Monthly Archives: August 2014

The progress, or, how to write, meaning, how to do any type of work

I have now become more rational with this project, and it is a big achievement.  Here is how it is done. Any time I work on this topic I feel crushed by it, like it is a mountain or a slag heap, or a dead body I cannot move out of my way. When you just keep working in this situation you go in circles, and I find myself writing endless prologues or alternate beginnings, and cannot move out beyond these breakers.

In very vulgar psychoanalytic terms you have to quell that mountainous superego and enhance ego. There may well not be a yo de conjunto, as Borges would put it, but an excess of ego shattering is not a good idea.

Even Vallejo, that fractured subject, had a great deal of ego in real life. This is why I like Stephen Hart’s biographical investigations, which insist that Vallejo, no matter what the situation, was never a complete pobrecito, was never like that Pelele character in El señor Presidente, for instance.

Someone needs to do something psychoanalytic on Vallejo, by the way, something serious, and I will note that my first intuitions on him came from listening to Leo Bersani–although I never followed these out fully. (A Future for Astyanax, I wonder, perhaps Astyanax, c’est moi.)



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Terra estrangeira: a minha vida vai mudar

I am going to change my life. A goal is not to fall into destructive patterns of thought as much, so I do not have to spend as much time arguing against them on this weblog.

A thought on this: the problem with much US psychotherapy is that it makes certain erroneous assumptions, to wit:

a) you are here as a last resort: something terrible has just happened, whether you recognize it or not; or
b) you are massively “dysfunctioning” and need to be forced to recognize this, like a crime suspect forced to confess; or
c) you are having a major or minor crisis and are only interested in being “stabilized;” ord) you only want to vent, not to explore or change.

For me, of course, all of these options are traumatizing because the message is: I do not believe you, and I will not actually listen to you. That naturally drives someone who does not fit the four possible categories to a greater level of pain, as it, most likely, replicates precisely the events that led them to consult this industry in the first place. The slightly better, common assumption is

e) you are so frozen and encrusted in your neuroses that you can only progress very, very slowly and delicately. This may be true for some, but as a best option it is not good enough.

What do you think?



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How to fix things

…by practicing mental health hygiene. It is not all one must do but hygiene is not mere obedience or compliance. And it does not work in a day but it has a cumulative effect, if only that of not being destructive.

The trick is not to say it is all one needs, or not to allow anyone to say this. It is only a basis for things. Claiming that hygiene was enough is one of my past errors–it is akin to the claim that standard academic advice is enough. This, I see, is one of the reasons I self-destruct by, for instance, not keeping food in the house, not sleeping enough, or whatever it is: I am dissatisfied with mere hygiene because it is insufficient. This does not mean it is not necessary, of course, and I see why I am so angry with mental health hygiene now.

Here is the hygiene exercise du jour: work for three hours without yelling at myself or berating myself for any reason, and without allowing myself to become engulfed in self-doubt or sadness. It is because these feelings overtake me that I get enmired (and allowing such feelings to overtake me is of course something I had inculcated in Reeducation).

It is interesting that I had to LEARN to allow those feelings to overtake me: before Reeducation I would have dismissed them as irrational remnants, which they are. In Reeducation those remnants had to be one’s TRUE feelings but in yoga or Buddhism, for instance, they would just be vague passers-by, illusions.

(In Christianity, I notice, people struggle with demons but I like the idea of illusions much better. It is far more fun to simply let an illusion pass than it is to lock oneself into a struggle with a demon.)

ADDENDUM: Dumping guilt has to be one of the first hygiene moves. In my case also, feeling guilty disables me (via fatigue) such that I am not able to come through on things–which exacerbates guilt. And it is strange, I never used to feel guilty about academic work. People would say they felt guilty when taking time off, for instance, but I never did, because I was not then in an abusive relationship with it. I am subsumed in guilt nowadays, though, and on this half masochistic and half liberating weblog I try to deal with it.



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And now, some fluff

So, while I think that in part I do undue violence to myself on this weblog, and that I must change that, I also say that in many posts I am not “procrastinating” but attempting to call forth the person who writes, and who is a person I either hid very well, or tortured and killed, or both, I am not sure. She is difficult to call forth, I will tell you, and she has good reason for it. I am going to take on the luxury of being that person, the pristine and confident version of me that lives elsewhere, in just a few minutes and stay in that identity for three hours.

However, I cannot resist this: here is an article on marriage by a therapist. Clarissa, look at it, you will just have to laugh. Gosh — “settling” — just so you can be married — and for what, exactly? I mean: this article recommends going into marriages knowing you are ambivalent about them, on the theory that you HAVE to be married.

I can remember what I was taught about that. First, that I was not attractive enough to be chosen by someone who would be nice to me, so I should look for someone who would be as non-abusive as possible. Because abusability was what I had to offer. Later, that one should marry for love and not out of desperation or fear of solitude. Or that marriage itself was an old paradigm. Do we really have to “settle,” now?



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I also think this

If I stop accusing myself of procrastination and avoidance and recognize that these things are not rooted laziness or adolescent-style “rebellion” but fear, and they are also misguided efforts at protection (against yet greater self-abuse, I might add), it might help.

What can I do for me today? Be gentle. I am so violent with myself, it is frightening. Just the thought of being gentle, the possibility of it, brings instant calm and clears my mind.

(It is true that after a certain point I did not lead the life I wanted but the life others chose. I am not going to torture myself about that, either. I will remember it is not my fault that, since earliest memory, my priority could not be choosing what I wanted and had to be compliance. I will remember that I knew this was a problem and sought help for it, and was sincere.)

I can achieve calm if I remember to be gentle. So that is what I can do tomorrow: not ask what I can do for ME today, or “be good to myself” since I do not entirely understand that, but just be gentle.


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Finally: on not wanting to come out in public

“Do you mean you are going to take more of a stand, rather than remain silent? I pride myself for being able to glimpse in a person that elusive quality of heightened awareness. YOU ARE TRULY BRILLIANT, GOD DAMNIT. Please just admit it.”

All right. But the fact is that I am also so ashamed of being who I am that I do not want to be seen in public, or make any public statements.

Meanwhile, this habit of getting up feeling terrible, and spending most of the day trying to feel less terrible so as to be able to do anything, and looking into the darkness so as to shed light, and not resting, and not getting enough done so that one does not sleep an accomplished sleep, and restarts the cycle, has simply got to go.

How to get up feeling terrible and change it to well? There has to be a way of doing this and I have to remember to do it every day.

One reading is that I get up feeling terrible so that I can be ill and thus procrastinate on doing the things I do not feel worthy of doing even though doing them would make me feel better. I procrastinate out of rebellion: I wanted to do this, but I wanted to do it according to my judgement, and I wanted to do other things as well. I wanted to express myself but it seemed that this would not be allowed, so I refused to speak. I keep losing for this reason, and the problem is that I gave up making my own decisions.

Always I had had to limit my choices to what would be approved, but I was learning to expand more and more, when I was cut down. What do I want? has been the question asked but I has retreated so far that the question is more, where have I gone? (Of course I do know what I want generally. What I do not want is to lead the empty, obedient life the academic advisors recommend. That seems to be what I am struggling with, and committing hara-kiri over.)

But I want an adult life.


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That incredibly low self-esteem

This was what that psychotherapy got me in touch with and said was the real me, that I needed to come out of denial about being. It is true that as a small child I was very ashamed of being such a deficient and also inadvertently mean person. I was afraid of being thrown out on the street if I made any further errors at all, or if I did not manage to function entirely at the service and for the pleasure of my caregiver. I knew that nobody else would put up with me, and my death on the street would be long and painful. I was willing to give a great deal of myself in exchange for avoiding that.

All of this is true but in contradistinction to the views of my Reeducative therapist, it did not mean I could not grow out of it, or had not already grown out of a large part of it. It did not mean that all the things I had done in spite of this were illegitimate, illusory, or fake.

“Do you mean you are going to take more of a stand, rather than remain silent? I pride myself for being able to glimpse in a person that elusive quality of heightened awareness. YOU ARE TRULY BRILLIANT, GOD DAMNIT. Please just admit it.”

It is difficult to do that because it would be to say I am not like the others. Yet I notice that many others are as imperfect as I and they still allow themselves things. I also note that not only am I not unintelligent. I am also not all that unhealthy, or all that cruel. It is not mean to say you are an individual, or to disagree with others, or to have high standards, or to experience joy. These are things people have said, but they are not necessarily true.

Sleeping the sleep of the guilty. Waking up in the morning already screaming at myself. Spending most of each day trying to stop, trying to talk myself out of that point of view. How to limit this phenomenon by some measure that does not appear to be a disciplinary measure?

How to be kind? (For many years I woke up happy and sprang up, and slept an innocent sleep.)


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And two or three post-points, or, “I just wanted to bask in your brilliant mind,” as my friend said

The other thing the academic advisors do not understand is that quality of life does matter and should in fact come first. Any philosopher would tell you that. If there actually are people who only care about publishing certain books and teaching at the tertiary level and can do this well in any circumstances and at any personal price, then that is well and good, but it does not follow that people who are interested in the life of the mind more broadly, and who do want some quality of life, are “not serious enough” or “not interested enough” or are seeking great rewards beyond the interesting nature of the work itself. The moralistic finger-shaking of the academic advisors assumes and recommends masochism if not outright self-hatred, and I discern that it is where I get some of the self-hatred I do not enjoy.

And the problem I have been having with this paper is that I have not been following my own advice, which is to write a page a day, and read after going to the pool. This has always worked for me for everything, since the sixth grade. It was when psychotherapy asked me to use that writing time to write endless confessions and workbook entries that I stopped — not just because of the time it took but because what I was writing was the systematic dismantling of myself as a person.

Also, people refuse to recognize that I suffer because of these years of dismantling and the result, which is a very difficult life, and not because of a mysterious genetic disease to be corrected with pills. “If left untreated, symptoms of clinical or major depression may worsen and last for years. They can cause untold suffering and possibly lead to suicide,” says one source I am reading now. I would say, if not treated in a competent enough way. I would like to get through to somebody on this.

I seem to be impossible to comprehend since I am in worse pain than people recognize yet not as neurotic or deluded as they appear to expect. I keep saying that living well and getting to the root of things is the answer, whereas they seem to be more used to people who only want to ease suffering and accept limitations. It is as though one had only two choices: (a) be  unhappy, yet functional and (b) be disabled to one degree or another. I may be yelping more than the people in either group, but I do not think I am ultimately in as bad shape.

But I am also just out of practice, and I keep forgetting. I always slept, and I always went to the pool, and I always wrote a page each morning and read each afternoon. I always had a clean house with groceries in it, and I always had recreation. The idea that these habits were mere “coping mechanisms” that were helping me to “remain in denial,” and that I should lose them so as to be able to “feel my true feelings” is so ludicrous … and if it had been presented to me directly instead of insinuated slowly, I would have laughed.

There were other things that happened in that psychotherapy as well, and that were similarly ludicrous, but that I absorbed because I wanted to stand up to standard academic advice and did not dare. So the idea that I was working on Vallejo for really dark reasons (darker than my actual ones, which are dark enough in their way) became something I considered because in fact I wanted to do something different with the project than what I had been told I must, and I did not quite dare to take my own academic advice.

And the issue has always been the lack of kindred spirits, and that is why it is important to be where there are some, and not to back down on this. People hated Rebecca Schumann for saying that but I think that is a sign of poor mental health on their part, not on hers.

So I will allow myself to be a grown-up and take my own advice, and write a page every day, and read after going to the pool, and sleep, and have recreation. I will live as I did before, yet even moreso. This is what it means, in the immediate term at least, to be good to oneself — even if the question what can I do for ME today? inspires the spontaneous answer of putting the house on the market, packing up and driving to the Santa Monica Pier, and even if my most successful colleague recently did just that without a job to go to, saying “Anyplace I could live would be better than here, including under a bridge.”

Also, every time I write about the past I say it is the last time, but it keeps coming up in different ways. That is why I wanted to move to a different life; contemplating that darkness is not always useful although the darkness of the dark needs to be combatted. What I would like ideally is a time during the day or week to think about that, and to live well and in the present the rest of the time.

It is as though I were refusing that, living well in the present, because it is only a first step. I will not be satisfied with the results of the first step and I will be asked to be satisfied. Perhaps I can go ahead and take that first step if I also do not require myself to think it is enough.



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And the last point…

After this, we will go back to poetry. The idea that this is the greatest profession in the world is problematic because it is, if you have a good situation. If not, it is not, but one is constantly told that it should be, and will be next year in Jerusalem, for the deserving, when they get through the needle’s eye. And that if they do not see it, then they were not among the elect to begin with.

That is, of course, how the adjuncts get beguiled into continuing. It is this Calvinist strain of thought that must be combatted, O Legba. And tomorrow is Sunday, Oxalá. Stand in the light.



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Pour demain

So I am happy now. I hope this meltdown meant progress, and was not just some strange distraction. Saldo: it is what my friend said, the lack of kindred spirits. I should also drop self-doubt and stop putting everyone else first; this idea that you must come last is some strange Calvinist residue that has no place in my actual religion (O Legba). These things are key. Also, do what you want, said a friend years ago. I did not understand him; on the one hand I did not know I was not doing what I wanted, and on the other, I could not imagine that kind of freedom. I should sleep: honestly this sleep deprivation habit I have is like an eating disorder; I should give it up.

Part of why I am having this crisis has to do with footnotes. I am aware of the personal situations of several of the people I am citing. Those who are like me and the e had situations where they could do the things they wanted to do are one group I wish I had not left. Why I did that I should stop asking, I have the answer and should stop fretting: kindred spirits by distance were not enough to counterbalance what was happening in the concrete day. Others that I am citing are like me but are subsumed in problems like me, they are not among the beati, and I do not accuse them of moral failing as I appear to accuse myself.

I should, in other words, stop struggling with evil spirits and open the house instead to the energy of spirits who are not evil, and who send love. I am heavily avoidant because I am so afraid of people, or so it would seem, but this fear is mostly baseless and I should stop.

And I want meaning out of all those dark years; in fact many of the present difficulties have to do with a perhaps misguided effort to shake meaning out of them. I think that if there is none, if they are just lost (as they well may be), one should let them go. I can definitely tell in any case that despite everything I am a more skilled reader of Kristeva and Adorno and people like that than I was at one time, and this happened without practice.

#OccupyHE, or occupy something.


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