De l’objectivité

In Reeducation, as we know, my ability to remain objective and maintain a certain level of detachment from things was considered to be a lack of affect … when really it was just a professional skill, as well as an unwillingness to participate in histrionics. Did I need really destructive treatment … a lethal blow to the head, for instance … so I could finally “feel” in the way that was desired?

I am not at all convinced of Alice Miller’s thesis, that you must have hit home (so to speak) the full horror of whatever you might have been through, and I do not believe in re-experiencing things or having them reinflicted. But I have heard a great deal about how one should give free rein to emotions, and make sure to grieve and re-grieve.

My thesis tonight again is that in order to write, you must be able to maintain a certain degree of objectivity, including a slight distance from your material and the right connection with yourself. You need easy access to self, and I suppose enough ego for confidence, but you must be in a position to leave ego concerns, positive or negative, aside.

When I was really depressed I wanted to be in some dry field or some field that had very little to do with me personally. Then I would have been able to just keep on working, lose myself in work, I thought. Instead I wrote large institutional grants, made needed curricular reforms, designed and coded university webpages in html, created programs, and more. Some of this was low level work but some was quite sophisticated, and all of it was dry. All of it could be done without a great deal of access to self.

But being depressed affects my precision in the humanities and the arts. I lose the ability to get to just the right degree of objectivity, the right combination of proximity and distance. I feel too far away from the subject matter and too close to myself, perhaps. Or too close to my superficial self, and too alienated from my core being. And now, writing again on a poet who is falling apart while I am falling apart, a poet who is also connected to the family that fell apart, the poet on whom I could not write for these reasons and, since I could not understand why, thought it meant I could no longer write … well, it is quite an exercise in attaining the right degree of objectivity, I will say.

The other problem I have with this piece is that it is not nearly well enough researched. That is because I have these reeling experiences when I do research on this person, all too much involved with nostalgia and regret and incomprehension and other feelings. It means my lucidity waxes and wanes. I am taking this entire experience as an exercise in taking hold of things.



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Des faits nouvelles

A look at psychoanalytic literature is always enlightening and also engrossing, and I would have studied this full time or would do (it is another way I would betray my current, and apparently very jealous profession).

I see that the “false self” that U.S. psychotherapy associates with success, is not what the notion of “false self” is. Rage, however, has to do with abandonment and having to present a false self.

I see that depression is a result of this abandonment and repression of feelings, splitting off of feelings, as well. A trauma reaction, as I have been saying. You can heal it and regain vitality.

I knew I was right.



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For this week

Stand up for yourself. But if I do, I will be killed.

But what if that is not true any longer? That is the exercise for this week.

For the semester and the future, sweeping away all the complex cobwebs, the line and program is:

1. The original disaster happened because I was too intimidated by standard academic advice (which is why I am so angry at it). At the same time Reeducation was telling me I was not a full person and all my experience and instincts were wrong, which did not help, but we have talked about that. And behind it is the starker truth: I was too intimidated by standard academic advice.

2. Since then I have been massively depressed, because I lost my work and the self that did it. Since depression treatment in this country does not work I decided it must be that I was not depressed and should just treat the situation with standard academic advice. Which is the other reason I am so angry at it. But massively depressed is the only explanation for everything that kept happening.

3. So we will say this: a. I have the right academic advice and b. I will treat my own depression by living well and not hiding out. Which is not how others might do it but it is how I want to do it. I want a cure, and I do not think this is unrealistic.

Things people have said lately that are useful are: 1. You get up in the morning and say, what can I do for ME today? 2. You have to stand up for yourself. 3. You can heal and should do the things that work for this. It is also very freeing to say: I was depressed all this time, rather than: I was not following rules well enough all this time.

I think I am a better psychoanalyst than most professionals. I also think current therapy, in which you do not look at root issues but only manage “genetic predispositions” and “chemical imbalances,” is wrong. The idea that looking at root issues means endless obsession with the past is silly … misguided. It is the opposite: looking at root issues means getting free.

What would the world look like if the oppressive academic advice, Da Whiteman, were gone?


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In which I find I have inadvertently killed a post

It had a quotation about advising people on graduate school that I thought was smart but that bothered me in the end. I killed it by mistake but perhaps that was a good thing. I am going to stop railing about academic advice because in the end it is a personal issue, I am talking about academic advice, I discern, to talk about something else and I would like to see what that is, if I can.

Railing against academic advice used to be illuminating but it is starting to hurt. I do not know that I want to think about it any more. I would like to stop reacting against (a) the doom and gloom atmosphere — don’t do this, and (b) the coercion — you must now do this and only this. I would like to stop being the one who listens and tries to find meaning.

This semester I would like to just be a person, like the others. To drop my ancient role as marginalized aspirant. To stop having to struggle against bad news. To stand in expertise. To drop pain. If you translated my dissertation into a personal statement it would say: “But I do not like to be under the power of sadists, and I want agency.”



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You may not

And this is the other thing I do not understand about academia, our duty to be in academia, and so on. All I ever heard about were the things you may not do if you are a professor. You may not:

* desire to live somewhere pleasant, that you have any part in choosing
* have a family or live where you can have friends
* be involved civically or do anything else that could possibly drain time from research
* spend enough time on teaching so as to be prepared enough not to have it be highly stressful
* have views, share views, advocate for views
* make enough money to keep and regenerate savings or an emergency fund … or travel to places you find renewing
* publish research that is controversial in any way
* change or evolve in terms of research field or orientation

If you are serious and good enough, you will renounce all of these things for the sake of a research area you chose at about twenty. And you will stick with it, because you owe this to the world in exchange for having gone to graduate school against all advice, and for having enjoyed it.

These, seriously, are the things I heard, was told, learned. I do not know who the people are who feel they, and their lives are owed such allegiance. But do you see why I am sad, having worked so long to renounce all of these things? If in exchange you do not get libraries and travel to archives, it is a seriously poor deal. But look — just look at the grey view I was given, and told it was my duty to accept because of having done the Ph.D. against all advice.

All of this is allegedly about “time management” and “discipline” but really it is about renouncing the self. People tell me I need to learn to stand up for myself but what I have been working on all this time is renunciation of self. Just look at that list — look how bad it is.



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And look at this. Kansas already has a freely accessible website for second year Spanish, and Florida will have one for the first year soon. Also look at this.

I would so like to work on a big, modern campus that had such things. I should arrange to visit Austin soon. I am so glad we at least have the Internet now, and I do not think I would have fallen as far into terror and desperation had it existed when I fell.

And I have not figured out how to use iRubrics yet, but I am using Engrade, and it is so wonderful only to have two courses, I feel like human being.


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And also

I also see perfectly what I was trying to make a radical break from and why, at a psychological level, it was virtually impossible to keep working in that field. Yes, in the best of all possible worlds one could have done it but it was far more realistic to switch. And what I considered wise was such a minor shift, really — one set of authors to another — and it was so very much wiser. But everyone said do not, you cannot, and they knew less than I but had more power than I, and this, again, is why I do not like academic advice.

And I suppose that the reason I do not like academic advice is that it is not a conversation, it is a set of exhortations and repetitions of general rules. I do not teach that way, I would not.



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