Dialogue of the Inner Voices

Anxiety is fear, curdled.

Two of my inner voices have been diametrically opposed, struggling, both miserable, both mostly unconscious, manifested in lassitude and misery. Both want my good. Both are Welcome. My Frontal Lobe, as the conscious part of this process, this animal, this Euarchontoglire called Abigail, invites both into consciousness, to see if they could be brought into dialogue.

One is resentful, frustrated and angry. It wants me to justify my existence, to have meaning in my life. It wants to stretch me and push me to achieve. The other is resentful, frightened and hurt. It feels bullied by the Stretcher. I call it my No. No, that is unreasonable. No, I will not go out cycling and struggle up hill, being cursed as weak and useless.

Fear, unheard, slops around inside like stagnant water, like bilge water in a ship. It could have been useful. It warned of a threat. And now it has gone bad, detached from the threat it warned of, attached to anything it can slime. It becomes anxiety. It does not mean there is no real threat, just that finding that threat is more difficult, and needs patience; and anxiety may linger after I find the threat, unsure that I really have dealt with it.

So the Frontal Lobe, the Love, the Reconciler, to make this a positive sum game brings both voices into separate rooms, lavishing praise and gratitude on both for their care and labour, with a hint of a suggestion that their aims might be achieved better if a few small adjustments were made.

There is the Stretcher, which the Protector wishes to call the slave-driver. It wants me to achieve. I am competitive, and it encourages me this morning to go cycling. The Protector fears the slave-driver will get angry and frustrated, and start to bully uselessly. Harder! Faster! I cudgel myself, scourge myself, as I go up hill too slowly for my liking, not wanting to go down a gear because I should be able to do it in this gear. The Stretcher is continually bamboozled, as well as resentful, that this is not as easy as it thinks it should be.

Well, the lie it imbibed was that things are easy and its performance should be perfect. It has fixed at quite a young age, this aspect of myself. At that young age, I decided that difficult things should appear easy and require little effort, and the Stretcher, frustrated, resentful, angry and mostly unconscious, affecting me unawares, has not learned how to- drop a gear, literally and figuratively, to break the task down, take it slower, make it easier, take the time necessary to learn it, build up gradually.

With Love, the Reconciler thanks it for its determination to achieve and develop, and suggests it might achieve these worthwhile goals more easily by breaking the task down. That is a long hill, steep in places. I notice that if I drop to a gear lower than I ever use at the steepest parts, I can rotate my pedals quicker, and be in a higher gear later on when it is less steep. I have noticed that the cyclists who pass me turn their cranks much faster than I do. Possibly that is a technique which would make me more efficient. I read about it last century, I think, this idea of Cadence, around the time I found that a simple change to my breaststroke technique made me a faster swimmer.

(Last century. There’s the resentment, the self-blaming. How stupid I am, how stupid these voices! That resentment does not help. Turn it round. Here I am learning ways new to me, which will improve my performance. I will achieve the goals of both!)

Now is what matters.

I am in conscious incompetence. These are decisions to make. Gear 2.1 is much lower than 2.2. I can go up hill in 2.2 but it is a struggle. Then 2.1 feels too low. I may learn which works best by trying both, or perhaps work harder for a bit in 2.2 then go back to 2.1. Trying different combinations may help me learn. Bringing this to consciousness and putting it into words, doing something I don’t know will work in a spirit of enquiry, may help me improve.

This is the aim of the Stretcher.

The Reconciler has also been aware of the Protector, also in its room. The Protector is anxious. It has been scourged and cursed before, it will happen again! But the Stretcher does not seem so angry and frustrated. The Protector might be enticed. Sunshine is good for me. Birds and blossom are beautiful. The Protector wants me to achieve, too, just not to be bullied. Bullying is a No.

The Reconciler hears that demand. No Bullying. Well, that seems reasonable. The Stretcher does not realise it is bullying, that is the problem. Do you see it wants our Good?

Mmm. The Protector is not absolutely convinced, but willing to suspend judgment for the moment. Then its anxiety comes over it. What if my tyre punctures or Something Bad Happens? It has worked so hard to protect me, it needs my care itself.

Most of the time I was out, the Protector was grudgingly admitting that the Stretcher was behaving more sensibly, though some of the time one or the other panicked and needed reassurance. Well, I am a sensitive soul, and that is a blessing, and I need my own love and reassurance. The Reconciler worked to reassure both.

This is a work in progress. And I notice my progress, and give each of these voices, and my whole self, necessary praise and thanks.

Swans

P1000740I could fritter my day with facebook and the telly, but I feel the need to spend time in contemplation. I have the bath absolutely as hot as I can bear, and feel the sweat running.

Think of that. There is so much in it to be grateful for. Round my transition, actually I was supported. I was angry and depressed and frightened, and my work looked after me: on principle, as equality and diversity are important. Yes, so much to be grateful for, and when I think of it I am angry and upset. I weep. Oh. Is that the emotion now, or retained emotion from then? It is an intense and unpleasant experience today, though I did not think of my recent lesson, to notice the emotion rather than resist it. That only comes to mind, writing now, in the evening. And, writing now, I can think of November 2011 with a slight pang only, but could get drawn in to my hurt from 2002.

Lunch with Strike Back Project Dawn on the telly. There is lots of shooting, but only bad guys die so that is alright. Mmm. Shall I go for a walk? I could fritter my afternoon, or blog about getting emotional, or I could walk in the suddenly warm sunshine, and think. Only a week ago there was snow lying! There is a time to explore in words, and a time to just be with it. I have my camera, in case there is anything worth photographing.

It is not that I do not fear too much, or suppress fear so that I fear too little. The thing I ought to fear, the threat I see rationally, I do not really fear, and the thing which rationally I see is no threat at all I fear. Strange. Well, I have a month-

I catch up a retired couple, and the man wants to talk. They wondered if I had binoculars: there was something in the water. It seemed too far out for a fish, unable to pull itself out, it appeared to be trying to pull itself out with arms. Like a frog. My camera, I say, can magnify- but seeing no binoculars round my neck, they have walked on. They often walk here. They ask if that pub is still open. They like the local pubs, just occasionally, for a meal. We heartsay how beautiful the park is, and they take a different path.

There are two swans, and I sit down with the camera. Digital: I click away more than two hundred times, in the hope of catching something. And when I almost get the classic two swans necks in a heart shape photo- often done, but nice to do it myself- the camera chooses to focus on that dry stalk. Boo. Oh well, it is such a beautiful sharp photo of the stalk.  They are quite happy, about ten yards away: they know people are no threat, and it is lovely to watch them together. And then one gets his neck over. I look forward to seeing cygnets. I am very pleased with my last photo here.

Evening to karate. We get the punch-pads out, and take turns hitting and kicking them. I get exhausted holding the pad, it is a good feeling.

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Sticky situations

There is a range of responses to an emergency. Some people see what needs to be done, and take action. Some people go into a funk and can do nothing for themselves. Most of us are in the middle. One argument made by Sensei M for karate practice is that it enables us to respond in the moment to emergencies.

There are differences. In kumite (pronounce kumitĂ©) we do not hit each other. The idea is that the fist reaches the gi and no further. Well, I do not want my eye blacked, certainly not repeatedly, and I do not want to black another’s eye. So the state of an actual fight is an experience I do not have- in it, I would want to do serious harm to an opponent, out of necessity.

Where a blow gets through the block, one is supposed to acknowledge that, with a bow.

Also, in kumite, we should not kick below the belt, while in fighting that is OK. As Sensei A says, the knee is designed to bend one way, and if you make it bend the other your assailant has a serious problem. Could I just do that to someone, again out of necessity? Practising kicks, I am supposed to keep my torso vertical, and so bringing my leg up to kick K’s side gives him sufficient warning to grab and hold on to my foot. K got me in a sweat on Monday. S says I should then hop in and hit him: if he is holding my foot his guard is down.

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This brings me to my current work on accepting my feelings. If I see the opportunity and necessity of breaking someone’s leg, I am crippled by my current need to manage and control my feelings.

I build on that. Part is cognitive behavioural: I notice my feelings, rationalise about them, make a more rational perception, allow my emotional being to respond to that altered perception. I feel upset about something, I decide I “should” be grateful for my evolved emotional responses, which are so beautifully fitting- and I feel Gratitude. My anger fear and misery that I have this strong feeling reduces. I am practising this. I do it in my ritual space in full consciousness. I do it on the bus, slightly concerned that I might draw attention to myself- but then, others are absorbed in themselves, usually.

So. Breaking an assailant’s leg: I would accept the feeling of anger and fear, perceive and take the necessary action; rather than going into a funk, as I would in my previous state, so concerned to manage my emotions that I could rarely respond properly, using them.

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 Evolution by group selection is a theory that Dawkins disparages and EO Wilson advocates: here is a discussion. I can see that this need to control emotions might evolve: people who hold themselves back but obey orders are useful in a group, if only as helots. The group then succeeds and expands, enabling each member to pass on genes. Whatever the cause, it is something I have developed.  I think my altruism and my need for human connection and my moral sense are sufficient to keep me as a creative and valuable member of society. My need to control my emotions does no-one any good, it just gets in the way.

A response to self-consciousness: someone is looking at me, I am Sufficient, I am Acceptable (rather than “normal”), I will carry on doing what I intended to do.

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Beliefs about self

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Just over a year ago, I decided to be positive rather than negative, and saw the absolute necessity of that. I decided to change my whole world view. What are my beliefs about myself, now?

When I did the Hoffman Process, my name was “Worthless”. It takes time to turn that round, especially when it is rarely brought to consciousness. And in June 2008, I wrote in my diary “I am a human being”: with the value of a human being, the highest evolution of intelligence over four billion years, and one in seven billion human beings. So this has been percolating for some time.

I know that I have been badly hurt. The terrified, angry resistance I have had to my own intuition and emotional being, and before that to accepting that I am female, show that. I suppressed myself because I had been suppressed, in early childhood. I find taking pleasure in things, being happy, feels risky and uncomfortable.

I have faced the world with courage. Many trans women do not transition. It does take courage. It took me courage to go into supermarkets, walk along the street. I celebrate my courage. So where I might say that my career has gone nowhere, I have sought to hide away, I can turn that around: even though I have wanted to hide away, I have worked for nineteen years. Someone told me last night she thought me brave to have the operation.

I have creativity. I have been creative in work, finding my own ideas to achieve what we needed to achieve. I have been creative here. I am creative in performing. I celebrate my creativity.

I am Loving. Not only do I enjoy achieving results in the voluntary work, I enjoy relating to people, hearing them and reassuring them and letting them find relief in sharing their sorrows. I celebrate and delight in my Love. And so I am loveable.

What do I deserve?

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Oh, that is a difficult question. What do I deserve? My old false belief is that I am bad and so deserve to suffer. I am not sure how strong that belief is in me now. I will come back to that one.

Practise, then. That crosses my mind. How do I feel about that? Upset. And the voices come up: I should not be feeling so strongly about it now, I should be over it, anger with my distress which exacerbates the distress and the intensity of the feeling. Breathe. Those shoulds are not true. Mmmm. Gratitude. Gratitude that I have this responsive emotional being, and that I may be conscious of my own feeling, that I have done enough healing to accept it. The hurt almost becomes sweet. Can I do the same with my feelings about the Life problem?

I find my internal workings and my speculations on them endlessly fascinating, and I hope you do too. At least I hope it possible that my experience has some relevance to other people.