Way back in 1978 I understood that I believed I needed to find out things for myself, that it doesn't work to just accept what someone else tells you, unquestioningly. Interestingly enough, I realized how isolating this can be also, I think, because I wrote about this behavior as if it were a problem, a habit I needed to break. I was "too shy." Talk to other people. Find out what they know. Learn from the experience and perspectives of others. These are good things, but "shyness" was a misidentification of the fundamental problem. It was a failure to identify root cause. All the while I was struggling with "my shyness problem," my parents were teaching me, in how they lived, that other people make no damned sense, and moreover, that they will lie to themselves and lie to others, as well. That is isolating, too.
I am surprised to find the insights I am finding, in reading that old book. I saw my mother's attitudes, and her philosophy, even when I was a child. I didn't understand it. There were difficult identifications, beyond the reach of my experience. I understood that my mother's beliefs were problematical. For example, she treated our home as "her house." I noted that it discouraged my father and brother and I from pitching in and helping with the place quite often, because when she acted the way she did, it felt like we weren't working on something that was ours — it was hers.
Both of my parents operated, not on the principle of connection, but on the principle of manipulation and coercion, on the "I'm the boss of you" model. They found no problem with that. They would sometimes explain themselves when interacting with my brother and I. My mother, in particular, was apt to go that route, but in the end they gave the orders and lay down the law because they could, however much they figured that they were doing the right thing. Before I met Laurel I wasn't consciously aware that there was a distinction to be made here. Children are raised. Our parents' interactions, connections and disconnections, are the substance of what we learn. Their efforts to "raise" us constitute what was done to us. It's what we do to others in our turn. We are what we repeatedly do and experience, we live what we have lived. To the extent that we do not question it, the pattern becomes our destiny. What is beyond our inquiry is beyond our control. Apparently, very few want to stop to consider the idea that alternatively, if we look at life differently, if we see the act of "raising children" not as something adults do to children, but that we are instead, connecting, or not, with another growing developing human being who is gathering experiences of existence just as the adults are, it opens up a completely different paradigm. It is realizations like that one that keep making me think of Laurel, and miss her. It hurts; I persevere. There's no way out but through. I was fourteen years old, but I still saw the problem. I just couldn't identify its nature. The people in my family are so disconnected, from themselves and each other. I had no concept of connection, no understanding of any other way of being. It's almost funny, to read my old words. There I was, groping in the darkness, knowing something wasn't right with the picture but not able to understand what, exactly tied all of my observations together into a coherent, integrated, conceptual framework.
To my surprise, I actually had a plan to attack the problem. On July 23, 1978, I was writing about renting a post office box and using that address and a pseudonym to write to someone, like a psychiatrist, and ask for advice, on whether they thought that my parents were "off the reservation" or not, and needed some help. I wonder which is more surprising, the idea that I saw things as being wrong, even then, or that I still had any doubts. It's interesting that I looked at the situation as an either-or kind of proposition: either someone is "crazy" or they are not. I didn't realize that life is merely the set of all of our choices and experiences, including all of our problems and decisions. It's all a continuum. There are better, more effective ways to live, and then there are less effective ways to live. Our choices determine our destiny. As Pete Gerlach would have put it: my family was full of very wounded people, and they were metaphorically living with their wounds as people with physical wounds did before the insights of Joseph Lister. The thing is, philosophy has been around since antiquity. Isn't it amazing to consider how, of all the fields of human inquiry, that one seems to let us down so frequently? Stefan Molyneux thought the same thing. He had a podcast on the "failure" of six thousand years of moral philosophy. He was wondering if the problem was that we merely misunderstand the fundamental purpose of philosophy. His hypothesis was, that it appeared that the purpose of philosophy was just to rationalize the exceptions and make loopholes in what we otherwise understand to be moral and ethical behavior. After reading Lloyd de Mause, I'd say that such a plan is not a consciously understood one, even if Molyneux were correct. At any rate, I understood that there was a problem, and I definitely knew that it was putting all kinds of stresses on me. I had no inkling of how the effects of those stresses were going to play out in my life. I was looking at "fixing them," my parents, and not understanding the implications of what it was doing to me. I could have used more self confrontation. I never saw much of it in the adults around me.
I read in my journal of encountering Veronica and Susan, another of our classmates, at the county fair, and responding to their hello like a deer in the headlights. I didn't say anything to them. Veronica had said to me: "OK, Bob, don't say hello." How awkward. I'd been wanting to see her. I'd been dying to talk to her. I couldn't. There was opportunity all over the place, and desire. That's some hard dissociation for you. People would look at that situation and write it off as "shyness," as if there were some kind of magical explanatory power in that label. Mumbo-jumbo. A label is only a foundation. It's only a start. A conceptual framework must follow on top of it or the label is just as useless as a slab of concrete on the ground. Shyness is not an answer; it should be the start of a whole book of questions. No, there's nothing really wrong with that picture. There's nothing going on here. "Shyness" explains it all, except that it doesn't. Often times, a label is more an excuse to stop thinking, than to start. So, I'll grow out of it would have been the consensus, and I did, to a certain extent, but nobody would question what was going on there. Nobody seems to want to ask themselves if that phenomenon is just a case of "some people are like that," or if there is something systemic and cause-and-effect behind it. We stop being curious and turn away when we see something that reminds us of areas in our own experience which are painful. I was so entangled in shames and guilts and secrets and my own dysfunction that I couldn't even say hello, and socialize. Gee, I wonder how I got that way. That's just the way some people are? I can thank my parents for that lesson, if I had the balls to do so. How long was Tantalus in Hades, I wonder, before he just gave up trying to reach the grapes, or drink the water? I don't think they would understand what is wrong with that picture. It's the one principle upon which they seem to be united. There's a poison premise of which I could stand to be rid, and yet, it seems so hard to just pry it out. It's not a single, compact lump, is why. It is entangled and threaded throughout what I am. Our experience is holographic. More and more I am convinced that this theory is right: our experience is stored and referenced "holographically," by our brains. That would tend to make changing our habits somewhat more of a challenge than just locating a particular bad premise in our minds and striking the line through and substituting a correct one. It isn't a computer program; it's a hologram. Rand could have stood to learn a bit more from Aristotle, whom she praised so highly. What a terrible thing is wisdom, when it brings no profit to the one who is wise.
So often, the situation seems damned if you do, damned if you don't. I ask myself if I am sacrificing a friendship with Laurel because my disappointment and disillusionment hurt too much, and I'm tired of getting hurt. The thing is, it's not really disillusionment, is it? If it were dis-illusionment, I would shed my illusions. Interacting with her though, I keep falling into the idea that something more is possible with her. It's what I desire. How can we not love where we admire? Also, I keep getting the impression from her, sometimes quite explicitly, that it is something more between us that she desires, later protestations to the contrary notwithstanding. Cognitive dissonance hurts. Like the song says: "I keep forgetting we're not in love anymore." Damn, isn't that song apropos? Then she tells me that if I believe that there is a possibility of a romantic relationship between she and I then I am delusional. Oh, so today it's not: "Why don't you hurry up and come here to me, Robert?" Ha. If it's Tuesday, this must be Belgium. Oh, Monday, Monday, how could you leave, and not take me? Damn, that hurts. I hate that. I've spent enough of my life confused and running around in the fog of delusions, both my own and those of my parents. I hate trying to figure out what's real about a relationship and getting nowhere, going in circles. I see that pattern. Am I not courting this very thing in being in contact with her? Delusions are hard enough to divest without feeding them. We're not going in the same direction, with the same goals in mind. Our ships must follow their own course under their own power. It is advisable to cut the rope and cast off when we find ourselves in the situation where we are deluded, and our boats are not really on the same course and steaming toward the same goal. Pain may be unavoidable, but at least I can have and set clear boundaries. I can stop entertaining fantasies. I have my doubts about the woman she professes herself to be in dating site profile. She once told me that video games were only a substitute: the exploration and discovery of a fantasy world's landscape substituting symbolically for exploring a real woman's soul and body. At least when I'm playing video games I know I'm engaged in make believe. I'm not deluding myself exploring a land I will never be allowed to inhabit for real.
Lauralee asks me if I want the relationship with my parents. Hell, is my relationship with my parents really mine, to win or lose in the first place? What is the nature of that relationship? Is it profit or loss? What am I giving up to keep it? I know there are things about that relationship which have poisoned me. Am I continuing to be poisoned by clinging to it? What premises am I accepting to hold onto it? Am I feeding delusion there, as well? Stefan Molyneux would say yes, definitely. Daniel Mackler would say so. Laurel would say so. This I tell myself. Logically, the argument seems impeccable. I also tell myself that nobody knows the full context, nobody knows all the particulars, but me. Is it true? What do I get in maintaining that relationship, such as it is? In what am I invested? Hell, what do they, or Laurel, for that matter, really want from me? Why am I maintaining these relationships, if I am? Am I getting worthwhile trades here? Does it hurt to keep these? Yes. Does it hurt to contemplate cutting them off and walking away? Yes. This is how it works. This is how Gerlach's "wounds" are inflicted. Why are "reality distortion" and "over-trusting and under-trusting," two of Pete Gerlach's six fundamental wounds? This is how it works. Pain and fear are supposedly feedback signals which work to ensure survival. What if you can't trust those feelings? What if it is damned if you do and damned if you don't? What if both directions hurt? How reliable is a fire alarm that goes off all the time? It would seem to me that it's not the case that I won't trust what I am feeling; I've just learned that I can't do so. How do I change that?