Friday, April 27, 2007

The Third Way

No, not the phony third way of Clinton and Blair from the late nineties, but a psychological third way I’m trying to carve out of my experience. My two other ways, that give the third way its thirdness, are for me: a "therapist self" who is understanding, listens well and asks good questions. The other way is a closed, withdrawn, forever-impinged-upon self who would rather not bother with other people and gets angry at my wife when she has "issues" and “problems.”

The third way is a murky experiential space in between the false, understanding self and the sullen, burdened, withdrawn self. It’s difficult to find it, but recently, on two occasions, I have in my reactions to my wife. I seem to project onto her my hopelessness of ever developing or having a progressive process. When she speaks of her problems, which I’ve heard before, I hear this as a hopeless beating a dead horse and my constricted self arises. She, while upset about the problem, also feels that sharing about it is part of changing it. When I name and then speak of the hopelessness I'm projecting onto her, there seems to be a third way of being in between falseness and withdrawal. I’m forced to bring more of my real self to the interaction.

It's an odd experience to perceive her situation as hopeless, to feel I know that in reality this is hopeless, and then shift perceptions and see that there is no objective hopelessness here, but a projection of my own hopelessness. The state of the world alters in that moment. My biography was determining my reality.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Self Narratives

It’s interesting how we can tell ourselves our life story in different ways but can’t simply choose one of those ways simply because it is a positive, beneficial life story. Sometimes I tell my story as one of hastily made crucial choices – choosing the wrong major in college and grad school and being stuck with it – and how those mistaken choices have led to my being in a life situation I don’t like. I left grad school before getting a Ph.D., but in my leisure time have continued studying academic works. I ‘d probably be happier as an academic and probably will never be.

But an alternative telling of my story is that I luckily got out of the academic system and the conforming and constraining effects of the tenure system so that I could freely find my own intellectual way and develop my own thoughts. But I rarely tell myself that story although it’s certainly available to be told. Why not tell that one? It seems our self narratives are not rationally choosable. We can’t just choose to tell ourselves the most positive plausible life story. A larger undergirding mood and worldview determines what self-narrative will hold sway.

But also, with me, an overarching, determining standard plays a role. Since I am still trying to achieve somebodyness [see the introductory post of this blog] my actions are rated according to its standard. If I were to achieve somebodyness through my intellectual work then perhaps the positive self-narrative of going my own intellectual way would rise to power and be dominant in my psyche. But if I fail and remain a nobody then the story of me as the guy who missed opportunities and made bad choices will reign.

The third alternative is to loosen the grip of the nobody-somebody spectrum and gain fulfillment by being myself, doing the things I like and evincing my uniqueness. Although, while that sounds wholesome, I can’t make that my guiding life understanding.