by j-a

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February 2007

Tests of Love, and Other Social Phenomena

At one time, I felt, I would have used the term "waiting" in its more positive sense, but now it occurred to me stripped of all but its most negative significance, and I realized on reflection that I'd reached a frame of mind that could sanction—could accept with neither fear nor disgust—death at the bottom of a pit buried beneath earth and stones pulled down by my own fingers. The trip to the valley had been a distraction, but all the while my private downhill journey had been steadily progressing.
Kenzaburo Oe, The Silent Cry
I'm a little hot-wired, but I'm feeling okay.
And I got a little lost along the way.
But I'm just around the corner from the light of day.
Joan Jett, "Light of Day"
survival mode

Yeah, okay. I get a little lost from time to time. In fact, I'm amazed that I ever find myself at all. It's a long time coming sometimes, and when it does happen, you'd think I'd be grateful--and I am; but I'm more pissed off that I wasted all the time I did.

At other times, when I don't feel the need to hide out so much, life comes at me; and that's when things really begin to heat up. Then, the lost feeling, rather than going away, intensifies as the overload begins. There never seems to be a middle course for very long.

What a long strange trip it's been.
...looking for adventure, and whatever comes my way.
Let's do it. Let's fall in love.
The best is yet to come and, babe, won't it be fine?
The greatest love of them all.
"I don't worry," she said, the room's dark a caul before her eyes. "I just wait." [Kathe Koja, Kink]
I could write an entire novel out of quotes that I feel apply to my life, with no original material, nor a word of further explanation. I know, Steve Martin already did it, though as a movie; but he couched it within his own story format. I'd let the quotes provide everything; story, plot, characters... Except that it'd be a lot of work, and I haven't been into doing so much work the past few years. Despite my feeble attempts to put a functional face on it, I'm more or less just coping and otherwise drifting. [Add quote from Lawrence of Arabia where Sharif accuses O'Toole of drifting as they make their way on camels across the desert.]

My most recent social-coping procedure (not all of the steps are really new):

  1. Planning trips for maximum efficiency and minimum threat from authority and/or hostility.
  2. Hiding out, from the cold, or from whatever (authority, etc., for which cold is a metaphor).
  3. Making do with the bare necessities and further detaching from the corporate monoculture.
  4. When you're afraid of what the day will bring, stay awake at night, in your house, or in your bed, where it's safe; and then sleep during the day, when society is at its most dangerous.
  5. There's a time and place where what you want to happen is "supposed" to happen (not when you suppose it to, but when the Universe does); and, when you try to make it happen ahead of that time and in a different place, consequences occur that you do not expect that are counter to (or entirely separate from) your intent. Herein is where all of the true danger lies. (Or, as the Chinese proverb says, "One choice gathers a thousand griefs.")

I call my little "illegal" car trips out into the consumer-oriented suburban landscape "missions." Da da, duh da, da da, duh da. (Mission Impossible theme music. I actually sing that to myself as I proceed, to keep the fact fresh in my mind that I'm breaking the law and, so, to keep me aware so that I may head off difficult situations, if possible, by looking ahead and behind to see if any cops are on the prowl, being prepared to turn off down a side street and make my escape back home. I've determined, perhaps correctly, that cops on highways, moving at faster speeds, are less likely to see an expired inspection sticker than cops on local side streets. And at night it's nearly impossible to see, so the best time to go out is at night, which conflicts with point #4 above.)

I prepare for my short trips in the same way I always have, by making a list of items I will buy and/or tasks I will accomplish, along with a correlated itinerary. But, now, I pay far more attention to the efficiency aspect, planning the shortest and/or least likely "surveilled" routes, and determining to get out, get done what I must get done, and get back again to the safety of my hole-in-the-wall home. As long as the car is parked safely in the garage, there's nothing "they" can do to me, even if they know I've been out illicitly roaming around. They have to catch me in the act. And even when I'm out, as long as the car is parked safely in a parking lot, especially if I am not in it, there's not much they can do to me either; have it towed, maybe, fine me and charge me for the tow; that's about all. They have to catch me in the act of driving it in order to prosecute me, if they will, for anything more serious. Da-da, duh-da, da-da...

My life is waiting for it to happen. My missions are a part of the happening. But, lest you be deluded, so is my art. I am not always simply waiting. I'm not that lame. Right now, for example, I may not appear to be doing anything except merely documenting thoughts that are rambling through my mind, which you might mistake for a kind of waiting or, at best, a kind of wrapping up of previous "activity"; but this is activity itself, as are even the rambling thoughts. It's the periods between that are the waiting, for either the motivation to want to go and do something (even if it is "only" writing or drawing), or for something to happen to me (even if the happening is "only" insightful thoughts). In this sense, I am seldom waiting; yet when I am, though it's only a relatively short amount of time, it seems like forever. So, I see, I am not so much a waiter as I have been making myself out to be. Again, another way that I am such a fraud. Words are tricky, and stringing them together into concepts is even trickier. Will I ever write out anything that will not one day be wrong or untrue? But that's the way life is. We learn. We advance. We change (our minds; and sometimes, even, we change our physicalities).

I developed my "theory of waiting," I now realize, not so much as an attempt to describe my inactivity, or my affect-prompted withdrawal, or even merely my lack of productive use of my time, but rather as a defense posture against doubt and worry--by which I mean the entire syndrome that escalates out of doubt and worry (anxiety, fear, and eventually, if the conditions are right--or wrong--paranoia). I don't, as I have previously maintained, often, value a Zen state so much as I would like to believe I do. In fact, if I were truly Zen, I wouldn't be waiting at all. I'd just be. And, yet, that is what I mean, a lot of them time, when I say I am waiting. Often, when I say (usually to myself) that I am waiting, what I really mean is that I am being. So maybe I really am Zen, at least some of the time. But then, how can you be Zen some of the time, when time itself is an illusion?

I was down in the basement today and I went into the garage past the car, and I experienced a moment of reflection on its basic nature: its more than simple transportation; it's freedom, of course, and as much literally as symbolically; but it's also, in my mind, almost a living entity, an animal in its stall patiently awaiting my attention, happy to be housed out of the elements, but equally happy to be taken out into them, freed for a while from its confines when the necessity arises. I feel a fondness for it, this industrial workhorse. I appreciate its subcompact subtlty, far larger than I am, yet far smaller than most of the other animals on the roads. It's small enough for me to work on, if only I had the space and wasn't so crowded in. I run my hand across its sleek, low roof as I walk by, like a rancher might absently stroke a horse in passing. My sad horse that doesn't know it's past its prime, that sits patiently until I stir it to life once again, never knowing if any venture out will be its last. We survive together, my steel steed and I, rigid in our stubborn, righteous presupposition that we will both exist forever. What is this feeling I'm experiencing here, this autopomorphism? I love my car? (Maybe. But I'm not "in love" with it. That would be sick.)

Love is so peculiar, when you think you might love things that are not human. We tend to restrict our love to humans, probably mostly because we don't want to suspect ourselves of being or at least appearing to others to be perverts. We suppress our "love" of things and when we must reveal it, we call it a "fondness" at best, or a hobby or preoccupation, or maybe we will go to an extreme and claim to have a "passion" for our work. But we're generally cautious in our use of metaphors in these cases because we've got love and sex all mixed up in our heads and are so afraid that we might unwittingly reveal something we shouldn't, especially to ourselves.

Human love, by comparison is so damned easy. At least, for me, it is; but only in the short run. I believe, for example, in love at first sight; in fact, I champion it. But that doesn't mean a thing, really, because I don't believe in love that lasts. I want to believe in it, but it just hasn't happened to me (I'm a Leo--not that I think that really means anything; does seem to work in this particular case.) I mean, no one ever talks about love at last sight, do they? Well, maybe it exists, couples who have lived together all of their long lives and say "Good-bye, I've always loved you" on a death-bed; but, probably, we don't hear about those kinds of remembrances because, well, the people who have them hardly have the time and energy after...

But that's not me, at least not yet, with the possible exception of a dog I used to have. How cruel it is for God to give us a creature capable of perfect love with such a short lifespan. But, then, it's not really God who gave that to us, is it? Anyway, animals don't count. I transitioned into a consideration human love here. I still hold out hope that I will meet the (human) love of my life (I actually already have, a number of times; but it doesn't really count if it's more than one, does it?) Love, as I claimed (many times) is easy when you don't know your lover so well. The tough part is loving someone after you get to know who she really is.

I fall in love easily. And often. Yet never when I am involved.
But I don't do the dating thing very well. In fact, not well at all.
I have to get to know women socially for long time first.
And, more importantly, they must get to know me, because:
I am not your standard type of guy, despite how I appear to be;
The way I live, overly frugal, is a fault, I admit;
I try hard to disguise my social "mal-adaptation";
I'm often pensive, even occasionally depressive;
I know how to live with this, easily and functionally; can I expect a woman to deal with it?
I'm not so cool as I appear to be; but, then, who is?
And yet, I am a loving person, when you get to know me.
But I think I know too much, about how people think and act.
I see where relationships are heading long before they do.
I've gone to a lot of trouble studying this subject, and now...
When I see what's coming, I have to think, "Why bother?"

People who hate commitment are people who know what a big deal it is.
Omar Epps, "House"
Within my self-restricted isolation, I am free. I free myself from the oppressive effects of social commitment by voluntarily withdrawing. The world, as big as it is, is such a restricted place when it succeeds at narrowing down the limitless nature of my deceptively small mind. You, as a single other person, limit me far less, but in exactly the same way, when you try to insist that I believe as you do. The only exception to this would be if we were in love, which dissolves not only the boundaries between us, but between the two of us united and the whole damn world itself. But what's the chance of that? Actually, for my part, I know the chance is good. But you restrict our unified vision when you criticize me. Lighten up. The world is full of love, and you're letting it all slip by.

I have the right to get enough sleep, as much as I think I need to remain healthy and (relatively) sane, and in whatever way and at whatever time I am able to get it; so shut up already about how decadent I am for sleeping in the afternoon. I'm sure if you would show up here in the middle of the night and find me wide awake, you would be equally critical of me for not sleeping normal hours, even though your reaction should be one of understanding as to why I sleep during the day, since my inability to sleep at night would thereby be explained; but, no-o-o-o, you are so-o-o-o damned "normal" yourself with your boring, whitebread diurnal sleep/wake cycle activities that you can't possibly comprehend any different kind of sleep arrangement. Oh, and by the way, stop fucking calling me and waking me up, goddammit. It's hard enough to get some quality sleep as it is without you interrupting it, you uncaring, insensitive asshole. I have a right to uninterrupted sleep. And, while I'm on the subject of basic rights, let me state that I also have the right to be free of harassment of any kind from anyone whom I deem to be a bother (including government agents and authorities). I have the right to live my life in my own way in the privacy of my own home. So, go away and leave me alone if you can't accept me the way I am. (Associations are so difficult sometimes.)

you can't have one without the other

Throughout history, people network to form associations to counteract the organization of the agents of mainstream authority that, if they don't outright discriminate to keep down elements of society that they are prejudiced against, then act influentially against them so as to "keep them in their place." Informal associations, then, provide a certain level of security and insulation from the overbearing formal and/or any wayward authority. This is instinctual human psychology. In its most basic form, it's tribalism.

Throughout history, underdogs rise up, if not to directly challenge a superimposed formal authority, then to act against it underground. The mainstream defines these anti-authoritarian movements as outlaw or criminal, because, opting to act according to codes of their own, they tend to disregard the "laws" that the mainstream makes and enforces, often for the expressed or implicit purpose of keeping the subjugated classes down.

Throughout history, second-class citizens have struggled against the mainstream authority as they have tried to establish their right to exist and prosper. They are never well-integrated into the mainstream, not only because the mainstream doesn't want them and allows them to exist only in subservience, but also because the subjugated classes wish to preserve their different, often ethnic, identity from the threat of its loss via assimilation into the mainstream monoculture. It's a primary historical trend: the Jews, the Irish, the Scots, etc. ...

I'm not saying that it's "wrong" that the mainstream culture acts to assimilate sub-groups. It's a fact, that's all; it's the way we are as a species, it's what we do. But neither am I maintaining that it's "right" to attempt to preserve cultural identity in the face of the drive toward social simplification into monoculture. I'm just saying that there are (at least) two sides to every history, and alternative associations protect alternative identities. And I'm not saying that, when prejudice arises in the mainstream against the underdogs, it is not prompted, and sometimes even deserved, by an already extant prejudice against the mainstream within the sub-group. When you define yourself as different, and when you become exclusive in defense of your identity, it is seen as, and often actually is, itself prejudice. True, prejudice against authority is often all but impotent (prompting subcultural intellects to conclude, erroneously, that the sub-groups cannot even be prejudiced against the majority); nevertheless, when the authority positions itself against exclusivity, it is, from its own point of view, protecting itself. It's a two-way street: elite exclusivity breeds underdog exclusivity, and vice versa. It's a chicken/egg phenomenon: neither comes first; both evolve together as a symbiotic relationship. You can't have one without the other.

So, let's form an association, you and I: a group of two (or three, or four, or...), a hedge against the authority that keeps us down--because I know they've been keeping me down. How about you? We can act in concert to thwart, if only in some minor way, the oppression of the mainstream authority. [It's just an idle dream of mine; forget it. I don't think, even for a minute, that anyone will take me up on it. It's a fantasy, the establishment of a new cult a la the Freemasons whose limited number of members (if it gets too big, it starts to become an "authority") secretly insulates its members from the larger, oppressive authority. But, then, any kind of a social establishment, no matter how small, will eventually begin to grate on me. It's enough, I feel, to have a few good friends; and even that, sometimes, seems like a fantasy I've had, when they turn out to be not so good as I imagined.]


I've all but stopped writing [all this evidence to the contrary; but consolidation creates the illusion of production; and I've all but stopped doing pretty much of anything else too, and there is much evidence for that in my current life], because I feel like all I'm doing is saying the same things over and over again [and because everything else I try do seems like it creates more problems, or runs into dead-ends, or is just so much mundane repetition, the same thing over and over again]: acting v. waiting; which of these modes should I be in when? Sometimes, acting is necessary, even essential; more often, simply waiting is enough to make most "problems" disappear:

Winter is a caustic time, when pipes freeze and mounting a "mission" (an inspected-expired car requires planning and extra vigilance to assure success) to Home Depot to buy more heat tape becomes a priority; when simply hiding away in a super-heated bedroom, out of the nearly frozen house, is too comfortable to forego; when going out into the house to build a fire in the woodstove (and venture out in zero degree weather to get more wood from the woodshed, or merely mail from the mailbox) is a major daily event;

Winter (like any ordeal) is just another episode that I have to wait out and get through. This year, after a global-warming beginning, the cold became extreme, waking me up to the reality that I've stretched my detachment out about as far as it can go. I've got to re-involve myself in the ongoing life beyond my brain, I think. I don't want to do this. Everything seems to be telling me to wait, just a little bit longer, wait it out, things will get better. But will they? Or will my inaction allow conditions to continue to worsen, such as when pipes freeze and damage progresses through inattention? (If that is what will happen; hints of paranoia are arising?) It so difficult knowing when to wait and when to act.

Meanwhile, short of stoppage, or perhaps abetted by it and, with nothing else to do, by my preoccupation with the tv news, the anti-authoritarian paranoia escalates:

It's so obvious that Scooter Libby and his ilk in Washington are lying or, to put their antics in their best light, spinning the "facts" to their best interest; but in any case, their behavior is less than straightforward, which is not helping their case(s) at all and is making them look all the more guilty. It would go much better for them if they weren't such sycophantic idiots who are determined to take bullets for Cheney and Bush.

I relate this to my own (business) life of a number of years ago: I would never have taken a bullet for anyone (above me, although I did protect several of my subordinates on a number of occasions at my own expense), but I was not above spinning facts to my own defense or betterment. Now, however, I've come to see the error of my ways: So, now, I don't defend my past actions, but instead take an offensive tack designed, not to whitewash, but yet still to blame:

Yeah, at times I was an asshole. So what? Nearly everyone I worked with was an asshole, in one way or another. (It's interesting that I never suffered any real setbacks until, nearly burned out, I gave up and stopped trying to defend myself with deflective and divergent techniques.) You're all assholes. The mere fact that you still blame me is proof enough of this. So, now, I blame you back. I'm just me, just like you. So fuck you too. I was wrong; but that doesn't at all make you right.

And as for Scooter Libby and his cohorts, fuck you too.

Joyce called around one or two this afternoon and left a message while I was still sleeping. Now, at six, I feel guilty for not calling her back; but I just don't feel like talking to her--or anyone. I've just spent two hours mildly anguishing over my decision not to call her, but I just don't want to deal with her, especially since, she said in her message, it's about a paper for school that "Jimmie" is writing (which means that she's writing it for him).

I'm tired of them (though I still value the kids; otherwise I might be tempted to break off relations with them altogether). I'm tired of Joyce and her desultory antics, calling me when she needs something and otherwise ignoring me, which is not really a complaint because I prefer it that way; but it calls her behavior into question: she only calls me when I can do something for her. How is that supposed to make me feel? Wanted? Needed? Or used?

And, I hate to admit to this but, I'm tired of my brother too. But, at least, he defers to me and thinks of me in a more positive way (I think). But I'm tired of his undependability and his general defeatist attitude toward life. And, despite the fact that I know my changing attitude toward them (which is a result of their continued incorrigible attitudes and behaviors) will precipitate a negative reaction toward me, I'm in the process of deciding that I need not cater to them when they call on me and expect my help or presence. I'm not going to call Joyce back simply out of a sense of guilt.

Anyway, how many times have I called them and asked them to call me back and never received an answer? But I know exactly what's going to happen if I don't call her. I'll be blamed for not being responsive. I'll be the bad guy--the scapegoat, really; because all of their denial will be projected onto me. But I don't care. Again, fuck them too. I'm fed up generally, and, in particular, I'm fed up with them. I'm going to live my own life for a while. (Yeah, like I haven't been doing that all along, like this isn't all one big projection.)

my compromise(s)

It's always something. If it's not one thing, it's another. Who was it who used to say that all the time? I can't remember. The freeze is taking its toll, mentally and physically. Today, for the first time in well over a week, the temperature rose above 32 degrees, and water is dripping here and there and threatening to break out into major leaks. Nothing significant yet, not much more than usual; but "threatening" is the operant word here. But the real threat is, of course, inside my own damn self: I've been fighting off the usual winter malaise and pending spring depression by hiding in my super-heated mini-bedroom and doing nothing, really, while pretending to being productive. Last year at this time, under similar conditions, I'd already finished two novels and was half way through a third; this year, no such discipline, my "dedication" devoted to long hours practicing scales and fingering exercises on the guitar, trying in vain to improve my jazz improvisation skills.

It pisses me off that I can't master music in the way that I have (if I do say so myself) mastered the written word, or even painting and drawing--which I haven't really mastered, but I recognize that I could if only I would devote the same amount of time to it as I have to writing; yet never with music. I spend long hours painstakingly practicing scales and progressions, but I just can't seem to consistently keep in mind where I am in any given music piece or segment. I get easily lost and no amount of practice seems to improve my ability in this regard. (This may be more a function of a marked inability to focus than of anything to do with music per se; my attention wanders, and when I write, I can sidestep as often as I like, or even incorporate the wandering into my work as an element of style.) In short, I don't express myself so well musically. And yet, listening to music, I understand it so well, intellectually as well as expressively. But I guess I'm destined to remain a dedicated amateur.

But I am taking precautions to avoid or at least ameliorate mental/physical winter problems by supplementing my typical (more or less, except that I've eating this same damn meal almost every day for several weeks) balanced diet of one-pot diced boneless skinless chicken breasts (microwaved in huge batches, refrozen, and stored for individual meals), rice (pre-boiled and also stored), a vegetable (usually peas; rice, peas, and chicken is a perfectly balanced source of essential amino acids), a dose of cider vinegar, a little bit of pepper and sea salt, all started off with some braised onions and chopped garlic...supplementing all of that with a quality Norwegian cod liver oil (emulsive, fortified, and orange-flavored; it's not as bad as I imagined, but, then, there was a time not too long ago when I even began to actually enjoy a daily dose of the plain unflavored crap. It just proves that the human bodymind can adjust to anything).

I've been hiding away as I continue to write out (parts of) my life in order not to have to live it (so much), especially the more toxic (or maybe I mean noxious) parts. I know I'm going to have to bite the bullet one of these days and attack the long and continually growing list of maintenance tasks I am compiling, before my leaking roof loses any structural stability it has left and comes crashing down on my head, metaphorically speaking, of course, the roof being a symbol of the list, or of the mind that creates it, which are themselves symbols of the mental effort I expend to provide myself with a psychological safety net, a hedge against the (real and imagined) horrors of the world, the tamest, yet most prevalent of which is being without a warm and intact place to live (survive) within.

The operant word here is "within." I try to keep it all inside and let it out in a controlled stream (of words). Long lists of tasks and plans and goals and longer paragraphs of rationalizations and explanations are my way of controlling what might otherwise result in mental disaster. It's a system that's been working very well so far for a relatively long time, far better than the way I used to control myself (which I often still today imagine is the world) when I was younger, stonewalling everything that threatened me (which was a whole lot more than now), holding almost everything in [the idea of an anal retentive personality comes to mind, a self-diagnosis that I have all but grown out of] and entertaining absolutely no possibility even of any kind of explosion. Oh, to be that young and strong again. But I am not. My only alternative to exploding (mostly metaphorically, but who knows how much repressed residual affect remains hidden in the depths awaiting the thaw to feel its way that far down--hmm; there's something wrong with that metaphor, it's reversed or something; fuck it) is to let the pressure off slowly via written words.

Because, if I have to go "there" and actually do something physical, I kind of see that as a failure, especially when it's so cold outside. (I feel this way sometimes in the summer too; but not so often. It's more of a winter thing.) That's a big compromise these days, going out (even just into the colder house) and doing something. I want the luxury of doing what I must do only when I want to do it, which, I guess, is a kind of oxymoronic schizoid-ism. My physical life itself is a compromise. In order to have adequate amounts of time to deal with my "mentality" (for lack of a better concept), I scale back physical existence to a large degree. [And my "love" life is also a compromise, ever since I recognized that, in order to "be myself" (whatever that means), I need to admit that activities like buying women presents, etc. to celebrate birthdays and holidays like Christmas, Valentine's Day, etc. is not something I enjoy doing; in fact, it rankles me.] I've been calling all of this "detachment," but it's not, really. I am still addicted in my mind, even more than I am in my body, to the creature comforts of the modern world (including, especially, women). Fantasy can do that for you, when you are so beset with a troubled intellect. If I can't have a comfortable and relatively expensive home with a comfortable and relatively expensive woman, I can write about it. Fantasy is a powerful tool to hone your edge with.

Of course, this is all a winter phenomenon, and in the summer, I am out and about freely, especially in the gardens, but even out in that real world, which is not really all that real, if the truth be known, which it is not, usually. But in the interim, as long as the words keep piling up and I can measure out my life with coffee spoonfuls of titles that I imagine look like progress, I can convince myself that I am doing something worthwhile and so need not so much concern myself with stupid little things like maintaining the intactness of water pipes and roofs, so long as a major disaster does not occur. Water leakage has been a major theme in my life for quite some time: basement walls, pipes in the kitchen, bathroom, and basement; roofs, both house and sheds; at almost any time, something somewhere is leaking within my domain. It's so prevalent that I sometimes think that someone or something is trying to tell me something. Is something else less physical leaking that I am unaware of? Wits, perhaps? Is there some metaphysical disaster pending, having been developing so very slowly for a long, long time?

I have to keep reminding myself that, despite the "outside" environment, right now, here, inside, everything is quite all right. Right now, that is, at any given moment, everything is usually all right. Real-time major catastrophes are few and far between and leave little time for reflection since their very nature usually requires that immediate action be taken. When you have the free time and luxury to think about past and ensuing events, when all of the damage is done, all of the victims triaged, all of the wounds bandaged and already beginning to heal (the human body is a wonderfully adaptive mechanism; and so is the mind), you can truly claim that, yeah, it's been a bitch, but right now, for this calm moment, everything is all right; and (here's the kicker) it's always right now. When you have the time to think about it, it's already in the past. The future is another matter; and this is the essential issue here: threat, fear, a foreboding sense of pending disaster, is alleviated via this Pollyanna sense of right now. There is no future; it's always a fiction. (And psychism is a fantasy.)

You never have to compromise the present. Now, you just do; and any behavioral psychologist will tell you that thinking, despite its questionable reputation, is a form of doing. Compromise is a matter of reconciling past and present (and future, in fantasy). So, in the spirit of compromise, because my past unpublished journals continue to pile up (and up) and it doesn't look like I'm going to be getting to them any time soon, I've decided to abandon the monthly pastiche format, at least for a while. It's too time-consuming, even with the six-month lag. Writing transitions is too painstaking, even if the internal reward is great. Instead, I'm going to go back to publishing shorter, more discrete pieces, more like an ordinary online journal, like I used to do--although my rambling, discursive style may end up making many of the pieces (such as this one) seem like mini-pastiches (it's not; I wrote this one all in one go); which is how I derived the pastiche format in the first place. See? I can't stop. It just goes on and on. And on...I've made this anti-pastiche (or anti-thematic unity or whatever format in other forms) decision many times before; but it never stuck. It's likely that this one also will not stick.

Oh, yeah. Now I remember. Good night, my little Roseanne Roseannadanna.

my variable psychology

Okay, campers. Rise and shine. And don't forget you're booties, 'cause it's cold out there.
Morning radio DJ, Groundhog Day
Sometimes I awaken in the middle of the night (it's almost always in the middle of the night; this very seldom happens when I awaken after sleeping during the day, because days hold such promise, especially when they are bright and sunny), convinced that one or another of my self-diagnoses is wrong, that I am not whatever, I am this other thing instead. I call this phenomenon my variable psychology.1

Now, tonight, I am schizophrenic, again. All that Asperger's crap from last year? Forget it. Tonight I realize I am living in my little nest of a bedroom split off from the world of normal reality; tonight is the culmination of months and months of dedication to goals I understand quite well but do not often ever feel like making happen (i.e., I lack the motivation). Can I really even call them goals when I never seem to try to accomplish them? Are they something else instead? Mere fantasies, perhaps. Just another form of wishful thinking and/or false hope? No matter. Tonight, I realize that in my prolonged schizoid state I may have once again gone too far.

I do this from time to time, go too far in one direction, in pursuit of idle dreams and visions, struggling against the world and my own basic nature while, at the same time complying with different aspects of both, allowing the world to direct resources (both material and psychological) my way, compiling information and hoarding physical resources, waiting for the day when it will all come together and I will sprint the last ten yards to the goal line in one mad dash (or get to it more slowly, if the sport requires a dedicated marathon instead), until I come up against this wall of self-doubt, wonder why I live this way, and begin to worry if I am after all doing the right thing:

Should I instead abandon this esoteric existence in favor of a more conventional one, should I toss out all of my accumulated "resources" (which others would probably consider mere junk, because they just don't know), and try to live a more "normal" life? Is it even possible to alter one's perception of life that way, by changing one's physical existence? Does repression of symptoms create mental health? Is someone who goes to all the trouble of appearing normal really so? Is normality (and sanity), after all, nothing more than a dedicated (if merely unconscious) commitment to conventional standards of behavior? Or is it the other way around, normality being the awareness of and/or the ability to adopt the standards of conformity? Repressives do tend to be "normal" people, while sensitizers tend not to be, so much; but, then, sensitizers tend to be (far) more aware, even as they are frequently unable to make themselves conform to the awareness. It's a toss-up.

These conjectures are prompted by the dream I woke up out of: I'm in an empty classroom, early and waiting for the final exam. It's not a conventional classroom, but is, rather, a small, narrow room with a long table in the center surrounded with twenty or so chairs, the kind of room where advanced honors classes are held. I haven't been to any of the classes all semester and I'm beginning to worry about how I'm going to do on the test. If it's a multiple choice test, I think, then I know I'll do well, since I'm good at standard test formats, even when the material is unfamiliar to me, which this stuff (some esoteric psychological subject) certainly is. It's a small classroom, and I start to wonder why I chose not to attend classes, since the professor surely knows by now every member of the class and will easily spot the fact that I am a wayward soul. [The authorities will soon know all about my deviance and take steps to "reel me in," as soon as "the professor" arrives.] I'm playing on a mini-recorder a tape of "notes" that at the beginning of the semester I had borrowed from the professor. I don't know how I accomplished this, since I've never even actually met him; yet he knows I have the tape. The tape is unraveling and I'm trying to wind it back into the cassette. A single student shows up and takes a seat; then the professor and another student come in. Written on a chalk board (I hadn't noticed this before) is a long series of symbol-like lettering, almost as if they were physics formulas, except that I am vaguely aware that they represent, not physical, but rather psychological, concepts. I'm at a total loss as to their meaning, but I realize that they're a part of the test. The professor asks one of the students about the symbols on the board and she begins to respond, directing her comments to me, acting as if she's looking for confirmation of her correctness, as if I should know, or at least as if I should work in tandem with her to discover if she is right. I feel a sudden horror at the idea that the test is going to be an oral one and that we three are the only students in the class. I begin to get sick to the stomach; but in another sense, I'm feigning illness in order to have an excuse to leave the class, because I'm about to be discovered for the fraud that I am. I get up and prepare to rush out, but I take the time to gather up my things first. The professor knows, has known all along, about the game I'm playing; but he's been playing along as if he has been ignorant of it. I pick up the tape player with the unraveling tape and rush out, but the professor calls after me to leave his tape. I confess to him that it is unraveling and I will have to wind it back in first. This disturbs him and, although he doesn't appear to be too upset about it, he claims that I've ruined it; but I assure him that this has happened to me before and that I can fix it. We're in the hallway now as I am winding the tape back into the cassette. He says something like, "Did you think you could get away with this deception." I answer him by saying that I have taken lots of tests in subjects that I've known nothing about and passed them all with little difficulty.

Usually, I am so (overly) self-confident, that I never question my ability to do any given thing. I automatically assume I can do it, regardless of the facts. (I can pass any test, except an oral one--which requires that I interface directly with people.) But, when faced with "reality" (the definition of which disturbs me when I realize that it is consensual), I suffer a setback and am forced to confront my less than adequate social nature. So, my life is a balancing act between two modes: social interaction; and my own intrinsic, isolated self. And, right now, the society out "there" seems to be winning, while I, in here, wonder how it is that I con myself into believing that I can do without it.

Each day, I sink a little bit deeper into a hole.
Each day, I do a little bit less, accomplish less.
Each day, I wonder that the day before I accomplished more;
yet I worried then that it was so little, it could hardly be less.
Each year, I write out more or less these same thoughts.
I learn nothing from experience. There is no improvement.
But neither is there any degradation--except that I am older.
I worry that, if I am not careful, I will one day go too far.
Swim too far out.
(Like I did off Sarasota one year, tide-fighting.)
Stay out in the cold too long and freeze to death.
Do something, anything, too stupid for words.
Burn myself up in a blaze of wood stove dis-attention.

Last night I went down into the garage to get something and I couldn't remember if I shut the door. If I hadn't, the basement would chill down and the pipes would freeze (again). I was in bed, comfortable and cozy, up all night after an evening nap, working on my laptop and getting ready to watch a recording of Lost, Frontline, and Independent Lens, when I "remembered" that I might not have shut the door. I get up, get dressed, wrap my heavy-duty, wool-knit, knee-length scarf around my neck, put on my heavy coat, and go out into the single-digit night (my basement has no inside egress from the house) to check the door. It's closed. Doubt. That's how it always starts.


In the morning, the pipes to the kitchen sink almost froze again. I discovered it just in time and got the space heater in place beneath the sink. (It's a lot easier to prevent them from freezing than to thaw them out afterwards.) All of the windows are glazed over with frozen condensation, reminding me of the summerhouse in Dr. Zhivago. As I build a fire in the woodstove, I hear from outside the caw of a crow. I have to listen twice to make sure what it is I'm hearing. How can a crow even survive out in this single-digit weather? This internal freeze is just another example of how I go too far, not heating the house, but only the bedroom, so that my cost of living is reduced to the absolute minimum.

[All my life, especially in my jobs, I pushed too hard and went too far. I did (I would have thought, if I had actually thought of it instead of acting on stressed-out auto-pilot) what I had to do to survive--and prosper. I would say that I could have backed off a bit and foregone all of the (bad, or questionable) things I did in order to, just, survive; but I suspect that it wouldn't have been enough in the balance, when the extra income I made that provides for me now might have ended up outweighing any increase in physical and mental health I might have gained. In other words, I might still be in the compromised situation I am now in, but without the means I accumulated by pushing as hard as I did when I had the opportunities and the youth. And then there is the idea that, my psychology being what it is, I would have pushed too hard anyway and gone too far in some other (non-employment related) activity, which might have left me as I am, but without the extra resources. So, in sum, I'd say that I did what I had to do, and the proof of that is that I am still alive and in a (relatively) secure situation.]

At some time in the future (this is the plan, which I may never execute), my austerity will pay off and I can go back to living a (more or less) normal, more comfortable life. In other words, I'm hanging on, hanging in there, doing without too many creature comforts, just for "a while" (and, very especially, this is at its most extreme in winter when I fight the cold); but the while that I am waiting for may turn out to be a lot longer that I anticipate. It seems to be turning into a way of life, which maybe I will not ever want to give up, especially since I've worked so hard to "detach" myself. (The harder we have to work for something, the harder we try to hang onto it.) But this is the plan: today's austerity is tomorrow's comfort--unless it happens to become tomorrow's ability to survive, when otherwise I will have perished, had I not taken these austere precautions now and earlier. Then, in the future, my current daily practice of austerity may become even more essential. This is the real worry: future survival (a subset of the fear of death); will I be able to survive in an increasingly expensive world without additional income? (I'm ignoring social security because, who knows?) A major part of that plan's intent is to hedge against that expense so that my net worth continues to increase, so that I am not using up valuable assets for the simple cost of living, let alone squandering it on excessive personal comfort. (And, also--which will sometimes worry me further, that I allow this expense against future assets--I scrimp on creature comforts in order to have money for art and art-related supplies.) Maybe, it will turn out that I will not have had to live this way. Maybe, everything will have turned out to be okay. But how can I ever be sure beforehand?

After a brief while marginally heating up the house, I return to the warm bedroom and turn on the tv. FOX news is trying, yet again, to justify the war in Iraq. I see the situation this way:

1) The neo-cons, despite what they say, want to remain permanently in Iraq. That was their whole purpose for going there in the first place, to establish a presence and introduce Western culture and influence more deeply into the region.

2) After the '06 elections, Bush realized that the Dems were going to try to force a withdrawal from Iraq. If it weren't for the Democratic victory, the administration might have been content to forgo the "surge" and maintain the status quo. More than anyone else, they understand how stretched to the limit our armed forces are.

3) The surge response isn't being done to "win" in Iraq. It's merely an attempt to counteract the Dems push to de-escalate. This kind of thing is done all the time. It's a standard negotiating technique. You raise the ante so that if the time comes when you have to "compromise," you can give back the changes and end up where you started. If the Dems force Bush to abandon his surge, they'll claim that they won; and we'll still be in Iraq at pre-election strength.

I've not heard this explanation from any news source or pundit blathering; and I've been watching pretty much full time. So, maybe I'm just crazy; but it seems rather obvious to me.

The neo-cons in power are assholes. Now, don't get me wrong, I like assholes; but not in positions of power and authority. Assholes make good outlaws. If Bush were a Hell's Angel (and maybe he is, in a different sense of the label) or even just a simple celebrity, I'd think he was great. But as a president, he's socially misplaced. This seems to be a common phenomenon lately. Everything seems to have gotten turned bass ackwards. Or maybe it always was that way and we (i.e., I) just never noticed it:

To a conservative, "individual liberty" means the freedom to live as affluent a life as you are capable of, and the freedom to waste away and die if you are not capable. To a liberal, it means the freedom from an inability to survive. In this sense, liberals are the true Christians. Now, how did it get turned so that conservatives carry the Christian banner while they label liberals as godless infidels? This comes about because the conservatives (who tend to be repressives) who engage in this defamation can't accept what they are and so must deny the anti-Christian agenda within themselves and project it onto liberals (who tend to be sensitizers and so more willing accept it as the truth about them, even when it is not); or, if conservatives are not in denial about their false-Christ faith, they hold to both sets of beliefs (true and faux Christianity) at the same time. Cognitive dissonance is a marvelous capacity.

People who know me, because of the positions I take, consider me to be a liberal. But I don't think I am. It's true that I agree with a lot of liberal agendas, at least in part. But I also see the conservative side and agree, in part, with those agendas too. For example, I believe that, if millions of people die an early death because they can't get access to adequate health care, well, hey, that's life. Shit happens. Natural selection. Survival of the fittest. (But if, during a liberal administration, they are provided with adequate healthcare, then they demonstrate that they are capable of surviving via their socially advanced political ability.) I have to accept both side to the degree that they present logical arguments, no matter how "wrong" I think they are otherwise.

For example, I want this next idea to be wrong, so much; but I suspect that it is not. This is a horrible realization to come to, but I believe it's true: blacks will never overcome the plight of their second-class status as long as they continue to hang onto their black culture; because it's a culture of losers. White bigots intuitively know this, and so they reinforce the stereotypes, which serves to keep blacks "in their place."

It's unfortunate that white Europeans have defined the Western world in this way; and maybe a few millennia hence our expanding monoculture will learn how to modify its monopoly to incorporate subcultures; but for now, if the underclasses want true freedom, they have no choice but to adopt the European standard, not only superficially, such as in speech and appearance, but in mainstream cultural values as well. The underclasses are not going to change the majority opinion as to what constitutes acceptable cultural behavior (except in the arts, which doesn't really count. We're talking about business money here, and even in the arts, business money talks--and art walks).

Blacks, finally, at least in this country, are in a position to integrate economically and socially; but only if they compromise their culture. Look at those who have already accomplished this integration. They look, act, and live like whites. [The blacks who have been most successful at overcoming this cultural burden are the musicians, especially the jazz musicians, yet they still remain a sub-class; and hip-hop ganstas have turned that "progress" back around.] Truly socially successful blacks have for the most part turned their backs on their downtrodden race. Meanwhile, the bigots continue to define the black counterculture as being composed of laggards and outlaws, which the counterculturalists themselves reinforce in their effort to remain different and apart. The black counterculture is entrenched as a second class, and it is likely to remain so for a long time to come. I'd love to be able to do something about this perception, at least in my own mind; but I can't. I see it as too logical a conclusion, Spock.


Logic is my forte, and my flaw (Often, I fail to take human motivation and emotional behavior into account). At times, I am relentless in my application of cold logic to my analysis of the world universe and especially to myself--although, when they are about my own psychology, I often do not report the conclusions I come to; some of them are just too personally disturbing to share. [Proper application of a logical method should reveal the "logic" of all sides of an issue; but most often, when reporting my ideas, I leave out all logic except that which I favor.]

Most of what I discover about myself that I fail to reveal has to do with relationships (especially about episodes earlier on in my life). One of my primary (and dubious) skills, which I hardly ever realize when it's happening, even now, is my ability to attract women. It's an entirely unconscious agenda, the most superficial layer of a lustfulness and profound need for attention (I theorize), both of which I have always kept well hidden and in check. I mention this now, despite my reticence, under the guidance of a therapeutic muse. It's the sight of women, more than any other aspect of their being, that attracts me. This is, I am certain, mainstream normal; but something else is at work, I suspect, that creates the reciprocal attraction. I'd say this phenomenon has something to do with love, but…

Sometimes I think that maybe (except for one time that I'm sure of--no, make that two) I've never really been in love, that what I thought was love was just obsessive pre-occupation, having gone too far in my desire for someone. (Some people called it infatuation; but I don't think that's an accurate term, at least not in my case.) But I've just realized that maybe there's a litmus test for love (I don't know how I could ever have missed this) that really works (at least for me): If I feel jealous when I see a woman with another guy, then I must be in love with her or something.

For years I've been claiming (secretly, to myself) that I've been in love with the wife of a (casual) friend of mine; but when I think of them in bed together, I feel not one bit of jealousy. So, I guess, I'm not really in love. (Although maybe I should make an allowance for the fact that I fell "in love" with the woman after I knew she was married; it might make a difference if I had fallen in love with her and then she got married. Maybe.)

So, anyway, there's this girl. (There always is.) We've been kind of circling around each other at a bit of a distance for some time now. I'm wary (shell shocked; gun shy) and she's (I think; I think I see the signs of this) intimidated by my awesome appearance. I don't mean that in an egomaniacal way--well, maybe I do, just a little bit. What I mean to mean is that the outlaw veneer I've developed to keep people at a distance works against me when I try to attract women to me without going to the bother of actually approaching them, disabusing them of my stalwart mien, and letting them see what a really nice guy I am when I let my guard down. I'd rather they just break through on their own, without my help. It's a kind test I apply: if they have the balls (metaphorical, of course) to approach and hit on me, then maybe they're (one of) the one(s). [This is far more than just a test, it's a fundamental aspect of my psychology; but I've written of this many times before and really don't want to get back into it here.]

Anyway, today I see this girl--woman--entering the house of the two guys who live across the street; and I wonder why. Why would she visit them? I knew she knew them casually, as a result of knowing the people who live next door to them in the other half of the duplex. But I didn't know she was friends with them; or maybe she's something more. Maybe she's "dating" one of them. (I've never seen them actually "going out.") One of the guys (I don't know his name, so I secretly call him Blondie because he resembles Clint Eastwood in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly) is dating some cute little Italian-looking girl, so if this girl is seeing one of these guys, it's (probably) not him. But I haven't seen that girl's car around for quite some time, so maybe they've broken up. And the other guy? Hmm. What could she possibly see in him? (I do know his name, but I call him Zippy because, well, it very accurately describes him, even down to the style of clothing he wears.) But maybe they're all just friends; or, maybe, they're "friends with benefits." Again, hmm. Maybe they're all beneficial friends. My mind is starting to run wild. This all bothers me, a lot. So much that I don't want to even think about it.

And all of a sudden it hits me:

Omigod, I'm jealous!


I go to bed this night unable to stop thinking about her.

a sub-culture of one

I go into a classroom to take a test, not the kind for a course, but more like an SAT; it's a test that's required before I can start to attend school here, as if this is the first day of enrollment. There are not a whole lot of seats available when I get here. I have a choice between sitting far in the back or taking one of the few seats up front. I sit in the front row, one seat from the windows on the left. The test consists of two parts, which overlap; that is, in typical dream fashion, they both exist at the same time, as if there is only one part, but that part has two separate natures, almost like two versions of the same dream, except that it is only one version. The first part requires that the answers be placed on a sheet of paper, starting with the first answer in the upper left corner with each subsequent answer listed down to the bottom and then the next answer placed up at the top to the right of the first answer, and so on. I start the list by placing the number 1 at the top left of the page and I begin to write down the answers, which are letters, so the test must be multiple choice, although there is no indication of this in the dream. I get to about number eight or nine (there are no numbers other than the first; and there are, actually, also no questions either, but that doesn't seem to phase me) when I realize that one of the rules is that you cannot skip a question because you cannot leave a blank space and you cannot come back to any question later. You must fill the answer out as you come to it and, if you don't know the answer, then you're stuck and stopped and cannot go on. [It doesn't occur to me to simply put any old answer down; that is, to guess. Once, in the seventh grade, I came into a history class, after having been sick the previous day, and discovered that we had a test. The nun had informed the class on the previous day as to how to prepare their papers for the test, which was to fold it length-wise twice and number the first column down the left hand side. She was a real bitch, a stickler for detail, and totally unsympathetic to students (like the way I apply logic, without considering the human element). When I raised my hand to try to get instructions, she ignored me after informing me that she told us all yesterday how to do this and to come to class prepared and she wasn't about to repeat her instructions now. I asked the girl who sat behind me, but she was too afraid to speak to me, fearing the nun's wrath; but I gleaned from how she and others around me prepared their papers what I was supposed to do, but too late to hear the nun's first four questions. That, along with the fact that, not being there, I hadn't known to read the material that was assigned, caused me to fail the test. So, what did I learn from this incident? Teachers are overbearing assholes who are too concerned with their own mechanistic sense of rules and regulations to ever actually teach you anything; in fact, I feel like everything I ever learned I learned on my own. This is not be true, of course; but it's the way I feel. I wrote of this before somewhere, but I can't find it now to link to it. I also remember, in a different class in the same school, being taught that maize was a different kind of corn, not the one we knew, but a far smaller ear. At least that was the way I interpreted the lesson. I can see now how I might have twisted the message (or the nun who taught it could have just been wrong). In fact, maize is what we now know as corn, although our modern variety has been developed to produce larger and more succulent ears. But before maize became known as corn in America, the word "corn" meant any local grain, usually wheat in England. Misinformed and misanthropic teachers taught me a lot of fucked-up things. Education, even in America, is not all it's made out to be.] Students are working at differing speeds, so it's not at all obvious where the questions are coming from. They are not being read aloud and we have no written material. All we need do is list the next answer in order as we go along. The other version of the test requires that answers, each a small, squarish bead, be placed in an empty translucent white plastic gallon milk jug, arranged first around the perimeter and then progressively toward the center, but not starting at the bottom, but at the top. To accomplish this, you have to lay the jug on its side; but, still, it's an impossible task. The lack of my ability to leave a blank space and return to it later and the difficulty of stacking the beads inside the milk jug disturb me. The more I ponder the rules, the more pissed off I get until I finally deem these instructions as too difficult to follow and I become extremely irate, which I want to express, but do not. I want to and imagine I do throw an Xacto knife I have at a tall, narrow cork bulletin board along the side of the blackboard at the front of the room, where the knife, I imagine, sticks. But I never actually throw it. Instead, I get up and leave the room, angry. Other students, following my lead, leave after me. They are also pissed, or else dumbfounded, by the test. I go, first, to the top of a stairwell in the middle of the building; but instead of descending, I go to a stairwell at the far end (northeast corner) of the building. I never actually descend here either; but, in a sense, I am outside near the top of Crestline Street in the neighborhood where I grew up. I, again, imagine without actually doing it, that I go into the woods, leading the other students who have followed me. There, we begin a protest rally. But in another sense, I never leave the floor. Instead I go to the far back (southwest) corner. The entire floor is now one large auditorium-like room, except that, instead of having theater seats, it has desks and chairs. I sit in, first, the fourth chair from the stairwell, which is at the back of the room; the chairs face away from the stairwell. Then I move to the eighth chair, because, paradoxically, others have arrived there before me. A huge chart, divided into seating blocks, is being passed from desk to desk. We are supposed to sign our names in the box that corresponds to our seat position. (The chart is actually way too big to be passed.) The entire room, completely filled with seats, is eventually to be recorded in this way, although, presently, there are only about thirty or forty students who have taken seats (the room has a capacity of several hundred and maybe even a thousand)--although, again paradoxically, we cannot take seats until we sign the chart. I sign in at position number eight, but by the time the chart gets to thirty-four, I am up and walking around, discontent. As a result of my having gotten up (or maybe not) a second chart is started, so that there are now two circulating. As the test is about to start, someone realizes that the charts are not the same, and that I am not included in the "second" chart (which corresponds to a second test that will be given next). The two charts are supposed to be exactly the same, and we were supposed to have signed two when we signed up; and, although I never received these instructions, apparently everyone else had. (Cf., my seventh grade history class experience.) And, it is noticed, my name is on the first chart in the number four position, my seat before I changed it to number eight; and it is not on either chart at the number eight position, which is where I actually signed it. This causes the testing to halt. It can't go on because the two charts do not match.

I awaken highly disturbed, and pissed like I had been at the first test. This is exactly the way life is. I am supposed to fit into the social scheme, but I don't exactly understand the "rules" and no one has ever taken the time to tell me what they were, let alone explain them to me. I've been left to my own devices to figure them out, often erroneously; and I'm often pissed that the rules, whatever they may be, don't take into account my "difference"; they're generic and are meant to be applied to everyone equally, despite the way individual psychologies differ and suffer from what to some of them are overbearing and unnecessary strictures. I feel how terribly unfair the social system is, and how even more unfair it is that I do not fit into it, but must live out my life as apart from it as I can get and still survive; and, especially, how unfair it is that I have desires, especially sexual ones, that often get satisfied only in fantasy. I relate these feelings to my ideas about the girl the day before, and to the ideas I had written about re black sub-culture. I am myself a sub-culture, of one.

Click on footnote number to return to that respective point in the text.
1. I'm increasingly uncertain if I really have these (and many other) problems, or if some other kind of phenomenon occurs, something like "channeling" or transference or unconscious mimicry of behavior/ideas I've been exposed to (like a viral infection) or...whatever. And even if I do, from time to time, actually suffer from the "disabilities" (sometimes, such as in the case of my "depression," it's not really suffering when the techniques I use, in this case withdrawal into isolation, are welcome relief, even if they are symptoms of the "disease." I only suffer when I must remain within a society that does not take my "disability" into account, but prejudices itself against me), most often I don't see them as such, but rather as simply who I am.

It occurs to me that my self-definitions of my "aberrant" mental states may be like astrological breviloquents in that I perhaps I "read" myself into them. Astrological readings are generalized to a certain degree so as to appeal to anyone who reads them, regardless of their sign, enabling the devotees to interpret the reading in terms of their own life by projecting themselves onto the content. This has been proven by trials in which astrological summaries that falsely attributed signs to different readings were judged to be accurate by people who thought the readings were meant for people of their own sign. I may do this same kind of thing with descriptions of mental phenomena, thereby "channeling," not people with mental problems, but the (descriptions and analyses of the) problems themselves--although, still, introjection, like projection, needs a hook to hang onto.