Looking to the future

Why think about the past? It won’t change. Think about the future! Memories of the past are only of use to help predict the future. In the New York Times, psychologists advance the theory of “Prospective psychology”- the brain is focussed on predicting the future, and thinks about it three times more than the past. Memory is a tool for predicting: three different parts of the brain recall, when, where and what happened, and are rewritten- even altered- each time you remember them. A memory might be made happier if you have more trust in the future, or harsher otherwise. It is amended to make it more relevant to now.

They describe a problem- should you accept an invitation from a colleague? You could think it through methodically, but instead you intuitively empathise with him and your future self if you accept or reject it, and decide quickly. This is fast and slow thinking.

They say depression does not come from past trauma and present stress, but from skewed visions of what lies ahead. You overestimate risk, predict failure and rejection, and fail to imagine positive outcomes. “Depressed people”- I- withdraw socially and become paralyzed by exaggerated self-doubt. It is always eerie to read about yourself.

We consider the information which will be useful to us. Animals were more interested in unfamiliar experiences than familiar ones, because they want to understand future options and possibilities. Considering the future is the brain’s “default” mode, and in breaks in current tasks, we shift to working on that. We will all die, but few spend time thinking about that because we can’t do anything about it.

I learned very young that I am worthless, and that all my instincts are wrong. I then had years of ghastly experiences at work, where I was under threat I could not combat, and in fights I could not win. I was bullied, made to doubt myself even more, and then trashed, repeatedly.

So what I have been doing here is a patient re-evaluation of myself. I am a good person. I like myself. I mean well. My desires are good, and their fulfilment worthwhile. My desires and characteristics are not what I have been taught they ought to be. I am loveable. This patient reimagining- This, not That, will make me happy, This is who I am, This is how people see me- is necessary as a foundation for going out into the World, imagining a worthwhile goal and a route to its achievement, and taking that route. And my fast thinking often leads to wrong, over-pessimistic conclusions, because it is based on false understandings- they hate and despise me therefore I had better not go there.

Unfortunately bad experiences in the present reinforce my pessimism. Getting kicked out of Wellingborough Quaker meeting makes me think everyone hates me and I will never work out how to be winsome. And the news is dreadful: the Tories are likely to win the next election, and continue attacking out-groups- immigrants, benefit claimants, queers may be next- as a way of consolidating their power. They are enthusiastically working to damage the economy and the 99% with Brexit and job prospects get poorer.

The future has never seemed real to me. If I can survive the next couple of months, I am happy as I can be. “Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?” has always been meaningless. I remember looking at a welfare rights worker, older than me, with the council, and thinking, it will be like now, but slightly worse. I can accept intellectually that a pension is a good thing to have, say, or imagine myself as an old person- seeing them walking unsteadily, seeming so weak, creeps me out- but it does not seem real to me. I don’t know how this is for others. For me it is all about surviving now.

And still, there are possibilities, and trust and respect for myself might help me see them.

New York Times, We aren’t built to live in the moment.

Positive Psychology has three central concerns: positive emotions, positive individual traits, and positive institutions. Understanding positive emotions entails the study of contentment with the past, happiness in the present, and hope for the future. Understanding positive individual traits consists of the study of the strengths and virtues, such as the capacity for love and work, courage, compassion, resilience, creativity, curiosity, integrity, self-knowledge, moderation, self-control, and wisdom.

National Pantsuit Day

These women are angry.

There are stories of buying cars. A woman tells that she went with her husband to the car showroom. The salesman asked her husband how he could help.

-My wife is here to buy a car.
-How nice. (To the husband) What kind of car is she looking for?

-Nothing here, it seems, she said, and walked out.

Not just cars, but sledgehammers- “What size is he looking for?” the assistant asks the lone woman; drills- “Is it a gift?” “No, it’s for me”; and jack posts to raise up floor joists, to work in the crawl space: her husband told the clerk, “Hey, ask her. It’s her project, I have no idea.”

There are stories of pantsuits. (Trouser suits, in case you didn’t know.) A woman’s boss asked her to wear skirts to work. She said her trousers are more expensive, more fashionable and more professional than the skirts in the office.

There are stories of sexual harassment. In some cases, the man could have ruined the woman’s career, like the judge who wrote a scathing, clearly personal opinion about a prosecutor in a legal proceeding, which might have led her to appear before the bar council, because she had resisted his advances. She had sat beside him on a plane for five hours, while he insisted on talking, and repeatedly asked her out.

There are work discrimination stories- getting lower paid jobs than male graduates with poorer degrees, asked “Can you type?” and being given admin tasks, being called by the husband’s name- “Mrs John Doe”!-  why should a woman change her name?

One woman has been working with a therapist for two years to recognise and allow her anger. She saw a Trump sign in her street, and felt extreme rage towards it, like her anger in her marriage. Trump is the archetypal narcissistic abusive male, but she says your anger may be inspired by others. Women here are supportive: one quotes “Now is your time to lean”, to turn to those who love you and will support you. “You deserve to be loved and respected.” It’s good to recognise and express that anger: men’s anger is allowed to transform, but women’s anger is repressed, one says. It turns inward and becomes depression, and women can struggle with anger and depression for years. (As do I.) Anger at Trump helped one to connect to her anger at her husband, who quoted St Paul to demand her obedience. Recognising the necessity of repression frees her from self-judgment.

Trump, despicable himself, is a symbol for women of their outrage at male abusers. This is the obverse of voting for the qualified, committed, principled woman likely to become president. One says this abominable man could bring women together to express our anger at how we have been treated all our lives.

Pantsuit Day is 8 November. I hope it will be pantsuit day on 9th November too, and thereafter.

Anger and depression I know well, and would like to get beyond them. In the fifth circle of Dante’s Inferno, At the surface of the foul Stygian marsh, Dorothy L. Sayers writes, “the active hatreds rend and snarl at one another; at the bottom, the sullen hatreds lie gurgling, unable even to express themselves for the rage that chokes them.”

Right now I am choked like that.

It is not a good way to be.

Feeling good

It was definitely my right of way on the roundabout. That car should have given way to me. It was approaching quickly, but it would slow down- however perhaps the driver did not see me at first, and I looked to my left seeing it bearing down on me. Had he not slowed down, he might have clipped my back wheel- as it was I escaped unscathed. I considered sharing my feelings with the pedestrian just beyond the roundabout- relief, anger, fear, bewilderment- but he did not look the empathetic type, so I did not.

Then I got home, glistening all over with sweat in the heat, and felt Wonderful. It could have been the weather, exercise, narrow escape from injury or anticipating lunch with Liz.

I have been feeling down. It could be the bitterness and falsehood of the Referendum campaign- neither leave nor remain feel like powerful choices. I was thinking of my job interview on Thursday:

-Do you want the job?
-No, you B*****ds, f*** you, give it to someone else, see if I care

-caring too much-

when I switched on my phone, and picked up the voicemail message from yesterday. The interview panel wanted to know where I was. I had checked how to get to Birmingham this morning, looked at Helen’s email to find where it was. I looked at the email again: it clearly says the interview is Tuesday (yesterday) not Thursday. I don’t know how I made that mistake. I feel utterly miserable. I am in a dreadful situation and cannot trust myself with the simplest thing to improve it. I cried.

I call the Samaritans. “I wanted someone to talk to.” “We’re not a chat-line,” Eve said. And I feel anger and resentment and I say something sarky,

and amazingly I feel energised, really good. Wow. What is that? Anger at you energises me- “Correlation is not causation, as they say”. I don’t know that it is that which causes it-

She would not say that. She has not heard it before. Well, some say post hoc ergo propter hoc. It should really be post hoc non ergo propter hoc.

What is causing this buzzing on the landline? To me it sounds loud, she hardly hears it. The landline has been buzzing for weeks. It could be the adsl filter, I unplug the modem-

and the buzzing continues. And I feel dreadful again. I cannot even deal with this!

The heart of my depression is lack of motivation. I cannot improve my situation: anything I attempt I will just do badly and fail. Not judging myself so harshly might do some good; so might behavioural activation. I have cleaned off some of the ingrained grime from my bathroom floor, which I have not properly cleaned for years. And I scrub at the wee black spots on the linoleum, and think, It is an improvement. Value all the improvement. It does not need to be perfect. And I do a bit, then stop, then go back to it. I have swept the hallway too.

And now I have phoned BT about the landline. There is a fault on the line, and they will deal with it. How last century, to have a BT landline! Well, I find it useful, for some things-

Signac, 1890

Joy and pain

Joy and pain are constant intertwined…

I phoned up the Samaritans, and said I am depressed. “People say that’s not important, but it is important, it matters very much indeed” prosed the woman. We’ve got a right one ere, I thought. I told her I had been playing Beethoven. The Adagio from the sonata op.2 no.3 is gorgeous, like a Bach prelude filtered through a nightmare, or LSD. Played professionally, it sings in perfect darkness while the tension tightens from unbearable to excruciating.

Beethoven! she said. Oh, how lovely! That’ll make you feel better! Oh, he was wonderful! So much lovely music! How wonderful that you can play the piano and make yourself feel happier!

I agreed Beethoven was one of the great human beings. I told her she sounded a lovely person, and it had cheered me up to speak to her, and wonder whether she would be told to shut up, listen, and not tell people what to think.

I did not meet Richard this morning as he called to cancel as he is depressed. I am, too. It is sunny. I must go for a walk in the sunshine. That will make me feel better.

D stood at AM on Sunday to share his cunning plan, twice. The question was whether the Cornwall interest in decriminalisation of drug possession is a religiously based concern, and if so whether BYM or our AM should do anything about it. Instead, people want to discuss drugs policy. D had his brilliant idea from the University chaplaincy: with a small child who is upset he would lead it away and interest it in some other pastime, and similarly with addicts we should produce something to engage their interest. Alright as far as it goes, which is not far.

I felt depressed, and it seemed to me that my resistance made it worse. I am ashamed of it. I am wrong. I must end it. Instead, I thought, go with it. It just is. My thoughts of what I ought to do to make it better miss the mark: instead, what do I want to do? I wait for inspiration to rise from unconsciousness.

I kneel in my ritual space, and weep. I have not been silent there for months. Then I consulted again, and decided to play the piano. I want to analyse this, to come to an understanding and explain it to a Samaritan, but find she wants to do the talking, and I am clear enough anyway. Acceptance is the key.  It is nearly midday. I decided to shower. Then, though it is a little early, I decide to have lunch.

What I want to do then is that job application. The closing date is tomorrow. It is strange. I want to do it. If I told myself I should do it, it would feel quite different. I have the energy I need to do the thing I decide to do, if only I decide unconsciously rather than by ratiocination. I complete it, then I lose it.

I had saved the attachments to a zip file, and so when I save the completed form it goes in a temp file. It appears to have disappeared: I look through lists of files, I search for it, I check recent open files- nothing. Miserable, cursing and weeping I google for ways to find it and start writing it again, not as well.

I found it, eventually, after trying various things. And now, I feel good. I want to understand. I can’t understand. Anything. At all. Yet it’s OK, just for now.

Bosch, Ecce Homo

The perfect me

How are you?
Ah. You’re nearly crying. This is a big thing for you. Actually, this is a big thing.
What are your options? What do you want?

I had thought of cycling into Swanston to the fruit stall and the cycle shop. The weather forecast was sunny in the morning, cloudy with a chance of rain in the afternoon. This bike was considerably harder to pedal than the other, it took 20% longer to get back from K on Friday. Then I checked the tyre pressure, it is below ten psi.

It is nice to cycle in the sunshine. I like that fruit stall. Pump the tyres up. Would it be easier with road tyres? Get a foot pump?

Late waking up, hard getting myself going. Breakfast then deal with it? What about TV with breakfast? I watch Person of Interest ep. 4.11, a guilty pleasure. The UK is a year behind its broadcast. This starts poorly- the guns fire, the mooks fall- but ends up thought-provoking and moving. Especially the kiss. So now it’s 10.30. What now?

The options are, pump up the tyres, go to the cycle shop and investigate options- road tyres, slime, harder tyres- I have discussed this and thought about it in greater detail than I wish to explain to you-
go for a walk in the sunshine
stay sitting here, with more quality trash TV- Gotham: Wrath of the Villains. I have all those subtitled dramas and BBC4 Art documentaries recorded, I will get round to them later.

I have never met the other me, but had an inkling of her before. She does the right thing, all the time, and likes it. She was there when winning tribunals I thought We are unworthy servants, we have only done our duty and losing I was miserable and angry with myself. I did not realise it, but it was she to whom I compared myself. Be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.

And now, I have all the time in the world. Always more time, as when I was only procrastinating. I could be her, producing the perfect ET1, questionnaire or submission,

Fuck! Middle aged barrister, the difference in fire-power was so extreme the tribunal was standing up for me a bit, he growled a bit then showed his claws… God, that was a humiliating day, one more

except I never could be, having written it it would be crap.

I could be like her, now, the perfect me, doing the obvious thing to sort my transportation problems, or just walking, which should be pleasanter and is clearly better for me than slumping before the telly.

Or I could blog about it

She, being weightless, skims over the surface
I wade through mud, resenting it
At least I now have sympathy for myself, no longer screaming GET UP GET ON WITH IT

Bronzino, Palazzo Vecchio

At bay

Stuff. You know.

Stag at bay, James Ford

Don’t worry about a problem, worry at it, said Ian Fleming. Three varied issues today get me worried. I am blogging, so I don’t know yet if I will tell you what any of them are. One I can’t do anything about yet, but may sort to my satisfaction eventually. One I could at least check with a phone call or email. One I should probably start phoning about.

Or I could phone a friend and talk it through or express my feelings. Or meditate, where I find that I find my feelings. Instead I am in my avoidance behaviour. I am not quite worrying about because I block out. I don’t phone H as I usually do each evening.

I am the rabbit in the headlights, terrified into stillness. Outside me, stuff goes on. I will not deal with it this way, and it just gets bigger as I put it off. Avoidance behaviour includes obsessive checking of blog stats: I have eight posts and pages each with over a thousand views, nine more with over five hundred, fifty two with over one hundred, which posts and pages are approaching these landmarks? Though when I write my blog it is more like the spiritual practice of journalling.

Stuff. You know. I withdraw. I worry about it not at it. I worry more and more, do the avoidance behaviour, and beat myself up a bit- when the going gets tough, the tough get going, I rebuke myself sternly. Does this analysis do any good?

I have just found an email I might use, and stored it in a more accessible place. Doing something towards one of these matters. One step at a time.

This illustrates my most common internal battle of the last two years. One part, seeming rational, worries about what to do, works out things to do, nags me to do them. Other bit checks the statistics on a particular post, again, or sits numb.

The rabbit in the headlights is what you do when you are damaged. Well, I am damaged.

Oh! It feels like chewing over an old thing, not getting further. The nag and the sulk. No, I don’t want to face my problems. No, I don’t want to go out or call people, or even go to bed where I will lie awake worrying. I want a distraction, which is the root of most addictive behaviour.

Are You in the Driving Seat of Your Life? That’s a good metaphor. “I feel like I’m locked in the boot” was a cartoon response. That’s “trunk” for my American readers. “Depression, anxiety and panic attacks are not a sign of weakness. They are signs of having tried to remain strong for so long,” said a meme a man I might contact about one of these matters shared.

No, I did not tell you, did I.



Delving, down, down...

Stalactites - Treak Cliff Cavern

Down through the inverts and the perverts, the outsiders and the disgusting folk. Down through loathing and condemnation and mockery and derision and disgust. Down through my own disgust and desperation, to appear normal and to blend in. DOWN through pitiful attempts at collaboration- “I may be weird, but I am not as weird as that lot”- and justification- “It’s a medical condition!” Down, until at last we reach the Secondary Transsexual, a fruitful object for examination.

There is a certain tinge of self-pity, resentment and bitterness here, but bear with me.


No, on second thoughts, don’t. I started this intending to go on in the same vein, about how even some queers called me queer (in a bad way), radfem lesbians who say I am a man, etc, etc, an oppressor and beneficiary of male privilege-

Oops. Er, Wait. This really is depressive thinking. It is so easy to get into it. It feels so rational and calm to write about all the difficulties, the-

Spotting it is a good thing. I want to replace it.


It is a practice, then. Sit down, work it out, decide on it, accept it, think it. Even feel it, eventually, so that this gets easier.

I experience far more acceptance than rejection.
The rejection does not harm me except insofar as it is my own.
I have a right to my harmless proclivities.
Self-acceptance increases self-perception.
Generally, acceptance increases perception.

And- it is difficult. It is not something I can decide to do and just think I do. It is a habit I need to get into.


O God, I do not want to be this feminine, I really don’t, it feels like life would be so much easier if I were otherwise, and I wonder if it is personality disorder rather than innate, if I may escape it in some way- and I might be better rolling with it than resisting it. Cliché feminine, feminine in a bad way, so unfitting to my body and my ageing face- and if I sometimes glimpse beauty in it I see always this terrible weakness- how can I look after myself, when I am so alone?

Rhinocéros grotte Chauvet

Escaping the pit

I had this post planned out from the beginning, and it would not have been truthful. Here is my opening quote:

Don’t say there’s nothing to do in the Doldrums
It’s just- not- true

I would have carried on:

Of course I escape the pit. I escape it with television, staring alone at a screen and indulging in vicarious connection, difficulty, effort, triumph, love. No great harm in that, perhaps, I need a little time just relaxing, but the rush of emotion at something unreal is, well, unreal. The escape is not real either.

My friend A escaped the pit in reality. He did not have a particularly fulfilling or rewarding job, though it was skilled labour, but he was churchwarden at a time when in that town most churches were segregated black or white, and A worked with the vicar bringing other black people into my parish church. This is good and worthwhile work.

I block out the pit with fantasy and magical thinking. That is a large part of the reason why I am here, now, because I imagine impossibilities as possible, and moon over them. I make the pit bearable with fantasies, and so do not take the necessary action to achieve what is actually possible and get out of it. I hear all these “inspirational” quotes about following your heart, doing what makes your heart sing, etc, etc, and imagine that all of Life could be an endless whirl of that delight, like the quick achievement- sorted within an hour!- on the telly.

I had got myself right down. So it was good to get the link and photo from Rose, a reminder of real connection with real people, doing something beautiful together. Of course I do fantasy and magical thinking, but in depression it can seem as if everything positive is that, and the depressive thinking is false: there are good and beautiful things everywhere.

I need to be completely truthful with myself. I need to see the delight, and the difficulty, where they are. A wise friend has told me to pass on to the next thought.

Added: someone liked it too.