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.

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.

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.

Breaking down the barriers

If I had no problems, I’d be miserable.

A green caterpillar had dropped onto my clothes, and was now going round and round my table. It would grasp the table with legs at its rear, and lift its front end, waving it about, trying to sense food. Then it would put its front end down, bend and bring its rear end a few millimetres forward, and lift its front again. This was perfectly rational behaviour, but ineffective as there are no leaves in that room. There’s an Iris Murdoch character who finds a snail somewhere, say Kings Cross, and takes it somewhere else, say Hyde Park, as it needs soil and vegetation.

-Will you take it outside?

In the Still Face experiment, a mother faces her baby, who cannot walk or talk, expressionless. The baby tries to interact, smiling, laughing, pointing to something so she will look as she looked a minute before, but she does not react. The baby quickly gets distressed. In one of the various personal growth email series I accumulate, the exercise was to watch the video and state three emotions the baby was feeling. I thought of perplexity, and one other, but could not think of a third. After about a minute, I thought of fear– and instantly felt huge distress. I interpret this as referring to my own unbearable fear. It is a memory, empathy derived from having had the exact same experience.

With Tina, the problem is to tell her about it, and then I find the barriers. I am talking of other things for fifteen minutes after thinking of it- instead I was enthusing about various things. A Quaker I met in London on Sunday, from California, told me how meditative she found life-drawing. I was excited to hear of a radio programme about people who have no mind’s eye, as I find it hard to explain to people and have not heard of others like me in that way before.

I was fascinated by Salvage magazine: I got a paper copy. An essay argued, pace Orwell’s essay Politics and the English Language, that demand for clarity is authoritarian: the idea that a piece of prose would have one meaning which could be discerned by every reader, rather than provoke different minds in different directions, is limiting.

After about a minute of the mother’s still face the baby is distressed, and the mother starts responding again.

-I am wondering what would happen if I didn’t explain to you why I’d started on that, just turned to another matter.

After a long pause I feel hurt, and the thought crossing my mind to stop me articulating my hurt is that I’m making it up. I feel the hurt comes from my early childhood, and the thought is that it could not possibly. As I tell Tina this I am forcing the words out, pausing between each. There is a brake in me, a barrier, against articulating these things.

Then the thought crossed my mind that I should be
facing- current- problems rather than- moping- or-
wallowing

Then the thought that the internal blocks and barriers preventing me from moping and wallowing are for my own good. Yet the exercise of discerning what the baby was feeling during the Blank Face distressed me at that moment. So it is a current problem.

I have two habitual metaphors. One is seeing through my blind spots. How can I see when I don’t even realise there is a blind spot. And the other is breaking down a wall with my head. That’s what this feels like: I have internal blocks and barriers to seeing certain things or seeing them in a particular way and having discerned them I want to break them down.

I NEED YOU TO UNDERSTAND!
THE DISTRESS IS REAL!
THE DISTRESS IS CURRENT!

(I am talking to myself, of course.)

It seems to me that if I can overcome the block I can allow and assuage the distress. Unarticulated distress congeals and haunts me. My attention may heal it- fifty years later.

It felt wonderful to be able to say this to another person. Typing it, even to blog it to anyone who might read it, is comparatively easy. I celebrate that I can see the blocks, see the truth behind them, and articulate it to another. I am making progress. And then I am tired. It is hard work.

I have been here before, of course, considering the blocks, considering the distress of the baby, but I am clearer now.

-Did you feel loved as a child?
I don’t know what I felt as a child
-When did you start feeling?

At University I noticed that I did not know what I was feeling, and around the age of thirty I could articulate strong feelings, sometimes. Strong feelings got through. In childhood I don’t remember noticing feelings, unless extremely strong.

Strange that “unaffected” has the double meaning of not showing emotion, and not pretending it. Why should “simple and unaffected” be a compliment?

The caterpillar had climbed onto my phone, and I took it outside, trying it on various leaves to see if it liked them. I could not hold the phone still relative to the leaf, so the movement of the leaf might repel the caterpillar- so I thought of holding the leaf against the phone, and the caterpillar crawled onto it. This could have been my act of kindness, or just doing the thing in order to see if it were possible, out of interest. The caterpillar could have been a pest, even an invasive one. I want to say I was kind, and I have blocks against that type of claim too.

I was kind. That pleases me.

There. I said it.

Powerful, beautiful, alive

I cannot see, in an art work, anything which is not myself; but I can see something I have not admitted to myself. The human being contains multitudes. The whole human being, the artist, speaks to the whole human being, the viewer. Content: suicide and internalised prejudice; and also overcoming that in celebration.

It seems to me that my conscious mind is a filter, preoccupied with what a human being, and in particular this human being, should be. The “shoulds” come from outside, from parents and the wider society. The brain, being part of a whole organism, calculates what others desire and what it can get away with, and produces a simulacrum of that, while underneath there are greater possibilities and desires. Primo Levi observed inmates of Auschwitz who wanted to live by the rules, a common human desire, which might be understandable in Jews- I fit in, give unobtrusive service, try not to be noticed, and thereby might survive- but in Auschwitz the rules were designed to starve and freeze the inmates to death, and so that route to survival was no longer open.

This crushed response of traumatised Jews in Eastern Europe in the 1930s, or Venice in 1516, is not the Jewishness of Naftali Bennett. Bennett, the politician of the settlers, may be a bad man, an oppressor of the Palestinians; but outrage at him can still be antisemitic, insofar as it is outrage because he is uppity.

You need a queer eye to read Francis Bacon. His lover George Dyer committed suicide in a hotel bathroom. Triptych 1973 may show him dying, that black stain seeping out being his life draining away or death coming upon him like a wraith. A straight woman guide led us to Triptych 1972, and suggested it was the same, the death, the man crushed. No. Those pools on the floor, I was sure they were cum. These figures are ejaculating, a glorious, joyous climax, more I think than most prostates would achieve, a superhuman effervescence of life. Coming, he feels immortal.

You need a queer eye because the straight might see the poor oppressed gay having a ghastly time then dying, poor soul, wasn’t it awful to be gay with all that homophobia? And I see Bacon, the gay man who knows exactly who he is, being it and showing it. Elsewhere in his work subjects have manly energy, physically and psychologically imposing, with a sense of threat, but here they are soft gay men and glorying in it.

Partly I do not listen to you because my concern is not to hear what you have to say but to maintain and affirm the societal consensus, what we should think. Or, perhaps, you would free me if I could hear you but I am not ready for that.

I want you to find this offensive- and then laugh in delight. If I am I in all my Light this is not taking physical goods which are not mine, so that others have less, so much as dancing new moves which will embolden others to dance their own.

I do not see my power, my inner Light, because I imagine it ought to be good, that is, good as the societal consensus would see good. And it is so much more than that. It could feel like a threat, or danger, because it is so alive. It wants to shine, for shining is its nature, and thereby to draw out others’ light. The Light is hard and soft, gentle and commanding, all that is possible in a human, made in the image of God, loving, creative, powerful, beautiful.

I want everyone to be uppity. I want us to dance together, showing our abundance. Jesus said let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

Journeying towards God

God appeared to be a monster, and I fled. I found Christianity as a framework, an understanding of good behaviour which would train or mould me into a good person. Underneath the training, held down by powerful guards but never silenced, was something I could not name, which acted through me or influenced me in ways I did not know.

I attempt to use words, and even the word “I” breaks down here: “I” in that paragraph is the “I” “I” imagine, which the part of me which is conscious conceives to be how “I” am, how it imagines my personality and character to be. Underneath there is an unconscious I, the thing I could not name.

The journey towards God is bringing what is unconscious into consciousness, so that the conscious conception of the nature of the person as a human being comprises the totality, the whole nature of that human being. For each person it is different. My understanding of it includes some theology, some psychology, but mainly is my dogged attempt to find that unknown being, to see what I could not see, to dissolve the pretences and blind spots preventing me from seeing; and my experience is of it-I, breaking through from below.

It feels like a river- however firmly the river has been dammed, eventually the stream breaks through and the natural flow asserts itself.

I am made in the image of G-d, so I may be like Christ. In Him the divine and human nature are united without separation, without mixture, without confusion and without alteration. This is Miaphysitism, the belief of the Oriental Orthodox (Churches including the Coptic, Syriac and Ethiopian), a word I have just learned. I am not, yet, so united, but believe this non-dual state is possible for all people.

I want to be understood, heard, believed, accepted. That “I” is the unconscious “I”, where all my power, desire, love and creativity reside. First, in an act of self-surrender, by the conscious I. This may be aided by others, seeing and valuing the unconscious I, accepting in the moments when it bursts forth: in the counsellor’s “unconditional positive regard”, perhaps. For I, united I-I, know it.

The journey involves shedding my introjects, all the judgments of others I have taken into my conscious understanding of who I am of what is important and therefore what I should consider important and therefore what I value, which is not what

I

being the unconscious I

truly value. For the Buddha, who had fabulous wealth, and had been taught to value that wealth, it involved leaving that wealth behind, but that does not mean that anyone can learn from him that they should “give all they have to the poor”, or that ceasing to value wealth and instead valuing what elementary Buddhist textbooks teach will be liberating. The liberation, the non-duality, is in shedding whatever one is forced to value which one would not have valued without that external force.

I

state that rather it means setting aside all you imagine you think is important, and delving to what is truly important to you.

Ah. That unconscious I is speaking, more and more, which puts the conscious I in fear, excitement and delight. Sometimes- more and more- I and I unite and I am one.

Mystic language appeals to me, yet materialist language may be available. This is a healing process, a maturing process- the river will not be dammed in the end. Religion may aid devotees towards it, if it does not create more introjects to ensnare those devotees. Humans will our freedom.

Parts of the Human, which have not been loved and accepted, lie in strong chains. Vigilant guards are ready to push back when the prisoner shows signs of acting, crying “Wrong! Stupid! Meaningless! Wicked!” So my Shadow terrifies me (conscious-I). The guards are part of me too, which I created as a way of survival. I find the unconscious I, see the error of the guards, and quiet them, in contemplation and meditation.

Where is the Life? Where is the Drive? The unconscious i hurts so much, so my way to God is through all its pain. I believe the Quaker term “Inner Light” refers to this unconscious I.

I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame
The Righteous One shall make many righteous.

If any of these words speak to you, I pray they may bring you to full humanity, which may be Divinity. And let us share our words if we want to understand as well as to Be.

The real self and the critical voices

The risk of imagining a “Real self” separate from the negative self is that I could project onto the negative self all the bits I don’t like. However that would not even convince me, and certainly not a magistrate. The negative self is part of me, within me, a voice, a part of my brain circuitry, part of an organic whole.

My real self has been so suppressed that I have been consciously analysing my desires from outside, rather than feeling them from within. I find what I want when I see what I do. I have desires, and carry them out, but not through conscious planning. The Real Self is where my desire, energy and motivation appear to sit. So I want to make it conscious so that I am less conflicted.

Possibly the Real Self spoke on Sunday, in immediate anger.

I realise, with Sally, that that is what I want to speak about, and that the critical voices immediately tell me I should not. Don’t talk about that, it will not achieve anything. You need this time for more important matters. It’s self-indulgent, which is their strongest word of condemnation. I realise how the critical voices inhibit me from speaking my desire, even here, in the counselling space, though they are not strong enough to change the subject, and eventually the desire gets through.

It’s wallowing, and I do not want her sympathy. I would say how miserable I am and you would say, “Awwww”.

It’s what I want and am terrified of showing that I want.

-That’s the conflict there, she says. Well, yes. The critical voice stops me speaking, and frustrates my desires.

As a child I was so squished that I was unaware of being squished. My mother believed her complete control was for my good. In my early thirties, I realised it was time to rebel against my parents and I have been doing teenage ever since. I feel it was a working out of human organic development and healing- that this phase of maturing can be suppressed, but not prevented indefinitely. The stream can be dammed for so long, but eventually it finds its way.

Mmm. Sunday. I feel wretched about that. Normally I would suppress that wretchedness below consciousness, so that it becomes a weight I keep carrying. I feel if I become conscious of it, I can let it go. Just as when meditating, if I feel an itch, but resent it because now is the time to be pious and holy, meditating- the itch consumes my thoughts, because I am trying to suppress the feeling. If I pay it attention, feel it fully, then it bothers me less and I can move on.

If I feel the feeling fully I can let it go. That’s the hypothesis, not completely demonstrated yet. I worried from my negative self that I am a bottomless pit of pain, I just feel the pain and it is neverending, but I don’t think that, not really. I can work through it.

Now I feel the desire to tell you something that makes me happy, and the critical voices say that is boasting, it is Bad. Well, that video makes me happy. It is always easier to think “This too will pass” when I am happy: I observe that in other people as well as myself. I am happy to have contributed to something which has value. I want it to be seen. I consider I have done a good thing, and that pleases me.

I am unsure about my desires, and I don’t appear to have any particular overarching desire, yet I have-

pause. The critical voices are at me again. They diminish everything my real self says, trivialise its words, take away the words’ meaning and importance. I have desires, and pleasure in accomplishing them, and frustration at not. I am not getting much of that pleasure, and the critical voices inhibit it.

Last time, I had the idea that I had to pack the real self away, be in some other part of me, in order to be sufficiently safe and in control to cycle home. Yet my real self is my own desire, rather than introjected desire, my own feelings conscious not suppressed, my real self is where the power actually is and the distrust which I have internalised for it has not led me to a better way of being.

The critical voices are far too strong, completely dismissing my Real Self. Yet they have their place, they could make a valuable contribution. They have something to do with What will other people think and it is possible to estimate that. They need balanced. My default state at the moment is that the critical voices are suppressing me, but I am coming out.

Rabbit

The cuddly toy rabbit is a tool for my use. A child gains comfort from cuddling such things, and even for an adult it can be reassuring: a friend gave a cuddly toy to all her trans friends going into hospital for GRS. Here, in counselling, it is a way of communicating non-verbally, with Sally and with my conscious mind. If I threw it across the room that would be a definite communication which would do no harm. I look down at it, avoiding her eye. I can sit it forward on my knee, between us, as a Protector. I shrink into a small space and cuddle it.

Before I cycled to Swanston I knelt in my ritual space. I am going to a safe space. I can speak from myself there. With Sally I declared my intention, to speak from myself. That is where all the motivation, energy and desire reside. That Real Self has rarely had a voice in my conscious mind. It was the part of me speaking when in 2001 I laid on the floor in a foetal position weeping “I am not a man”. It was the part of me that in 2015 could barely say anything more than “I Am”; when saying “I Am” felt wonderfully liberating.

With the rabbit to reassure me I speak from myself. I think of going into mindful presence- of being shocked into it, before it became habitual- and my thought was, I want to speak and act from this space. Well, now, I am. There is a high risk I will lose all my income, and what I am doing about that threat is to speak from my Real Self.

This self is surrounded by judgment, which can be extremely cruel- “fxxkwitted uselessness,” for example, about a simple mistake which would not have mattered much even if I had made it- and which, like depression, one might see as weather- it may be rainy or sunny and we still do our thing. Or, like thoughts during meditation might be seen as passing clouds, to notice, let go, not dwell on. Consciously, my rational strategy was to manage it- placate it as little as possible, wheedle, make sensible suggestions, with the intent of getting it doing sensible things, and that has not worked, so my final despairing throw of the dice is to try to speak from it. And, I (believe- have an inkling-

KNOW

that that is where the energy is.

I have taken notes of the session. I want to speak from the Real Self, and say more than “NO”- now I am rocking, and cuddling the rabbit tightly.

Is the Self childish? There is some evidence for this- consider the cuddly toy rabbit- yet I don’t think so. It shows some signs of being able to defer gratification and choose worthwhile things.

It was the logical next step to explore this part of me, all other things having failed.

The Judgment is keen to protect me, but in fact doesn’t.

I told that story, I have told it several times before. I wanted to make a man of myself, so I joined the Territorial Army. On little more than hearing my accent, the man suggested I go for officer training, so I put down Jane Austen and picked up Clausewitz.

-I don’t know who Clausewitz is.

He wrote “On War”. His famous quote is that war is the continuation of politics by other means, and he said military plans do not survive the first contact with the enemy. Anyway, they thought me “Insufficiently military”, which at the time really pissed me off and now I think a wonderful compliment

(I am using the exact same words as always to tell the story)

so told me I should do a year as a private soldier- a “Driver” is the word, in the Royal Corps of Transport. So I put down Clausewitz and picked up The Good Soldier Švejk. I explain to her who Švejk was.

-I don’t know what “insufficiently military” could mean.
-Probably that I wouldn’t shoot someone if told to do so. I could explain it from a conservative standpoint- I have read Jonathan Haidt- and indeed George Orwell who had fought for the Republic despised pacifists.

I am empathetic. I know the arguments against anything I could say. In part this is the Judgment crushing me, and in part it is Empathy, a gift not a curse.

This is my Real Self. I am Empathetic. I am Soft. I am Caring. These are good qualities. I am Sensitive, and this does not merely mean “easily hurt”.

When it is time to go, the Judgment pipes up. It does not trust the Real Self to be in control as I cycle home. I must gather round me my layers of protection

The man’s protection rots her soul

to leave this room. The trouble is, the Judgment, which wants to protect me, cannot, and is no more safe cycling than the Real Self. I go to the supermarket, then cycle home. A heavy rainstorm soaks me, water spraying up from the road, but it is alright.

Here is a definition of Wellbeing: “Social connectedness — who you depend on and who depends on you, and having a feeling of belonging; safety — when we can express core parts of our identity without harm or shame; mastery — the sense that we have influence over our future and have the skills to navigate life; meaningful access to relevant resources — the ability to meet our core needs in ways that aren’t dangerous or shaming; and stability — having things we can count on to be the same day to day, and knowing that a small bump won’t set off a crisis.” My goal with this counselling is Safety.

More counselling

Bloodi’yell, this counselling lark is weird. I go into this tiny room with a woman with purple hair, she asks how anxious and depressed I have been in various ways on a scale of one to three, and then I tell her stuff and start crying. I hate the crying. I would much rather pass as a normal person. Meet a woman, no introduction, no idea who she is, tell my woes and start crying.

I want to get my inner rationalist talking to my Real Self. The Real Self is the part with the energy, but all it can say is “No”, at the moment. Actually I want to get it heard. I am intelligent and articulate, and much of the time that part of me has no conscious voice. I want my inner parts talking to each other, and on facebook someone suggested Internal Family Systems– but Sally confirms that we don’t have time for that; but when I say these two need marriage guidance counselling she seems to think that is a worthwhile use of the time.

I thought, I have to be aware of myself if I am going to counselling tomorrow and so knelt on my meditation stool, about 10.30pm last night. Nothing. Just bleak and dead. Vague sense of anger and misery beneath. So I played Metamorphosis. Slept not that badly, cycled in a bit of wind, the day cold and clear.

She apologised for the smallness of the interview room. It’s got room for two chairs and a tiny table, and if I stretch out my legs I’d block the door. Conversationally, I say I’d alter that door to open outwards, if I were you. Someone violent or threatening could easily block it. I realise this could be taken as a threat. I am thinking of violence.

Do I want her to find a bigger room? No. Not worth the trouble. I push myself back into the corner, huddling as small as possible.

I am upset. That email saying our friendship had run its course. She’s right, of course, and the finality is still upsetting, and the tragic circumstances leading to it.

I am not dealing with the threat to all of my income. I used to do benefits tribunals, I say, and I noticed people would pour out their woes to me and feel better afterwards, and I’d be able to get an idea of what they could say to indicate they were entitled and how I could get evidence to back that up. And I would not take their distress into myself, I felt I earthed it. I would listen and sympathise and care, and then when they went I would let go of it, be glad I was helping them, and move on to something else. But some seemed to tell me their woes and just get more and more angry and distressed, as if they were a bottomless pit. They would feel no better having dumped their misery on me, and it was harder to let go. I worry I am like that, here, now. I don’t know how I could deal with that.

I am highly intelligent, creative and articulate. I say my verse.

On the Marble Cliffs
my walls are six feet thick
and twenty yards high.
Day and night
the pitch steams over the fire
and the guards make sharp steel darts
One for everyone in the World.

I do not say the rest of it. “It’s a powerful image,” she says. I start bawling again. I am so lonely! I say. Ordinary rules of shame and humiliation do not apply here.

-How long have you been counselling?
-Since 2002, so seventeen years, she says.
-Do you get paid for this?
-Yes, she says.
-Are you doing any training at the moment?
-No, I’ve done several courses over the years but am resting from that for now.

-Same time next week?
-Yes, another swim in the icy lake of my misery.

I go to the supermarket which has no skimmed milk out, then cycle to Marsby where I get milk in Tesco. I am standing in front of the refrigerated cabinets, and as I have grown hot with the exercise take off my jacket, fold it up and stuff it in the panniers. I become aware of a woman with a pushchair who wants to get into the refrigerated cabinet, and I am blocking her way. I think, I would move if she asked me. Eventually she kneels down, opens the next door and reaches along for what she wanted.

Then I am ahead of her in the queue to pay. I can’t get the milk in the panniers without taking out the jacket, putting the milk in and stuffing the jacket in after. I do this before paying. I held her up again. I notice that this is mean and nasty. Horrible. I could have accommodated her so easily, it would have cost me nothing. I did not look her in the eye, just took my time with the jacket.

That was the moment it clicked into place. This part of myself is what I think of as my negative side. I don’t go here much. I don’t think I like it. I don’t know how it would be in a confrontation. I fear it a bit. I have felt a strong need to choose the positive.

And yet, there is so much energy there! I feel the energy, I need this energy. This is another part of myself that I need, conscious, and pulling in the same direction.

I stopped talking, once, saying I have run out of things I want to explain to you, ask me a question. I can’t remember if she did. I talked of coercive control and she indicated understanding. Having a human being listen to my stream of consciousness might be therapeutic enough, even if she contributes nothing more but her presence.

The Beautiful Self

I go for the first session with a new counsellor. Of all the fascinating things in the world, what is better to contemplate than my navel? Yet I was anticipating humiliation, and as I walked from the bus was in defensive anger. In the summer a service had spent a long time scrabbling for an excuse not to see me, over three separate assessments quizzing me in detail about suicidal ideation, and still getting it wrong. In the waiting room, where I was half an hour early I found a 4′ high teddy bear, and this poem:

Um. Greater need than mine, perhaps, and completely negative. The poet’s mother is disabled by her own hurt. Still the offer of a cup of tea was welcome, and I accepted. Hospitality brings us closer. There was also a thank you card, pinned up in the waiting room, so I noted it- “You have taught me that not everyday is easy to get through but no matter what happens something good will always come out of it” which sounds like a desperate attempt to be positive in terrible circumstances. The gratitude is hopeful, but other services use this office so it could be for them.

I was back where I started. Summer 2011, I went to Midsummer camp and burned in the bonfire to rid myself of it the word “negativity”. A week or two later I awoke at war in the HAI workshop, with two separate trains of thought running through my head- “She [Uli] is awesome and that’s wonderful and this is so exciting and that’s beautiful” and at the same time “This is rubbish and that’s ridiculous and I can’t be bothered with it”. I had to choose, and with F’s help, I did. And more recently I wrote I am in Heaven and Hell: the breadth of my experience is such that both are appropriate metaphors, for different parts. I find the world glorious and unbearable.

That card again:

You have taught me to
not only stand up for myself but
to love myself and be confident in the person I am…
You’re the reason I can finally say I’m happy to be me

Wow. Possibly her first ever relationship where she was respected and valued for who she is. People do value me for who I am, but as I find it difficult to value myself I rarely see that.

I thought of calling this post Counselling CCL. Over twenty years I have had counselling weekly for long periods, probably averaging at least thirteen times a year. And I move forward. I see things. I am going round not in a circle but in a very tight spiral. My GP said “You are very intelligent” and I realised that I heard that as a judgment- why aren’t you doing anything with it? So now I can say, “I am very intelligent”. It is not a boast, and not a confession, but an assessment. This is one of the resources I have.

This public service which I am not paying for is time limited, to seven sessions, so I go in with a sense of urgency and get to my playful self. That is a way of seeing it; I must write how I see that Self, which will be poetry. I could call her “Positive” or all sorts of things. That is where my energy is.

OK. Positive, playful, creative. Crushed and denied for so long, and resilient, and always here. In a sulk, perhaps; not taking the advice of the inner rationalist- “Don wannoo”. Where the depth of my feeling, love, brilliance is. With some understanding of deferred gratification and the need to make provision for the future, I notice I am not taking the action I judge I should. I have strong forces within me, and I need to get them pulling in the same direction.

A counsellor said “You are a mass of scars” and I feel that is still a fair summation.

I hurt.

I have two speeds, “Captain the engines cannae take it” and dead stop, but where I am motivated I have huge drive.

This woman just seemed nice. I liked her. And, I am better trusting, I will get further if I trust, I can rely on the confidentiality and the basic decency of a person who would make a go of this kind of work over fourteen years.

I became present.

My self esteem is on the floor- or below it.

-What do you want?

These things seem inextricably linked for me. I want to work on- ah, that’s what to call her:

my low self esteem
getting my inner parts talking, and pulling together
bringing out my Beautiful Self.

And I may yet surrender enough to cuddle that teddy bear. I know it would feel good, if I could burst the barrier of judgment and shame.