin counter, but surely can weigh heavy on you now that you have unpacked and washed all the other dirty laundry. Maybe you come back from a family visit, an alumni gathering or just met some friends or even strangers. It is likely that you have witnessed age and ageing including your’s. It is likely that you had time to reflect on life or were forced to do so by places, people and situations. It is also likely that each time you travel you gain more insight, more maturity and more perspective – not always in a good way.

Inside the airport express you still felt refreshed und summery – motivated again to attack work, restart your workout routine and reanimate your social life. Then the disenchantment hit you. The moment you stepped outdoors, the heat and humidity coated you like a heavy fur. Pollution levels at 10 “very high” colour the sky yellow. Here we call it “haze”. The jackhammers in your street remind you that you better be vibrant. Everything in your apartment is hot. Hot glasses, hot plates hot walls. Hot water comes out of your tap no matter which way. And when the cockroaches fly … Wondering why you feel a bit low? A bit much low maybe?

Your checked-in baggage of sadness and grief, anger and frustration as well as self-pity and apprehension waits for you at the conveyor belt on arrival at our Mos Eisley-like fragrant harbour. Tropical depression gets to you when you have been traveling without acceptance and self-love.

The Urban Epidemic: Stress in Hong Kong

Part II  – Unwinding the daily grind 
There is no miracle shortcut way to combat stress in the city. We all know we’re trapped in the daily grind, but we have to break that monotomous cycle! Make time (not find it) for simple activities that will make a positive difference to your life. Lifestyle changes such as:

  1. going to bed earlier
  2. eating a balanced diet
  3. going on holiday instead of accumulating your statutory holidays
  4. regular breaks like 20 minute naps or split shifts

Managing your time and seeking professional help are great ways to do start. I recently read a friend’s insight into Harvard Psychologist Ellen Langer’s encapsulation of stress. The mind-body unit theory explains that much of how we feel and behave is dependent on our perception of the context around us. The mind has a lot more control over the body than we realise, and we should embrace this thought, use it to our advantage.

    Give your mind a different perspective to get it thinking outside your usual box:

    • take a different route to work – when was the last you took the star ferry or tram?
    • reading a book – i.e. Alain DeBotton (2016). The Course of Love.
    • visit an exhibition nearby – you’d be surprised how many pop up in Hong Kong

    Its safe to say many of us in Hong Kong are quite mindless, we’re on autopilot a lot. Mindfulness (becoming aware or ‘mindful’ of our context) allows us to climb out of our rigid mindsets to focus on processes and approach the world freshly. We’re taught to streamline our attention away from distractions to tackle problems rapidly and mindlessly to get them ‘done and dusted’.
    However, here’s some food for thought from Langer: Distractions, when approached with the right frame of mind, are sources of opportunity. So the next time you think; I need to get this pile of assignments done over the next weeks or months before I can get that pay rise or promotion, there may be a bubble of opportunity in that distraction that’s always in your head. Example, 3M made a glue that could only adhere for a short amount of time. Instead of putting it in the trash pile and spearheading into their aim of making a super adhesive glue, they used it to make one of their greatest successes: the post-it note. 
    If you’re one to break that rigid cycle, this article makes a fantastic and entertaining read (with obvious benefits to our mind and soul):
    Alice Pearce is a Final year Psychologist at Durham University. She wrote this because growing up in HK and studying in the UK has made her realise how big the gap is between Asia and the West in psychological and educational understanding

    The Urban Epidemic: Stress in Hong Kong

    Part I – High-pressure work culture
    Stress is all too common in our lives, especially for those of us living the busy city life. The hectic Hong Kong lifestyle drains our time to cope with stress. According to the Census and Statistics Department, Hong Kong people work a massive 600 hours MORE per annum than other developed countries, with many working uncompensated overtime hours.

    It’s no wonder Hong Kong is Asia’s stressed-out city.

    The need for money in this expensive city, fierce workplace competition and social expectations about work and laziness often encourage many of us to stay silent over the large workloads handed to us. Work and familial responsibilities, time pressures and information overload also contribute to burden placed on Hong Kong’s work force. 
    Unfortunately, this high-pressure work culture has transcended to our children and youth who are handed high academic expectations by teachers and parents from a young age. From a mental health and developmental perspective, the local education system needs to become laxer, to allow young children time to play, explore and socialize, rather than placing them on an academic production line.
    Drawing from my own experiences, my two years in a local kindergarten was (personally) not ideal. We had homework every day, and regular assessments. School life was strictly regimented and hugely conformist. When I attended an international primary school afterwards, it was a complete turnaround: we played in the sand and water, did lots of art, show and tell, stories.

    Two educational approaches: ordered and academically focused versus explorative and creative with less boundaries

    Of course, back in the kindergarten we did have fun music classes and fun breaktimes. However, the educational approach was completely different, one was ordered and academically focused whilst the other was explorative and creative with less academic boundaries, with the former possibly stunting rather than enhancing myself. When this burdened young generation grows up, they are channeled into the same philosophy of work and achievement for years ahead, and may collect a buildup of so much stress that it becomes chronic, which affects the immune system and leads to many physical ailments.
    Alice Pearce is a Final year Psychologist at Durham University. She wrote this because growing up in HK and studying in the UK has made her realise how big the gap is between Asia and the West in psychological and educational understanding.

    Couples Counselling – Does it help?

    Most of the couples I work with do get better, because they develop a new skill set of communication. After a few sessions partners often start to find themselves to be much more attuned with each other. The reason being a deeper emotional understanding.

    It often happens that one of the partners is a little bit more keen to come to counselling than the other. I am there to balance both interests and to explore both views since we have two sides in each couple. Each partner having specific and individual backgrounds and behavioural patterns.

    The process of Emotion Focused Therapy for Couples (EFT) is structured in three stages. This evidence-based process of relationship and marriage counselling helps to develop step by step and is based on an easy-to-understand yet profound model of attachment theory.

    Once you have established the first and second stage through the therapy process it becomes much easier and likely to solve issues that in fact all couples will be facing one way or another throughout a lifetime.

    In the first stage I assess in depth where both partners get stuck, what their signature dance is when life becomes stressful or things get heated. Ultimately we need to find out together for each particular couple what hinders them from being happy and loving.

    The second stage is really to apply that knowledge and heighten awareness. I will guide each partner on how to best implement what they feel and do into their day to day lives. It is important that the couple becomes able to see and understand what is going on when they “dance” in their own dynamic in order to be able to move on.

    In the third stage the couple will be more and more able to fly alone and to use a true understanding for each other and a much deeper connection to address big life topics and issues. For example financial issues, a move or any other crisis. And of course having built or regained a strong positive and loving relationship for everyday life.

    My upcoming Events in Central Hong Kong

    Check out the upcoming events for ambitious people with limited time. 
    Increases attention and awareness helps us to be the way we want to be at work and with close ones. The focus training is 3-hr workshop to introduce you to simple practices and give answers to the most common challenges for your concentration, empathy and emotional balance. It’s meant to refresh your insight and understanding of how to train and maintain your attention throughout challenging days and long weeks.

    Learn how to use simple and effective concentration practices to benefit from increased awareness in your daily actions and interactions. Understand and apply insight for mental strength and emotional balance.
    Date: Saturday 4 June 2016
    Location: Central Hong Kong
    Facilitator: Sebastian Droesler
    Cost: HKD350.-
    Details & Registration: Just Focus

    This men’s group enables men who want to address issues and phases of their lives in a group of likeminded others. This is a great opportunity to experience the benefits of a closed group within a shorter timeframe. You will learn to reflect and engage with yourself and others in a much more effective and effcient way. The group will produce an in-depth richness of stories and experiences.

    Why purpose, feminine energy, nothingness and other men can inspire us and make us mad at times. How to resolve issues in relationships, at work and with yourself.
    4x Wednesdays 1, 8, 15, 22 June 2016
    Location: Central Hong Kong
    Facilitator: Sebastian Droesler
    Cost: HKD1600.-
    Details & Registration: Men’s Group

    Increased awareness and understanding of your ‘signature’ behaviour, perceptions and emotional responses in relationships helps us getting the love we want. This 3-hr workshop is for everyone who want to understand for her or himself the way he/she operates with partners or spouses. You will be able to find out how much power we have to change the way we interact. The chance to uproot fights and arguments fundamentally motivates each of us!

    Workshop for individuals and couples who want to get a basic understanding of their relationship ‘style’ and how they can change to improve their relationship skills. Based on the Emotion Focused Therapy approach.
    Date: Saturday 18 June 2016
    Location: Central Hong Kong
    Facilitator: Sebastian Droesler
    Cost: HKD400.-
    please contact Sebastian 

    Are you afraid of missing out?

    Let’s have a look into the Fear of Missing Out. It makes no sense to me. A client of mine recently wanted to sell the idea to me, that he is afraid of missing out. Curious of how this “fear” would affect him, I explored with him what his anxiety makes him do. And even more, what he is actually avoiding to do. Any anxiety dwells on avoidance. In oder to get to the core of your suffering, you need to find out what it is that you so strongly shy away from
    My client stuck to his view, that he was avoding to miss out on things. And here he lost me. Because there is a logical issue with missing out. Quite frankly we are all missing out on things all the time. That is the truth of life. Whatever you do at any moment in time is an expression of choices you made and the circumstances you are in. While you are doing one thing or nothing, you are not doing everything else.

    That brings up a more specific question: what do you think you are missing out on? My client said that he submerges in nightlife – going to bars and clubbing with friends – spending lots of cash on drinks. I wanted to know if the next morning he feels satisfied and congratulates himself for not having missed out, whenever he goes out. He said no.

    What did he avoid while going out? And what else was he probably gaining while “not missing out”? Apart from numbing himself with alcohol, loud music and shallow half-drunk talk, he shied away from experiencing and facing his fear. He did that so often and regularly, that he fixated himself into a habit. His excuse became that he did not want to miss out. 
    The fear is actually an excuse. It’s a convenient way of making yourself belief, that 

    • you can’t do things on your own
    • you are not allowed to enjoy staying at home
    • you can’t say NO to friends and colleagues
    • you don’t know what you need and want in this life
    • others are more impartant than you or their opinion of yours is

    It ultimately is your avoidance strategy to acknowledge that you have nothing better to do. And that would be very sad. The good news is, that this is not true. You do have better things to do. You just have to uncover them.
    The more you align these things with your values in life, the more you will become alive, confident, content and sexy. The more you will become YOU.

    Expats affected by anxiety and phobia

    In any given year around 20 percent of all expats around the world experience periods of some sort of anxiety disorder including panic attacks, PTSD, social anxiety, phobias, fear of intimacy and obsessive-compulsive behaviour. The expat lifestyle and working environment often comes with lots of change and uncertainty on top of performance pressure and high workloads. Many experience that the demand of things to handle exceeds their capacity to handle and process. They accrue stress. Accrued stress over time leads to anxiety.

    Anxiety is often an outcome of NOT dealing with stress. Suppressing or avoiding unpleasant thoughts and behaviours often lead to more stress. More stress leads to more anxiety.

    My work with you represents an integrated approach of strategies, education and step-by-step procedures. I apply Cognitive-Behavior Therapy (CBT) and Mindfulness. With anxiety and phobia in particular, you need to address all levels affected in your SELF: thinking, sensing, experiencing, doing, being and feeling.

    In order for you to succeed, we will look at your problem from all angles. This most likely encompasses your beliefs, standards, attitude, behaviour, self-image including esteem and confidence, relationships, personal and spiritual meaning, commitment and motivation.

    Ultimately my job is to help you explore and redefine your life with regard to how you want to live and what you want to achieve. Together we will put measures in place that enable you to reduce your avoidance and safety strategies. You will claim back freedom and happiness in your life. We will also identify the triggers and stimuli that cause fearful reactions and enable you to participate more in life safely and socially. Lastly we will mindfully change how you perceive and interpret your world. 
    You can expect from me to be a knowledgable teacher for relaxation, a skillful facilitator in mindfulness and a certified therapist with the experience and toolset to guide you through all interventions professionally and with dedication.