Eric Berne

Nine twenty five.

The ground is still wet since the overnight rains but the clouds seem to be breaking up to let in some sun. It’s windy and kind of cold. The Friday conversation with my sister almost didn’t happen; at the last minute I called her at eleven, an hour later than usual. It’s interesting how a chat can be dominated by one side or the other, as though from the parent to the child and the reverse. People often take turns dominating and submitting; but this relation is not the ideal way. Rational exchanges are adult to adult, according to the theories of Eric Berne: by now rather dated yet still useful for getting along with others. It’s just kind of silly to ride the seesaw with a person, being on top or the bottom instead of level together. Talking up or down to people isn’t much fun. It is neither civilized nor very informed. Strange how theories and practices go in and out of vogue, depending on what the times demand. Are there any eternal verities, truths that are independently valid at all times?



Seven twenty five.

It’s been a strange kind of day, but what is a normal day like?

I got some reading done, just a short selection of Montaigne from one of his essays. By the time I finished it, I realized I didn’t care much for his opinions on reason and faith. But I was stuck with a huge book of him that I purchased a few years ago. So I thought maybe I could sell it at Tsunami or another place…

After midnight.

Occasionally something happens to remind me that the unconscious mind really exists. Like this evening when I went to bed and had difficulty breathing; so I got up again and chanced to look at my phone, where I found a text message regarding an appointment with my case manager. The fact is that this person makes me feel uncomfortable and threatened whenever we meet. And now, in the morning I’m going to do something about it.

My point is, my conscious mind was oblivious to this coming visit, yet my body reacted to it as if it had the knowledge of it. And it knew before I checked my phone that there would be a message waiting for me.

After I figured the problem out, I went back to bed and slept peacefully.


Wee hours.

For most of the day yesterday I wrestled with a guilty conscience for having missed Christmas Eve service. So I thrashed out my feelings and thoughts on paper until, at ten o’clock tonight, I felt better. The important thing is that conscience is merely part of yourself— although others may try to manipulate it to get the results they desire. I came to the conclusion that the church pastor makes his emotions everyone else’s business and vice versa, disrespecting our boundaries in the interest of the church “family.” His collectivism operates at an emotional level as well as intellectual. But the problem with that is he doesn’t encourage independence and growth as much as enmeshment that suffocates each individual.

Well anyway, Christmas is over with, and symbolically, I wheeled my trash out to the curbside for pickup this morning. Out with the old, in with the new. I don’t know what I’d resolve for the New Year; usually I forget what I said the year before.

Zeus and Cronus

As day wore on to evening, I had a backlash of conscience for having rejected pastor’s offer. And then my imagination compared the situation to a kind of father complex, like when Zeus defeated his father Cronus for control of the world. This idea has me wondering about the natural order of things. I remember a play by Ibsen, The Master Builder, whose theme was the fear of the coming generation by every parent. It’s a phenomenon in psychology called the Cronus complex, though there’s not a lot of information about it. My dad was very bad that way: doing his worst to keep me dependent on him so I couldn’t show him up and be better than he was. He even had a sign up in his office that read, “Old age and treachery will overcome youth and skill.” He was a sick man in that he competed with his children to keep them down: the very epitome of insecurity. The truth is that he wasn’t very smart or particularly talented in anything. After he died, my brother did the same stuff with me, fearing to be defeated somehow by me. It’s a wicked thing that happens in families. Jeff is 14 years older than me. I could swear that he cheered me on to drink myself to death; a terribly toxic person in my life, so now I have no respect for alcoholics.

Every life is the growth of a flower towards the sun: or maybe more like a tree. Unfortunately there are others who try to deny us the sunlight. I had a weird dream about my old psychiatrist: he had a following of his protégés, as if he were some godlike figure with his own school of thought. Eventually, in real life, I broke with him and set out on my own, sort of writing my way to existence. To independence, that is. Funny but he never encouraged me to write. He wanted to create a bunch of clones of himself, as my dream expresses.


Eleven at night.

It’s probably not so healthy to use defense mechanisms like intellectualization, yet it seems like a natural impulse for me. I look around at the world, or my little corner of it, and I make comparisons and contrasts with the reading I’ve done, to finally come to a generalization that rings more or less true. But I admit that it’s a faulty methodology for showing anything like the truth.

Since yesterday, maybe before, I’m seeing fragmentation everywhere, like Eliot in The Waste Land, but it’s only because my church is in political turmoil. My imagination likens it to The Wreck of the Deutschland, the great poem by Hopkins, or even “Synchronicity II” by The Police, in the line, “We have to shout above the din of our Rice Krispies.” I don’t know if the fragmentation is really general. Perhaps my mind amplifies the church situation out of proportion, so that it’s all that I can see. In fact, this is most likely the case. To be honest I feel pretty overwhelmed.

So I just keep plodding along from day to day like everyone else. 

Joy Is Joy

Ten AM.

I don’t feel very intelligent this morning, though it’s getting better with a shot of Snapple tea. At the market I ran into Craig, the guy whose car I hit with my truck in the parking lot six years ago. He asked me if I was keeping warm, and I said that was a good question. It was about 30 degrees when I made my daily pilgrimage for groceries. I put on a navy blue beanie in addition to my old blue parka and went out to brave the frost.

I used the word “pilgrimage” above. This might be a loose connection with my thoughts on Chaucer and the Wife of Bath earlier this morning. I was thinking that masochism is not for me, but different people have different feelings about it. It seems strange to me to derive pleasure from pain, and yet I remember some odd things from my early childhood: weird instincts that I later weeded out as logic took over consciousness. Freud treats masochism as a matter of course, but more recent psychologists often differ with him. I’d prefer to think that pleasure is pleasure, pain is pain, and the enjoyment of suffering is something kind of weird. Dostoevsky deals with this in Notes from Underground, I recall from a lecture… Joy is very distinct from pain and suffering, and we know when joy happens to us. It’s a pure and direct thing rather than convoluted and complicated. I think maybe my Freudian days are over.

What’s Toxic?

Sometimes it feels like life is nothing achieving. I mean, life in our society today. I read an article on NPR about the problems men are having, according to this guy and his book. Though I agree with it, he is such a minority voice, really on the margin of culture as it is right now. Oh well. But still it leaves me feeling frustrated for being a guy and having very little to say about it. I think it really sucks. It raises the question of how free are individuals in society. It seems to me again like my life has gotten out of my control. Above all I feel emasculated.

The author of this book observed about people in psychology fields. In the Eighties, 40 percent of psychologists were male, whereas now it’s one in ten. He said that often men need a male therapist, but the field is dominated by female therapists. From my own experience, I know I miss my psychiatrist and kind of regret that I left him.

I even forget that I’m a guy sometimes.

I wonder where it’s all coming from, this demonization of masculinity. I have some ideas on this, but probably they’re not very pc or acceptable by most people.

How can it be a white overcast and be so dark outside? It hasn’t been raining today, though the sky is a solid sheet of cloud. I haven’t done much all day. I restrung my new bass but unfortunately the strings expose the limitations of the instrument. Maybe I’m just having a bad day.


One o’clock.

It’s a mixed up kind of day. I didn’t get to market until noon because of a phone conversation with my sister that lasted almost two hours. My case manager is baffled by the email I sent him last night, so maybe my impressions were inaccurate regarding our last visit. But all I know is how I felt during that time: like a person under interrogation. It’s difficult to describe, and I might be all wet. What usually happens in mid October in my life? Except for the smoky air it would be a beautiful afternoon. I think old fashioned psychoanalysis is interesting, but it’s a language no one uses very much today. If we turn a blind eye to a certain fact, does the fact go away? Are the truths of psychology merely what people dream up and make terminology about? I don’t believe the things we neglect simply vanish. Or maybe we’ll see a Renaissance of psychodynamic theory not too long from now. Maybe it’s already underway but just not in Oregon. The trends are capricious and ever changing.

I feel like a child swinging a baton at a piñata in a dark room.

No Ideas But in People

I did most of a two liter of Coke but I threw the rest away because I felt bloated and woozy from the sugar and caffeine. As far as the psychology stuff, it was a short lived phase and now I’m back to pretty much normal. I think I kind of like Adler still but not Freud and Jung so much. I was brainwashed with Freud in college and then I read a lot of Jung on my own after school ended. Two new slogans I can add to public opinion: “You are what you read” and “No ideas but in people.” After my first episode of schizophrenia I also read tons of Lawrence over ten years, and he got some influence from Freud, though he twisted his message quite a bit. And then, when I got a job in an office, I quit reading altogether for a long time. I only started to question my beliefs and rearrange things when Kate was my friend. I learned from her how to think like a realist and we got into Cognitive Therapy, which is related to traditions like the Enlightenment and the Vienna Circle: very rational and realistic. Finally I stopped drinking and got myself a therapist who emphasized Cognitive Therapy, followed by a second therapist who was similar. I don’t know how I was able to accommodate both CT and Christianity at the same time. And now, currently, I’ve found out that CBT has really watered down the original cognitive formula: two schools of thought have been merged into one, the other one being strictly behavioral. I was disappointed when I got a recent book on CBT. And as for religion, I’ve grown pretty skeptical of the supernatural, or maybe I felt that way all along underneath the surface.

I guess that’s my thumbnail sketch of the development of my mind from the middle of university to right now. I think it’s funny that I could’ve been indoctrinated with Freud without realizing whose ideas they were. I feel a lot better today than yesterday and the day before. Poor Aesop really hates it when I use the phone, especially when it’s my sister and we talk for more than an hour.

For the time being I think I’m done with psychology unless it’s Adler. His theories are both old and new to me. They’ve been floating around in conversation for a hundred years and they remind me of my dad. He took the superiority and inferiority complex and twisted them into his own demented policies toward people. Basically he was an invalidator. He put people down to make himself feel better, to puff up his ego. Of course that’s sick. And as a consequence he had no friends.

No Boogeymen

Quarter of seven.

Behind the clouds, the sun is just making the horizon. In order to be free, first believe in freedom. Liberating myself from my past required belief in liberty. I just realized that my old psychiatrist presupposed Freudian ideas, and these things kept me mired down a long time. He sometimes evidenced a belief in ulterior motives and slips rather than accepting accidents as accidents. Since then, I’ve fought to disabuse myself of Freudian determinism and his tripartite model of the mind, especially the unconscious. The more I can make the mind an integrated unit, the better. There’s no reason to set up an impulsive boogeyman in opposition to the conscious ego, though it’s the classic paradigm as old as Plato. All the more reason to discard it. People believe in Freud and Jung just because other people do. It’s a tradition handed down by the generations, often unquestioned and untested. The sky won’t fall if you should try something different. The past is a bucket of ashes. Give liberty a chance.