NPR’s Invisibilia & the power of thought

NPR's Invisibilia & the power of thought

Yesterday I was consumed by my thoughts—and not the good kind.

By 6 p.m. I felt so blah that all I wanted to do was go lie down and wallow in self-pity. (Productive, right?)

But then I remembered I’d been wanting to check out NPR’s newest podcast, Invisibilia, and decided if I was going to go hang out in bed, I might as well learn something. The first episode couldn’t have been more appropriate for my crappy mood. It was all about the power of our thoughts—particularly the negative ones—and how they affect us.

Invisibilia is Latin for “all the invisible things,” which is exactly what this podcast is about: the intangible forces that shape who we are and how we walk through life. Co-hosted by Lulu Miller and Alix Spiegel, the first episode kicked off with responses from dozens of strangers on the street about what they were just thinking. And if you’ve ever caught yourself thinking something totally bizarre, self-destructive or morbid, you might find comfort in knowing just how common that really is.

Anyone who’s ever been consumed by dark thoughts has wondered, “Why can’t I stop thinking this way? What’s wrong with me?” And this first episode of Invisibilia shed some light on that by explaining three phases in the history of psychotherapy:

There’s the traditional Freudian thinking, which is that all of our thoughts have meaning and are tied to some deeper part of us. Which can be helpful if you never made a connection between a recurring thought and something from your past. But if there’s no obvious link, it can only exacerbate the “what’s wrong with me?” kind of thinking. (Which is what happened to one man profiled in the podcast when he began having seriously violent thoughts out of nowhere.)

Then cognitive behavioral therapy began to displace Freudian therapy by directly challenging negative thoughts—not accepting them at face value or taking them so seriously. Therapists who use this method don’t necessarily believe our thoughts are linked to who we are, and for anyone who is especially hard on themselves, this way of thinking can be a huge relief.

Mindful meditation is the most recent form of therapy of all. Instead of challenging negative thoughts, those who practice mindful meditation acknowledge the thoughts but don’t engage them. The idea is not to fight the bad thoughts but to simply let them float away.

It’s easy to see why, except for certain cases, Freudian therapy has slowly been replaced over time. Maybe those of us who are occasionally tortured by our thoughts place too much emphasis on them in the first place. Cognitive behavior therapy seems like a good and direct approach to addressing thoughts that are near the point of all-consuming, while mindful meditation seems like good practice to build into our everyday lives. After all, we can’t block out all the bad images that enter our minds, but we can decide to let them go.

Whether you’re a podcast listener or not (and until recently, I wasn’t), I highly recommend checking out Invisibilia. Not only does it cover the above, but it weaves in storytelling that’s totally addictive. My occasionally recurring sad thoughts were put into perspective big time when I learned the story of Martin Pistorius, a man who was trapped inside his own body for more than a dozen years and had only his thoughts to keep him company—or drive him to the brink of insanity. Pistorius—who went on to attend school for computer science, start a web design company and get married—wrote a book that I will be checking out very soon. And you can be sure I’m tuning in to the next episode of Invisibilia.

Have you listened to Invisibilia? What are some of you other favorite podcasts? (I’m looking for recommendations!)

Not That Kind of Girl

Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham

I read Lena Dunham’s memoir Not That Kind of Girl last week and thought it was an enjoyable, quick read—but ultimately not how I wanted to kick off a new year of books.

It clearly compelled me enough to keep turning the pages—I finished it in just a few days. But I felt neither better nor worse off for having read it. I can point to a few reasons why.

I came across Dunham’s award-winning series Girls like I do with most popular shows: late. In catch-up mode, I watched a few episodes back-to-back but couldn’t get into it. Given the show’s popularity, I felt like I was just missing something, until I started seeing criticism of the show piling up. As for the critics’ accusations (it’s racist, vapid) I couldn’t rightfully agree or disagree having only watched a few episodes, but the flak Dunham received for being naked on-screen all the time seemed rife with sexism and double-standards.

Beyond the talk surrounding Girls, I didn’t know much about Lena Dunham until her book came out. By then, I’d read several articles about her, including an interview by Roxane Gay that intrigued me. Clearly she was smart, well-spoken and a feminist. Even if I don’t “get” her work, she seemed like someone whose sensibilities I could get behind.

Not That Kind of Girl was entertaining. It was honest, open, introspective, controversial and funny at times, and I went into it with an open mind, or so I thought, until I found myself criticizing certain passages. And then I’d catch myself: Wait, am I being critical because I really think that, or because I’ve read so much criticism of Lena Dunham? 

Dunham said in her interview with Roxane Gay that she wished she would be seen for her craft and not just for her personal attributes. Not That Kind of Girl, of course, puts her personal attributes directly under the microscope (it is a memoir, after all), but it’s still possible and right to be objective about the craft. And I think technically, she does a good job. It wasn’t the stand-up routine in book form she feared she’d be forced into, though it was formulaic. I think it’s probably hard not to be, though, when you set out to write your personal story in which Manhattan serves as the primary backdrop. Still, lines like this Carrie Bradshaw voiceover-esque line stood out to me: “I didn’t know the word for it, but I was happy.” (The word she’s looking for is happy.)

The main criticism of Not That Kind of Girl I’ve seen is that Dunham doesn’t come across as very relatable, and I felt this as well. We shouldn’t be so quick to criticize Dunham for her upper middle-class upbringing without considering how many of our beloved artists came from similar backgrounds. There have been plenty of other rich—and richer—authors before Dunham, and there will be more after her. But the question is: Will her work still be held up next to theirs decades from now? Girls, I don’t know—maybe. Not That Kind of Girl—I doubt it.

I had a hard time writing this review because I don’t feel very comfortable with being a critic. Maybe I was disappointed because I read this and thought I could write something just as good knowing it would never be a bestseller. Maybe that disappointment morphed into irritation because I haven’t.

In any case, here’s an excerpt from a chapter in the “Work” section that I did really enjoy:

“I’ll recount all the interactions where I went from having an engaging conversation on craft with a man to hearing about his sexual dissatisfaction with his wife, who used to be passionate and is currently on fertility drugs. Suddenly, we’re talking about the way his college girlfriend left her boots on when she fucked and how marriage is ‘a lot of hard work.’

What this translates to is: my wife doesn’t turn me on and you aren’t a model but you sure are young and probably some bold new sexual moves have emerged since the last time I was single in 1992 so let’s try it and then you can go back to being married to your work and I’ll go back to being married to an ‘eco-friendly interior decorator’ and I’ll never watch any of your films again.

I’ll talk about how I never fucked any of them. I fucked guys who lived in vans, guys who shared illegal lofts with their ex-girlfriends who were away at Coachella, guys who were into indigenous plant live, and guys who watched PBS.

But I never fucked them.

I’ll talk about the way these relationships fell apart as soon as they realized I wasn’t going to be anyone’s protegee, pet, private fan club, or eager plus-one.”

 Have you read Not That Kind of Girl? What did you think?

Witty Title Here: Best of 2014

Witty Title Here: Best of 2014

As 2014 comes to an end (obligatory how-the-hell-did-that-happen?! comment here), I’d like to take one last look back.

For such a demanding year, I managed to contribute a lot to this space, and of that I’m very proud. Whatever 2015 brings in the way of employment, I hope to create, collaborate, experiment and play just as much—if not more.

By year’s end, Witty Title Here will have featured exactly 99 posts on adventure, careers, feminism, beer, books, how-to’s and life in Los Angeles. Some blogs easily churn out 2-3 times more than that, but I’m pleased with the (uneven) number 99. A lot of thought and care went into each and every one.

So here’s a look back at Witty Title Here‘s highlights of 2014. Whether you’re a new or longtime reader, you might find something you missed!

I kicked off the year by observing the strengths and weaknesses of the personality types to answer the question: What kind of creative are you? I also discovered one of my favorite new books and vowed to read more this year. (Success!)

In February, we talked about the importance of self-love (it’s sexy) and loving where you live now. (Don’t wait for the dream digs to nest.) I also checked out some of the best flea markets in Los Angeles.

The following month, I kicked off the Beer with a Blogger series, which has truly been one of the most enjoyable parts of blogging this year. (So many new friends!) I gave a few tips on where to look for inspiration when you’re in a creative rut and gave a tour of Pacific Beach in San Diego, which reminds me—I need to go back pronto.

Witty Title Here: Best of 2014

By April, I’d become a bit ambivalent about a lack of voice and opinion in the blog world and called upon myself and others to change that by leaving bland behind. Then I followed up by talking about the real meaning of the F-word.

Camping in Joshua Tree National Park was the highlight of May—wrapping up my first year of school was another, and I wrote a grad school survival guide based on my experience. I also wrote a guide on the best resources for staying up-to-date on the news and interviewed the author of one of the best books I’ve read all year.

I spent so much time on the computer this year that by June, I needed a reminder to step away from the computer and go play outside. I introduced you to a few of the best Los Angeles Instagrammers and spoke with two entrepreneurs about the challenges and joys of self-employment.

July marked a big anniversary—I celebrated one year in Los Angeles! That inspired me to launch the Summer Road Trip series, featuring a bunch of fellow adventure-seekers out on the road.

In August, I had my very first visitor and learned a few things about how to be a good host in a tiny apartment. During back-to-school season, I reminded myself of the true definition of “prioritizing” and how to stay focused on priority #1.

Witty Title Here: Best of 2014

School was my #1 priority in September, but I launched yet another series, Feminist to Follow, when I realized there are so many awesome bloggers and feminists out there whose voices could use all the help they can get to be heard.

I turned 25 in October and shared a few things I learned over the years (like how contrived lists of accomplishments we should have ticked off by now are bullshit). I also revealed the secret to befriending anybody—it’s not such a big secret—and raved about the Los Angeles Public Library system.

In November, I was dismayed by the time change and gave a few suggestions on how to deal when the days are short.

And finally, this month, careers were on my mind, so I talked about both ends of the career spectrum: how to be productive when no one’s hiring and why you should quit your job.

 That’s a lot of highlights! I hope you enjoyed reading Witty Title Here as much as I did writing for it. The best part of the whole blogging experience is making connections with you guys. Y’all are the real deal.

Thanks for reading, and cheers to all the good things to come in 2015. Now, if you celebrate, go enjoy the holiday. Merry Christmas!

Feminist Apparel giveaway! (Why do we need feminism?)

Feminist Apparel giveaway

I can think of a lot of reasons why we need feminism.

I’ll use some examples from my own personal experience, though there are far more reasons than these few:

Because the first time I was called a slut, I was 12 years old.

Because I don’t feel safe walking to parking garages alone.

Because my school campus underreports sexual assault cases.

Because I know too many people (i.e., more than zero) who have been sexually assaulted.

Because I’m called a “bitch” if I ignore catcalls or “compliments” on the street.

Because these awful things are considered normal, part of life, to be expected.

…And those experiences—through the lens of a thin, white, middle-class woman—are just the tip of the iceberg when you consider the issues women around the world face every day.

Everything feminism stands for aims to address these issues.

Which is why instead of fearing the F-word, I want to wear my feminism on my sleeve (or on the front of my new shirt, pictured above). And if you enter today’s giveaway with Feminist Apparel, you could, too. Read on.

Feminist Apparel giveaway

Feminist Apparel is a kickass clothing company that stands for equality and encourages others to do the same—while looking smart in one of their tanks or tees. The styles are sassy, clever and playful… but dead serious. (Here’s the one I’m wearing in the top photo. I love this one and this one, too.)

Most importantly, Feminist Apparel puts its money where its mouth is. Proceeds from their sales go to women-empowering nonprofits like Women’s Way, so you know your purchase is going toward a worthy cause.

But one lucky feminism-loving reader will win a shirt for free.

The details: Win one shirt of any style, size & color (winner’s choice!) from Feminist Apparel by using the Rafflecopter widget below. (You have to leave a blog post comment first to unlock the other entries.) Note that you can tweet daily about the giveaway for bonus entries. The contest will be open all week until Friday, July 11th, at 3:00 p.m. EST upon which one winner will be chosen at random. And yes, it’s open to international readers! I request the winner responds within 72 hours of being contacted, or else the prize will go to someone else. You’ll get extra love from me if you tweet/Instagram a photo of yourself in your new shirt once you receive it. (Be sure to tag @FeministApparel and @WittyCassieHere!)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

It’s so important to me to work with brands I believe in, so I’m psyched to be partnering up with Feminist Apparel. And, of course, I’m psyched about my new shirt!

Let’s celebrate the amazing things women and men can do when we work together… like ending sexual assault, sexism and victim blaming once and for all.

And tell me: Why do you need feminism?