Wednesday, July 07, 2010


The coffee in the army,
They say it's mighty fine.
It's good for cuts and bruises,
And tastes like turpentine...

* * * * *

Never Volunteer.

* * * * *

Facing external stress,
We are prone to repress.

* * * * *

In the seminar on the memoir that I took at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival, we spent a good deal of time discussing and trying out techniques for unleashing dormant memories. These activities sensitized me to the need. In my book I want to argue for the proposition that intuition is largely a learned thing and that developing intuition is something others (friends and teachers) can foster. But based on my reading since I've returned, primarily Maslow and now Marion Milner, see my previous few posts plus the comments there, perhaps I've been underestimating the impediments. This got me to think about impediments in the development of my own intuition.

I started high school in 1968. Though I was a very good student, I had several serious sources of frustration. I was a fresser, completely undisciplined about my eating, and prone to use food as a safety valve. I had a poor body image, deeply ingrained from always having been the largest kid. And I didn't know how to be myself in front of girls, so didn't have a girlfriend. My parents were useless for helping to work my way through all of this. Indeed my mom, who pushed quite hard on things including making me choose to attend a high school that was inappropriate for me and which I transferred from after only a few weeks there, ended up seeming a source of authority that I had to contest or end up suffocating myself.

But I didn't know how to do this and lacked both the wherewithal to learn healthy coping strategies and the confidence that I could arrive at a good place on my own. Yet I couldn't shut down completely. That's not my nature. I had ideas, lots of ideas. They required some form of expression. So I started to mumble.

If the right people aren't there to listen, you end up talking to yourself. I still don't completely understand why that expression needed to be aloud. Somehow it is tied up with the urge to raise your hand in the classroom when you have the answer to the question and you know nobody else does. There's a showing off in that. I wanted to show off to my mom even while I didn't want her to hear my answer, resistance and non-resistance rolled into one. There is no courage in mumbling. But it demonstrates an unmistakeable need for self-expression. The doing something in the moment can trump a longer term sense of preservation.

I love Maslow but I think some of what he says requires refinement. He says that at every juncture we have to make a choice between safety or growth. That much is correct but then I believe he errs. I had a taste for growth. Much of my childhood was quite wonderful in that regard. When the need for safety became paramount after having opted for growth for quite a while, I didn't all of a sudden go cold turkey on growth. I looked for a compromise instead. With foresight, the compromise almost certainly can't work. Mumbling creates tension. Other people want to know what you are saying. The tension contributes to what can become a downward spiral.

The issues didn't instantaneously resolve when I went to college, but I believe the mumbling stopped when I moved away from home.

Could a friendly teacher or counselor have helped me to give up mumbling while I was still in high school? A variety of people tried to make me tougher, not to address the mumbling specifically, more as a necessary survival skill in general. I don't think it was the right answer. I needed something that was very gentle yet also strongly affirmative.

I will need to think a lot more about whether that can be produced with some abundance and, if so, how.

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