Black Lives Matter UK

Black Lives Matter.

On 4 August 2011, Mark Duggan was followed by firearms police from a meeting where he reportedly had collected a gun, according to the controversial “Operation Trident” focused on gun crime in London’s black communities. Three cars executed a “hard stop”, forcing his minicab to a halt. Duggan came out of the car. A police officer was shot during the incident, and officers told journalists that there had been “an exchange of fire”. The Daily Mail called Duggan a “gangsta”. Two days after, the police had not met the Duggan family, and they led a protest march to Tottenham police station. Police continued to refuse to meet with the family, and the protest became confrontational, eventually with rioting. In 2013 a coroner’s inquest interviewed dozens of witnesses, and in 2014 the jury concluded it had been a lawful killing, but also that the first bullet fired by an officer at Mr Duggan had injured the other officer. A year later, the Independent Police Complaints Commission published its report, saying Mark Duggan had thrown a gun onto grass seven metres away from the mini-cab.

The detailed Forensic Architecture report concludes that Duggan could not have thrown the gun. No officer gave evidence that he had seen Duggan throw the gun. Their video shocked me. My vague recollection of the case was that Duggan had had a gun, but there was no DNA link from the gun, wrapped in a sock, with Mr Duggan. I noticed in myself an initial desire to exonerate the police, and challenge the evidence which eventually led to a large settlement in the family’s unlawful killing action against the Metropolitan police. This is the desire to see society as basically well-functioning, documented by Sara Ahmed, which causes difficulty for complaints against the police, or about authority in any institution.

Sean Rigg wrote, performed and produced his rap album Be Brother B Good and volunteered at the Franz Fanon community centre in Brixton. He suffered bouts of mental illness. On 21 August 2008 he was arrested and restrained by Brixton police, and died shortly after. The inquest reported four years afterwards, and the family’s Justice and Change campaign site does not seem to have been updated since 2014. Rigg was fit, healthy and forty years old when he died. The inquest in 2012 concluded the way he had been restrained, “more than minimally”, had contributed to his death: his heart stopped after “unnecessary” and “unsuitable” restraint while lying face down. However in February 2019 the Metropolitan Police exonerated five officers of charges of failing to identify Rigg’s mental illness, excessive restraint, and giving false evidence to the IPCC and the inquest. In The Guardian, his sister Samantha Rigg-David described her “anguish”, says the subhead, and her courage in campaigning.

A man claiming to have Covid 19 spat and coughed on Belly Mujinga, a railway worker, and her colleague at Victoria Station in London. The British Transport police took no further action having decided there was insufficient evidence. She died on 5 April from Covid 19.

Naomi Hersi, a trans woman, Continue reading

Towards “Towards a Quaker View of Gender”

A Quaker view of gender should work towards inclusion, particularly of people whose inclusion now is contingent or insecure. As far as possible, we should see people as individuals, rather than as members of groups, or through the prism of particular characteristics. Where there is disagreement, we should first see what we agree about and what we have in common before delving into those disagreements, which can be painful and protracted. There is deep hurt and concomitant lack of trust, so we should work to show that all the hurt, and all the people involved, matter. We need threshing, and separate spaces so that all perspectives may be heard.

Gender is a social construct, and not innate. Margaret Mead investigated societies where both sexes would appear feminine to US gender expectations of the time, or both masculine, or the men feminine and the women masculine. Within one society, gender roles, stereotypes and attitudes can vary between different social classes or by skin colour.

Sexual differences are relevant. Women tend to be smaller and physically weaker than men, though there is an overlap. However culture, convention and the language people use may make sexual differences appear more or less important. It may not be possible to entirely strip away culture, to see those sexual differences, or any human characteristic, as it would be without any cultural influence at all.

The culture that we live in is invisible to us, like the air we breathe, simply normal, unless we make a sustained effort to bring it into the light. The culture privileges particular groups, and oppresses or marginalises others. It is particularly difficult for privileged people to see the oppression in their culture, which at first seems to them to be normal, unobjectionable and unquestionable.

Apart from the gametes they produce, there is no characteristic or trait of one sex which does not exist in the other, or which is not equally valuable or admirable in both.

One person cannot write “Towards a Quaker View of Gender”(TAQVOG) which, like “Towards a Quaker View of Sex” from which it takes its name, should point out oppression and seek liberation, so that the gifts and qualities of all people may be valued, and all people flourish so that the whole community flourishes. Each individual will have blind spots, which conceal from them the oppression or the gifts of another.

So I passionately desire anyone who can to write what they would wish included in TAQVOG. There are many blogs, magazines and organisations which might publish such pieces- I’d publish you on mine, whether I agree with you or not. Personal testimony is necessary, but also there are many involved in the disputes who are well qualified to analyse from an academic perspective, but might feel unwilling to tell personal experience. All kinds of responses have value.

I am a trans woman, and my fellow-feeling is first with trans women, then other trans and gender-variant folk, then with all affected by gender- which is everybody. First with trans women, whether considering transition, transitioning, or long transitioned, whatever they look like, in all their responses and needs including intimate and personal ones: because I know the terror and isolation I have felt and can still feel. If I were to write for TAQVOG, trans would be my first concern.

If one of us does wrong, deal with the wrongdoing, but don’t punish her for being trans as well, doubt that she is trans because of the wrongdoing, or judge all of us by that wrongdoing. If one of us does well, notice, welcome and recognise that, because we have potential which is not realised because of the difficulties of being trans. Don’t speculate about our genitals! Most of us want surgery, but waiting lists are long.

TAQVOG would not primarily be about trans people and trans issues. Around 0.1% of the population has transitioned to express themselves as another gender, but gender stereotypes, attitudes and roles oppress everyone to an extent. Perhaps 1% of the population have extreme difficulty with gender, either because of being particularly distant from the stereotypes or having a strong internalized tendency to see the world in gendered terms and judge themselves and others on conformity to those roles. Many trans women, for example, work hard to conform to male stereotypes before transitioning.

Instead it would primarily be about violence, and first violence against women: physical violence and coercive control, violence in the home, the workplace and public spaces, and the way women are inhibited from full participation in public spaces by the threat of violence. This includes physical violence by Quaker men. But it would be about all the violence, the cultural and structural violence which prevents people from valuing and developing their qualities because of gendered restrictions, including on men. This needs a wide range of personal testimony, and academic analysis which I am not qualified to make.

I got the idea of TAQVOG from an article entitled “Towards a Quaker View of Gender and Sex” in the Friends Quarterly, which I condemn, as I see it as tending to promote unjustified fear and exclusion of trans women. So it is important to me to quote a part I agree with, to show partial agreement is possible even between the most apparently opposing views, and because it summarises one of the most important issues TAQVOG would address:

It is of vital spiritual importance that we explore society’s expectation of us on the basis of our sex, as well as other characteristics and experiences. It is by slowly stripping away these layers that we are able to listen to the still small voice inside.

Though some societal expectations affirm some people, if we did this we could truly appreciate our diversity, and include everyone.

The human inner light lives on despite society’s expectations, and stripping away those layers is the way we fulfil these words of George Fox, from the Journal, Nickalls’ edition p263: “So the ministers of the Spirit must minister to the spirit that is transgressed and in prison, which hath been in captivity in every one, whereby with the same Spirit people must be led out of captivity up to God.” It is the same paragraph: that is how we “answer that of God in every one”.

This freedom is in 2 Corinthians 3:17-18: “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.”

Taking responsibility

This has value because it increases understanding.

I am slowly getting better. It is too slow for my liking. I am not sure I can manage it in time. I don’t know what health would look like, though at this stage too clear an idea of what health would be gets in the way of finding my true way.

I have a bleak start: Sorrow and anxiety constrain my life to Nothingness, and Nothingness exacerbates the sorrow and anxiety. I am separate from the bleakness: this is heavy, but it is better to be conscious of it, then I can question it and deal with it.

I blame myself for being in this room, for being in bleakness, for every step which has led me to this point in my life. And I have worked out that my harshness to myself is not doing any good. The other side of taking responsibility is self-blame. Taking responsibility for ones own actions is a good thing. Taking responsibility for things others are responsible for is needlessly harmful, and I don’t think there’s a magic way of hitting the precise balance and then just being OK.

Blame can be useful- I find what went wrong so it does not happen again, and also in claiming agency. And now my reflexive habit of self-blame makes me feel weak and inadequate so unable to cope with problems, makes me feel bad and drains motivation. Self-blame made the pain less:

if I am angry with other people I express it, and get squashed. If I blame myself then I keep quiet and don’t get squashed.

I am not remembering this, but it feels strongly this is where I was as a child. I now feel a tincture of exultation- it’s good to acknowledge this. I can’t name the main feeling- hurt, frustration, anger- powerlessness-

If I blame myself, if I imagine I am responsible, then I can fantasise that my actions can improve my situation. That’s reassuring. It’s not learning from mistakes, as I don’t now believe I was responsible. This may be the source of my self-image as the centre of the universe, the master of my fate.

I am partly the victim of great impersonal forces. I voted Remain, and I vote Labour. Every one of the warring factions in my brain wants my good. The reflexive self blame fails to see some of why I am here now. Meditation, contemplation might be the way to get this clear and untangled, but it’s difficult and painful so I want to avoid it.

I feel anxiety that something might happen in the next week, which is only a serious threat in the next year.

I really do create my powerlessness now. If I was tied in knots by outside forces, they are not working on me now. So it is up to me to untangle myself, and I am doing that. It’s difficult, but looking back over years of my blog I see progress, and greater understanding. But even when I have managed to get rid of most stresses on me such that all I have to do is go to the supermarket occasionally, I am still stressed and hurting.

A negative understanding comes to mind. If I have stayed right at the centre of my comfort zone, I have got out of the habit of stretching myself, which is the equivalent of my muscles atrophying, and the source of my anxiety. There’s a Chinese proverb, “A man grows most tired when standing still”. Such reflexive self-blame is not helping me right now.

My goal is to make something of my life. At the moment that only means untangling. I don’t want to tell my woes to anyone because I don’t want to see them as woes. I want to see these things as positives, that I am taking action, that I am overcoming, patiently, slowly, effectively. If I am dragging myself forward on my elbows because both legs are broken I don’t want to dwell on the fact that both my legs are broken.

I love Cardinal. The fourth series is the best since the first. A man kills people slowly and painfully in order to cause maximum hurt to their loved ones, his real victims. We see the intricacy of his plots to kill and get away with it, and the cruelty of killing by freezing to death, so there are lingering shots from a drone of frozen wastes or trees surrounded by snow. It is cathartic. We take a long journey into darkness, in the comfort of our living rooms.

I will care for each one of my warring factions, hear them out, and accept them. The snake will digest the goat eventually.

Nine years in this room. It is too slow for my liking. With nothing but being stripped of ways of being that are not working for me, and trying to find new ways of being. In healing myself I feel I am like a fly, on its back, trying to flip over, failing. I am still twitching. I will continue at least to twitch- the best I can do- until I can’t any more.

I see the difficulty of the work. Its value is not in question. I am beautiful. My light should shine, and it is for me to free it. There’s the odd flicker now and then.

I want to kiss the World better. Stand up for God’s truth and justice.

I don’t do anything for fun. I do things, sometimes, for wonder or delight.

I joined an Evangelical Quaker meeting, with a pastor, by zoom, to see what it was like. In having a pastor it seemed they made themselves lesser, by ceasing to take responsibility. I will not cease from exploration, and I will not cease to take responsibility. I will see my responsibility and what I need to do more clearly, so as to act more effectively.

These are dark times.

This is all I can do.

Here is a portrait of Edward Colston, whose statue has just been torn down and thrown into the harbour where his slave ships sailed from. Look at him in his pomp. We are still talking of the man now.

Depression

Depression manifests in me because I find my situation unbearable. Arguably it is. (That’s a bleak beginning! There is some hope towards the end.)

Judging a desire as “good” is meaningless. It can be used as a crutch: this desire is “good” therefore it is right for me; but the crutch is illusory, and it may only be “good” in my own mind. I thought, my friend should stop relying on that crutch, and then realised the lesson applied to me.

One does things out of habit, or because of rules, and there are times when I can’t find the motivation to clean my teeth- even though my mouth feels bad and would feel better if I cleaned them, even though I have worked out I clean my teeth for my own good, not because of rules or habit. Perhaps I can’t see anything will make my situation better, or my mouth hardly matters in the bigger picture. But there it is my own judgment of good, not something introjected or worked out rationally.

I have shut down my desire by judging it.

So I need to find what I desire. I thought of cycling, Sunday morning, and then I did not go. I thought, “I can do it later”. My desire is deceiving me: “later” never comes. It has to deceive me, to get round me, because I cannot accept it.

I cannot merely endure life.

Some goal or meaning might make me do things for survival, as a means to that end, but my only goal at the moment is freeing myself from internal conflicts, in the hope other goals will manifest later. We might adopt a goal which is worthwhile, but cannot demand God make us enjoy it, or take away our revulsion.

I consider my desire. It is there, and I do not know what it is. All I can say is my word of power:

Welcome.

I judge you from habit. I need your voice.

Carefully, I test possible words against the mute desire. Other ways of being? Loneliness??

Rajit was othered in a Quaker meeting. Someone said to him, “Your English is very good”. That’s patronising, only really a compliment to a teenager, and as I have no evidence that he was not born here, I assume he was, though I don’t know. The “compliment” makes him an outsider, rather than one of us. It is because of his skin colour. The person did not know they were doing anything wrong. That is not good enough.

I did not go cycling on Monday either. I sat outside, meditating, with a pen and paper to note ideas occurring to me.

Why would I want to go cycling? Conventional fun, the way I have introjected I am supposed to enjoy myself? Rational calculation of a need? I should exercise, after all, get my pulse up.

My introjected self hatred stops me coming into the light. My desire is possibly the most individual part of me, and I have denied it.

I must allow.
Permit.
Notice.

Oh God.

Sadness.

Immediately, out come the critical voices. They say, I have leapt to a conclusion too early. That is not really it.

I am barely conscious of huge inner conflict. I want: quick rational answers and a course of action. I want: not to judge myself so reflexively harshly. I want energy and motivation. I want need, desire and action to be one.

I went over to pick the creeper off the pine.

It was allowed to damage the tree badly, then someone stripped away most of the creeper, and it’s doing better but the creeper is coming up again.

My situation provokes long term fear. There is the slow, steady pressure and the repeated threat of disaster which so far each time I have avoided. I “do not acknowledge my feelings”? Fear is hard to bear. The situation is bad. I do what I can to better it.

Tuesday morning again I think of going cycling. The day is overcast so not too hot, there is little wind, no forecast rain, these are the best conditions I will have. I still want to continue reading. It is that I do not want to be in contemplative mode, to face the ongoing fear and other feelings. I think of a question: “What is the problem with the thing you don’t want to do?” Actually it’s the new problem, the older problems are still there to an extent.

I went cycling. My cadence is improving.

Added: Just as anxiety is fear experienced for too long, so this is not sadness but

sorrow.

It is a heavy weight. Sorrow can come from a single event that traumatises a person, or from a burden of many sadnesses unacknowledged. It is a burden. I told my friend I would “excavate” my depression, and she said I sounded so hard-working. I deserve better than this, and I will create better than this. Both anxiety and sorrow increase my propensity for withdrawal. I will welcome my inner light, so that I no longer need to withdraw.

The last of my William Frith paintings for now:

Trans woman admits “Sex is Real” shock!

JK Rowling has been tweeting again.

If sex isn’t real, there’s no same-sex attraction. If sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased. I know and love trans people, but erasing the concept of sex removes the ability of many to meaningfully discuss their lives. It isn’t hate to speak the truth. The idea that women like me, who’ve been empathetic to trans people for decades, feeling kinship because they’re vulnerable in the same way as women – ie, to male violence – ‘hate’ trans people because they think sex is real and has lived consequences – is a nonsense. I respect every trans person’s right to live any way that feels authentic and comfortable to them. I’d march with you if you were discriminated against on the basis of being trans. At the same time, my life has been shaped by being female. I do not believe it’s hateful to say so.

Where to start?

Well. Sex is real. Absolutely. Sex is how almost all flora and fauna reproduce. Sex is real in its effects on people, in sex-related medical conditions. Much of our culture revolves around sex, and ascribes experience related to being female or male specific meanings, but there is a “real” thing underlying that culture, and it can be difficult to establish what is real and what is cultural.

And, trans people are real. We exist. We do not rely on anyone saying “sex is not real”. Claiming trans people “erase the concept of sex” is transphobic. We don’t have the power.

However, if a form requires you to state your “gender” rather than your “sex”, that is not a denial that “sex is real”. For most purposes English uses “gender” and “sex” as synonyms. It might reduce sex discrimination to cease to specify sex except when that is essential.

So. Sex is real. Women menstruate. Women get pregnant. Women give birth. All this matters. Experiencing these things shapes people’s lives, but much of what is experienced is cultural. If a man denigrates you because of menstruation, that is cultural. Trans people have the experience of denigration too.

Lesbians can be attracted to cis women and not trans women and nobody cares about that. We just care when they deny that a cis lesbian in a relationship with a trans lesbian is a real lesbian, or announce loudly and repeatedly that they could never be attracted to a trans woman, or that trans women are not women. That is, we do not want to define “lesbian” for others or force anyone into a relationship or a hook-up they do not want, we just want them not to be vocally transphobic.

What are the “lived consequences” of sex? They are physical- the physical processes of menstruation and pregnancy, and cultural, including the vulnerability to rape culture. They don’t mean that trans women should not be treated for every social purpose as women. Women who do not menstruate and are not incontinent do not need sanitary towels, and are still women. Women who are not pregnant do not need maternity care, and are still women, even if they are trans women. Trans men can get pregnant and are still men. Trans men menstruate.

I don’t know why Rowling would use the term “same sex attraction”. Some Christian homophobes use it, but it could be used to distinguish the attraction from the culture around it. But then, there is no need for a separate term. People fall in love. People are sexually attracted to each other. People form life-partnerships. Much of the culture of lesbians is around resisting homophobia. Homophobia is only cultural, not “real” like “sex is real”. If there were no homophobia, if the culture simply accepted that people may hook up or form life partnerships without being of opposite sexes, there would be no need for counter-culture or resistance.

That does not mean that saying “lesbians are real” should give cover to transphobia.

To say “Sex is real”, or “same-sex attraction exists”, is not transphobic. It becomes transphobic if it is used to justify transphobic conclusions: to argue that trans women are men, or trans women are not lesbians, or trans women should be excluded from women’s space.

This twitter thread is transphobic because it implies that standing up for trans rights, or speaking up for trans people, might in some way mean “erasing the concept of sex” or “removing the ability of [cis women] to meaningfully discuss their lives”. Menstruation matters. Intrauterine cysts matter. Endometriosis matters. Talk about them as much as you need, demand the help you need to live with or overcome them.

To avoid transphobia we need to make a rigorous distinction. We do not erase sex, or say sex is not real, or say it does not matter, physically or culturally. It is transphobic to eject a trans woman from women’s spaces because she is a trans woman rather than because she has done something relevant and objectionable, as an individual, justifying exclusion. Being a trans woman, by itself, does not justify exclusion. Trans men may need cervical smears and trans women don’t, but that is only relevant to the provision of cervical smears, not to women’s space generally.

These tweets are transphobic, more in what they imply than what they say on their face. “Women like me”- does she mean her, specifically, or other women who say “sex is real”? If a woman campaigns against violence against trans women, but also to exclude trans women from women’s space, she is acting in a transphobic manner.

Rowling is attempting to stop us calling out transphobia. Yes sex is real. Period poverty matters. Girls missing school because of menstruating matter. But any transphobic conclusion anyone seeks to hang on the idea that sex is real is still transphobic.

Rowling is transphobic in assuming the role of martyr. She, or “women like me”, is accused of “hatred”. Well, if you express transphobic ideas then you’re a hater, not a martyr.

To say “Sex is real” is not transphobic. Sex is real. There. I said it. But to say “Sex is real, therefore [transphobic conclusion- trans men are women, you should always say “pregnant women” rather than “pregnant people”, lesbians can’t be attracted to transwomen, whatever]” is transphobic.

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Added: Various people, including Daniel Radcliffe, have responded to the tweets by saying “Trans women are women”. Really, here, we should be saying “Trans men are men”, as Rowling initially said that women menstruate, excluding trans men. She was responding to this article, headed “Creating a more equal post-Covid 19 world for people who menstruate”, who the article said were “girls, women and gender non-binary persons”, also excluding trans men. I found that from this Guardian article.

“People who menstruate”, “pregnant people”: including trans men and nonbinary people offends Rowling. There are ways round that. The headline could be rewritten, perhaps “Reducing inequality arising from menstruation”, though the social model of disability, which explains that inequality arises from how society is organised not from physical conditions, might improve it further: “Reducing inequality related to menstruation.” The article argues that development aid should continue investing in menstrual health and hygiene, so the headline has to involve menstruation somehow. Talking of menstruation as a women’s issue may make it appear of no concern to men- talking of it affecting “people” shows all people with empathy should be concerned.

I am not sure how I feel about the Guardian explaining how the stooshie started. It provides context, but does not excuse Rowling. Language which includes trans men and nonbinary AFAB people might be made more elegant, but going back to just using the word “women” is not the answer. “Critics accused her of being transphobic”- well, talking of “women” menstruating excludes AFAB trans people, and the article should explain that, rather than merely saying “critics accused”, as if the accusation might be baseless.

I wonder if we should not do the transphobes’ work for them. “Sex is real!” they cry. “We are erased!” With a piteous air of martyrdom. We could wearily point out the transphobic errors they make, but another way to respond is to ignore everything that is not clearly and on the face of it transphobic. Mocking the phrase “people who menstruate” is transphobic. But this mini-rant might just be ignored. “If sex isn’t real, there’s no same-sex attraction.” Congratulations on your trivial reductio ad absurdum! If gravity wasn’t real, there would be no planets. “It isn’t hate to speak the truth,” she says, obscurely- what can she mean? So one might politely ignore her gibberings, or, less politely, say, “Well, yes. So what?”

Sharing personal experience. Trust. Disappointment.

-How do you feel? What do you want?

My friend is not unsympathetic, yet still I cannot speak. I cannot find words, cannot squeeze words out, cannot even think of what I might say. I have shared personal experience here, experience of being suicidal, of female embodiment fantasies, and now I am reliving a personal experience I cannot describe myself. Under the protective cover my feelings are boiling, but I cannot name even to myself what they are.

When a friend heard you speak she was unimpressed. She, and I, disagree with you. She wondered why you spoke in abstractions rather than talking of personal experience; and I know, because you have shared some of your personal experience with me. Some personal experience is too traumatic to share- certainly publicly. From what you have shared I imagine you feeling chronically powerlessness in the face of deadly threat. Chad Sanders says why he does not want to talk about his feelings right now, in a way that might fit you: When you tell me I can share my feelings with you, it is an act of forced intimacy and prods at the detachment I’ve purposefully built up over time. You force me to excavate deeply painful feelings I’ve buried for my sanity.

How could either of us persuade others? I share personal experience. Thereby I awaken empathy in my audience. They may relate better to me as a human being. They see I am harmless and hurting, and they want to help. Though even this sharing makes me a supplicant, makes my acceptance conditional on being winsome, rather than taken as a right. How much worse to share personal experience and for it to be a reason to doubt you. Well, you are hurt, and so you are lashing out. No, you do not need protection, instead others need protection from you.

Just as I am, you are standing up for your rights and the rights of vulnerable people. My personal experience chimes with the views of this audience, can be used as evidence that what they thought was right. Your failure to share yours is held up as reason to dismiss you, even though if you shared it, it would be dismissed as not enough.

Then there is the abstract reasoning, which does not persuade them either. Well, you are wrong, and while you will gain passionate adherents, and others are moving to use you for their own purposes, all the good, nice decent people will agree with me. That’s because you ask for something which will do you no good and harm others including me, but it’s still your decision.

I was frustrated because, as usual, there was difficulty connecting to zoom, and the way I thought I would get round that difficulty didn’t work. And then I was wordless. I could say nothing to her.

I am sure this is an echo of the past. It does not relate to the current situation. In the past my desperate desire meets incomprehension, and there is no chance I will get what I want. So whether it is impotent rage, frustration or misery, the feeling is too painful to admit, and I neither want to say “Yes, you’re right” to the Powerful one, nor express pain which will not be heard. If I swallow the desire, and say nothing I have minimal dignity. I don’t think just one disappointment could have the effect this seems to have on me.

And it echoes now. I cannot speak. I can swallow. I can suppress. I can’t say what I want, or how I feel, I can’t trust myself or the other to find a way forward (emotionally. Trusting myself and the other intellectually, which I do, is not enough.)

This is part of my desire to hide away. This lack of trust, this fear, protects me from disappointment at the cost of- everything, really. And the disappointment in the past has hurt so much that I appear willing to pay that price. Could I find a way to trust?

A shameful desire

What’s that feeling? Wistfulness, or yearning.

Paul Alexander is an impressive human. Read this article about him, or possibly even his memoir. He is 74, and has been paralysed from the neck down since he had polio aged six. His diaphragm is too damaged to breathe unaided, but he mastered glossopharyngeal breathing so that he could get out of his iron lung. He went to university and worked as a lawyer. His courage and determination are inspiring.

Content: suicide. There are some tentatively positive ideas here, and I want to write about suicidal ideation. Continue reading

Anger and sadness

I am getting lots of affirmation for my anger. I wrote, “Utter contempt for human life, for the rule of law, for the truth…” of the They, the amorphous Bad, or actually “The Johnson Government”. Utter contempt for human life? Really? They don’t ever admit the slightest misstep, and their mistakes have caused deaths, and their target of 100,000 tests a day has led to some deservedly ridiculed lying, but-

And that got a Guardian pick, a coveted pat on the head from the Guardian! Woo! And 122 upvotes. Two days later it seemed like bullshit posturing. My sarcasm- “London is a small, backward place, completely without expertise in caring for an autistic four year old”- got 191 upvotes. Lots of anger is being poured out at Cummings, who despises it, and may get off on it. I face many nebulous threats, though no concrete and immediate ones demanding fight or flight action. I read righteous NYT pieces on the efforts to steal the US Presidential election, and that is a real threat I can do nothing about. So, be aware of it, but don’t read all the NYT articles. And there is Covid, and the Covid Recession, and looming Brexit…

My anger seeks an outlet. Comments can make it seem Righteous, even effective, but it is just me and hundreds or thousands of others letting off steam. Yet when there seems nothing I can do about the many horrors, letting off steam is tempting.

I wish I had not watched Suburbicon. It is George Clooney directing a Coen Brothers script, but it is a mean little film, in which a man murders his wife to shack up with her sister, and in the ensuing Coen strangeness and coincidence six people die. Also when a Black family move in to a 1950s town, protests escalate to riots. Trying to see value in it, I could put too much weight on its last scene, when the sons of the Black couple and the murderer get out their baseball mitts and play catch. “Children can adjust to anything” or something, or even “Life goes on”. Then I see it is a script from the 1980s, a misfire from their early development. The murderer threatens to kill his eleven year old son just before dying from a misunderstanding.

Here, I am bewailing my unbearable dissatisfaction, a bit like Roger Scruton: “In our polluted passions, seeking pleasure and excitement rather than respect and love, we scorn the Redeemer’s suffering and surrender to the basest form of control.”

The answer is to acknowledge the Sadness, to dive into it, drink it and swim in it. It is only a threat if dammed up. Flowing smoothly it can douse the flames of anger. The energy of anger is necessary if something may be done, but anger without outlet becomes rage, hurting the rager. There is so little I can do.

Thursday I had my dialogue, which was unexpected, after Wednesday with Tina over skype. I wanted to speak from the inner voices, and welcome them. There’s the feminine self which I strongly value with words like Authentic Self, and one that, terrified, tries to suppress that self. I am aware of what may go wrong- speaking the thought I have had before rather than from where I am now, which would be falling short of what is possible, retreating into the familiar. All of it is good, and none of it is mad.

I feel nervousness. Then I am conscious of arrogance, and then of feeling sick. Anger at expectations. That thing about “where is it in your body”- well, feelings are in my limbic system, in my head. Others insist on this, and it does not work for me. Anger. But then, on Saturday it did.

I fear creating a soap-opera. If the only meaning I can find in my life is this untwisting, then I create more bizarre stories of that. But no. It feels real. Judgment: I am my own enabler, allowing myself to fritter my life.

I am arrogant and self-effacing. Having so little money humiliates me.

It feels like things are coming to the surface, real, discrete parts of me, seeming to have separate personalities, which have been long buried. Some seem in pairs- sadness against anger, the drive to achieve and a self-protecting No, and the femininity and the terror that suppresses that.

I crave reassurance. Does this make sense? Yes, she says. Some people give their configurations names, ages, or genders. Some place them in time. Dialogue will bring integration.

They might not talk to the opposite but might to a neutral arbiter, I say. I feel my character manifests in my actions whatever stories I tell about who I am. I fear I will not get the configurations sorted in time, I need to be more functional now. All the voices have value. I have not recognised their good will, always.

Dialogue of the Inner Voices

Anxiety is fear, curdled.

Two of my inner voices have been diametrically opposed, struggling, both miserable, both mostly unconscious, manifested in lassitude and misery. Both want my good. Both are Welcome. My Frontal Lobe, as the conscious part of this process, this animal, this Euarchontoglire called Abigail, invites both into consciousness, to see if they could be brought into dialogue.

One is resentful, frustrated and angry. It wants me to justify my existence, to have meaning in my life. It wants to stretch me and push me to achieve. The other is resentful, frightened and hurt. It feels bullied by the Stretcher. I call it my No. No, that is unreasonable. No, I will not go out cycling and struggle up hill, being cursed as weak and useless.

Fear, unheard, slops around inside like stagnant water, like bilge water in a ship. It could have been useful. It warned of a threat. And now it has gone bad, detached from the threat it warned of, attached to anything it can slime. It becomes anxiety. It does not mean there is no real threat, just that finding that threat is more difficult, and needs patience; and anxiety may linger after I find the threat, unsure that I really have dealt with it.

So the Frontal Lobe, the Love, the Reconciler, to make this a positive sum game brings both voices into separate rooms, lavishing praise and gratitude on both for their care and labour, with a hint of a suggestion that their aims might be achieved better if a few small adjustments were made.

There is the Stretcher, which the Protector wishes to call the slave-driver. It wants me to achieve. I am competitive, and it encourages me this morning to go cycling. The Protector fears the slave-driver will get angry and frustrated, and start to bully uselessly. Harder! Faster! I cudgel myself, scourge myself, as I go up hill too slowly for my liking, not wanting to go down a gear because I should be able to do it in this gear. The Stretcher is continually bamboozled, as well as resentful, that this is not as easy as it thinks it should be.

Well, the lie it imbibed was that things are easy and its performance should be perfect. It has fixed at quite a young age, this aspect of myself. At that young age, I decided that difficult things should appear easy and require little effort, and the Stretcher, frustrated, resentful, angry and mostly unconscious, affecting me unawares, has not learned how to- drop a gear, literally and figuratively, to break the task down, take it slower, make it easier, take the time necessary to learn it, build up gradually.

With Love, the Reconciler thanks it for its determination to achieve and develop, and suggests it might achieve these worthwhile goals more easily by breaking the task down. That is a long hill, steep in places. I notice that if I drop to a gear lower than I ever use at the steepest parts, I can rotate my pedals quicker, and be in a higher gear later on when it is less steep. I have noticed that the cyclists who pass me turn their cranks much faster than I do. Possibly that is a technique which would make me more efficient. I read about it last century, I think, this idea of Cadence, around the time I found that a simple change to my breaststroke technique made me a faster swimmer.

(Last century. There’s the resentment, the self-blaming. How stupid I am, how stupid these voices! That resentment does not help. Turn it round. Here I am learning ways new to me, which will improve my performance. I will achieve the goals of both!)

Now is what matters.

I am in conscious incompetence. These are decisions to make. Gear 2.1 is much lower than 2.2. I can go up hill in 2.2 but it is a struggle. Then 2.1 feels too low. I may learn which works best by trying both, or perhaps work harder for a bit in 2.2 then go back to 2.1. Trying different combinations may help me learn. Bringing this to consciousness and putting it into words, doing something I don’t know will work in a spirit of enquiry, may help me improve.

This is the aim of the Stretcher.

The Reconciler has also been aware of the Protector, also in its room. The Protector is anxious. It has been scourged and cursed before, it will happen again! But the Stretcher does not seem so angry and frustrated. The Protector might be enticed. Sunshine is good for me. Birds and blossom are beautiful. The Protector wants me to achieve, too, just not to be bullied. Bullying is a No.

The Reconciler hears that demand. No Bullying. Well, that seems reasonable. The Stretcher does not realise it is bullying, that is the problem. Do you see it wants our Good?

Mmm. The Protector is not absolutely convinced, but willing to suspend judgment for the moment. Then its anxiety comes over it. What if my tyre punctures or Something Bad Happens? It has worked so hard to protect me, it needs my care itself.

Most of the time I was out, the Protector was grudgingly admitting that the Stretcher was behaving more sensibly, though some of the time one or the other panicked and needed reassurance. Well, I am a sensitive soul, and that is a blessing, and I need my own love and reassurance. The Reconciler worked to reassure both.

This is a work in progress. And I notice my progress, and give each of these voices, and my whole self, necessary praise and thanks.

Forgiveness and the Inner Voices

I may be too good at forgiveness, at seeing things from the other’s point of view. Self-respect requires me to see things from my own point of view at least sometimes.

On Friday 22nd I found more inner conflict. I spoke on Jamie Catto’s zoom gathering of how I felt about Emma Nicholson, and the LGBT foundation letter. The way to talk about how I felt scared was to use my most feminine voice. Then I spoke about other internal voices seeking to suppress that voice: one says “Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!” I have quoted this voice before, and it seemed then I allowed it to speak through my vocal cords.

That was big for me. It is a voice the conscious self does not like, its desperation, its violent anger at something I see as authentic self. I saw I have to welcome that terrified voice as well. It wants my good. It affects me if I am unconscious of it, and I may become conscious and hear a more nuanced message from it if I welcome it.

On Saturday I did his zoom workshop. “Don’t push yourself,” says Jamie Catto. Um. I want Opening! That’s why I am here. He says it’s a matter of receiving, not forcing, yin not yang, and what he talks of may be the “inner light” of the Quakers. He talks of full body listening. Stop numbing feeling. Self-love means being willing to feel uncomfortable or unacceptable feelings.

Another talks of RAIN: ground yourself, then ask what you feel. Then Recognise, Allow, Investigate, Nurture. After an eye-contact thing, which does not work over Zoom, and two games to get us speaking playfully and unselfconsciously, we get the forgiveness exercise.

Pick some wrong you have suffered, then imagine a judge has found the wrongdoer guilty. Write a plea in mitigation.

Without self blaming or making yourself wrong, or changing the facts of what happened: are there any ways you co-created what happened?

What point or fact or thing do you usually leave out of the retelling of what happened that reduces their guilt and your victimhood or innocence?

I think of various things I resent, and really I can forgive or understand most of it. H has betrayed herself as well as me, and, well, I see the route she took there. With S, it is complex. I won’t get to the bottom of that here. The person I cannot forgive is myself. I should be capable of more!

Much of my plea in mitigation I have often rehearsed, about my parents. That about me, seems new. I learned of the world through them. I knew no better. I have suffered 54 years, now, I do not deserve to suffer longer. I am untwisting.

Those two voices of the day before, the terrified voice shouting “Shut Up!” and the playful child-

Who is Love-

I write that in capitals. I am surprised by my vehemence.

I am Love.

Two voices, in unended conflict. I don’t know who I am or what to do and that is unbearable
and not my fault.

There it is. Not my fault. That is a moment of forgiveness right there.

What have I missed out of the retelling? Listen for the inspiration. Don’t try to answer the question with intellect or as a problem, listen for it as the muse might inspire a poem. Missed- my gifts- my courage, my capacity for joy, the value of the journey?

What is Now matters more than any of it.
Such as is still blind and twisted will heal in time.

Yeah, yeah. Live in the Now. I have heard that so many times. I even manage it, some of the time- and it has never meant so much to me before. What I am doing, Now, matters more than all that has led up to this point.

Talking this over in pairs, I say I feel like a snake shedding old skin, and she suggests the image of a phoenix rising.

Jamie has more questions for the inner light.
1. What is the bravest, most healing action I could take regarding this story/relationship?
2. What is/was the gift or training buried within/on offer from this experience?
3. Is there anything I’ve missed or skipped?

I test possible answers out, with my intellect. Does this fit? What could I do- trust? Forgive? Live?

Surrender.

The gift? A blessing for others which will give me delight?

The ability to hear others and to be present to them.

What have I missed: I sit with Unknowing, which is so painful. I am brave. I am goodness.

The unfolding is the point.

“Man should not ask what the meaning of his life is,” Victor Frankl wrote, “but rather must recognise that it is he who is asked.” Sorry about the non-inclusive language, I don’t even know if he wrote it in English or German. For me, the meaning is (at least, right now, when I am doing it) finding those voices and bringing them from conflict to reconciliation. Sadness and Anger, the feminine and what makes it shut up.

On Sunday, I wanted to cycle before worship, and found myself delaying again. I could just do that thirteen mile run, have a shower, and be in time for worship. I go out, and then think, I could do the ten miles instead. I come up to the T junction. Should I turn right, or left? I stop, to make the decision.

There is a voice inside which wants so much to stretch me, to make me go faster and further, to make me achieve. That is a good voice. And there is another which wants to protect me from the first, when it pushes me too hard. That too is a good voice. And the two are mostly unconscious, at loggerheads, and therefore so much I do disappoints me. I Welcome both voices, and make the decision with them both.

I turn left. I take the shorter route, with less climbing. I did not think of just turning round, which would have been shorter still.

Coming down the hill on the busiest part of the route, I am angry at the cars passing so close, so I move to the centre of my lane. I am claiming my space in the most vulnerable way possible.

In worship, I think, I so want to stretch myself and I so want not to. I think of Northampton Quakers. They would probably have tolerated me as a mere nutcase supplicant, coming to meeting, it was me saying what was true and what should be done, and taking my place as an equal that they could not stand. I turn off the video camera, in case I disturb other worshippers.

I Hurt,

I think, and immediately another voice says, “Your lifestyle is completely unchallenging”. I know this is untrue, and I

Welcome

the voice. I tell it “Do what you like. Say what you need,” in an accepting, curious tone, rather than the angrily sarcastic one I would use to reject it.

I felt utter misery a few moments ago, and now I feel playfulness. Might I dance?

Someone ministers about how exciting his first Quaker meeting had been, and he wanted that recreated.

Another ministers that early Friends talked of the spirit moving within as Quickening, the same word used for a mother feeling her baby move within.

I minister, that I have been broken open, so I switched off my camera in case I disturbed others, but perhaps it is hard to damage the meeting.

Another quotes 1 John 1:5:

God is Light, and in God there is no darkness at all.

We become who we are, dealing with our issues, integrating them. Another quotes QFP:

The art of living must be studied, as must every art. It calls for imagination, so that every advance, every change, is not merely a difference, but a creative act. Achievement, at any level above the lowest, calls for courage to hold on, in spite of current moods, and for exacting self-discipline. The art of Christian living calls for the same self-preparation; but its reward is not merely aesthetic satisfactions. The soul, hungry for God, is fed. Life itself takes on new meaning. Thus it is that we break from the confines of the prisons we have built about ourselves. Thus it is we are brought into the freedom of the Kingdom of God which, every day, through the wide world, is being realised in the hearts of men.