Tag Archives: Star Trek

The Greatest Generation

I had the highest of hopes for the Greatest Generation podcast when the Maximum Fun network picked it up and brought it to my attention. I’m a huge fan of other Max Fun podcasts, so I felt like if they were backing and promoting a Star Trek podcast, it would probably be a good one. Unfortunately, three episodes in, I’m done. I don’t feel like I can continue listening, and I absolutely cannot recommend the Greatest Generation podcast to any Star Trek fan.

It should have been a huge red flag to me that the hosts are so embarrassed to be hosting the podcast that they spend a little time in each of the first three episodes contemplating using pseudonyms so nobody knows they’re involved in such a nerdy project. Their premise is “A Star Trek podcast by two guys who are a bit embarrassed to have a Star Trek podcast.” Maybe that should have tipped me off. But it’s a comedy podcast, and I guess I figured they were playing to their audience, many of whom probably had to (or still have to) hide their love of Star Trek in order to avoid being mocked and bullied. Most geeks understand the impulse to stay quiet about what they love, in case someone comes by to tear it to shreds. So I let that slide, and decided to give it a few more episodes to see how it evolved.

It didn’t.

I thought I was going to hear a podcast that would poke fun at the silly things in TNG (and goodness knows there’s a whole harvest of silly pickings in season one alone). There’s some of that, to be sure, but there are also far too many Picard-the-closet-pedophile jokes for my liking, and I often found myself wishing they’d hurry up and talk about something else so I could stop squirming in discomfort. I’m glad I stopped at episode three, because @lakeline on Twitter tells me the sexual assault jokes get worse, and they go into weird Cosby territory around episode 8.

To be honest, though, that part doesn’t even bother me as much as it probably should. Those jokes have been made before, and there is a fair amount of casual sexism inherent to the show itself. Maybe the hosts are saying all that stuff ironically. Maybe.

Because they certainly don’t seem sincere. And that lack of sincerity gives an air of mean-spiritedness to the fun they’re poking at the show I love. If it ended there, I’d just have stopped listening and walked away without writing this post. I’d have just accepted that this podcast wasn’t for me and moved on to other things. But it’s not just the show they make fun of. They make fun of the fans, too. And that hurts.

I’ve spent enough of my lifetime taking crap for loving science fiction and other nerdy things – I will not put up with a podcast that jokes about holding up nerdier nerds to use as human wedgie shields. The hosts are careful to tell you over and over that they’re not super nerds, you guys. Yeah, they’re doing this podcast thing (don’t worry, they’re embarrassed about it) but there are waaaay nerdier fans than them out there. You know, those dorks who dress up and immerse themselves in the fantasy, and who try to recreate Klingon recipes with Earthly foods.

Dorks like me.

I love TNG. I was only a kid back when it premiered, but I watched it every week, without fail, while it was on the air. It’s what I compare all other science fiction to. I idolized Captain Picard and I was in love with Wesley. I wanted a friendship like the one between Geordi and Data. I wanted to check out the holodeck and work in sickbay as Dr Crusher’s assistant. I came to this podcast hoping to hear people geeking out about one of my favorite things. I wanted to connect with other nerds who love this same thing. Instead I feel vaguely ashamed for loving Star Trek as much as I do.

Why are they punching down? Why create levels and classes of nerds so there’s always someone to look down on? I’m genuinely confused about the audience they’re trying to reach with the show. It seems like it should be people like me, but then why would they insult me? Maybe this podcast is only for the super cool TNG fans who only watch it ironically on Netflix.

I’m especially disappointed because the other shows I enjoy on the Maximum Podcast network are so inclusive. I listen to Judge John Hodgman where “people like what they like” is settled fake internet law, and One Bad Mother where everyone’s parenting journey is equally valid and we’re all doing a good job. I guess maybe I thought that other shows on the network would share that welcoming atmosphere.

I’m not saying the hosts of the show are bad people. And maybe the show does get better in the second season, just like TNG did. But I can’t invest the emotional energy to continue listening.




Spock Therapy

Vulcan Lane Sign

Image credit: Wonderferret via Flickr, CC by 2.0

I’ve fought hard against depression and anxiety for decades. I’ve read so many self-help books and tried all the positive thinking in the world. I’ve yanked on my bootstraps and I’ve Stuart Smalley’d myself in the mirror. I’ve written about my depression. I’ve given therapists my life story and they’ve tried to dig into my subconscious to pinpoint what emotional upheavals in my childhood might have turned me into a nervous caffeinated Eeyore. It wasn’t until I stumbled onto cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) that my life finally started to change.

Cognitive therapy is hard work. Such hard work, in fact, that I wasn’t ready to take it on until I finally found a medication that lifted my depression just enough for me to dedicate my resources to anything other than basic needs. Even then, I was reluctant to take on the challenge. CBT is a long-term commitment. It’s not just dumping a week’s worth of troubles onto a therapist’s couch and walking away with a new bounce in your step. It’s constant repetitive work, like redirecting a fork-wielding toddler away from the power outlets, over and over and over.

Any Google search on CBT will quickly get you to a long list of “cognitive distortions” that get in the way of healthy thinking. It’s worth buying a copy of David Burns’ Feeling Good – The New Mood Therapy and reading through it yourself to really understand the research behind the therapy techniques. Essentially, you train yourself to recognize and label distorted thoughts as they come by, and then use appropriate techniques to challenge or “talk back” to them. Every time you check in and find your brain veering off course, you need to stop, focus, and correct it.

It can be intimidating to a beginner. I’ve recommended the book to friends who start out very enthusiastic and then abandon it after a chapter or two because it’s difficult or confusing. And it is difficult. Especially if the only therapy you’ve ever had (if any) is the introspective, cry-on-a-couch, relive-your-childhood-until-we-get-to-the-bottom-of-things therapy.

So I’ve found an easier way to approach it. If you want to start telling your irrational thoughts what’s what, but the books seem like gibberish to you, start simply. Don’t jump all the way in and splash around. Start logically. Your exhausted, anxious, depressed brain needs a first officer who can help you keep your shit together even when you’re falling apart. Your brain needs Spock.

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Let me explain.

The beauty of CBT, and the reason it connected so well with me, is that none of it is magic. No fake-it-till-you-make it, think positive, rainbows and unicorns pop-sci bullshit. It’s just logic. Pure, simple, and real. Logic. It’s Spock therapy.

At its core, CBT is simple: it’s about recognizing cognitive distortions. It’s about noticing when your thoughts need to be relieved of command. The purpose isn’t to change how you feel, at least not directly. It’s about recognizing that the thoughts you think contribute to which way your mood is likely to swing, and learning to control them instead of letting them control you. Everyone has irrational thoughts from time to time; the difference is that folks suffering from depression or anxiety have them more often, and believe them more often, and get trapped in a feedback loop of irrational thoughts causing very real feelings.

Now, CBT isn’t about never being sad: things suck sometimes and everyone deserves a good cry when it gets to be too much. And it’s not about never being angry: a kicked puppy is right to bite back. You’re allowed to have feelings! You’re human, after all. What the therapy does – what the hard work you put into the exercises does – is help you to assess whether the thoughts you are thinking make any sense, in context.

And who’s the best out there at telling an impulsive and irrational captain that he’s being ridiculous?

Kirk and Spock argue

Image credit: JD Hancock via Flickr, CC by 2.0

You know the logical answer.

Just imagine Spock (Tuvok will do, I’m not here to judge you on your Vulcan choice) on your shoulder, listening in on your thoughts. When your brain pulls out an irrational cognitive distortion, Spock is there to question you and make you reconsider. That’s his job as first officer. Don’t worry, you’re still the captain: sometimes, you’re going to decide that Spock is wrong and you’re going to accept your thoughts and feel your feelings. But before you dismiss your first officer, give him a chance to challenge you. When you start making statements about yourself or the situation you’re in, hand them off to Spock before you give them any weight. Think to yourself: What would Spock say?

Let’s take one of the most common kinds of distortions: “all-or-nothing thinking,” or applying a mental filter that accentuates the negative and discounts the positive.

“Dammit, I forgot my wallet at home again. I can’t do anything right.”

“Captain, that statement is illogical. You have, in fact, done several things right even in the past hour. You are wearing correctly-buttoned pants, and you drove yourself to this Trader Joe’s without breaking any traffic laws.”

How about “fortune-telling,” where you jump to conclusions (usually the worst ones) without any evidence. What would Spock say?

“He didn’t call back. I must have said something to offend him.”

Captain, telepathy is not a common human trait. Absent any evidence that he is in fact offended, you are basing your belief on conjecture. There are many explanations for a delayed response on his part, and your hypothesis does not carry more statistical weight than the others.

Irrational thoughts are sneaky. They can be really convincing, especially if they’ve been with you for decades or more. Talking back to them takes dedication and a lot of practice, and I honestly believe that the Feeling Good book is the best tool you can have in your pocket. Get the handbook, too, and really take the time to learn how your brain distorts things. Nobody else can do the work for you, and you can’t improve without effort. But that doesn’t mean that you have to make that effort alone.

Some people wear religious symbols – crosses, stars – or get meaningful images tattooed on their bodies to remind them they’re not alone in their journey. In my case my symbol is a reminder that I don’t always know best, because my thinking can list towards the irrational without my conscious mind realizing just how far off course we’ve gotten. If I’m not careful, I find myself fighting like mad just to stay in place as my depression and anxious thoughts pull at my mind like a tractor beam.

That’s why I depend on my first officer to help me make the right decisions about when to pay attention to what my brain is saying.

Spock and Kirk

Image credit: Sonny Abesamis via Flickr, CC by 2.0

Keep Spock with you. Let him help you.

He has been, and always shall be, your friend.

 




 

(Any Amazon links in this post are affiliate links, and you can read more about that here. I’ve only linked to things I love and recommend.)