Tuesday 25 October 2016

Happiness & How To Be Happy - @DerrenBrown "No Tricks" Review

I went to see “No Tricks” on Friday night, the latest stage show from Derren Brown, where he talks about happiness, the subject of his latest book Happy - Why More or Less Everything is Absolutely Fine.

As the blurb said for the show - "This is your chance to meet the man and delve into his extraordinary mind.  The talk will be followed by an extended time for Derren to answer any questions you might have.”  So, a new format for Derren, and he has definitely added a new string to his already big, shiny, pert, taut, Olympic class bow.

I thought I would write a quick review for it, seeing as it ties in nicely with my blog and all the personal development stuff I am reading & watching currently.

I’m a big fan of Derren Brown if you hadn’t realised, so let me say that now in case you weren’t sure.  I’ve seen most, if not all of his TV shows, and I think most of the stage shows.  I was even an extra in Apocalypse, the show where Derren “convinces” a young man that the planet has been devastated by a catastrophic meteorite strike, that a lethal infected engulfs the land, and that he is one of a mere handful of survivors.  A wonderful show and a fantastic experience I shall never forget, and I am truly grateful to have been a part of it.  I mention it as it was one of the shows that had a tremendous outcome for the individual concerned, hence the personal development tie-in.

Don’t get me wrong though, I still didn’t like some of his shows as much as others, but I am being picky, and that’s only natural maybe you follow his work as avidly as I do.  Svengali disappointed me (I should have had a lower expectation), Infamous didn’t wow me like Enigma did, Russian Roulette aftermath annoyed me a bit (as I bet it did himself), but was it all probably down to my preferences, as everyone else appeared to love those shows.  I think what I didn’t like about the aftermath of Russian Roulette was how the media turned on him a little, and I wanted him to defend himself more openly.  I did love The Heist and Hero at 30,000 feet, and Apocalypse was awesome.  Did I mention I was in it?  But there was some post-apocalyptic negative feedback, which I think they answered well, but I wonder how it all made Derren feel, did it make him unhappy, or did he just shrug it off as he suggests he does in this enlightening talk?

Derren talked for about 80 minutes about happiness, the philosophy and psychology behind it, what happiness means, how us as human beings search and long for it, and ultimately he gives some insight on how we might achieve a state of happiness in our own lives.  His knowledge is unquestionable, and he’s lovely to watch and listen to.  The guy opposite me in row H didn’t seem to think so though, he was asleep for most of the show.  If it makes him happy, then so be it, that’s what I learnt from the evening.  Normally I would have got up and shook him violently.  Or coughed.  I resisted both.

I think some of the crowd in Crawley last night were still expecting some tricks or magic or mind-reading of some sort, despite the “No Tricks” title and blurb for the show, or at least something other than the deeper subject matter that was being discussed here.  However,  I think they all enjoyed it, and it made a change to see him do something different and not pander to the wants of his massive boner of a fanbase.

One major thing I got out of it was there are 2 major categories of “things” in this world, namely things you CAN control, and those you CAN’T control.  So spending time and effort worrying about things you can’t control is pointless.  He also talked about how we deal with anger, which really wound me up, and lots of the personal development stuff I have read and done in the past already had given me an idea about that anyway, but as I explained to my wife, it’s only when you hear these things said out loud do you think about them really, as it’s not something most of us spend much time thinking about.  But we spend a lot of time worrying and being anxious, we all know that I think.

And of the things you can control, there are only 2, your THOUGHTS, and your ACTIONS.

Which sort of brought us back into some discussion on Personal Development, which I am a fan of, but I hate the label really, as I agree with Derren it’s a massive market, especially in the US, and I don’t think all of it is useful or good for us, or presented to us in the right way.  All I want to do is improve myself, and find my true place in the world, doing things I love, with people I love, that sort of thing.  Lots of the personal development stuff I see is based around goal setting and time management, but Derren is right, if you set your goals too high, or too far ahead from what you can realistically achieve, you can often feel like a failure, like you have lost, which makes you then by definition a loser.  Goals and actions shouldn’t be about that.  There should be a balance, I think, as it’s great to dream big, but if your mindset isn’t correct you can add a whole lot of negative meaning when you don’t get that 1000th follower on Facebook, or don’t sell that 100th book, or your business venture isn’t successful.

But I do think there is a lot of good stuff to be learned within this personal development genre, space, whatever you want to call it.  But lots of it does come down to the things you can/can’t control, your thoughts/actions, how you are as a person (being loving and kind can’t be beaten), your mindset, your reason “why” (thanks Paul O’Mahony), how you deal with anger, anxiety, adversity, and other negative things that impact your life.

“Just sit with it, and see it pass” Derren says of anxiety.  Likening it to watching traffic and a car of anxiety passing by, just watch it, observe it, and let it pass he says.  So often we start thinking more and more about the anxiety, getting more and more anxious, even when we are trying not to be, but all the time we are making the problem worse, when we have the tools within ourselves to be calm, recognise the anxiety, but do nothing, just let it be.

He also talked a lot about historical figures, religion, and Stoicism - not something I had heard of much before.  I thought stoicism was all about putting up with pain and misery without complaint (I just had to check the Wiki definition), but Derren’s description of how the stoics of old thought more about the harmony of the world and inner peace, was a revelation which I think most of us would benefit from adopting in todays’ world.  Love and kindness again came up as the main qualities we would all do well to practice more of.

One thing that resonated and touched me was his section on death.  I’ve recently had 1 close relation and 1 friend die, so this was poignant and helpful to me personally.  Derren talked about some civilisations where there are considered 3 deaths - 1 actual bodily death, then the burial process, and the 3rd very interesting one is when all memories of that person (living in others) fades and dies with those people.  A new definition of the afterlife I had never thought of before, which I thought was lovely.  Another thing Derren highlighted was that the “self” can be regarded as sort of “pattern” the brain creates, which in turn adds to our personalities.  And because it is a pattern, it can be copied to a degree - the most obvious form I assume would be an impersonation which picks up on some of these “patterns” and therefore we liken them to the person in the recognition of these sometimes obvious, sometimes less obvious characteristics.  These patterns often simply rub off on those close around us, so for example you may inherit patterns from others when talking with them, about them, or you simply take them on board unconsciously as they are positive things you would like to have for yourself.  “Look for those you have lost in their closest friends & family” was the idea Derren communicated to us, and I love that idea, that little parts of others influence those closest to them, and in that spirit their presence lives on.

The 2nd part of the show was an informal Q&A session which was a welcome change of pace from the weightier words and thoughts from the pre-interval talk, and the 2 aspects of the show balanced themselves very well I thought, and Derren further showed us his honesty, playfulness & warmth.  There was an “incident" in the 2nd half, but as Derren sometimes asks in this shows not to reveal all to others (he did not this time of course due to the nature of the show), I will honour that ethos and not say any more about it, but will leave you there dangling like a berry.

So, it’s official, Derren Brown is not just a mind bender, he is a lovely, warm, thought-provoking person and speaker, whose voice should be heard more I believe.

I just don’t get why he doesn’t like mushrooms, blue cheese or The Shawshank Redemption.  They’re three things that make me very happy indeed, but I realise we are all different, and that’s the beauty of this world we live in.

Thank you for reading,
Dave x

PS - You can read more bout Derren Brown on his website HERE or follow him on Twitter (@DerrenBrown).  The link to his new book is also provided below:

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