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Monday, July 25, 2011

Toothaches highly recommended

   A jaw inflammation is a thing I can heartily recommend to anyone who has lost perspective on his life !  This is what I wrote to someone about a month ago. Before that, I had a painful jaw inflammation going on for ten days. And I'm really grateful I had it.

   Before I elaborate on that, let me tell you one thing. I do have a strong fantasy, I can really escape into what I make up. That is nice for writing short stories or making sculptures. But I am painstakingly precise about the truth when I write mails, letters or this blog.

  OK,  you've got me there. Joanne Lakefield is a pseudonym. Only to allow me to be even more truthful without giving away identities.  But let's go back to business...    

   I have a reputation for being a pretty stubborn person, hard to convince by others. But when you ask me to describe myself, I'd say I'm pretty insecure.  It's one thing to defend some general theory or calculated solution to a problem,  when you are fully convinced it is correct. But it is another thing to defend yourself or your ideals if you don't believe in your own value or that you have no real assets.

   In this modern age you cannot go around professional care takers  who are willing to help you to go for what you really want.
   They are not only permeating into your brain through bookstores and TV shows. Whenever your life slacks a bit, you are send to a therapist by your relatives or family physician. Your employer sets up a team building session or presses you to get your personal life and work into balance (his balance) by sending you to a three-day lifestyle training camp. It's either that or getting fired.
   And when your are unemployed for over a year, you can do a "reintegration project". Our own government treats you to a year of personal coaching. This coach tells you to focus on what you want and helps you to turn your dream into money.

  When I ask myself what do I want , I come up with a list. Asking myself what I really want... results in an ominous silence.  What do I go crazy about, what makes me put aside everything else? Nothing. It's empty in there, deserted.
    This got me worried. Especially because the reintegration coach made quite a fuss over it. We never stopped quarreling over focussing on what I really want or continuing to look for jobs I like only marginally.
I wanted to ride on both horses, while she wanted me to choose.
   I've been wrecking my brain over the cause of my will-lessness. Because I believe that finding the cause is half of the solution to any problem. I've found several explanations for it. Ranging from being raised with the credo "your will is standing behind the door", passing by a bad relationship with my father  to SPD.  The latter can cause people to have the experience that what they feel (and like and want) does not fit in with the ways of the world.
   All of these explanations have one symptom in common: they lead to low self esteem, or a negative self image.

   I used to think that low self esteem (LSE) was being modest, a positive trait. And that high self esteem (HSE) was just a fancy way of saying vain or stuck up. I couldn't be more wrong.
   LSE makes you insecure, defensive, socially inapt and can lure you into making stupid choices. My son suffered from LSE:  he became depressed and considered suicide at the age of 10.
   HSE makes you feel safe and valuable. Not feeling threatened, you do not make others feel threatened or challenged. It gives you room to act according to your own will and be giving and loving towards others at the same time.  HSE should not be confused with too much self esteem. Anyone with an imagination can guess where that may lead to.
    In spite of their all their explanations -and some explanations may be accurate-   no professional could ever help me fill in the silence that followed the question for what makes me 'shine'. But a simple inflammation of my jaw did the trick. Ten terrible days of toothache gave me what ten years of therapy failed to do: I'm flowing over with cravings, desires, dreams. Plans galore, just too little time.

   What made the difference? Why is one toothache better than a handful of therapists?
   1) Therapists work with theories. All scientific theories include some assumptions. Weak point nr 1.
   2) Some therapists may point out several probable causes of your troubles, but many will  pick only those that fit in their 'line of thinking,' their own school. Unobjective vision. Happened to my son, leading to wrong diagnosis and wrong treatment. Weak point nr 2
   3) Therapists aim to make me 'function better'.  But is that what I want from a therapist? Functioning better, instead of feeling better?
   What is functioning better?  Where, in relation to what?   To our society, our labor market !  I believe that this is the ultimate aim of therapists and coaches.  Weak point nr 3.
   I may be prejudiced, filling in this last line for them. Because I  myself  became trained  - or brainwashed?- during my career into believing that only job related achievements,  or any award given by others, is summing up my value.  But even if I was the one setting the aim at 'functioning better according to the rules of our society',  the professional caretakers never objected to that goal, even encouraged it.
   Take for example the reintegration coach: she's there to help me get an income. If I had answered the inevitable question of what I really want with "writing a blog that nobody reads" , she wouldn't jump for joy. I'd be allowed to write, but in the meantime I had to put effort in making my blog known. And after six months I'd have to evaluate. If I would have no more than a handful of readers, I'd had to quit. Then I'd have to really want  something else. 
 So, weak point 3 is: the true, unabridged question asked by therapists is:  "What do you really want,  that will be appreciated by others?" Appreciation, the measurement of succes.

   My toothache never asked for a dream labeled 'guaranteed success'.  It simply pointed out that there are activities that make me forget my pain, because I enjoy doing them so much that I get completely absorbed.
   The pain taught me I'm an entity with my very own feeling, unrelated to my environment. What I do can make me feel bad or good, regardless of the appreciation others have for these actions.
   And the pain didn't come up with  theories. It simply taught me to feel. The difference between feeling good and feeling bad. It openend my eyes for the direct link between doing and how I feel about what I'm doing.
    For over 40 years I used to take a detour: I act -->  I see the result (i.e. the appreciation from others)  -->  if the result is good, I feel good.   That kind of  functioning makes a person a vague shapeless, senseless thingy that the world can put into use according to taste.

  Immediately after the inflammation was cured, I had a job interview. The new me simply flouted at all do's and don'ts for job seekers. I put on a faded jeans, sneakers with mud stains, an unironed shirt and a waistcoat from the men's department. Because I felt good wearing that.
   During the interview I applied the same rule. So I explained that I was looking not only for an income, but also the company of colleagues. That on the other hand I did not care much for the type of work I had to do. I also refused to paint my vision of the future: being so multifaceted, formulating any career plans would only mean cutting off some of my talents. I'd prefer to see what  comes and I will endeavor (beautiful word) to turn it into a good experience.
   I got the job.
   It's the type of job I only marginally like  [here's my reason for a pseudonym]   and that my reintegration coach advised against. But this job pays so well that I can make a living out of working 24 hours per week. That leaves me ample time to do what I really want: write a blog that no one reads.

   I notice that nowadays I put aside many chores in order to write. Sculpting, translating, editing and subtitling videos I do too, when I'm through with writing. I'm the most egotistical, distracted, unproductive, degenerate mother and pet owner in the world. I love it.

    Thank you, Toothache, because I no longer postpone my wishes until after I finished what I 'ought'  to do.  I no longer ask myself what's the use of what I'm doing.  I just check whether what I'm doing feels great or not.   Without you, there would be no blog.

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