Here is another labyrinthine post from the olden days. Now I am awake like the Buddha, but a seer at a Los Angeles botánica told me years ago that I was “carrying a great weight.” Qui potest capere, capiat.
Trying to discover my way back professionally from the ravages of Reeducation is sometimes dangerous in that it leads me to think of the labyrinthine paths that pulled me from the light, and of my nostalgia for the life and vitality in whose destruction I was complicit.
The self criticism of Reeducation coupled with that of academia and then the old guilt I feel for not having tortured myself enough in life are a very crippling combination that I need to identify yet more clearly as the enemy. An important reason why my life and, by the way, vita deteriorated as it did is that I decided to engage in so much self destruction. To continue to do so is no way to improve matters.
In Reeducation ritual self torture was important to prove we could “feel.” “Feeling” meant focusing on the self in a childish and egocentric way, and never putting anything in perspective. I kept saying, but this model is impractical, it inhibits action, and I want to do something with my life! But Reeducation believed in agony and slowness.
I am procrastinating about updating my vita, which I must do, but hate to do because I hate to look at it. I hate to look at my vita because it was once a good vita and is no longer. In it I do not recognize myself, but do I see very clearly the ruins of my life and the paths I tried and failed to trace. I am making myself ill, however, by procrastinating in this way, and that is not a good methodology toward any goal – even the simple one of having a nice day.
I have been trying to work on my vita for several days, but as the file opens I am overcome by nausea. I go to sleep and wake up with a sense of foreboding. I feel trapped in the expectations of others. My immediate fear is of how I may assault myself emotionally when I start working on my vita, and of not being able to stop the assault. At a deeper level is perhaps my own fear of individuation that is really trapping me. I need to be able to say, YES, this is the vita I have, and say to myself deal with it, but I cannot yet do this easily. This is a trap.
Procrastinatio simplex involves having something boring to do. The only solution is to start, so that one can finish. The procrastination in which I am indulging by writing this post is a more justifiable avoidance tactic. If I do not first prepare myself, but simply open my vita to work on it as I used to do, I know from experience that I will also begin surreptitiously screaming at myself, until I am on the floor in a pool of emotional blood.
Then I will not be in a state to teach tomorrow or to do the things I need to take basic care of myself today. If I inadvertently assault myself, so as to then leave myself in a pool of blood on the emotional floor, I will then sit on the couch and stare into space for several hours rather than lead my life. For this not to happen, I have to be aware of how it happens and what causes it, and how I can head that off.
I have to remember that all of this self destruction is directed by a demon, not a valid entity. The demon is not entitled to have his ideas taken into consideration. I have to remember that it is precisely because I learned so well how to be so cruel to myself that I also weakened this vita, and that the answer is not further cruelty. I have to remember not to put myself on trial and to practice forgiveness granted for no reason. I have to remember that thinking further about these matters only leads to placing myself once again on trial. I am procrastinating out of a fear of self destruction, yet the procrastination itself defers the cure.
When I was a minor, I was mildly anorexic for some time. It ended around the time I registered to vote, but the mentality stayed with me for some time because I thought I should go back, even though I did not actually want to. I was freed when, no longer willing to be patient with the pain of thinking I should go back, I realized that believing one could solve problems by losing weight was a convoluted way of holding onto three errors.
The first error was that one could solve the unsolvable. For example: if I lose enough weight, the war will end (so that if it does not end, that is only because I have not lost enough weight). The second error was that one could not solve the solvable. For example: I cannot pass Chemistry because I have not lost enough weight (in other words, I cannot study Chemistry because I am too preoccupied with losing weight, which in turn may really mean something like I cannot study Chemistry because someone finds it unseemly, but I am not allowed to notice that, so I must find another reason). The third error was that perfection was a prerequisite to life. I was freed from obvious anorexia, but some of the ideas behind it began expressing themselves in other forms, harder and harder to identify, but having the same basic structure.
This is how anorexia and procrastination are interrelated, or why anorexia is a form of procrastination. Anorexia functions to block consciousness of the issue at hand (why must one say “X has not happened because I have not lost weight?” whom is one protecting by claiming this?). So it is essentially an effect of ideology (and not just, or only superficially, an effect of the ‘ideology’ of slimness). Anorexia is not about food or weight, it is about not allowing oneself things one needs, about refusal to grow for fear that the direction in which one’s branches tend may not be pleasing, or, in other words, about cutting out parts of oneself which may be challenging to others.
I think anorexia, the disease, is very useful in this way: it is a concrete expression of feeling constrained, overly limited; like any symptom or expression, it points to a problem. That is why my dormant article on procrastination – to which I shall return, however – is opposed to quick fixes for this problem. One is told, ACT! But most people do know how to take action on things, and do do it.
This is where my related research question comes in. By remaining blocked, are procrastinators protecting someone or something? Solutions which do not address this question, I hypothesize, parallel therapies for anorexics that involve only force feeding and reeducation about body image. I think the question needs to be asked and answered for the solution to be more than mechanical, cosmetic, temporary.
The procrastination or block which resembles anorexia is yet more complex than the avoidance tactic I described earlier – avoidance of looking at my vita until I can prepare ways to protect myself from my possible surprise attack on myself when I do look at, or to soothe myself out of what is likely to happen when if I end up attacking myself anyway. Anorexia, as I suggested above, is the ultimate expression of an imperative to limit oneself – an expression which obeys that imperative while also symbolizing it as a problem.
My hypothesis is that the block which is not procrastinatio simplex has something to do with limitation as well. To expand a little on this point: so much energy, in anorexia, goes to the project of limiting food, expression, and selfhood. We might say that because selfhood and expression have been interdicted, the only way of having, or expressing some semblance of autonomy is the perverse one of over-sculpting the flesh.
Similarly, in the block which is not procrastinatio simplex, a great deal of energy is focused on the project which is not being done or which, like that of getting thin enough, is never complete. Is this so that the project which should in fact be addressed, cannot be seen? Who, or what is protected when the project which is actually being blocked (not the project upon which one is “procrastinating”) is screened from view?