When I'm mulling over some "new" insights I'll frequently find I have visited these ideas before. This is an excerpt from my journal about 2 1/2 years ago, and seems pertinent to what I've been thinking and writing about lately.
Interestingly I found an article online about a book called, “Mistakes Were Made—But Not By Me”. The author was interviewed. The topic was cognitive dissonance, and the defensive psychological maneuvers one makes to reduce internal conflict. What can explain someone pressing forward in the face of evidence against a course of action, once they’ve begun it.
I think this is exactly what I’ve been talking about when I consider doubting myself. Is something appearing in a certain way to me in order to reduce a conflict I have about it: is my brain selecting certain facts to support its own point of view, or to protect a choice I made earlier? Is it selecting facts that would cause me to not feel so bad about something I’ve lost, or selecting facts that give me reason to pursue something?
There’s a sense of being held between two poles, in a state of tension that’s almost unbearable: the sense of wanting what I can get from someone or something, but it beginning to look unlikely I will get it. How long do I hold out? I wonder if this is another of those places where no one else can go—like death. When I die, there will be no one there but me. In some of these situations of evaluating my behavior or possible behavior, there is a place where no one is there but me. A mistake I’ve made all my life is to act as if there IS somebody else there—someone whose prescription I should follow.
There’s a bigger story about seeing myself as ‘victim’ to someone else's mistaken feelings or conclusions. I see that there is a sort of drama component when talking to one person about some hurtful act another person did to me—I portray myself as ‘the reasonable one’ and the other as being inexplicably unreasonable. In my recent history I have that story going with Gary. I talk about it with someone else to receive reassurance that I’m not the crazy one, that my behaviors and responses ARE normal and reasonable and to bond with this other person over receiving those assurances.
I suppose there’s another approach to framing that though. Inexplicable things happen, people behave inexplicably, and we often feel hurt by it. Rather than talking being “just” a self-serving way of reassuring myself that I’m ‘right’ and someone else ‘wrong’, talking can also be a way of getting some insight into the principles and facts of the human condition that gave rise to the feelings in the first place. Bonding with the other person can be beyond getting assurance about being “right”—it can be the bonding process of working together to gain understandings about ideas.
Part of where this takes me is again wondering how we can possibly form relationships when this scrim of perceptual filters and ego-protections our brain manufactures is present. How can we evaluate anything that comes in through our senses, when the basis of its apprehension may be shifting. I suppose that’s a sort of quantum mechanics—the idea about what given facts we’ll select from any given moment to reinforce our reality and what emotional color that will have. That the facts we select may be influenced by what has happened just prior, or in a greater context, or by certain fears, desires…
In my past I’ve been upset at how the facts that make a certain behavior seem reasonable at the time seem to encourage a different behavior when I look back on it later. I’ve been frustrated by the fact that only certain facts were available to my awareness, even though time shows that other facts were present too, but I’d not distinguished them from the background. Perhaps this is witnessing how quantum mechanics works on this macro scale. Even though objects don’t behave this way, a flower becoming a vase and vice versa, the facts we select from DO. The conditions of our emotions and senses as the bedrock from which we select our facts are the elements of chance and randomness that is at the core of each subatomic particle…
So where does one go from THAT? The realization that quantum mechanics may be manifesting on this level in the choices we make and the basis from which we make our choices. Which are all fluid and may be present at any given moment, or not. It’s all at an incredibly complex level of interaction.
It seems that history, recent and more distant, might be like the force of gravity, which Einstein said is space warped by large-mass objects—we experience that as gravity. Perhaps history is what warps –what, perception? Is perception analogous to gravity, which really isn’t a downward sucking motion at all, but merely the warping of space by the mass of the earth. (So again, what the hell is space?)
So does that mean the fact that in recent (hypothetical) history Gary has said something hurtful have to warp my perception, which may be warped already in that direction by history a bit more distant but somewhat consistent. How does this work out, I guess I’m wondering, on a practical level? Is there a way I can be free of my perception, or be free of it warping in proximity to events/history?
“The United States is a country that believes in Belief” is something the author of the ‘Mistakes…’ book said. I think behind many of my questions is the question about whether there is a True Objective Reality against which things can be independently measured? (And if not, what? I guess it seems important that there be an outside True Belief rather than that we’re all just grabbing at straws to keep ourselves oriented—as we hurtle toward death? That whole notion of randomness, it seems like meaninglessness. And each of us humans that do more than just respond on a level of apparency is looking for meaning, I think. I think ultimate meaninglessness has been an existential question that’s troubled me all my life, even as a child. Does it make my search invalid, I guess is one question, if I just seize on something random to orient myself around? Like in a big flood, each of us caught in it are floating by, or trying to stay afloat, clutching our little pieces of jetsam and proclaiming they’re the One True Way. If indeed, I’ve not really latched on to a Larger Truth and am only spinning by on one of many pieces available to grab onto, does it somehow invalidate the piece that’s keeping me afloat?
And along those lines I’m reminded of a question I had earlier, which is, I’m giving myself permission to give myself over to this writing and musing, thinking that it’s leading Somewhere. I’m giving myself permission to spend what I’m spending on seeing Sharon in the faith that it’s leading Somewhere. Somewhere psychically better than Here, where I have more wherewithal to act effectively…to have more of Myself available to me and be able to live at a higher level of personal satisfaction.
What the fuck am I looking for? What the fuck am I trying to accomplish with therapy? How can I KNOW when it’s supposed to end? How can I know if I’m ‘just’ indulging myself at the expense of other pressing things I should be doing, or if I really AM on a path that has an agenda and a clear ending point.
And how can I really know? The path laid down by people who’ve come before us with the mythical archetypal stories of the hero’s journeys—maybe those aren’t so much a pathway to go down that someone’s discovered, but instead are just an attempt to find reason in life. Sharon’s work with me involves following the structure laid out in the myths: The myths are Everybody’s stories, or being far from Home and the experiences we have, often adverse, as we try to return Home. I’m pretty sure this is the template that a Jungian would use, which is what Sharon is. The particulars differ, but the template is that one is separated from Home (a universal) may wander lost for many years, realizes he/she is lost, and attempts to return home, having to take a dangerous Journey in order to do so. So perhaps my recent story could be of me having floundered lost for so many years, taking some false leads, but ultimately my path guiding me toward Home whether I realized it or not. Various nuggets of encouragement associated with various things (thoughts, events, interpretations of events, books, passages in magazines, conversations with people…) would encourage me that I was on a path I should be on. Finally I realize I am lost and have a vision of what Home is like. I get a good look at it, and then in order to get there I have to return to the perspective from eye level with the waves that are rising awful high. Or, I was on a hill that gave me some perspective, but then my path plunges into a dark and dangerous forest.
I suppose that person would despair sometimes and wonder if they’d REALLY seen that vision of Home, if it really existed, or if they were doomed to wander indefinitely in the dark. If Home had been a figment and if the fact they were in this forest at all proved something negative about their character.
I guess what I’m saying, is that I do have an expectation that this writing, this time to myself, this giving priority to this time, this therapy and this money being spent in therapy—this is leading Someplace. I’m not just treading water, even though right now it’s easy to believe I am. Fear that I’m deceiving myself in my hoping that treading water is not a permanent condition that will later appear as a blip in the overall scheme of things regardless of how little progress I see now. Fear that I’m telling myself that, but in actuality I AM in a dead end. A condition that will last forever because I’m not using my will power to lift myself out of it.
I guess that’s part of my question, is my very search, and if I’m going about it in the right way. I was raised in the tradition that humans are flawed (sinful) and that there is a True Way and that it is our will that keeps us adhering to this true way, and that it’s very difficult. So the strength of one’s will is shown by how closely they can adhere to the true way. I’ve sort of been tyrannized and castigated by this my whole life. And in opposition to it is this: the idea that inherent in humans, or maybe only some, is a wisdom that will guide one through the experiences one needs most. That adhering to the One True Way actually interferes with this process of moving toward wholeness and enlightenment. That it’s more organic, and authentic to listen to each experience as it happens free of judgment, and get what is needed from it. That point of view assumes that the Soul wants to grow in positive directions, is oriented in a direction of expansion. And odd the paradox that in expansion there is wholeness, where common sense would call it dis-integration.
So what IS my journey. And is the end point a place where I can still recognize my life, or does it reveal itself to my perception as meaningless ultimately?
At any given point am I where I’m supposed to be, or am I there through error, and worse, through continuing error? Such as, I’ve considered myself to be in a recovery period where I need to not volunteer, need to not be out doing outwardly useful things, need to be spending time in interior spaces. Now am I still here because it’s the right place to be? Or am I here because it’s habit and I’m waiting for a signal that never comes? A signal I’m in error in waiting for, because it’s unrealistic to expect that when I’m ready for the next move, I’ll KNOW it. I think that’s been the basic framework of what I’ve told myself about this period: That I’ll know when this inward time is coming to an end because the time will begin to weigh heavy on me, rather than seeming to vanish. That there will be a sense of knowing inside that it’s time to go.
So, then, to flesh out the template of a journey: Did my exile from ‘home’ begin when I was faced with the truth that my mother didn’t protect me and so had to turn away from that truth and thus had to turn away from me? And thus lived a life with a major blind spot because at a core level I couldn’t allow myself to see the truth of something? Yet I felt honor-bound to protect the truth (finding its manifestation in my behavior of doubting myself, or attributing being self-serving to myself and therefore feeling I couldn’t trust myself). I was tripped up by just how far a scale to take the truth. And I suppose that’s partly about how far I involve other people. Because I sense that there is a scale of the truth which is analogous to the molecular level of matter where we enter a realm of reality that’s its own universe. On the thought and mind level, there is a point where another person cannot exist and it is not accurate thinking to make basic decisions from this place from the point of view of another.
I keep trying to describe this. I keep having a sense where the components of our thoughts and emotions go deeper than the level where Other humans can contact them. In my case, I think that’s the place where I decide whether I’m doing right action or not in staying in this swimming hole, plunging the depths. Whether whatever ‘Other’ people would do really applies at such a level.
Early on I discovered that from the level where I experienced reality, present were many contradictory and uncomfortable emotions—uncomfortable in how they involved other people. If I’m responding to my high school sweetheart telling me he loves me by telling him that I love him too, yet I feel parts of myself that aren’t necessarily in agreement with that, am I ‘lying’ to him? And though I may feel uncomfortable, that I’m being dishonest by not telling him about the presence of these facts of those parts of myself, where is the place on the scale of reality he was coming from for confessing the stuff that comes from a sub-level of that scale?
My musings are telling me that though we largely interact with people, there is a place in our selves where we really can’t take another person and we’re on our own. And that I discovered that fairly early, maybe in that instance where I wasn’t sure what my mother meant when she and that lady asked me if I’d taken a toy, and so assumed they knew on that level too. Perhaps for the rest of my life I’ve been confused about what truth is at that level and I haven’t really been able to see—because at that time I couldn’t. Because it involved the truth that in that instance my mother hadn’t protected me which maybe my childish mind generalized to other and all situations. I suppose that part of what I’d tell myself would be that my mother hadn’t protected me because she knew I was ‘bad’, that even if I hadn’t stolen the toy I might as well have. I suppose I had to believe that I was flawed, because I couldn’t tolerate believing my mother was. Perhaps there is the seed of the self doubt that has been an intimate part of my life for as long as I can remember.So I always lived in fear of that flaw being exposed, and I always had to wait until someone made their truth explicit to me because I couldn’t trust my own judgment about their behavior. And I would choose to think that I was flawed when it came to any question between me and another person.
So perhaps that’s my separation from home, the sense of a flaw between me and mySelf, and the journey home is the examining its origins and the degree to which it’s invested in my life, how it’s affected my life by the way it’s affected how I experience events.