Authenticity III

Is “living authentically” possible? What would it mean?

Quakers have the example of John Woolman. He refused to make money from slavery, made enough money to support himself, his wife and daughter living simply, and devoted the rest of his energies to his spiritual concerns, especially abolitionist campaigning. He changed from being a merchant to a tailor to have more free time for Quaker witness.

Some people say things they do not believe, and I am one of them. I am thinking particularly of shit-eating in the vain hope of maintaining a relationship at my brief stint of volunteering. In a job, or a relationship, I might say what I do not believe out of fear, believing myself constrained. It might be better to take steps to leave such a job or relationship, but the person might feel unable to. Then authenticity in the sense of being free to follow your principles, and choosing to do so, would be in part a matter of luck or privilege rather than morality. Trans females sometimes, like me, and the child XY, have a period of desperately trying to fit masculine stereotypes.

It might not be possible to be inauthentic. The whole human being, conscious and unconscious, all the cells of the body intimately interconnected and interdependent, does what it does. If it did something else it would be someone else. So the liar and bully Donald Trump’s actions show who he is. He is “authentic” as Woolman was, and the concept adds nothing.

To be unchangeably the same in different situations- at work, with children, relaxing- might be a sign of inflexibility rather than any virtue of “authenticity”. To approach every situation with patience, attention, curiosity, respect- loving and alive to possibility- well, I aspire to that. “Pray without ceasing” as Paul said. One might simply be too tired.

I have great gifts of intelligence and heart, and I feel they could do more in the world. That they do not is a source of shame and misery to me.

Do I do all that I might? If I imagine myself achieving things I do not now achieve, what prevents me? These are the possibilities:

  • a physical illness, though blood tests show none
  • depression I cannot just snap out of
  • Blindness to things others might see
  • I do all I can.

Sue, a wise person whom I trust, wrote, “Thanks as ever for your shining presence Abigail and for your profoundest of wisdoms, you so often touch me deeply and I am inspired by you.” I quote that because it delights me.

Here is a wonderful and wide-ranging interview with the psychotherapist Emmy van Deurzen. There’s lots of good stuff in it, but one thing grabbing my attention was her talking of people trapped in the darkness, the morass of life, paralysed with terror. In therapy, “that can take a very long time,” she said. Yeah, s’pose.

In a Quaker group on Thursday we discussed authenticity. I got upset and, weeping, described times when I have worked hard to achieve against a great deal of push-back, and then the push-back got too much and I gave up. Someone left. The organiser said “sometimes what [I] bring feels beyond the emotional scope of [her] ability to keep the space safe and welcoming for everyone”. Well, I get that. When someone expressed emotional pain that I could apparently make better by a bit of sympathetic listening, I felt good. When that emotional pain appeared to get worse, I blamed them.

On Friday, Sue led an hour of voice exercises involving projecting at high or low pitch, and then told us to remember times as children when we were wholly and unself-consciously ourselves. Losing yourself in play. Your best holiday ever. If school was good, what were your favourite parts? If it wasn’t, what was the best release from it? Times excited about something.

Then, pick out the characteristics in you that go with these memories.

I find myself in two places. I can name good characteristics which are in me: I wrote, “Adventurous. Loving. Strong willed, great-hearted. Warm. Playful. Passionate.” Sue loved “great-hearted”: “it is so deliciously you in how it resonates who you are”. And, I am in a painful memory.

My voice therapist suggested I do these voice exercises throughout the day, a few seconds at a time, just as Sue just has. So on the stairs in the office, I was my free female self, and then went back to my desk and had to be the professional man again. It was unbearable, and so I stopped the exercises.

So there is this deeply painful memory, and I wonder what is going on.
Am I triggered?
Am I indulging my negativity?
Have I choices in this?
Should I “honour the progress I have made”?

I go with the last, and say, evenly, that this bad memory has been brought up for me. Being born middle-aged, I have few memories when I was not self-conscious. And, I believe in those positive qualities I named. I say I am feeling triggered, and I have ways of taking care of myself.

Part of that was thinking of my second great born-again moment. I saw the psychiatrist about transitioning, in June 2001. I had various intellectual arguments why I was Really Transsexual, and he dismissed all of them. My safe space, intellectual argument, was stripped away from me, and it was one of the most intensely painful experiences I have ever had. I was awake weeping in the night, unable to go to work in the morning, and I went round to a friend to weep and be comforted. What I had left was how I felt and what I wanted, and my childhood training was to deny and distrust that.

Warm. Playful. Passionate. All bad qualities which I must never give any hint of possessing. My damage is an inextricable part of me, and people will disentangle nature and nurture just as soon as we work out how to unbake a cake and remove the eggs from it. But I am healing.

I am writing this on Saturday. It has taken hours, and involved some abandoned weeping. It is part of my healing process.

Recovering from that training is taking all my gifts and all my energy. Arguably I am trapped in the dark morass, paralysed with terror, and it is hard to bear how slowly I am recovering. Am I “authentic”? I don’t find the concept useful. I am me, and that is good.

Somatic feelings

You know that feeling when you’re about to be sacked, and your neck and upper back get tense. If you haven’t felt it, you’ve read about it. That’s the place where, if you were stabbed in the back, the knife would go in. I’ve felt it for decades. I felt it when the LSC was auditing, especially when they brought out their shiny new blacklist: if you lost your job because your employer lost funding, you couldn’t get a job elsewhere. I’ve felt it when the funding year ended, 31 March, and on 7 April they still hadn’t made a decision on the new funding year. And I feel it now. I’ve always hated that feeling.

And, when counsellors, shamans, personal growth workshop leaders and the like say, where is the feeling in your body? Do you feel a change in your heart, do you feel your heart contract or expand? That has always been meaningless to me. I feel feelings but I don’t feel feelings in a place in the body.

Then I thought, but I do. I feel that.

I still don’t like it. It is a pain, tension, an unpleasant feeling. I wish it would go away.

Perhaps it would go away if I listened to it. I paid it full attention, said to it Yes, I hear you, it would be satisfied and go away.

There have been two moments when it has got stronger recently. I will go to the Hoffman zoom, and thought of my Hoffman name, “Worthless”. It was what I learned I was, in early childhood. I only have value for what I can achieve, and must never claim any difficulty in achieving it. It is never enough. And when I thought, “Worthless”, the tension in my upper back exacerbated.

Ah. I am under threat. That is part of it.

So I still thought it would go away. It tells me of threat. I know of threat. “Well done, good and faithful servant”- now, go away, I have got the message.

Like a toddler, my feelings need attention, and shout louder if they feel they are not getting it.

The feeling is still there.

Wasting time reading old blogs, I read, Yin receives, notices what is, including what is inside me, what I feel. And the tension exacerbates again.

Saying “Go away” to it is saying “I don’t want to think about you right now”. Well, I am under threat. It is unspecific, miasmic. If something bad happens suddenly, I might think, ah, my feelings foretold that, but, well, something bad could happen.

I don’t think I can defend against external threats, just deal with them if they materialise.

If the feeling needs to get stronger when I am in avoidance activity rather than open to the world and to experience, it needs to be strong nearly all the time.

I don’t think it’s enough to think- part of me thinks- these are inadequate ways of expressing it, and I think and do not believe that this is a test, if I feel that tension properly I will feel other feelings “somewhere in my body” too, and be more open to my own experience. It’s not a test, it is a learning.

I still want the feeling to go away. I don’t think it can teach me something. Except when I thought, “Worthless”, it did. That is part of the threat. In worship, I practice affirmations. “I am enough. I am loving. I am gentle.”

Being a good person does not magically make you safe. Bad things happen to good people. The tension might be visible, like a “kick me” sign on my back. And, the feeling communicates to my consciousness something I need in my awareness.

My experience is greater than my consciousness.

“Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.”

Manifesting joy

My essence is joy, and my calling is to manifest joy in the world, and communicate it.

That was my revelation at a Zoom group, where we share deeply. I am on four such groups, and it is the great blessing of 2020 for me. On Tuesday 22d, the question was, “What is your testimony?” “Let your life speak,” say British Quakers. What value or purpose has my life? My work, at the moment, is self-discovery, and I talked of phoning seven Samaritans. I took twenty minutes, saying things I could not have said last year, and my voice did not shake. When God is with us, I say things which surprise me, and I ended saying something like, “God’s leading for me is to bring more joy into the world &… I’m working on it”. It touched a Friend’s heart, and she wanted to know exactly what I had said.

On Wednesday, I felt and communicated darkness. There was the long drawn out teasing around whether there would be an EU-UK trade agreement. There were chaotic queues of lorries in Kent, with the ports barred because of the new, more infectious Covid variant, and the supermarkets were airfreighting fresh veg. There was Liz Truss’s scheme to inflame prejudice against trans people. Possibly I was most affected by the darkness of the day, with constant rain. At Pendle Hill worship I asked prayers for England under these threats, and expressed my misery.

I shared there, and was consoled that it is not personal, but it feels personal. Truss incites attacks on trans people, and the Tory damage from Brexit and their incompetent response to covid may affect me personally. A woman who worships there sent me a Christmas present of cash, saying “We wanted you to know that you are loved”. That warmed me.

Manifesting joy does not mean suppressing uncomfortable feelings. I think it means accepting the hard feelings, processing and digesting them, and the news at the start of this week was hard to stomach. I am doing my best against the causes of my fear, and still have reason to fear. Dealing with the uncomfortable feelings is something about unflinching truthfulness, facing the darkness and death, always acknowledging the light and life. The full range of blessing and horror in the world, and the breadth of my reactions to it, are hard to hold all at once. I am working on it. I will die, and always there will be light and love, and when all is gone it will be beautiful because it will have been. Dante went through Hell to get to Heaven.

“Underneath it all, you are a joyful, playful child.” That compliment speaks to me, raises deep echoes in me. There is joy and playfulness at the heart of my nature, and I want it to shine through, because it will bless others. It is my vocation. The work, now, is unpicking my history and internal conflicts. More and more the truth of my joy will shine, and the darkness will not overcome it. I said communicating joy was my vocation, on Jamie’s Lovely Gathering, and someone said “You definitely did that!”

One thinks of a vocation as the basis of a career, and I do not see how that could be, now. So where this “vocation” might lead me is unclear. Yet I am certain of it, and I will work on it. I think of the infectious giggles of the Dalai Lama or Desmond Tutu, and see joy can be spiritual. With Quakers on Sunday 27th I repeated to myself, “My calling is to manifest and communicate joy,” and it felt like acceptance and recognition, solidifying as I worshipped.

Honesty

I introduced myself in a 12 step programme way. My name is Clare, and I am-

The purpose is to strip back the ego. It may affect what others think of me, but for me, what I think of me is far more important. Of course, that’s just weird and wrong to me, like everything else about me is, but this is the sense of it. Keeping my expressed emotion on an even keel is important to me because that stops others noticing me. I don’t want to be seen. This is an inherited trait.

I don’t want people to think of me at all. If they do, that’s a fail. So, suppressing my feeling is success. So, what I think and feel about myself is far more important to me than what others do.

And, I am angry about this. Anger is my underlying, everlasting emotion. And, taking oestrogen and especially progesterone made my emotions more volatile. It all makes keeping emotions level difficult, and I am paralysed with the effort.

At the Pendle Hill worship sharing on nonviolence on Wednesday 2d, I said my difficulty is my sense of my own worthlessness. Ruth, a spiritual director, had not realised that self-rejection, violence to self, is a root of violence directed at others. Self-love is the foundation of nonviolence. She proposed this mantra:

I love myself unconditionally
I forgive myself unconditionally
I feel myself loving myself unconditionally
I feel myself forgiving myself unconditionally

My self-improvement side thought I should practise listening. Attempting that, I wrote,

The more I see of each of us, the richer my experience is.
The more of each that can be present, the more powerful we are.

Then there was the Friday group where A invited me, then said everyone should introduce themselves. He is A, who has a life which seems in that moment to me to be so much better than my own. So I went all twelve-step. I have chosen this life. My voice barely shook as I said it. That was the end of the introductions.

This is for my good. The working theory is that it suppresses the ego and puts me more in direct contact with reality.

Ministry at Pendle Hill seemed important. I wrote,

Is it possible to be a self- undefined and unaffected by others? No.
Could there be a boundary I could make, around those parts which will maim me to be redefined?

People said,

Trouble means that you are alive
To live with hope is to live on the divine bank account
Living with winter and summer, sickness and health- the meaning is in accepting it all

I could barely hear a woman, and heard her as saying, in a baleful way,

… You think that you folks in the north with all of your wealth are somehow protected from human pain?

But others had difficulty hearing, and someone explained that as people in poor countries thinking we in the North are protected.

Then there was this Atlantic article, on measuring α by adding a single photon, with a laser, to caesium or rubidium atoms to put them in a state of quantum superposition, and measuring their velocity. This involves calculating gravity at the precise point where the experiment takes place, to eleven or more significant figures, and may confirm or refute the Standard Model of elementary particles. I find this amazing and beautiful, but the comment of Saïda Guellati-Khélifa, leader of the team in Paris doing the work, struck me most: “You have to be rigorous, passionate, and honest with yourself”.

On Sunday 6th I cycled to Aldi. As the shadow moved, putting the grass in sunlight, the frost on it began to turn, but was pure white in the shade. I have been thinking of that Anna Akhmatova poem. Why then do we not despair? Because I have not been paying enough attention? I read the Observer editorial on Keira Bell, a harsh anti-trans polemic, which hurt and frightened me.

With these stimuli, I looked at my Friends’ zoom-faces. The intense concentration on some, cogitating, putting the pieces together. The beautiful loving smile of another. I feel my pain, give thanks for the beauty of my Friends, and of the world- and feel intense joy. I would like the joy to leak out and infect others. I would like to minister on this, but it seems for me alone at the moment.

That joy and darkness- to contain it all at once! I want my dishonesty to make me feel better about myself and fool others, but it doesn’t, not really. Through me the gale of life blows high, so- let it fill my sails!

---

On Tuesday 8th, I had a fight with my inner persecutor, which denies anything good about me. Imagine me, if you will, curled into the foetal position, weeping, shaking, and fighting to gasp out a few words.

The words were, “I am passionate about injustice, and I fight it to the end when I see how I can”.

The persecutor does not like me saying anything good about myself, and demands evidence. I have evidence. I come away having won the ability to say that for myself. I was sort-of aware of it before, but not really able to say it, bewitched by the persecutor’s doubts. This is a win. I came out delighted, in an emotionally labile state, again wanting my joy to burst out of me and infect everyone and fearful they might object to my vehemence or even [gasp!] not understand. It did, a bit, in M’s zoom group. Some caught it, and liked it.

Here are some more good words and true: “I love at least some of my enemies.”

I was also wrestling with what it would mean to find the light within. It is, to be a whole and integrated human being, and the bits missing will be different in each case. I am aware of the inner driver, that part of me that wants me to work hard at self-improvement, and the inner protector, that protects me from the worst of the driver’s goads. I am not really aware of what I want, other than wanting desperately to be safe, and feeling so unsafe that this manifests in wanting not to be seen, not to be noticed by other people (in the most attention-seeking way. I’m confused too.)

Knowing “What one wants” is clearly not the problem for, say, Donald Trump. The part of ourselves we do not know will be different in each case. For many people, it will be multiple suppressed parts of their personality. The Light, union with Christ in God, God in us, is the part we do not know.

Let your God love all of you

Let your God love you means Let your God love all of you. I am ready.

I wrote, Anxiety is congealed fear. Sorrow is congealed sadness. Resentment is congealed anger. Underneath them is failure, repeated and complete, and self-blame. These are hard things to love. How can I love the daggers that I turn on myself? By understanding them. By slow, patient work. By allowing myself to be conscious of the hurt.

There are tempting views. This is not failure, but success: the life-journey which has brought me to the point of self-acceptance or self-love, which involves stripping away the denial of my nature that was my real problem. Or that Love makes me better able to achieve the goals my ego set: God’s love is that ego’s power, bringing it to the ego’s concept of success.

The failure is failure. I failed because I sought introjected goals, ego goals, not the goals of my true self, which I fled in terror, which set up a war within me. I must see the failure. I let God love me, and the love warms me, allows me to accept myself. Then I must love the world, because that is the only way to see the world clearly. Too often I hate the World, and resist it- ineffectually, as it just rolls over me.

Let your God love you, and here am I talking of what I will do to deserve it or make it real, or achieve-

There is only Love. Only Love has meaning. God’s love, my love- love for the whole world, all of it, and judging it as bad is meaningless. Judge not. God’s love for me, all of me, including the bits I judge.

Only love is real.

Love and healing are processes. We move on, not back.

Fear, sadness, and anger congeal because I denied them. I made myself small, by hiding parts of myself- this is the concept of the shadow. They were too frightening to be acknowledged. God’s love helps me process the anger.

As I write during worship, one speaks in Ministry. “Know, Friends, know that a million people are praying for you today.” She means it literally- on a prayer schedule, she prayed for “those who worship over the internet”. Mine is a lonely struggle, and there are others I can speak with, who help me.

And one whom I respect shared her songs:

The Elements of Love

The water of love will ease us through our grieving
The rock of love will hold us fast as we let fear go
The fire of love will purify our anger
And we will breathe the air of love
As we sing new songs of joy and we lead new lives of peace.
We will sing new songs of joy. We will lead new lives of peace.

If I only could open up my hands, feel these heavy stones and let them go.
If I only would open up my heart the the rose within would start to grow.
Now I find that I can open up my mouth and a fountain of song begins to flow.
Oh please help me to open all my self and let the breath of your love within me blow.
Now I find I can open up my hands, I feel the touch of your hands and now I know,
that I truly can open all my life and will go any way you bid me go.

I am on the path.

James Baldwin wrote in 1963, “Now if I were a teacher in this school, or any Negro school, and I was dealing with Negro children, I would try to teach them- I would try to make them know- that those streets, those houses, those dangers, those agonies by which they are surrounded, are criminal.” It is clear in his case, though many then would deny it; and some now would concede it in 1963 but deny it now. I have the feeling that my being crushed, and my mother’s before me, and hers before her, is also criminal, though fear I could never persuade anyone of that. So I resent. These are hard things to swallow, to love the resentment and the crushing. So I do the work with God’s help, offering up parts of myself I can hardly bear to look upon, to be Loved.

Let your God love you

The phrase “Let your God love you” continues to reverberate in me, for my healing and the world’s good. It is my mantra for the week: I pause, say it, and savour it, seeing how it might help. “Let your God love you.”

I noticed how I resisted it, and now I seek to let it in.

So yesterday I cycled thirteen miles, and I considered doing the same today. The sun was out, the wind was light, it may be the best day for it until March, and I did not. I thought of cycling yesterday, of the inner conflict of the slave driver and the self-protector, and thought, it would not be so hard if I did not need to get it absolutely right all the time, without [so much] effort. The perfectionist is the problem.

Let your God love you.

I have noticed the perfectionist in me, and seen it as the problem, and much of the time it is unconscious so that I do what I do in desperate misery until I stop doing anything to avoid that hurt. I am depressed today, lacking energy, seeing things bleakly. I notice the perfectionism, judge it, hate it.

Let your God love you. That means all of you. That means my perfectionism, everything that appears to be a stumbling block within me. Look at it with the eyes of love. It tries to protect me, to keep me safe. Where did it come from, how did it become like this?

Let your God love you, means, when I notice a part of myself which I deprecate, or which I rarely notice, I should look at it with the eyes of love- with no judgment, accepting it, caring for it, seeking its good. That love might make it less desperate, less hurt, make it relax a bit, make it happier, make it more positive for me.

I feel tense. I rarely relax.

I spoke on this at Jamie’s gathering, several times repeating “Let your God love you” because that is the thing to remember, that is what I must remember, the Love is there, I just need to permit it to flow. When it flows it warms and heals me. Let your God love you. Let the love in. It is what I want you to remember too, if you remember nothing else from this post. Let your God love you. It gets easier. Let your God love you. Let the love flow.

I did something good this morning. I connected to people. I shared a healing message, which warmed people, and did them good, and that makes me happy. I hunger for such experiences. I treasure their responses:

-Hairs up on the back of my neck!
-so wise, thank you for that gift ❤️🤗❤️
-Listening to you has let me hear something in myself amongst chaos.
-Just breathtaking!

It is in all of us. It is strong and healing.

I helped people by sharing. I hunger for such experiences. I want to spread Love. I consider this desire, which I might have judged as giving me trouble- Let your God love you, including the desire. I got what I wanted- it makes me happy- savour the happiness. That was a lovely experience.

Let your God love you.

Would I cycle this afternoon? It turned out I did not, though the day was so lovely. I am looking at the wafer-thin lead in Georgia. With a four million vote lead nationwide, it is repugnant that that one thousand vote lead in Georgia should matter so much. This matters to all the world- as Trump damages the world, our environment, our economy, our decency. I am glad to spend time in worship with Pendle Hill. The possibility of a better presidency becomes clearer, and this is a threshold moment, especially as there remains some doubt. A Trump win would indeed make this “lib” cry. I would be spectacularly Owned. This is a thing I care passionately about and cannot affect, and ministry was about God’s love. I feel the meeting needed reminded of it. Yesterday I joined a small group of Quakers discussing the liminal. And I feel in a liminal state myself. I have been penetrated by

❤️🤗❤️ Let your God love you ❤️🤗❤️

and it works its healing within me. May it heal you too.

Honour. Value.

What do you love? What do you find beautiful? What should be valued? What is worthy of honour and respect? What is winsome and appealing? All these are feeling questions, which can give life meaning. Working things out rationally never will. Rationality is for finding how to achieve what you want, not to decide what you want.

Be broken to be whole.
Twist to be straight.
Be empty to be full.
Wear out to be renewed.

That’s where I am at the moment, after my psychotherapy sessions, clinging to hope from the Le Guin version Tao Te Ching, because I just feel broken. “Wise souls hold to the one, and test all things against it.” I am not sure about the bit in between- “Have little and gain much. Have much and get confused.” I choose to interpret it, have a complete understanding of the world based on ego, and get confused. Lose the ego-understanding and gain the Real Self understanding.

Hold to the one, and it seems the one is frightened too. There’s no escaping fear.

I considered seeking further funding, but did not. This is in part rational- what can I do to seek funding? But the decision not to is still a matter of feeling. One rationalises. I approached your question of how we would say goodbye in a rational way. I thought I would have no problems in saying goodbye to a professional who had, done a conveyancing on a house or even who had won a discrimination case in the ET and then I thought of what I called transference calling you Mum.

The word “rational” should be used for thinking which is emotional, based on desire, and then considering how wants might be achieved with clear-eyed seeing the world as it is. “Rational” includes “emotional”.

I am alexithymic: I have a reduced “ability to identify and describe emotions experienced by onesself or others.” I was maimed. Perhaps as a toddler, but I believe it was before I could walk: I felt anger or fear, showed it, suffered for it, so suppressing anger and fear became the most important thing in the world for me, and even now, my primary fear- fear of a real thing in the world- is far less a problem than the secondary fear, my fear of my own fear, fear of admitting it to myself, fear of its existence, so that I must suppress what I cannot suppress and become paralysed.

What is “broken” is the protected ego, the part that believes I do not fear, because it is the block to my fear flowing freely, like a clogged artery. When that ego is broken, I may become whole, I hope.

I feel I have done the work between the sessions, and over the past few months I have grown better at recognising feelings. On internal conflict, when I acknowledge the part opposing what the ego wants to do, when I see it as feeling and reason and not mere resistance, inadequacy, or Lack- lack of motivation, energy, gumption- making choices and taking action become easier.

Those feelings in me, sometimes perceived as mere resistance, or sulk, are worthy of honour and respect.

I am capable of sustained effort sometimes. That NEC post was effort. And I could only go to work in a fight or flight mode, I must do this to survive, that I could never sustain. I don’t want to get out of bed in the morning, and that is not mere laziness, but fear. Omniphobia. The lesson learned that what I want I cannot get. Though as the main thing I want is not to feel fear that lesson may be based on the wrong experiences.

The route through is “be broken to be whole”. Take the simplest decision or action out of fast thinking and bring it into slow thinking, use the necessary respect and care to discern what are the reasons not to, which would otherwise seem mere lack, and thereby find some elusive positive desire.

It’s the last line of King Lear. “What I ought to say” has become so vile to me that I cannot say it.

How do I see the next few months? Well, there will be hours when I just switch off, reading but not taking in political articles and their miasma of Acceptable Feelings, or slumped in front of the telly. I can read- “A Song of Ice and Fire” which has a very narrow range and a lot of fear and anger, or “Stalingrad” which has all human emotion, including Love, but takes more concentration. Human kind cannot bear very much reality. And there will be the Silence, the fixed times of worship with Pendle Hill, Woodbrooke or Friends House, when it is me and God.

I want the Breakthrough to Authenticity, and there will be slow patient work climbing a hill, or like an archaeologist removing five feet of packed earth painstakingly, with a brush, to get to the beautiful mosaic- or the bones- underneath.

And there is desire. There is florid way-out showman me, whom I fear. That came out in ministry to Quakers.

My goal is to move into the feeling self where motivation lies. Possibly to find a middle level of suppression where I am aware of it and others are not, which comes if I accept it. If I do not accept it, others are aware and I am not. Keep practising, like learning to ride a bicycle. Breaking through the shell will be a series of continual setbacks.

She told me not to, and I recorded her. “The journey goes on, I hope it comes to your expectation of where you are in five years, you will be in a place you have never anticipated, a better place, it’s good to be, you have used the word honouring a lot today, I feel you have been honouring yourself in your work over the past few weeks, being able to go into those places and with immense courage being able to honour that you aren’t shutting them down, you are acknowledging that they are there, it takes a lot of courage, being yourself.”

“Lovely to get to know you, I appreciate how hard you’ve worked, and how difficult some of that has been, and I really enjoyed meeting that authentic you, being able to be who you are, nobody else, it’s been a real gift. I hope you can- if not love yourself in the right way but learn to accept yourself? I was really pleased that that inner conflict shifting and changing, I hope that continues.”

Imagine Mum saying that.

-Have you any final words?

The human being tends towards health. We are evolved to recover from wounds.

Two days later, Thursday 22nd, I was reminded that people respect and care for me, and felt get-up-and-dance joy.

Accepting the unruly self

Writing here, I only need persuade myself. Others get something from it: if a post has 27,000 views it appeals to people, but I can write a post if I like that might just get thirty, to clarify something for myself. And, I want to explain this to people, because I think it valuable. I tried, and met resistance, because it is counter-intuitive. So now I try again:

Moderately depressed, I can stay in bed until midday, and I have done so, periodically thinking, I ought to get up. I have to do X. X might be going to the supermarket, or doing some housework. I have to get up! I think to myself, panicking a bit, berating myself, then I go back to scrolling facebook. Then at midday I think, oh well, I am not going to do that today, I’ll spend the afternoon with the telly. And I do. This is not a way to endear myself to human society.

Mindful presence is part of it. Put down the laptop, it is just a distraction. I want dopamine, but facebook is a bad way of getting it. Put down the laptop, and I am alone with my thoughts and feelings, that shame, misery and desperation that I will not just GET UP! and do what I have to do. These are not pleasant feelings to face. Yet there are other feelings, not just about my inaction but about the desired action itself.

For a time in the Summer when I found this, I simply needed to acknowledge that I do not want to get up! And that, for me, was enough to get me up. There was some desire, some motivation, to get up and do the thing. Acknowledging the feelings stopping me, valuing and accepting that part of my inner conflict, was enough to make those feelings less insistent. “I do not want to get up!” I would say to myself, joyfully, and get up. The feelings affect me whether I am conscious of them or not, to the extent that I find consciousness overrated. I am not, primarily, a conscious being but an animal being. Somewhere else I have seen the simile consciousness is like a mahout on an elephant, and it’s not entirely clear whether the reins the mahout holds actually do anything.

Now I find I might make a better decision if I ask what, precisely, am I feeling about the X that I “ought” to do. That is, fully and completely acknowledging why I do not want to do it, or at any rate do not want to do it now. Unacknowledged, the feelings are too strong for me, demanding to be heard. Acknowledging them pacifies them. Therefore the counterintuitive suggestion, ask yourself all the reasons why you don’t want to go, what you feel and why you might feel like that, begins to make sense.

Now, I have no idea whether this is a common idea, which community psychiatric nurses routinely suggest to their patients, a more out there idea which has been the subject of an obscure TEDx talk, or completely original. That I have not heard of it is little evidence. Had I a name for it I might google it, but someone might have a different name. A name helps to get an idea accepted. It’s something like radical self-acceptance in the moment. I’ve just come up with the title for this post, thinking as I write, but there may be a better term for the technique. It’s a way of allowing feelings about the medium or long term take precedence. Feelings about Right Now are more insistent, and if I do not know what they are I have no tools for making decisions beyond the present moment. My post title says what I do, but a name expressing pithily what that achieves might be worthwhile.

I bring together the committee of the self, including the bits I don’t like, so they can decide together what to do.

I suggested this to someone, and she dismissed it out of hand, without even the need to explain why it was so wrong because that was obvious. Why would you think about why you don’t want to do something? That only makes you less likely to do it! Well, because those reasons or feelings are in fact stopping you from taking action, and examining them might help you address them. That the idea is hard to explain might show that it is less widespread.

Sixteen years ago a counsellor told me that “ought” is very poor motivation to do something. That is part of this idea.

Omniphobia

Why should good news make me miserable?

It’s excellent news. It means I am safe, for now; but not that I am safe permanently, which is an impossibility. If I want to be safe forever, I will be forever disappointed, and that is why I am miserable. So I step outside that, see it is not rational, ask what I can do about it.

Cognitive behavioural ideas would have me tell myself, rationally, that I am safe for two months, and even can be comfortable. It’s a rolling two months, as far as I can see: something bad might happen, but I would be more or less ok for a bit after that. I am still not cheered up. I noted in the nineties that I did not care much beyond two months, so the question “Where do you see yourself in five years’ time” bamboozled me, but it does not make me happy now.

Then I delve into desire and possibility. The idea of permanent safety might have come from childhood. Or, it is my need for complete control. That, my perfectionism, and the fear, are the unholy trinity which has made me retreat into my flat. It really is Omniphobia, fear of everything. CBT would answer the perfectionism too, it’s black and white thinking, finding things black, dreadful, because they are not Good, and impossibly good. Nothing bad can happen to me when I am dead, I think, grimly, and before then there are continual surprises.

The good news really made me miserable. It plunged me into sorrow and pain. The emotional burden is very deep, and does not simply disappear when I consider the concept of black and white thinking.

Staying in my house and not going out because of fear is a sign of sickness. I deal with it in two ways, both sick. One is to castigate myself for being so weak and useless, which worked at one time and not now. Now, it just makes me feel even less motivation to go out. It is as if I am in a sulk, but one usually sulks to have an effect on someone else, and I sulk to disempower my own inner nag, or gaslighter.

The other is to suppress my feeling below consciousness. It is normally a weight, making action difficult, rather than a hideous sensation making me want to curl up in a ball. So, bringing it into consciousness might help me process it.

One thing I do, is analyse like this. I have Omniphobia. It paralyses me. I have a huge burden of sadness. I have a trauma response, where I cannot attain the control I would need to feel safe enough, because I crave complete control. So the good news making me miserable, which is counterintuitive, is a good thing, because it helps me analyse, brings the sadness to consciousness where I might process it, and may move me along.

The Quaker concept of the inner light and my idea of the Real Me- and my understanding of psychological research is that there is no unchanging core to any human being, and our statements of that core change with time. That is, I am confused about this. But my sense is that it is my inner light, or Real Me, that sulks, that is traumatised, that says No because the gaslighter is whipping it too hard, and that if “I”- the organism, of which consciousness is only a part, which somehow contains an Inner Light, the Gaslighter, and also something that can untwist and liberate or assess and mediate-

no, too confused entirely-

I believe health is possible. Consider this evergreen, which was nearly strangled by creepers, and which is deformed, with bare arms where further branches and needles should be; yet now I pull away the creepers regularly, it is growing back.

I am deformed. I grew round the restrictions, in order to survive, and they twisted me. Revirescabo.