The Monster transfigured

The Monster is not Sulley, a friendly creature. It is angry, and it crushes me repeatedly. And yet- it is part of me, and therefore it is good. “I knit you together in your mother’s womb. God saw what God had made, and it was very good.”

The Monster is a self-protection mechanism. It rails at me, in a rage. It terrifies me. And I took that part of myself and made it my protector. The Monster shouts and screams that everything is fine, that I had a perfectly ordinary childhood, that I would be happy if I could only be manly, and not being manly is disgusting and spineless, weak, so impossibly weak that it must be the pretence of a cowardly malingerer, putting it on, acting, no-one could be that weak…

It was better that I froze, like Woody in Toy Story, who falls to the floor when a human approaches because he does not want a human to know he is conscious, than that I be hurt. Silent, compliant, uncomplaining, not protesting, I might be safe.

The monster is part of me. It might, like Sulley, stop roaring with the intent to terrify and be used for something else. I still freeze.

Sunday morning I do Richard Rohr’s exercise.

Identify the hurt.
Welcome it.
Stop fighting it.

There is the monster.
You are part of me.

He leaves behind the Master’s role
she welcomes him, and I am whole,

I wrote, twenty years ago. I am not there yet. What was I thinking?

The monster is an echo of my mother’s- I don’t know. It felt as frightening as a murderous rage, to a baby unable to walk. Possibly irritation. Possibly an anger all the deeper because it would be suppressed, held within, as she did her duty, possibly denied to herself- I do not know my mother, only glimpses of her that are apparently inconsistent or opposite but in reality different facets of a huge shimmering complex jewel, as complex as any human. She controlled herself as rigorously as she controlled me.

I am that baby feeling that terror. It is better that I freeze, showing no sign of resistance or unhappiness, than that I express my feelings and experience the terror of the external threat, my mother’s displeasure. So I internalise it. It becomes The Monster, seeking whom it may devour. And then it fades into the unconscious.

-What are you frightened of, she asked me, ten years ago.
“The Monster will get me,” I said. And it seemed bizarre, impossibly childish, unimaginable. It was all unconscious.

It is Cerberus, it is capable of such rage. And yet it is mine, in me, part of me, is me. It could be an Alsatian, joyously playful, bounding after a ball, or trotting to heel on a chain yet ready, able to growl at a threat, or even fight it if necessary.

she welcomes him

At least I know it is possible. Rohr’s exercise is different.

Welcome the grief.
Welcome the anger.
Transformation can begin.

I am not sure I am there. I have been weeping with the anguish of it, this Sunday morning. For Rohr it is feeling the pain of all humanity- which each human feels and so no human can escape except by denial. Others have other pain. This is mine. Now, as I write in order to analyse, understand, and possibly lay a trail of breadcrumbs others might follow (well, I do want to sell this story eventually) I feel terribly tired. I must get ready for morning worship.

Transformation can begin. This is my work now. To take that angry part of me to my heart, and transfigure it. It is all Light. It is only Light.

Memories and reflections

Two memories from my employment tribunal practice stand out. In one, the Respondent forged three letters which, if believed, were a defence to our claim. We sought a notice payment, and he forged the contractual statement of terms and conditions, to show the notice should be less. But the Claimant had retained her T&Cs, showing the date she started work there.

He would rather go to a hearing, spending considerably more on solicitors, than pay her her due under the law. He lied and cheated. And through her responsible action, I wrote a delicious letter to his representatives- we will settle now for payment of the claim in full, but if you go to hearing we will seek costs and press for perjury to be investigated. He paid up.

She had angina, and he had sacked her after six weeks’ sickness absence. Had he left her to cope with the changes, and learn how a GTN spray affected her, she could have gone back to work shortly after. The stress of the tribunal application stopped her recovery.

And the other: usually a defence to a claim would be accepted late, as it is in the interests of justice: the Claimant’s loss is only a few weeks’ delay, but if the defence were refused the Respondent loses their right to be heard. The motion to accept the defence late is usually a routine, with a pretty apology for lateness enough. I found the arguments why it should not be accepted late. I wiped the floor with them.

As I typed that paragraph I spoke two of the arguments I had used aloud into the empty room, with passion in my voice, controlled contempt suitable for the tribunal room. I remember them in detail. Eight years later these things still matter to me.

I am occupied, in my retreat, in my reclusive existence, with the nature of humanity. How do I see myself in my world? Those stories form a huge part of it. The wicked will fight like rats in a sack, without humanity, quarter, or thought of justice, for their own wrongful interest; but sometimes through luck and brilliance Right can win. A recent story I heard of a court action confirms that: a man resisting to the last moment, only caving when he saw the right must win.

I retreated from the monsters. I could create the brilliance and have the luck only intermittently, and the losses that I saw as My Failures, My Inadequacy, My Wrongness crushed me.

I am concerned above all with safety. There are monsters out there, which can hurt me. I sought safe spaces. Quakers seem nice enough, and I formed an ideal of what a Quaker meeting should be, a false view less and more than what it is really, of people conforming to an ideal humanity rather than being their whole humanity. Quakers were my safe space, then I found during the election campaign that Labour party members, campaigning, were good people too.

I am safe, day to day, retreated to my living room, but not month to month. All I have to do today is buy food, and if I do not I can do it tomorrow. And I am not providing for myself, so I am not safe. My income could be stopped any day now. And I find the safe spaces I sought are more complex than I knew, inhabited not by people following rules I thought I understood but human beings behaving in complex human ways.

I cannot predict what is going on. I can only see it. Or not see it, blinded by my understanding of what should happen.

So I look back on my experiences, and my perceptions, and try to force them into another framework of understanding. I face repeated set-backs. It could be recovering from my childhood, if I cease to see set-backs as I saw them then, as proof of my worthlessness, as the failure which kills me. The monster will get me and I shall die. Instead, I might see what I have lost, if I have lost anything. I have to see what is rather than react to what I imagine out of my complex internal illusions.

I have lost nothing. I have time, and my human gifts. Try again, fail again, fail better is the fashionable Beckett quote, now Keep calm and carry on, parodied from the beginning, is forgotten. Once more into the Breach! I am terrified, because it was so ghastly. I am depressed, which for me means seeing what I clearly must do, and having no motivation for it. Come on! I admonish myself. Action! Get on with it! I am crushed by my experiences. That was a source of judgment for me, proof of my worthlessness, though I assert- it really does not matter whether I underwent experiences which the most courageous, gifted and resilient person would find unbearable, or experiences a worthless, useless weakling should find unexceptionable- I am crushed by them. Can I create a new world?

I put the bin out this morning. It is sunny, and sunlight glistened through a long string of raindrops on the washing line. There is so much beauty outside my living room!

Fear and courage

Why should going to the supermarket need courage?

I am in my best ever state of self-acceptance; femininity is OK. I am still entrapped by fear of the world and despair. Leaving my front door can take courage.

Well, what could go wrong?

Something completely dreadful, inexplicable, incomprehensible, could strike out of the blue, and I would die. At least I would be humiliated and crushed beyond repair.

Clearly, I am back in very small child territory. The monster will get me. I am doing my thing, and suddenly THE ANGRY MOTHER appears, and the bottom falls out of my world. I can only approach safety by only doing exactly what she wants, and I cannot always work out what that is. Better to do nothing than cause (for I am responsible) her anger. So I did. My life was constrained by her complete control.

Anything I want to do is equally dangerous.

Oh Wow. That is completely mindblowing. Here am I writing and I wish I could convey to you how I feel. It means that

if I can go to the supermarket,
then I can do Anything!

Or, to put it another way, the false barrier in my own head is the same for whatever action I might want to perform. If I can distinguish it from rational considerations and predictions of what might happen which I can produce as a rational adult, then I can gently pacify that hurting child.

It seems to be affected by my confidence level. When I lack confidence, perhaps because something bad has happened, I start to feel the monster will get me- perhaps because it feels like it has already. This may be what others call “overwhelm”. Or my procrastination may be exacerbated, because nothing can ever please the Monster. Whatever.

 The monster won't get me. 
There is no monster.

I have been doing some mirror exercises by Robert Holden. The world is your mirror- as you see yourself in the mirror, so you see the world seeing you. We see things not as they are but as we are. The first exercise is to declare to myself in the mirror, “I love you”. Yes. That is a lovely experience. I don’t have any of the self-judgments which others experience, about which Holden warns.

(I will change that. Avoiding putting the preposition at the end of the sentence feels clumsy and wrong. Which Holden warns about. Language is a living thing, and rules change, and I take refuge in this analysis

I’m back. The second exercise is to look in the mirror and say “Life loves you [or, ‘me’]”. Life, Existence, Being, God, whatever, but he says “Life”. Well, I am loveable- and when I say it I feel confused. Not uncomfortable, exactly. I think OK,,, yeah,,,

God loving me could be just me and God in our bubble. Life loving me is the beneficence of the World.

He says, “see if you can find the place where you can accept that life is not criticising or judging you, but is absolutely on your side.” If it is too much, say “Today, I am willing to let life love me”.

Perhaps my confusion is that I do not know what that love might mean. He says it is not about changing the World, but about noticing how the World is.

“Complete the sentence, ‘one way life is loving me today is…’.”

Basic trust is the realisation that you do not have to do life all by yourself. Support is everywhere.

David, 'Madame RĂ©camier'I look in the mirror and say “Life loves me”, and am overcome by anger and misery. Well, it has a fracking awesome way of showing it. All this pain and loneliness! And if it is merely a matter of my “letting the Love in”-

how on Earth am I supposed to do that?