Self-consciousness and self-knowledge

Self-consciousness and self-knowledge may be incapable of coexisting. I have one when I do not have the other. Trans people may be particularly self-conscious. Other people call self-knowledge “flow”.

Cycling last week, with the brilliant new idea of being kind to myself, not pushing myself too hard, I was more efficient and enjoyed it more. And today I was back to old habits, resenting the hills and the wind, and going in a higher gear than necessary. Then I pedal more slowly. I went to the supermarket in the sunshine, which could have been more enjoyable. Coming back, some of the time I was in a lower gear, sometimes not.

In self-consciousness, I have strong ideas about how I should appear, and never match them. So I am struggling against the pedals and the hills. In self-knowledge, the prompting to change down a gear feels instinctive, with no gap between perception, desire and act. My competitiveness manifests in both- I want to go as fast as possible, I want to improve- but I know that revolving the pedals faster in a lower gear is more efficient, so in self-consciousness, beating myself up about my weakness, I do less well.

Yes. I have been transitioned eighteen years, and I still want to make a man of myself, and am continually frustrated and disappointed at my failure to do so. Cycling, I look at the blossom and like it but I also look at the houses on the ridge and think of the hill to get up to them. I am still pushing myself, testing myself all the time, demanding more, at the same time that I spend most of my time in my living room. Pushing myself is pleasure and fear. I still bully myself, push myself, even as I do less and less. If I can just be in the moment, cycling, rather than thinking of past and future and how I might appear, I might enjoy it more. Wu Wei, the Do-Not do of the Tao, relates, as does the idea of unconscious competence, bringing something into consciousness only to fine tune it.

I want to cycle, and I want not to. There are two impulses. The desire for fresh air, sunshine and exercise may just be because intellectually I know I ought to want them. Or that is how I care for myself, for my body.

If I ceased to see myself as worthless, thinking I should be doing better than this, I might be freed. My judgment of myself might have value were it not so harsh. It is a response to external judgments in the past. Its intention is to keep the child me safe, and to improve me. It wants to help, but it- she- is in a panic all the time. Here, I construct an intellectual understanding, in words, so as to let go the demands  and just be.

Tina observed, the contrast in me between the calm serenity of my usual presentation, and these bursts of utter frustration. She said, “Those parts of you don’t understand each other, or will not talk to each other, or upset each other tremendously”.

I mother this panicking aspect of me.

Then I went out the day after, and cycled in conscious awareness. After that, I met Pauline over Zoom. She agreed to explore this way I am becoming more conscious of feeling, and how my feelings conflict. I would not have said I was an anxious person, and now I discern anxiety in myself, and find it far too great. I should not be anxious. I told her of anger holding sadness down, and now they are not fighting.

She understands. Ignored feelings shout louder. Feelings are a flag-waving exercise, drawing my attention to my need. Or, acknowledging that a need is met. For anxiety, I might ask what the need is.

For anxiety, I think it is my own judgment of myself that is too harsh, and that makes me anxious, not wanting to do anything that will be judged.

Part of me despises my agoraphobic lifestyle. Despises is a strong word. It fits, though.

I have a need to contribute and be valued. I want freedom, both freedom to act and freedom from the demands. I need affirmation and acceptance.

My great No has removed a great deal of the stress.

She has a picture of me with the neighbour I fear, playing the piano together “uproariously”. Possibly this fits my sadness and my anger with it, now playing together. There is self-acceptance.

She suggests I allow my unconscious feelings expression. Could I improvise it on the piano? My thoughts on this are of possible sounds that would make, and of the fact that I rarely play and rarely improvised when I did, I just played from scores. So there is the old negative, oh that won’t work, but it is not as strong as before.

The sounds do not have to be explained. Possibly they cannot be put into words, but the conscious intention to give this time shows them they might be accepted and that might bring them into consciousness. The process acknowledges them, begins the acceptance which may lead to perception.

If it does not feel safe to come out in words, not requiring it to express itself in words may be helpful. It’s like sitting in a clearing and she feels her level of reverence and acceptance might allow a deer to cross the clearing. Odd. Someone once said I was like a deer in the woods, peering out shyly.

Things you have no memory of may be expressed in art therapy.

So I decide, I will stand in the middle of my room, and allow that part of myself to make a movement. In the evening, I do this, and look around the room. There is a moment when it suddenly feels inauthentic, and I stop. The next morning- this morning, as I write- I stand there again, with that intention, and say “Welcome”. The image of a Mexican standoff comes to mind. Lots of people are pointing guns at each other, with shifting alliances. One hesitantly begins to lower his gun. After sunset I stand barefoot in darkness, say the word of power that initiates the ritual- “Welcome”- and start to dance.

Well. I know I should not say, oh, there’s this worrying symptom with my heart, and then go silent- but this is huge for me. I think I make progress.

I have no idea who painted this, but it fits.

Touch

I have not hugged anyone since 6 March. The attention and touch to my bare skin yesterday moved me. Human fellow-feeling also moved me- texting can be beautiful- but I need reassurance of my value, and caring touch made me feel better. I will wring all the pleasure I can from the experience.

I saw my pulse was low, and did something about it: search to find if that’s a problem, phone the NHS, speak to my GP. She arranged the CCG. Then on Thursday evening I found myself thinking about it. Would I be OK? I analysed this. Possible heart problems are a thing people might be worried about, and worried people might think about the thing they were worried about. I had done all I could about it for the moment. So possibly I am worried. I’ve just looked up the difference between worry and anxiety: here it is. Worry is verbal, in the head. I used the word correctly, even though I could not have specified the difference.

Next day, I went to the surgery. Because of The Disease, you go in and announce your presence, then wait outside. Only where a physical examination is necessary do you see a professional in person at all. I chatted to a man of eighty, who arrived on an electric scooter. Someone was going to give him a lift, but had not turned up. He told me he was fed up, and made clear he meant he wanted to die. He had had a cataract operation in February, and when he went in they had told him they had to remove the lens. They really should have told him that before, as that is how you treat a cataract. Then they told him he could not drive for weeks, and now he has double vision sideways and all the opticians are closed. It is good to chat. He had been in the army for ten years, including during the Cuban Missile Crisis, a formative and terrifying experience for him.

A woman turned up in a mask. “That looks professional,” I said. It doesn’t have the vents or filters, she said, it’s from her husband’s work, and more a dust mask than an airtight mask.

I decided to identify this tree. I think it is a silver birch. Say if you think different.

The nurse, in an apron of plastic film, a hair covering, and a mask, chatted away as she fastened sticky contacts to my skin: chest, abdomen and ankles. That was the caring touch. It mattered, despite her latex gloves. She so misses touching. She is a huggy person. “Normal sinus rhythm,” she said, and the doctor confirmed.

Going without touch matters, as a human being, a primate, an animal; and it is how things are. I will accept it.

Then I went off for blood tests. I was challenged at the door: have I had a cough or fever in the last seven days? No, and not a headache, loss of taste and smell, or lesions on the toes either. The phlebotomist had to have a good dig around in my arm before finding the vein.

How can you just enjoy cycling? I realised I was pedalling along in a fury of resentment. I resented the wind, I resented the inclines, and when I was working hard I cudgelled myself to work harder. I should not need to drop a gear, here. No wonder I never want to go, though I get some pleasure when out. Yet the most memorable moment of the thirteen miles was stopped at a temporary traffic light, when I stood and looked at the trees. A worker approached the light, opened the metal box wired to it, apologised. Oh, that’s alright, I said. They may have been non-binary and I was keen to identify their assigned gender, just like a straight person probably would be. Something about the hip to shoulder ratio in the shapeless overalls made me think them female, but only the voice (goggles, hard hat) made me sure.

So today I decided I would enjoy the cycling. I looked at the gorgeous pink blossom on two trees. I looked at the many different greens on the foliage, and the shivering wide-leaved grass. I dropped a gear when I felt the need, and may have gone faster as a result. I praised myself for going up the inclines, and fully enjoyed going down. I thought of that resentment: only appreciation and love will do. “Love! Love! Love!” I cried.

I want views from another country, so tag this post Mauritania. Mauritania, in West Africa, has some fascinating rock art.

Feelings about feelings

My feelings are my response to the world. If I reject my feelings, I reject my self. I have been taught to reject my feelings, and this paralyses me. My feelings still affect me even if I am not conscious of them. It seems to me that I need to be consciously aware of feelings in order to process them.

I went to the supermarket yesterday. I cycled along the unmetalled road, in the sunshine, enjoying the colours of the lakes. Impressionists using strange colours for water, not blue but colours I cannot name, make more sense to me, and help me see the water more truthfully. I needed to go as I had no fruit in the house, and wondered why I had still not wanted to get up. (At last I was aware of not wanting to get up, rather than being unconscious of it, or in denial.) Why would I not want to be here?

Well, there is the effort of cycling, which is harder on this track, though there is little wind. And, I am outside. There is more sensory stimulation outside, more light, more noise. Rather than the various electric hums of my household, there are birds. Inside, where I prefer to be, I am in control, safest in the immediate moment, and outside is different. And there are people about. People are weird, and possibly threatening.

Knowing that everything must be perfect as I perform this task, of going to the supermarket, finding and buying things, and bringing them home, and therefore everything must be predictable, I feel anxiety. This is completely wrong of me, proof of my weakness and inadequacy. I should not feel anxious.

“You are terribly harsh with yourself,” said Andy.

Because I judge myself for being anxious, I rarely permit myself to be conscious of anxiety, and noticing it can be surprising. And realising how liberating knowing my sadness could be, I am determined to excavate it. That judgment may in the past have made me more effectual- I suppressed my anxiety, and got on with the task in hand- but now it cripples me, stopping me doing anything. And, so distanced from my own feelings, the choice of that task would rarely be my own.

Unconscious anxiety just stops me acting. I do not want to feel anxious, so I do not want to go out. So I lie in bed, half the morning, wondering if I will ever have enough motivation to get up; and when I think, oh, I’ll have lunch then watch TV all afternoon, I finally do.

The emotional being then becomes a recalcitrant servant, always needing coaxed, never doing as much as my conscious sense of rightness or need wants it to do. It is rarely brought into consciousness and it rarely makes positive choices to do something that I want to do. When I am conscious of my feelings, they disturb or distress me; they feel as if they are merely wrong. So I continue suppressing them, and notice I am not doing what that sense of rightness feels is appropriate.

My income is low, and I have been dipping into savings. I was not really conscious of income and outgoings. I was more and more careful of what I spent, for example not buying clothes, but had no real idea of when I was exceeding income. I paid utility bills when I got threats of legal action. It seems to me I am unconsciously resentful of my situation without any idea what to do about it, and I would be less vulnerable if I could monitor my spending, fit it to my income, and pay bills as they come in. I did not like the idea of powerlessly resenting. It feels to me this is more conscious, more truthful, and I should be in credit at the end of the month, just. The feeling affects my actions, whether I am conscious of it or not, and may be noticeable to others, even if I do not see it myself.

In the past, the denial of my feelings has served my purposes. The feeling was too scary to be admitted. But this is a child’s perspective. Generally, the sooner I am conscious of feeling the better it will be.

Emotional systems

We don’t just have emotions, but emotional systems, evolved to help us meet our needs. All life forms need to move away from danger and towards food, and our ways of doing this have evolved in a complex way. These systems can cease to meet our needs in times of particular stress, and the answer is hearing and valuing what our emotions are telling us.

First is the Seeking system. It finds the resources we need, both basic such as food and shelter, and more sophisticated needs such as learning and challenge.

The Safety system moves us towards safety and away from danger: either through fear of the dangerous thing or attraction towards the safe space. Fear, even chronic anxiety, may be a sane response to a particular situation, rather than a disorder. As Steven Moffatt wrote for Doctor Who, “There’s so much blood and oxygen pumping through your brain, it’s like rocket fuel. Right now, you could run faster and you could fight harder. You can jump higher than ever in your life. And you are so alert, it’s like you can slow down time. What’s wrong with scared? Scared is a super power!” Fear protects us, related to our situation and our level of control.

In an apparent anxiety disorder, what danger is present or has been present that the system stays in survival mode?

The Assertiveness system allows us to compete. We speak up with a strong voice when our needs are not met. I note that some people are more assertive than others, and ascribe this in part to status and pecking order: people of higher status are affirmed for being assertive, people lower down are criticised, attacked or subverted.

The Feels good system makes you feel good when you get what you need. So it interacts with all the other systems.

The Care system motivates you to care for your partner and offspring, so they may grow and flourish.

We are social animals, and our Connection systems help us work together with other people and symbiotes such as dogs.

Finally the Play system encourages us to learn new skills before we need them, through play.

I took this from Jessica Bolton’s article on Mad in the UK. It is a great way for a layperson like me to understand the concept, and Dr Bolton applies these systems to her experience of the Covid-19 response. She got them from the work of Jaak Panksepp and his 2012 book The Archaeology of Mind. However Wikipedia names Dr Panksepp’s “primal emotions” as ‘PLAY’, ‘PANIC/GRIEF’, ‘FEAR’, ‘RAGE’, ‘SEEKING’, ‘LUST’ and ‘CARE’, and Frontiers in Neuroscience, an academic publication, in 2019 named them as SEEKING, CARE, PLAY, and LUST on the positive side, whereas FEAR, SADNESS, and ANGER belong to the negative affects. I feel an “Assertiveness system” is more complex than “RAGE”, and “LUST” might map either to the Seeking system, the Care system, or the Connection system. It seems more of a difference than translation. “SADNESS” might be a negative correlate of the Feels good system, but is only a part of it.

Frontiers maps the primal emotions onto the five personality traits: Agreeableness correlates positively with CARE and negatively with RAGE. Its concept of Emotional Stability suggests that rage, fear and panic/sadness show low emotional stability, but I would say they are healthy in their place.

I feel liberated by my acceptance of sadness. It seems to me I can know what I desire, better, if I know what I mourn. If I accept I am sad about loss I know what I want. If I cannot admit sadness then I cannot admit I wanted what I have lost. I can only leave sadness behind if I accept it. I don’t feel particularly sad, now. On Monday I went to the supermarket, and as I was thinking about going I felt very sad. I thought, well, yes I feel sad and I might listen to a Shostakovich symphony later, but now I have to go to the supermarket. So I did, and in the afternoon the feeling had gone.

Trans excluders at the “Inclusion Gathering” shock

The Quaker “National Gathering on Diversity and Inclusion” weekend started with a talk from Heather Brunskell-Evans, “philosopher and social theorist”, “Gender concerned” Quaker, campaigner who claims the greatest threat to women’s human rights comes from trans inclusion and “trans ideology”. Edwina Peart, organiser, phoned me up beforehand to warn me about it, saying when we carefully and with boundaries open this conversation we begin to see some similarities between what have been seen as diametrically opposed positions- I don’t believe they are. I applauded the bravery, and felt it might be too much for me personally to bear. I frightened my friend, who emailed, Be just another woman, don’t be the ambassador for trans, let others wrestle with the issues.

The programme, sent to participants on Monday 13 January, said something different. Other arranged speakers were introduced as keynote speakers, but not Heather. Edwina Peart wrote, It is one of my goals as diversity and inclusion coordinator that Quakers sit with issues around gender diversity and trans inclusion and ultimately reach a position. I feel that momentum is building through the strands of work that are occurring under this theme. However, this cannot develop into an active standpoint without the inclusion of the Gender Concerned group. This is an opportunity for deep examination of their position and an analysis of its base. It will encourage us to consider how we can be inclusive and welcoming of trans Friends living their gender truthfully. I do not think a position will be achieved without acknowledging, laying bare and ultimately allaying the fears of some cis gendered women and men.

I found that disrespectful. One “allays” fears that are groundless. Meeting with and hearing anti-trans campaigners, I do not hear fears. Yes, they talk of individual trans women who have committed crimes as if we should all be judged by the worst acts of the worst of us, but what I hear is righteous anger. They think it is part of the systematic disrespect the Patriarchy shows women that they should have to share spaces with trans women, and women’s spaces are valueless if trans women might be there. I am aware Heather in particular finds the thought of chest masculinisation surgery, which she would call double mastectomy, revolting.

As far as I understand it, she finds gender stereotypes oppressive, and finds that oppression only gets worse when we are driven to surgery to alter our bodies in order to escape them. Whereas, in the imperfect community we find ourselves in, I find surgery a completely reasonable thing for someone to choose. She thinks we will find freedom from gender norms by rejecting the norms but valuing our beautiful bodies. I think freedom from the norms is harder to achieve than that, and any tool- even surgery- should be permitted. This is different from the usual trans view, that trans people need surgery to cope with gender incongruence.

This is my disagreement with Heather. Continue reading

Pure and impure feelings

“I can’t feel what I am supposed to feel,” she said. Well, Duh.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy teaches that we can feel differently if we tell ourselves things. We can speak to our emotional self cajolingly or sensibly, and despair at disasters can become a stoic acceptance and continuing useful action. So, Situation, Thought, Emotion, Behaviour: what I think is going on in this situation affects how I feel about it.

Or, we can see that we do not perceive or think correctly, and correct our thinking so our feelings are not so bad. Black and white thinking: it is either perfect, or it is a disaster. Well, no, things are usually in the middle. Do not be downhearted, it is not that bad.

Unfortunately this denies my feelings. Things are not perfect, and therefore I am terrified. That I am terrified of something illusory which is only in my own mind does not stop the terror. And I know what I am supposed to feel, quiet satisfaction that everything is going smoothly. I can’t feel that.

When I was a child, I was split in two and my two parts were set at war with each other. I have been liberating myself since. My freedom matters to me more than anything else. I have many voices on my inner committee, but I might call these two the Actor and the Prisoner: the Actor who felt, desired, reacted as she was supposed to, and the Prisoner who must not be seen even by herself.

Could the war be over? I don’t know. I do know that as an adult my old ideas of “how I am supposed to feel” do not apply. There is how I feel, now. If I imagine it is other than it is, I will be conflicted and disappointed. I will feel numb rather than feeling the appropriate feeling.

There are still Appropriate Feelings swirling around, in the culture and in particular groups and situations, and I may not pick those up; and as an empath those may overwhelm me; and I don’t know, and will not speculate further here.

I am concerned that words affect my feelings. If I see a situation in a particular way that will affect how I feel, and the world I have constructed through verbal understanding may obscure the world as it is. Impure feelings are a response to my previous understandings. Pure feelings are a response to the situation as it is now.

If I think, “They ought to be better than that! It’s no better than a glorified-“, the result is disappointment, resentment, peevishness. This does not advance my goals.

If I centre down, consider, seek out what I perceive, and what I feel about that, there might be some hope in the mix.

My own inadequacy and the terror that inspires is a strong habit. That seems to fit best with the Words, the description of how the world is and should be. I write down a possible verbal understanding of a particular situation, and realise that if I put a question mark after my two word summary my perception changes completely.

-What do you hope for?
-I hope for hope. I have seen what I can do, and I have done it. I hope I will see something I can do, and do it. I am not sure what it might be, now. I will see it is worthwhile and give it my energy.

What I want is to “flow like water” as Lao Tzu said, or “Pray continually” as Paul said, or to integrate as a whole human being, or to find my Inner Light or Reality or Freedom.

The world I inhabit includes others’ perceptions. I am sure the problem is not me, but others disagree.

Now, I feel gratitude and warmth. There has been an act of generosity towards me. I am surprised. She had suggested it and I had no expectation of it. It is an unaccustomed feeling. I was briefly tearful.

Right now, I have a common goal, getting the Labour vote out at the election, but that will end tomorrow, and become different goals requiring different action. My comrades are not my friends. We have this one thing of intense importance in common. We might make friendships in time.

I love Geertgen tot Sint Jans. I love the complete innocence of these faces. And Jesus apparently emerging from the tomb but still carrying the Cross is a powerful image I don’t recall seeing before. Other artists either have him carrying the cross, or hanging from it, or being lifted down from it dead, or Resurrected with the Cross behind him. Even the common image of Christus Victor, on the cross but robed and triumphant, arms wide in blessing, shows bare feet but not all that blood. I am not sure what to make of it.

How wonderful!

in the silence

I don’t believe in one “inner light”. Rather, the light one accesses is what one has suppressed, so that it can only be heard with concentrated attention. This will be different for each individual. So it is like the Shadow, unconscious, feared parts of the human being, until it is brought to consciousness, healed, matured and integrated. Then one acts as one whole human being, in the light which is from the whole human being, and there is no more shadow.

In worship I do not find one Inner Light. I find something which I do not trust. I have only been clear about a concern in retrospect: when it is complete I recognise I passionately wanted to do it, did it, and it was Good.

Humans understand in words by creating stories, and we understand immediately without words, and I found that direct perception painful, untrustworthy and difficult. I was badly damaged as a child, cut off from my feelings and desires so I did not know what I felt or wanted. In my early thirties I found my feelings were anger, resentment, frustration and fear. I wrote in my diary that it is time to rebel against my parents. Since then, I have been doing teenage. Then I found Quakers.

Still for me my feelings were that shadowy inner light, things that seemed wrong or threatening or not properly deferring gratification so not adult. In this culture we refer to an “inner child”, denigrating it: my inner child is as old as I am. Or praising it: we become like a child to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

Usually I simply suppressed my feelings. Then in 1999 I found a suppressed vulnerable part within me which I could suppress no longer. As it surfaced the conscious part of me identified it as the Real Me. I saw it as feminine, and have expressed it in part through my transsexual transition.

And I feared my feelings. I would feel anger or fear, and fear that the feeling would overwhelm me. You will have had the experience of fighting back tears- it’s like that. It was paralysis.

Or a feeling was impossible for me. I could not be confused, I was highly intelligent and should see what is going on. Recently I saw I was acting as if anxious and confused, and thought, perhaps I am anxious and confused. Confusion is easier for me to see in myself, now.

So much was unconscious. I was blind to it, and excavating it has been difficult, painful, rewarding work. I realised I saw myself as absolutely worthless, and seeing that, then observing myself, I have been able to discern good qualities in myself.

I had the idea one should sit still in worship. Some Friends shifted in their seat occasionally, some sat in the same posture throughout, feet flat on the floor, hands folded in lap. Wherever I am I want to fit in, not make a fuss, follow the rules, so I wanted to sit still. I was concerned to find myself adopting closed body language, arms crossed, legs crossed, and perturbed that I was shifting in my seat. I resisted it.

What you resist persists. I thought about it more. Living with it during worship, I gradually permitted the moving. I began to see it as self-protection. Open body language signified openness. I would be open to the space and the people. Then I would curl up, and close off, when I needed to retreat. Recovered, I would open again. If I ministered, it was from the open position.

Over a period of years, I moved from resisting closing off, through accepting it, then valuing it, seeing what it achieved for me, then needing to do it less. Around Autumn 2016 I had mostly stopped.

In 2017 I was seeking to be aware of the flow of my feelings in worship. I resisted this, too, at first. I have an inner light, I thought, my link to God, pure good and truthful, and this is nothing like that. It is mercurial, painful, incomprehensible, often ridiculous. I am quite clear now that seeking to know my feelings was my way to find that inner light, but at the time it felt selfish, a misuse of Meeting.

One thing stopping me hearing the inner light, or the integrated human, is my conception of what it is and what it would say, my inability to conceive it saying that. So I ignore it until it convinces me it is in fact saying that. Behold I stand at the door and knock.

Also a Friend was quite sure of the complete separation of spirituality from “mere” emotional states, from her own experience and her wide reading. That might be true, for a person fully in touch with her emotions.

I became more aware of feelings. I would find myself thinking during worship of something that had made me angry years before, and chide myself- surely that is not still bothering me? Then it seemed that the feeling was real, and the thought of the past event was a way to bring a current feeling into consciousness.

This was a painful process. I resisted and feared my feelings. I would rock, cry, occasionally gasp, twist tense and contort my body, and be in discomfort. And it was a blessing. I was finding myself and growing to value myself- two entwined processes.

In October 2018 I received a blessing. I meditate by myself at home, irregularly. I had been avoiding meditating because I feared I would be conscious of all my pain, and it would crush me; all my trauma would retraumatise me, and I would be only the pain. Then after weeks I suddenly and spontaneously knelt to meditate. I felt all my pain, and felt no fear or resistance to it. I was with my pain, and I could bear it.

People seeing me worship since will see me rocking or contorting less. I might even sit still for a whole meeting!

I am profoundly grateful for the time in worship doing this. Often, at the start of worship, I would look round the people there and think of what I knew of them that was honourable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable, excellent and praiseworthy, and now I might spend a meeting dwelling on Love; but this was a healing process for me, bringing me closer to Light, and I am grateful for it.

I knew it might bother other worshippers but had no idea how much. One described me as a ticking time bomb preventing her from centring down, such that she ceased attending. I am desolate that that happened, and not solely responsible. I want you to see the benefit of that stage in my worship for me. It was what I needed to do, and in times of confusion or growth in the future I may be back there again: I think the process is mostly complete, not totally. Had I known I might have done something different; or possibly explained, so that I was not so distracting. We should speak our tensions before they explode.

I was blaming myself, though. Then a Friend wrote, the woman who left should own  her actions. So I feel a bit better.

I am more integrated than I was. I am more able to discern my inner light. Worship has profited me. I would work hard to help it profit others, whenever I see the opportunity.

In praise of self-loathing

Put a tiger in your tank! You run really fast from a tiger.

First day canvassing for the election had good and bad moments. The best was persuading someone to think more about voting for us, possibly even to change her vote.

More disturbing was another woman’s shouting. She had an unbreakable syllogism:

We knew what we voted for
You have not given it
You are undemocratic.

Ian tried arguing. He too voted to Leave. The Tories were in government, and they messed up their own Brexit- they could have been out by March had they tried to exit in the National interest, rather than their own- but her talking point, or shouting point, was impregnable. All her anger in Life, it seemed, was channelled through this one issue against us.

In the cafe for lunch, we were just leaving when a man started shouting at us. “I fought for my country! How can you wear that thing” (a red rosette) “that anti-British traitor!” I looked at him. He looked late fifties, so he might have been in Northern Ireland, or possibly the Falklands. I tried saying my father also fought for this country, but he was not interested in listening.

There was I at my most beautiful- not cowed or triggered, but wanting to understand and engage, to find some common ground. When Beth came over, he just started shouting “Get out! Get out!” She told him, reasonably, she was leaving and he could not tell her not to use a cafe.

I came to this position, by the next morning. If you disagree with a more articulate debater, it is a reasonable tactic to keep repeating your point until they shut up, which is more self respecting than putting your hands over your ears and shouting NONONONO until they go away. We don’t have the right to change another’s mind.

And that evening, tired after canvassing, I sat up until midnight maundering in my chair, fiddling with my phone.

I took two hours with two separate Samaritan men working it out. They gave me the time but irritated me. What use is self-loathing, one asked, as if recognising it would be enough for me to slough it off. People saw it in me and pointed it out last century. One reason for it was my “disgusting” (a word I used) cross-dressing.

It is my main motivation, or at least was. It may motivate many perfectionists, and if you can be close to perfect being perfectionist is painful but effective. Gosh you get things done. It was wound up too tight in me, I think, or worked with other characteristics to hurt me too much so I broke, but until I broke it got me working.

The other reason I don’t give up until I am dangling on the end of a rope is that I am not consciously aware of my discomfort. Now all my feelings came to the surface- confusion, hurt, the desperate need to kick out a climate-denying MP and a nationalist government, one of whose aims is to whip up hatred, including of trans women. I am confused, and can’t bear confusion.

My previous way of responding, not knowing my feelings, was to shut down. I would lose all motivation and stop, “depressed”. No, really, Depressed. The self-deprecation, refusal to believe that any problem should give any difficulty to someone who is not worthless, weak, useless, or even that it is a real problem is strong in me. I suppose it is reassuring. If I am not really depressed, I can get up any moment and surmount all difficulties.

Excavating feelings however painful is my way to health and freedom.

So I slept badly, and wondered about not canvassing on Monday. I was in chaos, perceiving different feelings, trying to put together a rational understanding and not grasping it, frightened.

Highly intelligent, I am dependant on my rational understanding. It keeps me safe, and without it I am terrified, which is a problem when the world cannot be understood.

And I talked it through. I have a tiger in my tank. I went canvassing, which in a more Labour area was more encouraging.

The Entombment

I love her face. She is in the moment, concentrating on the task in hand, and her misery does not get in the way. The necessity of completing her task may give her some relief, by giving her something else to think about.

She is practical and loving, in mindful presence. She is not unfeeling, but her feelings do not get in the way.

Wikipedia identifies these as Nicodemus the Pharisee and Mary of Clopas. Nicodemus has the same look of loving practicality, looking at the beloved, now lifeless face. Mary of Clopas and Mary Salome, below, stifle tears and cries.

Jesus’s mother with downcast eyes holds his hand, supported by John, the Beloved disciple, whom Jesus told to care for his mother.

Each face has thoughts and feelings readable and relatable on it. Fifteenth century artists used the stories in the Bible, which everyone would know, to show real human beings responding to real situations. In Marys’ grief they could feel their own. I can use the picture to find my complex relationship with feelings, of those acting or watching. It is linen, fragile, and faded from original brilliant colours.

What I can do

I’m not sure I would call it a personal crisis-

Last week I was effective. I was out protesting, talking, persuading, encouraging, writing, photographing for eight hours a day. I valued myself and people valued me- that vicar on Friday talked of me dancing on Tuesday. I think she saw I needed valued, and she valued me.

The week before I was not effective. I was supposed to go in to the office twice and both times failed to do so, and the thing is that I did not realise I would not until I did not. There’s the moment when I should get up, having had breakfast, and shower and dress and I just carried on reading the Guardian on my phone. Well, my phone is my main source of dopamine. And this week, on Tuesday I just stayed in bed.

I don’t have the energy or motivation to get up but until I should but don’t I don’t know it. I imagine I will.

I don’t know what I feel. I don’t know what I want. I don’t know what I will do, and when I think I want to do something I don’t know if I will. I would not call it a personal crisis because it doesn’t feel that bad to me; it’s only when I see what I do that I think maybe I should be worried.

And yet I was effective last week. It’s odd. I wanted to do all that stuff.

Consciousness is overrated. Subconscious (superconscious?) me makes decisions, conscious me watches. Possibly there are different voices in subconscious me that pull different ways, so one wants to go to the office, and possibly it only fibs to conscious me that it wants to because temporarily that makes conscious me feel safe. Possibly the bit getting its way, and not going to the office, is the Real Me following my heart, and possibly it’s childish-in-a-bad-way me, following immediate pain-avoidance at the cost of long term goals.

I have the experience of speaking with whole me integrity, which indicates that at other times I am torn, or in two minds.

The good thing I have done today, rather than phone-touching, is half an hour’s meditation, holding XR Quakers in the light at the time they were worshipping. I think it “good” because it was focused beyond myself.

It seems to me that in the lower ranks of that office people are constantly irked, and the strict hierarchy is shown by who gets to moan and who has to listen. C said to me she did not expect me in, the day after I did not get the job, and I said, well, it was a matter of pride- and self-interest, getting me into a routine whatever my motivation. It was, that day, and that worked. Then after S complained to me about M moaning to her and how M should think of that quote, you know, the something to accept what you can’t change, I walked back down the corridor fighting the tears (usually a losing battle for me) deciding I would demand a listening ear and it would be whole life all problems, the expression of pain I would erupt into, starting I used to be a solicitor! Well, I fought down the tears and found myself hearing an account of someone’s Saga holiday in Egypt- not telling us of tombs and temples, but of the transport getting there. The day trip to the Pyramids (Great Pyramid of Khufu, I thought to myself, not all pyramids are at Cairo) involved internal flights.

“Now you’ll know what to do, when they weigh your heart against a feather,” I said, but she did not rise to that one. There may be many things messing up my relationships there, but I doubt being trans helps- even if only in the sense that I had male privilege and have not got it now.

In a world which is almost all black, going to that office offers the faintest chance of the darkest grey for me. It’s not what I would have wanted. It may be all there is.

I feared I could not do the job anyway.

I have a cold, and together with the depression that takes away my motivation.

Mostly today I have played on my phone and watched telly. The Broo is after me again. I could have bought food or done washing. I liked the busker’s puppets, moving their mouths as if singing harmonies.