Thursday, July 12, 2007


I've been feeling happy. For two days in succession. No, wait, come back, you haven't got the wrong blog...

Are you still there?

OK, then.

Anyway, it's good, isn't it?

Um, that was all :)

UPDATE: Listening to this rather a lot today (still Thursday). Erm, looking at the lyrics (freedom, bold new world, etc.), I wonder if Nina Simone might have been thinking more about the recent(ish) passing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act as she sung that chorus...? But anyway.


Happy songs? Singing? What's wrong with me?

Oh yeah: suddenly, nothing much :)

[Contented sigh...]


patroclus said...

Ahhh, that is great news and no mistake. To what are you attributing this new-found contentment, or shouldn't I ask?

Taiga the Fox said...

(Greetings from Latvia.)
Looking forward reading about Revelations and jubilations Part two soon :)

Occasional Poster of Comments said...

Thanks :) (x2, actually, as you'll soon see...)

The long story is... well, long.*

And the short story: I read the first two-thirds of 'The Divided Self' by RD Laing. Which as you can see from the link isn't a short story. But anyway, someone inspiring I recently met (nope, nothing romantic) said something that indirectly led to me reading it.

Actually, what she said was something about ontological insecurity, but the way she described it didn't ring any bells with me. Having never heard of it before, it kind of stuck in my head, though.

So, then, it just happened that you posted about your occasional fear of not being in the real world, and I thought to google it. And, lo and behold, the theory was - in somewhat more bell-ringing terms - attributed to Laing and that book; a copy of which, oddly enough, has been sitting unread, gathering dust, on successive bookshelves of mine for about the last three years...

Erm, yeah, so I sneezed for a bit, then read it.

And, for the first time, saw myself just laid bare, almost like a map - turns out I'm really quite schizoid*, apparently - and, as with any map, I could see not just that terrain, but also the ways out of it. As for the terrain, well, some of it was just so absurd and untenable that, upon seeing it, it just kind of disappeared in a puff of paradox (to use an expression I read somewhere...) leaving me a hell of a lot happier :) For three days now.

I mean, it wasn't all me in that book, by any means, and I think his analysis is slightly wrong in places, but a lot was spot on, and the rest was something I could think around, and in so doing, see just exactly what ridiculous things I've been doing to myself, or my self, for far too many years.

So, yeah, weird how things work out :)

*OK, longer.

**Yeah, I know, anyone who's read my blogs could probably have told me that... but as with that book, sometimes you just don't quite see what's right in front of your nose. Plus, I didn't really know exactly what schizoid was, or what Laing took it to be, so I probably would have just said, "Oh," if someone had told me.

Occasional Poster of Comments said...

Oh, hei, Taiga :)

Hope you're having a good holiday :)

That can be Part 1.5, for now, then.

Jacqui said...

:) I think I may have to check out The divided self.
Feeling happier and more contented myself at the moment too.
Its good isn't it.

Jacqui x

Occasional Poster of Comments said...

>>Its good isn't it.<<

It really is :)

And glad to hear that :)

patroclus said...

Crikey, even reading the reviews of that book terrified me - I'm very frightened of mental illness. But I'm glad it's made you happy.

Occasional Poster of Comments said...

I know what you mean, P.

What's not clear from the reviews is that only really the final third of the book focuses on how the schizoid personality can tip over into schizophrenia. Which, yep, was sort of scary. Anyway, I was clearly some way off that happening, hence why I've only read the first two-thirds :) And, as Laing said, to some extent, being somewhat schizoid is just how we all are - a degree of it is 'normal' (to the extent that he's comfortable with that word). In my case, it was just pretty clear that I'd become really way too schizoid, though.

Erm, I used a past tense there, because although I've kind of always known that what is essentially being terrified of anyone knowing your true self, and believing your 'self' to be somehow less real or substantial than everyone else's is frankly ridiculous, it had still never become any less terrifying until I read that book and, like I said, saw the ways out of it and just how absurd the mental terrain I'd built up really was. And on seeing exactly what they were, that ridiculous fear and belief somehow just sort of evaporated :) So, hence the past tense, and the suddenly being happy. Existential Psychology rocks :)

The first paragraph here* explains what Laing meant by schizoid, by the way.

*Well, in my case, not quite "not able to experience himself 'together with' others or 'at home in' the world" - the latter part of that, yep, certainly, but for the former part, more like not entirely able to, or frequently not able to with any great degree of comfort, confidence or optimism. But, yep, basically, that summed me up.

miss-cellany said...

I've generally shied away from it all too, but there seems to be something in the air at the moment...

Essentially, and existentially, it seems that many people who write dance between the two places a lot of the time. I've always kind of hoped that the very act of writing, in whatever way, shape or form,keeps me far from the 'third' place. Is it OK to be kind of 'divided' and use it as a creative drive, as long as the drift doesn't pull too far away?

Hope so :)

Occasional Poster of Comments said...

It's fine :) Laing even mentions something to that effect. Thankfully. Or I'd probably have to learn to write again :)

Actually, I think writing has been key to me staying just on the write* side of sanity. Part of being schizoid is to always dread people knowing your true-self, yet at the same time having kind of an aching desire for people to know it, a desire to connect with the real world as well as isolate yourself from it so as to protect that insubstantial seeming inner self. Trouble is, the more you keep the inner self from reality, the less real it becomes, and that's when things can go really wrong.

Personally, I've always kind of oscillated between trying to connect and withdrawing completely. The 'false-self' came about as something that I could deploy to pretend to everyone else that everything was ok, even when disconnected, and as something to blame for my general social ineptitude. At the same time, writing has still allowed me to do the connecting bit, on the level of my true-self, and meant that that true-self didn't get too far removed from reality. And, particularly on a blog, that method of connecting has always felt somehow so much safer.

In fact, I've often said that when I write is when I feel most like 'me', but even more than that I've often felt like it was the only time I could really even see quite who I was/am, maybe the only time when I saw myself as even having anything like a proper 'self'.

Anyway, where I was heading with all that was, that because everyone on the MA has read my writing, part of my true-self, that's probably why I've found it so (much) easy(er) to be around you guys, and sometimes even be myself :) Ditto my blog readers; one in particular, who I know solely through both our writings - for many reasons, not just the above, one of the truest friendships I've ever had :)

God, when did I start doing confessional blogging?! :) Not to mention sincerity :)

*That was a slip, but I like it. And, after all that Laing stuff, maybe it's time Freud got some credit for something :)

David Marc Napier Bate said...

Eh, I think you are all a load of neurotic, over indulged, pampered, middle-class white people with two much of not the right kind of education. Cliche, maybe, but ... go try living somewhere you don't know if you will be alive or dead by the end of the day because of war, extreme poverty, weather conditions, etc. Keeps your mind focused on one primal thing - staying alive. That stops you wandering into the 'second' and 'third' areas because you're thinking only of survival, and, of course, you're more grateful, so less petulant and self obsessing about imaginary complications in your mind. It's YOUR mind, YOU have the power to choose YOUR thoughts. Stop relinquishing responsibility to others. GROW UP.

Occasional Poster of Comments said...

Precisely. The knots I'd tied my mind/my-self up in were ridiculous. It just took me happening to read that book to see what they were*. And, I agree, under the circumstances you describe they probably would never have been tied. Of course, I've never been under those circumstances, so...

As for the rest of what you said:

- Yep, really, there shouldn't be anything simpler than just being your-self.

- Where exactly did I say that this was anything other than something I'd done to myself, or relinquish responsibility to someone else? For one thing, this is existentialist psychology we're talking about here - existentialism is all about personal responsibility; indeed, it calls any kind of denial of your own freedom of choice 'bad faith'. To live in 'bad faith' is to lead an inauthentic life. Anything I did (indeed, do) to myself, however stupid, and however much luxury I had in which to do it, was purely my own response to my cirumstances (some of which really haven't been touched on at all here). And no, that's not relinquishing responsibility by referring to circumstances there, by the way; whilst circumstances are just where you happen to be, your response to them is still very much your own choice.

*Hence the feeling happy; because being so ridiculous they'd mostly suddenly untied.

Taiga the Fox said...

Writing like that shows that you are more grown up than most of us.

Erm, and thank you, friend :)

Occasional Poster of Comments said...

Thanks, Taiga. Erm, I don't know about grown up, though :) Still got a lot of that to do.

To the one or two other people I know have also read the above exchange:

I know David well enough now to know pretty much where he's coming from, and that we'll have an interesting discussion about it at some point - really, we generally get on. While he clearly hasn't properly read, or read around (and, I suppose, why should he?), what I've written above, neither have I fully explained myself. I mean, what I have done is talk about the ridiculous ways in which I was* perceiving myself, the world, and my place in it, and of being 'terrified' of and 'dreading' things that (objectively) pale in comparison to poverty, being in a warzone, etc.; what I didn't do was really explain why I was perceiving things so distortedly. In other words, it didn't surprise me that he reacted like that upon reading what's above. Nor did it bother me too much - it's just a misunderstanding; caused by him being too quick to judge, and generalise from, a picture that I had left incomplete and open to misinterpretation. It was only really the bit that came from nowhere about relinquishing responsibility that I objected strongly to, that and extending his criticism to everyone else. No-one else has really said anything much - have they?

OK, I suppose M-C said something about creativity keeping her from the 'third place'; but, erm, weren't we talking about that the other night, David? Maybe not in exactly those terms, but I thought you were pretty much agreed on the value of creativity, of whatever kind suits any given person, to living a fulfilling (and one might say healthy, or sane (whatever that means exactly)) life?

*and to an extent still am. Or rather, I seem to still have some behavioural patterns left over from that way of perceiving things, that I still slip back into. Old habits, hard to break, etc.

Occasional Poster of Comments said...

Actually, I'm sorry, David, I'm going to have to take further exception; it's been nagging away, but I've only just realised what exactly was bothering me.

There is an element of truth in what you say, i.e. the value of perspective, but as for actually going and trying "living somewhere you don't know if you will be alive or dead by the end of the day", granted, it might make a person less neurotic, but equally it might make them dead. Great advice. Plus, how much of an insult would that be to anyone in the circumstances you described? I don't know, but I'm guessing that more than anything the people in war-zones/famine/etc. want out of where they are - anyone, who didn't have to, that chose to join them, except maybe to help, would be (and would be considered to be) either patronisingly insensitive (to think that they could take it, and in that they have flagrantly misused something that people in terrible circumstances are generally lacking - the choice not to be there*) or mad. And that's leaving aside the questionable idea implicit in what you say that a life of hardship is somehow more authentic, or in some way to be lauded; which, I'm sure, although I don't really want to presume to speak for anyone here, is a notion of great consolation to those living such lives and makes them very happy indeed.

In other words, and I'm sure you didn't mean it this way, and I know you've been in some pretty difficult circumstances yourself, but what you said was, at least on some level, the equivalent of: 'So you live in constant fear of death, starvation, disease, but, hey, at least you'll not have the time to become neurotic'. Which is at least as lacking in perspective as anything that has been said on this blogpost.

Erm, having now left three I guess fairly robust comments in response to yours, David, it occurs to me that I should probably explain that this isn't some kind of attack - the kind that is, perhaps, closer to retaliation, and can arise from someone having come too close to the truth - because it really isn't. Like I said, I hadn't by any means explained everything above (and still haven't), I can understand your reaction to what actually is written up there, and I think all we have here is a misunderstanding; I don't for a second take your comment personally. More than that, I like you, I've always got on with you, and I'm pretty sure the intentions behind your comment, particularly the last few sentences, were actually positive. Really, all I'm trying to say is, just think a bit more about what you're saying, and before you say it think about whether you're talking from a position of having full awareness of the facts.

Really, I didn't want to have a go at you. If you have any problems with any of this, or you want to know what the hell I actually was on about in the first place, just tell me and we'll have a pint or something. OK?

*Yes, on the whole I believe in existentialism, but, incidentally, this is where it falls down for me - freedom is just not as radical as some existentialists suggest. Whilst to some extent everyone does have freedom, you can't say that someone born into famine or a war-zone, for instance, had any choice in the matter, or has that much freedom to escape it. Perhaps they might have some, highly limited, freedom as to how they react to the circumstances in which they find themselves, but such freedom is so negligible as to be virtually meaningless. And should they choose to escape their circumstances, whether they can escape, or whether they even get to an age where it is possible to conceive of trying, will most likely be largely out of their hands.

Occasional Poster of Comments said...

And another thing, having perspective only has so much value. Whilst various stupid distortions occurred in my thinking, many of them during childhood, which led to more distortions and to me feeling a certain way - let's call it depression, for want of a less charged word - being aware, as I always was (and always have been), that many other people were living unimaginably worse lives and that really I had no good reason to feel depressed, never changed the way I felt. Instead, it just made that feeling even more puzzling, inexplicable and frustrating... oh, and for good measure added an extra dollop of guilt into the mix.

I mean, to take a silly but comparable example, if you tell a kid he should eat his spinach because people are starving in Africa, it might make him feel guilty enough to eat the stuff, but it's never going to change his fundamental feeling that he really doesn't actually like it. Yes, he'll get on with it, but that feeling of revulsion will remain. And that was what I was doing in life, trying to get on with it, but underneath feeling quite, quite differently. Having (admittedly only theoretical, rather than experience based) perspective never much helped.

OK, I think I'm done now.

David Marc Napier Bate said...

Wow! I raise the white blog comment flag in complete and utter surrender. Whatever I did, however hastily, however inarticulately, however hamfistedly, however insensitively, I certainly pressed some buttons somewhere.
As you rightly say, Tim, it was not my intention to ofend or insult you. Just a knee kerk reaction to what I perceived as a whole lot of self-indulging, not just by you.
Yes, I believe wholeheartedly in creativity. It doesn't help prevent me going insane, but it does enrich me and fulfill me. And I don't have towrite to be creative, I can go for a walk, bake a cake, play with my daughter, watch the sun go down, etc, etc.
No, I don't think we should all go and live where we might die of starvation or a bullet. But, I do think we should at least try to be grateful for what we have in comparison to others. It puts things in perspective. Is the glass half empty or half full? If someone sees it always as half empty, don't they ever want to try and get to the bottom of the reasons why? Why are they so afraid to see it is half full?
All this divided self 'stuff' is scientific and clinical, yet whenever I hear/read about any difficulties/problems people have in adult life they nearly always stem from emotional blockages that occur in childhood. Emotional = emotionALL. Why are people so terrified of the prospect of going to sit down with a trained professional to talk their way into discovering, unlocking, dealing with and releasing their emotional damage, pain, chains, etc?
My thoughts, beliefs, convictions and confirmations alter, modify and change constantly. This is what I think today, in my own little, not nearly so clever or well read way. I'm always looking to evolve and maybe someday soon I'll see the pomposity and sanctimony in what I have written.
Ultimately, I am delighted for you, Tim, that you feel happier within and about yourself. More power to your elbow.

Occasional Poster of Comments said...

Yep, you did press some buttons, and I had a good think about them. And actually enjoyed having a good think about them (and probably learned the odd thing) - it's kind of nice to be thinking when you've recently started to think a bit more clearly :)

As (still badly) described here, the divided self stuff does sound kind of clinical and scientific, but Laing's views of psychology, the so-called 'mad', and therapy are probably about the most human(e) I've come across. If I sometime find a therapist who seems to be in tune with them, I'd certainly be happy to sit down with him or her. But, yep, I've certainly (probably unwisely) shied away from counselling, therapy, etc. otherwise.

And thanks for the reply; I'm glad you didn't take me too personally either. I knew you didn't mean to offend, and I didn't either, erm, despite calling you sanctimonious. And there was probably more than a hint of pomposity in my own replies.

>>No, I don't think we should all go and live where we might die of starvation or a bullet. But, I do think we should at least try to be grateful for what we have in comparison to others. It puts things in perspective.<<

Yep, I thought that was what you really meant, and like I said, I do agree up to a point. A sense of perspective and gratitude is certainly very valuable (and something I'm quite inclined to bang on about - the perspective bit anyway), but, when a problem is quite deep-rooted and has gone through many distortions, not always quite the solution.

>>My thoughts, beliefs, convictions and confirmations alter, modify and change constantly.<<

Ditto. To have entirely fixed beliefs in this world, would be both pretty difficult and pretty unwise, though sadly all too prevalent. I wish a number of politicians, religious leaders and businessmen were similarly minded.

>>This is what I think today, in my own little, not nearly so clever or well read way<<

Stop fishing for compliments :) Seriously, I've spent enough time with you to know there's a lot I can learn from you - not least, speaking honestly and directly from the heart.

Occasional Poster of Comments said...

Oh, and as for the sanctimonious thing, just remembered that word can have connotations of hypocrisy - those really weren't intended, and if that was what you took from it, sorry about that. What I meant was that, to me at least, in your original comment there was an element of setting yourself up in a position of (greater) self-righteousness - in the way you expressed yourself, if not in what you actually meant.