Self-knowledge, accepted or declined

My name is Clare, and I am agoraphobic.

I attend several zoom groups a week where speaking authentically is valued, and wearing a mask is pointless. Making this AA-like declaration- actually I said I am “a functional agoraphobic” but now would drop the adjective- helps me. I admit it to others, and thereby admit it to myself. It is now part of my self-understanding.

Then on Monday I needed to go to Swanston, and sat, and didn’t. I could go on Wednesday, I thought. Aye, right. I would just put it off again. I still could not motivate myself to go. I had a shower, had a cry about getting kicked out of local Quakers in January, and then wanted to write. I wrote my pronouns poem straight out, and changed two words. It got 33 likes, seven hearts, nine cares and one cry.

Then I joined a zoom with a professional musician and an aspiring singer/songwriter, who both loved it. I was in heaven. Profoundly affirmed, I cycled into Swanston.

I would need an enabler to buy groceries, etc, to be a perfect agoraphobic.

A pitfall around spiritual lessons is that I can imagine I have learned them once I acknowledge their truth, and thereby avoid the hard work of taking them into my heart, but also any benefit they might bring. And, it seems to me that admitting I am agoraphobic has dented my agoraphobia. I find agoraphobia shameful, and I dealt with the shame by denial. How else? The pretence, “Of course I could go out if I wanted to,” would not fool anyone else who cared enough to form a view, and it did not really fool me, but accepting the word makes the idea concrete for me. It feels like a positive step.

It is frightening- what can I do about it? All this stuff seems insurmountable! And positive, as I am making progress. “What do I feel, now?” is a good question. I should ask myself that more often. Now I am enjoying the writing and analysis even if it is tiring. I don’t want to excuse agoraphobia. I know the reasons, but what to do about it now is more important.

Do you want to cure it?

Not necessarily. Going out, I would not necessarily be in a more comfortable position. I would like more control of it. How to control it I don’t know. Admitting I do not want to go out mitigates it.

Two years ago I identified fully with the “ego” that needs to cajole the Real Self into action. Now I identify with the Real Self. What might remain in the “ego”? The outdated “what will people think?” I inherited from my mother may have been jettisoned.

All this is in one brain, but it might be worthwhile developing Captain Sensible. The Captain thinks about things like “What will people think?” He knows that people think a lot of different things, most not centred on me, and some things disgust or delight some people. It is my own judgment I want to develop, not what I inherited, or adopted in a panic as a child. I would try to see real people, rather than my inflexible condemning judgment, and the hacks I used to get round it, finding things forgiveable where others might not.

Captain Sensible might consider medium term plans, leaving the Real Self to sing. That part of me which seeks self-improvement is only a bad thing when it starts beating me and screaming at me to Go Faster, however hard I am working. That would be a healthier ego, in balance with the Real Me.

Where’s the monster?

The image that comes to mind is of Sulley from Monsters Inc, an unfrightening monster who much preferred provoking laughter. Sulley becomes friendly and caring in the film. Again, I don’t want to imagine I have done the spiritual work if I haven’t, and The Monster could be biding its time, but right now it feels defanged, like the Woodlouse. The monster’s power resided in an ego it could terrify, that would slam the door on the Real Me and hide me in the dark.

Slamming the door is an extended metaphor. I don’t want to rely on it as a perfect map. “Fightings and fears, within, without” are not so easily overcome. Yet the monster seems less powerful.

It did not want me to be-
it is hard to get the word out. There are inner voices challenging that. I want to notice when I can’t say something, and overcome the refusal. The word is “feminine”. The inner voices say “feminine” is not a coherent concept. It means something to me. Possibly those inner voices still resist that.

Then the monster would be diffused. I would not panic and shut down-

yes. “I”. There is one brain.

I would not panic and shut down, but might still avoid places my old programming finds dangerous, which could be liberating.

And then, there’s the actual experience of other people, like getting bullied at Newport. I have told this story without weeping before. Now I want to get it out in limited time, and remember other details of the chaos of it, and weep. And I can say “I was bullied” without The Evidence, those facts that show it was bullying and not reasonable management of a recalcitrant worker- and I have to tell The Evidence as well.

I have really bad experiences of other people, over and over again, and great distress thinking of them or my situation now.

4 thoughts on “Self-knowledge, accepted or declined

      • The NHS website says it’s more complex than a fear of open spaces, saying it’s “is a fear of being in situations where escape might be difficult or that help wouldn’t be available if things go wrong”. (https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/agoraphobia/) This seems rather broad and as with so many cases, there’s a basis where it’s rational to have some concern about such things. Others seem lump fear of crowds in with it, although some Googling has found enochlophobia being used by (but not widely, it doesn’t get a Wikipedia or NHS page) for that more specifically.

        Of course, judging risk right now is very complex – being near more people will increase your COVID risk, so there’s a right to be more concerned, but while the risk might (say) double, a very low risk doubled is ultimately still quite low. The mass media and politicians manipulate the perception of risk depending on the outcome they seek.

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        • Thank you. That is interesting. I suppose that people would be afraid of, or triggered to a great extent beyond the normal level of concern by, a completely idiosyncratic group of stimuli, and the words might capture some of that but not all of it. To fit the Agoraphobia template, Procrustes would stretch bits of me and lop bits off. I don’t fear covid, particularly. I would like to know which situations might stretch me a little, and which are completely unbearable.

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