therapy journey

My journey to better mental & spiritual health

Tag: self

‘Ego Distortion in terms of True and False Self’ – A summary and reflection on Donald Winnicott’s 1960 paper.

Donald Winnicott’s ideas of the True and False Self constitute a technical description of specific state of being which can be traced back to the adult’s formative relationship with their ‘primary object’, the mother. The theory arose from his work as a psychoanalyst and paediatrician, who worked in Britain and wrote prolifically from the 1930’s until his death in the early 1970s. Winnicott’s work with mothers and infants gave him an insight into the correlation between inadequate bonding with the mother, and later developmental and psychological disturbances.

In this paper Winnicott argues that every baby develops according to one of two possible pathways which then determine whether a True Self or False Self emerges;

“In the first case the mother’s adaptation is good enough and in consequence the infant begins to believe in external reality which appears and behaves as by magic […] and which acts in a way that does not clash with the infant’s omnipotence.[…] In the second case […] the mother’s adaptation to the infant’s hallucinations and spontaneous impulses is deficient, not good enough. The process that leads to the capacity for symbol-usage does not get started […] in practice the infant lives, but lives falsely”. (1960, p. 146).

The mother’s lack of sensitivity to the baby’s needs leads to him becoming prematurely autonomous as a defence to protect the True Self from discovery. Winnicott is quite clear about what constitutes ‘good enough’ mothering, and what does not. As touched on above, a ‘good enough’ mother meets the infant’s omnipotence which means strengthening the infant’s weak ego. On the other hand, a ‘not good enough’ mother does not implement the infant’s omnipotence, and instead, substitutes her own gesture to which the infant responds by complying. The baby is not thus able to believe, for a period, in the “illusion of omnipotence” in which its true self can flourish.

This helps to understand the aetiology of the False Self – it is in large part attributed to a repeated lack of sensitivity to the true needs of the developing psyche, on the part of the mother. Her reactions do not correspond to what the baby is expecting, so they are inappropriate ‘impingements’. The repeated failure affects the pre-reflective, nonconscious mind of the baby all the way to adult life. The False Self is “evidently a real clinical state [that] exists”[1].

The less extreme version of the disturbance (nevertheless termed a ‘clinical illness’[2] ) still acknowledges the True Self and allows it a secret life. It may search for conditions which make it possible for the True Self to reign. When such conditions are not met, the result is ego ‘suicide’ which in this context means “destruction of the total self in avoidance of annihilation of the True Self.”[3]

The True Self adult develops a wide range of cognitive and emotional skills. It learns to become truly autonomous when it is ready. It inhabits social roles comfortably and with careful consideration. It assesses its relationships independently and comports itself securely. Admittedly the True Self conception is an aspiration to which we aspire, and it could be contended that it is an idealisation.

The False Self however is concerned with identifications, false as they may be, and with a mannered and acceptable social attitude. It adheres to protocols willingly, and succumbs to external authority rather than establishing its own. It seeks to maintain relationships and gain approval even when this is detrimental to its wellbeing. These dependencies are comfortable because they buffer the True Self. Compliance and imitation[4] are main features of the False Self.

There is some internal acknowledgement that, ‘This is not my True Self’, but the False Self’s relationships nevertheless seem very real to that individual and to others. They are in indeed in place of the real.

“Where the mother cannot adapt well enough, the infant gets seduced into a compliance, and a compliant False Self reacts to environmental demands and the infant seems to accept them. Through this False Self the infant builds up a false set of relationships, and by means of introjections even attains a show of being real, so that the child may grow to be just like mother […]. The False Self has one positive and very important function: to hide the True Self, which it does by compliance with environmental demands.” (1960, p. 146-7).

Winnicott’s words are significant to me, because they suggest that the powerful influence of the False Self can overshadow any notion of the True Self. It is a defence which can outlast its usefulness.

For me, in my own experiences as a person that has sought help from the psychoanalytic model of therapy two years ago, a lot of what was revealed to me in that process rang true in light of Winnicott’s False Self theory. As I began the process of unpacking the weighty emotional baggage that had held me back my whole life, notions of a False Self emerged as my deepest issue.

In a blogpost from that time I recounted a session with my psychotherapist, in which I was asked to talk to my five-year-old self. What would I say to the child?

“The things I wanted to say, she wouldn’t understand. I want to tell her she must have the strength to be true to herself. I want to tell her she must find her own happiness. I want to tell her it’s OK to be who she is. Trust yourself. I want to tell her that it’s good to be open to love and laughter. Get out of your head more. If I could tell her just one thing, I’d say “enjoy now”. ”[5]

This paints a poignant picture of both the adult coming to a painful realisation that something in her current position in life is terribly lacking, and that the promise of childhood was not fulfilled. We have the portrait of a child who is already not being her real self, a child who does not know anything about inner happiness, a child who looks to others for identity and belonging, a child who is afraid of spontaneous, joyful responses, a child who lives in her intellect already, who doesn’t have a conception of living in the moment.

What was startling for me reading Winnicott’s 1960 article, was his recognition of the “danger of the […] not infrequent tie-up between the intellectual approach and the False Self.”[6] He wrote of the tendency for the mind to become the location of this Self, creating a dissociation between intellectual activity and psychosomatic existence. A fine intellect and a high degree of academic success were always important to me but even now I cannot articulate why.

It was something that my psychotherapist picked up on very early. I used to write notes during our sessions, with my rationale being that since I was paying to have these insights, I might as well capture them on paper so I can work on them properly.

“The subject of my reliance on thinking/writing also came up. G came to the conclusion I use my strongly developed mind instead of my feelings. I justify and rationalise all kinds of things, that then have an effect on my behaviour. And once poisoned thought becomes feeling then action, all hell breaks loose.”[7] and

“G pointed out that it was obvious the inflated emphasis I put on cerebral activities. I had not realised before that there was an alternative. My mind is always crowded with thoughts about something and nothing. These aren’t necessarily productive thoughts such as ideas, but can instead be circular, neurotic, mildly paranoid and self-sabotaging.”[8]

This reveals an interesting facet of the False Self. Rather than detaching from pursuits that may require one’s own authentic opinion, as intellectualism does, it can be set up as a defence. Academic success is only another thing to hide behind and it is eventually found to be lacking. “The individual “feels ‘phoney’ the more he or she is successful”[9] For someone with a False Self, safe places are always being sought. The only satisfactory ones, sadly, are in one’s own mind.

How do we find and express our True Self? I am sure there are many ways but for Winnicott the solution was to take part in psychoanalytic work in which a “period of extreme dependence”[10] takes place after the individual’s own acknowledgement that the False Self is operating. One of Winnicott’s most influential ideas was the ‘holding environment’ which refers to an ordinary, loving mother holding her child both emotionally and physically. An appropriate holding environment is essential for the True Self to develop as the primary self. When the holding environment in early life was deficient, the psychotherapeutic intervention may help later. “A correct and well-timed interpretation in an analytic treatment gives a sense of being held physically that is more real…than if a real holding or nursing had taken place. Understanding goes deeper”.[11] The therapy relationship in essence recreates that early relationship.

For me, the False Self was never fully resolved, as the therapy was short term. I certainly found it very wrenching and emotionally exhausting to spend so long being back in early life, and didn’t have stable structures in place to be able to cope with that. Opening the floodgates is all very well but without flood defences, you will drown. I’ve sought changes via different, personal means such as love, service and faith, not through being inward-looking nor dwelling in the past.

 

References

[1] Winnicott, D. W. (New York, 1965). ‘Ego Distortion in Terms of True and False Self’, in The Maturational Process and the Facilitating Environment: Studies in the Theory of Emotional Development, p. 140 (Accessed via Gestalt NYC: http://tinyurl.com/z7h4r2a)

[2] Ibid, p 143

[3] Ibid.

[4] Winnicott, D. W. (1965)  p. 147

[5] ‘Deepening the pool. Childhood memories.’ on Therapy Journey, (published anonymously). http://tinyurl.com/zawfueu

[6] Winnicott, D. W. (1965)  p. 144

[7] ‘Getting to know and tame my rebellious inner child.’ by Therapy Journey (2014) http://tinyurl.com/he4d84p

[8] ‘Overthinking and freedom from prison.’ by Therapy Journey (2014). http://tinyurl.com/z4b3hwx

[9] Winnicott, D. W. (1965)  p. 144

[10] Ibid, p. 151

[11] Casement, Patrick (London, 1997) Further Learning from the Patient, pp. 96–7

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Faith, joy and letting go.

I have written loads here and elsewhere on the subject of overthinking and desperately wanting to feel joy as my overriding state in a deep feeling kind of way. I am of course aware of the irony about writing a wordy blog about how much I would like to stop thinking, rationalising and intellectualising my feelings. If I could get over how delicious the irony is, maybe I could make some progress.

I’d love for joy to be my overriding state. In fact I’d love it to be everyone’s overriding state. I believe this is part of what we’ve fallen away from, since the introduction of sin into the world. Joy is what’s called for in the Christian concept of God. That is what we all need to live by and remember. Joy is felt, not thought. On waking, when I actually remember to, I think ‘today, I am just going to feel joy in my body and also in my heart.’ But what I would like is to have joy be the default, not something I have to use my head to remember consciously. That’s why there is some struggle involved, some headwork, until I train myself to feel what is already within.

I am reminded of something that came up in my study group. The two of us in the group are very wordy and love to intellectualise. For Lent, we were reading Rowan Williams’ Meeting God in Mark, which is intended as a meditative study companion to Mark’s Gospel. A few weeks ago, we spent some time dissecting this part:

How does God work? Subtly, slowly, from the very depth of being. Or steadily, irresistibly, like the light reaching the corners of the room. He works outwards from the heart of being into the life of every day – not inwards from some distant heaven.

In just a few weeks, I can see that I have made some progress. When I came across this material, I tried to understand exactly the difference between God working from the heart and God descending from heaven to bestow us with His blessings to simply letting go – which is precisely what faith is. Letting go is the definition of trust as well, and that goes for earthly matters too. That doesn’t mean, stick your head in the sand and be content with your happy ignorance. But rather, listen carefully to that voice that has the ring of truth. Be aware of the gaps and the silences, because that could be where He speaks the loudest. Be ready to engage in the relationship with Him and to ask for His guidance.

Mark’s Gospel uses quite mysterious parables to highlight the irony of human beings not knowing the fact of their ignorance when they are confronted with the truth. If God were to reveal himself, in a way that our fantasies demand, our problem would not be that we don’t know but that we cannot love – it would be nothing to do with our knowledge and everything to do with our nature.

Our natures, if we resort to using them and nothing else to guide us, will take us to very dark, very desolate places. We possess distorted ideas about love, power and glory. To us, love is earned and it is conditional. We do not love someone unless we are sure they love us. If they hurt us enough, we will force ourselves to stop loving them. Our fantasy of power meanwhile, that people often joke about, is that we could have everything ‘our way’ if only we were the King of the Universe. People would have to bow down to us, and wouldn’t it be brilliant if we could order everybody around. If we had ultimate power, we could do mighty things like demand everyone to give us whatever we want, and we’d have the most money and comforts.

Is this what power is? Is this the glory that we seek? Human power basically boils down to subjugating the weak and exalting the self to an undeserved position of authority. Jesus’ death completely in one fell swoop, destroys the fantasy that God’s power is much like ours, just to a greater (infinite) degree. Our common idea of ‘power’ is so tainted by our fallen natures, it has no resemblance whatsoever to the true power of the Lord. The corresponding fantasy concerning power is that ‘whatever power we attain as mortal beings much be valued and clung to because it is power endorsed by God. In these lethal errors lie the roots of all our sin and self-inflicted misery, the roots of death’, Williams writes. The myth of power, like so many of our errors, holds us prisoner. We are delivered from these frightening fallacies by the death of Christ. It is all there, it happened millennia ago, all we have to do is let go.

How can it be that this man, who called himself the Son of God, is forsaken by all towards the end of his life? How is he so pitifully alone? How can it be that he manifests his ultimate power in acts of service, self-gift and never controlling others? How is the Messiah a slave who washes the feet of those who follow him? It is this utterly incredible and awe-inspiring when you sit back and feel and know and rediscover these things. It will take a lifetime to imagine the possibilities of trust and faith in the helpless, powerless God on the cross.

I am fortunate and have everything to be joyful about.

dripping,-creeping,-streaming

Entering the vibration.

The purpose of this underground is to find out how to preserve the light, the life, the culture. How to keep things living. You see, I keep thinking that what we need is a new language. A language of the heart. The language was in the Polish forest, where language wasn’t needed.  Some kind of language between people that is a new kind of poetry. It’s the poetry of the dancing bee that tells us where the honey is. And I think that in order to create that language, you’re going to have to learn how you can go through a looking glass into another kind of perception where you have that sense of being united with all things. And suddenly, you understand everything. – My Dinner with Andre, Dir. Louis Malle

What has happened to me continuously throughout this journey so far is a kind of synchronicity, serendipity even. Entering into the vibration of a particular thought, idea or energy has led to more of the same. The current preoccupation with spiritual awakening has been no exception, but in fact has even greater ramifications for humanity. For if we really are waking up, and the law of attraction is causing mass societal change, then what I experience on an individual level has the potential to be magnified many million times over. In fact, it is inevitable.

From my own personal experience, up until last week, I used to run an authenticity group in my hometown. Now I am travelling, the group will be on hold until I settle somewhere new for more than a few days. During the weeks I spent with my group in its first incarnation, I shared some terrifically collaborative moments with the participants. What I utterly loved about the group, was the mix of energy that happened. We channelled each other, whether we were painting silently in a meditative state or writing silly stories, there was the uncanny sense of connecting in a very profound way. A few days ago the activity was writing, and the collaborative, blind poetry pieces had a very coherent theme. They were also extremely fun to write, and I experienced what I’d been missing for a long while – deep belly laughter.

What I found in a significant way through that group was meaningful connection. Although the uptake wasn’t high, the intensity was. I owe it to myself to chase connections that have – as much as I hate the fact I’m overusing this phrase – ‘spiritual significance’. And to let go of those that don’t. I’m becoming stronger in my own self and convictions, and am disdainful the idea of being nice and keeping everyone happy. I’ve rocked a few boats lately, and I’m fine with that, because I have to be true to myself (including my inner bitch).

This recent article by Zen Gardner, published in the Waking Times is yet another in a long line of ideas about, as the title suggests, activism, elevating consciousness, and living with sustainability and awareness in mind. It talks about the fast-approaching tipping point in collective consciousness, and how every blog post and conversation helps to reverse perceived reality. As the machinations of power abuses, control and suppression become more evident in their malevolence, people have the opportunity to step back and see social engineering for what it is and always has been.

The article reports on a theory purportedly proven by scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York that when just 10 percent of the population holds an unshakable belief, their belief will always be adopted by the majority of the society. It is essentially the same as the Hundredth Monkey Syndrome, which holds that once a certain number of individuals within a species learn something, suddenly the rest of that species can do it without being shown. They do it purely by instinct. The veracity of this theory has been called into question, however, and all but fallen into the realm of urban legend. However, it remains very interesting with this in mind to see what happens as we grow into what I believe are major, cataclysmic changes with global consequences.

What it all boils down to is the power of the individual. Most people have the erroneous belief that they cannot possibly effect change, as they are just one person out of several billion. But this couldn’t be further from the truth that I believe in. And I write this from my own point of view but this goes for every person on the planet – I have unlimited, infinite power which affects the entire universe across all dimensions.

I have found true freedom in believing in my own power and realising there is nothing at all to fear or doubt. There is only love. From Zen Gardner’s article, ‘Doubt is akin to fear, and its end result is apathy; i.e. disempowerment and inaction’. Sure, sometimes I still have moments of apathy, aggression, frustration and even fear. But I recognise that these are not true states of being, they are merely reflections of a spirit that is not in quite the right space.

I am coming to the end of the first week of my travels and have found myself in Brussels, Belgium. I am aware of the negative energy of this city and it’s not surprising given the significance of this territory to the Illuminati Elite. This capital city is home to the unelected European Union superstate dictatorship, NATO, the Global Elite Krypt computer database onto which information of all the people of the world is allegedly being compiled. If you subscribe to Icke’s theory, this tiny country, a monarchy, was created in 1831 as a centre for Elite Satanist activity and has imposed a ‘reptilian’ line which connects the bloodlines of all European royal and Elite families. Only another day left in this city then on to somewhere I can be less cynical about.

From dream to nightmare.

“I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick ass… and I’m all out of bubblegum.” – They Live, Dir. John Carpenter

I feel incredibly awakened suddenly, finding out more about the real state of the world. It is one hell of ride and extremely uncomfortable, though exhilarating. Like the main character in the John Carpenter film, They Live, I have taken a chance and put on the reality sunglasses. For the first time, I believe I’m seeing things a little closer to how they really are. I see the subliminal messages which mind-control the masses and the sub-/supra-human overlords that run it all.

Every step I take on this road makes me more certain that this is what my purpose is. I’m finally ready to let go of the regrets of my past. When we look back, it’s easy to see with hindsight where we made a wrong turn, and wonder what the hell we were thinking. What I must remember, for my own sanity, is that whatever decisions I made in the past were thoroughly right for that moment in time. They could not fail to be so.

I’m entering into the vibration of the new part of my life, emerging from the crisis of my age slowly. I’m negotiating the tricky balance between activism and acceptance as I come to accept more startling things I’m coming across. Reading the Icke book The Biggest Secret has made me feel like my life up until now was a dream. What I now know, I can’t unknow. I can’t unf*** the goat, so to speak. (Although the goat symbolism of that phrase has taken on a macabre twist, a phenomenon that I keep finding whatever my eyes happen to settle on out there in the world they run. Now, every symbol is infused with meaning).

The forces that run this world control everything and the vast majority of individuals and they want you to call people like me and other truthers crazy. I’m fine with that and I accept that if I go down this path I’m laying myself open to ridicule. Online, that’s easier to cope with but face to face with people it’s much more unpredictable. That’s why I have to keep bettering myself, strengthening my convictions in the providence of the cosmos, and the love that’s in our souls whether you call it God, intuition, unity, spirit or any other name. It’s the opposite of the Satanism that’s intrinsic to the Illuminati’s rituals. Their Satan is not the Satan of the Bible or anything else for which we have a point of reference. They worship a highly destructive, negative force. Their rituals are a manipulation of human energy, and what people don’t know until they wake up and research this, is that millions of people, especially babies, that never officially existed die each year because of the ruling classes’ needs to feed on human consciousness.

The reason why this and all the rest of it continues is so easy to answer – because the few that rule the world control and own everything, from the news and entertainment media, to pharmaceuticals and the illegal drugs trade, to the military and police, to the organised religions of the Christian, Jewish, Islamic and other faiths, the companies we work for, to the very idea of government and all political ideologies be they communist, socialist, democratic, monarchy, plutocracy – it’s for a greater Agenda. The people that stand there that we call presidents or dictators or queens are not there to enforce their own will. God, no. They are often just mind-controlled puppets, there to further the Agenda. The Agenda has been going on for many thousands of years. Call them the Black Nobility, the Illuminati, the Babylonian Brotherhood, it’s all essentially the same thing.

The external manipulation of the mind takes many forms and the question is not how many are mind controlled, but how few are not. Make no mistake, it takes pure courage to live freely. It’s a great step into the unknown, which is another thing we have been conditioned to fear. I am the living embodiment of transient states of being, rejection of mainstream channels, an alternative sexuality, commitment to truth, absolute faith in my infinite power as a human being, and in time, love for all.

I remember a few years ago during the three-month occupation of the grounds of St Pauls by Occupy London protesters, I took my former boss’s 13-year old daughter there to have a look what was going on. He was horrified I had taken her to a place of the Great Unwashed, although we were both enthralled by what we had seen. Libraries inside tents, people making music, dancing, inspired placards – it was a peaceful, poignant experience. Now, I am more interested in being a part of a subculture like that than a cog in the prevailing, thoughtless culture. Not even a cog, because every cog in a machine is necessary, but something thoroughly expendable.

Yes, I know how it sounds. I’m sitting at home, I’m bored, so I’m scaring myself silly with out-there theories that give me the feeling that I’m doing something important with my life. But of course. The difference however is that I’m willing to be a voice that effects change. I want to devote my time right now to raising consciousness and at the very least, appealing to other people to form their own opinions and see things differently. I don’t know how I’m going to do this, but I have already started in my one-to-one personal outreach programme in the real world, and I’m proud.

Spiritual awakening.

“One of the great transformations we are experiencing is the process of re-awakening or re-connecting to our Higher Self or true self (Consciousness). This Higher Self can be seen as who we truly are. Up until this point, human ego has been at the forefront of driving our world. Ideas of who we think we are, separation, competition, greed, power and survivalism have been sitting in the driver’s seat for centuries and have created a world that reflects these ideals. It is important to realize that these are all illusions” – Julian Websdale, The Waking Times.

The idea of a spiritual awakening has come up so many times in the past few days both in my reading and interaction with people, I feel as if the universe is trying to tell me something. I’m aware of how rare this idea is given that there are so many human-made structures of power and control that have been designed to keep us in our place of blissful ignorance of our higher selves and a more noble way of being. Mainstream society pours disdain and ridicule on those that seek to better themselves in such a way. And that is because this is precisely what you’re meant to think.

Science and religion have conspired over the centuries to keep us in the dark. Religion, though outmoded, teaches us to fall in line so we don’t get punished by a pretty moody God. Our souls are only good in as far as we do what religious doctrine (read: the state) impels us to do. Modern science offers the only acceptable view of the universe and human values today, and that is that what exists is merely a ‘brute fact’ as Bertrand Russell put it, and when you die you cease to exist. This is even worse than the religious view! These apparent opposites both deny the true nature of who we are and that we alone have infinite power including of course, the power to control our individual and collective destinies.

Reading David Icke (I know I shouldn’t), he writes about the idea of mass consciousness growing to an eventual awareness that will set the human race free. While this has been debunked by detractors as New Age hokum, there is something that’s compelling to me that through an inclusive spirituality without borders or confining dogmas, people as one wake up to their interconnectedness and their non-physical selves that continues beyond the body.

But why should such a thing ever happen, when now more than ever, our world is materialistic, people are more divided, and disillusionment with politics and government is running high? Perhaps it’s precisely because of the self-conscious emptiness of our institutions, entertainment and behaviours that a shift is inevitable. Further, according to The Waking Times, one of the biggest victories awaiting us is the shift from polarity (right or wrong) to an understanding that perceptions are neutral, and only our ego terms an experience ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Once we see this, we stop placing emphasis on the ego and expecting prejudice and polarity, and start loving, allowing and accepting which leads to joy, happiness and enlightenment.

A global shift in consciousness might also be related to factors beyond our comprehension such as cosmic rays and solar activity. There is a theory advocated here that the unrest we are experiencing in many parts of the world is symptomatic of the number of sunspots and cycle the sun is in. Russian scientist Alexander Chizhevsky showed that the more sunspots, the greater number of important historical events take place. Within each 11-year cycle, Chizhevsky recognised 3 years of minimum excitability, 2 years of growth in excitability, 3 years of maximum excitability, and 3 years of a decline in excitability. We are in the period of maximum excitability, in which a disproportionate majority (60%) of historical events supposedly occur. The characteristics for our time include, “Discovery of solutions, masses more impatient with status quo, masses unite, new leaders appear.” How I would welcome being part of this change…

However one thing I must remember is that everything is exactly how it should be. This was one of the first things I learned. I do start to feel angry when I realise think too much about ‘the way things ought to be’. Through this awakening, we will learn to love knowing that we don’t have to fix our planet or anyone on it. It’s the work of the ego to presume that it knows better. Instead of resistance, steady alignment. You cannot change other people, although they do change. You can only work on yourself.

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The active mind.

“How wild it was, to let it be.” ― Cheryl Strayed, Wild

At last night’s meditation class, I had a startling realisation. I can’t meditate! It was freeing. Things we had learned were reiterated: meditation is the ability to look inside yourself. Breath is connected to thought. Sound is to do with emotion. You become the observer of your thoughts, like an audience watching a play, without making the drama a reality. Meditation is said to give energy, and for this reason it is wise to meditate in the morning.

We were instructed to focus on the sound of the heartbeat without consciously trying to stop, slow, or control thoughts. Apparently, by carrying on like this, eventually during the meditation and perhaps after some practice, it is possible to transcend them. It seems like an impossible game. It seems exactly like ‘the game’ – that you lose by remembering the fact that you’re playing the game. During this session’s 45 minute meditation, I believe I truly meditated for no more than 15 seconds. I started feeling a little sleepy towards the end but that was drifting off, not meditating.

For all the talking and writing I do about hardcore meditating, even running a group in which guided meditation is an important part of it, I have never really been able to do it. I enjoy trying and I like the idea of it, but it’s beyond my spiritual capabilities at the moment. I sit there and think, think, think, about every subject under the sun from pop trivia to people I know to mundane matters. I cannot sit still. This is the hardest part for me. I know it’s going to be 45 minutes and I feel every second of it and it practically aches. I don’t have the discipline when it comes to sitting still, doing nothing, thinking nothing. It is literally beyond me.

I know meditation isn’t easy, in fact it’s incredibly difficult. But I have tried it so many times with many different leaders and approaches. Nothing sticks. I’m fine with that, it’s not my time, it’s not in my scope of possibility yet. I’m stubborn so I probably will continue with it, only now I have no expectations.

I think my path is going to be one that’s more jubilant, joyful and active. I’ve heard of ecstatic dance in a few cities and it’s something I’d like to try, maybe in California. I would rather connect outwards than inwards, and use and feel my body and be joyful rather than focussing on the impossible. I’ve started going to acting improvisation classes, which is wonderfully terrifying. It’s early days but I enjoyed the first session and felt like I was alive and not wrapped in the suffocating comfort of home.

There were many exercises including forum theatre, where the two actors improvising a scene change their situation on the audience’s command. There was an activity in the round which a new participant would join a scene and when they do, they change it, and then when the whole group was involved, the same process each time an actor left. There was an activity in which one person reads lines from a script without deviating from that, and the other adlibs. That particular one was such a hoot and I laughed uncontrollably – not great when it was my scene but a real chance to give in to the moment while watching the other performers. There is a chance that down the line we may be able to put on a show at the theatre space where we meet.

So my mind is like that drunken monkey being bitten by a scorpion. It’s hard to shut it down through meditation but I’m not truly ready, willing or able to do that yet. And that’s just fine. It will come as I break free, as I grow up, and I pull in influences, and I experience more life, and when the time’s right. For the minute I’d rather direct it into pursuits that help connect me with others, have fun and fulfil my goal of overcoming fear.

I have no self. I am not a self. There is no I. There is nothing.

I chanced upon an entirely philosophical idea recently that has mind-boggling power. There is a universal notion that we all take for granted – the notion of I. Me. That is, the first person self or “unified being which is the source of consciousness”. The thing I refer to as I is separate from the whole. It is unique and we each have a special personal duty to our individual Is. It is almost impossible to dispense with oneself as the source for the individual’s thoughts and actions. Every society has the idea of accountability or personal responsibility once we become adult.

It is interesting to see what happens when we shift our understanding and start to see this I as a fictional creation. What happens? We now the world as the seamless, dynamic and discrete organism that it is. Now consider that I am a part of this thing without an enduring ego or self. Suddenly there are no static pieces of the puzzle to be removed, reassembled and replaced at will. There are no meaningful boundaries between one organism and another. There is just what is. The detail dissolves into the bigger picture. It helps if we imagine consciousness as a mistake.

Of course we need Is in order to function in society. On the whole, we avoid what is threatening and seek out that which is beneficial to our survival and personal fulfilment. I search for ego validation constantly to confirm my sense of self. We all do. Self-affirmation proves that people that matter understand me, love me, accept me, respect me or whatever it is I’m craving at any given moment.

I’m considering the idea that the I is not real in an ultimate sense. It’s a meaningless fiction that only exists in our minds in the manner of a useful collective delusion. It represents a shallow and restrictive way of being that for many people, is absorbing to the point of obsession.

I know I am quite deep and self-obsessed. I like the I that… well, I have constructed. Not only does it serve me well in my interactions with other people, but it is endlessly fascinating. But suppose for a moment I consider the alternative. The Śūnyatā is a beautiful Buddhist concept which refers to emptiness, vacuity, openness. I have been watching a lot of maths programmes lately and an interesting connection is that Śūnyatā comes from the very culture that gave us the zero (śhūnya). The scriptures of the Theravadan Buddhist tradition, called the Pāli Canon, uses the Śūnyatā term in three ways. Firstly as a meditative dwelling. Secondly as an attribute of objects. And lastly as a type of awareness-release. It’s Śūnyatā as awareness-release that I’m most interested in.

One simply notes what is present without identifying those things with one’s own self. It is achieved through intense concentration and increased awareness of shifting and subtle levels of disturbance. This is an exchange between the Buddha and his attendant Ānanda:

Ānanda: It is said that the world is empty […] in what respect […] is it empty?
Buddha: Insofar as it is empty of a self or of anything pertaining to a self: thus it is said, Ānanda, that the world is empty.

I love this idea of emptiness as a huge positive affirmation of life, its interconnectedness and oneness, rather than a sadness. Tonight I went to a creativity meditation class, in which we focussed on feeling awareness in our bodies rather than minds. It was a welcome relief as my mind has been chattering incessantly since I stopped taking paroxetine a week ago. The good news is the withdrawal only lasts between 2 and 6 weeks. I’ve started a heady cocktail of herbal medication which should combat some of the side effects of the withdrawal. The remedies I’ve started are Omega 3 EFA complex (for head zaps); B-Complex 100 (to boost mood as well as supporting metabolism and nervous system); melatonin (for sleep); ‘Scullcap’ (Scutellaria lateriflora for sleep, relaxing and overcoming anxiety); and an anti-anxiety blend of kava kava, passionflower, bacopa, albizia & lavender. I took my first dose of the anti-anxiety stuff a few hours ago and feel a little better already, plus the head zaps have abated touchwood as my brain readjusts.

Last night was one of my worst experiences. I didn’t fall asleep until 11am and then only for two hours. During the night I took six herbal sleeping tablets I had lying around to no avail. By 7am I was cold, bored and at my wits’ end so decided to go for a run around the neighbourhood. It helped warm me up, but I just couldn’t feel tired. The insomnia wasn’t even the worst part. That was saved for the fog of confusion in my head, the uncontrollable crying, feeling sadness so palpably, sheer irritability, feeling nauseous, diarrhoea every few hours – and the mind zaps.

That’s one of the worst things. Mid-morning, before I fell asleep, I counted how often they came. There were between one and four zaps every five seconds on average and this is for a few hours. Coming off paroxetine it feels like my mind just does not work. It takes a long time to do very simple things, and they feel utterly pointless. Earlier all I wanted to do was curl up and shut the doors on the world, but I’m making a huge effort to go about my life in a normal way, meeting friends for coffee, going to spiritual meet ups, doing my artwork, feeding myself, writing, playing with the dogs etc. I have faith I’ll get there, even if I have to go about everything in a slow and forced way for the time being.

Love is the drug.

I had some realisations about love recently. I don’t doubt that love is all that the universe is made from. I don’t doubt that to love is to live authentically. But I have my doubts about the existence of the love between two people in a romantic sense. This hit me like a punch in the stomach in the not so wee hours of yesterday morning, at a moment when I needed the kind of solace that only I can provide to myself. A shroud lifted and I felt strangely brighter. I felt relieved rather than saddened. It put an abrupt end to my epic and ridiculous nighttime weeping.

I’ve been living with more fear than I am used to because a few days ago I unexpectedly and suddenly ceased taking my anti-depressant paroxetine. I’ve found myself cold turkey just before Thanksgiving. The circumstances are somewhat convoluted but I will outline them so that others can see how easily these things can happen in the fractured world we live in. So, I came to the States a few weeks ago with a small supply of my anti-depressant, thinking that it would be easy enough to get hold of more. I intended for my friend to post me a couple of months’ supply, and provided her with the paper prescription. Unfortunately she informed me it turns out that all items entering the US through the postage system are scanned and medication isn’t allowed in.

My second idea was to see a doctor out here and get him to write me a prescription. Medical care is covered under my travel insurance so I thought I would claim back the costs of the physician visit plus the meds. Wrong. Because the meds treat a pre-existing medical condition, no costs associated with obtaining anti-depressants will be reimbursed by the insurance provider. And as the cost I was quoted was $220 for the appointment alone, I won’t be going down that route. My final idea was to buy from an online pharmacy, the kind that dispense anything you want without a prescription. After a bit of searching I was surprised to find the cheapest option would work out in excess of $2 per single 20mg pill for a small order. So that also isn’t going to work for me.

The upshot of all of this means going through real or imagined withdrawal symptoms of coming off paroxetine. These for me included complex and very disturbing dreams, severe difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep at any time of day, fear, anxiety, irritability, vertigo-like “welling up” short waves in my head not stomach, and bouts of crying for no ostensible reason. I did some research online and found that the following symptoms were reported in patients coming off Paxil. This is from the Royal College of Psychiatry website, with the rate of reported incidence in brackets:

anxiety (70%)
dizziness (61%)
vivid dreams (51%)
electric shocks/head zaps (48%)
stomach upsets (33%)
flu-like symptoms (32%)
depression (7%)
headaches (3%)
suicidal thoughts (2%)
insomnia (2%)

I have had all of them apart from suicidal thoughts. That’s probably a good one to skip out on.

While I didn’t plan coming off anti-depressants to be so sudden, I plan on weathering this storm. My doctor back home suggested staying on paroxetine until I am successfully installed in a more permanent and stable living arrangement in the UK, and I agreed with his advice but the non-availability of my drug here in the States has rather scuppered that plan. No matter though. I will stay off the meds even if by some weird chance there is a way for me to get my hands on more. I just hope the withdrawal symptoms abate soon. Not that I am letting that stop me from doing all the things I normally do, most of which includes “venturing into the complete unknown” which is awfully good fun.

The realisations I’ve had have made me feel somewhat disillusioned but at the same time grateful that a veil has been lifted that kept me encased in a bubble. I was willing to believe anything other than what was right in front of my eyes. Love is indeed all, and it’s simpler than I ever imagined. It is oneness without the complication of romantic relationships which are by their very nature confused, conflicting, contradictory, frustrating, complex and impossibly, horribly, resolution-free. I’ve heard it said  ‘let each soul walk its path’ and I understood the meaning of those words for the first time.

amor y respeto

Intermittent Explosive Disorder / Borderline Personality Disorder.

Monday 25th August 2014

In my research on the internet I have unearthed information about a couple of conditions that I might have. I know, I know, I recently thought I might have psychopathic leanings but that was probably brought on by moments of excessive self-doubt and the unhealthy relationship I am (was?) in taking its toll and bringing out my worst sides. The reality of my being a psychopath is far from possible. I don’t lie very much or very convincingly and have a very developed sense of responsibility toward myself and others. Moreover I am too self-aware of own propensities which psychopaths are not.

More likely, it’s possible I have Intermittent Explosive Disorder. It sounds made up but it’s real. At the risk of pinning the tail on a scapegoat, I have been thinking more broadly about my behaviour in relations with friends, partners and my parents over the course of my whole life. I identify with all the risk factors for the condition.

  • Recurrent outbursts that demonstrate an inability to control impulses, including either of the following:
    • Verbal aggression (tantrums, verbal arguments or fights) or physical aggression that occurs twice in a weeklong period for at least three months and does not lead to destruction of property or physical injury (Criterion A1)
    • Three outbursts that involve injury or destruction within a year-long period (Criterion A2)
  • Aggressive behavior is grossly disproportionate to the magnitude of the psychosocial stressors (Criterion B)
  • The outbursts are not premeditated and serve no premeditated purpose (Criterion C)
  • The outbursts cause distress or impairment of functioning, or lead to financial or legal consequences (Criterion D)
  • The individual must be at least six years old (Criterion E)
  • The recurrent outbursts cannot be explained by another mental disorder and are not the result of another medical disorder or substance use (Criterion F)

I have to get used to talking about my violence. It sounds so strange that phrase, ‘my violence’.  Looking at me, quiet as a mouse most of the time, it would seem inconceivable to a stranger that I have done the things I’ve done. Hit an ex in the eye. Rip an ex’s phone in two and destroy it with a hammer. Pull down friends in the street and sit on their backs, squashing their faces into the pavement. Yank J’s fingers back so far that they still hurt when he makes a fist ten months later. Leave red fingernail marks on J’s face. Punched him while he was totally off-guard. That’s not to mention the verbal aggression; I’ve called people, some of them strangers, awful things that express so much hatred. I’ve had the police called on me, been chucked out of a hostel, a student union, pubs and nightclubs.

A commenter on my blog voiced an idea that I might have Borderline Personality Disorder. I have done a little research on this too, including some online personality quizzes. Guess what, I score high on the symptoms on every test. This from Psych Central

Psych Central BPD assessment

Wikipedia says: ‘The most distinguishing symptoms of BPD are marked sensitivity to rejection, and thoughts and fears of possible abandonment. Overall, the features of BPD include unusually intense sensitivity in relationships with others, difficulty regulating emotions and impulsivity. Other symptoms may include feeling unsure of one’s personal identity and values, having paranoid thoughts when feeling stressed and severe dissociation.’

Yup, yup and yup! I’m going to dwell on too much as them as diagnosis requires a psychiatric evaluation. Certainly something to think about. I think I would feel like less of a freak if I could have a label which would go some way to explaining my errant behaviour. All my life I have felt like there’s something wrong, but we’re told to ignore it, be happy and get on with things. I’ve been sweeping this under the rug for too long.

Blame, love & my violence.

Monday 18th August 2014

Exactly one year ago I wrote an entry in my diary, and put a reminder in my calendar for 18th August 2014. Today, I saw ‘J day’ in the calendar and after puzzling about it for a moment, opened up my diary and with a heavy heart had a look what I’d promised to myself twelve long months ago.

Sunday 18th August 2013

The meaninglessness here continues. I can’t find my stride here […] Spain leaves me cold (ironically). […]This isn’t for me somewhere I can thrive and make those important changes in life, because I am so dependent on someone else for the first time in my life. And that’s not a good starting point for a highly personal journey if that relationship isn’t full of support and encouragement and lightness, love and laughter. Which it isn’t. […]

The journey can’t start yet because this isn’t the place where I am to grow and change into the mature, calm and stable person I catch glimpses of from time to time. I remain absolutely sure that J can be my partner on this journey however. He was the one that convinced me I could be a better person.

I think I need to have a date in my mind where if things don’t get better, I get out. Why not a year from today. 18th August 2014, and if things aren’t already on an even keel, then I get out of it. If he hasn’t already dumped me by then, that is. He’s got very very close to dumping me more than once. Of course every relationship has ups and downs but this is ridiculous! We can’t even be ourselves around each other because we just f***ing argue all the f***ing time. […]

I just want J and me to be gentle with each other’s feelings and to be kind and considerate all the time. Not in an intense way, just to have quiet – silent – respect for each other rather than searing rage and contempt. Any small matter will set it off. It’s like a pressure cooker that’s ready to blow and just a little nudge on that valve will release a violent torrent of offensive build-up that rings in your ears and leaves a bad taste in your mouth for days and days and days. And like this, the wound never really gets the chance to heal. If it ever does, who knows, we might find that, after all, we aren’t compatible, or one of us doesn’t want the other one, but until a year’s time, I am going to keep trying, no matter what the emotional cost.

When I wrote that, I could not have comprehended how much worse things would get. I thought that what was happening in August 2013 was as low as we could go. How wrong I was. Back then I was blaming J as much as myself, convinced that if only he’d stop drinking so much or start listening to me more or stop being so oversensitive or if only we were in England, none of it would be happening.

How I’ve changed since then is that I realise the error is with me – it is always with me. I regret what I’ve done to us, making a kind, happy-go-lucky man who had already been through so much, into a monster. I regret having given in to my anger one too many times. Unfortunately it’s become clear over time that I’ve been unable to cope with life with my partner, without the readymade structure and meaning such as through being in employment. Living in a foreign and pretty unwelcoming land was also tough, or perhaps that’s just an excuse. I lashed out in every way I could and brought him down to my level every time. I nitpicked, criticised, provoked and twisted the knife. I carried on doing this until last week when our unexpected separation forced an end to my sick and disgusting behaviour.

Too many times I had been the initiator of violence. At the end of April this year we were in Belgium for a working holiday. I blogged about the aftermath but I never went into the details of what happened because I was just too ashamed. I punched him repeatedly in the face simply for having fallen asleep in the hotel room after a night of drinking when I returned with a kebab for us. I should have walked out there and then. Instead, I apologised profusely and beat myself up for weeks and still do. We moved on somehow, a testament to his caring nature, but I have no right to expect him to forgive me as I overstepped a boundary from which there’s no returning.

I am devastated and confused, I can’t function. I stare at the wall and can’t focus on any task, not that I have anything to do here. I can’t eat, I can’t think. I can’t sleep or concentrate enough even to watch TV. My only task, really, is staying as mentally healthy as I can, trying not to spiral any further into misery.

Putting things right.

Sunday 17th August 2014

 In seeking absolute truth we aim at the unattainable, and must be content with finding broken portions. – William Osler, Canadian physician

There are some things I would like to put right, before resuming normal transmission. It seems that writing this blog has got me into questionable moral territory with J, my partner. I have hurt him with the things I wrote in the last post which in his opinion were not an accurate reflection of the truth, and for that I apologise unreservedly. My intention through writing via the very public medium of blogging is not to injure someone else’s reputation, nor to strike out when I am hurt, nor to cause suffering and pain to anyone. But, I am aware that inadvertently I may have done all of those things.

I certainly don’t want to live through my blog and I am aware of some of the more unhealthy aspects of blogging such as caring more about your online life than the real world, the need to enlarge one’s readership, being wrapped up in your own story, appealing for validation and craving your truth to be as salacious and dramatic as possible.

I have a voice on this platform because I am looking to connect with others, yes, but first and foremost this blog is a journal of my hopefully improving mental health and spiritual awakening, anonymous and not connected to other online aliases or my real name.

For that reason, I stand by what I have written, for my last post was my interpretation of traumatic events in their immediate aftermath. Truth, as much as we would like to believe otherwise, is subjective, experienced through each of us differently due to our histories, filters, perceptions and all the other baggage we bring to the table. Our individual and highly personal versions of reality serve to confirm or challenge what we already believe.

So, without dwelling too much on what’s passed, here is my truth for what it’s worth. I have been a violent person. On more than one occasion, I have been the perpetrator of domestic abuse. As such, it was my duty to leave the relationship the very first time I struck out at my partner because violence in this context is always unforgiveable. 

But I didn’t leave after the first incident. Nor did I leave the second or third time. I begged for forgiveness – and J to his eternal credit gave me some semblance of forgiveness but, alas, the memory of unprovoked violence never really fades away. A lot of commenters on this blog have offered me support as I painted a picture of being the victim of physical domestic violence, even though I pointed out I was not the victim. I wish to point out unequivocally that I am not the victim of abuse. I never have been, in my current relationship or any other.

J sent me the following email, 3 days ago.

tj I just read your blog. Please stop spreading slanderous rumours. The truth is you were violent to me, yet again and I struggled to get away from you, you continued to rip my clothing and we wrestled to the ground, you tried to wrestle me to the ground and then I broke free actually, then i pushed you away from the door so i could get out. You repeatedly punched me with all your might in the face in Belgium when i was asleep and then repeatedly tried to punch me the first few mad contact in the face and neck, then you tried and succedded to claw me when I managed to grab your arms, i tried to calm you down, but you were in your very violent mood, even your father says you have a terrible anger and its well known that you hit people, thats why they avoid you, right?

I ask you to correct your blog to reflect the truth, and if you cant then to remove any implication that i was violent to you please. Its just not right.

I believe in some un healthy way you are enjoying this, its like a movie to you, well it isnt to me. I loved you very much and have been far to patient, tolerant and forgiving, thats why you think its ok to walk all over me.

I appeal to you kind nature, which i know you have in abundance wrapped up somewhere under all that anger from your childhood. Please remove the slanderous comments, it is not acceptable and you know that.

I really hope you are safe wherever you are and comfortable and continue with your therapy, it very admirable that you want to do so, but please stop punishing me.

You know I only ever want the best for you, but i cant put up with this.

J

J had been patient with me for too long, he’s right. Eventually he snapped because all his efforts were met with yet more rage and violence. My violence. All those promises I made that I would sort myself out, make resolutions to change, go to therapy to break my negative patterns, go teetotal, gain dominion over my emotions more effectively – they were all essentially hollow and did not individually or collectively do any good in repairing what I had already broken. How could they?

J’s mistake in his opinion was being too patient, tolerant and forgiving. I can’t refute that. His mistake was to carry on a relationship with an abuser that he could not trust and will never trust again.

I am sorry for all the damage I have caused. I am the one that has to live with myself knowing that I’ve broken somebody that I love. I have to live with the knowledge that I have continually struggled to control my temper and one day that might lead me to serious trouble. I have to live with myself.

On the edge of the world.

Something seismically awful has happened. I appear to have walked out on J and my entire world is spinning. To my abject disbelief I am writing this from a roadside café somewhere between Las Cabezas and Seville. I am heading to an Air Bnb room that I’ve booked in Seville. My satnav won’t charge in the car so I’m having to take regular pit stops to charge it, so I thought I might as well use the time to write.

We woke up today after having spent a bit of time sleepily talking and joking in bed together. J suffers from insomnia and I try to help him and to be patient. I made him a cup of coffee and he said I had ‘ruined it’ with too much sugar. We went from that small domestic non-incident to me on the floor of our bedroom within literally 5 minutes. He had thrown me to the floor and pulled my hair and then kicked me. He called me a ‘nutter’ because of my mental health problems presumably. He then came back in a few seconds later and dragged me onto the bed. He went to another bedroom.

After a few minutes of feeling total shock, I pulled my suitcase out from under the bed and packed. I wasn’t even crying by then, and I took over half an hour to leave. I was forcing myself to remain calm and not do anything erratic. He would have heard that I was moving things around and zipping up my suitcase etc.

He didn’t come for me. I filled up the car with petrol and went to the library to figure out what I was going to do, where I was going to go. I knew I couldn’t go back home, not yet. He had sent me a couple of texts – he wanted to talk and was worried about me, but no apology.

I am not going to enter into a conversation with him while I’m away but told him I need to know things will be different before I go home. I was distraught. I am not ready to face the blame that I know will be poured onto me. The blame I am subjected to is a backbreaking load, it is the force bearing down on me that reinforces every negative thought I have about myself: I’m not good enough, I’ll never change, I am right to hate myself, I can’t stop messing up, I am an evil and worthless thing.

Having said that, I am not going to play the victim. I probably did provoke him, I remember grabbing at his dressing gown when he was asking me to let him go, and it ripped. That was when he threw me down. I wasn’t physically hurt or anything. It just took the wind out of me in other ways. I can’t believe it happened to me.

What is so astounding and scary is how this situation escalated in a matter of minutes. It wasn’t as if we were in the middle of a heated disagreement about something fundamental. It was a little mistake. I know he likes sugar in his coffee so I thought a little extra would be even nicer. But he took objection to it after not sleeping well, and this is the crucial bit – my reaction, my attitude wasn’t positive enough and he despaired. I didn’t respond to the constructive criticism properly. I said something like ‘Well I won’t make your coffee anymore because it seems I can’t even do that right’. OK, immature I know, but what he did to me was an act of physical violence. I was scared. He’s a man and I’m a woman. What does that make me? What does it make him?

That last four weeks while we’ve been on Seroxat have been bliss. Up until a week ago we’d had hardly any disagreements and were happy almost all of the time. Then one day he lost it, got grumpy and started blaming me and I broke down in tears. Properly went bonkers. That was when I started to realise I was bottling up too much, being on the happy pills without an escape in the form of booze, weed, or even a good cry or a raging argument.

Since then, things have not been the same. We’re broken again. We tried to put a plaster over the crack but it got bigger. My mental health has also deteriorated. All I keep coming back to is, ‘I hate myself’. I thought I was so far away from all this bullshit. When I am on my own I regain a tiny bit of self-belief again. But I feel like I’m the size of a pea around him, ready to get trampled on and my spirit crushed. I let him allow me to feel like a stupid child as he’s always telling me what to do and how to do it.

I would rather be on my own lost in the outside world than stuck in his. His contains no healing.

love is all