Help! I Pulled My Neighbor’s Hair!

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Help! I Pulled My Neighbor's Hair!

Dear Armchair Psychologist,
I'm a single mom with a young daughter. I have a great profession in the arts where I get to be creative and add value in people's lives. I live in a nice brownstone with a garden. I don't really use the garden much but since COVID-19, I have been using it every day. It satisfies my creativity and it has been my sanctuary. A new neighbor moved in last autumn. Her garden is next to mine. On a sunny Saturday, around 2 PM circa 2 weeks ago, this new neighbor stuck her head over the fence and shouted that I must not use my phone in the garden. I tried to politely explain that there is no law against it, but I had barely started the sentence before she was screaming at me. I filmed her, but I didn't engage. She stopped and went inside her house. Two hours later, my doorbell rang and I was greeted by two police officers investigating a complaint against me, a complaint that accused me of having hosted illegal BBQ parties with 7-10 people in attendance.This was just the start of the nightmare.
After ten incidents with her throwing the garbage into the garden, putting her dog poop on my door stoop, filming me in the garden, and swearing at me etc, it finally reached a new level two days ago when she jumped over the garden wall and tried to physically attack me. I fended her off until she said she was going to spit on me. At that point, as a defensive method, I grabbed her by the hair and turned her face away from me. The police arrived and lo and behold, it was my word against hers. I'm at my wits end. Help!
- Don't Dump On Me

Dear Don't Dump On Me

I am so sorry you are being harassed and physically attacked by a neighbor. You say your neighbor attacked you and pestered you with dog poop etc. It is a shame that you are being traumatized as you are practicing your zen and gardening. The ordeal frankly sounds like out of a nightmare and your neighbor, as you describe, appears to be an extremely unstable person. If this was simply a dispute, I'd have advised you to try and have a talk with her, however due to the physical violence etc. you are far past that point.

It's fairly common for neighbors to have disputes, and you're not alone. This awful neighbor terrorized his entire neighborhood by chasing them with screwdrivers and screaming in demonic voices, among many other offenses. All in all, he was involved in so many incidents, it amounted to 800 pages of police reports. These neighbors duked it out in the Supreme Court over 20 inches of a fence dividing their properties.

Your version of neighbor from hell sounds like she certainly has committed at least a trespassing offense by hopping over into your yard. I recommend you stay away from her and get a restraining order ASAP. If it's your word against hers, as you say, then you also need to get legal counsel. Lastly, if you have the means and opportunity to, it would be wise for you and perhaps your daughter to seek support with a professional therapist. Hopefully soon, instead of pulling your hair out over this dreadful woman, you'll be busy pulling weeds from your pretty garden!

– The Armchair Psychologist

Dear Armchair Psychologist,
Greetings from Oslo. I am having "writer's block" at the moment. I haven't written much in recent months. Can you please offer advice? Thank you.
- No Steinbeck

Dear No Steinbeck,

Hi there in Oslo! I am sorry that you're unable to get your creativity flowing. Writer's block happens so often to even the most famous and productive writers. It is a sort of creative block that is psychological in nature. Some scientists have suggested it is due to unhappiness or anxiety. In the 1970's Yale psychologists Jerome Singer and Michael Barrios created a therapy that included a series of directed imagery and visualization exercises that proved to be very effective.

If you're unable to visualize yourself into positive imagery and goals, you might just have to force yourself to write whether the work is any good or not. As Charles Bukowski famously stated, "Writing about a writer's block is better than not writing at all." For more extreme measures, there is an app called "The Most Dangerous Writing App" that forces you to keep writing and punishes you by deleting all of your work if you stop typing for more than 5 seconds. Get to work!

– The Armchair Psychologist

Need more armchair psychologist in your life? Check out the last installment or email armchairpsychologist@swaaymedia.com to get some advice of your own!

How to Learn Much More From the Books You Read

It is one thing to read and another thing to understand what you are reading. Not only do you want to understand, but also remember what you've read. Otherwise, we can safely say that if we're not gaining anything from what we read, then it's a big waste of time.

Whatever you read, there are ways to do so in a more effective manner to help you understand better. Whether you are reading by choice, for an upcoming test, or work-related material, here are a few ways to help you improve your reading skills and retain that information.

Read with a Purpose

Never has there been a shortage of great books. So, someone recommended a great cookbook for you. You start going through it, but your mind is wandering. This doesn't mean the cookbook was an awful recommendation, but it does mean it doesn't suit nor fulfill your current needs or curiosity.

Maybe your purpose is more about launching a business. Maybe you're a busy mom and can't keep office hours, but there's something you can do from home to help bring in more money, so you want information about that. At that point, you won't benefit from a cookbook, but you could gain a lot of insight and find details here on how-to books about working from home. During this unprecedented year, millions have had to make the transition to work from home, and millions more are deciding to do that. Either way, it's not a transition that comes automatically or easily, but reading about it will inform you about what working from home entails.


When you pre-read it primes your brain when it's time to go over the full text. We pre-read by going over the subheadings, for instance, the table of contents, and skimming through some pages. This is especially useful when you have formal types of academic books. Pre-reading is a sort of warm-up exercise for your brain. It prepares your brain for the rest of the information that will come about and allows your brain to be better able to pick the most essential pieces of information you need from your chosen text.


Highlighting essential sentences or paragraphs is extremely helpful for retaining information. The problem, however, with highlighting is that we wind up highlighting way too much. This happens because we tend to highlight before we begin to understand. Before your pages become a neon of colored highlights, make sure that you only highlight what is essential to improve your understanding and not highlight the whole page.

Speed Read

You might think there have been no new ways to read, but even the ancient skill of reading comes up with innovative ways; enter speed reading. The standard slow process shouldn't affect your understanding, but it does kill your enthusiasm. The average adult goes through around 200 to 250 words per minute. A college student can read around 450 words, while a professor averages about 650 words per minute, to mention a few examples. The average speed reader can manage 1,500 words; quite a difference! Of course, the argument arises between quality and quantity. For avid readers, they want both quantity and quality, which leads us to the next point.

Quality Reading

Life is too short to expect to gain knowledge from just one type of genre. Some basic outcomes of reading are to expand your mind, perceive situations and events differently, expose yourself to other viewpoints, and more. If you only stick to one author and one type of material, you are missing out on a great opportunity to learn new things.

Having said that, if there's a book you are simply not enjoying, remember that life is also too short to continue reading it. Simply, close it, put it away and maybe give it another go later on, or give it away. There is no shame or guilt in not liking a book; even if it's from a favorite author. It's pretty much clear that you won't gain anything from a book that you don't even enjoy, let alone expect to learn something from it.


If you're able to summarize what you have read, then you have understood. When you summarize, you are bringing up all the major points that enhance your understanding. You can easily do so chapter by chapter.

Take a good look at your life and what's going on in it. Accordingly, you'll choose the material that is much more suitable for your situation and circumstances. When you read a piece of information that you find beneficial, look for a way to apply it to your life. Knowledge for the sake of knowledge isn't all that beneficial. But the application of knowledge from a helpful book is what will help you and make your life more interesting and more meaningful.