I spend a lot of time with those who come under that “shirkers and scroungers” banner, and I often help them claim benefits. They nearly all have reasonable physical health – but quite severe mental health problems. What I see in them is not laziness and a desire to have others run around and support them – but rather that they are so damaged by life’s circumstances that they have endured that they have no capacity to help themselves. If they get sanctioned (i.e. benefits completely stopped) then they just lie down and take it – like a dog that’s been beaten one too many times…
People who are loved – and they may need that love for many years – can slowly start to believe in themselves again. With patient encouragement to take one step at a time, and constant support – lives can be rebuilt. And personal responsibility will then develop too.
-From a facebook thread.
Compassion is not at all weak. It is the strength that … allows us to bear witness to … suffering, whether in ourselves or others, without fear; it allows us to name injustice without hesitation, and to act strongly, with all the skill at our disposal. To develop this mind state of compassion … is to learn to live, as the Buddha put it, with sympathy for all living beings, without exception.
– Sharon Salzberg, Lovingkindness:
The Revolutionary Art of Happiness
I need to know my limitations, and they are hard to accept. I used to work with people after heart attacks claiming benefits, who would often say that sitting down, they felt completely normal, like before, so they went to get up and felt shocking breathlessness and pain. One imagines the default, the normal, often even after repeated proof of the lesser ability. Denial is just one of my blind spots.
I find my energy levels varying, and here am I even now thinking, “I can do that this afternoon!” When it comes to this afternoon, I won’t feel the energy.
Of course I want to see how to improve and build abilities. I am doing my best, all the time, because people just do. And, rather than writing this blog post about limitations or going out leafleting for Labour I am whiling away my time on heated facebook threads, about whether a Quaker can be a Conservative. Some who are both resented the challenge. I was going to write, “I went into my why can’t we all just get along? mode,” but really I sought to bridge the gap. I put my energy, care and expressiveness into explaining each to the other and finding common ground. Not all I wrote was perfect.
Whiling, or practising, or even engaging in a medium where feelings are strong, though transitory?
Menis said to me, Have mercy on yourself.
One Conservative voter messaged me, Thank you for coming to my aid on fb. You are a kind Friend indeed! When we got to 😇😇😇 I said It is extremely important to me to see myself as a good person! which provoked her 😄 😄 .
So, there. Self-nurturing, as well as thinking things through with words, and practicing writing. Not a waste of time at all!
I recognise myself in those first two paragraphs above. I knew I have to write about what my difficulties are, because without that, plans can never work. Plans which do not take account of difficulties will founder on those difficulties.
Everything I do is for my good; and not everything I do forwards those conscious plans. Some ways forward proceed unconsciously. Of course I know I must write of my difficulties. I must get to know them from patient observation of what I do, rather than imagining I know myself, or that I really am that normal default- because I am sitting in the chair, and not exerting myself to rise from it. And I get to know them, consciously and unconsciously. After hours on that facebook thread, thinking, writing, reading and re-reading, I showered at 1pm, and in the shower my Assertion surfaced, and I said, emphatically, insistently,
I am writing it
I am writing my account of my difficulties. I was working on it then. Just, not consciously.
The road to recovery lies through a full and complete understanding of limitations. I know that I am loveable. I love myself. I like myself. This is great progress. And, I have no trust in myself or others. I have experiences of my failure and others’ angry or hostile reactions to me, which matter to me, which affect my conduct, thought, anticipation and planning, and however much I think of my success and others’ favourable or supportive reactions to me, however many examples I retrieve from memory, they are insignificant beside the weight of bad experiences. I think,
It was ghastly!
It will be ghastly again!
If I can win my own trust, I need to develop trust of others. I might delve into why the bad experiences have so much weight- perhaps they are from early childhood, where it really was as black and white as it seems now.
So I retreat, and I fiddle, and I don’t do what I obviously must do to improve my lot
even while I work to improve it, in unimaginable or ridiculous ways
I follow my heart, however much my head knows it is right.