Coping with fear, shame and resentment

Trans people have experiences which are hard to bear. How do we recover?

I realised I still have fear, shame and resentment over incidents ten years ago. Shame- I blame myself. Resentment- I blame others. These two are contradictory, indicating I do not have an emotional understanding of those incidents.

If someone abuses me in the street, their bad reaction to me is wholly because I am trans. People I interact with have a range of responses, and that I am trans may be part of the cause. I have been shamed for it since I was a child- I am bad, because I am that way. So I feel shame, or internalised transphobia. That shame has no place in a healthy person or society. I feel pride that I can express who I really am, and pride in the beautiful human that is me. I might decide that rationally, though, and still be subject to feeling shame and being shamed.

I am still not sure about that shame. Is it that others would want me ashamed, or want to shame me, or do I project that on people? Just because I know intellectually shame is inappropriate does not mean I have shed it.

Nor am I sure whether I am experiencing emotion about the past event- my inner critic tells me to get over it, it is done with- or about the continuing consequences of it. These are hard to disentangle.

I would like to respond to my situation now. That is the Krishnamurti position: be aware of what there is, now, and respond to it as a full human being. What gets in the way? Introjected ideas which harm me, such as internalised transphobia, and bad experiences in the past which may make me fear bad experience now, and make me unduly cautious.

Also, a great deal of unprocessed emotion gets in the way. Before transition, I carry on grimly putting one foot in front of the other, bracketing feelings of hurt and anger because you have no space for them now, and now I have all that hurt, never processed, which I still carry.

“I am worth more than this.” It seems to me humans are attuned to hear messages both admiring us and putting us down. It helps us live together: two people both claiming status over the other might fight. Could I ever ignore the messages putting me down, and what would happen then?

I have two apparently rational and conflicting views. One is that my emotions are healthy, evolved to help me respond to the world and I should pay them attention. The other is that I bear a burden of past unprocessed emotion which gets in the way of seeing where I am now.

How do I feel about my life? It is a huge question. All my past, all my circumstances.

Transitioning is lifesaving.
Trans is who I am.
I have a right to express myself as I really am.

So much of this blog has been devoted to painstakingly working these things out, and a fair amount has been devoted to disputing them, denying them, trying to find a way round them, or respectfully engaging with those who would dispute them. It is a great burden.

These are the messages I need for health, to take into myself, to accept. I might then unpick how I feel about my life, and be better able to consider what to do now.

This is the Allegory of Grammar by Laurent de la Hyre, a Parisian painter (1606-1656). The Latin means, “A meaningful utterance which can be written down, pronounced in the proper way”.

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.”

Others’ feelings, and my own

It is wonderful to feel the same feeling as a crowd. Actors on stage portray rage or yearning and the theatre resonates. I will always remember Private Lives at Pitlochry, with Elyot and Amanda in delight, lust, resentment, desperation, emotions flickering back and forth like flicking a switch, drawing me along with them, amplified by all the audience. Sports crowds have the same effect, moving you from devastation to excitement in a moment with the fortunes of your team.

Stories let us imagine ourselves in situations. What would I feel? What would I do? If I see on television that stage where it seems a couple can talk for hours, as if they fit together perfectly, their bodies mirror each other, their ideas flow as one, I have some of the joy I have felt in such moments. Or there is a moment of loss, and I feel anguish, or a discovery, and I feel righteous anger, so I find catharsis. Pent up feelings in me are released.

Dorothea’s journey with Casaubon, from love, to confusion, to hurt, to resentment, to having moved on, shows what other people are like, and also what I might be like, how I might be. At one moment I watch her, the next I am her.

There is often a socially acceptable way to feel. It is reinforced in the type of stories we tell ourselves, in political speeches, in ceremonies like that of Remembrance Sunday or applauding the NHS from locked down doorsteps. Growing up when homophobia and racism were part of that Normality, I was damaged, for I was taught to despise myself. What delights me is a minority taste. It is a relief to find my tribe, where I fit: pent-up, unacceptable so unacknowledged feelings may be released.

I have been mulling over this post for days. My starting point was outrage and attention: Trump would do or say something ridiculous, disgusting or vile, and there would be another clickbait article. It’s number one in the Guardian’s “Most Popular” list. I would read it and feel scorn or whatever, my feelings fitting the writer’s perception which was the acceptable liberal-left perception. I would learn little, because I know the kind of things Trump does. In the same way I don’t need to read every opinion article about Brexit. I would be better for news with a two-week briefing, the most important things happening in my world, and the rest of the time to pay my attention to more immediate matters.

Yet there would be the Trump article, most popular, and I would click it. With Trump unable to tweet, freshman Congresswomen try to take his place in the attention economy. The QAnon one has name recognition, and another, in a desperate attempt to be noticed, suggested she would bring her pistol into Congress. If they are reported in the NYT or Guardian I know the attitude taken, and it feels as if it is mine. So I click, and share the feeling.

Slowly I begin to feel the disgust of the awakening addict. Such powerful emotions as contempt, usually destructive but here wholly permissible against the designated target, who arouses adulation in others. I check the sites compulsively. Is there something new? I don’t know how many articles Paul Krugman has written saying high borrowing to spend for the good of the country is a good thing, and how wrong-headed or hypocritical Republicans are about this, but I have read most of them in the past five years. Why am I giving this my time and attention?

Possibly because I have a lot of time and attention. Getting angry with a provocateur in another continent takes me away from myself. I am alone in this box, but my computer connects me to the stories of my community and I share their rage at Robert Jenrick’s posturing about Imperial history, rather than doing anything for my own self-development- exercise, playing the piano. I could read a book, and inform myself, but instead I read samey clickbait.

Or I could spend time in contemplation. Then I would be with myself and my situation rather than in someone else’s contempt at something at the very periphery of what actually affects me. What do I feel, now?

In my personal growth circles, it’s a common idea that feelings can be in a particular part of the body. What your body feels is the gateway to where you actually are. Is it in your gut? Did you feel your heart contract, or expand? Normally this means nothing to me. Before I transitioned I loathed my body, and was cut off from it. Now I love it, and can feel sensations all over it, but that rarely links to emotions.

I heard Susan read her poem, and found myself wriggling in delight. Sometimes I get shivers down my spine. Sometimes something makes me tingle- most recently, rereading The Raven by Edgar Allen Poe. And the tension between my shoulder-blades, which I felt when terribly stressed at work, I feel all the time still.

Pause. Consider. What do I feel, now? The hope is to be more alive, to respond more authentically and so more effectively in real-life, current situations, when I find myself carried away.

Live your best life!

How can I live my best life?

In The Amber Spyglass, the harpies in the land of the dead know all the wrong every shade has done, and use it to torture them. Salmakia agrees with them that they will guide the shades out of Hades to dissolution, but

We have the right to refuse to guide them if they lie, or if they hold anything back, or if they have nothing to tell us. If they live in the world, they should see and touch and hear and love and learn things. We shall make an exception for infants who have not had time to learn anything, but otherwise, if they come down here bringing nothing, we shall not guide them out.

The Harpies make me think of the inner critic or persecutor. Mine makes everything I do seem base, or at least inadequate. Life is difficult: sometimes I make sense to myself if I think of myself as a man, sometimes if I think of myself as a woman, often I do not make sense at all.

I made an observation that makes Quakers laugh, and got over a hundred reactions on facebook. Have you ever seen a man stand to minister, and an expression passes fleetingly over his wife’s face, an “Oh no not again” expression? Most Liked response was, “I have seen that expression on the faces of a whole meeting”. So, there. I have done something good this week, I have made people laugh, or smile in recognition.

After Pendle Hill worship, on Wednesdays and Saturdays, we go into small groups for worship sharing or discussion. In one meeting I had ministered: if you are considering people without your privilege, don’t be considering what you can do for us, necessarily. It keeps you in your privileged position. Consider what we can do for you: how we can use our gifts in the service of the community. That promotes equality. This is counter-intuitive- how can you promote equality by accepting gifts? It honours someone. In the small group after someone said, “The goodness shone out of you”. Well, I was glowing after that. The comment delighted me.

In another Pendle Hill small group we discussed our lives, and I said I had no job, but my work was to resolve my inner conflicts, see past my blind spots and unravel my confusion. For example in the office I had been acting as if I was anxious and confused, and thought, perhaps I am anxious and confused. I had not thought of myself as an anxious person, though clearly I am. It struck me like a revelation. I would like to write about such experiences. And a woman said, oh, she works out her feelings from her behaviour.

I felt a bit irked, and on Wednesday 13th I was not up in time to go to the Pendle Hill worship. I thought, oh, its time to get up and did not. And I did not go. I did not connect this to that remark until after. I had only been aware of feeling hurt in a way I thought proportionate to the remark, ie, not much, but just did not get up.

It would be better to be aware of these things. How I was, was affected by this woman, who did not intend the effect she produced.

If I cannot imagine a harpy being interested in my stories, finding them worth telling, it is my own judgment I face. I go from where I am.

I have the feeling that perfectionism is designed to keep me safe. If I am perfect, if I have a perfect understanding and respond perfectly, then I am safe. But I am in doubt. Perfection is impossible, safety is impossible. It is part of the curse of intelligence, the idea that I can work this all out and be safe.

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.

Covid solitude, and touch

My zoom social life is booming. I am in four international zoom groups that meet at least weekly, and drop in to others or attend occasional groups. Since March I have had so terribly few in person conversations, and not touched another human or been touched, but I see faces and hear voices more than I did last year. There are fewer Australians now it is Summer, but I meet Americans, Canadians, Irish people and others, and have deep conversation with my kind of people- wise, caring, articulate, sensitive, obvs; writers, performers, therapists.

With twenty-five tiny pictures on my laptop screen, I look round who is here and what I know of them. Some I might even call friends, and when people share deeply, personally, they move me; then I treasure these things in my heart, and see the person behind the tiny image. I look into people’s rooms. It is beautiful.

Many have cats- “fur-babies”- and I found myself staring at these images, the cat on the lap, thinking of cats who have deigned to sit on mine, seeing the finger scratching round the furry neck and imagining that touch- my hand, my neck.

Then I saw my friend with his granddaughter, a toddler, on his lap, and suddenly saw through his eyes- the back of her head, and its beautiful clean hair, the soft baby-shampoo smell, the wriggly unselfconscious joy of her. It was only a moment yet it was overwhelming, and the intensity of the feeling lived with me the rest of the day: joy so great it felt dangerous or frightening, joy that might overwhelm me.

Part of being frightened of going out is fearing the intensity of my own emotion, feeling unable to contain it and fearing what might happen if it leaked out. I go to the supermarket. Today the sky was cloudless, and I felt the sun on my skin as I cycled along, fast enough to get hot. I am not a mind, I am a human, embodied, and there is sensation from all over my body which brings delight. Right now there is the feel of the floor through my socks. Later, there will be the smell of citrus as I peel a clementine, the feel of it in my hands, the sight of skin, pith and segments, the sharp or sweet taste. A single fruit can be worth all my attention. There are things to delight my animal nature. But they do not include slight pressure from a hand on my arm when I meet another’s eyes, however deeply and personally we share, leave alone my bare skin against-

I read suggestions. If you spend time in the shower and give it attention, warm water flowing over head, back, belly, down the arms and trickling from the hands- it almost makes your nerves come alive, not as much as another human would but almost. Then there’s the hideous facebook algorithm, which shows certain of my posts to certain people. I had three comments and a like on a post an hour old, and shoddy little dopamine hits, which are no replacement for oxytocin. It is still compulsive.

I find myself thinking through the day of my next meal. I’m not overeating, as my trauma distraction response has never been food, but I think of the smells and sensations. It felt my choice was unbearable, overwhelming sensation and feeling or deliberately shutting it off and living in the grey dark, as I do much of the time. As I think of what to write next, I am squeezing my own hand.

I miss art. I went looking for 18th century Nativity paintings, it being Advent, and found this. Art on a screen is less than on canvas.

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.

Resilience

Keeping going is what humans do. “KBO”, said Churchill, Keep Buggering On. Now, with Covid, people keep going, put up with the ordinary things which were bugging them last year, as well as the restrictions now, the lesser social life, and worry about covid. It’s lovely to zoom socially, then I hear someone’s relative is in hospital with it. Brexit is coming: I am stocking up my larder anticipating the snarl-up in the ports in January. Will we have fresh food in the supermarkets?

So we keep our heads down, and KBO. I kept going until I stopped, and I wonder if I am still in keeping going mode, part of me trying to grimly press on even though it doesn’t reach the controls any more. I remain desperate for self-improvement. That is the point of all these churning speculations here. How could I keep going better? How can I improve myself?

This long period of not working could be relaxation and replenishment, and I still feel stressed and tired. Is it that I am not truly relaxing? I am stopped, sitting watching TV, but resenting it. I think I am getting close to an idea but not fully there yet. In some way I am not relaxing, but instead trying to press on with something which is not supporting myself but is meeting some needs.

The need is to be better, or at least see myself as striving to be better. That is the way to cope with the shame of never being enough. So I KBO, cycling or reading for self-improvement, and beat myself up because it is never enough- so I am still stressed.

When we put our heads down and get on with it, we benefit by achieving what we want to achieve. Human beings die, mostly within a century of their birth, and spend ourselves, whatever we do. So a lone parent struggling to support their children, keep them well fed, get them educated, may have little time to relax but the spending is worthwhile.

One thought I had was that to KBO you have to numb yourself to the pain of it. KBO is simply what you have to do, even if it shortens your life. Some unconscious part of your brain wants to resist, and some other part has to stop you hearing it. But the part stopping you hearing or feeling does not only numb the pain but other things too. To have a full emotional life you have to feel the pain.

This internal conflict does me no good. So I wondered, could I do anything I do because I know I want to do it? It is not, I ought to do this, but this is behovely. That however means accepting all the sadness I feel at my current predicament and the way I have got here. What I did, the self-improvement by reading thinking writing or cycling might be much the same, but the internal conflict, and so the effort of it, would be less.

Being in touch with my full emotional range might increase my power. Menis Yousry said to me, “Speak from your heart and you will touch others’ hearts”.

It also seems that it might increase resilience. I am so fragile, I have such difficulty in KBO, because I have so much to suppress.

Then I read this Atlantic article about a man whose mother kicked him out of the house when he came out, and what has happened since. It made me weep, not because I am a prodigy of empathy feeling his pain, but because of my own.

I ministered at Pendle Hill. In childhood I learned the most important thing was to deny my femininity, because it must on no account be seen. Now I am learning to value myself, “every part hearty and clean” as Walt Whitman says, and that work is worthwhile. I feel a lot of shame, including at not working for money now, not being resilient enough, and now I assert that work is worth all my time, right now.

Of course I saved the chat. People loved what I said, and said so. And Ken Jacobsen shared his prayer:

oh men,
setting out again with your rifles
this hunting season,
what is it you are trying to kill,
is it some hurt, some fear you are trying to kill?

oh men,
what if the fear does not go away?
how will you heal your hearts now?

I love these paintings by Jean-Claude Bonnefond: the pictures are still yet full of tension, potential, life and change. What will happen next?

Reading, writing, feeling, living

I have just read a wonderful article, in which a woman tells of her upbringing, and mingles it with an account of a theatre director. She lived the first twelve years of her life in the US, and then her parents took her home to Japan, where she was educated in Japanese and English, with the aim of being fully at home in both cultures, but loyal to Japan. Her title Let them misunderstand is a quote from Yukio Ninagawa, who directed Shakespeare in Japanese.

“The British will often say something like, ‘Oh, we sense pathos in the falling petals of your cherry blossom trees,’ and I would think: that has nothing to do with it. But I’ve come to say, eh, let them think that. Let them misunderstand.”

Well, if you see change as loss, you will see pathos- beautiful blossom falls. If you see change as progress, or as cyclical, you won’t. Before the Hokusai exhibition, I learned I should read his pictures right to left, rather than left to right as I habitually did with European landscape-oriented paintings. It changes the way you see them.

Speaking to this Japanese woman, often, “a white man starts offering their humble, lengthy thoughts on Kurosawa” rather than asking to hear her expertise. Whole articles could be written around such experiences, but here it is just one sentence, which introduces Ninagawa. There are so many points like that in Moeko Fujii’s article- alien to me, beautifully expressed, making me stop and savour them.

I will not subscribe to The Point magazine because the other two free articles I read, though interesting enough, did not come close. Rather, I read the New York Times and The Guardian. Yesterday, Nicholas Kristof wrote of Covid in America, and Andrew Rawnsley wrote of the US/UK relationship. Both are good articles, bringing details together, and both writers know things I hadn’t: in October 2019 Joe Biden tweeted, “We are not prepared for a pandemic”. Rawnsley writes of an international conference of foreign policy experts. But what I take away from them adds little to what I knew or thought before- the US Covid response was disastrous, Johnson is ideologically offensive to and ridiculously unprepared for a Biden presidency, though Kristof also quotes a facebook shared conspiracy theory that would, if believed, make Trump’s supporters more resolute to work for him.

I am worried for the world about 3 November.

Medics for social security might say my concentration was fine, because I could read Rawnsley’s, and even Fujii’s, article through. I am concerned, though, that I spend much of my time scrolling facebook, and I don’t think reading Guardian or NYT op-eds is much better for me. The NYT has a wider political range, but both, in general, go into detail on things I know already. I have, though I don’t live there, read many Covid in America articles, where the mistakes are similar to those here.

I feel the articles raise in me the same narrow range of feelings every time- concern, anger, irritation, contempt. They distance me from my own experience. Events in the wider world affect me, but I do not learn of them, particularly, from any one article. There is a much wider range of emotion in me, much of which I have not named. I could read Stalingrad, and resonate with a great deal more human experience, but do not: instead, I keep returning to a few websites.

Rawnsley’s contempt for the Prime Minister shows through, and encourages my own. It is a paradox: contempt makes one turn away, and pay less attention, but here I return again and again, to contempt for the same con-man vandal. It does not increase my power. It may enervate me further- “The Struggle Naught Availeth!” I think, miserably.

Feeling those conventional feelings in tune with articles is addictive. So is commenting- the more contempt for the government in a Guardian comment, the more upvotes it gets, the more attention.

I want to know why people think what they think, and Anne Applebaum’s article gives another piece of the puzzle. Allegations don’t have to make sense, they just have to be what the audience wants to believe. That would mean the utterly amoral liar has an advantage over the truth-teller (or at least, the normal politician who stretches the truth sometimes) and I hope that is not true.

Even reading The Guardian, I can take away a misleading impression. Why are so few rapes successfully prosecuted? Guardian articles had a brilliant example of phrasemaking, the “digital stripsearch”, where the police take the victim’s phone, download its contents, and disclose them to the defence. Who could bear that? Yet when I spread this falsehood on facebook, quoting the memorable phrase and falsely explaining it, a barrister friend said it was far more nuanced, of what the police would record and the prosecution disclose. The phrasemaking gave me a false impression, and heightened my resentment, and probably the definiteness of my false opinion.

When I tried to tell the story to call people to calm and an appreciation of nuance, it was taken the other way. The phrase “digital stripsearch” stuck in people’s heads, and they had the false view I had sought to show was so easily taken, and so wrong.

Someone spoke appreciation of me, and I was overjoyed: literally, unable to control my expression of delight. I want to control it, of course. Someone else found me on a zoom group, and asked if she could stay at my house. I don’t believe her family would kill her if she returned to Italy. I have met fantasists and think she is one. She has no money and no way of getting any, she said, and indeed she may not be able to claim benefits.

To live normally in this society, one sticks with that narrow range of feeling, and to conventional feeling, which society deems appropriate in any particular situation. That is unbearable to me. I want to feel my own feelings, name them, know them, use them as a guide to what is going on around me.

1929.6.87 004

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.