Warts and Wings

For two nights now I’ve skipped my medication, though I couldn’t tell you why exactly. In the middle of the night last night, I dreamed that I met Ron my old supervisor again, and he was quite friendly and benevolent. He sat in a chair with someone else, maybe Sandy or Amy. At first I saw the back of his head, a big round head like a basketball with black hair, and I thought, That’s Ron. It’s interesting how a dream tends to idealize people. Another time I had a dream about Vicky from the little market, in reality a sassy little vixen who lost her job due to her mouth, but my dream made her very pleasant and even nice to be around. I dreamed that she got a better job as a banker or something like that, something more respectable and profitable than store clerk. Thus, what a dream does is to fulfill a wish and make people more or less perfect. The truth about Ron was he was an alcoholic and a few other things not so rosy. Actually, the truth is neither all good nor all bad. It can be tough to choose between real and ideal, or a waking perception and dream. The reality has warts and the ideal has gossamer wings to fly. It makes you wonder how the human mind came to be a colonizer of dreams in one mode and a passive receiver of impressions in the other. And which one is more adaptive and advanced than the other. Probably the opposition of both modes is indispensable for a healthy human mind.

In one of his books, Jung says there are two kinds of thinking, directed and undirected. But I don’t know if he covered the issue of why the unconscious is so romantic or why the ego sees things mostly as they are. Freud may be more specific on this point, though he saw it all as biology and the drive to survive and reproduce.

Tonight I’ll probably take my medication again although I hate how it blocks my emotions and feelings and dreams, the stuff that makes people human and life worthwhile, depending on your values. It’s like a shotgun approach to blocking the delusions associated with schizophrenia, and it works a little too well. Kind of like feast or famine, and never a perfect balance of reason and imagination. Indeed I think the majority of people are emotional thinkers, and maybe that’s why their judgment is unrealistic usually. I think Jane Austen describes it very well in a fiction like Sense and Sensibility. Marianne is the sister full of passion, but her perceptions are often inaccurate for that reason. I think Austen favors Elinor for her level judgment and common sense. The other one jumps to extremes and categorically blesses or condemns the people she meets. All in all, the book is like a study in cognitive therapy.


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.


Quarter of midnight.

I think I should get myself off of Maxwell Road, at least for a while. I compare my imagination to that of the governess in The Turn of the Screw: the whole drama turns upon her hysteria, but for me, the problem is ambivalence on alcohol. I keep resenting the church, but the prohibition is all in my head. The layout of the road around the corner from me is really an expression of my own mind. In itself, the place is indifferent, and it’s my mind that gives it its essence. Thus, maybe I would benefit from a change of scene. And then again, maybe the scene is always passive, a blank canvas for my personal brushstrokes, so wherever I go, it’s the same thing.

Then I need to rearrange a few things in my mind… 

Where the Road Forks

My day is going okay. It’s not very warm here either, and cloudy this afternoon. A little while ago I dug my old Aria bass out of the closet, plugged it in, and played it I don’t know how long. It sounds pretty good to me, and I thought that if I ever play with church again, the Aria might be a good choice. And last night I hooked up my old desktop computer and tried to boot it up. My efforts were in vain because the operating system had been discontinued by Microsoft, I found out from looking on my iPad.
Sometimes I do irrational things, even kind of absurd things, but the behaviors, though small, mean something symbolic. Yet at the time I do them, I have no idea why I’m doing them. After the fire that happened four years ago, my computer was stored away, and then it sat around unused until last night. Thus it took me four years to use it again. And I decided to fire it up purely on impulse. I felt driven to do it, without knowing what for.
Actually, however, I have a vague insight to my motives. Again I miss my old friends from when my life was much different than today. Even though I know what’s good for me, it’s still hard to choose it. If I could have it both ways, then I’d certainly pick both. As it stands,
Two paths diverged in a wood…
I guess it really is a kind of crossroads in my life, a place where the road forks. It’s like the recurring dream I used to have, of driving a car onto the highway and then trying to control it by remote while my body remains behind, off of the freeway. There’s a split. I’m trying to live two lives at once, but of course this can’t work. The car on the highway is out of my sight.
The falcon cannot hear the falconer…
Anyway, I think that’s what I’m dealing with lately. Life is never easy. I still have to choose one option and follow it as far as it goes.

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.

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.