The road to Self-Actualisation (with zombies)

Prior to my last post it’d been over two years since I blogged and that was about how I wouldn’t be taking part in NaNoWriMo in 2013 (what a mesmerising read it was, too!). Since then I’ve switched jobs a couple of times and bought a house. It’s now been over 3 years since I moved away from Plymouth and left a lot of gumpf behind me in the pursuit of happiness (or a job that facilitated change).

On the whole I believe I’m in a way better place now, but there was a nice moment of clarity the other day which acted to confirm this. I’ve been absorbing everything The Walking Dead recently having revisited the TV series after a sizable hiatus. My previous exposure to this fantastic fiction lay solely with the AMC series but I’d ditched it part-way through season three. For a little while just over three years ago it felt to me (for various reasons) like all the joy had gone out of life and I was functioning only very loosely. I couldn’t be bothered with TWD, perhaps because the subject matter was pretty dark and even for me I needed escapism from that sort of escapism. Make believe end-of-the-world scenarios suddenly didn’t seem to cut it.

Back to present, clarity came with the unofficial tie-in book ‘The Walking Dead Psychology’ – a superb insight into how the characters in the comics and television series function and how they would likely deal with the end of the world (I’m now up-to-date with the TV series -halfway through season 6- and have very much enjoyed the ride). The book provides character studies and delves into the trauma and PTSD they would likely experience. It also discusses ‘Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs’ (diagram below); how first of all you need food and water, then you can concentrate on security and you work your way up the triangle.

maslows hierarchy of needs

Having been exposed to a little bit of psychology second hand I already had some familiarity with this concept. I guess the explanation resonated. Poor old TWD characters will likely never achieve self-actualization, the author concludes, as they’re often too worried about where their next meals are coming from or the threat of being bitten or attacked by other survivors.

OK, so perhaps zombies weren’t the threat but maybe in the past the odds of real output were stacked against me. Perhaps a lot of it was my own doing, but how can you concentrate on creativity when you can’t get the basics right? I wanted a girlfriend, I went and got drunk a lot and landed up unhappy and skint. I needed to get out of Plymouth but I didn’t know how much, or where to go, or that it was the right thing to do. I needed responsibility, direction and a job I didn’t consistently loathe. I moved. I experienced. I found a nice girl and bought a nice house and now I can properly put some of my time into making stuff. Stuff I love, stuff hopefully others will also see merit in. It’s still a work in progress (there’s still a ways to go on the esteem front), but really? The sky’s the fucking limit.

Good luck to you on your road to self-actualisation in 2016 and I pray that if it features zombies, they are somehow contained. And if you have already achieved self-actualisation? Good work! I salute you.

You can check out The Walking Dead Psychology here – most certainly worth a look if you’re a fan of TWD and pop culture analysis and/or you have an interest in how people work.

More rambling to come soon and maybe a long-overdue blog design overhaul. I figured I’d start with the writing and sort the other stuff out later, so at least there’s some degree of output in the meantime!

Forced Fun Clusterfudge* : Two truths, one lie

You forget everything that has come before, you are fresh from the womb. No worries, no past failings, you’re a clean slate. But it’s not as nice as it sounds, is it? No, friend, it’s not nice at all. You need to think of something fast. Panicked, you grope around in that suddenly empty mind of yours for memories – who are you? What have you done? Even by fluke something interesting must have happened to you in all your years on planet Earth.
It was stated in the rules that the truths and lies could be as simple as “I like x” and so “I like pies” becomes one of your truths. Jesus, what have you been doing for 29 years anyway? Solely eating pies? Your life has been a waste of time, you realise. To have been someone interesting, to have done something important or exciting like fighting the law and winning (truth), playing for the England rugby team under 12s (lie), or starring in the 2013 flop After Earth alongside Will Smith (truth).**


You recall the only scene from the movie “Signs” that resonated with you. That bit when the angry Australian bloke recalls his wife (what’s-her-face) and how all she can remember in throes of death is a random sporting memory (baseball, perhaps?). Except you can’t recall any sporting anecdotes because you don’t even like sport (did you ever? Have you forgotten you like it?).


They could be talking about anything by now. They could be speaking Latin or Greek. You berate yourself for the two lousy truths and one uninteresting lie you’ve scribbled on crumpled yellow post-it notes, shuffling them between sweaty palms lest you forget what the hell you’re about to say.


Then the round-table of responses reaches you. You read your two truths and one lie aloud, laughing at your own stupidity. Maybe you go a little red, you don’t actually know, this is sort of like an out of body experience and yet… and yet…


It’s over. The wave that crashed against you is gone. It moves around the room and you suddenly discover you have hands and internal organs and legs and toes and a nose. One-by-one they are switched back on like Lorna Derne reactivating fences in Jurassic Park.
“Mr Hammond I think we’re back in busine-“ – you scream like Lorna Derne in response to the squeal from the proverbial velociraptor of regret. Nobody cares because nobody notices. The squeals and screams happened inside your head.
You are finally able to absorb the final few truths and the final few lies (although you can’t tell which is which, because unlike you, these people have decent poker faces).
Everyone elses are funny or interesting. And then it’s over. The icebreaker is over. It’s on with the meeting.


You made it.


You may not have said anything funny or interesting, you may only have recalled all the exciting things that have happened to you over the last 29 years after-the-fact – a man who can will oncoming shits not to drag him into the brown stuff for 8 hours while stuck up the Atlas mountains (how could you forget a victory of that magnitude?) – but you bloody made it, and right now that’s enough.


And then, when you thought it was safe, when you were just getting into the swing of things -nodding in all the right places, grinning and concentrating on limiting the sound of your stomach rumbles- it happens again. Fun. It is never fun. You cringe at the mention (threat). You scowl (inwardly) as they send a group of you away for 20 minutes to devise a presentation.


Where did things go wrong? Wasn’t the icebreaker it? You got through that, you’d got through the rest of the meeting too. Then you remind yourself that fun is not mutually exclusive, idiot!
You have a task, they realise your skills. You are the sound effects man. Even you can’t screw this up, you make sounds all the time, some more elaborate than others. Something at your back of your mind though -a warning- can you really do this?


You return to the room. The forced fun (conference) room. You wonder whether you’d survive the fall if you were to dive out of the window when everyone’s back is turned. If you do you could use the time to complete your Christmas shopping and perhaps even fit in a pint of dark ale, it is after all only 4 o’clock in the afternoon. Christ, you could even be working. That would be preferable. Can’t we just work instead?


All you want to do is rip off your balls and throw them like smoke grenades so you can make good your escape. Of course instead you sit quietly until it is your turn to “present”. Your throat is dry and heavy, you are unable to perform simple tasks. What is your name? You can just about remember that one. What do you do for a living? Debatable. Some sort of nimble-minded monkey who answers emails, you recall, but you are sure there’s something more.


It all goes wrong. You are supposed to sound like the perfect accompanying SFX for the Christmas gift to-end-all Christmas gifts you’ve been asked to come up with (justforfunjustforfunjustforfun). What is supposed to sound like an engine-less ride-on car engine sounds like a cow. Your imaginary car-mounted toy gun’s gunfire sounds like a horse. You blame the lack of dress rehearsals, but mainly you blame yourself. After all, you make sounds all the time and some more elaborate than others. This is not the toy you all planned on pitching. It’s OK though. It’s OK. All is forgotten. This was a fun exercise after all. Wasn’t it? WASN’T IT? Time heals everything. Everyone forgets.

Apart from you.


You get out. You go home. Tomorrow there will be another similar session involving more fun. Tonight you have a beer a day early and mentally pen that down as a truth, because that’s the sort of crazy bastard you’ve become. Later this evening (half-empty beer bottle in hand – you don’t really fancy the rest) you write down a list of all the possibilities for the truth and lie icebreaker game. You will not be caught out again. Bright and early you will practice both car and rifle-fire sounds and realise you could win the Oscar for sound effects.


These two glorious forced-fun humiliations book-end an otherwise worthwhile exercise in learning how to better work as a team. You sigh, which lasts an inaudible amount of time. Welcome, shy introvert, to corporate fun.


*”fudge” replaces a commonly-used swearword. Try to guess which. Additional points for your ability to make car and rifle noises.
**examples only.