Did Albert Einstein attempt to synthesise, at least through his writings, the two aspects of intelligence, as this painting suggests?
I was recently advised by doctors that I should take statins to lower my blood cholesterol reading. The statins lowered my reading quickly to half what it was before. Originally it was 8, then 7 after trialling diet and exercise for a short time, but it went down to 4 when on the drugs. The problem was that I developed jaw and neck problems that sent me off to an endodontist to see if I required gum or root canal surgery. There was nothing wrong with my teeth at the time.
Several general practitioners and a cardiologist, who was carrying out tests on me, recommended a minimal amount of a statin, combined with a low-fat diet and heart vitamins. Even with the low-level statin, the side-effects occurred once again. And I have been following a low-fat diet for most of my adult life.
The problem with a high cholesterol reading seemed to me to be genetic. My paternal grandmother had “hardened arteries” as did, possibly, my father. But both of them died from a stroke, linked to stress and diet, not from a heart attack.
Next I looked at the research that had been carried out, and I saw that the main conclusions were relevant to people who had experienced a first heart attack. This happened to one of my friends after she went off the statins, and it scared me. It seemed that statins did nothing that could be proven to assist healthy people like me at my stage of life. My blood pressure has always responded to a minimal amount of medication, and I have had a low pulse reading, suggesting an active lifestyle. Blood pressure measures have usually been excellent, but I’m responsive to the “white coat syndrome”, that is, some doctors tend to get a high bottom figure—diastolic—reading when taking it. Because of this, I have recently purchased my own blood pressure measuring device.
The peer review findings on cholesterol and saturated fats as being the enemy to normal cholesterol readings, had been carried out in a couple of villages in Scotland and Wales. A British doctor, Malcolm Kendrick, has published a book entitled Doctoring Data, criticising the objectivity and validity of the findings. He claims that the peer review process in the Welsh research was fallible, and that there were too many variables that should have been considered. Furthermore, he points out that the bar for a healthy cholesterol measure has been lowered in recent times, so that what was once slightly elevated is now seen as life-threatening. However the evidence in favour of the use of statins is impressive for high risk individuals.
An interesting observation that Kendrick dragged up caught my attention: the French diet contains a high level of saturated fats, and yet the cholesterol levels of the French population are just above average. See The French Paradox. As a young woman, I spent four years in France, and I was impressed by the food in France and the way it was produced and served. I saw that the French diet was very different from the Australian one and vastly different from American fast foods and eating habits. The French savoured their food, which was fresh and pure; families sat down together and conversed at meal times, and dishes were served and consumed slowly over a long period of time. See this article on the comparative coronary heart disease (CHD) situation in different countries.
But it got me thinking in the direction of natural, pure foods versus carbohydrate-rich, sugar-loaded choices that we are offered in our large supermarkets here. Could the culprits be sugar, and other refined products, rather than fat, that are doing the damage? I glanced at some of the low-fat options that I had been buying, and was astonished at the hidden sugar found in many of them! I had to use a magnifying glass to read the levels on the packaging.
So then, I was back to the drawing board. I’d been led to believe that all I needed to do was to follow a low-fat diet in order to stay healthy. Even cardiologists were saying this this. But low-fat milk has quite high levels of sugar. When people eat a food containing carbohydrates, the digestive system breaks down the digestible ones into sugar, which enters the blood. Lowering the amount of carbohydrates in the diet could have a huge effect on the body and on physical health.
I went off the statins and managed to lower my cholesterol readings by going on a high fat/ low carboydrate diet instead. I found a wonderful GP who directed me to research and to follow what is known as a Ketogenic regime, which recommends fats, fish, meat, vegetables, dairy and nuts, and to cut out, or lower, carbohydrates and low-fat products.
I lost several kilos of weight on this regime, and my cholesterol reading went way down. The only negative that I can see so far, is that my hair has thinned out, which could be a result of losing weight. Could it be that the cholesterol was good for hair growth?
Fear, like pain, is often a good thing. It’s normal to be afraid of dangerous creatures, such as funnel web spiders. It’s only when fear is out of proportion, and gets in the way of life and living, that it becomes a negative emotion.
Some people are afraid of all insects, and all spiders. Even a spider behind glass, a dead spider, is an object of terror for them. This is called a phobia. I had a huntsman spider (fortunately not a funnel-web) run up and down my legs and thighs recently when taking in the washing, and I remained calm, partly for my young grandson’s sake, who was nearby at the time.
However, having to walk into a room full of people I don’t know is still anxiety provoking for me. What is it about social phobia that is so hard to overcome? For some people it reaches a level that is pathological. Sixty percent of people who stutter avoid speaking and become socially phobic as a result of their fear of having to communicate. This is akin to a mental illness; the stutterer’s life is limited by this fear of communicating verbally.
It is avoidance that is often central to phobias. Cognitive behaviour therapists in this country have many strategies to assist sufferers. These often include gentle, continued exposure to the source of fear over time, whether it be flying, socialising, making speeches, or asking questions in group situations.
A very recent perspective on phobias is to link them all to the underlying fear of death. See this interesting conversation on this topic at http://theconversation.com/fear-of-death-underlies-most-of-our-phobias-57057
Cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) is the preferred approach today for tackling phobias in this country. Medication, combined with talk therapy, for cases of anxiety and clinical depression has superseded the widespread use of psychoanalysis compared to before. Powerful drugs are available for serious mental illnesses, such as bipolar and schizophrenia, almost untreatable by doctors in the past. However, many personality disorders are resistant to today’s CBT approaches. Sufferers might benefit more from a return to an in-depth psychoanalytical type approach.
There are so many things to fear in life. And so many diverse sources of fear for different people. Shyness in childhood may be a symptom of anxiety in young children. It’s quite common between the ages of four and seven. But some of us get stuck at around that age—often through traumatic past events—and are left with residual fear and anxiety that can develop into social phobia later on. This is more likely to happen in adolescence, when hormones are swirling around in the body and mind.
I remember being terribly afraid of the dark when I was little. Once I woke up screaming about a dark shape underneath the bed. Dad came running in. He flashed a torch under my bed. But it didn’t help, as it gave credence to my fears. What would have helped would have been if he’d let me climb into bed between him and Mum. I know that it’s not always easy for parents to do that, as they need their space, too. It meant that I had to find a surrogate to snuggle up to in bed, which in my case was my brother, Donny.
Later on, I was afraid of going to the dentist. But I’ve learnt, through relaxation and meditation, to overcome that as an adult. It took longer to overcome a fear of flying, but in the end I succeeded there too. Fear of giving speeches in front of a large audience is a common fear worse than death for many people. I also suffered from this, despite having been a teacher for many years.
The DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) has opted for the name “social anxiety” rather than “phobia”, as it is more inclusive of diverse conditions. More experienced psychologists in Australia use this manual only as a guide to classifying emotional disorders. People with acute social phobia believe they are being watched and judged by others. Some become so fearful that they avoid all social interaction by staying indoors.
These days some therapists use “energy” or “spiritually” based methods that are often very effective. And “mindfulness meditation”, denuded of its Buddhist religious base, is also recommended by psychiatrists and psychologists today. I have found meditation to be one of the best methods that exists to overcome or to lesson fear-based issues and generalised anxiety.
I had, for a long while, been addicted to self development. It was like peeling onion layers; more were always waiting for you to deal with. But I was determined to recover from the effects of crippling emotional baggage I’d carried since childhood.
I’d felt an outsider most of my life, especially at school, even though there were times when I was popular. I rarely felt happy inside, even though I had a smile on my face much of the time. It started in early childhood. I wasn’t as bright as my older brother and younger sister; I wasn’t as pretty as my two younger sisters. Mum didn’t actually say the words, but when she talked, and she talked a lot, I read between the lines: ‘He’s a genius… she’s pretty…’ etc etc.
There was more to it than that, there always is… But I grew up believing I was unworthy: stupid, ugly. It was all untrue and I couldn’t shake it off as I grew. I believed it at my core.
The change in me started around the time leading up to, and immediately after, my father’s stroke.
It would take a long time, and much inner work on my part, to rid me of the bad feelings I carried about myself.
Most people don’t admit to being afraid; this refers especially to men. This is one of the reasons for denial and stigmatising of mental illness. Showing vulnerable feelings is shameful in many people’s eyes. But everyone is fearful at certain times in life.
Someone once said to me: “Tell me what you are afraid of, and I will tell you who you are.” He was very good at knowing, being a psychic.
One of my school friends was afraid of birds, for example, which, according to my psychic, is a sign of fearing “the other side”. This accords well with the arbitrary nature of many phobias, which are not linked to actual events in a person’s current or early life. Some of the members of my original family were extremely afraid of frogs. These harmless creatures were all around us on the farm, and they evoked extreme fear in the female members of the extended family, in spite of their never being known to hurt anyone.
For a long time I was afraid to show my writing to others. Like a lot of writers, who tend to be sensitive souls, I preferred to immerse myself in the written word, rather than “leading from the mouth”. One or two rejections or unkind words, were enough to stop me from trying to get published. Joining a writing group marked my first breakthrough moment. Members of this group—part of the Fellowship of Australian Writers—gave me the ability to give and receive feedback in a safe and supportive setting.
One day I asked how many of my group were writing in order to be published. I was surprised to learn that they all, without exception, wanted to be published.
They all agreed, of course, that the basic impetus for good writing is passion. That is, you write because you really want to, and love to, not because you want to get published. Otherwise, your writing will probably not be good enough to be published in any case.
And trying to be published has not always been easy for many of us. In order to get published you needed an agent, and in order to find an agent, you needed to be published in some form or other! It was a case of the ubiquitous vicious circle. That is why it’s an exciting time for writers today. A Strategic Book Publisher sums it up: “With ebooks and Kindle and m-books for mobile phones around the world, it’s a great time to be an author and a publisher. We hope to convey that enthusiasm to the world.”
Of course, quality needs to be maintained as well as publishing facility, and that’s where editors and reviewers come into the picture.
Where does my extreme fear of rejection come from? I know I’m a good writer, so why have I not put myself out there in book published form? It is easier to avoid the discomfort of pushing through the fear, rather than to face up to it and expose yourself to rejection.
I think the answer to feelings of shame and fear of rejection, lies in past events, so long ago that many of us prefer to ignore them and to not go there.
I am reading a book now about mothers and daughters: the ubiquitous story of fraught mother/daughter relationships. We all need to feel that sense of being loved, and of being valued for who we are.
However, surely this security can come from surrogates, or even from oneself, if you have missed out on it a long way back.
In any case, somewhere therein lies my own story, and I owe it to myself, and to my writing, to find the strength to overcome this fear.
Read or listen to Guy Winch on early rejection and emotional problems.