Thursday, May 20, 2004

Breaking the links of false logic 

I have a sense that if I were to think long enough and hard enough about this, maybe step back a little and take in the whole picture, I could pull together something rather more coherent than that which I suspect is going to find it’s way onto the screen right now. Perhaps I’m writing this too soon; the ideas still need to settle and link together; at the moment they are still jumbled together, still taking shape, as a sun and planets takes shape from an amorphous cloud of dust. But I don’t have a few billion years to wait, and I don't know when else I’ll have time over the next few days; too many posts have got lost because there was never time to think them through and write them down. Not even time to write them without thinking.

This picks up the story of A Watershed together with the framework of the Unholy Trinity
I learned a little more this week about the apparent power struggle that goes on between these three. To set the scene, some lines from an embryonic blog post yesterday morning:

“It’s a beautiful day. All my senses tell me so. So why don’t I feel it? Why do I feel uncomfortable with the word beauty? I even have difficulty formulating words to describe what my senses are telling me about what is out there. Straight description of what I see sounds flat and wooden; anything more sounds false, trying to describe an emotional response that “ought” to be there, but isn’t. So I get as far as a paint-box blue sky, and there it stops.

“My senses are receiving all this data about the world out there – colours, sounds, smells, the touch of sun and breeze; my nervous system carries the data to my brain, which does a pattern recognition exercise and comes up with “hmmm, yes, this data matches the characteristics of what is generally accepted as being what is known as a beautiful day”. Do I feel it? Do I have an emotional response? No.

“Why? In a word, disengagement. The day, the world, the people, you – they’re all “out there”. I’m in here, somewhere, I think. If I can find the light switch I’ll tell you; until then I’ll carry on fumbling around in the dark.

“I wish I knew why I do this. Find the light, but then go wandering off into dark corners and lose my way, lose the path back to the light. The gloom has some attraction, some pull. Maybe it’s safe.

“This isn’t black darkness; even that would be an engagement of sorts. This is just greyness; a neutral place; a place with no extremes. Unmoved by life or death. Unfeeling of love or hate. It hardly seems a pleasant place to be, not a place anyone would choose, so why stay here? There must be some pay-off.

“My guess is that it’s all about avoidance of pain. Allow myself to drift too far towards darkness (something for which lately I seem to have developed a natural tendency) and things start to get scary. First that “nothing matters” feeling, then a sudden awareness of the ground slipping away under my feet, at the edge of an uncontrolled slide down. I’ve never yet suffered the full depths of that slide, but it’s come close a couple of times. Fingertips clinging to an edge of solid ground; days that are spent clawing my way from minute to minute in an instinctive survival response, until feet once more rest on secure, if uninspiring, ground.

“So once I make it back into the light, why not stay there? Well, the light brings it’s own form of pain too. Pain that comes from realising the possibility that could be, and contrasting it with what is. In theory, that ought to be a driver to move what is towards what could be; this is how we grow and develop, how we bring about positive change, by creating a vision of the desired goal that is so compelling we are irresistibly drawn towards it. Okay, so we have two end points: a desired future, and a here-and-now; and a gap between them large enough to cause pain. So something has to give, and in my case it seems that the here-and-now, the status quo, however undesirable, has more power to resist change. It has its feet firmly planted in solid foundations of practicality. So the shutters come down and the vision fades.

“And I stop being able to appreciate beautiful days.

“There has to be a way out of this...”

That was a perfectly plausible logical explanation. I’m good at coming up with logical explanations; for years, logic and rationality defined who I was (that will be the subject of another post). But because they’re logical doesn’t mean such explanations are helpful, or that they’re right. You see, I’d fallen into a trap – rationality was bossing authentic self around, saying “If you’re really like this, then you should do that” – turning a wished-for future that would allow the latent abilities of authentic self to develop, into a should-do future as some form of counselor. By attaching a tag that said “this is the future that you ought to follow; here is your authentic path”, freedom of choice was taken away. What had felt so right to authentic self suddenly became snatched away and put in the hands of logical self who, being wiser in the ways of the world, understood the impracticalities of such a notion. And because the action seemed impossible, so did that way of being – all because of that link that implies “if you are this, then it follows, as day follows night, that you should do that. And if you don't, you'll be denying who you are”.

The voice of rationality was all I could hear; authentic self felt invalidated and fell silent again. But rational self wasn’t being vindictive, rational self was only doing what he does best; what he has been doing so effectively for so long – applying logic and reason to protect the organism. He’s not the enemy of real self, just much stronger, more vocal, and apt to take control, especially in stressful situations.

And being rational, this self is perfectly open to rational arguments. M. suggested at yesterday’s counseling session that to be this real, authentic self I don’t actually have to do anything, not in terms of following any particular course of action – being authentic is just that: being. I still have choice over the doing bit. So at that, logic fell silent, admitting the validity of the counter-argument.

And I became able to appreciate the beauty of the day.

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