Conversion “therapy” is personality suppression

Why did people start talking of conversion therapy? Therapy is treatment intended to heal a disorder. We could call it Conversion brainwashing, perhaps, or indoctrination. I will call it Personality suppression. Psychotherapists and counsellors, spiritual advisors and exorcists, should not attempt to suppress personality.

Talking therapies help a person understand themselves, their unconscious desires and inner conflicts, and the ways they interact with the world. Personality suppression is an attempt to change the person into something they are not. When we change in therapy, we are realising our potential. We might reduce unwanted traits, such as angry outbursts, but that is because of seeing better options. The angry person gets to understand their own anger, and so is not surprised by it when it erupts but senses it, and can use its energy.

Those who support conversion therapy say they are reducing unwanted traits. The converter says that “same sex attraction” is wrong, and harmful for the person, because it stops them having children. That’s why we say we are “born that way”- my sexual orientation is simply who I am, not a diseased or deviant attribute which can be “cured”. Or the anti-trans campaigner say that an AMAB person attracted to men transitioning is “anti-gay conversion therapy”, but that is ridiculous: the androphilia is the personality, not the fact that this appears to be same-sex attraction.

It’s clearly personality suppression where a brainwasher attempts to force someone to pretend to be what they are not. The child XY attempted to conform to masculine gender stereotypes, and was withdrawn, miserable, shy and unhappy.

The brainwashers do not see themselves as brainwashers. They think having a different gender identity or sexual orientation is wrong. They say girls will grow up to be women, and despite patriarchy including male privilege, oppressive feminine gender stereotypes and sexual violence, that is a good thing to be. Well, yes, usually, but tell that to Ky Schevers. I glanced at a hate site which put “conversion therapy” in scare quotes for a different reason: arguing that it is truly therapy, and calling it “conversion” wrongly implies it is objectionable. The writer claimed “conversion therapy” was not brainwashing, but “talking to a child about their gender identity distress”. She does not understand the damage she would do. She cannot conceive of trans as just part of human diversity.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists position statement on “Supporting transgender and gender-diverse people” defines conversion therapy as attempts to suppress or divert trans people’s gender identity. When I considered it, I was completely hung up on the thought of living as a feminine man, a pansy. My father managed it, quite well all things considered. Why couldn’t I? Why did I have to pretend to be a woman? This is the kind of internalised transphobia that the personality suppressors exploit. Ky Schevers sought a butch identity, a way of being female, but re-transitioned.

It may be that someone imagines they are trans, and should transition, and are wrong. The personality suppressor believes they are always wrong, that desire to present as the other sex is an error, not really part of their true personality at all, a gender identity disorder that must be expunged. Anyone with that belief should not be a psychotherapist, and certainly should not see anyone exploring their gender identity. People with that belief are campaigning against the conversion therapy ban, or seeking to apply it to sexual orientation only.

A therapist should help the patient explore themselves and their relation to the world. Knowing ourselves better we make better decisions. We transition less fearfully or ignorantly. There will always be transphobia, in society and in ourselves, and we can learn to deal with that better. The thing which should be illegal, and which can be defined in statute to make it illegal, is personality suppression.

Liz Truss’s comment is welcome. She wants “to make sure that trans people are free to live their lives and don’t face the type of horrific conversion therapy that currently has been going on here in the UK”.

Honour. Value.

What do you love? What do you find beautiful? What should be valued? What is worthy of honour and respect? What is winsome and appealing? All these are feeling questions, which can give life meaning. Working things out rationally never will. Rationality is for finding how to achieve what you want, not to decide what you want.

Be broken to be whole.
Twist to be straight.
Be empty to be full.
Wear out to be renewed.

That’s where I am at the moment, after my psychotherapy sessions, clinging to hope from the Le Guin version Tao Te Ching, because I just feel broken. “Wise souls hold to the one, and test all things against it.” I am not sure about the bit in between- “Have little and gain much. Have much and get confused.” I choose to interpret it, have a complete understanding of the world based on ego, and get confused. Lose the ego-understanding and gain the Real Self understanding.

Hold to the one, and it seems the one is frightened too. There’s no escaping fear.

I considered seeking further funding, but did not. This is in part rational- what can I do to seek funding? But the decision not to is still a matter of feeling. One rationalises. I approached your question of how we would say goodbye in a rational way. I thought I would have no problems in saying goodbye to a professional who had, done a conveyancing on a house or even who had won a discrimination case in the ET and then I thought of what I called transference calling you Mum.

The word “rational” should be used for thinking which is emotional, based on desire, and then considering how wants might be achieved with clear-eyed seeing the world as it is. “Rational” includes “emotional”.

I am alexithymic: I have a reduced “ability to identify and describe emotions experienced by onesself or others.” I was maimed. Perhaps as a toddler, but I believe it was before I could walk: I felt anger or fear, showed it, suffered for it, so suppressing anger and fear became the most important thing in the world for me, and even now, my primary fear- fear of a real thing in the world- is far less a problem than the secondary fear, my fear of my own fear, fear of admitting it to myself, fear of its existence, so that I must suppress what I cannot suppress and become paralysed.

What is “broken” is the protected ego, the part that believes I do not fear, because it is the block to my fear flowing freely, like a clogged artery. When that ego is broken, I may become whole, I hope.

I feel I have done the work between the sessions, and over the past few months I have grown better at recognising feelings. On internal conflict, when I acknowledge the part opposing what the ego wants to do, when I see it as feeling and reason and not mere resistance, inadequacy, or Lack- lack of motivation, energy, gumption- making choices and taking action become easier.

Those feelings in me, sometimes perceived as mere resistance, or sulk, are worthy of honour and respect.

I am capable of sustained effort sometimes. That NEC post was effort. And I could only go to work in a fight or flight mode, I must do this to survive, that I could never sustain. I don’t want to get out of bed in the morning, and that is not mere laziness, but fear. Omniphobia. The lesson learned that what I want I cannot get. Though as the main thing I want is not to feel fear that lesson may be based on the wrong experiences.

The route through is “be broken to be whole”. Take the simplest decision or action out of fast thinking and bring it into slow thinking, use the necessary respect and care to discern what are the reasons not to, which would otherwise seem mere lack, and thereby find some elusive positive desire.

It’s the last line of King Lear. “What I ought to say” has become so vile to me that I cannot say it.

How do I see the next few months? Well, there will be hours when I just switch off, reading but not taking in political articles and their miasma of Acceptable Feelings, or slumped in front of the telly. I can read- “A Song of Ice and Fire” which has a very narrow range and a lot of fear and anger, or “Stalingrad” which has all human emotion, including Love, but takes more concentration. Human kind cannot bear very much reality. And there will be the Silence, the fixed times of worship with Pendle Hill, Woodbrooke or Friends House, when it is me and God.

I want the Breakthrough to Authenticity, and there will be slow patient work climbing a hill, or like an archaeologist removing five feet of packed earth painstakingly, with a brush, to get to the beautiful mosaic- or the bones- underneath.

And there is desire. There is florid way-out showman me, whom I fear. That came out in ministry to Quakers.

My goal is to move into the feeling self where motivation lies. Possibly to find a middle level of suppression where I am aware of it and others are not, which comes if I accept it. If I do not accept it, others are aware and I am not. Keep practising, like learning to ride a bicycle. Breaking through the shell will be a series of continual setbacks.

She told me not to, and I recorded her. “The journey goes on, I hope it comes to your expectation of where you are in five years, you will be in a place you have never anticipated, a better place, it’s good to be, you have used the word honouring a lot today, I feel you have been honouring yourself in your work over the past few weeks, being able to go into those places and with immense courage being able to honour that you aren’t shutting them down, you are acknowledging that they are there, it takes a lot of courage, being yourself.”

“Lovely to get to know you, I appreciate how hard you’ve worked, and how difficult some of that has been, and I really enjoyed meeting that authentic you, being able to be who you are, nobody else, it’s been a real gift. I hope you can- if not love yourself in the right way but learn to accept yourself? I was really pleased that that inner conflict shifting and changing, I hope that continues.”

Imagine Mum saying that.

-Have you any final words?

The human being tends towards health. We are evolved to recover from wounds.

Two days later, Thursday 22nd, I was reminded that people respect and care for me, and felt get-up-and-dance joy.

Fear, shame, curiosity, determination

What would it be like to meet yourself at 16?

Dan’s new song idea moves between an augmented chord and an inverted chord, and we were talking of chord progressions- the diminished chord in the Maple Leaf Rag, and then “Song without words”, FaurĂ© op.17 no.3. When I was sixteen, I was told to learn this, and the first time I looked at it, playing sections hands separately to get a sense of its shape, the chords at the end made me cry. It is a beautifully delicate piece. There I am, trying to make a man of myself, and loving the Pathetique sonata, which is thunderous, around the same time: and crying at music. I could never become completely distanced from myself, no matter how hard I tried.

Now conscious of my inner gaslighter’s nastiest stories, that all my feelings are feigned, all my motivations cowardly, and self-centred in the most stupid short-termist way- being comfortable for five minutes because comfort for half an hour is impossible- I know they are not true. Then, trying to make a man of myself I was enmeshed in Don’ts, and the music touched me, and the memory touches me now.

“What would be your reaction if you could meet your sixteen year old self?”

I don’t answer that question. I did not properly hear it, I was thinking of how he would react to me. I don’t think he could bear to be in the same room with me, and I could not bear his rejection. I don’t like the “he” pronoun, and it fits, he would insist on it. He would be shocked and horrified. Seeing me expressing female would be too much for him. Possibly if we had two adjacent rooms, with pianos, and a way of communicating by text. (Though he couldn’t type, then.)

He did not know himself, because he thought he knew himself. He was denying his qualities. There was so much in me that I could not value. He thought he knew about how the world should be. I would feel complete compassion, devoting myself entirely to his feelings, but I would fear his reaction. He could not tolerate who I am today.

I do not tolerate who I am today. My inner gaslighter surfaces, and that is a sign it breaks down, it is failing, but still it governs me unconsciously much of the time. On Sunday I cycled that 13 miles, and I was concentrating furiously all the time. I knew I could be too harsh to myself, demanding too high a gear, which wastes effort, and I avoided that by telling myself not to- harshly. Or, determinedly. Seeing possibilities, seeing that the extra effort in too high a gear cost too much, did not give a sufficient return in greater speed. I took off a minute from my previous time, and was pleased.

I fear my softness. With antidepressants I might take away my depth of feeling and support myself with warehouse work. I anticipate attack. I have the gazelle’s alertness.

A word I can’t say. I am in such conflict. I fear my- the word authenticity goes through my mind and the gaslighter stops me saying it. I move through strong feeling into a state of authenticity, ceasing to fight my feelings for a time. Authenticity is risky. Then I go back to scrolling facebook or reading columnists, shutting myself down with the prescribed emotions for my tribe for the prescribed stimuli. Trump/Johnson Bad, etc.

Or another zoom call, and was I angry? I find what I want when I see what I do. “I suppose we all do that,” she says. I want to know. If I don’t know what I am feeling at the time, how can I know I am safe?

Daenerys Targaryen at her wedding. Perhaps for the first time, she forgot to be afraid. She did what she had to do, wanted to do.

Anger is risky. It puts people’s backs up.

Oh, what’s going on here? “I wanted to give you space to feel,” she said. She sees me put my head back and breathe very deeply, and imagines that I am feeling a rush of emotion, I control it and it dissipates, but she wonders if I am in my thinking and not aware of any feeling at all, what you think happens to you in those moments.

I am aware of putting my head back. It felt I was analysing. “You work very hard to understand.” I do. “Can you just be and not think?”

“What is it like for you when you can’t analyse and find an answer?”

Oh, horrible. I am just hurt. I shut down again. It is the curse of intelligence, though: I think, while others act.

Fear and shame dominate my life. Shame at my lack of worldly status and achievement, fear of the world- the world is a scary dangerous place, but my fear of it is so extreme I don’t distinguish what I ought to fear and what is probably OK. Fear of my own reactions, as I can’t live with ever making a mistake. The worst is my fear of my own feelings, which completely disables me and shuts me off from my perceptions.

And now I am conscious of other feelings: during the session I named one “interest”, curiosity is a better word. And determination. I like these feelings. Conscious of them, I might feel proud of them. I am climbing out of the pit.

God, constrained and hurting

It is important for people to maintain the common lie: this is what we all believe, we are happy, and everything is alright. Denial is so much easier if you can suppress things below consciousness. I do not like to admit being confused or anxious, so I suppress these feelings below consciousness. On Wednesday morning I paused, centred, and sought to know what I felt. Perplexity. That’s another one I would not normally admit. Feeling that jeopardises the common lie.

“How are you doing today?”

Anticipating this question, I had worked out my answer for it. I am nearly overwhelmed. I do not like my situation and I have no idea how to begin to improve it. Hearing the question, I flicked into smalltalk mode, which is not really appropriate for this interaction. “Oh, I’m well, thank you”.

These automatic responses replace authenticity, and feel like pleasant conversation. Truthfulness is harrowing. The Monster lurks in my unconscious. It stops me from saying or feeling certain things, and when it becomes conscious it is under threat of losing its power. It does not stop other people seeing these feelings in me, so it is “filthy rags” which do not warm, cover or beautify me. It just preserves my own illusions.

Alone, now, I am the only one telling that lie. The Monster is either something that benefits me now, or something taken into myself so strongly that even when it ceases to benefit me it still affects me. Believing the lie would make me feel safe, but I no longer believe the lie.

I think The Monster is breaking down. Twenty years ago it was unconscious. Now it is more and more in consciousness. Being perplexed or anxious is useful information about my surroundings. I want to shatter it, take a great sledgehammer and smash it to smithereens then grind it to dust, though watching it slowly disintegrate would be good enough.

-What are you suppressing now?

I laughed at that. How could I know? I have fewer blind spots than before, but the remaining ones remain blind spots. “What unpalatable truths might you be evading?” That’s always a useful question. The word “nothing” popped into mind, but it is not nothing.

Insofar as The Monster still protects me, it protects me from all my pain, sadness, loss, hurt at bad things happening, all mixed in with how I feel about life now.

The act of liberation is all bound up in one. I will see my circumstances. I will feel my feelings. I will be in The Now. I will let go of The Monster and the Lies. I will be the Inner Light- I will be I Am. These are the constraints on I Am, which I wish to tear away.

Like a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis.

How to approach it? Like diving into a deep cess pit, at the bottom of which is Grendel’s mother, and I fear being overwhelmed by the mess before I get to her. Perhaps there is the perfect sentence, which I have not yet formulated, capturing the essence of the situation. I might start screaming and weeping, at All of my Life, but the weeping might change nothing, just make me feel ashamed.

Crying can be a moment of breaking, liberating me to be my real self. Right now it might break me again so I could go deeper, and that feels completely terrifying.

“How can we make that feel safe?”

Well. The soundproofing in this room is fairly good. The neighbours may be out. If we were in the same room, I would ask if you were prepared to hold me. I want to be held.

I go to kneel on the floor in my ritual space, on the rug with the meditation stool. There is space to move here.

“Do you have a big blanket that you could enfold yourself in to give a semblance of being held?” Or swaddled. That’s something to consider. I can caress myself, feel my own touch, my hand on my skin, down the low neck of this t-shirt, under my skirt. Or I could think of Beck with her hand calmly, reassuringly, laid on my back. I am both the cowering me and the caressing, both Ariadne and Theseus, going down into the labyrinth and giving the skein of wool. I have to support myself and I have the strength to support myself and I am quite strong and now hours later I don’t know if that was God or The Lie speaking.

I am very defended against this. Trust is difficult.

The cost of maintaining this self image is too great, imagining myself not ridiculous, yet on the other side of the illusion, entering Reality, I imagine myself dead. Or lying powerless in my own piss shit and vomit. That is what the defences say they protect me from. I have the feeling it is an illusion. I hope Reality means “rise up singing and take the sky”, but that seems impossible.

What would be in between? “Before Enlightenment, hew wood and draw water. After enlightenment, hew wood and draw water.” Or just “let the soft animal of your body love what it loves”.

Contemplating The Doorway, on the other side of which is humiliating death, transfiguration, or Something Else- ordinary life?- is too much. I need to stop. Just before we met I was in worship with Pendle Hill. Someone ministered on MLK. He had continual death threats, and prayed to God “I can’t go on”. Two days later he was firebombed, and had the strength to call his followers, in the light of the flames, to a non-violent response.

I’ve lost the mood. I will give myself a reasonable mark, I think, for getting that far. I am able to sleep, veg out, or study something else, as necessary. I have got the food in for a few days. In the last nine years I have been working on this, and made progress. I will be subtly changed in three weeks’ time.

All my unsafety comes from preserving my defences. I push people away then complain about being alone. I am terrified, both of going on and not going on. I have set my intention.

Then I tell a story which

proves

how harshly I judge myself.

On the other side of the door is neither death nor transfiguration, but mere reality.

Self-knowledge, accepted or declined

My name is Clare, and I am agoraphobic.

I attend several zoom groups a week where speaking authentically is valued, and wearing a mask is pointless. Making this AA-like declaration- actually I said I am “a functional agoraphobic” but now would drop the adjective- helps me. I admit it to others, and thereby admit it to myself. It is now part of my self-understanding.

Then on Monday I needed to go to Swanston, and sat, and didn’t. I could go on Wednesday, I thought. Aye, right. I would just put it off again. I still could not motivate myself to go. I had a shower, had a cry about getting kicked out of local Quakers in January, and then wanted to write. I wrote my pronouns poem straight out, and changed two words. It got 33 likes, seven hearts, nine cares and one cry.

Then I joined a zoom with a professional musician and an aspiring singer/songwriter, who both loved it. I was in heaven. Profoundly affirmed, I cycled into Swanston.

I would need an enabler to buy groceries, etc, to be a perfect agoraphobic.

A pitfall around spiritual lessons is that I can imagine I have learned them once I acknowledge their truth, and thereby avoid the hard work of taking them into my heart, but also any benefit they might bring. And, it seems to me that admitting I am agoraphobic has dented my agoraphobia. I find agoraphobia shameful, and I dealt with the shame by denial. How else? The pretence, “Of course I could go out if I wanted to,” would not fool anyone else who cared enough to form a view, and it did not really fool me, but accepting the word makes the idea concrete for me. It feels like a positive step.

It is frightening- what can I do about it? All this stuff seems insurmountable! And positive, as I am making progress. “What do I feel, now?” is a good question. I should ask myself that more often. Now I am enjoying the writing and analysis even if it is tiring. I don’t want to excuse agoraphobia. I know the reasons, but what to do about it now is more important.

Do you want to cure it?

Not necessarily. Going out, I would not necessarily be in a more comfortable position. I would like more control of it. How to control it I don’t know. Admitting I do not want to go out mitigates it.

Two years ago I identified fully with the “ego” that needs to cajole the Real Self into action. Now I identify with the Real Self. What might remain in the “ego”? The outdated “what will people think?” I inherited from my mother may have been jettisoned.

All this is in one brain, but it might be worthwhile developing Captain Sensible. The Captain thinks about things like “What will people think?” He knows that people think a lot of different things, most not centred on me, and some things disgust or delight some people. It is my own judgment I want to develop, not what I inherited, or adopted in a panic as a child. I would try to see real people, rather than my inflexible condemning judgment, and the hacks I used to get round it, finding things forgiveable where others might not.

Captain Sensible might consider medium term plans, leaving the Real Self to sing. That part of me which seeks self-improvement is only a bad thing when it starts beating me and screaming at me to Go Faster, however hard I am working. That would be a healthier ego, in balance with the Real Me.

Where’s the monster?

The image that comes to mind is of Sulley from Monsters Inc, an unfrightening monster who much preferred provoking laughter. Sulley becomes friendly and caring in the film. Again, I don’t want to imagine I have done the spiritual work if I haven’t, and The Monster could be biding its time, but right now it feels defanged, like the Woodlouse. The monster’s power resided in an ego it could terrify, that would slam the door on the Real Me and hide me in the dark.

Slamming the door is an extended metaphor. I don’t want to rely on it as a perfect map. “Fightings and fears, within, without” are not so easily overcome. Yet the monster seems less powerful.

It did not want me to be-
it is hard to get the word out. There are inner voices challenging that. I want to notice when I can’t say something, and overcome the refusal. The word is “feminine”. The inner voices say “feminine” is not a coherent concept. It means something to me. Possibly those inner voices still resist that.

Then the monster would be diffused. I would not panic and shut down-

yes. “I”. There is one brain.

I would not panic and shut down, but might still avoid places my old programming finds dangerous, which could be liberating.

And then, there’s the actual experience of other people, like getting bullied at Newport. I have told this story without weeping before. Now I want to get it out in limited time, and remember other details of the chaos of it, and weep. And I can say “I was bullied” without The Evidence, those facts that show it was bullying and not reasonable management of a recalcitrant worker- and I have to tell The Evidence as well.

I have really bad experiences of other people, over and over again, and great distress thinking of them or my situation now.

Now and not-now, Real Self and mask

There is “Being in the Now”. I am aware of sensory input now. I listen to what people say. I see their body language. I am aware of what I feel now, and it flows without overflowing. I speak what I need to say, now. And there is “Being in past and future”, thinking of what I will say rather than hearing the other, being with worries and ruminations, walking and barely seeing where I am because I am treading the old cognitive paths. Continue reading

God and The Monster

I faced the Monster, which frightens me more than anything. It did not kill me.

In psychotherapy, I said how I had felt after last week- tired and upset at first, but then really wonderful, loose, delighting in my body, happy, on Sunday after rising at six to go cycling and miss the 30° midday heat. Let us go at it. There is that “joyful, playful child” which I give strongly positive names, such as “Real me,” and which seems to hold almost all of my power of self-motivation, even if it can only resist things my rational self thinks I ought to do. It feels feminine. There is a more masculine protector whose way of protection is to suppress: to get her to be quiet and sensible. I feel that Real me might be useful in life situations. For example in the Employment Tribunal, in cross examination, I feel she could be useful if I found an opening to eviscerate and humiliate someone.

We agree to bring her out to play. I do not play long. She is charming, winsome I think, but that is only her most oft-shown face. There is hurt here. And I lean forward, ready to play, to create, to explore together but can’t say something.

It’s like Emo Philips’ joke. My parents told me never to go near the cellar door, but when I was six I was alone, the door was unlocked, and I opened it. I saw wonderous things! Trees, grass, the sky!

The masculine protector wants to shut the cellar door on the Child. It is the only way to be safe. The masculine protector will be good, obey the rules, and be safe. This is an immature technique I use in adulthood: find out the rules, follow the rules, because it gives me a sense of safety.

In fact it’s like a trapdoor. The Child wants to be charming, I promise I’ll be good, because otherwise the protector will shut the trapdoor which is the only source of light in my cellar, or bottle-dungeon, and just be good, quiet, watchful, himself.

Then comes the judgment.

I had a perfectly ordinary childhood!

What are you making up now?

So I shout it at Linda, quite out of control, enraged. There’s another reason why doing this by video is safer: I can show my full rage.

I pause to write this down. “Judgment- PERfectly ordinary childhood.

Half way through I decide to minimise it. It is the Elephant and the Woodlouse- imagine an elephant carrying a generator and two vast loudspeakers, and the judgment is deafening. Now imagine a woodlouse, with proportionately smaller speakers. It also walks towards me, and I notice this strange high pitched noise. I lean in to hear what it might be, interested. The malice is the same, but it is less powerful.

The malice is directed at myself. How can I be suppressing my true self, when my childhood was caring and nourishing, enabling me to be fully normal? That’s its main idea. Stop whining! Stop pretending! Stop fantasising!

Oh, I would like to terrify people! I would like my anger to be effective, usefully directed outwards, not just inwards at myself. I would like to know that Child was safe to enter the world, and be herself in the world.

I thought a long time ago, whether I have gone through something no human could go through without being crushed, or whether I just stubbed my toe once, I am where I am. It becomes clearer to me that I have gone through traumatic experiences, some while too young to remember them, and the Monster is lying to me. I would like the Child and the masculine protector to reconcile, and even the Monster, to tame Kerberos so he eats out of my hand, and only barks at others when I tell him to.

More than ten years ago I thought The Monster will get me, and I now see the monster more clearly.

There is something in my room, and I write a poem to it.

I hate you as much as I have ever hated anyone.
I want you dead.
Your touch makes my skin crawl.
Your noise is worse than tinnitus.
Your constant motion baffles and immiserates me.
I want you to feed the birds,
yet one of you drives me to distraction.

I surprised myself today (Tuesday). Previously the Real Me has been only sweet and lovely, playful and joyful. Today she showed her teeth. If that is to be my main self, it cannot be without dark emotion.

On Tuesday evening, with Canada Yearly Meeting annual sessions, which I joined by Zoom, I named the Real Self and the protector slamming the trapdoor. This is a childish self-protection mechanism, I said. When I became an adult, I shall put away childish things.

On Wednesday 12th, I was reading Mysticism and Resistance by Dorothee Sölle. The “Resistance” in the title refers to political action; I am only on the second chapter, on mysticism, on stepping out of the ego or petty self into God. I could not read it. Where is God in this scheme, the real me, the masculine protector, the monster? With Pendle Hill worship sharing, the question was, “Are you ready to respond to any concern God may lay upon you, large or small?” How could I respond? No, my hands are full at the moment?

First, I thought, this is my Concern, that I am working on. Then I identified the Real Me as the inner light. The more I speak from God and act from God, the more confident I become in so speaking and acting.

This is the end of my mysticism, to become fully that real me. A Friend wrote, “I hear you opening yourself to let God think through you, and see through you, and also, I sense, feel through you, as you lay your ego aside in worship.”

Wednesday afternoon I joined Canada Yearly Meeting annual sessions, online. I was part of a worship sharing group on Tuesday and Wednesday, and the second question we addressed was, “How has the spirit been with thee since last we met?” I feel abashed. I know the depth of the claim I am making, that I can speak directly from God or Spirit in conversation as well as ministry, and I want to make it. I remember Liz saying a better translation is “I Am is the way, the truth and the life.” The ego, which seeks to guard me and make sure I appear well is like filthy rags which do not cover me or keep me warm, like Isaiah’s dry, cracked cisterns without water. Ego is worthless. God speaks and acts through me, as an atheist materialist.

One says she is Spirit until she stops and distances herself from it. Being nondual, we allow the unfolding and are part of it. We join in the dance.

In therapy

In therapy I experienced a state of complete vulnerability and terror, which I carry around in myself, in a safe setting. If

  • I am affected in my daily life by this terror, though I am unconscious of it
  • I can bring it to consciousness in therapy, and
  • bringing it to consciousness helps reduce its power over me, so that I function better

then therapy has value and I should continue with it. That seems likely. It is possible that bringing it to consciousness will just make me feel tired and wretched, as I do now, without any positive effects, but on that I trust to the psychotherapist to steer me away from-

At this my pitiless judge speaks up, and names it “pointless navel-gazing which only makes me even more useless and incompetent and non-functioning than I am now.” One advantage of having this level of judgment is I can think, well, that really is unlikely.

Another example of the judgment. I think, My femininity must be in my innate real self, as my upbringing valued making me a Man, a Christian gentleman, a good man, a solid and dependable masculine being. And my judgment says,

no.

Rather my parents expected me to be weak and soft, they just wanted me to pretend to be male.

It ascribes to me the meanest motives, not even self-serving in a useful way, and utter worthlessness. It is not true. Yet it has power over me.

Last week, as I spoke from a feminine real self and a masculine protector wanting her not to be so open and truthful- the real self unmasked, and another saying the mask was necessary for safety, and the judgment judging both as completely wrong, both worthless and stupid and self-serving, I got more and more tongue-tied, and at the end I imagined that IB client and his mother. At the end of our interview, I gave my reassuring speech that yes this was worrying but I would be there to help, and she repeated it to him, stripping out all the respect and care. “Mr Languish knows you will be stressed but try not to worry too much” as in don’t make a fuss or be even more useless. A memory may be my unconscious’ way to communicate with my conscious mind what I am feeling.

I wondered if this were transference, and if it would be useful to speak to her as if she were my mother. She wondered if the therapy was useful, and if it were worthwhile continuing after six sessions. I said that I appeared to be functioning better though that could be down to daily worship with Pendle Hill, and there must be some value to six sessions or it would be unethical to offer them and we should try to get the most out of what we had. Though I am unhappy with the length of time I took to express that I am happy with the thoughts expressed. The second one may have come from her, last week: I am suggestible.

How have I benefited from therapy in the past?

Well, I feel I have had certain steps forward. I realised that I was afraid of my fear and anger being visible, so when I felt fear or anger I resisted them and the resistance, like an isometric exercise, made them unbearable. Then in October 2018 I was moved to meditate, and it felt like I was swimming in my pain, aware and not resisting, and it was bearable. Though on Monday with Pendle Hill, I found I was judging the ministry as uninspired, then rebuking myself “Receive spoken ministry in a tender and creative spirit”, then judging the next: setting up a resistance, which stopped me hearing the ministry, rather than noticing the judgment and still hearing the ministry. Resistance is still possible, it just happens less. Permitting all my feelings when they seemed so dangerous is difficult.

And in September 2009 I could have told you a story of my mother, of weeping uncontrollably, and ended it with all the emotion of myself aged nine wailing

She didn’t understand!

And in 2009, I thought, oh right. She didn’t understand. (That is, she was human.) I would have said it was a moment of forgiveness, reconciliation, and understanding- until this morning when it seemed there was unresolved pain from it- unmet expectations of my mother I still thought reasonable, or anger at the World.

Now it seems to me that was about the last of a series of battles of will, and the only one I remember. I am a baby, on my back, utterly vulnerable and terrified, with my mother judging. And so in the past I have had days when I felt a complete lack of trust in myself, my feelings, perceptions and beliefs, I could not even trust them to be reliably wrong, just stopped clocks whose rightness was random. This is a destabilising feeling. In the past it has happened rarely, and the feeling has ebbed over the following days. The last time I had such an extreme attack is over a year ago.

This morning, it seemed- this was the last of a series of battles of will, most of which occurred very early. It was a freak of nature. My will had been subsumed under hers as a toddler, and this aged nine was an assertion of my own judgment which never happened at any other time. For a moment, part of me had protruded out from under her thumb, and was squeezed back. Then in my thirties I thought “It is time to rebel against my parents”- time to become my own person- and I now have my own moral and aesthetic sense, though not clearly my own desires.

Are you safe, she asks again. Yes. I have suffered extremes of distress before, and I live through them. I can be distressed here, and I will survive. In fact I am safer doing this by video, because when it ends I do not face the labour of getting myself home when desperately tired.

I hope this is not pointless and painful navel-gazing, that it creates understanding and resilience.

“You are beautiful”

My internal conflict is such that I do not trust anything, not anything in the world or anything in myself. If I think of something to say I think immediately of why it is wrong or stupid or self-serving- not self-serving in achieving anything useful at all, but self-serving in maintaining ridiculous illusion for a minute longer. But I don’t trust the judgment either.

I am glad I am alone at home after that session, as I feel destabilised, but I feel the destabilisation is useful, lifting the lid off conflicts which are going on all the time in me so that we can reconcile them.

I had felt that I was reconciling the conflicts. I was proud of “speaking from the heart”, honestly and openly rather than from behind a mask, which felt as if it were welded on. Then with Louise I did not want to. Speaking conventionally and maintaining appearances seemed as dead and worthless as it has ever seemed. Speaking openly and honestly to someone I trust but still have to maintain an ongoing relationship with felt too frightening. That was Thursday. On Saturday was Jamie Catto’s group, when I was thinking of “not sharing”- still speaking, but from behind a mask, this time for protection of myself, and chosen, rather than imposed. I wanted to Not-share, to say some conventional things, and from that thought found my sharing still heart-felt, and safer: the mask is mine, the sharing my choice. Comments from the Chat: “Love it!!!” “Ace” “Wow” “Fabulous!”

And today with Linda I am tongue-tied. Writing of it now, I feel much more integrated, choosing what to write, clear, and truthful, but in the session I felt difficulty speaking, and split. Not between a feminine protector and a driver, but between a masculine protector, practical, business-like, wanting value from the session but not wanting to be emotional, and the feminine side which I value highly- “speaking from the heart”, authentic self, real self- but right now judge harshly. And I judge them both. I want to say something, it flashes through my mind and then I judge it. Speaking gets more and more difficult, and by the end I can hardly speak: I can’t say anything without telling a story as evidence for its truth, but the evidence will never be enough. I project my judgment onto Linda. I don’t trust the masculine protector, or the Heart, and I don’t even trust the judgment, which always condemns completely and so is like a stopped clock with one answer. I can’t trust anything inside or outside me.

I say to her I am in her hands, as the professional. She says she wants a collaboration, to create something together, and I have the power to refuse. I say this is a safe space, as for her to hurt me at this distance she’d need a cruise missile, but that’s not true, exactly: she can make me very uncomfortable indeed.

Something like I asked her to say to me “You are beautiful” but I don’t know what exactly. I think I asked for it straight out. “You are beautiful,” she says. “How does that make you feel?” I don’t believe her. I think of that IB client. At the end, I gave him my normal reassuring speech, and she repeated it to him as if he had not heard it, only taking out all the kindness and respect from it.

Here is the transference. (I think I use the word correctly.)

Hello, Mum.

Putting the bin out this morning, I had a blackberry from the unkempt car park behind my neighbour’s house. The brambles poke through the fence. It is my first of the year, so I go down through the fields to the park, grazing. Most are unripe, and there is a lot of blossom still about, but there are a few, plump, soft, dark, sweet and beautifully full-flavoured. Two men are grazing, and we exchange words about how some are sour but some so sweet.

With Pendle Hill I considered unmuting and speaking on this. “I had my first blackberries of the season”- no, daffodil ministry. What about “Praise God for God’s bounty and the beauty of creation”? But I don’t know that this is right for these people. I look through the videos. Many of the same people come daily. What about sharing at the end of worship, in that strange American custom of “Joys and Sorrows”? I glad I did not, as today there are sorrows of death and terrible illness including covid. I am not speaking from the heart because of my intellectual analysis. “Praise God for God’s blessings” might have been worthwhile.