Monday, October 28, 2019

Policing other people's behaviours

Recently I have been watching a lot of Chinese shows talking about all kinds of social and psychology issues in society. One of the episodes had a discussion about a newly invented label "green tea slut" that is supposed to be given to a woman who gives the impression of being innocent, elegant and naïve in order to make other men fall in love with her, but in reality they are scheming and they take advantage of these "poor men" financially and emotionally. These labels are usually given to women by other women. It's basically the Asian version of slut-shaming, with women being particularly angry that this type of women don't also dress like the promiscuous type to give obvious warning to other women. Also, promiscuity discussed here is not only about sexual behaviour. Women try to police other women for being "emotionally/verbally slutty" as well, ie. talking in a way that makes men feel like they have a chance to date her/become her boyfriend.

In the episode, instead of criticizing the type of women being given this label, the invited "relationship experts" and psychology counsellors try to explain that instead of listing all the ways women with this label are horrible, maybe one can try to admit one is actually jealous of this type of women, and figure out the specific relationship skills this type of women possess that make men fall in love with her easily, and one can think about acquiring some of the particular skills that make them likeable and attractive to men.

In the comments section, women continue to voice their hatred for this type of women. In actuality this is not a specific type of women. It can be any woman who is super well-liked and is fantasized by male classmates, work colleagues, and even most women's boyfriends. It could be a woman who "stole" the heart of one's biggest male crush. This woman can actively manipulate men's psyche such that her multiple boyfriends don't realize they are not exclusive with her, or she could simply be actively pursued by multiple high quality guys, all competing to become "the" boyfriend.

Since this "green tea slut"-shaming is not a thing in the west, I am having a bit of trouble understanding the mentality of it. I guess many women are brought up to believe that as a woman, there are "good" and "bad" ways to behave. Women who are successful at garnering attention from a large number of men are "evil" and men should be ashamed of themselves for falling for this type of women.

I mean, I guess it sucks to fall for manipulative people, period. It happens to all of us, whether in romance, at work, in politics, in social circles, etc. But from what I can observe, these critics consider non-manipulative women who have personalities that genuinely attract a lot of men to be just as evil as the manipulative ones. Maybe it all comes down to the question "why can't I attract the men I'm interested in and woman X gets attention from all the men?" Their interpretation of the answer to this question is that these women are behaving in ways that are not allowed (not allowed by what? By their inner police).

It comes down to what is attractiveness. The most obvious answer is looks. In the west, charm, sense of humour (for men) are also obvious. In the east, what makes a woman charming (besides looks) is less understood by women. The dominating judgemental way of thinking of how a woman should and should not behave will take some time to shift I guess. 

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Bouldering progress

This is my first time bouldering after awhile. My back and shoulders are still a bit sore from climbing last weekend. The last time I wrote about bouldering was 4 months ago. Time flies! 

I'm not climbing much harder routes than 4 months ago. The difference is that back then, every boulder felt "weird". They required my body to twist into unfamiliar angles and bear weight in ways that were very different from my previous gym. Now my body feels more comfortable on boulders of the same levels. I am more used to the styles of boulders at this gym, even though I don't come to this bouldering gym so often. I still don't love slopers (big bumps that require the friction of an open hand to stay on), but I am getting to the point where I trust that they will hold me. My body has gotten stronger. It has learned that some standing positions, while feeling uncomfortable, will hold when I make my next move. I am actually strong enough to try a few boulders at the next level (blue ones at this gym). They require new body positions where my feet slip off again. I have no doubt though I will eventually figure out a way to place my feet such that they do not slip off of the footholds.  

A new friend climbed with us during this session. He has a very different style of climbing. His feet slips all over the place. He compensates with his incredible upper body strength. So basically at every position his hands and upper body are bearing his weight. On good foot holds his feet his feet/legs will bear some weight, but on less good, angled foot holds the legs are not really engaged. This is how a lot of guys climb initially, because many of them have the strength to do 10+ chin ups/pull ups before they even started climbing. I see that for boulders with good handholds, they have no problem doing chin ups all the way up to the top. However, on boulder problems (at the V1-V3 / 5-6b levels)  where the handholds are small crimps, they run into some troubles. At first I thought it's not a good way to climb, but after observing quite a few guys climbing this way, I realized that there are enough boulder problems in the gym that are upper-body strength-oriented that they don't reeeeally need to be great with footwork if they just avoid the routes with small crimps. It's the same that I basically cannot do any bouldering problems with moves that require more upper body strength and core strength than I currently possess. Sometimes I can do some intermediate moves to get me to the top, but sometimes I just gotta wait until I get stronger. 

I didn't think I would get to a stage where I really enjoy bouldering, but here I am. Enjoying means I can get through boulder problems that are just at the limits of my abilities. If a boulder is too easy, it is boring. If it is too hard and way beyond my abilities, it's frustrating and pointless to try them. The best boulder problems are the ones where I can make progress after several tries, I can practice the moves, try different things (toes at different angles), hands holding the handhold in different ways, etc, and get better at doing them. The leg, core and arm muscles feel like they are exerting at a strenuous level that they can handle (ie. The Goldilocks zone). It feels very rewarding.

Most importantly, my bunions didn't hurt during this session, which is amazing. Which means I should probably spend this period to boulder more and cut back on sport climbing. My hips, knees and toes click a lot after climbing sessions, suggesting that changes are happening to connective tissues lines (muscles, fascia, bones, tendons, ligaments, all that fun stuff).  I'm really hoping my body learns to move in a way that does not put excessive pressure on the big toe base joints. Oh yeah, I also learned that beginner shoes are fine for my level of climbing. I do not need advanced climbing shoes (which hurt my feet) to send V3-V4 problems. 

Monday, October 21, 2019

Back in the climbing gym

So I rested a whole week before I went back to the climbing gym. The feet were hurting the entire week. I felt tired every day. It's not very efficient to strain oneself for 1.5 weeks of adventurous holidays and then take an entire week to recover, but I guess I was just falling back into my usual laziness. The trip showed me that my body could adapt to a more active lifestyle should I choose to adopt it.

Climbing in a gym feels soooo different than climbing outside. My feet don't need to press down quite as hard as they do on the rocks. There are no wind currents blowing by, no birds flying over my head, no spiders or other large insects strolling past my hands, no geckos/lizards, no thorny bushes to rip open the skin on my hands, arms and legs, and in general a lot fewer unexpected encounters for my brain to process/worry about. There are only the handholds, the next moves, and the height to deal with. I felt so much more comfortable and grateful to be back in the gym after a week on the rocks. It's a very strange feeling given how much I enjoyed climbing outside, directly next to the gorgeous blue Mediterranean Sea. 

When started out I had no clue how to move my hands and feet to go up the wall. Now I'm at a stage where I know exactly what I should do -- usually: do a slight pull up with my arms, then move one foot to the next foot hold, which is a move initiated from the hip flexors. But my leg won't do what my brain tells it to do, either because I'm too tired, or that I don't believe my body can do this move, or that once the foot is in the air, it has trouble landing comfortably on the next foothold securely enough to take on some of my body weight, so my 2 hands and my other foot begin to feel my body weight more, and the brain begins to panic that I can't hold this position for much longer. So my brain knows the different things I can try: shift body positions slightly, try placing the foot in a different way or somewhere else, or place it where I wanted to place it, then move the other foot up quickly, then hands up quickly, until I get to somewhere with secure feet again so I am rest and calm down my nerves.

It's a bit like learning a dance move. Except on the ground, one can just rehearse the move, do it badly several time to get the gist of the general direction of where arms and legs and body are supposed to go, and then work on the details of the aesthetics. On the wall, panic sets in every time a move is not done well because the brain worries the body is not strong enough to pull off the move and one can fall off. Here we have the procedural-planning side of the brain who is proud to have figured out a procedure to go about the sport route, but the safety-check side of the brain is like "You might not be strong enough to execute the moves", and freezes the hip flexor so I cannot actually lift my leg. Even though I can probably override it, but I do feel sore, so I ask my belay partner to tighten the rope and I hang and rest, and then feel a little bad that I didn't try harder to complete the move.

When I was outside, the thought of falling and rubbing my body on the rock wall like pressing a chunk of cheese over a cheese grater was just too horrendous, so I definitely erred on the side of caution. Now that I am indoors again, the moves feel really different from the moves I did outside. So I wonder if indoor training is good enough for improving my climbing outside. My conclusion is that indoor mainly helps me get stronger overall so that I can eventually hang onto the wall longer and try several different moves, instead of having to hang and essentially skip the hard parts of a challenging route.

I'm looking forward to being able to move more smoothly on the wall and having fewer of these moments where my body is unable to execute a move due to internal fights between different parts of my brain. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

New experiences climbing outside and intense emotions

I experienced a very intense week recently. It was a climbing vacation, and I was pushed to climb every day. I didn't know I could do it. I tried to keep it very easy on the first day. By the third and fourth day I was really tired. Then I thought I got used to it. But then when my brain could not will my body to do the moves that required a little extra stamina and strength (the type of exertion that normally triggers the ecstasy during climbing), I felt angry and defeated. I felt like I was not in control of my situation. On this trip I experienced anticipation, excitement, joy, adrenaline high, fear, anger, frustration, pain, helplessness, senes of accomplishment, boredom, confusion, dread, tiredness, stubbornness, impulsiveness. The trip brought out a lot of feelings and thoughts in me.

For one thing, I was very fortunate to be able to participate in such a trip. The weather was perfect; the setting was gorgeous ( by the Mediterranean Sea); the companions were intelligent people who have led very interesting lives; my partner was super accommodating to my weaknesses and complaints. I was expecting the trip to be a lot less strenuous, but was amazed my body could handle it. I learned that I could push my body to do a lot more than I thought I could. Climbing outside is so different than climbing indoors. In the gym you stand on these deliberate footholds, and follow a distinct path. On the rock, you are supposed to trust your feet to generate enough friction to stay on the angled wall with rough features on it. It's really different. My bunions were hurting after 2 days, so I didn't dare to push my feet harder into the wall, which meant I couldn't climb any harder. I tried to climb in a way that prevented aggravation of foot pain. It's good technique, but also limiting. I will take it easy and see if my feet feel better as they get stronger. If the pain persists I might not be able to climb higher grades in the future.

A lot of extra factors outdoors generate more fear and give the brain more factors to process. The wind; the sun; will this thin rock that I grab break off? Can this step hold my body weight? Many times I have to tell myself to breath, that I can get through this route. There was one 5a/5.7/5+ route where I felt very uncomfortable to push hard on my toes so I could grab higher and reach the next comfortable handholds / footholds. So I had to down-climb to the last quickdraw that I clipped to go down. That also felt really difficult as I had never down-climbed on rock walls before. I felt like I was gaining a lot of new experiences. The more I experience, the less scary they feel, the more my brain can handle it, and the better I can climb.

Because there were so many intense emotional triggers on this trip, I am reminded of how some of my friends used to tell me how "they are afraid to be bored". Yet they normally resort to activities like shopping, movie watching, socializing with friends, regular sight-seeing travels, alcohol drinking, and almost never adrenaline sports. I feel like when some people say they are bored, rather than craving true excitement, it means they want to be distracted. They do not want to be in a focused state. When I am up on the wall, there is no complaining I am tired, or bored. There is only problem solving so I can come down the wall safely eventually.

I'm hoping this experience will help me climb better in the future, both in the gym and outside. I'm also hoping it will help me  handle my emotions better in normal life.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Crazy dreams

(This is a  brain dumping, quick information look up and document entry)
Sleeping serves to regulate our metabolism, blood pressure, brain functions (cleaning brain waste, memory sorting, and learning integration) . Apparently, the role dreaming is more controversial around scientists. Some theories for the purpose of dreams include: 

Dreams as therapist

Dreams seem to operate from an emotional regions of the brain, where the logical region is shut off. The brain may be trying to make connections regarding feelings that the conscious self wouldn't make.

Dreams as fight-or-flight training

The amygdala, associated with survival and fight or flight response, is one of the most active part of the brain while dreaming. One theory suggests that dreaming is how the brain trains to deal with threats.

Dreams as muse

Dreams may serve to facilitate our creative tendencies. Many artists credit their dreams for inspiring their creative work.

Dreams as memory aides

Dreams may help the brain to integrate what you learned during the day and sort through complicated thoughts and feelings, to integrate your interpretation of what happened during the day, and to store important memories.

Factors that influence dreaming include daily activities, food taken that day, and health conditions. Sleep deprivation seems to induce more vivid dreams when you do eventually go to sleep. Pregnancy also induces intense dreaming due to increased hormone production. Mental health conditions can cause intense dreams. Antidepressant and antipsychotics have been associated with higher risk of nightmares.

(sources 12)

Why do I suddenly look up a summary of what is known about dreams? I woke up from a night of crazy dreams, one involving my mother owning a giant draw of bras of all sizes. She claimed that she "won" them as a prize). Another was about the mother of a friend who has passed away in real life. In my dream she came back to life to teach me about meridian lines on my body.

Sometimes my dreams are about stuff I encountered or thoughts I have been thinking about during the day, but I haven't been thinking about my mother or my friend or her mom. So where the hell did those thoughts come from (from the unconscious mind of course). Some people like to do dream interpretations, and they are basically creative endeavours which can go in any direction. I just want to know at a higher level what mine are trying to tell me. I think I have my crazy dreams because I am too stressed during the day (why? I have no clue). Yesterday in the afternoon while shopping with boyfriend I suddenly got sleepy and wanted to sit down, even though I have been doing next to nothing all day.

I have tried to read up on dreams before and wasn't satisfied with what I read. The scientific interpretations are very dry, because not all scientists studying dreams and sleep have crazy dreams themselves. But I think I should look up more about dreaming and how to take measures to resolve some of the issues so I don't dream about them any more.  Healthline.com suggests exercising in the morning and reducing stress in daily life in general. I suspect I need to do more meditations and a few more things.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Climbing progress post

Normally, when I go climbing, I climb until my body is not able to do the big power moves any more. So my muscles are tired and I have to go on easier routes. I stop when even the easier routes start to feel tiring; the skin on my hands feel tender, and my toes are in pain.

Last weekend, I managed to climb until the hand skin and toes were in pain, but my muscles, tendons and bones felt like they could handle more. Specifically, with my big toes: the climbing shoes push the big toe towards the center of my foot, so my bunion (base of big toe) experiences too much pressure from my body weight. The proper technique is to push on the big toe to hoist myself up the wall and I couldn't really do it. The hand skin was from a bit too much bouldering before the sport climbing session started.

In general, this means my body has gotten stronger, since I can boulder more in the beginning. Just when I feel my body is ready for bigger power moves, my toes say no. I'm not exactly sure how to continue. If I just ignore it, I think my bunions will get worse (one is starting to develop on the left foot, which didn't have much of a bunion before).

I think I have to see a podiatrist who understands climbing for some advice before I dare to push harder. It's probably okay for me to climb at the level that I climb (~6a+/6b) and stop when my feet start hurting. It's just frustrating that my endurance is improving but my feet don't allow me to climb for longer or push the feet harder for propelling the body up the wall. That's how life is, I guess. I will probably stay at this level for the rest of the year. Will try to focus more on aspects other than foot pushing, such as body positioning, breathing, and stronger hands. I'm not too concerned about hand skin.. I have no gaping holes on my hand so far. The indoor holds are nowhere as bad as outdoor rocks, which I have yet to try this or last year. I really hope to be able to get to try outdoor climbing before the end of this year.

Reference for foot problems for climbers: http://thomasbondphysio.blogspot.com/2013/08/feet-and-rock-climbing.html

Monday, August 26, 2019

What beginner meditation is like

I used to only do guided meditations. I would find my mind wandering whenever the speak stops speaking for a period of time. Lately, I have been doing 10-15 minute meditations with an app that makes a dinging bell sound every 5 minutes. Boy, seems like it takes forever for 5 minutes to arrive. I find myself pondering "Is it 5 minutes yet?" when only 3 minutes have passed.

So at this stage, I definitely don't achieve the "meditative state" (ie. a mind free of thoughts) all that frequently. I'm basically sitting for 15 minutes, letting my mind wander for 90% of the time, and being able to stop it a few times for maybe 10 seconds or so each time.

What's important to note is that:

1. It is not super easy to catch myself lost in thoughts, but when I do, I do have the capability to temporarily stop the string thoughts, as least for a few seconds, until my mind wanders again and I'm not aware it is happening.

2. Sometimes the thoughts are quite persistent, so I have to listen to the train of thoughts to see what issues are nagging at me.

3. Instead of some one line  verbal mantra, I try to pay attention to different body parts internally to see how they feel. I'm not sure if this is the right way to meditate, but I feel like the body scan is useful for me as I often hold unnoticed tensions in the neck or in the back. When there are local discomforts, sometimes if I pay attention to it and "breath into it", I can get the discomfort to ease away (probably some sort of tension or blockage).

4. The "meditation", or more accurately, a self-examination session, allows me to check in with my breathing as well. It seems to be always too shallow. I understand that sitting still does not require deep breathing, but I do notice that the rhythm of my breathing is not smooth most of the time.

5. With a million thoughts going through my mind, if I pay attention to my thoughts, the unimportant ones disappear. The ones that bother me would persist, urging me to write them down. When I start writing, they would morph into something different. Sometimes they disappear again, and sometimes something completely different comes out.

I really hope I can extend this into a daily 30 minutes session. I need to be better with time in order to do this.