Friday, 13 June 2014

This Time it's Personal ~ part 7

So, thinking about it, what I've tried to do over these last six postings is set out the problem. The first five were a bit chaotic but looking back on it, that's how scientific exploration works. There is a phase of observation to begin with - the explorer looks at how things appear and simply collects observations.
This stage can be summarised as 'Wow! Look at all this stuff!" It's the 'Naturalist' phase of the process.
The next stage is coming up with hypotheses - attempts at explanations of at least some of the observations - how it all fits together, what is the result of what. Ideally these are based on established knowledge - the hypotheses should be consistent with what we already know and not totally fanciful but often the established knowledge is itself tested by the new observations just as much as the new observations are illuminated by the established knowledge.
The third stage involves testing the hypotheses with experiments to see which fits best. This is always a problem in any science that studies people, and doubly so with anything psychological.

How is this relevant here? Well, that last (sixth) entry I think sets out an hypothesis - that the difficulties I still experience are a result of my unusual, almost Kaspar Hauser, infancy. I set out a story which is based on facts (I didn't meet any other children until I went to school) and which is at least plausible. It doesn't require any completely made up events (maybe I was sexually or physically abused. I don't remember anything like that but it's possible) and it fits with history - in particular - what roles boys and men were expected to fill back then, and how children were expected to behave. But it is just a story. I'm as aware as anyone of how our memories can trip us up. We are all biased. We unconsciously pick out the bits that suit our case and gloss over others, so obviously this can't have the scientific rigour of, say physics, or even ecology but I still think it's better than nothing.
I don't want to spend a lot of time here justifying myself but I think I have good reason to think that I am unusually honest with myself. I'm very aware of the limitations of my story for one very good reason. If my story is wrong, it won't work - it won't make me better. Often when people talk about psychoanalysis, which is essentially what this is, the whole language is about the subconscious trying to fool someone - be it the person whose mind is being analysed, the therapist or the concerned family and friends. We all fool ourselves some of the time, but it seems to me that most people need to fool themselves almost all the time just to survive. We tell ourselves all sorts of stories to justify our appetites, our priorities, our weaknesses, which is probably why so many people are so against personal questions or deep conversations. They don't want all that stuff unravelling. Most people I think - faced with the prospect of introspection, firstly dismiss the task as self-indulgent (some sort of Protestant work ethic type 'just bloody get on with life and stop making a fuss' kind of a thing). If they get past that they baulk at the mass of tangled emotions, impulses, motives, actions and ideas they find and just say it's all too complicated and it probably won't work anyway. Beyond that, if they try to get in there they shy at the first unpleasant revelation and prefer to go back to not knowing rather than face it.
I seem to have come out different. I seem to have an almost pathological openness. I don't seem to have a complacent view of myself to defend. My basic stance is that everything I do is questionable. Everything I do needs justification. I've spent a ridiculous amount of time wishing people would understand more and trying to explain myself to them. I also have the basic feeling that if my actions and motives are mistaken in any way, that it will be apparent to everyone and they will dismiss me with derision and contempt. My strategy therefore has always been to make my actions and motives as justified as possible, and when there is some flaw in what I have done (as there invariably is) to own up well before it is pointed out to me.

To use another engineering metaphor - if you are trying to sell someone some gadget (car, toaster, PC) it might pay you to use some shoddy parts and take some short cuts, if all you care about is taking their money and never seeing them again. But if you are making something for yourself there is no point in fooling yourself. You want it to work as well as possible for as long as possible. You use the best materials you can get hold of and do the job as well as you can, and if you can't afford the best, you want to be aware of where the weakness is so that you can allow for it and maybe put it right later. So it is with my self analysis. I really want to handle life better than I do. It's possible I could use some half-truth trick but it probably wouldn't work long term and may even cause more problems. A thought may be convenient or comforting but I know when it isn't quite right - when it is based on events that I can't really be sure happened (the physical abuse) or some quasi mystical truism ('It obviously wasn't meant to happen'). I can feel it, that niggle, and I know I'm going to have to go back and think again.

to be continued...


Vincent said...

When I saw you had a new post (Part 7), I used the "sendtoreader" app to download it to my Kindle.

I had just started to read it when I saw that the one you now have online is completely different text, and a lot shorter. What shall I do? Read both, I think!

Steve Law said...

It is a short one, but I can't say why the text is different - something about Kindles? of which I have no experience