Negative Feedback

This week, I entered the realm of online dating. It struck me that I wanted more romance in my life, but didn’t really know how to go about finding it. So I started an OK Compu – err, OK Cupid profile. I spent Sunday doing little but that (I was bedridden, okay?!). Turns out, it’s a great learning tool for figuring out what I want in a relationship. I’ll get to that in a bit, but first: more from Maxwell Maltz and Psycho-Cybernetics!

Maltz discusses the human brain/body as a ‘servo-mechanism‘, a fancy term for a simple robot. There are two types of servo-mechanism, which are defined by what their goal is. They either A) have a target and must seek it out, or B) have no target and must find a target. A heat-seeking missile might display both routines. No target – scan for heat signatures. Found no heat signatures? Carry on and try again. Found a heat signature? Good. Mission accomplished. Now on to the new mission.

It does its job using a principle called Negative Feedback. Every so often it performs a check: am I moving toward my new target? If yes, carry on. If NO, adjust course. It’s logical. Of course, we all learn from our mistakes, no surprise. The difference for us is humans can store infinite negative AND positive feedback and draw on the memories of those in later situations.

In fact, we must go through this process for every single thing we do in life, ever. Our Spirit (“operator”, in Maltz terms) wants to do something, but it doesn’t know how. So, it tries. It fails. It puts the experience in the “how not to do this” pile and tries again. We see this in babies trying to grab stuff. It sees something on the table. It has no idea what its muscles are supposed to do so it uses a bunch of them and punches Mommy in the face. Okay, no, more to the left. Too far, now to the right a little more BAM nailed it. From now on I know how to grab things that are sitting on the coffee table while on the couch. Now it has a successful attempt in its memory, and it will draw on that in the future.

This is how we get good at things – but, the fact that we draw on positive feedback when we want to do something can be a pitfall. People who have only had toxic relationships are going to continue having toxic relationships, because, hey, it was a relationship, and it didn’t start out toxic. They know they can get that specific type of person, so they will continue seeking them out. Other types of people (ie not jerks) seem to them out of the realm of possibility.

If I practice a piece wrong a thousand times over, it’s ingrained in my muscle memory as “the way it’s played” and even when someone tells me I’m wrong I’m still going to do it that way, until I make the conscious effort to do it right a bunch of times, effectively saving over the old memory. Given a limited amount of positive feedback, one’s options are limited. But getting more is hard, it means trying new things, which means negative feedback, which feels bad. We need to get out there and make more mistakes.

So that’s what online dating is doing for me. Currently, I have no goal. Or, maybe my spirit knows exactly what I want but I don’t have words or ideas to represent that so I have to build up a store of what I don’t want in order to find what I do. So I browse profiles. I go through scenarios in my head based on their profiles – is the type of relationship they are looking for something like what I’m looking for? Would I be happy with this person? These thought experiments become more accurate as I start messaging people. If they don’t answer, well, I guess not. If they answer, we get chatting (or we don’t – that’s a whole other lesson), I get a better picture of what this person is like. Is this the type of person I can spend a lot of time with?

Selective is not something I have been in the past. I have had an image of myself as having very limited choices, so I go with anyone I can, for as long as I can stand to. I need to Fail Faster. Up to now, I have been failing slower and slower, and it sucks for everyone. I need to recognise when a connection is not going to work, and nip it in the bud.

To those concerned I will turn into a “ladykiller,” fear not. I will be smart, compassionate, and patient. If I follow my heart, listen to its rhythm, and love myself, and extend my love in all directions, as we all should, things will be aces.

So, thanks for reading – and go make some mistakes, dammit!



The Cycles We Live

Today’s topic was given to me by the universe, by Sympathetic Resonance, by what we sometimes call synchronicity, or serendipity.

Today, I watched A Video By Spirit Science about Sacred Geometry. I only got about halfway through before I had to bike somewhere to do some volunteer massage at the new Children’s for parents of sick children. Energetically, emotionally, it was a low-vibration point of my day. These parents are battling against their children’s illnesses, all day, every day. Some of them even live there. You can imagine it being draining. How difficult is it to stay positive in those situations?

On my way home, on my bike, I decided – against my normal insistence – to take the bike path on deMaisonneuve. It has more hills and less excitement so I tend to ignore it. But, today, I just decided to take it, there and back. It got me thinking about hills, which got me thinking about some of my friends who spend a lot of time in a negative energy place, and have no luck fighting their way out. The thing about hills is that every time there’s an exhilarating downhill, there’s a grueling uphill (why I prefer flat roads haha). Now when you reach a downhill slope, you have two options: stop pedaling and coast, or pedal like a madman and gain a boat load of momentum. I don’t have to explain which one will help you get up the uphill part of the same hill.

The same is true in the rest of life. There are good parts of your day, week, month, year, life, and there are bad parts, in the same amount, in the same increments. “Life is Beautiful,” but “Shit Happens.” When things are going good, don’t just sit there playing video games – or worse, watching someone else play video games – all day. Because one day shit will happen and you will have no momentum. What then?

Then I got home and continued watching the aforelinked video. Click here and watch at least a couple of minutes because it pretty much floored me (or, at least, it might have, but I have been noticing a lot of synchronicity lately so it wasn’t that surprising). They discuss exactly the same principle, but add another element: cycles of different lengths exist in our lives and they all share this property.

Right now, I am in a nice cycle where each week I write for this blog. On a smaller scale, I am in the habit of waking up at 6 every morning, often right before my alarm, and doing a 2-2.5 hour routine including stretching, Morning Pages, and tasting my breakfast. It gives shape to my whole day and I end up being quite productive. I also take time to do dick all, which is important for me to continue to be productive later. Recently I have also begun longer structures, such as being cast in Tommy, which continues the cycle of being in plays that I have been in for quite some time.

If you watch the video, you’ll see that they talk about how the smaller structures can affect the larger structures. The fact that I have this routine I do every morning not only makes my day more productive, but it makes my week more productive, which makes my month more productive, etc. You can’t achieve anything in a year if you don’t achieve anything in a day. Even days where you “do nothing,” at least do something that feeds your soul in some way.

Right now I’m going to go drink another beer with my Dad because sometimes, you just have to go with the flow.

Thanks for reading. What do you do every day?


The Time We Waste

So this might end up being more of a rant directed at myself. But I’m sure you’ll be able to relate.

It’s 9:30, and my self-imposed schedule says I should be in bed in half an hour. But I also owe myself an Artist’s Date. If you read last week’s post you’ll know I’m doing The Artist’s Way, a 12-week program to promote one’s creativity. Part of that involves weekly dates for your inner artist child. It has been doing really well on that front up until this week. For a reason I can pin point pretty well (ie Dark Souls is way too good), my creativity has been giving way to playing video games. Case in point, I was meant to spend this night nourishing my inner artist, a self-conscious little girl who has been really on edge lately. Or maybe it’s the rest of me that’s on edge and I’m taking it out on my artist child. But I just spent the last 2 hours playing games. I already spent like 3 or 4 hours playing games today. Why did I need more? Is Dark Souls just THAT good? Can that be considered my artist’s date? I should decide what constitutes an artist’s date. Right? That’s the whole point.

Just yesterday I did a Task for the Artist’s Way which asked me to list 10 ways in which I am mean to myself. The first two I wrote are:

-Reprimanding myself for relaxing
-Reprimanding myself for eating

“Good lord!” you might say. “What an idiot! People need food and relaxation, it’s part of survival! Pretty basic shit Travis get it together.” Right? And yet, here I am, eating dates, and celery and challah with hummus, reprimanding myself for doing these things. In case you’re worried, I know I’m being an idiot, and I’ve cracked open a beer at this point in order to reinforce that what I’m doing is okay and I should not be ashamed for doing what I want to do when I should be relaxing, god damn it.

So… is there a point to all this? Sure, I’ll make one. One thing I want to point out is: we are the time we waste. Partly. We are also the work we do and who we spend time with. We are what we do. But wasting time is an important part of what we do, if you ask me, so we want to do it WELL. Playing Dark Souls*, if you ask any gamer worth her salt, is a fantastic way to waste time. As a game designer, I’m learning all sorts of things that only Dark Souls can teach me, so really, it’s not a WASTE of time. But I also spent a fair chunk of time playing Smash Bros† online. I have already spent countless hours playing Smash Bros and stand to learn little from it. Time more objectively wasted, then. If Dark Souls is just as restful for me as Smash Bros, why not excise Smash Bros from my activity calendar? It’s true I get bored of Dark Souls once in a while, but I have tens of other games I could play instead. Or I could go for a bike ride. Like I had planned to for my artist’s date.

You know, I think I might just do that. My legs are itching and I’m full of sugar from all those dates.

Thanks for reading. Waste your time well.


*Dark Souls in a nutshell: One of the hardest games ever, according to gamers everywhere. You are an undead adventurer in a hostile world of zombies, skeletons, demons, and dragons. Everything fucking kills you. Over and over and over. It’s awesome.

†Smash Bros in a nutshell: Nintendo’s best battle it out in a 2D platformer fighting game. Online, 5 minute matches can be played in rapid succession, grinding time away to nothing.

What We Keep From Our Selves

I had not been sure what I was going to blog about until about twenty seconds ago. This is because this whole week, something has been gnawing at my subconscious. I’m going to be talking about repressed memories and feelings.

I am participating in a 12-week program called The Artist’s Way. It is a wonderful process for unblocking one’s creativity. It identifies what in your life is preventing you from achieving your full creative potential. Each week there are 10 Tasks. One type of task is what she (Julia Cameron) calls Time-Travel. This implies going through your memories (or imagining your future) to identify sources of our emotional issues (or to motivate us). It can be a very difficult process. This week, the two Time-Travel tasks were:

– imagine yourself at 80 and write your current self a letter; and

– remember yourself at 8 and write your current self a letter.

I wrote the first letter with a little hesitation, but ultimately it flowed smoothly. I began the second letter and stopped when I realised I remember nothing from that age.


I could remember plenty from 10 years old, and 5 and 6 were no trouble. But Grade 3 and Grade 4 completely elude me.

I put it out of my mind. I said, “Okay, clearly I need help remembering” and put it off until I could find my year book. Then I couldn’t find my year book. I started this on Monday morning; we’re now Thursday, and since then my apartment has become much messier, and my shoulders much more tense. Perhaps, these are related.

It must be stated that I was heavily bullied in elementary school. I had what you might call a terrible time. I was very often beat up by multiple people at once. I did not defend myself. I just kept moving. I did not talk about it much with my parents, and certainly not with my teachers. I just kept playing video games, because that was the only world in which I had any control.

I can only imagine myself at the time, developing the survival tactic of completely ignoring everything that happened at school as soon as I left. Storing those awful memories in a vault. Well, I had a look at the vault today with my Mother, when we looked through some school assignments she kept from my entire school experience. Grade 3 was particularly interesting. I found an exercise book with short fiction and poetry I wrote at 8 and 9 years old. Two stories stuck out in particular: one about Santa Claus and one about the Easter Bunny. They are both about horrific monsters, and having to overcome them. As I read them, I laughed; but it quickly dawned on me that these monsters were not invented.

Another thing that stuck out from that collection was an autobiographical paragraph. Quite descriptive, until the line, “…and I hate loosing(sic) friends.” As I write this a particular memory comes up. A wonderful sleepover in which my friend and I stayed up and named all 151 Pokémon. Very soon after, he joined my bullies, and used knowledge gained in that sleepover to ridicule me. No wonder I don’t remember much from that year.

I probably can’t say much more on the subject you don’t already know. I think repressed memories affect the art we make in huge, invisible ways.

Part of me thinks I should be writing a letter to my 8 year old self, instead of the other way around….

Thanks for reading.