This, concisely, was the message of Reeducation: you must be a child.
But that is not true.
This, concisely, was the message of Reeducation: you must be a child.
But that is not true.
…torture, is what is self-imposed, that is to say, is what I have a choice not to do, now.
I have great difficulty distinguishing between depression … laziness … incompetence … refusal to use good strategies … self sabotage that is bad … and activities that may look like self sabotage but are not, because they are messages: “you should not be doing this / you should not be doing this in this way.”
I have so many unfinished papers, it is a terrible shame, and so many other unfinished things, but it is all since Reeducation. The only part of it that is a mere practical problem has to do with life at my current institution, where I have not put up enough resistance (due to my Reeducated training, of course, but still I have not put up enough resistance).
By chance I found today the manuscript I was working on at the time of Reeducation, that I did not finish or could not finish and also decided was not good. It is very good and it is vigente even today. With it was a transcript I had made of a session with this psychotherapist I was seeing, because I was so outraged. I had not remembered exactly how outrageous this individual’s tone was. It was utterly breathtaking.
So it is no wonder I have difficulty speaking. I would like to get over this, however.
So it is the splitting I experience. Last week’s exercise on shame (and the shame I feel comes from this) made it perfectly clear that the problem is splitting. I always have done it to some minor extent. Graduate school cured me of most of it, and Reeducation brought it back in a much more extreme form. I am withdrawn, and this is one split, and I have an introjected torturer or persecutor, and that is the other.
Now I am splitting over this paper. All my writing advice — and I do have writing advice, you must give yourself research time, you must give yourself a space of play within your ideas, you must not lose touch with your work, you should not attempt to “binge write” — is true and I need it, but the person who uses that advice has to be present. For that, one must stop the splitting. I tend to think it is better discipline that is needed but that idea exacerbates the splitting. And one must stop the splitting.
(I am still against free writing and “just writing”, by the way … I think they are forms of binge writing or busywork, and I don’t believe in bad first drafts, either. All these techniques cause me to write in circles, and the idea of rushing makes me shut down. I had my system set up long before free writing, “just writing,” and the use of alarm clocks to goad oneself into starting and stopping, came into style. Perhaps the people who advocate free writing do not keep notebooks full of notes, or logs of work, or paragraphs that come to them out of the blue on scraps of paper, I do not know. In any case, trying to free write when your actual problem is splitting will get you nowhere.)
I have been splitting, and it is important to notice this and integrate, it seems. I have to consider this further. Splitting means I turn on myself, and the reading on shame reminds us that nowadays, the perpetuation of emotional suffering is self inflicted and can therefore be stopped. I want to hold onto some fleeting visions: one, of the feeling that trauma was past or could be past, and two, of myself in the center of my life. Not pressed against the edges while some large other person flings around from the center of the room with a sledgehammer.
I want peace. I can remember what it was like not to be splitting; I remember taking really good care of myself on the one hand, but not thinking about myself at all, on the other, because this was not needed; I was present.
Someone pointed this out to me once; I was surprised because I tend to think I do not put enough pressure. The academic advisors say we are lazy and inefficient as well; we should be jumping around. Tú te pones mucha presión. I think my mother did this as well. It may be why she was so blocked in life, stopped ultimately.
I was the same age she had been when she had found herself in a untenable situation she could not escape and obligations she could not put down, when I did the same thing. I, unlike her, was in fact in a position to leave — my obligation was a research project, not some children — but I did not drop it because … I had been trained not to allow any flexibility.
At that age I incarcerated myself in a situation I disliked, as she did, moving thus into a kind of living death. Like her I have since wanted to end it: if the only honorable path is the one we are on, and if it is this painful, then let it end soon. I like the research project I abandoned in favor of returning to the straight and narrow one, the first one. But it is that first one I am looking at now.
I have writing problems around this project, but not around the others and this is why the idea that writing advice is the answer seems an incomplete answer to me. Is an incomplete answer. We never get over our first year writing problems, we just learn how to handle them. I do have writing problems around the first project, and these problems are part of the general problem with it–but they are not the problem. The problem is splitting. Splitting while writing about writing that is splitting.
Strategies, discipline, getting things done: we were talking today about free space. Not just “free time” for healthy, approved recreation, but free space in which to let one’s mind wander without authorities. And yet, not “free writing,” which I dislike. (People always say this generates ideas but I find it locks half-baked thoughts in place or drives them in circles. These people are just trying to colonize free space with something that looks like work, which is valued, while thinking is not.)
The problem is splitting. This is where the disquiet, the restlessness, the loss of concentration come from.
From the dirty old mess hall, you march to the brick wall
Too weary to talk and too tired to sing
And it’s all afternoon you remember your home town
All inside the walls, the walls of Red Wing
Those are often my sentiments and the feeling of incarceration and longing for home should be paid attention even though we are not actually at a reformatory. The Wikipedia article on shame (like many other Wikipedia articles, say what you will) is quite good. I am nearly paralyzed by this emotion, disabled by it, since Reeducation, I discern; shame is the name of the problem and I should study its workings.
I came to this conclusion by meditating on the defeated feeling we get in the offices. There is no way I can see to make these classes work, because we have no power over them (there are reasons for that I do not have space to discuss here). That is one element in the defeat, and the shame. I do not want to talk to anyone who is at another institution because this reality is so alien it is hard to describe, for one thing, and for another, because I am too ashamed at the way we are treated to talk to anyone, too broken-down. Antidote, perhaps: be angry instead. (“Don’t mourn, organize.”)
These classes as we are required to give them are meaningless busywork for ourselves and the students and their primary purpose may be to fund the graduate program. But we do not have enough graduate students and are trying to recruit them from among the secondary school teachers. We must produce these PhDs so that the university can maintain its Carnegie category. Where WE are in all of this, and what we are doing for US today, are pertinent questions here, but the answer is: we must help the university maintain its Carnegie category so that we retain the right to exist and ideally, to improve. And the key to injecting meaning into all of this is to make these beginning classes over which we have no power work, but we cannot do this because we have no power over them, and we have no power over them because if they worked they would be more challenging and the language requirement would be cancelled. Therefore the current uncomfortable stasis must be maintained, whereby we entrap unhappy language requirement students to fund the education of PhD candidates we entrap. Have you ever heard of a PhD program that was a service PhD program, i.e. that existed primarily to serve a purpose like maintaining the university’s Carnegie category?This is a distorted, pessimistic reading of the situation but it contains elements of truth, most notably the theme of doing impractical busywork so as to retain the right to exist, as opposed to doing meaningful work and growing.
The related feeling of defeat comes from certain very tedious committee work, and I am typically far too burdened with this and with having to be in contact with the wars over the freshman sequence. It is not a question of time, it is that so much of the work is so draining and degrading — not because of what it is, or because we do not value it, but because it is not valued and we are not.
I remember coming home from a different job, after a long commute, and someone waiting who had just cleaned the house asked why I could possibly be in such a good mood after such a long day and long drive. I said well, the day was interesting and energizing, the drive was relaxing, it is nice to be home, and the house looks lovely, how can I not be in a good mood?
I was talking to a colleague today after the tedious meeting, about the general strangeness of the situation. He is in another department. A key difference between him and me is that he has complete control of his courses, including any freshman courses. This is something I must clearly find a way to get.
The other thing I notice from today is how other-oriented I am now. My job drains me so that I do not have thoughts of my own left, so I listen to other interesting lives … partly because I come to feel that I am not myself worthy, but also in the hope that if I listen, and remember what interesting lives are like, I may once again feel interesting enough myself to have one.
(Yesterday, however, in an unusual event I won a medium sized award at the university. and it is amazing how different it made me feel. It is the kind of recognition many people, in many departments, get much more regularly, but that we rarely do. The idea that one might have value, that one’s work might have value. The relief of recognition: having someone else say that. Not having to be the only person to say that to oneself.)
I am not sure what to do even though I know the mottos: be good to yourself and ask what I can do for ME today. What makes it so difficult to do these things? Reviewing here we have several elements: the feeling of incarceration and also isolation; the shame; the defeated feeling (which comes from not fully recognizing how outrageous the obstacles we have are, and not fully recognizing that these really are imposed and not self-created).
Don’t mourn, organize. I should decide to be angry at being blocked and obstructed, rather than ashamed at neither managing to overcome this nor to come to love it (as in, coming to love Big Brother). I tend not to defend my own life nearly enough, on the one hand; I also tend not to give myself enough credit for how beaten down we are, on the other.
In other words, we are mistreated and non-supported and we should recognize this and resist. Those in power say we do not understand that things have to be this way (they do not), and want us to think we bring the chaotic situation upon ourselves or we do not deserve better. (I know where that idea comes from, and just the other day I was telling a colleague he should not allow that entity to have such power in his psyche.)
One needs a way to recover, space for recovery as opposed to saying, as I do: now go onto the next thing (as if everything were all right). There are several ways to escape but not enough ways to recover, and the distinction between escaping and recovering is very important although not always easy to discern.
Here is the last conundrum: one of the best defenses is research and writing. Yet our daily life erodes the characteristics we need to undertake these in a sustained way. Those things are our defenses yet they also need defenses, and we must make our lives richer.