Category Archives: Da Whiteman


One of my friends points out, in a nonacademic context, that life in limbo is a hard thing to manage. This is a good observation and I think living in limbo is one of the main stressors of academia.

Of course you can say that uncertainty is everywhere but I am speaking of the constant feeling of limbo, waiting and waiting to get to a place where you are not terribly, distractingly, painfully uncomfortable and trying to hold out despite also knowing you may never get to such a place. Hanging on a rock wall as your strength goes.

The advisors think it is work that is your problem, or geography, to which you would resign yourself if you were a mature and fair person. But it is not the geography or the work, it is the atmosphere in which it is done and the way you and others are treated, that is the problem. Waiting for the pain to end, because it is immoral to do more than that, is the problem.

I wonder how much pain it is possible to cut out while staying in place. How much of the daily delivery of pain one can simply refuse. I have never quite tried that, but I might start now. I used to reach out and take pleasure, but Reeducation stopped this; I should do it more actively than I do even now.

My illumination for the day, though, is that “procrastination” and block are not about not knowing how to work, or discipline, or laziness, but about self-loss. I have pointed out before that they are also about delaying entry into toxic environments, but they are even more profoundly about self-loss.

The characters in El Señor Presidente live in the superego and the id, and have insufficient agency due to an insufficiency of self, says my student’s paper, and my colleague says the situation at our university resembles the one in that novel.



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I should not say this in real life now, but…

I do not agree that communicative approaches, those methods referred to as grammar-translation, the direct and natural methods, and so on, are merely teaching “styles” — they have different goals and produce different results. Since we as a group do not have a common approach, the de facto departmental method is that used by those who teach the most sections; therefore, I favor creating as small a group as possible to dedicate to the basic sequence, and starting to use, rather than squelch, the expertise of all faculty, all the time.

Imagine for a moment a world in which all courses were taught for pleasure, not as “service.”



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Marcelo Viñar

…homologar la tortura y el genocidio a las generalidades de la Neurosis traumática es desconocer su especificidad, la que radica en que es otro humano –un semejante– el que tramita racionalmente nuestro oprobio o destrucción. A partir de allí –y a perpetuidad–, la pregunta de quién es el prójimo se planteará sin cesar con otra intensidad, con otra incertidumbre, con otra congoja. Quebrada la identificación originaria a lo humano –que es constitutiva de todas nuestras ficciones teóricas sobre el origen del sujeto psíquico– éste queda fragilizado o fisurado.


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…with a wild surmise

I am mortally offended and in touch with many years of anger. I see who and what I am dealing with. 

I am not sure what to do. Two have resigned, and four are considering it. Ride it out, says another colleague. Perhaps, but the big change for me is that I see we are dealing with people who do not act in good faith. I had been advised to consider them merely incompetent but what they do, they do not do in error.

Another colleague said it was impossible to advance because the institution does not want to improve, and works against it actively. It might be important to stop interacting with these forces, stop fighting for rights, stop working for collegiality; ignore them completely and work on nothing that cannot be translated into hard data.

I had always assumed that I was considered to have legitimate expertise and to be honest and sincere, but I discover now that it is precisely these characteristics of mine which are questioned. They were the things assumed about me as a child: that I was not competent and would not be, and that I would attempt to compensate for that by taking advantage of others.

Someone similar must be projecting the same things into me now. I should stop allowing these projections to destabilize me. I should have a protection spell cast so that they glance off my diaphanous shield.

Things to remember, or even say to some:

+ I am legitimate.
+ I see why those who wanted more of a certain kind of work out of me are disappointed. I am also disappointed not to have been given better conditions.
+ Those people should remember how they instructed me not to do that work, but to do other work.
+ They should note how well that work was done.
+ But most importantly: I am exhausting myself, yes; but it is not by working too hard on my work, it is by defending against their strangeness.

I really do not want to spend any more time questioning my right to exist, or defending it, including on this weblog.



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Et voilà

Does “the therapeutic model” (as though there were only one) interdict practitioners from identifying or naming experiences such as emotional abuse? Should practitioners not say such things “as they might intrude upon their client’s reality”? I would say not: not to recognize such things is to ignore what is happening. I also wonder why emotional abuse should be something practitioners are not allowed to identify; they make wilder conjectures than that daily.

My information, gathered over the past years, is that people have not known a great deal about abuse, and that it is in fact hard to recognize. All the problems I have, have to do with dealing with abusive situations I do not know how to recognize or handle, and that I submit to but do not function well in. I can try to say I am depressed, I can try to say I have an anxiety disorder, I can try to say I have some form of ADHD, but the clear answer is always that the emotional abuse has kicked up again and I have been felled by it again.

I think that learning how to recognize it and not internalize it is an excellent project and I hardly think it would be inappropriate for therapy. And there is, efectivamente, therapy for this, that names it. Emotional abuse in the guise of advice is one thing I have suffered from, and I have always found it useful to identify what is happening.

Yesterday I was talking with some people who I would say are healthier than I am in this regard, about a situation we all have with someone. They see it more clearly than I do and apparently their friends also see it more clearly than do mine. I have learned that when I have difficulty thinking clearly it is invariably that I am in an abusive situation I do not recognize, and in which I am inadvertently complicit.

I had a screening psychotherapist tell me one time: “You are enmeshed in a system and you fear extreme violence.” This did not seem intrusive to me at all. It was illuminating. The person to whom I was funneled was, however, a Reeducator. According to him, the large space of health I had created in my life was not health but “denial.” “Honesty” was to reenvision myself as a victim and accept powerlessness. To live in the space of darkness and there to work not toward a future but merely through each painful day.

Someone else says something different: “The worst thing you can develop, in terms of your health, happiness, and deepest values, is an identity as a victim. Victim identity destroys personal power and undermines the sense of self. It makes you falsely identify with “damage” done to you or with bad things that have happened to you.”

And: “As you experience the enormous depth of your core value, the last thing you will want to do is identify with being a victim, or a survivor, for that matter. You want to outgrow walking on eggshells, not simply survive it, and you do that only by realizing your fullest value as a person.”

That is a very mainstream, even commercial person, writing in Psychology Today, and I hardly find these ideas intrusive.



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Pour la semaine prochaine: preparing for trial again

What was that conversation plan I sketched out on the terrace today? Not in these words, but some of the following points. All of them are key, but only some are to be said.  In no particular order.

1. On speaking directly: I want more of it (address the culture of rumors).
2. I have always felt constrained in everything I have done due to rumors. I feel constrained in conversation with you because of the assumptions you make about my views and goals.
3. Evaluate me as you wish but please do not base interaction with me on rumor.
4. “You are constantly reinventing yourself” is a result of rumors: I have always said the same things and had the same interests and projects; I can document that I did not lie in my job application or my tenure application; neither I am now attempting to manipulate or deceive you and there is no second intention behind any of my words.
5. It is a fact that I have had weak periods and then restarted. Restart is not reinvention. I have never changed my interests or goals.
6. I hope you can trust me.
7. I very much appreciate your comment about overwork and would like your support on what I am undertaking now.

I cannot believe I have to have this conversation, but I do. A point to be kept in mind, although not necessarily made, is that it was I who got all the internal and also certain external grant money, I who created the viable conditions for the new professors, I who held the line on a lot of other things, and I who paid the price of the two-phase departmental war (and note that I, having been the neutral party, am the only one left standing). Those things needed doing and I was asked; it was activity to say no to, but look WHO was asking and look WHAT the consequences of saying no were to be.

But this is another era, and I am taking another direction now, trust me and you will like it. [If I can put less energy toward watching my back and defending against rumors about my alleged intentions, and put all energy toward actual work, you will find everyone is happier.]

Also: please understand that although F. and I are using different anthologies, we really are teaching the same skills and having the same goals for the course we both teach. There really is not a problem.



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Anxiety or … ?

Some of us have been discussing anxiety. Est-ce que je l’ai, ou ai-je autre chose? I think in general that I have reasonable fear that I ignore, and that this creates malaise. Anxiety at its most basic level is knowing one is not living well and needs to live better, yet having instructions to live still worse, on pain of death. It is knowing you are giving more blood than you can afford, but that you must give still more or face execution, so that all options are bad.

I have always lived with the feeling that a sword was hanging over my head, except in college and graduate school, and when I was working at my R-1s. Anxiety: about the real power the irrationality of others can have to determine the material conditions of our lives. I have this. Anxiety: about complicity in that, about not knowing how to refuse complicity. I have that.

But then at another level the anxiety I have is not situation bound, but is about not daring to define oneself fully. The idea that this may be done, but only at the level of hobby, only around the margins of the central personality in the room which is someone else’s. One must define oneself to thrive, but may not survive if one does. Will probably not. Has not healed yet from what happened the last time one was caught.

Waiting to jump to the side of thriving. Concerned that this will invite utter disaster.

People do not believe I have anxiety because it is not severe enough and not generalized enough. But I think I have it, only discreetly, and that it is around a primordial knot that can be untied. I think I should jump, define.

I also have anxiety because what must be done (today, and not by my choice) is not what must be done (ultimately, for my reasons) and there is not time for both (realistically). What must be done (today) has to be cut down but I need permission I lack.



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What are you “over”?

…asked Undine.

I am “over” teaching out of field in an unstable (who knows what the students will be like and what they will bring with them?), yet rigid (certain things must be covered because they must) program.

In a stable program, you can do it: take a standard curriculum and go.

In a flexible program, you can also do it: teach what you are comfortable with and that the students show interest in.

In an unstable, yet rigid program, the kinds of pirouettes needed can only be done if you are in field and have a full bag of tricks.



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My psychological and academic suffering has much more to do with my specific department than I had realized. Usually I think the issues are what I bring with me and do not allow myself to see how much is structural.

Also, the capitalistic idea that money does not buy happiness is false. Every time I am able to get out of town, I am much happier. When I present in a high quality academic venue, the pain disappears entirely and my mind comes into focus.

(That was a secondary, but still important reason for me to go to law school at a good place. The objective, as I knew then, was most fundamentally healing, a healing still need although I catch glimpses of it at times.)

I know it is easy to say I am elitist and arrogant to prefer interesting discussion over, say, oppression and bickering. I disagree and I think that criticism comes from some hierarchical and competitive mentality that I am not in, and wilfully misreads what I am saying

Someone told me lately, and interestingly, that my preference for “being a small fish in a very good pond over a large fish in a small one” — my interest in pond quality, as it were, over interest in my own size — was unusual, and was a minority attitude.

A professor at this conference was talking about assistant professorships as interrogation rooms where one is being taught to see like the state.

I think the teaching crisis I brought on and then had this semester has been a “correction” … in this sense.


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La psychanalyse du vendredi

Thank you for all of your instruction and guidance in my education and my post graduation plans. While your classes at first intimidated me, the challenges they present have become a pleasure, and in the end, I find they have been defining of my time at Vichy State. Your attitude and expectations have always encouraged me to go beyond the conventional and, most importantly, to think, think, think.

–from a nice note I got today

Intimidated. But the thing is that I am intimidated, and if I am intimidating I think it is because I am myself terrified due to having been terrorized. Still, despite being terrified I must manage not to feel terrified because this way I am intimidating and it does not serve me well.

On my teaching thread (I am in an online discussion group on teaching under my real name) a full professor in the UC system is telling me that smart means scary and the issue is fragile egos. I think this is a useful comment. I tend to think I am some sort of criminal: I have done terrible things to people that I do not understand or remember. But it may be that I have not done anything except be smart.

Since I think I have done something awful that I did not realize was awful and do not remember, I am on edge all the time, hoping not to commit the crime again and concerned I may be told I have. This feeling that I may be accused of terrible things at any time, that there may be no defense, and that there may be terrible torture sessions ahead, is quite undermining to say the least.

The worst of it is half believing I am truly monstruous and do not know it. If I consider the possibility that mine is just a case of “smart means scary” then I might be able to relax more and actually be less scary.

I tend to think my impression that we are in a prison camp has to do with things that happened to me earlier on and that I have not shaken. While that is true in part, there are significant aspects of current real life which actually have these characteristics. Someone told me yesterday, for example, that we were constantly under a new threat or new state of siege. This is also worth understanding.

In psychotherapy we were encouraged to “look at ourselves,” to remember that things that are wrong are usually wrong within ourselves, and we were told that political critique is nothing but “blaming others” and “not taking responsibility.” I did not realize at the time that these phrases were not therapeutic phrases but were taken out of a 12-step handbook, and that the therapist was a 12-stepper (I was not familiar with this wicked movement) and was modeling his role as therapist on that of his “sponsor” in CODA or whatever branch of 12-stepping he was in.

What intimidated the therapist was that we were smart, and we were already self-aware. I decided to keep an open mind and did not quit as soon as the other friends I had, and who had been referred to the same person, did. As a result of this he was able to convince me that something was very deeply wrong with me. But I think it was just that I was smart. I think that now, the combination of being smart and also being convinced that this is a terrible moral sin, and being preoccupied with the idea that the smartnesss must be chopped down somehow the way a lethal and difficult to control animal might be chained, is disfiguring.

“…how we learned to limit ourselves” is a quotation I can explain and want to remember. It describes my experience in psychotherapy but also in the non-R1 zones of the academic world. It is a sin to be who you are; the reason it is a sin is that it hurts people. I have dreams in which I am searching for my victims, the people I have maimed and killed, because I am convinced they must exist, I have been told so. But perhaps not– perhaps they are just the people who were intimidated because I was smart, not because I was mean, and perhaps they are not maimed or killed but hale and healthy and engaged in torturing me.

So this is how I will now reform. 1. Consider the possibility that “intimidation” is the problem of the intimidated, not my problem. 2. Consider the possibility that I might not actually be mean, I might just be smart. 3. Act with confidence. Act as I do when I know I have backing. Since I have no backing, imagine myself as my own backing. Stop believing it is true that I have hurt someone terribly and must make it up to them by destroying myself. Stop believing that even a minor, civil disagreement means I will be dragged to torture chambers. Stop reacting with fear; be the person I suddenly transform into when I am in larger cities or universities, places where I feel adequately safe.

Honestly. I think I really am intimidating and I think it is because I am so intimidated. (And: amusing side note — that same psychotherapist was always haranguing, out of the blue, about how we had to “get more honest.” I had difficulty understanding this because truly, I am about the least duplicitous person I know and have even been told, not inaccurately, that I am “sincere to a fault.” But can you believe that I, willing to psychoanalyze myself in the open like this, ever took seriously the psychotherapeutic intimation that I, who am amazingly honorable, might be “dishonest,” “not taking responsibility,” and “not willing to consider the possibility that I might have faults” … ?)




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