Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Two minds

There's the mind that finds this life consistently dismaying, frightening, that teeters on the edge of despair and hopelessness, exists by the skin of its teeth and from one day to the next. And there's the mind that despite this finds joy in people and art and nature, interest in many things, comes here and lines up these findings like a row of treasured little objects on a windowsill.

Is this a mind on the edge of breakdown? Or is it normal, 'just life', to feel like this? Sometimes I think it's just life and sometimes I think it's just me, that I never learned to live and with age it gets only harder to pretend.

Sometimes I think this is how it is for every rational mind - dismay for much of the time, for every beating, emotional heart - so much pain and fear.

Sometimes I think that what keeps people going against the odds is not the mind and not the heart, but instinct, appetites; that my problem, the reason I live so close to the edge, is my lifelong all too effective inhibition of appetites. It goes back to those days of my earliest memories, two or three years old, when my instinct was to scream and kick, but, convinced that my parents would give me away if I kept on doing this (a harsh parental discourse, but also, even then, my own over-reaction), I started learning to at all times inhibit the instinctive, not to act.

In the absence of appetites, of primal energy and resilience, there remain thought and emotion, pleasure in the beautiful and interest in the intriguing. Not enough, but something.

9 comments:

Beth said...

Jean. So much here that resonates for me. I too was taught that all immoderate action was forbidden, nothing excessive, all desires to be contained. Even today I can't imagine ordering and consuming a three-scoop ice cream cone! I think this is why the arts were a refuge for me as a child, and still are. But we could talk about what you've broached here for days.

Jean said...

Hmm. Well, the appetite for three scoops of icecream is the one appetite I did manage to rediscover as an adult - and appetite for food is wonderful, but can also be compulsive and self-destructive. Excess can be the other side of inhibition, of course, swinging straight from one to the other. It means a lot to me though, Beth, that you don't think I'm completely warped and insane to have such thoughts!

Rosie said...

yes art is a wonderful release from the terrible rollercoaster of bipolar too.

Lilian Nattel said...

Oh dear, I wrote a long post and it's gone! Here goes I hope I can remember!

There is a lot here. And I feel for you, empathize with you. Insanity, not at all, nor are you warped. I think everyone has a contracted mode and expansive mode. Joy, beauty, art, love (unconditional), laughter, snuggly security make us expansive. Contracting: danger, threat, scarcity. You can see it in a little kid's face: open, enthusiastic, mischievous. The face closes if not received with enthusiasm. With enough closing and enough chastizement (or worse), it's a wonder that expansiveness happens at all. But it does. Still. You bring beauty to my world, and thoughtfulness. Your spirit is unquenchable though so much is painful. I worry about that with my kids, if I find the right balance between boundaries and space for them.

Vivien said...

I think artistic, creative people like yourself are more prone to both depression and to elation at the wonder of this world - the antennae are more sensitive!

Zhoen said...

It is never too late to try and learn to trust one's instincts.

Dale said...

I've often wondered what would have become of me if I were not so consistently rescued by my unwieldy appetites. So this makes lots of sense to me. Really, they've gotten me over most of the fences I've ever jumped.

As far as normal -- there are people who just don't find life very difficult. But I don't think they're nearly so numerous as we're led to believe.

litlove said...

I know exactly what you mean about the two states. The troubled one is a memory, I think, of how we felt in younger, vulnerable times. I think it's essentially a state of abandonment, and the terror of death it triggers. The other state is the more stable, hopeful self, intrinsic and unconquerable. That is the power of spirituality - life breaks us over and over, but the engagement, the curiosity and the hope return every time.

Sabine said...

Ah yes!
Some of the stuff that has shaped and/or even traumatised us during our childhood comes out in bits and pieces and through the oddest cracks. I've learned to let it come up and show its face, there is nothing to fear. For what is 'normal' - maybe we are all still curious and baffled no whatter what age. I know I am.