NOVEMBER TL; DR
Pieces too long? Read this monthly summary!
TL;DR is a monthly digest summarizing the vital bits from the previous month's "How to Live" newsletter so you don't miss a thing.
This piece from November 1st, 2023, asked How Can a Person Know if They Matter?
At the heart of all disagreements, fights, and war is the need to matter. Every one of us wants to be seen, and we’re triggered by suggestions—implicit or stated—of erasure.
To live, we must matter.
To thrive and grow as infants, we must matter to our parents to care for us; to prosper and attend to others as adults, we need to feel that we are worth helping.
One cannot matter to themselves when they believe they don’t matter to others.
But when you believe you don’t matter, that the world overlooks you, you become drained of the wherewithal to face challenges. A person who feels unworthy lacks the reserves and resources necessary for resilience.
Morris Rosenberg, a social psychologist, wanted to quantify the degrees and levels to which people feel they matter.
In the early 80s, he teamed up with psychologist Claire B. McCullough to create a five-item scale called The General Mattering Scale.
To see the scale and assess whether you feel you matter👇
This piece from November 8th, 2023, was about Alain de Botton on How to Get Well.
In his new book, A Therapeutic Journey: Lessons from The School of Life, Alain de Botton, author, philosopher, and founder of The School of Life, delves into the darker side of mental well-being. Fear not, because de Botton acts as our friend and guide, hand in ours, walking alongside us, slowly, as he identifies the nature of mental illness and mental health.
This book offers ways out of despair and back into hope. Yet, it’s more than hope we lose when we become depressed; it’s also wonder, and when both are gone, what slips into the opening is a dark belief that we’re hateful. Often, when we’re at our lowest, self-hatred envelopes us and eclipses our field of vision; all we see are our failings.
At the heart of mental illness is a loss of control over our own better thoughts and feelings. An unwell mind can’t apply a filter to the information that reaches our awareness; it can no longer order or sequence its content. And from this, any number of painful scenarios ensue...”
When we are at our lowest, when we are in engagement with our deepest pain, we are, most often, also treading in the shallow end of our emotional life. This sounds contradictory, but when you consistently find yourself in despair, it is often because of the inescapable irritating truth that we have not yet connected and truly felt the root of our pain, and that root is often in childhood.
This book is a gift to sufferers who crave understanding and who want to heal.
The journey that de Botton takes us through is comprehensive, precise, and wide-ranging, folding in art, work, imposter syndrome, exercise, routine, listening, community, loneliness, food, and a roadmap out of grief and into hope.
The November 15th piece was about the Under-Recognized Disorder That 2.5% of People Suffer From.
Years ago, during a therapy session, I mentioned that I’d been feeling a strain of sadness that wasn’t going away.
Was it depression? Not exactly—I wasn’t sad in the traditional way, i.e., I wasn’t crying all the time. I wasn’t crying at all. What I felt was an un-feeling, not a deadness per se, but a flatness that threatened to overwhelm me with its weight when I went toward it. I was not doing as well as I thought.
I tried to explain the emotionless emotion, describing it as a low-grade monotony, as though the world and I were both wallpapered in a boring sameness, lacking dimensionality.
Imagine a persistently low hum that never oscillates or changes tone. That me.
In response to all this, my therapist said it sounded like “Dysthymia,” a word I’d never heard of.
She explained that it’s a milder form of depression—it’s also referred to as Persistent Depressive Disorder (I’ll refer to it by both names in this post).
Mainly, it’s long-lasting and stubborn.
Read the article to learn more about this disorder and how doctors treat it.
The November 22nd piece Declared that The Most Consistent Form of Emotional Support Is Available to Everyone.
The Sterns are an allergic brood. We did not grow up with animals.
As kids, my brother, sister, and I adopted some stray cats off the street (by, um, deciding they should live with us), only to discover that Kara, my older sister, is violently allergic.
Not long after, we discovered she was also allergic to dogs and horses. Dashed were my dreams of getting around town on horseback like Pippi Longstocking.
The closest to a dog I got was Ozzy, the hamster, who died under mysterious circumstances. The investigation is ongoing.
Fast forward to adulthood…
I always assumed I’d have a baby. I wanted a baby. But I did not want to have a baby alone, and—I learned late in the game—that timing was not on my side.
I became consumed by thoughts of getting a dog. Late one night, I saw a dog named “Penny on Petfinder. I applied for her and “won.”
While it was not love at first sight, we slowly moved toward one another, and within a month, we were family.
In times of despair, dogs can be our greatest teachers. They don’t hate anyone. It doesn’t matter what race, religion, or creed you belong. Dogs are there for us unconditionally, and when their person or their dog friends cry, they will run to protect or care for those in pain.
Because Busy has taught me that all pets are emotional support animals.
The November 29th, 2023, piece was about Why Rejection Hurts As Much As Physical Pain.
Few experiences can match the intensity of pain caused by rejection; whether romantic, social, familial, or another incarnation, the suffering inflicted isn’t predicated on the slight’s severity. Major or minor, intentional or not, the emotional distress caused by rejection, abandonment, or betrayal is the same.
Age makes no difference.
My earliest experiences of feeling rejected and abandoned hurt as much as my adult experiences.
When I was a child, the sharpest slights were organized around exclusion. Being left out felt like a threat to my existence. If others didn’t want me, perhaps it was because I didn’t matter, and if I didn’t, then what use was I?
Rejection made me feel invisible, and if I wasn’t visible, what was the point of being?
When a person is rejected, they feel betrayed and abandoned. Three forms of disregard coalesce to form one block; when you feel the sting of one, you feel the sting of them all.
In 2003, Naomi Eisenberger, a psychologist and social scientist, experimented to test whether there might be a connection between physical and emotional pain.
To discover what they found 👇
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