Bullying myself

No one bullies me. I bully myself.

I get early to the office, and there is no one there. I can do scanning. However there is no scanner on M’s computer. I try S’s scanner, but M’s computer does not recognise it. As I move it, the paper feed mechanism falls off. I put it back, finding that tricky. I use S’s scanner on S’s computer but it chews up the paper. I swear at it.

D’s computer does not recognise my smart card. I use K’s computer: it works, but then she comes back and needs it herself.

I look at the paper feed and see how I did not put it back properly, so I fix it. After fifty minutes, I scan my first document.

I am upset because I am bullying myself. No-one else is expecting anything of me. The Wrong Thing I did was to swear, but apart from that I have behaved creatively and determinedly, dealing with each problem in turn. Yet I have internally berated myself, telling myself I should be able to deal with this with no problem, far more quickly than I do. J said if all that had happened to her she would just of gone home.

This is perfect, I decide. My purpose in being here is finding my blocks to work, and my bullying is such a block. How do I feel now? Hurt by my own bullying, and sad, and frustrated by the difficulty. Others complain of friction at work, problems with the processes that take much longer than they ideally would. I suppose that would be more stressful if I had more to do and only an ideal time to do it.

So I reassess my response to the morning’s challenges, decide that I responded well, and get on with the scanning.

I don’t know how I managed any work at all, bearing this taskmaster within. Especially as I was not fully conscious of it, just feeling bad because of it and feeling always inadequate. Finding it and seeing it has been a long journey, and I still have to think about it, take time to observe what I am feeling and consciously decide that I am working well enough.

Anguish and relief

It’s lovely when someone understands.

I had a difficult morning. My phone was not displaying my emails. Then the banking app was not working. Then I cycled to Zhuzhkov fifteen minutes early so I could go to the bank. Then I spent twenty minutes in the bank, waiting or talking to two different staff members until finally I could not make a payment there either- partly my fault.

Ten minutes late I went into the office, and could not get the main program to work. I tried various things, and a countdown froze at twenty. “Turn it on and off again,” suggested a colleague so I did. I kep fiddling, and eventually it counted down and I was in- I had done something which hadn’t worked before, but the system had mercy on me.

As so often, my distress was bearable as I kept trying, and only unbearable when I am actually in. I know what I have to do:

Pause
Feel the feeling
Recognise and accept it
Let it pass through me

But I can’t. I am desperate not to show a physical sign of it, so I suppress it, so I start crying.

You listen and understand and it is lovely. I am expressing things about how feelings work which chime with your experience and that gives you the same feeling of affirmation. My inner critic tells me none of this should matter, and we both know what it says and why it is wrong.

I am not sure all my distress will win empathy. I feel pride in my gifts- I pleaded an oral hearing before the Social Security Commissioner, that’s High Court level, and now I have difficulty with basic data entry, even if it is a glitch rather than my fault. I am so humiliated by having no money and dressing like a tramp. Steady, we all have our problems, you might say.

The weeping, talking, and being heard, only takes five minutes and I feel much better, though tired after the wrenching of it. I get on with my data entry. This is why I am here, to face these problems, and practise feeling and accepting my feelings. This is a win.

I left early, and phoned the Samaritans. I need to decide whether to go to Edinburgh in September. My depraved superego has a hellish reason to go. It says of course I should go. It will be the delight such things are expected to be. Any difficulty I anticipate is simply foolish. No one with any backbone would have a problem.

But I, me myself, my love and truth freed from the crushing mask of pseudo-conventionality my mother, inner critic or superego has forced on me, has a good reason to go. If I can do the emotional work and come to accept my own feelings in two months, I might be able to talk authentically, honestly, with my family and repair our broken relationship.

Discussing this, I admit to myself that I can’t. I have to accept my own feelings when something relatively trivial goes wrong before I can try that. Don’t run before you can walk, however desperate I am to run.

Descartes, trapped in scepticism and not trusting any of the reasons he had been given for believing anything he had been taught to believe, nevertheless realised that he was thinking, and therefore he must exist- whatever “he” was. In the same way, I have a sense of myself. These are my feelings. The inner critic or superego is an introject.

Sue, this afternoon, said I am kind. I know. I have sufficient memories of responding kindly, and enough people have said it, for me to accept the evidence that I am.

How do you feel now, asks Charlotte the Samaritan. A peculiar mixture: anguish and relief. Anguish as my ability to face the world seems so weak, yet relief that I am not running away any more, but facing my difficulties. It’s not “by opposing end them,” that can never be guaranteed, but I have decided to try.

“You sound very hard on yourself,” she says. “You have come such a long way.” And I choose to tell that story. Until September 2009 I could have told you of my mother watching me weeping and with all the distress of the eight or nine year old me said “She didn’t understand!” And then I realised, she didn’t understand. She couldn’t. She was blameless, and to “forgive” her is the wrong way to conceive of it. I should not expect perfection of her. I thought I had settled into love and acceptance of my mother, but when I tell Charlotte this story I surprise myself by screaming it.

She didn’t understand!

I may have accepted, but today see how badly I remain hurt.

It is so hard to unlock and reprogram myself! It was hard even to see the problem, it was just how the world was.

“You have told so much. It’s so powerful,” she says.

God within

In very real ways, soul, consciousness, love, and the Holy Spirit are one and the same. Each of these point to something that is larger than the individual, shlarger than the individual, shared with God, ubiquitous, and even eternal—and then revealed through us!

Richard Rohr

When I say I am a materialist, I am doubting that. There is something at the heart of each human being, which Quakers call “That of God” or “The inner light” which I believe is in me, because I respect the experience and observations of mystics and their ability to put their experience into words; and also the ability of the Society of Friends to winnow those words, retaining and distilling the best of them. But, as a materialist I see it as part of the evolved human being, part of me, so I doubt its goodness or even its value.

I have no idea what the writer of Isaiah 53:3 meant, but it could be read in this way:

He was despised and rejected by others; [or the ego, or the introjects]
a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity;
and as one who hides his face from us
he was despised, and we held him of no account.

If there is that which is called That of God within me, I do not see it properly because I imagine it to be other than it is, or do not see its worth, or cannot imagine its reality. Yet it is there whether or not I am conscious of it, and my spiritual task is to become conscious of it and cede control to it.

This morning before worship I went for a walk, thinking of it as a walking meditation. And I was looking at the ground underfoot, or in a reverie. And sometimes I was captivated by the beauty around me, on a walk I have done hundreds of times. Once I was brought to a halt. Hockney’s Woldgate Woods helps me to see the variation. Yet it is only a preparation, openness to outward experience as a training for openness to inner experience. Possibly I could remain with it if I walked more slowly.

Then in worship, with the swifts circling overhead, and a red kite, I was aware of the beauty, of the wind and birdsong when I had my eyes closed. I thought of my meeting, how loveable they are, and at the end ministered to myself, that thought of being open to the Light. Possibly I see it now, fleetingly; and I will be led to pray continually.

And it seems to me that if I speak from it my voice is naturally above the break, in my feminine register, and I can only speak from it in that female voice. So I could be my real self, my inner light and more feminine, if only I were brave enough.

 ♥♥♥

And, after, I say it to be it.

I am.

When I say it I speak above the break, and notice my shoulders and neck relax, and I stand taller. I say,

I need no protection. I want a junior counsellor, a different view sometimes, but I am braver than he.

The Planets

I am delighted to read The Planets by Andrew Cohen and Brian Cox. After the end of the Cassini, Juno and New Horizons missions is a perfect time for a popular survey of what we know of the solar system, and it is relaxing to know that if Professor Cox says Saturn’s rings are less than a hundred million years old he has good grounds for saying it, unlike many political statements.

I was thinking that it does not affect my life, but that is untrue. If Saturn did not exist, Jupiter would not be orbiting where it is, and Earth might not exist. If humans did not have the curiosity and the engineering and political skills to find these things out, the human race would be significantly different, and if I were not interested in such things I would not be me. Even a minor change such as one more or less 100km moon of Saturn would have a butterfly-effect, perhaps big enough to end life on Earth.

And our understanding is influenced by the culture. As a small child I could recite the names of the planets even as I could count to a hundred, but thought of them as more or less unchanged since the system formed. I remember calling Neptune a gas giant, then an ice giant. The thought of the system as changing, planets moving much closer to the Sun or further away is based on new data, including from exoplanets, but seeing wild change as possible rather than incremental improvement affects and is affected by how we see society, and what is politically possible.

None of it is certain. Theories explain data, but are subject to change, as new data are collected or new possibilities imagined.

I find the whole very beautiful, the images, the striving and achievement, and the sharing.

Cox is a romantic and inspiring writer. He can be sharp: I think one of the reasons why anthropogenic climate change is so difficult for a certain type of person to accept is that atmospheres seem ethereal and tenuous and incapable of trapping enough heat to modify the temperatures on a planet significantly. For such people I suggest a trip to Venus, where they will be squashed and boiled and dissolved on the surface of Earth’s twin.

The character of the scientist requires not only comfort with but attraction to the unknown; an acceptance and delight in the complexity of Nature… the search for certainty is a fool’s errand, and the lesson is to find delight in not knowing while simultaneously committing to extending the domain of the known. That’s the key to science, the key to happiness and the only reasonable response to the existential challenge of existence.

We live in a solar system of wonders, of planets of storms and moons of ice, of landscapes and vistas that stir the imagination and enrich the soul.

Unfortunately Andrew Cohen is not so inspiring, but with such material he rarely fails to fascinate. It could be better edited, though, I spotted some errors and I am no expert.

The idea that a system allowing complex life-forms to evolve might be rare, requiring precise events to happen in the changes of orbits of the planets and even a large moon to hold the angle of rotation fairly constant is hard. It is up to us to sustain life in our galaxy. The engineering triumphs and alien wonders give me hope.

The book takes me back to childhood, to simple wonder at the strangeness of space and the brilliance of the people finding its secrets. I devoured it.

Telling the Truth

“When you talked of courage and truth that really shone out to me,” she told me. It felt that I was speaking from my real self or my inner light. Now, after working on this for fifty minutes I am exhausted. I wanted to explore the barriers which prevent me from speaking, and I found myself beyond them.

Yesterday at the office I wanted to explain why I am there, and I couldn’t. The words would not come out. “Are you OK?” Yes, but I just can’t speak. I wanted to say, “I find it hard to believe anything good about myself” and a complex emotional mix of sadness frustration and resentment stopped me. I paused to try and sense these feelings fully and get past them, but could not. So the frustration increased.

Why bother? It is me stopping me saying these things, after all, one set of neurons and dendrites wanting to say it, another blocking it. The answer is introjects: I googled to check I understood the term. It is from psychoanalysis, meaning to unconsciously adopt the attitudes of others. The explanatory quote is revealing: “They introjected a sense of their own worthlessness”.

Introjects are not me. I seek my freedom.

I phoned Samaritans with the hope of finding what phrases I find hard to say, so that I could practise saying them. “My name is – “, she said. I can’t remember it. I was focused on my own need, and working hard on it.

“My name is Abigail,” I said. I would give that a nine, very difficult to say. It means coming out as trans, as my voice sounds so male on the phone. I take notes as I speak.

“I have some understanding of introjects.” Seven. Stating the difficulty is itself difficult.

“I have difficulty believing anything positive about myself.” Three. I have said that before.

“That must make life difficult,” she says, evenly, challenging my belief that it should all be easy for me.

“I am terrified!” I burst out, tearfully, high-pitched. Her acceptance is helping.

It’s to do with competing views of reality: as in Narnia, the witch puts the prince in the Silver Chair to save him from himself.

I practise saying that I understand what is going on.

“I sensed your difficulty saying your name,” she says.

Self-deprecation is easy. “I am not playing the game particularly well,” I say. I should try to pass better.

“It is important to accept who you are,” she says.

Yes! To practise speaking from sanity.

“Different roles are necessary for different situations,” she says.

I find it hard to get beyond small talk, I say. Then I pause to think. I can state my resentment of a past experience, but is that a line I want to go down?

Things are easier to say now. I tell my dangling rope story. “I have been broken repeatedly.” That’s a mere two. I can say it with stories.

“I have faced the world with courage, I say. Two again. I say it softly- indeed, I say it from my softness

Which is my strength

I now pause to check truthfulness. I seek the best words to express it. Softly- “One voice finds it easier to say than [pause for truth] others do.”

When I speak Truth I have this strength, I say.

“That must be very powerful,” she says. It is.

My theory is that if in mindfulness I pause to accept a feeling I can pass through it, then can speak.

What is the mask? Sometimes it is appropriate. In the office I apply myself steadily to particular tasks, not letting feelings hang out; yet the mask should not be screwed on so tightly that I can’t let it go. I feel I am almost always masked.

And some people, possibly musicians, barristers, politicians? can be themselves in their work, being not acting. Everyone is emotional, just some people’s emotions are accepted and validated and called “rational”, and some people’s are deprecated and called “emotional”.

I asked her for feedback, and she said, “When you talked of courage and truth that really shone out to me,” and that pleases me so much I have written it here twice. It is the Real me, the Inner Light.

Being emotional

Being emotional is freedom.

Being emotional is also an insult. We conspire to tell the story that some people are rational, making sensible decisions that should be followed, and some people are emotional so should be discounted.

We have two alternatives, to have feelings or emotions. We sense our own feelings, and give little outward sign of them, or perforce show our emotions with our faces and bodies for all to see. And deride. The dominant person, usually male, has and shows the right feelings and emotions which we admire, and lower status people are emotional, because they feel the wrong things which get in the way of sane and sensible decisions.

I notice my mouse hardly moves the pointer. Great sweeps of my hand barely move it an inch. So I swap it with another. I have to change my password, and oddly make the same miskey the twice I type it, so the computer and I disagree about what it is. So I can’t log in again. I call computer support, which can take over my computer to let me reset my password but not this computer. So I have to switch on the other computer, pass the phone over the screen between the booths, pull out enough of its cable to let it sit on the desk, go back and get the other mouse….

And all I wanted was to log on, which I should do in a jiffy and without help! I am humiliated. Not by others who are happy to help and pass the phone over, but by the distance between my desire and my power. And much of my energy goes on suppressing that feeling below my own consciousness, which I think means that my body shows it to everyone as emotion, though I do not have the brass neck to ask. Rather than being my fuel, my unacceptable emotions hobble me.

All this is hard work. Ten hours a week with others is exhausting to me.

Of course your feelings are intense, says Tina. Consider children, how their joy is unbounded, their rage and misery too, and then they notice adults do not behave that way, and stop.

She was so delighted by the joy of her grandson! We clustered round her phone to watch in delight.

My current idea of mastery is feeling my feelings so they do not show as emotion, rather than my old tactic of suppressing them out of consciousness. Showing them, being allowed to, admired rather than despised for them seems impossible.

Why would you not want your feelings seen? Because they are mine, and no one else’s. My sense of the world not a weapon to be held against me, a traitor inside my brain. And I do not want to suppress them, because that means suppressing my own voice. I want to be heard.

So I am pleased when I can say to Tina “I find it hard to believe anything good about myself, or that anyone could have regard for me”. Rather than suppress the feeling and have it manifest in tears I feel it so can say the sentence with only a slight quaver in my voice. This is progress. It means I get better at seeing who and how I am rather than suppressing it because it is too painful to admit.

My inability to accept my feelings disempowers me so that I cannot know myself or others. I am stymied, trussed up by it.

How might a “party” be? Twenty minutes in the group room making desultory conversation while a cake sits uneaten in a corner, or the afternoon off drinking and getting a taxi home from the nightclub at three? Somewhere between these extremes. I am unsure where, and I need to Know so I will not be disappointed. I do not go, though I have been invited- valued more than I value myself- as this session has been so much hard work.

Or how might others see me? To be despised or beloved. Such extremes, neither likely. How might I see better?

All this is hard work. I am still learning the lessons of teenage.

I had not wanted to go to the office. I had no motivation. I had to force myself. Yet when I went it was alright. People were OK.

Erotic dreams

It is a sign of maturity to have accepted your own sexual nature.

I had an erotic dream the other night. I was wearing a long tight corset which held my penis pointing down between my legs, and my penis strained to be fully erect. In my dreams I have a penis. Then I woke up.

Last century I had dreams of being in a room perhaps in a theatre, trying on lots of costumes. I was utterly ashamed and frustrated. For others, their sexuality united them with a partner, and mine kept me alone. It may even be another reason I sought treatment, to lessen my sexual desire. I was bringing myself off looking at pictures of me dressed female. I was rueful about this. I had been told it was reinforcement activity: the more you do it the more you want to. After the op, others have sexual sensation in their “clitoris”, I almost none, and that was a relief.

Why tell you this? It would please trans-obsessive feminists, who would see it as more evidence we are male sexual perverts. But they have enough evidence to convince them anyway. In humiliation, shouting my ridiculousness into the ether, there is perverse freedom. One more thing I don’t have to worry about people finding out. And I find my blog reassures people who feel the same way. We are not alone.

In 1993, I waltzed with Jan, and she started to lead. I objected. “I thought you wanted me to lead,” she said. I did, but did not know it I had suppressed the desire so much. In December 2015 I pulled you on to the dance floor and wanted you to lead, and you went off and we rowed. I was so confused and hurt and I think you were too. Later you told me you had so wanted a man to swirl you onto the dance floor. And now you are strong, using your hurt and anger as fuel and affirmed by your audiences…

I discussed you with H, who told me, “You are giving away your power.” I thought, I do not want power, I want to be winsome, sought for my sweetness.

After I left Scotland Dad had Jan over to dinner, and she took him to bed.

C told me some men read her as dominant, and it was a faff- they wanted dominated precisely in the way they desired, and would not do what she wanted.

I found that passage from Ulysses erotic, even though I knew it was riffing on cliches of the time, such as the school play. “With this ring I thee own” is brilliant.

In the corridor, I saw F, high status woman, walking as if she owned the place, and enjoyed it. Then she turned to look at me and I was abashed. It was definitely a sexual thought in me, and that was highly inappropriate: and people desire others.

A woman I hardly knew, executing the Promenade movement, pulled my hand back slightly and I felt displayed, vulnerable. It was delicious and terrifying, and she had read me and I had not seen it in her at all.

Porn and discreet services, dominating or sissifying, seem to miss the point. There must be a way to live it in relationship. Dad managed that twice. I don’t have a handle on it, a cultural template. All the words for it are horrible, pansy, harridan, “woman wearing the trousers”, Joyce’s old “Petticoat government”. I read there are far more pansies than harridans. Seeing my mother’s photograph you were surprised she did not look a particular way. There is a certain look. Not all women like that have it.

I remain with this vulnerable, hurt feeling. In Pose, Electra’s gentleman friends will pay her rent and an allowance, for sex. As they penetrate her they like to know she has a penis, and may fondle it. After her operation they don’t want her. They want to humiliate a man. I don’t want humiliation; I want to see beauty in my vulnerability. I might then come to terms with it, though it frightens me so much.

I wrote that, then read a story with the line “I wanted a nice Canadian man… I wanted him to take me, first to bed, then to the altar.” I wanted him to take me.

Slut! I thought.

How brave! I thought, even to write that through the persona of a fictional character.

It’s all right for you! I thought. You’re a woman!

Our desires are heaven and hell, possibilities to create and dreams to make reality unbearable.

My right to my feelings and perceptions

He told me that “Look mate, I don’t know if you’re a man or a woman” is not clearly objectionable. He explained that I have quite a deep voice. I am glad Tina reacted to this with incredulity: it helps me value my own view. If I go up to a man and say something unrelated to my trans status, and he responds with that, he is saying that I am a weirdo (his tone of voice emphasised that, but the phrase shows it). That is only relevant if he thinks it means I do not deserve his respect.

I tend to hope that line is generally seen as abusive. However, the bland denial has a purpose: to show that my response was objectionable. I am reduced to the plight of William Brown, saying “I was just statin’ a fact”- often, William is. If I proceed, I will face more denial of facts seeming self-evident to me. It is destabilising for me when someone asserts 2+2=5, but fortunately we do not have to agree on all facts, and no-one has a cage with a rat in it to hand.

In mindfulness practice, I develop self-respect. I am clearer about my judgment and my feelings. I have a right to both. This does not mean that I will not take another’s perspective into account, but that I will not merely submit to it. I will exercise my own judgment.

Whose feelings and perceptions matter? When we want a common understanding (which is often reassuring) how do we reach it?

She said, Is this going to have a unilateral application across all diversities? Should it be essential for everybody to have a self-respect which is impervious in order to be part of these meetings?

No, I said. I meant that I desire the equality of others. Now, I think it helps to know different perceptions may coexist. Those things I resent about H- I was thinking of saying, possibly she couldn’t have done anything better- I actually said, anything else. I don’t want to enforce my idea of “better”. Better for whom?

This is humility! Why does it appear arrogant to others?

-I have great strength as well as terrifying weakness.
-Of course: and also great weakness and terrifying strength.
-Terrifying for whom?
-Other people, who don’t expect you to have it? Human beings are a marvellous mess of paradoxes and dichotomies and conundrums and everything else-

The mercurial organismic self responds unpredictably because it responds to the actual situation it perceives. Its perceptions may be incomplete or inaccurate, but it continually reevaluates them. Unfortunately part of the situation is the self-concept’s need to believe certain things about itself. The self-concept is a great burden to the organismic self.

How can you be a square peg in a round hole? It’s difficult. It may be sustainable for a time but not permanently, eventually you revolt. Or you might manage it if you know what you’re doing, or perhaps if you appreciate the needs of the hole. It’s not wrong, it’s just different.

-At the moment you are strong. YM did you good. I am curious about what your isolation means for you?
-I refuse to surrender belief in possibilities.
-There are eejits in every gathering of human beings. I wish they were more clearly marked.
-Well, we just have to open our mouths, you know.

I get knocked down. But I get up again…

In the actual situation, I wrote:

I feel anxious about being late. The way I respond is self-soothing behaviour which actually makes me more late. When I start getting ready I will feel my anxiety and hurry. Or despondency (which I feel now) around not measuring up. This lessens my energy and motivation.

I want to meditate on feelings, but I have to go. I am putting down the burden of my feelings, and picking it up in a different way. How do I know what was going on in that situation? Well, it seems reasonable. I can’t know that the people making the decision knew what I knew. I thought they did, and it made them do what they did. But possibly no-one reported to them, and they didn’t ask.

I was stressed, then, and again arriving late, so that I even thought of giving a long elaborate explanation of my feelings and how they affect me, but decided that’s a big excuse to be saved for another time. My lateness, less than five minutes, is noticed and possibly hinted at but not commented on directly, and I don’t apologise for it.

Human relationships are difficult!

Toughening up

When he was a child, his father used to drive out from Denver into the Arapaho National Forest, to camp and hike with him. He was ten when he first walked 25 miles in one day. I could not match that, growing up in Argyll. I walked up to the trig point now and then, I cycled to Tarbert by Kilberry and back by Loch Fyne, but nothing like this. Once, they were out camping in snow, and afterwards a park ranger told them other hikers had said they feared for him.

The sympathetic response would be to ask what he thought. Instead I rolled my eyes, and said, “What would they know?”

He’s told me about these outdoor exploits before, and I realise I have no idea how he felt about them. In comes the self-criticism: you don’t see other people at all! You don’t care about their feelings! That isn’t true, though. Hmm. Well, how do you get from Denver, Colorado, US, to being a CPN in Swanston? Was he running away from his family? He has told me about going back to see them. Some of the conversations can be a bit difficult. They were so delighted when he got together with a woman, but now he’s with a man again, no longer that Bi passing as Straight thing.

This sweet, gentle man…

It is not just me not seeing others, or imagining they think exactly as I do. I pause to think about this. My own family placed a high value on self-improvement and on practical outdoors pursuits. Dad and I walked together over the hills. We fantasised rather than planned going up Suilven as he had done when at University, but we went through Glen Affric. I so wanted to make a man of myself.

Even though I know my concept of manliness did not fit me, and harmed me a lot; even though I have read others’ experiences, of fathers trying to stop their sons being “sissies”, though I know self-acceptance is essential for health, and others’ goals can cripple people; it still feels so utterly natural to me. What would they know, I wondered. Had he been Scots, I might have suggested that these carpers, or decent people seeking to protect him, were English.

Toughening the child up is just so normal, even for me, even now. So is family loyalty: I might criticise mine, but would defend them against anyone. Thinking about that is my answer to my self-criticism. Why don’t you see other people? Without thought, that question just leads to misery. Because I am thoughtless, stupid, only concerned with my own worries, obviously. It crushes me. With thought, I can forgive myself; and, considering what might be behind my unthinking response, I may be able to achieve change which the harsh self-criticism blocks.

Why am I so unfeeling to others? Because I am like that to myself. In my own mind I sometimes reach 49%, when the pass mark is fifty. I rolled my eyes, and have no recollection of his response to that. I did not get the impression that this had bothered him, but perhaps he was hiding that. Never cry! He might have opened up if I had sympathised, or he might have brushed it off (as I brushed off his consolations) but the topic of conversation changed.

Human beings are complex. A single word like “soft” cannot encapsulate us, but often is used to define us. With the Euro election and the Faragist hate campaign, I am depressed and I am talking depressingly. I want to encourage people and don’t.

-Why do you think you might not see people?
I demand too much of myself, so therefore I demand too much of others.
-It surprises me you are analysing this, intellectually, so much. Why is it all in your head?
Well, the heart is a muscle. The limbic system is in the head. And, my own emotional judgment of myself is so much on one note.

Oh my god
I just blanked him!
I was so unsympathetic
How shit is that?

I recognise I have mirror neurons, and I mirror people, for example picking up my glass at the same time as my companion does.

-You value your intellect so much, but your emotional intelligence does not always fire off so well. You have mastered, harnessed your intellect, you’ve played with it, you can ride it, you can get lost in it, you can dive into it.

-Your emotional self sometimes storms through thunderously. It is magnificent, quite spectacular and evidently as deep and prolific as your intellect. But you don’t harness it. It separates you from people, you know it does.

It is like the sea. If I try to stand erect on it, I will flounder dreadfully
but if I try to swim
that might work-

Opposites

I have two desires: to hide away and not be noticed, and to let my Effulgence shine forth that I may be admired. My former friend noticed this years ago, remarking that I wanted to blend into the background in the most eye-catching way possible, and his remarking on it helped me see it. The contradictoriness of it befuddled me, and both desires seemed ridiculous or reprehensible, as there is nothing I need hide from (I lectured myself sternly) and I have nothing particular worth showing off. George- Don’t do that.

If I dislike these desires, I am uncomfortable whether I achieve both or neither. I have been so uncomfortable in my own skin, second-guessing every desire and every act. I am wasting my life, hiding like this; showing off when I have so little to show off appears foolish. And yet both are necessary, to protect myself as I see fit, and to take risks and give service. I could hardly believe it: I value being inconsistent, but how could I be so contradictory? So I half-understood what I wanted, condemned it, and was paralysed.

It felt, with my friend on Saturday, saying it so bluntly, admitting both desires coexist, that this was new. I have both desires, and that they were opposite ceased to be a barrier to seeing them. Either might be fitting, in different circumstances. The self-concept is a particular steady, reasonable human being with particular admirable, consistent qualities- obviously a myth. The organismic self is mercurial, ad hoc, inconsistent, unpredictable.

How on Earth did we evolve the capacity to be conflicted?

This is my spiritual journey- finding who I am, and coming to accept it. I am finding it hard work. It takes my intellect, love and good will. I am reading Etty Hillesum’s diary, and have just read the fabulous entry from 3 July 1942.

I must admit a new insight into my life and find a place for it: what is at stake is our impending destruction and annihilation, we can have no more illusions about that. They are out to destroy us completely, we must accept that and go on from there. She writes of the Nuremberg laws, of the blisters on her feet because she cannot use trams and must walk, how she cannot go out of the city, use any patch of grass which are all labelled as parks; go to non-Jews’ houses, though she broke that law; go to greengrocers, so that she would queue for permitted shops and get nothing. It is ghastly. The long entry ends with a German soldier. I shall have to pray for this German soldier. Out of all those uniforms one has been given a face now. There will be other faces too, in which we shall be able to read something we understand: that German soldiers suffer as well. There are no frontiers between suffering people, and we must pray for them all. Goodnight.

I find life difficult, and have particular sorrows. I do not envy hers. We looked at a couple having coffee together, two men. I wondered if it was a first or second date. He thought it might be a pre-date, the two of them “meeting as friends” but there is so much going on under the surface, now clearly surfacing. Mmm. Gay male couples can be so direct and immediate. Two women can dance around each other, getting no closer, for ages. He wondered if a straight man would notice. Some would, some wouldn’t, I suppose. There are some allies. Around lunchtime, one went to get another coffee, and the other wondered if he might have wine. I restrained the impulse to encourage him.

Etty accepts the fact of her own death, and is enabled to Live: I accept it all as one mighty whole.

Yes, we carry everything within us, God and Heaven and Hell and Earth and Life and Death and all of history. The externals are simply so many props; everything we need is within us. And we have to take everything that comes: the bad with the good, which does not mean we cannot devote our life to curing the bad. But we must know what motives inspire our struggle, and we must begin with ourselves, every day anew.

Wow. It is stunning stuff. I am embracing my own contradictoriness. Both desires are acceptable. I might pursue either and delight in it, escaping being conflicted. Brains are plastic after all. How can I cease to resist myself? I have this spiritual path, and I must follow it.