Sunday, December 10, 2006

Follow a shadow, it still flies you; Seem to fly it, it will pursue. Ben Jonson

Some of us are taught, growing up, to fear the shame of failure. Then, we either spend our time quelling the fear directly, through repetitive accomplishment, or avoiding it by withdrawing. In either case, failure is a primary theme.

One of the great failures of Judeo-Christian culture is our apparent inability to recognize the manner in which prohibition and shame reinforces an underlying concept. Until we learn this, we are doomed to cultivate what we fear most.


TenaciousK said...

Follow-up (if you were curious).

Ben Jonson. 1573–1637

The Shadow

FOLLOW a shadow, it still flies you;
Seem to fly it, it will pursue:
So court a mistress, she denies you;
Let her alone, she will court you.
Say, are not women truly, then,
Styled but the shadows of us men?

At morn and even, shades are longest;
At noon they are or short or none:
So men at weakest, they are strongest,
But grant us perfect, they're not known.
Say, are not women truly, then,
Styled but the shadows of us men?

Granted Ben Jonson was writing 400 years ago; still, it strikes me that this is not a sexist observation. Rather, it's a gender-centric description of the manner in which men dream women up - both as same, and in opposition. The key word is "styled."

Anyway, that's my take. And I do love that first line...

Dawn Coyote said...

I know that dance. It can be fun.

I let you catch me.

Are we shadowless, then? Neither violent nor weak, not tormenting nor tormented?

TenaciousK said...

What fun would being shadowless be?

To be entirely without discord or dissonance - isn't that death?

Nope - I'd rather dance around it; continue to believe mutually exclusive things while simultaneously ignoring other, undeniable (but unpleasant) facts. Mortality comes to mind.

But, best name it for what it is. Once your shadow becomes your boogeyman (or your ideal - same thing) then it rules you by contrast, or by consonance (see "religious zealot" or "ideologue") I try to keep tabs on mine. My friends help me.


Dawn Coyote said...

"What you resist, persists"? That reminds me of the poem: "seem to fly it, it will pursue" or "so men at weakest, they are strongest".

Are those that we desire merely personifications of the cut-off parts of ourselves?

TenaciousK said...

Uhm, I dunno. Desire is so tricky - intensity, shifting polarities, and all that. I tend to think we desire people for their strengths - not the shadow, but what is evident. I think we love people for what is not evident, in much the same manner that children attach to their parents' subconscious selves, not the conscious. That attachment becomes the unnoticed landscape on which they begin to construct identity.

I do think we crave people who are wearing well something that resonates with our cut-off pieces. I'm not sure whether that is the same as desire (unless you want to have a conversation about how everything is sex, which while it might be true at some level, isn't really that useful an idea).

I think we crave people who can be welcoming of the aspects of ourselves we don't dare acknowledge or experience. That kind of relationship affords a developmental opportunity which, in the optimal case, is reciprocal.

fluffy black puppies said...

"I think we crave people who can be welcoming of the aspects of ourselves we don't dare acknowledge or experience. That kind of relationship affords a developmental opportunity which, in the optimal case, is reciprocal."

ok, that's getting closer to what i was trying to say awhile back, about why i considered that my one long-term relationship worked, even though we eventually split up.

TenaciousK said...

Yeah, though I'm sorry to hear about the breakup. Sometimes people are so good at perfectly fitting into some little missing spot in one's ego, it becomes almost irresistably convenient to fix them there. Unfortunately, being a puzzle piece, or buttress, doesn't lend itself well to continued developmental growth. So some relationships are good for awhile, but become problematic over time.

I think very appealing people face this problem all the time - being with them feels so good, we begin to lean on that good feeling (and feel quite disconcerted when they're not providing that for us). If someone is always relying on you to maintain their "happy place," it makes it very difficult for you to process uncomfortable feelings of your own, in the context of the relationship. This is one that tends to evolve over time, as the person you're with quits their efforts to manage these feelings on their own, in the face of the convenience and effectiveness with which their partner can accomodate them. Then, you're not in a relationship anymore, really - you've just got another job to do.

[Talking about ideals here, really. I mean, we're all human and all - just pays to be aware of the manner in which you're demanding something, or something is being demanded you, and what this costs.]

BTW, I never responded to the link you gave me about "Taken in hand." I found the site to be quite distressing - an exercise in rationalization. I think there's a fine line between power games that are adaptive, and those that are fixing people in a certain place they're never allowed out of. Those folks sounded like they were way beyond adaptive mutual exploration and growth-engendering broadening of role flexibility. I mean, safe, sane, and whatever is all well and good, but forcing or coercing someone into doing a particular job for you, without allowing their input about what the job description entails, is abusive.

Oh - and there's never a rational justification for rape. That people believe they find one says something sort of depressing about capacity for objectification and self-deception in human beings, rather than something about situations in which its ok to take control over another person. You wouldn't believe what you'd hear from some hardcore pedophiles: cognitive contortionism.

I'll probably post something about it, some time.

fluffy black puppies said...

yes, well, that was a big cause of the split. i was the maintainer of the happy place.

he did get treated for depression a few years after we split up, but didn't stay with it. i can sympathize actually. my few dalliances with antidepressants were less than spectacular too.

those "taken in hand" people [and their ilk] really really irritate me. i know some of them [not necessarily the ones from that site]. i'm not sure how much of it is the christian fundamentalist influence, or the redneck ways, or the rural south mentality, but it seems to be, if not the norm here, then something close to it.

my feelings about these women constantly cycle from: "gurl! you can do better than that!" to "well, if it works, it's right because it works" [thanks for those words, btw] to "oh, you people just deserve each other" and round and round and back again.

i was once in a brief relationship, in a friends-with-benefits kind of way, with someone who wanted me to be the rapist. with a broom handle. and we're not talking about safe, sane, consensual, acting-out-a-fantasy, either. we're talking about the real thing.

amid all the shouting and so forth that this little scene engendered, i really wanted to do it, too, and i was getting really turned on. the more i wanted to, the more aroused i got, and the more aroused i got, the more i wanted to. i'm not sure which emotion finally won out, fear, anxiety, disgust, who knows, but i didn't go that far. i'm pretty sure i remembered to throw on some clothes before i stormed out of the house and threw up in the vacant lot down the street.

sure, there's other stuff involved, but anybody who says rape isn't about sex doesn't understand, at least not fully.

yes, it was a "peak" experience emotionally, but so was the time i got mugged and thought i was fightimg for my life. i can see why people both like the rush of whichever-brain-chemicals and don't want the responsibility for the mind-wildness [or the physical wildness].

it's not right to place that kind of burden on someone else, nor is it a good thing to take up that burden. people who are unable and unwilling to take responsibility for their own emotional and physical well-being can suck the life right out of you. i suspect this lack of compassion might be a protective mechanism designed to keep us from getting entangled with such people.

i was thinking just the other day about that fray conversation we had about pedophiles and treatable pedophilia and was going to ask you about that. i'd be interested in reading whatever you have to say on the topic. besides, i haven't been on the "wrong" side of any controversial subjects at coffee break lately. i could use some more ammunition.

fluffy black puppies said...

ps. i enjoy your ever-changing avatars. don't stop.

TenaciousK said...

Antidepressants: they’re certainly not happy pills. They’re an unnatural way to keep the unnatural pressures of the unnatural world from being unnaturally overwhelming. Psychotropics are hardly a panacea, however. Me: Zoloft, Prozac (briefly), Effexor, Wellbutrin; they all have upsides and downsides, but the upsides are never really spectacular, unless you consider the mitigation of the psychic weight of a ton of bricks to be spectacular. I dunno – maybe it is, sometimes.

The “taken in hand” folks seem pretty stuck to me, in an unhappy place. I can make a sound argument for the psychological benefits of reclaiming space lost through traumatic experience. In fact, I can even argue power games, and related pursuits, can represent the experiential circumnavigation of identity schisms that otherwise would remain unbreachable. Being able to step into a previously inaccessible space, and then step out of it again, can be a potent, empowering exercise in reclamation. Fixing yourself in a cut-off part of yourself, however, and allowing someone to transfix you there? That’s just a way of acquiescing to abuse. It allows you to maintain the illusion of control, but so long as you face physical coercion and force, an illusion is all it is. I’m not surprised it would remind you of various cultural manifestations of prejudice – both involve objectification, and refusal to allow the person to violate constraints imposed by the definition you’ve projected onto them. Icky stuff. “If it works, it’s right, because it works” breaks down in the face of coercive restraint and blatant self-deception.

Your friend – the one who wanted to re-traumatize himself by proxy? That strikes me as an exercise in self-reclamation. But if the re-traumatization is too profound, all it does is reinforce the self-protective schism – the psychological barrier she erected to compartmentalize overwhelming feelings – rather than finding ways to break it down.

I had a professor who coined the phrase “The Klute syndrome” (I never saw that movie, myself). She used this to describe a phenomenon in which your most potent sexual fantasy reflects your most potent interpersonal fear. The way I look at it is similar – arousal and attribution are separate aspects of the way in which we code things. If I am a victim of traumatic sexual abuse, for instance, then the issue of sexual victimization takes on a level of importance for me that a non-victim wouldn’t share. If that abuse is traumatic, and doesn’t parallel other formative dynamics, it will feel foreign. If the abuse is repeated, or closely parallels other formative dynamics, I might become a willing participant. To the degree a child is coerced (or seduced) into becoming a willing participant, then the abuse is ego-syntonic. In either case, the issue of abuse becomes intensely important (arousal). The way in which I experience it, however, will vary according to the manner in which I’ve defined it (attribution). This is where perpetrators come from.

Nobody wants to talk about children who become sexualized – it makes people uncomfortable. They want to treat them as diseased, or alien: insult heaped on injury.

So, I’m not surprised you’d be aroused by the prospect of taking on the role of a perpetrator (not making any inferences about your background, BTW). From a dynamic standpoint, it’s a potentially worthwhile exercise. I’m also not surprised you’d back out, however, if important aspects of the experience weren’t right. It can be the difference between a couple playing harmless power games in the bedroom without allowing these to color their subsequent interactions – stepping into a space, and then stepping out – and the women who are “taken in hand”; transfixed in a stance of victimization, and beguiling themselves (and being beguiled) into believing that’s where they belong, sans opportunity to incorporate that aspect of themselves into a larger, more dynamic identity. There are lines you shouldn’t cross, no matter how appealing the prospect might seem. Only you know where exactly where those lines are drawn.

People subvert their desire to survive (high arousal value), and utilize that intensity in other ways. In it’s most sophisticated form, this is the sublimation Freud credits with civilization. De Sade explored a more primitive manifestation of this.

Lack of compassion – the opposite of affiliation is indifference. When we see something in others that makes us feel ashamed, we are inclined to reject, rather than affiliate. This has less to do with charity, per se, than the manner in which we’ve become socialized to feel ashamed of certain types of vulnerability. I think the interpretation of these findings is overstated.

Pedophilia: there are lots of factors that predispose people to step across boundaries, some of which are more characterological in nature, others of which are situational. Pamela Alexander wrote a great article (I suppose its old news now) about family system dynamics in within-family sexual perpetration. She discussed a number of different scenarios, and the implications each had for treatment of both the victim and the perpetrator. There are considerations we never discuss, like the guilt and shame a victim feels when he or she has been persuaded to testify against a parent, and that parent is imprisoned. In our desire for justice, we sometimes coerce a child into betraying their attachment to a parent. We forget that we’re taking about people, and ignoring the manner in which the people we talk about do not readily conform to the category in which we place them. Serial perpetrators get lumped in with one-time abusers, and we ignore the prognostic implications associated with pattern of offense.

Compounding the problem is the dearth of top-notch treatment providers in this area (the most gifted therapists tend to choose, as a rule, other areas of practice). So, we don’t really know how treatable pedophilia is, because 1) we don’t adequately differentiate between perpetrators on dimensions of obvious importance, and 2) we’re almost certainly not providing them with the most effective treatment anyway*. Even broaching the subject is impolitic, however. Can you imagine the fate of a political candidate labeled as soft on sexual perpetrators? Mindless promulgation of thoughtless slogans, regardless of whatever seemingly noble motivation, will invariably prove counterproductive in the end.

Add to this the expedient capital garnered by proposing tougher minimum mandatory sentences on pedophiles, coupled with greater degrees of public humiliation, and you might begin to understand how legislation to protect children might be costing some their lives. There is good reason to believe that, at least in some cases, a sexual perpetrator would rather mitigate risk of being caught for perpetration than maximize penalty for a related crime: murder. So, if you want a good water cooler discussion, my advice would be to ask whether or not public humiliation and harsh minimum mandatory sentences result in increased probability child victims will be murdered. Balance this with the defensible contention that those least likely to murder their victim are, as a group, most amenable to successful treatment, and you begin to see the problem.

*Other factors: treatment providers get referrals from, and work closely with, law enforcement and Child Protective Services. There are both overt and covert payoffs associated with colluding with them in the demonization of the clients they are working with. Humanizing clients who have committed sexual perpetration on a child is a professionally hazardous activity.

Perpetrator treatment providers are generally looked down on by others within their profession, and considered less competent (the assumption being, they ended up doing that kind of work because they were no damn good at working with a more desirable client population).

There are significant liability concerns associated with bucking any trends in perpetrator treatment as well. So long as you are providing the same ineffective treatment as everyone else, you can defend yourself by maintaining adherence to an industry standard that is frankly inadequate.

Funding opportunities for treatment development are susceptible to the same influences, as corrections tends to discourage alternatives to incarceration that might result in more easily demonstrated increased risk (ignoring for the moment the risks associated with providing ineffective or insufficient treatment and then releasing, later, a person whose proclivities are unchanged – though perhaps the incarceration-related trauma they experienced itself increases risk). A related problem is related to the inconveniences of conducting good outcome studies – no-treatment control groups for sexual perpetrators are unethical, treatment vs. incarceration groups are inherently flawed, given the dramatic differences in availability of potential victims between the groups, and good research on long-term victim adjustment for within-family abuse (incarceration versus incarceration plus treatment versus treatment only) are sparse, and inadequate.

This isn’t really my area, directly, and some of my memories are vague. I do seem to recall Pamela Alexander received threats as a result of her article, however, and I think she may have gotten out of the area. But that’s a fuzzy recollection that needs verification.

TenaciousK said...

ps. ok.

fluffy black puppies said...

i've got one friend for whom antidepressants have truly been "happy pills." i'm delighted for him [and a tad jealous], but he's the only person i know who gives them a glowing report.

this [complete with music, not just the lyrics] more closely describes it, if you ask me [and some other folks that i know].

overall, the "taken in hand" women impress me as reasonably happy and carefree. why shouldn't they be? they have no major responsibilities and someone else will always be there to take care of the bad stuff.

i have days when i fantasize about how wonderful that kind of life would be, but truthfully, i think i could pull it off for about one weekend.

your most potent sexual fantasy reflects your most potent interpersonal fear. hmmm, i'll have to think about that one.

ok, now i'm curious just what a professional's inferences about my background would be, should you care to make them at some point in the future. of course, if you hit too close to any really uncomfortable home truths, i'm going to pretend to ignore everything you say.

important aspects of the experience weren’t right, chief among them being that it was me who'd been [unilaterally, no less] chosen as the re-traumatizer.

possibly the situation wouldn't have devolved to quite that point had i understood my assigned role earlier on. possibly i wouldn't have stuck around at all, had i understood my assigned role from the beginning.

oh, beware the wounded puppies that you find on the side of the road!

would that be margaret alexander or is there more than one alexander in the field?

i think it's ineffably sad that punishment, followed by escalating punishment, has become our only treatment for so many social ills.

not to mention, like you say, what further harm our pursuit of "justice" inflicts on the child. this is the volunteer work i've always wanted to do, but one of the things i'd have to know before i got into it would be whether the court would see it as in the best interests of the child to be made to testify against a family member.

it sure seems to me treating these children as though they're diseased has got to make it worse for them.

anyway ... i'm looking forward to shaking things up at coffee break next year. i had to bite my tongue when the subject of the horrible things the palestinians are doing to the jews came up in conversation today, but 'tis the season, y'know, so i did. keep quiet, that is. for now.

fluffy black puppies said...

ps. cute! if panacur doesn't help, i suppose you could always try this.

TenaciousK said...

Very quick thoughts:

Ask Bite about the GAL's office. In Utah, they're attorneys who work for the state (nominally under the AG's office, in reality independent) - an arrangement that, aside from the overburdening part, seems to work well. They have much need for volunteers (CASA workers), as I'm sure they would in Florida. CASA workers must have an unusually high tolerance for parental pathology, a desire to be helpful, an abiding love for children, and the ability to compartmentalize their shit enough to keep it from coloring what they're seeing.

Nope: Pamela.

There are others - don't even get me started about Jim.

More later.

fluffy black puppies said...

jim? jim who? that's ok, i probably don't really want to know.

i'm reasonably good at compartmentalizing, but i'd always understood this was supposed to be bad [somehow]. however, all of my volunteer work is on hold for now, sort of indefinitely.

i see my error now; i should have used google scholar, instead of google. thanks for the link.

hope you had a good christmas.