Knowing my feelings

-How are you?
-I don’t know.

No, really, I don’t. This is the real question, not the form answered by “Fine, thanks,” and I don’t know the answer to it. I can only pay my gas bill by withdrawing from savings, which I can’t do indefinitely. And I was not even thinking of looking for work.

-How do you feel when you notice that?

Again I don’t know, but where I go is into puzzling things out. All these long blog posts about trans issues. I could stop blogging quite so much and decide that finding a way to support myself was the most important thing for me. I listen to my voice changing as I tell you that.

I get a lot of self-respect from writing, and little pings of dopamine from looking at my blog statistics- how many posts have had over sixty or over a hundred views, say- and yet there are variable rewards from considering stats quite so often, which makes them more addictive. I chase the pings of dopamine, which is well-dodgy.

Then on work- the jobcentre could take away all my income, probably not before October but possibly thereafter.

I don’t know. Which is worse? Writing job application forms and getting interviews and not getting the job or writing job application forms and not getting the interview.

-So the writing helps you to feel useful. Purposeful.
-It gives me an interest. Thinking things through, expressing things. As indeed do some Labour party activities.

Sometimes things become too problematic and I stop doing them. Like job applications. After this conversation, I have put in an application, as before finishing it about eleven pm before the closing date, not doing it well. That was how I psyched myself up to completing it. I hated it. Essential requirements- well, not really, possibly at a stretch… Probably, if I’d nerved myself to do it earlier, then read it over later to tighten it up, I would have sent in something better.

And it was a struggle to do it. I hated every moment of it, kept giving up on it and coming back to it, and this was after Yearly Meeting where I got lots and lots of affirmation. And before I did it I sought and got more affirmation.

So, how was I? So angry, despairing and terrified that I had managed to be unconscious of these feelings, but that required mindless distractions. This will do no good, I thought. This is pointless. And it is horrible, because I expend this effort pointlessly. And I hate saying I am this good, I have done this, and getting judged on it and found wanting. Yes, yes, they have someone else for the job and probably I could have been appointed if they did not have this better candidate. I still feel not good enough.

In other news, all that water trickling down the light fitting- we know where it’s coming from. At last, weeks after I reported the problem, the man came to repair the gutters. He did so badly, such that the point above the leak is lower than the joint to the down-pipe, but at least there is no gap in the gutter. And I was right- the hole in the gutter was why more water was coming in.

It’s coming in through the wall of the upper storey. The landlord was right that it was not coming in through the flat roof, which is properly sealed. Neither he nor I made the obvious deduction that it’s coming through the wall, nor did the agent, and I feel they have a lot more experience of property so have less excuse. Then another man went up on the flat roof and knocked on the wall, which sounded thin and hollow. There’s a crack above the hollow bit. Obvious really, once it’s pointed out to you.

So many irritations! Water ingress, landlord stupidity-

not enough money

and the only way out getting a job which I can’t see how I can get. So I seek out any distraction, and feel wretched.


-What are you afraid of?
-My vulnerability.

For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. That’s in Mark, and bears the imprint of an editor: some authorities miss out “for my sake”, but the words “for the sake of the gospel” damage the symmetry of the phrase, and the explanation damages its poetry.

I am losing my life. I fritter it. I hate sitting here watching television. I liked going into London to speak at Quaker Quest, taking in several interesting encounters and lots of Art. One told me, gratefully, that what I said was like ministry, at least worship-sharing. That had an air of holiday about it, but in a job I hope I would not merely be ground down, and even now I could go out to encounter people and beautiful things locally.

And, I sit here because I am afraid, of judgment which is so awful as to be as bad as death. I know this is an illusion, but the fear of it is still real. Of course I will die, and I could die in an accident at any time- though fearing death and planning suicide is a strange combination. There is something about the moment of death which is fearful and horrible, but death itself is not. After death, the horror disappears.

The moment of failure, the moment of getting caught out, terrifies me, whether it leads to death or mild embarrassment. I can see I am not being sensible, that I am losing my life, that my way of saving myself is an illusion, but being rational about this does not save me from the fear.

There’s nothing to fear. I know that. I still fear it.

-Why were you screaming?
-Because I felt seen and accepted.

More paradoxes. I rationalised it immediately- it is the delight which reminds me of past lack; but it could be deeper than that. It means I am wrong. If I am acceptable, all I know and believe about myself is untrue and my world falls apart. If I am seen, I will be despised- and judged. None of this is rational, so it could be both, as my madness can survive internal contradiction.

I will tell you here. I could not tell Kim face to face, but it might be worth working on.

I am beautiful.

Not- this thing, this process, all that is within my skin, whatever- I. People value and accept me. People even admire me, and sometimes express that.

This is all quite binary. All or nothing, Heaven or Hell, the marriage feast or gnashing of teeth, admiration or condemnation. It is also instant. I rarely judge other people like that. They’re mostly all right, I add little pieces of experience with them to a picture, and normally run away rather than cast another out. It’s not a perfect analogy for how others are, but it does tend to refute that all or nothing God-like power I ascribe to them, which only a mother has over a baby.

I am beautiful
beloved of God
highly gifted
facing my difficulties squarely.

Maybe I could tell other people this, and see how they react. I am judged, repeatedly, and cannot anticipate how others will judge me or what consequences that judgment will have for me. I am sometimes seen as wrong or bad, but not in the way I anticipate.

I fear making mistakes. If I can’t make mistakes, then I can’t do anything.

I record my counselling sessions, and this recording was silent. I don’t know why it didn’t work. But these two moments were the core of it- I fear vulnerability, I was hurt when I felt accepted. I want an instant solution, I want things I can work at for self-improvement, but looking back I perceive I am improving (hard though that is to claim).


I find it hard to admit that anything I do or think of doing is difficult. Turning my life around is like turning a supertanker, rather than turning a knob on a cooker. It is hard to say these things.

In shame, I hide away, and try to conform- with an idea of what is normal, which is not necessarily shared by anyone else. That’s why I had my balls cut off, which pleased me so much at the time, and now I am kicking myself because my ideal was not real, and I should have realised that.

I am highly intelligent, unreconciled to a lifetime of not getting it, or getting it too late. And negative. When things go wrong, I notice, and that affects my actions afterwards. My work of disentangling myself is to bring these things to consciousness, in counselling, and then to type them here.

There are things which cannot be said or acknowledged. There is a normal way of doing things which is just normal, however ineffective: trying to work out a better way is just too much work, or I cannot imagine working out a better way.

We find ways of fitting Normal to ourselves, but if we are too far from it that becomes too difficult.

-I hear you perceiving and holding your friends’ differences and hope you might not be entirely conventional with them.

Can I be without the mask with others? Can I ever say what I think or feel? Sometimes, though I would not feel the need to blog if I could do it with other people.

I say “What is interesting is delightful”. I like things which pique my interest. Let’s have a look at that. So it is not the thing in itself, it is my attitude to it which I like, my curiosity finding a loose corner and prying it open, finding out.

Then, though, I said “What is interesting is delightful” and immediately began questioning and doubting it. I think I am only saying that because it is a thing I think would be admirable or good.

I find it hard to say these things out loud, even to Tina, so I type the next bit: “Life is terrifying”. Then I could say it. As in, “May you live in interesting times”. No I don’t like interesting, I want boring. And yet now I think I find “What is interesting is delightful” admirable and good because it is my best self, my self going out to meet the world and engage, and I can do that, it is real me not mask or pretence, not a gambit in the conventional game of counselling where we both want me to take off my masks and instead I try on different ones.

And life is terrifying, whether I engage with it or not.

Mmm. The knob on a cooker, or the supertanker. Turning should be easy, should be the task of a moment, and when it is not I leap to the conclusion that it is horrendously difficult. It is as it is. Do I want to change? Then, change. Easy, difficult, that does not matter, the judgment of difficulty gets in the way, especially the judgment that I am making no progress gets in the way. That judgment, my inner critic, speaks in fear and seeks to drive me to greater effort, but I can no longer be driven in that way. Changing it to encouraging, to seeing progress, is my war.

Behind the mask

All the different aspects of me need to be pulling together. They are proud, contrary souls.

The one I am in right now is playful and filled with Love. I have no self-confidence, I go to another space to be self-confident. Sometimes I cannot speak, I have a thought so disturbing I cannot bring it to consciousness. I am tenacious: were I not, I would have been subsumed. This is the part of the whole human being which makes the decisions, even if all I can do is say No. This is the part that takes delight, in the sun as I cycled to the wee shop this morning. I am determined, to go up the steep hill without dropping another gear. I know what I want to do, day to day. I want to see her, then. Though getting out of bed to cycle to the wee shop was an effort. I would rather just read the news.

This is me without the masks, the central me
Masks are my way of interacting with the world
Masks are what I can let people see

I am glad to be speaking from this part of me. It is a relief to take off the mask. And it is a bit tiring- no stop minimising it is tiring.

Freud’s patient Bertha Pappenheim said that even when she was in a very bad condition- a clear-sighted and calm observer sat, as she put it, in a corner of her brain and looked on at all the mad business. It is such a relief to read of someone else’s double consciousness, one person looking at the other, recounted by Siri Hustvedt as if it were a useful observation rather than just more demented drivelling. Though in my double consciousness I identify with the mad bit rather than the observer, I can think with the observer, say, X is the sensible thing to do; though the chance of X seems more and more remote.

In bed this morning I was thinking how it is much warmer and I don’t need to stay in bed to keep warm, and I could get up for breakfast, even shower first. And then I had breakfast in bed, and could have got up to shower but would rather read the news than get up, even if I have to go somewhere.

-What do you get from reading the news?

That’s a good question. If I have to go somewhere I generally get up in time, but if I have to do something which I could always do later, I may put it off until later. Stimulation without responsibility: it does not matter to my day to day living what is going on in the wider world. I do not need nearly the amount of detail I have. If Mr Trump’s wickedness will make my life worse it might be better not to be reminded of it several times a day, to reduce the pressure to despair. If I am doing something which matters I might do it wrong. If I am just reading the Guardian I can’t. And my comments can get hundreds of up-votes. I like up-votes, and like writing partisan posts to fish for them or more thoughtful comments which get fewer. I might be better to write posts seeking reconciliation, as partisan conflict helps the Right not the Left, by decreasing confidence in what politics, government, and working together for the common good can achieve.

Breakfast in bed, then reading the news- an activity which I cannot possibly get wrong– are rationally chosen activities if maintaining my short term emotional equanimity is my main aim. Which it is.

“If I had to find a job locally, working in a shop or behind that bar, I would hate it,” said H empathetically- not necessarily sympathetically. “Stand in a shop all day, come home and watch television, go to bed- I would just want to die.”

“Or a factory or a warehouse,” I said.

“That would be Worse!” You’re not ill, she tells me. You’re not depressed. Well, perhaps I am, as depression comes before acceptance. She has managed to evade such jobs, at least recently. Should I just embrace malingerer status- I need to convince people I score those fifteen points? What is going on, consciously or unconsciously: it feels like there is this Behind the mask figure, making the decisions, and the sensible part ineffectually insisting that I should look for work. I need to get them working together. It could just be that I do not want to admit, even to myself, I can see nothing better and no way of getting it. There was that woman on the telly, high-functioning anorexic, still doing these apparently self-destructive things around food and yet also doing the rational things necessary to hold down a job.

I like to think she bears me no malice, and seeks to shock me into a more productive response. “Could you work in some LGBTQI whatever organisation?” I have applied, and not even got an interview. “It’s hard, isn’t it?” she says.

Don’t give to beggars, says the Guardian. It locks the beggar in a downward spiral of abject dependency and victimhood, where all self-respect, honesty and hope are lost. Of course I apply that to me. I gave to a beggar last night who approached us as we left the pub at 10.30ish, non-threatening but insistent wanting money for food. “Where would you get food?” He indicated McDonalds, or vaguely “up there” where they give him it cheap as they know he is homeless. And for the first time in Marsby, population 9000, I saw a bloke sitting outside Tesco on one sleeping bag and wrapped in another, head down, with a cap for change. When I left Tesco his stuff was still there but he had gone.

Inner dialogue

People have conflicting impulses and feelings in their minds at the same time. Sometimes they diverge enough to make different personalities, or have arguments in consciousness. Here’s the brilliant First Dog on the Moon cartoon, which though generally about Australian politics is universal enough to read anywhere: Relocating is pretty much the best thing we have ever done but don’t come down here I don’t recommend it at all it is terrible. We hold these contradictory ideas in our minds, all the time, in tension, and make a decision when one becomes definitively stronger. We want to be trusted by others, to present a reliable, consistent face to the world, so that tension can be painful.

Sometimes, we simply deny it: cognitive dissonance is the pain when the fight to deny it is too wearing. Living with the tension may be an answer to that pain, but is difficult. I am human, therefore I am inconsistent, I remind myself, “seeing through a glass, darkly”.

I am open, curious, gentle, encouraging, loving. I wish to play, explore, learn, understand. I seek delight in beauty, which is everywhere. I am angry, frustrated, fearful, hurt, withdrawn. I wish to escape, hide, protect myself. I seek Safety, which is a chimera.

I am angry at myself for hiding, and frightened of consequences if I am exposed. People can burn out.

Audrey Hepburn said, People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw anyone out. I believe that. It applies to me. Possibly, other people believe it as well, even of me.

This is a long article, but search in it for Rollnick: a pioneer of Motivational Interviewing, he shows that bullying alcoholics into admitting they have a problem and should bloody well just stop drinking does not work, stresses the clients, but-

ah, expressing the positive is the important bit. It’s far more difficult to see, but the only thing worth seeing. Here’s that article: rather than instigating confrontation, counsellors should focus on building a relationship of trust and mutual understanding, enabling the patient to talk through his experiences without feeling the need to defend himself. Eventually, and with the counsellor gently shaping the dialogue, the part of the patient that wanted to get better would overcome the part that did not, and he would make the arguments for change himself. Having done so, he would be motivated to follow through on them.

But “Overcome” is a fundamental misunderstanding. I can speak from my Open self or my Withdrawn self, but they are in one brain, not conveniently in different lobes as Steve Peters might have you believe. I am making judgments based on observation and experience. First Dog may loathe the spiders and love the pademelons, until an eagle kills his cat and the place becomes unbearable, or he finds more and more things to love and settles.

There are no rules. Self-image and the need to present a face to the World may make me strive and succeed, or break me. I saw myself as one who reads, for entertainment, culture and learning, but did not actually get through the books I bought. Then I started telling people that I don’t read, as I had realised that, and found myself enjoying Joan Didion and Siri Hustvedt. In the mid-life crisis, ones self-image and world maps break down, no longer fitting experience, and I must rebuild my world anew. “Rebuild the world” is my metaphor because from where I’m sitting it looks difficult.

Things that cannot be said

There are words that I cannot say, or have great difficulty saying. I know them unconsciously, but part of me cannot admit them. Then I can think them, but not utter them to another. Then I take courage, and utter them; and then it becomes easier. Telling you makes it easier, but is not the same as saying these things out loud to another person.

I find it hard to admit that anything I do or think of doing is difficult.

I want to turn my life around– and that is more like a super-tanker than the knob on a cooker.

In shame, I hid away, and tried to conform.
-Conform with what?
-With an idea of what is normal, which is not necessarily shared by anyone else- it is influenced by others but is my own. That is why I had my balls cut off, why that pleased me so much at the time, and now I am kicking myself because my ideal was not real, and I should have realised that.

I am highly intelligent, unreconciled to a lifetime of Not Getting It. I am unwilling to admit that to myself. A jingle:

This is living
never knowing
what I need to know
Only knowing I was wrong
a year or ten ago.

If I can’t realise I am wrong, then I can’t realise I am right. If I change my mind I must have been wrong before, always wrong, and it is more complex. I have different understandings. I have been badly screwed up, and my work of disentangling myself is bringing these things to consciousness. A counselling session is a good place to do that, and I type notes at the time because I want to remember it exactly and not vaguely.

I don’t know what I meant by the note “Life now”.

I voice-recorded this session. I heard my long pauses, sometimes of several minutes, my failures to remember words, my joking and my struggle to find the truth. My hurt.

I will go on holiday.
-Let’s talk about something else.
-Well, we were talking of my whole way of being over fifty years, and now about specific interactions with other people for a week.

Four people aware of our otherness, wishing not to be noticed particularly. We will be quiet and decorous. We will face the problems of what is worth doing and how to do it with comfort and pleasure together. They can empathise by working out what they might feel in a similar situation rather than by mirroring. He will also have things which he finds difficult to think about, talk about, all those things one cannot acknowledge even to onesself.

Why go on holiday anyway? It is possible to find interesting and pleasant things to do, but requires effort. I am in conventional ideas of what is good or desirable. We went to Mafra where there was this painted plaster sculpture of men in armour beheading monks. There was one with his head detached, one kneeling to be beheaded, and two others waiting to be beheaded. WTF is that about? It is repugnant but interesting, a vile man who said I’m King and I can do what I like.

-I hear your awareness of them as different sorts of people, and I’m curious: how aware are they of you, and how do they hold your difference. I hope you might not be totally conventional with them.

I can relax with them. I got drunk in that wee restaurant, and then we walked home through the village, of large houses in commuting distance of Lisbon. They all have guard dogs so we walked home with this continuous chorus of dogs.

That was- different. Interesting. I don’t know that every moment will be delightful, but what is interesting is delightful.

I typed that, and immediately began questioning it in my mind. The next thing I typed was, Life is terrifying.

And I want to say to her what I want and I can’t. At least I can admit that to Tina.

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.

The divided self

It seemed there was sensible Clare and flighty Clare.

-Do they talk to each other?
No. They talk past each other. Or they issue orders to each other: flighty me says No, definitely, like a toddler, or “This interests me now”, to deny the pleadings of the other. The apparently sensible part tells me what I should do, and I don’t.

I feel they fit Steve Peters’ human and chimp better than Richard Rohr’s egoic identity and Beloved of God, but perhaps that is because flighty Clare has not experienced enough Love. Possibly neither is either, but they seem to be the parts of me most conscious and most debating.

-Is the part that feels distress the same as the part that feels joy?
Fascinating question. Sometimes it seems yes, sometimes it seems no. What feels joy? I have just been out, and taken my new header photo, of two ducks. I am pleased with it. What part feels joy in that? I could say I feel satisfaction at doing something I wanted to do, taking a photograph I can value. This is my winter header, the snow was lying on the riverbank. I have boosted the colour and brightness a little. Possibly flighty Abigail feels joy, sensible Abigail rebukes that this is a hobby which will not make money but indulges the other in her play.

Both want the good of the other, but disagree about how to achieve it.

-Which do you prefer?
I laugh bitterly. I hate both. Oh fuck.
Then I cry.

-There’s the pain. Why?
-Neither makes me happy. Neither gives me peace, or gets what I want. They do not agree.

-What is this self which is distressed?
Possibly it is the self I access in Mindful presence. There is distress, it is me feeling it. But mindfulness theory tells me that distress is just a passing mood, not the real underneath.

Say I feel I ought to have a shower. What good does showering do me? The only answer I get, the only motivation, comes from the sensible bit. One has to do certain things to keep alive, and while ideally those things would include working, bringing up children, getting a house and pension, at least my list includes showering.

I always shower eventually. Sometimes I enjoy it, the feeling of water on my skin, sometimes I nag myself to get on with it- apply soap, wash it off, turn off water, dry self
sometimes I just stand under the water, my mind blank.

There is love and concern here. I love myself. I want my good. And perplexity, I don’t know how to achieve it, which in part concerns self-motivation.

She observes that I practise tone and emotionality. Sometimes it is spontaneous, sometimes it is thought out. I am sad at that. Yes, I want to communicate my feeling, but what I am actually feeling, not some part of my feeling which I want to get across to appear in a certain way. I don’t want to see myself as manipulative, but as authentic.

I have started reading again. I have been depressed for months, not reading books, but now I am reading Joan Didion’s non-fiction. I love her way of turning a sentence, and her-

all I can say is her Joan-ness, her self-ness. I could call her liberal or conservative, world-weary, realistic or cynical, regretful- there is a person there, a small woman with a large intellect who sees others and finds them interesting.

Anyway. I am glad I am reading again.

Ceasing to pretend

Wisdom tells me I am nothing. Love tells me I am everything. Between these two banks the river of my life flows.
– Nisargadatta Maharaj

Helen wants me to fix goals, ideally to get a job. My goal is to stay on benefits, because it is a lifestyle I can cope with, I am in control, and there is only just enough money. I tried to make a difference once, and it was too hard.

I tell Tina of Mark, the playwright. Helen’s powerpoint slide said she got divorced, but actually she only split up from someone she was cohabiting with. She changed it to “divorced” in case a religious person judged her. “Hallelujah,” said Mark, bitterly, imagining himself humorous. I challenged it, saying that I am very religious, and do not judge others. Mark says all religions are like a cult, brainwashing people. Harlan tells of his cousin, who was “a bit slow”

-do you mean he had learning difficulties? challenges Helen-

who converted to Islam and ended up in a mental asylum. We do not stick to the subject. Today Harlan, instead of referring coyly to “relaxants”, named his crime as if daring anyone to make something of it. He smokes weed. He used to smoke £100 a week, now since having his kids it’s £30, and as far as he is concerned that’s money in his pocket.

We go off the subject easily. It is diverting enough.

Do you want to change yourself? asks Tina. You said Mark, just like you, is “walled up behind a mask or persona, disappointed and resentful”. That’s heavy shit.

I want to stay on benefits because the uncertain generosity of whoever is filling Ian Duncan-Smith’s tiny shoes- David Gauke, Google tells me- is pleasanter and more reliable than any chance of earning money. Helen challenged us on Monday to think of what we would like to do, at the end of her course, and I wrote to be myself without the mask. And now I think I am lots of different acts, but always acts.

On Sunday, with her, what happened? Possibilities:
-she used me as waste disposal, and I liked it.
-It was nothing under the surface beyond what happened.
-we were playing a game together which both enjoyed. I hope that. It would be intimate. She holds me at arms length.

-What parts of you are there, meeting her?

It might be easier to say what parts are not. My resentment is under the surface, always balanced with fascination. My care, appreciation and playfulness are there. I am articulate, except when she asks why I thought we might be embarrassed to meet, and I could not answer her. Because she could always withhold her acceptance of my answer, and question each answer in recursion.

-What’s that feel like?
-Sad and powerless.

For which part are you sad? The lawyer or the romantic? The older or younger self?
-Possibly all of me.
And at that my inner critic explodes in triumph and derision. But I am just a set of different acts, I said. I am proved inconsistent and incomprehending.

There is sadness in me, and there are other feelings. I am sad about her, wanting union, partnership. Fascinated, resentful, I love to see her. What I get is wonderful, and I am held at arms’ length.

-What do you get? Unrequited love?
-Her presence, charisma, sparkle. I will keep coming back for that.

-Have you ever been loved?

Yes. A woman loves me, and I did not know, and now we cannot be together. My father let me down. My mother was too scared. H called me “Cariad”, and now I think of her with pity, despair, irritation. She always responded the wrong way to everything, I burst out. We betrayed each other repeatedly is an old line I am not sure is true.

-And what about yourself?
I like myself and I wish myself well. I despise myself. I am very beautiful.

Those voices, you despise yourself; you are beautiful. How opposite are they?
-I am opposites.
-We all are. I see them both, but they don’t talk to each other. The different parts of you pull you apart sometimes. We’ve got to get those parts talking to one another.

So we arrange to skype again.

unable to speak

Would you rather be right, or happy? Oh, Right, every time, vindicated in my own mind. Actually, only both will do.

I don’t want to look her in the eye. I don’t want to say anything: I don’t see the point. What I think, and how I see things, does not matter, and even I can’t believe it. Is any common understanding necessary, or possible? What is talking for?

-What were you writing, just then?
-I watch the emotions run across her face, in silence.

Dr Graeme McGrath wrote to my GP that ironic detachment is a powerful defence mechanism for me. I pull myself together. My feelings are below the surface, and I can talk. There is bitterness in what I say.

It seems my pain is a weapon to be held against me. It felt to me that the rules around our meeting, rather than building trust, were a game to make me safe for them, to keep me controlled. The offer was a listening game, where one person would talk for five minutes, one would listen, and one would observe, then we would discuss the experience. I wanted to get straight down to the problems. So I did. I started by saying “I don’t trust you”.

They admitted some difficulties. We do not really know each other. There are tensions in the group. It seemed to me they see me as a threat. They are doing all they can to restore relationships, and therefore any difficulty with that is my fault.

I need to approach them in a state of perfect ego-less Love, and perhaps that would be misconstrued. The most important thing in my life is how I relate to these people. Possibly the relationship will break down completely, and I will be excluded. That might be the fabled “Rock bottom” where I finally begin acting in my own interests without illusion, or a further slide into withdrawal and isolation.

What do I want?

To be myself. Not to be suppressing myself, being careful, pretending, acting, holding myself back in order to fit in. I do this out of fear. It has become unbearable.

And to fit in. To build relationships, take a constructive part, serve so that I do some good and have my service appreciated.

So I wonder. What do I tell myself? I am Charismatic, enthusiastic, passionate. I am forceful and strong-willed. These are all beautiful things, and when my passion or ardour comes out when I speak, people feel overwhelmed, and feel resentful. Or they see my passion directed at another, and they rush in to defend the other against me.

I am Good. I am seen as Bad. So what I tell myself is not improving relationships. It is simply a narrative. I struggle for a better understanding. I am uncomfortable with myself, sometimes self-suppressing, sometimes with passion bursting out, and so others are uncomfortable with me. I do not see others properly, their concerns or fragility.

I hear that other people are uncomfortable with me, and whether or not I hear about particular instances I do not understand how. So it seems all I could do is suppress myself.

Then there is the siren song of the non-dual mystic God-In-Us brigade. They say you must be present in the moment. Sometimes it seems I am that, but when I feel that way I can still create even greater distance from others. Possibly it is just that I have expectations and demands for them, which they will not meet. Can I shed all my expectations?

So I am forced back into stories. I must respond in a state of perfect ego-less Love. I have no idea how that would be. See “Present in the moment” above.

Being completely powerless, I might respond as someone completely powerless. I would be watchful. Who is this person, what do they want, and how can I avoid antagonising them?

By the end of the session, I am able to look her in the eye, and say what it seems I want to say. I am calmer. This may just be because I am ceasing to address the concern. I was caught up in my inner turmoil, conflict and incomprehension, and now I just stop.