Monday, 25 June 2012

Music As An Input

If the King loves music, it is well with the land ~ Mencius
He who sings scares away his woes ~ Cervantes
You are the music while the music lasts ~ T.S. Elliot
One good thing about music - when it hits you, you feel no pain ~ Peter Tosh

The above quotes all pay homage to “music.” Music has been equally denounced as it has been celebrated by cultures over thousands of years. It has been used as an art form, as a tool for the state (propaganda and “nation-building”), as a way of bonding social capital and bridging social capital.

Music has an inherent power to share, to indoctrinate and to entertain.

Psychologically then, we would be right to question how does music influence our emotions and behaviour?

There has been a lot of “pop” psychology or studies masquerading as psychology which all seem to denigrate particular forms of music (think rap/contemporary hip hop) as having a negative influence on the listener. Heavy metal/thrash rock; also suffer from this accusation.  Religious and or social conservatives tend to agree that one form of music is ok, but other forms must be closely monitored or worst case: even banned. The furore over some records such as “Smack My Bitch Up” (The Prodigy)   and “Sympathy for the Devil” (The Rolling Stones) exemplify how some were turned off by the lyrical content and what they thought the lyrics endorsed. 

Smack My Bitch Up - The Prodigy

Sympathy for the Devil - The Rolling Stones

Conversely, religious groups often use music as part of their religious practices. Churches of most denominations have long incorporated choir singing as part of their religious worship. Hindus, Sikhs and Sufi Muslims also use religious chanting to bring them to a state of closeness with God: 

Sufi Music (Sukun)

It would be funny to hear what secularists would say about religious music as a form of indoctrination... 

Personally Speaking

Music is unavoidable in the modern age as it has been since time immemorial. However its construction as an input has evolved from something, which at one time was perhaps story telling/celebratory, religious to now a form of mass entertainment.  How different people react to different forms of music is interesting, I personally cannot and will not listen to some forms of music as either the lyrics or the beats ascribed to that music form do not move me/uplift me/inform or entertain me.  The only music that has the power to do so for me: is reggae music. I will come on to a more detailed discussion of reggae music later, the purpose of this little post is for you as the reader to explore and question whether music in its entirety or just some forms of music have an important input into your psycho-social being.  Can you switch off from music? Does listening to some music give you perspective? Does it entertain? Does it soothe? Is it part of your religious or cultural beliefs?


Reggae music has a certain nostalgic meaning for a lot of people. At its height, in the early 70s to 80s, reggae music exploded on to the world scene thanks to pioneers such as King Tubby, Toots & the Maytals, The Wailers, Bob Marley and Dennis Brown.  Reggae music was vastly different to the electro-synth sounds of disco music that was being pumped out of New York clubs.  Reggae had a mission to not only entertain but to inform its listeners about the socio-economic-historical legacies of empire, nation-building (particularly for Jamaica) and racism.  It was an inherently political music form and one could say laid the foundations for spoken word and rap to develop its own energy and cultural capital.  The reggae music of the 70s in particular then, had a very particular resonance for a lot of listeners who would have been teenagers in that decade, that is why these people still turn up to Rodigan up and down the country, because the music of that generation left a lasting input into their being.  The music educated them on the hardships of life post empire, how to build a nation, how to be a man, how to be a woman, all these ideas and personal development issues which one could say had been catastrophically decimated by the legacy of empire; now had an outlet in the lyrics of reggae music which connected listeners to a very simple off beat or skank. If you compare the reggae beat to other forms of music, you will immediately hear its simplicity, it is hardly ever complicated by lots of drums and synth sounds. The simplicity of the beat lets the lyrics take over.

For younger connoisseurs of reggae music, this is incredibly important, we have a history, a cultural record to which we can refer to, and even though some of what we may feel is romanticised, the fact that the explosion of reggae music and its global reach from Jamaica to Japan, means that we have access to a story that is generally whitewashed in the history textbooks and or given scant attention to. When you are part of a diaspora community then, the music that forms part of your cultural heritage; is important in providing you with context and an input into who you are. Even if you are not part of that ethno-cultural group, the fact that reggae music along with Punk music recorded so many important historical moments for groups, which were often maligned or ignored by the dominant majority, gives us access to knowledge.

Junior Murvin - Police and Theives

Dennis Brown - Here I Come

Has the input of music led to a higher standard of output from you?

By Farzana Rahman. 

Thursday, 22 March 2012

The Trouble with Guilt!

The trouble with guilt is that we can all feel it innocent or not. It can strike at random and be difficult to recognise. It makes you feel just horrible, low and stressed. It can be useful, justified or unjustified but the affects can be damaging to both our physical and psychological health.

It comes down to our hormones. Our nervous system is connected to the immune system so how we feel affects what hormones our body's choose to release.

When we're happy we release endorphins which foster feelings of well-being and pleasure.

But when we're worried or anxious we release hormones like cortisol which depletes your body's resources and over long periods can lead to anxiety, depression and mental and physical illness.

Outside Perspective 

Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud, the forefather of psychoanalysis, said that guilt was the result of the struggle between the ego and the super-ego. The ego and the super-ego along with the Id make up the psyche according to Freud.

The Id is the impulsive unconscious part, which seeks pleasure. The super-ego relates to morals and is incapable of accepting excuses for anything below its moral standards and the ego is the rational balance seeker between the Id and the super-ego.

Looking at it like this we can easily understand that guilt is a natural thing that assists us in our journey to find balance. Anyone who doesn't experience guilt or remorse would be considered a psychopath or sociopath suffering from ASPD (Antisocial Personality Disorder).

A huge issue when it comes to resolving guilt can be identifying if what you are dealing with is "False Guilt" or "Existential Guilt". False guilt being basically the false belief that what you feel must be real, therefore if you feel guilty you must be. Dr Lynne Logan of Orange County does a lot of work on the subject of denial versus reality and helps people identify if they are feeling unjustly guilty (false guilt) or existential guilt, based on behaviour that actually exists and harm or wrong doing actually done or committed against another.

Another issue is knowing when that guilt is good for us. Evolutionary psychologists theorise that guilt is an evolutionary tool  developed to foster reciprocal altruism and forgiveness and believe that without any guilt or shame we would not live in a civilised society where we feel too ashamed not to 'do the right thing' as it were. So if you have behaved poorly, dishonestly or mistreated someone chances are your conscience is making you feel awful about it, encouraging you not to make such choices next time around.

Our natural instincts and defences against guilt can make us respond in a number of ways where we might repress, project, rationalise, direct blame or outright deny responsibility or involvement.

Experts put forward a number of suggestions on how to remedy guilty feelings from seeking fair punishment or forgiveness for ones actions to simply recognising and analysing the mistake or behaviour so as not to repeat it or even letting time heal till the feeling dissipates.

Whatever you do choose to try, do establish whether the guilt you feel is real and just or if it is false guilt. Recognition can banish false guilt in an instant, but be careful not to deceive yourself through any of our natural defence mechanisms already mentioned.

Personally Speaking

For me guilty feelings can jump out of seemingly nowhere, but I've learnt to recognise the symptoms.

I tend to feel sombre and moody for no reason. I get restless and distracted - as though my subconscious was trying to get my attention.

So now I've learned to give it my attention and recognise these feelings as guilt.

Once I know what I'm feeling 'guilt' I have to scan my mind to see what situations I might be feeling bad about (this requires real honesty - there can't be room for shame about facing my behaviour or feelings if I'm truly going to resolve the feelings).

When I have identified the situation or behaviour that is bothering me I review it;

  • Sometimes I have to take responsibility or apologise for what I said or did.
  • Sometimes I have to accept that I was unable to prevent/change the situation.
  • Sometimes I see that I truly believe in the action or behaviour I engaged in and realise I have to try not to worry about the perceived judgments or repercussions
  • I may realise the guilt was unwarranted false guilt and I was unnecessarily worrying about how I may have come across or my simply misremembering events.
It's certainly not a wonder cure but this method dispels my guilty feeling and keeps the cortisol at bay.


In conclusion guilt can be damaging. With numerous causes and being difficlut to detect it can be hard knowing where to start dealing with guilt. 

But for the sake of your health and happiness you must pay more attention to situations or behaviour that leaves you feeling down and see whether your guilt is real or if you are worrying needlessly over something small or non-existent.

Take the first steps to resolving your issues of guilt and try to avoid repeating behaviour that leads you to these guilty feelings in the first place, after all prevention is better than cure!

See the following links and videos for help dealing with guilt and further information as well as checking out all the keyword links in the article. 

Please feel free to share your stories or ideas about guilt or on any other subject covered by this blog.

Temet nosce, carpe diem et esto perpetua.

Know thyself, seize the day and may it be perpetual.

Leah xx

Monday, 13 February 2012

Great Expectaions

Having great expectations, high hopes, setting high standards can be just a part of life. But does it matter how high our hopes are? By expecting great things are we helping to manifest them into our lives or are our high standards controlling us, never allowing us to be satisfied? Again does it even matter?
Check out this info on Schema and you will begin to grasp how much our mindset can affect us – from our perceptions and judgements and even our recollections. This in turn greatly affects our relationships with others, how we see ourselves and view life in general. So are high standards a help or a hindrance?

Personally Speaking
I like to set some standards high – not so high as to be impossible, but high enough to keep me working towards something, be it a moral standard or a goal to help advance my career. With other goals I tend to be a little more vague and light hearted with my expectations. If I ban myself from wine or the odd cigarette that I’m used to, based on my past experiences, I expect myself to crave my forbidden fruit and am likely binge on them with the promise of quitting properly tomorrow.

For me tackling any issue starts with knowing oneself so as to deduce the best way to personally deal with it. Acknowledging my own guilty issue of procrastination coupled with a lazy faith, I have enforced a ‘seize the day’ attitude, but without setting specific targets. In this way I pursue my high standard of being a highly motivated, go-getter without the added pressure that I know could tempt me to quit.
In the last few months I’ve started studying, begun entering writing competitions, looking at new jobs and started this blog, so I can say it works for me.

That said I still think we can all be guilty of casually held expectations that can have a negative impact, like expecting certain behaviour of your partner or convincing yourself future events wont turn out well. These can be snap judgements based on past experiences, but knowing what has happened before only tells us what can happen again not what will or should.
That is my opinion but what do others say on the matter?

Outside Perspective
I’ve gathered a number of quotes on standards and expectations. Which do you agree with?

"High achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectations."– Charles F. Kettering, Inventor.
"I am not in this world to live up to other people's expectations, nor do I feel that the world must live up to mine." - Fritz Perls, Psychiatrist.

"Don't lower your expectations to meet your performance. Raise your level of performance to meet your expectations. Expect the best of yourself, and do what is necessary to make it reality." - Ralph Marston, Writer.

"Nobody succeeds beyond his or her wildest expectations unless he or she begins with some wild expectations." - Ralph Charell, Writer.

"Acceptance of prevailing standards often means we have no standards of our own." - Jean Toomer, Writer.

"It's not that my standards are too high, I havn't been asked out in a year. I have no standards, anyone, please!" - Yasmine Bleeth, Actress.

“Swimming was like my escape, but it was also like this huge prison because I felt like I had to swim up to people's standards.” – Amanda Beard, Olympic Athlete.

“It's hard to lose when your standards are so low.” – John A. Simone Snr, Author

“Anger always comes from frustrated expectations.” – Elliott Larson, Author.

"I am open to the guidance of synchronicity, and do not let expectations hinder my path." – Dalai Lama.
"When one's expectations are reduced to zero, one really appreciates everything one does have" – Stephen Hawking, Professor.
Plenty of food for thought there but let’s sum up the pros and cons of high expectations and standards based on my recent reading, research and quotes.
The higher the bar we set for ourselves the greater we feel when we achieve our expectations and goals
When we let society set our standards we can often lose sight of our own and just follow the crowd
Even the biggest goal can be broken down into small achievable steps
We can feel inadequate when we perceive ourselves as not living up to societal standards
Having a high expectation means there is always something to look forward to be it the bigger picture or the next step
We can abandon our standards altogether if we set them too high and end up becoming desperate
Reaching for the stars can be great motivation for achieving truly great things
We can become too prideful in our high expectation of how things or people should be; allowing ourselves to be arrogant or judgemental of that which doesn’t meet our high standards
Setting standards can be a personal guideline to achievement and can give us security
The higher our standards and self expectation the more our fear of failure can eat at us
Common standards and expectations can unite us into communities with similar beliefs
Expectations can work like assumptions; when we assume we know what others think of us we can become imprisoned in the need to maintain or shatter the image
Living by ones own standards can bring a sense of freedom
Setting high standards can isolate us from peers who may doubt and discourage you or be envious of your faith/expectations and future plans
Expectation seen not as judgement but as hope can bring joy in life’s uncertainty
When you expect nothing you cannot be disappointed or wield blame

So what do the experts say?

Sociologists, psychologists and physiologists agree that setting high standards is not irrelevant. Robert K. Merton’s Self-fulfilling prophecy or Thomas theorem (W.I. Thomas) suggest that our expectations can often shape the path we take, leading us to a place where what we expect comes to fruition. Pygmalion Effect (Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson) mirrors this finding and is based on experiments in education, where imposed beliefs on a students ability would affect the way the teacher behaved toward them thus fulfilling the preconceived beliefs. Expectancy Theory (Viktor Vroom) looks at motivation based on expectations and basically states that if the reward is valued and desired highly enough the motivation and effort put into attaining it will be increased. Dr David Rock, looking at the research of Professor Wolfram Schultz, discusses the link between dopamine and the reward circuitry of the brain and how dopamine is released when we expect something and we are either rewarded with more when these expectations are met or punished with a decline in dopamine levels when they are unmet.

Ultimately, although there is potential for disappointment, failure, judgement and even enslavement to ones own image, fear of these seems no reason not to set high standards for yourself. Providing our expectations are hopes and not judgements and we are careful not to box ourselves in with societal pressures, the experts say having great expectations can be highly rewarding, motivating and the beginning of something life changing. Positive expectations make us happy and subconsciously promote encouraging behaviour. But we should remember not to be too invested in outcomes and try to remain realistic in order to avoid disappointment. (See Psychology of Success for help and advice with setting and achieving your goals, expectations and standards)

I’ll leave you with a few final quotes that rang true to me.

“When we are motivated by goals that have deep meaning, by dreams that need completion, by pure love that needs expressing, then we truly live life.” – Greg Anderson, Author

“We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aid, but by an infinite expectation of the dawn.” – Henry David Thoreau, Author

“I set my standards just high enough to fail everyday, but remain happy because I’m enjoying the journey and not worrying about the destination.” – Leah James (Me), Writer.
Temet nosce, carpe diem et esto perpetua.
Know thyself, seize the day and may it be perpetual.

Further reading:
Robert K Merton

Thursday, 26 January 2012


What It Means To Me

It is easy to understand that with food what we put into our system affects what we put out (and I’m not talking toilet here). To say bad diet equals bad health is a little simplistic but a fair deduction to make. But we don’t often think of our minds in that way. The psyche is a powerful thing and the senses are constantly absorbing and digesting data for it.

Personally Speaking

That got me thinking. Over the past few years I have been reducing my intake of certain things, from horror movies to chocolate, TV soaps to mainstream music (not to say that any of these are bad things). I replaced these, what were for me merely time passers, with more deliberate choices of past times and subject matters; like watching Youtube videos on quantum physics and dynamic thinking (I adore TEDtalks), reading books and websites on self help and the esoteric as well as watching more comedies and spending more time karaoking with mum.

And has it affected my output? Well I think so yes!

By being more choosey about what I allow in I’ve discovered that what comes out (of me at least) is more focused and constructive. I feel I’m more decisive and more confident in myself, more present in my daily dealings and generally happier and more interested in what can sometimes be the humdrum that is my own life.

Outside Perspective

After several discussions with people on the matter a friend, Life Coach in training and fellow blogger Daniel Whittaker (see the brilliant Each One Teach Won ) sent me the following video after letting the words and concepts marinate.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this video. How does it make you feel? What thoughts/ideas does it conjure?

Ideas and Thoughts

This is the statement this video produced from me (or I from it, or both).

“The infinite perpetuation of the input/output cycle all begins with what you choose to put in...You only need to start”

This really motivated me, both to seize the day and to continue to pay attention to that which I expose myself to. Every time I deliberately choose something for myself I am setting something into motion. That could be thoughts, feelings or situations, but one will lead me to another, to another, to another until I reach the point where I’m faced with another choice and must make another decision for myself.

Looking at it this way makes even the dullest of existences and the seemingly most powerless of people’s lives seem full of colour, choice and options. So why not take some control and choose wisely with your mental input and enjoy the results of what comes out.

Temet nosce, carpe diem et esto perpetua.

Know thyself, seize the day and may it be perpetual.


Hi Everyone,
Thanks for coming to my blogspot.

Input:Output (a.k.a is based on my belief in a simple idea.
A higher standard of input = A higher standard of output.
This is a space for those who enjoy thinking to air and share there thoughts on interesting subjects, written by an aspiring novelist, a liver of life and a lover of humour and humanity.

So join me in thoughts and discussions. No opinion or idea is too big, too small or too silly to be shared and considered.

This is basic psychology in easy to digest portions. 

Bon apetit - Enjoy.
Leah xx