A chaotic individual

My head is a safe space for my insanity.

I do not know that woman. I catch glimpses of her. I have heard the evidence of her formidable intellect. I have seen no sign of her hurt, though I have heard of difficult experiences she has had. I see a self-contained individual with a face on which I have not read emotion, though I would not aver that it does not show feeling.

I am being careful. I must not insult her. Not knowing her, I can create a myth from the inklings I have about her, for my own use, about human possibility- about what is possible for me; or understanding myself by contrast. The construct I create in my own mind for this purpose is that self-contained, not impassive but calm in appearance, controlled person. The real person is no more an archetype than I am, but I use thoughts of her to get in touch with an archetype, one who does not show emotion immoderately.

I greatly value conventionality. It is important to me to appear normal, and when I do not manage that I am distressed. The impassive, non-reacting individual, making the right response to any stimulus- garbage in, the appropriate thing out- is who I must be, for my own survival. I have achieved that by suppressing all feeling that does not produce my correct response. That is, I was middle-aged at five and have been growing younger since. I have locked parts of myself away, and the guardian dragons have been my fear resulting from horrible childhood experiences which I could not resist or process at the time. I had been incapable as a child, and felt I would always be incapable. But I am an adult now.

There is so much in me that does not fit that conventional stereotype, and I called it on Sunday morning “insanity” and now I call it “chaos”. It is not integrated. I am semi-conscious of parts which I find rebarbative, and so it bursts out of me, demanding to be heard. If I can accept all of my humanity, then it will emerge for the community as my love and creativity direct, for Good.

I spoke twice in the meetings for worship at the Quaker Life Representative Council. The weekend was about children’s meetings, and I spoke on Saturday morning about being a deep, rich soil for children to grow in. People appreciated the metaphor, I know because they told me. One or two told me they appreciated my speech on Sunday morning. Possibly it was ministry. That is, it was where I was, and it powerfully articulated that for me, drawing on what others had said; and possibly it had value for others. I said, my head is a safe space for my insanity, spoke a little about that which I can’t remember, then said I had a choice of words:

attempt

Be.

attempt

Be

my full humanity.

I can’t yet. My fear and distrust of myself inhibits my consciousness of myself. Then aspects of myself are distorted, and express in rebarbative ways. I am a chaotic individual. The way to sanity and integrity is to pass through that chaos. My love and creativity will protect me, and reduce the harm I do others. As I love and accept the chaos, it becomes less threatening or dangerous.

In “Gifts and Discoveries”, a Quaker course from 1988 which I did in the early Noughties, we meditated on the story of the Gadarene swine. When we were told to imagine ourselves as the madman called “Legion” looking into the eyes of Jesus, I ran to another room and curled in a ball on the floor. My friend Beck, a children’s social worker, came after me and gently laid her hand on my shoulder.

I am now the human curled in a ball in terror, and the human laying a gentle hand- making contact in Love. In meditation on Friday that terrified human was pain and sadness, but being in touch with it was sweet. This morning, it was playing: I want the rules and regs of Quakers, which we are about to rewrite, to be so beautiful we give them to new enquirers to inspire them to join us.

Yesterday I saw Lucie from Shaw Trust, paid by the DWP to get me back to work. I told her something of my mindfulness experiences. Don’t teach me to suck eggs.

Reading, writing, understanding

“It was Heidegger who rendered phenomenology hermeneutical.” Are you still here, Jim? Jim wrote here, once, “I adore Heidegger”. I just about understand that sentence, have some understanding of what phenomenology is, or hermeneutics, though I am unclear about how one could be the other. And then a shaft of light: Heidegger describes understanding as the human’s fundamental way of being-in-the-world… the basis of human knowing in general.

Afraid to go out, afraid to go in- I have not been meditating, because I fear it, and then yesterday felt moved to, so did. And this morning I felt moved to so did and found my pain and sadness, at the heart of me, it just hurts. Being with it, being conscious of it, was what I had feared and why I had avoided meditation, and why I may avoid meditation in the future. And yet just sitting with this pain the emotional accretions to it cease to matter. There is the pain and sadness, and there is the terror and sense of incomprehension and powerlessness which they evoke in me, but if I sit with the pain the terror disappears. Perhaps I am still powerless, I don’t know. Perhaps, I am not. Perhaps, I will meditate.

Become blind during contemplative prayer and cut yourself off from needing to know things. Knowledge hinders, not helps you in contemplation. Be content feeling moved in a delightful, loving way by something mysterious and unknown, leaving you focused entirely on God, with no other thought than of [God] alone. Let your naked desire rest there. . . .

I have been reading. I love the idea of the Oxford “Very Short Introductions”, books about 120 pages long on all sorts of topics. The one on Existentialism has required my concentration, reading slowly, re-reading paragraphs and chapters, and that concentration seems a worthwhile practice to me as I sit at home. Maybe I should take notes. It seems a less frittery way of spending time than others open to me. I wish they were slightly easier, but there are concepts new to me which may be as lucid as possible. It fits this section, on how an inkling may grow to an understanding, how it might be aided by others, shaped by words. I have experienced such learning before.

She may be there this weekend. I hope so, hope not. I have spoken at her twice, both times imbecilically. (If you’re reading this, I don’t mean you.) She is utterly alien to me, beyond my comprehension, of fabulous intellect which I intuit may create loneliness in crowds like there will be. If she is there it will be her gift to us. If I dare approach her, not for absolution for my past idiocies but to say

Hello

as a gift not a request or a pawing attempt at robbery- an attempt at I-thou-

could it possibly result in communication I could bear? Though my communications so far, impertinent though they were, have elicited reactions so that I have seen her slightly better. What is the best that I want?

That intellect should win respect from all, but merely being female exposed her to insult and contempt, over and over again, probably still does.

Another person will be there, also alien to me but with whom I have communed, in Tate Modern, making the art we contemplated together dance and sing and give up mysteries. (If you’re reading this, you know who you are.) I so desperately want to commune.

Faced with the possibilities of Bad Faith or Authenticity, explained by Sartre as mediated by Thomas R. Flynn, I will occasionally make progress, slower than I would like, wanting instant communication and finding attempts failing over and over again. But then in meditation this morning, fleetingly, I managed to communicate with myself.

Birth of the inner critic

You have that inner voice which tells you how useless you are. Most people have. I know mine comes from my mother, and possibly this is how.

In counselling, the inner critic said “How can you be so fucking useless?” and I knew that was my mother. My mother would not have said “fucking” but it came from her- probably pre-lingual, that is my adult vocalisation of the interaction. I know it comes from my mother like I know my own name-

yes, that’s me protesting, I know it and I don’t think anyone will believe me-

and at the same time it does not feel right. I have felt my own rage, as a baby, in a pram under a tree watching the light through the leaves, a recovered memory, a reconstructed clarity of how I felt at the time-

it does not feel right because my mother was so completely dutiful and controlled, as well as controlling. She would never have expressed rage like that. Rather,

she felt that rage.

Her rage, like mine, was always directed internally against herself. She could not get me to stop crying, or I did not like what she fed me, or there was some inability to communicate, and she was angry- with herself, not me, but I sensed it, and felt it was with me. I feared it. So comes my raging sense of inadequacy, whipping myself until I can go no further.

Research shows that the sins of the parents are visited on the children. We know how patterns are created, maintained and passed on, says my friend who should know. This fits, for me: how the pattern could be passed on. Two human beings want to be happy, together, and fail- and each rages against herself.

I told her that I do not trust my “Inner light”. I am not sure I have one. I can discern different voices or characters within myself, but not an inner light. Of course, that may just mean that I do not understand it: I have a false view that it should be particularly moral, or it should seek my flourishing in a particular way, or even that it should fit me into wider society in a particular way. One barrier to spiritual growth is a false conception of what that growth might look like.

She found this hard to understand, and asked, “What sustains you?” I don’t know how to answer that question. “Test the spirits,” said St Paul, and Licia Kuenning’s local Quaker meeting easily discerned that the voice she thought was that of Jesus leading her to prophesy was a damaging fantasy.

I have been crushed. I did not know my feelings, and when I found them I felt them as anger, frustration, resentment and fear, later refined to rage and terror. Does this mean that my inner light is crushed, feeling rage and terror? It would be easier if I were a theist, believing the Light is from God, but the Light is part of my humanity.

How weak, that I would want to hide away as I do, would not use my talents but just bury them? I despise myself. I have wanted to die, wanted to kill myself. I have found how I want to survive. These are two strong voices inside me. My mother was very controlling, and that came from fear. Everything has to be accounted for. I have taken on that controlling pattern. Possibly, the idea of a “Light” is getting in the way of perceiving how I am.

And yet- I like the idea of an inner light. Many people testify to its existence. I want to know it.

There is that one thing that I feel I could do, that would be worthwhile. And my Friend wanted to warn me of the dangers of it, especially for a trans woman. I cannot be sure it is a leading. I might test that leading, even if my Friend thinks it unwise.

Symbols v Reality

Through the crucible of crisis, we enter the heart of Contemplation. I desire freedom, in two senses: flourishing, where my gifts and humanity are best utilised, in a role which fits me; and choices so I can best use those gifts, to be fulfilled. I want to be able to like myself, and fear this may be a luxury I cannot afford.

At Charney Manor I had experiences where I might not even trust myself. On Saturday evening I laid out a hand of fan patience, and stared furiously at it, wanting to see the way ahead to win it. I explained it to others sitting nearby. I played a few hands, and as we were supposed to gather I was so frustrated by being blocked that I stayed alone, wanting to get one out. We noted that playing patience on computer is far more addictive, with the pretty patterns cards moving to the correct place made, and the little instant ping of dopamine, which is diffused when one has the physical sensations of handling the cards. I have not played it for years, and still the compulsion grabbed me, to stop me going to Epilogue. I could easily fritter a morning with it now: in my mind, one voice says “fritter” and another portrays the idea far more winsomely.

At the end, we wanted a group photo: but who would take it? I said “Does anyone’s camera have a timer?” Silence. “Would you like me to get my camera from Andrew’s car?” No objections, so I ran off- jogged off, at least- to get it. I set the timer ten times for ten photos, and said “just one more” as people were getting restive. I know this, because my camera had ten photos on it, and in one case people said, “it isn’t flashing”, meaning I had not set the timer properly. And I only remember doing it three times.

I worried that I had made too much of a fuss, going to get the camera. Were people irritated by the time-wasting? No, said Anne, and I am grateful: absolution sought and given. C is also prone to beat herself up like this: I suggested to her that we speak on the phone, as each would be far kinder to the other than to herself, so we could get a better perspective on our actions.

In the last discussion session, before worship, lots of people expressed thanks to organisers, which irritated me: we had not finished yet, this is preparing for going when we still have worship and lunch. And also it seemed to be creating a reassuring narrative about the weekend- wasn’t it lovely- which it was, but there was other stuff, it was more rich and strange than narratives allow. What I remember saying in the worship sharing, though, was “All this gratitude!”- sarcastically, unpleasantly, without explaining what my objections were. Though having misremembered taking photographs, I might not remember what I said.

Liz was too moved to read that poem, so I read it for her, delighting her. It is a good amateur poem. It shows its author. I was so pleased to serve in that way.

The Quaker ideal of Simplicity confuses me. I pit virtue against eudaemonia, or flourishing. I think of Virtue as “Being good”, an ideal of morality I reject, following social rules. Eudaemonia is about fulfilment, which may mean breaking conventions. Simplicity is not merely “decluttering”. It is certainly not asceticism, or at least not that kind of asceticism which tots up the virtue-points and claims superiority. I think of asceticism like that, as a kind of collection-mania, acquiring things-I-avoid.

I abhor virtue in the sense of Being Good. I do good things, follow the rules, with the intention of thereby making myself safe, accepted within society. But you can’t please everyone.

I scrawled “Symbols v Reality” on a piece of paper. Simplicity is part of facing reality in an aware way. Rather than being distracted by symbols- either ascetic avoidance of self-indulgence, or acquisition of things to show Success- one decides what one finds important, and seeks it. So simple clothes means not being distracted by fashions, but also not choosing clothes for any appearance- of virtue, of asceticism, of an artful carelessness, anything. One might want to give any sort of impression- of seriousness, attractiveness- and that is OK.

You see I contradict myself. I am unsure.

Being undistracted. Giving the clothes, appearance, presentation, just the amount of attention it needs and no more.

Being non-dual: escaping self-consciousness into simple being, united in integrity. Just as I lift a weight with my qi, so I use it to get dressed.

The great gift of Charney is to see that clarity is possible, though I have not attained it. There is a link to mindfulness, if I can manage that.

Catching the intensity

Around 1.45 am, I cycle over the railway bridge. It’s one lane, at the top of a hill, so the car behind can’t pass me, but just over the bridge I am going down a little and it still isn’t passing me. Rather, it pulls up alongside, which is frightening. Then I notice it is a police car. The female passenger says nothing but the male driver says, “If you’re going to be cycling at this time you might consider investing in a crash helmet and a reflective jacket, because the drivers at this time are not always driving well”.

I looked at him and thought, I really do not want this to escalate, so said, “Thank you”. He has nothing to say to that, and drives on. I had LED lights, not technically legal but bright enough, the law has not been adapted from the time of Edison bulbs. Next day I thought, he was irked that I had slowed him up for ten seconds going over the bridge, and so he frightened a lone woman late at night. That just might have been enough to abash him if I’d said it.

When I was being weaned-

this will all come together in the end, I promise you-

my mother made something for me and I sang to her. She thought it delighted me, and was delighted by my reaction. Then she chopped some cooked chicken really small and forced it through a sieve, which must have been very hard work. “And you spat it at me,” she told me. I don’t know whether she told me that story more than once, but she told it to me when I was a child and it made an impression.

She was working very hard to look after me, and my sister who is two years older, and (in the way of babies) doing what one does unaffectedly and unashamedly and responding in the moment I spat it at her. I don’t know why, because I don’t remember the incident, only the story, but something had irked me or I didn’t like it or I wasn’t hungry. What I take from the story is that I flummoxed her when her hard work did not pay off. She was stressed.

However stressed you are, you have your Backlog to deal with. In the Quaker meeting I was thinking of my mother’s distress, and my distress at being burdened with that, and her fear and certainty that we must not be Seen which I took on from her. I felt that distress fully, and held it, bore it, perhaps healed it. Perhaps in part.

You are bold and brave and honest and open

On Friday I went to the Trump demonstration in London, and on Thursday I did not want to go out. I had to go to the Tesco Express a mile away, and also the GP. I have this online system to order repeat prescriptions and appointments, but it had broken down, so I had gone in to the surgery to sort it, that had not worked, and I had to go again. When I eventually went, the receptionist pressed me to accept the solution which had not worked the first time. Had I accepted it, I would have gone away- a win for her- so I had to insist. Right now it appears the something different I insisted on has not worked either. Anyway.

I did not want to go out.

The emotional part of me is completely in control. If the emotional bit does not want to go out I don’t go out, and that manifests as depression and lassitude if I am not properly conscious of it. I used to suppress it and bully it but can’t any more, and I’m not taking cajoling, wheedling, persuading or the false kind of sympathy which says I’ll sympathise if you’ll do exactly what I want you to do- not taking them from myself, from my rational bit. God that’s weird. And real.

It said I didn’t want to go out, and I listened, and I respected it. It’s kind of like marriage guidance. I can’t divorce myself, and I can’t fight myself any more, I have fought myself to a standstill.

I need to hear this traumatised part of me. I said that to the Samaritans, I said it to Tina, and now I am saying it to you and immediately I said it to Tina I went off on a tangent because I could not go deeper. I can hear the emotional part, even speak from it, but not for long. I have to be Rational. I am going off on a tangent now.

A friend phoned me on Saturday night. She is feeling betrayed, and she was so angry with me she had to phone me. Did I have anything to do with That web page? No, I hadn’t. Next day she ministered, a long affecting story, but what I took from it was that she was feeling alienated from Quakers, betrayed, because of our departure from the Truth, and the Truth is important to her. I find her wonderful, brilliant, charismatic, powerful and beautiful.

I want my Love, intellect and creativity to heal your hurt-
the difficulty of it perplexes me
The unknowing of the result frustrates me
I will continue, doing all I can do.
Forgive me my Hunger and intensity!

Trust me to see it emotionally. She tells the truth, to stop vulnerable children and adolescents from being hurt. She wants the truth heard.

If our friendship might die under this strain, I want to give her a gift. I believe the truth is other than as she sees it, and wondered if we had anything we might agree on, and she said we are so far apart we do not even have the same concepts and cannot discuss it. She will keep on fighting for Right as she sees it, I hope she has a small number of Quakers who will back her, and who knows where the Spirit will lead? I wanted her to be Heard, and I don’t know how to accomplish that. And, she may well do what she needs for herself.

I am bigger than our dispute.

In the Quaker meeting, I am dealing with stuff now, and with my backlog of pain- from fifty years ago!

Another wonderful person. She is about twenty years younger than I, so she has wisdom and understanding and a different upbringing and ways of seeing that I want to get in touch with. I need to learn the lessons of the young people.

Tina said, there’s part of you that is very young, and you know it. With K there’s something about me being older but also about being younger in some ways. And I thought, no, it’s about being the less free, conscious, authentic one, but possibly she’s right.

Tina said, you’re still striving to parent yourself, going back to very young childhood, a part of yourself feeling profoundly distressed and disconnected and wanting your parents to be unconditional so you give yourself that now, you are unconditional to your emotional side. “I wasn’t heard, so I will hear me.”

Tina said,

That childishness that has got you into trouble a lot
but it also gives you a tremendous amount in terms of awe and wonder and appreciating beauty
you don’t want to stifle it and you don’t want it to lose its- sense of awe and wonder
It’s quite magnificent

And I changed the subject again. I have to be more adult with the Quakers.

-That’s your frustration with them. They’re supposed to be unconditional.

No, they’re not. They’re human beings. Clare and John Whitehead from Delph, whom I knew when I first joined, parented me quite a lot, inviting me over for dinner regularly then taking me to hear string quartets. I found out at Yearly Meeting that they had died, when I read the Testimonies to the grace of God in their lives. But now, my Quaker meeting do not have the energy to parent me and really should not have to. Not if I can parent myself.

I’ve been parenting myself. I have been sitting in Quaker meeting allowing the full weight of my feeling, allowing myself to be conscious of it, and catching the intensity. I have incredible intensity. I am not comfortable with it, but I am getting to know it better.

My mother messed me up very badly. Her lesson was Never, ever, show the intensity, because she was frightened and hurt and the most important thing was not to be seen. Part of me took that on, and part of me didn’t and has been breaking out and rebelling and causing trouble ever since, and the two will integrate eventually.

I read an elder or overseer, not from my area meeting, complain that s/he had to do so much work with the difficult or needy Friends that s/he did not have the time to get to know the others. In my last meeting someone had to do too much work with this needy Friend, and I am feeling regretful of that, for it broke our friendship. As a needy or difficult Friend it is incumbent on me to do all I can for myself.

I hope I can make a contribution sometimes.

cracks in the concrete

All those silent Quaker meetings! What am I doing there? They can seem long and painful. I am groping in the dark. Thoughts run through my mind, of what I need in the supermarket.

Saturday was difficult. I thought my friend’s union was handling his redundancy procedure, but when we met for lunch I found they weren’t, and he was meeting with management on Tuesday. I worked with him to make a statement of his case, to try to get the union involved, and looked up the law on an argument I had never put in a claim, when I did tribunals eight years ago. It is more restrictive than I had hoped, but I found another thing I could say. It felt far too crude to me. I was saying “This is harassment” rather than arguing why. He gave a long involved account of an issue at work which I struggled to understand. Would it really save the employer time and effort, as he claimed? What would they say to such a claim? I felt my efforts and abilities were so meagre compared to the difficulty of the task.

There are personal relationship issues within the meeting which I cannot discuss here, and they weighed on my mind. It seems to me that in the succession of silent meetings we stew in our own woes and self-castigation, not hearing each other- though of course I may be projecting. I sit with people unable to hash things out. I see misunderstanding growing to hurt.

It seems to me I learn better to see things from another’s point of view. He’s wrong, but this is why he sees it this way. We explain he is wrong. Oops, is he abashed and hurt? What he says next shows he is not, but resentful and protesting he is right. Mmm. Maybe that is his way of dealing with it, maybe he will work it out later, or maybe he is incapable of empathy in this case. People are different. Empathy is difficult, unless you can make an analogy to your own experience.

No, I can’t resolve the issue- but I can possibly move it forward.

In Meeting, one ministers on gratitude, for family and worthwhile work among other things. I just feel my pain, shaking, twisting my body, clenching my teeth trying not to gasp. The pain’s intensity is surprising: my surprise and resistance make it manifest in movement. After, I stood and spoke, of the injustice I see in my friend’s “redundancy” dismissal, and my powerlessness: what I can do seems so little! Then I stand, uncertain- are there any more words?

and I feel a sense of love, blessing and acceptance from above.

I hope this was ministry for other people. It may have been just for me- and I need to know that pain! How else can I heal it?

After, I discuss the redundancy with an employer. “It’s very difficult to prove redundancy”, he says, and I observe that I always acted from the claimant’s point of view- it is very difficult to prove it is Unfair or discriminatory. They do need to save money, and why not on salaries- and why not on his? Then he makes useful suggestions- there are organisations which do pro bono work- as if I would not have thought of that. He explains why my friend’s face might not fit, and his manager find him threatening, which is interesting, but mainly it is useful when I am speaking. I lost that job because I got emotionally involved, I say, then start to squeak and gasp out the words. NOT because I felt with the claimant, who was having such a difficult time, but because

I should be able to accomplish more!

The rage against my powerlessness! I see it more clearly. I hold it in awareness, with less distraction. I am not suppressing it so much.

Doing benefit tribunals, the image came to me of facing a brick wall. Sometimes there was nothing I could do; but sometimes I would see a crack in it, and launch at the crack. Here is the same image in a song, which I found here:

This world is for the lovers and the fighters
The bold hearts and the dream-igniters
The bold hearts and the decolonizers
The bold hearts and dream igniters

You better believe there’s cracks in the cement,
Transphobia just came and went…

Speaking the Truth

I was in touch with my compassion.
I was in touch with my femininity.
I was in touch with my whole self.
I had never felt that way before.
It blew my mind.

That was February 1999, but this is now, speaking on the phone to Lucy:

I was in touch with my femininity, I said. I was in touch with my-

and the word in my head is “compassion” and I cannot say it. I was in touch with my-

it runs through my mind again. I pluck up the courage-

I was in touch with my compassion.

I am Abigail, and I am truthful. Andy Braunston observed in the 90s that I was very hard on myself, and I remain so. I could not say “compassion” because it is claiming a good quality and that is difficult.

And I had a vision of me as a small child asserting something to my implacable mother and being judged for it. My truth and value being rejected so that even now fifty years later I reject it myself, I cannot bring myself to utter it.

Yet I did utter it. It is getting easier. Especially, it is easier with her, I know she will affirm me.

I am Abigail. I am loving and truthful. I have the experience of gathering myself and saying something I know to be Truthful, with my integrity, with my whole being.

“I know you do,” she says. “I’ve seen you do it.”

Expressing myself female gave me permission to be myself with other people rather than attempt the male act. It freed me. I might now regret hormones and surgery, but I do not regret that.

 ♥♥♥

That conversation affected the whole week. I thought before, “The monster will get me”, and of granite statues judging me, and see more what that is. I was frightened of saying “my compassion”. I felt I would be judged for it. I had known that is not an adult assessment of what another individual is like, but a terrified child assessment of the whole world. When I make a claim like that, to compassion or some other good quality, I am a small child with my mother knowing she will deny it, even though I am 52 and she is dead.

I found myself able to talk of my compassion. I named it at Quaker Quest and in the Meeting for Worship the word “compassion” was woven through the ministry. I was in the same state of authenticity, speaking at Quest, and I named it- “I am there now”- though far less frightened, and less mind-blown. It is not familiar, exactly, but more known and trusted. I had thought a lot about what I would say and the stories I would tell, but in the end the words were given to me: “The truth will set you free”.

With H on Friday night, we discussed trans issues and were distanced, but the first glass of wine brought us together and I told her why I could not have spoken of my compassion, and now I could. I was crying again, I am so hurt by this. Awake early on Saturday morning, I phoned The Samaritans and told the man. I took a long time to pluck up the courage, once he had answered. The thought that it would sound ridiculous to him terrified me. After, I said “You heard how big a deal this is for me, didn’t you?” He assented.

This is a big deal for me.
I was in touch with my compassion. It is at the heart of me.
I will remember this, and claim my truth again.

Blind spots

Why would I not know who I was, what I felt or what I wanted? Because it was too threatening to know.

In my thirties I decided I needed to rebel against my parents, and started teenage. It is a stage of development people have to go through. I wanted to know who I was, and realised that there were blind spots, where I could not see myself properly. One problem with a blind spot is that you don’t know it’s there: you imagine you have a complete picture. I cared. Truth was important to me. I needed to know myself, because otherwise I was at war with myself.

You act according to your own character whether you understand it or not. I had been reading Carl Rogers, so knew of the organismic self and the self-concept: who you really are, and who you imagine you are. The imaginary self was who I thought I ought to be, quite different from the real self. I wrote,

It hurt so much and it’s stopped.
Who I am is who I ought to be.
I can be me. I can be free.

I was not there yet, but I was no longer so invested in the imaginary self, the self-concept. I knew it was untrue, and I wanted to unearth the real me. I worked out the lies I told myself, and the first was I lie to myself because I want to see myself as a good person. That might help me see behind the lie. But I carried on lying to myself, because I did not realise I was doing it.

I lie to myself because I am afraid. I fear my own anger and fear, so suppress them until they will be suppressed no more.

I lie to myself because I make no sense, and want to believe that I do.

I know what I want when I see what I do: this is “Shadow motivation”. The shadow, the part of yourself which is not wicked or bad but which you cannot admit to yourself and see as a monster, works to achieve its unconscious desires.

I have to talk about truth, for around six minutes. This is an attempt to work out what I might say.

Hedgehog

I saw the hedgehog, and was instantly delighted and affected with concern. Is it alright on our tarmac yard? I thought they were nocturnal- they are, primarily- is it confused? Should it be considering hibernating, and can I feed it? And, I want to get my camera.

Cheese is the best thing I have for it, according to this site. I could boil an egg, but that would take too long. I don’t want just to photograph it, as if it were mine to do with as I please. As I can give some recompense, that pleases me. I set to forced flash off, as I do not want to hurt its eyes, but there is a little weak sunshine.

This fellow-feeling, and wish to do it good, seems common. People like hedgehogs. You can even buy specialist hedgehog food. It went off to hide under the rain-cover of my neighbour’s motorbike.

Next day, it was still there. It was still squeaking, but not as loudly. I was worried for it. By the evening, it was lying on its side and I feared it was dead, but it twitched. On tarmac under a motorbike is clearly not a good place for a hedgehog.

O God, I hate being human sometimes. The thought of it dying there distressed me a great deal. What can I do for it? I boiled an egg and mashed it up, and put out some water. I phoned the local animal shelter. Yes, they take hedgehogs. I have just carried it there in an old washing up bowl. It curled up when I picked it up, but lay fairly unresponsively in the bowl, opening up and looking about a little but making no attempt to escape, which worried me. If it were alright, it would object to being carried. It is not tame, or bred to relate to humans, and would not know I meant it well. Having handed it over, I am concerned for it, but feel I have done something worthwhile.

I loved carrying it. I loved the beauty of its spines, and each time I caught sight of its snout my heart melted anew.

Recovery from burnout

Only achievers burn out.

I got that lying doctor sacked. Then I am on the balance of probabilities sure that the second one was lying, was certain of it at the time, and think any disinterested party would agree. The Benefits office and their medical services were not disinterested, wanting to assert that they did nothing wrong ever.

I went into the tribunal and accused the examining doctor of lying. The doctor on the tribunal laid into me. How dare I impugn the integrity of a professional man? So I went back to the waiting room, burst into tears, and soon after I stopped doing benefits tribunals. I took a demotion and went round people’s houses filling in attendance allowance claims.

I found that I would not give up until I am dangling on the end of a rope, and at the time I was proud of it. Rightly proud, that ability to push myself that hard is strong. Yet there is a flaw in it. It might be better to recognise that the work was tiring, and stop before I fell. I had done a reasonable amount of work. And having got the first doctor sacked, with set-back after set-back over months, I might have been better to realise that it was above my paygrade, not my job, and possibly too difficult.

I had to burn out before I gave up. I had to be reduced to tears and unable to go on before I would stop.

Then there was that dinghy sailing course on Cumbrae in my teens. There was a swell, we had to paddle the boat to the jetty, and I was paddling really hard. I feel the man paddling on the other side of the boat sensed I was frightened, and am still peeved, because I was not frightened of the boat capsizing but of not paddling as fast as he was. Possibly he was merely surprised at how hard I was paddling.

So how can I recover from this?

You are recovering, she says. You recover by exercising your intellect. You have ambitions. You don’t feel strong enough to fight or confront, you don’t feel resilient, but will become so. Have faith! You have this capacity for energy and enthusiasm, though not all the time. It shows in your face. Burnout only happens to achievers.

I did not know when to stop. Burnout was the only way I could protect myself. Just as when I went home from work to kill myself and then realised I did not want to die, just to get out of there immediately. If only I could take avoiding action before I got to that stage. I am worth preserving.

I was weeping on the phone with the Samaritans. I can be the Rational Man, suppressing feeling but Angry, and then if I accept the weeping and give myself to it I can be the Dancer.

-A petal or a razor blade, she says.
-There might be something in the middle.

-Why is fighting masculine? Is that indoctrination, that boys are strong, girls weak?

Something in the middle- a flower, not just a petal which falls to the ground.
-How about a whole garden?
A bush, I say, putting forth flowers, seeds and thorns.

I am away for the weekend soon, with HAI, then for a week with Quakers. All lovely, open people.

-I am glad part of you takes time to have fun.

There might be something in the middle. Either I am worthless or the centre of the universe. Either I work as hard as fighting for survival or I hide away and do nothing. I am fighting for survival, because there is the parental judgment, now internalised, if I do not work hard enough I am No Good, and that is a threat to my existence. And you can’t fight for survival all the time, especially if it is not real. I gave up because I could not work that hard all the time any more. These responses are unconscious, I just do it without consciously choosing, and I wonder how much good analysing them does.