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Who ate my marshmallow? Sunday March 13, 2016

There is a famous experiment in which children were sat alone in a room with a marshmallow on the table before them. The task was simple. If the child left the marshmallow untouched until the experimenter returned, (after 15 minutes, although the child did not know that) they got a second marshmallow and got to eat both. If the child ate the marshmallow before the experimenter returned the experiment was concluded (although they still got the one!)

The power of the experiment came in the follow-up when there was a clear correlation between those who had held out for the second marshmallow, and success in life as defined by a range of factors. Clearly the ability to defer immediate gratification in expectation of better rewards later has a strong influence on major life decisions. Obvious parallels are income now versus education (deferment) and more income later.

I get it: I have lived it. When my schoolmates who left at 16 were in the pub spending their wages, I was in the sixth form studying and living off my parents and small part-time earnings. When they had finished their apprenticeships and on full wages, I was at University eking out a state grant (we still had them in those days) and holiday earnings.

My latest sacrifice is alcohol. I was told that if I gave it up and allowed the pills to work I would be through into the promised land, depression would be a thing of the past. My only concern is that once I find the energy and drive to achieve my potential, I may find that the opportunities have disappeared due to age. Having gone round and round this particular course more times than the electric rabbit, it is a prize worth pursuing. It is not working out like that. I feel deprived of my one reward with as yet no significant alternative.

I feel like the child who closed their eyes to avoid temptation and opened them to find the marshmallow gone: who ate my marshmallow?

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.

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Ann Sun, Mar 13th 2016 @ 2:12am

Oough! I feel like someone ate mine too!
Am having to think hard about whether I am too tired, at my age (and in my mental and physical state), to cope with the gift of a 2nd child, even if I get that gift (at my age!!)
And whichever way that goes, I would really like to reach that promised land too...
I have learnt, in university-educated style, that struggling with my lows probably makes them worse (image of fishing net tightening as a try harder and harder to get out)... and in theory, stepping back is worth trying... Meditation or similar. I can't comment (yet!) on how I've found 'not-struggling'... My mindfulness practice is somewhat irregular... But hey, Sunday is the start of a new week... (And then Monday can be start of a new week if necessary!!)
Good luck with the temptations, Norman. Thank you for a thought-provoking blog!

Ann Sun, Mar 13th 2016 @ 2:19am

Ha! Just read Les's blog from yesterday, about finding enough 'want to'.... More food for thought! Thanks, Les.

Alex Sun, Mar 13th 2016 @ 5:27am


<<<<My latest sacrifice is alcohol.>>>>>

(Just my own thoughts, here, having been in a drinking/non-drinking situation, for a long time. Forgive me if anything I say is intrusive or too personal: Im trying to keep it general, but I don't find it easy) have stopped drinking, am I right? For how long,and what sort of drinker were you(ie was it causing trouble/problems...which Im guessing yes, or this wouldn't be what you're discussing...?)

What exactly is the sacrifice?

<<<<I was told that if I gave it up and allowed the pills to work I would be through into the promised land, depression would be a thing of the past. >>>>>

so, the reason for stopping is to help depression? And if I may ask, what pills, and what were they promising?

<<<<My only concern is that once I find the energy and drive to achieve my potential, I may find that the opportunities have disappeared due to age. Having gone round and round this particular course more times than the electric rabbit>>>>>

You've tried stopping before?

<<<<< it is a prize worth pursuing. It is not working out like that. I feel deprived of my one reward with as yet no significant alternative. >>>>>

In what way/s did it make you feel rewarded?

As I say....Im not trying to Pry, or be nosy for nosiness' sake. I've had experience in these areas....briefly, Im now 60, and in my twenties was what could at best be described as a heavy drinker and at worst someone with no control who left a sea of chaos in the lives of all who knew me but most if all, myself.

Got sober at 30. Lot of things happened since then, including leaving the organisation
I joined at 30. Im also a depressive, which is combined with a lot of other things, mental and emotional, plus physically poor health.

Add a couple of really shity things( being widowed from my soulmate, and my mothers death in a fire)and....sorry, no words for that. My point being that shity things happen, drinking or not, and depressive or not. Sometimes they're really, really shity things.

Some days I dont want to keep going, let alone get up. The cats are a great influence there... :)

Im trying to say that I think I can understand and empathise; and if there's any way I could help, please say. If you'd like to email, let me know, and I'll give you my email. No worries if not.

Love and purrs
Alex,Spock and Data

Sent from my iPad

Norman Sun, Mar 13th 2016 @ 9:05am

Alex hi! Thanks for that response. The course I have gone round and round is the fighting depression one. Giving up alcohol just about the only thing I haven't tried. I did give up alcohol before: I had a new wife, two stepchildren, a new-born; I was a key member of a worker-co-op and on the national body for worker co-ops; I was a city councillor chairing a key committee and on several national bodies and with 10,000 electors to service. I was seeking nomination as an MP so cultivating contacts in several constituencies. I decided that alcohol was slowing me down so gave it up for two years.

Norman Sun, Mar 13th 2016 @ 9:10am

I didn't see myself as a heavy drinker, it was just part of my culture. Men would say "he's earned his beer" as a compliment. I usually kept to under 28 units in most weeks, and had 3-5 dry days per week. When I was commuting into London I didn't drink through the week and then had a busy Friday and a quiet Saturday before the grind started again.

Norman Sun, Mar 13th 2016 @ 9:21am

My consultant decided that alcohol was the key to my depression. I didn't think I could give up but the prize (depression-free living) was just too tempting. I did 56 dry days up to Xmas, then 75 more until Friday when I was in a pub with my brother and he accidentally bought the alcoholic version of my requested drink. I thought about refusing but decided to have it so I reset the clock and it is now day 2 of Phase Three! The consultant is now trying to come up with Plan B.

Anonymous Sun, Mar 13th 2016 @ 12:14pm

Di you drink too much on Friday? I cannot believe your brother accidentally bought you alcohol!!! Did he apologise afterwards? Julx

Alex Mon, Mar 14th 2016 @ 8:55am

Norman, Thank you for all you said, and Im so glad I didn't upset or offend you. Way back when I joined AA, there was a drug option....take it, and any use of alcohol would make you violently sick. I didn't use it, but some did. Im neither pro nor anti that....just presenting it as an option, if they still use it....remember, this was 30+ years ago.. For all that I know and say about the harmful things AA did for me, there were some decent things too, but they're basically common sense co-opted by the early members from way back in the earlyish 20th century. (You may or may not want to try a meeting: as long as you approach with an awareness of what it's like in reality, that might help. If you want any more information, please just ask, and as I say, if you want to keep it quiet, I'll give my email. There are various different kinds of meetings. All the best Alex

Alex Sun, Mar 13th 2016 @ 5:28am

Meant to say....what a mean experiment that sounds.....

Hopeful One Sun, Mar 13th 2016 @ 7:01am

Hi Norman . A great blog which deserve congratulations on two counts. First for staying the course so far. WhAt an enormous effort! Secondly for sharing it with us. We rooted for you. You felt that you ought to qualify for that second marshmallow which has not appeared yet. May I say that one is focusing on the wrong thing? One is only the master of one's effort( which you have clearly demonstrated) not of he fruit. This lives in a realm not in our control. But I can assure you on one thing. You hav taken one step towards Providence and believe me it will take two steps towards you. Be patient .

Let's share this laugh ( my effort) but whether Fellow Moodscoppers actually laugh (my fruit) is not in my control.

A Martian couple landed on Earth . They met an Earthling couple. They conversed about various things and finally the subject of sex came up "Just how do you guys do it?" asked Maureen. "Pretty much the way you do,"responded the Martian couple .Discussion ensued and finally the couples decide to swap partners for the night and experience each other's love. Maureen and the male Martian go off to a bedroom where the Martian strips. He's only got a small member " I don't think this is going to work," says Maureen. "Why?" he asks the Martian."What's the problem ?" "Well," she replies, "It's just not long enough to reach me!" "No problem," he says the Martian and proceeds to tap his forehead with his index finger . With each tap of his forehead, his member grows until it's quite impressively long. "Well," she says, "That's quite impressive, but it's still pretty narrow...." "No problem," says the Martian and starts pulling at his ears. With each pull,his member grows wider and wider until the entire measurement is exciting . "Wow!" exclaims Maureen, as they fall into bed and make mad, passionate love. The next day the couples rejoin their normal partners and go their separate ways. As they walk along, Mike asks Maureen "Well, was it any good?" Maureen says " I t was pretty wonderful. How about you?" "It was pretty awful ," he replies, " All I got was a headache as she kept tapping my forehead and pulling my ears."

Rebecca Sun, Mar 13th 2016 @ 7:18am

Norman you seemed to be doing so well. My experience is depression is never totally a thing of the past. I thought I was fine till I had major low suddenly come upon me. Had to increase medication. As to drinking I can't see any benefit anymore. I used to get drunk and refuse to stop drinking. The next morning I would wake up having forgotten half the night, not knowing who I had upset (inevitably would be someone). Then all the next day I would feel really depressed, close to panic and really sick, couldn't even stomach water. I can't see any benefit of any of that except for the brief feeling of happiness whilst drinking.x

Zareen Sun, Mar 13th 2016 @ 8:17am

The story sounds apocryphal or something similar. At the end of Lent some, who have practised restraint, may be able to resist snaffling the marshmallow. I have a sweet tooth so giving up sweet comestembiles is a battle. We term them "goodies".. Or are their baddies? I am sorry that you feel that you feel that you are letting opportunities slip by you! My career took a long time to get started but I am finally where I want to be! Would you consider being my buddy on Moodscope?

Debs Sun, Mar 13th 2016 @ 8:33am

Amazing blog Norman, thank you for being so vulnerable with us, I always learn so much from your writing. I felt like you do, that I'd given up so much for little reward but it turns out the reward (finding the person I'm meant to be) was there all along, I just couldn't see her. And all the things I want to achieve are right there too. Some amazing people don't achieve their full potential until they are 90 years old but nobody ever says 'wow, he left it a bit late!' They just say 'wow'.

It's never too late to be what you might have been so go for it, we're right with you :-) xxx

Anonymous Sun, Mar 13th 2016 @ 8:54am

Hi Norman. May I say this? I think from my own experience of reducing my intake of alcohol to an absolute minimum these days that as far as I can tell, I do not feel any happier for practically giving it up . In fact I probably feel worse in some ways as I don't have that lift at the end of the day. I think you are expecting far too much from being teetotal. I can understand why. You drank for years (like me) and so not drinking is such a massive change from that, one would expect a radical, massive change in one's depression, life, well being , happiness etc etc. But sadly it just won't come (directly from stopping drinking I mean). Well it hasn't for me and I read that most teetotallers long for that sense of well being, uninhibited feeling and luxury and anticipation of that first drink. For me, I would always without fail look forward to 5 or 6 pm (wine o'clock) when I knew I would feel less anxious, lighter, care free if only for an hour or two. So my advice is don't expect too much from giving up the demon drink. In fact don't expect anything. BUT you know your physical health must be changing for the better. I assume mine is!! I am not an alcoholic but I have drunk to excess many many times in the past and couldn't go for one day without alcohol for years and years. I do have the occasional drink especially on holiday. Hardly ever at home so can count myself lucky in that respect. When I do have a drink, i wonder why i have stopped as I feel so good. I honestly don't think there's much else (I haven't done drugs) in life that will give you that even momentary feeling of well being so please give up looking for the promised land. Finally! You are doing the right think giving up alcohol. I am doing the right thing cutting down drastically on it. You must never go back and it seems you are well on the path to a great success with alcohol. I salute you Norman and me included plus everyone else who is no longer a slave to alcohol. Jul xx

Norman Sun, Mar 13th 2016 @ 9:37am

Jul Hi! I'm glad you're having the same experience as me. Nothing like shared misery! I used to enjoy my beer, I have a collection of beer glasses and used to like drinking Erdinger, Westmalle, Duvel, etc from the correct glass. My main issue was that I would tell myself that if I worked till 5 I could go to the pub, and then feel that there was nothing at home to leave the pub for. The only real benefit is that I am rapidly improving my financial position!

Anonymous Sun, Mar 13th 2016 @ 12:16pm

Just read a good article by a female in the Sunday Times magazine (so only available for Brits) who was an alcoholic. She said she didn't feel better like she expected. However she still isn't drinking. The good thing Norman is that you stopped drinking after your bro's mistake in the pub on Friday. Julx

Leah Sun, Mar 13th 2016 @ 9:54am

I was deeply touched by your honesty and vulnerability. I have not much more to add to what jul wrote.
Is it possible to have one's marshmellow and eat it too? Maybe not.
I gave up chocolate ( now I know chocolate is not the same as alcohol) for a month and I lost no weight but was very irritable and grumpy. So I started eating it again.

There is another approach rather than abstaining,moderation management- have you heard of that?

To answer your question I have not eaten your marshmeloows as I don't like them!! If I had one I would give it to you with a gold star.

Thanks again for a thought provoking blog.

Alex Mon, Mar 14th 2016 @ 8:59am

Norman, "There is another approach rather than abstaining,moderation management- have you heard of that?" Yep. Want details? Here, or let me know your email, and I'll get back you you ASAP Alex

Skyblue Sun, Mar 13th 2016 @ 11:50am

Hi Norman, wow you sure conveyed a lot of different feelings in that great little blog. What if the marshmallow isn't really a marshmallow at all but something that you haven't seen or imagined yet? A life is like a add a colour in one part of the canvas and the entire picture changes. So then it's necessary to work on another corner to balance it up...and so it evolves. You're on your way to painting a masterpiece, Norman. Drying time required! xx

g Sun, Mar 13th 2016 @ 1:17pm

Dear Norman , Thank you so much for this lovely , thought provoking , tongue in cheek blog. I love your sense of humour and I feel your pain . Alcohol is not a problem here - although it is a disease - but our attitude . By the looks of it - big snippets of your life from which many lives could be cut out - you had devoured many marshmallows in the past but quickly forgot about them waiting for 'the one ' . Marshmallow is a marshmallow and two maybe too much actually as they are so horrendously sweet one feels like eating sugar straight from the bag. The danger of deferring , which is not mentioned , is that we may not live to enjoy 'the reward' plus 'the rules' may change in the meantime and the experiment does not take into account that we have only one life , finite time, different pain thresholds , likes , needs , etc. etc. There is a Christian saying - Be careful what you pray for because you may get it - our wants do not always correspond with our needs . My suggestion would be to make a list of your achievements big and small asking others as well what they are as you may be surprised by some and nailing it to the wall to be there in front of you when the depression hits and you do not feel like getting out of bed so that you may see it and let yourself stay in bed and rest because you deserve a rest after such a long and eventful life . Some horrible things will always happen and we have the power of how we react to them and how we feel about them . Your sense of humour will carry you through a lot of adversities , your common sense - injustices , and so on .It is such a pleasure to meet you on this journey and be able to learn from you. keep on keeping on as one of my friends would say ... and it is never too late - every morning is the beginning .....and forgetting helps .....there were or will be blogs on all these concepts thank you all and moodscope .. great inspiring blogspot and you Norman - a big part of it ... g.

Michael Sun, Mar 13th 2016 @ 4:30pm

I take it you are saying that things haven't panned out as you hoped. You put in loads of effort for qualifications and with that came expectations of what you would achieve afterwards. Are you saying that if you stop drinking and find out you can't achieve what you expected then you will find that hard to cope with, so staying on the drink keeps you from that?

You say opportunities have disappeared with age. Can I ask how old you are?

I have had similar feelings. I was a very bright kid at a very good school but had discovered other things by the age of 16. If I had made the same effort at A levels as I had for the previous 10 years and then gone on to uni who knows what I could have achieved - I was in the Oxbridge set!!! I have seen people far less talented than me doing far better than me. Sometimes it's the choices we make, sometimes life alters our path. All I can say is that I learned not to worry about where I would have been as it serves no purpose. I made my choices as I went along and was always true to myself. And what I've done and people I have met have made me the person I am today. I may well have been a right boring fart had I carried on focussing on school and uni. Yes, I may have a great job with a huge salary but not had such a fun life. Or it may simply have all gone wrong for some reason.

So, if that marshmallow isn't there then that's just the way it is. To carry on the marshmallow experiment metaphor then maybe your mum is waiting for you after the experiment and has a Kitkat in her pocket for you.

Having been involved with fitness stuff over the last few years then I have met loads of people who will do a fitness assessment and be really disappointed and disheartened that they didn't do well. And what I say is that the starting point is irrelevant, it's the changes and progress that you make which is important. Once you stop drinking and you face up to a life which isn't where you once thought it would be then you must not dwell on it - you can only play the hand that you are dealt. What is important is how you move forward from where you are. I hope that helps a bit.

Alex Mon, Mar 14th 2016 @ 9:02am

"To carry on the marshmallow experiment metaphor then maybe your mum is waiting for you after the experiment and has a Kitkat in her pocket for you." Love that :)

The Gardener Sun, Mar 13th 2016 @ 5:32pm

Wanted to post a reply - excellent blog Norman, but my computer keeps stopping in the middle - did not like the move, perhaps, yet it is called 'portable'.

The Gardener Sun, Mar 13th 2016 @ 5:35pm

Try short bursts - never offered a marshallow - not self-pity - just endless opportunities to be seized - always risks involved, perhaps that's why people don't go for the next marshmallow. Great keeping almost 'dry'. one of my sons, alchoholism cost him his job, marriage, nearly his life - he does not touch a drop - great - after AA he realised that get the taste again, and you're lost.

The Gardener Sun, Mar 13th 2016 @ 5:40pm

Horrendously depressed this a.m - lovely sun in my new kitchen, Mr G insisted all shutters shut - pulled carpet out completely. 6 days off then 'shades of the prison house' again, because nobody wants us, Mr G insists their houses are too cold, makes them turn all the lights off - if anybody sits with him, friend or family, he asks for me every 5 minutes - people will not stand for it - why should they? Charity only goes so far.

LillyPet Mon, Mar 14th 2016 @ 3:53am

I'd liketo comment if I may. Thanks for sharing your struggle. I am not really qualified to comment having not been an alcoholic. But as an outsider it seems to me that to never make a mistake and only being able to live the life you want depending on never making one, is too tall an order for anyone.
Maybe a happy life doesnt depend on work related achievement. Maybe you could have your tee total journey on one side and your marshmallow hunt on the otherside?
I know it's nothing like the same, but I wonder if I'll ever clear my house of clutter and if I do whether I'll finally feel free and able to breathe. It seems as if its been a life long struggle and whether or not I achieve it shouldnt be in the way of enjoying life in the meantime.
You are achieving successes of all kinds already. Perhaps you dont need perfection in one area for life for another to start and perhaps you can find a way of enjoing what yours is,cas it is. Keeping healthy isnt an end product. Maybe its not all about earning in one way or another. I hope you find the odd marshmallow as you go.
Thanks for a thought provoking blog Norman. LP. :)

the room above the garage Sat, Mar 19th 2016 @ 8:31am

Hello Norman, I absolutely loved reading this. Been thinking of it for days and haven't had long enough in the one place to write the reply I had. It is similar to how I feel about saying goodbye to alcohol controlling me. I expected everything to be brand new, fresh, invigorated and positive. It wasn't. But...if I stop looking for the positives for a moment, and look at what negatives are that is another story. That is a success. You have demonstrated an enormous inner strength that has no measure. So there is no marshmallow-ometer to ding. But we know. And I will add may not feel you got the marshmallow, but I feel perhaps we ate it. In the time I have 'known' you, I see a massive change. You used to post one short sentence and its sorrow was ingrained in black and white on my page. Now, you have conversation, you try, you are not defeated, you offer support, you are proud of yourself, you have humour, you are vastly I think we were the marshmallow recipients and seeing your progress is a gift to us all. Love ratg xx.

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