Tag: psychology (page 1 of 2)

Accumulation is an accumulation that creates a man

I’ll admit, I had to look up the meaning of the word accumulation. As a person who learned English as her second language, it is not a word that is often used. But it is THE perfect title for Accumulation.

Tattoo’s draw the attention by creating new layers, that is the first message of Accumulation and it remains one of the message during the whole duration of the book. But it uses tattoos as a metaphor, about how most humans are unable to look past a first impression. How a very limited amount of people can look past that first, possibly a second, layer of a person. And how those layers, and the inability of your surroundings, can create a feeling of intense and utter loneliness. And loneliness can throw any confident human being in an angry, melancholic depression.

Accumulation is an accumulation of human emotions, the impact of decisions made in life, and of all human vanity. Mix those three with a dose of reality, a dash of fantasy, and a healthy dose of grunge. Add some sexist jokes, some stereotypes about douchebags thinking only about themselves, and some Native wisdom, and you’ve got yourself a quite entertaining 300 pages.

There is something else I have to admit, besides the googling of the translation of accumulation to Dutch (it is still an odd word to me…), and that is that I’m not a particular fan of self-published books and that is for two distinctive reasons:
1. They are often not very good… I’m so sorry to many writers who pour their heart and soul into their work, but the fact that you got turned down by many publishers resulting in self-publishing often has a very, very good reason. Your book is just not good… Writing is, after all, an art.
And 2. Self-published books often don’t look good. Cover, size, paper used, weight. Self-published books often lack the aesthetics of books designed and printed by professional publishing houses. I’ll go as far as to say that many have the same vibe and looks as many of my university textbooks, which is not a compliment, and therefore they don’t attract customers.

With Accumulation, that’s a bit different. The book looks exactly like a book printed by a publisher. The rubber-like cover is very much in fashion at the moment, and it suits the small paperback work of literature. The book manages to draw attention with its white, simplistic cover, and its single-word title. I would not know this was self-published had I not known about it beforehand. Which is a huge compliment, coming from someone working in a bookstore.

The jackpot Cam hit in Vegas finally gave him the chance to party like a rock star. He never wanted to forget the weekend he barely remembers, so he got himself a permanent souvenir: his first tattoo. Now more tattoos are beginning to appear and Cam has no idea why. Mornings in the SoCal apartment he shares with his best bud are all starting off the same way: Cam wakes up and discovers a new ink breakout somewhere on his body. Sometimes it’s undecipherable writing. Other times it’s a strange symbol. Every time it’s a blemish even his most expensive exfoliant can’t scrub away. All attempts at finding out who or what is vandalizing his once-immaculate appearance are coming up empty, and the ever-multiplying tattoos aren’t just destroying his looks; they’re destroying his whole life. Forced to embrace his altered self, Cam starts over in the place he least expected. There his life begins to follow a familiar and comfortable pattern and gives him hope of a new normal. What Cam doesn’t realize is that his transformation is far from complete.

Buan Boonaca. Accumulation / Buan Boonaca / 9789082685916

The 9 to 5 mentality

It was a while ago, but when I worked in offices during internships I was introduced to work hours that were normal for most people. What is this ‘9 to 5 mentality’ and where does it come from?

Working 9 to 5, the times ware so common that there was a song made about them but although the lyrics are really catchy, it does not mean that working 9 to 5 is common to everyone. As I myself work in the film industry at the moment, I often have nightshoots and work often for 12 hours or more a day. Archaeologists often start even earlier, so they can finish before the afternoon heat strikes. So how come 9 to 5 is considered ‘normal’?

The whole nine-to-five-concept dates back from when 9 to 5 were normal officehours. People worked in offices, day in day out and therefore they worked from 9 to 5. When someone is unwilling to work more than the minimal amount of hours, or unwilling to put in a little extra effort one talks of the nine-to-five-mentality. While this sounds great, having the whole night to yourself, the increasing demand on offices and mostly employees means that this mentality is slowly dying as the economy is slowly changing into a 24-hour-economy, as people demand access to everything at all hours. I myself am mostly just really happy I can reach a helpdesk, or the tax offices in the evening when I’m finally at home and able to do some work that involves my personal life. That does include shopping by the way…

24 hours in a day
The 24-hour-economy, a burden or a blessing? The answer mostly depends on who you ask the question. While the concept might seem new to some, it is very common in other industries. Train- and roadworkers have been working at night (to lessen the burden on traffic) for a while, as well as night shifts in hospitals, police stations, and other professions that require round the clock attention. But what about those jobs that have never required it before? Should shopsbe open 24 hours a day? Should a production office, that focuses mainly on making television series?  I can tell you, it is no fun to do night-shoots all the time.

So why do people assume that the whole nine-to-five-concept will end? Let’s start with the actual office hours. As the normal office worker works till 5, and still has to do groceries afterwards it is now common for stores to be open till at least 6 or even later. Staying open until 20.00 is not uncommon in Amsterdam, and as big supermarkets want to get more and more customers they even stay open until 22.00! The end of the ‘open till 5’-era can be traced back to this mentality: I have to work until a certain time and afterwards I want to be able to do everything. So other stores have to stay open as well. I must admit that I am part of this thinking. It is nice to go to the movies after work, or grab a bite to eat, or even being able to buy some books in a store or online with the knowledge that I will be home when they arrive. The end of an era is mostly because we demand more luxury, more possibilities, and still claim that because we are paying customers the stores have to listen to our demands.

But what about that other part of the nine-to-five-concept: the nine-to-five-mentality. Why do specialist assume that this will end as well? While the demands might be traceble to some form of egoistic thinking, the mentality is mostly linked to psychological reasons.

Problem 1 would be our ability to concentrate. You might have noticed yourself, but working for several hours has never done any good. I myself collapse after three hours in, and do need a break before my brain fries. On an average note, only 3 or 4 hours a day are spent productively. The rest will be coffee/smoke-breaks, checking social media, chatting with colleagues, and browsing through mail and online. This of course applies for officework, not physical jobs that already often work in 4 hour shifts. As much as the body needs a break so does the mind, and while those 4 hours might be very productive there is the problem of the work schedule versus the type of person you are. Night owls (people who work better during the evening than in the morning) have a hard time coping with 9 to 5 work hours. Working from home, the newest arrangement, works well for night owls who get to sleep in/start slowly and work until late without security kicking you out. Unfortunately, there are many bosses who claim that your morning-issues are just excuses to be tardy and unproductive.

Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn via ChairsHunt / CC BY

Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn via ChairsHunt / CC BY

Evening person
Everybody has a build-in clock. It is the annoying thing that makes you sleepy, even though it is the middle of the day, and what keeps you up at night. However, everyone’s biological clock is different, and everyone reacts to theirs differently. Because of that it is difficult to create a daily pattern that would fit everybody, as this creates ‘Evening people’ and ‘Morning people’. The differences between night owls and larks can be easily seen in daily live, as night owls tend to start work late but work way past the point where the lark would like to collapse. When working in a normal environment this unfortunately creates an issue, as daily society is completely build around the lark. However, considering the earlier mentioned 24 hour society, it might bewise to use the night owl’s abilities to stay up productively till late. I am typin this article at 23.00 o’clock, and am working way better now than I was at 11.00 o’clock. I’m not much of a morning person/a lark, and I now this. That is why I can do a lot of things after work, but I need at least two hours to get my brain starting. Try explaining that to your boss every morning….

The YA-phenomenon: the love-triangle…

Young Adult books are a genre that is sometimes overlooked by bookstores, by readers, and by criticists. However, people seem to misunderstand the influcence they have on readers. And there is one phenomenon that appears in YA books more than any other: the love triangle.

Romeo and Juliet on the balcony

Romeo and Juliet on the balcony

Try to go back to your teenage years (even if you are trying to forget them) and maybe you remember how much books could influence you. Well, that influence has only increased with the invention of the love triangle, and the connected idea that having a relationship is extremely important.

Let’s start at the beginning, because I’m talking about love triangles as if they are something new. Guess what? They are not… Even the classic Wuthering Height has a love triangle in it. And probably the most well known triangle at the moment are those from Twilight and The Hunger Games.

So what exactly is a ‘love triangle’? A love triangle is a relationship, often romantic but not necessarily, involving three people. The concept implies some sort of relationship between all three people involved. However, in books it is more often like this:Naamloos

While I can’t imagine being part in such a complicated mess, I got a lot of hits when I googled the concept. Several of them were websites on how to deal with being stuck in a triangle yourself… Do people really get tangled in such things, or do they just think they do? Because a lot of young adults, especially girls, believe a love triangle is the best thing that can happen to you. And this can be traced back to popular YA-fiction, in which this actually happens.

Reality vs. fiction
While creating a love triangle in a story is easy, it is not very realistic. I mean, how often do you see guys really fighting over a girl, or girls really clawing each others eyes out for a guy? I’ve seen girls become total bitches towards each other, but that could have had many reasons. Some writers will argue that ‘it just happened’, an argument I could see as relevant if I did not write a lot myself and I know that you can always sort such messes out before they happen!

Realism vs. fiction on the concept of relationships is an issue when it comes to YA-fiction, according to professor Maria Nikolajeva. For example, there is the much debated Twilight saga. I admit that I loved the books, but in my defence: I was 14! However, when I reread them recently, I felt chills going down my spine (and not the good kind). The most important aspect of the book is the love triangle of Bella, Edward, and Jacob. When they are seperated, Bella loses all personality as if she is nobody without a man by her side. Nikolajeva states that Bella is a very dark personification of the independent and personal development of young women, and I must agree with her. According to the professor, this lack of a personal character could have bad influence on the young readers if they identify themselves with the characters in the book. If the character has to dedicate her life to having a relationship, so must the reader. It is a grim view but it might have some truth.

Till death do us apart. Photo credit: Hamed Saber via Foter.com / CC BY

Till death do us apart. Photo credit: Hamed Saber via Foter.com / CC BY

The whole ‘identifying yourself with a character of the book’ is not as strange as it sounds. Brainresearch done by Washington University shows that when reading about certain actions, parts of the brain are activated. And while your brain is registering, your mind does the rest. Ohio State University conducted a psychological study about copying-behaviour. The result? Psychologist discovered that people are prone to adopt the behaviour of characters they identify strongly with. This is mostly done subconsciously, meaning that you don’t even know that you are copying a fictional character!

That last thing can be dangerous, as this would mean that you are not even aware of the fact you change while reading.

Love triangles
So back to the concept of the love triangle. You read a book (I will not name names!), in which the main character has people swooning all over him/her. Suddenly, it seems very normal that that would happen to you to. And when it doesn’t, you become depressed? Don’t go all Romeo and Juliet on us!
While this whole concept is not normal at all, it does happen from time to time. Because of this, a lot of writers argue that a story should reflect parts of the real human experience, and that love triangles should not be taken so lightly in fiction.  Love stories should not be banned, as they can spice up a book, but they should be more realistic. They should also not be banned as they are, in basic, not dangerous at all. The tricky part is to not become too involved, to keep your own identity and just enjoy the story instead of building your own identity around it. Especially young readers are vulnerable to this idea.

So, are teenage-readers really that easily influenced by books? And are love triangles reason for concern? Love triangles in YA-fiction, are in basic completely harmless (although very, very annoying). However, there is a catch based on the involvement of yourself in the story. Of course you can be sad if something happened to your favorite character, but becoming entirely depressed about it is something COMPLETELY different! Keep in mind that it is just a book, and that fictional characters are rarely limited by the real world. If they want to grow wings and fly, they can. But last time I checked, such things do not happen in real life. So the concept of only being someone when you have a relationship, is also just nog part of daily life. Remember that!

Those endless, sleepless nights…

Summer might be over, so the hot nights that kept you up are starting to cool down. But now that you are truly back at work or school, stress might also be a factor to keep you up during the night.

While staring at the ceiling, I hear the nearby bell-tower strike three. I have to be up at 7.00, which gives me less than four hours to sleep by now. Why am I still awake? I have no clue. I am tired, so tired, but my body does not want to rest. Because of this, I start thinking about all those other people in my own town who might be up by now. Are they working? Are they partying? Or are they, like me, just lying in bed, tossing and turning in the hope to catch that beloved rest they need so badly?

Sleep is for the weak?
One night of bad sleep, does not create sleep deprivation. Unfortunately, this thinking is the reason why a lot of people have a serious lack of sleep. “I’ll just sleep a little bit longer tomorrow, to catch up”,  is what they often think. I think this as well if I worked late and have to get up early again. The phrase: ‘sleep is for the weak’, has been used very often, mostly by students and workaholics. But lack of sleep is a serious problem, that can cause serious health problems over a long period of time. Irritability and headaches are some of the earliest symptoms to show up when lack of sleep is getting troublesome. Sleep deprivation causes your immune system to weaken, as it has less time to create protective antibodies. There is a reason that sick people have to sleep more, and never less! Sleep for the weak, as it seems.

But what happens in a short period? Well, we all know that when you do not sleep enough, it is harder to concentrate which makes you prone to accidents and mistakes. Personally, I get very moody when I haven’t slept enough, and when that happens over a long period of time I get more and more anxious about the littlest of things. Believe me, I’m not fun at work when I’m tired.

Fighting the insomnia
It might be troublesome to find the reason why you woke up, or why you can’t sleep. If the problem keeps returning night after night, a trip to the doctor might be necessary. But some reasons cannot be treated with medication. Anxiety, stress, jetlag, or just freaking out about still being awake while you need to sleep. Those are all reasons that can keep you up at night.

Photo credit: shioshvili / Foter / CC BY-SA

Photo credit: shioshvili / Foter / CC BY-SA

Sleeping well can be easily stimulated by eating and exercising. There are multiple don’t-s before bedtime: acohol (that whiskey might help you doze off, but it will also wake you up in the middle of the night), using electronics as smartphones and tables (the light from the screen is rather similar to sunlight for your brain, waking it up instead of letting you rest), or sleeping with pets (Felix and Pluto may be treated as humans, they are not. And therefore, they have different sleeping habits.) And to stay asleep, keep your bedroom cool and dark. That is the best way for your brain to realize it is still nighttime.

Use these methods if you can’t sleep, or seek help! Keeping yourself up all night hoping the problem will resort itself, can cause serious problems as sleep deprivation can be so damaging it is considered a torture method!

Sleep deprivation as torture method
Because of the importance of sleep, depriving someone of their much needed rest is a well known torture method. After being awake for more then 24 hours, basic functions start to fail. As speech and memory fail first, people who are awake longer then a day are considered unreliable when it comes to giving information. Hallucinations are also common among sleep deprived people. Usually they start after 72 hours, although it can be earlier based on your health.
Sleep deprivation is considered torture as mind and body weaken to the point of life threatening situations. Several countries have been known to use the method of sleep deprivation as interrogation technique, with keeping people up until 180 hours!

Photo credit: scottmliddell / Foter / CC BY

Photo credit: scottmliddell / Foter / CC BY

The ultimate tip? The powernap!
If I got an euro for every classmate who swore by the system of the powernap, I could dedicate my life to writing alone. But for some people, it works. As it is very easy to get a lack of sleep, there must be a way to catch up on those missed hours. Powernaps are, of course, just a temporary solution. But it might work quickly.

However, at some jobs, powernaps are the only way to function. NASA studied the effects of the nap extensively. Conclusion? Powernaps do work! For every hour of missed sleep, you take a nap of 90 minutes. 90 minutes is one full cycle of sleep, but it might be weird to just sleep in your chair at work for 90 minutes. If this is the case, nap for 25 minutes. The best moment for a nap is between 13.30 and 15.30, during your natural energy dip. And if NASA uses this technique, there might be something behind it.

Reading the stories, and living the travels

800px-El_viaxeru_d'Urculo[1]Right before I left to have a nice holiday, I was reading a book with travel stories in it. It was called Meer grenzeloos leedvermaak, which you could translate to: ‘More endless fun while reading about other peoples misery’. It sounds more fun in Dutch. While I was reading, and laughing, I wanted to leave more and more. As long as my holiday ended better than those in the book…

Reading travel stories can be kind of a trap. Suddenly you find yourself on websites looking up cheap destinations, or you are planning that trip around the world that you can’t afford at all. The books made you do it!

When someone reads the story written by a traveler, and the writer has been emotionally moved by the place he/she writes about, the reader will immediately notice. Their is emotion, experience and connection in the story, which works in a way to connect the reader to the place. I understand this. When I read those amazing travel stories in magazines and books, I want to go to those places described. They all sound beautiful and perfect. This happens when a writer puts his heart into a story, he connects the reader to it dragging them in. Travelwriter Don George has experienced this effect on himself and on others for many years. “Really great travel writing is ultimately about connection”, is what he has stated many times now. And it is true. When you feel connected, you keep reading. When you don’t, you flip through pages.

Walking along Table Mountain. Photo: Linda Leestemaker

Walking on the beaten path… of Table Mountain. Photo: Linda Leestemaker

Jan Morris, travelwriter for Smithsonian Magazine, agrees on the part that you need connection with the readers to write a great travel story. But even more importantly are the feelings you manage wake in peoples minds. “The best travel writers are not really writing about travel at all. They are recording the effects of places upon their own particular temperaments”, he stated in earlier interviews. Experience above the event. Is that not the same as novels do? Novels evoke feelings, make you sad, happy or even angry at certain moments in the story. Those feelings keep you connected to the protagonist, or in this case, to the journey ahead.


Need inspiration... Photo: Mardou Jacobs

Need inspiration… Photo: Mardou Jacobs

So being attracted to traveling because of stories in books and magazines isn’t strange, it is the effect their writing should have on you. As Morris stated, travel writing has this allure to be read, because you feel ‘enriched’ after reading it. And this effect only became bigger with the ‘invention’ of travelblogs. Now you don’t have to pay for a magazine or a book anymore. Just open your laptop, or start your computer and there are all the stories you could read! Just a button-click away. The only weak spot of travelblogs, according to George and Morris, is that you have to dig through a lot of rubbish before you find genuinely good travel writers. The ones that tug at your heartstrings and just do not let go, those little gems which easily get lost among all the other stories. It is true though, internet makes it a lot easier to just write anything where a magazine has editors that have at least some control on what people do and don’t read. But there are still awesome, and moving travel blogs and stories out there! So search, read, and be inspired!

Connection is easily created when it comes to ‘dark tourism‘. When you visit Cape Town, you will probably visit Robben Island. The former prison in which Nelson Mandela was kept. When you visit New York, you will see Ground Zero. The sight of the former Twin Towers. Such sites (as well as ‘war-sites’ like Auschwitz and Ieper, Belgium) attract tourism because it is easy to create a connection based on horror, grief or silent awe (good or bad). Lots of blogs write about sites like these, but also magazines and books have been reaching for the subject more and more. But here, travel writers have a small obstruction: where do you draw the line when the story becomes ‘too real’, and mostly too horrific, to still be a travel story? It is a tough new problem, but still books about these sites sell rather well and more and more tourists read about and then visit these important sites.

That travel writing has a huge impact, was shown when the U.S. government was forced to shutdown public places in 2013 for two weeks. National parks, musea, monuments, all the things people read about and want to visit were closed. Travelers were devastated that they could not visit the sites that they’ve seen a million times in their minds while planning a trip. So again, it proves the great impact of travel writing on making your decision when it comes to holidays.

Photo: Linda Leestemaker

Photo: Linda Leestemaker

So don’t feel ‘like a tourist’ because you brought a travel magazine on the plane, or because you have a travel guide in your backpack. Humans need inspiration, need something to fill their minds with the most wonderful ideas and pictures so they can fantasize about destinations ahead. Think about that, next time you’re in your local bookshop and you spot the travel magazines. They were written to connect with you, and to connect you to all those places, far and near.

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