The road to freedom

When I was eighteen, I weighed six stone, which is light for a young man 5’10” tall. That’s 84lbs, 38kg. By age twenty I had bulked up to 8½ stone, 120lbs, 54kg, 1.78m tall. This BMI calculator says that is seriously underweight.

When I was a child, the only way I had control in my own life was by refusing food. My mother made a special diet for me, of rissoles- mince stuck in a lump with egg, coated with breadcrumbs, fried- and baked beans, or beefburgers chips and beans. Thinking back on my weight showed the cost of forcing this. I must have frightened her. I don’t remember starting this, or refusing food particularly: I only remember when we had reached a modus vivendi. She had a story about when I was being weaned, and she forced chicken through a sieve to mince it up- “and you spat it at me,” she said, reliving distress. I would eat anything now, though don’t choose to eat salad.

Everything else was controlled. I grew up in Argyll and spoke with my mother’s English accent. There was one political view permitted, which I assented to aged 12, reading The Sunday Telegraph before the election of Margaret Thatcher. There was one musical taste- classical, nothing else worthy of notice. My parents took me Scottish country dancing, which I still enjoy, and to the Scottish Episcopal Church, so I continued Anglican until 2001. I last voted Tory in 2010.

I am feeling my way in to giving details about my “dreadful” childhood. It felt completely normal at the time. I met a monster mother about two years after mine died, and repeatedly told the story, thinking mine was worse though I could not say why. I see telling the story in 2011 I said the other was worst. Then there’s the story about being stressed as a child, and I felt the need for corroboration.

It was good to play the piano. My mother did not like me being so demonstrative of feeling with the Pathétique sonata. I kept myself to myself, like my parents, and still do.

I was controlled. When I was considering transition I read that real transsexuals knew there was a problem aged two or three, knew precisely what it was aged four or five. I started cross-dressing at puberty. I still think of that as casting doubt on me being really trans, twenty years after transition, rather than showing that I did not know who I was or what I felt when I was a child.

I am typing this now with the controlling parent or inner critic on my back, inching my way forward, desperate to convince her, thinking I need to convince you. And, I believe it. I want my inner critic to believe it too. This is not the inner light or true self which says these things clearly. Now, I am in the adjusted self, which did what the inner critic desired, which thinks itself rational, seeking out evidence to convince the inner critic or controlling parent.

Yesterday after an ACA meeting on zoom three of us stayed sharing for more than an hour. I spoke of M. I continue to think of her. Today I cried, while the inner critic railed at my ridiculous self-pity. We stopped talking, and M required five days without texting, controlling by withdrawing. I sought to control by continuing contact, which would never work, then worked hard to shame her and drive her away. First I felt self-righteous about shaming her, then shame. Trying to assert control, I felt desperation or hope, casting about for persuasive argument. Today, crying, I felt the pain and sadness of that separation, while the inner critic told me how bad I was for shaming M and had no right to feel this way.

I believe I felt that sadness and so might let it go.
-You must have felt it before, says the inner critic, in disbelief.
-You have no right to pain, having been so monstrous, says the inner critic.
-This is ridiculous self-pity, judges the inner critic.
-It won’t be enough for you. Either you will revel in the pain and get stuck, or continue fantasising about talking to M, says the inner critic.
I believe I felt that sadness and so might let it go.

After a lifetime of suppressing and denying my feelings because of my mother and my inner critic, feeling my feelings is the road to freedom. I try to avoid sadness, and it stays with me as a burden. If I feel it, allow it to flow, it may pass through me and away.

On the value of feeling sadness.

Step One

It is time, I thought, to work on my Fearless Moral Inventory. I will make myself sane. Then, carelessly and thoughtlessly, I did something wrong, and am ashamed of it. I hope it will not hurt the people I wronged, and guiltily hope it will not have adverse consequences for me. There is one thing I could do, but considering it, it might not help the others involved, or even me: it would remove my current uncertainty, but replace it with a different uncertainty.

So I thought, I need to work on step one:

We admitted that we were powerless over our emotions- that our lives had become unmanageable.

There are three heavy words there: admit, powerless, unmanageable. I decided I would write about them, to make them real for me. This is as far as I got:

“As I move from blaming another, through blaming myself, I see the experience more clearly. It was intense. Then wounds and pressures collided in a clusterfoul, and I lashed out. I no longer blame, and feel I have learned something. There was a huge amount of joy in the whole complex experience.”

That is about acceptance.

K’s mental health review tribunal was set for 13 July, but could not go ahead as no psychiatrist who had treated him was available. He attended worship on 14 July from hospital. He wrote in the chat, “When I told a junior psychiatrist that I thought I was about to become the Albert Einstein of psychiatry he just said, ‘No you’re not. That’s why we’re treating you’.”

In the worship I felt such sadness, then hurt, fear, love. I could name these feelings. They make me feel more vulnerable but be less vulnerable: I fear them, but if I am aware of them and accept them they do not burst out of me in embarrassing ways. My body convulses with the feelings. My camera is on and I do not care. I see my dear Friend in tears. I feel joy, though I doubt and question it.

K’s camera showed what looked like a metal wall and a binbag, then cut off. Perhaps zoom is transmitting from another universe.

I am not, of course, overwhelmed. I am still sitting. My body has moved in waves. My face has expressed. I have shed tears. And I have always been conscious of my Friends.

I wanted to write on Tuesday 19th, then Wednesday 20th, and did not. I shared, with one other then with the LG, on my wrongdoing. I said I need to embrace being an arse sometimes, and hope I do not do too much damage. J called this a deep vulnerable share. I wrote,

I seek safety in perfection
but perfection is impossible
I seek safety in hiding
but there is no hiding place
I seek safety in understanding
but I cannot analyse this
I want to be safe
I cannot be safe.

I want to connect.
I want to be seen and heard.
These things are not safe-
not predictable, manageable, explicable
I am so scared

What may I do, with my one, wild, precious life?

I want to analyse “Accept”, “Powerless”, “Unmanageable”. I can’t, I can only accept them. I felt the terror I had been blocking out. I want to be safe, and safety is impossible, and that desire overwhelms any other desire I have.

At another Quaker zoom, K enthusiastically shared his delusions. Before, I have felt irritation at this. What will people think? Then, I just felt sadness. I am responsible only for myself. Understanding Powerlessness does not come from analysis, but from within. I only see God when God has passed by.

In another, we talked of violent death and of terror, where people we knew were involved but we were not personally, and I noticed I was listening less authentically to my Friend. I was instead thinking of what I wanted to say. I needed to get it out of the way. So, I asked my Friend for a moment, permitted myself to feel my own Sadness, and let my body convulse. She finished her story, and asked me what had happened. I am feeling Sad, about that and about other things, and I so fear and resent my sadness. Surely I should be over that by now! And, if I block my sadness it curdles in me, becoming an ever greater burden. Telling her, with long pauses and with tears, I saw my sadness and my struggle with it more clearly.

Probably I should arrange to see a psychotherapist again, and concentrating on this stuff for an hour terrifies me.

That body-convulsing thing is really not British. I so want to contain the feeling without showing any sign of it, process it instantly so there is no interruption of my listening, and I can’t. The way I can process it, which I might not do even with all Quakers or 12-steppers on zoom, and feel would be problematic for me in the street, is to convulse. Maybe closing my eyes and breathing deeply could work.

The value of sadness

Anger and fear give energy to fight or flee. Sadness softens you. That softening felt like a threat to me, and my inner scourge berated me in fear and anger. I suppressed my sadness below consciousness.

On Monday 16th, I eldered the Woodbrooke zoom worship. It involves holding space, which is a particular kind of loving attention and care: you don’t need to speak to show it. I could see someone’s microphone icon was off, and her lips were moving, but I could not hear her, so I messaged her. She wanted to find “The poem by Rumi”.

I was worried that I was spending too much time facilitating rather than holding, but guessed she meant The Guest House, and copied it to her. She asked me to read it to the meeting. It enjoins us to value every awareness, even sorrow.

I broke down crying at “Welcome and entertain them all,” for my inner scourge rejects my sadness and so rejects myself. I had to start crying to realise how much this means to me. Consciously softening let me finish reading.

My resistance to my own feeling is a major source of the inner conflicts which bind me and drain me of energy. I could suppress feeling out of consciousness, but the effort to do so increased until I came to my current inactivity. I cannot be harder than I am, however desperately I wish, so I look for the value of sadness, so I might accept it.

Sadness is information. Something hurts. Grief at loss expresses the human need for love and connection. We are made to live in couples and communities.

If sadness softens us, it can bring people together. We are vulnerable, feeling beings. We see our need to support each other, and reach out for help.

Softening also helps us see each other more clearly. Once I am past the overwhelm of my own sadness, I can see it in others too, and feel with them. Feeling the feels, we come together authentically.

There are times when you have to keep working, and softening inhibits you. Trying to ignore or suppress any feeling does not work. Better to bracket it: acknowledge it, but pay it no attention for now. If you bracket feeling, you have to deal with it later.

Softening from sadness can feel like a threat to the community, which needs each individual to pull their weight. So we mock children- “Big boys don’t cry”. “Put on your big girl pants”. When adults console each other, “Don’t cry” can be a wheedling demand to stop raising things which the other cannot cope with. It can mean, “Pull yourself together,” but unless we soften we break our community apart.

I found I could make people feel better simply by listening to them without judgment. I did not take their sorrows upon myself, I earthed them. I let them pass through me and drain away. This gave me joy, because I am soft.

I tried to harden, to make a man of myself, and it almost killed me. Transition, becoming the woman I am, is the way to save my life, and I am still working on it.

The inner child, terrified

I want to be safe. I am hurting, and I want that to stop. The ways I have tried- rationality, finding out the rules and following them, always being perfect- have not worked, and still there is the terrified child.

Will speaking from the heart achieve what I want? I don’t know, but the child’s judgment is quick and angry, especially when I am feeling hurt. I should not take it too seriously. It latches onto any idea it can use to beat me up. So, “I am addicted to drama”. No, I am not. I want quiet, though I also want people’s attention. If I do not seek it in the way best calculated to give me lasting happiness, I seek it as best I may.

So, as I cannot now write my own clear psychophysiology of ego, heart, soul, inner child and the rest and their precise relationships, here are some quotes.

Carl Jung: “The first half of life is devoted to forming a healthy ego, the second half is going inward and letting go of it.” I got that from facebook, and have not found the context. I created a deeply unhealthy ego and was repressed behind a shell. Then it cracked, and I stopped functioning. I am going inward, but a healthy ego would be nice.

For Freud, under the ego is the Id, a monster of emotions which needs to be firmly held down. For Jung, and Richard Rohr commenting on him, under the ego is your real purpose, identity, true self or soul. It is the Quakers’ “that of God”. James Baldwin has quotes to join with Freud: “We cannot ask, What do we really feel? Such a question merely opens the gates on chaos”.

And, “The man does not remember the hand that struck him, the darkness that frightened him, as a child; nevertheless, the hand and the darkness remain with him, indivisible from himself forever, part of the passion that drives him wherever he thinks to take flight.” Baldwin was a young man, writing about the anger and fear leading white America to oppress Black people. We are always our conditioning, always old feelings about situations that ended long ago constraining our choices, little more than the sum of our triggers.

That shows the problem of taking quotes. This is the same man who wrote of the existentialist challenge to create onesself. Perhaps the truth lies somewhere between these extremes.

More Jung, then, from the CG Jung Foundation’s twitter:

“The difference between the ‘natural’ individuation process, which runs its course unconsciously, and the one that is consciously realized is tremendous. In the first case, consciousness nowhere intervenes… the end remains as dark as the beginning. In the second case, so much darkness comes to light that the personality is permeated with light and consciousness necessarily gains in scope and insight.”

The inner critic/terrified child always finds the worst possible interpretation. It thinks me weak, useless, and deluded. It suggests I never individuated. The shell was made for me by my mother from her own expectations. Finding the inner light is a project for after teenage: first I need to find my own ego. However I have more life experience than most teenagers. I am analysing though rationality is insufficient for this task, but I am also feeling it, and trying to put it into words.

In ministry, someone paraphrased Isaac Penington: Adam and Eve made a mistake: they chose knowledge of Good and Evil over direct communion with God. They saw that they were naked, and we know it is good to be clothed. Well, I do not want my inner light to tell me I should be naked. Old people sometimes become disinhibited: I read behaviour sheets when I should merely have scanned them. Aged resident says to long-suffering careworker, “I am so hard for you right now”. Then the notes record laboriously what the consequences were.

I am a sexual being, having felt asexual most of this century.

What do I feel, now? I am “upset”- this is not a feeling, but a state where various feelings produce discomfort. I am sad and frustrated. There was a chance to connect, and then there wasn’t. I oscillate between “It’s all my fault” and “It’s all their fault,” avoiding the pain of unknowing. Long past hurt mingles with recent hurt until I cannot differentiate them. As I always do when hurt, I get angry with myself.

Sadness was an inadmissible emotion. Don’t cry. Don’t be sad. I feel angry with myself, because I am sad. I suppress my sadness and it curdles into unconscious misery. My anger at myself because of that sadness hurts. I want the sadness to stop. I want the anger to stop. Anger outwards and angry behaviour is less noticeable to me, because I am more concerned with the sadness and inwardly directed anger. The anger is a blockage, suppressing the underlying sadness from consciousness, preventing it being processed. I will feel my sadness.

Should I visit Edinburgh?

The sadness comes upon me, like a predator.
At its touch I stiffen and writhe.
I must collapse on my bed, weeping, wailing,
possibly screaming.
It will prove its mastery of me.
And then, a change.
The sadness is in me. It is me. It fills me,
chest, belly, fingertips
I know I am big enough to contain it.
That knowledge is relief and delight.
I hold the sadness, dance with it:
I am aware of its fulness,
and, satisfied, it flows through my heart.

Not permitted to show my sadness
I fought it, and it curdled into sorrow,
a weight I could not bear.
And now it flows like water.

But what of my love?
My breasts are full,
and I have no-one to suckle.

Yes I could go there. It would be lovely.
We would walk by the firth.
I love the way you live your life,
your courage and tenacity, meeting the challenges.
I would see him, and her, possibly her, and him,
whom I wish well.
I might call up she
who was cursed to see my full beauty,
and love me for thirty years.
When, too late, I saw it
Her love warmed and perplexed me.
She has got over me at last.
She might not come.
I might meet a wise woman.

We faced the traumas side by side
but walled apart.
We did not have each other then.
On two islands, we wish each other well
but to reach you, I must cross that sea,
the pain of the past,
the terror of death.
It is easier to wave at you and smile, then turn away.

You want to meet me too!
Would we be blown apart, or sink?
or would we hold the terror,
adults together,
at last, enabled to touch?
We would dance with it.
It is us.

If I can feel all the overwhelming sadness and terror,
might I feel joy as well?

I imagine you asking,
How is your life? What have you been doing with yourself?
I have wrestled my dragon
but not yet climbed on its back.
We watch each other warily.
We want to fly together, and feel land bound.
Nothing, I say. I have stayed in my room for ten years.

You have such presence! they told me. You’re just there!
They missed me when I did not come.
One sees “a lovely air of authority”.
My bafflement increases their enthusiasm.
At last, they make me smile uncertainly.
Could they be right?
What might I do, if they were?

A shameful desire

What’s that feeling? Wistfulness, or yearning.

Paul Alexander is an impressive human. Read this article about him, or possibly even his memoir. He is 74, and has been paralysed from the neck down since he had polio aged six. His diaphragm is too damaged to breathe unaided, but he mastered glossopharyngeal breathing so that he could get out of his iron lung. He went to university and worked as a lawyer. His courage and determination are inspiring.

Content: suicide. There are some tentatively positive ideas here, and I want to write about suicidal ideation. Continue reading

Emotional systems

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joy in sadness

Outside my window there is a single strand of spider silk, discarded, perhaps used for flight. The light reflected on it is beautiful.

When I first became conscious of my feelings, they were anger, frustration, resentment and fear. I have also been aware of pain. Tina spoke of seeing sadness in me, and I was aware of my anger at myself, holding the sadness down, asking it “What on Earth have you got to be sad about?” in contempt and derision.

And there is disappointment in how my life is turning out and what I have been able to do about that.

Jamie spoke of sadness too, when I sang to him. “D Minor is the saddest key,” he said. Now I am ready to face my sadness. What about? My nephew and nieces, crying out delightedly “It’s Uncle Stephen!” comes to mind.

I don’t need to cry. I just need to acknowledge the sadness. I don’t need to resist it: resisting is outdated.

George Fox wrote “Then you will walk cheerfully over the world, answering that of God in every one,” but the paragraph began “The spirit that is transgressed and in prison, which hath been in captivity in every one” and I can imagine if it had been cast slightly differently, and the phrase we would all know would be “liberating that of God in every one,” including ourselves. “People must be led out of captivity up to God,” Fox writes. It’s the Journal, Nickalls’ edition, p263.

The bars of the cage are melting and becoming pliable.

What have you got to be sad about? I am not sure. All of life, perhaps. Specific things. H, and H, and Covid, and Edinburgh. If I am mourning what I could not mourn before I am not conscious of all I am mourning.

There is sadness. Hello.

In the Meeting for Worship, held on video-conference, we have our microphones muted, so I can mutter to myself the message which is only for me, to help it to stick in my own mind. And, today, I can get a pen and paper to write this down. I have the lattitude to do my work here, talking, writing, and sighing, and am aware of the others.

Sadness at not being all-knowing: all that Confusion!

I am joyfully sad, because I am no longer sad or angry at being sad. The bars dissolve.

That silk catches the light. It is resilient. I think of the idea that I cannot see any quality outside myself that is not within me, and the word-play “resile” comes to mind. That is painful. I have an inner voice which denies all possible good qualities in me. That voice hurts me. The silk is beautiful.

I will resist that voice! I am crying helplessly.

Ministry on grief- a woman quotes. Something like, having a body is about feeling the exact feelings of this body, of being present in this body not just having a body to carry around. I am present in the mass and the matter of it. She sees the grief we are carrying. What would I say if someone asked why I was crying? “I can’t tell you, but it is good,” perhaps. I am

Opening, Flowering, Accepting, Loving, Receiving.

It is


You cannot recognise something without you that is not within you, or acknowledge something outside that you cannot acknowledge within. If you resist yourself, you resist the world. If you reject yourself, you reject the world. If you accept yourself, you accept the world.

After meeting, I have the feeling that I have had a deep massage, removing long buried knots in muscles, or even a heart-bypass, removing blockages. Or it is suddenly being able to face what I could not face before.

Being Bad

A job application.
What? 50% more than I ever earned, after six years unemployed?
Why not?

Self confidence has value in some situations. “She never felt guilty about what she needed to do to survive.” If what is stopping me gaining something is my own feeling that I cannot get it, or do not deserve it, or do not fit here, how does that benefit me? Chutzpah. Or, social blindness: there really are sanctions. Yet disapproval is not one of them, only an act, not a feeling, matters.

I thought of myself as “selfish”. It is a terrifying thought. I have sought self-acceptance in the idea of myself as a “good” person, which Selfishness dents. Or, I am safe from the sanctions of the terrifying Others if I am “good”. Yet it could be liberating, freeing me to take action for my good which I could not otherwise.

My refuge, my place where I sought Safety, is not safe and costs too much. The ideal of Goodness restricts me.

I am good enough, generous or altruistic enough. You can sometimes gain an attribute if you deny it. If you berate yourself for laziness every time you rest, that will make you a hard worker. You won’t get the benefit of enjoying imagining yourself as a hard worker, but you will get the benefits of being one.

Roll it round the mouth, like alcohol- no-one really likes the taste, but they like the effects. Or like a particularly strong cheese I have never tasted before. I am surprised people like this, but perhaps I notice that it will do me no harm. This sensation is highly stimulating. I value stimulation rather than just pleasure- it is freedom, it creates possibility, it gives options.

Am I really potentially violent? I experience myself as “sad” rather than angry, but this is no defence: angry could get violent, but Sad could get violent, and self-righteous about it. No. I am not. Violence in me is wrapped round with taboos. I would go tense but quiet, like an isometric exercise, working in two directions, still. I am “Angry”. Ah. It is hot in me. I need not lash out to let myself know how angry I am, I can use the energy better than that. What would it be good to do?

There is a difference between anger, even rage, and violence.

I am selfish, and that is a good thing. I am also generous, loving, great-hearted, whatever; I like other people to be happy, and work to that end, for it gives me pleasure; and “Selfish” should no longer be a barrier to action or an emotional tension making me uncertain, equivocal, vacillating. “Self-indulgent” has been one of my strongest condemnations, when I do something anyway and feel really guilty about it. This is such a long journey. It stopped me completely, before, but I am breaking through it.

I am Clare, and I am selfish. I want my survival, prospering, flourishing. Ideally I would have found these thoughts in teenage, but then I started doing teenage in my thirties. I may finish it some day.

Tina said, “It’s not you, it’s me”. It is not anything about how I am, other people react for their own reasons and I might not be the most important thing in others’ calculations! She sees no selfishness in me. Some care for onesself is acceptable. You are safe from that cruel word. I would rather take the word which has tortured me, and drain its power. I am ‘selfish’- and I am still alive! She sees no solipsism in me either, which really surprises me, sometimes I think the only thing I ever look at is my navel. Who’d have thought it?

She sees my deep sadness. Yes. I do too. It is not hunting me, now. It chased me through the woods and the ruins, and I never gained distance on it however fast I ran; yet when I pause, it stops too, and we look at each other.

Affirmation IV

I am as I am because I am traumatised.

I could trot out my stories again, to try to persuade you- that is, persuade myself- that it really was that bad, that anyone in these circumstances would be this hurt. But that does not matter. If any person of more than minimal resilience could bear my burdens, hardly noticing them, they have still overwhelmed me. However strong I was, I have been overwhelmed.

Now, having self-respect for the first time, I no longer deny my trauma. “Get up, get up, Get On With It!” cried the inner critic, and I reply that I would if I could. I had a lovely time this morning: I cycled in the sunshine to Swanston for tea with Richard, who complained that the OED has accepted the “wrong” use of the word “refute” to mean “deny”. I can cope with complex human interaction.

These stories: serious threat of loss of funding and job; bullying and failure; failure; failure and loss of funding and job; failure. Ah, that’s interesting. Thinking of this post, I was planning to talk about various unpleasantnesses, but I am quite happy in certain social situations and even with Quakers. However I am quite literally work-shy, though that term is a pejorative, rarely or never thought to be a mental condition. The thought of going into an office, paid or voluntary, or starting the kind of project I used to undertake puts me into avoidance behaviour. I called this post “Affirmation” and thought of writing about how I was going to self-care by seeking out social situations. This realisation changes things.

I am Abigail.
I have been badly hurt.
I will care for,
and value myself
as best I see how.

And then, something wonderful, and passing strange.

I am- upset. Sad, and likely to weep, without knowing why. And-

part of me-

asks, What is it? Something existential about my whole life, or some small matter just today?

That- part- is not unsympathetic, but still misses the mark. It is like a man seeing his wife crying, and asking “What’s wrong?” However kindly meant, his intention to find the cause of the problem and fix it is not right, in the moment.

I think of Robert Holden’s mirror exercise. “I am willing to make today the best/happiest day of my life.” Perhaps “let be” might be better than “make”. I want to let go of judgment as to what “best” might look like. What

part of me-

is doing the making?
In the shower, again. I permit the feeling of upsetness. Then,

Another part of me!
A wonderful part of me!
Beauty and Delight

in the upsetness
starts saying



I- I- I- I- I- 

I- AM! I- AM!

feeling the upsetness
permitting the upsetness

I am!

I- beauty and delight- repeat

I am

feeling the upsetness, then joy, and finally singing it, to a simple I , , , V , , , IV , , , V , , , … chord progression, bass line and descant, dancing to it….

I Am
is the only affirmation I need

Boldini, profile of a young woman