Forlorn and a Slip


Between seven and ten o’clock I slept, then got up when the sky had gone inky black with the nighttime. Sunday was a better day than Saturday, though it had its share of anxieties and worries; and maybe I magnify molehills into mountains, another irrational thing identified by a forgotten therapy. They used to tell me that it was okay to be imperfect; indeed, perfectionism would make you unhappy and depressed because no such thing as perfect exists. But as it happens, a useful tool, accurate and intelligent, got lost in the shuffle of human confusion if not intentionally crushed by the Church. Americans dislike a perspective of realism and reason, instead going with something fanciful and wild. I used to know a person who told me she was very ordinary, and her reality also was centered and avoided extremes to either side. She said her dad and her sister would often clash and have horrific fights. She learned from observation. I wonder why people today can’t find the gray area in the middle of the poles as we did ten years ago? The situation of the public grows more and more volatile and it’s a huge rack of confusion. If we could be guided by common sense; but no, we insist on the things we cannot see, chasing ghosts and phantoms and expecting Armageddon at any moment. The ones sitting down and shutting up nonetheless think what they think, and you hear it slip out in speech from time to time.

I’m just mulling over something my PCA said Saturday morning, an unfortunate remark that got my imagination spinning. I sometimes think we should call the whole thing off. Meanwhile, the church can keep blithering about demons and whatever medieval crap it can conceive. I long to turn back the calendar 10 or 12 years to a better, more rational time. And maybe it was all a dream in the end. And maybe I discovered a whole world in one person, the one who got away.



Two thirty AM.

Last month my brother was honored at Oregon State University but, according to my sister’s report, no one in the family went to see the ceremony. Of course, her perspective on it is unreliable and what she says will be biased against academics. I wouldn’t have gone to it anyway because my brother has been very unkind to me, for all I know as long as I’ve been alive. The curse of family is something I’ve tried to free myself from since starting my recovery. A passage in Absalom, Absalom! says it very aptly. It is the girl’s letter saying you have to be tied with strings to everyone in your family, and everything you do affects everyone else. But is this a desirable condition for any individual? The cognitive therapy of Aaron Beck suggests that each person is responsible only for his own emotions. He says the opposite of Faulkner and Sartre: people are responsible for others as well as themselves. I wonder if this is what is meant by “social responsibility.” And maybe I am irresponsible by trying to break free of family in any form. Now it turns into a philosophical debate of which I’m right in the middle. Jean Paul Sartre versus Aaron Beck; or the Old School against cognitive therapy. Often it seems that the second one is a minority that doesn’t stand a chance. But I’ll keep on fighting for freedom.

It is not owing to family that I have stayed sober for five and a half years… 

On an Even Keel

Quarter after seven.

Aesop is hot to trot for breakfast. Very soon he’ll get it and I’ll probably go buy groceries. Outside it’s cloudy. I feel tired and most people are not very happy. Everyone could use a lift in spirits. The starting place for this is ourselves.

Quarter after eight.

Or more precisely, myself.

The song in my head is cheerful enough: “Cross the Heartland” by Pat Metheny Group. American Garage is a classic, though very old, released in 79. The bass guitar that Mark Egan used on the album was put together by Jaco, which he gave to Metheny, from what I understand. Egan started out as a trumpet player and then he met Jaco at the University of Miami. I really liked A Touch of Light, his solo CD of 1988. “Bombay Way” is a lot of fun. At the time I first heard it, I was a student in English bombarded with reading homework, so I needed a break from so many words.

It’s raining right now. Not everything is going wrong. Sometimes one bad apple spoils the whole bunch, or so it seems to the depressed person. So then you look for evidence to the contrary. This is a rational response to a cognitive distortion. You only run into trouble when you’ve given up on reason. People tend to amplify the negative things out of proportion.

I should give myself a refresher course in cognitive therapy.

The Mother of Guilt

Quarter after nine.

And maybe there’s nothing more to say just now. It won’t be a big day for me on WordPress, and I guess that’s fine. I might get another surprise in a different way. Late yesterday afternoon a flock of starlings passed through. I don’t know how to feel about them; they remind me of leopard seals: mean and aggressive as well as spotted… The weather today is gray with overcast. I could call my sister in a half hour for a long chat. But I know Aesop would hate it like he hates every intrusion. So I’ll probably put it off till Friday. You can’t please everybody. Sometimes you can’t please anybody at all. Everything you do is blessed and cursed at once. You end up simply doing it and facing the guilt afterwards. David Burns wrote that personalization is the mother of guilt. So, don’t take responsibility for the feelings of others. It’s enough to manage your own emotions. But a lot of Old School people don’t understand this and try to be like Sartre: we are responsible for what other people do. The worst situation I can think of is enmeshment, everyone tied together with strings. This is my church group, and they call it being a family. If only we could get everyone on the same page, like computers with the same operating system.

It’s ten o’clock and I won’t call my sister today.

The Furies

Two o’clock.

In my mind, two impulses are duking it out with each other: one to church and the other to blog. The last service I attended was in January, but I missed Christmas Eve and now I’ve missed Easter. I can’t get the message through that I want to cut loose from the church. And on the other side, I want to keep doing my blog writing and express my own thoughts whatever they may be. Every Sunday when it comes time for worship and I stay home, I get a terrible case of guilt and remorse that haunts me into the next day. I used to have a toolkit for dealing with guilt, but the world has changed to marginalize traditional cognitive therapy, probably because its tenets clash with Christianity, and religion is still a big thing in America.

If anyone still remains who subscribes to cognitive therapy, then I’m not aware of where they can be found. Meanwhile, the church has no clue about the core concepts of psychology done since the mid seventies. The pastor makes his emotions everyone’s business and the other way around, and everyone is meshed to everyone else so no one has any individuality at all. And it’s all in the name of some hazy collective ideal that doesn’t make much sense.

I guess I’m just not the type for a church group. I sure wish they’d let me go my way in peace. 


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. 

Pippa Passes Out

Nine thirty AM.

I slept in for some time today. I fed Aesop and then I got all the way to the store when I remembered it was garbage pickup day and I was probably late putting mine out. So I hurried home at a half run and did that, but I think he missed me already. But it’s not a great tragedy. It’s a nice sunny morning and cold. The sparrows in the backyard are upset from the presence of a much bigger starling or blackbird, and Aesop was just barking at a squirrel on the ground. I was on the phone to my pharmacy regarding my prescription that didn’t arrive over the weekend— and I’m completely out of my medication, so I’m a little panicky. Everything seems a catastrophe lately, and at times like these I need a refresh of old cognitive therapy. Not everything is going wrong with my life today. There’s a few good books I want to look at sometime today. Maybe I can do that after my phone call with my sister is done. If all was right with the world I’d say so, but the world isn’t all wrong either. Here comes the garbage truck; we’ll see what he does with my bin. 

Jane Austen & Cognitive Therapy

I’ve picked up Sense and Sensibility where I left off some time ago. It really hits the spot. Austen definitely favors Elinor over Marianne, and she is the rational figure of the two. It again makes me wonder why the original cognitive therapy has been abandoned by our therapists today. For schizophrenia, there’s no better treatment than something rational and realistic, since the illness is imagination run amok. It never made sense to treat it with religion, as homeopathic remedies don’t work. And there’s nothing wrong with the patient’s character or morals. It is a terribly superstitious way to try to help a person. Not enough is known about schizophrenia, but it ought to be the jurisdiction of science and medicine and not of religion and psychology, as I keep saying.

I was misguided when I joined the church, but then my psychiatrist had his own problems, so it’s just as well I left his care. Now I have a lot of people for support rather than just one or two people. I’m thankful to them and also I think it’s indispensable to advocate for yourself.

One word I think characterizes Austen more than anything else: she is the embodiment of prudence.

Look and See

Eight twenty five.

I keep making the same mistake of trying to read people and situations, only to be proven way wrong as the evidence is available. As a tool for knowledge, imagination doesn’t work. If you want to know something, just look and see. To learn what a person is thinking, ask them to their face. Intuition and imagination are useless for gathering information.

It’s a cloudy morning. I’m committed to going to church today. Things are rather wobbly for me in a few ways, but I’ll persevere and come out stronger. It seems that my worst enemy is myself. When it’s sink or swim, I choose to keep swimming.


Quarter of nine at night.

There’s still twilight outside that I can see from my position. This afternoon I caught myself doing too much second guessing of other people’s thoughts on everything. The fact is that no one is clairvoyant enough to do that: telepathy doesn’t exist in real human experience. So I began to ponder what ever happened to cognitive therapy, since it was pretty big four years ago and very effective because it was realistic and based on evidence. People are less depressed when they are disabused of their distorted thinking. And, mind reading is an example of a cognitive distortion. First you catch yourself doing it, then you counter the distorted thought with a more rational one, one that is more realistic.

I hate to see a good method abandoned in favor of much older and less effective ones; yet this is the debate of reason versus romance that has gone on for more than three centuries. I’ve never seen a homeopathic remedy be very useful, especially against a disorder like schizophrenia: it makes no sense to fight delusions with more delusions. I guess it depends on the place of imagination, its meaning and its utility. I struggle when I pick up an author like Samuel Taylor Coleridge: I get vertigo from being lost in a misty fantasy of unnecessary abstraction, so I’m better off to avoid this stuff. The romance tends to sneak its way into even what we call science. It keeps us human and organic to use our imaginations, so probably the solution is a state of balance.

Schizophrenia is an extreme wherein imagination exceeds the boundaries of reality. But I don’t see much of that around me anymore. I remember when the streets at night were like rivers in hell, shrouded in fog that stank of brimstone. With age and with drug therapy, those things have sort of vanished in thin air. I’ve also grown callous to them over time.