Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Nothing makes any difference

“It's the way the people regard the theft of the apple

That makes the boy what he is.
“Aner Clute”

                                                                       Edgar Lee Masters 

Nothing makes any difference except the lost love of your family and until you grieve that you can love no other including yourself.

However long I have been at the business of trying to help myself and others understand themselves and their place in the world it has taken that long to understand something about the above statement and articulate it.

Once said it made clear, to me at least, so many things. Central to this is a “tipping point” in the maturation in the family and that is was I sent off into the world stable and “vaccinated” so that I might manage the colds and flu’s of the emotional world or was I abandoned in any number of ways so as even to have the slightest of doubt to trip me up and make me feel that I was not loved.

The great model for this that I have in my own head is the Orangutan.  Generally speaking I understand it that the young are attached to their mothers for a good two years at the end this consists of just holding on but the fact is they never let go. Now at the other end of life, of course this consists of nearly all of it, they are pretty much solitary creatures.

Now, of course, they don’t have to “think” about any of this as we do, they do not have to be nurtured or taught about parenting or how to live in the world.  But I read into their ability to be these rather serene solitary adults  the fact that they where in this “external womb” for two years. That is they were indeed “vaccinated.” That is their innate emotional system (affect system) was slowly prepared, calmly prepared, in stages, for the world.

They where taught first about interest and joy, lots and lots of it; that there could be security in the world. Then they where let lose on the world holding these strong memories. They where not let lose on the world with high levels of stress hormones and nightmares full of fear, anger, shame and distress.

Obviously my point is humans can be let loose with either and on average with a mixture and yes a minority, a minority with what might be called an orangutans’ upbringing.

So humans are different. It takes so darn long for humans to mature. We now know it is not until age 25, yes! 25 that the brain is fully integrated.  If raised nurturing the child’s interest and joy the child will develop interest in the world that will lead to a natural separation form the family that will also maintain a healthy attachment.

On the other hand if there was never “love” and here we could talk much about “love” and the difficulties anrond that word. It is difficult as if there is one thing I have learned is that people will defend to the death their “love” for their torturers. For those who in fact can betray them daily.  We have all in fact experienced at some level that “Crazy kinda love” of domestic violence.

And as I say this is about “Nothing makes any difference except the lost love of your family and until you grieve that you can love no other including yourself.”

But when we are told we where never wanted. We where a “mistake.”  “But for us everything would be ok.”  “God never created a more evil creature.” Or we are out and out abandoned for long lengths of time. Or it may be something many cannot comprehend and say “oh how can that be such a big deal?” And what is that? The absent father who continually says he will come to take us to the movie but never shows. Or the parents that are simply “not there” ever, emotionally for us. Let me count the ways. Well, it is a big deal.

Any of these situations are not akin to the mother and child bond of the Orangutans where mutual interest flows. No, in all of these there are a slew of impediments and so there is much shame and all the other negative feelings.

If negative feelings then the likelihood of or a “need” to, or indeed the necessity of doing something. We are physical beings so we are always doing something. So in many of these awful situations above noted there are mostly awful solutions such as trying to runway, fighting back, drowning our sorrows and very often blaming ourselves for the problem which we are often taught anyway from an early age. That is : “We are the mistake” , “We are the problem.” And the essential point here is that for most of childhood the most likely option will be to blame ourselves. It is the one place where we can put it in to words and where people are putting it into words for us. “You are a mistake” and we mimic it “I am a mistake.”

Here is what has become so very clear to me once again. That is I thought many years ago now that I understood what it was to “attack oneself” but I now realize that I believe I had only scratched the surface.

Right now let us for our purpose think of that “mistake” in our terms of our, once again:

“Nothing makes any difference except the lost love of your family and until you grieve that you can love no other including yourself.”

If the reader follows and if not it is my error. The lost love, of course, is bound up in and is the act of naming you the “mistake” or pick any of the other horrors.  It is the “thing” the impediment. It is THE SHAME that should be what others actually experience as love and what you see them experience as love. You see others hugged and kissed by their loved ones and you try and wonder what is going on in their brain because the image on their face is not the image you feel on your face under the same circumstances. You are confused and at times enraged. How can you participate in the world? How can you consort with these other aliens? Well, you cannot.

You start school and you stop. You have many jobs. You have relationships and marry but he or she tells you that they always feel that they are “outside”, second to your family, to your “crazy” family.

As one trying to help people the great insight has been how we take “to heart”  the sense of “nothingness.” I put it in scare quotes because “to take to heart” is to put it as if we have a choice and it is clear to me that “Affect psychology” is showing us that it is not a choice. That as a child running away is not an option, of course until much later. Running away into oneself is the default position. But why does one do that? It is probably first because one has been made to feel nothing and started to “attack self.”  We can get pretty much stuck on “I am bad.” And I need to now be “good” and make do with whatever it takes to be in favor with my care takers.  But the burden is great. My entire childhood, “normal” childhood passes me by. I do not learn how to handle my emotions in any “normal” way as I do not relate to other children normally or my own siblings normally. I am often put in the position of parenting my sibling or my parents.  The list of things I will do to “please” the family and myself is infamous: cutting, eating disorders, drugs, incest.

Guilt can consume of course. If I am a mistake, if I am bad, then I must be guilty of something. But of what? Of course there is no answer because you are not guilty of anything. How confusing?  This can only cause one great feeling of shame? How as it makes you feel stupid. You feel guilty and you can’t find the answer. That is how. But again there is no answer. Then more shame.

A final thought and well known syndrome and that is you will not, you will not rise above your family, for to do so would humiliate them and shame yourself.  This would be a betrayal of them and their love. How could you ever then achieve their love if you rose above their station?  Of course this does not always play out but as I say it is a well known phenomena and the best explanation I know of for all those Phd thesis’s for which only one copy was made of then lost.

Shame and Humiliation (Summary of Principles used in these posts.)

Tomkins, Silvan S.: Affect Imagery Consciousness NY: SPringer Publishing Company, 1963.

Shame and Pride : Affect, Sex, and the Birth of the Self by Donald L. Nat

On  Amazon by Brian Lynch Paper Back and Kindle:
"Knowing Your Emotions"
"Doing- Thinking- Feeling - In The World"

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Monday, March 21, 2011

Looking For Joy

Looking For Joy
 "Melt the clouds of sin and sadness
Drive the dark of doubt away
Giver of immortal gladness
Fill us with the light of day"  From "Ode To Joy"

You finally clear security and you see a loved one and a smile breaks out on your face: Joy.

Why? We don’t much think of our emotions, our feelings, in terms of being physical but look in the mirror or at the person that is smiling back at you. 

Our feelings do take place and are triggered in the body. What is probably counter intuitive to the reader is that the reason a smile breaks out on the face is due, more often than not, to the lack of negativity rather than something positive.  Now what in the world am I talking about? 

That is you smiled because you where now in a state of relaxation from a prior state of other negative “tension” of “distress”, “anguish” , “fear” or any number of other mixed “negative” feeling having to do with travel and the anticipation of going where you where going and finally reuniting with your loved ones and experiencing “joy.”

That is reader, this joy, it just came and went and it won’t roll around again until a similar situation presents itself.

Never heard of such a thing?  It does sound odd?  I thought “joy” was the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and of course what everyone wants.

Well, it does seem to be whatever one wants just asks them. The problem is the answer to what it is is usually formulated in terms of the pot of gold.

Psychology has not talked much about the “positive” emotions but is getting around to them. They haven’t because they have barely identified them or recognized them.

I believe therapists have been just in the dark as their charges in terms of this thing called “happiness.”

It was, at least for me, “startling” to think of joy in this new very limited way. It means actually “grieving” a wished for “nirvana” of the future; a heaven on earth so to speak. It is the ultimate “reality testing” and I suppose people don’t like it.   Not a dream catcher but a dream snatcher.

In order to be happy you’re simply going to have to work at it.

But I mean not to be flippant but didactic. I come to this painfully as for so many that “pot of gold” is so important. It is important as they have built up a huge negative deficit of feeling due to trauma. And then this trauma can be and is replayed in memory repeatedly virtually repeating the trauma each time. The more “negative” feelings they accumulate the more the desire for that “pot of gold” or a “heaven on earth.”   Of course many simply get trapped and focused on the  “negative,”  wondering what “joy” could possibly be.

Joy is not, unfortunately, “out there” as all the sages tell us it is inward. But is there something “new under the sun?”  People seem to make millions, every once in a while, literally simply repackaging that sentiment, as far as I can tell, of saying “Sit on a park bench and look inward.” 

I think we can be more specific. That is joy is indeed not “out there” in a very important sense.  That sense is that it is mostly the absence of negative feeling (affect).  I believe and would say that it cannot simply be this as it would quickly turn on itself. Joy would quickly turn to distress and boredom. No, the external world is important. The loved one needs to be waiting for us. We need our “bliss”, our interest, in the world as the great student of myth Joe Campbell said or “God help us.”  Without a sustaining interest to motivate what indeed are we?

That is the importance of understanding that “interest” is a unique and discreet feeling. We have never been taught this as we have been taught it about “joy”, and   “anger” and “fear.”  But it is exactly like these feelings and I have come to see it as quite essential for joy in our lives in the long run. Over the long run interest gives us our goals to strive for.

Those goals then are our “pot of gold.” But there is a hitch this time right? These pots of gold are not free they take work, overwhelmingly.  I want the girl. I want that house. I want the career.  They do not fall into our lap. For sure when we are young we day dream about it all coming easily, and even as adults we fall into such thoughts. We all might fall into the trap of dreaming of winning the lottery form time to time with or without buying a ticket and then there are those that lose touch with reality and engage in various levels of extreme attempts to engage in a fantasy world where they achieve their “pot or pots of gold.”

For me the real insight is the role that “punishing” feeling plays in “joy.” That there is no “Royal Road”, as they say, to joy.  I am saying there are essentially two ways to looking at it one is the absence of negative emotion. The getting-off-a-plane moment and the other more explicitly involves “interest.” Of course they both involve interest. You are interested in seeing the person in the terminal.

You want the gal, house and job. In these cases I choose the long term “work” it will take. In the case of the airplane trip the emotions where foisted on you. The “negative” feeling or affect where “passive” you had no choice but to experience them.  You had not seen your parents in a year and you got on the plane in New York. Your father has been ill. You have had a bad year. It is a five hour flight to L.A.  Your sister will be there who you don’t get a long with so it will be a mixed bag but you have a great relationship with your parents. 

Disstress and a bit of fear are with you during the flight but when you talk with you seat mates you are “happy.”  When you arrive you find you are quite overwhelmed with joy to see your parents once again and your distress and fear are no more.

This is fairly different than joy attained through the active pursuit of some goal. Of course it is not a new thought that we have “to work for it” but it seems I rediscovered the linkage of interest- distress – joy.  Yes, this material has ways of playing tricks on one. 

Or generically: interest – work - joy where work will entail any number of “negative” or combinations of  “punishing” feelings not just “distress.”

Now, what of all those people that say that they go to work and say that they don’t know if they are working or playing? Good point. Well, all is not lost I have hedged a bit in the above saying in “most” cases.  Turning to our guide in these matters, for Silvan Tomkins the essential mechanism is a decrease in our stimulation level be that of a negative feeling state or a positive feeling state. Again the operative word is “decrease” in stimulation. So if I am very excited and I go to a calmer state I will feel joy. The excitement and pleasure of sex will end in joy. I went back and found that I guess I had it right in my book:

“Tomkins sees _joy_ as a result of calming, or bringing to a conclusion the situation that caused anger, fear, distress, disgust, dissmell, shame, surprise and, most importantly, interest. His basic question, after all, is what is it that we really, really want? The answer, is it not, that what we want is joy? Do we not feel joy as a state of relaxation and do we not feel that state after having felt some other emotion? I am interested in buying a car so I feel happy when I drive it o_ the lot. I am interested in eating dinner and am happy when I eat my favorite meal. I am very tired and am interested in going to bed and am happy when I get into bed. I am waiting to see my daughter get o_ the plane and am happy to see her.”
“Knowing Your Emotions” p 19.

Shame and Humiliation (Summary of Principles used in these posts.)

Tomkins, Silvan S.: Affect Imagery Consciousness NY: SPringer Publishing Company, 1963.

Shame and Pride : Affect, Sex, and the Birth of the Self by Donald L. Nat

On  Amazon by Brian Lynch Paper Back and Kindle:
"Knowing Your Emotions"
"Doing- Thinking- Feeling - In The World"

Facebook | Affect Psychology