The title of this post isn’t meant to disparage a more serious mental condition, but it’s a good metaphor for my state of mind over the last few weeks. Plus by being called Al I’ve been able to weave it into irresistible puns based on that, and who doesn’t love a good pun?
I’ve been reading ‘Think less, live more’ by Richard Carlson. It’s not a particularly new book, it was first published in the 1990s and a colleague recommended it to me and I’ve been taking a lot from it. I’m only about 41% of the way through it according to my Books app, but it’s really helped me to put a framework around some of the things I’ve been grappling with myself.
To paraphrase its basic tenet (probably really badly) it outright states that your feelings are driven by your thoughts – and you have some degree of control of your thoughts, if you’re present enough to acknowledge them, recognise them and decide whether or not that type of thought is likely to fuel your happiness. I guess that kind of theory more recently would be badged as Mindfulness or Being Present. But I’m quite drawn to how Carlson achieves the same effect without feeling like you might have to bust out the buddhist bells and whack some joss sticks on.
As you can probably imagine, much of my thoughts have not been leading me toward happiness in recent times. When those negative thoughts surface now I’ve tried to learn to call them out to myself, to put them to one side, and leave some room for less damaging ones. It sounds really silly, but it’s been working – which surprised me. I’ve never been much of a self-help book kind of person, maybe it’s a case of finding something helpful at the right time?
So anyway, multiple personalties, right? In my private writing space I’ve been identifying my different voices, thought processes and moods. Of course, I’ve changed mine and anyone elses’ name on there because it’s anonymous and whilst I clearly felt the urge to expel whatever was going on in my mind somewhere, I’m certainly not prepared to go into too much detail in public. So I couldn’t take advantage of the subsequent pun-based idea I had, so I’m going to do it here without going into specifics.
For me at least, which this writing is principally for, it’s a combination of insightful and amusing – and I think to try to derive some amusement from what has been a genuine struggle is not necessarily a bad thing.
I’d like to introduce you to the Als.
Logic-Al is getting much more airtime in my internal monologue lately – he’s able to dispassionately weigh up the outcome of events and not worry about how that outcome came about. He recognises that however regrettable something might be, you can’t change it once it’s happened – so it makes most sense to focus on the present. He can seem a bit heartless or dispassionate, but he’s usually right. He’s been very much brought to the fore by the book I mentioned.
Analytic-Al was in the chair at first – he wanted to understand everything, he relived events both recent and further back, he scrutinised clues, agonised over the minutae of detail. Anyone vaguely familiar with my career would probably not be surprised he is often at the front of the queue, these are skills that have earned me my wages for less emotionally charged subjects. Whilst he arguably causes pain by reliving or discovering things, without him the road to recovery probably wouldn’t have been discovered, so whilst he needs to be tempered, he’s not a bad egg.
Cynic-Al has a very dim view of future opportunities – he’ll cherry-pick some of Analytic-Al’s work to turn everything that has happened back on himself. Things he should have done differently, things he should have anticipated, things he could have done better. He’s a bit of an arsehole in truth. He creates patterns that don’t really exist to sabotage the future, finds correlations without establishing whether one variable truly drives the other. He’s a terrible analyst.
Miserab-Al can’t see past the losses. He wallows self-piteously, simulteneously failing to see the myriad of positives in life that remain whilst agrandising things that are lost to almost mythic proportions. He feeds on the work of Cynic-Al and can’t envisage a path to a future with happiness, whilst often glancing wistfully backward through rose-tinted glasses.
Judgement-Al shifts the focus outward – he is concerned with the unfairness of situations, he fixates on how unfairly he feels he’s been treated by people, fate, whatever else. He looks to point the finger at other parties, trapped in his own bubble of feeling and unable to consider the bigger picture, life is unfair sometimes after all. He doesn’t have a very loud voice in my pantheon of personalities, I’m happy to say, but he pops up now and again.
Philosophic-Al is more accepting, he also takes Analytic-Al’s work but layers empathetic interpretations – he is in many ways the counterbalance to Judgement-Al. He isn’t devoid of emotion, and probably doesn’t put enough value on his own needs, but his heart is in the right place. At his core he is looking for answers like Analytic-Al, but with the ultimate goal of a calm resolution, whatever that resolution might be.
Antisociab-Al is a bit of a paradox. Nearly all of the Al’s are craving human contact, whilst the restrictions of lockdown are gradually relaxing allowing a little more mixing for those of us unfortunate enough to live alone, a year or so of heavier restrictions are surely going to make you ripe for wanting to be around people. Not always. Sometimes you don’t want to inflict Miserab-Al on the wider world, he’s quite a burdensome fellow. Again, luckily, he’s not really been a dominant part of the conversation so far. Even in more normal times it can be quite overwhelming to people, especially after a period of time without being able to.
Sociab-Al on the other hand has been more dominant too – he’s quite limited on options, but he’s been able to fashion ways for him to spend more time with more people in the last couple of weeks than he’d been able to in the twelve months prior. Whether it be football being available to play again (and boy, he’s played a LOT of football, I’m amazed he can still walk), meeting folk in gardens, for walks, clandestine secret project meetings he’s not allowed to talk about. He’s been a bit of a hero to be honest, he’s accepted the offers he’s received and run with them. He’s a good influence.
Inimic-Al has probably been the most eerily quiet. He has a silly name because I struggled to think of a better word that ended in al or le. But he’s angry. He’s similar to Judgement-Al I suppose, but instead of lamenting injustice he is just fucking furious about it. I know he’s there somewhere, more generally in life I’m quite good at keeping him under control – I’m at heart a peace loving person, I crave harmony, and I like to see the best in people. Inimic-Al is the opposite of that – he wants chaos, vengeance and beelines for the worst case scenario when it comes to the motivations of others. I don’t like him at all, in truth.
I’m sure there’s other Als that I’ve not been able to pigeon-hole into my weird personality segmentation – it’s nice that Comic-Al came forward with the idea for the puns to be honest, he’s not often far from the forefront of the conversation – I do have quite a fatalistic sense of humour, and it’s often by go-to mechanism to lighten a sad or stressful situation.
Welcome to the weird way I try to categorise my thought processes! I’m sure there might be other Als lurking about that I’ve not been able to identify (or come up with a pun for, more like!). It’s fascinating how we have such a wonderful capacity for abstract thought compared to our animal brethren, yet we seem to have reached a point where a significant chunk of the time we actually utilise it in ways that disadvantage us, or compound rather than resolve whatever problems we are working through.