Why selling product sustainability seems fruitless

Sustainability has become a trend. It can be found in now almost every store. Yet, when it comes to purchasing products that are more sustainable, we find consumers who do not do so or they may with the same or similiar consumption cycle. Why is that?

  1. The ideal(s) of sustainability cannot be internalized.

Sustainability sets an ideal. The notion is that you can buy something and nobody has been harmed, neither the environment and the people producing it. Now you are not offered the product mainly, but you are offered the standard of sustainability or the “ideal” of it. Its’ a sustainable form of marketing, in which you are made to identify with this ideal. As a result, you will likely buy this product, because of what it intends to reflect and project onto you too.

However, the ideal sold is not necessarily an ideal that is true to yourself. For example, buying the sustainable value “peaceful production” does not create peace within you such as when wearing a jacket produced in peaceful conditions. Because of such mismatch, between what is ideal and what is wanted, felt or aimed at to replace with such purchase, dissatisfaction arises. To compensate such lack of satisfaciton you may keep on buying again. Or you may not buy it at all, because of this recognition.

“Waaa had I had a shitty day at work. So much conflict. Wow, look at that jacket. It’s produced so peacefully. This is what I want.. Grrrr that conflict still persist at work. This jacket is ugly. I actually don’t know why I bought it. I want a different one. I want a non sustainable one, because this is how I feel. Or I want none at all. I want that conflict resolved. Rrrrrh. ” [Internal conflict]

2. Sustainability is a trend and trends do not sustain internally.

It’s the end of the season, or it’s a new season and what you did wear last year is no longer in trend. Currently a lack of sustainability may no longer be in trend. “You need to buy sustainable to be in trend.” Unconciously you may think that you are no longer in trend. However, you cannot be in trend. You are. Yet a result you may go on to buy something new to be in trend. In the long term this does not play out, because of this lack of unconcious identification or “removal of identity” through changes in trends. It creates dissatisfaction with the self (your “true identity”) and likely increases consumption. This applies to trend-changes in sustainable product categories too.

“Damn, I bought this vegan jacket, because its made from banana fiber and not vintage furr, but I don’t really like it and pretend I do for a bit but I do really miss my furr coat. I feel bad though for liking my fur coat. But this is not doing it. I am gonna keep on buying different vegan jackets, to give me the same feeling that my furr coat gave me, but I unconciously know it won’t happen, because my furr coat was unique to me. Shit, I feel so bad for liking something thats not trend based anymore. Will I be accepted if I am outtrended? I am worried I won’t ”

3. Some consumers may wish to want it sustainable.

“Lastly”, there is plenty of market research out, which asks whether consumers would like to pay a higher price for sustainable products. Most respondents will point out yes, but when it comes to the actual purchasing most might not. Such phenomena can be referred to as wishful thinking” Yes, it sounds nice to buy a house and if I had the money, I would also pay for it, but actually I want to use my money for different things I deem as important. For example, more finger food during the week, some other joys or anything. A 20 Euro price increase doesn’t seem much but it seems much in comparison to the joy I get from 5 cappucchino this month with my best friend in comparison to a better produced shoe.”

“Dang, you pay 60 Euros for THIS? I’d pay 5 Euros for this. But ya, I guess you value something differently then I do. ”

4. Are we fundamentally screwed?

Yes, and no. I feel that sustainable products have a greater chance, if they find a particular use case. If they are not promoted for the “value” only, but for example particular features. When I did a social-practice based research on bamboo vs timber, bamboo boards didn’t sell well when marketed as sustainable, but when marketed for what they were “similiar to hardwood, suitable for x and y use case and hey, they also to help restore some degraded mines.” I feel that most product marketing tends to disregard the latter, or switches it around. It likely doesn’t sell well. A better way to go about it might be “Hey this product is cat hair resistent, you may use this material to keep you save from toddler coloring, or you may keep on using that fur for that use case because its great for multiple wash. Polyester won’t do here or there.”

More to it? Let me know in the comments.

References

Van Vugt, M., & Schaller, M. (2008). Evolutionary approaches to group dynamics: An introduction. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice12(1), 1.

Theories on psychoanalaysis (Object-relation, idealization, fantasy, wishfulthinking, internal object)

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You can’t collaborate, if you don’t want to.

Often collaboration has many benefits and if you don’t want to or someone else does not want to, there are several guidelines on how to do it or how to improve collaboration (1). The premise is to make collaboration desirable and also managable. As a result the option of whether collaboration is not wanted or should not happen is often not mentioned. Instead the benefits are mentioned, which on the other hand could be a form of gaslighting if it is not actually wanted. That is the manipulation of ones own reality towards a different one (2). For example, being convinced that a particular collaboration is suitable for a particular reason, whilst it might not be.

What is bad about convincing yourself in wanting to collaborate?

Often times it might not work out in the long term. An easy to understand example is going on a first date. The chemistry does not fit, but for the sakes of dating and the idea(l) of having a relationship (such as in most goals actively looked for in collaborations), one might start to think of benefits for this relationship to work, a bit like cherry-picking. As a result, one may twist themselves to appear more suitable and starts to accept and appreciate differences. This might go well for a bit, but after some time it won’t, because it is not true. The ending of the honey moon phase and the reality then presented is a good example. “Oh you don’t actually like this?” “yeah..sorry, I did that for you kind of.”

Why would anyone want to collaborate, while not actually wanting it?

There are different reasons, some may be concious and some may be unconcious. Let’s explore different thought processes and how they play out in practice.

  1. Modification of an object

Someone might not like the idea of collaboration firstly, which shows as a tiny thought, but then actively point out (sudden) collaborative benefits. However, unconciously a different thought process might happen, in which collaboration is continuesly not wanted. In psyche one of such mechanisms is referred to modification of an object (3). It is a mechanism that turns something not of liking into something of liking. The purpose of this mechansim in infants for example is protection of the self such as from harm or neglect. For example, if a caretaker is neglecting a baby, it would naturally dislike them and leave. Because it cannot do so it turns such disliking into liking.

In adults or in workplace cooperation this might look like needing to cooperate because it is essential for company survival or for example also an individual position. As a result – of modification of object – and present in concious argumentation one might find benefits in collaboration and believe so “oh this company is greatly positioned, this sounds like a cool vision, this person seems fantastic to work with. I like it, lets do it.” On the other hand one might unconciously think “I would not spend a dime on this.”

2. Sugar-coated belief system

At the same time you might have read and learned about all sorts of unconcious biases such as on racism and feel ready to avoid them. For example, you may believe that you actively share no racist trades, but when it comes to collaboration with a partner of a different skin color or accent, you may find yourself naming different reasons why the collaboration does not work. For example research (4) conducted on neuropolitics by Liya Yu, found that although “white people” claimed to be actively not racist, their brain regions showed signs of fear when seeing “black people.”As a result you may choose to collaborate with someone different, less suitable or you may choose to still collaborate, whilst you unconciously don’t want to and that shows for example by being or becoming avoident. Here it might be interesting to explore a few “Whys’?” Why being avoidant? What’s that feeling of discomfort telling me? And whatever it is, it’s okay. It is okay in that sense, that it can be be explored further.

Why is there a discrepancy between conciousness and unconciousness?

There are different reasons. Our brain develops bottom up and lays an unconcious foundation for our own survival; How to relate to another, what feels safe and unsafe. Depending on the latter, these traits become part of our unconciousness. For example there is no need to be concious about how to move your finger tips, when eating. And similiar patterns likely apply to our psyche and thereby our notions of survival. For example, if you grew up in a solely x-skin colored family environment, then this is what likely feels safe to you “your tribe with its habits and belief system”(5). However, suddenly you may find yourself with different people of different backgrounds (habits, skin color, religions, accents etc) and it does less. And I believe the larger the discrepancy from what you are used to; feel save with, the more likely your “concisouness” will shut down, and your primal instincts including what is unconcious but feels safe will be present or to some extend guide you, while not being aware of.

What does this say about effective collaboration?

Collaboration is great and it does hold many benefits if collaboration is true. For example, again if you go on a first date and the chemistry fits; values, or certain values shared align with each other, you truthfully complement each other, you don’t twist yourself to make yourself fit to the other, you can be honest, you lay out your cards. Whatever it is, I mean complementation can work so different, it fits and that’s okay. That’s great actually. For example, it’s okay wanting to collaborate with someone from your hometown, or the same cultrual background if that makes you feel safe and the collaboration too.

What if I don’t want to collaborate, but you know, I have to?

I believe you should not twist yourself for anyone or let anyone twist you. Secondly, in business model research, different business models are suitable for different market segments. I believe a similiar approach can be used for collaboration. If partner x is not suitable for project b, a different one can be found. At the same time, becoming aware about certain bias might help you to actively avoid collaboration, but at the same time it also gives you the chance to work on understanding them with the intent to encourage collaboration; Why do I hold certain bias? Where do they come form? What do I fear? as oppose to: I am aware of my bias or ignore it, let’s get it on with.

More to it? Let me know in the comments.

References

(1) Nevins, M. (2018). How to Collaborate with People You Don’t Like. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from: https://hbr.org/2018/12/how-to-collaborate-with-people-you-dont-like

(2) Thomas, L. (2018). “Gaslight and gaslighting”The Lancet. Psychiatry5 (2): 117–118. doi:10.1016/S2215-0366(18)30024-5PMID 29413137.

(3) Training Material from the International Society of Applied Psychoanalysis (Modification of Object)

(4) Yu, L. (2022). Vulnerable Minds: The Neuropolitics of Divided Societies. Columbia University Press.

(5) Van Vugt, M., & Schaller, M. (2008). Evolutionary approaches to group dynamics: An introductionGroup Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice12(1), 1.

Is there hope in the lack of it?

Someone asked me to reply to the following;

“Many people say we are driving towards extinction and horrible living conditions, basically the future will be really dark. Others say that everything will be fine. I don’t know if I can relax and enjoy the present moment with thinking that the future will be ok or if I need to fight more because the future will apparently be really bad.”

And here is my answer;

In sustainability we deal nearly every day with the worst case scenarios and how to prevent them. In doing so we tend to begin with the end in mind and often that is the worst; “the end of the world as a result of climate change”. This trickles down to the interconnections and reason for that to happen such as inqualities, growing gaps between the rich an poor, corruption, unsustainable production and consumption processes, homophobia, abuse of power, addictions, health disparities, greed, species destinction, terrorism, further illness and alike. A recipe for anxiety.

It is now not only climate change that is a threat to our own survival, but it is also the interconnections that, when we focus in extremes on them, become the reality of how this world is, or more specifically how we perceive it to be. Let me point out; it is not like that, it is not neither nor in extreme, it is in proportion. Yet, (please continue reading, the good part is comming soon), many of these challenges seem extremely difficult to solve though, because of how complex they are so that the proportion might feel overwhelming. Such an example is the current war going on between Russia and the Ukraine. There is no “stop” botton. And there also seems no stop bottom for corporations to pollute and exploit because they get to benefit from the perks of limited liability (see why that happens in the video below). It nearly feels like working towards a vacuum, a sort of helplessness in the messiness we fight in that field.

Now in sustainability we still work with the end in mind (the worst case scenario) and in some methods we imagine the best case scenario, in which we have saved the world and all problems this world is facing (see the ambitious Sustainable Development Goals). Yet even if we use the best case scenario in which we imagine the perfect world, we still break down the vision into things that don’t work out now and then how we need to change them get to the imagined perfect world. We may see again that all is quite wicked. It makes it seemingly perceive that we will likely run into a shitstorm; extinction. More anxiety.

Is there any hope globally?

In all the scenarios that we run through, in all the madness that indeed is real in proportion, there is yet also hope. That is in fact seeing that such things as the Sustainable Development Goals exist or that one or two typos become increasingly accepted (more biases being removed that against how things should be but no longer hold to true i.e. in innovation, being open for change and working with differences). Going back; although the SDGs may not be ideal, they give some sort of direction and thanks to the SDGs we see not only companies moving towards more sustainability in many different ways, but we also see more people being aware of it as a result of creative forms of education, being that funny TikTok movies to reach a broader mass, other forms of Entertainment Education, or simply because people care. We now also see that sustainability becomes a profitable business case, so that capitalism (one of course can critiques it) becomes also an opportunity for change.

There is also much efforts done by individuals as there is done by NGOs and even governments through the implementation of new laws and policy. One can now even see countries nearly competing in terms of which country or region is becoming more green or more sustainable. Why would they do that? Well it attracts investments. The more stable an economy, the more secure investments, or in some cases tourism and further employment opportunities (money is not too bad). In addition, the world is becoming more globalized, our perception is changing rapidly, so that we no longer live in our own thought bubbles, but also in ways in which things can change more rapidly, not our perception only, but opportunities of cooperation and in the fight for lets say climate justice (think about Greta Thunberg); She does a great job in bringing the issue at stake.

Is there more hope?

Many people don’t throw their trash on the floor, there are companies and individuals I know who are not driver for sustainability of the entire organizations, but their hearts are inside; While Twitter might not be known for promoting gender equality and feminism I know at least one employee who drives that type of thinking in her heart there and internal in the organization, so that in all that critqiues about Twitter there is also hope. And knowing her, I am sure she’s moving a lot.

K-Pop at the UN. That’s called fan loyality and awarness raising at high level.

And for the other topics; as much as there is war, there is also the lack of it (think about how many countries are not at war now) and while there is a lack of biodiversity there is also not a lack of it thanks to growing regulations on forest protection and because people like it (also thanks to instagram almost instagram nature tourism and romantic tags in forest/nature scenarios that are worth protecting nature for too.). Seemingly, there are many tech companies that invest into IT Tools for social innovation (I know at least one) and sustainability also becomes this cool thing to do, even in education it becomes increasingly implemented. In ways its nice, because it moves automatically (literally giving us a rest also thanks to different time zones and many people working in this field around the clock and thanks to social media running 24/7 in repetition). It also is becomming more fun and accessible i.e. being more able to shape our cities through tools or different ways in which the public can participate in legal decision making. This is kind of the way to go.

Will the future be okay or bad?

Coming back to the original comment; There is no certainty, because in certainty we know, and sustainabiltiy or the end goal of it seems quiet uncertain. There is direction and when we look at direction there is much hope too, and balance in how we look at things also.

References

Glick, R. A. (2003). Idealization and psychoanalytic learning. The Psychoanalytic Quarterly72(2), 377-401.

Swart, R. J., Raskin, P., & Robinson, J. (2004). The problem of the future: sustainability science and scenario analysis. Global environmental change14(2), 137-146.

Trussler, M., & Soroka, S. (2014). Consumer demand for cynical and negative news frames. The International Journal of Press/Politics19(3), 360-379.

Cover Picture: Local Artist Studio.

On the ideals on pregnancy and (mother)hood that no longer hold true.

Image Source: GQ-Magazin

I wrote this blog in the light of the US Supreme Court ruling on overturning abortion rights. I also write this blog, because I had an abortion myself. In that sense I am biased and in the same sense I understand how important access to abortion and particular safe abortion is. Following I have listed 6 arguments I have read most about to avoid pregnancy and to carry on with it. Most of the arguments are based on the ideals of (avoiding) pregnancy and (mother)hood that no longer hold true. I wrote (mother)hood, because in parenthood also the father is involved. I highlight motherhood since pregnancy is about the woman and her autonomy over her body (at least it should be).

I write about ideals and their lack and post this here, because we tend to idealize so much, that decisions taken tend to not fully align with the realities that exist, but more likely the ideals of realities, also known as fantasy. This does not only apply to the abortion case, but one can also see this in other fields, in which actions are taken based on ideals, but no longer the realities, that diversity and a globalized world with inequalities bring with them. And that is; risky.

Argument 1; Why not avoiding pregnancy?

One of the key arguments that can be found on social media is that pregnancy is inevitable avoidable. That is by using contraception such as the condom and birth control. I write about these two, because they are most commonly used. Now, people have sex for different reasons in different circumstances and choose to use and not to use contraception, not because they don’t know about it, but because they don’t want to. Because it is like that; Sometimes people are horny, they do it in the heat of the moment. They may use the pull-out method instead, but how difficult must it be to pull out before an orgasm? I am not a man, but I imagine it to be challenging. In other instances, people might have drunk sex and are careless. What about reboundsex with the ex? There are also instances in which condoms are used, but for the many reasons they may slip off with the orgasm, or before. I did not like using birthcontrol because it made me feel tired and so I believed in the “calendar” method, which did not work out at all. Of course, there are also instances, in which a lack of education leads to unprotected sex. There may be wishful thinking, of course there are also extreme cases of rape and other reasons why people have unproteted sex.

Argument 2. You can get a baby, regardless what situation you are in

When I looked further through other social media posts and comments, one can easily find different recommendations on how to carry on with the pregnancy. In doing so one disregards the circumstantiality in which people get pregnant and speaking for diverse people and particular woman that I met throughout my life; disregarding the hardship of poverty, the hardship of lacking access to maternal care, the hardship of battling mental health problems, the hardship of being a single parent with little income, the hardship of domestic violence (emotional/physical), the hardship of combining a career with children, the hardship of being too young of a parent, the hardship of an affair, the hardship of wanting to persue studies, the hardship of too much uncertainty, the hardship of a relationship one is potentially forced into, simply not wanting, … .

Argument 3; Having a baby will make you happy.

Ideally speaking and also according to google bias, when you type “pregnancy and/or parenthood”, it appears so joyful, its beautiful. Particular the mother, can find herself in the best time, well taken care of with ideally a supportive husband and if not married one can quikly go to the church to ensure a lifetime relationship; ready to pursue the American Dream. For single parents there is according to google bias also little hardship; one can find the happy single dads throwing their happy children into the air and for others it seems as if there is indefinite support.

These ideas do no longer hold true, because of the bias they imply. When I found out I was pregnant I had just ended a relationship that was no longer nurturing. I had no money, and after working and studying abroad for 7 years and having no emotional support coming back, but also having my first paid long-term job, it was the most unideal situation for myself having a baby. I had not felt calmness for myself in a long time and I wouldn’t be able to offer calmness and consistancy at that point either to myself nor the child privately. The cicumstantiality decided against it. The circumstances or as Adam Shechter (Psychotherapist) calls it on his instagram account; the psychicic pregnancy was non ideal.

We also no longer live the American Dream. People break up and marriage no longer is “a life-time insurance” and neither does it say anything about how people love, how nurturing the relationship is, how healthy it is for the baby. There is little happinness, when what is, is not happy. So is also a single dad or a single mom not always happy.

Argument 4: The baby will help you solve your relationship problems

I remember feeling the relief of a break-up, but also the sadness with it. I remember the tears as my pregnancy test would show positive. I did not want the relationship to continue. Inevitabely I was suggested that the baby would help bond with the partner. Most people would do it like that. I strongly disown that. A baby should not be used as a means for couples to stay together. Because when you do not function as a couple independent of a baby, you do not function as a parent. And you have to function as a parent if you want to raise a child healthy. Thinking that a baby will fix all the relationship problems is wrong. It may even trap people in relationships (not only romantic ones but also family relationships, friendships, work relationships) that are no longer nurturing.

Argument 5: When one is pregnant, they will do automatically a good job at being a parent

Nowadays, families do not live together anymore. Families hereby may compromise “father, mother, grandparents, cousins, and other friends” in which children can be taken care of. We live more scattered now. We live more isolated (particular in Germany), where taking care is often the primary responsibility of one care-taker or a couple. Dr. Bruce Perry, a child neurologist who I had attended a policy roundtable on maternal health care in Calfifornia with, tends to write and teach about how important the role of community in attachment, regulation and healthy brain development is. An isolated family system, reduces that. It also reduces a single parent to the primary care taker, after which the primary care taker may no longer take enough care of themselves. It increases stress and pressure and parenthood no longer is “ideal”.

In addition, being a parent is no longer leaving the kids to play video games. Being an attuned parents requires time. TV and playstation cannot raise a child. Parents have to engage their children, support them in becoming the version that is true to them and does not appeal to what we learn in media only. Parents have to raise their children in a world with wicked and yet so complex challenges that the role of a parent no longer is as ideal and easy as it might have looked like many years ago. It wasn’t even then. Ultimately, the ideals no longer hold, after which an abortion may no longer be perceived un-ideal.

The last Argument 6: You can give your baby up for adoption

Just, no! Fostercare is one of the worst systems that exist. In university I interned at the NGO Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) in California, USA, where foster children are matched up with volunteers to provide some sort of consistancy for at least two years. That form of consitancy and nourishing relationship was perceived as essential, since fosterhomes are often overcrowded. There children are often being displaced to other foster homes, and the older they get the longer they stay. The longer they stay the higher the burdon on their mental health. I did not want that! And I know many others don’t either.

Why do safe abortions and access to legal matter?

Abortions will always be happenning, because of the beforementioned. They will continue to happen because of the lack of ideals and the circumstantiality after which people get pregnant. If abortions happen unsafely, there are high risks for the mothers health. For instance, the abortion pill consists often of two pills. The first one in which the fetus detaches from the uterus and the second one in which the fetus (if not already discharchged) is discharged through contractions the second pill iniatiates. However, it has to be verified that the fetus is discharged, because it is harmfull if it stays inside the uterus. A fetus may also stay attached to the uterus (if the pill did not work out) with yet unknown birth harms.

Is all unwanted pregnancy bad?

I want to write about this, because of the critical text I wrote first. I do believe that not all unwanted pregnancy is bad and I also believe that there is often no ideal moment to become a parent. Its a challenge and we have to grow into. But I do believe that there are lack of ideals, which have to be recognized because of the “risks” that a continuation of pregnancy can bear to the parent(s) and the child.

Resources

Clinical Reserach during my internship at the Court Appointed Special Advocates in California, USA in 2015. Parts of the report accessible at; https://www.slideshare.net/AnnCathrinJst/anncathrin-joest-professional-product-962015

Conversations and LinkedIn comments

My own Abortion and Circumstantiality

Where has all that meaning gone and how to get it back?

When we are children, we are yet too young to know what we want to do later in life. What passion will drive us. We make sense of this world, relate to our parents, maybe adopt one or another of their joys; their taste of music, their taste of styles, their taste of being. Our peers styles, what they like and don’t.

And there is us; what we like, the styles we enjoy, the interests we form independent of others. Interests and styles we merge and sometimes one interest swaps over into another, creating confusion or for others „disorder“. To be part of the girls group, you need to wear pink and listen to hip hop.

As a child just forming a sense of this world, being excluded sucks. Eventually the child gives in. Changes it’s writing style, changes clothing, wanting to be part of the girls gang. Yet, it never really becomes part of it fully, because its full part is the individuality it gave up to be part.

As adults we long for that. For that individuality, we lost as a child, we gave up because it made us excluded or because we had to because it wasn’t liked or too odd to be understood (at home, in schools and any other setting). There were informal laws full of bias holding us back ; not being allowed to mix Goethe with Techno, not spending too much time on homework one enjoys not because of the enjoyment, but because of the perception of homework for instance that it shouldn’t take too much time, loving long hair as a boy but cutting it short and now having it short because of the bullies experienced as child but now feeling one can’t fully be themselves because of the image created to oneself and others [feeling locked-in], loving to game and to connect to others thereby, but being shamed for being an indoor vampire and than as adult realizing how much one missed and learned from gaming with people around the globe. Now we are adults with the images we had created to be accepted. Where is the meaning now we had lost?

In these moments, others might made us feel that these were slight annoyances, but they were the annoyances that might have ended something that gave meaning to our lives and it’s continuity; a skill-set, a passion a genuine interest, a feeling worth living for that could have carried on into our adult life as is now. Yet where has that gone? Where has that feeling of belonging gone? Where has that meaning gone to? What filled you with joy, not because it filled others with joy, but because it filled you with joy ?

What was it that you loved so much and gave up? What exactly about it ? And for what reason did you not persue it? Can you get it back now? How would that effect you? Would it scare you? Why would it? Can you try it out? What do you need to do so?

Why would this matter for sustainability?

People thrive, where and when they can be. At work, privately and both.

What holds us back to love? On love and bias.

For a while, something preoccupied me. Love. When had we failed in love, when had we succeeded? Why did love feel so great, why did love scare? Why are we afraight to love? Why had love created problems? Where was <the> love?

I thought about the many stereotypes we internalize over years as a child, teen an adult. We think there is only one real type of love, the one we see in Hollywood, the one in which couples kiss, the one were couples hold hands. Yet, they were symbols for a certain type of love but these symbols might hold us back from realizing love; holding onto an extreme version of idealized romanticizing.


Love transcends and passes through a series of relationships in which people bond. Bonding as a connection, a form of love, outside of a stereotyped version of only one type of love and the symbols we associate to loving and being loved. As a result, love scares. In movies or social media; love in its “enactment” is sexualized, perceived as (too) unprofessional, a symbol for infidelity, something bad that must be kept secret, even punishable within the LGBTQ community.


But love is not wrong, threatening or bad. It is a feeling. A beautiful feeling. There are only interpretations of love or loving (a neutral emotion) in which, for example, specific enactments are portrayed as a sequence of the feeling of love. Yet, love is not a box. Love is not enactment. Love is not predescribed behavior. Love is merely a feeling. A feeling that sets free, creates warmth, closeness, forms and maintains connection.

Yet we tend to bend so much against this feeling, because love so often seems to be one particular “thing” associated or equated to stereotypes and how to be and not to. How to love and not to. Who to love and who not to. As a result we give little space to love. We reduce the possibility to love, to be loved, for love to surface, to be lived. We may decline and forbid one of the feelings most precious, not only to others, bust most of all ourselves. A feeling worth so living for.

Why would this matter for sustainability?

We talk, we laugh, we cry, we challange, we grow together, we might start to love. We realize its love. We change. We feel bad. We stop. We end relationships. Yet what brings most joy, brings most saddness. We begin isolating, maybe hating, we might consume too much, drink too much, move away. We are sad. Not because of love, but the perceived consequences loving holds, although there are none to loving.

I can love you and you can love me in any way you want to, we want to, within the boundaries of the enactment we set to it or open up. Love enables. Love does never restrict.

[Cover picture by @Juni.ka on Instagram]

What’s therapy like?

It’s mental health awareness week, 2022 and indeed, I am visiting a therapist too. Is that a bad thing? No. Is that a good thing? Yes. Unfortauntely therapy is often stigamtized although in the USA it was for some time quit common to have a therapist. Therapy can be for everyone, of any age and often its not just about being “mindfull”, sometimes its a change in perception or putting emotions into language. Much I didn’t know about, so that I put together this small blog on a few of my learnings, to kind of change that narrative on mental health and illustrate that different forms of looking at mental health and perception can contribute to well-being as individual and within the broader cultural context. After all, its for all.

Look at the bright side!

Its’ been one of the comments I heard most in my life and also said it most to myself. Something didn’t go well, but I had to or made myself look at the bright side. “A relationship ended sadly, but on the bright side it ended. A family member died, but on the bright side, I was on holidays. I got rejected for a job, on the bright my CV looked great. I was sad about moving to another city, but on the bright sight new people could be met. I lent someone money who did not pay it back, but on the bright side I still had money. I was scared about teaching, on the bright side I looked beautiful. The project proposal did not get accepted, on the bright side new calls would come. I felt lonely, on the bright side I have a cat.”

Though, my therapist taught me, these statments have nothing to do with the experience felt. They devalue and they distract from what has caused the feeling to begin with; Why did the project proposal fail? Why was I scared of teaching? Why couldn’t I be sad on holidays? Why did I lend money to this person? Why didn’t I get the job? Not feeling “the side not bright” instead pushed feeling inwards, made expressing them difficult, has led to isolating more inwards. It devalued, took away the meaning of what was felt, created uncertainty and supported acceptance over the non bright side. Leading to no changes that could serve a truly brighter side. Its’ called toxic positivity.

Your feelings are wrong!

I remember one of the first conversations with therapist and I said “Sorry for crying I know it’s stupid to be sad about this.” From then on many conversations were about “Why would you feel stupid for feeling a certain way? It’s how you feel and there is nothing wrong about feeling. It’s like saying it’s stupid that you feel sad for having lost a leg [if you did]. It’s not stupid. It’s valid in your own experience”. From then on, more conversations centered around the validty of my feelings, the fact that each of us has an own “subjective narrative” to which we react in certain ways that holds true to how we feel and perceive. Indeed telling others that their feelings are wrong, is by fact wrong. Its okay to be annoyed, its okay to be angry, its okay to be happy, its okay to be.

A narrative on celebations on mothers day being for happy mothers only is one-sided. When we have a society that celebrates or rewards only certain type of behaviour or feelings and disregards different perceptions and experiences, society is limited in its being. That is reducing the feelings of people to an inadequacy that more likely pushes them into shame instead of finding a supportive networking or feedback that more likely reinforces or is accepting their feelings. Telling them, that their feelings are”right as oppose to wrong”.

This won’t work!

There are probably many times in which we got rejected, as child, as lover, as employe, so often that trying feels scary. But it doesn’t have to be. Rejection isn’t a bad thing. Trying to avoid rejection, is a bad thing. Telling someone that a change in direction won’t work because the risks are uncertain may not pay out in the long term. Sometimes we do have to risk. Telling someone they can’t love someone because the circumstances are off, minimizes their feelings but may also leads them to self-reject, before they may even try within the circumstances that are off. Recommending someone to avoid talking about a certain topic, because it won’t be liked, likely leads to that things will always stay the same.

It is not rejection itself that people fear, it is the possible consequences of rejection.Preparing to accept those consequences and viewing rejection as a learning experience that will bring you closer to success, will not only help you to conquer the fear of rejection, but help you to appreciate rejection itself (Robert Foster Bennet)

It’s not important!

My shoe is dirty, but it’s not important. I have relationship problem at home, but it’s not important. I feel lonely, but it’s not important. I am stressed because I have to pick up my child earlier, but it’s not important. I want to take a shower, but it’s not important. I want to become a writer, but it’s not important. I want to try out a new music instrument, but it’s not important. I want to study something else, but it’s not important. I want to set up a business, but it’s not important. I want to change my curricular, but it’s not imporant. (…)

“Why isn’t it important?” my therapist asked and I said , some things I think, in the large scale don’t matter. I can’t change them, I have no experience” “It matters because it matters to you.”

Whatever small it is , it matters. If nothing really matters or if importance is reduced to the smallest feeling, then everything that is perceived as seemingly not important, will always stay that way, when its the small things, the small irritants that need more listening to. Small things, that make living so worthile, a clean shoe, a random post, a great conversation, an egaged student, a happy pet, a great meal, shiny hair, a great book, time to breath, time to do nothing, a boring holiday, a cool class, an experiment that fails.

This has to be perfect!

There is no perfection. Even in nature, leafs don’t look perfect symmetrical. There is always some sort of lack of perfection. But we tend to want make things perfect, write perfect, say everything perfect, think it all through, wait so much, copy other people who we think that make something perfect, lose some sort of sense of self or how ones own uniquness can be perfect to another, thinking one needs to be like another, than realizes one is not, had their own perfection already been perfect to themselves. Misses hours and days of simply “doing” or “doing” by perfectionizing, when things aren’t always perfect. They may appeal, more or less, but there is no guideline on perfection, and where there is, they miss out the uniqueness that imperfection offers; a typo in a CV or text of a brilliant person, an academic article trying to be published by a non-native struggling English speaker, an idea terrible explained, but fantastic in its implementation, a haircut not appealing to the mass, but so appealing to one it truly does appeal to, love true and messy in the eyes of others, but so rich and fullfilling in the eyes of oneself with the other, a uniqe business to be shared, but isn’ because its not like other [go for it !]

Narratives on mental health?

Hiding, not feeling, pretending not to, ignoring, avoiding, not living, not being, determine how things should and should not be, all that effects our mental health. It is the range of feelings, the range of narratives, the range of experiences that makes being human more human, within the experience that one shapes with oneself and the expereince one shapes with another. There is no right or wrong to being, there is more likely wrong to “denying being” and that is where much of the mental health headeachs reside ; thinking one isn’t good enough the way they are, devaluing feelings, the experiences one makes, not wanting to change, because one things they can’t, wanting others to be the same, denying individuality, denying love, denying being.

(…)

Resources

[Experiences from my therapy and readings following Freud, Lacan, Instagram posts from therapists]

Mari Ruti (2013): The Call of Character: Living worth being. Book