Facing the Monster

My life is governed by fear, such that most days I do not go out. I fear myself, and that fear comes from my enmeshed relationship. It is fear of how my mother might react if I show my true character in any spontaneous act. It is fear the monster will get me. Or, I fear the world, and that comes from my mother’s fear of the world. Some of my fear is stoked by media transphobia: people feel justified speaking such hostility to trans women and our rights. And a little of my fear comes from my actual experiences, just enough to keep the rest simmering.

These are my goals for recovery:

I mourn and process my past.
I lose my fear of displeasing my dead mother.
I feel my feelings fully, and value them as my perception of the world and my needs.
I see others as they are, and relate to them well.
I know my own goals and desires, and pursue them.
I express my gifts in the world, as a blessing on myself and others.

My fears of my mother, and hers of the world, do not relate to me now, and I want to be free of them. Such fear could only come from terror of death. I imagine her rejection when I was a baby, and I had to self-abnegate, to be the child she wanted, in order to survive.

I see more how my craziness works. On Sunday 26 February I made a remark to a woman in Tate Modern which upset my protective self and I had to go home. On Tuesday I heard the bin lorry just as I finished drying myself after the shower, so threw on coat and sandals to take my bin out. I stood, bare legged, feeling humiliated. Then I noticed that rather than process the feelings, I was trying to suppress them, in order to appear calm, though I was alone. Then I went to an ACA meeting and was needlessly unpleasant. And, when there is a feeling I find uncomfortable I take refuge in puzzles or social media. The answer in each case is to feel and accept the feelings.

Here am I, aged 56, governed by fear of displeasing my mother by showing a feeling unacceptable to her. I have been rewatching BoJack Horseman on Netflix, which shows both people maturing and getting on with their lives, and one character stuck in his monstrous childhood with an implacable inner critic, miserable, lonely, impulsive, chaotic and harmful. It shows that no experience, however extreme, has to be a person’s bottom: they can carry on as ridiculous and harmful as they ever were, and stopping drinking is not recovery. I find it wise, humane and beautiful, with a darkness at the centre, and it helps me understand myself. The second last episode is a near death experience. After, I noodled on the socials for a bit, then went late to Pendle Hill zoom worship.

I felt my infant terror of death. I was there, completely dependent, and terrified of not being cared for as I needed. I felt as afraid as I have ever been conscious of feeling. I was shaking and weeping. I started saying to my mother/the monster,

Do it.

Do it. Do it. Do it. Do as you wish. Do it. I will not placate you.

I thought of writing this for The Friend, and the Doubt inside me is saying nobody will believe me and I don’t want people to know and I would not be able to write about it and either persuade, inform or entertain. So I am writing about it here. It seems Big, and meaningful, and time will tell.

The road to freedom

When I was eighteen, I weighed six stone, which is light for a young man 5’10” tall. That’s 84lbs, 38kg. By age twenty I had bulked up to 8½ stone, 120lbs, 54kg, 1.78m tall. This BMI calculator says that is seriously underweight.

When I was a child, the only way I had control in my own life was by refusing food. My mother made a special diet for me, of rissoles- mince stuck in a lump with egg, coated with breadcrumbs, fried- and baked beans, or beefburgers chips and beans. Thinking back on my weight showed the cost of forcing this. I must have frightened her. I don’t remember starting this, or refusing food particularly: I only remember when we had reached a modus vivendi. She had a story about when I was being weaned, and she forced chicken through a sieve to mince it up- “and you spat it at me,” she said, reliving distress. I would eat anything now, though don’t choose to eat salad.

Everything else was controlled. I grew up in Argyll and spoke with my mother’s English accent. There was one political view permitted, which I assented to aged 12, reading The Sunday Telegraph before the election of Margaret Thatcher. There was one musical taste- classical, nothing else worthy of notice. My parents took me Scottish country dancing, which I still enjoy, and to the Scottish Episcopal Church, so I continued Anglican until 2001. I last voted Tory in 2010.

I am feeling my way in to giving details about my “dreadful” childhood. It felt completely normal at the time. I met a monster mother about two years after mine died, and repeatedly told the story, thinking mine was worse though I could not say why. I see telling the story in 2011 I said the other was worst. Then there’s the story about being stressed as a child, and I felt the need for corroboration.

It was good to play the piano. My mother did not like me being so demonstrative of feeling with the Pathétique sonata. I kept myself to myself, like my parents, and still do.

I was controlled. When I was considering transition I read that real transsexuals knew there was a problem aged two or three, knew precisely what it was aged four or five. I started cross-dressing at puberty. I still think of that as casting doubt on me being really trans, twenty years after transition, rather than showing that I did not know who I was or what I felt when I was a child.

I am typing this now with the controlling parent or inner critic on my back, inching my way forward, desperate to convince her, thinking I need to convince you. And, I believe it. I want my inner critic to believe it too. This is not the inner light or true self which says these things clearly. Now, I am in the adjusted self, which did what the inner critic desired, which thinks itself rational, seeking out evidence to convince the inner critic or controlling parent.

Yesterday after an ACA meeting on zoom three of us stayed sharing for more than an hour. I spoke of M. I continue to think of her. Today I cried, while the inner critic railed at my ridiculous self-pity. We stopped talking, and M required five days without texting, controlling by withdrawing. I sought to control by continuing contact, which would never work, then worked hard to shame her and drive her away. First I felt self-righteous about shaming her, then shame. Trying to assert control, I felt desperation or hope, casting about for persuasive argument. Today, crying, I felt the pain and sadness of that separation, while the inner critic told me how bad I was for shaming M and had no right to feel this way.

I believe I felt that sadness and so might let it go.
-You must have felt it before, says the inner critic, in disbelief.
-You have no right to pain, having been so monstrous, says the inner critic.
-This is ridiculous self-pity, judges the inner critic.
-It won’t be enough for you. Either you will revel in the pain and get stuck, or continue fantasising about talking to M, says the inner critic.
I believe I felt that sadness and so might let it go.

After a lifetime of suppressing and denying my feelings because of my mother and my inner critic, feeling my feelings is the road to freedom. I try to avoid sadness, and it stays with me as a burden. If I feel it, allow it to flow, it may pass through me and away.

On the value of feeling sadness.

Entering the forest

The intensity of it shocked me. It had all my attention. It exhausted me. I felt complete misery. And yet I also felt some joy, or pleasure, because it was my feeling. This is me, feeling authentically. This is me, being me. It is like feeling the burn: pushing myself as hard as I can, feeling the effort near exhaustion and pain yet also exultation. Perhaps it is even like the pain of labour- dreadful pain accepted in producing what you want and need more than anything else. I give birth to myself.

I feel trepidation about that metaphor. I fear people will think me self-aggrandising, or ridiculous. I am unsure I am worthy of it. And I want to face the pain because it is mine, because it is what I need for freedom.

To avoid feeling the pain, I numb out by repeatedly clicking facebook, mail, blog stats and checking my comment upvotes. I do this to feel some simulacrum of human contact, a tawdry dopamine hit. It is worse because rewards are variable: sometimes there is a big hit, sometimes none. Or I numb out watching TV. Or I do wordle and its imitators.

Feeling the pain of the misery, I understand and accept my desperation to avoid it. Yet the palliatives do not work. I feel the depths of my misery at my loneliness.

There is some evidence that I am a lovely person. Someone told me that on Sunday 28th. Another told me I give off a lovely vibe and make her feel safe. Another said she had wanted to talk to me at Greenbelt (“Prospect Farm”) last year and felt God had brought us together so she could talk to me this year. Oh Wow!

Yet I feel so anxious, and lacking in motivation that I see no better ways of getting the dopamine I crave than the palliatives I know do not work. I have continued clicking them this weekend. My anger frightens me so I suppress it until it bursts out, surprising me. I have been kicked out of somewhere I loved for getting angry when someone said women were uncomfortable with trans women in women’s loos, and silenced me. I pleaded, and tried to explain, then blew up.

On facebook, I see M on video, gently swinging in a hammock among trees, first the legs then the smiling face looking artfully unselfconscious. Is she naked? There is a caption hiding certain parts. Seeing that delights and tantalises.

Avoiding the misery I feel about my life traps me.

When I wake in the night, I normally go to the loo, perhaps scroll fb for a bit or read the Guardian, then drift off to a podcast. In June I woke in terror and misery. But I know someone in Tennessee: that’s Central Time, so 3.30am here is only 9.30pm there. She agreed if I was in that state I could call her.

Saturday morning, I did. We zoomed. She said she gets up and goes to bed early, and had in fact got up to speak to me- but she was willing to wake up for me, and had kept her phone on all night since I had first proposed this. This made me feel loved, yet tense and anxious.

I am the one saying this is impossible rubbish, projecting that view onto you, and I believe that tension comes from waking in misery as a toddler, even perhaps younger, wanting comforted and not getting it. To put it harshly, I have not got over that in over fifty years since. To put it less harshly, I am still scarred from it. That clamped the mask on me. The mask was essential to satisfy my mother. Now, talking and writing from the vulnerable inner child, I feel suppressed pain. I welcome it. I am an adult child.

Someone has worked hard to stop searches reaching my blog. In July and August, I got four hits from Bing, seven from DuckDuckGo. If you search on them for “Clare Flourish” my blog always used to come first and now does not. If you search for “Trans widows” my post came on the first page and now comes nowhere. So my hits are way down, especially the posts telling the truth about autogynephilia, or trans more generally.

I am blogging less, because I am working on a twelve step programme and writing for somewhere else which is more well-regarded than a blog, and I get more readers.

Anger and the Inner Child

“Blessed is the lion that the human being will devour so that the lion becomes human. And cursed is the human being that the lion devours; and the lion will become human.”

I am destabilised. Under the tree, I look at that baby, rigid with rage and terror. Could I pick it up? It is a baby, but it is also chaotic blackness which might consume me.

Kate asks, can you hear its anger? Pick it up and hear it?
I can’t explain its anger, I say.
Can you understand and sympathise with its anger?

I don’t want this resolved, I say.
What is lost by resolution?
It’s not for me. It’s not to heal me but to silence me and get me to conform.

Well, it works that way if I am crying and someone says, Don’t cry. It’s not they want to console me, but to make me pull myself together. This is different: I don’t want resolution because that would mean accepting the angry part.

What does the angry part want?
Impossible things.
To be loved. Accepted.

What does the heart lose in accepting the angry part?
Safety? Control? But I have neither.
I lose the moral high ground illusion.
My self-image is that I am not violent. Others have assaulted me. But really, I just shout.
Others experience me as angry. The anger is there whether I am conscious of it or not.

What would the heart gain?
Cerberus, my guard dog. It sniffs out the threats, so that I see the world more clearly.

I need to love my anger.
Anger would become energy to confront threat or insult, rather than as a terrifying thing I must suppress. When I attempt to suppress my anger, people see I am angry, and I am paralysed. It is a disaster for me.

What’s under the anger?
Self-respect. A sense of my worth.

The only time I am comfortable expressing anger is when I am sucking up. Someone is angry with The Thing Which Angers All Good-thinking People, and I am angry too, to show I am one of the good people. I hate it afterwards. One such memory when I was eighteen causes me lasting shame, because the thing the Good People were angry at was my crowd, and my anger at my crowd did not make me one of the Good People, just divided me from my crowd.

Kate says the value of Internal Family Systems for her is to honour the voices within her. She treats them as people, with feelings and needs, which may be stuck somewhere with a limited perception of the world. The whole person is much more than that individual voice, but the voice is someone she can greet with compassion.

Then, I had one of my I Am experiences, and it felt the I Am- what I thought of as my Heart, or Inner Light, was absorbing the anger. Was able to admit anger to itself, perceive anger, not try to suppress anger, and therefore use its energy. That felt really good.

A Friend ministered on being spanked as a child, and gave a great deal of detail about how hard her mother’s life was and how good her mother was and how bad she had been so she absolutely understood her mother doing it- and then of how it has affected her whole life, believing that when something bad happened to her a vengeful God was punishing her. Then I watched a baby held by delighted grandparents as he tried to get his legs underneath him and push down with his feet, and my lovable, joyous, inspiring Friend in a hospital bed.

I identified the I Am as my heart, my higher power. And yet, I could be knocked out of it. I lied: my ego produced a plausible falsehood to make me look better. My heart had no access to my anger and fear. I take Thomas’s Jesus to mean, if my anger devours me I am cursed, but if I absorb, accept, use my anger I am blessed.

At the Adult Children of Alcoholics and Dysfunctional Families (ACADF) group, the question was, “What do you do to improve conscious contact with your Higher Power?”

I thought what I called my Inner Light or Heart was that higher power in me. The ACADF group is studying the Loving Parent Guidebook, based on Internal Family Systems, and I thought, that is not for me. It is too rigid. I have an Ego and an Inner Light, which does not map on to this system of Caring Parent, Critical Parent, Inner Child and Inner Teenager, so perhaps I should look elsewhere. However I got the kindle sample of the ACADF 12 step book, greatly expanded in 2016, and Claudia B’s introduction destabilised me again.

We honored each other with acceptance for where we were, precious children and now adults struggling with what is called our false selves. We learned to project this false self to the world in an attempt to hide our inner thoughts and feelings. The preciousness of the Inner Child was tapping from within, asking and hoping to be heard and acknowledged.

Not inner light- inner child. That makes total sense, and turns my world upside down- again.

So what now? I learn more about IFS. I seek my Loving Parent. I identify the Heart as my Inner Child rather than Inner Light. The Inner Child had already this week been shown to be wanting- lacking access to my fear and anger which it is now seeking. Now the aim is to parent my inner child.

Step four part one

We made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Someone says the original AA older guys were narcissists. They needed taking down a peg. I could use this as a tool to beat myself up. First I need to love myself. So I decided to start with what I hate about myself, how I might value it, how I might love it. Has it any beauty in itself? Is it clumsily seeking a worthwhile goal?

I told a Quaker this, and was affirmed. Later in the chat, someone wrote, “You are heard and seen and cared for! You have a face beaming light!”

On Tuesday 9, I started my list. I hate:

1. The inner conflict itself. It paralyses me. And it is powerful parts of me, each trying to advance my interests, parts trying to protect me, a real me which will not be suppressed.

2. My anxiety. I despise it. It is wrong- there is no need to fear going to Aldi. And- there has been so much to fear, with my attempts to hold my feelings out of consciousness as well as deal with the world, that-

there is something to be anxious about. If I go to Aldi I might become conscious of a feeling. I might run into something unexpected or unpleasing. But then part of the suppressing things out of consciousness is denying that that might make me anxious.

So I am glad of the anxiety because it makes that way of being, suppressing feelings, impossible. The feeling grows until it cannot be suppressed. It affects my actions. It is part of the process of my liberation. And it is my feeling. I will not hate my feeling.

There Is no “I” separate from my feelings. Anxiety is uncomfortable, and I will Love it, not because it is useful, but because it is me.

In the NYT, I read, ‘According to Lisa Genova in “Remember: The Science of Memory and the Art of Forgetting,” chronic stress “inhibits neurogenesis in the hippocampus,” damaging the brain’s ability to create new memories”.’

When I read that I started wailing hysterically. It is vindication: remembering Dad saying to Mum “He lives on stress”, not remembering much from childhood. I need vindication because I doubt myself completely. The levels of stress eventually made me incapable of work. It started in my teens, or before.

People who demonstrate the qualities of enthusiasm, kindness, focus, calmness and openness are seen as powerful by others, says psychologist Dacher Keltner.

Jamie suggests one response to anxiety: “That makes sense”. Breathe into it, being with it. Say “Hello old friend.”

I love my confusion because I am confused. It is me, where I am. I reject the idea of self-improvement and self-correction. Untangling might be good. The problem is self-rejection.

By Thursday 11th, I realised it was not enough to try to find some value in uncomfortable traits- whose values? I will love myself. I will not love myself instrumentally, in order to gain something or change myself. I will simply love myself, in all my confusing beauty. I need love. I will give myself love.

I love my desperation, my hard work.
I love my anxiety.
I love my sulk, stopping and protecting myself.
I love my confusion. I admit I do not know everything or perceive everything instantly.
I love my perceptiveness and intelligence.
I love my beautiful body, and all it can feel and do, and if it is hurt I will love it and care for it.
I love that I can speak from the heart, from my inner truth.
I love my desire to be safe.
I love my need. I will not curse it or suppress it.
I love my failures. I love my successes. I love my attempts to judge.
I am a trans woman. I have not worked for eleven years. Because of anxiety, I rarely go out, except to particular places that I particularly want to go to. There is nothing the Accuser can say which makes me unworthy of love or incapable of loving myself.

I love my self-suppression, seeking safety where there was none. I was constantly stressed, and I survived.
I love my true self, never entirely suppressed.
I love my human perfection:
I love my unknowing, unseeing, finitude, uncertainty,
which allows me to love my uncertain knowing, my conditional perception.
I love that I am enough.
I love my error and failure, which are a sign of my trying.

I love my hurt. I love my pain, which shows me the truth of the world. I love my “negative” emotions- there are no negative emotions.

I love my playfulness.
I love my creativity.
I love my appreciation of beauty.
I love my courage.
I love my generosity.
I love my desire to connect.
I love my openness.
I love my willingness to hear and see others, and to love them.
I love my desire to learn and grow and express authentically.

I felt worthless. I am not worthless. I created an illusory powerful self, which I thought was the centre of the universe. I am not the centre of the universe, and having lost that self-image through experience I resorted to bullying blaming exhorting and whipping my worthless self. And now I am that real self.

I love myself. I will love all of myself which is too scared or shy to show itself. I will love all of myself that delights me, and especially any of me that does not. I am loving and lovable.

Delight unspoiled by disgust?

I crave dopamine. I dislike the fb highs even as I chase them, and the lows when the highs recede. They give me a sense of human contact and affirmation, and disappointment when I click and do not receive. I share something I know will get likes, and then try to restrict myself, not clicking less than half an hour after the last click.

My 500 words were published on Thursday 4th. By Monday, my painful anticipation was growing. I craved the dopamine hit, and feared I would not get it. So I created my affirmation with the intent of being less dependent moment to moment on clicks.

I am a person whose speech, writing, and way of holding space are valued.

Of course I shared that, and clicked every half hour or more to see the likes mount up. Twelve likes, eleven loves, two cares, four comments agreeing, so far. It is true. I love to write, hold space, and be heard, and I know my service has value. The day after sharing it, and the 500 words, I am in a state of craving.

My affirmation is true. It does not assuage my craving. Perhaps it mitigates it.

Perhaps I would be better off if I had more actual human contact. I need family! A like is a sugar rush of candy, a hug is like a ripe peach, whose sugar is absorbed more slowly. And, family can be a place of pain, exploitation and misery. My isolation at least protects me from the worst of it.

I discussed red/amber/green behaviour with K, and agreed going there was absolutely in the centre of the red zone. Being tantalised, illusion, desperation, misery is all that can come of that. Next day, I went there, and was rewarded. She mentioned me! In the most unflattering way, and yet my delight lasted two days. Now she likes my affirmation. It is hard to untangle the complex emotion, but perhaps- I hate myself for feeling delight. Or, I fear my delight, because it will end in pain.

Well, all things come to an end. But how can I enjoy this delight when it is so fleeting, so much less than what I crave?

Augustine sought “delight unspoiled by disgust”, which he could find only in God. I do not believe in God the Father Almighty, but there is something in each human being which is so wonderful that calling it “that of God” is not hyperbole. I believe I can hear God in others if I have ears to hear. I believe I can speak and act from that of God in me all the time, and that that is the meaning of “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing”.

There is nothing supernatural about The Light. It just is. Why do we shield ourselves from it? For me, breaking through to it was an amazing unsought blessing, then a struggle with all sorts of fear and misery, and now-

It is meeting my true self. And it means acknowledging all the stuff buried in me, painful as well as glorious. I have so much fear and sorrow.

As a Doctor Who fan, it reminds me of the Ood, who had a second brain, outside their bodies, which they held in their hands. Humans enslaved them, and removed the second brain, replacing it with a device through which they could communicate in English. In their original state, they were telepathic. That seemed ridiculous and far-fetched at the time. I identified with the humans, not seeing the wrong of oppression immediately, then human normality broke down.

It is clear why I would suppress my Light- to escape awareness of that congealed sadness. From the ego state, I can imagine reasons to enter the Light, but they are impure, for what the ego can get out of it. If I go into Light in order to achieve an ego-aim, my state will be unstable, retreating into ego as the aim appears uncertain of success. Then the ego will fail in its aim.

Perhaps there is no red/amber/green behaviour but only the ego pursuing its aims by desperate and ridiculous or socially acceptable ways, or the Light, being.

Others find joy in being in the moment. It is a spiritual state. I find sadness mixed with joy. Now I wonder if the Light holds my Need, as well. Is ego a way of attempting to meet the need, or manage it, in failed, unsatisfying ways? Ego is the familiar, Light is the painful acceptance that all things are made new. So I become as a little child to enter Heaven- curious, trusting, accepting and seeing the unfamiliar, dancing with it. And at the same time I become an adult and put away childish things- old, failed ways of trying to meet my needs.

Human kind Cannot bear very much reality. Illusions are comforting, but they have led me to this unbearable place. “We only live… consumed by either fire or fire” still seems melodramatic, but perhaps Eliot was on to something.

The Deep Sharing group query is, “Does your faith help you deal with regrets?” I don’t have regrets. I tend to think I have always done my best. At worst, this is blaming other people or the World for my situation. Possibly it is not being able to imagine how anything better might have been possible. Possibly, if I took more responsibility for my life, I would feel regrets. Possibly I feel regret which is too much to bear consciously. If I lived my belief, and entered the Light, regret, need, sadness, fear would confront me. “For God all things are possible”?

My ego hopes the Light would see possibilities, and flees the Light, because they are not the possibilities the ego craves. Among my unanswered questions are whether I have any addictions or damaging myelination affecting my Light.

When I went to the deep sharing group, and spoke of my step four desire to cure my inner conflict. I hate myself. I hate all sorts of aspects of myself. So, I will name the things I hate about myself, and find how I may love them. Regret seems like a useless emotion, and I am not generally conscious of it- so, I invite regret into my life.

About to leave, I have the sense of moving from heart-authenticity in speaking and listening to ego, and a revelation. I experienced ego as dull normality, all there is; then as oppressive and constraining, and now, I experience it as protective, perhaps for the first time. This produces amazed joy and delight, and also pain: when I believe suffering will be interminable I minimise it, and when it is relieved I truly feel the weight of the burden I have shed.

It hurt so much, and- It’s Stopped!

I said that, and Ruth said, “Love you, Abigail.”
Well, people do. It is one of my great blessings.
It is time for me to love myself.

Valuing it all

“Beating yourself up is completely useless,” I tell myself, irritably. Instead, I will look at all those parts of me that shame or frighten me with love. “Love might buck them up a bit”- um. Love might heal them.

Beating myself up is a reflex for me. Gentle humour, rueful laughter, might help with that- oh, that’s what I’m doing, again. Traits I despise become more intractable. Love and appreciation might turn them around. So, start with beating myself up. What does it achieve for me?

It may get me to work harder. I don’t think it does: I work pretty hard already. Eventually it drains my motivation.

Beating myself up is conscious and unconscious. It becomes conscious when it is not working on an unconscious level. I have some ego or fear-based desire to do something. I beat myself up about it, unconsciously, come on, get on with it, and I do it. Beating myself up becomes conscious when my motivation is just drained. The ego-response becomes conscious when it has failed.

Desperation is a feeling I have rarely acknowledged. I was despairing. When I was procrastinating at work, I could not do a questionnaire or claim to the level of perfection I demanded of myself, the safety of knowing I was good enough, so I did not do it at all. Thoreau said it was everywhere- Walden, chapter 1:

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.

I don’t only beat myself up about not doing what I ought to do, but doing what I feel I ought not to, or what I feel is counterproductive or self-destructive. Every act seeks to meet a need, however unlikely it is to succeed.

In the Quaker meeting, someone ministered that silence is good, talking over each other builds conflict, then mentions “identity politics” and I am triggered. I want to come out with my detailed explanations- Liz Truss plays identity politics, I just want human rights- as cover for my sadness fear and pain. Heaven knows how I would have responded had she named “gender ideology”. As I was in meeting, I did not speak, but sat with my discomfort. Let the inner voice cry its angry or pleading arguments. Why does it do that? I felt my fear and sadness, which those arguments hide from me and express.

I flinch away from hurt. I am so sensitive to hurt. There may be a difference between processing sorrow and dwelling in it. Processing is necessary to get beyond denial. Dwelling is using it as an excuse. Or, dwelling is just processing it very slowly, or the conscious sorrow is masking something else. Whatever, I am not going to accuse myself of dwelling on any sorrow or hurt.

Self-harming acts make me feel intensely. Sometimes I want to feel intensely.

I want dopamine hits, and facebook is not the place to get them as the rewards are variable. That is a way to get addicted. They are no substitute for human contact and affirmation from other people. I want to be useful, to serve, and when people praise me I feel good. Or when I see my writing published. I recited my poetry, and someone wanted to see more of it. I was published two weeks ago. But dopamine from fb makes me want reassurance that I have value repeated far more often than that: I am wondering when/if I will be published again. I sent something off.

Possibly I should rely on my own inner light’s love for my whole, imperfect self. I could speak to myself as if to a toddler, like a parent with infinite love and patience who will not tolerate second best.

When I say “I am beautiful” I am not repeating an affirmation, but stating what I know to be true.

I want to spend time with people who value listening, speaking and living from Source/Light/Authenticity. M had a cartoon on her fb saying, roughly, religion < spirituality < consciousness. I commented that I would admire her if she managed consciousness all the time. See above, re triggering. She replied, “Consciousness is always there, I just don’t always reach for it.” I thought, oh, how admirable, I need to be with people like this.

I thought to find myself I need to know my own desires. I do not know my desires. But part of the thicket is my beliefs, my withdrawal from the world. I will not withdraw any further. That, from sex-addicts anonymous, sex and love AA, codependents A, is red-zone behaviour. I  read of Allison Bailey and at first thought, that is it, I am going to stop reading the Guardian. But that would have been withdrawing even further. There is not much further to withdraw, barring catatonia.

Step One

It is time, I thought, to work on my Fearless Moral Inventory. I will make myself sane. Then, carelessly and thoughtlessly, I did something wrong, and am ashamed of it. I hope it will not hurt the people I wronged, and guiltily hope it will not have adverse consequences for me. There is one thing I could do, but considering it, it might not help the others involved, or even me: it would remove my current uncertainty, but replace it with a different uncertainty.

So I thought, I need to work on step one:

We admitted that we were powerless over our emotions- that our lives had become unmanageable.

There are three heavy words there: admit, powerless, unmanageable. I decided I would write about them, to make them real for me. This is as far as I got:

“As I move from blaming another, through blaming myself, I see the experience more clearly. It was intense. Then wounds and pressures collided in a clusterfoul, and I lashed out. I no longer blame, and feel I have learned something. There was a huge amount of joy in the whole complex experience.”

That is about acceptance.

K’s mental health review tribunal was set for 13 July, but could not go ahead as no psychiatrist who had treated him was available. He attended worship on 14 July from hospital. He wrote in the chat, “When I told a junior psychiatrist that I thought I was about to become the Albert Einstein of psychiatry he just said, ‘No you’re not. That’s why we’re treating you’.”

In the worship I felt such sadness, then hurt, fear, love. I could name these feelings. They make me feel more vulnerable but be less vulnerable: I fear them, but if I am aware of them and accept them they do not burst out of me in embarrassing ways. My body convulses with the feelings. My camera is on and I do not care. I see my dear Friend in tears. I feel joy, though I doubt and question it.

K’s camera showed what looked like a metal wall and a binbag, then cut off. Perhaps zoom is transmitting from another universe.

I am not, of course, overwhelmed. I am still sitting. My body has moved in waves. My face has expressed. I have shed tears. And I have always been conscious of my Friends.

I wanted to write on Tuesday 19th, then Wednesday 20th, and did not. I shared, with one other then with the LG, on my wrongdoing. I said I need to embrace being an arse sometimes, and hope I do not do too much damage. J called this a deep vulnerable share. I wrote,

I seek safety in perfection
but perfection is impossible
I seek safety in hiding
but there is no hiding place
I seek safety in understanding
but I cannot analyse this
I want to be safe
I cannot be safe.

I want to connect.
I want to be seen and heard.
These things are not safe-
not predictable, manageable, explicable
I am so scared

What may I do, with my one, wild, precious life?

I want to analyse “Accept”, “Powerless”, “Unmanageable”. I can’t, I can only accept them. I felt the terror I had been blocking out. I want to be safe, and safety is impossible, and that desire overwhelms any other desire I have.

At another Quaker zoom, K enthusiastically shared his delusions. Before, I have felt irritation at this. What will people think? Then, I just felt sadness. I am responsible only for myself. Understanding Powerlessness does not come from analysis, but from within. I only see God when God has passed by.

In another, we talked of violent death and of terror, where people we knew were involved but we were not personally, and I noticed I was listening less authentically to my Friend. I was instead thinking of what I wanted to say. I needed to get it out of the way. So, I asked my Friend for a moment, permitted myself to feel my own Sadness, and let my body convulse. She finished her story, and asked me what had happened. I am feeling Sad, about that and about other things, and I so fear and resent my sadness. Surely I should be over that by now! And, if I block my sadness it curdles in me, becoming an ever greater burden. Telling her, with long pauses and with tears, I saw my sadness and my struggle with it more clearly.

Probably I should arrange to see a psychotherapist again, and concentrating on this stuff for an hour terrifies me.

That body-convulsing thing is really not British. I so want to contain the feeling without showing any sign of it, process it instantly so there is no interruption of my listening, and I can’t. The way I can process it, which I might not do even with all Quakers or 12-steppers on zoom, and feel would be problematic for me in the street, is to convulse. Maybe closing my eyes and breathing deeply could work.

Higher Power: Step two

The third step is to make a decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of God as I understand him. As an atheist Quaker I understand God as my inner light- God within- and the inner light of every other human being. Not everything everyone says comes from God, and, if I listen to others with openness I may hear God in what they say.

I have an inner light whence I can speak, such that it is as if God speaks. Humans are powerful. This light loves me, knows my qualities, values me, works as best it can for my good. The trouble is distinguishing it. I also have an ego, which is less, and living out of the ego will be less than living out of the Light. But what is Light, and what is Ego?

I am an animal with sensory perception and a nervous system to process the information, limbs to move me where I want to go, a gut to digest food and the usual tetrapod systems. I am a human, a social animal with human needs. I am one living creature, and my insanity or sickness is that I have mental conflicts. I am afraid of feelings so I suppress them out of consciousness.

Sometimes it seems I act from the heart. In February 2015 I saw a woman across a room, was strongly impressed, and went over to speak to her. I acted on the attraction before I was fully conscious of it, and from that incident had the realisation, I find what I want when I see what I do. Later that month God Within manifested while I was showering, and because of my conditioning and inner conflicts could only roar and weep, not even “NO!” but a panicked “Na-na-na-na-na…”. I know this was God Within, I knew then it was important, but what it could be bamboozled me.

And now, sometimes I speak from the heart, or soul, and sometimes I get to that place through weeping and pain, and sometimes don’t say what the heart prompts because the inner critic just stops it. The inner critic is only a brake- it always says, “You can’t say that!”- and I overcome it, or I don’t.

An alcoholic said something very like “I find what I want when I see what I do”- in her case, have a drink. She knows she ought not to, and she does. Could the Heart, Power, Soul whatever as I understand it lead me into self-destructive behaviour? Well, I think it does. The teeth-cleaning example:

I am depressed. If I think, I ought to clean my teeth, because that is what one does to get ready for the day, I feel no motivation to do it and notice half an hour later I am still lying in bed. I have said before, if I want to clean my teeth because my mouth will feel better, and I am worth this care and attention, I will feel motivated. And now I feel that is not quite it. Possibly, if the dead weight of ought subsides, something in me will spontaneously want to pamper myself by cleaning my teeth. I am in a sulk against myself.

Or, it is an inner conflict. In 1990, between June and December I bought women’s clothes four times, and threw them out shortly afterwards. I thought, it is OK to think, I have a stressful job, why should I not relax in this way? Or to think, I am a man, this is unmanly, I should stop. What I could not bear was switching between the two views. I had aversion therapy in July 1991, and transitioned in April 2002. At least sixteen times I purged my women’s clothes, which is like an alcoholic pouring their booze down the sink.

It seems to me now, I am moving towards finding my true self, and an essential part of that was transition, but I don’t know if anyone ever purges, marries, and Finds Himself in being a man with a woman, never cross-dressing ever again. In trans groups I only met people who had failed to do that, at least for the time being. I don’t know how a researcher could find a neutral sample, especially as there is such angry moral condemnation on the one hand for transition- medicalising and sterilising people, and Erasing Women- and on the other hand for opposing trans rights, because trans is how we really are.

It could just be an inner conflict. One side wins, and is thereafter the Heart, the Soul, the Real Me. This is not a crude existentialist view that one makes a choice how to be. When I did, I passionately wanted to dress female. When I did, I passionately wanted to make a man of myself.

There is an inner conflict. I cannot make a clear understanding of the distinction between Ego and Soul. Both have access to my rationality, creativity and expressiveness. Emotions appear to arise from each.

I can’t rely on deductions. I said, “I am loving, creative, powerful and beautiful”, making deductions from being created in the image of the Christian God in whom I then believed. Later, “graceful” seemed to fit so much better than “powerful”. Or, I could say the ego comes from the enmeshed relationship with my mother, and therefore anything my mother would have wanted is bad. It does not enable me to predict what this Light would do in some imagined situation. Would I fight, if I were Ukrainian? Absolutely no idea. Or, perhaps it does- but knowing character separate from an actual choice in the moment, or predicting the future, is tainted by the desires and self-image of ego, so harder to discern.

And yet- I love it when I speak with this higher voice. It can seem vulnerable, ridiculous, shameful, weird, but speaking from anything else seems less- hamartia, in Christian Bible Greek, missing the target, often translated sin. And even when it could only say “Na na na na na!” it seemed powerful.

I cannot predict it, and I do not really trust it, but in the present moment I can act and speak from it, and anything else feels less. Yet sometimes a judgment condemning myself seems right, rational, sane, whatever.

The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone.
The spirit of Life in Christ will set me free.

I wrote this, and it’s a bit angsty. I was anxious. In the afternoon I spoke from the heart and achieved what I wanted, then called a wise friend and celebrated my delight without stating what the delight was about, beyond speaking from the heart. I feel more confident in my ability to speak from my inner light each time I have done so.