Chaos, emptiness, community

Hello! If you’re here looking for evidence against me, you will find it; but please read to the end.

When I heard people’s woes, and felt I was doing them some good, sometimes they would get some relief. Even being listened to and respected, not treated as a fool, is a good feeling. Someone did that for me once, releasing years of resentment with one sympathetic phrase. Yet sometimes they would just get more and more angry, and it seemed they were a bottomless pit of resentment or anger. However much I earthed, there was always more. Always I had to let go of the pain after the encounter. I did this quickly, a conscious letting go, remembering I was doing some good by listening as well as professionally. Perhaps it helped that I was not close to any of them.

In June, I feared that my benefits would stop, and with the energy and motivation I felt I did not feel I could look after myself. I am alone. That was terrifying. I had just had another reason- these reasons can appear to be “mistakes” when I am less depressed but real, cogent reasons when I am more depressed- to doubt my abilities. Norethisterone did not help. I don’t like to think I am one of those bottomless pits, I have some basic trust in the world and in myself, but I do get close to it sometimes.

I did something you objected to, you did something I objected to, and in mid November we finally got round to discussing it. It’s like a dysfunctional family. The Quaker meeting are closer to me than my blood relatives, the nearest thing I have to a family.  Rather than both regretting the other’s hurt, as I do and I think you do, we affirmed our own, making the breach worse than it was to start with.

In Scott Peck’s model of group work, which he called “Community building”, we move between four stages. The first is Pseudo-community, where we make small talk. Then Chaos, when we tell each other what we think, confrontationally. You statements can be particularly liberating, as in “You never listen” and “It’s all your fault”. Possibly, Joan Didion’s overheard “You are driving me to murder” goes too far.  That can lead to Emptiness, when we let go of impossible expectations of ourselves, others and the World, and finally Community, where we delight in each other’s beauty. Ideally the Quaker meeting should cycle between Emptiness and Community, but because we are frightened of conflict and don’t do Chaos sometimes we get stuck in Pseudo-community, with the conflict beneath the surface, festering.

“Chaos” is close to “Storming” in “Storming Norming Performing” but Peck objected to Norming, calling it Organisation, a way of making rules so that the chaos would not bite us. That prevents true emptiness or community.

I would not say I am sorry to attempt to avoid bad consequences for myself. The idea disgusts me. But I am sorry you were hurt, and sorry that there is distance between us. I find you a beautiful person, I want you well and happy, and I would like trust between us.

I feel for every Quaker there is a tension between being the person who is vulnerable and cared for and the person who is doing the caring. All of us are both. In families, parents and children can have conflict as the child becomes the one caring, who then perforce has the authority in the relationship. With Quakers, there is no such defining moment. In the silence of meeting we are all vulnerable. We are all wise and strong. In other human relationships we tend either to be the one being cared for or the adult, caring. Or adult and adult, free.

If there is a way of communicating care for each other, we will come together. If there is a way only of communicating blame, we will move further apart. Where I still suffer consequences, I find it harder not to blame.

Tina observes that I sound joky, then nearly tearful. I am childlike, wanting unconditionality. It is as close as I get to family, and I want unconditional love.

Blogging, I am pushing a boundary, after it had been tested and clearly specified. No blogging. I think of watching an aunt and young child at Buddhafield, clarifying a boundary. We had the idea in Community Building of “sticky chaos”, where the problem just lasts, and chaos which clears the air.

“That’s black and white again,” she says.

A Friend wrote on facebook that “Acceptance is not resignation”. Acceptance of a situation includes seeing beauty in it. I have no mask. I have no sword. I love you.

She refers me to Carl Rogers’ paper on Reality. I go to read it. He says everyone has a different perception of reality. Well, duh. But then he says, if we explore open-mindedly the many different perceptions that exist we would enrich our lives and be better able to cope with reality. Full acceptance of everyone’s separate view would lead to commitment to each other as rightfully separate: “I prize you because you are different from me”. That can be scary, though.

Joy in Compassion

It was never my job to be a counsellor, but I did it anyway.

People came to me at my office, seeking help with concrete problems, and my job was to advise on that. They had been found not entitled to benefits, mostly incapacity benefit and disability living allowance (now both abolished, and replaced with other benefits which are far harder to get and so not paid to those incapable of work, or disabled, who would have got IB or DLA).

And they came with the emotional fallout of that. They had physical difficulties, to which they had often not adjusted, so that a man after a heart attack would say that sitting down he felt fine, and so would go to get up as he would have before, and be breathless with chest pain before he was standing. Their physical health problems distressed them, and then the benefits office did not believe them, and their income was disrupted, producing uncertainty and further distress.

It seemed to me that while I made them feel better by proposing a course of action and offering help with it, I also relieved distress simply by listening, and accepting what they had to say. I felt I could earth their distress, which passed through me and out into the void. I could leave their problems behind: I rarely felt bad about them for long, though sometimes I had consciously to let go of a particular issue.

I did a course in person-centred counselling, and learned the theory of Carl Rogers. To him, counsellors benefit clients by showing congruence, that is, being themselves; empathy, showing that they understand the feelings communicated; and unconditional positive regard- perhaps better called Love. Acceptance without judgment allows the person to know and accept themself. Seeing person-centred counsellors, I found this worked for me: I unpacked and discovered truth about myself, enabled to recognise and accept it by the acceptance and empathy of my counsellor.

The thought that I was benefiting people in this way warmed me. Seeing myself as worthless, I valued myself for what I could achieve, and this was a big part of that.

Later, the funders decided we should work more efficiently, and strictly limited the time we could spend on each case. Of course- they want the best result for their money, and my expertise was legal not emotional- and yet often the clients seemed to want acceptance, and would not answer my questions on relevant facts according to the rules before they had felt their distress was heard.

I exercised empathy. I felt, alongside another human being. This reduced their distress, and gave me a sense of self-worth.

Rossetti, The BridePart of 1000 voices speak for compassion.

Pearl of great worth

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/15/Portrait_de_Caterina_Sagredo_Barbarigo_par_Rosalba_Carriera.jpgJanet was a pioneer of caring for dementia patients without sedation. Well, you would not want sedated, yourself.

Was it a carer I met, or on the telly? She told of a man who regularly wet himself, and given that he had been moved to a care home and been unable to learn where the toilets were, she could sympathise with him doing this, and his distress.

I met a woman who wept bitterly as she told me of her inability to care for her mother, her mother’s random and damaging acts, how her mother could get up in the night and wander off. Now I read of a man who talks to his wife in his love for her as she keeps up a wordless muttering, then, still holding her hand, talks to another as if she were not there. So relatives can mourn for a loved one even as the body survives; at the funeral they are not sad as they have done their mourning; yet they care for that living body as if it were still the loved one.

Janet believes in a “Pearl” at the centre of the human being, which is utterly Them. Peeling the onion, one peels off more and more layers but at the centre is a tiny part which can no longer be peeled. Julian Baggini, whose book The Ego Trick I got from Terry, says that modern theorists give no credence to this pearl idea- the self has no fixed essence, it is in part a construction and the autobiographical narratives we tell ourselves invent an order and cohesion that real lives lack, p.83. Though on meeting friends from undergraduate days he finds them fitting together as they had twenty years ago, the same mannerisms coming out; and writes of threads of memory connecting the child, the man, the old man.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/be/CdM%2C_intaglio_di_giulia%2C_figlia_di_tito%2C_seconda_met%C3%A0_del_I_secolo_dc.%2C_acquamarina_firmata_da_Evodos%2C_montatura_carolingia_%28IX_sec.%29_con_9_zaffiri_e_6_perle.JPG/470px-thumbnail.jpgI remember as an undergraduate arguing passionately that a gay man- with a partner, forsooth!- should not be serving at the altar of the Episcopal cathedral; and that it is not choice but responsibility to the child growing in her womb that the mother should think of. These arguments I find despicable now, but if you think no decent person could ever have thought that, well, walk a mile in my shoes. One is flat, the other high-heeled.

My morality may change from conservative to liberal (proving I have no heart and no head) but I see characteristics in my nephew as a baby, child and young adult which look consistent. And I think of my Femaleness as my core, which does not change. I add to that my feeling-intuitive nature. I was not conscious of them as an undergraduate but other people may have been, and I think of them as suppressed rather than as not there.

The Pearl would fit Carl Rogers’s “Organismic Self”, and perhaps I construct my understanding of my experience around that theory. Had I read Julian Baggini first, and loved it as I love Rogers, would I see myself as more changeable now? Some parents who seemed always peaceable in dementia become violently angry- “My mother never used to swear”- but then, if you do not know where you are and people you do not know want to tell you what to do in such a confusing manner, well-

A tranny paradox

“I had my balls cut off, so I could be attractive to women.”

I wanted to chat to S, the naval officer, simply because he was one of the few there I had not met before. He asked some probing questions about my trans status, and I told him first that I am attracted to women, and then that. As we were saying goodbye he came over and said how difficult he found that, so I looked him in the eye and repeated it.

“Does not compute,” he said. No, it does not make sense, I agreed. But if you still have Stuff or Baggage to deal with, that will not make sense to you either. If it did, you would have dealt with it by now.

Everyone has difficulties with self-acceptance. One of the blessings of transsexuality is that our inculcated self-concept is so different from our organismic self that we simply have to do the work of self-acceptance and self-discovery. I cannot have a partner unless I am true to myself, because I could not have let her know me.

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I have just been to the HAI community weekend, and it was lovely. I got there at six, more and more people arrived, we cooked over the barbecue and I was in cocktail-party mode: you know, chatting away socially, making connection at a fairly shallow level but pleasantly.

And then we started the evening exercise, and suddenly I was Present. In that state, all my defences are down. I trust that in the moment I can deal with any attack: and my defensiveness is not useful at defending, and does a lot of damage. In that state I can make a true heart-connection.

That evening, two people referred to me with male pronouns, and that created a distance from them in me. I hate it. In quest of authenticity, I take my wig off, and I sing baritone because that voice is richer and holds the note better than my counter-tenor; and I still want to be seen as female. After all, I am female.

HAI has the concept of a Withhold. We say it in this way.

A: I have a withhold with you. Are you ready to hear it?
B accepts or declines
A: I perceived you as [being or doing] and that created a distance from you in me.
B: Thank you.

The idea of this is to surmount barriers to authentic connection. My withhold is that barrier which I feel. B can respond to it immediately, though it may be better to let it settle within before responding.

My general withhold is that if I hear you referring to me as male, I am hurt, and I withdraw. And I want to hear the withhold from others: if you cannot accept me as female, I do not want that to be an insurmountable barrier between us.

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“Either Jesus rose from the dead, or he didn’t”- heard in the night on a programme on the Catholic Church. So the whole Catholic Church has to believe that he did, physically. But why not both? Hold both possibilities in the mind. How could each view enrich your understanding of God?

Confessional

So why, this blog? Why all this confession? Because I think it will advance my healing.

As I quoted before,

Jesus said: “When you undress without being ashamed and take your clothes and put them under your feet like little children and trample on them, then you will see the son of the Living One, and you will not be afraid.”

Also see this video of Bruce Muzik giving a TED talk, on YouTube, which I am not entirely sure of intellectually, and yet I am doing it.

In 1998, I did a course in counselling skills level one, and was introduced to the work of Carl Rogers.

organismic self

This bowled me over, and started my conscious search for growth and awareness. There is a human animal which knows what it desires and how to get it, which is the organismic self. With conditional positive regard from parents and others, the ego develops seeing itself as the person they wish, the “self-concept”. However, this means that a lot of what the person thinks about himself is a false self-image, and he cannot bring to admit to himself the shadow which other people had not accepted in him. The aim of counselling, with empathy, congruence and unconditional positive regard (Love) is to make the self-concept congruent with the organismic self. The aim of spiritual growth is to discover and truly accept the full richness of onesself as a human being. This may be what Eliot was getting at:

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

When I came upon these ideas, I thought I was more like this:

organismic self

and now, I hope, like this:Organismic self 3

so I make public my shame and my weakness, so that I need not expend energy on it any more. And I can understand and accept why I would have been like that, and can transcend it.

Actually it is possible that “my confession will be good for others”. I have been read by at least one woman with similar experiences to my own, and we have shared how good it is to hear these experiences. But chiefly, I am doing this for me.

Oh, Christianity is a strange thing. I have known the cliche “Confession is good for the soul” for years, and even parroted it, and now know the truth of it more.