How might I move on?
I am more isolated now than I was eleven years ago. Am I merely ruminating about the past? I wrote in my diary, “It is time to rebel against my parents”. I was over thirty at the time. I may have had an enmeshed relationship with my mother. But, why should I be dwelling on that now?
How do I feel about my situation now? “Miserable” is not a feeling, it is an accumulation of feelings, all mixed together, hard to identify and differentiate. There is anger, frustration, resentment, fear (the feelings I identified in 1999) and perhaps others. There is great sadness.
And, still, I am unconscious of feeling. Objectively, my lifestyle, rarely going out, is a product of overwhelming anxiety, and I am rarely conscious of anxiety. It manifests as just doing nothing when I know I should take a particular action. Hours pass. I am burned out.
I was acting in anger towards another and not conscious of it. Now the anger has done its job: not by changing her, but by changing me. I cease to care about her. I see her actions as hurting me, wronging me, and let go my former illusion of her. I let in these additional perceptions, see her more clearly, and let go.
I am between the Id and the Inner Light. The Id, a roiling, terrifying storm of feeling, which makes us lash out, comes from feeling being suppressed. The Inner Light may be the human in touch with feeling and therefore empathetic. David Brooks, in The Second Mountain- the quest for a moral life, writes,
Every once in a while, I meet a person who radiates joy. These are people who seem to glow with an inner light. They are kind, tranquil, delighted by small pleasures, and grateful for the large ones. These people are not perfect. They get exhausted and stressed. They make errors in judgment. But they live for others, and not for themselves. They’ve made unshakable commitments to family, a cause, a community, or a faith. They know why they were put on this earth and derive a deep satisfaction from doing what they have been called to do. Life isn’t easy for these people. They’ve taken on the burdens of others. But they have a serenity about them, a settled resolve. They are interested in you, make you feel cherished and known, and take delight in your good.
I too have met people like that. Brooks does not claim to be there yet. My route involves bringing the unconscious to consciousness.
The “Heart” I seek to speak from is more complex than I can know. It is like the Id in some ways, because of the powerful forces still repressing my feelings. I bring myself to consciousness but am not there yet. My desire to be good comes from a desire to be safe. I want to follow the rules so no-one will be nasty to me, even though that does not work. Or, I want to be good so I might deserve not to suffer. I want to avoid pain. I need to feel the pain, uncertainty, sadness.
Possibly, behind that heart there is something that might be called an “inner light”- aware of the community, seeking its good, wanting connection. Possibly that is how the heart matures as the Id, accepted, lashes out less. I fear being a doormat.
I was irritated with Brooks claiming “Self-created identities are also fragile. We need to have our identities constantly affirmed by others if we are to feel secure.” His cis male conservative successful writer identity is always going to be affirmed. I know of trans people who view other trans people’s different journeys as not the right way to be trans, and therefore a challenge to their own trans identity. But if people feel sufficiently affirmed in our diversity we can accept each other’s difference.
Brooks is too dismissive of others’ travails. No-one leaves a marriage “based on some momentary vision of their own needs”. It is so difficult to divide a shared life that a conviction that it is necessary may grow over months before it crystallises.
I don’t know what that permanent joy would be like, but I felt delight today being affirmed: someone I respect said my published pieces were well-written and to the point. It is a gift.
Brooks and I both see that an “inner light” and living from joy is possible. He names the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu and Paul Farmer, but also believes ordinary people can become like that, like Dorothea Ladislaw: “But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”
If I were ever to get there, it would be through loving my Id into consciousness. Brooks writes that “Some shrivel in the face of suffering. They seem to get more afraid and more resentful. They shrink away from their inner depths in fear. Their lives become smaller and lonelier.” Well, some wounds are too great to heal. I hope I don’t end up like that.
In worship someone quoted Living our beliefs, the introduction to Quakers by and for adolescents: “feel your whole self, celebrate it, be happy and proud”. I bought the book immediately, but could not find the quote. The working theory is that the Id will only get in the way of the Light if it is unconscious. I move on by bringing it to light.