Joan Didion, “On Self-Respect”

Once, in a dry season, I wrote in large letters across two pages of a notebook that innocence ends when one is stripped of the delusion that one likes oneself. Although now, some years later, I marvel that a mind on the outs with itself should have nonetheless made painstaking record of its every tremor, I recall with embarrassing clarity the flavor of those particular ashes. It was a matter of misplaced self-respect.

I had not been elected to Phi Beta Kappa. This failure could scarcely have been more predictable or less ambiguous (I simply did not have the grades), but I was unnerved by it; I had somehow thought myself a kind of academic Raskolnikov, curiously exempt from the cause-effect relationships which hampered others. Although even the humorless nineteen-year-old that I was must have recognized that the situation lacked real tragic stature, the day that I did not make Phi Beta Kappa nonetheless marked the end of something, and innocence may well be the word for it. I lost the conviction that lights would always turn green for me, the pleasant certainty that those rather passive virtues which had won me approval as a child automatically guaranteed me not only Phi Beta Kappa keys but happiness, honor, and the love of a good man; lost a certain touching faith in the totem power of good manners, clean hair, and proved competence on the Stanford-Binet scale. To such doubtful amulets had my self-respect been pinned, and I faced myself that day with the nonplussed apprehension of someone who has come across a vampire and has no crucifix at hand.

Although to be driven back upon oneself is an uneasy affair at best, rather like trying to cross a border with borrowed credentials, it seems to me now the one condition necessary to the beginnings of real self-respect. Most of our platitudes notwithstanding, self-deception remains the most difficult deception. The tricks that work on others count for nothing in that well-lit back alley where one keeps assignations with oneself; no winning smiles will do here, no prettily drawn lists of good intentions. One shuffles flashily but in vain through ones’ marked cards the kindness done for the wrong reason, the apparent triumph which involved no real effort, the seemingly heroic act into which one had been shamed. The dismal fact is that self-respect has nothing to do with the approval of others – who we are, after all, deceived easily enough; has nothing to do with reputation, which, as Rhett Butler told Scarlett O’Hara, is something people with courage can do without.

To do without self-respect, on the other hand, is to be an unwilling audience of one to an interminable documentary that deals one’s failings, both real and imagined, with fresh footage spliced in for every screening. There’s the glass you broke in anger, there’s the hurt on X’s face; watch now, this next scene, the night Y came back from Houston, see how you muff this one. To live without self-respect is to lie awake some night, beyond the reach of warm milk, the Phenobarbital, and the sleeping hand on the coverlet, counting up the sins of commissions and omission, the trusts betrayed, the promises subtly broken, the gifts irrevocably wasted through sloth or cowardice, or carelessness. However long we postpone it, we eventually lie down alone in that notoriously uncomfortable bed, the one we make ourselves. Whether or not we sleep in it depends, of course, on whether or not we respect ourselves.

To protest that some fairly improbably people, some people who could not possibly respect themselves, seem to sleep easily enough is to miss the point entirely, as surely as those people miss it who think that self-respect has necessarily to do with not having safety pins in one’s underwear. There is a common superstition that “self-respect” is a kind of charm against snakes, something that keeps those who have it locked in some unblighted Eden, out of strange beds, ambivalent conversations, and trouble in general. It does not at all. It has nothing to do with the face of things, but concerns instead a separate peace, a private reconciliation. Although the careless, suicidal Julian English in Appointment in Samara and the careless, incurably dishonest Jordan Baker in The Great Gatsby seem equally improbably candidates for self-respect, Jordan Baker had it, Julian English did not. With that genius for accommodation more often seen in women than men, Jordan took her own measure, made her own peace, avoided threats to that peace: “I hate careless people,” she told Nick Carraway. “It takes two to make an accident.”

Like Jordan Baker, people with self-respect have the courage of their mistakes. They know the price of things. If they choose to commit adultery, they do not then go running, in an access of bad conscience, to receive absolution from the wronged parties; nor do they complain unduly of the unfairness, the undeserved embarrassment, of being named co-respondent. In brief, people with self-respect exhibit a certain toughness, a kind of mortal nerve; they display what was once called character, a quality which, although approved in the abstract, sometimes loses ground to other, more instantly negotiable virtues. The measure of its slipping prestige is that one tends to think of it only in connection with homely children and United States senators who have been defeated, preferably in the primary, for reelection. Nonetheless, character – the willingness to accept responsibility for one’s own life – is the source from which self-respect springs.

Self-respect is something that our grandparents, whether or not they had it, knew all about. They had instilled in them, young, a certain discipline, the sense that one lives by doing things one does not particularly want to do, by putting fears and doubts to one side, by weighing immediate comforts against the possibility of larger, even intangible, comforts. It seemed to the nineteenth century admirable, but not remarkable, that Chinese Gordon put on a clean white suit and held Khartoum against the Mahdi; it did not seem unjust that the way to free land in California involved death and difficulty and dirt. In a diary kept during the winter of 1846, an emigrating twelve-yaer-old named Narcissa Cornwall noted coolly: “Father was busy reading and did not notice that the house was being filled with strange Indians until Mother spoke out about it.” Even lacking any clue as to what Mother said, one can scarcely fail to be impressed by the entire incident: the father reading, the Indians filing in, the mother choosing the words that would not alarm, the child duly recording the event and noting further that those particular Indians were not, “fortunately for us,” hostile. Indians were simply part of the donnee.

In one guise or another, Indians always are. Again, it is a question of recognizing that anything worth having has its price. People who respect themselves are willing to accept the risk that the Indians will be hostile, that the venture will go bankrupt, that the liaison may not turn out to be one in which every day is a holiday because you’re married to me. They are willing to invest something of themselves; they may not play at all, but when they do play, they know the odds.

That kind of self-respect is a discipline, a habit of mind that can never be faked but can be developed, trained, coaxed forth. It was once suggested to me that, as an antidote to crying, I put my head in a paper bag. As it happens, there is a sound physiological reason, something to do with oxygen, for doing exactly that, but the psychological effect alone is incalculable: it is difficult bin the extreme to continue fancying oneself Cathy in Wuthering Heights with ones head in a Food Fair bag. There is a similar case for all the small disciplines, unimportant in themselves; imagine maintaining any kind of swoon, commiserative or carnal, in a cold shower.

But those small disciplines are valuable only insofar as they represent larger ones. To say that Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton is not to say that Napoleon might have been saved by a crash program in cricket; to give formal dinners in the rain forest would be pointless did not the candlelight flickering on the liana call forth deeper, stronger disciplines, values instilled long before. It is a kind of ritual, helping us to remember who and what we are. In order to remember it, one must have known it.

To have that sense of one’s intrinsic worth which constitutes self-respect is potentially to have everything: the ability to discriminate, to love and to remain indifferent. To lack it is to be locked within oneself, paradoxically incapable of either love or indifference. If we do not respect ourselves, we are the one hand forced to despise those who have so few resources as to consort with us, so little perception as to remain blind to our fatal weaknesses. On the other, we are peculiarly in thrall to everyone we see, curiously determined to live out – since our self-image is untenable – their false notion of us. We flatter ourselves by thinking this compulsion to please others an attractive trait: a gist for imaginative empathy, evidence of our willingness to give. Of course I will play Francesca to your Paolo, Helen Keller to anyone’s Annie Sullivan; no expectation is too misplaced, no role too ludicrous. At the mercy of those we cannot but hold in contempt, we play roles doomed to failure before they are begun, each defeat generating fresh despair at the urgency of divining and meeting the next demand made upon us.

It is the phenomenon sometimes called “alienation from self.” In its advanced stages, we no longer answer the telephone, because someone might want something; that we could say no without drowning in self-reproach is an idea alien to this game. Every encounter demands too much, tears the nerves, drains the will, and the specter of something as small as an unanswered letter arouses such disproportionate guilt that answering it becomes out of the question. To assign unanswered letters their proper weight, to free us from the expectations of others, to give us back to ourselves – there lies the great, the singular power of self-respect. Without it, one eventually discovers the final turn of the screw: one runs away to find oneself, and finds no one at home.

First published 1961 in Vogue; reprinted 1968 in Slouching Toward Bethlehem, included in Didion, Collected Works (Norton, 2006).


79 thoughts on “Joan Didion, “On Self-Respect”

  1. I find this both really compelling and really off-putting. It basically resonates with me, but my insecurities and the degrees to which I’ve compromised in attaining this state make me feel like she’d despise me. Plus, her casual racism/classism offend. Those last two paragraphs, though – amazing, right at the meat of the issue.

    1. there is no racism/ classism here. Joan is simply expressing her thoughts as sourced at an intimately personal level. While i initially found her argument that those of previous were better at accepting the price of accomplishment, the more i read, the more i agreed with her. Great writing.

      1. Has anyone considered Ms. Didion’s reference to “Indians” as depicted in old westerns? I agree with James that there is no racism here. We also must consider her familial history – being a descendent of members of the Donner Party. I’d love to be sitting by the fire with her as one reads aloud from ancestral journals recounting such assumed hopelessness.

      1. Yes, she clearly identifies with whites/colonizers. But:

        “People who respect themselves are willing to accept the risk that the Indians will be hostile, that the venture will go bankrupt, that the liaison may not turn out to be one in which every day is a holiday because you’re married to me. They are willing to invest something of themselves; they may not play at all, but when they do play, they know the odds.”

        I am glad to reread this for various reasons — it goes against all the advice I have always gotten about being cautious, which was in fact, as one can see by reading here, advice that did not assume self-respect as feasible or valuable.

    2. THANK you. You can’t preach about self respect and then dehumanize a whole people in a sentence:

      “People who respect themselves are willing to accept the risk that the Indians will be hostile…”

      ‘Indians’ here is objectified much as ventures and liaisons, and clearly not in the same group as ‘people’. It’s a bit hard to have self respect when you’re dismissed from the human equation so easily.

      1. Yes. The defense is that “it’s metaphorical” — I can translate this, for purposes of this blog, to say “the whiteman will be hostile” but her choice of example is very telling. Harder to have self respect when you are in the group that really is dismissed.

      2. The reference to Indians was in reference to another writer’s work she quotes and identifies in the preceding paragraphs. …..the Indians themselves were not her example, nor was their ‘prediliction for hostility’ a point she was implying, nor endorsing. The topic of Indians in this context was taken from another source and the original literary piece from which this metaphor was developed was one she felt exemplified the point she was trying to make. Her piece and message have nothing to do with objectifying Indians. Clearly some of you need to re-read the preceding paragraphs to understand her context, as you cannot logically remove it from the context given it by the other writer’s account of the actual events pertaining to the Indians.

        Furthermore, challenging rather than endorsing some people’s propensity for stereotyping Indians as hostile seems to better explain the point she is making. Namely, those with self-respect can ignore what prejudice and racism dictate, ie: Indians are hostile, and those with self-respect make their decisions on a stronger quality, one of self-determination and courage to see beyond the stereotype and give Indians the benefit of the doubt, even if it may lead them to danger.

        Her passage actually endorses looking beyond the stereotypes of labelling Indians. Her original source for the metaphor was indicated….:

        In a diary kept during the winter of 1846, an emigrating twelve-yaer-old named Narcissa Cornwall noted coolly: “Father was busy reading and did not notice that the house was being filled with strange Indians until Mother spoke out about it.” Even lacking any clue as to what Mother said, one can scarcely fail to be impressed by the entire incident: the father reading, the Indians filing in, the mother choosing the words that would not alarm, the child duly recording the event and noting further that those particular Indians were not, “fortunately for us,” hostile. Indians were simply part of the donnee…

    3. Her reference to Indians was taken from another writer’s story of Indians and Didion’s message ultimately argues that those with self-respect look past the stereotypes of Indians being hostile and have the courage to risk personal danger by ignoring these prejudices. She is challenging people to overlook the stereotype. She is not endorsing it, but quite the opposite.

  2. The piece is so 19th century in tone and style, I find. I also relate and don’t. Random, not necessarily nice comments, include:
    – I’m glad I was not raised Republican
    – I’m glad I don’t have her health problems
    – It would be a different life to have the cash she seems to have usually had and the kind of support she had from her husband … it’s another world.

  3. Pingback: Katy Kelleher
  4. How often does true self respect occur? Is it something most people eventually acquire? Or is it a special phenomena reserved for the 10% of leaders (or something like that)?

      1. I believe for some, self respect begins with something else I can’t quite identify. However, raised with love and visionary guidance, that person has a good start. On the other hand, if the opposite is the case, it definitely is an acquired process. While a “needy” or less than confident spirit goes through storms of mistakes before they realize that no matter what – regardless of their ever present emotional core, they have to deal with who they are and what their “essence” is. They must do battle with it and make the other agonizing moves to get to the other side.

        I believe this only happens to those who realize that the results will always be the same. Digging a deep hole of self hate.

  5. The last two paragraphs resonated deep,they where amazingly written and I understood where she coming from .Its a thought provoking piece and its amazing even though this was written so long ago, that it can still have an impact and still relate to our times now.

  6. I suspect some of what Didion terms lack of self-respect is cultural, especially regarding the compulsion to please. Two years ago I immigrated to the Netherlands and started learning Dutch. A large part of the curriculum in my Dutch classes revolves around learning how to share your opinion, particularly if it’s something the other party doesn’t want to hear. We’ve had days of instruction on how to say, “no, i don’t want to participate in [this leisure activity] with you,” hours dedicated to “actually, that dress doesn’t look very good on you,” and most recently, a three-part lesson revolving around “i think your leadership style is ineffective.” I doubt (but would love to be proven wrong!) that immigrants to the U.S. learn how to give their opinions in such straightforward terms.

    1. So in Holland, are you supposed to speak directly or indirectly … if they are straightforward why does it take so long to learn these things (or do I misread)?

  7. Some years ago, I was sitting in a fast food restaurant, waiting for the person I’d made an appointment with for a job interview to arrive back at the office. Stuck in traffic. I’d traveled over an hour to get there. This person had phoned me and gave me an option to wait or make another appointment. I chose to wait and to wait for for the phone call letting me know it was ok to come now. Sitting in this restaurant having a coffee made me feel comfortable and anonymous as I had never been to that particular area and felt kind of vulnerable as I have a lousy sense of direction. It was before GPS’s, but not before cell phones. I was afraid of getting lost in the dark while driving on my way back home.
    Across the room to my left sat a woman, alone. I believe she was reading, something I always’s loved to do when dining alone. I then realized it was Joan Didion . I’d been an avid admirer of hers for years, ever since “Run River” and “Slouching toward Bethlehem.” I dared not disturb her or making the move to go ask her ” Excuse me, but are you Joan Didion?”
    It was then my cell phone rang. It was the call I was expecting. I tried to keep my voice low as the interviewer was giving me directions. I did not state before that we were the only 2 people in this restaurant at probably 4:30 PM. I felt a look of disdain coming from Ms. Didion’s direction. Perhaps it was misinterpreted as a gesture of bad taste of self-importance. I quickly left to go to my appointment but have never forgotten that capsule in time.
    I’ve struggled all of my life with decision making in difficult times. I know who I am. I truly accept the consequences of my poor choices. I’ve always struggled with the issue of self-respect in light of my primal personality traits. I was outspoken before it was considered acceptable for women to be outspoken. In retrospect, I do believe I was strong and persevered through many adversities, losses and deep sadness that only a “sensitive” person could experience.. I didn’t talk about it and tried no to discuss my past with anyone. Early in life I learned how short the average attention span was. If I found myself making the mistake of starting off on some “dialogue of depth” with persons I barely knew or thought I knew and their eyes wandered. I stopped, but I felt true shame.
    Now in my sixties, I feel I’ve come to an area of comfortable self-respect. Getting here has cost much in the way of coming to grips with toxicity. It’s like cutting off one finger at a time until you can’t pinpoint a location any longer. But you stood up. You took your punches but with much criticism and misinterpretation. Explaining myself has become fruitless unless it’s the other person who’s inquiring. The pain is at times truly intense. The disregard and disrespect come shock waves and why is it happening?
    I think of Joan Didion often. The loss of her niece, her husband and her brother in law, Dominic Dunne and how their deaths affected her. Did she know what to do every mini step of the way back to “home plate?” Did she make any mistakes? Does she have any regrets? Have her friends and acquaintances told her she’s “too deep” to listen to? Has all of this and more driven her to a place of isolation in the quest for self-respect?
    I wonder. I truly wish I knew her.

  8. I know Joan Didion to be a great writer and to have written some novels or essays that are important such as “Slouching Toward Bethlehem”. I appreciate her recognition that Self Respect is a key toward a more settled philosophical state in adults. But, I do not think she has roughed it much in the workplace, where you get kicked around by educated and ambitious others who want to challenge your self worth by proving that they know more than you do. That is very hard on your sense of “self worth”. She does not talk about recognition or appreciation of others. That is part of having a sense of self-worth, that you can acknowledge that there are people better at things than you are, but it does not diminish you. In fact, you may choose to grow through them and become humble and once again seeking to learn in the process. She seems hung up on the fact that she wasn’t the best since she missed Phi Beta Kappa. Big deal. You were 21 and it didn’t work out. Continue to try (as you obviously did) and see that this is just one benchmark you almost made. It isn’t do or die.

    Self-respect, unless you are just one person that is so exemplary in some way, that you have endless devotees, comes from interacting favorably with a wide cross section of people, and realizing that you are or have been a really positive factor in most interactions. That is different than being better or smarter than most everyone around you.

    1. Hi — these are great points and I was having a really similar conversation in person yesterday. Synchronicity!

    2. Oh my. Yes, it’s easy to make a living as a journalist in New York City, then get published as an essayist and become famous. Ha! Clearly, you have no idea what kind of the strength it takes to do that. Writing is an extremely competitive field and a political one, and you are working entirely alone, completely isolated and self-motivated, when not dealing with agents and editors.

      1. Yes, one interesting aspect of the essay is that although it is about the PBK incident it is written by someone who has done and gone through so much more since — and is bringing that perspective to her younger self.

  9. To Dan,
    “have been a positive factor in most interactions.” Why does it have to be an antonym? Could not self-respect just come from being a good listener and/or an acute observer of details? As long as one does not “take away” anothers sense of self gravity ( or pound out continual opposites playing devil’s advocate, just for the fun of it– does not this personal silence/peace, translate to a grounded arrival of “self respect?”
    Being a positive factor in most interactions is not for us to have intimate knowledge of. That to me, would be like keeping tabs, self satisfying in that we can put our head on the pillow at night and have a restful nights sleep without regret.

    1. Thanks JR. I see what you are saying. By a positive factor, I mean that you enabled things somehow to work out better. I don’t mean you were “the winning quarterback”. Maybe the positive part could be because you listened well too, and restrained from passing judgement. I’m sure the author (Didion) s also a great observer of details. In fact she said this: “To have that sense of one’s intrinsic worth which constitutes self-respect is potentially to have everything: the ability to discriminate, to love and to remain indifferent.” I think it’s okay to have no opinion on most things and just be more content. Anyway I appreciate what you said in your response. I think the best thing is to have some happiness, that is independent of any critical judgement/analysis, that you bring to every situation. In terms of what I was trying to say, Self-Respect in the new-age workplace may mean having confidence to be indifferent from time to time to factors or inputs that are just not constructive. That happens a lot and you need to block it out, and being somewhat content with who you are helps with that.

      1. Sorry I haven’t responded before this Dan, but am “overwhelmed” with paperwork and feeling truly ‘undervalued” at the moment. I am so pleased to be able to have probative communications on this @#$%&*! Thank you for being you! Will respond again when i get caught up.

    1. It’s usually when a mind is on the outs with itself that one becomes more vulnerable and tends to have a decline in self-image. When I re-read some of the journal entries from my 20’s, I’m astonished on the clarity of vision i had at that time. So simple. Had less time to get in my own way. Everything was hopeful, future dreams and possibilities, despite early traumas. Our choices and our evolved perspective that comes with time and age obscure this purity of thought, though self-image may have become stronger due to refusal to “revisit”. Rather than looking to the future we look to retrograde and if we have really evolved in light of acceptance and self- forgiveness, we just may be able to feel comfort in our own skins.

      1. Yes — I agree, also about the attitude in 20s. Great comment (useful for me)…

      2. I am truly grateful and deliriously happy at having something to say that may be helpful to another. Carry your dreams in your pocket today and give them a squeeze in idle moments to remind you of your intrinsic value!

  10. This is JR again. Just received and responded to your posts but I don’t see it in the cue. Although, Ms. Didion may have never suffered from the consequences of a lack of self respect, she is/was a keen observer of behavior and probative tnto motivations. Many introverts are. It’s a way of self protection. The abilities to sift through tone of voice, impulse behaviors, sensing a spirits calm or turnoil, is the excrutiating, lonely life of the writer.

  11. JR again. Have been giving this subject some additional thought. In the end a person has only 2 choices when it comes to evaluating one’s own self respect, if it’s a goal or quality to be attained. First, objective realization and review of past instances where impulsivity and emotional decisions were made in order to be “pain free”. Essentially, I feel, if one is without sufficient self respect, one has a relatively low “emotional pain tolerance.” But as most of us should know ourselves well enough to examine the scenario’s of our past instances and their outcomes, which not only resulted in the lowering of our own sense of self respect, but also the lowered “respect” one desires from others. That’s really the killer, I think.

    So in the end, if one chooses to act without discipline and restraint, the results will always be the same. Any immediate attainment of positive results will not be long lasting. One will always come full circle and meet themselves back at that same point – shame. No better time to begin the arduous climb than now.

    1. Interesting. I know a lot of people talk about having been impulsive, or being impulsive, and about making “emotional decisions.” It seems to be common, or people seem to think it is common. I don’t really relate, although I *think* I can see what you are talking about.

      “You have been impulsive” also seems to be a thing conservatives tell each other, and Didion was a Republican … and had money, went to Stanford, seems to have expected privilege / ease in a way not everyone does. (JD freaked out due to not being elected to Phi Beta Kappa; I was elected to it but did not expect it and wouldn’t have been upset if not … it seems to be some sort of class thing, and I am not sure how to analyze it.)

      I do relate to what it is like to lose self-respect after child abuse, or years in jail in the wrong conditions, years of battering, torture, things like that. It still means shame and climbing out of it, and it does require fortitude. I have seen people resist these things better than I have and I really admire them.

      1. After all of your mentioned emotional and physical tortures, those particular people are truly coming from “behind the starting gate.” I would suppose those who have not had similar past experiences, would find that difficult to understand in terms of “gut self” and reactionary decisions stemming from a significant lack of self respect. Observedly, even more disrespect is “paranoidly” felt to be piled on on by others while watching these poor souls continue to make poor decisions due to the extreme need to rid themselves of the invisable yet tortuous pain which I would say permeates the whole of a person. They would want to rid themselves of it ASAP, even though they may not be aware of it’s root.

        For these people it is an arduous, I would say lonely task to begin the climb, the crawl, the walk – whatever to what it takes to be somewhat proud of themselves. Baby steps. I believe that journey would require a great deal of “alone” time as one would have to remove themselves from all those who have judged them negatively in the past, in order to begin the most difficult task they will ever have to encounter. Likened to substance abuse.

  12. I suppose I need to think more about poor decisions made due to lack of self respect. I hear so much about “poor decisions” in terms of obvious disaster courses, people who decide to commit crimes, for instance, that I think that is what you are talking about.

    My immediate reaction is to think hmmm, I am odd, I have suffered from insufficient self respect yet not made any classic, melodramatic “poor decisions.” Yet on second thought, I have made a few, just subtler and not so visible to the naked eye.

    Like, I got a PhD because I thought I was unworthy of anything else. That wasn’t a poor decision but the decision not to consider anything else was.

    1. “0bvious disaster courses?” As I was completing my masters program, all those in the same graduating class as I were asked ( I forget by whom), “Who here plans to continue on to complete a doctorate degree?” A few hands were raised. I observed and thought these are/were not the shining lights of the program. Their grades reflected that, as graded tests were passed out and their ability to articulate their thoughts was less than articulate. I did not raise my hand. I’d spent the past 2 years and 2 summers working endlessly, without looking up and experiencing anything else. I was stressed, anxious and relieved to be reaching the finish line. It became abundantly clear I would not be able to get employment without the MS.

      While I had done tons of research and was always looking for answers to my questions, I just didn’t feel the need to go further. Although, continuing education is always a requirement for license renewal.

      So in conclusion, yes, I also found that those whose hands were raised seemed less than confident, their communication with professors reflected what the particular professor wanted to hear. They seemed to ploy for their grades.

      But that is not the root of my thought process. Think about it. People who commit crimes don’t do it weighing good or poor decision making. Motivations could be: the thrill of living on the edge; need of money; something amiss in their genetic code where they can’t “feel” empathy or fear of any consequences or more sadly, if they get caught and sent to jail they will have 3 squares and a cot, which they don’t have now. They know they will not have to suffer the effects of extreme heat or cold – if they don’t have any place to go. I think self respect plays a subordinate role here.

      What I am trying to emphasize is the total make-up of an otherwise normally functioning individual. The excruciating, emotional pain that is invisibly physical. There is no will power within to stop self destructive patterns. They want the pain to go away NOW. They want to be valued, loved, to belong.

      I don’t believe poor decisions are either classic or melodramatic. The personae and rationale are far too intimate to each person. They own it, whatever “it” is.

      No such thing as odd, unless it a number. While I don’t quite understand your use of the word “subtle”, I, in my journey from the starting gate to the visual finish line have been so saddened (not so much with self pity but surprised actually), that there was no fanfare, no pat on the back, no acknowledgement at all really other than You “should” be proud of yourself (in one case). A really healthy person might say that to themselves. I said it but only half believed it. Also, I’m thinking that acquired emotional intelligence will only be partial and one will always be doing battle with their demons on some level.

      1. On your first paragraph, though — you went to a graduate program where there were tests in classes and people were inarticulate? Good grief. Your description of the whole thing sounds like a caricature, this cannot have been anything like a good school.

        In my comment, I was not referring to anything like that.

      2. Also — I don’t mean I think the PhD was a bad thing to do — it was a good thing to do, and I have never regretted it.

        I just mean, I jumped on it because I lacked confidence for anything else. It was what did give me confidence for other things, though, so it worked in that sense. But then, it was also a good programand a good degree, nothing like what you describe.

        These are side comments to our general dialogue, I know, but I just had to say them.

  13. This seems really key and very perceptive to me:

    “There is no will power within to stop self destructive patterns. They want the pain to go away NOW. They want to be valued, loved, to belong.”

    Also this:

    “I don’t believe poor decisions are either classic or melodramatic.” … poor decisions can look totally rational, look like the smartest choice, and so on. In fact, do most often. I get it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s