I am I

Why would valuing my gentleness be a bad thing? It might- give me a false view of myself, so I suppress anger, which emerges in passive-aggression- it is hypocritical. And: it is part of me, which is beautiful. It is part of “non-reactive presence”. Respond, rather than reacting; but that includes presence to self.

Gentleness is definitely a good thing. It is naturally me, and I like it. And so is fear. Steven Moffat made The Doctor say, Right now, you can run faster and you can fight harder, you can jump higher than ever in your life. And you are so alert, it’s like you can slow down time. What’s wrong with scared? Scared is a super power. Yet fear does not make me like that, but like the rabbit in the headlights, crouching, still, hoping the threat will go away. Not fight or flight- freeze.

Freezing is only a good option if fight and flight can’t possibly work, must be worse.

Hiding has always been my way. Try to fit in. I remember half-learned ways not working with other groups. You can please none of the people any of the time, especially if you worry about it and emphasise the negative.

It seemed when I cry talking to the Samaritans, it is to communicate my sadness to myself. If I can recognise it and allow it I cry less.

So, I have this hurt, frightened, creature to care for. It does not find it easy to see light in the gloom or worthwhile prospects. It appears to have little energy, and a liking for hiding away. It finds honesty difficult- it seeks safety in denial, and in seeing things in a particular way.

It remains angry about childhood. I know the lesson that my parents did their best for me is a good one, but the anger needs accepted and acknowledged not treated as a problem. Treating my feelings as a problem is the problem.

I don’t like it much. And you are thinking- I really hope this is me projecting, though surely it can’t be- how ridiculous! Self-indulgent, mean-spirited, boring, obsessive, repetitive, missing the point-

And I have to care for it, for it is the source of all my joy and every authentic experience.

And I still distance myself from it. This is a rational, sensible being writing, which has lots of good qualities. Lots.

Ah. Yes. That is what I must do- integrate, or admit it. I am one human being, really. I am the hurt, frightened creature. I am that which I most despise. I am I.

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Childhood trauma

What is trauma? When the being fears dissolution, because it loses trust in its ability to save itself, or faces an unbearable threat from outside.

I start with Tina by talking of things which please me. I was proud of that AM. Without my contribution over three years it would not have been as beautiful as it was. And then I was-

I know the word. It is in my mind, and I started the sentence knowing that was what I would say, but I cannot say it. My inner critic shuts me down. I pull together the ability, and eventually say it-

brave.

Now I have to say what was “brave”. That exposes me to Tina’s judgment, and the inner critic projects on her that it will be unfavourable. And the inner critic has to have its cake and eat it: that I imagine the situation might be difficult shows that I am worthless, but even though I am so worthless as to find it difficult, facing it shows no bravery.

“It was an awkward situation,” she says. Yes. Certainly awkward, so I could face it or hide from it. If “brave” is too strong, the word “awkward” will do.

Much of my anger and fear comes from old stuff, and I have been pleased recently by moments that emotion seemed to flow healthily, a reasonable response to current circumstances. That past emotion does me no good now.

-It is judged- by the inner critic?

By me, actually. It does not serve me. It blocks my actions. It stops me meditating.

Do I need to name the trauma? No, she says, but I need to resolve it for my younger self. The younger self is still judged, and that prevents my integration- for I am that child as well as this adult.

And then it strikes me. I judged those feelings at their origin- I was not enabled to accept my anger and fear, because they were wrong. This is toddler or pre-toddler response. Then I suppressed my anger. It curdled, and it still sits in me. That small child remains angry and fearful. And I still judge the anger and fear, because it is relates to old stuff and it gets in my way- that is true, but unhelpful. If I could cease to judge it-

The memories might be so distant that you could not resolve the trauma or say why it is traumatic. A man she worked with brought it into awareness through lucid dreaming, not to relive it but to be with his younger self. He found he had not had a wholesome childhood, played unselfconsciously, or been happy- so he made one. He took the younger self on outings where it was not judged.

Trauma is about self-worth. (I am not worthless, but do not entirely believe that.) All parents give you all the faults they had. They say “Don’t be silly” and you believe that reaction silly, ever after.

After our last meeting, I felt I was not so much going in circles as turning on the spot. This feels much better. Much to do, but some chance of progress. It is not so that I can go back to work, or so that I can make a contribution, but-

so that I might be more effectual in achieving things I find worthwhile.

Oh, and that. I am pleased with that decision. I can frame it in words which judge it. I should not go back on my word. Well, no, I should not. And, I do not run away from things but face problems squarely– again, a virtue of the person of integrity- but these words don’t seem to fit the real situation. Seeing I can accomplish nothing I find of value, I withdraw. That seems to fit much better.

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Meditation after trauma

There is lots of value in Western Buddhist stuff. “Non-reactive presence” is just what I am working on at the moment, to be aware of a situation and my emotional response without succumbing to impulsive reactions, but to respond in Love and creativity. I read the term, shorn of any Sanskrit mysticising, and recognise it immediately. It is “foundational”, I read, and want to read more.

The very movement of trauma resolution is from disempowered collapse into an empowered, self-protective response. There’s a worthwhile goal. Meditative interventions which are helpful for a person with a nervous system which has not been impacted by trauma might be counterproductive or even harmful to a person with a trauma history. Ah. Mmm.

I have not been meditating. I have been scared of it. I kneel, I become aware of emotion, I get hurt. I have recently been aware of emotion which felt good, like a healthy reaction to current circumstances, and I want more access to that- so, meditate- Good, even though “painful”, “difficult”, even “bad”, being fear, anger, shame, confusion- Good, because appropriate. Fitting. Responding to how the world is now, not my past.

Awareness of emotion is good. Meditation is good. What kind of “meditative intervention” might have value for one traumatised?

Googling “Meditation after trauma” finds Tara Brach. I hate her. She writes of Radical Acceptance as if it is her trademarked jargon term, a particular wisdom you can buy from her. (I am enjoying my unfairness to her.) She writes of “learning to be her own best friend” and how when she was around twenty she had a harsh inner critic- but not usefully indicating to me how I might do that apart from buying her Wisdom from her. She goes on to the story of her psychotherapy client “Rosalie”, who was severely sexually abused as a child, and beaten when she put up any resistance. She describes some of that abuse, and how it affected Rosalie in her thirties- anorexic and unable to form sexual relationships.

The beating gets to me. The sexual abuse is horrible, but the beating worse, that brings home to me the child’s complete powerlessness which affects me most of all. Now, I think of that powerlessness and feel horror, bewilderment, misery. Pain. It is not simply empathetic. It is mine.

I did not find the article easy to read. And I compare myself- that abuse! I repeat to myself- I may take it in some time- even if anything I have suffered would be nothing to any person with the most minimal resilience, it matters to me.

I “experienced nothing like that”? Well, I am where I am.

Under the utterly brilliant wise psychotherapy of Tara, Rosalie plumbs the depths of her problem and quickly becomes well-adjusted, wise and happy. My mental image of me kicking both of them in the guts and neck repeatedly changes into another of me as a baby on the floor, crying, while they ignore me. Of course I am pretending. There is nothing wrong with me really. I am such a drama queen! There is a brief paragraph in Tara’s account where she acknowledges the rest of her meditation class could benefit: It opened up the possibility of forgiving themselves for not facing their own deep wounds, and it helped them understand that it was natural to seek relief by hiding and defending in the face of unbearable pain. Ah, the therapist’s mantra- Everyone’s screwed, so everyone needs therapy! She quotes Carl Rogers, The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.

Whether this is Tara’s intention or not, I have such an emotional response to this article that I can barely take from it any useful gen on how to improve, myself. I will go back to it.

Buddhism without Sanskrit! Yay!
Tara Brach.

 ♥♥♥

I get a lot more from Manuel Manotas. For one thing he does not describe what “Roger”‘s trauma was- he was raped repeatedly, he stubbed his toe once, whatever. I feel less judged. And this makes sense to me: Part of doing inner work consists of discovering the right balance between challenging and supporting ourselves; when trauma is present, this point tends to be skewed toward either too much challenge or complete avoidance of the situation that triggers the trauma. Neither approach will help you metabolize and transform traumatic psychological imprints. This is why having someone to help you traverse this difficult territory is key. Manotas’ concept of “titration” makes sense- plunging into trauma retraumatises; controlled bearable exposure, as with titrating reactive substances, helps me control the reaction, metabolise the pain, and heal. My avoidance structures have value. Here, I confront; then I watch telly for hours.

Staying with our experience without trying to change it is at the core of mindfulness meditation practice. Mmm. Yeah. Definitely a good thing, and more than I would really like I have to run away.

The comments are good, too.

Looking good

I am proud of this photograph.

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I looked good. These were the glamorous photographs, with studio make-up, that helped me to see I could look feminine. I fitted conventional thoughts of beauty at the time. The photographer worked to make me comfortable and relaxed. Having your portrait done is a lovely experience.

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This one is not too bad either. I used the timer on my camera. I like the surroundings, the quizzical look, the hair and clothes are OK. I like my face. It is more lined than it was twenty years ago, and lines add character.

This programme on image is fascinating. An artist with very short limbs and a fashion photographer took pictures of people who disliked their appearance, and made them look beautiful. One had all her hair fall out when she was eleven, and he made her feel feminine and attractive for the first time, without her wig. One had lost his left leg in an accident, and he looks fine, standing tall on his prosthesis. One had body dysmorphic disorder. She finds the sight of her face unbearable, though she looks pretty enough to me, to the photographer, and to her mother. Her beautiful portrait still did not satisfy her, she still hated how she looked. Having seen herself as beautiful, bald, the other could go out without her wig for the first time.

The first two are physical issues. Hairlessness is not how a woman should be. Limblessness is not how a person should be. Yet- it has to do with thinking positively or negatively. Thinking negatively, I perceive a lack, which is distressing. Thinking positively, I perceive a person with strengths and beauties, and the lack will not vitiate that. That is not to say, the lack does not matter; but that it is not the only important thing. Mourn, accept, move on; recognise everything that is good.

It is OK to be a woman who is bald. She has such beautiful cheekbones. It is OK to be you, just the way you are. Let us celebrate your strengths. Alison Lapper’s ways of getting around in a motorised wheelchair and adapted car- far more expensive than Motability would ever have paid for- overcome her limitations, and let us celebrate the creativity which lets her transcend.

I don’t know whether there are “real” trans women who simply are women, in some way different from me, who would transition even if there were no differences at all in gender roles and expectations apart from the physical reproductive system. That some people might assert that they are does not reduce my uncertainty. For me, it feels that it was not OK to be me as a man, but it was OK to be me, expressing myself female. This Celebrate Yourself gospel pains me, because I could not- so I made the changes so that I could, and am now told they were unnecessary? It had felt that I was not acting, expressing myself female, and now the wig feels like an act; though returning were as tedious as go o’er.

I cycled into Swanston this morning to shop. It drizzled a bit as I went there, and one puddle stretched almost the width of the road. It seemed the cars were not giving me as much space, when passing- the Highway Code says 1.5m, or five feet, is the necessary gap. I hate that scuzzy old waterproof jacket. The fruit stall was not in its usual place, and there was no fruit on the market. As it was raining when I got to the supermarket, I went inside before putting on my wig: I am self-conscious about that, no matter what Alison Lapper says about the beauty of baldness, or my refusal to skulk about changing in lavatories. If I had money, it would have been different. I would be in better clothes, dry, having got out of a car, my wig presentable having been sheltered by an umbrella. The coward slave, we pass him by- I loathe looking poor, and my shame for once seems related to reality. The self-checkout machine did not recognise the weight of the tuna, and I slammed the tins down on the scale then was rude to the assistant. I hate that unavoidable irritations move me to rudeness and violence. Then I pedalled home, telling myself- the weather is good, on the whole. The rain is light. The wind is behind me.

And- that beautiful photograph can still comfort me. I am a beautiful person.

Acting in character

When he took my hand, I did not pull away. He might see that as mixed signals. I found his touch unwelcome, but did not know what to do. Later, when he cycled to the bus stop, dumped the bike in some bushes and sat by me, chatting animatedly, obviously attempting to charm, I wondered about how to show no interest without being unpleasant.

Once, when I took someone’s hand, it sat limply in mine. I found this the opposite of encouraging, and put it down quickly. But then, for me, what the other wants is important too. I had already told him that I am attracted to women not men, and I felt I had not responded favourably to his flirtation, but then I did not want to be unfriendly and wonder if he would take even resistance seriously. Oh, she’s playing hard to get. The man who will not take no for an answer, who pursues what he wants, who wants to be in control- yes, I can see the attraction, and all I can do is avoid him.

Why would I not snatch my hand away? I can make up stories- I was “gentle” (good) or “cowardly” (bad) but then I just did it. Such stories affect how I respond after. Should I see him again? I “do not run away”- except I do, that’s why I stay at home most of the time. Would going to see him achieve anything? No, not unless he wanted it. Well, what does he want? To increase his control, though he would not put it that way, and possibly still to flirt with me, and push that as hard as he can.

I like to think of myself as intellectual, and also as a caring, empathetic person, but I am also an animal with animal responses. I did not snatch my hand away (fact) I had a hopeless feeling of not being able to respond constructively (interpretation) I wanted to be taken (No! Really, Really No!). My animal responses might make that constructed intellectual, wise, empathetic being very uncomfortable.

I read we make decisions with evidence, but how we interpret that depends on what we think looks good, or what we understand is possible. There were shy Trump voters, telling pollsters they were “undecided”. Making a decision, you gather evidence, and eventually on feeling you have enough, feeling comfortable enough, you decide- this may happen unconsciously before you are aware of having chosen. Gathering more evidence makes you more likely to be right in your decision but occupies brain-space. Even when you feel you are undecided you may have a pronounced preference, because most of the evidence has appeared to go one way; or you want something, but that conflicts with your self-image. I don’t want to appear harsh.

Part of why I analyse like this is because I think I get things wrong so much, but too much analysis might get in the way of action. We are never safe.

Decisions.

Driverless car accidents

Who would you want your car to kill? The driverless car is in a situation where it can either drive into a tree, harming the occupants, or into a crowd of people. Which should it choose?

Mercedes Benz announced last month that its cars would prioritise passenger safety, but then reversed course. They have never read Kant- from a selfish point of view, I would prefer that a car with me as a passenger preferred passengers, with me as a bystander preferred bystanders. In a survey, most people agreed that cars which impartially minimised casualties were more ethical, but would be frightened of such cars.

If the passengers’ safety is prioritised over the bystanders’, where would it end? Would the car prioritise the passengers’ convenience, going faster but risking bystander safety? A driverless car did not take enough risk. It went much slower in heavy traffic, because it left a safe distance between itself and the vehicle ahead, and vehicles behind continually passed it, pulling into that gap. That could only be resolved if every car was driverless, all communicating across a web.

If car buyers preferred cars that risked bystanders, law could correct that: a passenger could still be liable for harm caused by a car in their control, even criminally liable. Or bystanders could, the dystopic mob pulling passengers from the car and lynching them. Cars could not be allowed to prefer their occupants.

Here’s The Moral Machine, where you can submit your opinions to MIT, or design ethical dilemmas for others. Citylab questions how they should affect urban design and might affect pedestrian behaviour: people should not discourteously cross the road in front of a car, but don’t deserve to die for it, so would pedestrians become jerks? Would children play in the street? Would urban planners create even more fast roads banning pedestrians entirely? Would cities ban cars, in favour of public transport?

Slate goes deeply into optimising the interests of the individual against those of the group. If your car could take you to your city centre office, then go and park in the cheapest space possible- perhaps outside the city- should law intervene to prevent passengerless journeys? Might the car operate as a taxi during the day, before coming back for you at the end of your shift? Carmakers argue that optimal spacing between cars could reduce the need for roads or parking space, in expensive city land, but when driving gets easier, people drive more. This is called “induced demand”.

People can make decisions together, and legislate for optimal outcomes. Everyone would benefit. There is no “tragedy of the Commons” when there are well thought out rules governing the commons, only when individuals pursue their own interests without regard to those of others.

New York Times, Whose life should your car save?

Religion and spirituality

Western concepts of what a “religion” is, or could be, are affected by what Christianity is.

Jesus named his calling the Way, a road through life or way of being in the world, yet for many Christianity is a Creed, a belief-system. Richard tells me the New Testament Church of God are “Pre-Millenarians”, who believe that Jesus will come again and rule the world with the just for a thousand years before the final battle of Armageddon. What matters is, how does this story colour their understanding of the world and their lives now? I imagine it creates a siege mentality. The Devil is powerful, and can make people suffer. This fits much of what Jesus said to his disciples- “there will be wars and rumours of wars”, though he was talking about the coming war with the Roman Empire ending with the destruction of the temple in AD70.

Privilege is the idea the world was made for you and those like you, that you are the default human and others revolve around you. There is the middle-class belief that society will look after you if things go really wrong. That church does not quite believe that nature, heartless, witless nature, Will neither care nor know, for there is a loving God, but the bottom can fall out of their world.

Correct belief was very important to Christians from the beginning, but one correct system was strongly enforced by Constantine taking over Christianity as his ruling ideology in the fourth century. Even then there was diversity- Justinian’s empress Theodora was a Monophysite, and the Christians travelling overland and planting churches as far as China were Dyophysites, before being wiped out by Catholics who called them heretics. Though Wikipedia says there is no reliable information on their survival when the Jesuits arrived. These words relate to understandings of the relation of the humanity and divinity of Jesus. From outside, one might state negative consequences of false belief about this- the Docetist does not believe in the value of the material world, which they call sinful from the beginning, not beautiful, to be used with respect. Beware the description of a belief system by those who condemn it, because they do not understand it. What is the value of the belief from within.

Genesis 1 was never written as a scientific hypothesis, as that concept has developed since the Enlightenment. It was a Jewish adaptation of a Babylonian story, which infiltrated Jewish ideas of the value of Creation. God saw what God had made, and it was Good.

“Religion” is a different word from “Creed”. Its derivation links to rule, as in the rules by which we order and structure society and come together as community, and rituals we perform. The rule that in the sanctuary of the church, I as a server would not walk in a diagonal line, only parallel to the walls- so I start walking towards the communion table by walking 45° from a direct path, then make a 90° turn- helps keep that place separate from ordinary life- special, sacred. It is a way of showing respect so giving meaning to life, by relating to something more than ourselves- God, who Loves all God’s creation. So I am religious as well as spiritual, though I choose my own rules. Having been brought up in one Anglican framework of rules, I find rules which seem good to me, and commit to them, as well as living within a Quaker set of rules. Other- no word covers the whole, but call them “religions”, may give more emphasis to practice and less to belief. They are different. They are of themselves, not to be defined by our concepts. To say the Rig Veda is “like” a book of the Bible is to misunderstand it.

Spirituality may grow and flourish within religion. A rule or system of worship or meditation may promote spirituality, and beliefs expressed in stories may nurture it. One can be “spiritual but not religious” but it is not easy, and at worst people form too great respect for calm. “Namaste”, I say, denying the rage and confusion within me which frightens me and curdles, expressing itself in my passive-aggression.

Oh No! Again, again with “What Spirituality is Not”! What is harmful about it! Spirituality is– consciousness, knowing, empathy, accepting reality including the wonder of ones own self and of other people.

And now- a great mathematician!

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I feel fear

That tribunal, I can’t remember whether we won or not, but they expressed disapprobation that the young man should be spending all his time on video games. Hours every day, rather than- what? Something constructive? If he were unfit for work, that could hardly be looking for work. Contempt might not be quite it- possibly like a benevolent magistrate, wanting by a rebuke to a chastened, basically decent, young man who had followed the wrong road for a bit to bring him back to better ways, which would be good for him.

I can’t remember if he won, and lost interest when the tribunal was over so have no idea whether he cut down his gaming habit. Then there was the older man whose brother looked after him. Did everything for him, so he did, and then I saw him again six months later, no longer living with his brother, pleased to be doing something for himself. He saw it was better.

I should deal with that email, and I am still scrolling facebook. At least I might clean my teeth. Or I could meditate for a bit.

The sky is blue, and condensation on the window glitters. I can see the individual droplets, behind the leaf-pattern on the net curtain, obscuring the houses behind. My attention flickers over sensations in my neck, then feet, then back to the droplets. I should deal with that email, and I feel fear. I recognise it. I fear that email. I get up.

The inner critic says the fear is completely unreasonable- ridiculous and disgusting, expressing contempt. My rational self agrees. There is nothing to fear, here- this benevolent magistrate lacks imagination. No, really- there is nothing to fear here. And- I fear! I had no idea how much I feared, not consciously, I noticed that I continued scrolling facebook or clicking to see if I had more page views, not so much pro-cras-tinating, putting off until tomorrow, as putting off second to second, in an endless present of doing something else.

(It is important to me that I know the Latin etymology, that I am that educated person)

How to gain self-respect? Denial no longer hacks it. I fear, unconsciously, I run away and avoid, hardly linking the avoidance to the stimulus because I do not recognise the fear-

I decide I should face the email before writing about this-

and cannot act on the fear because I despise it. All is unconscious, the fear, avoidance, running away.

I still can’t understand that I feel fear for that- such an insignificant thing- rationally it should not bother anyone, the inner critic is screaming contempt, the rationalist is puzzled-

perhaps I should face it. Consider the email. Take the action. If I deny my fear I do not know what barrier prevents that action so cannot overcome the barrier.

Fear increases when I think of dealing with the matter. But, last night Paul phoned to chase me up, so I must deal with it today. Last night I wanted to apologise to him and could not say it, I felt embarrassment. He understands my problems, he says, naming ones I had not considered.

I have dealt with it. Not perfectly, but I hope it will be alright, and if not it will be dealt with. So much better to be meditating, to be sometimes conscious, rather than running from consciousness; even though consciousness means uncertainty, rather than immediate corrective action. Aha, you understand, you act, you sort it? Eventually. Perhaps.

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Awareness

I have been too frightened to meditate, for months, but last night knelt in my ritual space; and this morning did too, just for five minutes by the timer. I rose, realising- I am confused. That confusion feels good: it means I am thinking things through. It is conscious incompetence: I will improve.

I am truthful, and this is how it was, as clearly as I may be. Confusion was terribly threatening to me. If I understood what was going on, I might react well, but if I were confused I might not, and then the monster might get me. I feel cheered by my confusion, for at last I see it is a good thing. So I feel happy. My happiness may be caused by an illusion which will lead to a serious downer later, but I will cope with that if it comes.

Confusion was too threatening for me to allow it into consciousness. It had to be denied and suppressed. Now it is not. My feelings are good, for they drive me the way I should go.

I felt sadness which seemed to overwhelm me, then I named it “Sadness”, and it felt bearable. The name allows me to live with my sadness, I know that being “sad” is OK. I shared on fb, Tao called Tao is not Tao. Words get between the self and reality: they mediate our understanding, and block it. Words can never express reality, and the goal is to perceive and respond to reality without getting in the way. However, words give some understanding. Words can bring feelings together into some coherence, which is bearable and comprehensible. This is a bad thing- reality is not comprehensible. The map is less than the territory. And words can build understanding, give a foundation for greater understanding. Words are like stabilizers on a bicycle: helping us develop trust in the process.

It seemed to me if I could simply feel without labelling- ride the bicycle without stabilisers- I would respond better. Wanting to name the feeling to make it bearable gets in my way- though it is better than suppressing the feeling. Someone said that we need words to communicate with others, and for many things that is true, though not always for feelings. Someone suggested- I must reword this, to get my best understanding, which may be less than hers- that if I need to impose a “self” that feels “sad” then the “self” is as illusory as the word is. There is the sadness. One can be aware, or aware of being aware, but not both. The self cannot know anything, only the words, only the map.

Or, I might feel sad, then retreat, consider, name the feeling; then feel, again. We are the Universe, conscious. Or, I Am; and my consciousness is tagging along, for the ride.

One said that words shape our perceptions so that they become as close to reality as we might get; they mould our reality. One said that intellect is a different category from feeling, needing words. In silent meditation one might come to a decision without words, only encoding it in words after. One said “The words themselves have no meaning, the meaning is always in us”- they are only symbolic representation of meaning, which may be different for each person in a conversation.

Or: words give us past and future rather than eternal present. Words allow planning, recollection allows metanoia (change).

I will live with this.

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Mr Pence goes to the Theatre

Friends, you need to calm down. You will have the most ignorant president ever- worse than Reagan- and possibly the most dangerous, but your angry shouting will achieve nothing.

I love clips of Megyn Kelly interviewing Trump-apologists. That look of incredulity, with a tincture of contempt! It is intensely sexual. She starts with a smile of welcome, as at a persistent date who has not yet realised how far out of his league she is. Welcome to my lair. Then the mouth turns down a little, and the eyes widen ever so slightly. Then there’s blood coming out of her- what’stheword?- V- V- Victims! Stephen Colbert and the rest remain entertaining.

As usual, Mr Trump inflamed his opponents.

This is not presidential. He should be above this sort of whining. He has been roundly mocked- “Stop picking on my vice-president” said the British mouthpiece of Mr Murdoch, owner of Fox News. The Sydney Morning Herald just reported the story straight: quoting the tweets is enough to make a fool of Mr Trump. As always.

And yet- there you are on a hair trigger. One side sets to enthusiastically liking and retweeting Mr Trump, the other to abuse. “I don’t think I am going to make it through the next four years.” “I’ll take resignation or impeachment, I’m not picky.” “He turned into a snivelling puddle of poor me.”

Things are serious. The racist Jeff Sessions as Attorney General is a disaster for your country, and Myron Ebell as chief destroyer of the Environmental Protection Agency is a disaster for the planet. Your president-elect’s son in law got Chris Christie sacked as head of the transition team, because Christie prosecuted his father for tax evasion. Your president-elect busily insults foreign leaders. And- a stooshie about Mr Pence being rebuked at the theatre is mere froth.

Some of it is witty. First they came for the Muslims, and we said, ‘not this time motherfucker’. Some makes it worse than it is. People are wearing safety-pins to show they are a safe person. You can trust me, it says, if you are abused in the street. A meme says, “Wouldn’t it be nice if this [a cross pendant] meant, ‘I’m a safe person’.”

You know, it does? It takes an extreme, frothing at the mouth fundamentalist not to be shaken by the abuse of gay people or Muslims in the street. They might wade in. I don’t like the fashion for wearing safety pins. Common civility is not eroded enough for it to be needed. It makes things look worse than they are. Most people, even many racist people, will be uncomfortable if someone is abused in the street, and many will intervene.

When I have been abused, it has usually been quiet. I and the abuser have been the only pedestrians, or I have been alone and someone has shouted abuse from a car. A man abused me once and the woman with him rebuked him, rather than cheering him on. People still read me, and some may object, but keep quiet about it.

We need to lower the temperature. Mr Trump thrives on rage and fear, because they stop people thinking. By expressing care for others, we may enable them to hear differing points of view. From a state of calmness, we may see what positive action we might take.

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