Some thoughts on Truth

If my beliefs are the opposite of what they once were, have I ever been truthful? Realising how untruthful I am, I worked out my main reasons for lying. The first was, I lie to myself because I want to see myself as a good person. Now, I lie to myself if the truth is too uncomfortable. Many people do: one of the BYM Queries is “What unpalatable truths might you be evading?” At some level, I know the truth that I deny- call it conscience or God- so avoidance involves shutting down perception. Evading the truth takes effort.

If “the truth shall set you free” it is free from ego-imaginings that I am who I imagine I ought to be. That denial of reality is a great deal of effort for no benefit. I don’t fool anyone else; so I expend all that effort to fool myself, in order to make me feel safer. Except it doesn’t really. So I am confused and hurting, wanting to be what I am not, until I accept who I am. I want the world to be other than it is, but you have to accept it before you can change it.

My parents were as queer as I am. The most important thing in my family was to appear normal, which meant hiding away. I had to appear to be a man, and lied to myself, as well as the world. This was intensely damaging. My work now is to recover, and truth is my tool: I seek it out and cling to it, as if drowning.

My inner critic, or inner persecutor, tells me that all my motivations are cowardly and self-serving in the most ridiculous, self-defeating, short termist way. That inner voice does not know or cannot admit the truth. It also tells me that things should be easy, so I am surprised and angry when they take time or effort.

In some circumstances, I would lie, for my own gain, to deceive others. This bothers me more in the sense of “will I get caught” rather than the pangs of my conscience telling me I do wrong.

People whom I value, whose judgment I respect, think I am an appalling person. I think they are wrong. Another friend tells me I am particularly truthful, and I am grateful. Possibly I am: when someone does not think she has a particular good moral characteristic and wants it, she works particularly hard at it.

I am a critical realist: I believe there is a real world, but it is too complex to know. Humans might see some aspect of truth. A community which accepts difference will know the truth better than any individual, but too often to fit in to their community people have to accept the community’s common view.

Psychological research observes that trans people rearrange our life story and our understanding of ourselves to convince ourselves that we are “really” trans. I simply know that transition is what I want more than anything else in the world, and I did it despite the difficulties it causes me, so I must be trans.

I know trans is a wrong way to be, I should not be like this. This is called “internalised transphobia”. It is one of my deepest truths. I also know that is false, which seems like a more intellectual knowing.

“Why did you do that?” is an impossible question. Humans rationalise motives. Many things motivate us, some seeming more reasonable or acceptable than others: to others or to ourselves, so I might not know my motivation. If things pop out of my mouth which I immediately regret, this is because I am more complex than I understand. And, I can come together and speak from my integrity, a truth that I know. It feels like ministry.

A lawyer recognises that there is only evidence, which includes what people say; that “proof” is in the mind of the judge of fact, who does not know absolutely either; that there are opposing, contradictory views; that people see the same event differently; that some people lie for gain, as I just said I would.

Being able to live with not knowing is a great blessing. Sometimes I can, sometimes I can’t.

Blake was right: “Everything that is, is holy”. You see things more clearly if you see them with respect, worship or love. The attention necessary for this is hard work, impossible if you spend your energy lying to yourself.

This iconic painting is out of copyright. How thin the people are!

Honesty

I introduced myself in a 12 step programme way. My name is Clare, and I am-

The purpose is to strip back the ego. It may affect what others think of me, but for me, what I think of me is far more important. Of course, that’s just weird and wrong to me, like everything else about me is, but this is the sense of it. Keeping my expressed emotion on an even keel is important to me because that stops others noticing me. I don’t want to be seen. This is an inherited trait.

I don’t want people to think of me at all. If they do, that’s a fail. So, suppressing my feeling is success. So, what I think and feel about myself is far more important to me than what others do.

And, I am angry about this. Anger is my underlying, everlasting emotion. And, taking oestrogen and especially progesterone made my emotions more volatile. It all makes keeping emotions level difficult, and I am paralysed with the effort.

At the Pendle Hill worship sharing on nonviolence on Wednesday 2d, I said my difficulty is my sense of my own worthlessness. Ruth, a spiritual director, had not realised that self-rejection, violence to self, is a root of violence directed at others. Self-love is the foundation of nonviolence. She proposed this mantra:

I love myself unconditionally
I forgive myself unconditionally
I feel myself loving myself unconditionally
I feel myself forgiving myself unconditionally

My self-improvement side thought I should practise listening. Attempting that, I wrote,

The more I see of each of us, the richer my experience is.
The more of each that can be present, the more powerful we are.

Then there was the Friday group where A invited me, then said everyone should introduce themselves. He is A, who has a life which seems in that moment to me to be so much better than my own. So I went all twelve-step. I have chosen this life. My voice barely shook as I said it. That was the end of the introductions.

This is for my good. The working theory is that it suppresses the ego and puts me more in direct contact with reality.

Ministry at Pendle Hill seemed important. I wrote,

Is it possible to be a self- undefined and unaffected by others? No.
Could there be a boundary I could make, around those parts which will maim me to be redefined?

People said,

Trouble means that you are alive
To live with hope is to live on the divine bank account
Living with winter and summer, sickness and health- the meaning is in accepting it all

I could barely hear a woman, and heard her as saying, in a baleful way,

… You think that you folks in the north with all of your wealth are somehow protected from human pain?

But others had difficulty hearing, and someone explained that as people in poor countries thinking we in the North are protected.

Then there was this Atlantic article, on measuring α by adding a single photon, with a laser, to caesium or rubidium atoms to put them in a state of quantum superposition, and measuring their velocity. This involves calculating gravity at the precise point where the experiment takes place, to eleven or more significant figures, and may confirm or refute the Standard Model of elementary particles. I find this amazing and beautiful, but the comment of Saïda Guellati-Khélifa, leader of the team in Paris doing the work, struck me most: “You have to be rigorous, passionate, and honest with yourself”.

On Sunday 6th I cycled to Aldi. As the shadow moved, putting the grass in sunlight, the frost on it began to turn, but was pure white in the shade. I have been thinking of that Anna Akhmatova poem. Why then do we not despair? Because I have not been paying enough attention? I read the Observer editorial on Keira Bell, a harsh anti-trans polemic, which hurt and frightened me.

With these stimuli, I looked at my Friends’ zoom-faces. The intense concentration on some, cogitating, putting the pieces together. The beautiful loving smile of another. I feel my pain, give thanks for the beauty of my Friends, and of the world- and feel intense joy. I would like the joy to leak out and infect others. I would like to minister on this, but it seems for me alone at the moment.

That joy and darkness- to contain it all at once! I want my dishonesty to make me feel better about myself and fool others, but it doesn’t, not really. Through me the gale of life blows high, so- let it fill my sails!

---

On Tuesday 8th, I had a fight with my inner persecutor, which denies anything good about me. Imagine me, if you will, curled into the foetal position, weeping, shaking, and fighting to gasp out a few words.

The words were, “I am passionate about injustice, and I fight it to the end when I see how I can”.

The persecutor does not like me saying anything good about myself, and demands evidence. I have evidence. I come away having won the ability to say that for myself. I was sort-of aware of it before, but not really able to say it, bewitched by the persecutor’s doubts. This is a win. I came out delighted, in an emotionally labile state, again wanting my joy to burst out of me and infect everyone and fearful they might object to my vehemence or even [gasp!] not understand. It did, a bit, in M’s zoom group. Some caught it, and liked it.

Here are some more good words and true: “I love at least some of my enemies.”

I was also wrestling with what it would mean to find the light within. It is, to be a whole and integrated human being, and the bits missing will be different in each case. I am aware of the inner driver, that part of me that wants me to work hard at self-improvement, and the inner protector, that protects me from the worst of the driver’s goads. I am not really aware of what I want, other than wanting desperately to be safe, and feeling so unsafe that this manifests in wanting not to be seen, not to be noticed by other people (in the most attention-seeking way. I’m confused too.)

Knowing “What one wants” is clearly not the problem for, say, Donald Trump. The part of ourselves we do not know will be different in each case. For many people, it will be multiple suppressed parts of their personality. The Light, union with Christ in God, God in us, is the part we do not know.

The inner gaslighter

I have an inner gaslighter, rather than an inner critic. It refuses to accept my feelings, saying they are a pretence or an act, or to admit that my motives are ever worthwhile, saying they are cowardice and the most ridiculous short-term self-serving.

Quakers asked me how well I conform to the testimonies, and I could not say. I made a joke of it. I said when I did not. This morning I asserted to an audience of fifty wise souls, and now to you, my utter commitment to peace, equality, simplicity and truth and the absolute authenticity of my feelings. Before that, I suffered a painful- transition, I will call it: a stage when my inner gaslighter berated me, and I asserted my truth against it, feeling all the pain of its denial and my own lack of belief. There I am, talking aloud to my empty room, inarticulately- “I- I- I- I Am Truthful, I Am Truthful, I am Truthful…” both with a need to convince myself and terror and also delight in asserting it.

I said it to those wise souls and they affirmed me. Hurrah for chat:

your words resonate with me.  Thanks for being so open and honest
Missed you so so much xxx much love xxx
I think  you have most beautiful kind generous wise energy

Separately, someone wrote,

More and more I realize that being free from that instance/ need of pleasing everyone and being validated by others is the real deal…the freedom…the liberation…we think that “enlightenment” is exclusive, something that is far away and available only to few …while instead is much closer than we think…if only…we could embrace totally ourselves and look at reality from those healthy lens…..

Then there was the Pendle Hill worship, where I sat, feeling I was in my holiness, my inner light fully conscious and in control, and Friends ministered on giving gifts freely, and paying them forward. In my Friend’s time of greatest vulnerability and need he was supported.

Perhaps the inner critic or gaslighter will return. Those paths through the dendrites are too well-trodden to disappear in a day; and every time I assert my truth, it gets easier. I feel I broke through the barrier that held me back earlier this month.

I need to be affirmed- I am in great vulnerability- and I am affirmed. When I did not see myself my Friend saw me, writing of me, “she is absolutely committed to Truth and spoke … with honesty and courage”. In another meeting this week I moved a Friend to tears, and he wrote, “I think this writing is absolutely beautiful”. I write this here because these are the things I need to take into my heart, these are the things I have locked out for too long, I need to know that they are true. I feel affirmed.

I am Abigail, and I am Love, radiantly open to myself, my world and to all people, giving and receiving Life.

Correcting yourself

Do you have an inner critic that persecutes you, or does it help you improve? When I think of the inner critic I think of it calling me Worthless, so the idea that it might correct me, or give valuable criticism, surprised me. And yet I notice when I do something not as well as I might, and how I might do it better; and the realisation is not always kicking myself. It could be rueful, and it could even be hopeful, seeing a chance for improvement.

I thought of the “inner critic” merely as a persecutor, so that I thought of this process of assessing my actions and ways of improving as a different thing. I still do. Though that could be a way of hiving off anger at myself, the most negative self criticism, and conceiving it as separate from me. I think it is introjected, so in a way it is.

A self-criticism scale has seven heads which are classified as self-persecuting, fourteen as self-correcting. Some are clearly persecuting- “to punish myself”. Some are clearly correcting- “to remind me of my responsibilities”. Yet I think that inner critic persecutor, which feels like a small child, if it articulated its purpose would claim to be correcting me. I experience it as always enraged and terrified, but it wants to improve my relations with others, just has no idea how.

Who can define “overconfident”? I feel Mr Johnson and Mr Trump have too great confidence, and it makes them act badly, but some risk taking is necessary. So “to stop me getting overconfident” could be self-restricting rather than self-correcting, holding me down. Who defines what is overconfident? Luck and hindsight can affect that.

I feel I have a fairly adult way of recognising that I could do better, see better, know better next time, with a proportionate regret, and separately an inner critic which berates me, turning my hurt into anger against myself.

That persecutor also brings strong feelings to consciousness. When I berated myself as an idiot for a comparatively minor mistake I became conscious of anguish I felt.

It is interesting to read the list. “To stop myself being happy”. I get happy occasionally. I tend to realise that it will pass, but I don’t think it makes me particularly self-critical.

“To stop me being lazy.” I notice that I ought to do cleaning and tidying, but do not do it. I don’t know I would call myself lazy. Lacking self-care, perhaps. I kick myself a bit about it, but it does not generally have the effect of making me do the task. Too rarely I feel desire to do it or an anticipated pleasure at doing it. These things can become habits, I understand, strengthening pathways in the brain through repetition. I have never done that, though.

“To stop me being angry with others.” That fits. I hold myself in.

“Because if I punish myself I feel better.” That sounds like self-harm. Cutting, one lets the feelings out. I feel pain I can only acknowledge as physical. Releasing and acknowledging the feelings brings relief. Again distress is turned inwards.

One, “to make me concentrate” seems to consider current action rather than past mistakes. Concentrate! I tell myself. That would be better as encouragement than criticism or correction. You can do it!

I can’t suppress the inner critic. I don’t think it a good idea to fight it. I feel a rueful acknowledgment is the best way: notice the anger, fear, hurt, desperation, consider that this is the negative inner critic speaking, and that I do not believe what it says. No, I am not a worthless halfwit.

Then notice and practise productive self-criticism. I could improve.

I went to the library to ask for The Testaments. I was in a poor quality t shirt and found myself patronised. The woman said they had not acquired it yet, and could not say if they would get it, nor take reservations for a book they had not bought. She asked if I had read The Power and suggested that I read Vox, a feminist adventure novel. Women are silenced-one woman fights to speak out. No, I don’t want a feminist novel, I want the latest Margaret Atwood. I am not reading occasionally, or hat trying reading as an entertainment, I know my own taste. Instead I got the latest Sebastian Faulks.

The self-criticism which might ameliorate that situation is too abstruse and wide-ranging to attempt.

Bullying myself- or inspiring myself

No one bullies me. I bully myself.

I get early to the office, and there is no one there. I can do scanning. However there is no scanner on M’s computer. I try S’s scanner, but M’s computer does not recognise it. As I move it, the paper feed mechanism falls off. I put it back, finding that tricky. I use S’s scanner on S’s computer but it chews up the paper. I swear at it.

D’s computer does not recognise my smart card. I use K’s computer: it works, but then she comes back and needs it herself.

I look at the paper feed and see how I did not put it back properly, so I fix it. After fifty minutes, I scan my first document.

I am upset because I am bullying myself. No-one else is expecting anything of me. The Wrong Thing I did was to swear, but apart from that I have behaved creatively and determinedly, dealing with each problem in turn. Yet I have internally berated myself, telling myself I should be able to deal with this with no problem, far more quickly than I do. J said if all that had happened to her she would just of gone home.

This is perfect, I decide. My purpose in being here is finding my blocks to work, and my bullying is such a block. How do I feel now? Hurt by my own bullying, and sad, and frustrated by the difficulty. Others complain of friction at work, problems with the processes that take much longer than they ideally would. I suppose that would be more stressful if I had more to do and only an ideal time to do it.

So I reassess my response to the morning’s challenges, decide that I responded well, and get on with the scanning.

I don’t know how I managed any work at all, bearing this taskmaster within. Especially as I was not fully conscious of it, just feeling bad because of it and feeling always inadequate. Finding it and seeing it has been a long journey, and I still have to think about it, take time to observe what I am feeling and consciously decide that I am working well enough.


Tina sees it differently. If I make an introject, part of me agrees with its view. It comes from the culture as well as my parents: it feels Scottish to her.

I did not ignore my emotional response, being sad at being bullied, but saw it as work and difficulty. My emotional being is something to cajole and manage, rather than to value as useful feedback. I am practised in exercising my intellect, but my emo side is hurting, lonely and distrusted.

The “bully” criticises, showing its terror. I think of it, too,  as a problem to be managed. When it orders me to “Get on with it” that is pain and loss. It makes my emotional side crumple. In fact it does not inspire or energise, but it tries. It wants to express my values of diligence and taking responsibility. It wants me strong and successful but the more it says the more crushing it gets.

If someone who takes no responsibility is 1 and sane responsibility is 8, I am 15: overwrought. I need dialogue with it so that it inspires rather than crushing.

Mmm.

Balance and dialogue.

I would hear and value and support the slave-driver (or inspiration, or sense of responsibility) and the emotional part.

She thinks the problem might be that I have been unable to show my intensity, there is no space for it. When we feel we cannot express some things we restrict ourselves. She asks,

What thrilled you as a child?
What made you giggle?
What did/do you do for fun?

I don’t know. However my task now is to perceive and value these lost, damaged parts.

Later, I wonder if the “bully” could ever be brought to inspire me. It seems to take no account of any difficulties I have.

How emotion works

For Eckhart Tolle, there is a natural flow of emotion fitting the immediate situation. You are in a pub, and someone starts abusing you because you are trans. You feel fear and anger, and as Steven Moffatt via The Doctor said, fear is your superpower. Adrenaline flows, and you are ready to fight or flee. And, there is a pathological emotion causing suffering arising from your thoughts about a situation. You resent your boss. You think they should not treat you as they do. You lie awake at night thinking of what they did, and you feel the anger surging, but it is not about what is happening in the moment, because you are safe in a warm bed. So all the energy the anger and adrenaline give you have nowhere to go, but keep you awake.

Tolle says the pathological anger is not about reality but about the stories your ego tells, and you should stop listening to the stories and notice where you are. This immediate presence fits your emotions to the situation. The cognitive behavioural technique “Situation-Thought-Emotion-Behaviour” tells you to change the story, and you will change the feelings, and that works.

There is an NLP technique to give yourself a boost of joy by thinking of a particularly happy memory. As I was taught it, you associate a particular hand gesture with that memory, then make the gesture and feel the joy. I thought of my sister’s children joyfully calling out “It’s Uncle John!” as I approached their front door. I never picked on a new one.

What if you are told your office will close and you will be redundant in six months’ time? If you find a new job within the six months, you will lose your redundancy payment. This is unfair, you think. You are angry at the unfairness, but you still have the choice, to run out the six months and get the redundancy payment but then be looking for a job after losing yours, which is a black mark against you. If your feelings arise from what you imagine your entitlement is (They should not play this mean trick) that is from ego rather than reality, but this is a current situation which will produce “natural” emotion, which could be complex- hope, determination, resolve, as well as anger.

There is not one choice here, but many. It’s not whether you will get a job before the deadline, but what will you do today? Will you look at job adverts again? Whether to risk running out the time depends on how much the payment would be, but also on likelihoods. You don’t know what will happen. It is an emotional rather than rational decision- do you “hold your nerve”? It is fruitful for what Tolle most condemns, the ego telling repeated stories to itself, including that “It’s not fair!” story at 4am.

To Tolle’s two alternatives, of emotions as an immediate response to a stimulus, and as a response to stories the ego tells itself further trapping the unconscious person in those stories, I would add a third, emotions as a response to an ongoing situation. (I have not yet finished reading “A New Earth”.) They could just be part of a story; or they could be a true, immediate perception.

I am also reading Jonice Webb on childhood emotional neglect, which seems to fit me: I did not know what my feelings were. Still, much of my feeling is static and unconscious, such as the fear of taking risks or venturing out. There is anger here, and conflicting desires to hide away but also to be seen, to have your attention. I am sensitive, and also sensitised: the association of, say, job applications with a sense of failure is so great that I cannot bear to make them.

There’s a slogan that can answer that:

Every day is a new day!

I am not that child. I am this adult, in this situation, and- I don’t really believe this but will say it anyway- if I live in the moment and react to things as they are rather than from the stories I tell about past experiences- I can stop sabotaging myself.

I avoid meditation too. I associate it with pain. Yesterday, kneeling, I thought, it really hurts to have critical voices this strong, and got upset. A problem is that there are so many ways to describe it! The critical voices would call it self-indulgent play-acting. I call it feeling pain I have denied. My working theory is that I remain unconscious of much of it, and it is a burden: as I become conscious of specific pain, I lay that part of my burden down. And the intense pain of yesterday- the critical voices hurt so much!- might lead to a shift in me, where I listen to them less, or even begin to convert them. They are the voice of my mother at her angriest and most confused, taken into myself to stop myself doing things which she did not like, as self-protection. They are from the past- could I make them fit the present? Is it that the pain makes me change how I am?

For my pictures, I am back to Bosch.

Birth of the inner critic

You have that inner voice which tells you how useless you are. Most people have. I know mine comes from my mother, and possibly this is how.

In counselling, the inner critic said “How can you be so fucking useless?” and I knew that was my mother. My mother would not have said “fucking” but it came from her- probably pre-lingual, that is my adult vocalisation of the interaction. I know it comes from my mother like I know my own name-

yes, that’s me protesting, I know it and I don’t think anyone will believe me-

and at the same time it does not feel right. I have felt my own rage, as a baby, in a pram under a tree watching the light through the leaves, a recovered memory, a reconstructed clarity of how I felt at the time-

it does not feel right because my mother was so completely dutiful and controlled, as well as controlling. She would never have expressed rage like that. Rather,

she felt that rage.

Her rage, like mine, was always directed internally against herself. She could not get me to stop crying, or I did not like what she fed me, or there was some inability to communicate, and she was angry- with herself, not me, but I sensed it, and felt it was with me. I feared it. So comes my raging sense of inadequacy, whipping myself until I can go no further.

Research shows that the sins of the parents are visited on the children. We know how patterns are created, maintained and passed on, says my friend who should know. This fits, for me: how the pattern could be passed on. Two human beings want to be happy, together, and fail- and each rages against herself.

I told her that I do not trust my “Inner light”. I am not sure I have one. I can discern different voices or characters within myself, but not an inner light. Of course, that may just mean that I do not understand it: I have a false view that it should be particularly moral, or it should seek my flourishing in a particular way, or even that it should fit me into wider society in a particular way. One barrier to spiritual growth is a false conception of what that growth might look like.

She found this hard to understand, and asked, “What sustains you?” I don’t know how to answer that question. “Test the spirits,” said St Paul, and Licia Kuenning’s local Quaker meeting easily discerned that the voice she thought was that of Jesus leading her to prophesy was a damaging fantasy.

I have been crushed. I did not know my feelings, and when I found them I felt them as anger, frustration, resentment and fear, later refined to rage and terror. Does this mean that my inner light is crushed, feeling rage and terror? It would be easier if I were a theist, believing the Light is from God, but the Light is part of my humanity.

How weak, that I would want to hide away as I do, would not use my talents but just bury them? I despise myself. I have wanted to die, wanted to kill myself. I have found how I want to survive. These are two strong voices inside me. My mother was very controlling, and that came from fear. Everything has to be accounted for. I have taken on that controlling pattern. Possibly, the idea of a “Light” is getting in the way of perceiving how I am.

And yet- I like the idea of an inner light. Many people testify to its existence. I want to know it.

There is that one thing that I feel I could do, that would be worthwhile. And my Friend wanted to warn me of the dangers of it, especially for a trans woman. I cannot be sure it is a leading. I might test that leading, even if my Friend thinks it unwise.

Distress

The amount of distress you carry is enormous. That is what is exhausting you- not low energy or motivation.

“How can I mitigate it?” I asked.

The question is, what is at the root of it. Stop trying to prove to yourself that you are loveable.

I see you appreciate some of your strengths. I know you appreciate your brain and your aesthetic appreciation of life but I’m not at all sure that you know you are loveable. You seek people’s happiness. I think you have enormous capacity that is utterly disabled by distress. You said something about vulnerability, you described one of your friends as “A fairly chaotic individual, generally means well, quite easily hurt,” and you laughed and you said “Who does that remind you of?” And the laughter went straight into utter distress.

It’s that fragility, that vulnerability- You have tremendous energy, but it’s distress that saps you. To be in such distress for so long, it’s like living with pain. It is living with pain. And with the strength of your intellect and with the depth of your emotions and with the power of your aesthetic appreciation and with your generosity you should be able to get the pain out, but how I have no idea. Part of you is screaming, and it’s been screaming for a ruddy long time. Possibly life long.

And I know that you can get on in spite of it, I know that you can distract yourself from it, I know that you can focus on lots of different things, but it hasn’t stopped screaming, and you need to tend to it.

Part of you is always in panic. You have such an appreciation of beauty and of love and awe and such an intellect, but the letter from the benefits office must have knocked the knees out from under you, again. I think if all of you believed that you were loveable the part of you that is screaming would stop. It might be worthwhile then letting it speak and giving it a cuddle.

Well, there’s feedback, from someone who knows me well. And even naming it “distress” is difficult: I call it “self-pity”, or inadequacy, or a sense of entitlement, or weakness. That I might be worthy of my own care surprises me sometimes. Does the feedback fit? I don’t know. I might call it “discomfort”, but then label it mild, and the superego which rides me so hard, or the transactional analysis “Parent”, would say “Everyone suffers discomfort, what are you complaining about?” It would make “enormous capacity” into an accusation: What are you doing with it?

I lay in my grave, and my mother said to me, “I didn’t want you”. No, really. The exercise was to imagine myself in an open grave, looking up at people passing by, and my unconscious rewarded me with that vision. Of course I believe it. The subconscious knows.

What does distress achieve? It might make the sufferer uncomfortable, so that they realise there is something wrong, which needs fixed. It might make them stop what they are doing. I did not immediately think of, but added later- it could prompt care from another- though I do not believe I could deserve it. If I am right about my mother it is childhood distress, or even inherited distress. She was frightened of the world, and yet still managed to keep a job, but she had me not because she wanted me but because that was the conventional thing to do. I can see my anger, frustration, resentment and fear in her, and if she had accepted my distress as a child I would know I was loveable and would not feel this way.

And now those inner voices are saying, don’t be stupid and self-indulgent, of course it could not be life-long, stop complaining. And they are projecting onto you, my reader(s)- you will think me a self-indulgent, inadequate, ridiculous, self-pitying etc etc fool. Yet I am a human being, and am at least worthy of my own love.

Ceasing to pretend

Wisdom tells me I am nothing. Love tells me I am everything. Between these two banks the river of my life flows.
– Nisargadatta Maharaj

Helen wants me to fix goals, ideally to get a job. My goal is to stay on benefits, because it is a lifestyle I can cope with, I am in control, and there is only just enough money. I tried to make a difference once, and it was too hard.

I tell Tina of Mark, the playwright. Helen’s powerpoint slide said she got divorced, but actually she only split up from someone she was cohabiting with. She changed it to “divorced” in case a religious person judged her. “Hallelujah,” said Mark, bitterly, imagining himself humorous. I challenged it, saying that I am very religious, and do not judge others. Mark says all religions are like a cult, brainwashing people. Harlan tells of his cousin, who was “a bit slow”

-do you mean he had learning difficulties? challenges Helen-

who converted to Islam and ended up in a mental asylum. We do not stick to the subject. Today Harlan, instead of referring coyly to “relaxants”, named his crime as if daring anyone to make something of it. He smokes weed. He used to smoke £100 a week, now since having his kids it’s £30, and as far as he is concerned that’s money in his pocket.

We go off the subject easily. It is diverting enough.

Do you want to change yourself? asks Tina. You said Mark, just like you, is “walled up behind a mask or persona, disappointed and resentful”. That’s heavy shit.

I want to stay on benefits because the uncertain generosity of whoever is filling Ian Duncan-Smith’s tiny shoes- David Gauke, Google tells me- is pleasanter and more reliable than any chance of earning money. Helen challenged us on Monday to think of what we would like to do, at the end of her course, and I wrote to be myself without the mask. And now I think I am lots of different acts, but always acts.

On Sunday, with her, what happened? Possibilities:
-she used me as waste disposal, and I liked it.
-It was nothing under the surface beyond what happened.
-we were playing a game together which both enjoyed. I hope that. It would be intimate. She holds me at arms length.

-What parts of you are there, meeting her?

It might be easier to say what parts are not. My resentment is under the surface, always balanced with fascination. My care, appreciation and playfulness are there. I am articulate, except when she asks why I thought we might be embarrassed to meet, and I could not answer her. Because she could always withhold her acceptance of my answer, and question each answer in recursion.

-What’s that feel like?
-Sad and powerless.

For which part are you sad? The lawyer or the romantic? The older or younger self?
-Possibly all of me.
And at that my inner critic explodes in triumph and derision. But I am just a set of different acts, I said. I am proved inconsistent and incomprehending.

There is sadness in me, and there are other feelings. I am sad about her, wanting union, partnership. Fascinated, resentful, I love to see her. What I get is wonderful, and I am held at arms’ length.

-What do you get? Unrequited love?
-Her presence, charisma, sparkle. I will keep coming back for that.

-Have you ever been loved?

Yes. A woman loves me, and I did not know, and now we cannot be together. My father let me down. My mother was too scared. H called me “Cariad”, and now I think of her with pity, despair, irritation. She always responded the wrong way to everything, I burst out. We betrayed each other repeatedly is an old line I am not sure is true.

-And what about yourself?
I like myself and I wish myself well. I despise myself. I am very beautiful.

Those voices, you despise yourself; you are beautiful. How opposite are they?
-I am opposites.
-We all are. I see them both, but they don’t talk to each other. The different parts of you pull you apart sometimes. We’ve got to get those parts talking to one another.

So we arrange to skype again.

The inner critic speaks

I am worthless.

I am stupid. I never see the most obvious things, do not make the most obvious connections, until far later than I should. I can be completely blind to things.

I am lazy. I do not do things which should take no effort at all. I should show some self respect, and clean my house, it is a tip. Being tired or unmotivated is not an excuse.

I am weak. Yet I am confrontational. All happiness is misery, because it will pass, yet misery and depression is seeing the world as it really is, so permanent.

I am ashamed of everything: action and inaction, desire and indifference, masculinity or femininity in myself.

I have disgusting belly fat.

The inner critic speaks and I find hacks. What I want is “disgusting” and “shameful”. Very well, I look at it, smile, and say “Disgusting and shameful” appreciatively, anticipating my disgusting delight. Or I see that these unconscious responses are not serving me, and set myself to tell the truth about them- yes, I want that. It is not wrong to want it. Persuading myself against my instinct or snap judgment is difficult, time consuming, and takes energy, but is worthwhile and I improve at it. Those instincts are changing.

Yet, there is so much energy in the inner critic! The exercise was to say all that is bad about you, and I spoke continuously for two minutes, vehemently and articulately, voicing thoughts which I do not think are true yet which are in me, which control me and prevent my actions. If only I could use that energy! It has felt that I am pulling against myself, for the longest time, like an isometric exercise pushing my fists together in front of my chest and getting nowhere, like horses pulling away from a central ring to which all are tethered- sweating and straining and not moving. That vehemence- could I channel it?