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.

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Proportion

Quarter of nine.

During the wee hours this morning I got up and read 15 pages of Richard Wright. He made an observation of freedom that was reminiscent of Sartre, except three years before the publication of Sartre’s big essay. Native Son is a gut wrenching read because Bigger gets himself into such trouble. Sometimes I have to take my reading in small doses… It rained on me on my trip to market today. Michelle had been worried about my reaction to the antidepressant. I’m feeling better gradually. I remember something a meter reader said to me a few years ago when I worried about the condition of my back gate. I stopped her and apologized for the situation. She looked at me like I was stupid and said, “I haven’t had a problem all day.” It only proves that you never know what other people are thinking. You might as well let yourself off the hook and stop feeling guilty. I wonder why people don’t use cognitive therapy anymore. It’s a very useful tool to parry the thoughts that cause depression. I think it’s a lot better than Jungian psychology and everything that overemphasizes religious ideas. Cognitive therapy is realistic and based on evidence, plus it really works for depression and even schizophrenia.

Quarter of ten. A good author for reinforcing cognitive therapy is actually Jane Austen, so maybe I’ll finish reading Sense and Sensibility, focusing on Elinor more than her sister. I could use a good infusion of proportion and sanity today. 

Ruby Slippers

Six fifty five.

I guess I’m done sleeping for this morning. I’d be too tired to go to church, but the store opens in just a few minutes, so I can go get food for Aesop and me, and the obligatory Snapple tea.

Eight twenty five. I got some bad news in the mail. Someone used my identity to file income taxes this year. I’ll have to straighten it out tomorrow morning… The rain just missed me again today, and even at that, there isn’t much. I’ve been reading Sense and Sensibility since yesterday afternoon. Jane Austen’s writing calls to my mind my old friend Kate. In September of 2012 I reread Pride and Prejudice and discussed it with her. That was before I had Aesop, and my pug had just been euthanized in the summer. The alcohol addiction still controlled my life. As long as I had money, I spent it on beer. Evidently I had a reason to drink, or else I wouldn’t have done it. Does it make sense to say the addiction controlled me, or instead did I always have the freedom to quit drinking? Sort of like Dorothy’s ruby slippers: she always had the power to return home from Oz, from technicolor to black and white. She just didn’t know how to use the magic…

Nine twenty. The desire to stop drinking comes from within, and it must be strong. You must want sobriety more than anything else, and be willing to sacrifice some things for it. Perhaps what you give up returns to you later, and without the addiction… It gives me pleasure to read Jane Austen and be reminded of the qualities that go into mental wellness. The character Elinor, the rational one, is very evidence based. She doesn’t assume anything or jump to conclusions. She is realistic, the very opposite of fanciful and impulsive. In many ways she is the cognitive therapist’s ideal… I just noticed how quiet it is around here. I guess that’s why I don’t care much for Sundays. 

Unchurched

Nine twenty five.

Cloudy morning. I met with nothing extraordinary going to the market. Just another day. But later I received an email from the people who will help me find a personal care assistant. This will help me out a lot.

Ten ten at night.

It was kind of a mixed up day. I was still doing fine when I read and wrote about the Ideal and the Sublime, etc etc, but when I thought of Jane Austen unifying opposites I began to get a little lost. Why would I remember her novels in the springtime? Or maybe the season is irrelevant. Possibly the name of Austen stands for a real person I used to know.

Pastor argued with me that Jane Austen was a Romantic, while I said she was just the opposite, a realist, especially in her treatment of psychology. She was very cognitive two hundred years before the popularity of CBT. She also didn’t want to be associated with the Romantic period. I’m not sure why we were arguing about this, or what, subconsciously, we were really talking about. It now occurs to me that Pastor is unacquainted with the principles of cognitive therapy. He only understands C.G. Jung and the Romantic tradition that gave him rise. Even this is overstatement, because he doesn’t know Romantic poetry… I guess it doesn’t matter what he knows or doesn’t know. Then again, do I really want to sit through his sermons?

Eleven ten. I feel tired and my back aches, and my mood is rather grumpy. I feel like Childe Harold or Frankenstein’s monster, alienated from society and doomed to wander the earth in search of a mate who can sympathize with him. Somewhere among the Arctic ice floes, the monster still keeps a low profile. He drops in on the social world here and there, then vanishes again.

Midnight. In plain English, my relationship with the church is spotty and probably destined to dissolve altogether. 

Back to Normal

Quarter after eight.

Been to the store already. I saw two fox squirrels on my street. One of them crossed right in front of me. I took my time, strolling along slowly. I was thinking about the violence in Portland, and how my sister might use the shooting for ammunition against me. It was a far right counter protester who was killed. When I got back home, I left her a message. I want to get this conversation over with. We’ve been on opposite sides of politics ever since I can remember.

Ten o’clock. The chat with my sister went pretty well. I disagreed with her perspective on homeless people, but I let it pass. It made a difference to avoid caffeine this morning. Last night I did a lot of sleeping. I was dog tired after a long, hectic week. Today is off to a good start, and now there’s nothing I really have to do. It’s interesting how imagination amplifies and distorts the facts. I caught myself doing that especially last Thursday. When I was certain I’d been stood up, I got a text from Tony in the late afternoon saying we were on. And yet imagination must serve a purpose in human life. What is the human experience without poetry? I like Jane Austen’s novels for their shrewd common sense and insight. I might pick up Sense and Sensibility again today and see how much headway I can make. I’m calm enough today to settle down with a book for a couple of hours. I may even learn something new.

Before the Birds

Wee hours of Monday. Since Friday night, the weekend was rather out of joint. I hope for a good Monday. I’m enjoying Sense and Sensibility for its realism pertaining to psychology and human interaction. Jane Austen makes me think of Kate, even though that happened long ago, when I still drank a great deal. My past seems a continuous whole to me now, not bifurcated into drinking or not drinking. Funny how I had to cut my brother loose. Everyone considered, his voice was the most poisonous.

Four forty. Aesop stayed in bed while I got up to write this… Now we’re both up. Today I’m going to place a couple of books in the book share on Fremont Avenue. I have too many books, and duplicates of books. This morning it’ll be two volumes of Jane Austen that I don’t need. Her stuff is always a favorite with the general public. I find it often prescient of the tenets of cognitive therapy, especially gray thinking and overcoming arbitrary inference. The latter is also known as jumping to conclusions. Seems to me that I put a book in the little birdhouse recently, but I don’t even remember what it was. I should make a regular habit of donating books, because I know I’m only going to buy more. I catch the first glimmer of the predawn gray sky, if it isn’t my imagination. The sun rises officially at six thirty. It feels chilly in here with the windows open…

Five forty. I have no other big plans for today. The high temperature is forecast to be 85 degrees. The sky lights up, a greenish glow in the east. One purple cloud. It’s good to be out of the murderous heat we experienced for a few weeks. All the food I purchased Friday is now gone. That’s an excuse to go to Grocery Outlet again. Generally I feel that I am releasing the past, even my education— except for what I can use. As already observed, no one else believes in Freud anymore. And even cognitive therapy is gathering dust. What’s to be the next big trend in how we interpret the world? Will it be intelligent or instead a ridiculous joke?

Good Day Ahead

Six forty.

At around ten o’clock I will go to the salon for Kim’s birthday party. Who can decline lemon meringue pie? I was able to get a little sleep last night, finally. Part of the “pressure” I was feeling arose from something that happened ten years ago. I had promised a friend that I would play music for his niece’s wedding which was to take place in August. But something went wrong with our friendship, mostly a difference of political opinions. It is odd how things that happened long ago can influence behavior in the present. Yesterday evening I relaxed by picking up Sense and Sensibility and reading the first five or six chapters. About nine years ago I reread Pride and Prejudice and discussed it with Kate, my old friend. Just now I remember how logical and even tempered Kate was; very realistic. The world, at the time, seemed to me very superstitious, so that my friend gave me an escape from the local people. Today, everyone I know is still touched by the same delusions, and the only person like me is myself. But this time I’m strong enough not to collapse under peer pressure to believe in spooks. My situation with the church is rather strange, for they still want me around no matter what I believe— or disbelieve. What I really hope for is a reconciliation of America with the rest of the world, especially the United Kingdom. We’ve lost our credibility with the motherland in the past four years, and my friendship with Kate was a casualty.

Eight o’clock. But it isn’t that I underestimate the friendships I currently have. I suppose every relationship has its no-go areas. The ideal would be to share everything in common, or at least the most important things. Alas that the world is not perfect; but who is it to be perfect for? No two people will agree on what is right for us all. Everything is relative to individual tastes… I anticipate a nice day ahead of me. The sky is blue again rather than white. The Austen will be fun to read, mainly because her thinking is quite gray, not black or white. She finds a way to unify opposites by means of plot structure, of interactions between characters. The music in my head is Debussy again, from Images pour Orchestre. It’s a cheerful sound, setting the tone for a day in the life.