Good Jill Hunting

Forgiveness is giving up all hope of having had a better past.

Anne Lamott

I realize that it is a bit absurd for me to say that I cannot write a play or novel because I cannot focus on one thing for more than 1-2 days (typical short story). If you look at this blog…

Which is to say, of course, that it was never about focus. I could insert something overly intellectual on attachment, but theories on my inner state are part of what I have escaped. There is greater truth in the rawness that comes without heroes, without theories and without trials.

Did I want a trial? Of course. But I will never get most of what I have wanted.

The point is, I let myself want something. The point is not to find a master-game, to be aware, to be above the rest of the world. The point may simply be to keep going, to dare to want.

I have none of the popularity of Haven, but I am amazed that there are people who still read this. I will never sell a new way of thinking, promise any sort of salvation, tell anyone how to live. Maybe I have passed along some of the same insults I have received, but never under the guise of trying to save anyone. A popular term now is the soft bigotry of low expectations. But there is something far more sinister in those who need someone to stay in that place of smallness.

It is not about whether or not my story is cliche, it should be whether or not the voice is cliche. Redemption is not in the ending but in the voice. Maybe as a kid when I invented voices I should have invented voices that said what I couldn’t say. I wasn’t that clever; besides, the point of inventing voices was to give people the story they wanted.

Anyway, how many people can say they wrote an ethics course for someone else?

Bathroom break

Maybe that is why it has been so important that I learn that I can choose to die. Then maybe there is life.

‘DB,’ from Ben and Jock’s article in the Journal of Child and Youth Care, special issue on ritual abuse.

I finally got a hold of this article to read. Surprised to find more humanity in it then I have seen in any Haven writing in a long time. The article itself was much less self-aggrandizing than the description of it online (which vanished after I posted the link.)

When I started this blog, I didn’t think I would survive either. That was part of why I wrote it.

The identity of DB is no longer a secret, but I will use the initials used in the article.

I believe that at one point, it is quite possible that Haven believed in allowing people the space to choose life. However, things have changed. At times I was treated like I shouldn’t be responsible for choosing my own breakfast.

I remember realizing that no one would stop me from death. After I broke free from Haven, no one was trying to save me, control me, tell me why I was wrong or bad.

I started to laugh. The whole thing suddenly seemed hilarious and ridiculous. It wasn’t until I really faced the possibility of death that I could accept life.

Thus, it is possible that the original intent of ridding of the position of clinical expert and savior has reversed entirely. It has been more salient for me at Haven than it was in the mental health system. And since the role of expert was mixed in with the role of friend, employer, mentor, etc., inequality became all I knew.

At one point, a Haven leader wrote me a reference letter that listed my emotional challenges. I don’t think she ever realized why that was inappropriate. And there are several reasons. It was also inappropriate for me to get all of my reference letters from Haven, but Haven was my entire world.

When I expressed my discomfort, she told me, you aren’t curious!

It seems that in Haven speak, you aren’t curious translates into fuck you. Which is part of why I believe that the communication model doesn’t make us more clear or personal but actually less so. It merely writes a new dictionary.

Now I am tempted to go back and delete half of this blog. I think it is important that it remain, in some form or other. I still plan to go back and organize/edit so that it is actually readable.

I really wish for Haven to go back and read that article, remember its roots. Remember that the intention was to have people heal through equality, through there being no expert, through connection. No one can be the authority on anyone else’s emotional challenges, and having my day-t0-day life labelled as character flaws landed me in a place where I didn’t have to choose life or death, it was just a dream. I was a puppet in someone else’s fantasy.

It was the intermission.

This is not a resolution, not even an intermission. This is a bathroom break.

PS I said earlier that I broke free a year ago. Of course that isn’t really true. I cut off contact (mostly) a year ago. I broke free when I wrote this blog. I broke free when I laughed at death. And I will have totally broken free when I stop writing it, do some editing, and laugh at invisible super anti-hero pajamas.

Already terrifying, I am already forgetting what it is to need such an item, or the actual pajamas I used to wear in institutions.

Maybe I am not personal. Maybe I am all of the horrible labels Haven has put on me. But I am alive. And for once, because I chose to be.

PPS DB, I wish for you to find the honesty of yourself from that article. I haven’t seen it in a long time, from anyone.

Love In Infant Monkeys

Since I have yet to post a Brain Pickings article, here is one. Unfortunately it does not mention the obvious ethical problems with Harlow, but it is a good article and empirical research explains what Ben and Jock have not been able to explain (in a 2013 talk, Jock announced that he discovered that children have empathy, decades after psychology came to the conclusion and put away with behaviourism.)

https://www.brainpickings.org/2016/07/07/love-at-goon-park-harry-harlow-deborah-blum/

And my poetic response, originally published in Island Writer, 2nd place winner.

Love In Infant Monkeys

She is all abstractions; a black and white photograph,

Chilliwack grad, the photographer’s stamp over the veil.

Too poor for the real thing—the real thing is usually overrated.

When it comes to mothers? That’s tricky.

 

Monkeys will choose cloth mothers over wire mothers

that give milk. This was a study on attachment,

as if we take babies away from mothers to test

if they will choose a scarecrow over a blow up doll.

Notebook after notebook on my mother, my real mother—

several adoption forums argue on this, would rather

call them Number One and Number Two.

 

All of my poems are about Freud; Cloth Envy.

Thing One and Thing Two—the white and black queens

dancing around my chessboard. The kings never moved.

A transient Mexican and a retired catholic—the men.

 

The 90s were the decade of endings. Still these photos,

missing letters, gap between the front teeth,

“That’s how I knew it was you, I knew,”

Schizophrenia is too long a word, it covers an entire decade.

A gap between who I expected to see. Floating between

the spaces and letters you rest atop my typewriter

with missing keys.

 

“I’m the king of the castle,” kids played.

Orphan, Bastard. Twenty-two page letter was lost,

the social worker is dead. Ding, Dong—Patrick Lane

asked us to write a mother poem, he gave us seven minutes,

“Everyone has one,” he said, and I thought of protesting,

telling him about the monkeys. People were in tears—

this is where numbers come in handy, and wire—

you want a poem about my mother?

 

Here are five notebooks with references to Harlow’s

Love in Infant Monkeys, Knitting for Dummies, Freud,

Patrick Lane, Woolf and the DSM—I hope you find her.

Attachment, resonance, empathy

I have been looking at the Haven models and it is hard to say when I agree because there seems to be many contradictions.

We are born authentic and society conforms us into something less authentic.

We are born seeing all people as objects and being unable to truly relate.

True relating is achieved only through revealing the authentic self (and almost all relationships are developed between conforming sheep and do not know true loving.)

The Selves Model is basically just a misleading reprint of Freud, but Freud was never meant to be a model for life. After years at Haven, I still fail to see how this applies to day-to-day living. How arrogant does one have to be to write a Manual for Life as Ben and Jock have?

So how is relating actually achieved? As children, we develop strong bonds and attachments to our parents. Although we have developed the capacity for attachment through evolution and survival, this does not lessen the authenticity and power of this love. This is why childhood attachment is the greatest predictor of adulthood relationships. That we need people doesn’t make our love for them any less true. Attachment is not the same as objectification. Ben and Jock seem to confuse theory of mind with empathy (the same is true of the Dynamic Empathy course.)

Maybe the love the rest of society has is bullshit. Maybe we aren’t authentic when we aren’t degrading those we dislike. Maybe the whole world is bullshit. But I would rather be in it.

To understand empathy, look to developmental psychology. To teach people empathy, look to literature. The point of existential philosophy is that there is nothing more absurd than creating a manual for life. Existentialism was a fight against religions’ prescriptions and claims to truth.

The first time in rehab, I quoted the TV show House, there is no unconditional love, it’s just unconditional need.

That’s how this started, the therapist said, you had the same quote.

I started and ended with House. That tells you a lot about what my attachments had been.

I am open enough to change my mind, and humble enough to say that the way I see the world doesn’t make it truth. Ben and Jock take their own dark views of human nature and take it to be universal.

Perhaps it isn’t a contradiction that I felt more like an object at Haven than anywhere else. Our models create our reality.